Earning Money as a Writer

Sunday, October 24, 2021
by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

This past week I clicked on an article about making passive income as a writer. But after I read it, I was more than a little confused. 

“Hey, what’s passive income?” I reached over and prodded my husband, Mr. Business-Major-Man. 

“Money you just sit back and earn. Investments are passive income. Interest is passive income.” 

That’s a relief. I do actually know what passive income is. But many of the people giving recommendations to writers clearly do not. I know this because I went beyond clueless article #1. I did a Google search. I read something like a dozen articles on passive writing income. They suggested things like. . . 

1. Teach online. The idea is that once you pull together your teaching material, teaching is just easy peasy mac-n-cheesy. 

2. Create a blog. Putting up valuable content on a daily basis is all you have to do. Then you just have to monetize your blog to earn income. 

3. Create a podcast. This works a lot like a blog and, really, it isn’t that much work. 

4. Indie Publish a book or books. Since you get to keep all of the income, once you get the book written it will be pure profit. 

5. Traditionally publish a best-selling novel. 

I kid you not. Each and every one of these suggestions was mentioned again and again. The reality is that if you are looking for easy money, writing probably should not be your #1 plan. 

It isn’t that you can’t make money writing, but you aren’t going to find a lot of passive income. What you will find are ways to use one income stream to boost another. 

You write books. You have a blog that is monetized. If you speak at a conference or on a webinar, you will be billed as Whitney Writer, the author of An Amazing Novel who is also on Blogger. Yes, it was work to put together your class or presentation. But you can use it to help sell your book. You can send people to your blog. 

Or perhaps you write an article about something related to your book. You’ve got a byline and bio. You mention your book, your class, and your site. No, the article wasn’t effortless but it has helped earn more income from your book, your class and your site. 

Very few writers make a living from one income stream alone. You won’t find a lot of truly passive income, but, if you are clever, you can use one source of income to boost the others. It isn’t passive but it a pretty smart way to work. 


Sue Bradford Edwards' is the author of over 30 books for young readers.  To find out more about her writing, visit her site and blog, One Writer's Journey.

The next session of her new course, Pitching, Querying and Submitting Your Work will begin on November 1, 2021).  Coping with rejection is one of the topics she will cover in this course.

Sue is also the instructor for  Research: Prepping to Write Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins November 1, 2021) and Writing Nonfiction for Children and Young Adults (next session begins November 1, 2021). 


Margo Dill said...

Would winning the lottery be considered passive income? I’ve read some of those same articles I think! Great post !

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

It takes little or no effort, so I think it would. While I was reading those articles, I kept thinking, "I wonder what Margo would say about publishing your own book being passive."

Renee Roberson said...

This is so true. All these articles talk about creating passive income from your writing. After doing a fair amount of research, you are correct in that it is not that easy!

To create income from affiliate marketing, you first have to create enough content to tie it to, and then make sure you market it so people see it. That takes time. If you write an indie book, you have to market the heck out of it to cover your start-up costs and then you still need a full-time job to pay the bills. I did create a podcast and a year and a half later, I'm almost to the point where I can get sponsors to cover the cost of me working on and producing the podcast. But that's still not passive income, LOL! I could go on and on.

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

When I read about a podcast being "passive" income, I thought of all your hard work. It brought to mind The Princess Bride. "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

Renee Roberson said...


I adore that "Princess Bride" quote. The only way I can think of a podcast being a passive income is if a podcaster takes content they wrote for something else (their blog, e-newsletter, etc.) and uploads it to their feed with minimal time required. But they would have to have tons of followers for any income to be generated. Mia has told me we need to take the audio from Missing in the Carolinas, upload it to YouTube, find some stock images and the show logo, and let the content be repurposed there. It will take some time to amass views, but she says it can create revenue eventually. But as you said, this after we've spent months creating the original episodes for free.

Angela Mackintosh said...

Great post, SueBE! :) I'd mentioned to someone about classes as passive income, but that's only if you create something like a video class without instructor interaction, homework assignments, instructor critique, etc., so it would be an automated video class. Yes, you'd have to create the video class once, but then it could be passive-ish. Actually, I don't think there is such a thing as truly passive income, where you do no work and make money from it. There has to be some kind of content, just building a website/landing area to begin with, and yes, that takes work. Even buying a lottery ticket has probably come from years of putting money into it and playing the game. To me, passive income is do the work once and keep earning from it for years. That isn't that hard to do with affiliate links and ad networks. And you're so right about multiple revenue streams. It also helps when one area is low in sales to have others. I found that certain seasons produce various results in revenue streams.

Renee, I like Mia's idea. There are so many people on Youtube hungry for those types of shows. Mike Oh's true crime show, That Chapter is a great one. Have you thought about Patreon and creating merch?

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Your class suggestion is definitely passive income. But the ideas I saw were all more like webinars with "in person" lectures, marketing it to multiple platforms and more.

I know a lot of authors who do self-guided video lectures. Much more do-able as passive income.

Face it, you are simply a champ at generating income!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

Mia has a great plan for you. Finding multiple ways to use the same work is just smart! And oh-so-Angela.

Cathy C. Hall said...

So true, Sue, there is nothing passive about generating content! I took an art class (Or started taking it and fizzled out) on Udemy a while back. The instructor had produced the classes and so a student can take any time. And I've seen writers produce that kind of content and offer the classes. The thing is, yes, you only have to produce the content once and assuming it's good, you can offer it forever, I guess.

BUT the instructor did email me (not passive) and allows people to post their work for feedback about once a week (also not passive). Most writers do the same with their instructional videos; there's usually an opportunity for feedback.

So I guess as Angela said, you can get your work to the passive-ish point, and I'm sure it's profitable if you're good at marketing, etc. Excellent dive into this subject, thanks!

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I wondered about the Udemy classes. You just answered my question. I like that term - passive-ish.

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