The Dirty Little Secret of Online Authors

by Guest Expert

I recently finished reading a fascinating little book, "How They Did It: 25 bloggers, authors and writers share all their secrets about earning a living and how you can do it too", by Diana Bocco. Bocco has asked 25 full-time writers to share their experiences, methods, work styles, and - more interestingly - income.

What I found fascinating - and I must admit, disappointing - was to see how little money most of these people are making from full-time writing. A couple of them said they were making a six-figure income, but most were well short of that amount. I calculated the average, and it was about $32,000 (the median, which is the "middle" number, was also about the same).


Is this the lot of the full-time writer?

These numbers seem depressingly low! Remember, these are people who claim to be full-time writers, authors and bloggers. And this is just their income, so it will be much less after expenses and taxes.

Of course, I'm sure they are doing something they are passionate about - and I really do respect that, and I'm not criticising these people in any way. But personally I wouldn't be happy with that, especially as a long-term prospect.

I think this is one of the biggest traps for anybody who wants to be a writer or author. It's true that the Kindle and iPad open up huge opportunities to get your name in digital print, but that's not the same thing as earning money - good money - from it.

One of my favourite writing experts, Joanna Penn of The Creative Penn, reported recently that she's making much less than she expected after a year as a full-time author/entrepreneur. To quote Joanna: "It’s much easier to have a day job ... This may be the dirty little secret of being an author and an online entrepreneur!"


Is there a better way?

Yes - if you're already a speaker, trainer, coach, consultant or other thought leader.

By all means, write and publish books and e-books - they help to establish your credibility and authority. But instead of aiming to make a full-time - or even part-time - income selling them to strangers on the Internet, use them more strategically in these two important ways:

1.    Offer them at a low price, as a lead-generation and positioning tool.

2.    Offer them in a bundle along with your other services.

Neither of these is a new idea. But I do want to remind you of them again, because it's easy to be distracted by the ease of self-publishing and the popularity of e-readers.

By the way, this is exactly how Joanna (Penn) is running her business. Although she's now a well-established and successful author, only half her income comes from her book sales. The remaining 50% is split between speaking and training.

There's nothing wrong with having a goal to become a best-selling author, and perhaps turn that into a full-time income. But that's not the easiest way to start out - especially if you're already delivering your thought leadership in other ways.


Gihan Perera

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