Many people will have dreams of being a published author. Whether that is to have their art out on public display or to prove something to themselves. However, some people want to publish a book because they know how profitable it can be.

We’ve all heard of the success story of J.K. Rowling who went from rags to riches with the Harry Potter series, but is it actually possible to replicate such a story through self publishing?

Well, the answer is yes and no. There are many ways that you can profit from self publishing a book, but many authors will continue in their day job because the profits are not enough to live off.

We’re going to examine the ways you can maximize your potential profits in this guide below. So, if you’re interested in learning more – then read on for all the answers!

Traditional V Self-Publishing 

When you’re looking to get a book published, the first thing you have to consider is whether or not to go down the traditional publishing route or the self-publishing route. Both have their own pros and cons and they’re very different things.

Here’s more detail on these routes.


Traditional publishing is pretty much as you’d expect from the name – it’s the traditional way to get your book published. It starts with the author writing their book and then seeking out a literary agent.

The literary agent will then try to find a publisher who is interested in the book, or willing to make a deal for publication based on a number of edits.

Traditional publisher houses will then print, market and distribute your book through their professional channels. 

They can also put you in touch with their professional illustrators and provide notes of edits that they would like to see in the work – which many authors will accept, but not all authors will be happy to change their creative product.


  • Published authors will normally receive a payment advance in bulk
  • Much more credible
  • More prestigious 
  • More likely to get sales using their professional channels and retail contacts 
  • Helps to build a reputation for other projects and other publishers 


  • Can take a long time, sometimes around three years to publish 
  • Extremely difficult to get into, especially for new authors 
  • Publisher houses can demand creative control 
  • You may need to make edits which change your story/creative vision 


Self-publishing is another term which does what you’d think based on its name. It’s the process of writing your own book and then publishing it yourself. 

You can do this by writing eBooks, using channels like Amazon, and do the marketing yourself. Of course, there’s various reasons why you might want to do this, but there’s also plenty of drawbacks.


  • Cheap or even free to start out
  • Some channels like Amazon can help you with multiple steps 
  • Marketing is done your way and can be free 
  • You keep total creative control 
  • No need to make edits for anyone 
  • Saves paper if you directly sale digitally 


  • Generally much less profitable 
  • No pay in advance 
  • You need to work very hard to research the market, write your book and market it yourself 
  • You need to make huge sales to make it profitable
  • All the work is done by you 

Author’s Pay 

Many people ask what the “salary” of an author is, but the truth of the matter is that there’s no real “salary” as such, at least not in the traditional sense. Published authors through publisher houses and self-published authors have different revenue streams. 

For example, authors that use traditional publishing will receive their advance, the rest of their pay once the book is published and all other revenue streams that are directly related to their writing (for example, a book signing day). 

It’s important to note that the deals made between authors and publishers are not always the same. While it is true that many new authors will receive an advance (normally about $10,000), others will sign a deal based on numbers of units sold. 

Self-published authors also do not earn a salary, but they will make more from royalties – and there’s no need to pay out for a literary agent! 


The main revenue stream for an author will be through royalties based on book sales, but you cannot expect 100% back from the sales as there will be costs incurred (such as printing, binding, energy costs, software etc.). 

However, this is the area where self-published authors can make a bigger slice of the pie. Where traditionally published authors make around 5-7% royalties, self-published authors can make about 25% royalties. 

It’s also worth noting that advances for traditionally published authors may not even be paid out until the sales have allowed for it. 

Is Publishing A Book Profitable Then?

The overall answer to this question is yes and no. It largely depends on how well you can do the following:

  • Research what people want 
  • Identify the gap in the market 
  • Write the story 
  • Market your work (if applicable)
  • Get in contact with literary authors (if applicable) 
  • Organize yourself and your time 

If however, you are asking yourself which type of publishing is more profitable, then generally speaking you have two schools of thought. 

Traditional publishing will typically have more money in it, even just through the advance. Additionally, if successful, you can strike deals for a sequel or second book with specific royalties agreed. 

However, self-publishing can see you earning money much more quickly and you can take a bigger slice of the royalties. The downside is that the eBooks prices are typically much cheaper and you’d need to work hard on marketing to make any real passive income.

Other Income For Authors 

Whatever type of publishing you decide to go down, you will likely be looking at other streams of revenue. This could mean the difference between being a professional author and an amateur writer. 

Here’s some of your potential revenue streams.

Other Income For Authors


Patreon is a platform where people can subscribe to your content or simply donate a specific amount of money to you. This is almost exclusively for creative people as the donations are from fans (you often see this on YouTube channels to avoid demonetization). 


You will likely need to strike a deal with a manufacturer, but if you have a cult following – you can start to market and sell some book-related merchandise. 

Book Signing

Book signings are often part of publisher deals, but even self-publishers can have a book signing, by signing posters or digitally signing on devices etc. 


Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter can help you earn some money while you are writing your book. However, you will need to share your vision clearly and ensure that you actually go ahead with your plans! 

The Bottom Line 

And that’s everything you need to know about the profits associated with publishing. While it is indeed profitable for both avenues, there are pros and cons to both and you need to consider your options thoroughly. 

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