Faced with an increasing number of e-vendors and multiple revenue streams, longtime agent Richard Curtis, founder of e-reads, an electronic publishing company, has developed software that can track sales and manage royalty information and payment quickly and efficiently.

The software was written by developer David Marlin, and together the two men produced Royalty Tracker, which automates the royalty collection and payment system so well that Curtis claims work that used to take weeks of hand labor is now finished in hours. "And just in time, too," he said. "When we started, we [e-reads] only had a handful of titles; now we have 1,200 and counting." Marlin pointed to the difficulty of managing the increasing number of revenue-producing vendors (Peanut Press, Lightning Source, BN.com and others) and their different reporting standards—some use title, others use author or ISBN. And unlike the semi-annual royalty reports traditional to the publishing industry, online retailers issue monthly statements. "Our bookkeeping department couldn't keep up," said Marlin. "Constant revenues can turn into a nightmare if the publisher isn't ready to process the data." The software takes e-mailed spreadsheets from distributors and converts them into reports, then cuts the check to be mailed to the authors.

According to Marlin, Royalty Tracker automatically copies data furnished by distributors, making for more accurate reports. "It significantly reduces the probability of human error," he said. The program can be adapted to run with Oracle or SQL server systems, and could be used for print publishers as well as e-books.

Curtis added that RT can automatically e-mail reports, post them to a Web site or produce sales and demographic analyses. Authors will eventually have the ability to view sales reports in real time as they happen.

Curtis and Marlin have formed a joint venture to license the Royalty Tracker software. Future plans include cooperation with BASIC (the Book and Serial Industry Committee) to produce a standardized reporting system for e-books.