Financial Arrangements between Books and Journals
STEVE COHN, DUKE UNIVERSITY PRESS
How a press structures its internal arrangements for allocating costs (and financial responsibility in general) between journals publishing operations and books publishing operations seems to depend largely on the size of the journals publishing program - both its absolute size and its size relative to the books publishing operation.
Those presses that publish only a few journals generally seem to cover many of the journals publishing functions with staff whose primary responsibilities are in book publishing. Where only one or two journals are published by a press, often the only expenses attributed to the journals program are its direct (billed) expenses - this practice, of course, makes the program look better financially than it would if indirect (overhead) expenses were included. When staff members devote full time to journals publishing, their salaries are generally attributed to the journals program; so the point at which there comes to be at least one full-time staff member often seems to be the point at which the press begins attributing overhead costs to the journals program.
Presumably, this tendency not to assign over head costs to the journals program explains why recent AAUP Journals Surveys (1989-1991) show the small journals programs (those with less than $100,000 in journals revenues and expenses) as having by far the smallest percentage of their total costs in the category that includes "salaries, benefits, rent, telephone, supplies, computer and any other costs that cannot be assigned to [another] category." If the accounting were equivalent across programs, one would expect economies of scale to lower overhead as a percentage of total costs for the larger programs - and that is borne out by the fact that, in these surveys, the large programs (those with revenues and expenses over $1,000,000) show a considerably lower proportion of their total outlay being taken up by overhead costs than do the medium-sized programs (those between $100,000 and $1,000,000 per year).
Why Bother to Allocate Overhead Costs Fairly and Accurately?
The simple answer to this question is that better data allows for better decision making. But clearly there is also a point beyond which the time it takes to collect better data costs more than the data is worth.
For the very largest journals programs, which often have a staff and even a building entirely separate from the rest of the press, separation of overhead costs and financial responsibility is relatively easy. Yet even for those programs, there are many indirect costs that must be assigned by some combination of careful tracking and (always some what arbitrary) formulas. How much space and staff time journals take in the warehouse, for example, can be carefully monitored; or it can be decided via negotiation between one person responsible for journals program finances and one person responsible for book program finances; or it can be estimated and assigned by the warehouse manager, or by the press's business administration; or it can be figured by some combination of these methods; or it can be ignored. It can be reviewed each year, or it can simply stay the same (either in absolute amount or in proportion of total warehousing costs) from year to year until it is egregiously out of line with reality.
The same goes for the percentage of time spent on journals matters (or on "whole press" matters, which include journals matters) by the press's director, or business manager, or permissions person, or receptionist, or anyone else whose tasks are broad enough to encompass both journals and books matters. And the same goes for use of telephones (if there are not separate lines), stationery, paper clips, and shared computer systems. And the same goes for the cost of a catalog or a convention exhibit that includes both books and journals. For even a medium-sized journals program, someone in the business office could easily spend all his or her time tracking and categorizing such allocations.
Obviously, that is not worth doing, since ultimately it doesn't matter where the costs are assigned: the two publishing programs within one press are, as someone wise once said, like two pockets in the same pair of pants. (The only time this is not the case is when contracts with journals sponsors involve their paying for the journal's overhead costs in some fashion: in that case, the allocation does matter more, since an external organization [i.e., someone else's pocket] is paying for what it must see as a fair share of the journals program's overhead, which can legitimately include some portion of the journals program's share of the whole press's overhead.)
On the other hand, inequitable allocations between journals and books publishing programs can cause internal resentments, friction, and low morale among those who feel unfairly treated (mostly, in the past, this seems to have been those responsible for the finances of the journals publishing programs). So, although there are no absolute rules about allocation of overhead costs, the one overriding rule is that everyone must feel fairly treated. And part of feeling fairly treated is understanding clearly the rules of the game, arbitrary as those might be, and having some input into the making or changing of those rules.
Some Methods Presses Use for Allocating Costs between Journals and Books
Assigning the allocation to the person most directly involved, on a case-by-case basis. In some areas, this clearly works best. Where office supplies are ordered by a single person for the entire press, that person is likely to be in the best position to know who has requested a particular item and/or who mainly uses that item. Where space on an exhibit table is shared between journals and books, the marketing manager (or the person setting up the exhibit) may be in the best position to decide on the allocation. The bills can then be paid out of a combination of books and journals funds, depending on the allocation made by the person most directly involved. This can also be applied to staff time: either the individual involved or the department manager can decide how much of a person's time (and salary) should be allocated to books and how much to journals.
Formulas. This can be an across-the-board practice used wherever case-by-case tracking is deemed not worth the trouble, or it can be a fallback employed only when there is nobody in a good position to do the actual assessment of relative use. Some formulas base the allocations on percentage of total revenues (if the journals program brings in one-third of the press's revenues, it is assigned one-third of any general press costs); others base the allocation on percentage of press staff (if one-third of the press staff is assigned to journals, one-third of the office supplies presumably are used by journals personnel). The formulas can be very simple: one-third of all costs for every shared item are assigned to journals. Or they can be more complex: one-third of all shipping equipment costs, but one-fourth of all office equipment costs. Or they can be more complex still: the proportion of photocopying costs depends on the proportion of journals staff to books staff; the proportion of computer costs depends on the proportion of journals revenues to books revenues; the proportion of first-class mail is 75/25 since acquisitions editors write most of the letters; the proportion of third-class mail is 40/60 since the journals program sends out lots of renewal notices; and so on.
Creating Books out of Journals Material
For a variety of reasons, books are sometimes created out of journals materials. In some cases, these books are anthologies of journal articles on a particular topic ("The Best of X Journal on Y Topic"); in other cases, they are based on a single thematic issue of the journal, which may be greatly expanded and revised, or may simply be formatted as a book (perhaps an index may be added, and a preface written, but the book contains the same text as the journal issue).
There is often a question of how such books should be handled within the press: who should do the work to create the books and to market them? Is this best done by journals staff, who are familiar with the format and problems and audience of the journal, or by books staff, who are familiar with the making and selling of books? Which program should receive the revenues from these projects, and which should pay the costs?
The simplest solution, in terms of accounting, is to treat the projects like other books. But a number of presses have found that these projects (which are often advantageous to do because of the lower costs and because many of them sell quite well) are more likely to happen and are better handled if the journals staff who are familiar with the projects are involved in their creation and promotion. (This also makes joint promotions - one example might be offering the book as a premium to new subscribers - more easy to manage.) And, although the "two pockets in the same pair of pants" argument holds here, too, several presses have found that it works best and makes best sense to give financial incentives to the journals program, and to the editors of the journals themselves - who are often involved in the creation of these projects, at least at the idea stage - by crediting all or some of the profits from these projects to the account of the journal in which the project originated, or to the journals program as a whole.
This can be done in a number of ways. Be cause the product is sold as a book, the revenues ordinarily come into the book program. But the revenues can be transferred in their entirety or in part to a journals account, in which case it is reasonable for the attendant costs (COGS, royalties, marketing costs, etc.) to be attributed to the journals account as well. The transfers can be formal financial transfers or informal internal swaps of credit, depending on the desired effect.
One press that frequently publishes books based on journals material has three different types of arrangements: all-journals projects, for which all costs and revenues go to the journal from which the project originated and journals staff do all the in-house editorial and production work (though marketing and fulfillment are handled by books staff, with informal arrangements for subsidizing the marketing costs); all-books projects (those where a good deal of editorial rethinking is needed for revisions, additions, etc.), for which costs and revenues go to books as usual and journals has no financial stake; and 50/50 projects, for which the reworking is minimal to moderate, but for some reason it makes better sense for book editors and production staff to work on the project. Which one of these applies to a particular project is negotiated at the time the project is started.
Another solution used by some presses is for the book program to "buy" the project from the journal, paying for the work already done (typesetting, for example), and/or paying royalties on the sales, in the same way that the press might pay another publisher for previously published material.