Are You Posting Your Politics?

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

Photo by Gayle Martin

It’s that time again. A presidential election is coming up, and people are expressing their political views all over social media. I understand freedom of speech. However, our mothers also taught us to never discuss politics or religion in polite company, (at least mine did), and our mothers were right.

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform out there for driving traffic to our websites and blogs and building our brands. However, it takes a huge amount of time and effort to build a following, and by huge I mean months, or even years. That said, after all that hard work, do you really want to risk alienating your fans and followers?

If you’re a nonfiction political writer then it’s a given that you should write about politics, but not all of us are political writers. If you write novels, short stories or other creative fiction, and your sole purpose is to entertain you reader, then my advice to you is this: DO NOT write political posts on social media.

While I make no claims of being mathematician, or a statistician, I think it’s a safe bet to say that roughly half of your fans and followers do not share your political views. It doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, liberal or libertarian, they do not share your views, and trust me, you won’t get them to change their minds. So if you’re all over social media bashing conservatives or liberals, or bashing their candidate, then rest assured you’re going to piss off roughly half you fans and followers. They in turn will unfriend or unfollow you on social media. They’ll unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. Most importantly, they’ll stop buying your books, and if you’re made them angry enough they’ll 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 there are some of you out there who 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, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, I think most of us really don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.

Over the past few weeks I’ve unfriended a number of people on Facebook for overloading my newsfeed with their constant flow of negative political posts, and no doubt I’ll be unfriending more before the election is over. Some have been people I’ve known for some time, and unfriending them made me feel sad. However, I’m honestly burned out on all the negativity, and it’s put me in a place where I’m seriously reevaluating some of my friendships.

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

Gayle Martin

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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 saying I’m 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 those receipts. Come April 15, it’s far better to have your tax preparer tell you that you can throw a receipt away because you don’t need it, instead of having him or her tell you that you won’t be able to claim a deduction you would have otherwise been entitled to because you don’t have your receipt.

Which Receipts do you need?

Generally speaking, if it’s an expense incurred in writing, publishing or promoting your books, you can deduct it. Your tax preparer will ultimately determine which deductions you can take, however he or she will want to see your documentation first. 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 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 be deductible. Save those receipts.

Some authors, including yours truly, write genre books which may require special attire for book signings. For example, I write Old West historical fiction, and some venues where I sign my books require me to wear western clothing. Therefore, if I have to buy any special outfit or accessory for business use, such as a book signing, I keep the receipts, as it may be tax deductible.

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
  • Taxi fare

Business mileage is another tax deduction many us may forget about. You can document your mileage by either keeping a log book 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 and put it in your tax files.

Remember too that authors and writers are not immune to tax audits. You should keep your final return, as well as all of your documentation, including receipts, 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.

For more specific information about taxes, please consult with a professional tax preparer, or the Internal Revenue Service.

Gayle Martin

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Don’t Do the Project if You Can’t 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 want to get the best professionals we can to give our project everything it needs to get it off the ground. But here’s the rub. These professionals spend 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. The mechanic who works on your car doesn’t do 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 same lame, tired, worn out and overused excuse that everyone uses whenever they want something for free. “We just don’t have the money.” Well, too bad, because in the real world people expect, and deserve, to be fairly paid for their time and labor.

Any kind of creative business venture, whether it’s writing and publishing a book, making an independent film, or recording a music CD is just that. 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 might 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 might get lucky and find yourself a sponsor.

Here’s the bottom line. Unless you’re a 501(C) 3 nonprofit, and the people providing their services can provide 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. Nuf said.

Gayle Martin

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And Now for a Time Out

Photo by Gayle Martin

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

While writing truly is one of my life’s passions, 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, but sometimes we’re so into what we’re doing that we’re not aware we’re overdoing it.

By the time 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 of that new novel the day after my current one goes to press. Like the tide, creativity ebbs and flows, and none of us want to ebb unexpectedly. I’ve learned, through experience, that for me 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, 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

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Hey Google! I Can Think for Myself

A block of letters that read "Search Rank."
© Can Stock Photo / Curioso_Travel_Photo

As some of you may have already noticed, I recently migrated this blog from Blogger to WordPress. Part of me hated doing this. I loved Blogger because it was so easy to use. Unfortunately, there was a problem. Google owns Blogger, and, like Facebook, Google is getting much too creepy.

As I discussed in my previous post, The Best Search Engines for Novel Writers, no writer should ever use Google for their searches. Nor would I limit this suggestion to just writers. In my humble opinion, no one should be using Google. No one. Google has become too powerful. So much so that it’s now trying to tell us what to think.

How Google is trying to manipulate us

Last night, as I was listening to Coast to Coast AM, the host announced her guest, an expert on alternative medicine. She began her introduction by stating that Google has eliminated ALL alternative medicine websites from its search engine. All of them. It has replaced them with ANTI-alternative medicine websites. This means if you’re looking for alternative treatments for your allergies, because all conventional treatments have failed you, you won’t find any information on Google. Why? Because Google thinks you’re too stupid to decide which treatment would be best for you. They will decide the treatment you need, not you.

When my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and the doctors told him there was nothing more that they could do, he took matters into his own hands. This happened in the late 1990s. The Internet was still in its infancy. There was no Google. So my father drove to the nearest health food store and purchased every book he could find on alternative treatments. He then followed up and sought those treatments. Guess what? His cancer went into remission. Alternative medicine gave him an extra year with a good quality of life, without any side effects. It was an extra year he would not have otherwise had. He and I both believed that had he used alternative medicine much sooner, he probably would have beaten the cancer. Assuming he would have even developed it in the first place.

Alternative medicine really can work. Unfortunately, this is but one example of how Google is trying to manipulate you and tell you how to think.

We have the right to live our lives as we see fit. Thankfully, there are other search engines that DON’T think they’re God. They will give you the information you are searching for, and they will allow you to think for yourself. These search engines include Bing and DogPile, as well as GoDuckGo, one of the search engines I discussed in my previous post.

Hey Google! We can think for ourselves. Stop using Google. Find a better search engine.

Gayle Martin

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Let’s Stop Putting Labels on People

© Can Stock Photo / Medclips

I’ll always recall a time when I attended a business networking event. Someone asked me what I do. I told her I wrote novels. But her response was appalling. She looked me in the eye and said, “Oh, so that means you have ADD.” (Attention Deficit Disorder — a mental illness.)

I was completely flabbergasted. How could a so-called business professional would make such a hurtful, hateful, and stupid remark? So, I looked her in the eye and said, “Well, in my line of work, that would actually be considered a job requirement.” It shut her up. And she walked away with egg on her face. 

Few things make me bristle like people who insist on putting stigmatizing labels on other people. Why must they do this? Is there is some narrow definition of normal out there? Do creative, imaginative people not fit into this so-called norm? Is this why creative people are stigmatized? Or do they like to make other people look so they make themselves look good?

I suspect the answer is all the above. There are people who simply don’t like creative people. Period. I recall reading an article telling parents how to “reprogram” their children if they showed any sign of being, “right-brained creative.” Is there something wrong with a creative child? Apparently so.

Well, guess what? I’m a right-brained creative, and I’m damn proud of it! I’m who God made me to be. And, in spite of what people may think, I’m actually able to perform my job. Not only do I write novels, I also I run my own book publishing business. 

So, Miss Smart-Alec, who the hell are you to pin your scarlet letter on me and label me with “ADD?” Yes, my job involves using my God-given creative skills. I’m sorry if you’re jealous because you don’t have them. And here’s another thought. Why don’t you worry more about your own damn life and stay bloody hell out of mine!


GM

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One of the Pitfalls of Social Media

© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM

As writers we’ve all been told that social media is an essential marketing tool, and it truly is. I’ve made fans and sold books on social media. However, social media can also be a double-edged sword. It must be treated with respect. Let me give you an example of something that happened to me a few years ago.

After posting a comment on a friend’s Facebook post, I started engaging with another of her friends on the same thread. We were talking about jazz music, something we both enjoyed. During our online conversation she mentioned that she was a book editor. At the time I was publishing books for other authors, so I told her I was a publisher. I then asked her to please send me a friendship request so I could include her on my referral list. She was more than happy to oblige. 

As it turned out, she posted frequently Facebook. However, I found her content troubling. She ranted about her hatred of children, her dislike of men, and her belief that interpersonal relationships were a complete waste of time. She also posted about her hatred of churches and of people of faith. Anyone who disagreed was told to “go f— themselves.” No matter how respectful they were, they got the same hateful, vulgar, response.

I soon realized that I could NEVER refer this woman to any of my authors. If she was that mean spirited and disrespectful on Facebook, I could only imagine how badly she would have treated them. So, instead of sending her referrals, I blocked her.

The point I’m making is to use caution when posting on social media. Mean spirited and hateful posts really can come back and bite you. In this instance, it cost someone business leads.

Gayle Martin

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Pondering the Meaning of Life

© 2019 Gayle Martin. All Rights Reserved.

The other day I learned that an old family friend had passed away. She and her husband were close friends with my parents, and she was the last one standing. 


I’ll call her Jane. I saw quite a bit of her when I was young. But once I left home I only saw her at special events; weddings, anniversary parties, and funerals. The last time I saw her was over twenty years ago. As soon as I heard she had passed away, I looked up her obituary. It included a photo, probably taken a good fifty years ago. And while Jane wasn’t overly pretty, she was an attractive woman and surprisingly photogenic. 


Her obituary began the usual way. When and where she was born. It mentioned her parents, grandparents, and siblings. It mentioned her marriage and a business her husband once owned. There was also a mention of her being a cub scout den mother. And that’s when her story took an odd twist. Instead of saying she was a full time mom and homemaker, it listed all the country clubs she’d belonged to. It concluded with saying that she had spent her entire adult life playing bridge at the country club. 

Wow.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had a great deal of admiration for full time moms. I think they have one of the most important, and overlooked, roles in society. I also think we should make time to do the things we enjoy doing. It brings balance in our lives. And if playing cards is what you enjoy doing so be it. However, there’s a whole lot more to life than just playing cards. Life is about what we do for others, and doing what we can to make the world a better place. It’s also about the legacy we leave behind. My job as a novel writer is to bring a little joy into people’s lives, even if it’s only for a few minutes out of their busy day. And even if I only make a difference for one person, to me, it’s a life well spent.

GM

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Welcome to From the Writer’s Desk

a blog for novel writers

There are a lot of writing blogs out there, and many offer great advice. However, most of the ones I’ve seen are geared toward nonfiction writers. As novel writers, we have different goals and needs. We’re storytellers. We write to entertain.

This blog is about helping you write a better novel as I pass along what I’ve learned about this crazy business. So please, pull up a chair and make yourselves comfortable. And if you see something you like, please be sure to post a comment.

Gayle Martin

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Why Off-Site Storage is a Must

Photo by Gayle Martin.

It’s happened to me twice now. That oh so sickening feeling of going to open a file, only to discover it has somehow vanished off my hard drive.

Computers are mysterious creatures. I jokingly tell people they’re black magic and voodoo, although I sometimes wonder if there could be some truth to this. Both times it happened was after I’d saved the files and shut down my computer properly. Obviously, files can be lost or hopelessly corrupted, even when you’ve done nothing wrong. This is why I have off site storage.

What is off site storage?

Off site storage, sometimes called the cloud, is just that. Your files are backed up to a third party server. So, heaven forbid, your computer gets lost or stolen, or an important file gets lost or damaged, you can easily download a backup. Some people may worry about privacy, which is a legitimate concern. However, any reliable off site storage company will encrypt your files. 

What I use

I use Carbonite, but there are other offsite backup services out there. Carbonite costs me a little over $50 per year, and it’s money well spent. It runs in the background and automatically backs up my files. I never have to stop and do a backup. On those rare occasions when I’ve had to use it, I found it very easy. The first time was to recover missing a Word file. I got all but the last two paragraphs back. More recently, I had to recover an InDesign file that mysteriously vanished. Carbonite downloaded it completely intact.

But I back my stuff up on a flashdrive

Some people tell me they don’t need off site storage as they manually backup their files up on a flash drive. So, what happens if you lose that flash drive? What happens if, Heaven forbid, your home is burglarized? Or if there’s a natural disaster and you lose you home? It happens. In such a scenario your flash drive may be lost as well. You can replace your computer, but the data will be gone forever, unless you have an off site backup.

Stuff happens, and it can happen to you. Carbonite has saved my rear-end. Not once, but twice. I’m now a customer for life.

Gayle Martin

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