Writing a Book


This page covers writing a book for the non-fiction market, based on the current state of the publishing industry (as of 2011) and my own experience. My own non-fiction book, "101 Weird Ways to Make Money," was published this year. I had previously self-published two paperbacks; "Secrets of Lucky People" and "Beyond Mental Slavery".

There are ways to make money with self-published books, and the risk is lower than ever due to inexpensive on-demand publishers. My own first paperback, Secrets of Lucky People, cost about $800 total to publish and the publisher made it available to bookstores and online through sites like Amazon.com. It is still selling a few copies monthly after almost four years, and I also received an advance from a Tokyo company that published it in Japanese. You can read my interview on self-publishing here Self Publishing: Interview with Steve Gillman.

But being published traditionally has huge advantages. Since Wiley published my most recent book, I have been interviewed on FOX News, for an ABC program, and for a television station here in Colorado. Radio interviews have been frequent as well. Most of these were set up by my publicist--provided by Wiley. I couldn't have gotten that kind of exposure on my own. The advance on royalties was nice too.

There have been some big changes in writing and publishing of non-fiction in recent years. For example, publishers now like to see a ready-made audience before the sign an author. It was my newsletter lists (tens of thousands of subscribers in total) from my various websites that probably got me the contract with Wiley. In particular, my UnusualWaysToMakeMoney.com website and related newsletter got their attention. I explain this in more detail on my interview page here; Getting a Book Contract.

But another big change, which makes a huge difference in terms of the time to write a book, has been the instantaneous information available online. I was able to research jobs, find phone numbers and email addresses of potential interviewees (there are 12 interviews in 101 Weird Ways to Make Money), and do much more, all without leaving the house. I did have a lot of personal experience to draw on as well (70 or 80 jobs and businesses in my life), but the internet has made research so easy compared to just twenty years ago. I wrote the book in about six weeks, including the first edit/rewrite.

How Much Can You Make?

Now for the bad news. Few writers can make a living from one non-fiction book. My own sales figures are not in yet, but looking at the top sellers for business books, I see only a handful of authors making big money. In fact, some famous authors on the list have not sold a thousand books in the first three months (and royalties on those are typically less than $2 per book). In general, you better like writing if you want to make a living at it, because you'll probably have to write a book every year. Of course if you are an excellent marketer, writing can lead to a big income, and fast.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

As part of my own promotional efforts, I've had guest posts on blogs, including the high-traffic Huffington Post. In my article I not only was able to mention the book, but also this website. The resulting surge in traffic was worth hundreds of dollars in a matter of a few days. In other words, look for opportunities to leverage your status as an author to make more money. You might be paid for speeches (and you get to promote your book).

Qualifications / Requirements

You have to write well enough, of course, but to be honest, it is easier to learn how to write non-fiction than to craft a good novel.

First Steps

Study the market and find a niche you can serve. Then start writing. But think of the marketing from the start as well. Develop a blog or website where people can sign up for tips or a newsletter. That audience you develop is what will get you a contract.


Create Space - This is a publish-on-demand company owned by Amazon, in case you decide to go that route.

Writer's Digest - There is always some good information here (and in their paper magazine).

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Every Way to Make Money | Writing a Book