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.
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