If you’ve hung around ALLi long enough, you’ll know a sustainable business with multiple streams of income is a core principle we follow. But what does it really mean? What do those streams look like? And how can you create those streams around both your fiction and nonfiction books?
Join Sacha Black and Adam Croft as they discuss building a sustainable business with multiple streams of income around your books, no matter the genre you write.
Our fiction and nonfiction salon is brought to you by sponsor Izzard Ink.
In this episode, Sacha and Adam Discuss
- What do we mean by multiple streams of income?
- Why do it when I just want to write books all day?
- Fiction/Nonfiction Split: The methods and means of multiple income streams differ between the two.
- Income streams outside of writing
- Our biggest tips for authors who want to diversify their income
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About the Hosts
Sacha Black is a bestselling and competition-winning author. She writes the popular YA Fantasy Eden East novels and a series of non-fiction books that are designed to help writers develop their craft. Sacha has been a long-time resident writing coach for website Writers Helping Writers. She is also a developmental editor, wife and mum.
With almost two million books sold to date, Adam Croft is one of the most successful independently published authors in the world and one of the biggest selling authors of the past few years, having sold books in over 120 different countries. In February 2017, Only The Truth became a worldwide bestseller, reaching storewide number one at both Amazon US and Amazon UK, making it the bestselling book in the world at that moment in time. The same day, Amazon’s overall Author Rankings placed Adam as the world’s most widely read author, with J.K. Rowling in second place. In March 2018, Adam was conferred as an Honorary Doctor of Arts, the highest academic qualification in the UK, by the University of Bedfordshire in recognition of his services to literature. Visit his website, The Indie Author Mindset, or find him on Twitter.
Read the Transcript
Adam Croft: Hello and welcome to this month’s fiction and nonfiction Salon from the Alliance of Independent Authors. This month, we’re talking about building a sustainable business with multiple streams of income. I’m Adam Croft. And this is Sacha Black. Hello, Sacha.
Sacha Black: Hello, hello, Adam.
Adam Croft: So, we are talking this month about multiple streams of income. So, I think we should probably start by explaining what we mean by that.
Sacha Black: Okay, so when you are still working for the “man”, you typically will have just one form of income, which is the salary that you get paid at the end of your working month. And now multiple streams of income, are more or less what they say on the tin, in that you will have more than one source of income. And for a writer, they can be many, many and varied. But I think probably the biggest myth that goes around, is thinking that having multiple formats of your book, ie a paperback and ebook, and an audio book is multiple streams of income. And of course, those things are multiple streams of income, but they are — it’s not enough to secure yourself financially. I don’t know if you want to add something to that.
Adam Croft: We touched on the fact that you’re talking about other people and jobs that people have and the fact that you know you’re relying on one person for your income, but a lot of people do have side gigs or they have part time jobs, they have investment portfolios, things like that. And this is not something that’s just curious of writers, is it?
Sacha Black: No, no, absolutely not. And I think there’s also two different types of income that we should be talking about here. The first one is what I like to call active income. And the second one is called passive income. And just to explain those two briefly, active income is anything where you have to expend your time in order to earn the money for that. So for example, um being a consultant or being a doctor, or, you know, being a project manager for a company, you’re exchanging your time and actively, you know, using your time in order to earn the money for that. Passive income, therefore, is when you, you know, inevitably you will have to spend some time like creating a book, but once you’ve created that book, you will earn from it repeatedly over and over again, passively generating income for the lifetime. For your lifetime, and many, many years afterwards. And other examples include things like rent from investment properties, investing in stocks and shares. And yes, you know, earning from courses or other things that you have sold. So, I just thought it was important to touch on those two types of income as well.
Adam Croft: So, for, writers who would say “well I wanted to become a writer because I wanted to just write books, and I wanted to do that all day. I’m not interested in doing other things to earn money as well.” What do you say to those writers?
Sacha Black: Um, that I hear this a lot, and I get it. I do, believe me, all of us want to write all day and live the dream and there’s nothing stopping you from doing that. Let me just say that from the start, but, not having multiple streams of income because you just want to earn royalties is really dangerous for you financially and for your financial security. So, I’ll give you an example; I used to work for local government as a project manager, and I lived in a property that was owned by my employer, and in the last two years, my employment, I was under risk of redundancy four times. So, I would not only would have lost my house, I would have lost my income as well. So, when you only want your income to come from one source, i.e. your book royalties, you are putting yourself in financial jeopardy. Now, that’s not to say you have to have income sources that take up your time, we’ve already spoken about passive income sources. And you can create lots and lots and lots of these passive income sources, so that you can free up your time to write all day if that’s what you want to do. And so, so yes, that is that is what I would say this is about creating financial security for the long term, um which ultimately will get you that dream of writing all day.
Adam Croft: Yeah, I think the key here is this is a very up and down industry, as most authors will know when you release a book, there’s a bit of a spike. And it goes through massive peaks and troughs, which is not something which is ideal, really, if it’s your main income source. So, having those other things I think can really stabilize your income as well as providing that that extra security. When it comes to security, I think that is, as you say, the main thing. And I think this kind of is a similar argument to why I’m in favor of authors being wide and wide allies in favor of authors being wide, not relying on one source of income for everything. So, I think it’s, it’s much the same argument that we have, the same persuasion, that we try to put forward that everything should be about the long term, rather than just looking at one source of income. And, as well, I suppose security if you get ill, if you’re unable to write for a period of time, which I experienced last year, I didn’t get anything done for about five or six months because I was very unwell and having those other things, I’ve got courses I do some private coaching, I’ve got some affiliated products things like that, meant that I was able to take that time out to recover so I think there’s lots of very persuasive arguments for that now we all know fiction and nonfiction sorry go on your —
Sacha Black: Well I was just going to say that there is an argument to be had around like insurance, there as well like, I don’t I don’t remember the sort of accountancy term but you know, like an income type protection businesses, type insurance just in case you know, you break your hand or whatever and you can’t work and that is again then another layer of protection for yourself financially, should the worst happen. And all of us do that when we buy houses anyway, you know, we all get their life insurances to protect our mortgages and stuff. So, it would make sense I think, you know, for your business to have that layer of protection as well.
Adam Croft: Yeah, good show. Good show. We’re going to move on to the nonfiction and fiction side of things. You have fiction and nonfiction salons; we probably should divert at this point and talk about the two aspects there. I did just want to say for anybody who is watching live on Facebook if you want to leave a comment below if you’ve got any questions and we can get back to you on that. So, that the methods and the means of multiple income streams do differ between fiction and nonfiction, don’t they? I think I’ll probably take the fiction side of things and I’ll allow you with your, all of your nonfiction stuff and your Rebel author. I can see that you’re wearing now that you take the nonfiction side of things first.
Sacha Black: Yeah. Okay. So, I mean, all you have to do is use your imagination here. I mean we are creative.
Adam Croft: That’s easier said than done.
Sacha Black: I know. I know. Well, well. So, I’m well, I’m going to run through lots of different ways in which you can generate multiple streams of income. But I suppose the biggest thing is when you have a nonfiction book is to not see it as just book. And both of my nonfiction books for those watching can see behind me, for those listening I have, you know more than one nonfiction, but I turn all of them into workbooks, as well. And so, I repurpose some of the content there, into a, you know, summaries to give some explanations and then we have questions, you know, exercises in the rest of the book. So that’s one thing you can do. And Adam has already mentioned coaching, and not everybody is suited to coaching and I think that’s a really important point. Don’t feel pressured, you know, to coach other authors we are not we don’t all have those personalities when we can do that. But that obviously is one way of generating income and courses as well. If you have a nonfiction book on a particular topic, then you can create be it mini courses, big courses, online self learning, at the moment is extremely popular. So, you can convert your books to courses. And it’s important to say, you have to add a little bit more. So, each product is, you know, a product in isolation by itself. But you also need to add a little bit something extra for your courses, so that people don’t feel you’re just rehashing the same content. That’s not to say it needs to be wildly difficult, but just more. You can also speak on those topics, so that is an active form of income. But where you create a nonfiction book, you become an authority on that topic, and you can then get speaking gigs. And you can also do things like podcasting, and although podcasting doesn’t necessarily immediately generate an income, there are opportunities once you have lots of downloads and lots of listeners for things like sponsorship, affiliation, and also you can you can possibly have Patreon as well. Where you can get your supporters to help pay for things like hosting, and, you know, logos or whatever.
Adam Croft: And most of these things feed into each other as well don’t they? So, for example, if you’re podcasting, or if you’re vlogging, that might not immediately earn you an income. It might do if you’re lucky enough to get sponsorship, but it can lead to speaking opportunities. It can increase book sales; it can increase course sales. I know with my Indie Author Mindset Podcast, I quite often mentioned my courses on there. And I know that a number of sales come through that. So that kind of inadvertently pulls in other forms of income as well. So, I think it’s a lot of these things are interconnected, too aren’t they?
Sacha Black: Absolutely, they are all serving to grow and increase your platform. And you know, and it only takes one listener to say I loved this podcast to another writer, friend, and all of a sudden, you know, they’ve told somebody else and you have another, you know, 10, 20,50,100 listeners. And excuse me once you also have things like a podcast or very distinctive brand, you can then also create merchandise. So, for those watching, they can see that I’m wearing my Rebel Author Podcast hoodie. And for those listening I have a podcast called The Rebel Author where I have also developed a merchandising line of products so I have notebooks and mugs and laptop cases and T shirts and hoodies with different rebellious phrases and there’s some other villainous things that are in the works. So, you can then promote those that is a line or an extra line of income as well.
Adam Croft: And by the way we both managed to plug our own podcasts in there as well that was smartly done.
Sacha Black: Hey it’s all relevant this time. It’s all relevant.
Adam Croft: Well yes. We had a comment here from John and Joyce Clark, he says hello from upstate New York and said “time is a factor for writers creating a podcast it would be a lot for folks to choose from and she asked about making podcasts stand out, I think the key there is standing out, if you can. And if you have a unique voice or a unique take on things, then I think that’s fair enough. But again, all of these suggestions we’re making are not necessarily for everybody.
Sacha Black: No. And the thing to add here is, you could say the same about books. I mean, there are how many millions of books on Amazon and yet we still write books. And the thing is, you have to find the thing that is uniquely you and then do that over and over again really, really well and you will find your audience and serve that niche. This is not about creating, you know, a podcast necessarily for everybody. My podcast is really sweary, it’s rebellious, it’s naughty and cheeky and sarcastic. That’s not going to be for everybody and I’m okay with that. And so, this is about embracing who you are and you know, developing that into your nonfiction brand.
Adam Croft: And likewise, the Indie Author Mindset Podcast is a swearing free zone. So, I’m going to move on to fiction now. And I think the main thing here, I mean, you said, wrote it down, as you said it there about nonfiction, you’re saying it’s not just a book. And I think that’s similar as well for fiction. And I think that’s where we then start to diverge because mainly for fiction we’re looking at, I suppose, primarily different formats. We think about doing eBooks and doing paperback, sometimes do an audio book as well. But there is a big market for hardback readers and hardback books, large print as well, particularly once you get into looking at libraries, a lot of libraries now, particularly in the UK where they’re very cash strapped are ordering only large print books because a lot of library users perhaps are older. They are, maybe they have a site related disability which means that they make other books in the library rather than elsewhere. And of course, a large print book can be read by anybody, you don’t have to be short sighted or anything like that. Whereas a normal print book excludes a lot of people. So a lot of libraries in order to try and deliver better cost savings, I guess that for their local councils are ordering large print books in so that’s something you should really kind of bear in mind I think. As well things like having an agent or some form of representation for film, TV radio adaptations. That’s key. It’s very, very difficult to get that done. But you got nothing to lose the agents not going to cost you anything. They’ll take a cut if they manage to get one of your books turned into a movie, and I’m fine with that. If I want to take a bit of that that’s, that’d be nice enough *inaudible* if it comes to that point. Translations as well. This is something you can handle yourself if you want to, or you can sub license those rights again, through agents and things like this. And even little things like recently, I’ve seen quite a few books have been turned into story-based apps and interactive games and things like this. And you know, we’re all this is not something that all authors will want to do. But it’s a case of putting those ideas out there, saying these things are possible. These are options and seeing what works for you. We had a comment on Facebook from MC Vasiago, I think is how it’s pronounced saying “thinking of multiple streams of income is very overwhelming when you’re trying to do it on your own.” And again, that is the point I’m trying to make there these are not necessarily things that everybody will want to do. You know, Sacha and I, we don’t do all of these. We have a couple I personally I don’t like going out and doing talks and appearances and things like that. I quite often do the online. But it means leaving the house of lies, I’m never keen on that. So, I focus on things like private coaching, on courses and on my podcast. Again, these aren’t things that I have started doing overnight these are introduced over the course of the last 10 years that I’ve been doing this. So, yeah it does I pronounced the name right apparently as well just get myself some brownie points there.
Sacha Black: Well done, clap on the back there.
Adam Croft: Thank you something that is quite easy for anybody to set up authors of all levels and which does apply to fiction and nonfiction but I admit is something I do not understand, but I know you do is, Patreon or Patreon I’m not even sure how to pronounce it.
Sacha Black: So, I think, yeah, I think it depends which side of the pond you’re on so I say “Patreon”, but I think in America, they say “Patreon.”
Adam Croft: The Patreon is the wrong way.
Sacha Black: Yes. Don’t we save British.
Adam Croft: I have a feeling that force and how that works, especially I guess for fiction authors and nonfiction authors.
Sacha Black: Yeah so, Patreon is a platform where supporters, fans, readers, listeners, can subscribe essentially, to you and your creations. So, they can spend, say, $1 a month or $2 a month, you can decide on the tiers. So, I have a, I think it’s $2 $5 and $10 tiers, and you pay that each month and you will get different rewards, depending on which tier you’re in. So, I will try and go through fiction and nonfiction ideas for everybody. But essentially, you are paying because you want to get more from whoever it is that you’re supporting. So, let’s say, you know, I wanted to support Lauren Oliver, who’s one of my favorite young adult authors, I pay my $2 and she might give me an extra short story every month. This is if, she’s a fiction writer, so I might get another short story and I might get a live Q&A with her, she might do an extra funny video or she might do a behind the scenes of how she came up with the ideas of for a book and how she came up with, I don’t know that where the inspiration came from, she might write an essay based on the themes in her fiction book, for example, or if you were Adam Croft, you could, you know, write about the true crime thing that inspired one of your crime novels, for example. On the nonfiction side, and so my Patreon is more nonfiction and it is connected to my podcast. So, everybody who is a subscriber will get early access to every single episode of The Rebel Podcast that I then do bonus things. So, I sent rebel author stickers at Christmas and they get things like Q and A’s, extra audio, they will get a box each month where I say what content would you like me to talk about this month? and then I will go and talk about that content and give them tips and tricks and, you know, really personalize the content that I am giving them. So, yeah, hopefully that gives an overview of Patreon.
Adam Croft: Yes, and I guess the thing that strikes me is, again, this is something that does require additional effort. I mean, when you said about, you know, paying two pounds a month, you gain a free short story every month, my heart just jumped at the thought of having to write another short story every month. But again, if you’re getting the money for this, you’re being paid for your writing. It’s just another way of organizing that I suppose and having that money coming in isn’t it?
Sacha Black: Absolutely and you don’t have to do a short story. I mean, it’s just, I was throwing ideas out.
Adam Croft: Yes of course, yeah. What we are going to touch on briefly as well, because Emma Larkin asked about merchandise.
Sacha Black: Okay.
Adam Croft: As you’ve mentioned you’ve got your Rebel Author, hoodie on there. How can merchandise be sourced and how is that set up? Is it something really difficult to do?
Sacha Black: No, it’s not. So, it used to be but now it’s not. So, the pa — I use red bubble, which is an online shop essentially, and it’s very much like using Ingram Spark in terms of, it’s a print on demand service. So I have paid a designer to design the logo, the image the you know, funky writing whatever it is that I want to go on my products and I’ve made sure that I’ve paid you know, to have the exclusive reproduction rights of you know, using that it’s very important that you tell the designer this is going on merchandise, that will be sold repeatedly, so that you are paying for you know, the copyrights of that piece of work and then you upload your design, it, like Ingram Spark depending on the book and the size and the trim size. You have to make sure you’re uploading the image in its correct sizing and dimensions and all of that information is always on the website. And then you literally say, you know, I want it on an iPhone cover, I want it on a notebook, I want on a jumper. And then just like Amazon, somebody, you’ll hit go live and it will, somebody will go to the website or use your link, and then they’ll click I would like a hoodie, and they pay and it gets printed and shipped to that person. And some other sites are Teespring, Society Six, um, and I’m probably out there.
Adam Croft: So, basically, it’s a lot easier than it sounds. So, I think it’s a case of looking at what your particular skills are. And you know, if you’ve got any background, I suppose in your main day job or your previous career, or any particular interest any particular skills you have. So, for example, the reason I do the podcast and the reason I do these salons and things like this, is because I’ve got a bit of a radio background, broadcast background and I genuinely enjoy doing it. So, I guess you can’t –
Sacha Black: Not my dull set tones then.
Adam Croft: No, and my dull set tones of course, you um — Mary has asked for the names of those sites, as well you mentioned, by the way there Sacha so we’ll pop those in the Facebook thread afterwards for you there Mary so you’ve got some links. So, for example if you have if you’re a fiction writer, you have books that are based around certain location, are very location heavy, you could run some walking tours for example around locations there and offer your insight that you’ve gained through researching those books. If you’re a historical novelist, you might want to do talks on Romans or Jewellers and sort of in introducing inject some of those stories that you’ve created. And there are lots of different things you could do. And that would also potentially help you sell a few books at these events and talks and things as well. So yeah, I think its a case of looking at what your particular skills and interests and backgrounds are, I think isn’t it?
Sacha Black: It is absolutely and think — you know, just because you leave a day job, doesn’t mean that you have to stop using those skills. So let’s say you’re an event planner, perhaps you could, you know, run events for authors, or if you are a baker, you could bake book cakes with, you know, the covers on for launches or what, you know, whatever. And, yeah, just because we all you know, saying goodbye to the rat race doesn’t mean that you have to stop using those skills. And yeah, so absolutely. There’s a few requests for the merchandise sites. So, we will just to reiterate, we will put all of those in the show notes and in the comments as well on the Facebook Live section.
Adam Croft: We will yes. So, I think we’ve more or less covered most of the things that we were going to do. We’ll hang around for another couple of minutes just in case we do get some small questions or comments here on the Facebook thread. But I think we should probably try and distill things down at the end of the show. So, a nice summary. Do you — what do you say Sacha is your biggest tip for authors wanting to diversify their income and introducing new income streams?
Sacha Black: Um probably twofold. The first one is to basically not view this as a negative. So, this is all about mindset. And viewing multiple streams of income as a way to protect yourself financially not away to drain your time and stop you from being able to write. This is literally about protecting you, your business, your time and your family, to give you enough income, passively, so that you can choose to write all day if that’s what you want. And so along with the mindset is trying to think outside the box, being creative with the, you know, forms and streams of income and then lastly, I think don’t forget the skills that you’ve already developed in your life. You know, we have lovely long careers now and there is nothing to stop you, utilizing the skills that you’ve already developed in your careers to generate different forms of income, yeah.
Adam Croft: Excellent, excellent stuff, excellent tips. I think mine would be to, a very basic level even think about formats. You know, one book is not just one product, you can have a paperback or hardback and eBooks and audio book, you can look at boxsets and all of these things have different audiences and it can open up wider income streams just from something you’ve already created. You’re just reformatting it. This is something which is has been done for years and years and look at agents for translations and for film and TV rights. And you know, have people out there doing those things for you. It’s not going to cost you anything you have to pay them a certain percentage if you get these deals, but you’ve really got nothing to lose by looking at those things. One piece of work can be used many different times for different formats and different audiences. I think that would probably be my biggest takeaway. MC Vasiago, hope I got that right again, I can’t remember what I said the first time, I got it right the first time so I hope I said it the same way asks “to diversify into different income streams. Do you need to set yourself up as a business?” And I’m pretty sure Sacha and I’m jumping the gun here. But I think you would probably agree with me that it’s always a good idea anyway, for authors to set themselves up as a business, whether that is legally as a business entity is a question for, you know, between you and your accountant really, but I think in terms of professionalism, and treating it like a business. That really is the whole point of being an author in in 2020 and beyond is that you need to treat it as business you need to be professional in that sense. Pretty sure you probably agree with me there I’m putting you on the spot.
Sacha Black: Yeah, I you know, there are many, many different legal forms and whether you’re a sole trader, limited company, you know, I think it’s LLC in America so but that is a question for definitely an accountant. Suffice to say as if you’re speaking to accountant, you’re probably treating yourself like your business which is a good thing.
Adam Croft: Yes, yes. We have had a question as well. Again putting you really on the spot here. You probably don’t want to go for that one. No, that’s fine. I tend not to share my financial information directly as well. I’m willing to say it’s in the six figures but that’s all I’m going for there. So, I have very much enjoyed this month’s session I think next month. We – are we doing a next month one, we have the London Book Fair, don’t we? I think it’s —
Sacha Black: Yeah, we are but I am, I’m not sure if Orna, I’m not sure — we’re not sure who’s going to replace me but I am not able to join the next one, but there will be somebody in my place. And then I’ll be back in April.
Adam Croft: Yes, we’re going to be talking about formatting and design in the next one, how you can make your book look as good as possible. Inside out, inside and out. Probably not inside out. Anyway, thank you very much Sacha. That’s been very, very insightful, very, very helpful. And hopefully the good people listening and watching have had some, some good information, some good content there.
Sacha Black: I thank you very much.
Adam Croft: I’m going to let you stop the session because I don’t know how.
Sacha Black: Oh yes.
Adam Croft: And then hopefully we will be back here in March.
Sacha Black: Okay. Goodbye.
Adam Croft: Bye, Bye