May 2, 2013
blogging, conferences, copy editing, copyediting, ebook, ebooks, education, freelance, self-published ebook covers, selfpub, tax, tax deductions, website design, writer, writing, writing advice
It’s now the month of May, which means you should push April’s tax troubles out of your mind for another 11 months, right? Not if you want to be a financially savvy freelancer. Start keeping track of your deductions now for a fiscally fruitful year.
Here are the top five categories of tax deductions related to freelance writing in the US. If you have insight on another country’s laws, email admin[at] popularsoda [dot]com. Check with your tax professional to make sure you’re claiming all appropriate deductions (and avoiding problematic ones).
1. Office Supplies
What writer doesn’t keep a pen and notebook handy at all times? These expenses are generally tax-deductible.
To keep everything kosher, consider buying “work” notebooks separate from “fun” notebooks, then use work notebooks only for writing directly related to work. Outlining plots, planning blog posts, and writing short stories are tasks related to the business of writing. Making grocery lists and keeping track of doctor appointments are not.
2. Tools of the Trade
Remember when Duotrope went paid and everyone freaked out? Well, it turns out that a Duotrope subscription is actually tax-deductible. Do you use Scrivener to outline your books? That’s deductible, too. You may also be able to deduct your subscriptions to writing and publishing magazines like Writer’s Digest: magazines, journals, and newspapers used solely for business purposes are tax-deductible.
3. Professional Memberships
Memberships to professionals organizations (like the Editorial Freelancers Association or American Copy Editors Society) can be expensive for independent freelancers. However, the cost of these memberships is tax-deductible.
Pick one to three organizations to join. Fewer organizations means you can be more active in your chosen groups, leading to a stronger professional presence and a better return on your (tax-deductible!) investment.
4. Classes, Conferences, and Conventions
These are actually two separate categories, but they often overlap. Expenses related to education that “maintains or improves skills needed in your present work” are deductible. If you’re a traditionally published author looking to take a class on digital publishing, that’s deductible. Similarly, if you’re a writer who wants to take a class on editing, that class should be tax-deductible because it improves your writing work even though editing might technically be a different field.
Breakout session at ACES 2013.
If you join a professional organization and want to go to a writing-related conference, you can deduct some of your expenses. Conference registration fees are almost certainly deductible. Check with your tax professional about travel expenses like hotels and plane tickets. Meal expenses are generally deductible if you are going out with a business associate; meals for yourself are usually not. One quick tip: take pictures of receipts with your phone so you don’t have to worry about holding onto those tiny bits of paper.
5. Self-Publishing Expenses
If you’re like most self-publishing authors, you pay for your own editing and book covers. If you’re smarter than most self-pubbers, you deduct these expenses from your taxes. Fees associated with maintaining your professional website may also be tax-deductible. Tax deductions shouldn’t be used to justify expensive services out of your price range, but deductions might ease your mind about the cost of (completely necessary) editing and design fees.
Keep in mind that the IRS stipulates that these expenses must go toward a legitimate business venture that has a realistic chance of making money. That is, if you pay for the noteboks and conferences and covers but you never actually publish a book, you can’t deduct writing-related business expenses. Just one more reason to stop dreaming and start publishing.
Do you have insight on another country’s freelancer tax structures? Got another question about freelancer finances? Send us a tweet @popular_soda.
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December 10, 2012
Ebook Advice, Ebook Basics
advice, books, class, ebook, ebook advice, ebook basics, ebook publishing, ebooks, epub, indie publishing, self-pub, self-publishing, why self-publishing, writers, writing, writing advice
Last weekend, Lila went out into the “real” world to educate the public about ebooks at the OCH Art Market. If you couldn’t make it to New Orleans for the class, don’t worry! Here are the class handouts for you to download and share.
Editors and Designers
Why Self Publishing
Got more ebook questions? Ask us on Twitter @popular_soda or email firstname.lastname@example.org
June 15, 2012
Copy Editing, Cover Design, Ebook Basics, Publishing Professionals
cover design, design, ebook, ebook basics, ebook cover design, ebooks, editing, editor, quality control, self-publishing, selfpub, writers, writing, writing advice
If you’ve participated in any writing communities in the past decade, you’ve probably heard this saying: Money flows toward the writer. Once upon a time, this was nearly undeniably true. But in the ebook and self-publishing landscape, writers often have to spend money to make books.
In traditional publishing, the saying still holds some merit. No writer should pay a publishing company upfront for basic publisher duties like editing, evaluating, reviewing, or reading the manuscript. And no writer should ever pay an agent upfront. Beyond that, though, things get murky. Certain publishers will want you to pay in order to have your book printed. This is called vanity publishing, and in some cases, it’s perfectly fine. If you need souvenirs for a family reunion, frat or sorority handbooks, or a few dozen books for a family business, vanity publishing might be your best bet. However, alarm bells should go offin your head if a vanity publisher promises to get your book in major stores for a fee of a few thousand dollars. It might be technically true, but it’s not going to happen the way you envision. In the ebook world, most writers have to spend something in order to get a quality product. Whether it’s spending time learning to use Photoshop or a few hundred dollars for a freelance editor, these independent ebook services can be totally legit– and incredibly helpful.
If you already have some Photoshop experience, you may be able to make your own cover. If you don’t have the experience, and you’re not able to learn, paying for a cover will be your best option. Some ebook cover artists charge hundreds of dollars for a single cover. Others will charge rock-bottom prices and hope to make a profit through volume of sales. Many artists can make great covers. The trick is finding a skilled, dependable designer who is willing to work with you to make your vision a reality.
Editing is the necessary evil of writing. Friends and family are often too forgiving or too inexperienced to point out the mistakes of a loved one’s draft. More and more writers are turning to freelance editors, both copy and developmental.
Freelance editing is a business. It’s a profession. It’s not personal. Your feelings will probably get hurt. But with great editing, that short-term pain will lead to long-term gain in the form of more engaging storytelling. With mediocre editing, the process will lead to a bunch of headaches when astute readers point out basic or not-so-basic flaws in your ebook. And with terrible editing, the misguided editor might introduce errors, fail to correct major errors, forget to edit the story at all, or attempt to take control as if she were now the legal guardian of the ebook and not just a babysitter.
In any case, vetting freelance designers, editors, and marketers is absolutely crucial. All freelance professionals should be able to offer you a personal history, references, examples of previous work, current contact information, pricing information and a clear timeline of the process.
If any freelancer refuses to give a straight answer or can’t substantiate previous work claims, move on. Though it’s typical to get an estimate for a project and not an exact dollar figure, be extremely wary of any “professionals” who cannot give an hourly rate, a per-page rate, or a per-project rate. Also, be cautious of freelancers who oversell their services. No one can guarantee sales or fans.
There are tons of amazing and experienced freelancers ready and willing to work with you on your ebook. Using the services of an outside professional can help you get a polished product ready for selling and downloading.
((One caveat: if you’re soliciting the expertise of a freelance editor, designer, or marketer, don’t offer to pay with the royalties from the future ebook or the opportunity to “get your name out there”. It’s simply unprofessional. In the same way that actors, camera operators, and prop directors get paid even if a movie tanks at the box office, your support team should be paid whether or not your book is a success. You’re the publisher now. And you can’t get all the reward if you don’t take some of the risks.))
Want to recommend your editor, designer, or marketer? Leave a comment with a link!