I decided it was time to add to what I’ve learned about keeping track of writing business expenses. You can see my initial post here.
First, I have a checking account dedicated to my writing business. This makes it easy to use my writing account debit card for business expenses. My expenses still go into a spreadsheet, but I have easy backup and confirmation with those debits on my banking statement.
Same goes for income. Writing income gets deposited into that account (or it’s related savings account). I’ve also got an income spreadsheet which shows what I earned. It includes when, where and/or what, and I have them classified by categories such as my teaching income for the Institute of Children’s Literature (ICL), book royalties or flat fees, magazine and online articles/stories, critiquing, and speaking. Having a column for an entity such as ICL makes it really easy to compare the total to my 1099 after year end.
But the last few years I started some additional spreadsheets to help me keep track of mileage expenses. One is a writing day/morning spreadsheet. It shows date, where we met, and who I met with. The second is a critique group spreadsheet. Besides the previous information, it also shows what manuscript I brought for critique, or if none, it says NA. This adds validation to my expense spreadsheet and gives me a double-check. If I start looking at either of these sheets and see blank spaces where there shouldn’t be, I check my email since most of our arrangements for these meetings are confirmed via email. And I throw those emails into a “Finances” folder. Again, backup if I ever get audited.
And speaking of mileage, each year at the beginning of the year I note the mileage on my car in a spreadsheet. For example, in 2017 the total mileage for my little car was 4704. (As a family we drive the other car most of the time.) 1274 miles were writing related! The total mileage and business-related mileage are questions the IRS wants answers to. It’s good to be prepared before you go to fill out the tax form.
Back to my debit card. Someone once asked me about the validity of using my writing account for beverages at a coffee shop when I’m having a writing day. Or a meal for another type of writing event. If I stayed home, I would not have those expenses. The IRS only allows 40% of those expenses deducted. But 40% helps. For example, in 2017 I had almost $500 in meal expenses. The majority were for out-of-town trips. 40% of $500 is $200 deducted.
Something unavailable to us in 2013 when I wrote my original post was email receipts. Many restaurants and businesses will now email you your receipt or at least offer that option. I’ve found a number of coffee shops use Square which automatically emails the receipt based on my debit card number. I just have to update the info when I get a new card.
I also have a separate PayPal account for writing related income and expenses. This is very helpful when I’m collecting from individuals for paid critiques or editing. It shows the payment from my client and the fee for receiving payment via PayPal. But then I don’t have to worry about a stranger’s check bouncing after I do the work. (Although I do collect 50% in advance when I haven’t worked with someone before.)
It’s work to keep track of all this information, but I’ve definitely found if I keep up on it, it’s not very time-consuming. And since spreadsheets can be set up to do automatic calculations, it sure makes tax time easier.
If you have any tips to share, I’d love to hear them. Just enter them in the comments.
Please follow and like us:
The first step in submitting electronically is to KNOW WHAT THE AGENT or EDITOR WANTS.
Read each specific editor or agent’s guidelines to see whether to send a query only, query with sample pages, query with synopsis and sample pages, and for the latter two, how many pages. Usually, you’ll be pasting into an email or form versus using attachments.
Verify the email address the information should be sent to or whether they use querytracker.net, querymanager.com, or a form on their own website.
Next, PREPARE for PASTING the REQUESTED INFORMATION into the body of an email or into a form. A form will have separate boxes for different info. In email, it will all go into the body of an email. You can easily separate your query letter from synopsis and synopsis from manuscript by using returns (enters) and ten or more dashes.
- Write your query letter in Word and save it.
- Ditto with your synopsis, if required. Some agents or editors will specify how many pages of a synopsis they want. Others won’t. It’s good to have several versions, such as one page and three pages.
- Go to your manuscript and copy the number of pages requested and paste into a new document. Make sure you end your last page on a full line. It’s better to be short than have a partial line. (Of course, you are using standard manuscript format.) I like saving different length page samples with the number of pages in the title-it makes for future ease of use.
Third, open your email or the form. As appropriate, copy your letter, manuscript pages, and synopsis one at a time and paste into the form or email. Remember, for email dashes and a blank line are good separators.
Don’t stress if your pasted in manuscript loses centering for title and chapters. It won’t look perfect. However, I’ve found both yahoo and gmail work fairly well. If in doubt as to how your email will look when sent, you can always send a sample to a friend as a test although it still may not match exactly what the agency or publishing house receives unless your friend uses the same mail service.
In email, type an appropriate subject. E.g. Query – Red River, Query SCBWI Oregon Conference, etc. Use whatever the agent or editor has requested. If they don’t specify, putting the word Query and type of submission is helpful. It doesn’t hurt to put your manuscript title.
Lastly, double-check that all your information, including the subject line looks all right. Or for a form that you have filled in all the boxes.
When you are ready to go, enter in the TO: email address for email and send. For forms, choose “submit.” (Multiple page forms might have “continue” before you can submit.
SUBMITTING a QUERY with an ATTACHMENT
In the rare case, you may be able to send an attachment. Usually a Word document is requested. Your most recent or your current version of Word is fine. MAC users, never send a Pages document unless it is requested.
If someone requests a PDF, but you can’t print to PDF or don’t have a PDF maker, download PrimoPDF. It’s free and easy to use.
If you have questions, feel free to put them in the comments.
Nathan Bransford, former agent, author says in How to Format an Email Query: “Note that I did not begin with the recipient’s address or my address or the date, as that is not customary for an e-mail.”
How to Format an Email Query for Literary Agents – Seven Tips says: “…so start your subject line with the word ‘Query.’ . . . After the word query, list your book title and genre or category.”
Please follow and like us:
Most writers don’t start out thinking they’re going to need technical skills beyond maybe a word processor and email, but in this world of social media and digital submissions, writers either need to learn technical skills or get help.
I’m of a technical mindset and have more technical skills than many writers of my generation, but still I get help. My husband and my daughter have both helped me with website and computer issues. A writer friend taught me how to use twitter and tweetdeck. Please don’t be too chicken to ask for help yourself.
Here’s some things I’ve found many writers don’t know:
How to keep computer files organized. I’ve seen many writers with every file saved on the desktop or in the first level of documents and they have trouble finding what they are looking for. I’ve showed them folders and how you can put folders within folders. Normally each of my projects has its own folder. Here’s how I helped another writer with this issue in this post. It includes some tips on naming documents, too.
How to back up files. When their computer hard drive dies, writers have lost all of their work. Even when you have a crash, you can lose hours of work on your wip. Don’t let this be you. Find out how to preserve copies successfully. The latter portion of this blog post mentions some methods.
How to do an electronic submission, especially when pasting in material. When I was sharing on the topic with a group, one person said that the best tip she got was “don’t enter the to person’s email until you are sure you are ready to send.” This means you can’t accidentally send an unfinished submission. I’ll write up some more details for a future blog post.
How to resize a picture. A writer (or illustrator) needs to submit an illustration, a cover, a headshot and have a large file, but has been requested for something smaller. I wrote this post to specifically help with this problem. I find people often don’t know how to rename the picture with something meaningful either–it’s okay to name it what it is.
How to keep email organized. Some writers keep everything all in the inbox, which makes for an overwhelming number of emails. Folders to save important emails by topic or event or date can be helpful. Or you can have a folder for critiques or projects. Many email programs allow you to set up filters to sort incoming email automatically into folders as well. You might want to do that for newsletters you like to read. As hard as it may be to believe, one gal didn’t realize she could just delete emails she’d read and didn’t need.
New writers often don’t know about standard manuscript format. This is the way editors and agents will want to see manuscript submissions. Follow this link for details.
New to computer users don’t know about Word’s tables or Excel’s spreadsheets. Either can be helpful in keeping track of submissions, agents, chapter summaries, finances, etc. (Although I prefer the latter for finances.)
Sometimes we aren’t even aware we need help. We don’t know there’s a better or easier way. Many years ago I complained about how awkward something was in Word. My husband showed me tables. Wow, it made what I was doing so easy. Since, I’ve used it for forms many times.
So if something isn’t working well for you, ask others, “Is there a better way?” Or search online for “How do I ________?”–there are tutorials, youtube videos, etc. that explain so much. For example, I’ve learned more about html that way.
What have you gotten help with? What do you wish you could get help with?
Comments are welcome.
Please follow and like us:
Rejections are subjective. I know that. I only have to think about books I loved that a friend didn’t like or one they loved that I didn’t like. We all have our own tastes and even moods. But when our manuscript is rejected it often doesn’t feel subjective. We often feel as if we’ve failed.
When those feelings strike me, I have to remember how many published books I read where the story didn’t grab me. Or something turned me off. And these books were loved by an editor willing to spend a lot of time with the manuscript. They’ve been supported by a publishing company as a whole. So if published books can fail an individual, why I am I surprised when my own unpublished manuscript does?
At first page and roundtable critique sessions, I’ve seen how editors and agents just haven’t connected with the writing of a specific piece. One person might “get it” and the others not. Or the panel is split on whether they’d read on.
Ever had rejections that said, “I just didn’t love it enough.”? I have. Some agents/editors have told me things to work on; others haven’t. They are a reminder that I need to keep trying. If you’re getting personal rejections, keep on.
But what if you aren’t getting any personal rejections? That means it’s time to step back and look at your writing.
Many years ago at the SCBWI LA Conference–2009 to be exact–Editor Wendy Loggia shared “seven 7 reasons why your manuscript is declined.” They included:
- nice writing, but no story
- too similar to something else she’d edited or in the market place
- unclear who the audience would be
- can’t connect to the voice
- book submitted too early before it was ready
- project would not stand out on the house list
- the author is difficult to deal with (Yes, many editors and agents check your social media.)
What she concluded with was “If I can’t give a book my heart and soul, I won’t acquire it.” But note how many of the reasons above are something we have control over: a good story, a clear audience, a professional manuscript, a good attitude.
Here are some tips garnered from a variety of agents and editors that deal with what we control:
- put your best foot forward – fix those typos and grammar errors
- have a good hook
- show, don’t tell
- Editor Nick Thomas says, “Don’t make the first chapter too long.”
- have an intimacy with your characters
- remember cliffhangers make good chapter endings
- don’t write to trends
- be passionate about your project
- got voice? “Always it’s the voice that gets me… The way it makes me feel,” says Editor Christy Ottaviano.
- make sure your plot is solid
- share big truths
- provide opportunity for emotional engagement
And for the querying itself:
- research the agent(s) you are querying
- follow submission instructions
- get the agent or editor’s name right
- write a good query/cover letter
- provide good comp titles – this is one of my weaknesses
- keep your letter to one page
Also, don’t forget that you aren’t alone in getting rejections.
“At times the rejections did get to me, but the will to write always triumphed over the disappointment of rejection.” – Karen Hesse
Shannon Hale said, “I’ve published 20+ books, the last 10 or so of which have all been best sellers, and I still get rejections. All the time.”
“Rejection isn’t a sign of failure. Rejection is a reminder that there’s always room for improvement.” – Ana Hart
Kathryn Stockett said, “I can’t tell you how to succeed. But I can tell you how not to: Give in to the shame of being rejected.”
Let’s not be ashamed. Let’s press on.
Please follow and like us:
I was helping a new writer and she was confused about versions of her story/article. This is a common problem for many writers as it requires some computer literacy that people often don’t have. Here’s what I suggested to her:
- Have a computer folder for the book project. Hers was a collection of stories from mission trips to Haiti. Her folder logically says HAITI STORIES.
- Inside that folder have a folder for each individual story. One of her stories is titled “Anesthesia by Song”–don’t you want to know what that’s about?! Her inside folder where all copies of this story are can simply be ANESTHESIA BY SONG.
- – I also use this folder to save notes, resources, etc. related to my article or story.
- – I might have a separate folder labeled NOTES or INFO inside the story/article folder if I have a number of different documents.
- If you want to have different versions of a story/article, name the files with dates or a number. E.g. Travel Story 4-15-17.docx, Travel Story 5-1-17.docx, Travel Story 1.docx, Travel Story 2.docx. (Or .doc for older computers.) At a glance, you’ll see which is the newest version. You could also label them Travel Story first draft.docx through Travel Story final.docx.
Whether you are on a PC using the file manager (looks like a folder at the bottom of your screen) or on a MAC using Finder, organizing your work helps you know where everything is. The folders within another folder, the files within a folder, all can be in alphabetical order which makes it easy to find the file you need when you need it.
My friend was surprised to hear you can have folders within folders. I liken it to a wide hanging folder in a desk drawer. It can have multiple manila folders. But the computer is even better as you can keep nesting as far as you need.
But how do you save different versions of a document?
There are multiple methods:
- The one I find myself using the most often is opening the document itself and then clicking on “save as” and adding a version number or date. This leaves my new document open and I can immediately start work.
- Another option is to go where the file is and make a copy. When you save the copy, the system will add a number to differentiate it or will add the word copy. Then you can rename the copy, open it and get to work.
“Save as” is useful in other ways too.
- Saving a backup copy to another location such as Dropbox, google drive, a USB device, etc.
- Saving the first ten pages for a consultation/critique. Of course, you can also copy the first ten pages and paste in a new document, but you probably will lose your headers.
I liked having the “save as” icon on my toolbar, so I can click on it easily.
Another writer expressed this week how she lost six hours of work when preparing a PowerPoint presentation. We’ve all lost work and it is very frustrating. Here’s what I do to help avoid that:
- Name the document or presentation right away. An unnamed doc or ppt is much more difficult to find if you have a computer crash. I’ve also clicked on “don’t save” when I meant to click on save when closing a document. Arghh!
- When you save the file that first time, make sure you put it in a logical place so you’ll know where to find it.
- Save frequently as you work. I suggest every twenty to thirty minutes. (The “save” icon on the toolbar makes this quick and easy. Command/Control S is the keyboard shortcut.)
- If you’re inserting create commons images you’ve copied from the Internet, I suggest downloading them then insert versus copy and paste. You’ll have the downloaded copies in your downloads folder as a backup.
And speaking of backups… Make sure you are backing up your documents and files. For further info, go to this blog post.
Please follow and like us: