16 March 2018

When your book-writing leads to book-keeping …

Jenny q
by Jenny Quintana From Our Students

Jenny Quintana studied on one of CBC’s London-based creative writing courses, and now her debut novel, The Missing Girl has been published by Mantle in the UK – with German, Italian and audio rights also sold. All great news – but publishing deals come with new responsibilities, and – like many authors before her – Jenny soon realised it wasn’t just book-WRITING that she needed to learn about in this new world. It was also book-KEEPING … 

Like a lot of writers, I’m more comfortable with words than with numbers. Basic maths is fine of course, but anything more is pretty much a mystery. Before I became a full-time writer, I’d been self-employed for a while. I knew exactly how incompetent I was at dealing not only with numbers, but with tax returns, accounts and expenses, and how mystifying the HMRC could be. I muddled along, roping friends and family in to help – anyone basically who was willing and had an iota more awareness than I did.

I finished my course with Curtis Brown Creative and twelve months later I was lucky enough to get a book deal. That’s when I realized I couldn’t muddle along anymore, I really did need an accountant.  Tax affairs for writers are complicated mainly because our income is irregular so tax and accounting affairs need careful planning. For example, averaging – spreading your earnings over a longer period of time. Writers also have a set of quite unique things to consider such as royalties, foreign deals, fees and advances. There are so many forms to fill in, rules and regulations, deadlines (with penalties if you miss them) and different bits of information to give to HMRC.

However, it wasn’t only incompetence with numbers which made me decide to get an accountant – it was also the fact that I had to spend so much time worrying about tax and finance when I could be doing more interesting things, like working on my novel. I’d already heard of HW Fisher and knew that they worked with a lot of writers, so I made an appointment to see an accountant there who patiently explained the kinds of things the company would be able to do for me.

Generally, having an accountant has helped me understand a lot more about the different things I should be doing such as setting specific expenses relating to writing against my tax. Not only stationery and office equipment, travel and research, but also a percentage of household expenses because I use my home as an office. It turned out I could even set my Curtis Brown Creative course fee against tax – the fact that I worked on The Missing Girl on my course meant that it counted as ‘professional training’.

Having an accountant doesn’t mean that don’t have to think about tax at all, of course. I still need to keep receipts and details of my earnings – but now there is someone to offer me advice and guidance; to do the calculations I struggle with, and to fill in all those dreaded time-consuming forms for the HMRC.

HW Fisher & Co provides accountancy services to many published authors, and its accountants are experts in writers’ often peculiar financial arrangements. To find out more click here.

HW Fisher are also the generous sponsors of one scholarship place on our next 3-month London-based course. If you are a talented writer with low income, read more here about how you can apply for this fully-funded place on the course.

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