Is Free the Best Answer?


By: Gregory Carrier

I didn’t intend to buy a wood chipper this summer, but step by step, I found myself feeding one on my driveway, marveling at its utility, while cautious of its danger. All I had really wanted was mulch to spread around my fruit trees. Days earlier, noticing that a neighbor was getting palm trees trimmed, I walked over and asked the crew if they would deposit one load of this shredded material on my driveway.

As I returned home, victoriously envisioning this free mulch moisturizing and nourishing my trees, I knew there was more left to this impromptu decision. Should I pay someone to redistribute that pile to all the trees? Being thrifty, plus browbeaten by the media about health benefits of one’s own physical labor, I reasoned that I should play that part.

What I didn’t know was that the shredder used by the tree trimmers did not result in the fine mulch that we see packaged in bags. These pieces were obscenely large! Nearly entire fronds passed through that maw with hardly a bite taken out of them. This would not do. I couldn’t use it as mulch, and I couldn’t leave this trash on my driveway very long. I’ve had run-ins with a prior homeowner’s association about our differences of opinion, and didn’t want to sully my reputation here so early on.

So there I was, awed by the raw power of my very own chipper/shredder. For a few hundred dollars and my own time, I was able to transform that objectionable trash pile into beautiful mulch, dressing trees well enough to please any landscaper or critical neighborhood committee. Free can be nice, but with proper tools and knowledge, we can provide better results today, as well as future seasons.

What about the tools you use for publishing? Are you using software like Excel to handle your royalty accounting mostly because you already own a copy? If you are satisfied with the results that you publish to your authors, and the time and effort that you expend getting there, then you can and should focus on other areas of your operation.

But you should allocate some time now and then to reconsider all aspects of your business, including increasing workload with increasing titles. We can always improve. Is a software package that focuses on book publishing going to eliminate your work and worries? No, but it can reduce the work considerably, if not completely. You need to take responsibility and pride in your results, even if you can rarely afford to delegate to anything or anyone without supervision.

In the computer world, the saying “Garbage in; garbage out” is a battered cliché. I experienced that with my wood chipper as well. Feeding in large, hard chunks of wood resulted in faster degradation of the cutting blades. If I wanted to maintain my frugality, I was better off pitching those pieces into the garbage, so that my tool could do what it does best to yield the product I desired.

Likewise, bad results from a royalty system can sneak in if you aren’t diligent. Perhaps the automated import system worked fine when you first started using it, but fails later on. This could be from something as simple as the vendor report changing, which is a very easy thing to fix yourself by re-matching report columns. There is no need to throw out the entire system when only a little maintenance is needed.

To keep your business performing at its best, you need to monitor and constantly refine. Find out what others are doing to see if you might implement something similar or better. Success requires not giving up when hit with a setback, while creative solutions can help you thrive.



Gregory co-founded ARGUS Financial Software, now ARGUS Software, the premier provider of real estate financial analysis systems.  The software suite was the industry standard for budgeting, development budgeting and valuation of real property.  Seeing a need for his abilities to help with complex analysis, Gregory then co-founded Financial Softworks, LLC, and partnered in the development of DashBooks Royalty Pro in 2006.  The goal was to make the complexity of royalty management easier for the smallest of publishers yet powerful enough for clients handling thousands of titles.

You can find Gregory’s company, Dashbooks, at the following links:

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