Want to Make Money Writing? Give These 5 Books a Read

Want to Make Money Writing? Give These 5 Books a Read

While many writers make a living from their words (and others aspire to), discussions of money aren’t all that common in the writing world.

While websites like Who Pays Writers offer valuable insight into the dollars and cents of the writing business, most conversations about writing avoid veering into the topic of money and how writers can make it work financially.

Now, on the heels of our interview with Scratch author Manjula Martin, we’re sharing some of our favorite books about writing and money (in no particular order).

1. Writers Market 2017 edited by Robert Lee Brewer

This classic annual compilation features a variety of articles on the topic of writing and money as well as its annual listing of freelance markets and publishers. This book is a go-to resource covering everything from how to earn a full-time blogging income to how to land a six-figure book deal.

In the section listing freelance markets, entries are organized by topic, and each entry features a description of the publication as well as information about how that publication interacts with freelancers (such as how many manuscripts a year it typically purchases, if it accepts unsolicited submissions, etc.). It also provides an idea about pay rates and often includes contact information.

2. How to Make a Living With Your Writing by Joanna Penn

Joanna Penn’s How to Make a Living With Your Writing and her companion workbook can help any writer examine their current writing situation and make a plan for the future. Penn discusses her multiple income streams and shares the breakdown of her six-figure writing income, which includes book sales, affiliate marketing commissions, a series of courses she offers and speaking fees.

Penn discusses the importance of scalable income (such as the books she sells) versus non-scalable income (such as public speaking). She can only give so many speeches a year, but she can sell an unlimited number of books. Penn says 80 percent of her “multiple six-figure” income is derived from scalable materials.

In the companion workbook, she asks a lot of questions for writers to ponder, including value-related questions to help guide your planning, such as whether you value literary success or commercial success more. She provides many questions and plenty of space to write down your answers within the workbook format.

3. Writer for Hire: 101 Secrets to Freelance Success by Kelly James-Enger

A dog-eared and over-highlighted copy of this book sits on my bookshelf. When I started out as a full-time freelancer writer, I found the advice in this book to be invaluable. Though it’s now five years old, James-Enger’s book is still packed with useful information.

This book is divided into five sections focusing on marketing, efficiency, building relationships, work-life balance, and the all-important “Management: Running Your Business Like a Business.”

This is where the money talk comes in. James-Enger discusses everything from when it makes sense to ignore per-word rates, how to ask for more money, how to set goals, and even how to fire troublesome clients. This book is a valuable read when working towards a sustainable career as a full-time freelance writer.

4. Get Better Clients and Earn More Money by Nicole Dieker

The Write Life’s own contributor and income-tracking columnist Nicole Dieker has her own book out about writing and money. In 2016, Dieker earned $87,000 from freelance writing, so it makes sense to take her advice.

She shares her income here on The Write Life and she also shares secrets for earning more money in Get Better Clients and Earn More Money: A Guide for Freelance Writers. The book focuses on setting goals for each phase of a writer’s career, including getting rid of lower paying jobs to make way for better work and higher-paying clients.

The 49-page downloadable PDF also includes tips from other The Write Life contributors.

5. Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living edited by Manjula Martin

In her new anthology, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living, Martin includes a series of essays from well-known literary icons such as Cheryl Strayed, Jennifer Weiner, and Nick Hornby where they discuss the intersection of writing and money in essays and interviews.

The book is divided into three sections—“Early Days,” “The Daily Grind,” and “Someday”—which capture a writer’s life from the scraping-by early days to the reality of purchasing a home “someday.”

Whatever book you turn to, it’s important to spend some time learning about how writing and money come together and how it is possible to make a sustainable living as a writer.

Your turn: What are your favorite books about writing and money?

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Filed Under: Craft


  • Brianna says:

    Thanks for the list! I would add Austin Kleon’s Steal Like an Artist as a must-read for anyone pursuing a creative career. He gives tips to help get you where you want to be and has a follow up on getting your work published. It was super helpful to me.

  • Tom Bentley says:

    I thought Scratch was fascinating for the striking range of how writers make (and stumble in the making of) money. Writer’s Market has good stuff—and I’ve got a piece in the 2017 freelancing section. Also second the notion for Peter Bowerman’s Well-Fed Writer. Solid info and he’s a good guy too.

  • I agree with your choices, and may I add Peter Bowerman’s book, The Well-Fed Writer. From getting clients to working with graphic designers to managing the day-to-day, he takes you through his journey to sucess, which started with little writing experience (high school paper), but now he makes a very good living after his initial cold call marketing campaign.

  • Vicky says:

    Fantastic list. I always like books that come with workbooks, to get thoughts out… Must be the writer in me. Thank you!

  • Danny May says:

    I enjoyed Jeff Goins – You are A Writer (So start acting like one). Especially the section on building your platform/ personal brand as a writer.

  • Chris Syme says:

    I would add Honoree Corder’s great book Prosperity For Writers. It really helped me get a handle on the business mindset authors need to succeed.

  • Thank you for this article. You have listed some great resources! Can I suggest one more?

    I’m a freelance copywriter, which is a great way to put my writing skills to work to earn a good income. (I also write novels, but that’s another story…)

    I’ve found that “The Copywriter’s Handbook: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Copy That Sells” by Robert W. Bly is an excellent resource for someone wanting to break into writing copy for a living.

    Bob has also written “Bob Bly’s Guide to Freelance Writing Success” and “88 Money-Making Writing Jobs.” He makes a six-figure living from writing sales copy, so he really knows his stuff!

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