Happiness in Spreadsheet-Land


My last weekend was absolutely fab! Doing a spreadsheet. Can highly recommend it. Yes, you are right – that little green webite-home-065smallcross at the bottom of your screen. Just click on it – and you’re there – in spreadsheet land. Cheaper and quicker than going to Venice or Paris– and just as exciting. In fact I was euphoric afterwards, in Seventh Heaven, dirty weekend plus Spa plus five star hotel all in one little beautiful grid. Who can resist.


The weekend started off badly, mind. The joy of holding the first book in my arms had worn off, instead the huge task of trying to drum up enough interest so that it would sell had crept up on me. Also, I’ve recently made a lovely new friend who used to work for many years in the Contract department of a leading publisher. Besides giving me some valuable advice she has started to serve as my conscience. “Have you done your figures?” She asked once. Yes, yes, of course, I replied but didn’t dare to look her straight in the eye. Next time we met, she repeated the very same question. I repeated the very same answer, again avoiding eye contact. Then we had an email exchange and one more time she reminded me to do my figures. I didn’t lie. I did my sums right at the beginning of setting up Peirene. But I was also aware that much had changed: figures revised, new, unexpected figures added in. I hadn’t actually set down and worked it all out. Instead I did the maths in my head – enough to give me an idea of how many books I ought to sell to break even . An idea. Not factual knowledge.

So Saturday morning I woke up with a heavy heart. So heavy I couldn’t get out of bed. Husband got up, kids got up, son jumped on top of me to get me moving – no doing. Husband brought me a cup of tea. What’s the matter? – I think I have created a loss making business –  I sobbed into my cup. I am not getting up. Better still I will give up publishing!

Have you done your figures? Husband, too, then asked. I told him to get out of the room. I didn’t want to see him ever again. Give him up too.


Luckily I changed my mind and in the evening we sat down together in front of the lovely computer, and we held hands and clicked the green cross and entered spreadsheet land. And wow! If you haven’t done a spreadsheet you really have no clue what’s it’s actually all about. I learned about variable costs and fixed costs, and how different they are. And it’s the profit margin on the variable cost that really gets you going – anyway, I’ll spare you the details, I am discreet after all. Suffice to say that I came out of that experience a wholly satisfied woman. I haven’t created a loss making business and I now know exactly how many books I have to sell to break even on production, how many to break even on production plus overhead and how many to actually make some money. Beautiful, exact little figures – slightly higher of course than my rough estimate but not disastrously far off either.


So ladies, my advice for the Christmas period: If it all feels like getting on top of you, doom and gloom descending – just click yourself into happiness, into spreadsheet land – ideally with a knowledgeable business advisor at hand. Money back if it doesn’t work.

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