"Roundheads and Ramblings"
Writers frequently compare the process of writing a book to giving birth. I know a lot of moms who would dispute that, but it is rue that the process can be almost as painful. Nevertheless, seeing a new book on the book shelves for the first time is terribly exciting. New authors are justifiably proud of their new "baby." They ssometimes forget one final point of comparison. The new book baby also comes with a tax deduction if the author is prepared to claim it. Here are some of the little things that are easy to overlook.
Be sure to keep track of all
expenses for office supplies—pens, pencils, notepads, printer cartridges,
diskettes, scotch tape, paper clips, file folders, labels, a calendar, an
appointment book, scissors, a rack to hold current ﬁle folders. You can even deduct
the cost of air, if you buy it in compressed form and use it to clean your
keyboard. (I use mine to chase the cat off the desk, but the principle is the
Think advertising. Anything you
have printed with the name of your company or the name of your next book can be
deducted as an advertising expense. Of course you’ll have a supply of business
cards, but you can also use the same size card to announce an upcoming book. (I
had some printed with a picture of “The Second Mouse” on them. I have a second
set of half-size business cards with photographs of Beaufort, SC, on them to
advertise my next novel, The Road to
Frogmore.) Both were deductible, as are bookmarks that match your book
covers or brochures telling dealers and bookstores how they can order your
Much of your book budget will go
for travel—to research libraries, book signings, or writing conferences. If you
travel by car, you can deduct the exact mileage, as long as you keep a log or
record of the odometer. You’ll be asked for details of the car’s purchase price,
its year and model, its VIN, and its total mileage, so keep them handy. This year you’ll
be able to deduct 50 to 55 cents a mile if your travel is purely for business.
I bought a magnetic company sign for under $10.00. On business trips, I slap
that on the front door of the family sedan and turn the entire trip into a
business expense. You can also deduct hotel bills, parking fees, and bridge or
road tolls if you keep records.
Common explanation of the difference between a dog and a cat: Dogs have masters. Cats have staff. If you're going to run a home business, you'll need to start thinking like a cat.
is something of a misnomer. The process of taking a book from ﬁrst idea to a
spot on someone’s bookshelf requires the help and talents of many people. The
work used to be done by huge publishing houses. When you decide to
self-publish, the responsibility for all the many tasks involved falls squarely
on your shoulders. You are already the author, the editor-in-chief, and the
business owner. You cannot hope to sit isolated in your little home ofﬁce and
do everything yourself, no matter how talented you may be. The success of your
book will depend upon how well you assemble a team of assistants. Here’s a look
at the staff I have assembled. Perhaps it will give you some ideas.
most important hire was my husband. Of course he was already on board to give
me moral support, but as time went on, he took upon himself three important
roles. First, he is my travel agent. Once I decide on the need for a research
trip or agree to do a talk, a book signing, or a conference appearance, he
takes over. He plans the itinerary, books our accommodations, and provides the
transportation. Second, he is my mail clerk. He’s much better than I at packing
and wrapping, and he never seems to mind a quick trip to the post ofﬁce. I can
count on him to mail single book purchases or handle large book shipments. And
third, he is my ofﬁcial photographer. Whether I need a special shot for an
illustration or some general pictures to help me set a scene, he is there with
his camera. You can see a sample of his work on the cover of Beyond All
Price. He also comes with the advantage of being inexpensive. His salary is
$1.00 a year, augmented by clean laundry, home-cooked meals, and endless
affection and gratitude.
business plan recognized that I would need to hire a design artist to create
the book cover and a layout expert to make sure that the ﬁnal book meets the
exacting standards of the publishing world—page numbers, attractive fonts,
spacing, chapter titles, and ﬂourishes all in place. Since both those areas are
way beyond my expertise, I hired both functions through the production company who
contracted to produce the physical book.
found another source of staff members at a company called Vistaprint. I got
started there by ordering my ﬁrst business cards for Katzanhaus Books. From
that one order, I learned about their other great promotional items and ended
up buying a magnetic sign for the side of the car, postcards, brochures, a tote
bag, and several other items with my own logos on them. Then I found that they
also provided hosting for websites and blogs, as well as domain names and e-mail
addresses for companies. I was able to use their services for all my
promotional and web-based needs.
So much has been happening this week that I've fallen a day behind in my scheduled blog posts. Here's Thursday's entry featuring Civil War recipes. I'll catch up with "The Second Mouse" later today.
Nellie Chase’s inspiration to learn more about
cooking for an army on the move came during a train ride. At one relay station,
a group of volunteer women had set up an outdoor kitchen to provide hot,
home-cooked meals to the soldiers passing through. The following passage comes from Beyond All Price, Chapter 4.
Looking around, she noted how the
soldiers, almost to a man, had perked up. They were smiling, laughing,
relaxing. Mentally Nellie made a note. I won’t be able to see the men fed like
this often, but I must try to come up with some sort of treat for them now and
then, she thought. I’ve heard an army marches on its stomach, but I never
realized how true that is.
It took several hours for the baggage
handlers to unload the train and reload the Roundhead baggage onto wagons. Nellie
filled the time by chatting with the women who had provided their meal. One
gray-haired lady cheerfully introduced herself as the Widow Barlow. “I don’t
have anybody to cook for at home anymore,” she said, “so I enjoy getting the
chance here to put on some really big feeds. Who cooks for all these men when
they’re in their camps?”
“Well, mostly they do their own cooking,
which isn’t good, I’m afraid. And at the moment I’m not much help. I can stir
up some broth for those who are sickly, but I don’t know what to suggest to the
men sitting around a campfire with nothing but a great big pot.”
“I can help you there. Let me find a scrap
of paper and I’ll give you a couple of recipes that’ll fill their bellies.”
The Widow Barlow called this recipe “older
• One head green cabbage
• Salt pork
• Stewed tomatoes
• salt, garlic, pepper, ground red pepper
Cut the salt pork into small cubes.
Slice the cabbage and onions
(approximately 1/2 & 1/2)
If you use canned tomatoes, open the can.
If not, cook them well ahead of time.
Fry the salt pork in a large, hot, cast
iron pot until well browned. (Do NOT drain).
Turn the heat down. Add cabbage and cook
Add onions and cook until wilted.
Let cook approximately 1 hour (low fire). Add
tomatoes to more than cover. Simmer.
You can't really overcook this dish. The
flavors will blend nicely the longer it cooks.
Add seasonings. Be sure to taste after
adding each time. It takes the seasoning a few minutes to make themselves known.
Better to add too little than too much. People can add more at the table if
After approximately 2-3 hours, start
tasting. . . . It's the cook's sworn duty to taste test!! If you feel really
brave, offer a spoonful to someone else
"The Camp Kettle" was a four-page newsheet published with dubious regularity by members of the 100th Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment, known as "The Roundheads" because of their Calvinist background and their alleged descent from Oliver Cromwell's own troops.
When they established the little paper, they had set out their purpose:
We have little
room to spare, and none to waste in the "Camp Kettle," and shall
briefly state that it is our intention to publish it as a daily, or weekly, or
occasional paper, just as the exigencies of the service will permit. It is our
intention to cook in it a "mess" of short paragraphs replete with
useful information on a great many subjects, about which new recruits are
supposed to be ignorant. We shall endeavor to make it a welcome visitor beside
the campfire and in the quarters, a sort of familiar little friend that
whispers kind words and friendly advice to inexperienced men concerning the new
position they have assumed, and the new duties that follow. Everything relating
to a soldier's duty, and camp life, from mounting guard, to cleaning a musket,
will be fit ingredient for the "Kettle." Rules for preserving health
and cooking rations will be in place, and all sorts of questions relating to a
soldier's duty, and his wants, when respectfully asked in writing, over a
responsible name, will find an answer in the next mess that is poured out of
One hundred fifty years ago today,the regiment was camped on the outskirts of Beaufort, SC, and they were finding that they had relatively little to do. The conversation was of confrontation to come, not current skirmishes. Things were so peaceful, in fact, that family members were able to travel to Beaufort to visit their enlisted relatives. The Camp Kettle for today carried this announcement:
Mr. James Moffat and Thos. J. McKee, of Lawrence couny, Pa., are here on a visit to their sons, who are members of company F, Capt. Cline, of the 100th (Roundhead) regiment. Our friends seem well pleased with their visit, and are out wih the "boys" on picket duty. They "rough it" right well, and if an opportunity should "happen round any where loose," we don't doubt that they would "slip up" within "eye white" distance of the "secesh."
Once I started working seriously on
my Civil War novel, Beyond All Price
I also began looking for ways to publish it. Waiting until you have a ﬁnished
product just does not work; you have to do your homework along the way. I
started with the standard approaches. I found books written in my genre (in
this case historical fiction set in 1860s) and checked on their publishers and
the authors’ agents. These were names I could at least be sure would be open to
the type of book I was writing. To that basic list, I added other publishing
houses and literary agents I found listed in such resources as Writer’s Market
. I looked up each one on
the Internet to ﬁnd out how they wanted submissions handled. Each one on the
list received a hand-tailored written or e-mailed query letter.
Responses were spotty. Almost half
never replied. Others sent canned messages: “Sorry. We are not accepting new
clients.” “Sorry. We no longer consider unsolicited manuscripts.” Only a
handful expressed any interest whatsoever, and they consistently asked for a
full description of my platform before they would consider the book. At that
stage, I had no idea what a “platform” looked like in the publishing world, so
I had more research ahead of me.
Here’s what I found. If you are a
household word—a politician, a celebrity, a sports figure, or a best-selling
author already—you have a built-in platform: a fan base of people who will buy
your book because of who you are. If you’re a hard-working writer, you have to
build your own platform. Publishers and agents suggested that I needed the
A personal website visited by hundreds of readers every day;
A blog that had a similar reader base and gathered dozens of comments on
A personal Facebook page, with hundreds of followers and daily postings;
A Facebook Fan Page, one dedicated to my writing;
A Twitter account, with daily postings and thousands of followers;
A LinkedIn account, with multiple recommendations and connections within
my professional community;
A personal e-mail list of media outlets, bookstores, libraries, and
civic organizations, all of which would be eager to do personal interviews with
me, invite me as a guest speaker, or host a book-signing event.
Fortunately, I'm pretty adept at
finding my way around a computer, but I had never bothered to become involved
in social networking of this sort. I went to work, particularly at building my
Internet resources. These outlets are not hard to use, but they take an
enormous amount of time to develop their full potential. I've been working on
this platform for about eighteen months now, and my numbers surprise me. I have
almost 400 Facebook friends, some 800 Twitter followers, more than 290
connections on LinkedIn, and a website/blog that receives around 200 hits a
day. To me, that’s amazing, but the figures are still not up to the five
thousand guaranteed readers that most publishers want to see. At most, I have a
little soapbox that serves as my platform. But for a self-publisher, that's enough.