Can I Make Money off My Non-Fiction Book?

non-fiction HORSE TRAINERA reader sent in this question: I saw the blog about Page publishing, I’m thinking about writing educational equine books (as I broke my foot and can no longer train horses I would like to write about it) but wondering if there is any money in writing? It sounded from the blog that you need thousands of dollars to get published and that there is no profit in writing. I’m wondering if it is realistic to expect a profit?”

Dear Horse Trainer,

I’ve only written one non-fiction book (plenty of fiction), and here’s my take on making a profit in writing: not right away. In order to write a successful book on horse training, first you have to give a whole lot.


Yes, you can spend a lot of money having your book professionally published for you. You’ll never make it back. Promotion? You can pour thousands into having a professional do your promotions. You will never make it back.

Don’t waste a lot of money on publishing and promoting the book. It won’t work. Indies Unlimited has 289 posts on self-publishing. Read a few of them; it’s an education.

Give, Give, Give

To sell a non-fiction book, you need a reputation. You must have an online presence. A platform. You need a website, a blog, and a mailing list. You have to read everyone else’s books, websites, and blogs, to discover what all of them are already saying and to find that special niche where you fit in, providing what no one else does. Then you have to blog: regularly, intelligently, and topically.

You have to make contacts in the industry, and guest post on other people’s blogs. You have to invite people to post on your blog. Consider reviewing other books on your topic, but not in a competitive way. Don’t make enemies; make contacts.

Give Some More

But the main thing you have to do is give. Everyone who makes money by writing on the Internet gives a whole lot of free information every time they post. They put up videos demonstrating the techniques they are speaking of. They develop a reputation as a knowledgeable source.

Consider it priming the pump. Once you have a huge mailing list, a big online presence, and a backlist of blog posts as long as your arm, then perhaps you will have learned enough to promote your book. You will probably have learned enough that you want to rewrite it first.

The Result You Didn’t Expect

And by that time, you will have discovered whether you really want to be a writer. If you truly do have something to offer, other avenues of interest will have opened up to you. One of those interests may even be making you money. I know someone who started our writing fiction and then discovered he had a talent promoting other people’s work. Away he went on a new career in the business. And he still writes fiction.

The whole process will probably switch around. You started out doing all this other stuff in order to sell your book, but in the end the book will become a means to market your other ventures. You will have developed a new niche in the world of horse training or some related subject. You will have learned all sorts of interesting things you didn’t even know you wanted to learn, and will have the self-satisfaction of a job well done and a reputation well earned.

But writing a book to make money? Forget it.

Author: Gordon Long

Gordon A. Long is a writer, editor, publisher, playwright, director and teacher. 
Learn more about Gordon and his writing from his blog and his Author Central page.

6 thoughts on “Can I Make Money off My Non-Fiction Book?”

  1. This is oh so true. I’ve written a short novella “The very Worst Riding School in the World” which is free to download. It won’t make me any money, and I’m no expert on horses, but it makes people laugh, possibly the best reward an author can have. I use it as a free magnet for my other books.
    Sorry Gordon, not really advertising and I only mentioned it because there are a limited number of books out there about horses 🙂 Do delete this if you feel it is inappropriate.

  2. I give workshops on self-publishing several times a year, and almost every time one or two students will bring up this issue of writing a book and becoming rich. I always tell them there are zillions of easier ways to make money–like digging ditches. Writing is NOT the easiest way to make money. Want a million bucks? Buy a lottery ticket.

  3. Good morning. Well, I have to agree and disagree. Yes, you need to give a lot, a hell of a lot. You have to build a brand as an author. BUT you can make money off your non-fiction books – I make a consistent paycheck off mine every month. It requires work, dedication, and, most of all, you CANNOT have the attitude that it’s not going to work, that you can’t make money at it, and that it’s just a “hobby”. If you have that attitude, of course your non-fiction won’t sell.

    1. Can’t argue with that. Fact is, there are people like you. That’s who the article is about. Those who are willing to give their all often succeed.
      But for most of us, it just doesn’t happen, and that’s why the warning. Go into this sort of thing with your eyes open and your heart pumped.

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