How I Make Money Blogging and Self-Publishing Books
I started my ‘make money online’ journey about ten years ago. As you will read, it was an adventure that was started on accident.
I make money blogging through advertising and affiliate income. However, I make more money through my self-published books. Combined they are a very respectable, mostly passive income stream for me.
Below I will share what I did, and the lessons I have learned along the way.
While in college, I was very active in my fraternity. I was the president of my fraternity and I was the president of the university’s interfraternity council. I was my University’s Greek Man of the Year and my Fraternity’s National Man of the Year.
It was always a dream of mine to write a book. I was deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2005 while in the Air Force. The only topic I was really qualified to write about was fraternity leadership, so I spent my down time that summer writing about that.
After my deployment I returned to the US, and put my project on the back-burner.
Shortly after I had a chance encounter with a college kid who was in my fraternity at another school. This kid’s parents lived in my neighborhood. He came over and we spent a couple of hours talking about fraternity stuff. He remarked that I should write a book…
That is when my online journey started. I hooked up with a local web guy and started thefraternityadvisor.com. Traffic grew quickly.
I was making around a hundred bucks a month with Google Adsense revenue. I loved the idea of doing the work once, and getting paid for it forever.
I met with my web guy again, and he was stunned at the traffic I was generating. He said that I need to figure out other ways to monetize the site. He recommended I write an E-book.
I did some research, and discovered that it was easy to self-publish a book on Amazon’s self-publishing platform. Essentially, I upload the art and manuscript, and they print on demand. We share a 50/50 cut of the sale. I buckled down for a few weeks and wrote The Fraternity Leader.
The Fraternity Leader hasn’t made me a fortune, but has made me at least couple of hundred bucks a month for a decade now. The high point was when TotalFratMove.com came out with their book, and my book was linked to theirs as a recommended suggestion. Their book was debauchery disguised as comedy, and mine was a how-to leadership book, but Amazon didn’t realize the difference for a few months. My sales went from the hundreds to the thousands.
I was very active with the site, and built a strong following with my email list.
One day, I emailed my list asking them what are the most challenging situations a fraternity or sorority president could face? They sent me back hundreds of responses. I took the best of those responses and made my second book – The Chapter President. While this one hasn’t been as successful as The Fraternity Leader, it still earns around a hundred bucks every month.
In addition to those revenue streams, there have been a lot of random ones as a result of this site. One guy paid me for leads on starting new chapters for his fraternity which was on the brink of closing nationally. To this day I get one guy who emails me once or twice a quarter and pays me $100 to put a link to their website in one of my articles. I have had numerous speaking and advertising opportunities.
When I started the site, there really wasn’t any competition in the space, so I wrote a ton of short articles. Google realized that my content was the best out there, and I ranked #1 in just about every fraternity related search term.
As I grew older, I grew tired of the topic. I went several years without updating the site. Despite my negligence, it still gets between 60k and 80k pageviews a month.
Looking back though, 80% of the content is pretty average. It didn’t matter a decade ago since I had no competition. Over the years lessor sites have been nibbling away at my traffic. I spent too much time when I started the site trying to game the system by trying the search optimization tricks of the day. I should have spent my time writing really great articles.
The key to getting search traffic is writing really good content. That is how every blogger should spend their time.
Recently I have been going back and rewriting articles. My plan is to rewrite one a week. I also plan on deleting on combining articles. The goal is to give the reader the best experience possible. If you do that, the search traffic will come.
For example – I recently rewrote the article: How to Throw a Fraternity Party. This is a very common search term that I should be dominating. In January of 2020, I only received 52 visitors on this term.
I completely understand why, the advice was very average. The picture on the top of the article was blurry. The content was short and incomplete. It was a pretty blah article…
So I spent some time and rewrote the article. The finished product is four pages long. It is the best I got. I plan on making this a pillar post. All the other articles that deal with fraternity parties are going to have a link to this one. This is where I want readers to go.
From there, I want the readers to trust my insight and purchase my books. At the bottom of the article I put a quick note in that if the reader likes this, then they should check out The Fraternity Leader. Hopefully that will drive more sales.
The other initiative I have is I plan on upgrading to a more premium ad network. Google Adsense is on the lower end of the pay scale for advertisers. With the amount of traffic I get, and the quality of products I have (my books are highly rated on Amazon), there is no reason that this site shouldn’t earn me four figures a month.
More importantly though, the future of thefraternityadvisor.com (TFA) is to feed into my other sites. This almost will serve as my advertising arm for my other sites, which will be much more lucrative long-term.
I am over 20 years out of college. I just don’t have as much interest about the fraternity topic as I did as a younger man. But I do love football, and I love a game of chance…
I’m an avid reader, and couldn’t find a good book on sports betting. There were plenty of books out there, but they all read like textbooks. They focused on the mathematics and analytics of sports betting. While those are important things, they were incredibly boring to read.
Having a bit of writing experience from TFA, and being a decent sports bettor, I decided I was going to write a book. I wrote Good Teams Win, Great Teams Cover – an Underdog’s Tale of Life, Gambling and Sharp Sports Betting.
The title of the book is a very common term in the sports betting world. However, I made sure the words “gambling” and “sports betting” were in the title so the Amazon search algorithms would find it.
The content of the book is very simple, and a recipe I plan on repeating with my future books. I tell a story, give a gambling lesson and then give examples of games where this lesson played out.
I attempted to tell stories that were entertaining. Many are about me trying to pick up a girl and failing miserably. Some are about great experiences I have had in my life. Again, I wanted the book to be fun.
I tie those stories to a gambling lesson in each chapter. Then I gave examples of the lesson. I repeated this about twenty times to create a twenty chapter book.
To launch the book, I told everyone I knew about it. I got them to all buy at the same time. This gave me a spike in the Amazon rankings and it snowballed from there.
I then built my site Fishyfive.com (F5). For the past few years, all the F5 site did was collect email addresses. During the football season, I email out the five games I am betting on for the weekand explain why. This is for fun and completely free.
The book has been a big success. I receive a lot of emails from readers telling me how much they love the book. I thank them because that means so much to me. When you write and share something that is very personal, it is very rewarding to get positive feedback.
Good Teams Win earns about four-figures for me a month. It obviously does better during the football season. There are many people (check the Amazon reviews) who say that my book is their favorite book. That is so awesome.
In addition to the book, I do have a store where I sell t-shirts. I had a bunch screen-printed and sold them. This was expensive because I had to buy the shirts up-front. It also was a pain in the butt to physically go to the post office to mail the shirts I sold. I then attempted to utilize my designs with a print on demand company. I am not as happy with that though. I plan on redoing my store for the 2020 football season. This hasn’t been too profitable for me yet.
I have plans for the future of the F5. Besides building out the store, I plan on writing a weekly article about the previous week’s games. I will focus on gambling insights and things that I think will play out in the future.
This isn’t a good strategy for search engine traffic, but hopefully will get people to the site to join my list, buy my book or buy a t-shirt.
I need to write another book on sports betting. It has been a great hobby of mine, and my timing couldn’t be better with how sports betting is becoming legal in most states. I also should look to find some advertising partnerships. Gambling ads are very lucrative.
PatHagerty.com (PH) is my newest site. I am into a lot of cool things, and this is where I will share thoughts and ideas on a myriad of topics.
I am successful in my corporate life, so I will write about business topics. I am currently section-hiking the Appalachian Trail with my son, so I will write about that. I have a passion for trying to turn one buck into two, so I will write articles like this one.
I’m also really into bourbon. Have been for years, and really know my stuff. I am about 80% complete on my bourbon book. It will be the exact same format as Good Team Win. I plan on releasing it around the start of football season.
Further, I’m the guy who likes to buy all kinds of cool shit. I plan on putting together a review section of all the stuff I buy. I believe this should be able to generate some affiliate income for me.
Once I get decent traffic to PatHagerty.com I will probably look to put up some ads. Hopefully this will be sooner than later with the other sites feeding into it. I plan on waiting until the site is a bit more mature before I really start promoting it.
Right now, my sites and books earn me a couple of thousand bucks a month. This isn’t bad, but I should be able to scale this pretty quickly as I have the right formula in place.
My first plan is to combine the traffic of the three sites. Right now, they are three stand-alone entities. Meaning that the readers of one of the sites has no idea about the other two sites. All of my sites are focused on guy stuff, and can play off each other nicely. This is a priority.
My second plan is to put a renewed focus on my email lists. I need to share all the stuff I’m doing. I have a strong email list for the F5, but have none for the other two sites. I killed my TFA list years ago. I need to build these out.
Third, I believe my review section of stuff I buy has a lot of potential. There is no reason why that can’t be on all three sites.
Fourth, I need to build out my store. I have a bunch of shirts I need to move. There is no reason why I can’t sell other items (I have a pretty cool fire starter product I should sell). This could be a valuable revenue stream.
Fifth, I need to figure out how to get onto a premier advertising network. Eyeballs equals dollars. With the traffic I have and the traffic I plan on getting, this should be another lucrative income stream.
Sixth, I need to write more books. I have the unique personality that I don’t do things on the surface level. For example, I took up camping in 2018. I never camped before in my life. In 2019, I decided I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail with my 9 year-old. That isn’t rational escalation into a hobby, but it is who I am and what makes me interesting.
Finally, nothing matters if I don’t create quality content. Quality always wins. My goal is to write the very best content I can, and hopefully my readers will find what I write to be useful.
For those of you who have followed the sites for a while or have purchased my books – thank you! I really appreciate your support.