Book Royalties in Self-publishing: A Detailed Guide

Book Royalties in Self-publishing: A Detailed Guide

Are you going to dive headlong into the career of a self-published author but do not quite understand how much such writers earn? Before you spend months or years of your life writing a book, let’s find out how self-publishing royalties work and whether they’re worth it. 

In the article, we want to share with you some formulas to calculate book price and possible income and explain why self-publishing royalties are higher than traditional ones.

What is book royalty in self-publishing?

To begin with, let’s find out what this term means in general. Royalty refers to the percentage the author gets for every copy sold, based on the book’s retail price. Therefore, the more units sold, the higher the royalty check.

In traditional publishing, royalty is an exchange for the rights to the author’s book. That’s why the amount the self-published author receives isn’t really royalty. After all, the writer retains all rights to the book and pays all expenses related to the publishing house.

What are the royalty differences between self-publishing and traditional publishing?

Royalty percentages are fixed for all traditional publishing companies. Usually, this amount is 5-25% depending on the book format: Paperback, hardcover, ebook, or audiobook. It happens because the publisher manages the process and pays for all costs associated with producing and distributing the book.

Also, there is such a payment option as an advance in traditional publishing. It’s a negotiable up-front payment that a publisher pays a writer. This amount is based on the number of books the publisher thinks they can sell.

Self-publishing doesn’t provide advance, but royalties are ten times higher than traditional publishing ones. They account for at least 70%. It happens again since the author must pay for all the services necessary for publishing the book: Editing, cover design, illustrations, advertising, etc. And all these services are not a cheap pleasure, for example:

That’s why self-publishing royalties can look more attractive than traditional ones. But you must be ready to spend a lot of money to produce a good product.

How to calculate book royalties for self-published authors?

The central fact here to remember is that the royalties depend on the book cost. The higher it is, the higher the amount of money you get. So, let’s analyze what factors influence the book price.

The cost mainly depends on the book format. The most popular ones are print books and ebooks in self-publishing. 

Printed books

Several factors affect the paper books price:

  • Page count means how many pages your book includes. 
  • Margin size is the empty space between a document’s contents and the edges of the page. 
  • Trim size describes the height and width of the pages of the book. 
  • Binding—hardcover or paperback. 
  • Ink colors as non-standard colors are more expensive.
  • Dust cover is the detachable outer cover, but it isn’t obligatory.
  • Genre is that factor you can’t adjust during the design phase of publication.

For example, printing a 300-page paperback book measuring 5.5″ x 8.5″ can cost $5.31 per unit. You can regulate this price by changing parameters. By the way, some printing companies have online calculators for this case.

For printing your book, you can use usual printing centers or such famous self-publishing platforms as Amazon, Barnes & Noble Press, Lulu, IngramSpark, and more. These companies provide print and ebook releases as well.  


Releasing an ebook is cheaper than a paperback as you don’t need to pay for printing. But it doesn’t mean you can do without book cover design, formatting, illustrations, or professional editing. When thinking about income, consider these expenses.

Speaking about ebook royalties, in most cases, you need to use a general formula for calculation: Royalty Rate x (Retail Price – Delivery Costs) = Royalty Earned. But it would help if you also considered the peculiarities of a chosen platform. Each one may have its own rules to follow to get a higher payment. 

Let’s review some of the most popular self-publishing companies.

  1. Barnes & Noble Press, Apple Books, and Google Books use a formula: Sales Price x Royalty Rate. They offer royalties of 70%. So, if your book costs $4.60, you’ll get $3.22 per copy.
  2. Amazon uses the formula: Sales Price x Royalty Rate – Delivery Fee. It also has two royalty options: 70% and 35%. To get higher royalties, you have to:
  • Publish something exclusive that’s not in the public domain
  • Pay for file delivery
  • Put a price on your book between $2.99 and $9.99.
  1. Draft2Digital is a book aggregator that charges the aggregator fee. Here, the formula is Sales Price x Royalty Rate – Sales Price x Aggregator Fee %. Keep in mind that each book aggregator can have its unique fee.

What are online book cost calculators?

The good news is that most self-publishing platforms provide convenient online calculators, so you don’t need to keep the mentioned formulas on hand. We gather some of them for you in one place:

Summing up   

Thus, self-publishing royalties are more attractive and higher than traditional ones. However, keep in mind that’s why you should pay for all services you need to release a high-quality book. 

Self-publishing royalties depend on many factors, from the price of the book and its format to the platform you use. Although the advantage is that sometimes you can adjust the cost and profit by changing the book’s format.

And, what do you think: Are these royalties worth becoming a self-published author? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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