How to make a living as an author

A woman smiling at her laptop in a cafe, with a cup of coffee next to her.

By Allison Tait.

Authors can earn money from a diverse range of income streams. Check them out ….

Diverse income streams are key

So, where does the money come from? How can you make a living as an author?

If you’re an author, whether traditionally published, hybrid or indie published, investigate all of these options thoroughly to see what might be possible for you.

Advances and royalties

Core business for any author is the writing of books, and advances and royalties are the income derived directly from that core business. These advances and royalties may be produced by the original sale of a work, or by further sales into different publishing territories.

Lending rights

The Education Lending Rights (ELR) and Public Lending Rights (PLR) programs can make up a good portion of an author’s annual income. Under the Australian Lending Rights Schemes, Australian book publishers or creators – authors, illustrators, editors, translators and compilers – can be compensated for loss of income through the free multiple use of their work in Australian public and educational lending libraries. Find out more here.

Copyright payments

If you are the creator of a work and hold copyright for that work, you may be eligible for a payment if that work is reproduced. The Copyright Agency collects licence fees for uses of content that would otherwise require a copyright clearance from a rightsholder. Visit the Copyright Agency for more information and to register works.

Speaking and appearance fees

Children’s authors, in particular, can create a useful income stream through author visits to schools, but all authors should investigate the possibilities afforded by paid author talks and literary festival appearance. The Australian Society of Authors publishes guidelines for recommended rates of pay.

Freelance writing

Writing is a highly transferable skill and many authors supplement their fiction writing with features and content writing, as well as copywriting.


Once established, authors can be in hot demand to teach workshops, seminars and classes related to their craft. The amount of work involved in the creation of a course or workshop shouldn’t be underestimated, but, once completed, can provide an ongoing income stream.

Literary grants

Although highly competitive, literary grants can provide a welcome income buffer for successful applicants. This article by award-winning poet Melinda Smith for Arts Hub has some great tips for applying for funding.

Awards and prizes

Major awards and prizes can bring major financial benefit with them, but even smaller prizes can offer a bonus for your bottom line. We’re always updating our list of short story competitions so start there!

Why not consider opening up some income streams to make your dream life as an author even more viable?



Author bio

Author Allison Tait smilingAllison Tait is the author of three epic middle-grade adventure series for kids: The Mapmaker Chronicles, The Ateban Cipher and the Maven & Reeve Mysteries. A presenter at AWC and former co-host of the So You Want To Be A Writer podcast, Al is gearing up for a busy month of author talks as Book Week approaches. Find out more about her at

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