Monday, January 12, 2015

Finances - keeping the numbers straight

Part of the joys of being self-published is being able to have full control over my business: my books. I get to decide prices, sales, promotions, everything. The other side consists of massive amounts of data that you need to organize, analyze, and basically figure out.

My first year as a published author, I had one book out. My organization system consisted of saving the emails that CreateSpace, Amazon, and NookPress sent regarding my royalties and called it easy.

My second year was when things really got interesting. At this point I realized there was more to being a published author than just collecting payments and selling to my friends and family. That year I started having more costs than the first year, paying for bookmark designs, blog designs, promotional tours, etc. I also had two books out and I wanted to track sales in a little more organized manner. I began to create spreadsheets to track sales (which turned out to be a good idea once tax season arrived!)

I am now in the my third year of being self-published with four books published and have figured out a system that is working pretty well for me. The hard part now is constantly tweaking the system so that it doesn't become overwhelming as I publish more books and increase the cost (and sales) of my business.

I give spreadsheets! If you would like a copy, just email me (sorry, but I'm having a hard time figuring out how to directly link it here) All of these were created using Excel so it is fairly easy to tailor them for your use. The workbook consists of a Yearly Profit and Loss sheet, Yearly Costs, Yearly Revenue, Yearly Paperback Sales, and Yearly e-book sales. I'm also working to form sheets that will track all of the sales per book (I have one right now, but it's not pretty, so I won't be sharing it quite yet).

Happy financing!

Total Yearly Cost is just that, everything that I've spent on my books for that year. This includes covers, editing services, book orders, blog tours, and donations/give-aways. I have the Category table because I like to keep track of what I'm spending money on, and otherwise I will easily let the donations get away from me. I also include invoice numbers whenever possible, but that's probably an extra step.

This one is for my E-books, and I have a different sheet for each vendor (Amazon, Nook, etc.). Because the royalty payments don't happen immediately, I separate the sales and the payments. That way I can easily see when book sales increase/decrease, as well as keep tabs on when money is going into my account (and double check that everything is adding up correctly)

I love selling signed copies of my paperbacks, whether it is to friends and family or at book signing events. This sheet allows me to very easily see when/what I'm purchasing, as well as who is buying the book and any necessary information.

And finally, the big one, EVERYTHING. This sheet can get confusing quickly, but it's also great when I want to see all of my information in one place. I start with putting in my income from the previous year and then go from there. This also allows me to double check my revenue and cost sheets and make sure I don't miss anything. It's also very clear where my finances are each month and how my costs compare to my profits.

The business side of authoring

When I started writing, I didn't know there was a self-publishing option. I was prepared to send my manuscript off to publishers and face rejection after rejection, maybe seeing a positive response in twenty years and finally having it published, or maybe I'd get lucky and they'd publish it quickly, but only after I changed key parts of the story (yes, I had a pretty bleak view of the traditional route, built upon conversations with past teachers and writing guides)

Then I discovered self-publishing, and yes, my first thought was, "Omg, this is going to be so easy!"


and again I say

Ha ha

Then I learned, as all self-pubbed authors eventually do, that it is far from easy. I had no idea how much time or money (or both) went into creating a finished product with the editing, formatting, cover design, and marketing. It was a completely different world than I expected (although I'm not really sure what I expected, maybe some fairy magic?) but also amazing.

I do my first round (or three) of edits, and then send it off to my editor, the always amazing Kristina Circelli. She then puts on her jack-of-all-trades hat and goes to town fixing my grammar, spelling, and noting any lingering inconsistencies both in the story and the wording. As proof of how awesome she is, she once noticed a typo that made my story turn from a PG-13 rating to XXX, a typo that was completely context appropriate, and slipped by all 3 of my edits, and the edits of my parents. Eek!

Right now, I do all my formatting, although I frequently send out a frantic SOS to my dear friend Julie with JT Formatting when something just isn't quite working right. I'll do a separate post on the things I have learned about formatting, as well as helpful guides that I have found that others have already posted on the interwebs.

Covers..oh covers...I have hired several cover artists, including Jenny Laatch, Elizabeth Sharp, and Stephanie from Once Upon a Time covers, and will gladly sing praises of them all. They have all been incredible with taking my (often very bad or cliche) ideas for a cover and then turn it into a finished, professional product.

I'm not even going to talk about marketing lol. I think that's an entire blog in itself!

And then...the biggie...the finances! That's my next post :)