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.

No related posts.

Subscribe to my feed to receive automatic notification of new content. Or you can subscribe by email. (what's this all about?)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


HTML tags are not allowed.