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Paul FitzSimons

With the budget just out, I figured this would be a good time to take a look at the business side of being a writer.

There are two sides of the coin when it comes to any creative endeavour, the artistic and the commercial. There are many artists – painters, writers, sculptors, etc. – who have little interest in the commercial side – they are artists for the sake of art, they do it because they love it and have no interest in making a living from it.

But for those of us who are trying to make a bit of money (or a lot, even), it’s important to be able to separate ourselves from the artistic side and essentially become entrepreneurs. That’s what each of us is, the owner and runner of a business and that business is our book. And so we have to think about all the boring parts of business – profits and losses, sales and marketing, taxes and all the rest.

Joanna Penn has been a writer-entrepreneur for over a year and, over on her website, she tells us how she uses her writing skills to create additional revenue, how she divvies up her time and how going from being an IT consultant to a full-time writer has changed her life.

A few weeks ago, I delved into the world of self-publishing to give a bit of insight into how that works. Now that it’s is becoming a more established and respected practice, a lot of writers – both established and new-to-the-scene – are asking which is more profitable, self- or traditional-publishing. Rachelle Gardner, agent with Books and Such Literary Agency tackles this subject and offers valuable insight for when you have to make that all-important decision about your novel.

One of the more controversial subjects on the lips of all Irish writers is the artists’ income tax exemption. It became an especially hot topic in 2011 when the exemption on tax was capped at earnings of €40,000 a year. It was the right move, in this writer’s opinion – the exemption was brought in to help struggling artists (most of whom earn less than €15,000 these days) and not to provide a tax haven for multi-million-euro earning musicians, directors and a certain ex-Taoiseach.

But I digress. With our meagre earnings from this country safe from taxation, we writers have to remember that any money we earn in other countries is still vulnerable. None more so than the U.S. where, if you self-publish through one of the print-on-demand services, 30% of your earnings will be held back for tax.  Thanks to Ireland’s tax treaty with the U.S., Irish writers can get around this by obtaining an ITIN number from the IRS. Alison Wells tells us how to go about that and suggests that an EIN is, in fact, easier to get – it enables us to claim back the 30% of royalties that the booksellers hold for US Revenue purposes.

As I mentioned at the top of today’s column, last Wednesday was the Budget 2013 announcement and all ears were on our two ministers, so as to find out how the already-struggling arts industries would be affected. The National Campaign for the Arts took on the task of summarising the budget and they give us highlight and lowlights on their website.

And after all that talk about marketing, budgets and ITIN numbers, I’m off to write a poem about unicorns.

“My son is now an ‘entrepreneur’. That’s what you’re called when you don’t have a job.” – Ted Turner


Are you an author-entrepreneur?

Joanna Penn tells us how she’s making a go of being a self-employed writer.

“I initially gave myself six months to meet some specific financial targets and after making those, I didn’t return to the day job.”


Loadsa Money (or not?)

Self- or traditional-publishing – Rachelle Gardner on which might be more lucrative.

“Authors are carefully considering the merits of self-publishing versus traditional publishing, and many are doing both at once.”


Death or Taxes.

The Artists’ Tax Exemption as it stands today, thanks to Stuart Meharg Chartered Accountant.

“The Commission for Taxation recommended that the exemption be abolished altogether. So the introduction of a cap, while severe, can only be welcomed.”



Alison Wells gives us the ins and outs of getting a US Tax number with help from a guest  Karen Inglis.


That time of the year again (no, not Christmas).

The National Campaign for the Arts’ sum-up of Budget 2013.





About the author

(c) Paul FitzSimons

Paul FitzSimons has been a writer for seven years and has written the novel ‘Burning Matches’  and the start of two others. He has worked as a storyline writer on RTE’s ‘Fair City’ and has developed a number of TV dramas. His short stories are published in ‘Who Brought The Biscuits’ by The Naas Harbour Writers.

Paul likes crime thrillers, good coffee and Cadbury’s chocolate. He does not like country-and-western music or people who don’t know how to indicate on roundabouts.

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