Just recently (yes, recently, I’m slow) project profit & loss statements for my various side projects (i.e. not my main series) and realised it might be useful for others to use. So, I’m attaching it here.
This is a rather simple document.
First few columns are pure revenue (I broke it into ebook, paperback and audio, you could get even more granular and add ebook Amazon or wide, etc but I have other documents for things like that).
The next series of columns are all cost. I plugged in all the various cost that I have, from developmental editing (sometimes), copy & line editing, proofing, audiobook narration, proofing, copyright registration, advertising costs, etc.
Anytime you spend money, you can just toss it in there and just keep adding it up.
Then, the Net Profit / Loss column tells you if you’re in the red or black yet.
Super simple. I would (personally) stop tracking for most of those once it goes black in many cases – which is why I don’t bother with my System Apocalypse & A Thousand Li series – since this is useful (for me) to track if my various silly side projects have made money.
Spoiler alert – most haven’t.
Another option would be to add when something went live, to get an idea of how long it would take for most of these side projects to breakeven. This could give you an idea of what it would cost you to undertake such work.
If you wanted to be particularly detailed, you could add in how long it took you to write & edit such projects, getting yourself an estimate $ per hour too (once it makes profits).
All of this is up to how you want to think and what is useful for you.
How I Use It
So, I mentioned I only use it for my side projects. These include the various novelletes, short stories, publishing projects and co-author work. It’s specifically created for those projects because many of them are very marginal if not outright losses.
What I want to do is figure out when (of if) I’m ever going to make money on this. And if so, how much money I’ve lost. This isn’t a full profit & loss for my entire author career, just for the risky side projects. My ‘play’ money and play projects.
Mostly, it’s to make sure I don’t spend too much and end up not having enough money to pay the bills.
One of the issues with data like this is for things like my short stories. I write those (most recently) for Patreon subscribers. Of course, many of them (all of them?) subscribe for early chapters of my series. So, how do I differentiate the income and allocate it to the shorts I do write?
Right now, I set it to $0. It’s not great, but it is my current choice.
What it does do is make a cashflow issue that this sheet displays even more stark.
You see, right now, I don’t publish my patreon only stories. At least, not till 6 months after they’ve been up on Patreon (thus giving them access to it exclusively for 6 months and, eventually, giving them 6 months worth of shorts that is just theirs).
Since I’m creating audiobooks for ALL these shorts, it means I pay approximately 6 months ahead for the narration.
And, even if I went and published them, it would take at a minimum another 2 months (ACX payment delays) before I see income from the audiobooks. So that’s 8 months at the least, probably closer to 9 months between paying for cost and receiving income.
Even with books I publish immediately, this cashflow issue is stark.
Leveled Up Love was narrated and finished end December. It was published end January. I won’t get paid for the few January sales I received till end of this month. Which means I’ve been out of pocket expenses for two (2) months.
Not great, but something to consider especially for projects that might take 3-6 months to earn out (like many audiobooks).
If it takes you 6 months to earn out, then you can expect at the least 8 months if not longer before you make back your initial capital.
So, cashflow is probably my own biggest takeaway from using such a project timeline.
Oh… and I really should be more careful about joint project marketing expenses. 😛 But that’s me.
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