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The Writer's Mailbag: Installment 158

Updated on July 10, 2017

Another Full One

No reason for me to tell you anything other than we have another full bag of mail, so we best get with it so you can get your week started.

Thanks for joining in our community on this Tenth Day of July, 2017. You are appreciated!

MONETIZING

From Janda: “Bill, I only found your "mailbag" a couple of weeks ago and haven't read many of your posts to it, so I apologize if you have already addressed this, and I really believe you're hinting here that you're going to do so quite soon, but if neither, please give us some info about monetizing a blog. (If this site is not paying as well as it previously did and might be in danger of folding, I'd love to find another option. Not that I expect to earn a lot of money from writing online, but even a little bit provides proof to IRS, etc., that I am indeed a "professional" writer and should be entitled to tax write-offs, etc.) I'd love your insight on this topic and those of your followers.”

Hi, Janda! I love your name, by the way.

Let’s tackle the IRS first. You actually don’t need to show a profit for the first few years as a freelance writer. Just keep your receipts and be able to back up everything you claim. Intent is more important than income the first couple years with taxes. The IRS takes your word for it when you tell them you are trying to make money as a writer. As long as you stay within certain parameters, and don’t get greedy, there is no reason to worry.

Monetizing your website or blog with Amazon is a waste of time, in my opinion. Pennies will trickle in, and I actually think it will be worse in the next couple years. A lot of bloggers will do the affiliate thing where you sign up to promote a company’s products, and in turn you get paid for it, or get free products for it, or a combination of the two.

If you can find a company that is willing to pay you directly for an advertisement on your blog, go for it. Cutting out the middle man i.e. Amazon, is always the best policy. However, this isn’t a viable possibility until you grow a decent-sized audience for your blog.

The best reward, though, from having a blog is the freedom it gives you to promote your own work….sell your own books there…promote, promote, and promote.

And don’t forget YouTube and the monetizing possibilities there. It’s all income, no matter where it comes from, and it all shows the IRS that you are a serious freelancer. Remember, intent is just as important, if not more important, than actual income the first few years.

Welcome to the Mail Room
Welcome to the Mail Room | Source

Niche Sites

From Linda: “Like Melissa, I did not know that there is a "letter pile" niche. I must look that up. Is there some EASY place where one can find out the names of all of the Hubs niches and what topics they contain?”

Linda, boy oh boy, are you ever asking the wrong person. LOL Let me go find out.

Okay, I’m back. Follow this link and you’ll see a list of the niche sites. There may be a more recent list, but this is the one I found. There’s actually an explanation of each site on that link too. Hope that helps.

HOW TO ASK A QUESTION

From LeaAnne: “Hey, Bill, how does one submit a question to the Mailbag?”

LeaAnne, you just did! LOL

Either add it in the comment section, or drop it in an email and send it to holland1145@yahoo.com.

Or you could just shout really loud. J

I’ll leave the light on for ya!

Sales remain good for the coloring books
Sales remain good for the coloring books | Source

Another Irs Question

From Paul: “This matter of taxes is a bit confusing. How does the IRS know if you are seriously trying to become a writer? It seems to me to be a matter of good faith on the part of the government, and I find it hard to believe that the government will just blindly believe I’m trying to be a writer and my expenses are valid. What is your experience?”

Paul, I’m about to shake up your world, because it is exactly as you described it, good faith on the part of the government, at least for the first few years.

Of course you better be able to back up any expense claims, but my experience was this: eight years ago I declared myself to be a writer. I found a couple customers, started earning a little income, and the next spring I declared it all on my taxes . . . and the deductions added up and still do. I don’t try to screw the government, and I don’t pad my expenses at all. I take exactly what I am allowed to take, I faithfully report any earnings, and the government has never once questioned what I have reported.

And I sleep well at night! Even if the IRS did question me, I have the proof to back all of my claims up, so no worries, and besides, I have found the IRS to be very accommodating in the past on different matters. It’s not as scary as many think it is.

Anyway, get started. Be honest, be diligent, and declare yourself to be a freelance writer!

UPDATE ON COLORING BOOKS

From Stephanie: “Bill, how are the coloring books doing? Are sales still happening?”

Stephanie, thanks for asking. Sales are great, just not at farmers markets. I sell a lot of them online, so many, in fact, that I’m considering creating more. They sell well at special events like “Farm Day” at our son’s goat farm.

They are one piece of the Bill Holland puzzle, Stephanie. I will never get rich from coloring books, but they do add income, and income from several writing sources adds up.

The IRS believes this man to be a freelance writer
The IRS believes this man to be a freelance writer | Source

Hp Editing

From Tamara: “Bill,

My question is:

1). Is community now allowed to edit, or ask for editing on our posts?

2). What if there are those in the community who do not like us and they edit, or ask for editing of our posts just to be mean?”

Tamara, thanks for the question. It is my understanding that HP can edit our posts any old time they want to do so, and that we give them our permission by posting on their site. This is one of those changes that happened about the same time as the creation of the niche sites. For better or for worse, you are stuck with it if you are going to remain on HP.

As for your second question, I have been around now for almost six years, and I have yet to run across an HP staff member who holds a grudge, or who has done something out of spite. I think the reason for this is pretty simple: we simply are not that important to the HP staff. We write articles, we make HP money, and that’s the extent of our relationship with the staff and management. Emotions and feelings don’t enter into this gig.

A Note From Bill

This topic of freelance writing keeps coming up, and I see articles being posted which I believe are far too gleeful and deceiving. Making a career of freelance writing (making decent money at it) takes a long time to establish. This is Year Eight for me and I’m finally at a point where I don’t need supplemental income from other sources other than writing. Let me repeat: this is Year Eight for me.

Writers who want to make money in writing need to pay their dues. They need to lay the groundwork and build from there. Don’t skip steps. Don’t try to hurry up the process. Be diligent and be stubborn. Use the shotgun approach to marketing, especially if you have a limited marketing budget. Use guerilla marketing. All ideas are good ideas when marketing writing . . . until they are proven to be dud ideas, and then you try something else.

The writing business isn’t like it was eight years ago. Eight years ago using Google Adsense made sense. I don’t believe it does now. Eight years ago, writers on HubPages were making hundreds of dollars per month. Few do now. Eight years ago it was easier to get an agent or a publisher. Now it’s next to impossible.

Such is life. Either learn to adjust or find something else to do with your time.

HAVE A GREAT WEEK

Seriously, get out there and enjoy life. We are running out of time, you and I, and there is a whole bunch of love still left to share.

2017 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)

“Helping writers to spread their wings and fly.”

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    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 2 weeks ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      For more info on writing as a business vis-a-vis the IRS, Google on:

      business or hobby site:irs.gov

      The IRS expects a business to make a profit [I think even $1 in the black counts] in at least 3 of the last 5 years.

    • mpropp profile image

      Melissa Propp 2 weeks ago from Minnesota

      Happy Monday Bill! Wow, that was a full mailbag, hope your back isn't too sore from carrying the heavy load!

      Glad to hear the coloring books are still selling well. When can we expect the next Shadow series release?

      Have a great week!

    • Duane Townsend profile image

      Duane Townsend 2 weeks ago from Detroit

      Excellent advice here Bill. You confirm my gut instinct that being prosperous at free-lance writing is nothing more than keep banging on the rock, you never know what hammer blow will make it crumble.

      Great Hub man!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Strong back, big heart, Melissa, that's me. :) Thanks my friend. I can always count on you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Yessir, Brian, thank you for the additional information...and you are correct.

    • Jodah profile image

      John Hansen 2 weeks ago from Queensland Australia

      A very good mailbag again this,week Bill, with some very relevant questions. I have been asked by a number of people if we have considered trying to monetise The Creative Exiles. We have considered it but it seems too difficult to make it worthwhile at this stage and one of the best things about the site is that it is add free apart from being an associate for The Book Depository. Have a great week.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I totally agree with your decision, John, and I applaud you for it.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks, Duane, and I love your simile..keep pounding, my friend.

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 2 weeks ago

      You always have interesting information, billy. As far as making money on HP is concerned, the whole issue makes me laugh!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile image

      Denise McGill 2 weeks ago from Fresno CA

      So true. The clock is ticking and none of us are getting any younger. I love that advice. Go out and spread the love while we can, who knows what tomorrow will bring? Or if it comes at all? Great mailbag full of gems of wisdom, as always. Have a great week. I know I will.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Venkatachari M profile image

      Venkatachari M 2 weeks ago from Hyderabad, India

      I didn't get to the IRS point in these questions or answers for a writer earning a petty income with the writing profession. Where does any taxable income arise? It is mostly helping a fragrant portion of your expenses. That's all that I think or experience. At the best, a writer can earn 100 dollars per month which can be very rare.

    • heidithorne profile image

      Heidi Thorne 2 weeks ago from Chicago Area

      Happy Mailbag Monday!

      Re: IRS. I love my CPA! She has always been able to guide me on issues of business income and expense reporting. Even new writers should look to have a tax and accounting pro on their teams to answer questions of this sort.

      Re: Coloring Books. This is one of those "life is what happens to you while you make other plans" scenarios. So glad to see that this creative effort is getting traction. Go you!

      Re: 8 Years and Counting. Yes, the reality is that writing takes a LONG time to see substantial sales results. I, too, get annoyed at the "make money writing online" euphoria. If you make $1 from an article, you've made money. So I guess the euphoric folks are technically correct. But there's a difference between making money and making a living.

      I think all writers should print and frame your "A Note from Bill" and post it on their walls for both inspiration and a dose of reality.

      Have a great week!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 2 weeks ago from Norfolk

      Great mailbag with the best advice saved till last. Life is far too short and is life is there to be lived. Everyone should grab a little soul time outdoors and they will be the richer for doing so. Have a wonderful week Billy.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I totally agree, Sally! I know I need that reminder almost weekly. Find balance between work and play, always leaning more heavily on the play. :) Thanks my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Heidi, you are wise and sweet, a very nice combination. Thank you for your professionalism and your friendship.

      Happy hunting this week!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Venkatachari M, I don't know how it is in India. Here, you can save money on taxes by deducting business expenses. Even if you lose money writing, you can save money on taxes, so it is worth considering as a writer.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Denise. I no longer bet on tomorrow existing. I'm going to have a blast today and let tomorrow take care of itself.

      Thank you my friend, and blessings to you always.

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Pop! Money on HP? LOLOLOLOLOLOL

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 2 weeks ago from SW England

      I like your attitude to making money and marketing - all in good time if you keep pushing! That makes sense to me. Nothing comes for free or if you just sit and wait.

      Great questions yet again.

      See you soon, bill!

      Ann

    • Carb Diva profile image

      Linda Lum 2 weeks ago from Washington State, USA

      Bill, thanks for answering my question. Some of those names (on the niche sites) are so obscure I wonder how anyone could find them or ascertain the content. I guess that's what SQL is all about. On a positive note, everything I have written in the past year moves within 48 hours to the niche and that has greatly improved my traffic. Without that there would be no pay days, ever.

      So glad to know your coloring book is doing so well. Ride that wave while you can. I noticed just last week that Costco no longer sells coloring books--I'm afraid they saw it as a passing fad and have already moved onto the next "thing" (whatever than is).

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 2 weeks ago from The Caribbean

      Congratulations on the success so far of your coloring book. Thanks also for giving the reality of the situation in your answers!

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 2 weeks ago from Nashville Tn.

      Great mailbag! Love the "note from Bill". I so relate to what you've said here. Singers ask me regularly how they can sing professionally and earn big bucks. Like you point out - times have changed and this applies to the music business. I spent the first 16 years of my life (yes, my childhood) singing and practicing my craft. After 30 years I finally became a paid entertainer. Thirty years!

      I enjoyed every step along the way.

      love

      audrey

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Great point, Audrey! This "get rich quick" mentality we see is a pipe dream at best. Our parents knew it and now we know it...hard work and determination go a long way towards actualizing dreams.

      love,

      bill

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      My pleasure, Dora! Thank you so much for your faithful following.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Hey, Linda, thanks for the question and the visit. As for Costco, it makes me feel good knowing I see something of value that they don't. :)

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Ann! I like your attitude as well. Busy times, eh? Always...see you down the road, my friend.

      bill

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 2 weeks ago from USA

      Diligence and continued improvement usually pays off. I'd hate for people to get the impression that HP is in danger of folding. Has someone on staff said that or is it an opinion? I wouldn't think they'd invest in all those niche sites and hiring new staffers if that is where this is heading any time soon. So much work poured into these articles!

    • Tamara Moore profile image

      Tamara Yancosky 2 weeks ago from No Idea Where

      Bill,

      Thank you for answering my two questions! No, I do not think there are any HP Editors who despise me, I was thinking more of the surrounding community. I think I might have a couple of people out there in whom I hold a bit too much importance... bummer.

      I must back-up my poems, and writings due to possible future Editings. But, it's so difficult to copy each and every poem via my IPAD thru the Copy & Paste feature.

      HP (Hi Hubpage! This is seriously nothing personal!) took out my Stray Cats song, by Stray Cats, on my post entitled: The Narcissist's Strut of Entitlement. (I really like that song, too..) Oh well...

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 2 weeks ago

      Good questions this week, Bill. They are a little different from the usual run-of-the-mill. Gosh, people make enough money to call themselves writers to the IRS? I always declare my paltry little sum, but I don't really have any expenses because I work in a corner of my husband's office. I've had to get an extension on my taxes, so maybe I could amortize the Mac I bought last year? Have a great week, my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      MizB, thanks as always for being here. I purposely pirated a room just for my office so I could deduct the utilities on that room. I'm always looking for a deduction. Maybe when I strike it rich I'll stop doing that.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Tamara, I didn't think for a second you had problems with the HP staff, but there will always be some in the HP community who need to get a life and stop harassing people. Anyway, thank you for the question. It's always a pleasure responding to quality people.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Just my gut feeling, Flourish, and not folding insomuch as stopping payments to writers....but it wouldn't be the first time I was wrong.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 2 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

      There's lots of good advice in this edition of the mailbag, Bill. As always, thanks for sharing it.

    • Blond Logic profile image

      Mary Wickison 2 weeks ago from Brazil

      There's always something new and interesting in your mailbags. Thank you for the reality check, in your Note from Bill.

      At the moment, work on the farm is taking precedent over my writing and designing work.

      Have a wonderful week.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      I understand that completely, Mary! The farm chores are keeping me quite busy, but summer will be gone soon enough and with the fall comes increased writing time for both of us.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you so much, Linda! I'll try to keep on providing interesting information for all of you.

    • Tamara Moore profile image

      Tamara Yancosky 2 weeks ago from No Idea Where

      Yes, indeed. Glad I am not the only one who is aware of this sad fact. Perhaps these people might take to writing, as it is of much greater benefit than immature rants on one's Comment Section.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      One can only hope, Tamara. One can only hope! :) I stay at HP because of people like you, and other good online friends I have made. The haters can just stay off my site and spread their hate somewhere else.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 2 weeks ago from Houston, Texas

      Thanks for including that link to another HP article regarding what type articles should be placed in the niche sites. It was most informative!

      Nice that at year 8 you are making enough from your writings to pay your bills. Persistence is one of the key factors I gathered from that in addition to being smart about how you spend your time.

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 2 weeks ago from Northern California, USA

      Hi Bill, I'm on vacation and needed a break (if you can believe that). I just wanted to read something fun. I'm glad I picked the mailbag to read. It is always light, but informative. I am so happy sales are going well for the coloring book. Have a great week.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 2 weeks ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Bill - A new chant. 'Money for writing. Money for writing.' It has a nice ring to it. In the meantime, I'll write to entertain, bore or annoy. Great mailbag, as usual.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 2 weeks ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Yahoo! Finally catching up. I have one great piece of advice as far as the IRS is concerned -- do like me and make no money!

      But on a serious note. Bill I gather that when you are writing to publish a book in goes page one through page....

      I am trying to get ready to publish and my pages will go ???? Because my stuff isn't what my son calls a "chapter book". Can you give me a suggestion on how to organize just so that I can get organized? Maybe you could at least organize my question into a better question ;-)

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 weeks ago from Oklahoma

      Found your information regarding IRS matters very interesting.

      Great read!

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 2 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      Excellent installment once again with very relatable questions and answers!

      Your concluding line is so very right. No time to waste for any of us. Each day is precious and we must consider it as a blessing to complete our tasks and of course spread the love.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you ChitrangadaSharan! I hope today is productive and meaningful for you.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Glad to hear that, Larry! Thank you my friend.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      That's a tricky question, Eric, but I'll try to sort through it and give you an answer next week. Thanks, buddy! All is not lost.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks Mike! I like the chant....and I like writing to entertain, bore, and annoy. I must be a damned writer!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      A break from vacation, Marlene! Oddly, I understand that. LOL I'm glad you dropped by, my friend. Thank you!

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Peggy! Persistence certainly helps, for sure. That and a love for the craft.

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 2 weeks ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thank for the info. Once again I'm catching up. I cannot believe how fast this week flew by. Glad to read that your coloring books are doing well.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 2 weeks ago from Olympia, WA

      Thank you Rasma! Time flies whether we want it to or not....the trick is to catch it and appreciate every moment.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 2 weeks ago from Philippines

      Dear Mr. Bill,

      Thank you for such openness about your writing journey. I'm delighted that you now are making so much money from your writing career, that it is sufficient for you and Bev to live on:). And thanks for the link to the niche site descriptions.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 13 days ago from Olympia, WA

      You are very welcome, Mona, and thank you for the words of encouragement.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 12 days ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hi Bill - It occurs to me that I should wait a week before reading the weekly mailbag. That way I get the questions and the answers and most of the comments and all for one low price.

    • Natalie Frank profile image

      Natalie Frank 12 days ago from Chicago, IL

      The point that as a freelancer it's important to have several income sources can never be made too often. Also regularly asking other freelance writers for possible sites and ideas to increase their revenue makes sure they always have somewhere to add if one of their regular sites folds. I think this topic is really helpful for all of us who freelance whether just beginning or having been in it for a long time. Thanks for the useful info.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Thanks for you input, Natalie! This can't be said too many times...diversification is one key to making it as a freelancer.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 11 days ago from Olympia, WA

      Discount reading....LOL..I love it, Mike, and you are absolutely correct.

    • jo miller profile image

      jo miller 10 days ago from Tennessee

      Love your positive, supportive attitude, Bill. Keep it up.

    • billybuc profile image
      Author

      Bill Holland 10 days ago from Olympia, WA

      I'm glad, Jo! Thank you very much.

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