Can Your Blog Make Money For You While You Sleep? Google AdSense? Blogads? Sponsorships? Dare You Quit Your Day Job?

I loved making money while I slept. Every time someone bought one of my nonfiction books, I was probably sleeping or reading on the beach on Block Island, Rhode Island or in East Hampton, New York, or lounging somewhere with a margarita in my hand, humming “Girl from Ipanema.” (“Tall and tan and young and lovely….”

I once went to Yankee Stadium (seating capacity 56,937), looked at all those people, and thought: “Whoa, look at that sea of faces. If each one of them would just buy a single copy of my book I’d make some good money.” And, in fact, several hundred thousand people over the years would indeed buy my books, but I never made great money, certainly not the kind of money I had envisioned when my books started to sell well. But that was then and this is now and I’m not writing books to make money anymore because I have learned that book royalties are just too hard to earn in quantity—even when I’m sleeping, tanning or carousing—and there are too many tricks in book publishing contracts designed to make certain that my share of the profits ends up the smallest share.

So I shelved about six nonfiction book ideas I had lined up, dropped my literary agent, and got a job in publishing—the sales side, where the money is. (Yep, those editors let me get away. Sniff. Sniff.) The result? Steady money. Each week a paycheck arrived like clockwork. Amazing! And did I mention the bonuses? And eventually, it became the kind of money that allows you to buy things—though not cars, I’m hanging onto my 1989 Jeep Cherokee even though the back stinks of long-since-dead, wet gundog! Jobs in publishing gave me the wherewithal to buy my house and provided me with some small change to invest in, yes, gasp, the stock market and retain a smart CPA to keep me out of jail. Book writing did not do any of that for me. 

If I were still writing nonfiction books, I might get that much-coveted $100,000+ advance against royalties (believe me, HarperCollins, Berkley Books, and St. Martin’s Press owe me), but I’ve been that route just once, well three times, too often. I know the upside (“You wrote a book? How fascinating! Come to my dinner party.”) and the downside (two checks twice a year—starting years AFTER I had paid back my advance—and with every possible squeeze-play used against me to reduce the size of the checks). No, I’m not bitter; I’m just smarter. I’ve worked both sides of that street: first as an author, later as a publisher. Publisher is better.

Three Ways to Make Money from a Blog: Still, I like making money while I sleep. So here are the three ways I plan to make money this winter while curled up in bed, snug and warm, nodding out to Jay Leno and then Craig Ferguson on nighttime TV:

1. The Publishing Contrarian/Get Published Web Site: My Get Published business Web site attracts writers 24/7 who pay to have their query letters, synopsis, and book proposal package tweaked by the Wicked Witch of Publishing (hard work, but I have a great time chatting with the authors and lots of fun throughout the process! Email me! Call me! Don’t leave that manuscript in a drawer.)

2. Advertising: I’m loading up on ads for my blog. Yes, I’m testing Google AdSense, despite all the howling that I’m selling out. And I’m knocking on doors of potential advertisers whom I know personally and trust. They’ll be “sponsors.” They’ll have a national or international capability, too. I’ll endorse them, happily, because I know them and have worked with them.

Have I been leaving money on the table? Have you? 

In his blog, Frank Wilson, book reviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, mentioned a blog called Dooce, and I clicked over to the site. Heather B. Armstrong* writes a hilarious blog and can get hundreds of comments in response to a single posting when she opens the flood gates to comments. The blog has nothing to do with publishing, per se, but everything to do with Heather’s life, her family, her child. (I’m already crazy about her husband and her child, though I think she needs a visit from The Nanny!) What really stunned me, however, was the information in Healther’s profile, the second to last paragraph in particular, which I have put in boldface below: 

“This website chronicles my life from a time when I was single and making a lot of money as a web designer in Los Angeles, to when I was dating the man who would become my husband, to when I lost my job and lived life as an unemployed drunk, to when I married my husband and moved to Utah, to when I became pregnant, to when I threw up and became unbearably swollen during the pregnancy, to the birth, to the aftermath, to the postpartum depression that landed me in a mental hospital. I’m better now.

In October 2005 I began running enough ads on this website that my husband was able to quit his job and become a Stay at Home Father (SAHF) or a Shit Ass Ho Fuckingbadass. He takes both very seriously. This website now supports my family.”

I jammed on the brakes. If she can do it, why can’t I? Why can’t you? Again, are we leaving money on the table?

3. Paypal Donation Button. Is this too smarmy? I’m adding the Paypal Donate Button to The Publishing Contrarian. I could have a drink “on you.” (A drink in Manhattan costs $10!) Or $0 is fine too, should you prefer to click, read and run.

So I’m giving money-making schemes a try. I’ll let you know how it goes. 

Oh, and one more thing: If I haven’t said “Thank you!” lately for stopping by The Publishing Contrarian: “THANK YOU!” I can’t tell who you are from my stat counter, but where you are from outside the US is a lesson in global geography: Delhi, Paris, Upton Snodsbury (!), San Giusto Canavese, Cape Town, Sochi, Fredericton, Perth, Dalmeny, Inchicore, Wheelers Hill, Tehran, Seoul, London, Stockholm, Hamilton, Bombay, Quezon, Yekaterinburg, Frankfurt. Welcome!

*[October 13, 2006 ---  For information regarding Kensington Publishing Corp v. Heather Armstrong go here: http://www.trainwrecks.net/doocecomplaint.pdf.] Also go to www.mediabistro.com/galleycat and scroll down. You’ll see Ron Hogan’s posting about the lawsuit. 

Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Leave an email address if you want to receive email-notification of my next posting!

32 Responses to “Can Your Blog Make Money For You While You Sleep? Google AdSense? Blogads? Sponsorships? Dare You Quit Your Day Job?”

  1. Edward Champion’s Return of the Reluctant » Roundup Says:

    [...] Lynne Scanlon ponders blogging revenue, but she makes no mention of one particularly creative form of revnue, which involves donating to the Google AdSense Blood Bank. After taking many pints of your blood, Google pays you several hundred dollars in pennies, depending upon your Google ranking. They even give you a cookie. It’s a disreuptable way of making ends meet, but in a pinch, it’s better than whoring yourself out on Polk Street. [...]

  2. Rob Anthony Says:

    Excellent post. Your site is crawling up the ladder to success. Google PR5 now. Nice!

  3. Dave Newton Says:

    As a Google fan (and stockholder), I’m thrilled to know you’ve signed up for AdSense. May you profit, asleep and awake. I tried it on my obscure dehype blogs for a while, but the ads the algorithm matched up with my content were often mismatched. Then, imagine my pique when, on my anti-pharma-advertising blog, Google stuck in…yes…drug ads. Delete-o. 

    And, don’t you have to achieve something like twelve thousand sucker-clicks before you earn your first tuppence? You well may. Are writing-publishing types ad-click-through types. We’ll find out, won’t we? What do you have to lose, WW? Costs you nothing, might just work. In the end, it’s still content, content, content. Not to mention shameless posting on other peoples’ sites. WAIT! I’m telling YOU how to do this?

    And thanks for your latest discouraging words about the financial emptiness of “success” as a published author. Excuse me, gotta go find my supply of wrist-sized Band-Aids. Talent will out!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    Eddie, you’re just jealous. ”

    [...]It’s a disreputable way of making ends meet, but in a pinch, it’s better than whoring yourself out on Polk Street. […]

    Dontcha just love contempt prior to investigation. The world is chock full of poor folks who think just like that.

    Keep up the good work. Making enemies means you’re a success! BTW where is Polk Street?

  5. The Curmudgeon Says:

    What do I care? I don’t have a blog! I don’t want a blog! Bah! Humbug!

  6. Bernita Says:

    Ms. Faust… 

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Wikipedia: Faust (Latin Faustus) is the protagonist of a popular German tale of a pact with the Devil, assumed to be based on the figure of the German magician and alchemist Dr. Johann Georg Faust (approximately 14801540). It has been used as the basis for many different fictional works, most notably by Christopher Marlowe, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Klaus Mann, Thomas Mann, Clive Barker, Charles Gounod, Hector Berlioz, Arrigo Boito, Oscar Wilde, Terry Pratchett, Mikhail Bulgakov, Fernando Pessoa, Anne Rice, and Michael Swanwick. Faust deserves to go to heaven, because of his unquenchable thirst for knowledge and understanding (“man must strive and err”) that exceeds the limits set for human beings.

  7. Maddox Says:

    Beware of self-censorship. I’ve been running a popular website for about 10 years now without ads because I believe ads cause self-censorship. To put my theory to the test, I created an adsense account and submitted my site for approval. I was rejected for the program because I violated some of their policies. Here’s a short list of things you can’t have on your website with Google Adsense:

    * Excessive profanity
    * Excessive advertising
    * Violence, racial intolerance, or advocate against any individual, group, or organization

    Excessive profanity by whose standards? Is 50 words too much? How about 10? Why should I have to worry about it, if I wanted to run a script site with an analysis of the “Pulp Fiction” manuscript for example? You may find yourself wanting to censor yourself to keep that sweet ad revenue coming in. As for excessive advertising, again, what’s the measuring stick? Would a site like this be considered excessive, even though its ad volume is dynamically changing: http://milliondollarhomepage.com/

    As for advocating against a group or individual, don’t we all do that at some point? Politicians, activist groups, or celebrities all get our scorn at some point, what if Google decides this isn’t kosher with their terms? Will you stand your ground and ditch the ad revenue that you’ve become dependant upon, or will you concede and silently talk about something else?

    The temptation to censor yourself is always there with ads, so I’ve taken a different approach. My primary source of income is my online store selling t-shirts, stickers, and my newly published comic book. I don’t make nearly as much as I could be making with ads, but I finally made enough to quit my job and I’ve been keeping myself just barely above water since.

    As an experiment, I set up a simple site with Google ads just to see how much I could make: http://www.saddestcaveman.com

    Based on that site, I could be making $12,000-$20,000 per month if I had ads on my site, but the downside is that everything that everyone likes about my site would be gone. How much is the freedom to express yourself without self-censorship worth to you?

    Beware…

  8. Andrew O'Hara Says:

    I explored the “Dooce” blog and darned if I can find where the hundreds of comments are. I’m not sure I understand why entries like, “Because Leta will not drink milk of any kind …we give her two Tums each morning as a calcium supplement” generate so much excitement, as there seem to be two or three million other diary blogs talking about the same calcium supplement. Or diapers, drunken mates and the PTA meeting.

    I suspect a lot of folks are not aware of the energy that must be expended to keep a daily blog (of any real significance) going. It’s work. Her Wickedness, of course, appends her blog to her publishing business and supplements it with advertising, etc. That’s wise, good business which I’ve come to expect from Her Wickedness.

    Nonetheless, I wouldn’t recommend people give up their 40 hour jobs in hopes of making it big by blogging about their toddlers.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Hi, Andrew! Heather doesn’t allow comments after every post, but if you scroll down, you’ll see where when she does, people pour in or…pounce in. Go to the lower right-hand corner of Dooce.com and click on “Put your text ad on Dooce.com.” Statistics pop up: Dooce has 87,000 visitors a day, 30,000 of whom are new. That’s a lot of people interested in whether Heather’s daughter will eat her Cheerios or pitch a public fit.  

  9. Maxine Says:

    Hi Lynne, nice post.

    Richard Charkin, CEO of Macmillan (whose blog I believe you have visited!) has been writing some nice posts recently on Googleadsense, his experiences with setting it up, how much revenue he got from it, and his trenchant reaction to some of his commenters telling him off for daring to enroll!Maxine

    Deblog also posted recently about google adsense — she uses it on her blog, and she highlighted a post from someone (a classics blog) who was thinking of using it and asked his/her commenters what they thought. A lot of people advised against but I don’t see the problem. Google ads are relevant and quiet — they don’t flash or scroll across the page, etc. Just go to a typical commercial website and see what the ads look like, horrid.

    I was using the search facility on my own company website earlier today, and someone has set it up so that when you do a search an ad pops up first. How annoying! I am not an ad-oriented person but I quite like google ads. I use gmail and I like the fact that when you send someone a message about table tennis tables you get ads for them quietly sitting down the edge of your message. you can easily tune them out, but they may actually be useful. Flashing horrid ads that spew everywhere, eg a typical newspaper website, are horrid, though.

  10. Lorra Laven Says:

    It’ll be interesting to see which of your three money-making plans net the most. I’m hoping, secretly of course, that your “get published” business is the most successful since it taps into your talent as a savvy marketer and a very good writer.

    I may be way off base, but I’m guessing that you will get greater satisfaction from money earned through hard work, especially if it involves creativity. (Is my naivete showing?)

    But, hey, everybody’s different. I’m miserable unless I’m being productive during daylight hours, whereas you, you lucky dog, have mastered the art of relaxing with a great book while watching the waves roll in. I envy your ability to kick back and savor life. We’d all probably live a lot longer if we could emulate your style.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Hum… I’ll have to think about this one: hard work or fritter away the day while my bank account fills up. Hum….

  11. Shelley Says:

    I’m not real computer savvy; I can turn it on, check my email and shut it down when I get the “Blue Screen of Death,” but I had no clue that you could make money from blogging. I do have to admit to having a fleeting thought a time or two about how they could or do make a living with it. Now I know.

    So, as a very underpaid lab tech in a lab full of gossipy women–with three kids at home and a husband who does stupid husband-like things now and again, I’m rethinking this being computer illiterate.

    Should I be taking a computer class to figure out how to run a site? I’m a town meeting rep for my town and that’s certainly circus-like, I could throw some of that stuff in there, mix it with a dash of wierd daily kid crap, disasterous dog and cat offerings and stupid husband stuff. I could entertain MILLIONS and do it while I’m lounging in pajamas and eating bon bons.
    ;0)

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Heather is showing you the way!

  12. Peter L. Winkler Says:

    Yes, I have a blog. Pretty soon, you’ll be considered a freak if you don’t have one. I have Google’s ads. I haven’t  made a cent. I don’t expect I ever will from blogging.

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Peter, what’s your Google rating???? And…do the ads Google places on your blog make sense, given your visitors’ demographics? 

  13. Dave Newton Says:

    Hey, Lynne: 

    While we’re discussing ads on writers’ Web sites and stuff, check this one out, from Publishers’ Marketplace’s “Weekly Lunch” email.

    Advertisement: “Authors—Do You Know The Seven Things Rich Authors Know That Poor Authors Don’t?” Learn them all on a free telephone seminar on Thursday, October 5th.

    Why do some authors make a fortune while so many others struggle financially? After working with 9,300 authors over the last 19 years, I’ve learned rich authors simply do seven key things differently than poor authors. Join me for a free 75-minute telephone seminar on Thursday, October 5th and I’ll tell you all about those seven key differences, plus how you can use the Rich Author Strategies to make a whole lot more from your own non-fiction book(s)!

    To register go here now: [address deleted by DN].

    How am I supposed to feel about the PM people, those fine NYC folks who’ve built a business around “serving” people in publishing, including, presumably, writers who know the wrong seven things. Pitches like this create a certain aroma. If one of these pops up in your Google ad space, how will you sleep-during-bank-account-fillup then?

  14. Lynne Says:

    I have made $0.53 thus far from AdSense! I’m already ahead of Peter L. Winkler!!!

    Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing

  15. David Thayer Says:

    Commerce hasn’t been the same since Milo Minderbender cornered the market on Egyptian cotton and tried covering it with chocolate. Since many of the visitors to my blog don’t speak English I’d like it to look like the Ginza with shimmering neon ads running the length of the blog. I’d like Afri-Cola buttons and knock off jeans and all the weird drugs, the waterfall of Japanese rock bands and a bright green AMC Pacer. In short I’d like to be Milo Minderbender.

  16. Booksquare » The Daily Square - Within Your Reach Edition Says:

    [...] Can Your Blog Make Money For You While You Sleep? Google AdSense? Blogads? Sponsorships? Dare You Quit Your Day Job?Lynn Scanlon explores ways to make money off her website. We, because we are kind, will offer one tiny bit of help: fix her pages so her articles appear in the header. Google loves unique titles as much as it loves words. [...]

  17. Peter L. Winkler Says:

    Dear Lynne:

    I don’t know what my Google stats are on my blog’s ranking. I have a hit counter from Sitemeter that gives me a weekly tally on how many people come by each day and the average amount of time they spend viewing the blog. I don’t know how to get a demographic breakdown on my visitors, if it’s even possible: how could a bot know the age or gender of a visitor?

    I believe the ads Google places are determined by the content of my latest posting: when I write about writing or publishing, the ads all tout print on demand companies.

  18. Peter L. Winkler Says:

    Dear Folks:

    Here’s one of the priceless things you’ll learn from the Rich Author, Poor Author course: 

    “Want to sell your book to a major New York publisher for a six-figure advance? You’ll learn the single biggest thing you need — and no, it’s not a great manuscript or book idea though those are important. If you’ve got this one thing, getting a publisher is easy. Without it, you’ll probably struggle forever to get your work published.”

    This is basically the no money down real estate scam adapted for wannabe writers. It promises to break the inviolable law of the universe that you can’t get something for nothing.

  19. Booksquare » Three Easy Steps To Earning Money From Your Blog Says:

    [...] Last week, we link to an article with the grand plan of returning to the topic later that day. Days have a way of getting away from us. As do weeks. But we have been dwelling mentally on the subject, and woke up this morning ready to write about the all-important topic of making money from blogs. [...]

  20. Lisa Says:

    The trouble with blog ads is that the most successful sites post new material several times a day, which is practically a full-time job.

    RE: The thing writers need to get a six-figure advance from a New York publisher. Let me guess: Is it a PLATFORM? Oops, I just gave away their trade secret.

  21. Andrew O'Hara Says:

    I have to love Peter Winkler’s post above, about the Rich Author Course: “…and no, it’s not a great manuscript or book idea though those are important.”

    Though those are important? Glad they tagged that on. Where do I sign?

  22. Lynne Says:

    I’ve made $2.84 so far with AdSense. Double that and I’ll be able to buy one of my favorite meals at McDonald’s on RT 15S in Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey: Chrispy Chicken Meal #7 with a medium Diet Coke!

    I think I’m going to have to make money the old-fashioned way. (NO! Not THAT way! Geez.)

    I’m going to put together a “ad-space sales plan,” like I had to do when I was a group publisher of developmental product at AdWeek, and start drumming up business from advertisers who understand that what I might lack in quanity of visitors, I make up in quality of visitors!

    Stay tuned!

    Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing

  23. Lynne Says:

    Extra Extra Read All About It!

    I just noticed that scores of people are flooding in to read this post after googling “Heather B. Armstrong lawsuit contract.” I mention her blog http://www.Dooce.com in this posting.

    Looks like she got herself sued over failure to sign a contract. No details, but she mentions the agony she has been through and the near-breakdown she considered having.

    (Heather, I AM REALLY, REALLY SYMPATHETIC. If you’ve read my posts re Bela Szigethy v. Lynne W. Scanlon and the trial of the century that took place in December 2005/January 2006, you’ll know I know just how you feel.)

    Rage-Writing as Memoir. Is it a Book, a Blog or just BS? Scroll down to the bottom of the post where I talk about writing a book about my lawsuit.

    Force-Feed Your Kids Great Books, Poems and Plays, Even Though They Would Rather Watch the Stuffing Being Kicked Out of a Character in a Video Game! In this post I talk about how a plot in a play parallels what happened to me in my lawsuit.

  24. Debra Young Says:

    Hello, Lynne, thanks for dropping by! Great post, always find something interesting here. I’m discovering publishers have all kinds of squeeze plays against writers, like basketing/cross-collateral–makes me wonder how I’m going to survive as a writer. Seems to me the writer/publisher relationship should be a happy two-way street. Keep ‘em looking over their shoulders, Lynne. d:)

  25. Lynne Says:

    For information regarding Kensington Publishing Corp v. Heather Armstrong go here: http://www.trainwrecks.net/doocecomplaint.pdf.

  26. Caroline Says:

    I had never considered Google AdSense or Blogads. I only been blogging for two months and didn’t consider the available opportunities.
    Now I am.
    I feel quite ignorant – but you have sparked my interest.
    Thanks,
    Cx

  27. Terry Says:

    I signed up for AdSense because I thought I might be a shoo-in: I write about a variety of topics, and I rarely do memes and personality quizzes and jokes or endless links to other sites. I actually WRITE stuff. All I got from AdSense was a tiny ad up top (help for Katrina victims) and nothing more.

  28. Brother René Says:

    Dearest Lynne:
    Vantage Press as your “top-of-list” advertiser is even beneath the ethics of a lesser sorceress. This is a big disservice to any of your “not-in-the-know” readers (even if you have made $2.57). I think all visitors that have clicked on this (problematic) vanity publisher’s hot link should get an immediate refund from the very wicked witch. I warned you before you started this (get rich slowly) tactic. Even a wicked witch should show some decorum and perhaps a little respect for her less worldly-wise audience.

    Your spiritual adviser,
    Brother René

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Hello, Brother Rene. Let me say a prayer for you! Seriously, I am watching the ads. I have the ability to filter them, though I have to see them on my site, and they come and go! I may, indeed, discontinue the Google AdSense. I just don’t think the money is there. I’m investigating more sponsorships.

  29. Lynne Says:

    I have removed AdSense from my blog. In 4 months I earned $15.00. NOT worth the loss of space on my r-h sidebar.

    Lynne AKA The Wicked Witch of Publishing

  30. Brother René Says:

    My faithful child,
    Always listen to Brother René on the subject of ethics. Brother knows best when it comes to poverty. He’s still working on chastity and obedience.

    Bro. R

    Note from the Wicked Witch of Publishing (TM): Brother Rene, I am sure I would declare any and all income. The thought of not doing so was fleeting!

  31. Lynne Says:

    “For context, my wife and I publish two websites that reach a combined 260,000 absolute unique visitors a month. The sites appeal not to a geographic audience, but to targeted subject niches, and the money we make on these sites would barely allow us to support our family in Pasadena, a high-cost Los Angeles suburb. (Though, to be honest, we haven’t exactly broken a sweat trying to sign advertisers. All our revenue comes from Google AdSense and advertisers who have come to us. Plus, I’ve got the OJR and USC gig and my wife teaches and performs the violin, so we are not relying on our sites to put food on the table.) To make a living wage from a 45,000-visit website would require aggressive local ad sales, plus cut-to-the-bone expenses.”

    Robert Niles’ comment on the blog AUSC Anneberg Online Journalism Review, May 11, 2007

  32. money dreamer Says:

    I thought making money while sleeping is like a fairy-tales. Only extra-ordinary people can do that. Your post has opened my eyes. Useful information, thanks for sharing.

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