Ken Hutton

Author of ‘Social card games’

The give and take of double entry bookkeeping

The majority of this article consists of an introduction to the traditional approach to accounting and bookkeeping. It explains the difference between real, personal and nominal accounts and how transactions between these accounts can record the exchanges of value within a business, and between the business and other individuals and organisations. Following this is a description of how the more recent accounting equation approach differs from the traditional approach, some pros and cons of the two, and an explanation of the author's own preference. The article is a little over 2 600 words and may take about ten minutes to read, plus thinking time.

A set of accounts should be kept for a clearly defined individual or organisation. For brevity I will be talking about the accounts of a shop or a more generic business. Most of this applies to individuals and other kinds of organisation too, and the differences will mostly be about terminology and regulations. However, the accounts of different individuals and organisations shouldn't be mixed. A for-profit business will have one or more accounts for money invested by the owner(s), for example, but the rules for these are different to the accounts in the owner's private books that represent the same investment.

Accounts in the traditional approach

A business will need to keep track of three broad categories of account: real, personal and nominal.

  • Real accounts represent what a business owns.
    • Tangible assets like shelves, stationery, machines, inventory to be sold, or cash in a safe.
    • Intangible assets like copyright, patents, trademarks or goodwill. The law and practice of precisely what these are and how they are valued is beyond the scope of this article. The gist is that they affect the value of a business in the same way that tangible assets would, but they are not physical objects that you can touch.
  • Personal accounts represent what is owed by, or to, a business.
    • Natural personal accounts represent individuals such as the owner, a staff member, the window cleaner, or an artisan that supplies a shop with goods for sale.
    • Artificial personal accounts represent organisations such as a bank, wholesaler, or recycling company.
    • Representative personal accounts group accruals or deferrals together for convenience or discretion, such as unpaid invoices, advances on staff wages or credit card sales.
  • Nominal accounts represent the shop's income and expenses. At the end of the financial year the nominal accounts will all be transferred to a profit and loss account, with nothing carried over to the next financial year.

Of course, calling organisations, accruals and deferrals persons is a metaphor, but it's somewhat helpful because the different personal accounts work in a similar way. I'll come back to accruals and deferrals later.

The accounting journal

Each exchange of value between accounts is recorded as a transaction in an accounting journal. That might be an interaction with a supplier, customer or service provider, or it might be a shift of value within the business.

Now here's the double entry part: every transaction must give to one or more accounts and take from one or more accounts, and the total amount given must equal the total amount taken. It follows from this that if you add up everything given across all accounts and everything taken across all accounts, the two totals should be equal. Any difference represents a mistake. It's possible to make mistakes that balance, but checking if the totals match will catch a lot of errors.

What does it mean to give to, or take from, an account?

  • Giving to real accounts increases what the shop has.
  • Giving to personal accounts increases what the person has, or decreases what the shop has of theirs.
  • Giving to nominal accounts increases the shop's expenses or decreases income (nominally).
  • Taking from an account does the opposite.

What do you mean, nominally?

While some small businesses will account on a cash basis – simply noting when money is given or taken – this can give a misleading view of the state of that business's finances. So many businesses choose to use something called the accruals method. Under UK law, and in many (most?) jurisdictions, larger businesses are required by law to use the accruals method.

  • When an invoice has been received, but not yet paid, an expense has been accrued.
  • When an invoice has been issued, but payment has not been taken, income has been accrued.
  • When a payment has been made in advance, the income or expense may be deferred until the goods are delivered or the services rendered.
  • When a payment is made for something that will have benefits beyond a single accounting period – to the business or those it deals with – part of the expense may be deferred.

Accruals and deferrals are given to, or taken from, representative personal accounts. Accruals will later be transferred to real accounts as the payments are made, or to a nominal bad debt account if it becomes clear that they will not be paid. Deferrals will be transferred to the nominal accounts when deliveries are made or services rendered, or in installments over the period the products or services are used.

All of these accruals and deferrals are handled with transactions that try to make the nominal account represent the true value of business activities over time. Try to – to say that these accounts are nominal is to acknowledge that some adjustments may still need to be made for accruals and deferrals, before completely accurate financial reports may be generated. When the accounting year ends, the nominal accounts can be finalised. Then their give and take totals are transferred to the profit and loss account. The new financial year begins with no give or take in any nominal account – though accruals and deferrals may be waiting to be transferred at the appropriate time.

The day book and end of day accounting

Rather than fill the accounting ledger(s) with tiny transactions, a shop will normally keep a day book. This is a simple, single entry, list of transactions dealt with through the day. Typically it would be handled by an electronic till (cash register), but paper and pen may be necessary if the till fails. The shop's day book will record sales (cash and card), and returns. It might also record other expenses (stationery, refreshments, window cleaner) and whether they have been paid or accrued. In either case an invoice or receipt will normally be kept as evidence.

Other businesses may have fewer transactions to deal with, and record them directly in a double entry accounting journal. Or they may keep a book for a longer period such as a week or month, before accounting for the transactions in the journal.

Below are some example transactions for the end of a shop's trading day. The account names will vary from one business to another, and so might the typical series of transactions. These example transactions describe just one way of doing things.

  • Total cash sales are given to personal→uncounted-cash and total card sales are given to personal→accrued→cards. Total sales, both cash and credit, are taken from nominal→sales.
  • Not all of the sale price is profit, so another transaction is needed to account for the purchase price of the goods sold. The purchase price is given to nominal→sales and taken from real→inventory. This may be done automatically at the end of day if every item sold is known. That may be possible because few high cost items are sold or because every item has a barcode. Otherwise this will be done after stock-checks, with the purchase prices for a week or more's sales accounted for at once.
  • The cost of tea and biscuits bought with petty cash from the till is given to nominal→refreshments and taken from personal→uncounted-cash.
  • The window cleaner left an invoice which has not yet been paid. The amount owed is given to nominal→maintenance and taken from personal→windows, a deferral account.
  • The price of any items returned to the store is given to nominal→returns and taken from personal→uncounted-cash or personal→accrued→cards.
  • Like most shops, this one uses a cash float – an amount of cash in mixed denominations to put in the till at the start of each day. Now, at the end of the day, this is counted out into a cash box. Then the remaining cash is counted. A transaction is prepared that takes the net amount given to personal→uncounted-cash from that account and gives the amount counted to real→cash→safe. As always the amount given in the transaction should equal the amount taken. If not then the duty manager can try to correct the discrepancy – it could have been a miscount. If the transaction must be completed with an unresolved discrepancy then it can be given to, or taken from, personal→cash-discrepancies.

Debit and credit

That's the basics of maintaining double entry accounts the traditional way, except for one more tradition. What I've referred to as giving to an account is normally called debiting, and what I've referred to as taking from an account is normally called crediting. So why not call them give and take, as I have so far? Debit and credit are recognised internationally, while give and take are English words. Also accountants and bookkeepers are normally trained using the words debit and credit. So for good communication you may wish to use the conventional terms. But if you're accounting for your own business or your personal finances, then it's up to you.

The accounting equation approach

The accounting equation referred to in accounting equation approach is Assets = Liabilities + Capital, or for an accounting period, Assets = Liabilities + Capital + (Income - Expenses). I put the last two in brackets because, taken together, they are the change in capital over the course of the accounting period – profit or loss.

The nominal accounts have been split – those expected to be in debit have become expense accounts and those expected to be in credit have become income accounts. In the jargon of this approach, the expense accounts are debit accounts and the income accounts are credit accounts. Each of these accounts has a single total instead of two. When you credit a debit account, or debit a credit account, you subtract from the total. So it is now possible for one of these accounts to have a negative total, which normally represents an unusual or problematic state. For example if more goods are returned to a shop than it sells over some accounting period, it's income→sales account might be negative.

It won't be obvious from the equation alone, but personal accounts expected to be in debit are separated from other personal accounts in this approach. These join the real accounts as asset accounts. The owner(s)'s investment is also separated as one or more capital accounts. The remaining personal accounts are liability accounts. Natural, artificial and representative personal accounts are all split up like this. The asset accounts are debit accounts, like expenses, and the capital and liability accounts are credit accounts, like income.

Comparing the approaches

The tendency for accounts with a problem to have negative totals is considered an advantage of the accounting equation approach. It relies on creditors and debtors being separated into different account types though. So if one individual or organisation is both a supplier and a customer, the accountant must either try to predict whether the net balance will be in debit or credit, or set up two accounts for that one natural or artificial person. The former may result in accounts being negative where there is really no problem, and the latter makes it just a little harder to assess the business's relationship with the person in question. Nevertheless, negative balances can be useful warning signs for many businesses.

One disadvantage of the accounting equation approach – in the author's opinion – is that mixing personal and real accounts under assets makes the meaning of debit and credit a little more confusing. Debiting an asset account means something a little different depending on whether the account represents the business's own assets or those of a natural, artificial or representative person. It also results in a potentially misleading view of the business's financial security. Money owed to a business is not the same as money in it's possession, especially if the debtor is confused – or dishonest – about the security of their own finances.

It has been claimed that the accounting equation approach is easier than the traditional approach. This isn't really true if you understand both approaches. Assets = Liabilities + Capital + (Income - Expenses) doesn't really tell you anything more than the sum of all debits should equal the sum of all credits. You could just as easily separate the traditional accounts in debit (debit > credit) from those in credit, and say Real + Personal-Debits = Personal-Credits + (Nominal-Credits - Nominal-Debits), if you wanted to express the traditional approach in a similar equation. The real accounts should always be in debit.

The author's preferred approach

You may have guessed which approach I would recommend, but you may be wrong. If I had to do all my accounting with pen and paper I would prefer to use the traditional approach, but – bit of a boast – I own a computer. With much of the work of accounting being automated, I prefer to set accounts up for both approaches. Each account gets three identifiers: a short, descriptive label that I can refer to in my accounting journals; a label that categorises the account by the traditional approach; and a label that categorises it by the accounting equation approach. I keep spaces out of the short label so that my text editor can offer better auto­completion, while the other labels are better suited for labelling reports. Some accounts get combined for the traditional approach, so a shop might have accrued_card_sales and accrued_card_returns both point to Personal → Card accruals.

The transactions in my journals list debits and credits, which can be added directly to the debits and credits of my traditional accounts. For the accounting equation accounts, one of debit or credit must be converted to a negative number. For the debit accounts – assets and expenses – credit becomes negative, and for the credit accounts – liabilities, capital and income – debit becomes negative.

Once the reports are nicely set up, generating basic reports based on both approaches should be as simple as typing make reports, clicking a button, or they can be automatically generated. Getting accurate reports – especially if they must be suitable for publishing at the end of the financial year – may also require adjustment transactions to finalise the nominal accounts or correct errors.

Final words

There is more to accounting than this – I've barely touched on legal regulations and reporting, and haven't even mentioned tax, depreciation, amortisation or dividends. Most organisations will make use of professional accountants to do anything more complex than I've described here, and some will let accountants do most of what I have described. But hopefully I've at least made the meaning of debit and credit a little clearer for some people.

Ken Hutton qualified as a bookkeeper and studied the fundamentals of accounting in 2011, with the Open University in the UK.


My website will go through some changes this year. A new landing page is on the way and I will begin to post some longform articles. Perhaps some poetry and short fiction too.

In the meantime, I'm offering my services as a freelance writer over on I can write, not just about social and family friendly games, but also on Dorset and the English countryside, poetry, free software, programming in guile, gawk and sed, and mathematics including arithmetic, algebra, geometry, and graph and network theory. Other gigs will follow. Pop on over if you need something.


Social card games is still available and will remain so for the foreseeable future. The ISBNs are listed in the footer of this website and most bookshops will order the book for you if you ask them, or you can search online. Thanks to everyone who has bought a copy, I hope you are enjoying the games. Sales are not high enough for me to stop seeking other work, but every book purchased is appreciated. Although I've been working in other sectors, recently I've been looking towards publishing again. A couple of ideas for my next book are taking shape – one is gaming related and the other is about craft and design. I don't plan to dedicate myself to either of them just yet. Writing and self publishing the book was a good project through recovery, lockdowns and social distancing, but it's lonely work. My short term plan is to work freelance, writing, editing, and other publishing services.

I have been working on some software to make future books a little easier to publish though. It builds on the file converters I wrote for Social card games and should make it easier to manage multiple formats and editions. It will be helpful for maintaining my website and blog feeds too. So I haven't given up on writing more books, it's just not the next step for me.

I'm not going to make big promises about what will appear on this blog over the coming year. But if I find the time and the confidence then I have some ideas for articles about craft – both digital and physical. Programming, crochet, cooking… I might put some short fiction or poetry up here too. If it becomes a real mixed bag I'll set up filtered atom feeds so you can subscribe to just the content you want. No promises on how much content there will be though. Until I can earn a living from writing I can't let it become too stressful.

A look back at creating Social card games

It's less than a week now until the release of Social card games on the 16th. So I thought I'd take a look back at how I got this far.

2019 I was sick – all year. It started with a nasty chest infection that struck very suddenly and left me struggling to breathe. I won't bore you with the many unpleasant complications that came during the waiting lists, but they eventually decided it must have been a virus because they hadn't found anything else. For reasons that baffled and infuriated me they told me the exhaustion I was left with was post viral fatigue, but that they “don't like” to diagnose it.

Anyway, it was somewhere in the midst of all that pain, exhaustion and confusion that I started working on the book. Late Spring would be my guess, but I didn't actually start journalling my progress until the Summer of 2020.

Date: Sun Jun 21 09:49:41 2020 +0100

Time to ring some changes

I don't know why I haven't been tracking revisions so far. But I'm about to embark on some serious restructuring of the book, so it seemed a good idea to initialise a repository.

That message refers to my decision to use a piece of software called git. It's normally used by software developers – especially free software developers – to collaborate on a project. It is both the means of sharing their work with each other and of tracking changes and additions over time. For my book I was interested in it for the latter – it would be my journal and a series of historical versions of the book as I edited it. I thought it would help me discipline myself to take notes of what I was doing during the editing process and it would make it possible to undo changes that I regretted.

The “serious restructuring” I referred to was my solution to a roadblock I'd hit. The most obvious way to structure a book like this is to split the games up into categories and have a chapter for each. So in June 2020 I had chapters on trick taking games, shedding games, capture games, melding games, fishing games and – inevitably – miscellaneous games. Within each of these chapters I had sorted the games from the simplest to the most complex. But I found the resulting order of the games unsatisfying.

There are common rules and concepts that pop up in different games and they aren't necessarily limited to one of these categories. Some of the trick taking games had rules in common with shedding games and fishing games. But then the fishing games had rules in common with the melding games. So whatever order I put the chapters in I had lots of page references to simpler games in later chapters. The categories that had seemed to make so much sense before, now seemed arbitrary and unhelpful.

I dug up another set of free software – graphviz – and started building up a “digraph” of these common rules and concepts and the games that contained them. A digraph (short for directed graph) is just a bunch of things (jargon: vertices) with arrows pointing from one to another (jargon: arcs). I was like one of those movie detectives who gets busted off the case and covers the wall of his apartment in index cards connected by lengths of coloured yarn. I knew there was a pattern and I was determined to find it.

I naïvely thought I'd have the book finished by Christmas. It was getting close to the current form by November and I worked quite intensely that month, going over each game to make sure the explanations were clear and the jargon was consistent throughout the book. I found more commonalities between the games as I went and continued to tweak the order, even inventing another simple game – then called boneface, now thirty-one bones – because I thought that cribbage was introducing too many rules in one go. I quite like thirty-one bones as a kids game, or a quick and easy game while waiting for all the players to settle for the main event.

By the end of January I had gone through all the games in this way, and February saw me arranging things in a page size that Ingram Spark would work with and sketching up ideas for the cover and the shuffling illustrations.

Date: Sat Feb 13 18:15:25 2021 +0000

Assorted edits

Intro and capture games mainly. I'm a bit staggered by the amount of faff that creating an ebook will be. Probably should have looked into it much sooner. Mawkeb will make it easier to produce LaTeX and XML from the same source, but I don't want to put this book on hold for too long. So now I need to replace all the kooky Lua stuff that's hard to convert and create XML versions of all the sections. If I make it my day job for the coming week I should be able to get it done.

A week? Maybe it was good to keep thinking the end was just over the next ridge. After that week I decided it would be easier to semi-manually convert everything to xhtml for the ebook and write a program to convert that to a format that could be typeset for print.

Mawkeb is a pipe dream – some software I intend to write to make my life a little easier in the long run. I think I'll make a start on it after Christmas.

Date: Mon Mar 1 15:03:50 2021 +0000

Script and makefile for pdf via context +various

Lots of little things I found as I was setting up the conversion. Still need to pick through with a fine tooth comb and make sure I meet the distributors requirements, but it's looking OK. For the first time in a month I feel like I'm further ahead than I was.

Date: Wed Mar 3 15:34:02 2021 +0000

Improved epub package

Epub now works in fbreader and 'book reader'. Sigil recognises at least the main metadata.

There we go. March this year I had a working, if slightly buggy, ebook. I built it up from scratch pretty much, poring over the specifications for the different files that get zipped together to make an epub. I typed some of them, and wrote little gawk programs to generate others from the main book file – the navigation (contents) is done this way. Sadly this was a version 3.2 epub, and I would later discover I had to downgrade it to version 3.0 for the distributor. The developers have made some real improvements for version 3.2, not least to the documentation.

Another big pass of editing took me into April, which is also when I started work on this website. Around the end of April is when I got the first advance copies printed. Which led to another pass of editing – there are just things that pop out on a printed page that I wasn't seeing on my screen. I took the old school approach of going through the text with a red pencil.

It was around then I started getting anxiety attacks. Between my fear of exposing the book to the public, my fear of failure, my fear of getting back out after lockdown and my frustration with online dating, it all got a bit much for me for a while. I had planned to release the book in the Summer but I postponed it to November, cut back on the online dating – no new contacts for a while at least – and concentrated on reconnecting with friends and generally getting myself back into the world. It felt terrible at the time to delay the release but it was the right decision.

Now I've had problems with social anxiety before, so I at least had the confidence that if I'd beat it once, I could beat it again. I'm nervous about the book's release, but not terrified. Even if it doesn't earn me a fortune I can never say it has been a total failure. I have created a book that I'm proud of and learned a whole lot along the way. I may be a long way from matching my wildest dreams about pre-sales and media buzz, but people who see the book often want to buy it, so it could still be a sleeper hit. Who knows? I won't be giving up on it any time soon.

I shall be visiting Bridport literary festival over the next couple of days. Then I'll push on and finish the large print version. Sorry if anyone's waiting for it, it won't be out at the same time as the paperback, as I had hoped. I still need to get some feedback on a few things that aren't covered by the guides I've read. Then when the inside is finished I'll need to create the cover file. It might take a week, but if you've read this far you know how over-optimistic I can be about how quickly I'll finish a book.

Preordering on the high street, availability of the ebook, and progress on the large print version.

Yesterday I listed some of the web sites where you can preorder the book. This morning I went into town to see how easy it is to order the book from my local book shop. It turned out to be even easier than searching for it online. Once I got over the anxiety that preordering my own book was somehow illicit, I asked at the counter. With only the title of the book they found it on their system within a few seconds, with the cover on the screen and everything. I was rumbled when they asked for my name and they were too kind to want to sell a copy to the author, but I'll be surprised if you have any difficulty supporting your local book store by ordering the book there.

So what if you want to preorder the ebook? I uploaded an epub edition to Ingram Spark for them to convert into various media types for different ebook reader apps and devices.

Ingram should be making the ebook available through many other retailers. I already spotted the kobo version yesterday on a canadian website, chapters/indigo, when I was looking for the paperback. As you might expect then, it's also available on the kobo website . I imagine you can preorder direct from your Kobo device, but I don't have the kit to test that.

Sorry to say that the ebook will not be available through Amazon's ebook store. They will only sell the book if they are given an extra discount over the competition. What this would mean in practice is putting the list price of the book up so that everyone who doesn't buy through Amazon would have to pay more. That just doesn't seem like fair business to me so I have declined their contract. If Amazon want to offer the ebook they'll just have to accept the same deal as everyone else. I have read that the epub edition can be “sideloaded” on to the Kindle Fire, but I'm not sure about other versions of the Kindle.

I'm not too sure about Apple iTunes either. Again they expect a separate deal to other companies. I haven't seen anything too objectionable about it, but neither have I found the time to read and make sense of their contract. There are apps for iPhones and iPads to read epub ebooks.

There is an epub version available to preorder from The distributor will have encrypted it with DRM , but it should work through a web browser or one of the following devices:

You might also be able to preorder directly through some of those devices. I'm not seeing it on Google Play yet and I don't own an ebook reader. I'm old fashioned in some ways and I like the printed book. Then again it has been nice having pre-release versions on my phone for almost-any-time almost-any-place reference.

Update on the large print version

I haven't forgotten about this, it's just taking time. I've got a rough version ready with 18 point sans serif font (TeX Gyre Heros), bold or regular text and no italics, underlining or smallcaps, wide margins on larger pages, ragged-right block paragraphs with no first-line indents, no hyphenation (there's none in the standard edition either), and thicker lines between sections. I'm looking at printing it as an A4 hardback on cream paper.

There is still more to do though. I think the hand written example score sheets in the standard paperback will need to be replaced with printed tables for the large print. I've enlarged the illustrations in the shuffling section, but I need to consider how they will look on cream paper and seek some feedback on whether partially sighted people can make sense of them.

Finally I need to “jiggle things around” so that fewer paragraphs and lists get split awkwardly between pages. ConTeXt did a pretty good job of placing them automatically for the standard edition, but with such large text and all the extra whitespace I'm getting about half as many words on the page. That's making ConTeXt struggle – perhaps I can save myself some time by giving it more leeway to put extra whitespace between paragraphs, but I may just need to insert page breaks manually.

None of this should stop me getting the large print version ready by the November 16th release date, but it will be a little while yet before you can preorder it.

Preorder now

Social card games is now available to preorder. I took a look around the web today and found preorders open on the sites listed below. I expect others will join them soon.

You should be able to preorder through your local independent or chain bookshop too, the ISBN will help there: 978-1-9168759-1-3. I'll be trying this out tomorrow to see how easy it is at my local book shop.

So here are some links for those that want to preorder online:

United Kingdom

Note: if you preorder through then check the seller options. At time of writing the default is to order the book from Amazon US, but there is already a seller offering to sell it from within Australia. Ingram will print the book in Australia, so there is no need to pay extra to import it.

Book finished – to be released 16th November

I don't know if these times are as anxiety provoking for you as they have been for me, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who found coming out of lockdown hard this time. I had intended to put a lot more effort into drumming up publicity for this book but that was just heaping stress on top of stress. So I guess this book is going out with no more fanfare than I can rustle up in the next month and a bit.

It's not all bad news though – the book is finally finished. I have been going through an advance copy looking for any remaining errors, inconsistencies and unclear explanations. It's amazing how much leaps out from the printed page that I just wasn't seeing on my computer screen. Then I needed to rewrite the preface as a lot has happened since I drafted one back in April. Finally I had to fix the back cover – the line spacing in the blurb just looked horrible and it was time to remove the ARC label.

I was quite pleased with the look and feel of the advance copy. The matte finish on the cover looks almost like my hand drawings. The pages seem glued in securely – I gave the spine a good tug and bent it back and it doesn't seem like pages are going to be falling out like they did on some of my old University textbooks and computer manuals. The typography looks good to me too – the way the text is laid out on the pages.

There were issues here and there with a couple of lines sticking out into the margins and a few things being split onto separate pages that I wanted to keep together. But only a handful of manual interventions were necessary – ConTeXt has done a pretty good job in spite of me switching off hyphenation. With the microtype features of TeX Gyre fonts it was able to automatically tweak not only the space between words but also the letter spacing and even the shape of letters. None of that should be too obvious as you read the book, but it has made it possible to never split a word across two lines – something I've always found quite ugly. I have much less control with the ebook, which will appear very differently depending on the reading device and software, and on the readers settings. Many ebook readers will ignore my CSS entirely.

There is now a press kit containing a quick summary of the books metadata, followed by several lengths of book description and author bio, a sample Q&A and the contents list from the book. The sample has been updated too.

PS – I realise the contact form for the mailing list I promised still hasn't materialised. To be honest I just haven't looked at the web site for a while. Once I'm sure the book is properly set up for pre orders I will take another look at it, apologies if that is too late for this book. There's always the atom feed.

Delays and progress.

Three weeks since my last post, and three excuses:

  1. Covid restrictions are easing in the UK. This has meant giving myself the odd day off to reconnect with friends and family, since we're not all getting together at big weekend gatherings just yet.
  2. Storms. Lots of little thunderstorms have been passing over Dorset the last few days, leading to lots of little power cuts. The electricity only goes for a few seconds but with no UPS it's made working on the website or uploading big files to the distributor awkward.
  3. Writing my own form handler program. Alright so this was my choice and not really an excuse, but I have spent quite a bit of time trying to get a little web server to cooperate with my main one (nginx). More on this at the bottom of this post.

I have now uploaded the interior and cover files for the paperback edition to Ingram Spark. The files passed the automated checks – second time – so now I just need to wait for someone there to have a quick look at them manually. Then it'll be my turn to check their eproof – sort of a print preview. After that I'll be getting a physical test copy mailed to myself before I start sending out advance copies to potential reviewers and retailers. The final version is still subject to change, depending on the feedback I receive.

The interior file is generated from the ebook in three stages. First a simple program I wrote back in January converts the xhtml to conTeXt. Then some free and open source software called GraphicsMagick scales down the scans of the illustrations. Finally the conTeXt program – also free and open source – generates a pdf from these half-way files. The upshot of this is that the ebook is essentially ready too. If I need to change the print edition I'll do so by changing the ebook first.

I might also need to add more accessibility features to the ebook. Not everyone will display it as text on a screen and read it with their eyes. A good ebook needs to be read out by screen reader software too. I've made a good start on this, but I'll be looking for online guides to see if there's more I can do. Perhaps this website needs some work on accessibility too? I've been relying on simplicity and HTML5 markup so far, but I'll read the WCAG standards soon, to see how I shape up.

The large print edition could be generated from the ebook in a similar way, but it will probably be easier to work from the conTeXt file from the smaller paperback. Hopefully it will be as simple as changing the page size and making the font a nice 18pt sans serif like TeX Gyre Heros. I can enlarge the illustrations too, or rather shrink them less. But I'll need to check through for awkward page breaks and other such problems too.

The form handler for the website is nearly done, I think. It works okay on my PC at home, I just need to get it to run on the virtual server I'm renting and to restart if it fails for any reason. I know roughly what that entails on the GNU Guix operating system I'm using, but I haven't quite managed to get it working yet. It's written in Guile Scheme, the same language that Guix is configured with, so this approach has the potential to be quite an elegant solution. I may be able to define the web app and configure the operating system it runs on in one small file. If I get it working nicely I'll share the code and write a technical post about how it works.

But I don't want this blog to be all about IT for publishers. In Britain we are now allowed to meet indoors in small groups, which means I won't have to wait for the wind to die down to get a few friends together for a game of sum-run-set or some other card game from the book. I shall let you know how that goes.

Much still to be done.

If the book ‘Social card games’ already exists then why isn't it out yet? It does exist – I have both eBook and ready-to print advance versions on my PC and I'll be uploading them to IngramSpark very soon. In fact here's a sneak peak: sample.pdf. However, I've spent much of the last two weeks coming to terms with how much work still lies ahead.

The number one piece of advice I received when people found out I was writing a book was this: “don't even think about selling it until it's finished.” Now that I'm reading about how to sell it I keep seeing that advice listed on lists of what not to do – or of advice to ignore. I'm still not sure who's right about that. If I hadn't waited I could have started sending advance copies out about two months ago, but psychologically there is a lot to be said for breaking a problem down into smaller pieces. If publicising the book made me feel overwhelmed then that might have gotten in the way of finishing it.

There's not much point in ruminating about that now though. With this experience behind me publicity will be a much earlier consideration for my next book, but I'll never know for sure which route would have lead to an earlier or more successful release for this one. Much better to look forward – so how's my todo list looking?

Create a mailing list
You can already subscribe to the blog feed, but soon I'll make news available by email too.
Set a release date
I'm thinking late August or early September but I shall have to commit to a date soon.
Press kit
I need to add a page to this website to help any other writers who want to write about me or the book. Author bios, portrait photos, book description and metadata – everything they might want to reference in one convenient place. In time it should also be a place to collect testimonials, press cuttings, and to list any awards.
Upload to IngramSpark
The standard paperback version and the eBook will be first to upload, with a large print paperback planned later.
Press releases
If a site is put on the web and no one comes to see it, does it make things public? SEO can only get you so far – what search engines really look for is pages that are already well known enough to be linked to. There are media outlets out there that might well be interested in this book, in post-lockdown socialising, in traditional pastimes or in writing and publishing using FOSS. They can't ask me if they don't know I exist.
Send out advance copies
Which of course involves deciding who to send them to.
Offer pre-purchases
Pre-purchasing will be a great way to support the book. Not just sales but a sign of people's interest that might boost the confidence of book stores.
Format large print
I had planned to offer a large print edition in 9" × 13.5", which would have the same content on each page as the standard edition. But that trim size is no longer available on IngramSpark – did I imagine it? So I shall have to pick a new size, 8.25" × 11" perhaps, and let the page count increase.
Secure .com and domains?
There are other Ken Huttons out there but right now there is no page at and my browser gives security warnings if I try to go to I shall send a query to the registrar that sold the domains. Nothing wrong with, but I don't like the idea of readers being misled if they type the wrong address.

Then of course there are the unknown unknowns, things I will need to do that haven't occurred to me yet. But that's already plenty to be getting on with.

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New book ‘Social card games’ coming soon.

Playing cards have been a part of many people's social lives since childhood. You might have played with your parents or with friends at school. Card games for many of us are familiar, even nostalgic. Those that are not raised on such games can be surprised later in life when a pack of cards is introduced to the table and everyone else just seems to know how to shuffle without dropping the cards and the rules to a dozen or more games. Whether you're looking for new games, reminders of the classics or you're just curious what all the fuss is about, Social card games will serve as a guide to 42 of the best card games to play with friends and family.

Beginning with the simple children's game of snap, new rules and concepts are introduced one or two at a time so that each game is quick and easy to learn. The complexity builds up as you progress through the book but if you have played the earlier games then nothing here will feel too complicated as you play. The games have been chosen carefully so that none of them is likely to bring conversation to a standstill and none of them require gambling or drinking to make them fun.

It is a simple matter to carry a deck or two of cards in your pocket, handbag or luggage. Even if you forget them you will have to go some distance to get away from any store that would sell you some and further still before you couldn't get a deck delivered. Many games are easy to teach to new players, even past a language barrier. It is little wonder then that card games are so popular with backpackers and other travellers, or that so many of us remember holidays that have been salvaged from bad weather by a deck of cards. I might even go so far as to say that knowing a few good card games is a valuable life-skill.

Many of these games are classics, some from the author's home nation of England and others from around the world. A few new games have been designed and are being presented for the first time in this book.

In addition to all this, the book contains:

  • Compendium matches in which a score is kept across several different card games to add variety to a session of play.
  • Short league formats to extend the number of players that can play many of the games – or just mix up the teams in a fixed partnership game.
  • Advice on keeping score with pen and paper, counters or cribbage boards.
  • Descriptions and illustrations of shuffling techniques.

Social card games is coming soon. Watch this space for further news.