Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tracking music royalties

We have received a number of questions about tracking royalties on music.

Music royalties can get very complicated, and you can use DashBook to simplify your work. Typically, each song has a multitude of musicians and composers to pay. One person may get a fixed dollar amount for each song, plus a percentage of the sale. Or another gets ten cents each time her artwork is included. Additionally, each royalty receiver may get a different amount based on what happened to that song.

For instance, perhaps the royalty contract dictates that the musician gets a different royalty depending upon whether the song was sold as an electronic download vs. played on the radio. You can quickly see that there are many venues and media types that can be broken out as a special royalty amount or rate.

In DashBook, you can create many different arrangements having the same product and author/musician. If the music media or royalty event is vastly different, you may enter it as a different product. Alternatively, you could use a feature we call Sales Channels. This allows you to make one order that says all items of this order are using a Sales Channel called "MP3 download", whereas another order might be for a Sales Channel of "Radio Plays over 30 seconds". You can have an unlimited number of sales channels. In your royalty agreement, you can list a different royalty percentage for each sales channel. This reduces the number of products that you need to maintain.

Once you have a myriad of options listed, DashBook does allow you to easily see all of the royalty arrangements for either a product/song or a musician/author/royalty rights holder. And of course, view reports showing either totals due or every transaction that resulted in a royalty.

And one of the features I love -- you can go to the Pay Authors screen to see all amounts that are due for all musicians, and mark them paid with a single click if you do not wish to make individual adjustments.

If you have any questions about how to handle your royalty situation, please email us at

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Little things in life

Although big feature additions make exciting software headlines, it is often the little changes that add up to a comfortable and great experience. One of the "little things" we did in version 2 of DashBook is to add "copy" ability to many areas of the program.

As an example, if you already have a royalty agreement with a particular royalty rights holder such as a book author, chances are high that a subsequent royalty agreement for their next work will have many of the same characteristics. So rather than having to create a new agreement, you can now simply copy an existing one, and then alter it. Sure it sounds simple, because its usage is, but when creating software from scratch as we did with version 1, there are so many things to do that some had to be postponed.

Now that we have a lot of the necessities met, these continual refinements and enhancements make DashBook comfortable as well as proficient. Whether you want a big or small change, please let us know so that we can serve you best.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pay Author Royalties with PayPal

So, you have your product titles entered into DashBook (perhaps using the book ISBN import from the internet), you've defined the royalty agreements that dictate the amounts accrued to the rights holders upon sales, and you've entered sales. That's all you need to do, right? Well, almost. DashBook does automatically calculate the royalties that accrue, but upon your payment period, you'll need to actually pay your authors. You pay your authors the amount accrued above their payment threshold (no need to send 40 cent checks), then you record the amount paid within DashBook.

One of my favorite new features in version 2 of DashBook is the ability to pay royalties (to authors, musicians, cinematographers, etc.) directly using PayPal. We now have a single screen that shows all of the royalty amounts accrued above the respective holders' thresholds, and all you have to do is click to pay them all, and record those payments.

Yes, there is some setup involved in this. Aside from needing a funded PayPal account, you need to retrieve what is essentially password information from PayPal to enter into DashBook so that it can pay from your account. You'll also need to acquire the paypal account names for each author using this method, or simply use their email address and PayPal will invite them into the system.

PayPal charges a maximum of $1 for each payment, which is not much more than the cost of a stamp and envelope. What do we charge for this service? Nothing! All customers of any DashBook version above the free Lite version get this service free of charge.

How's that for making your royalty payments easier?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

DashBook Version 2 Released

We actually released DashBook version 2 a few weeks ago, but with the subsequent activities of Hurricane Ike, we have had our hands a bit full here in Houston, TX.

Here is a quick list of improvements made in DashBook:

I will make a few more posts that cover some of these enhancements.

Although DashBook is normally set to automatically retrieve updates, we have not set version 1 to automatically update to version 2 at this time.

If you would like to get the latest version, please visit our site at

Monday, September 8, 2008

Royalty Calculations for your Enterprise

We will release DashBook version 2 soon, and one of the advances we made was supporting SQL Server in a new level of DashBook. Although DashBook was designed to handle multiple users, we had not finished our quality assurance testing of multiuser when version 1 was shipped, so we did not offer a multiuser version for sale.

So in addition to our inexpensive single-user license of DashBook, we will now have two additional levels. Multiuser will allow multiple simultaneous users to communicate with the DashBook database as it resides in a Microsoft Access database, while our Enterprise license allows multiple users to access the DashBook database on a SQL Server.

We were very pleased to see that even for a single user, running the database on SQL Server can result in a much faster system. Unfortunately, SQL statements are not very compatible between Access and SQL, but we've done the work so that not only will DashBook be able to process your data in either, but all of our included reports now have dual SQL statements so that any report will automatically use the correct SQL for your given database.

Now DashBook can handle businesses from small startup through large enterprise!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Free Software

Yes, one can use DashBook to keep track of product sales, returns, inventory, and clients totally for free. All that is required after the initial 30 day trial period is to register to let us know that you are out there. DashBook Lite (the free version) is perfect for anyone not requiring automatic royalty calculations, so DashBook can be used for free whether you are a self-publisher or are selling goods on eBay. Tracking sales and printing invoices are part of every business, not just the book business.

So, why would anyone pay for DashBook? At this time, the only features not included for free is the automatic calculation of royalties and payments thereof. All reports, even the ability to customize reports, are available. The next version of DashBook will include the ability to not only record payments to authors, but to actually send them money!

By giving away DashBook Lite for free, we are providing a much better system to people as an alternative to trying to track sales with a spreadsheet. Our plan is that the many self-publishers and authors who use the free version of DashBook will expand their business to include the need to easily handle royalties. Once you experience how easy and straightforward DashBook is, you will be happy to continue using it for a small fee.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

What's next?

It has been over a month since the last blog entry, and we've been busy. Last week we released an update to DashBook that improves a few different areas of the program.

To assist new users of DashBook who already have many published books, the New Product button will now present a screen where you can paste in a list of ISBNs, and DashBook will retrieve the book titles and authors from the internet. If you have hundreds of book titles, this greatly speeds setting up the program for use. The only other things needed is to enter the retail price for each, and setup royalties for each combination of product and contributor.

When you have royalties for many products and contributors that overlap (multiple authors per title, and/or multiple titles per author), this next feature comes in handy! The Royalty Agreement screen now has grouping for viewing purposes. This does not affect the calculations, but does help to manage agreements when you have hundreds to track. You can group by product, which then shows all of the products on the left side of the screen, and for each product, the right side of the screen shows all of the royalty recipients for that product. There is even a Summary tab that allows you to see and edit all of the simple percentages for each author.

Similarly, you can change your view to "by author," and you will have a list of authors on the left, where each author presents a summary of the royalty agreements for this author along with percentages. This gives a nice overview of all of the projects you have with a contributor.

Another new feature enhances the value of customized reporting. DashBook uses hyperlink text to quickly show reports during input, like on the Order page. You can now right-click on a report hyperlink to edit which report it shows, as well as setting the parameters for the report. If a report asks for a choice where your answer never changes, you can preset your answer to not be bothered with the question. If you create your own version of a report, you can now setup the hyperlink to call your own customized report.

The development of DashBook is progressing swiftly. Our next set of improvements coming in a couple of months will put DashBook in a new league!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

We have arrived!

Well, today we have released DashBook version 1 as a product, ready to be utilized in production for publishers around the globe. The program is on the internet for download, our website has been revised and augmented with a shopping cart, and we are ready to accept credit card payment. You can see it here:

A press release is in the works, and we'll have a lot to do in the marketing department now. But frankly, development is where my heart is. I am very excited about working on the enhancements that will go into the next version of DashBook that will make it even more powerful and easier to use.

Our latest revisions to version 1 include much speed improvement on the Order form, particularly as it relates to royalty calculation results. While working with one of our excellent beta testers who discovered a very odd way to trick our program, we realized that having over a dozen royalty recipients per product on an order with many such products caused the program to move too slowly from order to order. The user was not complaining about the speed, because he felt that his usage of selling music with complex royalties was beyond DashBook's intended scope, so he was happy that it worked as well as it did. We, however, were not satisfied until we improved it. Now, everyone's order display time is faster. Bonus.

Aside from that speed issue, we discovered that our program updates were not correctly replacing the report templates. This means that many users did not get to see a lot of our latest advances. Worse, their old templates may have failed completely due to incompatibilities with our latest program. Fortunately, that has been resolved, and version 1 will be installing all new report templates in addition to the program code improvements.

In reference to the royalties on music, we have been seeing an increase in downloads from people who are in the music business. I would like to speak with more people in that industry to ensure that DashBook is handling music well. I can imagine someone selling songs on iTunes and needing to account for the royalties to the musicians and other artists involved. Having to keep track of all of those dimes that could add up to millions would be a lot of work without good software. We want to help!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Almost the end of Beta

We are getting very close to DashBook version 1 now, with today's beta release. While we may put out another beta before the end, this one has the last of major feature changes.

The brunt of effort in this beta was in the reporting area, where we have massive change. First and foremost is the transformation in the report viewing process. In earlier versions, one would choose a particular report, perhaps interact with a window of questions (parameters), and then see the report which could be printed. In this version, choosing the Reports toolbar icon or All Reports from the menu brings one to a listing of reports just as the toolbar did before. However, in this new version, each time a report name on the left side of the screen is clicked, the report automatically draws on the right side of the screen. As one changes the parameters above the report, the report automatically redraws to reflect those choices. The difference in user experience is amazing!

The reports have also undergone major change in presentation, using stylesheets to add needed character. In addition, many reports now have additional parameters such as start and stop date ranges, along with customization switches to turn aspects of the reports on and off. Many of our report additions and adjustments were based on the feedback from the publishers in our beta program, so we are very thankful to all our critics. To round out our complete package, a few utilitarian reports for printing envelopes and labels have also been added. With the addition and completion of reports, we have included more hyperlinks within the input areas of the program, such as the ability to print an invoice and envelope directly from an order.

Now that we have completed the major changes to the reports, we have finished the major enhancements to DashBook itself. We will be making a few corrections and refinements in the reports as well as other areas, but the feature set is now complete.

Along with the program code changes, this beta updates our help documentation system, so that discovering how to use DashBook has never been easier. Most areas of the program are now linked such that hitting the F1 key will bring up the help section for that screen. There are a few more screens needing documentation, and due to all of the modifications in the program, the help will undergo a lot of revision this month to synchronize with the final released version.

All of these improvements will soon be packaged together as our premier product – DashBook version 1. We are excited about releasing this product to assist all of the book publishers who have needed a tool that catered to their business. As we will soon begin work on our next version, we look forward to many more suggestions for improvement and new capabilities.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

DashBook improved for Bookstores

Although our original focus for DashBook was to provide a quality software tool for small publishers, of course, we wish to help a larger audience. One of our beta testers has an interest in using DashBook rather than Intuit's QuickBooks in a small bookstore.

As DashBook was designed for a small publisher with few titles, as expected, it failed miserably! She had over 4000 titles, with nearly the same number of authors. DashBook choked! Well, I've actually gotten ahead of myself. To facilitate this bookstore's transition to DashBook, we wrote a new import utility to import all of her products and corresponding authors from her existing Yahoo! Small Business store. Yahoo! has a nice facility to export their catalog.xml file once you've generated your storefront.

So, rather than having to type in thousands of entries, she simply imported the books (gifts, etc.) directly into a new DashBook database. It was during our testing before releasing this incremental feature that we saw how devastating the existence of thousands of products was to the DashBook interface speed. Fortunately, this slowdown was readily rectified so that working with thousands of titles is as fast as working with a handful.

More good news is that now DashBook's screens for Orders, Products, etc. are much faster when handling just a few titles as well. Everybody wins!

So, why did this customer choose DashBook over QuickBooks? Obviously, DashBook is focused on the idiosyncrasies of selling books. For her, this means that she can easily look up her products by author name - something she could not get QuickBooks to do. She also much preferred the way that DashBook handles sale discounts during the Order process.

Because she gave us great feedback, we were able to help her in implementing a superior system for her sales and inventory tracking needs. What would you like us to do for you?