Like many small but growing businesses, mine was run on spreadsheets and mail-merge, but over the past few quarters the amount of time it took to process sales, inventory, and royalty calculations was growing at an alarming rate. I started looking around for an automated solution and at first focused on general-purpose packages. Most of them 'almost' fit my needs, but each had one or more weaknesses. Being general-purpose usually meant that the 'business' was loosely defined as retail, wholesale, or service-based, and none had any notion of royalties and discounts. I was pretty discouraged, until I found an entire class of software designed specifically for publishers, including Dashbook from Financial Softworks.
As I worked on evaluating packages, I realized that very few met my specific needs. Some were extremely expensive, obviously marketed to large corporations. Others were closer to what I was looking for in terms of price and functionality but either lacked one or more key features or were designed in a way that made them nearly unusable. In the end, only Dashbook met all of my functional requirements, met my budget constraints, and fit perfectly into my existing workflow.
There are several key features of Dashbook that have taken my monthly and quarterly reporting from a day of work to just a few clicks. At the front end of the process is an incredibly flexible ETL tool that allows me to map reports from any vendor, in nearly any format, onto Dashbook data fields. When a new sales channel comes on board, I can set up the data map once and then just automatically read sales data from that channel into Dashbook. This eliminates the need for what would be custom work in competing packages. and it doesn't stop at sales data. The ETL tool has been designed so that you can map any data into Dashbook. Authors, vendors, inventory...if you can get it into a spreadsheet or flat file, Dashbook can read it.
Next is a royalty model that was clearly designed by a company that knows the book business intimately. Any royalty scheme that you can imagine is easily modeled in Dashbook, and you can apply these models to authors individually or as a group. Month-end reporting literally becomes just a few clicks.
Setting up a new title is a snap, too, and the process is another indication that the Dashbook team really goes out of their way to make their software exceed expectations. In my case, I had nearly a hundred titles to set up. I was delighted to discover that I could simply feed Dashbook a list of ISBNs, and it would automatically reach out to the Internet to grab the appropriate information on author, length, format...all of the things that I would have had to set up manually were simply done for me. This was a huge timesaver.
The last thing I'll mention is the overall flexibility of Dashbook. All of the packages that I evaluated that were geared toward small and medium-sized publishers had a fixed set of reports and were built on either proprietary or complex back-ends. Writing custom reports in these systems would be a significant effort. Dasbook, on the other hand, is built using an open framework, and uses easily digested relational models in its underlying database. This access to the data means that one can easily write custom reports without getting bogged down in several layers of software...it's fast, clean, and accessible. Dashbook comes preconfigured with a large number of common reports, but you can customize them or add new reports right from the Dashbook reporting interface. This give you a capability of ad-hoc reporting that the other packages simply don't offer.
The bottom line is that Dashbook has paid for itself many times over in time saved. I don't dread month-end reporting any more. And Dashbook has given me views of my business that I didn't have before, giving me a better understanding of the business and an edge over my competitors.
President, KidPub Press