Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

5 Does and 5 Don’ts For Fiction Writers…

Some Don’ts…

1… Writers, do not say you are going to go trademark your idea or your most recent book. It does not work that way.

2… Writers, do not say you are going to go copyright your most recent story or novel or idea. It does not work that way.

3… Writers, do not think everyone is going to steal your new idea. It does not work that way. (And chances are your wonderful new idea has been done a million times before anyway. However, it will be original if you write it in your voice and don’t rewrite it into pablum. (Definition of pablum is bland or insipid intellectual fare, entertainment…)

4… Writers, do not say you “sold” a story or a novel. You did not. You licensed it, so since you work in language, start being accurate when you can. (This is a hard one to break.)

5… Writers, do not ever, ever, ever “sell” all rights to any thing you have written for any reason. You do that, you have lost control of your own work. That way lies madness.

Some Does…

1… Writers, do learn copyright, follow copyright law because copyright is how you make your money. (Copyright Handbook by Fishman from NoLo Press.)

2… Writers, do learn corporation law and business law and tax law for writers as you can. The more money you can keep as a business, the easier it is to stay in business as a writer.

3… Writers, do learn business corporations as it applies to writers. Don’t trust others to know your business. If you are an “S” corp or a “LLC,” fire your accountant before they cost you even more money and get your corporation to a “C” corp, the only corporation structure that works for freelance writers.

4… Writers, do learn how to balance reading and writing. If you don’t have time for reading, you soon won’t be a writer either.

5… Writers, do learn how to balance health and writing. Can’t begin to tell you how many poor-health close-friend writers I have lost in the last ten years.


  • Brad D. Sibbersen

    Dean: I’m currently oeprating as an S Corp. The entity I use was originally formed for an entirely different type of business, and when I changed focus I just retained it, Can you suggest a book or webpage that explains how a C corp is more beneficuial to creatives? Evereything I look up just touts how beneficial a C is if you’re seeking foreign investors, and stock issuing benefits.

    Thanks! And thanks for these types of posts. Some of us DO want to learn!

    • dwsmith

      Money in S corp passes through to your personal taxes. They are designed for small main-street kind of stores. A “C” corp the money stops in the corporation and you have two different tax returns. You would be a closely held corporation, not for investors. But yes, in C corps it is easy to set up retirement accounts and own cars and homes and such, all in the C corp.

      If I got a half million in a direct deposit payment from say a movie or game license deal, I would be paying #200,000 plus and higher in taxes in an S corp. In a C corp, I could shelter and use the entire amount and legally pay no taxes. That’s why you learn the difference, one of dozens and dozens of reasons.

      And those of you who think a payment like that will never hit your account, so why worry about it, why worry about marketing your work in the first place with that attitude. Just saying. And if you believe you should pay your fair share, I would get out of business right now. Kris and I pay our fair share of taxes, but we control where it goes to. Again, just saying.

      Just make sure everything you do is following the tax code and legal.

    • dwsmith

      While you are writing and learning craft and business, also spend a tiny bit of time on copyright each week. 15 minutes. You should be reading all the time and studying the stuff you love. Business you learn same as copyright, a bit at a time. Unless your writing is causing you to pay a bunch in extra taxes, then you need to learn that quickly.

  • David Blackwood

    OK, I’m going to admit my ignorance here. How is a C Corp preferable to an S Corp.? Doesn’t an S generally lower your tax liability?

    • dwsmith

      And a good question you should learn the answer to, and there are a ton of books out there about the three types of corporations in the US. Two hurt you as a writer are are worthless. When you pass through everything to your personal taxes, you are doomed as a writer to spend more money. “C” corps are stand-alone and the money stops in the corporation. Learn the difference, that is what I have been saying.

  • Linda Niehoff

    I’ve been slowly reading NOLO’s Copyright Handbook thanks to you. It’s surprisingly readable! Way more interesting than I thought it would be and not nearly as dry. I only read a little each day, though I could easily read more. But I’m trying to really absorb it (though this will not be my only read-through). I do have a question – I’m assuming you and Kris actually register each individual story you publish? I know copyright is automatic but the book also talks a lot about registering in a timely manner for statutory damages/attorney’s fees in case of infringement. Just curious what two wildly prolific authors do about registering all that work!

    • dwsmith

      For copyright, we register everything that sniffs at Hollywood and the gaming universe. We register first books or stories in series and we register all major series and brands.

      Also not a bad idea to register collections. Gives us no more protection, but if some idiot took the story or novel, it gives us a lot of free money.

  • Linda Maye Adams

    Also, if you have a day job, do balance the job so that it doesn’t impact your writing. I’ve been a poster child of that particular problem. It’s taken a lot of learning.