New Petition Calls for Amazon to Pay Self-Published Authors via EBT, Not With Paper Checks
Here’s a story which reminds us that no matter how we might try to maintain a global focus, there are some problems which just cannot be seen from the center.
An Australian author by the name of Sarah Billington has started a new petition over on Change.org. She sells her ebooks via the Kindle Store, and she wants Amazon to stop paying her royalties in paper checks.
Yes, Amazon has apparently been paying all non-US ebook authors in paper, not in one form of electronic payment (EBT, Paypal, etc) or another. This is particularly strange when you consider that Amazon accepts credit card and bank transfers, and will even pay associates via EBT.
So why is this an issue? Well, it’s more that Sarah’s bank is charging ridiculous fees than Amazon, but whenever she gets a check from Amazon she has to pay a $25 fee to deposit it. Her very first royalty check for the Kindle Store was $17, so she in effect would have had to lose $8 and gained nothing.
And it’s not just her bank. The petition already has over 700 signatures, and other authors have chimed in that they are in a similar predicament. One remarked that the paper checks added a month long delay before he got paid:
The current system means I have to wait a minimum of 100 days for my payment; 60 days waiting period for payments set by Amazon, 10 days for the cheque to arrive and at least 30 days before the money is available in my account because the cheque has to be sent BACK TO AMERICA before the money is credited to my account. My preference is for EFT.
Another author is even thinking of leaving Amazon over this silly setup.
As an author based in the UK I also find this system cumbersome and expensive. I doubt I am the only none US author to seriously consider leaving Amazon behind me due to this ridiculous discrimination. It’s like this one part of Amazon seems to still be operating in the 20th century.
It’s almost as if this one part of Amazon is still operating in the 20th century. What’s next, Amazon; are you going to start making deliveries by steam ship? How retro do you plan to go?
The truly puzzling part about this news is that it has gone on for as long as there has been a Kindle Store (I found references from 2010 and 2011), but also that there’s no clear reason for this decision. I doubt that there are any federal regulations blocking this; Smashwords has been paying international authors via Paypal for nearly as long as Amazon has been using paper checks.
If you would like to sign the petition, head n over to Change.org.
Ralph Hummel October 29, 2012 um 12:37 pm
Don’t get me wrong, I like Amamzon as a company, so I find this kind of behaviour a little… strange in this day and age, but there could be a financially driven explanation behind this.
What got me thinking was the example given of the Australian author and the succint information that banks all over the world charge very high fees for cashing in checks in what I suppose a foreign currency.
A clever accountant could have worked out that a lot of checks for small amounts of money will simply not be cashed in, which, in return means a higher profit margin as Amazon has issued the check, not their problem if it is cashed or not.
All they have to do is create a reserve in their balance sheet which can be released after one year or two and converts itself into a cash reserve. Imagine 10.000 or 100.000 checks of $15-$20 each… Not much compared with their overall earnings but still not bad.
Then again, I might be totally wrong, and I sincerely hope I am, and there are other reasons.
Thomas October 31, 2012 um 1:27 pm
It’s in Amazon’s best interest to delay payments for as long as possible. The time between issuing the check and actually sending payment is called the float in banking term. The longer the float, the more interest Amazon accumulates on your money. It’s the same reason rebates are usually processed on an out of the way bank to add a few extra days.
Richard Herley October 29, 2012 um 1:22 pm
It’s a nuisance. My bank charges £8 to cash a foreign cheque (note the quaint spelling!) Moreover, Amazon and Smashwords are obliged to withhold 30% US tax so Mr Obama can buy the nation another battleship 🙂
fjtorres October 29, 2012 um 2:44 pm
In the interest of "accuracy" the US doesn’t build Battleships anymore. And the current aircraft carriers are being financed by the chinese.
*Your* money is going to Amtrak, the rail system nobody uses. 😉
Lynne Connolly October 29, 2012 um 2:16 pm
Have you checked the price of electronic bank transfers? They cost the sender and the recipient, and they could be around £25.
My bank recently charged me £50 to cash one check. Needless to say, I changed my bank. Most banks charge around £10 to change a dollar check to sterling, but it’s really less an Amazon thing, more a bank thing. They all do it, and since they also don’t give you the market exchange rate, they’re making money hand over fist.
The IRS charges the 30%, but if you’re not a US resident, you can get an ITIN, fill in a W8-BEN form and send it to Smashwords and any other US people who pay you. Then they can give you the total. Go to the IRS site for details.
Nate Hoffelder October 29, 2012 um 2:29 pm
"Have you checked the price of electronic bank transfers? They cost the sender and the recipient, and they could be around £25."
Okay, then what is it called when both Google and Amazon pay me by direct deposit and Amazon allows me to pay via the same method? That cannot possible cost enough for it to matter, and there is little reason to not pay non-US authors the same way.
Lynne Connolly October 29, 2012 um 5:00 pm
It’s called being in the same country and getting the cheques in the same denomination as your bank account.
But SWIFTBAN, which is the international electronic transfer method, costs a bundle, at both ends – it costs the sender and the recipient. If you get a dollar payment and you have a sterling or AUS dollar bank account, you have to pay.
I get my Amazon cheques in sterling, so I just bank it. Not sure why others don’t, because I sell more in dollars than pounds, but they send it all in pounds. Maybe because my Amazon account is based in the UK? Not sure.
But I do get dollar checks from other people, and they are a pain to cash, plus expensive. I would love a US bank account, where I could allow the money to accumulate and transfer over from time to time, but since 9/11 that’s really difficult for a non resident.
Fbone October 29, 2012 um 6:21 pm
I’m not sure if this works for you but Citibank UK allows you to open a US dollar current account. They give you a check book which you can transfer funds into and out.
Lynne Connolly November 4, 2012 um 7:45 pm
Thanks! That’s how I do it. There’s still a fee, even if you pay a dollar check into a dollar account, but it’s the best I’ve come across so far. And you avoid bank charges, apart from the fee, if you keep a minimum of $3,000 in the account.
Plus, if you do visit the States, you can get your primary account switched from sterling to dollars, and then use your debit card as a dollar one, including cash machines, which is really useful.
Paul Salvette October 30, 2012 um 12:49 am
For those of us in the so-called "Developing" countries, cashing a foreign check is a huge pain. It costs about $50 and takes at least 6 weeks (using Thailand as an example). For all of PayPal’s problems (there horrendous API is one prominent example), they do a pretty good job of moving money around from country to country. They also have pretty good rates on foreign currency conversion. Thanks for the tip, and I will definitely be signing this petition.
Tim Gray October 30, 2012 um 3:54 am
I’m really surprised to hear this. My sales channels for RPGs, based in the US, have been paying me by Paypal for years. It pretty much just works.