Filthy, Dirty Money: A Short Guide To Passive Income for Writers

Unless you’re in the lucky position that you don’t have to work a day job, either with a large pile of money from the .com boom under your mattress, or you’ve been dealt one of life’s favourable hands, we authors have to earn money. Most of us have a nine to five. Most of us are writing in our spare time and it’s very unlikely that most of us are going to be in that very small percentage of authors who make enough money from book sales for it to be your only source of income.

Today we look at how authors can use alternative sources of income, i.e. income not directly related to shifting copies of your book, in order to supplement your day job income. For me it would be nice to at least put something extra towards the cost of independent publishing like cover design and editing services.

As always, I write this post from a non-expert point of view. It is merely a summary of my thoughts and research as I investigate the various ways I’ve come across for writers to generate income in the hope I can give some of you out there ideas, plus I’d love to draw on the vast experience of the community. With that in mind, please let me know your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I have no connection or commercial interest to any of these services.

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With Patreon, subscribers pay a monthly amount to support the creative. Described as the best place for creators to establish ongoing and predictable monthly revenue, the service is very similar to the crowd funding model. Subscribers typically provide $1/£1 per month and in return receive Patreon-only content, such as short stories or information released earlier than to the general public or wider fan base.

I personally make two donations per month. One is to a writing club. For $1 a month I get discounted access to a range of editorial services plus insightful blog posts and libraries of information only available to the supporting members. The second I support is Gareth L. Powell, a science fiction author. He is a full time author with a successful list of books but still be can’t quite support his full time writing from book sales along. This is a hard game guys! Gareth offers early cover releases and written content to those who support. The higher your subscription, the more content you get. If you subscribe over $50 or more per month you get a autographed copy of every one of his books and every future book, plus every now and again you can Skype chat with him and talk about any subject you want! I subscribe with a $1.

For this service to work for the author you have to first of all have a large enough fan base and then generate enough content to draw people in to the service. You have to be a real fan to pay money over and above the cost of the books. For me this one is defiantly something I can’t consider until way further down the line.

There are several other similar services which include Liberapay, Bandcamp and Flattr to mention a few.

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Buy Me A Coffee www.buymeacoffee.com and the common alternative, Ko-Fi.com are one off donation services, a tip jar for the virtual world. Payments are typically around $3-5, enough to buy the creative a coffee. You get nothing in return for the payment other than that warm fuzzy feeling inside that you’ve helped someone a little along the way.

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The WordPress advertising services, WordAds, is the service I am most familiar with and I’m guessing this will be the same for most of you because of those seemingly random double image adverts you see on some WordPress blog posts, either in the email of someone you are following or at the bottom of the blog post themselves. Here’s a few facts about the service.

  • You have to have a premium or business account to be automatically accepted in to the programme, otherwise you have to make an application for consideration.
  • The more visits you get, the more revenue you earn.
  • A thousand page views per month earn you a meaningful income, but based on my research I work out I would be earning around $20 a month. For me that’s not meaningful!

On average I have around 1,500 page views per month when I’m producing a lot of content or I can double that when I’m heavily promoting the site, but that takes a lot of work. The big downside for me is the perception of the adverts. I’ve spent loads of time trying to make sure my site and my posts look remotely stylish. I would have no control as to what the adverts for cable TV hacks appearing at the bottom of the page and along the side will do to the format of my pages. I’m really be interested in people’s opinion here, both those who use WordAds and those who see them in peoples’s posts. Do they put you off the main content of the site, or do you barely notice them?

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Affiliate Marketing is where you mention products in your articles and provide links to purchase. For example in my Bug Out Bag posts I mention products which I’ve tested. If I joined an affiliate marketing programme through Amazon (called Amazon Associates) I could provide links to the products and get a commission if a viewer went on to make a purchase. It is always best to tell people what they’re ready contains affiliate links and some people may perceive this as introducing a bias to your content. If I were to do this I would have to work very hard to make sure I only promote the product I would already have promoted in the post.

Turn you blog archive into an e-book.

If you think your old content still has value to the reader then why not archive it and turn it into an ebook for sale on Amazon. Sure you will need to fresh the information and perhaps reformat and redress the content to make sense in a book format, but you’ve already done the hard work in writing the key content in the first place. Add links to your site and refer to it in relevant future posts and you may get some additional income and if you don’t there was very little work in publishing in the new format.

I think it’s unlikely I’ll be using any of these streams, but if I wasn’t working a full time job I would probably need to use all of these services and still I don’t think it would amount to any meaningful income. I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences of using any of these services or any other ideas you have for income streams. Please don’t be shy!

GJ Stevens

I am a Writer. I am many other things too, but I love to write. On 30th November 2018 I released my debut novel, In The End, a compelling apocalyptic thriller that will leave you breathless, immersing you in a fight for survival. Available to buy now from Amazon and receiving rave reviews!

22 comments

  • Two other passive sources of income (for UK and EU writers at least) are the Public Lending Rights and the Authors’ Licencing and Collecting Society. Though, of course, the more you’ve written and the more popular your books, the more you get from PLR and ALCS.

    Liked by 3 people

  • I wish I had something constructive to add. Sadly I have been writing on WordPress for over two years without any inclination to turn it into any kind of income. However, I am beginning to consider ways I could generate income with my humble offerings. Thank you for sharing this, perhaps one day I will have something useful to add.

    Liked by 2 people

  • Another potential source of income (that I haven’t tried yet) might be those online surveys you can get paid for. Most companies are already mining our personal information so we might as well get paid for it. But they only pay through PayPal, which I won’t use, or online coupons and gift cards. My husband buys frequently from Amazon, so the gift cards would save us money. And you could always sell or trade whatever you buy.

    Liked by 3 people

  • Hi GJ,

    Great options. These are sites I have heard about. I am taking notes as well for the future. Like you said, build up the fanbase and at the right time begin those steps.

    I am looking at just the steps you have here and I wonder if the affilate idea might be cool to start with, then once established get more Patreon-based. Possibly move away from adds all together at some point. I have seen a friend have a whole string of adds and product placement in her blog and it can seem a distraction.

    I think you are smart to take one step at a time.

    Thank you,

    Gary

    Liked by 2 people

  • Hi, Gareth, I got a lot of poor feedback about WordAds on my WordPress site. Most said that the adverts were distracting when reading posts and took away the enjoyment of reading posts (something I agree with because it happens to me). Considering I was getting revenue that would buy me one cup of coffee a month, I turned them off. I have the same problem with bloggers who attach gifs to all their blog posts. They are too distracting, and I will unfollow a blog if I can’t read posts comfortably.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Hugh. You’re reinforcing my personal view too. If the money was decent then you could maybe accept the compromise. I also think if the ads were more relevant it would help.

      Liked by 1 person

  • This was so helpful! I had no idea you could request for WordPress to consider your website for wordads, even if you didn’t use a paid plan!! I doubt they would allow mine, as my view count is pretty low, but it’s a good fact to know. The e-book was a clever idea as well. Regarding your question about ads, I don’t really mind them, as long as there aren’t a bagillion of them. It just tells me that the author is even more committed to his site, because he/she has something to lose if he/she fails to produce appealing content. Go for it if you want to! $20 is $20, after all.

    Liked by 1 person

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