Or, sources of revenue other than selling books.

1.) The tip jar, or, the paypal button.

This is a common feature for bloggers, or authors with an extensive blog. It provides a way for fans to provide compensation for the blog posts, extra information, or as a tip because they already bought the books used.

This doesn’t have to be paypal, but should take all major credit cards and be pretty painless to use: your fan’s likelihood of giving you money drops drastically with every extra hoop they have to jump through.

2.) Related merchandise, or the cafepress / zazzle / etc. store.

Have a catchy phrase that your fans like to use? Have some art of the characters or cover? Have a nifty logo or slogan for your fanbase? (Note: if you didn’t draw the art or design, make SURE you have licensed the right to resell on merchandise. It’s not automatic, especially with royalty-free sites.)

Then check the terms, conditions, quality, and reliability of various POD merchandise sites. Because they handle the printing and shipping, your input is limited to image uploading, descriptions, site headers or art, etc. This means a fair amount of work up front, and then the need to periodically publicize it / make the link obvious…. but other than time, the investment is fairly minimal unless you are specifically acquiring art for resale.

3.) I made this myself, or the etsy store

For those of you who are artists in mediums other than words, you may end up with sketches, paintings, pendants, necklaces, costumes, knives, etc. related to your worlds. In which case you may want to put those up for sale, before they overrun your studio. It’ll let you buy more art supplies to start the cycle over…

This seems to work best when released in small batches – as in, upload a few things, announce to fans that those things are up. A while later, release more things, announce that the new things are up.

Again, does not have to be etsy specifically. Research what’s best for you in terms of setup time and cost, fees, and other details.

4.) Patreon

Patreon was created to provide a way for fans to regularly fund their favorite content creators in small amounts, in return for extra content. This does great things for the content creators, by providing a much more stable income than the tip jar, but also increases their workload by the need to regularly put out extra content to their patrons, and to interact with that community separately from their regular community.

This is great for webcomic artists: they can provide extra sketches, or background information, or let their patreon community pick the names & descriptions of upcoming characters / be tuckerized. For novelists, this is much trickier; John C. Wright is releasing a serial, and I believe snippets of upcoming novels, to his patrons.

5.) Kickstarter / GoFundMe

Kickstarter is useful for discrete project funding; the basic premise is that a creator proposed a project, a budget, and rewards to each person by donation level/package if the project is fully funded. If it’s not, then no money is paid.

Marian Call (who is an awesome singer, too) wrote an excellent primer on the usefulness, and on the true costs for each project here:

Now for an unusual link: I’m going to recommend a resource that’ll cost money, but if you’re serious about Kickstarter, is very worth it. MCA Hogarth is a great author, artist, and entrepreneur. She runs kickstarters as needed for projects, and they range from very successful to wildly so. She wrote a book on running them successfully, with realistic budgets, numbers, and checklists. Oh, and cartoon jaguars.

(If you’re curious about her track record, check out her Kickstarter page here: )

So, there you have it. What, if any, of these do you use? What else do you use? What do you recommend for or against? What pitfalls or awesomeness have you found along the way?


  1. I’m not an author. I buy a lot of books and games. I’m happy to buy good books and games. But I’m not inclined to fund things that may never appear (Kickstarter).

    Patreon and tip jars are annoying and make me think less of the author. If pleas are made very often (say >1 time a year) it becomes a big negative.

    Related merchandise – sure. Not a problem. The individual is providing something that I value for money.

    A lot of this comes off as begging which is not very appealing to at least a segment of paying customers.

  2. I ran a Kickstarter for my first novel and raised about $5,000 from a hundred or so backers. It paid off for me, but I never did another one again because the amount of work spent promoting the KS would have been better spent writing/marketing the actual book. I looked into Patreon but decided against it because I didn’t think I could provide enough value to justify asking people for money, not without it making it harder to keep writing. And my blogging is far too sporadic to even think about asking for tips. I can see someone who blogs regularly having a tip jar, though, because that is a lot of work.

    At this point, the only kind of support I want from my readers is through book sales. I’d much rather they signed up for my mailing list or left me reviews than they give me any money beyond the purchase price for my books. I’m thinking about doing some merch, though. T-shirts and coffee mugs and the like could be interesting, although I doubt it’d be a significant source of income.

  3. I’m tempted to write something at the bottom of posts such as, “If you enjoyed this post, the easiest way to reward the author (and keep her interested in writing) is to buy a copy of her book. You don’t have to also read it, and Amazon won’t care that you don’t have a Kindle.”

    I dunno, though. Off-putting?

    What I have now, when I remember, is “If you like this post, consider purchasing the fiction. It’s written by the same person.” Though I don’t think I have any takers yet.

    I really don’t want to monetize the blog – I want to sell fiction.

  4. I have a ‘tip’ button, via paypal, and to date I’ve only gotten two donations from it. Even thought the pirates constantly tell me how if they like my books they’ll throw me a dollar or something (funny, they keep taking my books, but they never give me any money, so don’t they like me, or are they really just cheap?)
    Patreon on the other hand has worked out a LOT better than I expected it to. Primarily I offer to put up a chapter each week of whatever I’m working on, to those who contribute $5 or more. Usually that chapter is from the current novel I’m working on, though sometimes it’s stuff that I’m doing on the side which may never by published.
    Other types of monetization however can be pretty difficult. To get to the point where you can sell merchandise really requires you to be at a point where people will know what they’re looking at when they see it. Unless you can come up with some pithy statement that once a person sees it, they’ll just have to have. And that is a lot harder than it sounds, and it sounds hard to start with.

  5. Interesting article. And interesting responses. I just put a tip jar on my sire. But I think merchandise is something that will be more relevant for me.

  6. I guess it’s ancient history now, but about 2010, there was a lot of talk about storyteller’s bowl projects. The idea was that an author would write say a chapter, usually in a public venue, then wait for fans to kick in some amount of money before writing (or at least posting) the next chapter. Sharon Lee and Steve Miller did two books this way, although they found that every chapter was overfunded quickly enough that they didn’t have to pause.

    I think this approach has been folded into Patreon, kind of.

    1. When MCA Hogarth does serials, she has a certain number of free updates a week… but the ability to buy an extra chapter for everyone with donations. I seem to recall she didn’t often fail to make the target, so it’s a similar deal to above.

    2. I guess some people have no problem with reading a story in pieces spread out over months, but that sort of thing was the main reason I never subscribed to any of the SF magazines.

  7. After meeting some authors at Liberty Con and reading here I have gotten much better about posting reviews on Amazon.

  8. Regarding merchandising for books and authors:

    I just completed the entire Bill the Vampire series, so I am waiting for the last one to be published. Soon I hope.
    I found a typo in one of the books, and I was able to email the author directly via his Facebook page. And receive a reply the next day!
    And since I found him on Facebook, I followed his links to the book-related t-shirts that are available. I am considering buying one and I assume he will get a piece of that. Fine by me, and I really like that an author is so available to their fans.

    I buy a lot of e-books based on recommendations via the Ace of Spades weekly book column, and of course am a regular lurker here.

    I am pretty much all on the Kindle now, unless a Pratchett ARC comes available, that I don’t already have.

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