Learning to run a writing business is fun in a totally geeky sort of way. Since getting The Call last September, I've dealt with contracts, promotion, taxes, accounting, graphic design, web design, networking....and a little writing also. Each new challenge is scary. Fun-scary. And I have no idea whether I'm doing anything right.
This is the second year that I have claimed writing expenses on our tax return, with no income to go with it :) My first royalty check from The Paris Affair is coming sometime later this winter or early spring. So, I got a nice little warning from TurboTax (our accountant of choice until taxes get too complicated) saying that our audit risk is high. Oops :)
One of my resolutions for this year is to be better organized about tracking income and expenses, so I bought a copy of Peachtree Accounting software. Before you jump on the bandwagon, I will warn you: for my purposes, so far I think it's like hiring a master carpenter to hang some pictures on the wall. Totally overkill as a spreadsheet would be sufficient. But, I found a 2010 version for under $5 on clearance, so the worst I've done is waste my time. And it has a ton of online help that walks you through accounting principles, so I think I"m actually getting a bit of an education. Not bad for the money :)
On the promotion front, I've been trying a variety of approaches while trying to stay in line with my projected income (aka: promoting on the cheap). I've done a handful of blogs (here, on the Soul Mate Authors group, and a couple of guest blogs elsewhere). I've given away a couple of copies of my book. (I have a giveaway running this week over on the SMP Authors site). I've tried to be on twitter and facebook, but my playtime there has been limited by the day job (where I've been working longer hours than normal) and the night job (where my munchkins deserve better than to see me over the top of my phone or laptop screen).
Also for promotion, I am playing with online ads. My web hosting service had a bunch of ad credits that I could use, so I've been playing with Facebook and Google ads. I might have Yahoo credit I could claim as well. It's a bit difficult to see how useful the advertising really is. Authors get a small amount of visibility into Amazon rankings of their books, and my publisher can share stats if I ask. But though I am attempting a few tricks to track which clicks result in sales, I don't know if the ads are helping much. So far, I would bet that if I were paying the ad money out of my own pocket instead of a free promotional credit, that I would probably spend more than I am earning from it. I am treating this as on-the-job-training :)
For online ads, you can either use ugly-looking text-only ads, or come up with fancy-looking graphics. Hiring a graphic designer's not in the budget (though I know a couple of them who would be awesome), so I'm polishing up my Photoshop skills. And contemplating making Romance Trading Cards. A lot of authors I know also print bookmarks, and though I'd love to do that (I can never get enough bookmarks), they seem like a strange kind of promo item for a digital release. I might do them anyway, as time permits (maybe with a QR code with the digital buy link?) Hmmm...
The only bad part about all this is that I'm not spending a lot of time writing. My "season" is coming up, though. I typically pump out a lot of words in November, and then again during Lent. No religious association here, but for some reason the mid Feb-mid April timeframe has worked well for me to really get writing. Late spring and summer have been good times for me to revise.