The business side of writing is something every writer will have to deal with sooner or later. Unless, that is, you intend to only write as a hobby. But before you turn your writing hobby into a business, consult a professional bookkeeper or accountant. In this way, right from the start, you will be able to properly track income and expenses.
Note: The following information does not replace professional advice.
- Why writers need a 5-year plan
- Details for a writer’s business plan
- 7-step business plan for writers
- See resources at Small Business BC and Business Development Canada.
Tips for writing as a business
- Set a yearly budget and determine high and low priorities
- Make a schedule for business tasks separate from creative tasks
- Plan what to do if you have a sudden high payment of income after several years of loss (See tax section below)
- Get professional advice for contracts
- Treat everyone professionally and respect deadlines
- Join a writers’ organization
- Take time each year for learning about writing as a business (e.g. check LinkedIn articles or listen to podcasts such as the SheWrites Podcast)
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 register copyright with www.cipo.gc.ca. To learn more, check the Copyright Guide.
Access Copyright helps creators and publishers get paid for secondary uses of their works. See outcome of Supreme Court decision for Access Copyright vs York University. This due to a 2012 change by Canadian government “copyright reforms that added the education purpose to fair dealing”. This issue related to “Fair dealing” where “copyright can be violated for certain purposes, including education, so long as it is done fairly”.
Public Lending Rights sends annual payments to Canadian authors for having their books (but not ebooks) in Canadian public libraries.
Also check this excellent free guide on all aspects of copyright and permissions by Helen Sedwick
Legal information for writers
- Avoiding legal problems for writers (iUniverse)
- Learn about defamation, libel and slander (BC)
- Top Legal Issues for Writers (BookDesigner)
- Artists Legal Outreach (BC)
Checking for Plagiarism
- PlagTracker (checks for plagiarism)
- CopyScape (checks for duplicate text)
- List of 20 tools to detect plagiarism
- Problems when using trademarked names in your writing
- Canadian Trademark Legal Services
- Changes to Canadian Trademark law
LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES & Collections CANADA
BAC-LAC provides services for self-published authors including ISBN information. Also CollectionsCanada.gc.ca under “Archives, Libraries and Publishers”.
Help for independent writers & freelancers
- Canadian Freelancers’ Union
- Writers’ Union of Canada
- Freelance Branch of the Canadian Media Guild
- Graphic Designers of Canada
- Who Pays Writers (Canada)
Tax Information for independent Writers (& Artists)
- Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) income tax folio re: Artists and Writers
- Best Canadian Newbie Tax Tip Guide for Creatives
- Definition and criteria of a business
- Workspace in Home Expenses CRA factsheet
- GST and Small Suppliers CRA factsheet
- Reasonable business expences CRA factsheet
- More on what is a reasonable expense
- Keeping Records CRA fact sheet
- Writer’s Union of Canada Tax Tips
- Appealing a CRA tax decision
- What Canadian writers should know about taxes
- Restless Writers Tax Tips
- WriteScape Tax Tips
- 2019 changes to shipping between Australia and Canada
- Estate Planning for Writers
Tax Info for non-U.S. writers publishing with Amazon
DISCLAIMER: NOT PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, FOR INFORMATION AND RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY. FIND PROFESSIONAL ADVICE
Ah, here comes the boring stuff that involves treaties between countries and tax information that you need to provide in order to build your self-publishing empire. You will likely need help with this, and not all professional accountants are familiar with income from royalties from the U.S. Also, forms are different depending on whether you are have a company or are a sole proprietor or individual. Make sure you get professional help that can expertly guide you.
- Here is a step-by-step just for Amazon Kindle online forms.
- You will need to know your Tax ID number that is necessary for W-8BEN exemption forms used by U.S. companies. For Canadian individuals or sole proprietors this is your social insurance number. To double check, you can find all the details on this chart made by the OECD: What’s a Tax ID number? (PDF)
- At tax time, you must declare as income any royalties you earn. The line where you declare this depends on whether you are also declaring associated expenses or not. Check the CRA rules here.
filling out the W-8BEN form
There is a form that you will be asked to submit to get royalties from a U.S.-based company. If you don’t fill out this form, then a big chunk of money (30%) gets deducted from your royalties. You may need help filling out the form the first time. If you can’t figure it out on your own, get in touch with writers organizations who can then direct you to professionals. In addition, here are some other resources you may find helpful:
- A useful chart for non-US citizens filling out W-8BEN forms.
- What is a W-8BEN form? (re individuals and sole proprietors).
- When setting up to sell your books on a U.S. sales platform, you’ll be prompted under Payee information to fill out a W-8BEN form.
- You might be directed to download form from the IRS website.
- You’ll probably get royalties via paypal, so your address on your form must match your paypal address. Use your legal name, and do not abbreviate ‘Canada’.
- Section 10 asks what article and paragraph of the treaty is applicable. For individuals in Canada it is 12.3 with 0% withholding rate. The type of income is “royalties”. Note: some types of artists (PDF) don’t need to fill in section 10.
- The form also asks for the ‘conditions that the beneficial owner meets to be eligible for the rate of withholding’. For individuals with royalties the conditions might be: “From copyright on production or reproduction of literary or artistic works based on the number of units sold”.
- Sign and date the form, scan, and upload. The form lasts for 3 years.
- You must declare as income any royalties you earn on your taxes. The line where you declare depends on whether you declare associated expenses or not. Check CRA rules here.
Royalty rates & contracts with publishers
If you are going to be published by a traditional publisher (as opposed to self-publishing), you need to learn about royalty rates. Check the Saskatchewan Writers Guild and The Writers’ Union of Canada.
When discussing terms, don’t be unrealistic, but also don’t be naive. According to one study “writers who bargain with their publishers/producers earn about twice as much as those who don’t”. The study defined ‘writer’ as someone who spends 50 percent or more of their time writing. Read the full 2007 report (PDF) here.
Note: Links and information are for research purposes and do not replace professional advice. In addition, accuracy of third-party websites cannot be verified and links do not indicate endorsement.
Updated October 2023 by 3PennyPublishing – Victoria, BC, Canada; researching and sharing self-publishing resources with writers since 2010.