For many authors writing is a hustle that they're happy doing on the side as and when they can but, if you're looking to write full-time after self-publishing, you need to focus on building as many income streams as you can in order to keep a regular supply of income each month which will allow you to write and pursue your passion full-time.
In this article, I'm going to explain what an income stream is and list a few ideas as to how you can start building your income streams.
What is an income stream?
An income stream is a regular supply of income, or money, that comes through from something. For example, if you're an author one of your income streams is your book(s) as this offers the opportunity for a supply of regular income per month. Now, if you're sitting here thinking, 'But I don't earn a high number of royalties from my book?' I have to tell you that you do not need to worry. It doesn't matter how much you currently earn but rather what potential you have to earn so your books still count as an income stream.
Let's start with a little exercise! (No, I'm not talking about star jumps and burpees) I want you to grab a pen and paper and list all of the ways you currently earn a regular sum of money whether that's through a full-time job, your books, extra work that you do, investing or something else. This will give you an idea of some income streams you already have.
Why are income streams important?
Income streams are important because they allow an author, especially a self-published author, to strategise their writing business and offer the chance, whether now or in the future, for authors to take up writing full-time, which is the dream for most authors! Income streams are also important because they show you where you may need to invest more of your time to allow for advanced opportunities.
What income streams are available to writers?
There are many income streams that are available to writers and those who have self-published and are able to write full-time will have utilised multiple of these. Let me give you a few ideas of some income streams you may want to start utilising.
Your books (Paperback, Hardback and eBook versions)
This one is the obvious one. Most of the time, an authors main income stream that brings them the most money is their books as it's what makes them an 'author' and is what they're spending most of their time outputting into the world. It's also usually the income stream that provides them with the most money each month compared to others.
It's wise for an author to start utilising merchandise when they've published a book. Not only does merchandise provide an extra supply of income but it also strengthens the buzz and admiration for your book. For example, if someone really likes your book, they'll be more inclined to want to purchase a mug or a t-shirt because want to represent their love for the book. They then start sharing this merchandise on their social media and someone who hasn't heard of you decides that they like the merchandise also, so they do their research and next thing you know you've got another sale for your book!
There are many ways you can start selling merchandise and it doesn't just have to be about your book. For example, I've added a shop to my website and social media which sell writing and reading branded items such as notebooks, mugs and t-shirts. In order to get merchandise, you can either buy directly from a supplier, such as Vistaprint or Camaloon, or you can use sites like Teespring which allow you to create an online shop and design merchandise that they offer. This is easier as, when someone purchases one of your items, they'll usually sort the printing and shipping themselves and you just need to sit back and relax.
An audiobook provides another income stream and is a great way to target another market and type of reader. You may not know where to start in creating an audiobook and how to get the resources you need, for example, you need a narrator, a script, an audiobook cover and then you need to figure out how to get your audiobook on sites like Amazon. It can seem like a lot however there's no need to be stressed because sites like ACX make creating your audiobook and finding a narrator easy!
This comes into its own category because it's separate from having your book be sold on Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes and Noble or somewhere else. One way authors can earn more money is by offering signed copies of their books in their shop. Know that you will have to sort the shipping of these copies yourself, so factor the cost of shipping into your price.
Many self-published authors grow on YouTube and start an AuthorTube where they talk about their books, latest news or even coach other writers on how to write and publish their work. YouTube could be a possible income stream you might want to pursue because, once you earn enough subscribers, you can apply to YouTube's Partner Programme. Once in this programme, you will agree to start showing ads on your YouTube videos and, when an ad is clicked on or watched in full, you'll earn money. Your video also provides a way of earning money as YouTube rewards you when subscribers watch the full video, for example, or like and comment on the video.
This is probably my most favourite income stream that I have because it allows me to build a community where writers and readers can feel supported - which is key! A Patreon is a way of funding creators and anybody can start one. Ideally, it's a reward system whereby users buy in to get something in return, which is another reason why I love Patreon! Not only are you supporting me, but it also allows me to spend and give back to you.
In-Person Book Signing and Events
Although many authors haven't been able to do these types of events in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, soon these events will start up again. Another way you can earn income is by hosting in-person book signings and events. If you're a self-published author, you may be able to get in touch with your local bookstore, Waterstones or Barnes and Noble who may allow you to hold an in-person book signing and event. Before you reach out, it's important to ensure you have a good number of sales, reviews and a following behind you to maximise your chances.
Another income stream some authors choose to do is set up paid coaching courses. An example of this is Sara Cannon's Publish and Thrive course. In order to set up a course like this, you need to have a planned schedule of what you're going to be talking about, how participants can stream or watch your course, how you're going to get in contact with them and more.
Now time for another exercise! You've already made a list of income streams you have currently, now looking at the above list add income streams you want to take on, whether now or in the future. You may be able to think of some that I haven't included!