How Do Authors Get Paid?

Recently a question related to author’s pay came up on the Facebook Austen Authors page. Somebody asked how authors decide on a price for their books. It’s an excellent question, and I am copying my reply on that page below. Then I’d like to talk about how authors make money in general.

To price my books I look at what other JAFF writers are charging for their comparable works, to get a good sense of what the “going rate” is. I also look at what Amazon has to say about it. When an author first publishes on Amazon they receive a suggested price based on data collected by Amazon, which tries to maximize the sale price without losing too many potential customers. (They almost always suggest $2.99.) I put those two figures together and then make a gut call.

If an author decides to make their books available in Kindle Unlimited, so that a reader can download and read them without buying them, then the author also has to agree to sell that book exclusively through Amazon. No “going wide” through other sales channels like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Smashwords. In return the writer will receive a small payment for every page read through KU, so the writer has to decide if that additional payment will be worth the loss of the potential sales through non-Amazon channels. A crystal ball would be good here!

(Yes, Amazon knows how much you have read in a book that you borrowed. They know what page you left off on, remember? It’s all stored in the cloud.)

To make it more complicated, the KU payment amount changes every month, and you don’t know what it will be for this month until the middle of next month. Amazon starts with a big pie of money, somewhere in the vicinity of $18 million, which I guess they derive from KU subscriptions and maybe advertising. Then they decide how to allocate that big pie amongst all the pages that were read on KU the month prior. Typically this amount ends up around $.0045/page.

That leaves paperback sales. How does an author set the price of a paperback, and why is it so much more expensive than an ebook?

To begin with, a paperback is much more complicated to produce than an ebook. The pages have to be numbered, which is a tricky process, and the book cover has to have not just a front but also  a back and a spine. The sales price also has to be at least high enough to pay for the actual printing of the physical book itself, which is not something an author worries about with an ebook.  So the author has to set their sale price higher if they want to recover their investment.

To give you an idea what all this looks like in real life, take a look at Mr. Darcy’s Persistent Pursuit, my first book. I wrote it in about four months and posted it on chapter by chapter, so everyone who read it there got to read it for free (a model I still follow). Figuring out how to publish it and then actually going through the publishing process took another couple of weeks, and I followed Amazon’s suggestion and priced the ebook version at $2.99.  Two months later, following a steep learning curve, I managed to publish the paperback version.

Profit from ebook version: $2.02

Profit if someone reads the whole book on Kindle Unlimited: $1.71

Profit from paperback version: $1.58

Was the work worth it? Would I do it all again? Absolutely! My only regret is that I didn’t start doing this years ago!



I look forward to hearing any comments or questions you may have on this topic. In my next post I’ll talk about fanfiction sites–why authors use them and a survey of some of the better-known fanfic sites out there.


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New Review for Mr. Darcy’s Persistent Pursuit!

From a reader name Crystal Dark:

Mr. Darcy’s Persistent Pursuit is the first book I have read by Elaine Owen and I am definitely planning on reading more by this author. The plot was really fun and I loved seeing how everything unfolded and came together. I also found the solution for Lydia’s behavior a really interesting idea and plan on reading this books sequel Love’s Fool: The Taming of Lydia Bennet: What Happened After Mr. Darcy’s Persistent Pursuit (Longbourn Unexpected Book 2) to see how that develops and turns out. Overall this was a really fun and entertaining read that I am sure to read again.

Thank you, Crystal Dark! For the third and final installment in the Longbourn Unexpected series, you can check out my work in progress, An Unexpected Turn of Events, now being posted on

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Announcing The Winners of A New Look and a Giveaway!

Six people either commented on the blog or left a review on my review page, and I decided one winner was just not good enough. Instead I picked two! Congratulations to Vesper and to Luthien84! Please contact me at to claim your prize. A HUGE thank you to everyone who participated!

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A New Look and a Giveaway!

Welcome to my brand new web site! I will begin regular postings soon, but for now, I would like to launch the new site with a giveaway!

On July 10th, Duty Demands, my fifth book, was re-released by Kindle Press. I am proud and happy to be published by such a large publishing house (part of Amazon). Duty Demands was a #1 best seller when it was first published last year, and sales have been strong again for this second edition.

As part of the re-publishing process the book was given a new cover and had a little bit of new material added to the original text. But the story is still the same: what happens when Elizabeth completely misunderstands why Darcy wants to marry her? This is a high-angst story with lots of drama, suspense, and romance, and it can be yours for FREE!

To win your own free Kindle version of Duty Demands, just leave a comment about any of my books by going to the reviews page. Or just tell me what you think about the new web site! I’m happy to hear any feedback you want to leave. But be sure to leave a comment by midnight EST on Friday, August 4th. One winner will be chosen at random for every five entries, so be sure to get your name in there! Only one entry per IP address, please! Good luck to everyone!

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A Little Break

It’s been longer than I like since my last blog post, but there’s a perfectly good reason: vacation! My family and I went to the Bahamas over spring break, and getting ready for that trip, plus recovering afterwards, took up more time than I would have liked. I’ll try to make up for it by posting some fabulous pictures of some truly remarkable places.

Jane Austen knew all about vacations. For five years she lived in the city of Bath, a resort town where people came to “take the waters,” attend concerts, shop, and just generally relax. Two of her novels, Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, are set in Bath. And of course a pivotal moment in Pride and Prejudice comes when Elizabeth tours Pemberley as a visitor and meets Darcy unexpectedly. So Jane was certainly familiar with the concept of traveling and sightseeing for pleasure.

Our family’s travels took us from Baltimore, Maryland, where we boarded our cruise ship, to our first port of call in Port Canaveral, Florida.

This is the four of us in Florida: my daughter, son, myself and my husband. (The turtle guy is not actually a family member. 🙂 ) You can’t tell it here, but my husband was not feeling well and ended up being sick for most of the trip. Hmm, perhaps we should have gone to Bath ourselves!

From Florida we traveled to Nassau, where we ran into a pirate!


Pirates were not common in the city of Bath in Jane’s day :-), but I think she probably would have approved of this guy. The town of Nassau is a wonderful place to spend a day shopping, visiting a museum or two, or hanging out on the beach.

Jane would definitely have enjoyed the tour we went on to see the homes of the rich and famous in Nassau. The home below belongs to Chuck Norris.

This home used to belong to Mary Kay:

She must have sold a LOT of makeup! It’s a shame that everything pink is gone from this home now.

Our last stop was Coco Cay, where we spent some time “taking the waters” in our own way:

If you’re thinking that looks like heaven on earth, you’re right! It was.

Jane would definitely have loved the whole concept of a vacation at sea. Two of her brothers were in the navy, and one of her best heroes, Captain Frederick Wentworth, wins his fortune and establishes his character while on the ocean. But could Jane have ever imagined a ship like this?

Probably not!

After two more days at sea we returned to Baltimore, our heads and hearts full of good memories. Perhaps one day we’ll get to take this trip again. Until then, most of my traveling will be with Jane, lost in a good Austen tale!

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