Recently, there’s been a rash of comments / complaints / concerns about Amazon kicking out authors from their system due to an automated software running amok. This happens every few years, and newer authors get worried they might get targetted.
And don’t get me wrong, we all worry about it. Getting hit by these random systems, having your account yanked, is painful. Solving the issue can take a few days to a few weeks, though I have yet to hear of an account that has been removed entirely without there being significant allegations of gaming the system involved.
Still, it’s always worrying when the majority of one’s income comes from a single source. As such, I thought I’d write a post about non-Amazon income sources.
First Things First
Please note, this is not an exhaustive list. Nor is it a strategy recommendation. If your risk tolerance is very low, you will want to build your business strategy around lowering your risk. In most cases, that means going wide as an author, though that might be different. Viability of all these strategies also depend on timeframe, marketing knowledge, luck and genre as always.
1) FindAway Voices, Kobo Audiobooks, Overdrive, etc. for non-ACX income
Now, ACX is NOT Amazon. It’s a seperate company. Audible which ACX sends files to is another seperate company. However, they work close enough that if you do get permanently banned, you often lose both.
So, using places like FindAway Voices, etc to distribute your audiobooks would help split your income and build up your reader base in those sections.
2) Traditional Publishing (with big 5 or otherwise) / Hybrid Careers
That’s right. You could, potentially, sell some of your output to traditional publishers (whether it’s one of the big 5 publishing companies or a smaller, nimbler indie run publishing company).
By the way – you can do this for your audiobooks too. Having someone else publish your work (like Tantor or Podium or the like) means your income derives from them, and reduces your reliance on your own Amazon account.
3) Short Story Anthologies
Do you write short stories? Do you send them to out to anthologies? Many of them are run by others, so submitting short stories can get you a decent chunk of change. If you build up a decent catalogue of shorts, you can just keep resubmitting to new groups and looking for reprints/etc. to build your
Also – advantage? It gets your name out to a completely different crowd who might just end up reading your other work.
4) Non-Amazon Retailers (i.e. being wide)
I’m not going into this too much. Being wide is a significant amount of time, but depending on genre and how you do it, it can make up a decent chunk of income. Even if it is only 20% of your income, it’s better to get 20% of something when your account is down rather than 0% of everything.
5) Ingram Spark / LuLu / etc. Print Copies
Do you deal with print? Do you only use Amazon? If so, why? Many print-on-demand copies have better reach to independent bookstores, provide a much higher % of income and also – aren’t Amazon. You can do both, and it can be a significant % of your print income this way.
6) Serial Websites
This is technically under the ‘wide’ conspirary areas, but I’m splitting it off because, well; you can make writing for serial sites like Tapas, Radish, etc. part of your writing and career strategies. Forming a serial series that works with them (on an exclusive or non-exclusive basis) will provide you a different income source and different readers. It’s a little different than other book retailers too, since the cost of things like artwork, etc are much lower in many cases.
If you are giving the serial works for free, there’s always the free serial & Patreon format. Some have had significant success doing this (see Wandering Inn, He Who Fights with Monsters, etc.) .
Patreon can also just work as a way to get your most dedicated fans a way to support you. A lot of trad pub authors have begun to look into patreon as a way of getting their significantly larger fan base to support them while their (often slower) book releases play out.
In those cases, they don’t offer previews of books but other glimpses. Which are, in their own way, highly fascinating.
8) Foreign Translations
Are you using things like Babelcube? Or how about contacting foreign publishers to buy your work to translate and reprint in other languages? None of these forms will generate a low of income (per country / language); but there’s a lot of languages and a lot of countries.
This often requires a certain level of management and career / book size; but it can add a decent stream of income.
T-shirts, mugs, stickers, bookplates, posters, etc.
10) Direct Sales on your own website
One of the major changes of the pandemic has been the likelihood of consumers being willing to buy from non-major websites. So, knowing that, why not sell books on your own site?
11) Affiliate Income
Amazon has a well known affiliate program. But did you know that so does Google? And Apple? Why aren’t you earning affiliate income from people coming to your website to buy your books?
12) Advertising Income
If you’re good at social media, or hell, have a decent sized web traffic, how about advertising other books on your site / social media? You often have to declare advertising when you’re doing it, but other than that… why not if you’re a big TikTok or Youtube channel star?
13) Honorariums / Talks / Seminars
This is much more a trad pub author hustle, but I’ve been offered honorariums before to talk at schools or meetings for other writers. It’s never a lot (at least in my case); but again – secondary income source.
Expand that out – teaching gigs probably fall under this area.
14) Grants / Writers in Residence / etc.
Grants and other writers in residence or programs like that can certainly help provide income sources that are related to your writing but have nothing at all to do with Amazon. Of course, if you’re an indie author, this is much harder to do; though that’s changing slowly. And depending on your locale (smaller ones are often more flexible); might actually be decent.
15) Paid Newsletter Subscribers
Heard of Ghost or Substack? Well, non-fiction authors definitely have and some have grown quite a significant newsletter subscriber count who happily pay to be on those newsletters.
This doesn’t directly coincide with writing your own work; but it can be an income source especially if you write fast and, frankly, have the ability to schedule it around your own work.
Similar in a way to hybrid writing, but co-authoring and having the other person publish on their account splits your income sources and risk. Of course, that adds its own complexity, but an option.
Obviously not for everyone. Editing’s a skillset; but it can work for some authors.
19) Consulting (Marketing / Personal Assistant / Formatting / Cover Design)
Again, not direct writing. But ptoentially quite a good supplementary income source.
Alright, As you can tell I’m running out of suggestions. I’m sure you can think of some I haven’t covered. Feel free to throw them out down here. But if you don’t like being dependent on Amazon, make sure to build up ways of generating income that doesn’t make you reliant on them.
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