March 15, 2016

Woes of a Numerically Challenged Writer - Tracy Krauss

I would be quite content, thank you very much, to focus on the creative aspects of writing, but the reality of today's author means that marketing and promotion are an important and necessary part of the writing life. I've learned a lot about this part of the 'business', and although I am not an expert, I actually enjoy some of these activities. However, there is one aspect of the business of writing that I am not very good at. I am not good with numbers. 

Let me rephrase that. I am terrible with numbers. You could say I am numerically challenged. You may have heard the joke, "How can I be out of money? I still have cheques?" That's me. I never bother to check my pay stubs and just let as much automation as possible do its thing, now that I do all my banking online. The less I have to do with the actual numbers the better.

This has not proven to be a very good strategy in terms of my writing career. I'm ashamed to admit it, but when my first book came out in 2009 I didn't keep any records. None. I had no idea how many sales I'd made, gave no receipts, and had no clue how much I had spent. I'd been told that unless you made more than thirty thousand dollars a year you didn't have to claim the income, so I didn't bother. I was curious, however, about how many books I had actually sold, especially when I saw other authors talking about their sales. The next year I determined to do better - I kept track of sales (kind of...) but not expenses.

Obviously this was no way to build a writing career. If I ever hoped to take myself seriously - or expect anyone else to - I needed to start acting more professional. Fortunately for me, I have a daughter who is numerically gifted. (Not sure where those genes came from...) She convinced me how easy it would be to buy a little ledger book and a file folder and just keep stuffing things in. I tried it but, come the end of 2011, I realized there were a whole lot of expenses unaccounted for that had gone the way of the 'delete' button. 

2012 was the first year I made a concerted effort to keep track of everything. I meticulously printed off every invoice and receipt, photocopied every cheque I received and wrote everything down in my little book. It didn't take long before I got bogged down. Had I already printed that one off? Did I have duplicates that were causing more paperwork than necessary? Where was that email that I knew contained an import receipt?! This was the year I created several online file folders in my email as a way to keep track of different expenses and royalty information. I also created a folder called 'NEED TO PRINT' where everything went first before I moved it to its rightful folder. 

It is certainly not the most elegant system, but it has been working now for the past four years. I just recently gathered all my information to send to the tax firm for income tax purposes. I finally started including my writing income and expenses in my income tax in 2013. Little by little I've been growing. (Bobbi Junior would be proud!) 

It has been my goal to become more professional as I move forward as a writer, and implement more good business practices. I tried making a business plan last year (which didn't turn out that well...) but I did finally make some important changes like starting my own publishing company and registering as a sole proprietor under the name 'Fictitious Ink'. (So far I haven't actually published anything but - hey - baby steps, right?) I'm a member of my local chamber of commerce and I opened my own separate bank account. I've gone to a couple of workshops on the 'business of art' and feel like I am moving forward, ever so slowly, in my goal to become more professional.

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I have really enjoyed many of your posts this month and have found some wonderful advice. Of special interest was one that Ramona Hiekel referenced in her post. It is called '7 Tips for Organizing Your Writing Business' and is a post she wrote way back in 2013. It is very practical and exactly the kind of advice that non- numericals like myself need. (If you haven't checked it out yet, do it!


  1. Thanks Tracy - sounds like you've taken much bigger steps than just "baby steps" and that they are leading you upwards and onwards! I find if the "numbers" are good then they can be motivating, and even if they're "bad" - just knowing what they are is very empowering and therefore motivating! Either way motivation seems key to momentum - so I have no doubt you will be moving faster forward than you ever expected - thanks for sharing this! - Dayna

  2. Thanks Tracy, I connected with being numerically challenged. I have always struggled with the proper keeping of records. I too have been working at it.

  3. I smiled as I read this, because you do so many things and you do them so well. We all have our human foibles, but I am happy to see that you are developing a system that works for you. Like Dayna, I would say that you are beyond baby steps. You are getting your writing, networking, promotion, and speaking done. When you make a certain income, you can hire someone to crunch the numbers for you.

  4. Hahaha, Tracy. You make me laugh. I have no books to sell and keep track of but I'm thinking that if I did, I would be like you. And then my husband would MAKE me a spread sheet and make sure I was filling it in. Too funny. I'm glad I'm not the only one like this.


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