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Self-Publishing Bookkeeping

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on June 5, 2014

In attempting to fill in my tax spreadsheet to bring it up to date, I am muddled in the expenses for self-publishing from back in February. Like, where does the purchase of ISBN numbers fit into the grid? I’ve added line items for my formatter and cover designer, and it took me over an hour to track down those costs and date the invoices for my records. Then there are the bookmarks, postcards, and door hangers I’d ordered. Those go under advertising expenses. But what about the proofs from Createspace that I had printed and mailed? The copies of my book that I bought, and the cost difference compared to the number sold on consignment via bookstores?


Hey, and this doesn’t even include the royalty income. Talk about confusing! Amazon alone sends me five different payments, not including Createspace. And lest you think I am making gobs of money, one of those payments was for thirty-five cents. Barnes and Noble and Smashwords are added to my list. By now, I’ve started a separate sheet just for ebook income, and another sheet that includes all royalty income for the year.

I hope my accountant understands all this when I send it to him. It sure is easier when a traditional publisher sends you a statement and a check. Being an indie publisher means keeping track of all the income streams and expenses yourself.

Do you have any tips to offer? What’s your method?



15 Responses to “Self-Publishing Bookkeeping”

  1. Purchasing the iSBN numbers and other printing related matters should go under a heading called PRODUCTION COSTS

  2. TAWilliams said

    Wow, I have been so busy trying to complete everything to publish my 1st novel I didn’t even stop to think about this. Right now I see them as good problems to have but I’ll admit that when I have to actually dive into it I won’t enjoy it as much 🙂
    Good luck!

  3. I took a tax for writers course a number of years back. Best $15 I ever spent. I have a spreadsheet that goes along with the line items on Schedule C. I also had to hire a tax guy the last few years when I actually made some money at my writing instead of losing less each year as my measure of success. He’s been helpful, but bottom line — if you’re declaring everything you made and everything you spent, he said it’s not really a huge deal what you call it.

    • Thanks, Terry. I have a pretty good tax spreadsheet but this is the first year I’ve had to add self-publishing costs. Will soon be venturing into audio. That’s my next project, and I’ll be following your notes.

  4. Harliqueen said

    I’ve only just self-published, so I have all of this to look forward to! But sounds like it’s going to be an interesting time 😀 Good luck with it!

    • Another factor to consider is if you hire out to an independent contractor and pay them over $600, you may have to provide a 1099 form. One source says you don’t, if you pay them via Pay Pal. This warrants more research, because with my next indie project I’ll probably hit this amount. Good luck with your project, too!

      • FWIW, my accountant handles the 1099s when I had to send them. As I recall, he gave me the forms for my editor to fill out. It’s probably one of the ‘easiest’ tax jobs.

  5. Nancy,
    I’m in the same boat. Plus, I had out of state sales at a book signing in Pennsylvania. I, too, use a spreadsheet pretty much the same as you do. The one thing I have problems with is I forget to report the sales tax quarterly when I’ve had no signings. I sell my books with a price that includes sales tax, but Florida still demands I report and pay their share. Fortunately, I already had a sales tax ID from a previous venture and I can use the same one. It is very complicated! I don’t have any suggestions to offer, but am looking forward to others who have found a better way. P.S. I had a deposit of $.34 from overseas Amazon. What a trip!

  6. Like Terry, I use a spreadsheet and have a column for expenses and a column for income. As she says, as long as it’s clear in case of an audit, you don’t have to have an accounting degree. I give my spreadsheet and various receipts to my tax guy. He says, self-pub isn’t peculiar. Income is income and expenses are expenses. I first self-pubbed in 2003 and so far my spreadsheet method has worked. Don’t forget stuff like Internet expenses and mileage.

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