Advice for the Accounting Impaired

April 1997
by Curt Matthews, IPG/Chicago Review Press

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Few if any of us decided to become publishers because we loved accounting.
It’s books we like, and accounting is just a necessary evil. But how much of
this evil is really necessary?At Least Know the Basics

First a disclaimer: I am a recovering academic and have never had any formal
business training of any kind, let alone accounting. I did years ago attend a
“business of publishing” class where in each session the instructor covered
the blackboard with arcane formulae alleged to have something to do with
publishing. He was a practicing publisher. At the end of the course, I asked
him if he really applied all the stuff he had been teaching to the operation
of his own company. He said of course he didn’t, or there wouldn’t be any
time to publish books!

On the other hand, many independent presses do not have any idea whether a
book, or their company, is profitable, which means that it never will be.
What I am going to try to sketch out here are the accounting tools which, at
a minimum, any publisher must master. Those with expertise in accounting
should avert their eyes.Spreadsheet One:
Will Your Book Make a Profit?

The most fundamental tool is a spreadsheet that will tell you if a book you
are about to publish will make a profit, and if so, how large a profit. To
put one of these together you need to understand the concept of fixed versus
variable costs. Fixed costs are things like printing, cover design, and
typesetting, which are not related to the sale of the book (you…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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