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Alternative Ways For Writers To Make Money

Updated on March 5, 2013

Just Selling Books?

Just selling books doesn't always cut it for all writers these days. Although piracy does not cut into people's income as much as people think, the expectation that entertainment should be free is a problem for fiction writers. Non-fiction writers have to compete with all of the web sites and article directories out there.

It's rare, these days, for a writer to make a living from selling books alone. Are there any alternatives to get paid for your hard work?

The answer is a definite yes.

Crowd funding and 'Ransom'

The most promising alternative is the ransom or 'crowd funding' model.

This model takes one of two forms.

In the first form, the writer or editor asks for enough money to cover the initial costs of the book and offers free copies to anyone who donates more than a certain amount. This is essentially another way of saying they won't publish the book unless they get enough pre-orders.

In the second form, the writer sets a much higher goal and, if the goal is achieved, gives the book away for free. In this case, a writer is deciding how much they want to be paid for the book and sacrificing the possibility of future royalties.

Crowd funding has become very popular in the RPG community, where publishers can often make much more money through the 'collect money then give it away' scheme than by selling the books.

Two sites, and offer a crowdfunding platform. Money is generally not taken until the end of the campaign and then only if the goal is met (in some cases, the project will go ahead in a smaller fashion if the goal is not met).

Advertising Funded

This is when a writer gives their work away through a web site, then sells ads on the site. Several companies allow you to do this, of which Google Adsense is the most popular. Some writers also have success selling advertisements directly themselves.

This model generally works better for non-fiction writers than fiction writers. Also, many of the advertising broker companies, including Google, do not allow sites containing 'adult material'. This is often defined as including anything that refers to GLBT issues as well as erotica, etc.

However, it can be a viable model for some writers and is, of course, the model used by Hubpages and other article directory sites.

Speaking Engagements

Writers can also sometimes get speaking or teaching engagements. Conventions will sometimes pay a writer's expenses if they're willing to give a seminar on writing and/or readings from their books. This is particularly common in speculative fiction and cons are often a good place to sell more books (although science fiction cons seldom have the money to pay expenses beyond free admission). Some gaming conventions allow writers to charge for seminars.

In general, it is easier for non-fiction writers to get speaking engagements (and some people start with the speaking engagements then realize they need to write the book). Getting speaking engagements can be tough, but many writers earn most of their income this way...and increase sales by bringing a box of books with them to the engagements. University English departments are a good target...although they may not pay the writer, they will generally let the writer at least plug their book, if not sell on site.

Some authors can also make money by doing spoken word performances - and not just those who are primarily poets, either.


Many writers find they can get extra income by teaching. If you have an MFA, you can get work as an adjunct at colleges...generally teaching remedial English (which there is a sadly high demand for). Some school districts are so desperate for substitutes that they'll take anyone with a bachelor's degree.

Another way of using your skills to teach is to do tutoring, either face to face or online. There's good money in helping kids with a specific academic problem, be it English or another subject you're good at.


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