Income Opportunities for Authors Beyond the Book

Speaking engagements, driving online sales, more...

Christopher Buckley at BEA
Speaking engagements can boost author income. Alberto E. Rodriguez / Getty Images Entertainment

How can authors maximize their income?

Researching, writing, and publishing a book takes time and effort and the monetary rewards aren't always commensurate with the amount of exertion. To ensure you fully exploit your hard-won authorial status to the benefit of the bottom line, consider these additional income opportunities.

Note: Make certain that none of these efforts conflict with your publisher's rights as outlined in your book contract.

Pursue speaking engagements

Teaching a class, giving a keynote speech — unlike author promotional appearances (which generally aren't paid), paid speaking engagement fees can boost an author's income, as well as create a larger audience (and more sales) for his or her books. 

Of course, the more popular the author, the more money he or she will command for a speaking gig — but many authors have valuable knowledge or educational information to contribute to an audience of people willing to pay for the privilege.

Many of the major publishers have their own Speakers Bureaus so inquire with your editor. If you're just starting out speaking, look for local opportunities at places such as your library, to get your feet wet before you pitch yourself to better paying venues.

Develop and present online educational seminars

There are now a number of digital platforms that make it simple to create online educational seminar modules that can be taken by students anywhere.

Publishers have and / or are developing educational divisions for their authors (for example, Simon and Schuster's Simon Says), but there are a number of other platforms on which to develop a virtual, paid class. Classes can be an hour or a number of hours a week for several weeks, depending on your expertise, your topic, and how you feel you can best structure the class for maximum participation.

If you have something to teach, this could be an avenue to income.

Drive book sales from your author website

You might already be offering your books for sale off of your website, likely linking to Amazon.com, or BN.com or even IndieBound and / or Powells (better yet, all four). All of those sites offer affiliate programs — that is, you get back a small percentage of the sales that are driven from your site. It takes a bit of effort to set up the affiliate relationships (which all have different parameters), and to download and set up the links, but it could very well bring in some

For potentially more revenue, consider linking to your book on your publisher's website. HarperCollins offers their authors a better royalty rate on book sales sold directly from the publisher. They are able to do this because they themselves are making more money cutting out the "middleman" (who, in most online instances, is Amazon.com).

Exploit un-utilized or subsidiary rights

Most likely, your publisher retained the rights to the book in additional formats (like paperback), derivative works or adaptations (film, TV). But depending on how you negotiated your book contract, you could potentially create some ancillary works, like an audiobook, a workbook, or even merchandise.

Check with your agent to see what is allowable within the parameters of your book contract.

And, if your publisher is "leaving money on the table" — that is, isn't interested in pursuing a particular derivative product (because the market i too small for their P&Ls), you can potentially negotiate with them to allow you to DIY. For example, you can self-publish and sell an audiobook version of your book, like Joel Schwartzberg did.

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