Will Writing a Book Make You Money?

Before you commit to writing a book, make sure it will generate the return on investment you want. (Photo credit: Pexels)

Many authors aspire to write books because they see them as potential new income streams. They expect to be able to sell scads of copies of their book to customers and generate substantial additional revenue. Some envision themselves traveling cross-country on an ambitious book signing tour, becoming independently wealthy from the sale of tens of thousands of copies of their book.

While this can happen, the truth is that most books are not a significant source of income for their authors. Few books ever earn back the advances that publishing houses pay authors, the result being that authors rarely earn royalties on their books. In other words, if you are paid a $10,000 advance for your manuscript, it’s highly likely that that amount is all you’ll ever receive from the publisher.

Earning a profit selling books is difficult unless you have a large following, are a regular on the national speaker circuit and can sell your book at the back of the room, or unless you self-publish and can get the per-book cost down considerably. Even then, without a major promotional campaign, you shouldn’t expect to become rich.

What a Book Can Do for You

Despite the fact that the book itself may not make you a millionaire, it can still generate substantial revenue for you in other, indirect ways. That’s where the real money is.

Being able to refer to yourself as an author qualifies you for business opportunities that non-authors only aspire to have. And it can result in revenue for ancillary work you might not have gotten without being able to position yourself as a subject-matter expert.

A book can position you to land some or all of the following types of income-generating opportunities:

  • New clients
  • Additional work from existing clients
  • Consulting work
  • Coaching or mentoring programs
  • Public speaking opportunities
  • Invitations to lead paying workshops or seminars
  • Webinar guest opportunities
  • College or university teaching engagements
  • Corporate spokesperson gigs
  • Website sponsors or advertisers
  • Paid blogging invitations
  • Expert witness requests

In most cases, the revenue generated by these business activities far surpass the revenue generated from the actual sale of the initial book.

That’s why many companies, entrepreneurs, and executives invest time and money in writing books – to gain access to all the additional revenue-generating opportunities out there that they are not currently privy to. But there’s no guarantee, of course.

The Big Picture

Before you set aside time and money to work on your book, make sure it helps you achieve the goals you’ve set for yourself – business or personal.

Run the numbers to see how many copies you need to sell in order to recoup your investment in the project (writing, editing, producing, printing, and distributing it). Then consider the value of additional business opportunities, if you’re interested in leveraging your book in that manner. (If you hate speaking in public, don’t like teaching, and don’t want to blog any more than you already are, those additional opportunities may not be of much interest to you.)

Books can be catalysts for growth and new opportunities, but earning big money from the sales of books alone is tough.

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Marcia Layton Turner


  1. Bobbi Linkemer on June 7, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I tell my clients that money should not be their prime motivation for writing a book. When their first statement is, “I want this on the NY Times bestseller list!” I cringe. I try to dissuade anyone who is determined to attract a big publisher, sell a bazillion copies, and land on the list. Sometimes, they just walk away, and that’s OK. Producing a best seller when you are a first-time author is not something I can guarantee.

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