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Get Paid to Read Books – 9 Ways That Actually Work

Get Paid to Read Books
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Reading is a great hobby. Books can teach us, transform us, make us laugh and transport us to other times and places.

And if you’re anything like me, you’re the type of person who always has a stack of books on your coffee table, your nightstand and every other flat surface in your home.

The only thing that would make reading a better hobby would be to get paid for doing it.

Well, it turns out there are a number of ways to do just that.

This post highlights nine legitimate ways to get paid for reading books, focusing exclusively on opportunities that pay actual money (not just free books or swag).

If you’re an avid reader, these are some of the best work-from-home opportunities you’ll find.

#1. Proofreading

Quick summary: A proofreader checks text for spelling, grammar and typographical errors. Proofreaders are vital because it’s difficult for writers to spot their own mistakes. When you read over your own work, it’s easy to overlook small mistakes because you’re laser-focused on improving the content. Plus, you’ve read the work so many times that your eyes start to gloss over the details. That’s why almost every book or article is reviewed by a proofreader prior to publication.

Skills and requirements: There are several software programs (like Grammarly) that can help catch mistakes, but they all use algorithms. As such, they only go so far and they’re no substitute for a human proofreader. Those with an English or literature degree will excel at this job, but anyone with a good eye for small errors that a regular reader wouldn’t notice — as well as a complete grasp of spelling, grammar and punctuation — can thrive in this field.

Earning potential: Thousands of authors self-publish books and sell them online (primarily via Amazon), and they often turn to freelance marketplaces like Fiverr and Upwork to hire a proofreader. This means there’s a lot of work available for aspiring proofreaders, and you can expect to make between $25 and $50 per hour — although you might have to start out with lower rates to gain experience and build a reputation

Getting started: To learn what skills you need and how to start a freelance proofreading career, check out Proofread Anywhere, which offers a free 76-minute workshop.

Further reading: Here’s a step-by-step guide for getting your first job on Upwork.

#2. Editing

Quick summary: Editing is distinct from proofreading, although some clients expect their proofreaders to edit and vice versa. Traditionally, proofreaders check for errors but don’t alter the structure of the text, whereas editors (sometimes called copyeditors) make revisions that improve the accuracy and readability of the content, focusing on things like sentence structure, tone and word choice — and sometimes even re-writing entire sections.

Skills and requirements: A good editor has a masterful command of the English language, including a large vocabulary and the ability to recognize where and what changes will make the text more accurate, more engaging, and easier to read. This includes identifying plot holes in fictional works (and either flagging or fixing them) and catching incorrect information in nonfiction writing.

Earning potential: Because editing is quite a bit more involved and skill-intensive than proofreading, there’s significantly more upside. If you have no experience, you’ll still start out at around $25 per hour. But as you build up your reputation, that can jump to as much as $100 an hour. Most top-tier editors work on fixed-price contracts, charging (for example) something along the lines of $3,000 to edit a 50,000-word manuscript.

Getting started: Just like proofreading, freelancing sites Fivver and Upwork have a lot of job postings for editors (all the way from beginners to experts). If you don’t have past editing experience, bid low on your first couple of proposals in order to gain experience and positive reviews from clients — both of which are prerequisites for landing better-paying jobs in the future.

Note: Sites like FlexJobs sometimes have listings from traditional publishing houses looking to hire remote editors for full-time positions, but the competition for those jobs is fierce and usually requires at least a few years of professional experience.

#3. Book Reviews

Quick summary: Thanks to all the self-published books flooding the market these days, book review companies and websites can’t afford to hire enough full-time staff to keep up. That means they hire freelancers to give honest reviews of new books. With hundreds of thousands of books being published each year, a book reviewer’s job is to help readers choose where their book reading time and money are best spent.

Skills and requirements: A good reviewer can quickly sum up the plot of a book without spoilers. They can also make a compelling argument as to why people should read the book (or why they should pass on it), without falling back too much on their own preferences and biases. Being familiar with literary criticism is helpful but not necessary, although you should spend some time reading an outlet like the New York Times Book Review to get a feel for the format.

Earning potential: While there are legitimate companies that will pay you to review books, the rate is usually low when calculated on a per-hour basis. If it takes three hours to write a review that you sell for $25, you’ve barely made minimum wage. However, the benefit for you is the chance to gain some experience and get a byline, which can boost your profile as a book reviewer and open up better paying opportunities (like writing for newspapers and magazines). These bylines can also be useful for establishing credibility if you decide to start your own book review blog (see #4, below).

Getting started: Here are a few outlets that pay cash for book reviews and are open to writers with little or no experience.

  • Book Browse: This is an online magazine that publishes reviews and news about the publishing industry. There are not a lot of opportunities, however, and the site provides only a byline and “modest” payment.
  • Booklist: This is a review journal for librarians. The work ranges from writing blog posts to full book reviews. The site pays between $12.50 and $15 per book review, which is low. That said, it’s a legit outlet and a good place to have a byline.
  • Kirkus Reviews: Kirkus Media encompasses a few different businesses, including Kirkus Reviews and Kirkus Indie. Kirkus Reviews is a magazine and website that publishes reviews across a variety of genres, on books both self-published and traditionally-published. Reviews are typically around 350 words.
  • Online Book Club: This review site gives you a free copy of the book you’re reviewing and pays for honest reviews. Reviewers earn between $5 and $60 per review. To apply, submit your information through the site.
  • Publishers Weekly: This is a mainstream magazine and website focused on the book publishing industry. It lists jobs for other companies on its job board, and sometimes review opportunities for itself. Since this is a widely-read and well-known publication, it can be a tough nut to crack for an unknown reviewer.
  • Reedsy Discovery: Reedsy is dedicated to reviewing self-published books. Authors can contact a book reviewer directly, and readers are paid via tips by readers who appreciated the review.
  • US Review of Books: This is a free monthly newsletter of book reviews covering both fiction and non-fiction. Submit a resume, writing sample, and two or more references. If you’re accepted, you can choose from a list of books to review that’s posted on the site. Books are assigned on a “first come, first served” and “best-fit basis.” Reviewers are paid each month for completed reviews from the previous month.

#4. Blogging

Quick summary: One of the best ways to make money as a book reviewer is by starting your own blog. This gives you total control over what genre and which books you cover, and allows you to build a following by establishing expertise within a particular niche. Authors and publishers are hungry for publicity, and you’ll find they’re eager to work with a reviewer who is well regarded among their target audience.

Skills and requirements: As with reviewing books for the sites listed above, it’s helpful if you have a general understanding of literary criticism. That doesn’t mean you need to know how to evaluate a novel through the prism of academic literary deconstruction, but you should have a solid grasp on what makes book reviews compelling and effective. Namely, you should be able to distill the essence of a book down into a few succinct paragraphs that make an argument about whether or not it’s worth reading.

The good news is that you don’t need much in the way of technical skills to create a blog, as sites like Bluehost make it easy for even the most tech-challenged bloggers to get and keep a site up-and-running.

Earning potential: Bloggers can make anywhere from nothing to a little extra cash to as much as six figures. Your earning potential depends on your skill, motivation and work ethic.

Getting started: It may seem obvious, but the key is to simply publish your first review. People worry too much about perfecting every detail of their blog before they launch, but the truth is that you don’t need a fancy design or a bunch of bells and whistles. Just focus on writing one great review that people will love and click “publish.” And then, prepare yourself for the fact that not too many people are going to read it, as it usually takes around nine months for a new blog to start seeing any meaningful amount of traffic.

Next steps: Learn how to set up a blog fast and cheap with Bluehost, and then read my detailed guide to making money as a blogger.

#5. YouTube

Quick summary: Many people prefer to watch (or listen to) book reviews, as opposed to reading them. The primary source they turn to is YouTube, which allows you to earn money from the ads that run alongside your videos.

Skills and requirements: Reviewers need to be able to engage their audience with not only words but also their personality, so it helps to have some charisma. And while you can do nothing more than talk into your phone’s camera and upload it, producing high-quality videos — which tend to perform better, as you might expect — requires more equipment, knowledge and time.

Earning potential: There are several ways to monetize a channel, including ads, affiliate marketing, paid reviews, Patreon, and “super chats” during live streams. How much you can earn varies too widely to predict here, but as with blogging it runs the gamut from pennies to millions.

Getting started: It really is as easy as talking into your phone and uploading it, but check out a few of the big reviewers — like PeruseProject, Hailey in Bookland and PolandBananasBooks — to see what successful channels look like.

#6. Narration

Quick summary: Not all authors narrate their own books. Some don’t want to, and some don’t have suitable voices. That’s where paid narrators come in — they get paid to read books aloud for audiobooks.

Skills and requirements: A good narrator needs more than a pleasant voice; they must be able to engage the listener, have a good sense of timing, and be able to use different voices or inflections for different characters.

Earning potential: Narrators can earn $100 per finished hour of narration. Of course, there will be additional time for every usable hour, so it doesn’t work out to $100 per 60 minutes of total reading.

Getting started: ACX is a platform owned by Amazon (which also owns Audible) that connects writers with narrators. You can create a profile and upload samples for those seeking voice actors. Payment is between you and the client, and you can choose to be paid per finished hour or to share royalties.

#7. Book Summaries

Quick summary: Book summaries are like Cliff Notes — very brief encapsulations of the most important takeaways. They aren’t really intended for those who read for pleasure. Rather, they’re for those who need to read on a specific topic to learn something for their personal lives or careers and want quick summaries that will help them choose the best book for their purposes.

Skills and requirements: It’s hard to give the gist of an entire book in just a few words (compared to the length of the book) so you have to be able to understand the essence and main points of the book when reading it, and then distill those down into digestible nuggets for quick consumption. It’s a little bit like writing book reviews, except that you’re providing a straightforward account of what’s contained in the book, rather than making a critical argument in favor of (or against) its merits.

Earning potential: Most of this work is on a freelance basis, so it varies widely.

Getting started: getAbstract has freelance opportunities; you can create a blog or YouTube channel doing summaries; or you can create and sell a course on Udemy (like the Top 10 Personal Finance Books of 2020) where you essentially “teach” the content of the books via video.

#8. Freelance Reading

Quick summary: You’ve heard of freelance writers, but maybe not freelance readers! Literary agents are overwhelmed with manuscripts from writers hoping to hire representation (which is usually the first step in selling a book to a traditional publisher). As a result, they sometimes hire freelance readers to go through the submissions and weed out the obvious rejections.

Skills and requirements: Readers must have an eye for talent and quickly be able to summarize in a memo the content of the manuscripts they read (and why the agent should or should not give the book their own time and attention).

Earning potential: Between $25 and $100 per book.

 

Getting started: Pitch to literary agents directly, or look on freelance sites like Upwork for opportunities. Jennifer Wright, who has experience working for literary agencies, wrote a great column on how to get into the field.

#9. Research

Quick summary: Research doesn’t usually involve reading books, per se, but it does involve a lot of reading! You’ll research a variety of topics for different kinds of clients, including authors who need research conducted in order to write their own books. If you establish a good relationship with them, you may be able to parlay this gig into a proofreading or editing role.

Skills and requirements: Anyone can Google, so you’ll need to be able to track down other, perhaps more obscure sources of information — and know how to fact check everything you find for accuracy.

Earning potential: It varies according to the complexity of the research and the turnaround time.

Getting started: Wonder is a company that hires researchers to dig into topics and answer questions for their clients. Apply online and, if you’re approved, you can browse opportunities in the dashboard, get an assignment, and submit your work. You can also find research work on freelancer sites like Upwork.

The Best Ways to Get Paid for Reading Books

Books are expensive — especially if you can’t bear to wait for the cheaper paperback version to come out, or if you refuse to embrace e-books (which are often the cheapest way to buy new titles). But if you can earn money by reading books (and sometimes get free books as part of the deal) your hobby will pay for itself.

If you’re looking at this more from a side hustle or career perspective, keep in mind that there are a limited number of full-time art criticism jobs (and the number has been declining for decades). Those jobs are super competitive and you’ll need real talent and experience to land them.

But there’s still a strong demand among book lovers for high-quality content, and that makes blogging and YouTube my choices for the best options over the long term.

Proofreading and editing can generate a solid and sustainable source of work-at-home income, but building your own brand allows you to focus on the projects you really care about. And it has the most upside, as your earning potential is only limited by your skill and motivation.

R.J. Weiss
R.J. Weiss is the founder and editor of The Ways To Wealth, a Certified Financial Planner™, husband and father of three. He's spent the last 10+ years writing about personal finance and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg, MSN Money, and other publications.

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