Just finished reading the September 2007 Romance Writers Report issued monthly by Romance Writers of America. If you’re not a member and don’t subscribe to this report, do it now! The words invaluable, inspiring, thought-provoking, spring to mind. And this month, the article that did all that and then some for me, is on page 7. It’s titled: At a Loss for Words? Claim Those Tax Deductions! by Dianne O’Brian Kelly. Now, even if it were at all possible to do so, I’m not going to wax poetic about tax deductions. I don’t reside in the US and this is an article specifically about US tax deductions and claims. But what this article did was to get me thinking.
Am I serious about my writing career?
Do I even have a career? I mean to say, I don’t work – unless you count raising kids, running a household, doing the occasional spot of editing and proofing for a very popular international website, doing accounts, GST returns and yearly accounts for my husband’s business. I stay at home and I write. Every single day. But I’m not published – yet! – so can what I do be called a writing career? Or is it (as some people claim) just an excuse to buy books and claim them as a tax write-off? Despite being assured that I can claim every single book I buy, I certainly do not. Call me stupid, but I’m such a voracious reader and I buy soooooo many books, it wouldn’t be fair or reasonable to claim them all and according to my tax consultant, ‘fair and reasonable’ are the operative words here! I claim only a small portion of what I buy as an expense. The occasional writing craft book, maybe a new book by a new author in the genres I write i.e. paranormal, sci-fi, fantasy, so I can check up on what’s hot and being published at the moment. I list each one, the reason I’ve bought it and the purpose it serves… I know I can justify every single book I buy and claim as an expense,
Anyway, according to Kelly’s article, there are a number of factors the IRS take into consideration in determining whether writing is a business or a hobby. I looked at some of these and related them to me, personally. And you know what? I do have a writing career – at least as far as the IRS is concerned, anyway.
Here’s what I discovered:
1. I operate in a business-like manner.
I carry business cards with me at all times. My cards say I’m a fantasy and paranormal writer. They list my personal details, including my website – which, as you know if you’re reading this, is writing-related. I keep a file of anything I’ve written, e.g. the workshop I gave to my local RWNZ chapter on writing fantasy, a couple of years ago, and the interview I gave to Heart to Heart when I first finalled in the Clendon back in 2004. I still have original newspapers with the two articles from when I was interviewed for local newspapers about my writing. I keep a file of all my submissions to agents and editors – both current and rejections. Via my website, I’ve designed a platform to get word out about my work, I network with other writers… All this confirms I operated in a business-like manner. Yay! Good to know :-)
2. The time and effort I put into my writing indicate I have an intent to make money.
I write every weekday and often weekends, too, for at least three solid hours a day. I have submitted work to editors and agents for potential publication. I enter contests for feedback and to get my work in front of specific judges. I read trade journals and books on the craft of writing. I attend writing conferences – hell, I’ve helped organise 3 of them! – and meetings hosted by writing organizations. I do put time and effort into my writing and one day, I hope to make money out of it… my long-suffering hubby hopes that, too!
3. I have changed my methods of operation in an attempt to improve profitability.
This was an interesting one. I could be writing the same ole same ole and trying to get it published. But I’ve tried different things, experimented. And even though I still love my fantasy trilogy to bits and beyond, I also love my 1st-person, really sexy, shorter paranormals – I’ve been told I found my ‘voice’ with those. And, now I’ve finished tweaking it, I’m really proud of my paranormal with a sci-fi twist – a different flavor altogether. And as for the one I’m currently writing, well it’s back to my fantasy roots; the hero resides in a futuristic world subject to Regency rules and quaker-like religion is forced to flee his home and becomes a spy for a licentious Empress and… but enough of that. My point is that I’ve changed the way I write. I’ve tried new things. I’ve experimented with what I’ve learned. I’ve set self-imposed deadlines to finish mss, or to rework them, or to have something new ready in time to enter a competition. And each time I do this, I’m discovering what I’m capable of – discoveries that will stand me in good stead when I get that elusive publishing contract!
4. I have the knowlege needed to carry on a successful writing business.
I keep all my receipts and detail them on spreadsheets designed specifically for my accountant. For the past 3 years I’ve been in charge of presenting a budget for approval to the RWNZ executive committee for the annual RWNZ conference – and turning in a final budget once the conference is all over. I may be self-taught in that I’ve never obtained a writing degree at all, but I’m always buying books about the craft, surfing the web for helpful information for writers, reading trade mags to learn how successful writers do it. And I maintain and regularly post to this website. So yeah, I have ‘the knowlege’. I can do this.
5. I have been successful in making a profit in similar activities in the past.
I was not going to include this one – didn’t think it was relevant to me. I’ve never had a job where I’ve earned money writing, right? Wrong! I’ve worked for banks, a building society, an import/export trading company, a dairy company, a car manufacturing company and a travel agency. Every single job listed has involved being able to write professional letters, emails and documentation to clients, associates, colleagues, and in the case of the travel agency, designing advertising flyers and posters among other things. And I’ve been paid a salary to do so. Where the heck did I get my editing and proofing skills from? And, incidentally, I also completed a professional proofing and editing course before I ever took up writing – skills I use to this day.
There’s more, but it’s not relevant for me at this time. It’s been enough to confirm what I’ve known for a while in my heart: I’m serious about writing. I treat it like a career. And just because at present, I don’t make any money from my career, shouldn’t trivialize it in the eyes of others. It can, though; you and I both know it. The rolling eyes. The ‘lucky you, I wish I could stay home and write all day’ comments. Well, I’ve just proved to myself that I can ignore the nay-sayers with impunity. I have a career. It’s like being a full-time Mum; rewarding, something I love doing, something I wouldn’t give up for the world. Just because I don’t get paid for it, doesn’t make it any less important to me.