How to Earn a Healthy and Steady Income on the Side by Publishing Books

Summary: In this article, Susan Daffron explains how publishing books can be a great way to add a passive income stream to your business.

In my previous episodes here at the Academy, writing a book is a great way to boost your credibility and attract new clients. But there's another great reason to write a book that I didn't mention before: money.

Publishing books is a tried and true way to make money. No, it's not as glamorous as the latest software product or app, but people do still read books to be entertained or informed. Plus, having another source of income can be a great way to level out your cash flow in a business (freelancing) where work is often erratic and unpredictable.

That's what happened to my husband and me. Switching to book publishing helped us deal with the recession.

In fact, we planned for it!

Protecting Your Income from the Volatile Economy

About 4 years ago, our small two-person company offered only services (Web design, programming and graphic design). We realized that the idiocy in the real estate marketplace was going to cause a big problem down the road. As it turns out, we were right.

After living through the "dot bomb" recession of 2001, we knew that consulting is often the first thing to be cut when things fall apart.  So we opted to put a lot of our online content into book form. In fact, all of my 10 books are based on material from our blogs or other online content, such as articles, special reports, or autoresponders.

We have published 10 books and sell them through both online booksellers such as and our own Web sites. Over the years, books and various other products related to our content have netted us six figures.

And while that book income didn't all come at once, today it provides us with a consistent flow of income "“ a nice benefit, considering that surviving a multi-year recession is no mean feat for any small business.

NOT a Get-Rich-Quick Scheme

Having said that, book publishing is definitely not a get-rich-quick scheme. In fact, anyone promising that a book will make you a millionaire overnight is lying.

Most authors who make a lot of money use the book as a starting point to form a larger "platform." Generally, they think up a new concept like Ken Blanchard did for the One Minute Manager or Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield did with Chicken Soup for the Soul. Then they take that idea and run with it.

In Blanchard's case, he came out with more One Minute books, audios, speaking tours. And of course, the Chicken Soup folks leveraged that brand into everything from speaking tours, seminars and all the way to dog food
So now you might be wondering exactly how we published our books. As noted, we're a small company, so I wanted to figure out the most profitable and least expensive way to publish books.

I researched the publishing process and opted to do true self-publishing by:

  • Establishing an independent press
  • Purchasing our own ISBNs (a ten-digit number assigned to every book before publication, recording such details as language, provenance, and publisher)
  • Printing "on-demand" through a company called Lightning Source.

Here's a quick summary of the publishing process we use:

Eliminate the Middleman

If you decide you want to self-publish and do a Google search on the term "self publishing," you'll immediately see ads for companies like Xlibris, iUniverse, and Outskirts Press. The problem with these companies is that they act as a "middleman" between you and the real print-on-demand printer they are using.

The printer they use is Lightning Source (LSI), which as I mentioned, is the printer I use. What I figured out and what often trips up a lot of aspiring publishers is that it's far better to go directly to LSI than to work with companies like iUniverse.

In the book-publishing world, companies like iUniverse are referred to as "subsidy" or "vanity" presses. Virtually every person in book publishing recommends you avoid them (including me). The reason is that subsidy presses mark up their printing costs and then pay you only a percentage of sales (called "royalties").

Subsidies also often have complicated contracts and keep rights to artwork you paid them to produce. Most people regret going with a subsidy once they discover the alternatives.

To make the most profit on your books, YOU need to be the publisher of record. To do that, you buy your own ISBN block from Bowker ( Owning your own ISBN makes it possible for you to go to the printer directly and get the same distribution the subsidies offer.

Armed with your ISBN, if you need help, you can hire freelancers to help you lay out your book. Or if you're a graphic artist, you can read the specs and do it yourself. Hiring a freelancer to lay out your book usually costs less than the "packages" subsidy presses offer. Plus, you get to retain all your rights to the art.

Printing Your Books

Once you have your print-ready PDF, you can then go to Lightning Source yourself to get the book printed. Another good option is CreateSpace (, which is owned by If you opt for CreateSpace, again, you'll want to use your own ISBN and provide your own art (don't go for one of their "package deals.") You'll also want to sign up for the Pro Plan to get the best price on your printing.

The reason I use LSI instead of Create Space is that you get better distribution for less money on online bookselling sites. However, Lightning Source has higher setup fees than CreateSpace and doesn't have forums you can turn to for community support like Create Space does. If you only plan to release one book and aren't worried about distributing books anywhere other than, Create Space is a good option. (By the way, as of this writing, Amazon seems to be playing games with LSI inventory, so I'm actually putting one of my books into CreateSpace as an experiment).

Publishing books can be a great way to add a passive income stream to your business. But just like any new business venture, a little knowledge can save you a lot of money. So take the time to research your options and pick the ones that are best aligned with your needs and goals.


Susan Daffron Susan Daffron, aka The Book Consultant ( owns a book and software publishing company. She spends most of her time writing, laying out books in InDesign, or taking her four dogs out for romps in the forest. She also is the Fearless leader of the Book Authors Circle ( mastermind group, a community of creative authors striving to publish and market quality books. You can read Susan's detailed book publishing process in her award-winning book, Publishize: How to Quickly and Affordably Self-Publish a Book That Promotes Your Expertise (