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How to Build Passive Income by Writing: List of Main Streams

8 minute read

You can build a stable passive income by writing. It takes some work and dedication but with a diverse backlog of different products, it’s an achievable goal. 

As an indie writer, you likely have a day job or a side hustle to earn a living. In this case, a passive income can be a real-life-saver that will allow you to write more or simply relax and enjoy life. 

In this article, we’ll give you a list of streams that can help self-published authors build passive income. 

Income Stream Ideas for a Writer’s Passive Income

  1. Join affiliate programs
  2. Try passive income platforms for writers
  3. Edit/Ghostwrite for a profit cut
  4. Write eBooks for a niche
  5. Sell different formats of books
  6. Try serialized storytelling platforms
  7. Partner with an artist to create a visual novel for smartphones

How to build passive income as a writer?

Income Stream Ideas for a Writer’s Passive Income 

Passive income for writers can be a life-saver. It grants a feeling of safety, which lowers mundane anxieties and allows one to create freely.

But, you may feel as if achieving some degree of financial independence is a far-fetched dream only a lucky few writers achieve. Fortunately, today, you have many tools, platforms, and opportunities that can help you along the way. 

So, don’t lose the spirit: you’re more likely to build a stable passive income as a writer in the 2020s than at any time before. Besides, luck loves persistence and rewards stubborn ones. 

Without further ado: here are a few streams of profit for a writer’s passive income. 

Affiliate programs

If you’re an indie author with a following and a developed platform, we suggest trying affiliate programs for passive income. 

An affiliate program is when you partner with companies or other authors to help them find new clients for a profit cut. 

For example, you can use your website to promote a service in return for a fee for each customer. Or, you can use your social media to promote a book of the author who works with affiliates for a pay cut of the sale. 

Here are a few companies that offer affiliate partnerships: 


Grammarly is an online grammar-checking tool with an attractive affiliate proposition. You’ll get $20 for every premium subscription and $0.20 for every free registration. Besides, the service offers cash bonuses, increased payouts, and discounts for top performers. 


ProWritingAid positions itself as a “grammar checker, style editor, and writing mentor.” Its affiliate program includes a $20/sale base commission, $0.20/lead base commission. Besides, they claim to track new users for up to 30 days, which means you’ll receive your commission even if your leads go for a free trial before subscription. 


Novlr is a writing software with many features that makes it easier for authors to create and keep all their writing safe and tidy. Its affiliate program pays “$15 for any user signing up to Novlr once they’ve been a paying user for three months or if they sign up to an annual membership.”


Masterclass is a popular streaming platform that provides online lessons. Masterclass affiliate program offers a 25% commission on your sales. 

Overall, there are a lot of affiliate programs in the online world. Just dig around, and you’ll find the one that suits you best. Who knows, maybe your favorite service has an affiliate program as well. 

Try passive income platforms for writers 

Building passive income writing a book may be tough. But, you’re not limited to books alone on your quest for financial independence. 

Have you heard about services like Shutterstock or RedBubble? They are marketplaces where photographers or designers can sell their works be it photos, posters, shirt designs, etc. 

And, do you know there are services similar to RedBubble but for writers? You can use them to create a backlog of short pieces, which will help you generate passive income by writing.

Here are a few examples of such passive income platforms for writers: 

  1. Constant Content, Crowd Content, Dot Writer, Content Gather — sell small to big SEO-friendly articles on any relevant topics;  
  2. HubPages — Get paid based on your article views. 

If you have free time and an itch to write some short articles, transform this desire into your future passive income. 

Edit/Ghostwrite for a profit cut 

You already know that you can edit or ghostwrite for a fixed fee, but it won’t help you build a passive income by writing.

Instead, you can try lowering the fee significantly or ditch it completely in favor of future profit cuts. For example, you can edit 20 manuscripts for a future 20% of sales. If each book sells at least 20 copies for $2.99 in a month, you’ll make $239. 

If you decide to ghostwrite, you can set an even higher commission. If you want to earn a passive income as a ghostwriter, we suggest looking for clients in a niche you’ve already written for. You can try finding clients among business people and entrepreneurs who’d like to create a book to boost their brand or business but don’t have time for it.

A few successful entrepreneurs for your ghostwriting gig can boost your passive income by writing a book significantly. 

Write eBooks for a niche

You can write a breathtaking romance page-turner that won’t sell that well. And you can write a short sudoku guide with interesting insights and anecdotes in your free time, and it will sell like hotcakes. 

In other words, writing books for narrow niches with a devoted following can help build passive income for writers.   

So, if you’re an author who likes experimenting and trying new things, we highly recommend you to find a niche community and write a book for it. The “nicher” the better. Besides, it can be a nice focus shift that will help you recharge your creative batteries.

Think about your hobbies and interests. Likely, there’s something you pay attention to, but other people may find it somewhat obscure. Maybe, you’re really into crocheting and mindfulness. You can write an eBook that teaches how to combine crocheting and mindfulness for a more harmonious life.

Or, let’s assume you like reading about UFOs conspiracies and browsing amateur UAP videos to help find casual explanations to seemingly extraordinary sightings. In this case, you can write an ebook TOP 15 UFOs Videos with Mundane Explanations: How People See What They Want. Then, sell it for $1.99 and market it on relevant platforms. 

And, if you need an effective book cover design on a budget to accompany your book, we’ve got you covered

Sell different formats of books 

One of the golden rules of earning passive income as a writer is diversifying your sources of profits. The same goes for books you want to sell: The more different formats you offer, the wider audience you target. 

You can sell 

  • eBooks
  • paperbacks
  • hardcovers
  • audiobooks
  • boxsets with discounts
  • premium editions of the popular books with extra features (leatherbound, with illustrations, author commentary, etc).

Each format has its audience and plays to the different strengths of the author. 

If you have the opportunity to invest in different products, don’t waste such a chance. Besides, you don’t need a lot of investments to diversify your products. 

  • You can use Ingramspark’s print-on-demand for hardback and paperback copies. 
  • You can contact an aspiring voice actor or a freelancer to record an audiobook. You can also do it yourself. You just need a decent microphone and invest some time to learn the basics of DAW (digital audio workstation) and how to treat voice in the recording. For example, Reaper is a good free DAW, and there’s plenty of lessons on YouTube. 

Remember, diversity is key. 

Try serialized storytelling platforms

Services like Radish or a fresh Kindle Vella can help you monetize your serial fiction skills and build passive income by writing. These platforms work best for Romance, YA, and SF&F. 

It’s simple: you write fiction divided into episodes that readers should pay for to unlock. You get a small payment for each reader.

You may not find much success with traditional writing while serialized storytelling can help you generate passive income from your stories. If you feel like you can create a captivating episodic, reading experience, why not give Kindle Vella or Radish a try?  

Partner with an artist to create a visual novel for smartphones 

Videogames are where the money’s at. Visual novels for smartphones are a niche subset of the market, which still generates millions in profits

Visual novels are illustrated interactive stories with branching narratives, which often revolve around character relations. The path of the story is decided by dialogue options and players’ choices during key in-story events. 

A few well-crafted visual novels on Play Market or App Store can help you build a decent passive income by writing. 

What do you say? You don’t know how to create games? That’s not an issue. 

Visual novels are mostly writing and illustration-intensive projects. What you need is 

  • Write branching interactive narratives
  • Transform them into apps for Android or iOS; (there are plenty of tutorials, just Google “How to Create Visual Novels for X and get flooded with options”);
  • Team up with an illustrator who’s hungry for some passive income as well (or commission illustrations).

You can even adapt some of your manuscripts for the visual novel formats/interactive stories.

How to build passive income as a writer?

If you want to build a passive income as a writer, you need a backlist of products or promote the products of other authors/companies. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can go about the task. 

You can try 

  • affiliate programs, 
  • ghostwriting or editing for a sales cut, 
  • writing for episodic storytelling platforms, 
  • diversifying your products, 
  • creating visual novels,
  • trying passive income platforms.

Find what suits your interests best and get at it.   

And if you need a gorgeous book cover or marketing materials to help your works shine and sell better, we can help you


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