8 More Ways to Make Money Off Your Novel: Personal Essay Prompts

8 More Ways to Make Money Off Your Novel: Personal Essay Prompts

Previously, my colleague showed you how to make money off your novel using your book as a prompt source.

Today, I’ll continue those ideas with tips that have to do with you: the writer.

With the personal-essay market experiencing a surge in print and web publications, why not take advantage of it through penning — and publishing — essays that recount stories from your life as a literary nerd?

That’s what I decided to do when I realized that I’d earned more money from an article about my publishing journey than from my first month of book sales.

And you don’t only have to write about your life as a writer.

Since you’re not living in a vacuum, your topics could run the gamut from relationships to your life journey to even your kids (or pets!).

As long as there’s a way to make a connection with your novel, you could find a publication that would be interested in hearing about your experiences.

Here are eight ways to brainstorm and write personal essays that will not only promote your novel but also help you earn additional income to spend on coffee while penning the sequel.

1. You as a writer

Do people always tell you how they have a book in them, and they’d be on the bestseller list if only they had time?

Do your acquaintances assume you’ve killed a few innocents or have been involved in mafia because you write crime fiction? Or does everyone you meet think you know all there is to know about sex — and practiced every page in the Kama Sutra — because you write erotica?

Chances are you’ve met a few people who have made a lot of assumptions about your writing, the process of being a writer, and the publishing industry.

Why not set them straight? We’ll all thank you.

2. Your family

Writers are a weird lot.

We want to be loved and appreciated by the public, by our friends, and most definitely by our families. Was your family supportive of your writing endeavor? Did you thank them by dedicating the book to them?

Or was it the opposite and none of them took you seriously? If your dedication reads “To the deer roaming my back yard,” you can sell a personal essay about it.

3. Your life

Has something happened in your life as a result of that novel you wrote? Or have you included something in your novel that mimics an event in your life?

Maybe you started out writing to come to terms with an experience and recounting it is as much your journey as that of your character. Or maybe working on your book inspired you to change your life.

It doesn’t have to be a self-help book to have helped you — and your experiences can help others.

4. Your writing location

Did you write your novel in a coffee shop sitting specifically at a table by the third window? Or perhaps you went to a writing retreat and penned most of it there. Or maybe you got an Amtrak writing residency.

Wherever you wrote your book, use it. Sell a personal essay — or an exploratory piece — about what makes your favorite writing location special.

Try pitching travel media for this one, including in-flight airline magazines.

5. Your publishing journey

Did you spend a year looking for an agent just to give up and sign with a small publisher? Or did your first query letter elicit a request for a full manuscript followed by an offer? Perhaps getting the agent was easy, but the agent spent a decade selling your book.

Whatever your journey to publication, your fellow writers could find it interesting and often inspiring. So why not write a memoir essay on it?

6. Language use

Does your novel take place in a foreign country or use a foreign language? Or have you written this novel in a language that’s not your native? There are writers out there wanting to do the same exact thing so why not put together a how-to article on it?

Writing craft pieces are always of interest to other writers.  

7. Your cover

What happened when you first saw the cover your publisher came up with? Did you jump up and down and rush to Facebook to share it with the world? Or did cold sweat break out all over your body as you thought of your ruined work?

Every writer has a nightmare (or not!) cover story so sharing yours in a writing magazine might be just what we all need.

8. Your reviews

Scathing reviews might have hurt at the time, but maybe you can find a way to laugh away the bruises and write a satirical response.

Maybe you committed the ultimate sin and replied to that negative review. What happened next? We’re dying to know!

Or perhaps reader feedback gave you something to think about and changed the way you write. Or maybe you actually met one of your reviewers, fell in love, and now can tell us about it?

There are probably a few more tips to add here — can you think of a few?

Traveler and blogger Chris Guillebeau

Featured resource

Unconventional Guide to Publishing

Chris Guillebeau introduces the plan you need to finally share your book with the world. Make this your year of becoming an author.

7 comments

  • Erin Bevan says:

    I love number one. Another writer friend of mine and I had a conversation about this just yesterday. Once people find out we are writers, many tell us they have a book inside of them they want to write, and they just know it’ll be a best seller. We smile politely, nod, and hold our tongues. Until they write those “best sellers” on actual paper, we aren’t buying it. Most can write, but only some do. And an even fewer number write best sellers or have the grit to stick with it for the duration.

    • Rebecca says:

      And then there is, of course, that publishing journey with rejection on top of rejection. So basically, yes, easy-peasy. 😉

      • Erin Bevan says:

        So true! But in saying all of that, I do enjoy mentoring and conversing with new writers. There is something contagious and magical about the spark of something new, and I like helping people along their journeys if I can.

  • Kimsea Sok says:

    Hey, Rebecca!… How are you doing today? I guested you’re doing great!

    The tips look too simple, but don’t why I cannot think about it. The amazing is always simple, right?…

    I used to write about language because I’m a none native and bad writer. You know?… I planned to write a book, but don’t even practice the plan. It seems to me that it’s so scary to publish my bad writing. However, I got to make it done this year.

    Thanks for sharing a big sources and great idea, and I completely do love this article.

    Nice to meet you today!…

  • Kim says:

    These are all good ideas. I’m currently in revisions on one of my manuscripts and have been inspired to write essays about my revision process and experiences with hiring an editor. Thank you for this article!