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How to Writers Earn Money? (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

How do Writers Earn Money? (An #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop Post)

I recently came across an advertisement for a website offering a new way for writers to get paid for their work. Having observed the publishing industry for several years, my experience has been twofold:

  • There are more people claiming to have invented a “new way” than there are new ways.
  • Most of the “new ways” are ineffective or unethical.

Anyway, the advertisement got me thinking: how do writers earn money?

Selling Books

Selling books is the obvious source of income for published authors. However, that’s one of the many things in life that’s easy to say and much harder to do!

Writing Articles

Many sites pay up front for contributions (but many more pay only in “exposure”). Payment isn’t high, and can start from $5 for a 300-word blog post. If this interests you, I suggest checking out sites like Fiverr and Upwork. Just don’t get caught up in something unethical, like writing $5 Amazon book reviews for books you haven’t read …

Blogging

Writers don’t actually earn money by blogging. But bloggers can monetise their blogs through advertising, affiliate income, and sponsorship.

The challenge here is traffic. No one is going to want to advertise on a blog no one visits, and many advertising networks won’t even sign up bloggers with less than a specified number of page views (e.g. 10,000 page views per month, as measured by Google Analytics).

Advertising

Most blog advertising is direct advertising. Some websites have enough traffic that they can actually sell their own advertising for a monthly fee (e.g. SBTB, who have 350,000+ page views a month on desktop alone). The advantage of this is you control the content that will appear on your site, and you set the fee so you know how much you’ll get paid. The disadvantage for writers advertising on their own site is that you might only want to advertise your own products.

The more common blogger advertising model is to partner with an advertising network such as Google AdSense. Bloggers then provide a blank space which the advertiser fills, and the blogger pay be paid on a pay per view (PPV), pay per click (PPC), or on actual sales. Payments will therefore vary depending on traffic and engagement.

I see two issues with using an advertising network:
  1. With PPC and other click-through advertising, you’re getting paid for taking people away from your website, not for keeping them on your website. That’s bad for your SEO, which rewards people visiting your site and staying there. It also doesn’t say much for your writing if visitors would rather leave than read your content.
  2. You don’t control the advertisements that are appearing on your blog. I visit a lot of book blogger sites where the ad spaces are advertising vanity presses (no doubt because Google sees a lot of writers visiting those sites). I’m against vanity presses, so there is no way I’d want advertisements for a product I despise on my site. I’ve also seen advertisements for violent R16 video games on Christian review sites. I want to control what I advertise, which is why I stick with affiliate marketing. While bloggers can block certain categories of advertisers, those categories are broad (dating, drugs, games, sex).

And advertisers can still slip through the cracks. The site which prompted this post was clear that it did not accept adult content. But the first affiliate link I clicked took me to an advertisement for a famous lingerie brand, complete with a lingerie-clad model. The second link took me to a pirate video site.

Again, not products I want my brand to be associated with.

Affiliate Marketing

Organisations such as Amazon have affiliate programs to encourage website owners and bloggers to advertise their products by providing a small percentage

I am an Amazon affiliate (which earns me around $10 a year—4% of a 99c books means a lot of people have to click through for me to earn enough to get paid!)

I’m also an affiliate for several of the products and services I use in writing and blogging, such as:

I’m also an affiliate for Draft2Digital even though I don’t use their services (yet). This is because I’ve seen them recommended by others, I’ve seen the work they do, and know I’ll want to use them when the time comes.

Do these schemes earn me a lot of money? No—less than $100 a year, but that’s because I don’t put a lot of effort into them. Some bloggers earn a full-time salary through affiliate income. Some authors (e.g. Joanna Penn) earn substantially more.

Again, it comes down to traffic. Joanna Penn earns more in affiliate income than I do because:

  • She gets more traffic.
  • She’s an affiliate for some higher-ticket items, like courses from Nick Stephenson and Mark Dawson.

I also refuse to be an affiliate for products I don’t support. For example, I paid $297 for one course I wouldn’t recommend. I could earn back my (wasted) fee by signing up for an affiliate of the course and pocketing 30% every time someone signed up using my link. But I see that as somewhere between misleading and dishonest, so I won’t do it.

(Yes, all the above links are affiliate links, which means I’ll earn a small commission if you buy something from one of those links, but you’ll pay the same amount).
How do authors earn money? There are several ways ... but there are potential traps. #AuthorToolBoxBlogHop ##WritersLife Click To Tweet

Sponsorship

As with affiliate marketing, sponsorship is working directly with product or service providers. For example, I often get approached by service providers offering me a free product in exchange for a review (none of them have yet offered actual money as well!). I don’t usually accept these offers, as most of them aren’t relevant to my audience (e.g. the quiz app that costs $209 per month).

If you’re interested in chasing sponsorship dollars, you’ll need an established site and audience, and you’ll need to pitch to the service providers you’re interested in.

Speaking Engagements

Many writers are also speakers, speaking to writers at conferences or local writer groups, or speaking to readers at reader conventions, book clubs, and book signings. Children’s authors may also speak in schools. Many of these engagements are unpaid or compensated only with a token gift.

Other speaking opportunities are paid, but most are only an honorarium and don’t cover the cost of the conference, let alone the associated travel and accommodation costs. Most writers speak as a way of enlarging their platform and giving back to the community, not as a form of income.

There is also the reverse: business professionals who write a book. For this group, a book is a sign of authority in their field, and earnings from the book are secondary to their earnings from their business. These authorities (some of whom do speak on writing or book marketing) are usually paid hundreds or thousands of dollars, as well as having all their expenses covered.

What have I missed? How else can writers earn money from their writing? Let me know in the comments!

This post is part of the monthly Author ToolBox Blog Hop, organised by Raimey Gallant. We now have over 40 blogs participating. To find more Blog Hop posts:
Blogging for Authors: 11 Tips for Writing a Great Post

Blogging for Authors | 11 Tips for Writing a Great Post

Marketing. It’s the part of writing and publishing that authors enjoy least (well, most authors). But marketing is a necessary evil no matter whether you are trade published or self published. And a solid author platform—including a website and maybe a blog—is the foundation of good author marketing.

If even the thought of establishing an author platform fills you with dread … I can help. Click here to sign up to be notified about my March Marketing Challenge: Kick Start Your Author Platform.

But today I’m here to share about blogging for authors: my top 11 tips for writing a great blog post.

1. Plan Ahead

Yes, I know this sounds boring. But it will cut down on your blogging stress in two ways because it means you won’t be scrambling to write and edit a blog post at the last minute. Planning ahead also means you can write when the urge hits you … even if that’s several weeks ahead of your scheduled post date. As an example, I’m drafting this post on 22 November. I know December is going to be busy, so I’m trying to get ahead while I can.

It gives me a good feeling to check the calendar on Monday morning and find all the posts are scheduled for the week. All I have to do is promote them (see point 10 below).

2. Find the Perfect Topic

Sometimes you’re writing a blog post with a specific goal in mind: to share a cover reveal, a pre-order, a new release, or a specific time-sensitive promotion. These are easy posts to plan and write ahead of schedule, and should be part of your regular book launch marketing plan.

Sometimes you’re writing a post that has to fit a particular theme.

But more often you’re faced with a blank slate. I find those blank slate posts harder to write than when I’ve got a topic in mind. So … plan ahead. Plan out what topics you’d like to cover and when. Then you can write to cover those topics, or (if the muse hits you) you can write to please the muse.

What makes a great blog post topic? I suggest choosing topics that:

  • Interest you (so you’re going to enjoy writing it)
  • Are not going to date quickly (so you can continue to promote the post in the future).
  • Are relevant to your target audience. You do know your target audience, right? Do they ever ask questions? Yes? Then write an answer. You’re likely to get the same questions over and over, and having the answer in a blog post means you can direct future askers to the post.

(Kick Start Your Author Platform has more great tips on choosing the perfect post topic.)

3. Write at least 300 words

One of our objectives as writers is to be read. Which means writing words people want to read. But first people have to find what you’ve written. This means making your blog post as appealing to Google (and other search engines) as it is to your target reader.

Which means writing a blog post that’s at least 300 words long. More words are better, but only if they are good words. No padding!

(P.S. In a group blog, that’s 300 or more words of content. Not 300 words including your bio.)

4. Make Your Post Scannable

As you write, make your post scannable. Many people read blog posts via a reader (such as Feedly), or on a mobile or tablet.

In an online world, scannable equals readable.

To make your blog post scannable, use:

  • Short paragraphs (no more than four lines).
  • Headings and subheadings.
  • Bullet points or lists where relevant. Like here.

11 Tips for Writing a Great Blog Post

5. Ask a Question

As bloggers, we need to engage our readers, to keep them coming back. A great way of doing this is to ask a question.

This could be like my Bookish Question, or like #FirstLineFriday posts (what’s the first line of the book nearest you?).

Or you could ask a question that’s relevant to theme of your post. If the post is sharing your favourite novels, ask your readers their favourite novels. If you’re about Christmas, ask your readers to share their favourite Christmas memory. You get the idea.

The blogs I enjoy reading most are generally conversations where the comments are as important as the blog itself. So work out how you can turn your blog post into a conversation.

6. Revise. Edit. Proofread

We’re writers. We can do this. (If you can’t, Christian Editing Services can help you!)

7. Add a Killer Title

Feedly delivers me over 100 blog posts every single day. I don’t have time to read 100 blog posts. No one does. So how do I decide which posts to read? Based on the title.

Some people don’t want to use clickbaity titles such as 11 Tips for Writing a Great Blog Post. However, it’s only clickbaity if the post doesn’t actually deliver on the promise (or makes you click through 32 screens to get the 11 points).

Also, I’m reliably informed (thanks, Margie Lawson) that people subconsciously like numbered posts, because the numbers show us how much longer until the end of the post (not long now, people).

 8. Include a Relevant Image

People like images. Search engines like images. Social media likes images—experts will tell you posts with images get more attention.

Include images. (But make sure you are using them legally.)

Your main image should be centred at the very top of the post. This is the image Blogger will pick up for social media shares (if you use WordPress, you can select a Featured Image. WordPress will display that at the top of your post, and use it for social media shares).

Intersperse images throughout a longer post—it breaks up the text and makes it more readable.
 Use design software such as Canva to brand your images, so your images stand out to someone randomly scanning through Feedly. And include your killer title with your image—that will help when you’re sharing to visual sites like Instagram and Pinterest (see 10, below).

If you’re posting on a group blog like ACW, include your author photo, bio, and social media links at the bottom of the post.

9. Add Your Byline

Tell your readers who wrote the post. This is especially important if you’re writing for a group blog with multiple contributors. Some people will choose to read the post because you wrote it. Make it easy for them to know they want to read this post.

10. Promote Promote Promote

Note: promote promote promote does not mean spam spam spam.

Promoting means sharing your post with your target audience using relevant social networks.

If your post is about your multi-author romance giveaway, share in places where romance readers congregate (hint: not LinkedIn).

I use Buffer to share to Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter—Buffer’s Power Scheduler means I can even schedule multiple posts at once. A few clicks, and it’s done, with a unique message for each network (e.g. one or two #hashtags on Twitter, but more on Instagram).

Why these networks?

  • For my reader-writer-reviewer posts, my target reader is on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. Many are also on Twitter, and it takes only a few extra seconds to get Buffer to share to Twitter as well.
  • For my writer-editor posts, my target audience is on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. The beauty of Pinterest is that people can follow specific Boards, so people who aren’t interested in writing can choose not to follow my writing-related Boards.

I share on Google+ because that is indexed for SEO purposes. Translated: sharing to Google+ means Google is more likely to show my blog post (or Google+ share) to someone who is searching for posts on my topic.

The other reason for sharing or promoting is that some blog posts get more traction on social media than on the actual blog. For example, my weekly Bookish Question often gets no comments on the actual blog post, but always gets Likes and Comments on Facebook and Instagram (especially Instagram).

11. Engage

You finished your blog post with a question, right? Now it’s important to check back and make sure you respond to answers (and other comments). And don’t forget to check your social media networks and respond to comments there as well.

Readers want to connect, to engage. That means responding to comments in a timely manner.

That’s it. My top blogging tips. Is there anything you don’t understand or you’d like more information on? Or anything you’d like to add? Let me know in the comments.