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Accounting for Self-Publishers
Keeping the books for indie children's book publishers.
Accounting. The bane of my existence.
This is my weakest area of the whole publishing scene. I never had an accounting class in school; I’ve had to learn everything on my own.
Enter a couple valuable tools.
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When you start setting up accounting programs, people often recommend QuickBooks for a small business. (NOTE: Quicken is for personal accounting; QuickBooks is for business accounting.) I used it for a time and was frustrated constantly. When I went looking for options, I wanted a program that would allow me to automatically import transactions from my online bank.
Xero.com is a full accounting program, robust enough to do anything I need, and also connects automatically to my online bank account. You can also allow an accountant to log into your account for consultation, advice, and corrections.
I love the ease of accounting with this program. I’ve connected my online bank account, PayPal, and a local bank, so that everything is updated automatically. No longer do I have to laboriously enter every transaction.
BUT - the accounting program just keeps track of money-in and money-out, a crucial task, but not enough to help me analyze the ins and outs of my publishing business.
When you look for accounting programs, set out your priorities. Think about these options.
Desktop v Cloud-based.
Manual or automatic uploads from related programs.
Simple v robust.
Subscription costs v. one-time costs.
For me, the most important feature was the compatibility of the program to automatically upload from related programs. That priority lead me to my current software, Xero.com.
Scribecount.com (affiliate link) is designed to help authors and small publishers understand their business. It automatically imports data from major sales platforms, and allows manual input for all other platforms. You can record expenses, track Amazon and Facebook ads, and thoroughly analyze your business.
One of the most beloved features of ScribeCount is the expandable sunburst, a way to display your data visually, while allowing the data to be expanded.
June, 2023 Data.
GOLD is Amazon KDP data.
GREEN is Shopify (direct sales) data.
BROWN is Other Income which I have manually added.
As you can see, my other income provides about 75% of my income. This includes reading apps, licensing, royalty from legacy publisher, etc.
In the image below, I’ve clicked on one title of Other Income to see the breakdown of income by format. Most of this title’s income (for this month) is from OTHER - which is income from a reading app. (This is only for the OTHER income section; there may also be income for this title from Shopify or KDP. To see that, I can click on the Books tab to look at an individual book overall.) Obviously, the reading app is a crucial platform for my income! If I needed to see the information, I could repeat this for every title.
You can click to expand any item on the sunburst graph! Fascinating to see! Love these sunburst graphs.
The program is always expanding its capabilities. It now imports sales data from the major platforms: AmazonKDP, Apple, GoogleBooks, Draft2Digital, Barnes and Noble, Rakuten Kobo, Smashwords, Ingram Spark. For audiobooks, they import Findaway and ACX. If you sell direct, they integrate with Shopify, Bookfunnel, and are adding Woocommerce soon. You can track Facebook and Amazon ads, attributing the costs to certain books. Tracking AuthorMail campaigns is in Beta.
In other words, Scribecount’s ambition is to help authors track their income and expenses across a wide variety of platforms, so you have a clear vision of your business.
I use Xero.com to track money in-money-out. But I use Scribecount to understand the complexities of seventy titles, various platforms, various formats and so on. I don’t use the advertising section yet, but I plan to add that in 2024.
Tips on Using Scribecount
Manual updates. If you plan to use Scribecount, there will be manual updates. Children’s book authors/publishers receive income from different sources than those writing for adults. For example, the reading apps are only for children’s books and likely will never be an automated update. When I get a spreadsheet from them, I’ll need to convert it to Scribecount’s data format and upload it.
Here’s where I’ve learned to be organized and detailed, on three levels.
What income source has been uploaded? With multiple income sources, I have to track what data has been uploaded. Where you keep a list or create a spreadsheet, this is crucial so there’s no duplication of data. I plan to go back and add previous years so I can compare income across time, which means I’m tracking data sources over several years. If you’re not organized about recording data uploaded v data needing to be uploaded - you’ll be lost.
Book Titles. For this to work you must consistently refer to a book the same way. Unfortunately, each platform uploads data in different ways, so look at the Books Tab to straighten this out. For example, some platforms may only use a title, but others add in the subtitle. Combine different versions of the same title and then choose the default. Note this for future reference so you can always refer to the title in that particular way.
Income Sources. On the tab to manually upload data, you can add the names of income sources. Again, always refer to the income source the same way when you upload data.
Formats. You can add any formats you wish. For example, I’ve added Streaming eBooks for data from the reading apps. And, as before, you should be consistent in how you add this to your spreadsheets.
The spreadsheet requires certain formatting. For each column make sure the columns are formatted as requested. For example, the income section must be formatted as 2 decimal place currency, but without the dollar sign.
Triple check that spreadsheet BEFORE uploading. AFTER uploading, you can also make corrections on each individual transaction. However—and I’ve done this several times—if you messed up a whole spreadsheet, you may have to individually correct dozens and dozens of individual transactions. It’s better to make sure the spreadsheet is correct before you upload. Did I say it strongly enough? Check the data before you upload.
If you have mistakes, the SUPPORT answers quickly. While helpful in general, try to avoid messy uploads! They are messy to clean up!
Get Current Year Right First. I very much want historical data on my business! However, I’m slowly working through this year to make sure it’s correct first. Then, as time allows, I’ll add previous years.
Ask for Scribecount Features
The Scribecount staff is responsive to requests for features. Be sure to send them a note telling them what you need from tracking software.
What is your favorite accounting program?