Self Publishing a Book: By the Numbers

David Rogers

There hasn’t always been a wealth of in-depth information available concerning self-published authors or the industry as a whole. But a great survey last year by and shed some light into the reasons why writers self publish a book and what they get out of it, both from a career and a monetary standpoint.

With the new year we’ll be getting an updated new report on the trends of those that are self publishing a book, as well as information on other types of writers. While the full results of the survey won’t be released until early next year, has provided us with a sneak peak at next year’s results, which were again published by Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest, but this time along with Dana Beth Weinberg, a professor of sociology at Queens College.

How Much Do Self-Published Authors Make?


Image Source: Digital Book World

An initial glance at the survey info may not look so good – the majority of self-published writers make less than $5,000 per year. However, you’ll find some intriguing information as you begin to peel back the layers of the survey results.

First, the survey divides writers into four categories: Aspiring, Self-Published, Traditional and Hybrid. Aspiring writers have yet to publish in any format, while Hybrid Authors have both self-published a book and been published by a traditional publisher. And it’s the latter that is actually reporting the highest income.

Hybrid authors reported a median income between $15,000 and $19,999 while traditionally published authors have a median between $5,000 and $9,999. However, nearly 20 percent of Hybrid writers reported a writing income between $20,000 and $39,999, and over 10 percent reported an income over $100,000 per year. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Aspiring writers reported no income from writing.

Why do Self-Published Writers Write?

As you may expect from those numbers, making money is not typically the most common reason writers from all of those categories write. By far the most common response to a question asking the top priority for getting published is, “To build my career as a writer.” While over 30 percent of writers in each of the four categories chose this answer, responses varied drastically from there.

The second most common answer from Hybrid Authors was “To make money from my writing,” while the second most common answer from Aspiring Writers was “To satisfy a lifelong ambition.” Writers that are only self-publishing a book also made “To write something that people are willing to buy” a common choice.


Image Source: Digital Book World

How Much Do Authors Write?

Since they make more money (and write to make money), perhaps it makes sense then that Hybrid Authors tend to write more. Another portion of the survey shows that these authors have a median of 10 traditionally published manuscripts, five self-published manuscripts and four unpublished manuscripts. Self-published authors tend to have a median of three self-published manuscripts and three unpublished manuscripts.

Should all this serve as inspiration to write more? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it should be done overnight; most self-published authors have been writing for quite some time.

Another great survey of self-published authors released last year by Taleist found that 40 percent of authors had been writing seriously for over 10 years and that 60 percent had been writing seriously for more than five years. Though this survey is a bit older, it has some more in-depth breakdowns of self-published writers that are worth noting.

Additional Information About Self-Published Authors

Here are a few more snippets from the Taleist survey about self-published authors you may find interesting:


Image Source: Taleist Self-Publishing Survey
  • Hiring a professional for copyediting, proofreading, and other similar services earned authors an average of 13 percent more than those that didn’t.
  • Paying for professional cover design earned authors an average of 18 percent more.
  • 41 percent of those self-publishing a book paid for outside cover design, while 49 percent did it themselves.
  • 54 percent of those that were self-publishing a book reported they recouped their book printing costs, while 68 percent expected they would recoup their costs within the next 12 months.