When you're approaching the cliff edge, a step back is the way to go!
It's been hard assessing the BFS finances, because I don't have much information to go on, and the way money shifts back and forth between the two accounts is quite confusing. But moving the figures from the financial report to the AGM into my own spreadsheet (here's a pdf
), you can see at the bottom that, totalling the Special Publications and BFS accounts, there was an overall fall from £12,734.30 in September 2008 to £7,814.00 in September 2009 - a fall of almost £5,000.
A similar fall this year would leave us in great difficulty!
That spending included £1,386.80 for printing Houses on the Borderland, £851 for printing In Conversation and the Yearbook (which I don't think can have been the entire bill for those books, unless we got a really good deal), £900 to the writers included in the Yearbook, and £350 for non-printing work on In Conversation, a total of £3,487.80. In Conversation and Houses on the Borderland are on sale to the public, so the money spent on those was in the way of an investment, but they've still had a powerful impact on the coffers.
Having said that, it seems likely that money for Houses on the Borderland was left in the special publications account from the previous year specifically to pay for that late-running book, so that makes the drop-off look a bit worse than it actually was.
As a rough estimate, I think the BFS can afford to spend about £6 per member on special publications, if we want to keep the accounts even. Obviously we spent a lot more than that last year, and I think, although I'm not yet sure, that we've already spent more than that this year on last year's books (on additional printing costs, editorial fees, and postage costs for the yearbook), meaning the entire cost of a new yearbook would have to come out of the special publications account. I think it would be irresponsible of me to do that. It was one thing for Guy to take a calculated gamble, with the backing of the members, and with plenty of money in the bank, but it's another thing for me to do it, as temporary chair, knowing that last time the gamble didn't pay off.
I do think that a version of the yearbook could be done for £6 per member (I'd estimate last year's cost about £10) - as a paperback, slightly fewer stories, selling it also to non-members to offset costs, all those things people have suggested. But I increasingly don't think it can be this year, when the £6 has, as far as I can tell, already been spent.
Whether it happens next year will be up to whoever comes in as chair, and whoever comes in as special publications editor. If I do end up hanging on as chair, I have to be honest and say I wouldn't tie the hands of the special publications editor by insisting they produce this particular publication. If that provokes someone who really enjoyed the yearbook to step forward for either position, all the better!