Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Authors Really Make Money

This is a shortened version of an article I wrote for author Austin S. Camacho’s newsletter last fall. (And he contributed several quotes to my upcoming non-fiction book as well!)

We’ve all watched authors and celebrities receive huge, million-dollar book deals and thought, “Wow, I could live on that!”

Problem is, most authors don’t make that kind of money. Most authors make next to no money!

So how do a lot of authors make their money?

Speaking engagements!

Do you realize how much the top motivational speakers receive in speaking fees? Usually six figures! Those people make more money speaking than they do from book sales. The same thing applies to any expert in a chosen field. Try getting a top medical expert or corporate CEO or ex-president to come speak to your company and you’ll see what I mean.

We can’t all make six-figures, but the opportunity to make money as a professional speaker is out there for those who want it. Every day, businesses, organizations and schools are seeking speakers. They are looking for experts – for you! This is a wide-open door for non-fiction authors, and even fiction authors can tailor themselves to be experts on some subject. (After all, just as much research goes into a fictional book as does a non-fiction book!) As any successful author will tell you, the key is to diversify and offer more than just books – and speaking is a great way to branch out into other areas.

So, to the writer who wants to make money as an author – don’t quit your day job just yet! But start planning your path and editorial niche now. Research the market and consider all of the possibilities.
And for goodness sakes, think BIG!


  1. I've done some speaking engagements. It's fun to be treated royally and get paid for it. Also, when I do one of these I'm surprised about how much I really do know about writing.

    Morgan Mandel

  2. Speaking is the best way I have found to promote my work. And you are right, people will pay you!

    Your advice about not quitting your day job is sound. It takes time to build your speaking business.

    Would love to hear what others do to book speaking gigs, etc.


  3. At last year's Annual Conference for the MN Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, author David LaRochelle informed the audience that school visits and speaking engagments make up half his income. Any naysayers who thought our "Storyteller Idol" competition (wherein authors presented their school visit routine in front of our adult audience and competed for prizes) was a waste of time quickly shut up after that.

  4. You're so right!

    The majority of my income comes from speaking engagements AND book project consulting--another potentially lucrative field that readers of your blog might want to explore.

    BTW, some of the best money I ever spent on myself was signing up for one-on-one professional speech coaching. The woman I hired for eight, one-hour sessions videotaped me, taught me how to write and deliver a great speech, and perhaps most importantly, gave me the confidence to get well-compensated for my services.

    If anyone is interested and lives in the NYC area, the woman's name is Ginny Pulos (www.ginnypulos.com).

    Prill Boyle
    Author of Defying Gravity

  5. Prill Boyle is right. If you learn to tell the compelling stories about your book with the same level of skill that you write, you'll be paid to speak in lots of places. The good news is that you'll double your income streams, help sell your books and sell yourself as well!

    Feel free to contact me at: ginnypulos.com or 212 626-6597.

    Ginny Pulos, President
    Ginny Pulos Communications, Inc.
    Speech & Media Consultants to the World!

  6. Totally agree with this. No way I'm a six figure earning speaker, but I do augment my income with speaking and always sell out of books at signings afterward. Good post and advice.

  7. You are right on, Diane! I speak as often as I can. It's also about career building. Both speaking and writing! Huh?

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

    PS: Authors looking for the real, honest dope on book fairs will be interested in today's post at www.sizzlingbookfairbooths.blogspot.com

  8. I can believe it about not making money selling books. On my last Podcast the author said only 7% of all books sold sells over 5000 copies. That's not a lot given the size of our country.

  9. Excellent tip. I knew book sales themselves didn't normally bring in a large amount of income and I was aware of the potential of speaking professionally. And I know there are other avenues for generating income besides these two but I don't know what they are. If you have any other advice, I'm all ears.

  10. The book "1001 Ways to Make More Money as a Speaker, Consultant or Trainer" by Lilly Walters is highly recommended for more ideas!

  11. Some solid tips from a solid writer! And if anyone's interested, the full version of this excellent piece is still available on my blog, Another Writer's Life - http://ascamacho.blogspot.com - it's the post for August 17, 2008.

  12. I've done a little speaking at conferences and such but rarely for money. I'm not that great at it yet and am not sure I ever will be.

  13. Wow..very interesting article..
    Thanx for the issue.
    The more knowledge you have about the niche the easier it will be to build content and create a truly useful site that will attract and retain visitors and establish you as an authority. I truly believe in the saying “do what you love and the money will follow” in affiliate marketing.