record-keeping and tax deductions for writers
By Pamela S.
So, you want to be a writer.
Family encourage and support you. Friends pat you on the back
and say: "great, maybe we'll see your name on the NY
Times Best Sellers List." People envy your creativity,
not realising that writing is hard work. Writing is more than
creating the Great American Novel. Writing is a Business and a
business requires record-keeping and tax preparation.
Many have already begun gathering
information and getting things in order. Most will wait until
the last minute then be in a panic. Don't be one of them. Be prepared.
Unpublished or new writers may be
thinking "oh, I'm not published so I don't need to worry
about that yet." Wrong. IRS rules state that you can claim
a tax loss for business expenses even if you're unpublished.
Some will say that the rule
applies for only up to three or five years, and that you must
show a profit otherwise it is considered a hobby. Wrong!
According to my tax advisor, the CPA's I've talked to and those
I've worked with, the rule states that "as long as you can
prove you are actively pursuing a career in writing" and as
long as the expenses are considered "necessary business
expenses" they are deductible.
Besides, any writer that's been
doing this for a while knows that until you are way up there on
the list, you won't be showing a profit. Income, yes. Profit?
No. Everything you get out of your writing, you'll put right
back into it for things like advertising and promotion. And,
yes, Advance Money is considered income. If you use it to
enhance, advance or promote your work then chances are every
penny you spend may be tax deductible.
Most writers will use a Schedule
C or Profit and Loss statement to file their business tax. This
form is found in your 1040 forms and instructions book or from
your local IRS office. You can file a 1040 form with a Schedule
C and still take standard deductions in lieu of itemising. Use
your social security number and your name (unless writing under
a pseudonym; then it's your name DBA (your pseudonym)). The
"Principal Business or Professional Activity Code"
(711510) is listed in your 1040 book under the Performing
How do you prove you're
"actively pursuing a career in writing" and what are
"necessary business expenses"? Here are a few
1).Send letters to agents
or editors. Keep a copy and staple their reply to your copy.
Postage is deductible as well as return postage on your SASE. Do
this via email? Print out a copy of your email query and their
response. Not ready to submit yet? Send letters to prospective
publishers requesting submission guidelines. Remember: keep copies
for your records!
2). Buy writing-related
books or subscriptions to internet sites such as firstwriter.com?
These are all legitimate expenses. Office supplies (paper, ink,
envelopes, business cards, etc.) are also valid expenditures.
Have an office set up in your home for your writing? You may be
able to write off a portion of your rent or house note and
utility bills for the use of this room. Also, if you make any
long distance phone calls that are related to your writing
(critique partner, editor, agent, etc.) these calls are tax
deductible, as are
internet service fees if you're using the internet to develop
your craft and/or promote yourself and your work.
3). Join a writers group.
Membership dues are tax deductible. Gas mileage is tax
deductible when you travel to meetings or conferences, even if
your vehicle is normally used every day. Meals are also tax
deductible as long as the meal was business related.
4). Go to a writers'
conference. Conference fees, hotel expenses, gas mileage and
meals are all deductible expenses even for unpublished writers.
5). Have a website? Any
fees related to the creation, development and maintenance of
this website are tax deductible.
6). Take a vacation with
your family. Combine this with a little networking by visiting
the local writers group (if you know of one). Visit the library,
museum, or any other place that you could claim as research.
Talk to celebrities, authors and media about your book, even if
it's not published. Collect business cards as verification that
this was a "working" vacation. One other thing you
might consider: do your children help you by doing research,
proof reading, or taking on extra chores so that you have time
to write? Their allowance may be deductible. You can pay for
contract labour up to $600 per year without providing a 1099,
and student income does not have
to be reported along with the parent's income!
7). Pay a housekeeper or
babysitter so that you have time to write. All or part of this
may be deductible.
**Be careful with these last
two and always check with your tax consultant, but many
of these are justifiable expenses even for unpublished
8). Pay a CPA or Tax
Consultant to do your taxes? Pay for an evaluation or
professional critique of your work? These are considered
professional fees and services and are tax deductible.
When asked about paying the
Temple Tax, Jesus replied, "render unto Caesar what is
Caesar's but render unto God what is God's." Tithes and
offerings off your writing income may also be deductible, if you
itemise your 1040 or Schedule A deductions.
How do you keep track of all
Spreadsheets and receipts. Keep
receipts in a standard manila envelope or organized by category
in a pocket sized file folder. Spreadsheets are easy to set up
and easy to maintain. Most operating systems like Windows come
with a standard spreadsheet application. One column (or page)
for Income and one for Expenses. What about all those formulas?
Simple. Most spreadsheets have
an Auto Sum feature for the addition of a column or you can
manually do this by using the formula =sum(cell+cell) or =sum(cell:cell)
for a range of cells. Need to subtract, divide or multiply?
Formula would be:
multiply;=sum(cell/cell) to divide; and =sum(cell-cell) to
Published? Here are some
additional items that can be written off as expenses:
1). Promotional expenses
(brochures, flyers, press kits, press releases, etc. etc.).
2). Books donated to
libraries or given away for promotional purposes (sent to Oprah,
swapped with another author, donated for fund raisers, etc.) may
be deducted at retail value.
3). Books bought for
4). Dry-cleaning those
nice clothes you wear for speaking engagements, book signings or
other author appearances.
5). Postage and/or
shipping fees for books sent to wholesalers, retailers, readers,
6). Agent fees and
commissions. Compare your royalty statement against your 1099
(Miscellaneous Income Statement). If the amount does not show
royalties less agent fees and commissions those are tax
Self-Published or E-published and
have to buy copies of your book to resale? Set up costs, cover
art, and the charge for producing (or buying) the books are tax
deductible! Occupational or Resale License fees are also
Remember, if it falls under
"Necessary Business Expense" it is deductible!
Worried about being audited?
Don't. Be careful and be honest. Claiming you bought a new boat
to learn how to water-ski so that you can write about
water-skiing will not cut it, but nearly everything else will
fly, as long as you have the records to prove it; hence the
value of good record-keeping.
It's never too early or too late
to get organised for tax season. Remember, tax laws change
yearly. For more information visit the IRS
website @ www.irs.gov or call
them toll free at: 800-829-3676 and request publications such as
# 334 (Tax Guide for Small Businesses and Individuals who use
Schedule C or C-EZ), #535 (Business Expense – this guide tells
you what you can and cannot deduct), and #552 (Record
keeping for Individuals).
Pamela S. Thibodeaux is a
member of Bayou Writers Group and ACRW (American Christian
Romance Writers). Her writing has been tagged as
"Inspirational with an Edge!" Visit Ms. Thibodeaux's
website @ http://www.pamelathibodeaux.com
or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
club sales in North America – increasing the odds
Hamilton, Ink Tree Ltd
is a book club sale? It is actually a rights sale or a licensing
agreement: you are granting permission to a book club the right
to "borrow" your work. You have written a book, and
now you are allowing a book club to print and distribute your
book to its members.
You allow the book club to
reprint your book in a specific language, in a specific format,
for a specific period of time, in a specific geographic
territory, to a specific group of people. You ensure in your
contract that you maintain ownership of the copyright and of all
other intellectual property rights, such as electronic, movie,
other languages and territories, and serial rights – to name a
few. Always seek good legal advice before signing a contract.
There are many book clubs, but
most of the major clubs fall under the bookspan umbrella (www.bookspan.com).
To find other book clubs that are appropriate for your book, do
an internet search: on your browser, type in +(your book genre, e.g.
The chances of having your book
selected by a book club are roughly one in ten, which is really
quite good. Imagine if your chance at winning the lottery was
that great! It is important to know that book clubs are always
looking for new ideas to entice their members, so if your book
is well written and edited, has plans for professional graphic
design, and demonstrates a unique slant on your topic,
your chances of being selected rise considerably.
- Tip #1 for increasing the
odds: In saying that, it is important for you to know
that the earlier you submit your book, the better.
- Tip #2 for increasing the
odds: Book clubs are much happier receiving a typed
manuscript six to twelve months in advance of your
publication date than receiving a bound galley or finished
book close to the publication date. A book club likes to
introduce your book to its members near your publication
date in order to take advantage of the reviews and publicity
that you will be generating when your book is launched. The
bigger the media splash you make, the better everyone's
sales will be.
- Tip #3 for increasing the
odds: There are many categories of book clubs, so be
sure to submit your title only to the appropriate clubs. Do
not send your book to every book club that you can find.
Each club's membership has specific interests so be sure to
submit your book only to clubs that might buy – you will
again increase your chance of being selected.
- Tip #4 for increasing the
odds: For instance, if you have a humour book, it's
unlikely to be of any interest to a cooking club or to a
mathematics club. If your book is regional, it will not
likely appeal to a general interest book club, so submit
that regional title to suitable specialty clubs.
There are rules to follow when
submitting your book to the book clubs, so following them
carefully should avoid unnecessary rejections.
- Tip #5 for increasing the
odds: Follow the rules:
Send your manuscript to the Editorial department at the
2. Include a cover
letter that details the following information:
- summary of the book
- description of the
book (size, binding, hard/soft cover, black &
white or colour);
- expected selling
- number of pages;
- number and type of
photographs and/or illustrations (indicate if black
& white or colour);
- notation if the book
will be part of a series;
- which volume the book
is in an existing series and a sales history of the
- intended publication
- plans for publicity
and promotion, and your intended budget.
3. Include a brief
author biography written in the third person. Be sure to
talk about any previous books published and their sales
photocopies of some of the illustrations and
photographs. Do not send original copies – they will not
be returned to you.
5. Don't forget
your contact information and website if you have one.
Unfortunately, you cannot contact
book clubs to follow up on your submission. It's a case of
"Don't call us. We'll call you". Book clubs
receive too many submissions to allow follow up calls or
letters. If they are interested, they will call you, usually
within two to six months.
Do you think that a book club
sale is worth pursuing? Absolutely! For very little effort you
can achieve the sale of thousands of copies of your book. You
will likely be paid a minimum sum per copy, but you will also
not have any production costs, and a small sum multiplied by
thousands can equate to a very nice cheque. Your only effort
will be to sign a contract, provide your book on disk and
collect that cheque – and just think of the free publicity!
Thousands of book club members will read about your book. You
can't buy that kind of publicity!
Article courtesy of Ink Tree
Copyright 2004 Ink Tree Ltd.
new era in fantasy sports begins
Louis, MO – July 19, 2004 – realising a need within the
fantasy sports community, Asylum Fantasy Sports and Fantasy
Sports Publications have partnered together to establish the
Fantasy Sports Writers Association (www.fswa.org).
far too long, fantasy sports writers have been treated as second
class citizens within the writing community. Given the
astounding growth of the fantasy sports industry, the FSWA
believes that the remarkable efforts put forth by fantasy sports
writers deserves to be acknowledged. As such, the Fantasy Sports
Writers Association is the first ever organisation to recognise
and promote sports writers exclusively in the area of fantasy
The FSWA Executive
Committee will consist of the following members:
Ryan Houston, Asylum Fantasy Sports, LLC
Vice President: Emil Kadlec, Fantasy Sports Publications, Inc.
Secretary: Bob Harris, Fantasy Sports Publications, Inc.
Treasurer: Kirk Bouyelas, Asylum Fantasy Sports, LLC
FSWA Board of Directors will be filled with some of the biggest
names in the sports industry. They include:
Quintong, Sports Illustrated
Scott Engel, ESPN
Brendan Roberts, Sporting News
Matt Pitzer, USA Today
Tristan Cockcroft, CBS Sportsline
Mike Harmon, Yahoo Sports
Rick, Kamla FanBall
mission of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association is to provide
a voice for writers in the arena of fantasy sports. The FSWA
will function as an advocate for fantasy sports writers and
strive to promote and acknowledge the hard work and dedication
shown by fantasy writers throughout the industry.
Fantasy Sports Writers Association will also provide its members
with both opportunity and acknowledgement through the following
- Classified Ads: the FSWA will
feature classified ads to match both writers looking for
employment and companies looking for writers.
- Networking: the FSWA affords
members the opportunity to contact, meet and network with
other esteemed members of our group.
- Grants: the FSWA will provide
grant(s) to aspiring young students who are looking for
opportunities in sports journalism.
- Awards: The FSWA will present
yearly awards to writers from each fantasy sport, to
acknowledge their contributions to the industry.
The Fantasy Sports Writers
Association ~ Promoting journalistic excellence in fantasy
sports. Enquiries or questions can be sent to Mr. Ryan Houston @
Ryan Houston, President
Fantasy Sports Writers Association
writers at firstwriter.com
for the following invaluable resources for writers:
on this newsletter for as little as $30 / £20 click
Futures Mysterious Anthology
Magazine, one of the leading mystery
magazines with national
distribution, is running two annual
Themed contest, open to reprints. Themes
1. Forensic, CSI Crime
2. Holidays are Criminal
3. Historical Crime
4. Crimes mixed with Horror
5. Crimes of the Spirit (ghosts,
6. Crimes with Techno Gadgets
(internet, cell phones, etc.)
September 30, 2004.
Named in honour of Henry Slesar, dubbed
"Master of the Ironic" by
Hitchcock. Henry Slesar was the renowned
author of classic twist stories.
story with a twist, original work only.
October 15, 2004.
both contests include cash and possible
publication in one of
mystery's greatest annual anthologies.
information and guidelines, check http://www.fmam.biz.
details of over 150 other writing
literary journal calls for submissions
new literary journal, VOX, is
calling for submissions of prose
vignettes and poetry. Short plays of
exceptional quality may also be
magazine is looking for
originality. No workshop conformity,
watered down Dada and Surrealism, or
greeting card verse. Rhymed verse is
discouraged unless exceptional.
five poems, or up to three short pieces
under 1000 words, should be sent with a
cover letter and SASE to: VOX, PO Box
527, Oxford, MS 38655, United States; or
by email to Voxjournal@
hotmail.com (no attachments).
details of more than 300 other magazines
Following our article, "ST
Literary Agency – writers' break, or
just crooked?" (fwn 17,
August 4, 2004), we have received a
report of another agency not charging a
reading fee, but making an up-front
charge for representation.
Elite Literary Agency" are alleged
to make a $90 charge for representation,
and are also alleged to be reluctant to
engage in any kind of contact after
signing an author.
cannot refute or confirm this
speculation, but advises authors to
over 500 literary agencies – including
those affiliated to official industry
bodies – click
contributor clinches book deal
Footsteps to Oxford is a
website for writers, established just
over a year ago, which offers aspiring
writers the chance of publication,
without the fear of rejection. Footsteps
to Oxford accepts all contributions,
and aims to act as a launch pad for
recently realised this goal through
Cleveland Gibson, one of their earliest
contributors, who has now been offered a
charges no fees (though appreciates
voluntary £5 donations to its running
costs) and can be visited at footstepstooxford.co.uk.
An author is seeking residents of
Australia, New Zealand, England,
Ireland, South Africa, China, Taiwan, or
Italy, to take part in an email or phone
interview for the new edition of their
book, 125 Ways to Meet the Love of
Your Life (Hannacroix Creek Books,
may be singles relating their efforts to
find that special someone, or couples
who already have; may be male or female;
and may be named or remain anonymous as
parties should email email@example.com
(no attachments), ensuring to
include the following information: Name,
Age, Occupation, Marital status, City
& Country currently residing in,
e-mail address, Phone: office and/or
home number (including country code,
city code, + number).