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How I Make More Money as a Writer (Hint - It's Not From Novels)

Money can be a bit of a taboo subject in the book industry. There’s an underlying assumption that the prestige of having a traditional publishing contract should be enough, but the dismal reality is that unless you’re a best-selling book author, it’s almost impossible to make a living on writing books alone.

Most traditionally published fiction writers take home around 10-12% of royalties, with the rest going to the major publisher and literary agent. So for example, if your book sells for $14.99, you receive just $1.49 per book. 

Therefore, you have to sell a lot of books to make real money.

Self-publishing, on the other hand, has become popular because, among other reasons, self-published authors keep approximately 70% of the revenue. The downside is you have to invest in your own marketing, book design, and editorial services. Some writers enjoy the business side of self-publishing, but others find themselves having to learn new skill sets and spend more time on marketing and sales than doing what they love: writing.

So, What Do You Do?

Most authors have various streams of income from other sources, if not a full-time day job. While this sounds overwhelming, the first step is to understand what writing means to you. Is it a hobby, a job, a career, or a vocation? Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this and helps identify ways in which you can structure your life to focus on your creative pursuits and pay the bills.

And the good news is there are many ways to do this, some of which I’ve never even tried, such as ghostwriting. (If you want to know more about this, I read a great (paid) post on Substack by Annie Ridout.)

Here are the main ways I earn money from my writing. You can see the revenue percentage breakdown in the pie chart below.


I have three novels which were traditionally published in 2017, 2018, and 2019, and receive monthly passive income from these.

Online Digital Writing Course

I developed this during the pandemic when there was a surge towards online learning. Creating online courses is a great way to generate passive income. However, it requires constant promotion to reach a wider audience.

Coaching Aspiring Authors

This began more as a passion project, and while it can be time-intensive, it’s an important source of income and also very enjoyable. Coaching allows me to connect with potential clients and help them develop their writing skills.

Freelance Writing

This is how I started making money as a writer back in 2011. I specialized in travel writing, and while the pay wasn’t great, I was lucky enough to experience some incredible places around the world which helped.

As you can see from the pie chart, my books generate less than a quarter of my revenue, while the biggest revenue generator is my coaching business.

Pie chart showing percentage of revenue

It's not just about the money, but also time

As life has become busier, mainly since having kids, I’ve also had to look at time spent. While coaching is a lucrative income, I have to balance this with the time needed to give clients a great experience.

I do this exercise annually, and it’s interesting to see what’s working and what areas need more of my time. It also helps me strategize for the following year by prompting me to consider:

  • Where do I want to focus my energy?

  • Which type of writing is the most lucrative and is this the most enjoyable?

  • Do I need to focus more on passive or active revenue streams?

  • Do I want to look at other creative pursuits?

Diversifying Income Streams

The challenge for many writers is the delicate dance of making an income while working on something they’re passionate about. I had a corporate job for a long time while writing for magazines on the side. It was several years later before I felt I could work as a full-time freelance writer, and even then, one of the key factors of my success was timing and market conditions.

If this all sounds doom and gloom, I will counter by saying there has never been a greater opportunity to be in control of your work and monetize your creativity. Options such as Kindle Direct Publishing, Substack (a newsletter service with a paywall), and TikTok are all giving a voice to a new wave of creatives.

Embracing the Entrepreneurial Spirit

However, I do believe that writers can no longer just be writers—they have to be entrepreneurs, marketers, social media managers, and networkers. They have to be tech-savvy, and with the development of AI, even better at their craft. Here are a few ideas of key revenue streams to earn money while writing your novel - most of them will help you hone your craft as well:  

  • Freelance Writing: Content writing, blog posts, and articles for various clients.

  • Online Courses: Creating and promoting online courses.

  • Coaching: Providing one-on-one coaching.

  • Digital Marketing: Utilizing social media platforms to promote writing services.

  • Affiliate Marketing: Incorporating affiliate links into blog articles and social media posts.

  • Content Creation: Developing white papers, email lists, and other forms of content for small businesses and potential customers.

  • Social Media Creation: Writing social media posts for clients.

By diversifying income streams and embracing the entrepreneurial aspects of the writing career, writers can achieve a sustainable and rewarding career path, balancing passion with financial stability.

The best ways to make money writing today require a mix of hard work, flexibility, and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone. Whether you are a new writer or an experienced professional, exploring various writing gigs and career paths can lead to a profitable niche and a fulfilling writing career.

Questions to Consider

  • How important is earning money from your writing?

  • Are there any scenarios where you would write for free?

  • Do you believe AI is a threat or boon to your career?

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About me: I'm Karen Osman, number 1 best-selling author of three psychological thrillers (latest The Perfect Lie), and writing coach. You can also follow me on Instagram.

A note book with Goal getter on the front cover

I'm Karen, a best-selling novelist who left her corporate life to pursue my dream of becoming a writer. Since then, I've written everything from travel articles to web copy before winning a novel writing competition which led to a 3-book deal. 


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