11 Top Tips for Making Money from Your Writing and Photography in 2017

by | Nov 28, 2016

By Lee Foster

I’m very pleased to bring you an article today from my friend and colleague, Lee Foster. Lee is a publishing pioneer. He was the first author I knew personally to create a mobile app from one of his books, and one of the earliest “hybrid” authors anywhere, publishing numerous books with traditional publishers and self-publishing other, more niche titles. Lee runs a robust website and has won multiple awards for his travel writing and photography. I’m certain that every author will find something to help you profit from your own work in his 11 tips.

What are the 11 top things you can do to make money from your writing or your photos in 2017?

1. Print Book

Get your writings organized into a book, and get the book securely set up directly as print-on-demand in Amazon CreateSpace (for Amazon’s huge worldwide audience) and in Ingram Spark (for bookstores and libraries).
Tip: You will want to use print-on-demand (POD). Someone in England can order your book today and Amazon can deliver to them tomorrow a physical book, printed in England. Benefit from this revolution. Ingram, similarly, is setting up a worldwide POD network. It is not intuitively obvious, but, trust me, bookstores will only order your book from Ingram. Bookstores will never deal with Amazon, which they see as the devil personified, and which will not accept returned books that haven’t sold.

2. eBook

Get the ebook version of your book content securely set up directly (and non-exclusively) with Amazon Kindle (your likely main revenue source) and with Smashwords (your access to all the ebook selling worlds beyond Amazon).
Tip: Amazon will incentivize you to go “exclusively” with them, such as allowing participation in their “subscription” program. But I recommend that you choose a “healthier” diverse economic and cultural ecosystem with non-exclusive deals. Expert opinions from self-publishing enthusiasts will vary on this important matter.

3. Website Book

northern-california-cover-x200Get your book content up as a “website book” presentation on your WordPress website. Your website book, meaning the exact book or some parallel approximation of your book in a range of articles/posts, may ultimately be more beneficial to you than your printed book or ebook versions.
Tip: A “robust” website presentation of your book content may be your most secure path forward to survival as an author. With a website, you can monetize by means of Google AdSense ads, private ads, and “sponsorships,” plus you can sell your “products.” See my Northern California Travel: The Best Options book as an example, 30 chapters, which appear as 30 website articles, at https://www.fostertravel.com/category/norcal/.

4. Google AdSense Ads

Google AdSense Ads and then private ads and private sponsorships set up on your robust website with your book content can be an incremental income stream. You can put three Google ads on a page. Nurture your content with new posts, each with the same pattern of three ads. Increase the number of “products” that people can buy. Focus on attracting people back to your website where they can become aware of and buy your products, or just hang out and endure ads.
Tip: I earn about 25 cents from Google when 100 people get attracted to my website. It is reported that Google pays you, the “publisher,” 68% of the ad revenue they earn from ads on your website. Google makes the decision about whether the ad revenue will be greater from click throughs or from being seen. You and Google are beneficial partners on the ads.

5. Expanded Product Range

The more “products” you have, the likelier you are to survive financially. Your book is a printed book, an ebook, and a “website” book, correct? If you have just one book, why not more? Think of more titles in your repertoire. And what else are you “selling”?
Tip: Your book makes you an “expert” in your field. Do you consult for a fee? Do you offer speeches and appearances for a fee? Everything you do and all the promotional publicity associated with that can draw folks back to your website and your books/ebooks, which are for sale, at least on Amazon. Sell your books at the back of the room for full retail at speeches.

6. Social Media

Focus your social media efforts on a pattern of posts that will help promote your book(s). Pace yourself. Consider a once-a-week post on your website and in social media of something interesting that relates to your books. Draw folks back to your website, where the complete post resides. I concentrate on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google +.
Tip: I will not tell you how to behave on social media. My advice is only helpful if you want to sell your book(s). Become the cat video expert if that is your path. But consider the possibility of a consistent weekly blog post on your website related to your book content and then an announcement about it in social media. Your fans will appreciate it and may buy your book. The pattern will take a while to set up.

7. Repurpose Your Content

Where could your book content be helpful to someone in a form that you might not immediately consider? What do people want and how do they want it? Do you offer folks: 1 Entertainment and Insight; 2 Advice and Guidance; 3 Good Experiences; 4 Saving Money and Time; 5 Other? How can your book and its writing content get in front of them?
Tip: Think outside the printed-book box. Could your book also be an audiobook, as is my Travels in an American Imagination? Some folks will only “read” books by listening to them, perhaps while doing a necessary daily commute. Could your book be translated into Chinese and sold in China, as is my Northern California Travel: The Best Options. If the consumer wants your book content in Chinese, you need to make it available to them in Chinese.

8. Licensing Your Book Content

Think licensing of your book content. The great travel agency system, Uniglobe, came to me recently and asked to license for three years more than 100 worldwide articles from my website, visible in various categories if you highlight and hover over Articles in the black bar on my website. Their license included 10 chapters from my book Northern California Travel: The Best Options. They wanted to have my travel writing content available, such as an article on Easter Island, as a consumer thought about buying a tourism package to Easter Island.
Tip: Become aware of entities that might want to license your type of book content. Have some content related to your book, if not the exact book, available in small chunks, on your website. Good things can happen. When people are involved in some kind of transaction, especially on the Internet, could your licensed content be there as information, opinion, or entertainment to assist in the process?

9. Other Writing Assignments

Think of assignments that might result from a robust website display of your book’s writing content. Chances are that there are people looking for your kind of book content and willing to assign you to write parallel or derivative content. This has happened to me. The big website Answers.com (#23 in traffic on the Internet) decided to hire 150 “experts,” including ten in travel. They hired me to be their San Francisco Region Travel Expert and to develop 80 short articles on the area, where I live and have specialized expertise.
Tip: I asked my Answers.com handler why she selected me, since I have many competitors who are also expert on travel to the San Francisco region. She said, “I was sitting behind my desk in St. Louis. I saw all your website articles on the Bay Area, including all your book chapters about San Francisco and Northern California. I could see immediately that you could develop the kind of articles we wanted.”

10. Going Viral

To close about writing on a hopeful note, you might go “viral” on the Internet with your writing/book content. This has happened to me. My travel app San Francisco Travel and Photo Guide was declared by Apple to be a “Staff Favorite.” The next week a thousand apps sold. This past December one of my blogs/articles, Light Arts Proliferate in San Francisco, went viral and has now been read 131,521 times. Viral can happen to you.

Tip: Viral is a potential positive that can balance many factors diminishing your possible success as an author. For example, physical books that you sell will not stay sold. They will get re-sold over and over as used books on Amazon. Goodwill and other charity entities will dispose of your book, after it is donated to them, for $.01 plus postage. They will make $1 on the postage. So, be aware of the negatives. However, on the positive side, you can go viral. You can assemble an unheard of number of fans. There is always hope that you can profitably sell your book(s) and book content to those fans in the modern world.

11. Licensing Photos

Beyond words, some of us license photos, as content. Could you develop your own photos for your blog/articles/books and also sell them? I sell (meaning license) photos to magazines, newspapers, book companies, and individuals, plus I use my photos on my website as slideshows and illustration.
Could you sell photo content now and in the future? Over the years, I have published in all the major US travel magazines and newspapers with travel sections. I have also published travel photos in more than 300 Lonely Planet travel books.
Tip: Consider graduating to the latest phone camera and making that your starting point for still and video coverage looking ahead. The latest iPhone7 and the recent Samsung phones are astonishing advances in phone camera technology. The iPhone7 now has 12 megapixels of capture size, just like the “professional” Nikon and Canon cameras of a few years back. The new iPhone7 Plus also has two lenses, both a wide angle and a more “normal” lens with minimal distortion. Add a lightweight tripod to your arsenal and learn to use it, especially for video, and you can come away with decent “professional” photos. Some of the great photo agencies, such as Alamy, even have phone-camera submission opportunities for you to market your photos. (Watch for my detailed “How the Photo Market Works” article coming soon on The Book Designer.)

Final Thoughts

My hope is that 2017 will rank as your best year ever for monetizing your writings/books. Possibly you will even develop a new income stream (and some reduced purchase costs) from your own photos.

Do you have any other tips to add to this list? If so, please leave them in the comments.

lee-foster-headshot-x125Lee Foster is a successful travel and literary book author who has 18 books on his Amazon Author Page including 4 “indie” books. His thoughts on self-publishing are expressed in his latest book, An Author’s Perspective on Independent Publishing: Why Self-Publishing May Be Your Best Option. Lee has more than 250 worldwide travel writing/photo articles on his website at www.fostertravel.com and has published in all the major U.S. travel magazines/newspapers. His work has won eight Lowell Thomas Awards, the highest honors in the field of travel journalism.

Photo: pixabay.com

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. cs joshi

    I knew personally to create a mobile app from one of his books, and one of the earliest “hybrid” authors anywhere, publishing numerous books with traditional publishers and self-publishing other, more niche titles. Lee runs a robust website and has won multiple awards for his travel writing and photography. I’m certain that every author will find something to help you profit from your own work in his 11 tips.

  2. Bhagawad Gita

    Hi Joel, you mentioned about creating an ebook version of your book content with Amazon Kindle. Could you plz share any link to set up the same or any demo to how to exactly do that?

  3. Amaltas Dwivedi

    Hi Joel, these are really fantastic money saving tips from you. These tips are really motivating for people who are investing so much of their time and money on writing to create asset online which could finally with time could turn out into masterpiece. When we work online, different risks are always associated wether its solely depending on 1 source of income like adverts etc.
    We need to monetize our hard-work with proper mix of revenue channels to minimise risk and maximize return.


  4. Michael W. Perry

    Here’s a time-saving tip for those who publish print versions with both Createspace and Lightning Source/Ingram Spark.

    If you choose a book size common to both, such as 6×9, you can send them the same interior PDF. That’s easy. But the paper thicknesses of the two tend to be different. That affects the spine thickness, so the same cover wouldn’t ordinarily work with both, doubling your labor.

    There is, however, a trick that may work, depending on your book’s page count. Both offer white or creme paper options. The paper thickness of Createspace’s white paper is very close to that for Lightning Source/Ingram Spark’s creme. For my latest, the 164-page Embarrass Less, that difference was only 0.01 inch.

    Since Lightning provides a much better cover template for my purposes, an InDesign template rather than a jpg file, I created my cover with it. I then extracted the part that Createspace wanted and sent it that. In the past, Amazon sent me an email telling me they’d tweaked the cover slightly. This time they didn’t need to do that. Two covers from one template helps a lot. The creme versus white also distinguishes who printed it.

    Both POD companies also have issues with spine alignment as much as a quarter of an inch off. My fix is to make sure that there’s no design element on the front, spine or back that will look bad if shifted over that much. I can’t do anything about the spine text not being quite centered, but I can make the text size small enough that it is not cut off by the bend. And I can make the front and back covers such that elements from all three sections don’t intrude on one another. In practice, that means having the same background cover for all three and not having any element of the front or back cover close to the spine.

    You might also notice that some books are published in three formats, two of them for the Kindle. One is reflowable and will display on any device. The other, which Amazon clumsily describes as Replica, is the book’s PDF repacked and will display on the larger screens of tablets or computers. If you’d got older books for which you have the original PDF but nothing from which you can create an epub/mobi book, that PDF will give you a digital version to sell.

    I am ticked off though. that Amazon doesn’t distinguish between the two Kindle formats very well, promoting each for its particularly advantages. I’m also frustrated that they claim the digital version of one of my books is 166 pages, but the print version is 164. They’re the same content. That difference is likely to confuse buyers who may wonder if the latter has something the former lacks. It doesn’t.



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