The business side of writing is something every writer will have to deal with sooner or later ––unless they only want to write as a hobby. If you do plan to write as a business, be sure to consult a bookkeeper or accountant as soon as possible. In addition, right from the start, track your income and expenses and carefully keep and file all your receipts.
Note: This information does not replace professional advice.
Tips for writing as a business
- Create a business plan and make a budget each year.
- Decide your priorities and allocate resources accordingly.
- Keep business and creative time separate (don’t use creative time thinking about business tasks).
- Carefully read all business agreements and contracts.
- Be professional in your dealings and treat other people’s deadlines seriously.
- Learn how to deal with years of financial losses and then a sudden single high payment. (See tax section below.)
- Join a professional writers’ organization
Thank you to workshop presenter Bernice Lever for providing many of these tips.
- 5-year publishing plan key to successful self-publishing This article explains why writers need a 5-year plan. It also describes key items to include in your publishing plan.
- Canadian business plan templates (for larger businesses, but will give you an idea of sections to include in your plan).
- Resources for writing a business plan from Small Business BC.
- Guide to writing a business plan from Business Development Canada.
- Indie Author Fringe Podcasts have a wealth of information for writers looking for business tips and guidance.
Insurance for writers
Canadian Writers’ Coalition offers health insurance for writers.
Canadian Freelancers’ Union offers insurance for health, home, liability, contract advice and more.
In most countries including Canada your writing has automatic copyright as soon as it is written. However, for a fee you can formally register copyright at www.cipo.gc.ca. In addition, check the Copyright Guide to learn about copyright in Canada.
Permissions: If you are wondering about using quotes from other people’s creative works in your writing, check this article. For a full list of details relevant to Canadian writers, see the Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild “permissions” section.
Writers should also learn about potential problems from using trademarked names of products in their writing. One common problem is using a well-known brand as the word for a general product or service. For example, using the word “Kleenex” (a trademarked brand) instead of “tissue”. For more details check this article.
Cataloging-in-Publication (CIP) Collections Canada
This service for publishers (not self-publishers) provides library cataloguing for Canadian publications. See full eligibility. Also check CollectionsCanada.gc.ca under “Archives, Libraries and Publishers”.
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA (LAC)
Provides services for self-published authors including ISBN information and legal deposits.
Help for freelancers
Canadian Freelancers’ Union
Writers’ Union of Canada
Freelance Branch of the Canadian Media Guild
Canadian Intern Association
Graphic Designers of Canada
Who Pays Writers (Canada)
Copyright and Freelance Basics – PWAC
Freelance Contracts – CMG
Tax Information for independent Writers (& Artists)
- Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) fact sheet: Reasonable Expectation of Profit (PDF)
- Definition and criteria of a business
- Workspace in Home Expenses CRA fact sheet
- GST and Small Suppliers CRA fact sheet
- Keeping Records CRA fact sheet
- Appealing a CRA tax decision
- Mistakes writers make on their taxes
- Restless Writers Tax Tips
- Write-Scape Tax Tips
Amazon Tax Information for non-US writers
- CreateSpace (Amazon) tax rules for non-US authors
- Amazon: methods of getting paid, taxes if you are a non-US resident (useful even though it is aimed at writers in South Africa)
Royalties and contracts with publishers
If you might be published by a traditional publisher (as opposed to self-publishing), you will need to learn about royalty rates. Check the Saskatchewan Writers Guild for detailed information. And for information about ebook royalties (again, excluding self-published works), check The Writers’ Union of Canada.
If you are looking for financial inspiration for self-publishing, this article tells of the growing challenge of shrinking author royalties paid by traditional publishers.
Should you be offered a publishing contract by a traditional publisher, make sure to seek professional advice before signing any contract.
Keep in mind when discussing terms, that you don’t want to be unrealistic (as a publisher takes a financial risk), but you also don’t want to be naive. According to a 2007 study “writers who bargain with their publishers/producers earn about twice as much as those who don’t”. Notably, the same study found that female authors earned much less than male authors (published by traditional publishers). In addition, 60 percent of writers (in the UK and Germany) have a second source of income. The study defined “writer” as someone who spends 50 percent or more of their time writing. Read the full report (PDF) here.
Thank you for spending time reading up on the business side of writing. What resources listed did you find especially helpful? Do you have an idea for a resource that should be listed? Feel free to send an email.
Note: Links and information are for research purposes and do not replace professional advice. Accuracy of third-party websites cannot be verified and links do not indicate endorsement.
Updated January 2018