Business Models For Fiction Authors | Thriving Scribes

Business Models For Indie Authors

Welcome back to the 4-part series on crafting your indie author business plan. In the last post, we discussed the key components of your business foundation. If you haven't read part one or part two of this series yet, I recommend you do that first. Today, we are going to dive deep into different business models indie authors can have - which is an important piece of your business plan in general.

A Quick Note Before Diving In

There are so many different business models that an author of any genre could adopt. So for simplicity's sake, I'll be focusing on business models for fiction authors. That's not to say that non-fiction authors won't benefit from this post or can't also incorporate these models into their business, because they definitely could (and quite successfully)! However even though there are some definite overlaps, fiction and non-fiction-based businesses are two separate machines and require a different approach to business models. For this reason, I've written this post with fiction author business models in mind.

Also, keep in mind that as an author you don't have to stick to just one of these models. You can absolutely blend together different ones to form your ideal business model. Many authors have done this as an amazing way to create different streams of income. You know what they say - don't put all of your eggs in one basket. However, it's important to pace yourself and not bite off more than you can chew especially when you are first starting out. I'll touch a bit more on this point at the end of this post.

Ready? Let's dive in!

12 Business Models For Authors

Model 1 - Strictly Books, Single Platform

Sticking strictly to book sales is one of the most common business models for authors, by far. Many of us get into this business because of our passion for writing and storytelling and so this business model feels the most natural progression from that.

When I say "single platform publishing" what I'm referring to is choosing a singular avenue of publishing and selling books. The most popular choice for this strategy is, of course, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP. When you choose to stay Amazon Exclusive you get added perks and opportunities for marketing and selling through their platform. This is a common choice for authors who publish a high volume of genre fiction. On the other hand, many authors find staying Amazon Exclusive to be limited. 

That's not to say that you can't have diversity in the format of your book - ebook, paperback, hardback, audiobooks, and boxsets are all ways to diversify your product range. It's all about finding what's right for you and your desires for your author business.

Real Life Example:

A steamy romance author publishes her ebook and paperback through Amazon KDP's services and enrolls her ebook into the Kindle Unlimited program.

Model 2 - Strictly Books, Wide For The WIN

As with the first model, this is when an author sticks strickly to publishing books. Only, in this case, they publish on more than one platform.

When you opt for the "wide-publishing" model, you aren't limiting your sales to one store. Typically, an author will submit their books to be published on two or more of the following platforms:

There are more, of course. But these are the most popular platforms.

Real Life Example:

An urban fantasy author uses Draft2Digital to publish their ebook to multiple online shops.

Model 3 - Books + Merchandise

Moving on from strictly selling books, the second most common business model for fiction authors is adding in merch. This can be brand merch or book-specific  merch that is geared toward super fans and supporters.

Custom merchandise is not only a great way to serve an existing audience base but also a way to get your brand and work out there. These products can be sold on the author's website or a third-party shop like Etsy.

Real Life Example:

A children's book author has a merch-package custom designed to include a coloring book, t-shirt, and main character plushy.

Model 4 - Books + Screenwriting

It's the dream of many writers to see their stories on the big screen and with the increase of book-to-movie or book-to-tv show adaptions happening in recent years, this business model can be exciting and lucrative. Make no mistake, writing books and writing screenplays are two entirely different beasts and learning both worlds is a must.

But after your books have been adapted, you could work on selling the screenplay or even try your hand out on directing an indie film.

Real Life Example:

A contemporary romance author adapts her novel series into a screenplay and sells the rights to a movie production company.

Model 5 - Books + Speaking

In this model book income is supplemented by speaking or events. School visits, libraries, art centers, conventions, or other venue-based gigs are common for in-person events but this can also translate into the online world as well. Authors can take part in interviews, speeches, virtual readings, or even hosting a web-series or podcast of their own and building an audience within a topic relating to your genre / expertise.

Real Life Example:

A crime-thriller author gives a high school class lecture on forensic science and crime-solving.

Model 6 - Books + Membership / Subscription

There are quite a few different ways to utilize a membership or subscription model as an author for bringing recurring revenue into your business while building a tight-knit community at the same time.

Here are some of the ways I've seen fiction authors utilize this model:

  • Early access / bonus content subscription. Subscribers will get early access to pre-released chapters or bonus content. (A fun perk to this is that your subscribers can basically function like beta readers).
  • Topic-related membership. If you write about a specific theme /  topic, you can build a membership or support community around it.
  • Patron subscription. In return for a small monthly contribution, readers get access to bonus content, extras, or a level of contact with the author (think Q+As). Perhaps through a service like Patreon.
Real Life Example:

An author writes a children's book about a child with a deployed parent and offers a membership for families with a deployed or enlisted member.

Model 7 - Books + Service Provider

This model may be thriving in the non-fiction spectrum, but it can also work for fiction authors. As authors, we naturally build on our skills when it comes to product development, book marketing, etc.

Some authors may offer services like editing, blurb writing, plot consulting, social media marketing, ad management, formating, or more for other authors. Not only is this an amazing way to serve our community, but it can also open up another stream of income for you.

*This is a model in which you'd perhaps have two separate audiences - readers and authors.

Real Life Example:

An author with an overflowing amount of ideas creates and sells custom and premade book and series concepts for other authors.

Model 8 - Books + Affiliate Marketing

Under this model, authors supplement their book income by recommending products or services to other authors. This is best done when the author is recommending products and services to their readership that they have personally used and believe in and is directly linked to the topic, theme, or world in which the author writes.

Affiliate products are promoted via content marketing in blog posts, social media, email marketing, videos, and podcasts.

Real Life Example:

A rom-com author with curvy heroines promotes brands who cater to mid and plus-sized fashion.

Model 9 - Books + Infopreneur

Selling information (AKA teaching) is another business model idea for authors depending on the subject matter of their books. You could create workshops, courses, or digital products teaching a specific topic.

Some authors sell information to other authors. For example, holding workshops on developing writing skills or teaching book marketing.

*This is a model in which you'd perhaps have two seperate audiences - readers and authors.

Real Life Example:

An author who writes about modern-day witches creates a tarot reading for beginners course.

Model 10 - Micro-Fiction

If you have a passion for fiction types outside of the normal novel, this business model could be for you.  These authors write alternative bite-sized fiction like short stories and poems. Publication could happen online, in newspapers, or even magazines.

Real Life Example:

A horror author writes spooky shorts and publishes them in a horror magazine.

Model 11 - Serializer

Serial fiction has been around for centuries - before television and radio shows adopted this strategy as their own. Luckily for authors who enjoy writing serialized fiction, there are more ways than ever before to publish and get paid for your work online and via popular serial apps. Popular choices are:

  • Kindle Vella (upcoming)
  • Radish
  • Wattpad
Real Life Example:

A romantic fantasy author writes a serial and publishes it on Kindle Vella.

Model 12 - Author - Influencer

If an author builds a nice-sized platform, they may begin attracting the eye of certain brands who want to sponsor an aspect of an author’s work or content in exchange for exposure to the author’s fans.

Real Life Example:

An authortuber's Youtube video is sponsored by a related brand.

How do I know which business model to choose?

All options are valid. The trick is picking a monetization method that

1) you enjoy delivering

2) your ideal readers will get value from.

Finding that intersection is the most important part of monetizing your creativity. Basically, for a business model to “fit” what you want to create, it’s got to fit you, your audience, and your big picture vision for your brand. 

To find your business model, consider the following:

  • Who's my author business role model? Who do I look up to?
  • How are other authors monetizing their work?
  • How will I test my ideas and communicate it's value to my audience?

Once you've found the intersection of what you love to offer AND what your audience will love, you now get to test it out, and validate your ideas. You may think you love offering a certain type of product or service, but you won't know for sure until you try it out and see.

What if I want to combine these business models and do more than one?

As your business grows, it's natural to want to expand your business model in order to get the best results. If you’re already mastering one model, go ahead and add another to the mix and see how it feels/works. If you’re a brand new author, start with one focus so you can gain traction (and dollars and fans) right away.

When it comes to business models, what should I really pay attention to?

Testing and tweaking. Make the right choice for your life right now, and build as you go. Bottom line here: building a successful, sustainable business that truly makes an impact on your and your reader's lives? It takes time and strategy, but you can get there much faster if you use a solid business model. Any and all of these models can be extremely effective when you put in the time and effort, so pick the right one for you.

What business model do you have as author (or desire)? Tell me in the comments below.

How to create an author business plan?

Whew! I know this was a lot of information and your head is probably spinning right now but if you've made it this far - congrats! Thanks for sticking with me and if you want to grab this indie author business plan template, sign up below and I'll send it over.👇


Next up in this series on indie author business plans, we’ll be covering the final consideration when it comes to author business plans - release strategies. You’ll find the links to the other posts in this series below once they release.

Part 1 - The 3 Pieces To An Author's Business Plan

Part 2 - The Key Components of Your Indie Author Business Foundation

Part 3 - Business Models For Indie Authors

Part 4 - Indie Author Release Strategies (Coming Soon)

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Business Models For Fiction Authors
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