Thursday, November 15, 2007

On Actually Making Money...

So, the other day I realized it was November. And I started thinking about tax season, which will be coming up in less than 6 months. (It's morbid, I know, especially since we've just entered the Christmas shopping season. But still, it's important to plan ahead.) So, here I was, stuffing a receipt into my "take this off from your taxes" writer's expenses slot, and I had a rather horrible epiphany. I have not made much money on my writing this year.

And yet it isn't that I haven't been writing. I have actually been working very hard...

You see, I've been putting in 10 - 20 hours a week on my literary career -- which isn't too bad since I have a full-time "day job" that I have to go to first. I've been writing, revising, getting critiqued, writing and revising again, (novels, mind you). In addition to that I've been researching publishers, querying agents, attending conferences, networking with other writers, and staying active in two critique groups. I've been preparing my first two YA novel manuscripts for their journeys into the publishing world. And I've been feeling pretty excited about that -- until right now! : )

You see, during tax season the IRS will reportedly let any new business (like the business of being a freelance writer) experience a couple of years of spending more than you make. They'll let you take off some of those writing expenses with the understanding that you, like any other new business, should soon be making some money. You should soon be coming out more often in the black than in the red. (Now, I'm not a tax person, so I'd recommend consulting yours if you have questions about what writing expenses you can take as deductions, what forms to use, and other rules and details). But for me, I realized that my novel-writing is much slower than whipping out an article here and there. And that the novels that have been growning longer and longer on my computer, are not yet at the point of making me any money.

Brilliant, I know.

So, I decided I needed to re-diversify my writing. You see, I did make some money on writing shorter things last year. It's just that this year I put most of my eggs in one basket. And unfortunately that was the novel basket, where the payment comes more slowly because first you have to write the darn thing, then hope to find a publisher, do any revisions they ask for, and then wait awhile more!

And so I've learned this lesson: Unless a writer is planning to keep two day jobs forever, putting all your eggs in the novel basket when first starting off, is a bad idea. And yet, I suspect that I am not the only novelist in this boat.

So, I am posting my change-strategy here for others to consider. And I'll be diversifying my writing again, starting now.

This means that I'll be pausing every so often in my noveling to send some work out to a few places where writers can write shorter things and get paid for them. (Imagine that!)

And, in case there are others out there who need to diversify their writing as well, here is a helpful list of opportunities for us all:

  • Magazines -- accept fiction and nonfiction pieces for children, teens, and adults, and their
    writer's guidelines are usually available on their websites.

  • Writing Contests -- often have cash prizes (in addition to the fame you'd get for winning). And some of these will take your novel excerpt or a short story.

  • Compilation Books -- like Chicken Soup for the Soul, Poetry books, Devotional books or Short Story Anthologies accept short writings from various authors and group them together into a larger work. Not only do these pay you, but they get you published in a book.

  • Curriculum and Standardized Tests -- educators can find opportunities online to write curriculum on almost any general school subject. And there is often a need for writers to pen the questions for the newest version of the SAT's.
So this Thanksgiving, let's be thankful for diversity. Because diversity in our writing will keep us in the black when tax season rolls around next year.


C.R. Evers said...

I'm always impressed with your ability to think ahead. That's a great list and a great way to think about diversified writing! I always planned to sell my best seller w/i my first year of writing. Guess things never go as planned, huh? I've now learned to set realistic goals, and my current successes have been e-zines. It's not a lot of money, but they are credits and it's nice to get an acceptance letter from somebody amid all the rejections from the Big Guys. It's good for the ego. ;0)

karen lee said...

Great resolutions, great goals. I am thinking along the same lines myself. After all this time chasing away at my dream it doesn't seem to be getting much closer and my bank account isn't getting any bigger either. Darwin's right - adapt or die!

Best wishes on a profitable evolution.