Your Writing Is Your Business

Photo by David Castillo Dominici

First of all, a big shout out to Loree Huebner, who just got contracted with an agent! Loree is a talented writer who is very knowledgeable of Civil War History. She and her husband Eric also participate in reenactments. If you haven't done so already, go to her blog and give her a big congratulations!

It's that time of year again. Tax season. Most of us loathe it, but all of us appreciate it if we end up getting a refund. Particularly, as writers, we'd rather not concern ourselves with ugly numbers and figures, but if we are in this to be published, we have to play the numbers game at some point.

Even if you're in the early stages of writing your novel, there are several things you need to think about concerning taxes. Royalties are taxable, even if they are technically your hard-earned wages for writing that book. Keep track of the following expenses, and when the day comes when you sell your novel, it will be a lot easier to report profits, losses, and deductions. Not to mention preventing an audit from our friends at the IRS.

I'm keeping this list simple, because I am definitely not a CPA, and I don't want to attempt to give a lot of details that may end up misinforming you. Definitely consult your tax preparer or tax preparation software program for the more in-depth forms and what-not. This is the list of items that will help make that job a bit easier.

1. Record your mileage, or keep your gas receipts.

Transportation is a big part of our writing business. We need to get to the library to research, attend our meetings and critique groups, and fly to those conferences. If you write down how much you're spending on travel, you'll be able to see where your losses accrue. Don't forget car maintenance costs, oil changes, parking and toll fees.

2. Keep track of office supplies.

Did you buy a new printer this year? How much did you spend on paper and ink? The little things that go into producing a manuscript add up. In some cases, you can also itemize your office furniture.

3. Bills, bills, bills.

Sure we use the internet for more than writing, but that doesn't change the fact that it's a very essential part of our business. We use the net to blog, promote our work, and stay current on what's happening in the publishing industry. So keep your wi-fi or cable bill so you can see how much you spend each month to use the internet. Same goes for your telephone, especially if you use it to talk to researchers, your agent, etc.

4. Memberships

If you pay yearly dues to belong to a writer's group like ACFW or Romance Writers of America, then you'll want to keep track of it as a business expense. After all, these organizations provide resources to writers and help us connect with our colleagues (Yes, in the IRS' eyes, this is what our fellow writers/publishers/agents/editors are). Track your local chapters, too, if you're part of them.

5. Consider the miscellaneous, like clothes.

That's right. You have to look nice when you pitch an editor at a conference or when you go to meet an agent. In some cases, you can deduct the cost of a new suit or pair of heels if it's used as part of your business.

This is, of course, by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it provided a starting point to get you thinking about how to run your writing business. Like I said, numbers scare me, but my fears are somewhat relieved when I consider this as part of the writing process. You are validating yourself and your work when you give it this kind of serious attention.

Have you started your taxes yet?