5 Ways Published Authors Earn Through Their Writing

5 Ways Published Authors Earn Through Their Writing

Writing is a profession that has been around since the early days of civilization. Throughout the years, the significance of writing and literature has continued to grow to the point where anyone can become an author if they want to. Creating a successful career as an author will allow you the opportunity to continue to write and earn a good living through your passion for the literary arts.

Now in the modern time, the writing industry is as prevalent as ever. Authors can make money writing for publishing companies and distributing their works on different platforms, many of which are done online. However, though the shift from physical to electronic methods has changed the way many people consume literature, the classic book remains a timeless tradition that every author should continue.

Author Versus Writer

To make things clear, we need to understand what differentiates authors from writers. This is a topic that’s still open to debate, depending on your view. But to put it simply, an author is someone who publishes original works for anyone to read, while a writer is a broader term that describes anyone who writes or takes any kind of writing job without credit or personal recognition. 

Authors are considered writers but the same cannot be said vice versa. Since not all writers publish their work or take credit for their writing, they are not seen as authors. Both can still make money writing, but some writers work as ghostwriters or freelancers taking writing jobs from clients. Authors, on the other hand, structure, and craft their work for the long term in hopes of great publishing opportunities.

For the sake of our main topic on how authors make money, we will focus only on published writers in the industry and the methods of their compensation.

5 Different Ways to Make Money as an Author

There are two main paths an author can take to publish their work and start to make money writing before and after they start selling. The traditional method of publishing – meaning to work with an established publishing company under a contract. First of all, you will have to get in contact with a reliable literary agent or publisher. The negotiation of the contract with a publication usually covers the details of book sales, production, compensation, and other undisclosed details which dictate how authors make money.

The alternative option is self-publishing.  With self-publishing, authors have full creative freedom, they can set goals and pricing for themselves, and usually get a bigger percentage on their royalties. Ultimately, self-published authors write and earn the way they want to.

Between traditional publishing and self-publishing, we can sum up five different ways on how authors make money throughout the entire publication process. Both have advantages and disadvantages to them. We’ll go through each so that you can decide which method of publishing works best for you.

Traditional publishing


Once you’ve made a deal with a publication that is willing to sell your book(s), they may offer you an advance. This is a sum of money paid to the author before the release of their manuscript. Just as the name suggests, you can think of this as an advanced payment, a way the author can still make money writing their book before a final usable product is produced. This is the general idea of how advances work but there are a few key details you need to know.

First of all, advances are against royalties, which means the money you get out of future book sales won’t come to you until the total sum of the advance has been fulfilled. 

Advance deals may be part of a multi-work contract. For example, if you were given a $10,000 advance over 2 books, the publishing company will likely cut half of the payment between the production of each work which can further be divided into the current stages before completion. This allows authors to continue to write and earn without the long stages and processes which eventually end with the sale of the book.


Royalties are the amount you earn per sale based on a percentage of the agreed-upon retail price. You can expect a royalty rate of around 10% per sold copy for traditional publishing. Royalties are given to self-published authors which can go all the way up to 70%.

Breaking it down further, royalties can be based on either the price listing of the distributor or the net amount received by the publisher. If the publisher receives a 60% cut of the sale, then the author would get around 10% from that 60% base amount. Royalties are how authors make money passively long after they’ve published a successful book.

Subsidiary Rights 

Subsidiary rights cover all translations, adaptations, merchandise, spin-offs, and all other products based on your original work. If your publisher makes a deal with any third-party entity to sell something based on your book, you are given a percentage of their sales as well. Depending on the success of your initial work, subsidiary rights have the potential to be the biggest way for how authors make money.

As you can imagine, subsidiary rights can extend across all forms of media which allows for great opportunities to expand and reach people from all over.


Direct distribution

The most straightforward way for you to write and earn money being a self-published author is through director distributors. This simply means selling your books on direct distribution platforms. The most popular example would be Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. You can set the base pricing for your work but Amazon will take a percentage of every copy you sell on their platform.

It may seem that you can make money writing your books and charge at a higher rate, while still getting a large percentage for yourself – and this would be true. But you must also carefully consider the fact that you won’t be getting any support or guidance from a publisher. Which way it is strongly recommended that you find a professional editor to help you assure quality and increase the value of your books.

E-book distributors

In addition to direct distributors, ebook distributors can help you extend the reach of your product. If they offer it, you may have the option to have a distributor sell your ebook across multiple different platforms. 

This is a great way for you to write and earn in another industry and tap into the ebook market to further expand. Sell your product to potential customers who would gladly be a listener to your work.

Now that you know how authors make money through multiple channels, you too can start to make money writing. Become an author fueled by the passion for literary art and use that to guide you on your journey as you write and earn an enjoyable successful living.

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