Rules for Writers and Money (and everyone else too)

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Rules for Writers and Money (and everyone else too)

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You will find a lot of popular content all about how to make money. There are a lot of random blog articles about HOW I MADE 8 TRILLION DOLLARS IN PASSIVE INCOME A MONTH or 22 AWESOME PASSIVE INCOME IDEAS.

Which is lovely. But a lot of us writers are thinking, “What are these even talking about?”

What Is Passive Income?

Passive income is money that happens and builds from things that already exist. They can be from investments (like you rent a room in your house or an entire house or you open a savings account or CDs). It can also come from the investment of effort and time in something you build. This could be a YouTube channel or your eBook once it’s up and running. It could be affiliate marketing or selling prints of your art.

What is Active Income?

Active income is money that someone pays you when you do something for them that’s a service. It can be your salary at the grocery store. It could be an hourly wage at a bookstore. It could be a commission. It could be a tip.

So what’s all this have to do with writing?

According to a study by the Authors Guild, the average full-time writer’s median pay was $20,300 in 2017. That’s full-time. For most of us that’s not a big ton of money. There’s no real standardization of pay and that number doesn’t account for pay discrepencies for sex and race.

On Publishers Lunch, Erin Somers, looks at average earnings instead and wrote,

“For the 63 percent of authors who reported receiving book related income in 2017, the average total income was $43,247, which paints a very different picture . Over 2,000 authors had average publisher royalties of almost $32,000; close to 1,700 self-published authors reported royalties of just over $31,000, and a smaller group of about 700 authors also had average ebook subscription service earnings of over $13,000.”


But that’s only the writers who actually survived and didn’t give up. About a quarter of the authors that the guild surveyed received no money at all from book activity that year.

So, yes, most of us writers have to have other sources of income outside of writing. And that my friends, is why we’re writing this blog.

Being constantly terrified of not making money makes me, Carrie, a stressed-out writer who sometimes worries more about money and profitability than the actual craft. And a stressed-out Carrie equals a cranky Carrie. Nobody wants a cranky author.

So here are some examples of passive income investments when you have money to spend

  • Buy an investment property and rent it.
  • Invest in a high-yield savings account.
  • Check out crowdfunded real estate with REITs. Sites like Fundrise are a great place to start.
  • Peer-to-peer lending like on the Lending Club where you can loan money to others and get a return.

Examples of passive income investments that are more initial work than initial money.

  • Affiliate marketing on your blog. When people click through an ad that’s on your blog, you get a commission when they buy something that’s affiliated with that link.
  • YouTube – if you get a big enough following you can monetize your YouTube channel and have ads during your content.
  • Create an Online Course – Teachable and Udemy are great places to show off your skills.
  • Sell your art prints or your photos. Shutterstock Is a great resource for photographers.
  • Make an eBook – Seriously, especially if it’s nonfiction.
  • Rent out some storage space or your car or a room in your house.
  • Sell your clothes. Thredup and Poshmark will often give you cash or credit on their site. And it’s good for the environment, or at least better for the environment.


Those are ways to make extra income, but it’s also about not spending too much money and saving, right?

Live Like A Student

Mark Cuban (the guy from Shark Tank) is a big cheerleader for living beneath your means. Don’t buy all the things. Pretend you have less money than you have.

His yacht is anchored outside our town a lot and his yacht is HUGE so I’m not sure that Mr. Cuban is doing this? But I guess maybe he could have an even bigger yacht? It’s good advice for the rest of us though.

Step Away From the Credit Card

My dad was always murmur-screaming, DO NOT USE CREDIT CARDS! THEY ARE EVIL DEMONS FROM HELL! And he was right. Don’t use them if you don’t have to. Use your debit card.

The interest rates on these babies are horrific. You end up owing these companies so much money. Try to pay off or pay down your bill every single month. And then step away. Lock them in a gun safe or something. Seriously. Try not to use them.

Gather Information

Reading blogs and books (much more in depth usually) can give you the information you need and generate the ideas necessary to move your life or your business or your writing to the next level. A $25 investment with a potentially thousand-dollar return? That’s kind of a no-brainer.

Be as informed as you can be so you can make the best possible decisions.

Don’t Be Afraid

Because I grew up poor and because I heard a TON of stories about the depression and the stock market crash of the 1920s (my grandfather was a stockbroker allegedly and watched one of his friends die), I became a bit terrified about stocks and things.

There are three rules that help me deal with this and invest my money.

  1. I ignore everything that’s happening in the stock market when it comes to my portfolio. I pretend that once that money is invested, it’s just gone. This lowers my anxiety even as I plug in $25 a week automatically to a random Edward Jones account.
  2. If you want to invest in something scary, only invest 5-10 percent of your total investments in that scary possibility.
  3. Standard & Poor’s mutual funds are good places to put a bit of money into. But go for the cheapest ones possible.

It’s okay to talk about money and to be smart about it.


Do not gobble all your box of dog treats (or writing advance) in one big gulp.


The music we’ve clipped and shortened in this podcast is awesome and is made available through the Creative Commons License. Here’s a link to that and the artist’s website. Who is this artist and what is this song?  It’s “Summer Spliff” by Broke For Free.


Thanks to all of you who keep listening to our weirdness on the DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE podcast as we talk about random thoughts, writing advice and life tips. We’re sorry we laugh so much… sort of. Please share it and subscribe if you can. Please rate and like us if you are feeling kind, because it matters somehow. There’s a new episode every Tuesday!

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I have a quick, pre-recorded Teachable class designed to make you a killer scene writer in just one day. It’s fun. It’s fast. And you get to become a better writer for just $25, which is an amazing deal.

Author: carriejonesbooks

I am the NYT and internationally-bestselling author of children's books, which include the NEED series, FLYING series, TIME STOPPERS series, DEAR BULLY and other books. I like hedgehogs and puppies and warm places. I have none of these things in my life.

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