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5 Ways To Make Money As An Author

If you’re attaching all of your money-minting, early retirement, big spending dreams to the launch of your book, I’m sorry to tell you this but you’re doing it wrong.

Certainly, a nice upfront deal can be a real cash windfall for some authors, but once that’s gone all that remains is the royalties from book sales. Unless you’re on the bestseller list, book royalties and $13 may be just enough to get you a Netflix subscription. In fact, for most published authors, selling books is not the primary way to earn money. Authors can still earn good money, but the residual check should be the surprise in your bank account each month. It’s not the revenue stream you can build a career off of.

So how do writers make money? The authors we’ve seen become the most successful, both for book sales and personal wealth generation, have been those that view their book release as the start of a platform launch rather than the end of a journey.

In working with 30+ authors we’ve seen there are myriad ways to build that revenue generation base. The kind of money that helps you quit your day job and move writing from passion project to purpose. The kind of money that enables you to build marketing campaigns that bring each subsequent title to a new audience base.

For starters, a few of these methods to earn money are quite simple and straightforward:

  • Start Speaking. Paid speaking gigs are the golden ticket for many authors, the one-hit wonders that can pack a big paycheck. If you've got a message that an audience will pay to hear you deliver, this is the route for you. Prior to book launch, start preparing a sizzle reel, your talking points, and a social media presence that has video baked into its foundation. Let people know what you'd be like in front of the crowd at their next event.
  • Consult. For nonfiction authors especially, this is an attractive option. If you wrote a book about leadership, psychology, medicine, etc., there's going to be a prospective audience who will want to pay for you to apply these lessons to their problems. Find a way to monetize that.
  • Sell goods. Write a health book? Why not start a supplement line. Very popular in the nonfiction space as well, develop the universe of ancillary products that people would pay to have. These are the tools they need to unlock the potential of your message for themselves.

Of course, not all of these are feasible in all genres and some require resources or capital to initiate.

Instead, here are our 5 favorite strategies for monetizing your author presence that can work for any author.

  1. Sell a guide. Whether you're a health author promoting a gluten-free lifestyle or the science fiction novelist who built the Cearlun Galaxy and the worlds within it, there's always a deeper level devotees of your writing are looking for. Preparing a guide on that topic(s) is an easy and low-cost way to monetize that interest. A few examples of what that could be:
    1. For a health author: 50 gluten-free recipes. Paleo supermarket shopping list. 10 ways to refute anti-vaxxers. 7 tips for beating sugar cravings. Guide to understanding scientific studies.
    2. For a fantasy/science-fiction author: Language primer for {insert creation here}. Family genealogy for {insert character/family of characters here}. Character prologue for {character} (a "background chapter" on your protagonist or supporting character).
    3. For a business author: How to talk to your employees about implementing these tips. How to conduct an employee evaluation using these tactics. Conducting a SWOT analysis for your business.
    4. For a memoir author: How to keep your own diary/journal. How to turn your dairies into a manuscript.
    And these are just a few examples of what you could do. Consider any information in your book someone may be looking to explore more deeply or may need guidance in applying to their daily life. We suggest you take a look at your existing writings (articles, blog posts, omissions from your final book, etc.) and mine content from there to start. Perhaps this "cutting room floor" material can find a valuable second life. For some inspiration, check out our guide to book marketing success.
  2. Start a small group coaching class. This idea capitalizes on someone's desire to have access, close and personal, to an author. For a fee (monthly or one-time), a member can join you for a "coaching" course of your own design. For a business author, this can be business coaching. For a health author, it's ways to implement the protocols described in your book. For a genre writer, it can simply be a writing coaching program, for the aspiring writers who respect your work. The workload here is a bit higher, as you'll need to design a valuable curriculum, but you can price accordingly.
  3. Try Patreon. If you're not familiar with Patreon, think of it as a Kickstarter for creatives and the arts. For a monthly subscription, community members can become your "patron," supporting your work in return for exclusive materials/access/perks. Artists from a broad spectrum of industries are using Patron, folks like Issa Rae, Jake & Amir, and Peter Hollens. With Patreon, you have the heavy lift of creating membership tiers, and making them worthwhile, but the recurring revenue stream can make it an attractive prospect. Various ways you can reward your patrons include:
    1. Access to a private Facebook Group or Instagram account.
    2. Attendance in private webinars or group calls you lead.
    3. Swag.
    4. Shoutouts - personal mentions on your social accounts or videos thanking them for their support.
    5. Thanking them in the acknowledgments of your next book, or even dedicating it to them.
    6. Allowing them to name characters/places in your book.
    And keep an eye on Facebook, which is launching Fan Subscriptions, an on-platform substitute for Patreon.
  4. Launch a paid email series. This is an idea we've seen only a few authors try. In this model, folks pay a subscription to be a member of a private email newsletter, where you share "private" information only your subscribers have access to. It's quite similar to the Patreon style of revenue generation, but a lighter workload for a few reasons. Firstly, the email series can be either static (in that it's a pre-developed email journey with evergreen content that never changes) or dynamic (a secondary weekly/monthly email list you manage). Secondly, the incentive tier is flat - people either subscribe or they don't, so there's no need to constantly be selling. Finally, email can be forwarded easily, unlike private content in a Facebook Group or a poll in your Patreon club. Sure, someone may see your "paid" email once or twice if someone shows them, but that word-of-mouth marketing may have just earned you a new (paying) subscriber (and we provide a free version of this premium content in our book marketing success guide).
  5. Develop an online course. For sure, this is the biggest lift of any of these potential programs, but it has the most potential as an evergreen revenue source. Online courses are one of the most popular education models on the internet right now. There's no reason you shouldn't hop on this trend. Your price points can vary from something moderately priced and delivered via email to something much pricier with a robust video component. The topics of this can be similar to what's in your guide (Idea #1), so it's even possible you build both. Consider this the "upsell" you pitch to a reader once they've bought your guide. If you want to learn more about building an e-course, we suggest you check out this resource from Amanda Genther. She walks you through every step she took and tool she used to build her own.

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