The average writer’s income can be a bit unpredictable. Sometimes books are selling, sometimes they aren’t. Sometimes you can make friends with the algorithm, and sometimes it STABS YOU IN THE BACK.
But one way writers can make themselves more financially stable is by establishing alternate streams of income, particularly passive income.
We’re going to cover the following topics:
- What is passive income?
- How can writers create passive income?
- How to make more money writing
- Making money with downloadables
- How writers can build video courses
- Writer fan content
- How to build an author platform
- Writer merch
What is passive income?
“Passive income” is essentially a type of “unearned” income that rolls in on its own with little to no effort to maintain. You’ll put in some work at the beginning to set everything up, and you might do some upkeep, but ideally you’ll end up doing very little or no work while continually making money.
A good strategy is to develop passive income part-time, around your day job or regularly writing schedule, then you grow it overtime.
Being an author creates passive income on its own through royalties. You do the work to write, edit, and publish your books, then the royalties pay out for however long the book sells.
Typically, the more lucrative way to build passive income as an author is by self-publishing, but third-party publishers also leave the marketing to authors, so even if you’re third-party published, building a platform is crucial for book sales. If you’re not selling your book, it’s probably not selling at all. If you put in the effort now to upkeep connections with your readership, that mean more sales as you publish more books.
Further reading: Do Self-Published Authors Make More Money?
How can writers create passive income?
Writers can create passive income in many ways: Royalties, sponsorships, content creation, merchandise, and much more. Let’s get into ways you can create extra streams of income through your writing, platform, and other low-effort endeavors.
One of the easiest methods for a writer to make money is usually writing. There are a few different ways to make more money writing than your traditional genre and format.
How to make more money writing
If you only write for yourself, you might consider writing for other people. One way authors make money on the side is through ghostwriting, but I don’t necessarily recommend that for passive income, because you typically get paid once per project and never again. Additionally, ghostwriting isn’t building your reputation–it’s giving the credit to someone else.
A better route for freelancers is writing pieces like blog posts. Not only can you get paid for producing that post, but most sites don’t mind if you drop a backlink or two to your own website (or books). The more posts you write, the more little funnels you have all over the internet to lead people back to you.
When we put so much effort and time into writing a piece, it can be kind of a bummer when it only benefits you once. It’s smarter to look for ways to make one written piece pay you multiple times.
For example, if you traditionally publish things like shorts, poems, or essays in magazines or lit journals, you can self-publish them as a collection when the publishing rights revert back to you. This is what I did with my short story collection, Little Birds.
Further reading: How To Publish a Poetry Book That Actually Sells Copies [STEPS]
Another example is what you’re reading right now: This blog post is a converted script from a YouTube video.
If you write series or have many standalone novels in one genre, consider publishing as a box set to make those published pieces pay you again, as well as creating another entry point to your writing.
Try to look for ways to use your writing multiple times to increase your revenue.
It’s relatively easy to build a pen name in a more accessible or more sellable genre and publish yourself without putting too much, or any, money into it. Self-help, romance, and erotica typically have pretty captive audiences that read very regularly, so those could be easy genres to drop an ebook or two into and see how it goes.
I started an erotica pen name to see if I could make money with very little effort (I could), and I made this video about how you can self-publish for free.
A no-brainer for increasing revenue from your books is by offering as many formats as possible. Some readers prefer e-book, some exclusively read paperback or love to buy a hardcover because it looks nice on a shelf. If you’re writing something like self-help or erotica, a lot of your audience will probably be Kindle Unlimited users, which means not offering an e-book option can severely cut into your sales potential.
Audiobooks are another popular format with a high earning potential.
And don’t forget that selling bundles and box sets of your existing works counts as a new product! Fill up your store with as many options as you can.
Along with publishing your regular books, you can drop in a few other pieces. This could be spin-off collections set in one of your novel universes, instructional e-books about anything you’ve got a strong knowledge base in, journals, planners, coloring books–anything you can think of!
The larger your library of products, the more money you can potentially make. If you land on something that sells really well, focus on creating more of those products.
Run a blog
Another way to monetize writing is through a blog. With consistency and SEO, you can build a really sellable platform for sponsorships, affiliate links, ads, and other routes of monetization. This route is a bit less passive, but it is fairly simple to grow a blog. I recommend the YouTube channel “Income School” to learn more.
Making money with downloadables
Downloadables can be pretty much anything. The content could be related to writing, your non-writing career, your other skills and interests, or just items you’ve noticed there might be a market for.
As an example, I made a PDF downloadable about writing pretty prose, because that’s one of my writing strengths. Each page has a mini-essay about that particular writing topic. I sell these for three dollars a piece. So I put the time into writing and designing the PDF, then I just uploaded it to my Koji and users can pay for it and get their download on the same page without me doing anything else.
Making a portfolio of downloadables doesn’t have to be a huge burden. I’m not rushing to make more right now. It can be something you brainstorm and create in your downtime, then publish it somewhere to add one more stream of income.
How writers can build video courses
If you have a specific area of expertise, you might produce a video course about it. There are multiple services that let you create and upload courses for free, and the site just takes a cut of that revenue and pays you royalties.
You can use sites like Skillshare, Udemy, Koji, or Teachable. Personally, I’ve only used Skillshare. My published classes are How To Publish a Collection, and How To Write Flash Fiction.
I make money there per minute viewed, plus a bonus for people who sign up through my link.
I would love to dedicate more time to creating video courses, because all the work is upfront, then it pays off for a long time. The last class I posted was in 2020, and I still get a check every month from Skillshare.
If you have a topic you feel confident teaching, and you have the resources to film and edit videos, producing online classes might be a great option for you.
Writer fan content
I use “fan content” to refer to anything behind a paywall that only people who are specifically interested in you and your content would even care about. The content could be access to you—private twitter accounts, discord servers, monthly video calls.
Fan content could also look like early access releases, behind-the-scenes content, exclusive extras.
I use Patreon, where I upload an extra video every month, as well as giving patrons access to my main channel videos as soon as they’re uploaded on unlisted, and providing entry to my discord server groupchat.
If you have a platform or you produce content, you might try offering something exclusive to your audience and give them a chance to be more involved in the stuff you make.
How to build an author platform
Most of the methods I’ve mentioned are a lot more accessible for content creators and influencers than they might be for someone with no audience. If you don’t have people to direct toward the things you’re making or selling, it can be much harder to generate those sales organically.
Ways to build an online audience are mainly through content production, like blogs, videos, classes, social media.
If you hate the idea of creating regular content, I get it. It’s not for everyone. If you’re the type of writer who just wants to write in your genre or format and never touch anything else, you can work around that by having an author site and making sure you add a newsletter signup at the end of your ebooks, on your author pages, and anywhere else that you have access to do so. That’s sometimes all you need.
It’s much easier to pull an audience if you’re creating something a little more digestible than a whole book, but if you have zero interest or drive to produce anything else, you can make it work with a website and a newsletter. You just need somewhere to collect people and keep in contact with them.
If you’re a freelance writer, you might aim to only take jobs that will let you link your own stuff in the articles and/or in your author bio on the site. That’s another great way to funnel someone else’s audience into your own without having to be a “content creator”.
Other than having people to peddle your wares to, having an audience by itself makes you money through ads, affiliate links, and sponsorships. There are multiple ways to monetize any form of online attention you have, so building up an audience is a pretty good time investment.
I won’t say merch is the most lucrative option, but if you make good merch, you stand a chance for profit. If you have a relatively small audience (or even a decently-sized one), merchandise that only has your name, your book titles, or something else very specific to your platform, might not sell very well.
For example, take a look at this merch shop. My highest selling item is the Writers Mug, which has nothing to do with my platform. I’ll sell book merch every now and then, but the more independent the content is from you, typically the more sales you can nab.
All in all, most people who pursue writing do so because they’re passionate about it, and they have stories burning a hole in their pen. While it’s generally a labor of love, writing doesn’t have to leave you totally broke! Hopefully these ideas are enough to get you thinking about ways to increase your income so you can keep doing what you love without worrying about losing the farm.
See ya next time, bye!
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