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It’s time for the annual totting-up, as I prepare my self-assessment tax return and work out whether being an author makes me any money at all, or whether I am in fact paying for the privilege.  (Incidentally, my top tip for filling in tax returns – and indeed any complex form – is this: if you don’t understand the question, the answer is no.)

First, some stats for you:

  • I have self-published 21 non-fiction books (all about anti-money laundering, all in paperback only), five Sam Plank novels (all in paperback and various e-formats, and the first two as audiobooks as well), one collection of articles that I wrote for the local newspaper (paperback only) and one box-set of the first three Sam Plank novels (e-format only)
  • I have also self-published a guide to the Sam Plank series, with the first chapter of each novel and a glossary of Regency terms, but that’s free and so it brings in no royalties
  • In June 2015 my tax return revealed that I had made just under £1,500 from the writing side of my professional life
  • In 2016 that disappeared into a net loss of £44.87
  • In 2017 I increased my net loss to £288.71 – obviously too much spending and not enough writing
  • In 2018 I bucked the trend and went into the black, making a net profit of £1,338

So what can I report this year – up or down?  Profit or loss?  In the period 6 April 2018 to 5 April 2019 (that’s the crazy English tax year for you), I made a net profit from my authorliness of £1,294.31.  In essence, that’s royalties and sales minus cover designs, promo materials and membership of the Society of Authors.  It works out at £24.89 per week.  At this rate, I’ll be lucky to afford even a modest garret.

Don’t forget to vote for the title of “Plank 6” – for £24.89 a week, I’m certainly not choosing my own titles.

(And in case you’re wondering, the blog title is from a letter my father sent to his mum from university in the 1950s, which we still have in the family archive and which reads, in its entirety: “Dear mum, Washing enclosed.  Please send cake. Pete.”)