Business Side of Writing for Self-Publishing Authors

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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.

Business Planning
Insurance for writers

Canadian Writers’ Coalition offers health insurance for writers.

Canadian Freelancers’ Union offers insurance for health, home, liability, contract advice and more.

Copyright

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.

Access Copyright helps creators and publishers get paid for secondary uses of their works. Check FAQs for details.

Public Lending Rights (PLR) sends annual payments to Canadian authors for the presence of their books (not ebooks) in Canadian public libraries. Check their eligibility page.

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.

PlagTracker (to check for plagiarism)
CopyScape (to check for duplicate text)
List of 20 tools to detect plagiarism

Trademarks

When should you trademark a catchphrase?
Trademark lawyers (Victoria BC)
Trademark Agents (BC)
Changes to Canadian Trademark Law 2017

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)

Amazon Tax Information for non-US writers

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.

old business adding machine on wheels with stool

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