I’ve never paid much attention to the financial profit/loss aspect of independent publishing. I just don’t see the point. I know, generally, how much the royalty checks will be each month, and I know it doesn’t compare to the marketing and materials spend. One of the supposed advantages of indie publishing and print-on-demand was that it required very little in terms of upfront money. But what they didn’t tell me when I started in 2004 (because nobody knew) was that it does cost money to self-publish. A lot of money, it turns out. Sadly, for myself and a lot of writers, the dream isn’t to get rich on my novels; I just want to break even.
On a somewhat unrelated note, I use Intuit’s TurboTax to do my taxes. I used to love their Quicken product, but gave it up years ago in favor of Mint. And when they bought that, I gave up Mint in favor of You Need A Budget. All that is to say that I’m not familiar with Intuit’s other financial planning offerings. So, I was surprised to see them advertising a self-employed version of their QuickBooks product while I was doing my taxes. As it turns out, it’s possible to deduct some of your writing expenses when you file. I had never given that much thought before.
One of TurboTax’s features that I really like is the live “refund” counter. But this year, it really turned my crank when I put in my royalties and saw that refund crater. Damn you, IRS! TurboTax tried to lessen the blow by asking if I’ve spent any money in pursuit of my “small business,” but alas, I had not kept track, so it would have all been guesses.
Well, 2018 is the year that all changes. From now on, I’m keeping track of everything I buy that is related to indie publishing. I don’t know if it will be all deductible, but if it saves some money, then maybe the experiment is worth it.
Think about all the money you spend to fuel your writing habit:
- Editorial services
- Graphic design (covers, marketing, etc)
- Webhosting, domain names, email addresses
- Word, Scrivener, Scapple
- Laptop, computer, keyboard, mouse
- Printer, paper, pens, highlighters, staples
- Envelopes, postage
- Advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Amazon, Goodreads, Google
- Gas mileage to the bar, drink purchased, sorrows drowned
- Red Bull, candy corn, whiskey, aspirin
- Intuit Quickbooks Self-Employed ($10/mo)
- Bribes for Positive Reviews
If that number is higher than your writing income, well, my friend, you’re operating your small business at a loss, and in addition to my condolences, you deserve a tax break*.
*The asterisk means I’m not a tax lawyer and I have no idea if that is true or not. I don’t even know if tax lawyers are a thing.
Anyway, if you haven’t started doing your taxes this year, you can get Intuit’s QuickBooks Self-Employed for free for a year by filing with TurboTax (always check with your bank or credit union to see if they have a coupon). If you’ve never tracked your profit/loss before, it might be an interesting experiment to see how it all stacks up at the end of the year.
I’ll let you know how my experiment turns out… if it’s not too embarrassing.