The Writer’s Budget


Courtesy Brian Jud

Some of you who know me personally have just spit out your coffee all over your latest manuscript. Sorry about that.

She’s going to talk about money?” you’re thinking.  “That should be interesting…”

And, of course, you have a valid reason for your skepticism. But I ask you to put it aside and bear with me – or go get another cup of coffee and read this later.

Truth is, I wish I’d learned how beneficial it is to plan my spending, oh, say about 40 years ago. I’d probably be worth over a million dollars today. But I didn’t, though I have learned it in the past few years and am delighted to report that while it took some diligence to retrain myself to plan expenditures, it has resulted in having enough money – or knowing exactly why we don’t. I do it for home, for the business, for my writing.

But I want to bring this into the arena of writing. If you are writing professionally and want to, or do earn money from your work, you’ll be well served to get your business head on and that means you need to plan the expenditures for your writing. A ship that takes on more water than it displaces, sinks pretty fast. It’s the same in the business world. More debt than income means a sinking business.

For today, I’m swinging at the big ticket items…

Conferences – worthwhile, powerful and often expensive investments for your writing career. There are many reasons to go. You may need some specific workshops to strengthen your skills, marketing knowledges or perhaps to meet and editor or an agent. Remember to budget the conference registration fee, the hotel room costs, food, book purchases and transportation. Once you’ve been at this a while, it’s good to measure the ROI, or return on investment. If the conference is going to cost you $800, will you get that much value for your writing? If the answer is yes – in social networking potential or measurable results, then commit to going and register early – there is usually an early bird discount!

Memberships – while those association names look great on the business card or query letter, the costs can certainly add up. Again, you may want to think in terms of the ROI – will you get enough value out of belonging to pay those annual fees? If so, by all means, put that into the budget and be sure to pay your renewals on time. Often when fees increase, people who are current are grandfathered in at the lower rate.

Publishing – this category of expenses applies to the indie-published writer a little more than the traditionally published writer, but some of these questions apply to both. When researching who you will publish with, be sure to get all the facts before committing to the project. What sort of royalties are paid and when? Do you want to buy books at a discount and hand sell them? How much do you want them to cost you? Do you want the distributor to do the sales for you? Can you provide your own (professionally prepared = $) cover or have to pay for them to do it? Want a lot of control or not so much? How much is due up front and when are subsequent payments due? Are there penalties for taking your book elsewhere? Do you keep your rights or forfeit them? Who files the official copyright paperwork? These are some of the questions that should be looked at before you decide where to put your publishing dollars and energy. There are a boatload of alternatives – just do our homework first and you won’t be sorry!

Marketing – another line item for the budget. How much can you afford to spend on marketing your first book? Be realistic. Maybe you have more time than money – you might want to buy your books and hand sell them until they become a best seller (don’t laugh, this has been done more than once!) and maybe invest your marketing dollars in a nice bookmark to go with that book – and budget the auto expenses, hotel rooms, letterhead, whatever. If money is no object, I still recommend you budget these expenses. You’ll probably have more than one book – be smart about those dollars. Believe me, there are a lot of scams out there – don’t be a victim. Again, do your homework before you decide! Plan, plan, plan.

So, I guess maybe the bottom line is always buyer beware. But when I speak with clients and the great folks who attend local writing meetings, I hear things that make me think they aren’t looking at this like a business. I highly recommend that you do.

Even if this is a hobby for you, would you throw your hobby dollars out the car window on the Interstate?

Of course not. So at least think about it. Even if you don’t budget your household dollars, I strongly encourage you to budget your writing dollars. There’s nothing like having money to do the things you love!

Keep reading and writing! Nancy Q.


About NL Quatrano

Award-winning author, speaker, editor and ghost writer, Nancy owns a full-time editing, writing and specialty publishing business: On-Target Words/WC Publishing. Volunteer/member of professional writing organizations including Florida Writers Assoc., Sisters in Crime, and AWAI. 2010 Professional Woman of the Year by the NAPW. Linked in Editor Pick May 2013. International Women's Leadership Association nominee for Outstanding Leadership 2014.
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