Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Job that Will Not Die

I call "Secretary to Mrs. Bradley" the job that will not die. She's been dead for well over a decade, and I'm still working for her--or, more accurately, for her Trust. There's a good reason I still have this job, and I dread the day that I need to train someone else to do it. I still have this job because I'm the one who remembers both the original names and the current names of the authors we still pay royalties to. I'm the one who knows that the Darkover anthologies were broken up by foreign publishers to make new anthologies (six in France and four in Italy) and can match the foreign titles to the names of the authors we need to pay.

The most frequent challenge, however, is dealing with the monthly royalty statements for our self-published books and ebooks.

As far as ebooks go, Nook is definitely the worst. We actually began our venture into e-publishing with Fictionwise. Fictionwise paid us 50% of the list price, and their royalty statements were wonderful. They paid once a quarter, and they provided a statement sorted by author and then title, with one line for each title. Then Barnes & Noble bought them, and the Fictionwise ebooks became Nook ebooks (and multi-format became ePub).

The most recent monthly Nook statement contained 610 lines of data. That represents 708 copies of 160 titles (close to a line of data for each copy sold). It took me three days to get it sorted out, because what B&N reports is not the information we need. They report a long list of things including: Date of Sale; Date of eGift; Publisher's ISBN (we don't use one); Title; Publisher (uh, that would be...us?); List Price; Unit Royalty (which is 40%, not the 50% we were getting); Units Sold, Units Returned; Net Units Sold; and Total Royalty. I'm not certain whom they think they're preparing this report for--somebody who wants to analyze sales by date by ISBN?

What we need from that list is Title, Net Units Sold, and Total Royalty. What we need that is not on that list is Author. The money we get every month has to be split between 17 different authors, not counting Marion, and I am the only person who can look at the title and know who the author is. So after removing the information we don't need, I fill in a column with the author's last name, and sort the spreadsheet by author and title. Then the really tough part begins: for each title, find the sum of the net units sold and the sum of the royalty for that title. Put the amounts on the top line for each title and delete the lines below until the next title starts. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Take Advil for sore wrist. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.  Give up for the day. Repeat daily until done. If this sounds tedious, I can assure you that it is.

Thank God for Kindle, which reports the authors' names and generally has only one line per title.