Money & publishing

How much money you make when you publish a book

What to expect financially in the academic publishing world

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

The academic publishing world works on different principles than profit-focused publishing houses. Academic texts are written for a relatively narrow audience, they are targeted at established knowledge fields and are about creating and showcasing new knowledge.

What many people may not know is that academic publishing will earn you close to zero profit. In fact many publishing houses will charge you, the author, a subvention fee to cover some of the initial costs of publishing.

Yes, you read that right. If you want to publish your research you may have to pay to do it.

Academic publishers are ranked according to prestige and quality of research. Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, and University of Chicago Press are usually the top three recognized academic publishers in the English speaking world. There are other very good and well respected academic publishers too, and they may depend on your area and discipline.

If you are looking to publish an edited collection of essays, say from a conference, you may need anywhere from £500–2200 to cover fees from the publisher. You may also not need to pay anything if they think the volume is commercially viable. In my experience you will not make any money from an edited collection. Zilch

If you publish a monograph your book contract will give you the rates at which you will receive royalties. I got a 6% royalty on my first monograph. That is 6% of net (not gross) profits of book sales. 6% is probably on the high side for a first time author, you can expect 3–7% for a first book and perhaps 5–10% for a second book, if sales on previous publications have been good.

After three years of my monograph being out in the world I have made £56 in royalties.

So my five years of research and writing have not been lucrative. Perhaps that is an understatement.

However, academic publishing is part of the game of being an academic. In theory every publication you have should enable you to move up the ladder and get promoted. Although this no longer applies, there was a time in the 1970s and 1980s where publishing a book was usually grounds for promotion to a higher position within the department. Having a book published pretty much guaranteed you a permanent job. So the financial rewards of academic publishing were to be found in the university.

Those principles don’t hold today, so be prepared for the idea that you will not make any money from publishing, and you may be on the temporary contracts and temporary employment track for longer than you would like.

Let me know if I can answer any more questions about academic publishing. I am happy to help and give advice!

PhD. Writer. Lover of coffee and productivity hacks. Bi-racial. Big fan of Fight Club, the Sopranos, garlic bread and films about the mafia.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store