Can You Make a Living as an Indie Author?

As I get closer to getting Archangel to the masses, I start thinking that I am getting closer to my dream of being an author with each word. I have tried to imagine what it will feel like when I get to that point. I will have achieved my goal. It will be awesome!

But then what?

I have also been thinking about what comes after. I am under no illusion that my career will fundamentally change after publishing one book, not by a long shot. If I’m lucky I will sell enough to make some kind of mark on the community. I mean, if I’m really lucky then a lot of awesome stuff will happen and I’ll become famous. But again, under no illusions.

A lot of writers finishing or publishing their first novel need to realize that one book does not a sustainable income make. Heck, not even two. To be a successful content creator in these digital times, indie creators must find multiple streams of income.

Take your pick at any sort of content creation career: writer, YouTuber, blogger/vlogger, artist, musician, etc. Even other indie digital careers - such as proofreading, web development, and so on - fall under this category. Any of the aforementioned can all be the dream careers of people that can be extremely lucrative over the course of several years. However, the unfortunate reality is that starting down these paths will not create a sustainable stream of income when you are first setting out.

Let’s look at the two most popular forms of independent digital careers: YouTube and blogs.

I’m sure most of the people who read my blogs have at least one subscription on YouTube (and likely more). Those that you follow or watch regularly might have 100 subscribers or 10,000. They might even have more than that! They might have hundreds of thousands or even millions of followers! There are those who pull in six figure salaries because of the communities they have built around their channels.

But those successes did not get there without a ton of hard work. Their first videos, when they initially came out, would have received only a handful of views, if that. It took time for them to develop the following that they have. But even as YouTubers grow in popularity and receive regular ad revenue, recent events have shown they cannot just rely on that.

Popularly known as the ad-pocalypse, recent changes in YouTube’s advertising policy has decimated the income of some channels. It has emphasized the necessity for digital content creators to have multiple streams of income. This includes live streaming, merchandise sales, and sponsorships.

Bloggers, similarly, cannot pull in a substantial salary when starting their blog. As someone who has a blog, I know firsthand just how the growth of a blog goes. I value each and every view, every single comment and like, and each visitor to my site. However, take a look at these articles about how ad revenue actually works and how many views you need to make a six-figure salary based off ad revenue alone and the sheer number of pageviews you need becomes clear.

What is clear from both of these professions, however, is the need for multiple streams of income. And, for those who are wondering why a soon-to-be indie author is writing about this, here is the punch line: indie authors need to take the same approach.

As an indie author, income can come from a number of places. Your full- or part-time day job might pay the bills while your first book adds some extra income. Your blog might not be bringing in thousands of dollars a month, but a couple hundred adds on to your other streams. Maybe you have a podcast, a YouTube or Vimeo channel, or maybe you are a freelancer. Regardless of what you do, an indie author (and dare I say every digital content creator) should have many streams of income.

Even once you have established yourself as an author, you still have multiple streams. Your first book that you put on Kindle Unlimited five years ago will still generate revenue while you edit your latest novel. Perhaps you can secure a speaking gig or a guest blog to supplement your income. Regardless, even established indie authors should have multiple streams of income.

But why?

Again, look at the ad-pocalypse of YouTube. While most YouTubers were affected, many barely noticed the change because their revenue comes from sponsorships and third-party deals. For Bloggers, Google AdSense will provide decent income if you can get hundreds of thousands of views, but sponsored blogs, company deals and promotional efforts, among countless other options, will all combine to make a decent salary. Then combine all that with your book revenue, your podcast advertising, your freelance editing, and you have can make a living while being passionate about it!

I did not write this blog with the intention of getting anyone down or stomping on your dreams. Those who know me or read this blog consistently know that I would never wish for that. I want everyone to be able to live their dream. But with that dream you need an awareness that it takes work, a lot of work, to be able to do it successfully. As if the many hats you had to wear were not enough already, here are a few more to don.

If you are an indie author, a blogger, a podcaster, a musician, a YouTuber, or any form of digital content creator, let me know in the comments how you have made your dream a reality, or maybe how you plan to do so. And tweet me, message me, or email me where your content can be found and I will gladly check it out.

Happy Tuesday my friends! I will see you on Thursday.