Making a living writing is 100% possible and more so now than it ever has been before…you just have to know how to get there.
“If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood.
I’d type a little faster.”
— Isaac Asimov
It is every writer’s dream: to make a living writing the kind of books you love to read.
But, can really earn an income if you self-publish a book? Is it realistic?
This is how to make a living writing:
- Is making a living writing possible?
- Learn why authors fail to make a living writing
- Build your author platform
- Scale assets and multiple income streams
- Use the “multiple book model”
- Expand your book formats
- Scale income streams
- Build an email list of raving fans
- Become a full-time author
You may have heard that most writers—Self-published and traditional—are starving artists who never make more than $1000 a year.
The stories are true. Many writers starve. But many sell a lot of books and do very well, if they stick with it and build multiple income streams.
I’ll just get this out of the way right now. Writing a book is hard work. Creating a sustainable platform with several income streams is harder. But, if this were easy, everybody would be doing it.
Making a living from your writing is definitely worth it and, as a writer who wants to earn cash online from their craft, it is one of the most rewarding achievements you will experience in the self-publishing business.
If you are an aspiring writer, or have already published and want to scale up your book business, find writing jobs, get some writing scholarships, or even write for online publications, let’s dive into how to turn your words into income (Yes, it can be done!).
I don’t know what starving authors are doing but, in this post, I’ll show you how to earn a living writing books through creating multiple income streams.
You will see that it is definitely possible.
You can become the top 10% that make money from your books and write from Starbucks, the beach, or that cabin in the woods everyone keeps talking about.
Making a Living as a Writer is Possible
Before the Internet became a thing, the path of a writer was a long, and often frustrating profession, guaranteeing nothing even after years of committed writing.
You have heard the stories of famous authors rejected multiple times before getting published.
- Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell—rejected 38 times before it was published.
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig—rejected 121 times before it was published
- Agatha Christie had to wait four years before getting published
- Dune by Frank Herbert—rejected 23 times before it was published.
As an INDIE author, the days of sifting through rejection slips are over.
You write, you publish, and you build your own book business like Jenna Moreci did creating her full-time author and Youtube business where she now gets to spend her days doing what she loves.
Check out an interview we conducted with her about how she did it:
Or, you build a business from a book. Either way, your writing is the gateway to a better life that you create and have total control over.
If you want to know what it would take for you to bring home a full-time income from your books, check out this book profit calculator. It’ll do the math and show you what you’d need to sell and how much you’d make in total:
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Why Authors Fail to Make a Living Writing
Do you know why most authors only earn a few thousand dollars a year or less from their writing?
Here are 4 reasons authors fail to make a living writing:
- They only write one book. You need momentum with your book platform to generate enough monthly sales to support your lifestyle. This is possible with building out a library of books and maximizing on the earning power for each. We will look at this more later.
- They don’t stay current with shifting publishing trends. The self-publishing industry is constantly changing. If you aren’t staying current with what is working (and what has stopped working) your book sales plummet and you don’t reach as wide an audience as you’d like.
- They stick with one platform as the only source for earning income. Many authors stay with Amazon only. This makes sense considering they have 85% of the market for ebooks. And Amazon’s exclusivity program, KDP Select, makes it easy to sign over all power to the online digital giant. However, if you keep your eggs in one basket, what happens when that basket falls out of the tree? In other words, Amazon decides to make a major change to their platform overnight and, within a week, your monthly royalties get cut in half. Yes, it happens as we see time and time again.
- They don’t invest in the quality of their product. Poorly designed book covers, sloppy editing, a boring book description…equals a product nobody wants. If you want to make a living writing books, invest in your book (particularly getting a good book cover) so that it sells.
Bottom line: Write and publish consistently, write high-quality books people want to buy, expand your reach by publishing across multiple platforms, and stay up-to-speed on the latest marketing strategies that are working.
This is the formula most successful self-published authors are using to make a living as a writer.
Build Your Author Platform to Make Money Writing
You, as an author and creator, needs to form the mindset that this is your business—your book business. Regardless if you are a part-time author looking to get started making some extra income, or your goal is to be a full-time author, when you start making money from your “hobby”, you are turning it into a business.
When it comes to creating income from writing, it boils down to one word: Platform.
Your author platform is the structure of your writing career. It should consist of multiple income streams. This begins with your platform.
According to Michael Hyatt, bestselling author of Platform and Free to Focus, a platform is, “The means by which you connect with your existing and potential fans. It might include your company website, a blog, your Twitter and Facebook accounts, an online video show, or a podcast. It may also include your personal appearances as a public speaker, musician, or entertainer.”
As a writer, even if you are writing a book for the first time, think about what your platform means to you. This will become the structural foundation that your writing author business is built on.
If you want to make a living writing fiction or nonfiction, the approach to how you structure your income streams are similar, although the content is different.
What drives your platform, however, is the one thing that many overlook: Your author mindset. From now on, approach your craft with the mindset that this is your business.
Like every business, you have to be focused on the customer experience and products available to those customers. Delivering the right product, in this case the book they are looking for, is how to convert the curious customer into a paying one.
Components of an Author Platform
Your author platform is made up of:
A Catalog of Books: This consists of published books, and all variations of the book including paperback, hardcover, large print and audiobooks. Your books, aside from bringing in consistent revenue, act as funnels for building your subscribers list and promoting your other products. Your books could be stand-alone reads, as many nonfiction titles are, or a series of thrillers.
Email list: This is your list of raving fans that have given you permission to contact them by providing you with their email address. Your email list is at the heart of making a living, not just as an author but, anyone who is building an online platform.
Wide Distribution Model: As a self-published author, Amazon may be where you make 80% of your income. But if you have more than three books available, you want to consider opting out of Amazon’s KDP Select program and publishing wide with other platforms such as aggregators Draft2Digital, PublishDrive and Kobo. Set your print books up for sale through IngramSpark. You can tap into a huge international market that, not only will drive your book sales but, open up opportunity for international foreign rights.
Courses: As an author you could develop courses based on the content of your books. For example, take a look at what Lise Cartright has built through her platform Hustle & Groove. Picture a multitude of courses available for when browsers or subscribers come to your site for the first time. Building online courses is a great way to expand this platform.
Website: A critical piece of your writing business is your author website. This where you stage all of your talent. You might have an author blog that brings in leads for your books and courses.
You could create content that you don’t publish on Amazon and make it exclusive to your website only. You can cross promote with other authors and set up an autoresponder email funnel to build a deeper relationship with your readers.
Your author website should include these basic features:
- A free offer: This is free content a new subscriber downloads after opting in.
- Featured blog posts: Your blog is an asset and potential income stream as it brings in leads through visitor traffic.
- Course platform: Highly recommended. These are great assets to build out and easy to scale up.
- About page: Make a dynamic introduction here.
Scalable Assets and Multiple Income Streams
Let’s get to my favorite topic: Creating multiple income streams to grow your business!
This is what I love about self-publishing. You are at the helm of your own ship and you, and only you, get to choose the direction to take.
We know that, if we write and publish lots of books, potentially our library of books grows and this generates strong passive income.
But relying on book sales only is a lot of work, and it is more work if you are selling on just one platform, Amazon.
Check out how our very own coach Lise Cartwright has built her passive income stream with books (and how she can teach you to do the same when you become a student):
As an authorpreneur, a self-publisher who writes and publishes their own books, you want to always be thinking creatively how to expand your income streams.
Let’s take a look at the list below for book assets.
Making a Living Writing with the “Multiple Book Model”
Let’s be honest. Making money from one book can be very difficult. Most authors who earn a living as a successful writer have several, if not many, books in the pipeline.
These authors not only publish consistently but, are focused on delivering a series of books to build a valuable fan base.
The people buying your book series, once they are hooked into your series, crave more. This makes it a no-brainer for scaling up your author platform with every new book launch.
The more books you publish, the more income you can potentially earn and add more subscribers to your list.
For example, check out these popular book series:
- S.J. Scott’s Habit Book Series or Mindfulness Book Series with Barrie Davenport.
- Mark Dawson’s John Milton Series. He is now up to book #12 and this popular series has sold a million copies.
- Nick Webb’s popular sci-fi series Legacy Fleet
- Hal Elrod’s The Miracle Morning Series books
We know that publishing consistently brings in more money and builds your platform over the long-term. But why does this model work?
Your readers love new material, and so does Amazon. When your platform is active with new book releases, sales and reviews coming in consistently, the algorithm is “switched on” to help you sell more by pushing your books into the higher-traffic channels.
As your platform continues to scale up, your platform grows.
It might be slow at first, and you feel like you’re doing a lot of writing without any gains, but…that is the way it is when you begin to build.
Most fiction authors start to see a return on investment after the 4th or 5th book in a series. For nonfiction, this could happen sooner but, I certainly experienced a big shift after launching my 5th book Relaunch Your Life.
Another reason multiple books work is, new readers discovering you are almost always going to buy your other books if they like what they read. If that same reader likes your books, maybe he or she wants the course you are offering as well at 20% off.
Expanding Book Formats to Make More Money from Your Books
Don’t just settle for publishing in a single format.
We’re covering the several different types of book formats you can publish in that will increase your income from writing over time.
#1 – Boxsets
A boxset is a series of books bundled together allowing readers to purchase the series at a reduced cost per book. This is a great product to create as soon as you have 3 or more books in a series.
Check out these boxsets by popular authors:
- Mortality Bites – Boxed Set (Books 1 – 6): An Urban Fantasy Epic Adventure by Ramy Vance
- Noah Wolf Box Set #1: Books 1-4 by David Archer
#2 – Audiobooks
The popularity of audiobooks is on the rise. With less people reading and tuning into digital products while on the run, audiobooks are an income stream you can’t afford to leave on the table.
#3 – Paperbacks
We live in the digital age but, paperbacks are still massively popular. In fact, 30% of my author revenue still comes through paperback sales.
With the power of Print-on-Demand, readers can buy our books through Amazon or IngramSpark, and these sites do all the heavy lifting. No inventory.
#4 – Hardcover Books
You can use IngramSparks’ powerful distribution network to create stunning hardcover versions of your book. Why not? It’s another income stream that, once set up, sells itself. You have to pay a fee of $49.00 per title and you’ll need an ISBN for each version of the book.
#5 – Large Print Books
Did you know you can offer readers another version of your book in large print form? This isn’t a huge market but, depending on the age range of your readers, a great option for children’s books or readers with impaired vision.
Ideally, you are not just selling a book. You are converting a browser into a lifelong customer. That is the real power of building a brand and an author platform.
Right now, take a few minutes to map out a rough plan for your book platform. How many books will you write this year? Is this a series of books or stand-alones? How far apart will you publish your books? Could you compliment your book by introducing a course to go with it?
Creating Scalable Income Streams
Check out how she does it in the video below:
In essence, a scalable asset can be anything you create once and continue to sell over and over again.
For example, you put in over a hundred hours to write a book. Now, if you were being paid $30 an hour to write, that would be $3000 to you after the work is done. But let’s say your book sells at $4.99 as an ebook, and $12.99 for the paperback.
You consistently sell 30 eBooks a day at a 70% royalty rate, because your book is priced between $2.99 and $9.99. The paperback priced at $12.99 earns a fixed 60% royalty rate through KDP. That is roughly 182.00 per day for ebook and paperback sales. Making money with ebooks is doable and sometimes the most lucrative way to get paid.
Now, this continues for 30 days and that is: 185.00×30=$5,550. Now, I calculated this just for one book if it does really well. Imagine where you could be with five, ten or twenty books each generating their own passive income streams?
How about if you had audiobooks as well? What about foreign rights sales? A course that goes with the book?
Get the idea now.
Yes, the dream is very real. It is right in front of you, if you want it!
How can you scale up your author business right now?
How many assets can you create over the next six months?
Build an email list of raving fans
If you haven’t started building an email list yet, you need one. Without a fan base to market your books to in the initial book launch phase, you are left to the mercy of the Amazon algorithm. Your list is the horde of fans waiting for your book release.
When you get ready to launch your next bestseller, these are the people who will help you to make it a smashing success.
A successful book launch is critical. When you Sell More Books, this is a trigger to Amazon that your book is popular and in demand. Amazon steps in to push your book into the also-bought section, the area that recommends popular items to customers when browsing.
How do you create an email list?
You can get started by offering a free gift inside your book.
This is a lead magnet that could be a:
- Action Guide
- Free Report
- Video Series
Your readers give you their email by signing up (what Seth Godin calls “Permission marketing) and they get added to your newsletter list. This is one of the most effective ways to sell books and continue to add to your subscribers list.
Your list is happy because they get to join you on the journey as you keep them in the loop on every writing project. Then, when close to launching, you can invite them to your launch team and offer the book for free to a segment of your list.
This helps to secure book reviews during launch week. In turn, your book sales flow in and your book has a stronger chance of sticking in the marketplace after the initial 30-days is over.
Remember: From the day your book is published, Amazon puts all books in “new releases” category. It is critical you maximize paid downloads and reviews during this 30-day period for the long-term success of the book.
Ready to Become a Full-Time Author?
Okay, you don’t have to be full time to still make money selling your books. But to make money at this, there are three things you should do consistently.
Here is a list of three action items that you, as a real author, can take to scale up your platform, sell more books, and earn good money while you sleep.
#1 – Form a writing habit
I write every morning from 5:30—7:00. This is a consistent schedule I have kept for the past 3 years and during this time I wrote and launched 12+ books.
Developing a writing habit is crucial if you want to make a living writing.
If you still have a day job (and most people do) you’ll need to find the time of day works best for you, establish your most productive writing time and make this a habit of creating content during this peak time.
Once you’ve established your best time for writing, write consistently for five days a week.
#2 – Publish consistently
If you follow the steps above and write with consistency, you can publish frequently, too.
Imagine where your (fiction or nonfiction) platform would be if you put out a book every 3-4 months. This is how you create scalable income.
Do the work now and reap the rewards later.
#3 – Communicate with your fanbase
We looked at the importance of an email list and why you need one. When you are getting ready to launch, you want to be able to shout it out to someone who is listening.
Your team of dedicated email subscribers are ready to help you launch bestseller after bestseller. But, communicating with your list is critical in between book launches.
At the very least, send out an email once every two weeks, and if you can, once a week. Provide tips, strategies, or an update on what you are working on.
Keep your tribe in the loop!
#4 – Determine Your Level of Success
You have to work out the details of what your success means to you.
How many income streams can you build, and what are they? Will you focus on the wide distribution model, or stay exclusive with Amazon?
This is different for every writer and depends on what you are comfortable with in terms of time and financial investment.
Stay focused on the big picture and scale up gradually. With every new book, you are generating potential to earn more and gain wider recognition as an author.
If you write one book and focus all your efforts on this, think of other income streams to tie in with your book and the kind of fan base you want to build. Will you offer coaching? Courses? Outsource your tech skills to help other authors?
You are an author, and now is the best time to make a living as a writer.