Are Facebook Business Pages Needed?

© CanStockPhoto/ShutterM

Someone posted an interesting question in one of my Facebook author groups. She wanted to know if a Facebook business page was a good marketing tool. I gave her an honest answer. I said that while it wouldn’t hurt to have one, Facebook business pages themselves are NOT good marketing tools. The reason why has to do with Facebook algorithms.

The Pros

Facebook business pages are free.  They’re also easy to set up. I had my Marina Martindale Facebook page up and running pretty quickly. It’s also easy to start building followers. I invited all my Facebook friends, and many, if not most, accepted the invitation.

The Cons

While most of your Facebook friends may accept your invitation, few, if any, will actually buy your books. I also have business page for my photography, and I have a follower there who hits the like button on each and every photo I post. I could post a photo of a roll of toilet paper, and she’d probably give it a like. Maybe she thinks hitting the like button will help me. It doesn’t. If you want to support an artist on Facebook, whether it’s me or another artist, then stop hitting the “like” button and hit the “BUY” button instead. Unfortunately, no one ever does. People don’t go on Facebook to shop. They go on Facebook to be entertained.

Here’s the Dirty Little Secret about Facebook Business Pages

Your business page may have hundreds, if not thousands, of followers. However, only a very small percentage of your followers will actually see your posts. Even if you spend the money to boost a post or advertise your page, only a limited amount of people will see it. For whatever reason, Facebook algorithms were set up this way. In my opinion, this is borderline fraud. If I have three hundred people following my page, I expect my post to show up in all three hundred Facebook newsfeeds. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, Facebook just doesn’t see it that way.

So What Works?

Based on my own experience, the best tools for getting your books noticed are websites and blogs. I know money is an issue for many authors. If it is for you, then I recommend Blogger. It’s a free Google blogging platform. It may look a little dated because Google no longer supports it, but it still has many nice templates to pick and choose from. Then, once you select a template, you can change the backgrounds and colors to customize it. You can also point it to your own dot com name

For those with more technical skills I recommend WordPress. Unlike Blogger, which has its own host, you need to find a WordPress host. Prices can vary, so be sure to shop around. WordPress also has dozens upon dozens of templates and themes to choose from, as well as all kinds of bells and whistles. I started this blog on Blogger and moved it to WordPress a few years later. It uses the twenty sixteen theme, which is clean and simple. I later found a WordPress guru, and when my Marina Martindale webpage expired, I had her build me a whole new WordPress website and combine it with my Marina Martindale blog.  I also had her build a website for my Luke and Jenny series of children’s books, and I created a WordPress blog for Rosie’s Riveting Recipes, my WWII historic cookbook. It too uses the twenty sixteen theme.

The Bottom Line

Facebook business pages are free, but their range is extremely limited. Too few people will ever see your posts. If you’re serious about marketing your books, whether it’s one book or a dozen books, you will need a website or a blog. Your website is also your own personal platform. You don’t ever have to worry about somehow unknowingly violating Facebook’s constantly changing “community standards.”

Gayle Martin

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

 

We’ll Just Split the Royalties

Photo by Pond5

One of the Facebook publishing groups I belong to seems to attract a large number of first-time authors as well as prospective authors. We all have to start somewhere, and I try to help out whenever I can.

The posts typically come from people who are even more clueless than I was when I was getting started, and trust me, I was pretty darn clueless. I’d written a historic cookbook called, Anna’s Kitchen,  and I thought I knew it all. Let’s just say I’ve come a long way since then. That said, I’m sometimes flabbergasted at some of the things people are posting, such as the prospective author who couldn’t afford to pay her illustrator, so she wanted to know if it would be okay to split the book royalties 50/50 instead?

Umm…no!

There are many myths out there about writing and publishing books. One of the biggest, and most persistent, is that authors make big bucks from their book sales. Some who do, but they’re the exception. In reality, most authors have to have day jobs if they want to pay their bills. Their book royalties are, at best, income supplements.

Like any undertaking, there are out-of-pocket expenses which come with writing and publishing books, such as editing, proofreading, and cover design. Laptops and tablets cost money. Pens and paper cast money too. I understand that money may be an issue for many of you, and if it is, then you may be tempted to do it all yourself. My advice, however, is don’t. Very few people have the skillset to do it all, which means you will have to hire people to do certain tasks.

As noted, it’s easy for someone who has never written a book to assume their book will make a profit. They may think it’s perfectly okay to offer to share a portion of their future profits, or royalties, in lieu of paying for the work. It isn’t. The people proofreading your manuscript and designing your book cover have bills to pay. Asking them to work on spec is, at best, unprofessional.

What about asking your spouse, or your best friend, or your great-aunt Mary? Again, I don’t recommend doing this. Family and friends usually aren’t qualified to do the task, but if you need an editor, and your great-aunt Mary just happens to be a retired English teacher, then maybe you could ask her. Keep in mind, however, that she may say no, or she may expect favors from you in return.

The fact of of matter is that you have to pay your people for services rendered. If you can’t afford to pay them, then you can’t afford publish your book. At least for now.

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

 

 

 

Blogs or Newsletters?

© Can Stock Photo/ kurhan

I saw a Twitter post the other day from another author asking which was best. A blog or a newsletter? I responded by saying I use both. I also have  websites. The Internet is an interesting place. You never know how or where someone will find you. Therefore, I’m of the opinion that you can never have too much online presence.

The Difference Between a Blog and a Traditional Website

Years ago I attended a meeting with the now defunct Arizona Book Publishers Association. The speaker, whose name I unfortunately can no longer recall, was an expert on online book marketing. He talked about how you need both a website an a blog. He described a website as the place where “you wore your business suit.” It should be straightforward and formal. As an author, I use my website to showcase my books.

The speaker then described a blog as less formal and more personal than a website. It was where you wore your sweats. In other words, a blog was where you could talk one to one with your readers. I use my Marina Martindale blog to share excerpts from my books, talk about my inspiration, and discuss my characters in depth.

Using a Blog as a Website

Nowadays many websites include a blog feed. At one time I included them on my website as well. Then one day it mysteriously vanished. I called tech support. They had no idea what was going on, but they couldn’t restore the feed either. I’ll just say I’m glad my blogs and websites use different hosts.

Some people use their blog as their website. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that. In fact, I recommend Blogger to those authors with limited budgets who can’t afford website hosting. Blogger is free and easy to use. You can customize your template to give it a unique look. The only out of pocket expense would be buying your own domain name. It’s optional, but I highly recommend it.

I use a WordPress blog for my historic cookbook website. Cookbooks are unique as they’re not actually read. They’re used for finding recipes. Therefore, my blog/website is for posting recipes and cooking tips, with a link to buy the cookbook at the end of each post.

One final word about author websites. Some authors like to include a bookstore. I once had one on my website as well. However, I soon discovered that readers don’t feel comfortable buying directly from the author or publisher. They prefer to buy from reputable online booksellers, such as Amazon. I’ve since taken my bookstore down and replaced it with links to where they can buy the books.

Newsletters

My newsletter is where I pitch my books. Each newsletter includes at least one “free sample” article with a link to a book except on my blog. I also have a monthly contest where my subscribers can win a free, author signed paperback edition of one of my novels. All they have do to enter is answer a multiple choice question correctly. The question is always something from the book I’m giving away, and I include a “hint.” The hint is a link to another blog post with with an except revealing the correct answer. It’s a great way to get people to read a sample. It’s an even better way to get a book into a reader’s hands. Back when I used to distribute through Ingram I always opted to have them ship returns to me. I’d much rather use them as contest prizes than have them end up in a landfill. It’s a win win for everyone.

A few words of caution regarding newsletters. People have to opt in. Never sign anyone up without their permission. You also need to limit how often you send them. I limit mine to one newsletter a month. The only exception is when I’m launching a new book. I will send them a short, to the point announcement with a link to where they can buy the book. I save the rest for the next newsletter. The number one reason why people unsubscribe to a newsletter is because they’re receiving too many of them. So when it comes to newsletters, less is more.

 

 

 

 

Another Self Publishing Advantage

Throughout this blog I’ve discussed many of the advantages of indie publishing over traditional publishing. Now here’s another item to add to the list. Owning the rights to your work.

First things first however. Before going any further, I need to state that I’m not an attorney. Nor is anything in this blog ever to be considered legal advice. This discussion concerns works of fiction, written of the author’s own volition. In this context it is common knowledge that the author owns the rights to whatever fictional stories he or she wishes to create.

The Problem with Traditional Publishing

The business model for traditional publishing is for the publisher to pay the author an advance against their royalties. In exchange, the author signs some or all of their rights to their work to the publisher. It all sounds wonderful. At least on paper. But when talking with traditionally published authors, I often hear the same story. “My name is on the book, but it’s not what I wrote.” Unfortunately, this is what happens when the author signs away their rights to the publisher. The publisher can revise or rewrite the story in ways that the author never imagined or intended.

Some authors may not care. As long as they’re getting their royalty checks, they’re okay with it. However, those of us who pour our hearts and souls into our work may find it problematic.

The Advantage of Nontraditional Publishing

Like many fiction authors, I put a lot of thought into what I write. For example, I may name my lead character Erica after a favorite aunt. She has  long blonde hair and brown eyes like my best friend in fifth grade. The story is set in Idaho because my family vacationed there when I was a kid. In other words, everything I write is there for a reason. I also have my own unique writing  voice. It’s like a signature and it distinguishes me from other authors. So the last thing I want is a nameless, faceless editor to come along and change Erica’s name to Sarah, and morph her into a brunette living in Boston. Nor do I want anyone taking away my voice. This is why I do nontraditional publishing.

Partnership Publishing and Self Publishing

There are two avenues for nontraditional publishing. Self publishing and partnership publishing.

Like a traditional publisher, a partnership publisher prints and distributes the book. Many, if not most, offer additional services, such as editing, proofreading, typesetting, and cover design, just like a traditional publisher. But unlike a traditional publisher, they do not buy the rights to the author’s work. All rights remain with the author. This means they do not make any changes to the content or story without the author’s okay.

There are a number of good partnership publishers out there. Unfortunately, there are others that are not. Therefore, it is up to you, the author, to do your research and find the right company. Fortunately there are resources, such as Writer Beware and Trust Pilot, which can help you weed out the bad guys

The other option is self publishing. In this model the author is in charge every aspect of writing, producing, and distributing the book. I tried self-publishing when I first started writing. We’ll just say it was a humbling experience. I then worked with a partnership publisher. Later on, when I understood how the business worked, I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. Having been a graphic designer before I became a writer, it was the right choice for me, but it’s not right for everyone. If it’s not for you, don’t worry. Partnership publishing gives you plenty of options without signing away the rights to your work.

When to Consult with an Attorney

Those with specific questions about copyrights should consult with an attorney who specializes in copyright law. I also highly recommend consulting with an attorney before signing any publishing contract, regardless of whether it’s with a traditional publisher or a partnership publisher. Licensing agreements can be complicated, and there may be loopholes in there which the author does not expect. You need to fully understand your specific legal rights before going forward.

Gayle Martin

Why I No Longer Use Ingram Spark

© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

Once upon a time, there were two book distributing services in the United States. Ingram, and Baker & Taylor. Baker & Taylor distributes to schools and libraries. Ingram distributes to book sellers.

The book publishing industry began to change in the early 21st century. Personal computers were becoming more sophisticated and more affordable. At the same time, new software was allowing people to publish from home. It even had a name. Desktop publishing.

So along came Lightning Source

Ingram created subsidiary called Lightning Source, although I’m not exactly sure when this came about. However, I first heard of Lightning Source in 2003, after I wrote my first Luke and Jenny novel. My original publisher used Lightning Source for their distribution.

I began working with Lightning Source directly in 2011, when I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. At the time, they were a fantastic company to work with. They were there to help you succeed. If you had any question or concerns, or if you just needed a little help uploading a file, they were only a phone call away.

Then came Ingram Spark

A new subsidiary, Ingram Spark, came along a few years later. It worked with independent, or self-published authors, so I migrated to the new site. Same company, same great customer service. I had a long and happy business relationship with both subsidiaries for over a decade

Unfortunately, times have changed, and I’m afraid it hasn’t been for the better. It all started when I was having some serious log in issues with my account. No matter what I did, nothing would fix it. It’s a rather long, complicated story, so I’ll sum it up by saying that after much frustration and many emails back and forth, I was told the problem was fixed. Only it wasn’t fixed. The issue still persisted.

Why I Left Ingram Spark

Ingram Spark is longer the helpful company I signed on with back in 2011. They have discontinued telephone support. Tech support is only available by email only. Unfortunately, the more complicated the issue, the more difficult it is to resolve it by email alone.

The initial response to the emails I sent always asked me for information I had already included in the original email, along with a screenshot. For example, if someone named Bill responded to my first email,  I’d reply with a, “Dear Bill.” Then would repeat everything I had described in the original email, along with another screenshot. Next thing I knew, I would get a response from Sally, asking me the same questions Bill had asked. So where was Bill? I thoughtI was working with someone named Bill. So, once again, I’m having to rewrite my original question and attach yet another screen. The next response came from Marco, who, like Sally, had never bothered to read the earlier emails.

Having to describe the same issue over and over again only made matters worse, and after awhile you realize they don’t give a damn about helping you. As a result, the issue was never resolved. Sometimes you need to communicate in person, but I no longer had that option. There came a point when it finally became a deal breaker. Thankfully, there are now some alternatives.

I recently learned that one of my author friends has never used Ingram Spark. This came as a big surprise. He’s been writing books longer than I have, and he has built himself a good following. He distributes his books through Amazon’s KDP Publishing, Draft2Digital, and SmashWords. So, I’ve  changing course too. I’ve closed out my Ingram Spark account for good.

Kindle Direct Publishing

As we all know, the Amazon Kindle has been a game changer. I started publishing my ebook editions directly with Amazon shortly after the Kindle came on the market. The platform easy to use, and I could upload my files for free. However, I had never published a print edition with KDP Direct. That all changed with my latest Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, Aquamarine. When I uploaded the print edition to KDP Direct I found it was almost as easy as uploading an eBook.

I admit I was a little concerned about the printing quality, but after receiving my first author’s copies, I can find no difference between KDP and Ingram. Both companies produce good quality print books. The only difference is that Amazon does not charge you a fee to upload your files. You upload them for free. So why spend money when you don’t have to?

Amazon also has outstanding customer service. You can contact them by phone, email or chat. I’ve found their phone support to be friendly and helpful. No long waits on hold either. You enter your phone number, and they will call you back. They will also work with you until the problem is fixed.

Other Book Distributors

I’ve started distributing my eBook editions through Draft2Digital. They offer virtually the same eBook distribution as Ingram Spark. My eBook editions are now available for the Barnes& Noble Nook, Sony and Kobo eReaders, Apple Books, and others. There is no fee to upload your files, and their customer support is available by phone or email. Draft2Digital is also merging with SmashWords, and I will soon be distributing my print editions with them as well.

Ingram Spark is by far the winner when it comes to convenience. Those who don’t want the hassle of having to upload their files to multiple accounts may think the forty dollar upload fee worth it. To each their own. Unfortunately, because of all the grief they have caused me, I’ve decided they simply aren’t worth headache, and I’d rather keep the forty dollars in my own pocket. I can only hope, for their sake, that they will take whatever steps are necessary to improve their customer service. They lost a loyal, long-term  customer when they lost me, and somehow I doubt I’m the only one. All I can say is I won’t be coming back.

Gayle Martin

UPDATE: Smashwords and Draft2Digital have merged. If you are using D2D they will now publish your books on Smashwords.

 

Selling a Book is Business 101

© Can Stock Photo/ araraadt

Many newbie authors simply don’t understand how basic retailing works. I sometimes see posts on author’s forums from people who are most upset because Amazon is selling their books below THEIR price.

Let’s Take a Short Course in Business 101

You write a book. You then want to sell your book. (And who doesn’t?) There are different way to accomplish this, depending on the book format. These days most authors sell an ebook and a print edition. I’m now going to explain the differences in how they are distributed.

eBook Editions

For ebook editions distribution is pretty simple. You upload your file to the bookseller, such as Amazon KDP. You determine your retail price. Amazon will ask you what percentage of that price do you want them to pay you as a royalty. You make you selection, submit your file, and viola! You ebook is now available for purchase, at your price.

So, how are you able to do this? Well, simply put, ebooks are intangible. They’re an electronic file. Amazon didn’t have to purchase tangible, printed copies of your book for resale.

Print Editions

Print editions are different. They are a tangible product. It costs money to have them printed and distributed to booksellers. So, how does this work?

Most small press and independent authors use Print on Demand, or POD for short. Here’s how POD works. Once your book is typeset and your cover is designed, you upload the files to the distributor, which, in the United States, can be Ingram Spark, Barnes & Noble press, Amazon KDP, or Draft2Digital. You include your retail price, along with a discount, typically 55%. The discounted price is your wholesale price. Your retail price is, essentially, the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price, or the MSRP.

So what’s a wholesale price?

Your wholesale price is what resellers, or retailers, you know, book stores, pay for your book. They will then stock your book in their store.

So why aren’t they selling your book for your price?

The retail price is what the consumer, in this case, the person who wants to read your book, pays to purchase it from the bookseller.

The bookseller has overhead expenses, such as rent, utilities, and so forth. Therefore, he or she has to factor in their overhead and sell the book at a price so that they can make a profit. This price may be the same as your MSRP, or it may be less. If they can sell it for less, the consumer is more likely to buy. If they are having a sale, they may drop the price even lower. Either way, the final retail price is determined by the bookseller, not the author. The author’s price, which is printed on the book cover, is the suggested price only. There is no written agreement between the author and the bookseller to sell the book for the author’s retail price.

Your other option–print and distribute it yourself

If you’re not happy with the way books are printed and distributed you can print and distribute your book yourself. Some authors choose to do this, and depending on their readers, and how they distribute their books, they may do well. However, there are some disadvantages to doing it yourself. First, you’ll have to find a book printer and pay for a print run, which is typically 500 or 1000 books. That’s a lot of books, so you’ll need a place to store them.

Once you have your print books in hand, you can sell them directly from your own website at your MSRP. Again, some authors do this, quite successfully, but it does take a lot of work. Once a book is sold you’re responsible for the shipping, so plan on spending time waiting in line at the Post Office. You can also sell the book yourself on Amazon as a third party seller. However, you’re still responsible for fulfilling the order, which means you’re still the one who has to go to the Post Office.

So there you have it. If you want total control of the MSRP, and you don’t want anyone selling your book for anything less, then you’ll have assume the responsibility for the printing and distribution, and well as fulfilling the orders. Again, some authors, such as motivational speakers, do this successfully, as they typically sell their books at their speaking gigs. However, most readers prefer to buy printed books from trusted booksellers, such as Amazon.

Gayle Martin

 

Are You Ready to be Published?

© Can Stock Photo / alexskopje

There is nothing quite like the thrill of finishing your very first manuscript. If you’re like most new authors, you probably can’t wait to see your book in print. However, there are a number of steps you need to take before you’re ready to publish. The following checklist will help you determine if you are indeed ready.

Is there is a viable market for your book?

The old adage about there being an audience for every book is generally true, but some genres are more popular than others. That said, some niche authors do very well. I know a gay man who writes romance novels for gay readers, and he built a following rather quickly

Have you completed your research and listed all your sources in a bibliography?

This mostly applies to nonfiction works, although I included bibliographies in my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers. The series was written to teach actual historic events in an interesting and entertaining way, and the books were geared toward educators.

Have you gotten two to four manuscript reviews to use for your back cover blurbs?

It’s an important step which many new authors miss. Having a back cover blurb gives you more credibility. I’ll ask other authors for reviews and let them know there’s some free publicity for them, as their name and book title appears on my cover. Authors associations and online forums are a great way to connect with other authors.

Have you obtained written permission for all the visual references you’re including, such as photographs or charts?

This is a biggie, and never assume it’s public domain because it’s a historic image or it’s royalty free. Copyright laws changed dramatically in the 1970s, and some museums own the rights to images in their collections. Also royalty free doesn’t mean copyright free, so read the terms and conditions carefully when purchasing stock images. When in doubt, ask. Better yet, create it yourself if you can.

Have you used your spellchecker?

Seriously. Even the best of us make silly mistakes, and double checking your spelling will make your editor’s job a little easier.

Have you decided how to publish your book?

Gone are the days when big publishing houses dominated the market. Today’s authors have many options. Please refer to my post,  The Three Options for Book Publishing, for more specific information.

Are you prepared to deal with the possibility of rejection letters or receiving bad reviews?

Not everyone is going to like your book, and those who choose to find an agent or go the traditional publishing route will have to deal with rejection letters. However, you needn’t fear an occasional bad review. It means you are real, because not everyone will like your book.

Are you willing to accept editorial changes?

This is another biggie. Your editor is a fresh pair of eyes who goes over your manuscript to give it the polish it needs to help it become successful. They can and will make changes. Therefore, it’s important that you find someone you feel comfortable working with. Once again, author’s associations and online forums are good places to ask for referrals.

Have you planned a budget to cover expenses such as software, editors, and other out-of-pocket costs?

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, writing a book is a business venture, and you will have some out-of-pocket expenses. Even traditionally published authors have overhead expenses, such as computers and software. Grants, endowments or crowd funding may be available for those authors in need of financial assistance.

Do you have a plan for marketing and promoting your book?

Marketing the book is the author’s responsibility, even if you are traditionally published. Thankfully, there are many how-to books out there to help you with your marketing plan.

If you answered no any of these questions then you’re not ready to be published. However, this checklist may be a handy guide for doing what you need to be ready.

Remember, book publishing is a team effort. So for best results, you must be willing to work with others and be willing to consider whatever suggestions or advice they may offer you.

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

So You Think You Don’t Need an Editor–Part Two

© Can Stock Photo/ swellphotography

In my previous article, So You Think You Don’t Need an Editor–Part One, I described what an editor does, and how he or she goes over your manuscript to give it the polish it needs to become a successful book. In this article, I’ll be discussing who you should hire to edit your manuscript.

I understand money is an issue for many of you. However, unless you’re one of the very few lucky writers who lands a deal with a traditional publisher, you’ll undoubtedly be investing your own money into producing your book. A professional editor will typically charge one to two cents per word. This means an 80,000 word manuscript may cost about $800 to $1600 to edit.

Why working with a professional editor matters

I know it’s a lot of money, and many of you are working with small budgets. Therefore, you may be tempted to take some shortcuts. My advice? Don’t do it! Asking your friends, your cousin, your spouse or your mom to edit your manuscript may seem like a good alternative. However, they would have to have experience in journalism, teaching , or other professional writing experience in order to be qualified for the job.

Now, let’s say you have a friend or family member with one or more of these qualifications. Does this mean you can ask them to edit your manuscript?  Well, maybe. However, you need to be aware of another caveat. As I stated in my earlier article, your editor needs to be objective. Your mom may be a retired English teacher, but can she really be objective? If your mom is anything like my mother was, she may be overly critical. If so, can you handle it?

If a stranger is overly critical of your work you can fire them if you feel your working relationship is toxic. You won’t be spending Thanksgiving them. But if your mom is your editor, it can get really awkward. Ultimately you’ll have to decide for yourself if working with a friend or family member would be a good option or not.

Where to  find a professional editor

I found my first editor through the small press publisher I was working with at the time. She was an absolute joy to work with, but then she decided to change careers. I found my current editor through a local writers association. If you know other authors ask them for a referral. Online author’s forums are another good place. Simply post the question.

And finally

Just as authors specialize in writing nonfiction or fiction, editors will also specialize in what kinds of manuscripts they edit. So if your manuscript is science fiction or fantasy, be sure to find an editor who has experience in editing science fiction and fantasy.

Writing a successful book takes time and money. If you want your book to have four and five star reader reviews, then you’ll need hire a professional book editor. Nothing will end your writing career faster than a poorly-written and edited book with bad reviews.

Gayle Martin

Please be sure to check out the final article in this series, So You Think You Don’t Need an Editor part 3.