Tracking and Managing the Costs of Publication

How much did you spend on your last book release?

Many authors don’t know, and that’s true regardless of the author’s publishing path. In my experience, author-publishers (sometimes also called “self-published authors”) often (but not always) have a better grasp of expenditures than traditionally published authors do. 

Regardless of your publishing path, you should know how much you spend on each book release, & in what category expenditures fall. 

Tracking expenditures properly is the first step toward evaluating whether your expenditures are effective, and whether or not you should repeat them with subsequent books.

Create and maintain an expense and expenditure spreadsheet (or notebook) for every published work you write. 

Record and track every publishing-related expenditure you make for the work. Initially, note the date and nature of the expense – and be sure to place a copy of the receipt in your tax files, too. Later, be sure to add notes (if possible) detailing how effective (or ineffective) that expenditure was, with regard to sales. If you cannot tell whether or not the expenditure resulted in sales, be sure to note that too.

Creating a spreadsheet of expenses helps you track your costs, but also gives you data on which to base future marketing plans and budgets.

Expense spreadsheets are useful for author-publishers & traditionally published authors (though their contents will differ somewhat)

Before you spend money on a release, check your previous spreadsheets to determine which expenditures are worth repeating — either because they worked well or because you still need more information to determine their effectiveness. 

Expense spreadsheets don’t take as much time to prepare and maintain as you may think. Once you set up the initial form with spaces for “date,” “description of expense,” “paid to,” “amount,” and “comments” (you may also want to include a box for “effective? Y/N”) it takes only moments to update the form each time you have an expenditure. The long-term benefits of tracking on your budget are more than worth the time.

Also, creating spreadsheets helps authors engage in meaningful conversations with other authors about which types of publishing expenditures work (or don’t work). The more we share this kind of information with one another, the better.

Remember: another author’s success does not take away from your works or your career. Rising tides float all ships, and authors should help one another succeed. 

Do you use spreadsheets to track your publishing expenses? Have you found them an effective tool?