What are good expenses for a writer? Let me rephrase: what are good expenses for an unpublished writer or one who has made no income in the last financial year?
The last money I made writing was in 2013. Hence, I am looking down the barrel of a no-income-from-writing year. This makes me very wary of paying money for things that I will not see an immediate benefit from, as I cannot claim any tax benefit from it.
So what is worth paying for anyway?
Marketing -I recently paid to attend a marketing conference for writers. This, I believe, is well worth the money, especially if you plan to self publish. You must be on top of the marketing game, no matter how much you may hate selling yourself or your product. No one will market your product as enthusiastically or as dedicatedly as you, so learn how to do it right.
Computer/writing equipment. – I consider this to be essential. You must eventually print out or email a completely manuscript, usually following rules on formatting. Therefore you must have a computer, internet connection, preferably a printer or easy access to one, and a scanner too for contract signings. If yours is running out of oomph, get one that isn’t. Don’t forget back up hard drives, by all that’s holy.
Professional photos and image – I believe this is vital, especially if you are going to go full-tilt at the marketing side. If you know someone who is great at taking photos, then wonderful. But a professional photographer knows about lighting, angles, poses and if he knows his stuff, even what side to face for website images. It might be expensive but I believe it will pay off.
Conferences and Book Fairs – I think that writer’s conferences are a wonderful thing and those writers I know who have been would agree with me. I can’t wait to attend one. But I am not going to that expense until I have some writing money under my belt. Conferences are expensive things, if you factor in accommodation, flights, meals and the entry ticket. I simply cannot afford to attend until I have a product to sell or some “relax-money” to play with.
Writer’s retreats and classes – I think these are also great, especially if you are looking for help on a specific thing, e.g. screenwriting or character work. I fully intend to make use of these great resources in the future. But for the moment I think I am OK. If I get feedback suggesting that my plots need some serious tweaking or my characters are still wooden, then I might reconsider and invest in a course.
Writer’s associations – I think these are very important. I do feel that it is up to each writer whether or not they feel they will get a benefit from belonging to these associations. I am a born procrastinator which means that any distraction is a terrible thing for me. If I start getting notifications and invitations to courses from my local writer’s centre I know that I will lose sight of my writing targets. So for me, for now, I am not signing up (although I have belonged in the past). I also feel that once you belong to an association you have an obligation to be at least a little proactive in it. And this would also constitute too much of a distraction for me at the moment.
A professional website/social media consultant – depending on your level of competence and interest, I would say these are useful things but may not be necessary. A simple but effective website can be build by yourself through Word Press for example very quickly and easily. If you become a hit, you can consider paying for a site and a site maintainer with lots of bells and whistles. For now, as long as people can find you and your work easily, that’s enough. As for a social media consultant, you’ll find lots of advice about this online. But if you are a novice to the whole online marketing movement, a little professional advice may go a long way to help you.
A professional editor – Oh boy, we all need someone who can tear our beautiful work to shreds and then help you stitch it back together with good advice and gentle direction. Find one and cling to them. You may choose to find someone freelance online, or you may know someone you trust. Make sure they can make the hard calls and that you can take criticism from that person. Your spouse or mother may not be the best choices.
What are your essentials? What are you willing to pay good, very hard-earned money for?