Is Your Writing a Hobby? by Cassiel Knight (Part 2 of 2)

So, last Wednesday, I talked about what writing as a hobby looks like. What did you think? Did you see yourself there? Did it make you change anything in the last week, or think about changing something? I’d love to hear about that.

Now, let’s look at the flip side. Your writing as a business.

The number one definition of what makes your writing a business is really about how the IRS looks at this from the standpoint of income and expenses. Treating your writing as a business, whether it’s part-time or full-time, means you have a profit motive. What does that mean? Well, it means you’re writing with the intention of making money from your writing–not simply pursuing a pleasurable activity.

One might say, of course I intend to make money. Most of us do. But that’s not all about intention. It’s how you show your intention that matters. That’s explained below.

All of the IRS stuff aside (but not too far – it’s very important), writing as a profession means you should do the following:

  • Learn and continue to learn craft. This is important and something so many authors tend to forget. I think I’ve ranted on this before. <grin> Don’t think that just because you have a few books under your belt, that you know everything there is to know about craft. You don’t. I’m an editor. I know you don’t. Besides, successful business people don’t sit back and rest on their accomplishments. They are working to learn and grow. That’s what you need to do as an author.
  • Write the best book you can. And keep writing. Self-published? Then it’s even more important that you create a product (your book) that is properly formatted, has an eye-catching cover and is well-edited. There’s no excuse not to. Really, seriously, there isn’t. I don’t care how fast you want it up. Despite the success stories, the lack of care in this area will catch up to you.
  • Here’s a big one — Track your income and your expenses. Next week, I’ll share some information with you on how to do this.
  • Read and read and read. You should read books you love, not just to study the writing craft, but also read for enjoyment. Yes, I know, when you’re under a deadline, you don’t have time to read. But if you aren’t reading then are you enjoying what you are doing? Hey, it may be a business but there’s no reason you can’t enjoy what you do. And reading is a part of that.
  • Submit! Seriously, submit. When you win a contest, submit the request. If you take the time to pitch (and deal with the stress) then send in your submission.
  • Dedicate serious time and effort to your profession. Make a business plan, marketing plan and so on. Do you have to do this? No, but it helps keep you focused and moving forward and it’s something you can show the IRS should you be audited.
  • Promotion and marketing. Ah, how many of you cringed when I said this? Slice it any way you’d like, this is a necessary piece of your profession as an author. Don’t rely on your publisher to do it for you. Most won’t do more than announce your release. And by all means, work with your publisher! When they take the time to set up a chat or some other kind of exposure participate. I’m constantly hearing authors say their publishers don’t do anything yet these same persons don’t participate when the publisher sets up opportunities. Boy, I could dedicate a whole article on this subject.  <grin>
  • Keeping records of your submissions, assignments, income, and expenses like you would with any other business. This is part of the intent. Sitting back and letting your stories collect dust is not an intent to make money.
  • Study the industry and the market. Don’t watch or try to follow trends but understand them. Study readers and pay attention to what they want. In the business world, they are your consumers/your customers. It’s not that much different for writing.

The bottom line is writing is creative work. We all know that. We are artists. We open veins and pour out our emotions onto the page. And that’s wonderful. But not if you want to be recognized as a business/profession. Too many writers (and I mean me too) approach being an author as a hobby or an outlet instead of an actual business. What’s missed is the fact that authors are, in actuality, entrepreneurs–a business unto themselves. If you choose to make writing a business, you need to act that way.

I hope this has provided some food for thought. Thinking of your creative works as a product or your business doesn’t sound glamorous but it is reality. And if you want the glamorous part, you still have to think of writing as a business. Ask any successful author. I bet they’ll agree.

Come back to get some basic tax info. I’m not a tax professional but I know a few so I’m going to share part of their presentation with you.

Now, for the best part – hot guy alert!!!!

And let’s have some fun. Do you know who this is? The first five people who post the correct answer – his real name, character name and the movie title, get entered into a drawing for a copy of Hit Me With Your Best Shot, my futuristic urban fantasy.

Looks at those arms and that back. Sigh.



Posted on May 24, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I read the first of your posts and thought long and hard about hobby (which I’ve apparently been treating this as) vs. professional. Then there was a bit in the May RWA mag about the 10 Things to be Successful that touched on similar suggestions . Seems like a message to me about getting my a** in gear here. If I *really* want to do this, which I keep saying I do, then I need to get the words out of my head, and onto the page. But more than that, I need to do the work every day of reading, building craft, treating it as I would a business, as a JOB and being just as diligent as I was when I worked outside the home.

    Thank you Cassiel!

    Renee Q.


  2. Roxy, too many that’s for sure. The agents and editors I’ve spoken to tell me it’s more than 80% that never do. Astounding.


  3. Spot on tips and insight. Thanks!


  4. Brilliant post, Cassiel! I don’t know who your hunk is – I’ll take your word for it Celeste – but I love his wings. Yum, what a hot dude 😀


  5. Celeste Deveney

    Your angel is Paul Bettany. The movie is Legion and he played Michael! Thanks for your blog today – I started keeping records and last year claimed every mile I drove, contest I entered. It was the difference for us between paying, and actually getting money back on our taxes. I look forward to next week’s blog!!


  6. Great Post. I really need to read next week. I do keep records, but taxes scare me!!! It is, however, essential to treat it like a business.

    As for your fallen angel, I don’t know what his name is, but for the purposes of my fantasies, I’ll call him Michael.


    • LOL! Well, he is Michael. At least, that’s his character’s name. Celeste is spot on. I think this movie made me fall in love with this actor despite some of the other things he’s been in where he’s not quite so attractive. Taxes scare me too – which is why the post I’m sharing next week helped.


  7. Great post, Cassiel! I especially like the reminder that we have to continue to study craft and the industry. Super important!


  8. Roxy Boroughs

    Excellent points. How many writers neglect to make those submissions? Or don’t do it in a timely fashion. Very important.


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