Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Unintended Consequences

by Janis Patterson

Oh, I thought I was so smart. I would self-publish my backlist (which I did) and make a lot of money (no so much and nowhere near what I’m worth) and be in charge of my own destiny (talk about being a dreamer!). The idea of being head of my own publishing company was irresistible. I would choose covers, I would have the final say over my editors, I would control my publicity and advertising (at least to the extent of my budget). I would…

And all that came true, plus a lot more I didn’t anticipate, in spite of having been in the business community one way and another since I was very, very young.

Running a publishing house – even a teeny-tiny one-person, one-author house – is very different from running a lemonade stand. You just can’t take what money comes in and blithely put it in your pocket, darn it! Like it or not, we one-woman-show publishers are pretty much subject to the same rules and regs as the Big 5.

We all – or we should – take all the deductions for business-related expenses that we can, whether as author or as publisher. One benefit is that a clever author can make almost everything a deduction. For years when The Husband and I have taken a trip of some duration (not just a weekend) I come home, write three chapters and a synopsis set in wherever it was we went and send it off to some publisher or another. Thereby our trip becomes a research trip even if the book doesn’t sell. The only bad thing about this is that some of these books – which I never really intended to write – actually sold, so I had to finish the things. Unintended consequences.

Being a publisher is in a way just more of the same. Cover artists and editors and PR people are all legitimate tax deductions, but it gets complicated. Do you send them 1099s? What if they’re out of the country? Well, that depends on a lot of things, some of which my accountant and I are still wrangling about. I haven’t had to worry about capital gains yet – little enough capital and no gains to speak of – but that will come. Should I create an LLC or incorporate? It was about here that my accountant started to babble, so we will leave that for another time when the monies are sufficient enough that I feel they could justify such a discussion.

Though it sounds odd to say, thank goodness this year I didn’t earn enough as an author/publisher to have to worry about such things, but as I write more and more books and – hopefully – sell more and more books, these problems will become something with which I will have to deal.


Why do things have to be so complicated? And so extortionate? In a country developed by and made great by entrepreneurism and free enterprise, you would think that the government would be encouraging people to work and start businesses and keep the engine of the economy expanding instead of nit-picking and taxing and penalizing the system to death. It just doesn’t make sense. The unintended consequences of such freedom-hating anti-capitalism attitudes are almost too horrifying to contemplate.

My father once said that no matter how carefully we choose our actions, no matter which path we take, we can never be sure of the outcome because there will always be unintended consequences. How right he was!


Morgan Mandel said...

I know exactly what you mean. It's not always easy being an author, especially one that's self-published!

Susan Oleksiw said...

I made a living as a free-lance writer for many years, and have been writing and selling fiction for over 25 years. I have started one publishing house and one anthology series with other writers. I know what it means to be an independent writer, publisher, contractor. It's tough and it costs money.

But I have no complaint about taxes. I know what i'm paying for--the roads I drive on, the reliability of electricity, among other utilities, the legal system that allows me to tell someone at the door that no, they can't have my property.

It is very easy to start a business in this country and hold on to it. I'm willing to pay for that.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

Good for you! I've just never wanted to be theone who did it all.

Kaye George said...

I have to agree with Susan Oleksiw about taxes. I'd like to pay more and get the roads and bridges fixed!

I've done some self-publishing, but I have busted my heinie to be published traditionally, also, so I didn't have to keep doing those things. Not my cuppa! More power to you!

Marja said...

I'm traveling pretty much the same road as you, and I have to agree with everything you said.

Ain't life grand?

Marja McGraw

Jean Henry Mead said...

Well said, Janis. After ten publishers over the years I decided to publish my out of print books, then my new releases. I love the freedom it offers, and consider taxes just another expense of doing business.

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