Sometimes as you’re delving deep into your story, writing down to the bones, as it were, it’s hard to remember that writing is a business. But as I write this post, it’s the end of the month which means that those lovely (or sometimes extremely disappointing) deposits are being made into your bank account from wherever your books are being sold. So, perhaps it’s a good time to pause and remember that not only is being an author a business for which you must pay taxes and market your products, but you’ve got inventory you need to keep track of!

“What? Inventory? I don’t have no stinkin’ inventory!” you mutter to your computer as if I can hear you.

Well, actually, you kind of do. You have your books. It most likely true that you don’t have a warehouse somewhere (or even a garage) filled with boxes of books, but you do have them—it’s just that they reside on your computer in digital files. Yes, those files that are taking up so much of your hard disc space are your inventory.

How many different formats do you have your books in? Ebook? Audio? Any translations? Have you branched out into all of them or just stuck with ebooks for now. I’ve done the latter, but I’m working on audio because I would probably be an idiot if I didn’t.

So, the main question here is how do you keep track of your books? Do you keep an excel spreadsheet? Do you use a program someone else put together? Do you (please say no to this) not keep track of them at all?

Personally, I use a spreadsheet. I’ve got a very simple one where I track income from each retailer where my books are sold and my expenses– everything from advertising to contractors (my editor, book cover designer, etc). But if I were traditionally published or hybrid, I would also need to keep track of the contracts I had out and with whom (yes, there are some authors who are published by more than one publisher). But if I need to know whether I’ve earned back the amount of money I spent on publishing a book, I don’t have those numbers at my fingertips—and it would probably be smart if I did.

Another thing I’ve recently been reminded of is what happens when I die – always a popular topic. I don’t only have my physical worldly goods to will to my heirs, I’ve got a boatload of intellectual property (all of my books). It’s entirely likely that after I die my books will continue to sell.

Of course, copyright lasts for 70 years after the author’s death, but I recently heard that books live on and continue to earn money for about ten years after the author dies unless the author is a really big name. How are my heirs going to know anything about how those books are selling or where that money is going? They’ll probably need to change the bank account so that they get the money instead of it being automatically deposited into my account (which will probably be closed by then), but how are they going to do that?

They need access to all of my accounts. They need to know what books are published and where. All of that information can be contained in a spreadsheet, but be sure you label it something obvious like “My books and where they are sold” so that your heirs can easily find it. Oh, and let them know it’s there so that they know to look for it in the first place.

Of course, if you don’t have kids or don’t like them and want to leave your work to a charity or your alma mater, there are ways to do that too – you just need to consult a lawyer and probably wherever you’d like to donate your work.

These are the happy, uplifting, and exciting things that an author needs to think about once they’re published. Running a business. Paying taxes. Marketing your books and your brand. Oh, and don’t forget, you’ve got to write your books too! I’m off to do that one.

Have a great week!