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Updates: Income and Amazon

First, a follow-up to my 2011 Writing Income post. My 2011 income jumped significantly from last year, which has been lovely. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the numbers I posted were pre-tax.

Having pretty much completed our 2011 taxes, it looks like we’ll be paying roughly $8000 to the state and federal government. This also means paying significantly higher quarterly estimated taxes for 2012.

I’m okay with this. I’ve been setting a fair amount of money aside, because I knew this was coming. And I certainly don’t object to paying my share for the services I and my family use.

That said, it’s still rather gut-wrenching to see that final figure come up in the tax software…


And now, to Amazon and my mysteriously changing e-book price. As of yesterday, I’ve sent five e-mails to Amazon’s KDP support about this issue. To their credit, Amazon has responded within 2-3 days to each of my messages.

Unfortunately, it’s not the same person responding each time. First it was Dieter, who said they’d change the price back, but didn’t tell me why it had been lowered in the first place. When I wrote back for clarification, I got a response from Aishwarya, who linked me to their terms or service and pointed out that they had price-matched my book to the Kobo price a month ago (but didn’t explain why they had done so again). Then Craig e-mailed and said my price was now $2.99 … ignoring the actual questions I asked.

Next time, I asked if they could escalate me to someone who might answer my questions. I got an e-mail back from one of the KDP Executive Customer Relations people, who again pointed to the lower Kobo price from a month ago.

I’ve written back to ask him to clarify if he’s saying Amazon will price-match to month-old listings even if your book isn’t currently offered for a lower price anywhere.

It’s conceivable that Kobo or someone else briefly dropped the price to $.99 this month and then restored it, and that while I didn’t see this, Amazon did. Especially if they’ve got search spiders automatically checking competitor prices and marking down their own. I find this scenario highly unlikely, but I can’t rule it out.

The lessons I’m taking away thus far:

  • Amazon responds quickly, and if it’s an easy question, they’ll probably take care of you within a day or two.
  • If it’s a question requiring follow-up, things get a lot messier.
  • Amazon has a higher level of customer support; if you’re not getting a satisfactory response, ask them to bump you up the chain.

A few other Amazon-related items have hit the news lately…

As before, I’m not trying to paint Amazon as the kitten-hating, puppy-kicking, Smurf-stomping reincarnation of all things Evil. But as an author, this is the sort of thing I think it’s important to be aware of.


To end on a completely different note, I just received my first fart question at Ask A Goblin

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.



( 18 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:27 pm (UTC)
Fix your apostrophe! Quick, quick, before it multiplies! "Amazon chose not to renew it's agreement"
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:35 pm (UTC)
What apostrophe? No idea what you're talking about...
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:36 pm (UTC)
The one I quoted above? Sorry, was just trying to be silly, not grammar nitpick. Going away now...where's my quiet juice?
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:39 pm (UTC)
Nope, don't see it. No apostrophes there. I *never* make that kind of mistake...
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:40 pm (UTC)
Of course not! We're pros! *cough*
Feb. 23rd, 2012 06:20 pm (UTC)
Oh hey. I just realized this is totally revenge for that "annoy my writer friends" Facebook post. Touche!
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:49 pm (UTC)
To end on a completely different note, I just received my first fart question at Ask A Goblin…

First one? Wow, that took longer than I thought.

(also, notice how I ignore all that other useful & relevant stuff about writing & Amazon & etc. and go straight for the fart commentary.)
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:52 pm (UTC)
Priorities, man! Catherine went for the apostrophe; you pounced on the fart... the useful stuff is down around #64 on the list.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC)
Wow, this is definitely giving me something to consider. I've loved my Kindle (and read two of your books off of it), and since it's having problems right now, I was thinking of getting it replaced. Because of this, I might end up holding off on that for the near future and just put the money towards getting the paper copies of the books I wanted.

Feb. 23rd, 2012 06:27 pm (UTC)
comments from a former Amazonian
Jim -- I checked with a friend of mine who used to work for Amazon about this. Here's what he said:

Like any large enough company Amazon has Core Principles that show up in HR presentations and all hands and such. I only remember 2 of them: Frugality and Customer Focus. I know I've said this to many people many times: Amazon is excessively customer-focused, often at the expense (sop to speak) of its employees. So if you contact them for support, you'll often have an engineer respond. An engineer who worked on/built/inherited/badgered the relevant feature. Paradoxically, Amazon also uses technology to protect itself from the customer. There's no phone number you can just call. And its not like once you get a response that person is now your contact. Maybe if there's something seemingly broken it's treated as an open issue until fixed. But if "everything is fine nothing is ruined" from Amazon's perspective, you'll have to repeat the same process each time. And you'll different people on call, etc.

Hopefully your future dealings with Amazon will be better informed.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 08:09 pm (UTC)
$8K. Yikes, that's a big chunk. Prior to your writing career taking off, were you the type to get a big refund (IE over paid your taxes) or the type that tried to get it as close to right as possible? Or perhaps the type that always owed a good amount?

I can certainly see where Scalzi's advice of "put half your writing income away for taxes and expenses" makes a lot more sense when you shine the light on it that clearly.

Thanks, as always, for being willing to share real numbers.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 08:25 pm (UTC)
Jim, a tax question, if you don't mind. You have to appease the IRS with a quarterly guestimate of your taxes don't you? Either that or be sure that 100% of the amount of the previous year's tax has been withheld from your day job paycheck?
Feb. 23rd, 2012 08:29 pm (UTC)
The short, simplified version: if I owe taxes in one year, I pay estimated taxes based on whatever I owed in the following year.

My wife and I both have our day-job employers deduct a lot from our paychecks, which softens this a bit. There have been years I didn't need to pay quarterly estimated taxes, because the day job paycheck covered what I owed from the writing.

2011 was not such a year. Which is good, but means I pay a big check for 2011 and my estimated taxes for 2012 are based on what I owed this year.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 08:48 pm (UTC)
I thought I had previously read/understood that the way Amazon's ToS worked was that they not only price-matched, but reserved the right to use the lowest price you had ever put something at whenever and however they wanted. Now I can't find *where* I remember reading that, so I'm hoping I'm mistaken and that all they mean is that as long as it's priced something somewhere, they can do the same, but I *really* thought I remembered them saying that if you ever priced it lower, they could do so too, forever.

...Wait. Crap. Actually. I think this may have been for apps? In which case I don't know if it would be applicable/someone screwing you on the same guidelines here?

Feb. 23rd, 2012 11:30 pm (UTC)
Interesting. That would certainly explain what had happened, but it's also something I think would need to be made VERY clear to authors, since a lot of people tend to adjust the prices up and down as they try to figure out how best to sell their books.

I'm hoping the executive support person will get back to me and be able to clarify this one way or another.
Feb. 23rd, 2012 10:54 pm (UTC)
All good points except for The Authors Guild article which is a cobbled together mess. It is pieces like that which emboldens the nay-sayers(or should it be yay-sayers?) since the arguments it makes are specious, ill tought of or simple failures of logic.
Feb. 27th, 2012 08:02 pm (UTC)
Just dropping in (as you suggest on your profile)to say hi! Came across your Amazon post via Boing Boing and found the whole post/comment thread fascinating as I am about to dip my toes into self-publishing. Will be following your further adventures with great interest! Thanks for all the info.
Feb. 27th, 2012 08:58 pm (UTC)
Welcome, and thanks!

"Will be following your further adventures with great interest!"

Is it a bad sign that I read this in Emperor Palpatine's voice from when he meets Anikin in Episode 1?

Best of luck with your own writing/publishing!
( 18 comments — Leave a comment )


Jim C. Hines


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