How to Turn Hard Facts into Cold Hard Cash

facts checkmark illustration designOftentimes we use sayings without really knowing their true meaning or origin. We think nothing of it, because such sayings are usually so commonplace that other people implicitly seem to understand the meaning.

Take the saying ‘cash on the nail’ for instance. We somehow intuit that this means, ‘to be paid up front, without delay’… but what does the saying really mean?

One definition (disputed by some) is that the saying relates back to when deals were sealed on bronze pillars, called nails. These are to be seen outside the Corn Exchange in Bristol and the Stock Exchanges in Limerick and Liverpool.

Can such detailed – and some would say irrelevant – factual knowledge be of use to us today, or is it simply the preserve of academics?

Well, here’s a personal fact of my own: I went to school with Stephen Fry – actor, but also well-known host of the fact-filled programme QI. And it would seem that that Mr Fry has benefited from his extremely wide factual knowledge… so what about the rest of us?

Last Saturday afternoon, whilst I was driving around some of my buying haunts, I was listening to Dermott O’Leary’s programme on Radio Two. I especially like his show as he features live music sessions and interviews with up-and-coming bands.

This week he featured a more unusual group of guests on his show – the ‘QI Elves.’ This rather young and enthusiastic group of people appear to be the driving force behind the TV series QI. And it was their ability to impress John Lloyd, the producer of the show, with unusual oddball facts, which landed them this unusual job in the first place.

Now, this kind of employment might not be your cup of tea, but to me it seems quite an interesting way to earn a crust. Granted, they are just a few individuals, and we can’t all be QI elves…so how else can we turn hard facts into cash?

The website ‘Money Magpie’ suggests a few options, under their heading ‘How to make money being a researcher’.

Apparently writers, film and TV producers (just like QI) are always looking for people to undertake fact-finding on their behalf. An enquiring mind and the ability to undertake research on the Internet are two attributes which will help you on your way.

You can advertise your services on:

Another way to capitalise on a love of quirky facts would be to create a series of short ebooks and publish them on a digital platform such as Kindle.

These days you see ‘lists’ everywhere. They are popular as they represent a short-hand form of reading and a fast way to assimilate information. Many people are put off writing and publishing on Kindle, simply because the whole process seems too complicated and lengthy. But if you put together a fact-based list of interesting nuggets of information as an ebook, then suddenly this all seems very do-able.

To make a fact-based ebook really shine I would recommend the following:

  • Have an interesting theme, rather than a jumbled assortment of ill-connected facts.
  • Embellish each fact with a back-story, to interpret and give more substance to each point. This also helps to bulk out the whole manuscript – bear in mind that Kindle requires a minimum of 2,500 words for non-children’s books.
  • Illustrate each point with a really good image to help bring the facts to life. Remember to only use stock images for which you have acquired the rights to use, or images clearly marked as ‘free to use’ from the public domain.

Here’s a QI type fact, mentioned on last Saturday’s programme: ‘In 1895, the only two cars in Ohio crashed into each other.’

…And another, which I spotted in a pet health brochure: ‘A group of kittens is called a kindle of kittens.’

Until next week,


‘The facts ma’am… just stick to the facts.’ – quoted by Sgt. Joe Friday, a character from the American detective TV drama Dragnet in the early 1960s.


Add yours
  1. 1
    Malcolm Callaghan

    This is the sort of kindle that would appeal to me; however, now that you have sent this idea out to your email recipients I suspect that those websites will be inundated with entries and any business will be spread very thinly. Forgive me for being so negative but whenever I look for something online there is so much competition I go dizzy and forget the whole idea.
    Also, producing a kindle for the first time is a headache, especially if you include images. Trying to make the document line up correctly on all the different platforms (ipad, iphone, various Kindle models) seems impossible.
    Yours disillusioned,

    • 2
      Richard Bullivant

      Please don’t think that just because I have mentioned this idea on my blog that everyone will jumping on board and creating trivia based eBooks and flooding the market. In my experience, many readers might view the post, possibly think that it’s reasonable idea, but leave it at that…mainly because they are busy, and then the moment has passed by.

      The market is huge, with plenty of room for all. I guess it’s just a question of taking the first step.

      And producing books for Kindle is becoming easier and easier with the new tools which Amazon provide for free, such as the Kindle Picture Book Creator and Kindle Kids Book Creator, so my feeling is that there is much less of a barrier to entry than existed in the early days of Kindle.

      All the Best

    • 3

      Hi Malcolm, I would say don’t worry about putting pictures in. In the last year I’ve published a number of books on the Kindle platform where I haven’t bothered with pictures at all – people buy books to read, not look at pictures, espescially when its fun facts and trivia, and pictures just get in the way.
      Also – I felt the same as you about publishing them, thinking loads were doing the same. It’s true that they are but so long as you ensure yours are good quality you’ll be okay – a lot of kindle books are rubbish and the reviews quickly show this to be the case – once you get some good reviews you’re sorted!

      Get on and get your books out there – and good luck!

  2. 4

    Hi Richard,

    This is a timely article as, firstly I had just been looking up the origin of a phrase that my Dad used occasionally, meaning that something was ridiculous or totally unbelievable. The phrase, “It’s all my eye and Peggy Martin”, is seldom heard these days and although there are some theories, the true origin is apparently unknown. All I learned was that the name in the phrase was originally ‘Betty Martin’ rather than Peggy.

    Secondly, I have had an idea in my mind for a while to write a combined quiz/trivia book (on a specific subject), asking a question then, rather than just giving the answer, adding a paragraph or two of relevant trivia. But will I ever get around to it? Who knows!!

    As Malcolm commented, producing a Kindle book for the first time is a rather daunting task but there are plenty of people doing it so it can’t be rocket science. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and if at first you don’t succeed…..

    We’ve all heard it said that there’s nothing new under the sun, so there will always be competition no matter what you do. You don’t have to be unique, you just have to be the best 🙂

  3. 5
    Richard Bullivant

    Very true Lynn…there is nothing new under the sun. So just take a popular topic, add your own personal twist, and do it to the best of your ability, coupled with a few reviews (thanks Peter) and you will be off and running.

    Whilst on the topic of Kindle, you may be interested to know that in June, I will be re-publishing a fully updated version of my ‘Ultimate Kindle Profit Programme’, along with another new course on how to market your eBook to reach best-seller status on Kindle.

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