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These 3 Women Turned Their Passion for Books Into Cash — and You Can, Too


From selling ‘book purses’ to hosting author events to posting book reviews, these women turned their passion for books into businesses. Learn their secrets so you can start earning too!

Karen Higham
Stewart Cohen

“I used to homeschool my kids at a time when people were throwing away books after reading them. I knew there had to be a way to repurpose all the books we acquired. I then read an art project book about ways to use recycled books, which included turning a book into a purse. And I thought, I could do that but make real purses that women could use.

“I found handles and buttons on Etsy and at local craft-supply stores. I sourced the books from Amazon and Barnes & Noble, where I have a corporate account and get a teacher’s discount. After some experimentation, my final product had a handle, a snap and elastic closure and a fashionable button. I started by selling the purses at festivals, fairs and craft shows, and in 2008, I signed up for an Etsy account, purchased a $25 light box to take photos of the purses and created the listings for my shop, Novel Creations (

“I make the purses by hand — I’ve made over 18,000! I offer customization with favorite books, different handles and buttons and removable chain holders. I’ve even had publishers order them for their authors. The purses cost between $48 and $65. Last year I made $85,000 — money that pays the bills.” – Karen Higham, 53, Prairie, TX

Susan McBeth
Stewart Cohen

“While working for a bookstore handling marketing and events, I met Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun (Buy on Amazon, $10.94), at one of our book signings and mentioned how I would love to visit Tuscany and hang out with her. To my surprise, she said she would love that. I told my friends, and before I knew it, 10 people wanted to join me. I contacted another author in Tuscany who organized a tour, private wine tasting, dinners and events with other authors while we were there. I realized these kinds of events are a unique way to connect readers with authors, so in 2011, I launched Adventures by the Book (

“I didn’t spend any money getting my business off the ground. My son made a basic website, my husband created a logo and I took a few local business classes. At first, I contacted authors I knew, but as word spread, I got requests from authors, publishers and publicists. We work with authors who are on book tours as well as companies who host events for their employees. Some authors are shy and don’t like speaking in front of large groups, so we help them design small, intimate events at a private lounge area, for example. Now the events are virtual, and we recently created an engaging experience with a virtual murder-mystery event. In-person events have a fee, but for virtual events, readers only pay for the book and I make a commission on the sales.

“I also started Novel Network ( where book clubs can connect with authors via virtual or live visits. I make a full-time income — money goes back into the business and allows me to travel.” – Susan McBeth, 62, San Diego

Kristin Beall
Stewart Cohen

“I’m an avid reader, and books have always been such an important part of my life. About three years ago, I started a YouTube channel out of curiosity and didn’t do anything with it. Then last year, when I had more time on my hands, I started watching videos about how to grow a YouTube channel! I decided to start posting videos with reviews of the books I was reading on my channel (

“I purchased an affordable ring light and mic and started recording the videos using my iPhone. I then edit them on iMovie. I add music that I find from free stock music sites, and sometimes musicians allow me to use their music for free in exchange for giving them credit. I also learned how to create a thumbnail image using Canva, a free graphic design tool.

“I post three times a week and review the books I read. My favorite genres are nonfiction, fiction, classics, and young adult, but sometimes authors send me books and I post honest reviews about them too. I’ve met a lot of other ‘book tubers,’ and we’ve done ‘book buddy reads’ and live chats on YouTube. I started monetizing my channel in September — YouTube places ads on my videos — and right now I’m making about $100 a month, money that allows me to purchase new books and clothes!” – Kristin Beall, 51, Winchester, VA

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for Women.

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