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How To Make Money As An Author (aside From Book Sales)

They say not to put all your eggs in one basket…

Selling books can sometimes be a challenge. Even if your book sales are going well, it’s smart to have money coming in from different sources. That way, if one goes down you’re not completely stuck. It’s absolutely possible to make a living as an author in 2019, but this sometimes requires thinking outside the box.

1. Merchandise

This could come in many forms and is better suited to some books than others. In the picture book world, you may be able to turn one of your characters into a cuddly toy. Deborah Brookes and Polly Rabbits did this with Angus McPaw. You could also produce something like a colouring book.

Likewise, if you have a book with lots of images, there’s the option of making greetings cards or art prints. Cookbooks can inspire postcard sets with key recipes on for keen home cooks to share with their friends.

You could make products featuring witty or interesting quotes from your books, either by designing them nicely on a computer or by hiring a designer, calligrapher or lettering artist to do it for you.

This is an opportunity to get creative, so consider things like notebooks, mugs, t-shirts, fabrics, hats and tote bags.

The CopyPress can help you with paper goods, while companies like Printful produce more bulky items on a print-on-demand basis and deliver directly to you or your customer, so you don’t need to worry about storage and inventory.

2. Teaching

In my humble opinion, you can’t properly understand a topic until you’ve taught it. That’s been my experience, at least. Not only does explaining a thing to someone else teach you more about it, but it can also be profitable! Some things to teach might include:

  • Writing (prose, poetry, non-fiction, etc)
  • Your experience of the self-publishing process
  • Something particular to your area of expertise
  • English (or another subject) at school level

The beauty of teaching is that you can fit it around your schedule. Need some extra cash and have a weekend free? Host a 2-day workshop. Need a more regular paycheck? Try English tutoring or running an evening class that runs during term time.

3. Ebook exclusives

Have you got pieces of work connected to your primary writing that doesn’t quite fit with the rest? Maybe some short stories, novellas or reference guides? These could be repurposed into an ebook (or ebooks) through your website or Amazon.

Putting these up online at a few dollars each might not seem like a good use of time. However, if they contain valuable information and you can market them well and sell them at scale, they could be a nice form of passive income. Once again, the golden marketing rule of focusing on value to the customer is key.

4. Freelance copywriting or journalism

Copywriting is the art of persuasive writing used in advertising and marketing. It’s quite different from other forms of writing and takes skill and an understanding of human psychology, but if it’s something you can do well, it can be very profitable.

Likewise, if you have a particular field of interest and expertise, it may be worth looking into writing for publications in your niche. Blogs and magazines always need content, so start building relationships with them through social media (or in-person if you’re old-school). You can also pitch article ideas to editors.

With either of these, start out by asking around in your own personal network. Every business needs copy written and every publication needs content. You may be surprised how many opportunities there are out there when you start looking.

An editor will probably want to see examples of past work. Writing free guest posts for blogs can help you to build a portfolio. If you’re keen to do this, we are often looking for guest bloggers for this blog. Email me at marketing@copypress.co.nz if you’re interested in writing for us.

5. Influencer marketing

This one is a little more (or possibly less) complicated, depending on if and how you use social media. Influencer marketing is when a brand pays someone with a social media platform to endorse their product. It’s a bit like when a brand pays an All Black to endorse their breakfast cereal, shoes or heavy-duty cleaning product, just on a smaller scale.

If you have a social media following of more than a thousand followers there may be brands interested in working with you. Typically, you get paid based on how many followers you have and what your engagement (number of likes, comments and shares you get on posts) is like.

Instagram and YouTube are the main platforms for this, but there may be opportunities on other social networks too.

Some brands will send you free products in lieu of pay, but this can work really well too, especially if it’s something you would have bought anyway.

If you have a large enough following, brands may reach out to you. Alternatively, you can reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in collaborating, and some brands will have a page where you can apply to be an influencer.

The promotion has to make sense for your brand and your audience, and you need to be careful not to do so many influencer campaigns that your followers get annoyed with it. My rule of thumb is that I will only accept sponsorships from companies I would happily recommend without being paid. I suggest making some similar rules for yourself before going into this field, lest you end up ‘selling out’ by touting avocado slicers on your blog about cars.

Good luck!

Whether or not these points apply to you will depend on the type of writing you do and what skills you already have. If you have any questions, please get in touch. I’ve made money from all of these, with the exception of ebooks, so I’m happy to give what advice I can.

Holly Dunn

Holly is a Nelsonian, studied in Wellington, and lived in the UK for about three years before returning to Nelson in 2017. She has worked as a bookseller both in New Zealand, and in the UK.

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