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Apr 17, 2020

Reaping the Benefits of the Writing Life

By Isabel Jolie.

In a past life, I was a business executive. One thing I discovered during that experience is that I really, truly, hate accounting. So, let me caveat everything I’m about to say with, I use a CPA. In fact, practicing accounting could be the last source of income on the planet, and I still wouldn’t attempt it. Now, with the I am not an accountant disclaimer in place...

Last year was the first year I decided to try and make a go of it with writing. In my quest to learn all about self-publishing, I learned a few cool things about a writing career.

Did you know that, as a writer, you can expense your travel? Well, you can! As long as your expenses meet specific requirements.

The main requirement is that the travel has to do with your writing and that you try to make money from your writing. Note: It doesn’t matter if you DO make money. Which is a good thing, because I released my first book in January, and I most certainly did not reap a profit.

But that’s okay. Because our dear darling Uncle Sam is a supportive fellow, and he simply wants to know I tried. So, if you submit to agents or to publishers, or if you hit publish, like I did, then that counts as trying.

Here’s how it works.

I vacationed in Prague. Guess what? So did my heroine in When the Stars Align. She and I ate at the exact same restaurants.

My family vacationed in Montreal and Quebec City. In my upcoming release, Trust Me, my characters stay in the same Montreal hotel that we did.

We explored Paris and London. Yep! My character flees to both cities in my upcoming summer release, Walk the Dog.

It’s difficult to write about locations you’ve never been to. Yes, the internet has done wonders for allowing us to do research from the comfort of our pajamas. But, there’s no replacement for wandering the streets your characters roam. 

What are the street lights like? How packed are the streets with tourists? What is it like to be lost? What smells are in the air? What’s the best way to get around? Cab, public transportation, or rental scooters?

I also happen to love to travel, so love meet love.

What exactly can you expense on a research trip?

Okay, so this is from my accountant and you should definitely check with yours, but I submit:
     Airfare and other transportation costs
     Hotel and other lodging expenses
     50% of the cost of meals (you’ll notice my characters tend to eat at real restaurants) that relate to the story.

Are these deductions worth all the hassle of tracking receipts? Heck, yeah! 

As a writer, there are many write-offs that you can take. Nolo lists all of them right here.

We writers aren’t likely to make loads of money from this highly competitive profession. I personally love Ryan Van Cleave’s article “8 steps towards a six-figure freelance income” published in The Writer, as he details all of his sources of income and provides specific dollar amounts.

Deductions are only helpful if you’re making money and are actually going to have to pay taxes, but for those that have income from another job, or are succeeding in this world of writing, don’t forget to take every penny you can as your reward for writing.

Lastly, my repeated disclaimer. I’m not a CPA. I have an MBA, which means...SQUAT. Actually, it means I know enough to hire a CPA. So, nothing in here should be taken as legal or accounting advice. Other than, I suppose, the advice to track your expenses, consider how to make your travel work for you, and if in doubt, hire a CPA or a tax software that will guide you through the joyous ins and outs of this glorious time of the year.

Happy tax season & best of luck dear fellow critique matchers with all your writing endeavors!

Disclaimer: This post provides personal tips from the author and is not intended to provide professional tax advice.


About the Author: Isabel Jolie
After falling for a ginger in a kilt in Outlander and encountering Christian’s hypnotic eyes in 50 Shades of Grey, Isabel fell down the escapism rabbit hole. Inspired by a favorite Indie writer who said she started as an avid reader, Isabel decided to follow her high school dream and take the writing plunge. Through writing, she’s found an outlet for the creative and passionate stories percolating in the deep recesses of her less than the safe-for-primetime mind.

Isabel lives outside of Charlotte, NC, where she splits her time between her two beautiful daughters, one charming yet clueless husband, a loveable mutt, and perusing CritiqueMatch, where she’s found many writing friends and gained tons of valuable feedback.