The Dollars and Cents of Traditional Publishing

Nowadays, landing a traditional publishing deal is tough. And even if you do get one, you still have to do most of the marketing yourself. So how much money can you expect to earn from your book? We break down the numbers and explain royalty rates, typical advances, expected sales, and more.

The Dollars and Cents of Traditional Publishing

Many U.S. publishers have reduced their marketing budgets by 50 to 70% in recent years. Most of the remaining money is directed to high-profile authors, leaving new authors to perform their own marketing.

It's becoming increasingly difficult for new authors to land publishing deals, and when they do, advances typically range from $1,000 to $10,000, a stark contrast to the $50,000 to $100,000 of the past.

For paperbacks, standard royalty rates range from a measly 1% to a typical maximum of 10%. The average falls at roughly 6%.

The standard royalty rates for hardcovers are as follows: The first 5,000 copies earn 10%, the next 5,000 earn 12.5%, and all subsequent sales earn 15%.

Start-up publishers are often willing to pay authors 50% of the net profits for eBooks and between 10% and 50% for printed books.

For eBooks, traditional publishers offer a standard rate of 25% in royalties.

Agents generally take a cut of 15 to 20% of the author's royalty payments.

The typical author would earn $6,000 from selling 5,000 copies of their book.

Traditional publishers consider a book a success if it sells 5,000 copies. The majority of authors sell only 500.

The Wall Street Journal will sometimes place books with just 3,000 sales in a week on its bestseller list. The threshold is often even lower with the New York Times bestseller list, which requires only 2,000 sales in a week in certain scenarios.