The 18 best ways to make money by reading, from submitting book reviews for cash to narrating audiobooks
- Zulie Rane earns six figures as a freelance content creator.
- She always wanted to earn money from reading books, but said the best way to do that doesn't exist.
When I was younger, it was always my dream to become a professional reader. I wanted my entire day job to be reading books, thinking critically about what was good, what was bad, and what I would change, and then sharing my thoughts with other people. I really expected this to be a full-time job.
Unfortunately, there's no book-reading degree. You can't get a nine-to-five job as a professional book reader. (At least not yet.) But it is possible to make money by reading books online and offline. I've got 18 ways listed right here. Some of these are pretty typical, and some of these are a little more unconventional, but all of these will result in you earning money from reading books.
I've separated these into four different categories of ways to make money from reading books: social media, jobs, review sites, and others.
Make money reading books for social media
One of the most standard and fun ways to make money by reading books is to create a social media profile where you gain a reputation for reading books, having interesting thoughts, and influencing others to read or not read particular books.
All you need to get started is a way to post. You don't even need to buy books at first – use a library card or a Hoopla account to read books for free.
Here are a few of the best ways to make money by reading books using social media.
1. Post your video thoughts on BookTok (and BookTube, and BookStagram)
TikTok gets a bad rap, but it's actually boosting literacy rates in America. I personally have read plenty of BookTok books that I loved, including The Hating Game, anything by Emily Henry, and The Song of Achilles, to name a few.
The good news is that BookTok is one of the best ways to make money by reading books.
Here's how it works. This process is similar to any of the video-format book reviews.
First, create an account. Make it clear that it's about book reviews. Explain what genre of books you like.
Then, start reviewing books. This requires a bit of thought - how can you make your videos stand out? How can you gain a reputation as a thoughtful, trustworthy Bookfluencer?
After that, join the creator fund whenever you're eligible. In 2021, Cait Jacobs went on the record to state that TikTok's creator fund only nets you 2 to 4 cents per 1,000 views, so you'd need between 25,000 to 50,000 views to earn just a dollar.
However, sponsorships are also a lucrative and potential source of income.
Create the video once, then cross-post it on all three video channels to get the most bang for your buck. It may take some time, but you can earn money by reading books this way.
2. Write your review on a blog to earn money by reading books
What better way to make money by reading than penning an homage to the book with the written word? Blogs are a great way to make money by reading books. It's a less demanding schedule than video content, so you can post once or twice a week as you read and review books, and slowly gain an audience that way.
Whack ads on that bad boy and you're good to go. It may take a while to start gaining traction, but if you truly love books, you're reading them anyway, just post your reviews on your own website instead of (or in addition to) Goodreads.
3. Post about books on Medium
Medium has a royalty payment scheme. The way it works is when a paying Medium member reads your post, you earn a small portion of their monthly membership fee. More views = more money.
Post your book reviews on a publication like Books Are Our Superpower and make money by reading books that way.
This is a really great way to do it because it's simple. You don't need to do any SEO to get money from ad views. You don't even need to host your own website. Just post your thoughts, get 100 followers, and start making money by reading books and posting your thoughts.
4. Podcast it, baby
Podcasts work similarly to BookTok or Bookstagram to make money by reading books, except instead of recording both voice and face, it's just your voice.
Grab a cohost or DIY. Share your latest thoughts on the books you read. Earn money through sponsorships.
Right now, most podcasts don't earn money through anything by ads, but if your podcast grows bigger, you can leverage your audience to get Patreon support, sell bonus content, or get some kind of exclusive deal with a podcasting company.
5. Use affiliate links
Affiliate links kind of pervade all these methods, but they're big enough that I'm giving them their own category as one of the best ways to make money by reading books.
Here's how you can make money reading books by using affiliate links.
First, join an affiliate program like Bookshop.org (my personal fave).
Then, read a book.
Find the book on Bookshop.org.
Make a recommendation to a friend, on your blog, podcast, social media post, or newsletter.
When someone buys that book thanks to your recommendation, you earn 10% of the sale.
That's it! It's highly scalable – you can make a few bucks right away with just a single sale, and then as your platform grows, you'll earn more and more.
Freelance or jobs
What if you don't want to get a whole new social media profile? What if you want to be paid today, not in three months when the first ad revenue trickles in, or your first sponsor comes through?
Consider a career pivot or a side hustle. Freelance gigs or actual jobs are some of the best ways to make money by reading books. Pros: money right away. Cons: not as much control over the books you read.
Here are your options. I've included both full-time, 9-5 career options as well as more casual pay-as-you-go gigs to make money by reading books.
6. Narrate audiobooks
Who amongst us has never heard the dulcet tones of an audiobook reader? Nobody. (My personal fave? Moira Quirk's rendition of Gideon the Ninth.)
The good news is that if you're in possession of a dulcet tone of your own, you are in high demand as an audiobook narrator. You can make money reading books aloud. Fun fact: Audiobooks are becoming more and more popular. Over the last 10 years, the proportion of U.S. adults who have read an audiobook has doubled. No wonder you can get paid to read books for Audible.
Here are two programs where you can upload a few samples, get contracts, and get paid for reading books (or narrating them).
Findaway Voices is a similar program. The rates are similar. You can sign up, upload samples, and get picked based on your accent or liveliness. One thing I prefer about Findaway Voices versus ACX is that FV helps authors get books into libraries. Not only do I love libraries, but this also helps you get extra money.
I recommend you do both.
7. Indulge your grammar nerd and become an editor
This is both a career option and a freelance option. Depending on how much education you have, you can either apply for full-time editing jobs or just post your gig on a platform like Upwork or Fiverr.
(I've talked about whether Fiverr is good for beginners here if you want to read more.)
Editing can be both grammatical pickups, but also more structural or developmental editing. This is a great way to get paid to read books because it'll actually strengthen your craft, too.
8. Become a literary agent
This is a career option. It's a very romantic way to make money by reading books if you ask me. It's your job to pick out the finest, overlooked manuscripts, read them, and make them shine. Behind every single one of your favorite books is a literary agent who believed in it long before you did.
If you don't have the right qualifications, I recommend you start with an internship. Start networking heavily, because your job is knowing the right people. Understand the publishing process inside and out. Then get paid for reading books, even if they're unpublished.
TCK Publishing has a good guide on how to get started.
9. Translate books
Know more than one language? Amazing news – you can get paid to read books in English, Spanish, or any other language and translating them. I love reading books in Spanish, German, and English, so I'm very grateful to the translators who help share works in other languages with me.
This can be a career or just a gig, depending on your passion for the job.
10. Proofread books
This can be a full-time career, but more commonly it's a side hustle. I think it's one of the best ways to make money reading books because, by the time a proofreader comes aboard, the book is typically more polished and ready for publishing. Editors have to deal with the raw material, but proofreaders are just looking for small errors.
You need a critical eye and an active grammar checker in your head at all times, but it's possible to make money reading books this way.
11. Design book covers
This one's a curveball! Do you have good design instincts? Maybe you're even a graphic designer? Then this is one of the best ways to make money by reading books for you.
You'll get to read books, think about how you'd convey the main vibe, design a book cover, and get paid.
You can go in both directions here – either go freelance or apply for in-house jobs as a book cover designer. Either will result in a great way to make money by reading books.
Again, this is later on in the process so you'll get to read an almost ready-for-publish book. I also consider this to be a big deal for the author. Your cover will be one of the most influential factors in the book's success.
Onto method three: submitting reviews for cash. This is probably the simplest method since it involves just three steps: you read a book, you pen your thoughts, and you submit to one of the five platforms I'm about to suggest to you. Boom, you've made money by reading books. This is probably the fastest way to get paid $200 to read books.
You probably already know typical places like Kirkus Reviews pay for reading books, so here are five more unheard-of five platforms I think are best to make money by reading books.
Can you write 150 to 175 words about why you liked or didn't like a book? You need to be able to describe the plot and suggest an ideal audience. If so, Booklist may be for you. Here are some examples.
These pay $15 each. You don't need a library degree, just a familiarity with books and libraries to apply.
13. The US Review of Books
This is more of a freelance position that you can tackle later on in your career as a paid book reader. You'll need to contact the editor with a resume, sample work, and at least two professional references.
They ask that your review be 250-300 words long, with a summary as well as additional insights from the book. Check out examples here. The reviews are paid, but they don't say exactly how much.
Reedsy operates a little differently. Rather than paying you for reviews, you get paid for reading books when you earn a tip. Basically, you write a review, post it on the site, and wait. If a reader loves your review, they may tip you $1, $3, or $5.
Bookbrowse is another great place to submit reviews. They promise a "modest payment," and normally assign one review per month to their reviewers. They also ask that you come armed to your application having read some sample reviews and with a few quality samples of at least 300 words yourself.
16. Online Book Club
For your first review, you won't actually earn any cash – you'll just be sent a free book. Not so bad, right?
But after your first sample book, you'll be eligible for paid book review opportunities. You can earn anywhere between $5 to $60 per book review.
You don't have to apply – just enter your email address and sign up. I was able to sign up and nab a free book within about a minute. After that, you have to confirm the download within an hour and submit a review within 14 days.
Miscellaneous ways of making money by reading books
These two are still great, but they didn't fit neatly into the other categories of the best ways to make money by reading books. Hence, they get their own category.
17. Create a paid book club
For this one, you just need friends (or a social circle). Pick a book, create some buzz, request a small payment for organizing, and set up a book club.
I pay $5/month for membership to my local book club, and I consider it money well spent. Once a month, I get an evening with pals, talking about a book. I didn't have to organize it at all. The organizer, Alice, earns between $25-75 a month depending on how many folks come.
This won't make you rich, but it is a great way to make money reading books because you'll get to read books you actually love and are excited to read. Plus, you get to hang out with friends.
18. Join apps that pay you to read
Booksta claims to let you "get paid to read." Sounds promising! This was the only "read and earn money" app I could find.
The way it works is you read a book, take a quiz on Booksta, and then earn Booksta coins based on your score.
Booksta coins are valued at $5/coin. There's some confusion on the site about whether the coin is actually transferable to real USD, or whether it's simply a guess for what that coin will be worth once it's all "on a Blockchain platform as a currency."
I'm leery whenever I see the word "Blockchain," but don't let my suspicions hold you back!
The best way to make money by reading books doesn't exist yet
In my dreams, there is a future utopia. In that future, I read the books I want comfortably, and earn a living wage by doing so. However, we are not yet in that utopia. Today, the main best ways to make money by reading books are:
Posting content on social media
Getting freelance gigs editing, designing, or proofreading
Submitting reviews to paid platforms
A few other rogue options like starting a paid book club or trying out novelty apps
Maybe one day my utopia will exist. Until then, I hope this article helps you find the best ways to make money by reading books.
Zulie Rane is a freelance content creator who writes and blogs.
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