The next step of managing your writing and your publishing is keeping good records. This is the key to helping you run your business profitably and effectively.
I know, I can hear you saying under your breath, “What does this all have to do with writing and publishing?” Well, not a lot about those subjects, but it has everything to do with your bottom line–after all, you want to make money at this, don’t you? I’m sure you’d like to at least pay yourself back for the costs you incur in this endeavor, right?
When you keep good records you can determine how much you make, what you should buy and how much you should save for taxes. You will have processes and programs in place so when you grow you can still manage everything. Additionally, when you keep good records you will be able to stay in touch with fans who contact you (this is called developing a “list”) and cultivate a relationship with them so they will want to buy every book you publish!
Here are some areas of the business of writing that you will want to keep good records and systems for.
Since you are a writer, it makes sense that you need to keep track of your manuscript revisions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought I was working on the latest manuscript version, but it was an old one. That wastes so much time and energy. I found that it helps me and my clients when we use an extension with the day and month of the revision. This way we always know that the file with the most recent date is the most current file. Numbers work too, but I found that they aren’t as reliable for me because I might not remember the last number I used, but I always know today’s date. The file extension might look something like this: mymanuscripttitle_draft_nov18.doc
You will also want to create a computer file folder that holds all of the revisions. My file folders are multi-level. My main folder is called WRITING. Inside the writing folder I have a folder for each manuscript I’m working on. Sometimes inside the manuscript folders, I will create a folder that is called, OLD FILES, so when things get too busy or messy I can just put all of the older manuscripts into that file and keep the most recent version in easy view.
This is probably the most important place for you to keep accurate records. You need to know how much money you make and how much you spend so you can file your taxes accurately each year. Each week or each month, enter in your book sales, the taxes you collect on your book sales (if you sell them in person), and the expenses you’ve incurred that are related to your business. Some of those expenses might include items like paper, printer ink, computer programs, office equipment, mileage, postage, meals, travel, and the like. You can get a comprehensive list of items you should keep track of from your lawyer, cpa or from the IRS.
I have found the easiest way to keep track of my income/expenses is to print out all of my reports from my distributors each month and file those with my expense receipts in an expanding file folder labeled by month. Then once or twice a month I enter my income and expenses into my spreadsheet or ledger by category. Since I stink at math, I love that my spreadsheet adds everything for me. I even programmed it to percentage out the amount I need to save each month for taxes (15-20%), how much I should tithe (10%) and how much to pay myself (25%).
Another good tool to use is Quickbooks. It’s an online program that will track your income and expenses (for a monthly fee) and allows you to run any kind of report you will need.
Marketing is another important thing to track. As you will learn later in this program, it’s important to know where your efforts are paying off (with sales or followers), and where your marketing is not working (so you don’t waste your time on those). We will talk about this tracking later when we discuss marketing. There is no need to worry about it now, but it is something to keep in mind.
Your contacts are another item you need to keep under control. When people give you their email address, either by signing up for your free preview, or by emailing you or giving you a business card, that address is gold. They are giving you permission to contact them with information about your books! You want to have a good way to collect and manage those.
I like to use Mailchimp to keep track of these addresses. It is an online email/newsletter program that is free to use and is an easy way to send mass email announcements to your fans and readers. We will have this discussion later, but you don’t want to send out emails to your fans from your personal email address because you could be marked as a spammer.
Remember, too, when a fan connects with you via email or social media, be sure to engage with them within 24 hours! That will help them turn into raving fans!
In addition to managing your contacts, you will also need to develop a method of managing your media contacts if you are self publishing, or your queries if you are publishing traditionally. A spreadsheet works the best for this. Create a spreadsheet with these categories:
- Date Contacted
- Date to Follow Up
Then, each time you make a new media contact or send a query letter, you have a place to record and manage the process.
Tools You Should Investigate and Learn To Use:
- Excel or numbers (spreadsheet for your word processing program)
- Outlook or Address Book
- Google Analytics (www.analytics.google.com)
Your Action Steps for the Week:
This week you should create your systems for managing your records and business.
- Learn to use Excel (or numbers for mac).
- Get a good income/expense program like Quickbooks.
- Create a database for your contacts. Sign up for MailChimp and learn how to send announcements.
- Determine a system for keeping track of your query letters or media inquiries.
- Set up a computer file folder system for your manuscripts and a code or system for keeping track of your revisions.
- Get a multi-pocketed expanding folder with at least 12 slots (one for each month) to store your receipts and other tax documents.
- Schedule a day or two each month that you will set aside an hour or two to track your expenses, your marketing, your contacts, etc.
- Think of a way that you can organize and respond to the fans who contact you–how will you store their address/information and how and when you will respond to their inquiries.
Resources for Further Learning:
Read the next Publishing 101 post here
Read previous Publishing 101 post here