What it Means to Support the Arts

© Can Stock Photo/ ginosphotos

There are times when I may ruffle a few feathers, but so be it. Some things simply have to be said.

Those who regularly read this blog know I write novels, mostly as Marina Martindale. I’m also an art photographer, and I use social media to promote my books and my photography.

I was on Facebook the other day and came across a post about supporting the arts. It had plenty of likes, but there was a problem. The people creating the posts, and hitting the like button, may have thought they were supporting the arts, but they actually weren’t. Why? Because they weren’t telling their friends to BUY the art!

Hitting the like button doesn’t mean a damn thing

Whenever I post about my books and photography, I always include a link to a website where you can purchase the book or photograph. The posts will always get plenty of likes as well as comments such as, “Nice photo” or “I like really your book cover.” On rare occasions someone may say, “I’ve read her books and she’s great.” That’s the kind of a comment I live for! Sadly, those comments are too few and far between.

Unfortunately, hitting the like button doesn’t help me pay my bills. So if you really want to support my art, (or another artist’s work), please buy a photo or a book.

No, it isn’t a hobby

I’ve never understood why so many people think of the arts as just a hobby. Colleges and universities offer advanced degrees in the arts. Film and television production is a multi-million dollar industry. Does any of this sound like a hobby to you?

Artists, writers and musicians work damn hard, and they spend many years learning their craft. If you ever took music lessons when you were a kid you probably remember just how hard it was, and most of you gave up long before you mastered the instrument. Now think of what it took for a professional musician to reach that skill level. Does that sound like just a hobby to you? Do you really think hitting a like button on social media is all you have to do to “support” this artist? Seriously?

If you really want to support the arts then put your money where your mouth is

If you really want to support a musician then go to their gig and order a meal while you’re there. The venues who hire musicians do so to attract more paying customers. I realize some venues may be pricey, however the appetizers are usually less expensive. Trust me, I’ve eaten a lot of chicken quesadillas at friends’ gigs.

If you really want to support an artist then buy their art. Most authors have their books available for the Amazon Kindle, and you can download a copy for a few dollars. You can also get a Kindle app for free for your phone or tablet. Books make great gifts too, so if their writing genre isn’t your thing, you can still buy a copy for someone else.

You can also share their posts with a click of a mouse. Word of mouth and organic reach really are a thing, and it really does help get the artist’s name out there. Best of all, it only takes a few seconds of your time, and it doesn’t cost a thing.

Same goes for visual artists. How hard it is to share a post or click on a website link? You just hit the like button, so you obviously like their art. Visiting their websites helps improve their Google rankings, and many artists have their work reasonably priced.

Can’t afford to buy a framed print? Then you can probably buy the same photo on a coffee mug. You certainly can on my website. It only costs a few dollars, and it really does help support the artist. It will also be very much appreciated. Having someone tell me how much they enjoyed reading my book, or how much they like having a piece of my art in their home, means more to me than you could possibly imagine.

Gayle Martin

To learn more about my books please visit my website at martinamartindale.com.

To see my photography please visit my website at gaylemartinphotography.com.

It May Be Well Meaning But No

© Can Stock Photo / ollyy

Sometimes well-meaning things people say to writers which really aren’t the best things to say. They’re not doing it to be insensitive. At least I hope they’re not. They simply don’t realize it’s inappropriate.

A few years ago I was going through a difficult time. I’d ended a friendship with someone who had been my best friend for ten years because it had become toxic. Ending a relationship with a close friend is similar to ending a romantic relationship. It’s a painful experience to go through.

What anyone in my position wants to hear are words of support. Unfortunately, because I’m a novel writer, what I got instead was, “Gee, you should write a book about this.”

I’m sure everyone who said it thought it was well meaning, or even cool for them to say. However, it wasn’t cool at at all. It was insensitive, and it came across as glib.

Writers are people too. We experience the same disappointments everyone else experiences, and when bad things happen, we feel the same pain everyone else feels. What we need are the same words of support others get. I don’t know of any writer, myself included, who goes out and deliberately creates drama in their life just so they can write a book about it.

How we handle this would depend on the situation and the individuals involved. However, we are certainly within our rights if we choose to speak up about it. When bad things happen, we deserve the same dignity, respect and compassion, as anyone else.

Gayle Martin

 

Making Promises You Can’t Deliver

© Can Stock Photo / eric1513

Years ago, a fellow writer contacted me about including me in a book she was writing. I’d met her at a few events where I was promoting my Luke and Jenny book series. Her book was about honoring people who helped to preserve the history or promote the culture of the old west. It would feature many prominent Arizonans, as well as a few Hollywood actors.

Needless to say, I felt both honored and excited to be included in this very distinguished group. One member had been the host of a kid’s TV show in Phoenix which ran for over thirty-five years. He may not have been as famous as the Hollywood actors, but I grew up watching him on TV. I was especially excited to be in the same group as him, and I really looked forward to reading her book once it was published.

A few years went by. I checked her website from time to time. There was no new information, but I wasn’t concerned. Writing a book doesn’t happen overnight, so this was not uncommon.

It’s now been more than a decade since she first contacted me, and her website has since been taken down. It wasn’t a good sign, so I wondered if something might have happened to her. A number of people she included in her book have since passed away, including the kid’s TV show host. Then the other day I saw one of her posts on Facebook. It was the first I’d seen or heard of her in years.

I commented on her post and asked how she was doing. I also asked her about her book. Her response was totally unexpected. She had changed her mind and wasn’t going to do her book after all. It was too much work and she just didn’t have the time. Seriously?

We’ve all had ideas for books which we may have started, but, for whatever reason, were unable to finish. The issue is her having contacted and interviewed people before she changed her mind. At the very least, she should have reached out us, along with the families of those who had passed away, to thank us for our time and apologize for not being able to complete the book. It would have also been nice if she had returned whatever materials I may have sent to her. Where I come from this is called common courtesy.

Things happen, but it never ends well when you don’t deliver on the promises you make. I honestly feel like I’ve been duped, and whatever respect I may have had for her evaporated the minute I read her comment. I take my profession seriously. I’ve worked hard to build a good reputation. If something beyond my control comes up and prevents me from keeping a promise, I let the other party know, as soon as I possibly can. Not only is it common courtesy, it’s also good karma.

Gayle Martin

I Have This Really Great Idea

“I have this really great idea for a book that I think you should write.”
© Can Stock Photo/ racorn

This has to be the most infuriating thing anyone could ever say to an author. While the person saying it may have thought they meant well, they’ve just told you how to do your job. Then there’s the other implication. Somehow you’re not capable of coming up with your own ideas for your books. Good grief! I never thought that I would actually hear this, but sure enough, someone said this to me. It was a real jaw dropping moment.

My response was firm, but polite. I told him I write contemporary romance novels, and that I ONLY write contemporary romance novels. Period. In other words, I set my boundaries before the conversation went any further. Had he said, “Yes, I know. I just wanted to tell you about my crazy ex girlfriend,” I would have listened. When he finished his story, I would have thanked him for his time time. I would have also let him know that I couldn’t guarantee I would ever use his story for a future book.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with people sharing their stories. Other people’s stories can be great inspiration for a novel, and oftentimes they are. However, adding the words, “I really think you should write this,” changes the dynamics of the conversation rather quickly, and not in a good way. I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job. Any decision to use anyone’s story, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, is mine and mine alone, and it’s subject to my own interpretation.

Once I firmly set my boundaries the gentleman didn’t elaborate any further. I had a funny feeling that romance novels weren’t his thing. He never got around to telling me what his great idea was, and I didn’t ask.

Gayle Martin

 

 

 

 

Learn to Set Your Boundaries

© 2021 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

If I’ve learned one thing as a writer working from home, it’s this. I have  to set my boundaries.

Working at home is certainly convenient. The commute time is less than a minute. You don’t have to worry about who used the restroom before you. You can work in your sweats, assuming you don’t have a Zoom meeting. If you do, then wear a nice top with your slippers and sweatpants. Going to lunch is easy too. It’s only a short walk to the kitchen.

Convenience, however, has it’s drawbacks. You miss out on watercooler conversations. There’s no coworker saying it’s five o’clock so let’s go grab a beer. It gets lonely at times, and you can easily put in sixty or eighty hours a week. Sometimes it’s necessary. Especially when you have a deadline.  However, if you’re not careful, you could easily burn out. And for creative people, burnout can be a career killer.

If took me a while to figure it out, but I eventually came to realize that I had to set boundaries for myself.

Learn to Set Boundaries

Family time, and time for yourself, is as important as the time you put into your work. Perhaps even more so. Kids grow up fast. You don’t want to miss school plays or soccer games or other family time because you were too busy working. You also need to give your creative mind time to recharge itself.

I set my first boundary when I decided to get my nails done every week. A little pampering does wonders for your self-esteem, and a manicure isn’t that expensive. Now every Wednesday afternoon is my time for me, and in spite of it all, I still get things done.

Another boundary is ending my workday at five o’clock. I define a workday as doing paying gigs and activities related marketing and promoting my creative work. However, writing contemporary romance novels is one of my greatest joys in life. I live for my creative writing time, so I don’t set time limits on that.

Weekends are another boundary. I don’t open my business email account on weekends or holidays. If brick and mortar offices are closed on weekends and holidays, then my home office can be closed on weekends and holidays as well.

How and when to set your boundaries is entirely up to you. What’s matters is keeping things in balance, and making the time to do the things you enjoy doing.

Gayle Martin

 

From the Writer’s Desk is written, edited, and maintained by a real human being. It does not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

No part of this blog may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form, or used in any matter by AI, without the express written consent Good Oak Press, LLC. Requests for permission must be addressed to Good Oak Press, LLC, P.O. Box 51244, Denton, TX 76206-1244

Pirating Really is Stealing

© Can Stock Photo/ paulvinten

Every once in awhile I’ll come across someone who thinks intellectual property should never be copyrighted. Or they believe that everything on the Internet is public domain. Most of them understand copyright law. They just think they’re entitled. According to them, the movie studios, record companies and book publishers have plenty of money. Therefore, they shouldn’t have to pay for the music or book, and they see nothing wrong with pirating an artist’s work.

No matter how many times you try to explain to these people that pirating an artist’s work is actually stealing from the artist, they don’t care. Their argument is that books, music, and other creative works are merely ideas and nothing more. To them, it’s simply wrong to put a copyright on an idea. Creative works, however, are more than just an idea. They are the result of someone’s unique interpretation of an idea, and a lot of blood, sweat and tears goes into creating it. This is why creative works are considered intellectual property.

I’m not an attorney, nor am I giving  legal advice. However, it’s common knowledge that a creative work belongs to the person, or persons, who created it. I’m also going to explain, in layman’s terms, what pirating, and plagiarism actually are.

Pirating

Pirating means you are obtaining a copy of someone else’s creative work  in such a way as to circumvent having to pay for it. A perfect example would be borrowing a friend’s CD and copying the music onto your computer. And yes, pirating is also illegal. Making copies of someone else’s creative work without their permission is illegal too. This is why, for example, a church cannot photocopy songs from a single songbook so that each choir member has a copy. If they were to get caught they could end up with a hefty fine. They would, instead, have to provide a songbook to each choir member.

Regardless of how the work is pirated, the end result is the artist who created the work it isn’t paid by the person using it. Pirating is stealing. Period.

Plagiarism

Plagiarism is another way of stealing. It’s taking someone else’s work, putting your name on it, and then claiming the work as your own. This is why scholarly works include footnotes and bibliographies. It’s also why our teachers and professors would gave us failing grades on term papers if we didn’t properly credit our sources. There have also been cases of plagiarism in music when a riff used in one song may have sounded too much like a riff used in another published song.

For more specific information on copyrights, fair use, and other intellectual property law, or if someone has used your work without your authorization, please consult a copyright attorney.

Gayle Martin

Are You Posting Your Politics?

© Can Stock Photo/
ShutterM

Nowadays many people express their political views all over social media, regardless of whether or not an election is coming up. I understand freedom of speech, and you certainly have the right to express yourself. However, there may be unintended consequences.

Why political posts on social media is a bad idea for novel writers

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform we have for driving traffic to our websites and blogs and building our brands. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a following, as in months, or even years. So why, after doing all this hard work, would you want to risk alienating your fans and followers?

If you’re a political writer then you’re the exception. Political topics are  what your readers expect. However, many of us are not political writers. If you write novels, short stories or other creative fiction, and your sole purpose is to entertain you reader, then you may want to think twice about posting your politics on social media.

The risk you take

I make no claims of being mathematician or a statistician. However, I think it’s a safe bet to say that roughly half of your fans and followers don’t share your political views. It doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, liberal or libertarian. They don’t share your views. Nor will you get them to change their minds.

If you’re all over social media bashing conservatives, or liberals, or their candidate, then you risk alienating roughly half your fan base. No doubt these fans will unfriend or unfollow you on social media. They may also unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. Most importantly, they may stop buying your books. If you made them angry enough they may even leave scathing reviews. So, before writing that political post, ask yourself this question. “Do I really want to lose half my fans?”

I’m sure some of you are so passionate about your beliefs that you don’t want people who disagree with you buying your book in the first place. If so, it’s certainly your prerogative. However, I think most of us don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.

Yes, they will unfriend you

I’ve unfriended many people on Facebook because of their political posts. This includes unfriending fellow authors. Some of their posts were so hateful it was shocking. Others were people I’ve known for years. Unfriending them made me feel truly sad. However, I’m tired of all the hate. I’m tired of all the negativity, Most of all, I’m tired of all the mean spiritedness and the divisiveness. It’s put me in a place where I’m seriously reevaluating some of my friendships.

I guess I must be old school. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that who I vote for is for me to know, and the rest of you to wonder about. 

Gayle Martin

Tax Tips for Authors and Writers


The holidays are over, which means it’s time to start preparing for tax season. I want to begin by stating for the record that I am not a tax expert, nor am I giving any kind of legal advice. However, one thing I have learned, through trial and error, is to save my receipts. Come April 15, it’s far better to have your tax preparer say you can throw a receipt away because you don’t need it, rather than hearing him or her tell you that you won’t be able to claim a deduction because you didn’t have your receipt.

Generally speaking, if it’s an expense incurred in writing, publishing or promoting your books, it may be tax deductible. Your tax preparer will ultimately determine which, if any, deductions you are allowed to take. However, he or she will want to see your documentation. Therefore, you should keep your receipts for:

  • advertising expenses
  • book design services
  • book reviewers, (if you had to pay for a review)
  • editing services
  • photographers and illustrators
  • publishing services
  • research materials

Does your publisher charge you for copies of your books? If so, hang on to the receipts.

Other potential deductions

Other expenses which may possibly be deductible would include:

  • Book signing materials, such as tablecloths, display items and signage
  • Cell Phones, (if purchased for business use)
  • Computer hardware and software, (if purchased for business use)
  • Office supplies
  • Postage and shipping services, such as UPS
  • Website hosting


Do you work out of your home? If so, a portion of your rent or mortgage payments, and utility bills, may also be deductible. Save those receipts.
Some authors, including yours truly, write genre books which may require special attire for book signings. For example, I wrote a series of  Old West novelettes, and some of the venues where I signed my books required me to wear western clothing. If I had to buy a special outfit or accessory for a book signing, I kept the receipts.


Travel expenses


Some authors have book related travel expenses. This would include travel for book signings, research or business meetings. Whether it’s across town or across the country, you need to keep track of your travel expenses, as they too may be deductible. These expenses would include:

  • Airfare
  • Hotels and lodging
  • Meals
  • Rental cars
  • Uber or cab fare

Business mileage is another tax deduction many us may forget about. You can document your mileage by either keeping a logbook in your car, or via websites like Google Maps. Simply enter your address, and the address of your destination, and the exact mileage will display on the page. Print out the page, highlight the miles, and put it in your tax files.


Unfortunately, authors and writers are not immune to tax audits. You should keep your final return, as well as all of your documentation, on file for at least six years. Rest assured, if you’re ever audited, you will most certainly need your receipts. If you don’t have them, the IRS may disallow the deduction. They may also hit you with a penalty. It’s far better to have those receipts and not need them then the other way around.

Is it a business or a hobby?

This is where things can get a little sticky. As authors, we tend to take our work seriously. For us, writing books is most certainly a business. However, the IRS may see it differently. 

As I mentioned in my article, The Author Myth, found at the top of this blog, there is a common misconception that authors make a lot of money selling their books, and some do. However, as also stated in the article, “For most authors, book royalties are an income supplement at best. For many, they’re not much more than beer money.” There is a limit as to how many years you may be allowed to write off your deductions if you’re not making a profit. After that, the IRS considers it a hobby, not a business, even though we may see it differently. Of course, the IRS still requires you report your book sales or royalties as income, even if it was only a few dollars.


For more specific information regarding taxes, and which deductions you may be entitled to take, please consult with a professional tax preparer, or the Internal Revenue Service.


Gayle Martin

From the Writer’s Desk is written, edited, and maintained by a real human being. It does not include content generated by AI (Artificial Intelligence) software of any kind.

No part of this blog may be used or reproduced or transmitted in any form, or used in any matter by AI, without the express written consent Good Oak Press, LLC. Requests for permission must be addressed to Good Oak Press, LLC, P.O. Box 51244, Denton, TX 76206-1244

 

Don’t Do the Project

if you can’t afford to pay your people

It’s one of my all time biggest irks. Seeing so-called job listings for creative services with such caveats as, “We can’t afford to pay at the present time,” or, “No pay but we’ll provide food.” Then there’s my all time favorite. “We can’t afford to pay you but we’ll give you free exposure.”

Wow. Some things make me so angry it’s hard to find the right words.

I get it. We all have dreams. Whether it’s writing and publishing a book, producing a film or recording a CD, we all need professionals to get the project off the ground. But here’s the rub. These professionals spent years learning their craft. And, depending on the project, they may have to use their own equipment as well. So makes you think you’re entitled to get it for free? Think about it. Your doctor doesn’t work for free. Your car mechanic doesn’t work it for free. So what makes you think your editor should work for free? 

We don’t have the money because we’re just getting started.

That’s the lame, tired, worn out and overused excuse that everyone uses whenever they want something for free. “We’re just getting started so don’t have the money.” Well, too bad, because in the real world people expect, and deserve, to be paid for their time and labor.

It’s a business, so treat it like a business.

Any kind of creative business venture, whether it’s writing and publishing a book, making an independent film, or recording a music CD, is a business venture. Any business venture, whether it’s creative or not, requires a certain amount of capital upfront. Fortunately, there are places where you can get the money. If you’ve ever registered a business name then you know your mailbox will soon be filled with all kinds of offers for business loans. Here’s an idea. Apply for them. Even if you can only qualify for a small amount, it may be enough for you to pay your people.

Same goes for grants. There are all kinds of grants out there for creative projects. Apply for them. Yes, it can be time consuming, but you just might get the funding you need to get your project off the ground. Another option is crowdfunding through Kickstarter, GoFundMe, or other crowdfunding platforms.

If all the above fails, then do it the way our parents and grandparents did it. Put a little money aside from each paycheck until you save up enough to pay for the services you need. Sure, it’ll take some time, and in the interim it won’t hurt to go out and start promoting your project. Who knows? You may get lucky and find yourself a sponsor.

The bottom line

Unless you’re a 501(C) 3 nonprofit, and the people providing their services can use them as a tax deductible donation, then you frankly have no business asking a professional to provide you a service free of charge just because you want it. Not only is this demeaning to the service provider, it’s also insulting. If you can’t afford to pay your people then you can’t afford to do the project. Period.

Gayle Martin

And Now for a Time Out

© 2019 by Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

I’ve finally completed my latest Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel. Now I’m ready for a much needed break. In fact, I typically go on hiatus after a new novel is published.

Writing truly is one of my life’s passions. However, I’m also aware of the thin line between creativity and burnout, also known as the dreaded writer’s block. Burnout can happen when we overextend and push ourselves too hard, although sometimes we’re so into what we’re doing we’re not aware we’re overdoing it.

Once I finish one novel I’m already formulating the next one in my mind, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is starting page one the day after my current novel goes to press. Like the tide, creativity ebbs and flows, and none of us want it to ebb unexpectedly. I’ve learned, through experience, that the best thing to do after finishing a novel is to put my creative writing muse on the back burner, even as ideas for the next book pop into my head. Or, should I say, most especially when those new ideas are popping into my head. I’ll jot them down, and perhaps start working on a treatment, but I won’t take them any further anytime soon.

I enjoy my down time between novels. It can last for a few weeks to a few months because I’m no longer on a time schedule. Then, when I feel I’m ready, I’ll start my next book. Until then, however, it’s my time for me.

Gayle Martin