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This page provides a line-by-line explanation of how to fill out the ABACUS 2023 survey.
ABACUS is a free annual report filled with detailed information highlighting how your store compares to other stores in a range of areas, including profitability, productivity, and financial management. Using the ABACUS report is like adding a financial officer to your staff; it clearly highlights areas that need improving and areas in which your store is succeeding. 


The ABACUS survey is currently live. Booksellers have until July 21, 2024 to submit their 2023 data.


  • Complete the survey online at by entering your figures from your most recently completed fiscal year (i.e., fiscal year that closed nearest to December 31, 2023).
  • A PDF preview of the 2023 ABACUS Survey can be found here
  • Full-year data is required.
  • You do not necessarily need to wait for audited/adjusted results from your accountant.
  • You can save your work and return later to complete your online form.
  • It is OK to skip questions if you need to; however, the more information you provide, the more valuable the final report will be to you and to  others.
  • You may provide estimates if necessary.
  • Please report figures rounded to the dollar only (i.e. do not report to the cent/penny)
  • There are 33 general questions and 46 questions related to your store’s income statement included in the survey
  • Brick and mortar stores  with multiple locations can either fill out a separate survey for each location or combine them. If you combine them you will receive one report.
  • Mobile, Pop-up, and Online-only stores are encouraged to fill out all of the relevant questions as much as they can. 
  • Use this Chart of Accounts to reference line item data needed to fill out the ABACUS survey.

Section 1: General Information

Questions 1-15: General Information

This section deals with general information about your store. 

1. How many physical locations does your company operate?

List the number of physical locations you operate.

2. How many physical locations are represented in this survey data?

Note down the locations which have data for one complete fiscal year. if you have more than one location, provide the consolidated information or separate it out. It is recommended to separate the information for easily comparing each store’s data. 

3. Accounting Method: Cash or Accrual

Ask your accountant for this information. If you have a store with inventory, you should be on accrual.

Businesses often use either the accrual or cash methods of recording purchases. The accrual method puts transactions on the books immediately upon completing the sale. The cash method only records this once the payment is received.

For example, if you make a sale in January and receive the $200 payment in February, an accrual method would allow you to record that on January’s books, while the cash method would require that payment to land on February’s books.
4. Type of bookstore

Select your type of bookstore: General Bookstore, Children's Only, Specialty, Other.

5. Type of primary location

Select the primary location option that pertains to your bookstore: Mobile, Pop-up, Online only, or Brick and Mortar storefront. Bookstores with Brick and Mortar and Pop-Up should check the Brick and Mortar Storefront option.

6. Type of community

Select the type of community: Urban, Suburban, Rural.

7. Years in business

This line item should reflect all years the store has been in continuous operation in this location/city, rather than the years under the current ownership. Round off to the closest full year. For example, if the store has been in business for 8 years and 3  months, enter 8 years. If the store has been in business for 2 years and 7 months, enter 3 years.

8. Population of the primary market your business serves

This can be the population of the city where the store is located. It may be the population of a suburb or smaller portion of a larger metropolitan area. Or it may be the population of a larger or rural area in addition to the city where the bookstore is located. You could either get this information from the landlord or the Chamber of Commerce. If you are in a resort or community with a seasonal population, contact your landlord or township for average numbers.

9. Square footage of your retail business

(length x width) This information is often stated on your lease.
Selling space (sales floor open to customers shopping) Subtract all the spaces like the bathroom or the back office space that is not used as a selling floor space.
Total space (selling space + back room, offices, event space, etc.)

10. How many titles do you have in your store (total number of ISBNS on hand)?

If you are combining data from all locations, combine the number of unique titles for each location. Specify the total number of unique titles here.

11. How many Units do you have in your store (total quantity on hand)?

If you are combining data from all locations, combine the number of books or units for each location. This data pertains to the total number of units at the store.

12. Transactions Data and Overall Store Financial Data

(only report for years for which you were in business for the entire fiscal year)
The total number of transactions can be found on the Z Register. You should have a Z tape for year to date.  
Net sales = gross sales minus customer returns. Please include in-store and online sales. Do not include sales or revenue from grants or government relief. This is typically found under GL acct #’s in 400XXX to 410XXX. Mention the net sales of the last 2 years. If you filled out the data last year, your data for the previous year should be loaded automatically.
Cost of Goods Sold should include the total cost of goods for books and non-book items. Do not include Bookshop numbers. GL acct #’s 501XXX to 519XXX.
Ending inventory = value of your inventory as of fiscal year end. This can be found on your year-end balance sheet and is typically found under GL acct # 14XXXXX. This value should be at cost not the retail.

13. What percent of your sales were from children/young adult books?

This information is available in your year-end z tape or from the POS report.

14. Do you have a subscription club?

Select the appropriate option.

15. If yes, what percent of your sales were from the subscription club?

Please provide an estimate if the exact number is not available.

Questions 16-24: Online Sales and Digital Bookselling

16. Dollar value of online sales (but not via Bookshop) in FY2023? 

This is sales from your e-commerce website. You can access this information on your website. If you are on IndieCommerce and need additional assistance contact or email [email protected]. In addition to online orders that were shipped to customers, include sales that originated or were purchased online but were picked up in the store in this figure (exclude “” sales, as they will be reported in a later question)  This value should be available through your e-commerce platform.

17. Do you offer in-store pickup of online purchases?

Select the appropriate option.

18. If yes, what percent of people pick up at the store?

If you have not been keeping track of this percentage, provide your best estimate.

19. Please provide the following percentages for  customers who pick up their online purchases in store.

You may estimate this number based on your observations. People that order online may make additional purchases when they come in for store pickup.

20. Do you use Batch?

Specify if you have signed up for Batch for Books.

21. What is your relationship with

Affiliates get 30% commission and partners get 10% from the profit-share pool. Bookshop fills your store orders if you are an affiliate. If you do not know what kind of membership you have with Bookshop, check your Bookshop dashboard or email them. If you do not have a relationship with Bookshop, mention the reason.

22. How much “money” did you receive from in FY2023?

Mention the dollar amount you received from Bookshop. To find this information go to’s Affiliate Dashboard > Reports page. Sort for 2023 and run the report.

23. Enter the dollar value of eBook and audio book sales in FY2023.

For this information, reach out to Libro FM or any other services you use for eBook and audiobook sales. Alternatively, you do a little math. For Libro FM, you receive 10% on audio sales, while it is 15% on bundles. For example, if you receive $1000 commission on audio sales, Libro FM made $10,000 in sales. Similarly, if you receive $1000 commission on bundle sales, Libro FM made  $15,000 in sales.

24. How much was your accounts payable on 05/31/2023?

Specify the correct value.

Questions 25-26: Peer Networking

While participation in ABACUS is confidential, members of ABA’s ABACUS Task Force indicated that it would be useful to stores in the survey if there  were a list of survey participants available to them. Such a list could allow booksellers to reach out individually to others that participated in the survey  for peer benchmarking or to obtain additional information related to ABACUS. Only the store name and contact information will be included, and only  those who agree to be on the list of participants will receive a copy of the list. ABA does have access to store’s your numbers. The ABACUS survey is conducted by a third-party consulting group named Industry Insight.

25. Would you like to be included in the list of stores who participated in this ABACUS survey?

Please indicate yes or no.

26. Please check the regional association(s) your store is involved with. (Select all that apply.)

Check all options if you belong to more than one regional association.

Questions 27-32: Human Resources

27. Staff numbers

Calculate the total full-time equivalent (FTE) number for ALL employees that worked for the bookstore in FY2023—including any owners that worked in the  store (i.e. exclude passive or “silent” partners that are not materially involved in the operations). This should be based on actual hours worked or the best  estimate of hours worked, as it represents all work hours spent in FY2023. The formula for calculating the FTE number of staff is shown below. FTE = total hours worked in or for the business divided by 2,080 hours. This number may be reported to two decimal places (i.e., FTE staff = 3.75) *Staff count is your total “head count”—total # of employees, regardless of number of hours worked (this should be a whole number). **Total separations include quits, layoffs and discharges, and other separations. Consider this example: if you have 5 people in your staff and each person works 20 hours a week, this means they work a total of 100 hours a week. You have 2.5 full time employees. You can round this number out.  Provide the staff count as of January 1 and December 31. Also provide the total number of separations. How many employees left during the year due to different reasons. Please do not count seasonal employees as terminations.

28. Please enter annual / average SALARIES for positions in your bookstore

Bookstores have asked for average salaries for various bookstore positions. This question is  designed to obtain this data. If the owner assumes one of these roles, whether they pay  themselves a salary for this role or not, please skip this question. Otherwise, please enter the  annual salary for each of the listed positions. If an employee has dual roles or dual rates  (bookseller and buyer, for example), enter the rate for each corresponding role].  Please note: For part-time positions, please convert the salary to a full-time equivalent.  For example: If the store has a bookseller working 20 hours a week at $15 per hour, please  enter $15 per hour x 40 hours a week x 52 weeks as the annual salary ($31,200). If you have staff wearing more than one of these "hats," and it makes it difficult to define, feel  free to skip this question.

29. What is the minimum wage rate in your municipality (or state)?

Enter the minimum wage rate.  A lot of the stores would rather compare their payroll percentage with the municipality’s minimum wage.

30. What is your starting wage rate for booksellers at your location(s)?

You can use this information to compare your rate with your peer groups.

31. What is the Living Wage in your area (use MIT calculator)?

If you have locations in multiple states, report the average living wage. Please pick the option Single with no dependents for this year. MIT’s Living Wage Calculator estimates the local wage rate that a full-time worker requires to cover the costs of their family’s basic needs where they live. Providing this information will enable you to compare your financials with stores in communities with a similar living wage when you receive your final ABACUS report.

32. Owner(s) Compensation

Bookstore owners want to know whether they are paying themselves fair wages for the industry. Owners have varying levels of involvement in the day-to-day  operation/management of the bookstores though so in an attempt to offer meaningful data and compare apples-to-apples for benchmarking purposes, we are  asking for the information below from ACTIVE OWNERS ONLY. (As opposed to passive owners who are invested in the business but not involved in the day-to-day  operations and decisions.) Active owners can find their income under “owners compensation” on the income statement (line 7 of 1120S and line 12 of 1120) Specify the number of hours. So, for example, if you work 50 hours a week. This may include time dedicated to functions related to buying,  bookseller, finances/accounting, marketing, management/administrative, etc. Specify the total amount of funds the active owners received from the business. This will  include compensation received for the work referenced in the previous section of the question as well as draws paid out to the active owners. This includes salaries, funds withdrawn, etc. The third part of this question will give owners an idea if they are under or over paying for their tasks, such as bookkeeping.


Section 2: Income Statement (Fiscal Year 2023)

Note: Use this Chart of Accounts to reference line item data needed to fill out the ABACUS survey. Please remember these account numbers are only valid if you are using ABA's suggested chart of accounts. Otherwise please ask your accountant for the account numbers.

Questions 1-3: Book Sales

1. New book sales (GL acct #’s 400XXX to 410XXX)

Specify the sales numbers based on the sales account number. If you don't sell new books, write 0. Please include net sales for this question. Total sales minus return.

2. Used book sales (GL acct #’s 403XXX)

Specify the sales numbers based on the sales account number. If you don't sell used books, write 0. Please include net sales for this question. Total sales minus return.

3. Total book sales (GL acct #’s 400XXX to 410XXX)

This line will be self calculated.

Questions 4-13: Non-Book Sales

4. Calendars (GL acct #’s 406XXX)

This data is found on account number 406,xxx.

5. Food / beverage/wine/beer or cafe sales (GL acct #’s 400XXX to 410XXX)

This data is found on account numbers 400,xxx to 410,xxx.

6. Non-book merchandise (GL acct #’s 406XXX)

This data reflects non-book gift merchandise or "sidelines"—cards, stationery, jewelry, tote bags, t-shirts, puzzles, games, toys,  plush, candles, socks, etc. Do not include food/beverage on this line.

7. Total non-book sales (Sum of Lines 4 through 6)

This line will be self calculated.

8. Total Net Sales (Line 3 plus Line 7)

This line will be self calculated.

9. Cost of Goods Sold - Book-specific (GL acct #’s 501XXX to 519xxx)

This data is found on account numbers 501,xxx to 509,xxx. If your store does not separate COGS between book and non-book items, you can provide an estimate of 50% of the total COGS here.

10. Freight on returns (GL acct #’s 512XXX to 513XXX)

This data is usually found on account number 512,xxx to 513,xxx. If you use Fedex you can calculate by deducting the amount paid for shipments returned to publishers.

11. Cost of Goods Sold - Non-book

The data is usually found in account number 505,xxx to 509,xxx. 

12. Total Cost of Goods Sold

This line will be self calculated.

13. Gross Margin

This line will be self calculated.

Questions 14-17: Personnel Expenses

14. Owner compensation

This question is similar to question 22 from the earlier section. For those that worked in the business - exclude comp paid to passive owners. Active owners can find their income under “owners compensation” on the income statement (line 7 of 1120S and line 12 of 1120) along with draw. Draw is not included on line 7 of 1120S.

15. Wages/Salaries of employees (GL acct #’s 601XXX to 603XXX)

This data is found on account numbers 601,xxx to 603,xxx.

16. Other personnel expenses (GL acct #’s 604XXX to 609XXX)

All other personnel expenses like Payroll taxes (FICA, FUTA, SUTA, and other local payroll taxes, etc.), employee benefits (company paid  workers comp., health insurance, retirement plans, disability, etc.), payroll administrator expenses, retirement  plan or profit-sharing administrator expenses, training, uniforms, etc.) This data is found on account numbers 604,xxx to 609,xxx.

17. Total Personnel Expenses

This line will be self calculated.

Questions 18-22: Occupancy Expenses

18. Rent or rent value (If building is owned, use market rent value.) (GL acct #’s 611XXX)

This data is found on account number 611,xxx and line 6. If you own your bookstore. Do not include your mortgage amount. Specify the fair market value for the space in your area.

19. Repairs, maintenance, and cleaning (GL acct #’s 6125XX)

This data is found on account number 612,5xx. 

20. Utilities (gas, electric, water; NOT phone or Internet) (GL acct #’s 612XXX)

This expense does not include phone or internet charges.

21. Other occupancy expenses (CAM, real estate tax, etc.) (GL acct #’s 613XXX)

Most shopping centers charge you for Common Area Maintenance (CAM) or Operating Escalating Expenses (OPE). They divide it proportionately to each store. If you have just a flat rent, input the value here as 0. This data is found on account number 613,xxx.

22. Total Occupancy Expenses (Sum of Lines 18 through 21)

This line will be self calculated.

Questions 23-39: Other Operating Expenses

23. Advertising and promotions expenses (GL acct #’s 621XXX to 626XXX)

This data is found on account numbers 621,xxx to 626,xxx. A note about LESS Co-op dollars: These are funds publishers give you for retail display. It is your money to use, so don’t leave it out on the table. If your store does not keep track of this information, reach out to your publisher reps. In some cases, this value may be a negative number. This simply means that if you have not been spending on outside advertising, there is no cost associated with it. Keep track of advertising and promotions expenses so that you can compare these values with other stores of similar size.

24. Telecommunications (phone/internet/wifi) (GL acct #’s 631XXX to 633XXX)

This data is found on account numbers 631,xxx to 633,xxx.

25. Professional services (legal, accounting, etc.) (GL acct #’s 641XXX to 649XXX)

This data is found on account numbers 641,xxx to 649,xxx.

26. Office expenses, stationery, supplies (GL acct #’s 651XXX to 659XXX)

This data is found on account numbers 651,xxx to 659,xxx.

27. Depreciation & amortization (GL acct #’s 67XXXX)

Note this number if you have any assets that are not appreciated. This data is found on account number 670,xxx.

28. Travel and entertainment (GL acct #’s 68XXXX)

Specify expenses from your trips to Winter and Children's Institutes, any entertainment, any lunches with publisher reps, etc.

29. Business insurance (GL acct #’s 69XXXX)

Do not include workers comp or health insurance here. When you receive the invoice, look at liability, property, umbrella, cyber, fraud, travel, auto insurance for the value on this line. This data is found on account number 690,xxx.

30. Credit card processing fee/bank service charge(s) (GL acct #’s 7011XXX to 709XXX)
This value is usually on your bank statements or your credit card statements.
31. Dues and subscriptions (chamber of commerce, ABA dues, regional dues, etc.) (GL acct #’s 71XXXX)

This data is found on account number 710,xxx.

32. Postage/Shipping Expense (GL acct #’s 73XXXX)

Customer shipping charges net of any postage and handling fees received from customers. This does not  pertain to book returns to publishers. This value  can be a negative number in some cases. For example, if you ship items to your customers and charge them a handling fee, but your actual postage is less than what customers paid. This data is found on account number 730,xxx. 

33. Miscellaneous taxes (GL acct #’s 903XXX)

Include any miscellaneous fees that your township may charge. For example, business privilege tax, township flat business fee, city occupancy tax, required tourist  district tax, etc. This data is found on account number 903,xxx.

34. Web expenses (GL acct #’s 66XXXX)

Include ecommerce platform vendor fees only (like IndieCommerce or IndieLite). Do not include internet  service costs in this field.

35. Other IT related expenses (GL acct #’s 66XXXX)

Include other IT related expenses not reported elsewhere, such as: repairs, tech support vendors, POS costs, ADA  compliance support, and other costs to support your store’s technology. This data is found on account number 660,xxx.

36. All other operating expenses (include any operating expenses not included above) (GL acct #’s 78XXXX)

All other operating expenses should be mentioned in this field. This data is found on account number 780,xxx. 

37. Total Other Operating Expenses (Sum of Lines 23 through 36)

This line will be self calculated.

38. Total Operating Expenses (Line 17 + Line 22 + Line 37)

This line will be self calculated.

39. Net Operating Profit (Line 13 minus Line 38)

This line will be self calculated.


Questions 40-45: Other Non-Operating Income/Expenses

40. Proceeds

Mentioned how much money did you get from in this line.

41. COVID Relief Funds (Government Grants, Employee Retention Credits (ERC), Etc.)

Mention if you received any funds from the government that you do not have to pay back.

42. Other Income (GL acct #’s 800XXX to 819XXX)

This line pertains to any income with no related costs. This can include licensing  revenue for airport store partnerships (w/ Hudson, for example), film shoots, sponsorships, room rentals,  sales tax rebates (for filing on time), or other income generated passively i.e., there are no related costs. Also include income from any previous depreciated assets that you sold. This data is found on account numbers 800,xxx to 819,xxx.

43. Interest expense(s) (GL acct #’s 821XXX to 823XXX)

Any loans that you have on the store that incur an interest expense will go on this line. This data is found on account numbers 821,xxx to 823,xxx.

44. Other Expenses (GL acct #’s 823XXX to 829XXX)

Mention any other expense that didn't have operating costs. 

45. Net Income (or Loss) Before Taxes (Line 39 plus Lines 40 through 42 minus Lines 43 and 44)

This line will be self calculated.



We are happy to assist stores with filling out the form or answering questions. Stores that want a confidential conversation with someone outside of ABA  may call Greg Manns, CPA, Vice President of Industry Insights, at (380) 215-1074 or email him at for assistance. Industry  Insights can answer questions and/or walk you through the form as you fill it out. You’re also welcome to contact ABA CFO P.K. Sindwani at [email protected] with questions. Watch BTW for education sessions or go to for sessions with PK to help walk through the process. 


Last Revised: June 24, 2024

About ABA

The American Booksellers Association, a national not-for-profit trade organization, works with booksellers and industry partners to ensure the success and profitability of independently owned book retailers, and to assist in expanding the community of the book.

Independent bookstores act as community anchors; they serve a unique role in promoting the open exchange of ideas, enriching the cultural life of communities, and creating economically vibrant neighborhoods.


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