How to Make a Living from Your Writing

“We’re living in the best time ever to make a living with your writing!”

So begins Joanna Penn in her latest book “How to Make a Living with Your Writing: Books, Blogging and More.”how to make a living from your writing

This assertion from a NY Times and USA Today Best Selling Author, who has done this and been there in the Self-publishing world, is really reassuring. Especially to the many newbie, struggling writers who doubt if it would ever be possible for them to make a full-time living from their writing.

May be we internalise whatever the society or community enamoured with “well-paying” day jobs has been telling us. May be there are too many roadblocks or challenges to be countered when writers start from scratch with a zero fan base. May be they find it daunting that there are already millions of books available on Amazon and every day a thousand more are being added.

How then can you even get noticed? This is a very legitimate question that every overwhelmed new author is entitled to ask.

Well here then comes a truly refreshing and enlightening book from Joanna Penn that should clear all such misconceptions immediately. Not only does she motivate you to pursue your dreams and not to listen to critics and your so called well-wishers but she also comes up with practical, actionable steps that can make you realise your author-entrepreneurial dreams pretty soon.

There is always hope. Image Courtesy of arztsamui/

There is always hope.
Image Courtesy of arztsamui/

Joanna forces you to think of opportunities instead of challenges. For example, don’t think of your book as only one manuscript or as a one-time income source (like a speaking or consulting assignment) but as one which is scalable over time. One book on one e-book retailer and in one format (say Kindle edition) is one stream of income. But the same book in different formats (audio, print and translations) on different e-book retailers (such as Apple, Kobo, Nook, Google Play) can yield multiple streams of income. If you worry about your Kindle sales plateauing in the US, think about the other territories elsewhere in the world, especially on mobile phones, that have just started to open up to digital book sales. After all English is a global language and your audience too is global. You would be doing a great disservice to yourself and to your writing career if you are not thinking beyond sales in the US.

Okay, enough of motivational talk. Joanna comes up with various actionable plans that can help you achieve your goals. The book is divided into two parts where the first part talks about making sales from your books. This involves writing more books, writing in a series, writing in different genres and of different length and exploiting various rights such as Audio, Print, and e-Book formats.

The second part talks about earning from various other streams such as blogging, creating Udemy courses, public speaking, consultation, coaching and freelance writing. You really don’t need to blog in order to make a living, assures Joanna. But if you want to, your blog too can become a new stream of income with advertisements, endorsements and affiliate income.

how to make a living from your writing

It is possible to have multiple streams of income.
Image Courtesy of Keattikorn/

If you are doing everything and wondering whether you will ever be able to make a full time living, Joanna has got some fantastic advice to offer. She says if you can make $10 worth of sales, you have the potential to graduate to making $100 and from there to $1000, $10,000 and $100,000. Joanna herself claims to be earning a six-figure income by now.

Sure, you will make plenty of mistakes on the way and many of your bets will go awry. Joanna too with refreshing candour mentions the many she had made. For example, how she once started six blogs and now continues with just two. Or, how overestimating her skills in selling her books to local booksellers, she ordered thousands of paperbacks and then had to send most of them to a landfill.

Once bitten, she now only trusts the POD services (like CreateSpace, which prints-on-demand only when someone places a firm order). This is a strategy I heartily endorse and use for all my existing 12 books and five translations.

On the downside, I need to point out that Joanna does not discuss the cons of blogging and creating Udemy courses. For example, success in blogging requires traffic and if you are trying to balance your time between writing and blogging then one might suffer because of the other.

Similarly if you want to create courses, then you may have to learn how to create audio and video files. There could be a huge learning curve plus costs involved at every step. But let’s face it, these types of cons are pretty self-evident and Joanna having implemented them herself is only sharing some new ideas.

how to make a living from your writingI also think that Joanna’s  is a rather “high-cost” model of operation, which may NOT suit authors operating from the developing world or who don’t want to incur any financial risks. You have to purchase special software like Scrivener, buy professional cover designs and formatting templates, pay line editors, structural editors and beta readers, and then pay for advertising on platforms like Bookbub. The entire exercise, I estimate, would cost you about $1500 per book. So if you can afford it, well and good. But if you can’t, you may do well to get ideas from books like How to be an Author-Entrepreneur WITHOUT SPENDING A DIME.” Yes, this is my book and you can grab it at no cost here. In this book, I share my own experiences about how you can publish a high quality book at $0 if you are on a shoe string budget.

On the whole, How to Make a Living From Your Writing by Joanna Penn is a very uplifting book and I would highly recommend this book to any author who is making less than $500 a month or making more than $500 a month.

Do let me know what do you think of this? Do you think it is possible to make a living out of writing?



  • I am a content writer and do write articles for company EPIC VILA. They pay me very good amount for the articles. So I am making my living with content writing.
    So I must say content writing is the best way for me to earn money.

    • Prasenjeet says:

      Thanks Kaushal for your experience. You can also publish books on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Nobles, Apple iTunes and Google Play and print books through Createspace. That could be a second stream of income. 🙂 It’s good to have multiple streams of income.

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