January 15, 2011 by David Marlin
Publishing is an old activity – dating back nearly 6 centuries – and it’s existed as a business for nearly as long. But while Johannes Gutenberg’s innovations led to profound changes for society in general, he himself was financially unsuccessful, and he certainly didn’t set down any guidelines about running a publishing business.
In the centuries since, publishing has obviously long reached its own business maturity, with its own accounting and business standard practices. However, there isn’t necessarily a clear guideline on how to implement those best practices, or even a comprehensive body of knowledge about what they are.
Our work over the past decade has given us a unique window on a huge range of business practices in publishing. As providers of the publishing industry’s premier royalty accounting solutions, we’ve become experts not only on the best ways of managing royalty accounting, but also some of the more convoluted, least transparent, and least efficient. Based on our experience, we have a few general guidelines for making royalty accounting an aspect of your business that fosters growth and builds long-term stability. This isn’t a crash-course MBA – just a few of the royalty accounting tips we’ve picked up over the years.
Let’s start with a basic one: communication is key. It’s critical that your team members are all communicating – obviously. But what about your technology and data systems? If your team members are not effectively communicating objectives or difficulties, it tends to become noticeable quickly. But if your royalty accounting data (including sales volume and royalty payment calculations within that) isn’t communicating with your General Ledger, or other databases, high level or low, it’s not always so easy to see. And therefore, it can be easy to overlook the importance of system integration – until you reach a point down the road where it leads to serious problems.
Let’s be honest – there’s no sexy in “data silo integration.” It’s not going to be at the top of most people’s priority lists for running a business. But on the flip side, we’ve seen a number of cases in which poor communication between data systems gave rise to major obstacles to business growth. A royalty management solution that fits into your overall business is relatively easy to implement – if you are proactive about it. It becomes challenging, and sometimes painful, when you’re forced to implement a royalty management system, because your business is drowning without it. One of the most important services we offer to publishers is creating environments in which the sales and royalty data you generate is seamlessly synced with all your existing business business data – including Accounts Payable, Title Management, Fulfillment Integration, and General Ledger Integration.
Tip number two should also be a pretty basic one: get all of your royalty data in transferable digital formats. There is no simpler way to better prepare for any changes coming down the pipeline in the publishing industry. From big publishing houses to small boutique presses, having 100% digital data, formatted so that it can be transferred across platforms is a surprisingly overlooked capability. Our royalty accounting solutions give you a variety of output formats for any royalty data you generate. From automatically generated dunning letters, to PDFs, to any of the various data formats, you can do it with Royalty Tracker. Plus, you get a variety of statement layouts you can use for author royalties. Some options show detailed ISBN level transactions, some roll it up by source, some show every transaction.
If staying agile in a changing industry is important to you, adaptability needs to be your operating principle. Royalty accounting is an area that can free you up to capitalize on developments within publishing, as they happen, or it can be a lead weight that prevents you from growing. Employing these tips we’ve mentioned isn’t a panacea for all the ills of publishing, or the solution to the challenges your business faces. What these tips do represent are some ways of thinking about how you organize your business around royalty processing, in ways that will allow you to be as successful as you can be. In the end, we only have one goal – to make the business of books and publishing more understandable, more efficient, and easier. The tools and solutions we offer will help you in the short term, by making the back end easier to navigate. In the long term, putting Metacomet’s tools and solutions to work for your business can give you the foundation on which to build your business to it’s full potential.
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