Tax Time: Author Income and Traveling for Church

It’s March, which means it’s high time for me to be working on my taxes. Part of that process is taking an accounting of everything I was up to the past year from a dollars and cents perspective. Two data points stood out to me this year that I thought would be interesting to you as well.

First off, a candid look at the high flying life of an author. I think there’s a fair bit of misunderstanding out there on just how much you make as an author. I’ll tell people that I got a book deal, and they ask when I’m going to quit my job. Don’t get me wrong: there are definitely authors out there who are able to do that as their main job. But I’d say those are few and far between. Personally, I love the steady paycheck I get as a library director (not to mention the fact that the job itself is rewarding). I’d be hard pressed to give that up for the scattershot approach to payment that’s often the life of an author.

But it’s not making me nothing, and I thought it would be interesting to go back through the data to see how my income as an author has changed over the years, from my first sale in 2011 to this year:

  • 2011: $5,100
  • 2012: $10
  • 2013: $0
  • 2014: $0
  • 2015: $7,243
  • 2016: $3,188
  • 2017: $8,035
  • 2018: $8,960

None of that takes into account any actual expenses. That’s just what I earned. You’ll see there was a nice start with VODNIK, and then several years with no sales, and MEMORY THIEF has been happily churning out money for me since it first sold (and then sold again) back in 2015. I have no real idea what things will look like this year yet. I know I’ll get at least some income from some foreign sales, and hope springs eternal that INKBINDER will finally see print one of these days (or I’ll at least get the second half of my advance for it), and I have a couple other books going out on submission, but you just never know.

So am I raking in the money hand over fist as an author? Clearly not, though I’m grateful to be making what I am. Still, consider that I work on writing approximately 10 hours a week, and my hourly “wage” for writing has been:

  • 2011: $9.81
  • 2012: $0.02
  • 2013: $0
  • 2014: $0
  • 2015: $13.93
  • 2016: $6.13
  • 2017: $15.45
  • 2018: $17.23

Though that’s not quite accurate, since the times I got paid I typically ended up working much more than 10 hours a week on those books. And of course, when you take into account the fact that I started writing in 2000, my average hourly wage over the entire time I’ve been writing comes to a grand total of $3.23. (And remember: that’s before any expenses are taken out at all. Self-employment taxes are significantly more than normal salary taxes . . .)

But hey–the trajectory is definitely upwards, so I’ll take it.

The second data point I wanted to share was total travel for church. I spend a lot of time on the road these days, much of it church-related. How much time? Well, considering all that mileage might be tax deductible, I’ve kept track.

This year, I drove 4,280 miles for church-related service. How much is that?

  • I could drive down to Disney World and then back to Maine, change my mind when I got back to Maine, and drive back to Disney World, though I’d be just shy of making it there.
  • I could drive to Disneyland and still have over 1,000 miles to drive somewhere else.
  • But let’s not worry about Disney. Let’s go international. I could go to Costa Rica if I drove that far south. I could go to Anchorage if I headed north.

That’s a lot of driving.

Why do I drive so much for church? I’m on the high council, which means I drive to Waterville (64 miles, round trip) or Bangor (180 miles, roundtrip) once a month. I also drive to speak at a congregation somewhere in the region about every other month. Some of those drives can be 180 miles roundtrip (or more), as well. Add those trips up and throw in some things that are more local, and it all snowballs pretty easily.

Anyway. Those are my two “gee whiz” facts of the day. Have a good one.

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