Short Answers: Taxes on Self-Publishing, Holiday Gifts, an Ask An Author Book?

Some bite-sized questions and answers.

As the column draws to a close I’m gathering some last smaller questions into a last question-and-answer column. Most of these I’ve answered through email already, because they were quick and didn’t make a full newsletter, but I’ve been bookmarking the answers to collect publicly.

Here goes:

1. Self-Publishing and Taxes

The Question: [Self-publishing] Taxes! Aaaa! How easy were they to file? Does Amazon make it a challenge to have all your taxes in order? Anything I should watch out for?

The U.S. tax deadline got pushed this year, but it’s still around the right season for this. Don’t worry — self-publishing income gets treated just like any other self-employment income, the same way you’d file any other income from writing. You asked about Amazon specifically; they make it very easy — you can download a 1099 from a secure portal shortly after the end of the year.

Some of the other vendors are a little more complicated — for example, if memory serves Kobo is not a U.S. company and doesn’t issue a 1099. Remember, you have to list all your income whether or not you got a 1099 for it. Check your records to make sure you’re listing all your income, but filing taxes for self-publishing is pretty much the same as filing other writing taxes, since as far as I know we get classified the same by the IRS whether we work with a publisher or not.

For more details on filing writer taxes in general, see this previous column.

2. Holiday Gifts

The Question: I know you did something before on gifting within the industry, but with the holidays coming I could use some advise on the etiquette. I assume general holiday wishes are okay — but are they expected? Are gifts expected? Help!

This question came in too close to the holidays last year for me to squeeze it in, so I wrote the asker an answer and saved it for the next year. But with the column ending, we’ll do New Year’s in April.

I did do a longer column on gifts, and the advice from that newsletter applies to the holidays: give something if you feel moved to; don’t if you don’t. Gifts to your agent or editor around the end-of-year holidays are neither expected nor required.

Certainly good wishes never go amiss — though of course try not to assume anyone celebrates particular traditions — but don’t stress about it. It’s not unlikely you’ll have enough regular emails happening that some cheerful exchanges of holiday wishes will happen naturally anyway, but if you happen to be in a slow period in December, nobody’s going to be tracking whether you emailed in about the holidays. On the other hand, you can also use the holidays as a nice reason to touch base with people if you’re feeling like you want to check in.

If you feel inclined to send a small holiday gift or card, it’s perfectly within etiquette norms to do so, and I’m sure it will be appreciated. But it’s also completely within etiquette norms not to send anything.

Basically, do what feels natural here and don’t stress about it.

3. Market Submission Prioritization

The Question: Is it okay to not sub to a market because you disagree with them politically?

Short answer: yes, of course.

Longer answer: I promise, you can submit or not submit to any market you want for any reason you want. I’m not sure what you mean by “okay,” but you certainly won’t face any political trouble or professional consequences for quietly leaving a market off your sub list. In fact, nobody’s even going to know unless you say anything about it — it’s not like anyone else is tracking your subs.

Even if you run into an editor at a con and they say, “Hey, send me things!” and you don’t want to, chances are good they’ll never notice. Slush is so big and editors have many more important things to keep track of! But if you run into some strange and rare situation in which an editor is peering in on you and bugging you to submit to them… well, that’s weird and verging into unprofessional. You can demur by saying you have nothing available right now and everything’s out or being held at other markets, and if they keep pushing, it’s them who’s making things awkward, not you.

But that would be a very rare situation. As a general rule, editors really aren’t sitting down and figuring out which short story writers haven’t subbed to them in a while.

Now, if you want to be public about it and about your reasons, that’s a different story. If it’s more than a mere political difference, then there’s certainly value in speaking out about abusive markets or abusive editors, but choosing whether to do so is a dicey question that everyone needs to decide for themselves on a case by case basis, I think. Individuals and organizations like Writer Beware who speak out about poor actors in the industry are vital to the health of our profession and I have intense respect for them — speaking out does have value. But also don’t feel guilty about not being vocal if you don’t want to be.

Your question might mean “okay” in a more private ethical sense, though, rather than thinking about consequences or the danger of anyone finding out. And my answer is still the same: of course it’s okay. I move markets up and down my sub list for all sorts of reasons, some of which amount to nothing more than whimsy. It’s very common for people to pick who to sub to for all sorts of idiosyncratic reasons. Don’t sweat it.

4. An Ask An Author Book

The Question: Is there any value to gathering your columns together in the form of a book? The topics are incredibly informative and the writing style is a pleasure to read.

Nah, no plans for a book. This industry moves so fast that a lot of this is going to go out of date quickly, so a newsletter was really the right format for it. Maybe someday I’ll see if there are enough evergreen articles to compile, but no plans for it right now.

Thanks for the kind words on the column, though!