How much money could a no-name author expect by publishing a novel?

I’m currently reworking my first novel, that I want to publish (either traditional or, if it that doesn’t work, self). From your experience, how much money could a first time author expect from this step(in which part of the world)? I know there are some other variables that determine the gain from a story. What do you think influences the most on revenue?

This depends on a lot of things. Have you built an online presence? Where are you selling the book? For how much? What’s the genre? How much are you putting into marketing? Did you get a good cover and great editing?

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Well, JK Rowling and Stephanie Meyer were both no-name writers when they published the first of their big series. Both have made MILLIONS and MILLIONS. On the other hand, the average self published book sells about 50 copies in its lifetime… and the author gets a percentage of that (but also makes a significant investment in producing it). So, you could expect to make somewhere between $0 and millions.

There is absolutely No Way to predict how much money you’ll make. None. There are absolutely NO guarantees, no matter how many books you publish or how hard you work. The reality is that a very, very, very, VERY low percentage of writers are able to support themselves. Many of those who do have spouses who bring in the “regular” money AND pay for insurance. Others have defined “supporting themselves” as living as a perpetual starving artist (which I will never do – I like vacations and hobbies and food…).

Publishing – whether trad or self – is a BUSINESS. Depending on how much you treat it like a business is a HUGE factor in whether you succeed financially.

Successful writers:

  • Can (regularly) produce a well-written, well-crafted, compelling story that other people are willing to pay for.
  • Know when that story is ready for prime time – and never release a story that isn’t.

If going traditional:

  • Know how to vet agents and publishers.
  • Know the ins and outs of a publishing contract, know how to negotiate, and are willing to WALK rather than sign something they can’t live with.
  • Know what to expect in terms of the publishing process, accounting of sales, marketing by the publisher, etc.

If going self:

  • Know how to craft a compelling, genre-appropriate blurb
  • Know what a compelling, genre-appropriate cover looks like
  • Have the funds and the willingness to use those funds to ensure the manuscript receives professional editing and has a professional cover
  • Have identified their target reader and have a business plan in place for reaching that reader
  • Have identified the best schedule for publishing and are able to produce quality content on that schedule
  • Are always working on additional markets for licensing and other ways to get their books out

What influences the most on revenue is finding an audience. A year or two ago, it was touted that 4500 books are added to the Amazon catalog every DAY. And none go out of print. How are you going to make sure your books don’t disappear into a black hole? Whether you go trad or self, that’s YOUR responsibility.


Hey, that’s a super loaded question and it depends on so many things, so as much as I hate to say it as an aspiring author as well, you should never ever count on the money you’ll make from a book.
If you have no social media following of people who will actually read your book, then you won’t make much if you get published. Traditional publishers do less and less marketing work for new authors now more than ever with the rise of self-pub. And while nobody’s like Stephanie Myers and J.K. Rowling have broken into publishing before and made millions, comparing ourselves to them does us a major disservice because we simply do not live in the same world that they did when they published. Self-pub has saturated the markets and publishing is truly a competition now more than ever.
If you are interested in Self-pub you have to be aware that it even more work than publishing traditionally (a full time job!) and a great resource and a very successful Self-published author to look into is Jenna Moreci because she tells you all the good the bad and the ugly on her youtube channel. And she’s hilarious.
I hate to be a downer, but you cannot count on your book to make much money. Right now we publish because we write something we love, if we make money, that’s just an added bonus.

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And if I may add, this isn’t a job you should count on to make you financially stable (unless exceptions). Don’t think too much about the money part… just be happy, writing what you love.

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Debut novel - trad publishing. big publisher $5000, small press $200
Debut novel - self published - will cost you


This is the ultimate in “your mileage may vary.” Some things to keep in mind.

  • Average advance for a debut traditional published novel from a big-five is $5,000 ($10,000 at the higher end).

  • Small presses have very small advances (less than $500 or nothing at all)

  • Self-publishing will require an upfront investment of $1,000 - $1,500 for cover design, editing, and layout. Most won’t sell more than 500 copies or so and at $2.99 a book that would be $1046.50, so you might break even, or make a very small amount

Now those are what 80% - 90% of the authors will earn. The real question is how much can you expect to earn over a lifetime of writing? That’s a totally different thing. Many publishers will lose money on early books or even series, but author is a strong storyteller, and they eventually “break out” and produce some income.

Again, the vast majority of authors, even those with multiple books out, don’t make a living wage. Now, that said, I’ve made millions. But I’m the exception and not the rule.

So what influences revenue the most?

  1. Writing a book that others enjoy so much they tell others “you must read this.”
  2. Getting the book in front of a core group of people who can start the word-of-mouth millstone from turning.
  3. Rinsing and repeating.