Making Money as a Writer

Sixteen years ago I left my full-time job as a journalist with the intention of taking up a career as a creative writer. What I naively didn’t realise was that I would never again earn a full-time salary with pension, holiday or sick pay. My earnings now are cobbled together from multiple sources and, like every other freelance I know, a good chunk of my time is spent sourcing income streams and pitching for paying work. Here are some of the many ways I try to earn money from my writing:


Most commercial publishers offer an advance once a book has been accepted for publication. If you are fortunate enough to get that manuscript taken on and published, you should be paid something in advance. This is usually split into 2 payments: on acceptance of MS and then on publication. What the advance is varies from publisher to publisher – and author to author – and can be anything from hundreds to thousands of pounds. The advance must then be ‘earned back’ by the publisher through sales of your book before royalties start to be paid. (Note, sometimes very small publishers offer a royalty-only deal. The down side is you don’t get anything up front, but you start earning on it as soon as books start to sell.)


Royalties are an agreed percentage of the profits. This again varies from publisher to publisher, but they average 10 – 12% for print books. Ebooks pay a royalty between 25 – 40%. For children’s books with illustrations, royalties are split equally between the author and the illustrator, so you will only get half what you would get for an adult book. Royalties for books published through co-publishing or self-publishing service providers (eg Create Space, Matador, Instant Apostle etc) – where you cover the costs of publication yourself – the royalty rate is considerably higher (30 – 60%). Remember, conventional publishers don’t ask you to pay anything towards the cost of publication, so have to recoup that from sales before they pay you. I currently have books with three different publishers. Two of them pay royalties twice a year; one of them pays once a year. My self-published book via Create Space pays out once a month.


If an author’s book is borrowed from a library in the UK or Ireland, the author is paid a small fee (around 8p). Authors need to register their books for Public Lending Right (PLR). Note authors must live within the European Economic Area to qualify. Payments are made once a year. More information here. Money can also be earned when your work is photocopied or used under some kind of copyright licence. This is collected by the Author Licensing Collection Service (ALCS) and paid twice a year.

One-off fees for articles

If you write freelance articles for periodicals, magazines and newspapers you will be paid a flat one-off fee. This differs from publication to publication and is negotiated up front. Sometimes ezines and blogs pay for content too, but not always. Articles and contributions to anthologies and booklets also qualify for ALCS payments, so don’t forget to register them.

Appearance / workshop fees

Authors are sometimes asked to give talks at various events. Payment for these things is patchy. Sometimes a fee is offered, sometimes not. The Society of Authors encourages authors to always ask for a fee. It’s up to you whether you are prepared to do it for nothing or not (for a charity for instance). But you should always ask for an opportunity to sell your books at the event.

Amazon affiliate programme

Amazon offer a commission on books sold via your website if you sign up to their affiliate programme. These are not just your books, but any books (or products) that you link to on your various websites or social media platforms. I get paid monthly for this. More information here.

Google Adsense

You can allow Google advertising on your various websites. How much or how little is up to you. You can also request the removal of any ads that you do not like. I get paid monthly for this. More information here.

Fiona Veitch Smith is a writer and writing tutor, based in Newcastle upon Tyne.. Her mystery novel The Jazz Files, the first in the Poppy Denby Investigates Series (Lion Fiction) was shortlisted for the CWA Historical Dagger award in 2016. The second book, The Kill Fee was a finalist for the Foreword Review mystery novel of the year 2016/17, and the third, The Death Beat, is out now. Her novel Pilate’s Daughter a historical love story set in Roman Palestine, is published by Endeavour Press and her coming-of-age literary thriller about apartheid South Africa, The Peace Garden, is self-published under the Crafty Publishing imprint. Her children’s books The Young David Series and the Young Joseph Series are published by SPCK.

Novel Writing Course – Newcastle upon Tyne

Have you always wanted to write a novel but don’t quite know where to start? Or you’ve launched in a frenzy of creative energy then ground to a halt? Don’t let another year go by. I’m going to be running three courses this year, in collaboration with Newcastle City Library, Newcastle upon Tyne. The courses run for four weeks on Thursday evenings 5-7pm where you will join a small group of other hopeful novelists in fun, interactive and informative sessions.

Get That Novel Started 2, 9, 16, 23 March 2017 £65
Get That Novel Finished 1, 8, 15, 22 June 2017 £65
Get That Novel Published 5, 12, 19 October 2017 and 2 November 2017

You can pick and choose which of the courses you do – one or all of them! – but you will get the most out of the series if you start at the beginning.

For more information and to book your place visit Get That Novel Started – booking.

Saving the cat – what fiction writers can learn from screenwriters.

Fiction writers can learn a lot from screenwriters. The bottom line is that they both deal with story construction. Over the next few months I will be bringing you posts on what the two can learn from each other. My first offering is hosted over at the More Than Writers blogspot and discusses characterisation and saving that darned cat!

Developing Character for your Story

The Crafty Writer has been taking a bit of a back seat lately due to the launch of my new books (which I’ll be telling you about in future posts). But as so many of you enjoy all of the advice you receive from The Crafty Writer I thought it was time to get back in the saddle (if you’ll excuse the mixed metaphor). I have asked Sunday Times best-selling author Mel Menzies, who has just brought out a new psychological mystery, Time to Shine, to give us a masterclass on developing character.  Continue reading ‘Developing Character for your Story’

Writing with wine, editing with coffee

On writing with wine and editing with coffee. Or balancing our conscious and sub-conscious minds in our writing.…/writing-with-wine-e… This was written for a Christian Writers’ blog, but the concept of needing to find ways to access our sub-conscious apply to all writers.

Narrative writing contest

A US-based magazine, Narrative, is hosting a competition for fiction and non-fiction stories. There is an entry fee of $22. More info here

The Winter Story Contest is open to all writers, and all entries will be considered for publication.

• $2,500 First Prize
• $1,000 Second Prize
• $500 Third Prize
• Ten finalists receive $100 each.

Deadline: Sun., Mar. 31, at midnight, PDT.

See the Guidelines. Read prior winners, and view recent awards won by Narrative authors.

They say: ‘We are committed to paying our authors, to providing excellent editorial support, and to encouraging a wide audience for good writing. ‘

Narrative reaches a worldwide audience of more than 170,000 readers.

Theatre playwriting opportunity

Could you write a short play to be staged in a pub? And by short I mean 5 – 10mins? (About the time it takes to stand in line for the next round or go outside for a quick puff). The 2014 Pint-sized play comp is now open for entries. Although UK based they accept submissions from anywhere in the world. Cheers!

Happy new year!

Happy New Year all you Crafty Writers. It’s been a while since I posted as I have been very busy over at – publishing and promoting our growing list of books. But I hope to start paying a bit more attention to The Crafty Writer again this year. The free creative writing course is still going well and if you haven’t dropped by there yet, please do. I’ve finally started writing ‘The Crafty Guide to Creative Writing’ based on the course and that will be coming out in print and e-book later this year. This website will also get a revamp to accompany the launch of the book but for now, bear with us. Oh, and if you haven’t already done so, you can find us on FB too!

I hope you all have a fabulous 2014 and find some time to write.

Fiona Veitch Smith

The Crafty Writer

Writing from the inside out

Very chuffed to hear 10 men in a prison in Maryland, USA, have been working through the free Crafty Writer creative writing course with the help of the prison librarian

Writing for children: getting ideas

alexa-tewkesbury-whats-christmasThis week’s guest post is from prolific children’s author Alexa Tewkesbury. Alexa’s books are particular favourites of my seven-year-old daughter and mine, so I’m chuffed to host her. She talks about getting ideas, reading other authors and the simple joy of writing for young readers. Are you sitting comfortably? Continue reading ‘Writing for children: getting ideas’