Writing is now a popular way to earn money either as a full time or part-time job
Self-publishing and becoming self-employed
With the technology that is now available for writers to publish their work online, there are many options when it comes to earning an income from writing.
While most would immediately think of self-publishing as publishing ebooks and books on Amazon, this is only one of many means available to publish and get paid for your writing.
A lot of writers are now learning to mix and match their publishing to maximise the return on their work.
Yes, publishing ebooks on Kindle is one way to sell your writing. But if you love to write, blogging has now become a very lucrative means of making extra money.
So, let’s start with books and ebooks.
Selling books and making money
With ebooks and books, the time investment needed to write, produce, market and then promote one title is enormous. Then there is the issue of whether a book will be popular enough to sell reasonably well.
Book publishing has always been a gamble, so nothing is new here about self-publishing and making a living writing.
Only a small percentage of self-publishing authors make a decent annual income from ebooks, books and audiobooks. In other words, the failure rate is high so there is no easy money to be made.
Of course, there is a difference between authors who succeed and those who don’t. Usually, it is that successful authors write for their clearly defined target reading market and know exactly what these readers buy and want to read.
Before writing a new book, they read many books that are highly ranked in their specific genre or sub-genre because these books are competitive products.
By doing this, they do what any other business does before producing and launching a new product. They do market research before deciding on what they will produce and publish.
The horse before the cart
For many self-published writers, poor book sales are the result of having this logical business order in reverse. Sure, writing a book is rewarding and for many, it is a very proud moment when their book is finally published.
But writing a book, and then crossing your fingers and hoping that your great idea will sell is not at all a recipe for success.
Publishing a book and then doing a lot of research about where it might sell, but with no knowledge of what books you are competing against it is not good business practice.
It creates the obvious problem that it is impossible to promote the book to a clearly defined target audience before publishing to build hype and gain pre-order sales.
Pre-order sales are like gold because they can give a new book a huge sales ranking boost on the day of publication, which then helps gain more sales, and money in your pocket, in the days and weeks after the book launch.
Secondly, after a book is published, without a clear understanding of where to market and advertise a book, a lot of time and money will be wasted.
Fine-tuning book marketing and promotion
As an example, if Facebook advertising is used to promote a book, where and to who will it be targeted? Placing a Facebook ad to target people between the ages of 18 and 65 who live in the US will cost a fortune and result in very few sales.
However, if an author knows precisely what the target readers and buyers are for a book, the chances of success are much higher for far less investment. Instead of a scattergun approach, the author will place highly targeted ads.
Perhaps for a young adult light romance based in San Francisco, the demographics could be between 19 and 23, live on the west coast of the US and have interests in reading, and in particular, young adult and romance.
For a World War Two historical novel about a fighter pilot based in England in the latter years of the war, the demographics would be entirely different.
Understanding, recognising and using target reader demographics is the best way to fine-tune book marketing and book promotion.
Yes, you can make money by self-publishing ebooks and books
There are a lot of successful self-publishing authors, but they all treat what they do as a real business. This means doing all the hard work that is absolutely necessary before finally writing and publishing a new title.
Well before writing they do their market research before deciding on what they will write. Then, after writing, hours, days, weeks and even months will be spent on editing and proofreading.
With the keen knowledge of the target market, there will be a lot of time, and money spent on cover design. It will also be meticulous, to make sure the book cover will attract target readers and book buyers.
Authors who make money, spend very wisely, and have a set marketing plan to launch a new title, and also a separate promotion plan for after the book is launched and often for the first year or more.
Treating ebook and book self-publishing as a real business like any other is the best way to succeed, and hopefully, build a career on writing.
Being an online publisher is also self-publishing and lucrative
It is not only from selling ebooks and books that a writer can make money.
More and more authors are turning to monetized blogging to either supplement their income from book royalties, or in some cases, to make blogging their full-time writing occupation.
In my own case, I do both, but in recent years the return on time invested has led me to concentrate more on blogging and content writing than writing books.
The reason is simple. While books and ebooks need sales, which can vary greatly from month to month or year to year, successful blogging returns a much more stable and predictable income.
Similar to what I wrote above about how successful authors treat self-publishing books as a business, monetized blogging is almost exactly the same in the respect that doing a lot of research and learning to identify the target market are two elements crucial to success.
A blog that makes money is one that is acutely targeted to a particular online reading audience. In many cases, a good blog will answer questions people have when they search for answers on the Internet.
Other great blog ideas come in the form of being entertaining or informative. Think here of a local news blog or a blog publishing weekly and seasonal gardening articles.
Recipe blogs have come a long way over the years, and today they are one of the most popular monetized blog themes and can earn very good advertising revenue.
Define, fine-tune, quality writing and stay focused
Successful blogs are almost always focused on one narrow topic niche. Think of SLR digital cameras, or for a recipe blog, vegan recipes or South Indian curries.
The reason this narrow focus is necessary is that blogs rely heavily on Google and Bing search for site traffic, so keyword selection for blog posts is vital in attracting blog visitors in large numbers. Social media also plays a role in gaining traffic but it is usually quite a way behind search in gaining traffic.
By far the most important quality a very good blog it to write articles that are of high quality, accurate and error-free. Because blog articles are published quite quickly, a good online grammar and spell checker such as Grammarly is a wise choice.
Making money online from blogging relies almost totally on the amount of traffic you can get. More visits, more money.
But building up site visits takes time and a lot of work, so never expect blogging will be a financial success from day one. The advice often given by other bloggers, which I agree with, is that it takes at least a year to get a blog moving in the right direction.
This means writing a lot of quality long-form content for the site and learning to apply excellent SEO practices to build a sizable base of daily traffic. But once this hard work is done, you can expect to start making money.
What can I sell on a blog?
Initially, selling blog space is the quickest way to start.
Google Adsense is the easiest way to monetize a blog by allowing Google to show ads on your blog. At first, it will earn pennies, but as your traffic builds, it can turn into a steady and reliable paycheck every month.
Affiliate marketing, such as Amazon Associates among many others, is also another easy way to start earning sales commissions. Again, your either allow space on your site for ads, or you can use text links, which are not as intrusive.
But the big money in blogging comes from selling products, services and sponsored articles and links.
Well, if you are a writer and author, the very first products you should start selling on your blog are your books and ebooks. A no-brainer there.
You could also sell your services as a proofreader, ebook formatter or freelance writer. If you have the skills, you could also sell your time as an editor.
Do you have a non-writing skill people need and you can offer as a consultant?
Another product is premium content that you restrict to only paying subscribers. This is a difficult model, but one that is being tried more and more.
Some bloggers also accept freelance writing jobs and sell their content to other blogs. Be careful to avoid content mills that underpay writers by doing your research for websites that pay fairly.
This can work in reverse too. If you are in the process of building your blog you can pay for experienced content writers to write content or guest posts for your new blog.
A quick Google search will result in hundreds of ideas and ways to earn a steady and reliable income from a well-designed and content-rich blog and turn it into a full-time job.
Conclusion. Are you an author or blogger, or both?
Making money from writing is much easier today than in years gone by. All the tools and resources are at your fingertips to successfully publish books and ebooks, or to start a career in blogging, or content writing for sites that pay writers.
But both need to treated as a long-term business and not a short-term hobby. Both are hard work and time intensive, but as a writer, you know this is the case in any writing endeavour.
Both forms of publishing need at least a modest investment in the tools and services you will need to succeed. But compared to a brick and mortar business, the investment is negligible.
So in closing, can you earn money from writing?
Yes, as long as you do your research, treat it like a real business and above all else, work hard and be stubbornly committed to your personal business goals.
You might also be interested in our article on Free Writing Software And The Best Free Writer’s Tools.