Treat it like a business

As I was looking for potential topics for today’s post, I came across one of Kris Rusch’s posts and knew I had everything I needed right there. In fact, I considered e-mailing Kris and asking permission to simply repost the blog entry here. I consider what she said in Business Musings: Introductory Remarks (Dealbreakers/Contracts) to be mandatory reading for every writer out there, whether you are wanting to go the traditional route or indie or a mix of the two. My advice to every writer and wannabe writer is to read and then reread and bookmark the post. It is that important.

I’m not going to rehash what Kris had to say. However, I do want to build on it — at least in a way. To me, beyond being a warning about what to look for, the post comes down to a simple premise: treat your writing like a business. If you designed widgets and you spent time negotiating a contract with someone to manufacture and then distribute your widgets you would — I hope — get an attorney to look over the contract before you signed on the dotted line. As writers, we should do the same for any contracts we sign, be they with an agent or a publisher. We should keep in mind that we want our rights back and we certainly don’t want them tied up not only for the length of our lives but potentially our children’s lives as well. We want the best terms for us, not for the publisher or agent.

There’s another aspect to treating it like a business as well. If you have a “real” job — you know, one of those things jobs where you will be fired if you don’t show up or if you don’t produce — you have to go to work whether you feel like it or not. Sure, you have paid time off (hopefully) but those days are limited. After using it up, you are SOL. If you don’t perform up to standard, you are let go. That means, as most of us know, when those days come along when you would prefer to stay in bed — or go to the zoo or play video games or whatever — you can’t. You have to drag yourself out, mumbling and grumbling and go to work. No work, no pay.

Writing is a lot like that as well. It is that 9 to 5 job with more distractions and a greater need for self-discipline. It is very easy as you sit at your desk, staring at the computer screen and not having words come, to find cleaning the bathroom suddenly very attractive. If you are like the majority of writers, you have that 9 to 5 job, so you have to grab writing time where you can. I know how difficult it can be to force yourself to sit down at the end of day, once everyone else has gone to bed, to get in an hour or two of writing. As someone who is not a morning person, having to etch those hours out before the household gets up is even harder to do. But writers for years have done just that. They have done it because they know they have to treat writing just like they do their “real” job. They have to put but in chair and and just do it.

That also means you have to set yourself a schedule. I don’t mean you have to have specific hours — or a set number of words — you have to write each day/week/month. I guess what I’m trying to say is you have train yourself — and your family and friends who might not view writing as a “real” job — that when you go to your writing space, you are at work and nothing short of compound fractures, spurting blood or Girl Scout Cookies are cause for interruption. Yes, you have to tell yourself that you are going to write regularly and you have to follow through. If you allow distractions to take you away from writing, it soon becomes much easier to find excuses for doing anything but write.

It also means you keep track of your expenses, just as you would with any “real” business. How much have you spent on paper and printer ink/cartridges? Did you buy reference books this year for something you are working on? How about trips? Did you take any and use them, at least in part, for research? Do you belong to any professional writing organization that you pay dues to? Do you pay for web hosting and have a website/blog/whatever that is used to promote your work as a writer? Did you go to any cons or workshops that you paid for (or paid for travel)? Were you invited to speak at any cons or workshops and were your paid or have your travel paid for? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, do you know what — if any — of them can be used as tax deductions? What about income? Would any of it have to be declared as income and, if so, what sort of IRS form would you need to use?

In other words, along with a good IP attorney to vet any contract you might get from a publisher or agent, you need a good accountant to help you navigate the oddities of the Tax Code where writers are concerned.

To bring it all back to a simple point, writing is a business. You have to show up, just like you do to that job at the office or on the line. You might “work” three days a week or five or even seven. But you have to do it. If you don’t, you will be fired. This time it will be by your readers (or by your publisher if you are traditionally published). Even if you show up, if you aren’t producing, you will be “fired”.

You have to treat it like a business in that you have to pay your taxes — so you have to know what you must declare and what you can use as deductions. You have to make sure your contracts are at least as favorable to you as they are to your publisher or distributor or agent. You must have the proper people (IP attorney, accountant or tax expert) in place to help you navigate all these distractions so you can focus on writing.

So go put your butt in your chair and fire up your computer — or pull out pen and paper — and start work. If you don’t, no one is going to do it for you.

And, on that happy note, I’m off to work. There are books to write, others  to edit and money to be made.

*     *     *

Part of treating it like a business is also doing promotion. So here are three books for your consideration.

The first is Changeling’s Island (Baen) by Dave Freer.

Teenager Tim Ryan comes into his own as he faces danger on a remote Australia island where magic lurks in land and sea.

Tim Ryan can’t shake the feeling that he is different from other teens, and not in a good way.  For one thing, he seems to have his own personal poltergeist that causes fires and sets him up to be arrested for shoplifting.

As a result Tim has been sent to live on a rundown farm on a remote island off the coast of Australia with his crazy grandmother, a woman who seems to talk to the local spirits, and who refuses to cushion Tim from facing his difficulties. To make matters worse, Tim is expected to milk cows, chase sheep, and hunt fish with a spear.

But he’s been exiled to an island alive with ancient magic—land magic that Tim can feel in his bones, and sea magic that runs in his blood. If Tim can face down the danger from drug-runners, sea storms, and the deadly threat of a seal woman who wishes to steal him away for a lingering death in the land of Faery, he may be able to claim the mysterious changeling heritage that is his birthright, and take hold of a legacy of power beyond any he has ever imagined.

Officially out today, although I know it started shipping before now. 

Next up is Sword And Blood (Vampire Musketeers Book 1) by Sarah A. Hoyt.

The France of the Musketeers has changed. Decades ago, someone opened a tomb in Eastern Europe, and from that tomb crawled an ancient horror, who in turn woke others of its kind.

Now Paris is beset by vampires, the countryside barren and abandoned. The Cardinal has become a vampire, the church is banned, the king too cowed to fight.

Until now, the three Musketeers, Athos, Porthos and Aramis have stood as a bulwark against the encroaching evil, their swords defending the innocent and helpless.

But last night, in a blood mass, Athos was turned into a Vampire. And a young vampire orphan has just arrived from Gascony: Monsieur D’Artagnan.

Things are about to get… complicated.

Today is the “official” release date.

Finally, Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) by yours truly, written under the pen name Sam Schall, is available for pre-order.

War isn’t civilized and never will be, not when there are those willing to do whatever is necessary to win. That is a lesson Col. Ashlyn Shaw learned the hard way. Now she and those under her command fight an enemy determined to destroy their home world. Worse, an enemy lurks in the shadows, manipulating friend and foe alike.

Can Ashlyn hold true to herself and the values of her beloved Corps in the face of betrayal and loss? Will honor rise from the ashes of false promises and broken faith? Ashlyn and the Devil Dogs are determined to see that it does, no matter what the cost.

Release date for Honor from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 3) is April 18th.

17 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, PROMOTION, WRITING: LIFE

17 responses to “Treat it like a business

  1. I always tell everyone I talk to, to =read- the contract they sign with Amazon, B&N or whoever they do business with (and to avoid Apple like the plague) because you -will- be held to that contract and -will- be punished if you violate it.
    I’ve seen hundreds of people complaining about Amazon or B&N on a forum someplace, because they got in trouble for doing something that was clearly spelt out in the contract you sign.
    And don’t forget, not only do you have to pay Fed taxes, but there’s the local state taxes too!

    • And if you are going to use your residence address as an address for Itty Bitty Publisher LLC, check your local zoning rules (and local enforcement history). Some municipalities have reacted poorly to small businesses in areas zoned for residential (looking for $$ from fines, mostly).

  2. Laura M

    This is timely on the inspiration front. I took a day of leave from the day job today, and I’ve just spent the morning going over my state’s incorporation and licensing requirements before I set up a blog.

    • Talk to your accountant before you incorporate. It may not be financially worthwhile to do.
      And if you don’t have an accountant, you might want to consider getting one.

      • Laura M

        Thanks. Will do. Whether to do an LLC or a standard C corporation will clearly require math.

        • I’ve talked to mine about it, and she says I’m not making enough money for it yet, and that the way the IRS treats you will be affected by it.
          Not as in ‘treats you under the law’ but as in ‘suspects you may be up to something’.

    • Think carefully before incorporating because there are a host of bureaucratic headaches – annual tax filings, business “privilege” taxes, paperwork, etc. Investigate incorporating in a state with fewer headaches like Delaware or Nevada.

  3. That discipline is badly needed when you have periodic emergencies that you have to deal with. :: sigh :: I’m now past the kid emergencies and into the elderly parent emergencies. Oh, and the old house suddenly needing repairs and workmen in and out.

    And now my husband is teetering on the brink of retirement, and I’m going to have to train him to not interrupt my work day.

  4. Uncle Lar

    Tramp Royale, why would a noted science fiction writer do a travel book?
    First, of course because he wanted to, and had observations he wanted to share with the public. But I’m sure the fact that earnings on the book could offset trip expenses factored into his business plan.

  5. The Other Sean

    Oh, pretty booksies! I must have them all!

    But not until I finish up at work, else I’ll not be able to concentrate on work.

    • The Other Sean

      I purchased two of the three books this evening. I didn’t purchase Dave Freer’s Changeling’s Island tonight, though, because….. I discovered I had already purchased it as part of a Baen bundle. How cool is that?

  6. Pingback: Author Amie and the Attack of the Killer Allergens – Author Amie Gibbons

  7. Draven

    The thing is, for a writer, lots of things are write-off-able that you wouldn’t think are. A friend i know who worked in visual effects and game animation wrote off every DVD he bought, every computer purchase and upgrade, and every game he bought, as work-related. Passed an audit, too. So you may want to consider that those books you bought last year may be ‘research into the market’ and not pleasure reading.