Episode 17: That Time Amazon Did And Didn’t Pay Me

365 Dates of Travel Podcast

Transcript for Episode 17: That Time Amazon Did And Didn’t Pay Me

Welcome to this week’s podcast. This week I’m going back to the world of self publishing and behind the scenes about what it’s like to self publish your own book. So, an update on what’s been happening. So it’s the time where, with my book published in March, all the data is coming through for the original March sales. That’s how long it takes to get full information. 

First Amazon Payment

So, it was very exciting. I got my first Amazon payment. It was small, but it also was just for the month of March. And of course, my book didn’t come out until the 25th of March. So there’s only a few days of sales data in order to come through. But the first information that did come through only included the Australian data. At first I thought nothing of it. I thought, at some point I’m going to get the data from America. So the payment advice came through on the 21st of May, telling me that on the 29th of May I would be paid. And true to fact, on the 29th of May, Amazon made a payment into my Australian bank account. Small but exciting. 

American sales??

Yet I still hadn’t even received the payment advice for the American sales. And I know I’ve made sales in America. I think my first sale was actually by an American customer. So I definitely am owed money from those sales. That definitely happened in March. So after the money had definitely come through, I started to Google why haven’t I been paid my American royalties? And there wasn’t actually a lot of information to find, because this is a situation that only affects people outside of America. Whereas a lot of the time, particularly when it comes to self publishing, and particularly self publishing on Amazon, the majority of people are Americans who don’t have this as a problem. Most of their sales are done in America, and the money just gets put straight into their American bank account on a monthly basis without any issues whatsoever. Even if they make fifty cents of royalties that month, they will get $0.50 sent to their bank account. 

Amazon didn’t pay me

However, that’s not how it works for people outside of America. After lots of Googling and reading the extra, extra fine print on Amazon, I discovered what was happening. And I do remember researching this months and months ago. But then I also remember thinking that’s not relevant anymore. 

Australians only fairly recently were able to get money directly into their own bank accounts. So that was a new thing. I kind of disregarded a lot of the other things that I had read, thinking, that’s no longer relevant to me now that everything is going through Australia into Australian bank accounts. But I was wrong. It still was pertinent to me. And that’s the reason why Amazon did pay me, but also Amazon didn’t pay me. 

Threshold payments

So I’ve been paid for the Australian sales directly into my bank account. But any other sales on any other Amazon platform, I have to reach a threshold level before they will send me either a cheque or a wire payment into my Australian bank account. And it’s not a combined threshold. It is a threshold for every single individual site or marketplace. So I’ve been paid for the Australian marketplace. I haven’t been paid for the American marketplace, and won’t until I meet the threshold in American dollars. I won’t get paid any books bought in the UK on the UK marketplace until I reach its own threshold. And again, the same in Canada on its own threshold, in every European country on their own thresholds. And they all seem to be at the $100 mark. So I have to meet $100 in sales in the US. $100 in Canada, €100 on each individual European site, and 100 pounds on the UK site. 

Book Sales Statistics

But I’m just going to take a minute to go through some of the statistics about self-published books and just books in general. 300 million self-published books are sold each year, contributing to or adding up to $1.25 billion in sales. When you break it down, the average self-published book sells 250 lifetime copies, netting self-published authors around $1,000 per year from all their books combined. So not from each book, but from all the books they have available. But 90% of self-published books sell less than 100 copies, and 20% report no income whatsoever. 

But there are always the outliers. And so 1000 self-published authors made $100,000 last year from book sales. I would like to be one of those 1000 people. 

If you take the last ten years, the average person who’s published their first book over the last ten years, 1200 of those people who were traditionally published, earned $25,000 or more per year. Now, 1600 self-published authors over the last ten years made $25,000 or more. So the self publishers actually win in that category. 

When you look specifically at ebook sales, self-published books form 31% of Amazon’s ebook sales and their Kindle Unlimited platform, which allows you to download sort of unlimited books for a monthly fee, 85% of the books available on Kindle Unlimited are self-published. 

Kindle Unlimited

For those who’ve ever thought about joining Kindle Unlimited but haven’t looked into it, you will not get the latest books. You will not get the bestseller books. You won’t get a Stephen King, you won’t get a Liane Moriarty book or anything along those lines. Big authors don’t put their books on Kindle Unlimited. Hence why 85% are self-published. I actually did Kindle Unlimited when I was doing a challenge of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. It just made it a lot easier, well cheaper, to buy those 52 books. Most of those were ebooks. So it was easy on kindle unlimited. And I found amazing new authors that I otherwise wouldn’t have found. And I kept a tally, so I knew I was ahead of if I’d purchased each individual book. But that’s another whole story. I can go into another time in a lot more detail. 

Ebook royalties

Back to the statistics. So 30% to 34% of all ebooks are self-published. So that’s a huge chunk. And Amazon paid out $520,000,000 in royalties to self-published authors. That’s a huge amount of money. But, back to the 20% report zero income and 90% sell less than 100 copies. There’s a big gap between those who are making money and those who are not. 

But throw in some of those sellers might have sold books in other countries. Some of the American sellers might have sold books in Australia or England. There was one story online where she has sold one book in Japan. Now her book’s in English. So she doesn’t expect that she will sell many or any other books in Japan, which means she’s never going to meet the threshold. I don’t know if it’s 100 Japanese yen or what that would translate as. So she will never actually get the money from that book sale. That money is just going to sit in Amazon’s bank account. So I wonder how many of those people who’ve got zero income, how many of them actually do have income that Amazon is just holding in their bank? They literally could have millions of dollars sitting with unpaid royalties that they won’t pay out ever, because that individual person will never make the threshold payment for that particular marketplace. 

Amazon

So I remember there used to only be Amazon.com. Back then, every country bought from the American site. So that would potentially make it a lot easier compared to today, when there’s so many individual marketplaces splitting up the royalties. It does mean that a lot of money is never going to leave Amazon’s coffers. I’m not sure how the legalities of that work. How can they just hold people’s money and refuse to pay it? 

And how does a company of Amazon’s size and the fact that it’s a global company, how can they not figure out how to pay money into international bank accounts? I’m pretty sure it’s not that complicated. And if nothing else, why can’t they just pool all the money together? At least that would give some people a chance to get more of their money. 

Or the other option is the American office tells the Australian office how much money that particularly I have earned on American sales and tells the Australian office to pay me. And then, obviously, all the other people in Australia who’ve earned royalties in America. They can pay all of those people. And then Amazon Australia can send one bill to America for the total. And all Amazon America has to do is make one big payment, which would make it worthwhile paying whatever the costs might be to transfer that money. Now, if I can figure that out rather quickly, then why can’t this global company figure out how to do that? 

It kind of almost feels like a bit of a scam, so I said that quietly, but it has some of the features of a scam. Do this, give us that, and we’ll take your money, because they are holding my money to ransom. So I wasn’t overly excited and thrilled about that. 

One solution

So more Googling. What would we do without Google? And eventually, I found an article written by an Australian author who was having the same issues as me, and he worked out a way to do it. There’s a company called Payoneer. You sign up and they give you a bank account in whatever country you like, out of the countries they offer. So I can sign up, and they will give me an American bank account number, 

I can write to Amazon and say I would like all my royalties to be paid into that American bank account. I believe I can go into my account and then tick all the marketplaces other than the Australian one, leave the Australian one as it is because that system is working. So tick all the boxes, saying or giving them permission to turn those royalties into American dollars. So anything I earned in England would get turned from pounds into US Dollars, and then that would all get pooled into the American bank account. Then that money goes straight into your Payoneer account. 

But of course, that’s too good to be true, isn’t it? It does work. But Payoneer has a threshold as well. So I can’t withdraw the money from the American bank held in their system into my bank account until I meet their threshold. Now, it’s a lot lower. It’s $50 American. So that’s okay. If you’re pulling all your different royalties, then you would reach $50 a lot faster than you would reach the $100 in America, let alone the $100 in each marketplace. Once it reaches the $50, you can withdraw that money, and they will send that straight into your Australian bank account, for a fee, of course. So there goes some more of that tiny royalty that you get. 

Royalties are low

Just as a reminder, the royalties are really low. Like in Australia, you might pay $22 – $25 or more sometimes for a book, but the author potentially only gets $2 or $3 if they’re lucky for that book. Like I’ve said earlier, if my book sells in a bookstore, I only get twenty-eight cents. With so many books out there, people are making their books as cheap as possible. Consumers, including myself, want to pay as cheap as possible for a book. So we’ll buy the cheaper books rather than the more expensive books. But then that royalty just erodes away into virtually nothing. 

So to actually add up that royalty, to get to $100 or £100, you’re looking at selling a minimum of 50 books up to 100 books or more. And, if you go back to the statistics where 90% of self-published authors sell less than 100 copies in the book’s lifetime, not in the first week, not in the first year in the book’s lifetime, not many people are reaching those thresholds.  

Payoneer

I looked into Payoneer, and my official plan was to sign up to Payoneer and get myself an American bank account. Who knows, I might be able to do all sorts of things with it. But doing my due diligence, I read reviews and researched, and the more I researched, the less confident I was that I was going to stick to that plan. It’s hard because obviously, again, it’s not for Americans. Americans don’t need to use it. 

Most of the reviews came from Nigeria. So I get Nigerian authors and other people who might want to do online sales on Amazon would not have access to an American bank account or many other sorts of great financial institutions. So, of course they’re going to be a huge user of companies like Payoneer. But poor Nigeria, it’s got a really bad reputation when it comes to finances. Everyone knows about the Nigerian scams and things that have happened over the years. So I am so sorry, Nigeria, but it didn’t inspire confidence in me that it was a good thing to be involved with. Being a financial institution, I have to hand over things like my passport and my birth date and my address, and my mother’s maiden name and all that sort of fun things. And I’m like, do I really want to give that away willy-nilly? 

The other country that uses Payoneer a lot is India. And there was a very helpful tutorial on how it works and how to do it, and troubleshooting and frequently asked questions. So I have saved that as a future reference to go back to, so I can follow all the steps. Again, India seems to have a few different things that aren’t available to Australians. So Payoneer must have different requirements or different payout systems based on what country you’re from. 

The plan

Based on what I’ve read for now, I am going to leave it. So Amazon is going to earn some interest on some of my sales for a little while and that’s okay for now. I have decided to just play it safe and I am going to use it as a motivator, as motivation to write more books and sell more books so that I meet those thresholds. I’d rather give that a go for now. 

I’m still nursing. I have no plans to leave nursing in the next twelve months or anything like that. I’m in the writing game for the long haul. This is just a start, this is just a beginning. I’ve said all along my travel books are my practice books. I’m learning how everything works. I’m learning how to write. I’m learning how the business side works. I’m learning how Amazon works. What it’s like to design a book cover, which is very stressful, and about the editing process, the formatting process, which I love. I’ve just spent the last couple of days formatting “The SECOND six months” book and it makes me happy. It’s really fun. So I’m still in my learning phase. Any new job, any new career, any new hobby, any new business of any kind, you don’t expect to make money in the first year and it’s something that comes over time. 

Obviously, the more books you have, the more you will sell and the more I write, the more books I’ll have, which again, the more I will sell. And if someone likes one book, then hopefully they go back and find other books and it’s a long haul game. As someone said recently when I was looking at a video on giving up on publishing on Kindle, and it was very clear that it is a long haul game. It’s not about what happens in the first month or the first year. It is something that will happen slowly over time and you build things up as you go. 

So I’m going to stick with that plan for now. I’m going to continue paying my bills thanks to my nursing work and keep enjoying the process of writing and learning and discovering self publishing along the way. And I’m just going to vainly think that the thresholds won’t be a problem in the future. That’s the insight into Amazon paying and not paying me. So we’ll see what happens next. I’m assuming roughly the 29th of June or maybe the 21st of June I’ll get more information.

My other distributer

I haven’t talked about the other distributor that I work with. They have thousands of avenues and my ebook still pops up in weird and wonderful places. It has payment thresholds as well. But I am pleased to say they are less than Amazon’s and they pool all their contacts into one payment. I’m less than $10 away from meeting the threshold on that payment system. Definitely worth having both Amazon and this other system. I should get paid from that other company at some point soon. They do have a longer processing time than Amazon, though. So I think the first opportunity of getting paid is July based on what they have sent me. 

American Libraries

They’ve sent me some sales sheets about my sales, which seem to mostly be ebook library reads. So somehow my ebook is in libraries across America. So if you’re American and you’re listening to this and you’d like to read my ebook, check your library catalogue because I might be in there and I will get a royalty from every ebook that’s downloaded from a library catalogue. So that’s an interesting extra way of making book royalties. 

The royalty is from an electronic source, which means the library hasn’t bought the ebook. They don’t own the rights to the ebook. This distributor company sells the option to download it and then somehow I get paid a little bit of money for each download. So if you’re interested, each library download from America I get $0.85. 85 American cents, which is about Australian $1.25. Obviously, exchange rates go up and down. So for every library read in America, I will get $1.25. So even if you don’t want to read it, just download it and give me a dollar. Every dollar counts, as you’ve learned today, and it costs you nothing to download it from the library. 

Okay, that was a little bit cheeky of me, but do you blame me? Let’s just be cheeky. And I have to say, I mean, 85 American cents is a lot better than 28 Australian cents from if someone bought my physical book copy in a bookstore. I’ll take eighty-five cents and no other costs any day. 

Australian Libraries

The ebook is available in some Australian library catalogues as well. Not all of them. I know the Wyndham City Council Library has the ebook available there. As yet, I haven’t received any confirmation that anyone in Australia has borrowed an ebook from a library. So I’m unsure how much of a royalty I will get for each of those downloads. So if you’re in Australia, do me a favour. Check your local online library catalogue and see if you can download the ebook there. Or maybe even see if you can request it, because I’m really curious about how much royalty is from an ebook from a library catalogue in Australia. So I know it’s $0.85 in America, but who knows what it is in Australia? 

I know there was some big change not that long ago about ebook royalties in Australia and apparently we were being jibbed and not getting paid for ebook downloads. So I’m really curious to know, and I don’t know any other way of finding out other than somebody downloading it from their library catalogue. So hint, hint, nudge nudge, wink wink. Especially if you’re at the Wyndham City Library Council. I know it’s definitely there. I’ll find out in a few months’ time if anyone has done that. 

Next Week

All right, that’s enough about all that for now. So next week I will be going back to the book, but this time it’ll be books, plural, because May is the junction between The first six months and The SECOND six months. The first eight days are in The first six months and then The SECOND six months book, which comes out in July, so a few weeks away, starts on the 9th of May. So next week’s podcast episode will have a crossover between the first and the second book. So you will start getting a sneak peek into the second six months. Don’t forget, if you want a free copy of the May chapter from the second six months. 

Newsletter 

You can sign up to my newsletter on my website and there’s a download link to the May chapter if you sign up. That will also give you access to the November chapter from The first six months, if you are still yet to buy the book. Once you sign up to the newsletter, you will have access to any previous freebies that have been added for people when they sign up. You’ll get a link to a freebie page which currently only has two freebies on it. It’s the first November chapter, and the May chapter. Sign up to the newsletter to get your free downloads and then once a month at the end of the month, usually the last day of the month, I send out a newsletter about what’s happening with the book process and if I’ve been anywhere exciting on my travels and latest updates. You’ll be the first to know of any updates and upcoming books. You can apply when I’ll let you know if I’m looking for advanced readers getting a chance to get a free copy of the next book in exchange for hopefully a review or feedback and all sorts of other little bits and pieces depending on what’s happened over the previous 30 or so days. So sign up to that on the website.

Wrap up

And of course there’s other stuff on the website from the photos, where to buy the books and the cover for the new book. Everything is on there, as well as this podcast, and the transcripts for this podcast also. So head over to franheapwriter.com and you can find everything from the home page. And don’t forget, I’m also on Facebook and Instagram, where I’m also called Fran Heap Writer. You can find me all over the place and I’m on Goodreads and I’ve got an author page on Amazon’s Author Central and although not sure every country access that, but Americans can definitely access that. Australians, I can’t remember. It’s very unclear. There are a lot of differences between Australia and America.

Am I Australian?/Potential upcoming book

I have to say I’m becoming very Americanised because everything’s American and I sometimes have to think, what’s the Australian? So we’ll see what happens. I’m coming up with an idea for writing a book that is specifically Australian, but I might have to borrow some books to learn about being an Australian, because I think I’m a bit international these days and not always sure what is Australian? What is American? What is English? And I’ve got some Denmark customs thrown in there after living in Denmark and all sorts of things from travelling all around the world. So I’m a little bit international, which sometimes makes it hard to be a typical Australian. I’m not sure if I could call myself a typical Australian, which is a bit sad, but unfortunately that’s the truth. 

So I would like to write a nice little treasure hunt book around Melbourne so people can actually read about their home city and actually go out and find all the different places and follow along the treasure hunt in real life. So there’s a sneak peek at a future upcoming project. 

But for now, I’m going to say thank you very much for listening to me today. I hope you’ve learnt a few things about the book world and I hope I’ve said something that’s made you laugh or smile or something along those lines. And until next week, I wish for you an interesting day.

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