How do I make money off reading?
October 3, 2008 10:30 AM   Subscribe

How can I earn income off my reading habit/hobby?

My biggest hobby by far is reading. I generally go through 3-4 books a week mainly fiction, but non-fiction is duly represented, and have been doing so for the past 25 years. Needless to say I've read a ton of books over the years.

More than likely due to the fact that I've started working as a lawyer and life is now ruled by the billable hour, lately I've been wondering if there's any way to make any money off this investment of time. I'm just looking for ideas from the hive mind, about who or what might pay for me to read something and possibly comment about it. I do have some letters to put behind my name, JD, MBA, and I'm a fairly decent writer.

My initial thoughts were to possibly write reviews and attempt to have them published. I realize this isn't something I could jump into, so I thought about building a website/blog and posting reviews for a year or so until I have a decent body of work to be used as a sample. Sure there is a pipe dream that maybe the website might generate a few measly bucks in income if I can get to a critical mass but more than likely it would just serve as a portfolio down the line.

The other thought I had was editing/reviewing or being a test reader for a publisher. I know nothing about this though, I just figure that such positions have to exist. If they do, how would I go about getting involved.

Anyways any and all ideas and comments are welcome, fire away.
posted by sorindome to Work & Money (13 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
It isn't a lot of money, but you could contact that ALA and see about being a reader for Booklist. From what I recall (I knew a guy who worked there), you'd read pre-publication books (so they'll have some typos and parts that will be edited and will look kind of raw) and then write up a short (a couple paragraph) summary of the book. Maybe there is some opinion there too, but I think it is mostly: This book is about XXX and covers YYY, the author has published such and such other books on related subjects.

You'd then submit it to book list. For every summary they publish, you'd get some small-ish fee. I want to say 10-15 bucks per review.
posted by Wink Ricketts at 10:36 AM on October 3, 2008

Answering as a proofreader who is also a compulsive pleasure-reader: Editing is not necessarily the way to go unless you are something of a masochist. If you already seem to have some aptitude for picking out errors, though, you might find someone who needs proofreading work done. The drawback is that you don't get to pick what you are reading, and it can be tedious and . . . well, it's work.

Wink Ricketts's answer seems like something to look into, for sure.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:12 AM on October 3, 2008

It's hard to think of a means to make money from reading, if you come up with something let me know. I'll be a millionaire in no time.

You apparently gave some thought to writing, which is the first thing I thought as well. Depending on your talents you may be able to invert your avid love of reading and try authoring. If I were to make a go of that I'd start with personal writing and what not, as in just writing short stories and the like for myself (I do this already) then progress into blogging (I do this too). If you can manage to blog for a good while on your own, whether you have readers or not you may find you hone both your ability and desire to try your hand at freelance writing for profit. Write some letters to the editor of you local paper, find some gigs writing freelance for smaller magazines. Work up from there.

Again I realize all this has to do with writing, not reading... but as I can't come up with much in that exact area. Maybe proofreading manuscripts? Somehow that doesn't sound fulfilling but that's just me I guess and to each his own.

Hope this helped somehow.
posted by datter at 11:12 AM on October 3, 2008

Some publishers and agencies do hire "freelance readers." What they do is read unsolicited manuscripts and recommend whether the editor/agent should reject or take a closer look at each one. The reading itself would be less pleasurable than reading books of your choosing that are or will be published, overall. But if you like the evaluating thing, it could be pleasurable in its own, different way.

I imagine the pay varies quite a bit, and I don't think I've ever seen this work listed anywhere. Honestly I think this work is mostly thrown to people's friends, fellow book-business people looking for extra cash. So if you know anyone in publishing, ask around. If you don't, I'm not entirely sure how to find out about it, but there's probably a way.
posted by lampoil at 11:21 AM on October 3, 2008

In Hollywood, you hear about people who read scripts and film treatments for a living. In reality, yes, they read, but their real job is then writing summary reports for film producers and directors, who don't have the time for this reading.
posted by Rash at 11:33 AM on October 3, 2008

How about being a sort of freelance Executive Reading Service? Or even working for them as a contractor? There are loads of books, especially business books, that people want to read, but don't have time to read. And really they usually don't care about all the details, filler, and fluff - they just want to know the main theory/gist of it and the key takeaways and maybe a key anecdote that illustrates the principle. You could do that for people and charge them for it. I think this could apply to most nonfiction, not just business books, but that would be a good market.

I was just hearing last night about Robert Baer's new one on Iran, The Devil We Know. Given his experience in the region, I'm interested enough to want to know what his basic conclusions are for how to engage with Iran and the region, but realistically I know I wouldn't spare the time given all the other things I want to read and the limited amount of time I have to read. Somebody just give me the overview, please. Same for lots of books, whole categories of them. If it's fiction, I either want to read the story or not, and wouldn't be interested in a summary.
posted by Askr at 11:37 AM on October 3, 2008

  • Write reviews, post them on your website/blog, have google ads, include Amazon Affiliate links for people to buy the books.
  • See if your local newspaper would pay you to write reviews even if it's only a couple of dollars.

  • posted by blue_beetle at 12:15 PM on October 3, 2008

    You won´t make any money, but you could volunteer to record yourself reading outloud for the blind.

    Volunteering has been shown to make people happier, and you will be healthier and less stressed if you are happier, right? Thus, you can generate more billable hours.

    I think there are also a few programs where you spend an hour a week reading to underprivileged children.

    If proofreading is more your style, do proofreading for legal journals and publications.
    posted by yohko at 1:01 PM on October 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

    This is a longshot but in college, I once interviewed for a job reading to a blind attorney. It didn't pay well but it could be right up your alley.
    posted by notjustfoxybrown at 3:48 PM on October 3, 2008

    Reviewing fiction generally is low low pay, but focussing on specific non-fiction genres or specialty research areas can pay a little bit better. I had a friend who was a post-grad who made a little bit reading military strategy/history. I don't think any of this work is billable hourly, but rather by deliverables.
    posted by BrotherCaine at 4:54 PM on October 3, 2008

    Publishers Weekly is often looking for reviewers for its website as well.
    posted by kickerofelves at 7:58 PM on October 3, 2008

    Just a few things about reading for the blind. It's a nice volunteering endeavor. I did it for a little while. Just remember the following things:

    1. There's a very particular process involved in reading for the blind. Words are said a certain ways, sometimes things are spelled out, figures (illustrations) need to be described in detail. In other words, there is some training involved.

    2. Where I was (in Boston), they had enough readers. Everyone wanted to read and, well, there just wasn't enough time in the day and enough recording resources for that. So, I did a lot more editing than anything else. Interesting stuff, to me, but you may not care for it. (Some of it was digital, some was analog, but this was ... about 8 years ago.)

    3. While reading, you're much more focused on pronunciation, grammar, pauses, and descriptions than the content. You may only have a dim idea what you're reading about. This kills any joy out of reading.

    4. Only the ones with lots of experience had the luxury of picking subjects or books. You just might wind up mostly with books on subjects that you don't care about.

    5. One person rarely finishes a book from beginning to end. Since this a volunteer effort, they can't always count on one person. So, different readers will read different chapters. This also allows for quick turnaround. It may mean you'll happen on a book you'll like, read the introduction to tape, then never see it again.

    It's a rewarding opportunity. I found it fun. Just consider those things!


    posted by tcv at 7:59 PM on October 3, 2008

    Here's a link explaining Adsense by Google. I know some people (work at home mom types) that say they make money on their specialty sites/blogs that way.

    Also, you could create a webpage on something you are interested in and is remotely related to books, then when you post your reviews on all these different sites, link back to your webpage. That way, the webpage doesn't have to be book reviews, but the book reviews can refer back to it. (I.e., if you read books on medieval warfare, link to your site selling replicas of weaponry or D&D games, whatever, by way of affiliate programs.)
    posted by letahl at 9:18 PM on October 3, 2008

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