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4 Business Models for Authors

What is your business model? Knowing how you plan to make money as an author helps you organize your time and set priorities that actually move you forward instead of trapping you in the weeds.

I'm on a mission to help authors define their own success. I want to clear away the clutter so you can see what's ahead, learn what's important for you and your business—and what things you can put at the bottom of your list, shattering overwhelm.

What is a Business Model?

A business model is a plan that outlines how your business operates, generates revenue, and makes a profit. It's an essential component of your business strategy, because it helps you identify the key elements that will contribute to your success.

The Importance of a Business Model

Having a well-defined business model is crucial to your success because it helps to ensure you are on the right track by providing a clear direction for your operations. It also helps to identify potential challenges and opportunities, allowing you to address them proactively. Moreover—and this is the key, I think—a business model helps to align your activities with your goals and objectives, ensuring that resources are allocated effectively.

Before we get into the 4 business models for authors, wherein you determine the type of business you will run, we need to look at what you will sell, who your customer base is, your potential income streams, and the all-important question - how you'll finance the magic.

An Author's Products

The products that you offer can extend far beyond the books you write, and are limited only by your imagination, really. If you dream it up, and it's something people will pay for, then that's a product you can add to your business offerings.

Here's some suggestions, but like I said—this list is not comprehensive, and is limited only by you.

  • Books, including the variety of formats like audiobooks, print, large format print, etc.

  • Posters

  • Bookmarks

  • T-shirts

  • Book bags

  • And so much more!

If you have a special skill that's of interest to others in your genre, or in the book industry, you might want to offer those as another product in your arsenal.

  • Editing

  • Formatting

  • Cover Design

  • Graphic Design

  • Ads

  • And whatever else you can think of!

An Author's Customer Base

This one's as obvious as it seems. Your customer base is your readers and, if you're going to offer services to authors, writers.

You might also serve:

  • Librarians

  • Schools

  • Museums

  • Specialty Shops

  • And whatever niche audience might be interested in your book!

An Author's Income Streams

We all want to make money, and it's not easy to come by for most of us. While the traditional method of earning royalties from book sales is still viable, there are many other income streams available to you regardless of your publishing path (i.e. traditional vs. independent).


Royalties are the most common income stream for authors. When a book is sold, the author earns a percentage of the sale price as a royalty. Royalties can vary widely depending on the publishing contract, but typically range from 5% to 15% of the sale price for traditionally published authors, and 30% to 70% for independent authors. While royalties can provide a steady source of income, they may not be enough to sustain a full-time writing career.

Speaking Engagements

Many authors supplement their income by speaking at events or conferences. You might think you don't have experience, or anything of value to talk about, but spend some time really thinking about it—you might be surprised what you can come up with!

Speaking engagements can range from small local events to large international conferences, and while fees for speaking engagements can vary widely, it can be a significant source of income for authors.

Teaching and Workshops

Teaching and workshops are another way for authors to generate income. You can offer writing classes or workshops on your subject matter. You can teach in person or offer online courses. *Ahem*


Crowdfunding is becoming more popular by the day. And it's not just for Kickstarter—Patreon is also a way to fund your projects. Crowdfunding can be a great way to generate income while also building a community of fans and supporters.

Affiliate Marketing

And finally, affiliate marketing is a way to earn income by promoting other products or services to your audience. As an author, you can promote books or other products that are related to your subject matter. When your audience makes a purchase through your affiliate link, you earn a commission. It never hurts to make a bit of passive income using affiliate links in your website or social media posts!

An Author's Finances

Unfortunately, there's a lot to pay for to get yourself off the ground. Have you considered how you'll pay for all that lays ahead? You've got your book production, business-related expenses such as your domain, hosting, web design, business fees, etc., career-related travel, conference and (you guessed it) more.

Without further ado,

The 4 Business Models for Authors

High Volume Publishing

○ Plan to publish many books a year

○ “Quick release” strategy

○ May involve a "minimally viable" product, meaning it's about quick storytelling direct from the author to the reader, skipping past beta-reading, editing, proofreading and the like. *note: Authors who use this model take a lot of flak for...well, you can probably guess. However, this is a solid business model that's used by many businesses outside of publishing (think Fast Food!). If you choose it, own it.

Publishing & Teaching

○ You are, or will become, an expert in your field

○ For non-fiction and fiction authors, alike

Publishing & Patronage

○ Grants, fellowships, residencies, etc.

○ Kickstarter

○ Patreon/Gum Road/ Ko-fi, etc.

Part Time Publishing

○ Keep your “Day job”

○ Best for those with long term goals

So there you have it! For me, I knew my health would preclude me from following some of my friends into high volume publishing. I've found my way through publishing + teaching, and am considering adding patronage, as well.

Which of these 4 business models for authors will you choose? One, or a combination? Tell me in the comments - or ask your questions if you've got 'em!

Ali, The Story Ninja

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