As you fine-tune your ongoing marketing plan, you’ll also adjust your next book launch plans in the hopes that eventually you’ll make enough collective income from your books to meet your financial goals. Those goals might be to have a self-sustaining business, to pay for a child’s college education, or even to replace a full-time income from the hated day job. Whatever those goals might be, being an author can yield much more than words in a book.
When it comes to expanding your career as an author, many find it valuable to branch out into related areas within the writing universe. On the one hand, many of the opportunities we will look at can become a way to supplement an author’s overall income or help pay for a book’s marketing efforts. For some authors, the “side hustle” became the main passion while the books themselves faded into the supporting role. Other authors find themselves exploring new avenues simply for the joy of paying it forward or continuing to put tools in their virtual professional toolbox. Whatever your motivation, here are a few avenues to consider when the time comes to branch out to create more income streams.
Tool #1: Become a speaker. If you write non-fiction, your path toward becoming an author may have begun behind a podium in front of a group as you shared your wisdom with others so continuing to earn an income from speakers fees with an additional book table would be a logical and complimentary opportunity.
Fiction writers find it more difficult to get paid for speaking since they usually talk about the writing process in general and most of those openings are found at writer’s conferences. If you’d like to start talking about writing, consider starting much smaller (and for free) with a local high school’s creative writing class or by visiting a small writer’s group to lead a workshop. As your experience and resume builds, you can work yourself up to bigger speaking gigs.
Tool #2: Become a coach or mentor. Similar to speaking, this avenue allows you to share your wisdom with others but on a smaller scale. If you are a non-fiction health and wellness expert, it’s logical to assume that you could do personal training or offer nutritional support to individual clients in your area. Most non-fiction topics lend themselves to the sharing of information with accountability on a smaller scale. Fiction authors, however, find it harder to be a coach or mentor without a more defined purpose (such as editing which will be discussed later) but it can be done with the right selling proposition to let potential clients know what expertise you have to offer them.
Tool #3: Teach a course. Since coaching and mentoring is usually done on an individual basis, there is a logical limit to how many people you can help within the confines of a regular workweek. That’s why many personal coaches scale their lessons up to create a course where they can help larger groups of people at the same time. While this is easy to understand in the form of a speaking engagement or workshop, today’s online technology allows for webinars and even video-taught courses hosted on a platform such as Teachable (https://teachable.com/) where you can reach hundreds or thousands of people around the world while never leaving home. The beauty of teaching a course this way is that once you have invested the initial time and resources to create the course materials, the content can continue to earn an income from new students while you move on to create different projects.
Tool #4: If you excel at grammar and story-crafting, become a freelance editor. This uniquely specific form of mentoring lets you offer your skills to others and get paid for it. If this interests you, you’ll need to do your homework on best practices, fees, contracts, and client expectations. One way to learn more is by searching online for freelance editors and studying their websites. Since you are already a writer, it wouldn’t hurt to request a sample edit or pay for the editing of a small portion of your book in order to discover what the services on the website look like in real life.
Another resource is to search out a network of professional editors such as The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network) for their guidelines, resources, and support. A sister-organization is the Christian Editor Connection where editors can post advertisements for jobs and authors can post requests to find the right editor. Start small, under-promise, over-deliver, and soon you will have a group of happy clients eager to pass your name along to their writer friends.
Tool #5: If you enjoy visual creativity and are good at designing book covers, many indie authors are in the market for high quality covers. You would need to develop a portfolio of sample covers (even if they are true samples and not for actual clients) and do your research as to what other designers charge. There are websites out there that stock an inventory of pre-designed covers that could be edited to reflect an individual’s book title and name with additional customization available for another fee. As far as finding customers for book covers, you’ll need to create contacts within the indie publishing world, perhaps design a few for free, and then let current clients pass your name along in exchange for a discount on their next order.
Tool #6: Do you love marketing or social media or other graphic design? Consider becoming a virtual assistant for other busy authors and help fill in their marketing gaps so they can devote more time to their writing. Pursuing this avenue will require more effort and research to know whether to charge by the hour or by the list of weekly tasks. I know several individuals who work as VAs. One helps recruit, format, and schedule guest blog posts on her employer’s website while another creates graphics and then logs in to the employer’s social media account to share posts in multiple groups and create ads. Helping an author write catchy tweetable quotes or design promotional memes for a book launch are easy ways to get paid while you learn about marketing in the trenches.
Tool #7: Try articles or other types of published words. All writing doesn’t fit between the covers of a book and many authors also earn income from short stories or articles. Many magazines pay by the word and depending on how fast you write, one can make an amazing hourly wage for churning out a few pages. (Of course, there is usually a query and submission process similar to book publishers to follow, but once you’re established, many articles are assigned rather than written on speculation.)
Some authors also do ghost writing for celebrities or work-for-hire books like the historic Nancy Drew mystery series. Copywriting is another valuable skill when you consider the amount of new content published online every day. You can search online for freelance writing gigs or even look into one site I heard about (https://www.textbroker.com/) that pays for copy on a sliding scale based on your ability as a writer. Church or other organizational newsletters need a steady supply of content and don’t overlook a column in a small-town newspaper as a potential stream of income.
Some authors have created additional products like PDF workbooks to complement their non-fiction books and sold them through a sales platform like GumRoad. While digital downloadable products are easiest, there is an option to sell physical companion products like a book bag, T-shirt, or more while you let the platform handle the finances.
Tool #8: Write a different genre or length in order to get more titles onto the market faster. In addition to deciding to go hybrid in their publishing journey, some authors also choose to write additional books in a different genre using a pen name. Others write shorter novellas to entice readers into a new series or share the backstory of beloved characters. Every title on the market means one more avenue for a potential reader to discover your writing, and every new reader could turn into a fan who buys all of your books. If you have ten books available, that royalty income can multiply quickly.
Some publishers and even groups of indie authors have complied novella collections as a way to showcase multiple authors and provide additional value to the buyer of the book. While the royalty is split between the contributing authors, the collective marketing reach is multiplied as each author and their respective street teams spread the word. Many collections have hit the USA Today bestsellers lists thanks to that collective marketing strategy, leading to more readers who—if they fell in love with a certain author’s story within the collection—can then track down more titles by an individual author in order to read more. If you don’t have the opportunity to be included in such a collection, perhaps you can volunteer to organize a group from within the your circle of writing friends and do the formatting in exchange for a little higher percentage of the royalties.
I also know of a few authors who have since started their own small publishing presses after getting a taste of the process and therefore earn a percentage of other author’s sales in exchange for handling the formatting, cover design, and uploading process.