Setup Your Author Business [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

As someone who is used to do vending on a regular basis, it’s been weird not doing shows this year. Whether I’m helping my sister at art shows or she’s helping me at author events, we’re usually on the road at least once a month, usually for a weekend. This year everything has been put on hold. Conventions are getting delayed until next year, big ones like DragonCon that have never been cancelled before. The COVID-19 pandemic is putting a hold on what we used to call normal, which is probably why it took me a while to make a new post in my vending as an author series.

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, a series where authors help authors through all aspects of their author career. I highly recommend clicking on the image above and going to check out all the other amazing blogs in this circle, after reading through mine of course. 😉

So let’s say you would like to apply to go to a craft show or to a convention and have a booth or a table to sell copies of your books. However you’ve never sold your books before in person, and you’re worried about what it takes. Here are a few pieces of advice I have for anyone starting out.

Start an LLC

I know this seems a daunting task for anyone starting out, but let me explain how this is a good idea and how it will protect you. Having an LLC will protect you should your business ever run into any trouble. Let’s say you have to declare bankruptcy for whatever reason, that could be a sickness, an injury, or even a pandemic. If you do business through your own name, then your home, car, or anything else could be used to pay for the dues you owe. Creating an LLC isn’t terribly expensive, I believe it’s $50 to start one (here in Georgia), and you renew it every year for $50.

You’ll want to have a unique name, so you can check their databases to make sure that the name you’re choosing isn’t in use already. You don’t want to step on anyone else’s toes with using a name that’s already taken. Do your research, but trust me that you’ll appreciate it in the long run. Once you have your LLC setup, you can look at writing off expenses on your taxes.

Keep Track of Expenses

Create an excel spreadsheet for you and anyone else that will be helping you keep track of income and expenses. I keep track of any books I order for my business that I’ll be taking to sell at shows. I keep track of tables and tablecloths I have to buy for displays, and any signs that I’ll be using at the event. Basically if I have an expense that’s for my author career, I write it off on my taxes. Then I hand it, along with all the receipts I’ve scanned in, to my tax preparer at the end of the fiscal year.

Oh and sending out books for your giveaways can also be written off on your expenses. If you’re sending in the United States, make sure you also use Media Mail for your packages to save money there too.

Track Your Mileage

This is something that is typically forgotten, but all the travel time on the road is something you can include in your expenses. Download a free app on your phone like Everlance, and you can export everything in a handy excel spreadsheet at the end of the year. The wear and tear on your car, the gas, both are included in the dollars calculated in the app. We usually let it run in the background with our navigator app running in the foreground when we’re traveling to a show. It’s a simple and useful way to track your traveling expenses.

Of course, make sure you also keep track of hotel expenses, airline costs, taxis, mailing books for conventions, etc. At the end of the fiscal year, all of these items can be written off for your small business.

Cloud Storage Will Save Your Life

Currently I have a cloud storage account with 1 TB of space that we use specifically for our business. It’s really helpful to be able to pull a receipt out in the parking lot of a store, snap a picture, and upload it to the folder on your cloud storage account. You get used to it over time. You’ll be grateful at the end of the year that you were organized from the start, and instead of having to scramble to collect everything, you’ll have files and a spreadsheet ready to hand off.

Oh, and the cost of the cloud storage account is something else you can write off for your expenses.

Paying Taxes at Shows

So here’s the tricky part. Every state in the United States has their own rules for selling at shows and for paying taxes. Some of them don’t require you to provide paperwork in advance, and some of them do. It really depends on where you’re selling. It’s up to you to do your research and make sure you’re paying the taxes after the show.

In Georgia they have an event tax form, so for one-off shows you send a check to the city that you were a vendor in. I don’t believe all states have this form, but check where you live to see what the rules are. This is a perfect option for us since we only do shows once a month if that (or we used to pre-COVID).


I know it’s scary setting up your LLC and declaring yourself a small business, but once you start seeing yourself as part of a business, it helps you to say yes to more events. It helps you to walk up to bookstores and request to do book signings. It helps when you see a tax form to know where you stand. Remember that for the first five years or so you will probably be losing money as a business, and that’s perfectly normal. Expect it to take some time before you start to see true earnings.

Remember it’s important to protect yourself and your work. Doing research even if you’re a year or two out from making the leap to starting an LLC will help. I hope this has been helpful! Feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts or questions!

Telepathy is Hard [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

There’s been a sense of dissonance with my author groups that I’m part of lately. So many of my friends used to be pushing toward that next book, that next project, the next book festival, and getting excited about what was coming next. Now though so many of them are despondent when they look at their author career, and it really isn’t surprising why.

Some of us have been in quarantine for over three months even while others are able to go freely where they want. Many authors I’ve spoken with are in the same boat, either due to their own health issues or for loves ones. Then the protests began and the excessive use of force from police departments kept me glued to live feeds every evening near curfew to see what would happen, to keep an eye out for people on the ground. I had friends get involved in protests who had to run away from tear gas and rubber bullets. Still the violence hasn’t stopped. Just the other day a police officer killed a black man for falling asleep in his car here in Atlanta. There’s a constant sense of outrage and desperation right now that’s impossible to miss.

It’s difficult to write when your heart is bleeding for the world around you. It’s difficult to put aside your fears and worries when you see all the people risking their lives daily to be heard.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Stephen King called writing telepathy. After describing a scene, he writes the following in his book, On Writing.

This is what we’re looking at, and we all see it. I didn’t tell you. You didn’t ask me. I never opened my mouth and you never opened yours. We’re not even in the same year together, let alone the same room… except we are together. We are close. We’re having a meeting of the minds. […] We’ve engaged in an act of telepathy.

I think back to this concept regularly when I’m struggling with my writing. Creating a scene or a character for readers to identify and care for is an act of telepathy, and if an author has a hard time expressing the image they have in their head, or worse yet, if they have a hard time even picturing the scene they want to convey, then static comes across the line. Readers pick up on that static, whether they realize it or not. They feel the loss of focus or a character doing something that doesn’t make sense. They feel that discontinuity.

When the world feels like it’s on fire, authors can have a hard time channeling their minds into words. It’s understandable that there’s static. It’s understandable to get frustrated because it’s too hard to focus and the words won’t come out. It’s okay to feel like the characters aren’t behaving properly. It’s impossible to extract writing from the time and place that it was written. As creators of worlds, people, and locations, authors need to be aware of the static that gets in the way and allow it to exist. Sometimes the static is there for a reason.

Somehow over the past couple of months I found the mindset to write a book, Chosen, the last book in the Stolen series. I finished writing it a month into quarantine and finished editing it after the police violence at protests began dying down last week. I focused my outrage and pain into my novel, into my characters, and into scenes which ended up being eerily similar to the scenes I read about online. I had characters house protagonists despite risking their lives to do it. I had enemies hide behind their military troops. I had powerful characters admit that they were in too much pain to carry on in battle.

Basically I allowed the real world to infiltrate my book world in a way that expanded the world. I allowed some crossover, but only if it made sense. I channeled the emotions I felt from hearing these stories and from watching these horrors. Sometimes I realized the crossover was happening as I wrote the book, but other times I didn’t realize it until I was editing.

I know that the writing process is very different for everyone, and that we all have different ways of coping with the stress going on in the world, but I hope that hearing how I have come to terms with it helped. Chosen was meant to be written during this time and it is truly reflected in the storyline.

My advice is to listen to that static and see if it can push you in the right direction. See if it’s trying to encourage a change of direction or a change in a character. I hope you find a way to continue your craft despite the difficulties we are dealing with now and on the long road ahead.

Being an Author in Quarantine [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

Lately it’s been difficult for me to focus on writing sometimes. I had my short story, “La Femme en Rouge” released in Masks on March 31st, and my novel, Broken, was released on April 7th. My mind has felt like it’s been in a million places lately trying to keep up with all of my deadlines, needs, and coping with the “current situation”, as it’s been politely referred to in work meetings I’ve attended.

I recently read Morbid Smile’s article on Bujo and the Art of Staying Sane Through Quarantine, and I thought about how much having a bullet journal has helped me during this perilous and unprecedented time. I wanted to share a few other things that have helped me since I know other authors are struggling with this right now.

This post is part of the Author Toolbox Blog Hop, a monthly hop hosted by authors with helpful information for authors. This can be anything from writing advice to publishing recommendations or even to hosting author booths at conventions. Take a look at some of my previous posts, and make sure you also check out the other author posts this month! I’m always amazed at the breadth of knowledge and the amount of tools and information I didn’t know before.

BuJo

Morbid Smile was absolutely right on the benefit of keeping a bullet journal. Usually I would only lists tasks that I’m trying to get done, like work on edits that have a deadline or writing a blog post, but lately I’ve been adding items to that list like working remotely for my day job, or doing the dishes, or cooking. Even if I don’t get as much done in my writing world as I want, I still feel accomplished because I have done things that need to be done.

Although my event schedule for the year has now been mostly scrapped, I also have trackers for books I’ve read, movies I’ve watched, and words I’ve written. Sure, I won’t get to be a vendor at a number of conventions I was hoping for this year, but I can see what new movies I’ve watched.

Virtual Author Events

You’re not the only author who is dealing with isolation right now, and therefore there is a ton of free material out there to help authors. From free writer conventions you can attend–Smashwords is holding a free Author Day as a virtual convention, for example.

Also this month Camp NaNoWriMo has started up! This is a wonderful way to get thrown into a cabin with other authors and you can all help encourage each other to reach your goals. Also you can set your own wordcount goals, so if you’re aiming for 50k or just 10k, this is a great way to motivate yourself.

I’ve seen authors streaming their word sprints live on places like Youtube, so you can participate along with other people and feel like you’re at your local cafe. I’ve seen authors reading from their own work to help provide options for all the parents teaching from home. The possibilities are really only limited to your imagination and creativity. We’re authors–we can do that.

Reading

Speaking of books, I’ve gotten so much reading done while I’ve been isolated. We just hit day 30 here in our household, and I find myself binge reading more than I used to. I simply have more time and a less pressing social calendar with folks outside of the home. This is great during those quiet times either late in the evening or early in the morning when most people are still asleep. Diving into some good books has tremendously helped my mood especially when I’ve felt really down or frustrated. Many publishing houses, including mine, are having sales on ebooks to help readers deal with the struggle of isolation right now, and I personally really appreciate it!

Talking with Fellow Authors/Artists

Pull up Zoom and open a chat group with a few author friends you know. Schedule a happy hour with them. Bring your current work in progress and read a few paragraphs aloud, or just talk out a snag in your manuscript. Just because you’re not in a physical space together doesn’t mean your meetings have to end.

Our first virtual meeting with our local Horror Writers Association group is this weekend, and we’re doing it over Zoom. It’s great cause now I don’t have to drive an hour to make it to the meeting, and I get to pet my cats while we talk about books. It’s a win-win situation, especially for my cats!

I hope all these ideas have inspired you on ways to help deal with being an author during this time. And if you don’t feel like writing or socializing or even reading, and just want to binge another series on Netflix right now, that’s fine too! There’s no pressure to be productive during this time because we’re dealing with a pandemic that is affecting the entire world. Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to just exist at times. Zone out, look at the trees, pet a cat. Sometimes that’s the best way to help ourselves.

We don’t have to define ourselves by our productivity. Let that sink in sometimes, authors!

Book Releases: It Gets Easier As You Go [#AuthorToolboxBlogHop]

I’m back with another Author Toolbox Blog Hop post this month! This monthly blog hop gives advice by authors for authors. Today’s post is focuses on how doing book releases gets easier as you go, and why. Check out all the posts in this month’s hop!

When I released my debut full-length novel, Stolen, last year, I was daunted by the amount of work that had to be done prior to release day. There were eARCs to send out, book reviewers to reach out to, blog tours to organize, and in person signing events to schedule. I only had some idea of the workload it would take, and it was only when the wave passed by that I realized how much work it was and how well I handled it. I also realized how to do it better next time.

Now I’m prepping for the sequel for that book, Broken, to be released on April 7th. This book release is very different from my experience with Stolen, and I wanted to share what I think has improved this time around compared to last time.

  • Book signings are easier to book. Last year I went to a number of small and indie bookstores to do signings. It was an eye-opening experience. I had to find places that would take an indie author and a small publishing company. Not all bookstores do, and I was shocked to discover that. This time around, I already have locations that I’ve made connections with. Some of them, like Story on the Square and The Southern Pen, stock copies of my books already and are preparing to stock Broken as well. This takes a huge weight off my shoulders this time around.
  • Have readers to reach out to. If you’ve ever started going down the rabbit hole of trying to find ARC book reviewers, you know how helpful this is. Most times when I reach out cold to a blog site, I get crickets. And there are a ton of potential book bloggers. It’s just a lot of time spent with sometimes very little reward. This time around I have a group of ARC readers and reviewers to reach out to, people who loved my first book and are excited to read the second book. Not having to spend time organizing all this also takes a huge weight off of me.
  • I have local fans. I’ve been to enough local shows and events now that I have people who work hard to come out to my book signings and readings. It’s so flattering, but it also means there’s the pressure to create regularly and to constantly improve my craft. I enjoy this, so I don’t mind. It also means that I don’t setup a signing and don’t have anyone appear any longer. I usually at least have one person show up.

These are just a few of the areas that I think are easier this time around, but each one makes a big difference. Instead of gaining all of these contacts and experience, I can focus on new projects and organizing all of these events instead of trying to find them.

For those looking to publish multiple books, I hope this eases that feeling of being overwhelmed when faced with what to do on your first book publication. It will get easier as you go, even though it doesn’t seem like it will at first. The goal is to improve as you go, learn the ropes, make mistakes, and get better with each release.

I Started a Ko-fi

I’ve been writing professionally for ten years now. It’s crazy to think that.

I’ve seen so many small presses come and go. I’ve encountered incredible editors (and frightful ones), I’ve seen glowing rejection letters (and decimating ones), and I’ve slowly learned the ropes. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of dedication. It requires becoming an expert or at least gaining competency in a variety of areas.

Here are just a few that I came up with off the top of my head. These are all skillsets I didn’t really have ten years ago, but now definitely do.

  • Legal consultant
  • Contract negotiator
  • Social media representative
  • Therapist
  • Software specialist
  • Website engineer
  • Business entrepreneur
  • Tax agent
  • Festival representative
  • Graphic designer
  • Videographer
  • Book tour planner
  • Public speaker
  • And so many more…

About three years back, as my sister and I started to break down the parts and pieces of turning this work into a small business, it quickly became a no-brainer. The amount of time/money/effort that goes into being an author easily makes up a small business. It takes up my evenings, my weekends, my family time, and especially time with my friends. (Love y’all!)

The truth is: I create because I love doing this, not because it pays. (Maybe some day.)

I thought it would be a good idea to give you all, my readers and fans, the opportunity to buy me a coffee (or tea in my case). Imagine sitting down beside me at a local Starbucks and just sliding the cup over while I’m deep in a scene. Know that it’ll help fuel a good afternoon of content creation, whether that’s thinking up some horrific scenes or writing some dialogue that pulls at the heartstrings — or it might help me celebrate my birthday today. 🙂

It’s small, but it helps. It adds up. Thank you for supporting me!

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com