Making Minimum Wage As A Self-Published Writer


In my Monday morning procrastination, I decided to scribble some quick napkin maths to figure out how many books a writer would need to sell each year on Amazon to make minimum wage. (Quick warning if you’re looking to self-publish – the numbers aren’t encouraging).

Here’s a list of minimum wages sorted by country. In the UK where I live, it’s £7.20 an hour (that converts to ~$8.78 for those over in the colonies). Working a 40 hour week for 52 weeks a year, that gives you £14,976 (~$18,262).

Now, let’s say you sell ebooks at £1.99 each, the minimum required to reach the 70% royalty rate on Amazon. This means each sale nets you £1.39. To reach minimum wage with those figures you need to sell 10,774 copies per year. Not an impossible number, but realistically, how many people are going to risk £1.99 on an ebook by an unknown author?

So maybe you decide to sell at £0.99 to encourage more readers to your work. Well, Amazon drops the royalty rate to 35% at this point and things get seriously depressing. At £0.35 per sale, you would need to sell 42,799 copies a year just to keep a roof over your head. I can’t see any way that’s possible unless you’re already an established author, in which case you’re probably already doing fine.

I’ll be honest, sitting down and figuring out these numbers at the start of the work week wasn’t my smartest decision. There’s something to be said for doing what you love, but the figures bring a whole new meaning to the term ‘starving artist.’

If you can quit, quit. If you can’t quit, stop complaining – this is what you chose.

– J.A. Konrath

Well, that’s enough complaining. Back to writing.

Photo by Petras Gagilas licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

5 thoughts on “Making Minimum Wage As A Self-Published Writer”

  1. It makes for some grim reading on this Halloween. But I guess, like kick starting any business, earning less than the minimum wage is par for the course. Doesn’t mean that it will always be that way, and building up a following allows for higher prices and outlets other than Amazon. You’re building your brand, none of this is wasted time.

    1. Yeah I think you’re entirely right – I always figured self-publishing to be a long-term, momentum based process that takes a good while before it becomes self-sustaining. I was just in a bit of a slump this morning when I saw the numbers.

      1. Numbers belong on the left side of the brain along with sensible shoes and retirement cottages. We probably ain’t gonna be rich, but we’re gonna put a dent in this damn universe.

          1. Manuscript rejections, they’ve left me fiercely protective of writers. The world could end tomorrow, your writing takes my breath away. Everything else is just stuff.

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