What Would It Take for Me To Want to Monetize My Blog?

Previously, I wrote on why I prefer not to monetize my blog for now. And I hold to that. I blog as a way to relax, to enjoy myself, and to connect with other book lovers. I don’t want blogging to become an actual job because then I would have to treat it like one, with all the stress that would come with it. However, I have watched the conversations book bloggers have had over the years about monetizing, and it has made me reflect on what might make monetizing worth it.

Book bloggers often seem to conceive of monetizing as an easy way to earn passive income. But, from what I have seen, monetizing is not so straightforward. The majority of book bloggers who have tried to monetize–from affiliate links, bookish gift shops, paid content, etc.–generally do not share their annual income. Those who have shared seem not to be making all that much. So, the question for me becomes, how much money would a blog have to generate for it to make up for all the time and effort spent in attempting to monetize it?

Because there’s the key problem: monetizing a blog is not necessarily a source of passive income. Passive income, in the colloquial sense, is money earned by a person with little or no effort. One might think of a book written years before, which still generates royalties. Or a rental property one has invested in that leads to a monthly check. For a blog, one might conceive of doing minimal effort like setting up some affiliate links or formatting a post, and then watching the money roll in. But if I were to monetize my blog, I would want to know. How much time and effort am I actually putting in to format and write and link and schedule everything? Because we bloggers know that even a bit of copying and pasting and formatting of images can take a good deal of time, in the end, and that is before adding in work like a social media component. Is the hourly wage I would be making comparable to what I could be making if I were just to go out and get a part-time job?

The current minimum wage in the United States is a paltry $7.25 an hour, and it might seem easy to make that much from an hour’s worth of work on the blog. However, I would want to calculate out the actual time spent on the blog over the year, and my annual income that resulted from the blog, to make sure that I am actually working for a fair rate. But then I would also consider that many states have much higher minimum wages, perhaps up to $15, and that even employers in states that follow the national minimum might be offering more than $7.25. If I could make anywhere from $9.50 to $15 an hour working a part-time job, instead of spending time blogging for less money, I would start to wonder if I shouldn’t just go out and go a part-time job instead.

I also would consider that income from blogging is taxable, once a person starts making above a certain amount. Income from self-employment or freelancing is generally taxed at a higher rate than income earned working for an employer, to make up for the taxes that an employer would usually take out automatically and to account for the taxes the employer would pay. I would want to determine whether the money made after taxes is more or comparable to the money I could make working for someone else.

Of course, I suspect that many bloggers are not particularly interested in breaking down their annual income in the way I am. Some bloggers may simply want to make a bit of extra “beer money” and may not care about the hourly rate their blog income would equate to. Some bloggers might be happy working more hours for less money, if they do not have to report to a boss in return. Some bloggers may not want to get a part-time job and are just hoping for any extra income they can get. However, for my part, I believe that my time is equal to or even more valuable than the money I could earn blogging. And it would bother me if I thought that I was working long hours for little in return.

Right now, I am not convinced that monetizing my blog would enable me to earn a fair hourly rage. And I certainly do not think I could do as I am now and make some easy passive income. To convince people that my content is worth paying for, I would have to put in a lot more time and effort into making the blog look professional, changing the content, improving the social media marketing, and more. To me, it’s not worth it. I would not make enough money to compensate for it all. So I am content for the moment to continue blogging as a hobby, because it is something I enjoy and not because I am hoping for money in return.

What do you think? How much would you have to earn to think that monetizing your blog was worth it?

24 thoughts on “What Would It Take for Me To Want to Monetize My Blog?

  1. Books Teacup and Reviews says:

    I’m in dilemma when it comes to monetizing. I agree with you monetizing is not as easy as we hear and it doesn’t get much money even through affiliate links. I don’t get any ad pays as I have to either switch to business plan (which cost more than I can earn) or self host my blog (and I’m not sure which self hosting site I should go for being an Indian, as I don’t want to pay in dollars or Euro which is again more costly with all conversation charges). I do want to earn a bit if possible so I’m looking for options and may go for self hosted site in future.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      This is one of my thoughts, as well. I think Krysta (hence the post) is a bit *more* opposed to monetizing than I am, but I overall agree the time spent trying to monetize wouldn’t be worth, particularly because you have to start out by paying for a blogging plan or self-hosting, and as far as I can tell, most people don’t even earn enough to reimburse themselves for that, so you’re losing money rather than gaining it at that point (unless you just like paying for self-hosting as part of your hobby, in which sense it’s not a “loss”).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. vandana says:

    It’s absolutely unfair that book bloggers don’t make money. We put in so much effort and time into this. For those who do this as a hobby, it’s fine but for those whom writing is a passion and genuinely want to achieve more than just a “blogger” status it’s so demotivating. I really wish the book blogger community would come up with some sort of a way to monetise our blog successfully. Thank you for writing about this!

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, book bloggers would really hard! I do think it’s a shame we don’t draw the same numbers as BookTubers, for example, seem to get. I really enjoy reading book blogs!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. vandana says:

    Also my biggest question is how to drive traffic! While I love the WordPress book blogger community I would like to get a bigger audience. Who don’t necessarily blog but do check out bookish posts.. oh well 🤷🏻‍♀️

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I’ve thought about this a lot, too, and I think those views for us mainly come from search engine hits and Pinterest. The only issues are 1) a lot of those people look at one page and leave, so they’re not really converted into readers of the blog and 2) different content does well with them, compared to book bloggers. So while book bloggers tend to like discussion posts, for instance, someone on Pinterest might be, say, a librarian or teacher and more interested in something like a list of 10 picture books featuring dinosaurs because they want to do a dinosaur story time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Krysta says:

        I also think there’s a hidden downside to more traffic. When we started getting more search engine and Pinterest hits, we started getting more mean comments because they weren’t coming from our regular readers and other book bloggers, who tend to be very nice!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Siena says:

    This is an interesting discussion, I personally don’t care about monetizing my blog for now, but I have read a lot of posts of people who want to. Monetizing a blog seems rather difficult and over complicated, as you show in the post. I honestly don’t think it’s worth it, I doubt a blogger would be able to make much money.

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    • Krysta says:

      It seems to me that the dream is always to make money doing exactly what you are doing now, but the problem is it doesn’t tend to work that way. Kind of like if you start a Patreon, to get money you can’t just say, here’s my blog give me money please. You have to start writing additional exclusive content for each tier and so on. It turns out being more work in the end, to convince people it’s worth paying for.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. RAnn says:

    I’ve been a book blogger for almost 15 years. Before Amazon and my state got in a tiff about sales taxes I was an Amazon affilliate and made a few dollars a year from that. Since my state and Amazon have made up, I haven’t been able to regain my affilliate status because I don’t sell enough. I’ve quit trying. I put up adsense ads. rannthisthat.blogspot.com

    A few years ago I started a financial planning blog to track my efforts to invest my inheritance racingtowardretirement.blogspot.com/ and “met” bloggers who were really in it for the money, and some who shared, to some extent, what they did. They learned to write SEO copy. They researched key words and angled to get at the top of google listings. They pinned . They sought sponsorships and ads. I tried some of that, and used adsense. That blog was active for 3.5 years and during that time I wrote a couple of sponsored posts and made a few dollars on affilliate links (earned a free share of snapchat stock, then worth about $5, now worth over $50 among other things). I learned a little about SEO writing and learned to do my own graphics, of a sort, but the botttom line was that I never saw enough readership that I felt comfortable saying I’d make money if I just moved to self-hosting, or learned to do x,y,or z better and I had figured that those who made real money blogging worked at it–they didn’t crank out blog posts at midnight when they couldn’t sleep.

    A couple of years ago I revived another old blog I started, for Girl Scout leaders. I promote my posts on facebook groups for GS leaders and I pin them and I actually have readers, so I make $5-10 per month on adsense ads.

    In short, I’ve decided that for me, blogging is a hobby that enriches other hobbies–reading and GS. I do the easy things to “monetize” like Adsense and if you want to sponsor a post, I’ll be glad to consider it, but the bottom line is that I don’t want to work at blogging and to make real money, that’s what you have to do. Otherwise, you have a hobby that may support another hobby.

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    • Krysta says:

      That’s very true! I read a book last year about an Instagrammer explaining how to make it big and get companies to pay you and she basically said she works seven days a week, she has to have a professional photographer take her photos, she has to travel to exotic locales to get amazing photos, and so on. She interviewed a few other women who have sponsorships and they said the same thing. They work all day, every day. If they have kids, they have to stay up into the night. People imagine blogging for money is an easy way to get passive income, but there’s so much content and competition out there, and you really have to work hard to convince people that you’re worth investing in.

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  6. Mel says:

    I have started offering paid services in my media kit for my blog. I mainly started it because I hoped I’d get a little extra income now and then, but also started doing it assuming that I wouldn’t be making over the threshold of income that would then be taxed. I also have a full time job as a librarian though, so I do have other income that means monetizing my blog isn’t really a necessity. I also decided to monetize after one of the most recent discussions of book bloggers being valued less as influencers on book Twitter, because I want to encourage book community stakeholders to see us as valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Krysta says:

      I definitely support book bloggers being seen as valuable! We do a lot of hard work and it takes time and skill! I know we don’t have the audience that BookTube does, for example, but I think book bloggers deserve respect all the same!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Never Not Reading says:

    The only reason I could conceive of to monetize (and even then, it’s a HUGE stretch of my imagination) is if I started paying the $2.99 a month or $5.99 or whatever it is for the fancy version of WordPress. I would hope to make enough to cover that expense and break even. But … I use the free version for a reason …

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      That’s what I keep thinking about, as well! To even start to make money, you have to spend money– at minimum with a WordPress plan. And then, of course, a lot of serious bloggers pay for Canva Pro and Tailwind and email newsletter services and who knows what else. But book blogging seems to be such a non-lucrative niche that the chances of even covering the costs of just the WordPress plan seem slim.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Never Not Reading says:

        Yeah, I think book blogging that is especially true. As you said, we’re so niche. Nobody is really reading what we write except for other book bloggers. This isn’t 2003, blogs aren’t like, POPULAR. Now, if I was on BookTube, I might feel differently!

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  8. christine @ ladygetslit says:

    Krysta, I really appreciate your perspective on this topic. While I’m a small blogger (if I can even be considered a blogger for popping on here every once in a while and sharing some thoughts), I tend to agree with your perspective. I think we would all like to make money doing something we already love doing… but the reality is always more complicated. I think if I were paid to blog, I’d end up treating it like a job, and it would suck some of the joy out of it. Hell, I already schedule in time to blog hop and do social media, and I barely have an readers of my blog at this point. For me, I think the only “payment” I would want to receive out of blogging is simply access to ARCs and NetGalley. For me, purchasing books can be expensive, so the opportunity to read books for free is honestly huge. I know that’s pretty taken for granted by a lot of book bloggers, but like I said, I’m still really small so I have a different perspective.

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    • Krysta says:

      Yes, it does seem like it’s getting harder and harder to get even access to ARCs these days! Everything is going digital to start, which bothers bloggers who prefer the physical books. And I can’t even get approved for most books and I consider my blog to have above-average stats in terms of followers and daily views. So I just wait for copies at the library–something that hasn’t been easy during the pandemic. I’m waiting for books that I put on hold in June. They haven’t even been processed yet.

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    • Briana | Pages Unbound says:

      I wonder if a lot of book bloggers just don’t follow bloggers in other niches who blog to make money and talk specifically about how they do it? The ones I’ve seen put a lot of hours into it and take (and pay for) courses on everything from SEO to keyword research to using Pinterest and other social media. They pay for Canva Pro and their blog host and a bunch of other tools. Some pay professional photographers to take their photos. And they write posts about what they think people want to read, not what they want to write.

      There just seems to be this idea in book blogging that you can slap some affiliate links on a post or put a notice on your blog saying you now charge for author interviews and the money will start coming in, and that’s really unlikely. And it’s cool if some people are happy to NOT do that because they don’t mind getting $10/year as their “income” instead of a larger number, but personally I don’t think it’s worth my time to sign up for these programs and put links all over my blog just to get enough money to pay a single cheap paperback. If I wanted $10 I could probably go find someone who needed a babysitter for an hour or something. :p

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      • Krysta says:

        I also think that we have to remember that book blogs are a different thing from more popular platforms like food blogs or travel blogs. One food blogger I saw said she was getting something like 6 million views I think maybe per month? Whatever it was, it was huge. Book bloggers don’t draw numbers like that and so when you read a successful food blogger who seems to be making major money with their affiliate links, you can’t automatically assume that success will transfer to book blogging. We haven’t seen six million visits total in ten years of blogging!

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  9. RAnn says:

    As you have noted, few people get rich as bloggers. I’ve been blogging about books for over ten years and monetize via Adsense which you can’t use as a wordpress.com blogger and via affilliate links, which doesn’t work very well. I had financial planning blog for a couple of years and the affilliate links paid better, but I still didn’t make much. I did get paid to write a couple of sponsored posts. Now I have one about being a Girl Scout leader, which I promote via Facebook groups. I get about 200 hits per day and earn about $100 a year. Its not much, and isn’t why I write. I guess what I’m saying is that you can approach the blog like a business and steer everything toward making money, or you can choose not to monetize at all, or you can choose to to the easy stuff and make a few dollars and that’s the choice I’ve made (and the ARCs are nice too)

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    • Krysta says:

      Yeah, that’s a really good point. I think if you want to make a lot of money you have to really commit, but if you’re okay just making a little bit of extra cash, you can plan accordingly.

      Like

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