Due to the continued demand for fiction and nonfiction books alongside the development of growing markets, careers in writing continue to provide valuable opportunities to authors worldwide. Furthermore, the possibility to self-publish through platforms such as Amazon has created a simpler entry route for authors and expanded the growth of digital sales, despite frequently low earnings.
In line with other professions, efforts are being made to increase equality between authors and the publishing industry as a whole. Diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives are now widely-used to monitor demographics and promote equal opportunities to authors regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, orientation and disability status.
- Within the US, the average age of an employed author is 42 years old.
- As of 2021, 50.45% of US authors are women and 49.55% of US authors are men.
- Although White authors have decreased by 7.48% since 2010, they still represent 75.58%
- Black or African American authors have increased by 0.87% since 2010 and currently represent 5.93%.
- Asian authors have decreased by 0.72% since 2010 and currently represent 4.93%.
- Hispanic or Latino authors have increased by 2.96% since 2010 and currently represent 7.62%.
The percentage of US authors split by age group is given in a graph below:
The percentage of US minority authors by race/ethnicity from 2015 – 2019 is given in a graph below:
Odds of getting published
Although writing can be a rewarding career and provide great monetary incentives, the odds of an author becoming published by a traditional publishing house remains low. The struggle to achieve a publishing deal for authors is increased due to a high level of competition, caused partly by decreased barriers to enter the industry.
- It is estimated that the chances of an author getting their work published is between 1% – 2%.
- Over 95% of manuscripts sent to publishers/agents are below the standard required to publish.
- Many submissions contain key mistakes in the use of spelling/grammar, or have general issues with the content itself.
- Less than 5% of manuscripts are of a high quality, however the majority of these are still not possible to publish immediately due to contrasting from what the publisher/agent is looking for.
- However, if passed to better aligning publishers/agents, they will still retain a good chance of being published.
The most competitive writing genres* on Kindle are given in a graph below:
*genres can span multiple categories.
How much do authors make
For authors, financial rewards can be monumental for those at the top but the contrast in earnings is vast. In recent years, publishing earnings have become increasingly imbalanced, and less favorable terms are being offered to authors.
- On average, self-published authors make $1,000 per year from their books.
- Book advances given to authors from major/Big 5 publishing houses usually start at around $5,000.
- As independent publishers are smaller in size and budget, they often give out advances starting at around $3,000.
- Authors that work alongside publishing houses are able to earn royalties on their sales after “earning out”.
- For authors that work alongside traditional publishing houses, paperback royalties are often between 5% – 7.5% and hardback royalties are often between 10% – 15%.
- Authors that self-publish their titles can earn up to 70% in royalties immediately.
Median book-related incomes by author type are given in a graph below:
Median book-related incomes by book genre are given in a graph below:
Authors net worth
Nationality is of great relevance for the top ranked authors by net worth, with American and British authors representing 95% of those listed. Although English language speaking readers represent a huge share of consumers, an increased focus on reading and literacy skills in other regions could provide new opportunities to authors from different backgrounds.
- Of the best selling authors, J. K. Rowling has a net worth of $1 billion dollars, almost double the value of James Patterson’s $560 million.
- Authors that predominantly write with the genres of Mystery/Thriller make up 40% of the top 20 authors listed by their net worth.
- Romance authors make up 25% and Fantasy authors make up 15%.
- Of the top 20 authors listed by net worth, American authors make up 65% and British authors make up 30%.
- There is a 50/50 split between male and female authors on the list.
The highest net worth authors listed by nationality is given in a graph below:
The highest net worth authors listed by genre is given in a graph below:
Author statistics FAQ
How many authors are there in the US?
- As of 2021, there were approximately 49,410 writers and authors in the US.
- This has grown by 20.72% since 2011.
- This excludes self-employed workers.
How many authors are there in the UK?
- As of 2022, there were approximately 84,600 writers and authors in the UK.
- This has grown by 39.83% since 2010.
- This includes translators.