Sunday, August 25, 2013

The business of writing

I haven't talked about writing in a while now, but it's still very much in the forefront of my non-work life. After family and vacations and other such things, of course.

Tiamat's Nest is still working its way through the critique queue. Should be finished in October, then I'll let it rest a while before getting stuck into revisions.

Meanwhile, I'm skirting the fringes of self-publication of Ghosts of Innocence. This is a three-steps-forward-two-steps-back kind of dance. I'm a planner in most aspects of my like, and this is no different.

Having the text of a novel is only the first (and an obviously important) prerequisite. But step back a bit, and there are all the other elements that go into a finished book, not least of which is the book design and formatting. Back up further, and you need cover art. Long before I started writing, I had dreams of seeing my own artwork on the covers of books. Now maybe I can realize two dreams at once.

But that means I need relevant artwork. Right now I'm working on some rough drafts and at some point will post the results for feedback.

So far, so good. But to get to the point of this post - how much do you treat writing like a business? I'm curious because I'm considering setting up a formal business to handle the sales (if any) of my books.

Yes, you can self-publish with very little financial outlay ... if you don't care too much about the end result.

However there are costs involved in doing it properly. And costs are tax-deductible if you are a business rather than just an individual.

The above-mentioned book design for a start. Plus setting up and running a promotional web site. And if I'm planning to distribute through US-based avenues such as Amazon, they'll automatically deduct 30% US tax unless I register either as a non-US individual or a business. The former route is complex and involves hefty fees. The latter is easier and free, and alone is worth the expense of registering as a business.

So, those of you who've trodden this path already, how much do you treat writing like a business, rather than just a hobby?


  1. It's not a business yet for me ... but I know it eventually will be. Right now I'm only focused on improving my craft. About the closest I get to a business model is charting my submissions to magazines and keeping track of my many rejections. :)

    Btw, I would love to judge the cover art for your self-published book when you're ready to reveal it. Sounds exciting!

  2. You have to have an alter ego. I'd rather just write, but that's not the reality. Formatting and all the rest are time consuming, not to mention reading til your eyes bleed and almost dreading to read the words you've written one more time. I would love to have someone do all that for me, but that's not going to happen. Good luck with whatever comes next.

  3. I'm traditionally published, so I don't have a separate account, but I do treat what I do like a business. If you don't keep track of expenses and income, how will you know how you're doing?

  4. David, I've always kept close track of submissions (and rejections!) too. I think that and other good disciplines are essential if you are even half serious. The business aspect I'm talking about here is more about the financial side, but there are lots more disciplines, like the example you mention, that help be businesslike.

    Wendy, I'd rather just write, too, but as you say it's not the reality :( The bit I most dread is the thought of *shudder* marketing.

    Alex, that's true. Even with trad publishing you must still have income and expenses to track. Even without creating a legal business entity you can still treat it like a business.

  5. If you're ready to take the plunge into self publishing, certainly consult an accountant or tax preperation service to find out which option would be best for you. As a self employed person (though not through writing...yet) I can attest to the benefits of knowing what exactly you can write off and how much it will help your bottom line (or not). It is a business, and if you plan to be serious about it, you're going to have costs upfront and ongoing marketing. It depends on the level of investment as to which tax option would work more in your favor.

  6. Jean, will certainly be seeking advice when it becomes worth it (note: when, not if. Eternal optimist!) Don't know how similar Canadian tax is to US, but the immediate benefit is to avoid paying unnecessary US tax.

  7. Depends on how you go about it - starting a business name to claim business expenses under (in which case you'll have to pay additional tax preparation fees as well as additional taxes) or simply itemizing business expenses on your own taxes (in which case you'll pay additional preparation fees for itemizing). What it comes down to is how much will you have in expenses, and is it worth itemizing vs. the cost of tax preparation or doing the business route. Glad to see you're an optimist. We need more of them. :)

  8. I don't treat my writing like a hobby and I don't treat it like a business either.
    I write with passion and discipline, striving for excellence.
    This is what passion is all about.

  9. I don't know how anyone even has time to write a book! I can barely keep up with blog posts!



  10. Julia, I think you nailed it for the writing part of it. Trouble is, if you have visions of your writing getting read by anyone other than immediate acquaintances then, as Wendy observed up above, you need your (more businesslike) alter ego.

    Valerie, I settled that by slowing up on the blog posts front. Still doesn't leave me much time. That may be a topic for another post...

  11. I'm no help on the business portion, but I do think you're wise to set up a business plan before publishing. I'm also glad you're finding time to write!

  12. Emily, I think a business plan is oft-overlooked but important. It articulates what you hope to achieve, so you can keep your eye on the goal and recognize when you've succeeded.


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