A Taxing Situation: Tax 101 for Authors

Let’s talk taxes. Come on, wake up!

I know this is a dry topic but it is one that is crucial to writers, artists, and other people with similar jobs. We like to concentrate on the creative aspects of our jobs and tend to lock the mundane tasks away in a dark cabinet. I would much rather describe the glint of sunlight on a mountain pond than try to figure out what percentage of my recapture on the depreciable property I can claim on my Schedule C or 8829!

I will say right here that I’m not an expert. While writing this article, I had much more technical details and jargon, but I stopped myself. I am not an accountant! I was confusing myself and I know I would confuse all of you. The best thing you can do is consult your tax professional. I don’t know how my air conditioner or car or computer work (other than press ‘On’ or turn the key), so I rely on experts to help me. It is the same with our taxes. Talk to your accountant and make sure you are taking all the steps necessary to protect yourself.

For tax purposes, you need to think of yourself as your own employee. Open a separate bank account from your own personal funds. Find the best organization method for you, whether it is file folders with paper copies of everything you do or a digital system. No one wants to be audited but if you are, you will save yourself the stress and worry by being prepared and having easy access to your information.

The downside to being self-employed – you are responsible for paying all taxes out of your income. With a steady employer, they pay part of your Social Security and Medicare taxes. (Remember the old joke – Who is FICA and why did he take all my money?) As a self-employed worker, you get pay as the boss and the employee! Yeah! This can throw you into higher tax brackets which means paying more money.

There is good news though. Deductions, deductions, deductions! They are a writer’s best friend. By keeping track of certain items, you can reduce the amount you owe Uncle Sam. So what is deductible?

  • One glory of the home office is writing in your pajamas. Another is you might be able to declare the office portion of your home as a deduction. Be honest. If you have a dedicated desk where you work for hours on your craft, you could deduct that. Even a small corner with a desk and chair can count. If you write an occasional article on your laptop sitting on the couch, the deck, or at the kitchen table, you probably cannot use the home office deduction. If you qualify, you can even deduct a portion of your utilities and mortgage payments.
  • Writing a piece on the Corn Cob Festival of Moulton, Alabama? (There is no such festival, but I am going to start a petition to get one!) Travel for research, including mileage, lodging, meals, gratuities, and tickets may be deducted. Keep track of all your receipts! Make notes if necessary. Today you’ll remember this lunch receipt is for an interview you did with an interesting artist or historian for research, but will you remember in three years if you are audited?
  • You will appreciate depreciation. We all have our trusted computers, laptops, phones, and printers. And they all cost us plenty. You can offset the cost of these items by ‘depreciating’ their value. If you buy an expensive new laptop, you can deduct portions of the cost over a period of years and not have to claim the whole expense in one year.
  • Remember I said you were responsible for paying all of your taxes out of your earnings? Here’s a little good news – you can claim 50% of that amount as an income tax deduction. You don’t even have to itemize to take this deduction. It goes on Form 1040 as an adjustment to income. This can save you a nice amount by reducing your taxable income.
  • Health insurance is a must. As a self-employed person, you are responsible for the costs of your own health care, vision care, and dental care. Luckily, health insurance is tax deductible if you are a self-employed worker. If the policy is in your name, these deductions could extend to your family members. This is a wonderful deduction – it could save you thousands of dollars.
  • Are you a member of a writing-related organization or group? Most genres have national organizations for writers, such as Romance Writers of America, The Author’s Guild, or the National Association of Writers. Membership dues and fees are deductible.
  • Do you host a website or use word processing programs or send emails? Silly question, right? As writers, we can deduct the cost and expense of software programs we use to run our business. You can even deduct cell phone usage, as long as it is for legitimate business purposes.

This information is just the tip of a Titanic-sized iceberg. There are so many resources out there for writers! Knowing what deductions are possible can save you money – hundreds, even thousands. So find yourself an accountant you like, track your expenses, and stay organized! Uncle Sam will appreciate it as much as you do!

Writing prompt – Caroline put her head down on her desk and squeezed her eyes shut. Adding the numbers again would not help. No matter how many times she refigured, the total was the same. How could she tell her boss she had lost $150,000.00?

Click-to-Tweet: The downside to being self-employed – you are responsible for paying all taxes out of your income. A Taxing Situation: Tax 101 for Authors by Cammi Woodall via @InspiredPrompt

3 Questions Wednesday with Karen H. Richardson

It is my honor to introduce a new member of the Inspired Prompt Crew, Karen H. Richardson. We thought it would be appropriate to introduce her via 3 Questions Wednesday to give our readers the opportunity to meet and greet.

You can read more about Karen and her writing life in her bio. She and I have served as officers of the Louisville area ACFW chapter for about three or four years. So, I am delighted to have her working with us. You’ll see her name on most of the 3 Questions Wednesday posts, other interviews, and guest posts.

But what I want to know is, how will she answer our three questions? Let’s find out—

Who is your favorite author? 

Karen: My reading list is long and varied. As a writer, I feel it’s important to read other authors and different genres. Reading different genres than I write is an education in writing styles, plot arcs, and characters. Lately, I’ve read several historical fictions; Civil War and World War II are periods I’m most drawn to.

Interesting! And you are right. We can learn so much by reading the works of other authors.

If you could write about anyone or anything fiction/nonfiction who or what would you write about?

Karen: I would write Mary Magdalene’s story. What was her experience like on the first day of the week at the tomb? What was the feeling around the tomb like? Was there an eerie feeling? Was she scared, not finding Christ’s body? What about when He appeared to her?

Intriguing questions. I’d love to hear her take on such an important story. Final question: If you could spend time with a character from your book who would it be? And what would you do during that day?

Karen: Nora St. Clair. She is the protagonist in my second book. She is the one character from the first book who I know the least about. She married the love of her life but sadly, he died after battling an aggressive tumor in his brain. They had no children. After his passing, Nora completed her interior design degree and went to work. Our day would begin at Starbucks over a wonderfully fattening coffee drink. Then I would shadow her at work because I don’t know much about interior design. What is her day-to-day like? Are her evenings quiet and lonely? I don’t know what it would be like to suddenly lose the love of my life.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, and welcome to Inspired Prompt.

Click to tweet: As a writer, I feel it’s important to read other authors and different genres. Reading different genres than I write is an education in writing styles, plot arcs, and characters. 


As long as she can remember, Karen Richardson has wanted to write stories. When she was 10 years old, she wrote a play and got friends to act it out. A high school English teacher inspired Karen to begin to put her thoughts on paper. After graduation, she attended Western Kentucky University where she earned a BA in Journalism and Creative Writing.  Her education started her down the road of storytelling as a professional. While in her full-time position, she is the director of communications for a national non-profit, she has also completed her first novel and is in the process of securing an agent. Karen lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband and son.

She can be found online on Facebook and Twitter @KHRWriter, Instagram KHRichardson5, www.KHRichardson.com, or her blog KK’s Candor, www.KKSCandor.com.

The Mystery of the Inspiring Author

by Tammy Trail

I am sitting in my office deciding which author I should choose to focus on for this month’s blog post. Too many to list. Do I pick a current favorite, or chose one from childhood?

We moved around a lot while I was growing up in the 70’s. I think being the new kid is the worst thing, ever. After spending a week or two in a new classroom you realized most of the kids sitting around you lived in the same neighborhoods, attended the same church together and shared the same classrooms from preschool to middle school. I absolutely hated middle school. You could not pay me enough money to relive those years.

Instead of being Miss Popularity (never even got close), I was the bookworm. I had a book with me everywhere I went (I still do). While my classmates were visiting before class, I would pull out my book and read. Once in awhile a teacher had to physically remove a book from my hands  to get my attention. I heard a familiar phrase during those years,  that while they appreciated my love of reading, I had to learn other skills too. So, in honor of that geeky, scrawny, metal mouth pre-teen I am going to choose Carolyn Keene, author of the beloved Nancy Drew mystery series. My favorite Nancy Drew book was “The Secret of Shadow Ranch.”  I imagined myself right there with Nancy as she searched for clues and dared to go against tradition and prove girls can achieve wonderful things just as well as boys can, or maybe even better sometimes.

While doing a bit of research I found that the name Carolyn Keene was a pseudonym for several authors. No one person came up with all of those page-turning stories, but several writers authored the Nancy Drew books. One was Mildred Wirt Benson who wrote under the pen name from 1929 to 1947. She wrote the first twenty-three books of the original thirty book series. I also was amazed to find that her second marriage to George A. Benson, an editor for the Toledo Blade, landed her in my home town of Toledo, Ohio. Mildred was a bit of an adventurer herself, and a fearless like Nancy Drew. She made trips to Central America, traveling through the jungles in a jeep and canoed down rivers, to scout out cultural sites. In 2001 Mildred Benson received a special Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America for her work on the Nancy Drew series.

Click to Tweet: I imagined myself right there with Nancy (Drew) as she searched for clues and dared to go against tradition, prove girls can achieve wonderful things just as well as boys can… from @trail_j via @InspiredPrompt #mystery #amreading


I still like a good suspense or mystery story to read. If you are so inclined, feel free to indulge in my story. I wrote a historical romance, with a bit of intrigue for a compilation with three other authors. I hope you will find enjoyment from all the stories.Tammy Trail, Mary Vee, Pamela Thibodeaux

Major John Tennant has recently returned from his post on the frontier to find his home razed to the ground and his children in the care of strangers. He struggles to bring the man responsible for the murder of his family to  justice while providing for his children.

After her fiance is impressed into the Royal Navy, Elaine Henderson is willing to do anything to help her brothers fight against British oppression. For years she has carried a bitterness in her heart until Providence replaces it with two motherless children.

Get Star Spangled Suspense at Amazon

Book Launch Party

Book Launch header picby Shirley Crowder

You have just hit send, and your galley edits are on the way to your publisher. Whew! You have about three seconds to relish the feeling of completion before you need to get back to the work of planning how to launch your new book once it is published.

While planning all the things you can do to help publicize the launch of your new book, consider planning a Launch Party aka Book Signing.

I felt a little awkward about throwing myself a Launch Party.

A wise friend told me to make it a time of praising the Lord for His leadership and the gifts, talents, and experience that enabled you to bring the study guide to publication. That, I could do!

Here’s what I did for the Launch Party. Hopefully these will get you thinking about things you can do for your Launch Party.

It is important here to tell you that the Lord has blessed me with so many very dear Prayer Warrior friends on whom I can call to help me accomplish so a myriad of things—including a Launch Party!

1.   Order Book Copies

Once you know when you will have the books in-hand, you can check venue dates and print your invitations. Remember to also have copies of other books you wrote on-hand. Consider offering a discounted price for those who purchase the book at the Launch Party.

2.    Venue

There is a wonderful chapel in our area that a dear friend owns and rents out for weddings, receptions, parties, etc. It was perfect for my Launch Party.

3.    Invitations

LuanchPartyINVI have a dear friend whose print shop is well-known in our area for producing wonderful invitations of all sorts. I kept mine simple as you see in the picture. I mailed some, hand-delivered others, and secured the jpg of the invitation to email to some folks and put on social media.

4.    Food & Drinks

sjc-cake-food tableI emailed some of my closest friends and asked if they would bring food items. I didn’t want a lot of different things, just a lot of a few things. We had sweet and salty and even healthy. Since I live in the south, sweet tea was a must. We served unsweet tea, lemonade, water, and coffee. Nothing fancy. A crew of friends came early to get everything laid out and ready to serve.

5.    Cake

If you are blessed to have a wonderfully talented baker/artist friend, you can have an awesome cake made! I wanted a Bible as the foundation of the cake as it is the foundation of our books. And, I asked that the Bible look tattered and well-used which you can see below.

Cake cu

On top of the Bible I wanted Harriet’s book on prayer and then Study Guide on Prayer (new book) on top.

Be sure to note the purple bookmark in the Bible, as well as the purple quill pen and inkwell.

6.    Decorations

White lattice and a little lace (as you saw in the picture above) made a great backdrop for the food/drink tables. Each table where people would sit had a centerpiece comprised of candles (the venue had on-hand) and purple paper flowers. A crew of friends came early to get everything decorated.

7.    Giveaways / Door Prizes

Each person was given a number for the door prize drawing. I gave away copies of all of my books and Harriet’s and a few other things. Before the drawings (we drew several numbers every half hour), I welcomed everyone and talked about the book or read excerpts.

As each person left, they took home a book cookie with the study guide title on it, These were made by another dear friend.

cookie pic

8.    Book Table

A friend manned the table and sales for me. I discounted all the prices. And, if someone brought their copy of Harriet’s book on prayer that the new study guide goes with, they received an additional discount on the study guide.

9.    Book Signing

A podium made a great place for signing books and having pics made with my friends.

signing podium

10.   Pictures

Ask several people to take candid pictures throughout the event. You may also consider purchasing some disposable cameras, placing them on the tables, and encouraging your guests to take pics.

 11.  Enjoy yourself!

With the right planning, you can spend your time visiting with your friends, signing books, and having your picture made a gazillion times!

Writing Prompt: Include Launch Party plans as part of your total plan for your new book. It will bless you and all those who are able to attend.

Click to Tweet: Make the Launch Party a time to thank the Lord for His grace that enables you to write, for a publisher who is willing to publish your book, for all the Prayer Warriors who have consistently prayed for you during the process.

What Is So Historical About Research?

By Tammy Trail

When I began to write my first novel, I knew it would be a historical. I love history. I love the idea of our nation being shaped by hardworking men and women who sacrificed to live in an untamed country. I chose Frontier/American Revolution because that’s what I like to read.

I began of course with WHO, WHAT, WHERE, and WHEN. I was given advice from a writer friend to research everything for accuracy and keep notes on where I found that information. I may need it later to educate or confirm my research.

If you just google Historical Research, you will find a plethora of options. Historical research involves examining past events to draw conclusions about the future. That is one definition I found. Instead of drawing conclusions about the future, we who write historical fiction pour our definition of past events and how they might have affected our characters onto the page.

Some material that may help in your research are newspapers, diaries, letters, speeches, or interview a person with firsthand knowledge. Museums, historical societies, and old pictures are helpful too. I would really love to take a “research” trip one of these days. Williamsburg Virginia has been calling my name for years.

Other information you may need to research.

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Trades
  • Politics
  • Travel
  • Weapons

In my American Revolutionary story, politics plays a huge role because it set the social and economic climate for that period. I read about some of the lesser known places and heroes that played a part in our winning independence from Great Britain.  I also asked myself what roles would a woman have played during the American Revolution? How does life go on when your men are away from home?

I have even read novels from other authors who write in my chosen time to get a feel for that era. I stay away from books that have a plot like my own. Some authors write blogs about their extensive research to share with others. Something as simple as shoes were totally different over 200 years ago. Beware of doing so much research that your story becomes bogged down with just facts, and not enough story. You can do too much research and never introduce your character to the world.

I have used Pinterest to keep pictures of my character’s lives. I can look at them and imagine what the interior of a home would look like, how my heroine may have dressed for chores, or how she may have dressed for a party.

I also dabbled in writing a western set in Wyoming territory in the early 1800s.  My heroine is a Chinese national who arrives in San Francisco on a ship. During my research for that story, I found a ship that sailed from China to that port in 1854. Now some of the other facts in my story had to be changed to fit that timeline. And that’s OK. It adds authenticity. I also needed to learn about the US Calvary, Indian tribes who were indigenous to that part of the country, and what obstacles my heroine might encounter because she was not born in the United States.

When you have all your questions answered and you begin to write, chances are you will find you have more questions. Keep researching or seek out an experienced author. I find that someone is always happy to help.

Writing Prompt: In what year did the following events take place?

  • Senator Daniel Webster endorses a bill as a measure to avert a possible civil war.
  • Millard Fillmore is sworn into office as President of the United States.
  • California is admitted as the 31st state.
  • P.T. Barnum introduces Swedish Nightingale, Jenny Lind to an American audience.

Click to Tweet: What Is So Historical About Research @InspiredPrompts #writetip #amwriting