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How Much Do Textbook Authors Make?

how much do textbook authors make

There’s been a lot of talk of “the Death of the Author” in the 21st Century. Yes, philosopher Roland Barthes’ infamous 1967 essay proves prescient about the decline of authority in the wake of the Internet. It’s not the entire story, however. 

The complete quote reads “The birth of the Reader must be at the death of the Author.” This rings true, as there’s been a massive resurgence in reading in recent years. 

Some of the biggest films and TV series of all times have been based on popular books, for instance. Think Game of Thrones or Harry Potter. The book market is also on the rise, as there was a 5.4% revenue increase in the book market between 2016 and 2017.  

Textbooks are one of the fastest-rising industries. If you’re looking to answer the question, “How much do textbook authors make?”, we’ve got your answer! 

How Much Do Textbook Authors Make?

Keeping track of earnings from creative individuals can be tricky business. For one, the Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t always keep detailed track of creative earnings. They often don’t get granular enough to truly get a comprehensive overview of what creative actually earns. 

The number of authors has been rising since 2011. More people are starting to realize it’s possible to be a professional author with each passing year. 

For those who are thinking of becoming a professional author, you’d do well to consider writing textbooks. The annual revenue of the textbook industry’s been on the rise in recent years, as well. 

To truly get a comprehensive answer to the question “How much do textbook authors make?”, we first need to understand what a textbook author actually does. 

What Does A Textbook Author Do?

Writing a textbook is similar to any other kind of writing. It has its own unique considerations as well, however. 

Generally speaking, a textbook author creates a comprehensive text around one particular subject. 

The format itself lends itself to a unique approach, however. Writing a textbook may involve in-depth research. It can also involve first-hand reporting, as well, where the author has to interview subjects in the field. 

Writing a textbook isn’t that dissimilar to writing a book on any other subject. Generally, the author begins with an idea. They’ll then write a few chapters and put together a proposal that they’ll pitch to publishers. 

How To Pitch Your Textbook 

The process of writing your textbook factors into how much you’ll earn as a textbook author, as well. How you pitch your textbook to a publisher will also impact your earnings in several ways. 

First of all, don’t write your entire textbook before pitching to a publisher. A lot of publishing houses like to be involved in the writing and creation process of a textbook. You’ll also want to do some research into the industry so you have a ballpark idea of your textbooks’s value. 

You’ll want to submit your textbook to multiple publishing houses, as well. Unlike magazine or journal articles, it’s completely ethical to submit a book proposal to multiple publishers. This creates the potential to have multiple offers, which can lead to a bidding war. 

Negotiating A Contract 

Once your pitch has been accepted by a publishing house, they’ll write up a standardized contract. Keep in mind that the contract they offer is just the beginning of negotiations. You’ll also want to have a clear understanding of what they’ll expect from you. This will also have an impact on your earnings, ultimately. 

Generally speaking, an author’s expected to: 

  • Write the book
  • Communicate with editors and consider their feedback
  • Create additional content, such as figures or graphs
  • Create the index

You’ll also need to understand the publisher’s duties, to understand what’s your responsibility and what isn’t. 

A book publisher’s duties include: 

  • Seeking reviews and summarizing those reviews into a usable form
  • Create and maintain a website, usually in collaboration with the author
  • Advertise the book
  • Create multimedia content and technological supplements, also in collaboration with the other

Some other aspects aren’t set in stone but vary from contract to contract. You’ll want to make sure if you’re expected to create supplemental material around your textbook. This can include study guides, instructor’s manuals, and test banks. 

It’s to the publisher’s benefit for the author to create the secondary content. This ensures the information will be consistent and accurate. You’ll want to keep that in mind when you’re negotiating a contract with your publisher. 

Finally, you’ll want to negotiate an advance payment with your publisher. You’ll also want to negotiate a royalty rate, and an official understanding of when that rate will commence. 

Often, authors are expected to reach a certain amount of sales before a royalty rate kick in. Make sure you know those figures so you’re not caught off guard. 

Sealing The Deal 

Once you’ve reached an agreement, you’re ready to begin your work in earnest. You’ll have a time frame by which you need to complete your textbook. You’ll also have your advance and an agreement about royalties. 

You’ll notice that we still don’t have a cut and dry answer to the question “How much does a textbook author make?” As you can see, creative and freelance jobs are a bit different than other careers. There’s no hourly rate, generally speaking. 

To help you gauge your earning potential, however, here are some rough figures. On average, an author earns about $60,750 in the United States. Technical writers earn an average of $70,240. 

So take that into consideration when setting your writing rates. Also keep it in mind when negotiating a contract for your textbook. 

After all, writing a textbook is a lot of work. You deserve to get paid what you’re worth! 

Are You Looking For Textbooks? 

Now that you know “How much do textbook authors make?”, you’re ready for some textbooks of your own! Maybe you’re researching your topic. Or you’re just getting an idea of how textbooks are written. 

Browse our list of college textbooks for sale today and start on your path to higher learning and understanding. 

About the Author

Christopher Manns

I was born in the UK, grew up in Canada and have lived in the USA since the 90s. I love my family, water sports, ice hockey, skiing and soccer. When I'm not helping people save money on textbooks, I'm travelling with my wonderful family and playing sports.