earnings, Money, RNA, RWA, SOA, Writing

How Much Money Is Your Writing Making…

By Antonio Litterio

…For Other People?

It used to be almost impossible to get published. Hardly any publishers would look at unsolicited manuscripts. Unless you had an agent, you couldn’t get anywhere. Agents had such a huge pool of talent to fish in, they could pick and choose whether or not they even answered your enquiry.   If you were desperate to see your work in print, the only other option was vanity publishers, who wanted a lot of money from you, then delivered very little.

The explosion of self-publishing and the huge presence of Amazon has changed all that. Getting your name on the cover of a book is practically obligatory these days, and to upload your work in the hope your blog (or ebook) goes viral costs nothing. Or does it?

I’m not talking about the cost of stationery, computers, writing courses, and subscriptions to group such as The Society Of Authors, The Romantic Novelists’ Association, or the Romance Writers of America. All these are vital, practical, tax-deductible, and in the case of stationery and local group meetings, recreational. (I’m a kid in a sweetshop when it comes to browsing round anywhere like Staples.)

It’s the little extras that add up to big deductions. The 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey discovered that over three-quarters of writers earn less than £600/$1,000. If you can bear to see the painful facts, read more here. When you consider that even big publishers expect you to spend money (or at least plenty of time, which comes to the same thing in the end) on publicising your book, you’ll see it’s important to spend carefully.

If you go the route of conventional publishing, all the editing, production and artistic costs should be covered by the firm. Some tiny independents may ask for a sub. This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a vanity outfit—they may just be keen to get some help with costs, which will secure your devotion to their cause. Get your contract checked by The Society ofAuthors or a literary attorney, to make sure.

If you decide to self-publish, join a group such as The Alliance Of Independent Authors, and do plenty of research. Spend money on getting your work professionally edited, and in hiring a good cover artist but beyond that, think carefully about whether you really need all the dozens of other lovely services on offer. Always remember, the definition of an expert is only a person who knows 3% more than you do! Keep your eyes and ears open: word of mouth is as good a way to find reliable editors and artists as it is to find good books.

And don’t think that once your book is out in the public domain all you have to do is wait for your £600 to come rolling in.  Not only are there sharks circling before you publish, the virtual high seas are full of pirates. Philip Pullman put it perfectly when he said “Stealing music and books online is like picking pockets”. You can read more of what he said here. It’s not a happy article but as they say on the true crime programmes, “don’t have nightmares”. Writing’s the best job there is. Look on anything you earn as a bonus (but make sure you hang onto as much of the money you get as you can!).

Accounts, Average Earnings, Money, Planning, Writing

This Writing Life: Four (nearly!) Painless Ways To Deal With Tax

The Death of Chatterton, by Henry Wallis

Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage, says the old song. Tax and money go together like glue and honey. Unless you’ve got both under control, they become a sticky mess.

The second you start earning money from your writing, you’re in business. Like it or not, that means keeping records. Writers earn a lot less than you might think—see here for the bad news—but while your dreams of sealing a deal worth millions may have to go on hold, HMRC and the IRS wait for no author.

It’s better to get a basic system of recording the amounts of money you handle well before you need it, so here are my four top tips for shrinking a painful process…


Romance writer Kate Walker gives some great advice to new writers: whatever you earn, however small the figure, put half of it straight into a separate account that’s hard to access. Don’t touch it. WHATEVER THE TEMPTATION. That way, you build up a fighting fund ready for the moment an envelope full of the Tax Dragon’s finest drops on your doorstep.

If you’re up for a challenge, you can take this one step further. From the half of your earnings you have left, put half of that into a savings account that’s slightly easier to access. You can then dip into that pool of medium-term savings for sudden, unexpected bills. In other words, the “average” writer’s earnings of £600/$1,000 per year becomes only £150/$250 of actual fun money. To prove I’m not completely made of stone, I’ll let you do what you like with that.

All Contributions Gratefully Received http://bit.ly/1GQPIIq


Take twelve large, plain, white business envelopes. Label one for each month of the year. Every time you buy stationery, pay your RNA or RWA dues, renew your web hosting, get an advance or some royalties, put the receipts, invoices and all other paperwork in the appropriate envelope. Take a note of any insurance premiums, your utility bills and business mileage, too. Tax planning and writing are alike in that it’s better to collect too much detail to begin with, rather than not enough. If The Powers That Be want to pick and choose what they’re interested in, then they can. Whether you’re dealing with receipts or words, producing extra to order and at short notice is always a nightmare. Less is most definitely not more when it comes to tax planning.


…tax thresholds and bands long before you need to know about them.  That way you’ll avoid any nasty shocks. If you have no income other than from writing, contact your local library or check on line for reputable sources of free advice, such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureaux. Yes, it’s possible to do your own tax returns if they’re simple, but as soon as you possibly can, pay an accountant to do them for you. They spend their whole working lives keeping up to date with the latest legislation, and can pay for themselves by spotting things you might miss. If nothing else, they’ll have professional liability insurance to cover any mistakes they might make. Your cousin’s friend who “always does his own books and can do yours, too” isn’t likely to have that. He may be setting himself (and you) up for a self-assessed disaster.


This is the carrot. The tax office holds the stick.

Tax planning takes twice as long tomorrow, four times as long next week and…well, you get the picture. Not only will you have the threat of that horrible job hanging over you, receipts and invoices never stop mounting up. Unless you take control, the situation can only get worse. And the funny thing is, once you grit your teeth and attack the task, it doesn’t take half as long as you think.  I sat down this weekend to create a spreadsheet from my twelve envelopes of paperwork. It took me no more than two hours and I rewarded myself with cake as well as a cup of tea when I’d finished. I’ll deliver my spreadsheet, and all the supporting paperwork, to my accountant later today. My warm glow of smug satisfaction will last until the accountant’s bill arrives—which I’ll put straight into the right monthly envelope, of course. (Oh, really? Ed.)