Most authors do not make a full-time living from book sales alone.
Figures from The Society of Authors report that most authors earn below the minimum wage when it comes to book sales alone. Average earnings for British authors are just £12,500 per year (around US$15,000.)
Most authors have a day job or other forms of income, and there’s nothing wrong with that! In this video I talk about how authors make a living. Watch below or here on YouTube.
So if you want to pay the bills and write, then your first option is to keep the day job and write for the love of it, making some extra cash on the side.
But if you want to give up the day job, here are some of the ways to make a living with your writing.
- Teaching in person/lecturing at universities & colleges / online courses
- Rights licensing – foreign rights, options and different ways of turning books into multiple income streams
- Professional speaking
- Services like freelance writing/services for hire
- Advertising, affiliate revenue, and sponsorship
- Patronage – a supportive partner, or your own pension, or supporters on Patreon or a membership site model. I have a Patreon for The Creative Penn podcast.
- High volume book production
For more details, check out How to Make a Living with your Writing, available in ebook, print and audiobook formats.
I also mention my video tutorial on How to Format an Ebook and Print Book on Vellum.
Do you want to make a living with your writing? What options would work for you? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.
I’m working towards the goal of 2k usd a month from books and I started a publishing company with a friend. I handle the marketing side and she handles the editing and formatting. We’re just getting off the ground so we’ve decided to add author services to indies. We also started an author interview podcast for fiction authors and a YouTube channel, as well as a nonfiction blog for authors. We’re planning to use patreon to bring in money but as I said we’re just getting started so I’m still figuring that out. For me though bringing in any money is a success as I’m currently a stay at home Mom with no income stream. My husband supports us and I’m desperate to help out! Thank you for everything you do on here. This is an amazing resource for authors.
Joanna Penn says
It sounds like you are creating a great eco-system, and that is the most sustainable way! All the best with it.
Amy Keeley says
Wow. Thank you so much for confirming what I’ve been noticing. But does high volume book production really make up for the day job as much as the other bullet points? Or is there a reason it’s last on the list?
Joanna Penn says
The list is in no particular order – although teaching is probably the most common income stream for fiction authors. High volume fiction can work for indies and I know plenty who do it – but you have to be very focused on production, be disciplined with writing, and write to a series niche and have rabid readers. It’s why I can’t do that model alone. It takes a certain personality type – but it can be done.
Avery K. Tingle says
I’ve been trying to learn how to become a better speaker but getting over being incredibly introverted is a challenge.
Joanna Penn says
You can definitely learn some skills to help you with energy management. I’ve put everything I know in the Public Speaking book – http://www.thecreativepenn.com/speakingbook/ You’re welcome to let me know any questions, Avery. I know you’ve been part of the community for years now!
Gideon Emmanuel says
Thanks alot for all you have said.
I have had the same idea for a while now and have started setting up tools to carry them out.
My first thought about which of those other income streams I could use, would be teaching but I don’t really feel I know enough about anything! I’ve had Chronic fatigue syndrome for 8-9 years and am well on the way to recovering. Would my journey through this be enough to share do you think?
Joanna Penn says
You could do something like: “How to live and work with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome” or something that helps people with their own journey and shares your experience as well as tips for others. Health-related books are always wanted!
Jack Dunigan says
Hi Joanna, I cannot tell you how many people I have sent here to get your Author 2.0. I am a business mentor specializing in start-up ventures. As the only one in the company with experience in authors, ecommerce, and nonprofit organizations, I get all the newbies who want to write a book. The expectations are always unrealistic and it is my job to gently bring them over into reality so that a realistic and probable business plan can be put into place. I often have them read Hemingway’s “A Moveable Feat” because in it he opens the curtain to see just what a struggle it has always been to get started as an author, even a giant like Hemingway. And I have them read “Man With the Golden Typewriter.” Fergus Fleming assembled Ian Fleming’s James Bond letters as he struggled to get the books published. Both these books dismantle the illusion that one need only pen a book and the money will flow like wine. And then there is that publishing guru Joanna Penn who has done so much for so many by being so honest (love you photo standing by the stacks of your first self-published printed book). C. Hope Clark is another honest guru here in the US whose story remarkably parallels your own. Then there’s me and my own detailed business model I use with my clients to show them it can be done but it does require honesty and work. Thanks for your support to so many.
Joanna Penn says
Thanks Jack, and it’s great to be realistic about the options. I’ve certainly never found my enthusiasm waning for writing – I love learning new ways to use our words, so if people get the bug, then nothing will stop them 🙂 I was on Hope’s email list way back and have spoken alongside her at a conference. She is lovely! Thanks also for sending writers here over the years. I really appreciate it! Happy writing 🙂
Jason Minick says
Making a living through producing a sufficient volume of writing would definitely be my preferred model. But, as a new writer, it’s the ‘Don’t give up the day job’ option for now. Rather paradoxical really: now is the time I need to dedicate as many hours as possible, in pursuit of the dream of being able to write ‘full time’ …
Icy Sedgwick says
I’m very much going for the ‘multiple streams of income’ model. So I’ve got fiction sales, freelance copywriting services, design services for authors (websites and book covers), and I’d like to move into professional speaking since it’s not that far from teaching…which I’m at least qualified to do! I much prefer the idea of having a range of streams so if one takes a dip, I’m not scrabbling around for income.
Shariq Latif says
This is extremely informative, and a great realization to earn money from various modes.
Keep on doing the great work. Love from Pakistan