Have you been thinking about writing a book, but wondering if it’s worth the time and effort? Maybe you’ve already written a book to build you brand and/or creditability and are wondering how to get the most out of your efforts.
Consider this an entry-level article designed to structure your thinking and your brainstorming about the best way to make money from your book.
As a regular book reviewer for Small Business Trends, and someone who helps authors market their books online, I’ve found one trend that has been increasing over the years — authors are expected to market their own books – regardless of whether they were published by a traditional publisher or whether they were self published.
That means that you’re not only expected to be an author, but a marketer as well. Now that we have that out of the way — it’s time to talk about money!
How Much Money Do Authors Make?
According to data from a new survey from Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest, the median income range for self-published authors is under $5,000 and nearly 20% of self-published authors report deriving no income from their writing.
By comparison, authors published by traditional publishers had a median income range of $5,000 to $9,999 and “hybrid authors” (those who both self-publish and publish with established publishers) had a median income range of $15,000 to $19,999.
At the high end of the spectrum, 1.8% of self-published authors made over $100,000 from their writing last year, compared with 8.8% of traditionally published authors and 13.2% of hybrid authors. (Source: Forbes)
Dispelling the Author Myth
Most people assume that there are two types of authors when it comes to money, best-selling authors (like J.K. Rowling or Dan Brown) who get millions of dollars in their publishing contract or the struggling author who only gets income when he bribes a family member to buy a copy.
The truth is, there isn’t a fixed number you can estimate because there are a lot of factors that go into an author’s potential income. There are a few authors who make millions, more than make thousands, and a lot more that can’t reach the $500 threshold. and even lose money.
As an author, it is up to you to determine how you profit from your hard work. For some people, just publishing a book is enough. Most authors, however, wouldn’t mind earning some cash for their words.
Your first step is to learn how to get that cash. As an author, there are two basic ways you earn money, from book sales or stuff you sell based on your book’s content.
Method 1: Direct Book Sales
Authors earn money from their book sales in two ways, royalties or an advance . An advance is money that is given to an author from a publishing company before the book comes out. Advances are usually given to authors who have a track record of publishing best-selling books or have a very high of becoming a best-seller. Only authors with a publishing contract can earn advances.
Both self-published and traditionally published (authors working with a publishing company) can earn royalties. Royalties is money given to an author after a book is published and sold. Authors receive a percentage of the sale, depending on how they published their book. If you work with a publishing company, a part of your royalties must go the publisher, an agent, and then you. If you are a self-published author, you still have to pay the company that helped your book get published (in many cases Amazon) but you get a higher percentage back.
Another way to make money on direct book sales is to create your book in different formats such as digital, paperback, hardback, audio, etc. This will help you to reach more of an audience from a format that they are more comfortable with.
Method #2: Sales Based on Your Book’s Content
Authors look for income opportunities beyond their book sales, however. The major reason is the limited sales capacity of a book. After you sell a book, the transaction is over until the author makes another book. If, however, an author sells things based on the book’s content, that author has almost an unlimited number of ways to earn money.
What do I mean by earning income from your book’s content? Five examples include:
- Product Sales based on your content
- Consulting/teaching in your genre/style
- Special events/Travel Tours
6 Creative Ways to Make Money from Your Book
- Sell T-shirts, coffee mugs, or other promotional items on with characters from the book on your own website or through a site like CafePress or Zazzle and if you are particularly crafty, Etsy.
- Offer traveling tours where the author takes a group of readers through the places that inspired a book using a site like Vayable.
- Set up a crowdfunding campaign on sites like Indiegogo to raise money for expenses that you can’t afford
- Sell exclusive bonus material, such as additional or extra chapters, poems, or short stories through your website or Fiverr.
- Advertising income (selling ads based on your book on sites such as the Wattpad Futures program other sites) or through affiliate programs through Amazon Associates
- Offering a fiction-writing or course in your chosen non-profit topics such as Udemy or Skillshare.
Book Marketing Ideas That Work
Unless you’re already a celebrity best-selling author, traditional publishers will expect you to do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to promoting your book. No matter what you’re writing; fiction, non-fiction, ebooks or even blog posts, if you want to make money, you will have to become a marketer.
Many authors feel lost when it comes to marketing their book and so they will hire a PR person to pitch and promote their book to reviewers and media outlets. In this article, I’m going to suggest that you follow these tips before you go out and hire any type of marketing or PR professional. You’ll find that there are quite a few of these book marketing ideas that you can do yourself and for the ones that you’re going to delegate or outsources, you’ll be saving yourself a lot of time and money by having done the bulk of the research and strategic work already.
Understand that you are in the marketing business (and not the writer or author business).
This is helpful even BEFORE you sit down to write your first word. When you think of yourself as being a marketer first and an author or writer second, you’ll immediately put your focus on what matters; your audience, the problem they are solving and how you can help them solve that problem.
This is true for fiction writers as well. John Locke, who has sold millions of ebooks on amazon and made more than a million dollars by selling $.99 books did it exactly this way.
He saw that many successful authors were charging almost $10 for a book and decided that he would undercut them – selling his own efforts for $.99 cents.
Locke had a business background and thought very carefully about who his ideal audience was, how they spent their days, what frustrated them and what type of content they would be most likely to consume. Don’t get me wrong, this wasn’t an easy process and he had his trial-and-error moments. But you can see that by simply writing from the context of your writing being a money-making venture rather than simply a creative exercise can be helpful.
Create a simple marketing plan for your content
You’re probably wondering why YOU should have to do this when you intend to hire a marketing expert to do this for you. You should do this yourself first SO THAT you can choose the right book marketing person or PR person who will help you make money from your book.
Here’s the template — Click on the image and then either download it for yourself or make a copy to your own Google Drive.
With this plan in hand, you’re ready to start playing around with some specific marketing ideas for making money from your writing.
Create a video trailer: A book is nothing more than a movie you play in your mind, create a short video trailer to get people excited about the book. You can use tools like Adobe Spark, Animoto or Magisto.
Do a virtual book tour: In addition to sending copies of your book to book reviewers and book review sites like Goodreads, collect a list of podcasts, tweet chats, Facebook live sessions, etc. Anywhere people are talking about your topic, you want to be there and you want to be there during a blast over say 4-6 weeks.
Create a Facebook Group or Fan Page: Create a space where your audience, fans and potential readers can engage with you.
Build a website: You can create a simple book or author website on your own for less than $100. Invest in great design, book image and author headshots and images. Also provide some free content such as a table of contents, a chapter or two or even better — create a series of downloadble resources and tools for your audience.
These items are just the tip of the iceberg because authors who know how to leverage their content have even more options. As an author, you’re not limited to sitting around and waiting for your book to make you money. You can use your book’s content to create opportunities for even more money. The only limits are your time and imagination.