When is an Author Published?

Today Sherrie from Mc Minnville, OR asks, “As an author, tell me, what is the definition of “published”? Do newsletters or other publications besides books count? Do I have to have earned a certain amount of money with publications? Can I only take the write-offs if I have naturally purple hair and be born to middle-aged parents, on a Tuesday in the month of November in the year of 1946? Thanks! “


Gee Sherry,

See, you DO understand!

Essentially, when speaking about published, think PAID.

There’s no specific minimum…but look at things from this point of view: IRS isn’t interested in supporting dilettantes who dabble. If you want to deduct the losses, you’ve got to be a pro. How can you look like a pro?

1)  You have a business plan and have mapped out what you need to do to make a LIVING as an author – to support yourself. And your plan shows that it will take X number of years to achieve your overall profit goal … and these are the specific steps. As a professional author you’ll track all the costs and take deductions as appropriate. (But DO get together with a tax pro who actually ‘gets it’ about authors’ and artists’ rules)

IRS doesn’t look kindly on writers who’ve taken those little one-day workshops to learn how to spend many thousands of dollars on travel expenses and cruises so you can write travel articles…. knowing the most you’ll ever earn, even if you sell an article each month for $250  is $3000. There’s no way to turn a profit at this rate. Clearly, it’s a hobby and you can only deduct your expenses up to your income. (Don’t argue with me – there’s no light at the end of THIS tunnel.)

That’s it in a nutshell….now, to really do it right…
Or do what I did – work in your area of interest and research it continuously for 15 or 20 years. Makes for a great book.

You’ll find links to all kinds of tax information for authors and other businesses and tax information at TaxMama.com

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