Making Money?

Do any of you make money by writing your serials? I won't ask you how much you make (that's not my business), but is it enough that you could consider writing your job, or is it just a profitable hobby? How do you go about making money? I post ads on my site and my books are for sale, but are there any other ways to do it?

I made almost nothing from the serial. Two Patrons support me for 10$ a month, though half of that flows right back to WFG, which I support on Patreon.

I do make money from the books, though.

A lot of web serial authors are on Patreon, and get donations that way. However, E-books is how most authors make most their money, or so I hear.

Here's my page:

Some people have told me I could offer special deals to anyone who sponsored me on Patreon, but I'm not sure what I could give them. I guess I could let them read chapters early, but since my books are all for sale it would probably be less expensive for them to just buy that in the long run... which wouldn't really be terrible either, would it?

Can't you offer rewards to someone who donates at a certain level? So for $X a month, they would then GET one of your books.

My books are effectively open to the public, so I have no qualms about talking about money here.

I currently draw an income of roughly $3,500/month; $2,950/month of which is Patreon, and $550/month from Paypal (Going by average numbers since Jan 1st 2016). Writing is absolutely my job.

My approach was simply to set up a Paypal button for people to donate. The button earned me ~100/month average in 2012 and $1,400/month average in 2013. In early 2014 I set up Patreon, and that really provided some stability to the income stream while giving me a fair boost; I made $2,500/month average in 2014 and $2,900/month average in 2015. I really recommend Patreon.

My only incentive was in the form of additional chapters, which had a target amount of $75 to start and now have a target amount of $1250-2250/chapter, depending on how many I've done already for the month.

I don't like ads, I don't like marketing, and don't yet have a book, so I just write. I am anticipating the book to be a windfall, but really want to make it the best thing I can create; something I can be proud of and happy about to know is out there.

Wildbow, that's the kind of thing I hear that gets my hopes up, thinking I can do it too, but then I remember how terrible I am at dealing with people, lol. As much as I'd love to make writing my job, I just don't know how to properly go about enticing people to give me their money, you know? I was never good at selling my books back when I self-published them, and people only really took an interest when I started making them free. Unfortunately, that's probably why I haven't been able to draw readers to my site too :

Keep in mind that Patreon engagement is usually around 5%, 10% at most, with an average donation of around $3. In other words, about $15-30 per hundred readers. Obviously, this will also depend on your demographics. I know all of two people who use Patreon, but plenty of others who find the idea of crowdfunding either confusing or borderline offensive, so...

Well, Wildbow is kind of an outlier. Not just in the amount of money and in that he is able to live from writing - but also because the no-marketing approach is rataher unique as far as I know. I wouldn't bank on getting successful like he did. That is unless you're willing to bust your ass for two 40+ Hour/Week jobs for years before getting anywhere near that, not counting the preparations of the characters and world. And writing some of the best fiction on the net.

Which isn't meant to get personal. I'm just saying that there's a difference between knowing these things and understanding them, as I myself only recently got hammered in by a friend of mine.


Well, as a SerialWriter we are actually a bit fortunate because we have more than one stream of potential revenue - provided one has the readers of course.

There's the obvious route of the self publisher which is a whole field unto itself, I think, and needs marketing, lots of quality content put out regularly just so to build a backlog. Luckily that fits rather niceley with sprawling serials who tend to build up quite a catalog of stories and arcs and books and what not.

For that I would recommend just googling it. :) I don't know enough about the american market to make any guesses in that regard. Just that it is a lot bigger than here.

The other way is the one ClearMadness already talked about: Patreon. Personally I think that one isn't utilised nearly as much as it could.

I recently tried to open a discussion here: Feel free to check in and brainstorm. :)

As of yet I don't have a patreon myself (and neither the audience to warrant it) but a few ideas on what to present. What I think is important is to think of the WebSerial not as a finished product you're trying to sell but a project. You can sell the eBooks as products, published, polished, a bit more fleshed out - there's the normal route of self publisher to take that approach.

But your Serial is a project. You're not selling one finished, cohesive thing but the participation. That means I would try to entice readers with the oppurtunity to discover more from the background of your story, to be a part of the product by giving names to characters, giving you prompts, maybe even the groundwork for a character that they'd like to see thrust into your world. Try spicing up the stuff surrounding the serial to make it more fun - "like this? Give me five bucks and it gets even more awesome."

Hey Dary, how do you calculate total readers? Is it readers visiting your blog per month? Because I imagine some of the monthly total are only people who visit the site once or twice, so I've been wondering how to determine what the actual size of my audience is.

(Asking you specifically because you talk about "per hundred readers." It's cool if you don't have an answer. Just something I'm curious about.)

That's just maths XD If 5% of readers donate, that's five in a hundred. At an average of $3 a head, that's $15 per hundred readers.

And by "readers" I mean people who follow your story on a regular basis, be that once an update, or binging every month or two.

Hah, no, no money. Couple things though - first, I don't make any effort to monetize, largely because I barely have an audience (as was referenced above), but if I did, I'd probably look into Patreon. Second, while I suppose writing isn't my (paid) "job", I do kind of see it as a career, more so than simply a hobby. So what exactly is the tipping point, being able to live off the writing? That probably varies depending on where you live.

Regarding "total readers", I tend to see it as number of people who have clicked on an update of mine that's now a month old. Meaning I have maybe 15 (only 3-5 of whom who vote)... not enough for a coffee. Good thing I hate coffee. And random aside, Wildbow's figures are probably in Canadian dollars? Or at least, I know I think of expenses in Canadian money, even if it's a US purchase.

You're right, Mathtans, my figures are in Canadian dollars. The low Canadian dollar compared to the US is paying off in terms of what I get from Patreon, as it comes in & then gets inflated... $2,396 becomes $3083.05. The price of goods hasn't really jumped quite yet, and I'm not a huge consumer of anything except food anyway.

On what Tinten said, I would say that if I were giving advice to the myself of 5 years ago, I would tell myself not to expect or hope for success on this caliber. For a long, long while I felt the need for a superhero story that hadn't yet been written. I wrote for six months with very low expectations, and then hit a major turning point in my life around the same time I got some good initial reviews (GSW's foremost among them) and around the time there was noise about the big Marvel movies getting made. It seemed like the time to capitalize and I did, so I threw myself wholly into the work.

That said, I suspect that Worm would have found some success even without the outside factors helping to feed enthusiasm and interest in superhero writing, by virtue of what it is and the effort that went into it, but perhaps not the huge success I've found thus far. Would I do what I did again, with no guarantee of the same success? Yes. Would it be fun? Not very.

I think the key thing is to keep that door open for success to find you, for a fan to be generous, for that one reader to find you. Having a button and/or a patreon page is one way to do that. Doing as much high-quality work as you're able to is another way to heave that door open as wide as possible and keep it open. That's just my feeling.

I consider writing a completely non-profit hobby. I could probably get a couple of dollars a month if I asked for donations, but I'd actually rather get people's happy reviews and comments. Being able to make a living off of it isn't even a idle daydream. Honestly, I think I'd find it stressful to have to produce a certain amount of writing on a strict schedule, and I'd probably lose the enjoyment I get from writing.

I'm really curious to see what I make by the end of the year. My Patreon isn't optimized, but based on a survey I did a few days ago, I don't think spending the time necessary to optimize my page would be a good use of time.

For me, most if my revenue will be from book sales.

Before I started posting chapters online, I did a lot of research on what several indie authors experienced while ramping up their careers. However, most of them seem to have gone all-out. They either focused on writing, living off of savings and/or going into debt, or they had a partner who could pay the bills while they chased their dream.

Most of the accounts I've read state that indie authors require 2-3 years minimum before they start making enough money that most average people could actually pay the bills with.

However, I have not seen many transparent accounts from people who do what I am doing, that is basically writing as a second, full time job.

It's too bad so many cultures frown upon disclosing income and successes. I would really like more data points so I could plan my targets better over the next 3 years. I'm writing serious because I enjoy it, but I'd also like to continue striving towards being rewarded for my time and sacrifices (like I'm sure many others would).

I've been blown away by how supporting all the established serial writers have been when I asked for advice. However, I can't bring myself to ask what to expect financially since this is considered so rude in most English speaking cultures.

As it sort of matters to Blaise's last comment.

Adam Ruins Everything did a bit on Wages and the stigma around making them publically known - at least here in the States.

That being said - a lot of it depends on genre, release rate of books, and so on. I personally could not survive on the book sales alone at this point. I could provide general figures for my book sales if people are super interested - but at the same time I have nothing else to compare it to myself except Bow - who's probably one of the more open people about what he's making. However it's two different fruit sellers in different seasons with different stands. Comparisons there are interesting but ...fruitless...*looks around*

For me writing is a 'second job' and part time for the wife who's editing - but we don't actually need to write to survive; so the imperative/drive isn't there aside from personal desire to complete the storyline.

If it's something you're super interested in let me know. I'll try to some highlights and a timeline together if people are interested. It might make my wife upset (She doesn't like advertising the dollar figures, and I wouldn't share with say, my father-in-law...) but I'm not super against sharing here if people want comparatives.

I consider writing my hobby too, and I don't need to make money to enjoy it. Heck, I probably already take it more seriously than I do my real job, lol. Still, if I *could* make money off of it, even if it's not enough to live off of, I wouldn't say no!

I read a lot of webcomics (that's actually what inspired me to start writing serials), and I see a lot of them hosting ads and advertising themselves with Project Wonderful. It's pretty much Ebay for advertisement space, as long as you're the highest bidder your ad stays on their page. I'm thinking about advertising with that, since I'll be able to pick and choose which pages I advertise on. Does anybody have any experience with them?

On a related note, the average book only sells about two thousand copies.

As for Project Wonderful? Mobile browsing and ad blockers have had a huge impact on it. Like, to the point of utterly obliterating it. I'm not exaggerating either: I used it seven years ago and tried again over these past six months - figures aren't even a tenth of what they were from 2009-11. In fact, it's had such a negative impact (as has social media in general) that it's killed off a lot of webcomics.

That's not to say that it doesn't get results, but it's not the goldmine (for both advertising and hosting adverts) it once was.

To be upfront, serials are awesome things, but in terms of direct revenue they're not a great income stream. Wildbow is in this, as most things serial-based, an exceptional outlier. Now indirectly is another matter, as the readership I built with Super Powereds gave me a huge leg-up when I hit the e-book market, but that's a different kettle of fish. Since you asked in the post, I couldn't live off my serial income, even after all these years of doing it. While writing is my full-time job, the lions share of bills are paid by my e-books. But to stay on topic, talking about serials specifically, there are a few incomes streams to look at:

1) Patreon- It's a good system, and a fair one, however for someone still starting out I wouldn't count on it for substantial money for a long while. From talking to other writers, the general sense I've gotten is that you see Patreon growth the more you've established a presence. Building the relationship with readers is key to them wanting to support you, after all. Plus, web-serials don't always last, we've seen more than a few stop suddenly, and the readers have probably seen even more. You generally need to show you're in for the long haul, laying a foundation of trust before seeing serious income flow there. It's a solid stream, just not a quick one.

2) Direct Donations- Like Wildbow mentioned before, many of us provide extra chapters in return for certain donation thresholds getting hit. The exact number and reward varies by site, but I do a Bonus Chapter of either serial when $100 goes in the respective fund. Here, unlike Patreon, you could see some earlier return. All you need is to have enough readers and content they want to see more of to get donations. Of course, growing your reader base is also a slow process, but I've seen some people get a surprisingly strong start before. For reference: the amount donated on my site varies wildly by what section of plot I'm in, but averaged out I probably do about one Bonus Chapter per month, so cost it at ~$100.

3) Ads- Project Wonderful was a big deal for a long while, but Dary's right that it started to decline a while back. I can't remember exactly how I did, but I think I made ~$90 over three months. Then I switched to Google Ads, and in the past year I've averaged ~$130 per month, so that's a huge bump overall. That said, I also released Super Powereds: Year 1 on Amazon and saw a large uptick in traffic during that time, so some of the discrepancy might be from the increase in traffic. Still, if you don't mind them Google Ads are pretty simple to set up and contribute a decent income as traffic increases.

You mentioned in the post that you have e-books on the market already. What one author to another sees from that is wildly different based on a ton of factors, but if you're looking to make this a full-time job that's not a bad path to pursue. Ultimately you'll usually be pulling from lots of smaller income sources rather than one central stream, as with a traditional job.