Non-fiction authors: double your income with these 10 ideas

Here at Rage Against the Manuscript, I’m often talking about fiction, because it’s my first and truest love. But I do love non-fiction and non-fiction authors, too – you guys are the coolest. I read a fuck-load of non-fiction – mostly true crime and biographies and weird books about weird stuff, but also business books cuz this babe’s gotta make her bones – and I write a fair bit, too. So I spend a lot of time looking at how other non-fiction authors structure their businesses and build a sustainable income.


Truth time: The majority of non-fiction authors won’t earn a decent living from book sales alone. You may get lucky and discover one of those “profitable niches” get-rich-quick gurus will tell you about, and you’ll churn out seven-zillion books on dog-grooming techniques and make a million dollars. Or, you won’t. 


Let’s say the dog-grooming thing isn’t quite working out the way you hoped. You’re passionate enough about a particular topic that you’ve written a book about it. And you probably also have some kind of website, social media, blog, or magazine column where you talk about this thing a lot, too. Maybe you make a few hundred dollars a month but you’d like to do better. Let’s see what we can do with that to double your money with additional income streams.



Obviously, this one relies on you actually enjoying public speaking and being at least somewhat decent at it. Let’s put that aside for now and say you’re ready and excited to do this. First of all, you need to prepare some material to pitch yourself.


Here’s what I’d do:

  1. Think about the types of audiences you’d like to speak to. For example, maybe you wrote a true-crime book about an interesting case in your area or an unusual aspect of criminal life/law enforcement. Potential audiences who’d be interested in this include: a) true crime fans. b) fans of mystery/thriller novels. c) writers who are interested in researching and writing about this particular type of crime. d) psychologists interested in the minds of criminals. e) law enforcement who might have an interest. f) Pitched in the right way, a general audience (eg. ‘What I learned about success from a serial killer’ for a corporate retreat. Edgy, yes, but it could work.)

  2. Now you’ve got your audiences in mind, write up around 3 potential ideas for keynotes and workshops. They’ll need snappy titles, a 2-3 sentence pitch, and some learning outcomes for the audience. If possible, I’d look at doing two keynotes and a workshop. Make these up all fancy in a downloadable PDF with a bio about yourself, your book, and your expertise. Any bonuses you might be able to offer, add those on the sheet, too (such as a free PDF of your book to participants).

  3. Create a page on your website. Add your bio, a bit about your speaking experience, any testimonials you have, and ideally an example of your speaking (a video is best. I use a podcast episode). Also include a way for people to contact you. Now you’re all set up for people to find you.

  4. Research 20 events in your area over the next year. Look also for event companies who put on corporate events and require speakers. Pitch yourself to them! Be ready with an awesome pitch and your ideas that are perfectly suited to their audiences.

  5. Tell your list that you’re now available as a speaker. You never know who might be keen, and you’re more likely to be hired by a fan.



I’ll be real here – I did this with How to Rock Self-Publishing School and it was a LOT of work. Like wheeeeeee sooooooo much work. But totally rewarding and amazing having students work through the material and share their results. 


If you want to get into creating and selling courses, then the great thing about starting with your book is that you already have the outline, formula, and structure sorted. You just need to convert the book content into a course structure and offer additional learning and ways for students to get the most out of the material.


I recommend:

  • Converting each chapter into a video or series of videos exploring each idea. Add additional content not found in the book, such as new examples and case studies.

  • Add tons of bonuses your students can’t get from the books, such as interviews with other experts in your field.

  • For each lesson, add “homework” and simple tasks to complete. Using downloadable templates, checklists, and tipsheets also helps to make the content more digestible and applicable.

  • Wherever possible, make your course accessible to all by making sure you include transcripts, content accessible on a screen reader, and video captions.



This is a simple way to add additional value to your book sales without a ton of extra work. A workbook enables readers to work through your formula in their own time, by creating a space for them to write answers to your questions and explore their ideas.


Workbooks are best for non-fiction with a self-help element. If your book is called How to Change Your Money Mindset, a workbook will be awesome, for a true-crime writer it’s probably less so (Although I’d personally buy the How to Fake Your Own Death Workbook. Just saying…).


Take your book’s content and copy/paste it into a new file. Find the questions for each chapter and section, and add lines and diagrams for readers to add their answers. Most workbooks serve as a companion to the actual book, so you’ll usually delete the non-question content, although not all workbook creators do. This gives readers the incentive to purchase both. Not everyone will, but you’ll be surprised at how many do. 


You can create your workbook at the same time you produce your actual book, so it’s ready for launch. You’ll just need your designer to add “workbook” to the cover, and to adjust the spine width to fit the new page count. 


Workbooks obviously don’t work very well as ebooks for Kindle, etc, but they are good as PDF downloads from your website for readers to fill in at home.



This is an interesting idea that many non-fiction authors don’t think to consider. If you offer books and other content that may be interesting to corporations, you should put together an offer and pitch them for sponsorship. What could this look like?

  • If they do a corporate retreat, they could purchase 200 books from you to add to their goody bags.

  • They may ask you to conduct webinars or in-house workshops to educate their staff. 

  • You may become a company spokesperson.

  • They may license content from you – book chapters, blog posts, video content, webinars, etc. This agreement might be for staff education, or it might be so the company can repurpose your content for their own blogs and newsletters. These contracts can be extremely lucrative.

Corporate sponsorship is all about who you know. To get in you need to target companies with great value and brand fit, pitch yourself, and get to know the right people.


    "The majority of non-fiction authors won’t earn a decent living from book sales alone. You may get lucky and discover one of those “profitable niches” get-rich-quick gurus will tell you about, and you’ll churn out seven-zillion books on dog-grooming techniques and make a million dollars. Or, you won’t."

    Steff Green

    Writer and publishing coach.



    I’m so passionate about freelance writing as a tool for non-fiction authors to get their brand out there and build an audience who regard you as an expert on a particular topic. 


    When I talk about freelance writing, I’m suggesting you pitch articles on the topic of your book to magazines, blogs, and other publications. You’ll be paid for these articles and build up an impressive list of “clips” that showcase your expertise. Most freelance articles will give you a bio or link back to your website, blog, or book’s product page.


    You may then be able to spin these freelance opportunities into more lucrative deals – such as regular columns, or affiliate agreements with publications where they promote your books and courses. 

    I’m currently writing a book all about freelance writing and how it can help you build your author career. I can’t wait for you to read it! If you want to be the first to know when it’s live, join the Rage Against the Manuscript newsletter.



    Get together with other authors and content providers in your niche and offer a mega-bundle. This is where you each donate a piece of content – an ebook, a course, a six-month subscription, a report, a video series, etc – to create a massive bundle. Add up the value of all your content. With 20-50 contributors to the bundle, you should end up with a value of around $5000.


    Now, promote that bundle to your fans for a limited time for $49. 


    You’ll earn a little bit of money as an affiliate for each bundle you sell, but the main purpose of this is to get a shit-ton of new fans on your mailing list and to have exposure to your work. You’re getting exposure to the audiences of those other bundle participants, and it will be awesome. 


    Create a compelling offer for bundle buyers for after they’re finished your product – something exclusive just for them. Make sure you get as many of them as possible onto your mailing list so you can continue to offer them great content.



    Not every book you write needs to be a meaty tome. Short and snappy bites of wisdom can be just as effective, and what’s even better is that you can whip out a short guide over a few days, publish it online, and get paid by your audience immediately.


    Your short guides should be around 5-10k words in total, and laser-focused on one particular, specific question. Start by asking your audience what they need help with the most and remember, you’re not trying to solve all their problems in a single guide – you’re giving them short, actionable steps to make their next move. Use your book content as a jumping-off point to create an in-depth study of a single topic, or a quick-start guide to get your readers away laughing. 


    Short guides also make great bonus content when you add them to larger bundles and products. It’s always good to have a few things out so you can bundle – bundles are happiness for your wallet.



    Coaching is the classic method non-fiction authors use to grow their business. You sell your time to a select few clients who want to pick your brains and get highly personalised assistance. 


    To set yourself up as a coach, you’ll need an infrastructure (a system to allow you to take appointments, gather client data, and conduct coaching calls), as well as a methodology to apply to your clients. You'll need a compelling offer – why would someone choose your coaching? What results will they see? What will change in their life?


    Create a landing page for your coaching services and make it easy for clients to sign up for a session and see what's available.


    If you go down the coaching route, I recommend taking a short course first to help you learn the techniques you can use to draw out what you need from clients to do your best work.


    There’s definitely a ton of new skills involved in being an awesome coach, but if you love the work it can be extremely rewarding.


    For me, I’ve done a little one-on-one coaching, but I find I prefer to help more people through courses and not tie my income down to a money-for-time exchange, so coaching isn’t a big part of my business.



    We’ve talked about creating a workbook from your book to add an additional income stream. Have you considered an audiobook? 


    Audiobooks are one of the biggest growing markets in the publishing landscape. There can be a high barrier to entry because of the cost of hiring a narrator and producer. Many non-fiction authors are getting around this by narrating their own audiobooks. Also, readers love to hear non-fiction narrated by the author – it makes the audiobook feel personal and relevant.


    It’s actually easier to do than you’d expect in terms of equipment – if you use a Mac, you already have Garageband installed (audio production software) and if you’re on PC there are many inexpensive and free alternatives (Audacity is often recommended but I’ve never used it personally). You can sign up for an account on ACX or Findaway Voices for free to distribute your book. You’ll probably want to invest in a mic, but it’ll be great for webinars and podcast interviews as well and you can get so many great ones for around $200. You’ll also need a quiet room or cupboard to record in. 

    Here’s a great article and video with a ton of tips. Once you’ve completed your recording, you’ll be able to upload and distribute via ACX or Findaway Voices (or any other distributor you choose) and you’ll have an additional income stream.



    This is another little trick I use, and I’ve seen mad keen content creators do it with insane results. 


    Note: you can’t do this if you’re in Kindle Unlimited, but for non-fiction, you’re probably not in KU anyway. 


    You’ve got a book, right? And you’re probably selling it on Amazon and iTunes etc for $9.99. 


    You should also be selling it from your own website because you get more royalties there. You should be directing your audience to buy from your website wherever possible. 


    You’ll have to sell your book on your website for $9.99 too, because you don’t want your peeps to look on Amazon, see the book is cheaper there, and buy it there instead. If anything, you want to give your peeps more value, not less.


    But it would also be ideal if they paid you more.


    So, what you do is create a couple of simple bonuses. For How to Rock Self-Publishing I have four tipsheets that are downloaded at the same time as the book. I then charge a little extra on my website because I include the tipsheets – $15. So now I’m making a little more for each sale.


    This works totally awesome. I definitely recommend doing this. 


    But you don’t have to stop at a few dollars. Package your book with other products you sell for a discounted price. Create bundles of your books and guides. Add a free webinar recording. Anything to increase the value of a sale. Suddenly, instead of earning 70% royalties on a $9.99 sale, you could be getting $49 or $97.


    There you go – ten ideas to double your income as a non-fiction author. You don’t have to do all of them, but simply incorporating the few that inspire you the most into your business plan could be the difference between a few hundred dollars in book royalties per month and a few thousand dollars in business revenue. 


    Do you have other ideas for non-fiction authors? Have you had success building a non-fiction business with any of these ideas? Share in the Rage Against the Manuscript FB group!


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