Fractured Atlas Book Club: Summer Reading Edition
We'll be taking a few months off from posting regular book club articles - now that it's unofficially summer I can finally wear white pants and read for pleasure - so I've put together a list of four titles for you to check out to make up for our holiday. Many artists and arts organizations have downtime during the summer months, so this is a good opportunity to regroup and learn some new skills. And what's the number one topic that artists need to brush up on? Of course I'm talking about, everyone's favorite, finances. For all of you who feel solid when it comes to taxes, accounting, and budgeting - all one of you - feel free to disregard. For everyone else, I would encourage you to take some time off to master this all-important, and often-neglected, area in the lives of arts entrepreneurs.
I know we're barely two months past tax season. Those of you who filed extensions have hopefully been able to submit by now and I'm sure everyone is breathing a sigh of relief and buried thoughts of next year's tax filings under a mound of other priorities and concerns. And here I am to tell you to dig those thoughts back out. How can you make next year's tax filing a less painful and arduous process? Take steps to prepare sooner rather than later (if not today, then in the near future) to have all your ducks in a row so that when you sit down with your qualified tax professional you'll both have a more pleasant experience. One book that we recommend to help you better prepare is the New Tax Guide for Writers, Artists, Performers & Other Creative People by Peter Jason Riley. Between the months of January and April we field tons of questions about tax preparation, like "What is a Schedule C?" We are often not able to provide foolproof advice or support as we're not accountants. Peter Jason Riley, however, is a CPA - so pay attention to what he says. We always encourage our artists to seek the services of a tax preparer, and Riley recommends this as well but his book builds a great foundation of knowledge for you and your accountant to build on when you file.
Next up, we have The Artist's Guide: How to Make a Living Doing What You Love by Jackie Battenfield. Much less dry than a tax guide, but hopefully not as dry as the martini you'll enjoy at your favorite boardwalk bar this summer, The Artist's Guide provides more holistic overview of all the survival skills necessary for a working artist. Of major importance is finding funding for your work, which is surprisingly (for artists at least) hard to do when you don't even have a budget or inkling about the expenses you'll incur in the creation of your art. When Battenfield talks about putting together funding proposals, like a grant request, she offers solid, comprehensive advice about building a budget. Each chapter also links you to valuable resources for finding out more info, including other books (which I'm adding to my wishlist). There are also words of wisdom about legal issues (another area we can't provide airtight advice on) regarding intellectual property and copyright.
I know I often ding artists for having subpar budgeting skills. I must confess that, when it comes to my personal finances, I'm a bit of a hypocrite in that regard. I make my personal budget as a New Year's resolution and it rarely makes it out of winter intact. So I read with interest Arts & Numbers: A Financial Guide for Artists, Writers, Performers, and Other Members of the Creative Class by Elaine Grogan Luttrull, which talks about more than organizing your business finances. This book delves into setting your personal finances in order as well. Elaine Grogan Luttrull writes that "Numerical illiteracy is as socially unacceptable as actual illiteracy." Becoming a better artist is more than just honing your craft - it's your obligation to be more responsible financially and this title will hopefully make you more numerically literate.
Finally, my favorite title on this list, recommended by our controller, Jillian Wright, is The Accounting Game: Basic Accounting Fresh from the Lemonade Stand. Don't take this book for granted. It's not a workbook for children, in spite of it's large font size, illustrations, and handy charts. This book takes a deep dive into the world of accounting using a lemonade stand start-up as a parable. We begin with creating a basic "scorecard" for our lemonade stand showing "What We Have" and "Who Owns It." Quickly, this scorecard shows itself to actually be a "Balance Sheet" showing "Assets" and "Liabilities." It's adorable and extremely useful at the same time, especially if you're like me and need the basics of accounting to be explained to you in very simple terms. My mom always wanted me to be an accountant. Sigh.
Hopefully you already know more about finances than Michael Scott here. But if you don't, these books are a great intro to a whole new set of skills that many artists need help with. That said, please don't spend your whole summer sweating over taxes, accounting, or budgeting. Please do take some time to enjoy your drink of choice while watching the sun set over a beautiful beachscape - or some other fun summer activity, don't let me project my own vacation fantasies onto your own. We'll be back in the fall with more reading suggestions to help you grow as an arts entrepreneur. Enjoy the next few months and please let us know if there's a book you think is worth sharing!