Early Retirement
Can You Retire Early on Book Sales Alone?
People have a natural curiosity about just how much an author can make as a
result of publishing a book. And if that book happens to be about retiring early
(as ours is), then the curiosity can be even stronger, because folks wonder
whether the book itself is what’s allowing the author to escape the nine to five
work routine.

Well, we’re here to set the record straight. Below we post our actual book
royalties from the sale of our book,
How to Retire Early. This is in keeping with
our tradition of publishing honest, detailed financial information about
ourselves (we’re just crazy that way), so here goes. The book was published
on Amazon.com in March 2013 and we have royalty information through
September 2014:
So in the 1½ years since the book was published, we’ve earned a total of just
under $7,000 in royalties before taxes.

Clearly this is nowhere near enough to retire on, despite the fact that the book
has performed reasonably well. (It has ranked as high as #4 on Amazon’s best
seller list for books about retirement planning.)

For us, the royalties represent a small but appreciated supplement to our
annual living expenses. Our main source of support continues to be our nest
egg of stock and bond mutual funds, currently valued at about $980,000 (not
including our fully paid-for condo). We typically withdraw about $40,000 per
year from these funds to live on.

We think the numbers make it clear that book royalties don’t replace the need
for a sizable nest egg saved up over the course of years. A 2011 survey by
The Guardian of some 1,000 self-published authors indicated that half earned
less than $500 total from their book. An exception can be made, of course, for
New York Times bestselling authors who have huge followings and tremendous
sales. But for the vast majority of authors, a book is a labor of love that
rewards in ways other than just royalties.

Based on our own experience, the process of writing a book is highly labor-
intensive. The wages earned, if divided up on an hourly basis, would be pretty
unimpressive. A “normal” job worked for a month or two could provide income
far more easily. But of course, financial independence means getting to choose
which projects you undertake based on more than just their money-making
potential. If a book happens to make a little money in the end, that’s just icing
on the cake.