How to Make Money Writing a Book (From an Actual Person Who Did)

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Are you interested in writing a book? To make money writing a book, there is a lot to learn up front.

According to Scribe Media, the average traditionally published book only sells 3,000 copies. And that number includes the “big” sellers whose books sell millions of copies.

That means that the typical book isn’t going to sell many copies. 

However, the good news is that we’re going to share some tips that can help you give your book a leg up on the competition. 


How to Make Money as an Author

If you want to make money as an author, there are some things you need to know about how to write, publish and market a book.

I interviewed best-selling author Steve Economides, who’s going to share his tried-and-true tips on how to make money writing a book. 

Steve and his wife, Annette, published their first book in 2007. Today, they’ve got three successful published books and a growing personal finance business. 

Steve shared some powerful lessons he learned as he went from “guy with an idea” to “successful published author.” 

Create a Platform

Steve says that a necessary piece for becoming a successful author in today’s world involves having a platform.

Whether you go the traditionally published route or digitally self-publish, you’ll want to have a successful platform. 

Your platform is like the foundation for a house. You can’t build a solid house without a properly constructed foundation. Steve suggests starting a blog about the subject you want to write about. 

Give your blog a catchy, easy-to-remember name. Don’t choose something long or obscure that will be tough to remember. You can choose your own name for a website domain, or select a name that fits your blog’s topic. 

By the way, it takes less than ten minutes to start a blog–even if you know nothing about blogging. 

Non-Fiction Writers

If you’re planning on writing a non-fiction book, begin a blog about the subject of your future book. For example, if you’re going to write about personal finance, start a personal finance blog.

Or if you want to write about parenting, begin a parenting blog. Work to create an audience that you can help by writing about the types of subjects you’ll have in your book.

Fiction Writers

If you’re planning on writing a fiction book, write about you, your life and your interests. Share details about your life’s journey.

Do reviews of other fiction books. Write in a way that helps readers get to know you while helping them along the way. 

However, remember that the goal with your blog is not to write in a self-focused manner. People read blogs primarily to get help or to entertain themselves. 

So your goal if you want to become a published writer is to create blog articles that entertain your readers. Or blog articles that give them useful information (i.e., sharing great recipes or book reviews).  

Use your blog to connect with the types of people that you think would want to buy your book. This is considered your “target audience.” For blogs, Hit Publish can help you create more engaging content.

The more people you have in your audience, the bigger reach you’ll have when you start promoting your book. 

Your goal: turn your blog posts into your book, or simply build a large enough audience that they’ll want to hear what you have to say. 

Building a community is key. 

Social Media Accounts for Your Platform

After you’ve got your foundation platform (i.e., your blog) started, you’ll want to start social media accounts for your platform.

Open a Twitter account, an Instagram account and a Pinterest account. Also, consider starting a YouTube channel. 

When you publish an article on your blog, share it on your media channels. Ryan Scribner, who makes $6,000 a month with his personal finance YouTube channel, shares tips on how to grow your media accounts. 

“I started growing my social media following by reaching out to family and friends and asking them to follow my channels/pages. Then I would follow people who followed other personal finance writers. 

When they follow me back, I write them a personal message asking them to like or follow my other social media accounts. After 14 months of working at this, I’d gained over 100,000 followers to my YouTube channel.”

You’ll want to grow your social media followers and blog subscribers with the same kind of consistent work. Then publish regularly, sharing useful information. 

Steve and his wife had a printed newsletter with over 1500 subscribers before they thought about writing a book. That was part of the reason their first book had so much success (more on that later). 

Then, as you grow your platform, work on deciding which route you’re going to use to publish your book. 

Decide on Your Publishing Route 

There are two main routes you can choose from to publish your book: Traditional publishing or self-publishing. 

Traditional Publishing 

Traditional publishing is where you go through a publishing company and have them design, edit and publish your book.

If you’re going to go the traditional publishing route, you’ll need to start by writing a book proposal. 

Write a Book Proposal

A book proposal is like a business plan for a book. In fact, Steve’s first book proposal was 50 pages long.

Your book proposal should include: 

  • A header (the title of the book along with your name and contact information)
  • Your bio and experience
  • A brief synopsis of the book (your “elevator pitch”)
  • A detailed description of each chapter (name of the chapter and what it will contain)
  • One complete sample chapter (choose the one you think is most engaging)
  • A competitive title analysis (name five or so competing book titles, and tell why yours is different or needed)
  • Outline your target market (who will want to read your book)
  • Outline your marketing plan (make it thorough, attach numbers to your proposed actions)
  • Summarize your ideas for images, charts or graphs for the book, cover design ideas, etc. 

In short, your book proposal needs to tell why you’re qualified to write a book, what the book is about, which books are similar and why yours will be better.

Your book proposal will also share how you plan on marketing the book, etc. 

It’s important that you do the market research for the book. The more of an idea you have about how you can make your book successful, the more attractive it will be to literary agents and publishing companies. 

Start Researching Literary Agents

Now is also the time to start researching literary agents if you wish to go the traditional publishing route. A literary agent will represent you and work on pitching your book to publishing companies.

Hint: A literary agent will help you learn how to write your book proposal. 

Yes, you can pitch your book to publishing companies on your own. However, a good literary agent will likely be able to get your better terms (i.e., more money) than you would on your own. 

Note that literary agents do get a cut (percentage) of your profits. The percentage they take comes out of every avenue of money you make from your book. 

This means they’ll get a percentage of your advance (upfront money), royalties and so on. But their experience and relationships with publishers will likely be worth the cost. 

You can work to find a good literary agent by asking friends who are already published authors. Or by asking published authors who live in your area. Also, you can do an internet search for literary agents in your area. 

Be sure to check out reviews on literary agents. And don’t sign a contract until you’ve read it thoroughly and understand what’s in it.

Plus, having an entertainment attorney’s help in understanding the contract might be wise. 

As far as pay for a literary agent is concerned, Steve says that an agent should never take a cut of your profits that’s larger than 15 percent. 

Pros and Cons of Traditional Publishing

Some of the pros of traditional publishing include help with marketing. Steve found that most publishing companies will spend about six weeks or so marketing your book for you. After that, you’re on your own. 

You’ll need to be the one reaching out to local newspapers, news shows and more to try and get an interview, just like you would if you were self-published.

But at least you get six weeks of help you wouldn’t get in the self-publishing world. 

And once you’ve got a book published with a publishing company, that opens a door for future book deals, provided your first book was successful. 

One of the cons of going the traditional publishing route is that it takes longer. You may need to contact several literary agents and publishing companies before your book gets accepted.

Besides, publishers and literary agents have a lot of books to manage, and you’re simply a number. Also, you’ll need to split the profits with your literary agent. 

In addition, when you publish a book with a publishing company, you need to clarify who owns the rights to the book. This is different with every contract. 

Self Publishing 

If you decide to go the self-publishing route, know that this will be faster, easier and cheaper. Still, the downside is that you might make less money if you don’t market effectively. 

However, Steve suggests going the self-publishing route if you’ve already built up a solid audience. 

Start by Researching Publishing Platforms

A self-publishing platform is a way to publish your book that doesn’t involve literary agents. And you don’t need approval or acceptance from a publisher. 

Instead, you just need to choose a platform and follow the company’s directions.

Popular self-publishing platforms:

  • Kindle Direct Publishing (Amazon)
  • Barnes and Noble Press
  • Lulu
  • Smashwords
  • Kobo
  • Apple Books

Each platform has its own rules, regulations, cost and payout rates. Review each carefully and decide which is best for you. 

Note that you’ll be doing most of the work of self-publishing on your own. However, most self-publishing platforms have help centers that are quite helpful in walking you through the process. 

Pros and Cons of Self-Publishing

Some of the pros of self-publishing your book include that you don’t need approval. As long as your book subject matter isn’t on a self-publishing company’s forbidden list, you’re good to go.

Second, you’ll likely get a bigger cut of the profit than you would going the traditional publishing route. 

Third, you have more creative control than you do via traditional publishing. You get to decide what the cover will look like, the layout of the book and so on. 

Some of the cons of self-publishing are that you’re on your own as far as marketing and promotion go. If you don’t work at it–a lot–on your own, your book will likely stay in obscurity. 

Also, the self-publishing process takes a lot more work on your end as far as design, edits, etc. 

Write Your Book

Now that you’ve decided how you’re going to publish your book, it’s time to start writing! 

How Long Should My Book Be? 

You might be wondering how long your book should be. If you’re publishing with a traditional publisher, you will need to have a target goal of between 80,000  and 100,000 words for most fiction and non-fiction books. 

If your target market is the pre-teen group, 30,000 to 50,000 words is acceptable. 

What About Editing and Cover Design? 

It’s vital when self-publishing that you do a thorough job of editing your book. If you’re a good editor in your own right, you could edit your book yourself. 

However, it’s always nice to have a second pair of eyes to edit your book. For example, you could try a site such as Upwork or Fiverr to find a reasonably priced editor. 

Or you could try and find a college student in your area who has a career goal of becoming an editor. That could be an opportunity for a college student to earn some cash, and for you to get an affordable editor.   

Editing is essential because you want your book to appear professional, even if you self-publish it. 

If you’re going with a traditional publisher, the publisher will help you with editing and cover design. If you’re self-publishing, work to design a cover that is along the lines of successful books with similar topics. 

Choose cover colors that portray the message you want to send to potential readers. You should know colors and what they mean. For instance, blue can suggest loyalty and integrity. Yellow can indicate joy, intellect and energy. 

Depending on which package you choose with a self-publisher, the self-publishing company might help you with the cover design too. 

Promote and Market Like a Rockstar

Once your book is published, it’s time to start promoting it. Steve suggests beginning with reaching out to 40 or 50 local, regional and national news sources.

Tell them about your book and ask if they’ll do an interview. 

Also, promote your book on your blog and your social media channels. Make a YouTube video sharing what your book is about and give some hints as to what it has to offer. 

Consider doing a book giveaway on your blog. Ask friends and family members to read your book and to leave reviews on Amazon or other sites. 

Marketing your book is going to be the busiest work you’re going to do, most likely. Expect with–and be okay with–hearing no. Just move on and keep trying. 

Other Things to Know About Publishing 

What else do you need to know about how to make money writing a book? Here is some more information from Steve. 

How Much (and How) Will I Get Paid? 

If you go the self-publishing route, you’ll get a percentage of the book sale minus publishing cost. You typically get a higher percentage of pay from self-publishing than traditional publishing. 

If you publish through a traditional publisher, you’ll start out getting what’s known as an advance. 

An advance is a sum of money you agree to receive as payment toward future sales of your book.

The advance often comes in three different payments: 

  • A third after you sign your contract
  • Another third after you turn in your manuscript
  • The final third after the book is published

Steve’s advance on his first book was $70,000. But your advance amount will differ depending on the deal your agent negotiates.

Know that it took five years before Steve earned $70k of commissions off of his book, and he was able to start making more cash from the sales of the book. 

That first book, America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money, was published in 2007 and has sold 150,000 copies to-date. And Steve says the more media appearances they schedule, the more copies of the book that sell.

Depending on the publisher, the royalties you earn after sales have covered the advance are paid out monthly, quarterly or semi-annually. 

So if your book never makes enough money to cover the advance, the publisher loses out. In contrast, this approach is different than in the music industry, where non-achieved advances must be paid back. 

His advice on managing your advance? Do so carefully, especially if you’re planning on using your advance to support your family. Make sure you have a solid emergency fund in place. And don’t quit your day job. 

Steve’s other book writing tips? Know that you probably won’t become the next JK Rowling or Dave Ramsey. Don’t expect to get rich off of your book. It could happen, but the odds are not in your favor. 

America’s Cheapest Family rose to #1 on Amazon and #15 on the New York Times Bestseller List. But that kind of success isn’t typical for most authors. 

Just do your best to write a great book and promote it well. If the book is good, and if you do a successful job at marketing it, people will buy it. 

Summary

Making money as an author is possible, even more so these days with the rise of the self-publishing industry. So if you’ve got an idea for a great book, use the tips above to make it happen. 

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