REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE: THOUGHTS ON PUBLISHING BY AN AUTHOR ON THE RUN. RLLauthor@outlook.com

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Wednesday, 17 August 2016

30% FEDERAL TAX AND AMAZON KINDLE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Are you now or have you ever been an American citizen?
   I ate a burger once. Does that qualify?

*

Do you have a U.S. TIN?
   Yes. I picked it up on one of my trips to the distant planet of America. The tin held chocolate, as I recall. Does that qualify?

*
For those of you thinking of self-publishing on Amazon Kindle, ask yourself if you are an American citizen. If you aren't, Uncle Sam will ask you to prove that you aren't.
   Otherwise, Uncle Sam will snare 30% of your American-derived royalties in the name of truth, justice, and the American Way. Mom's apple pie on Sundays may feature further down the list.
   Should Uncle Sam grab 30% of your readies, remember that this doesn't entitle you to vote in American elections.

*

When I self-published on Kindle, I waded through the murky rivers of foreign taxation. Luckily I proved I wasn't American, and the cash-grab faded.
   At the time, I remember asking Amazon if I'd have to fill the paperwork out all over again, say, five years down the line...
   No, of course not.

*

Amazon contacted me today, months ahead of the deadline for renewing the tax information. Would I fill out the handy form? Why, it takes but a moment on the interwebs.

*

The tax regime changes shape faster than the blink of a cliché. One constant remains. Tax is levied. How does it work? Uncle Sam instructs companies to withhold 30% of royalties due to bloody foreign devils.
   It says that in the official paperwork.
   Okay, I lied. It says danged furriners.

*

I had to prove I wasn't American. Then, as a foreign person, I could gain from the exemption under a prearranged tax treaty. There were plenty of ways to do this, when I handled the paperwork first time around...
   And it was paperwork. First, I obtained an Individual Tax Identification Number from Uncle Sam.
   Of the many options available, I found the cheapest method was to send my passport to the American Embassy. Opting for the cheapest threadbare path, it was easy to prove I was Scottish and not American.

*

They may take our lives, but they'll never fake our accents!

*

Being un-American, or non-American, I received the go-ahead from a tax bunker in Texas. The ITIN arrived. I filled out a stock letter for Amazon, and threw the reference in.
   Nothing happened. The letter never reached Amazon HQ. I sent a fresh copy and I was done and dusted.

*

There's a section on tax information inside each author's Amazon Bookshelf. Here's the relevant slice of the page...








   Being decidedly Scottish, I am puzzled to find the info reached Amazon on the eighth day of the 17th month of the year. What sort of Tolkienised calendar are they using over in the States?
   It's safe to say that Americans know all about second breakfast. That's served on the same hearty plate that barely contains the first breakfast.

*

The important thing is that my withheld tax rate is a healthy 0% of my American royalties. My Individual Tax Identification Number grants access to the shield of liberty known as the tax treaty.
   If all this is news to you, go to your Amazon Bookshelf, head into your account, find that Tax Information box and click on the (What's this?) link.
   That leads, eventually, to a piece about filling out all the forms so you have the tax number you'll need.
   I can't give you up-to-date advice on that, not even if you are reading this on the day that I published the blog post.
   Tax rules shimmer and change with the seasons. Research as much as you can, choose the least-painful option for your circumstances, and quadruple-quintuple-check the paperwork before it leaves you.

*

This time around, I didn't send any paperwork. Amazon directed me to the electronic tax interview. With the information to hand, I filled the e-form in an instant.
   That is a lie.
   I kept being bounced back. Missed the box that validated my address. Red warning sign. My address was not valid. WTF?! It's my address!
   Oh. I have to tick the box that states my address is valid. And here, I thought they'd use software to check that I hadn't lied about living in that cardboard box.
   Unfurling my Evil Laugh, I recklessly validated my address. Enough of this wild abandon. Just get me to the end of the fucking process, will you?
   And there it went. Zap. Into the ether. Done.

*

Summary.
   Not American, but planning to self-publish on Amazon? Pay attention to the tax section inside your Amazon Bookshelf. There are plenty of links there to the relevant Amazon guides on avoiding 30% Federal Withholding Tax.
   You'll need an ITIN to claim the benefits of the tax treaty. Then you are in the clear.
   If I misremember rightly, you'll want to sort this mess out BEFORE you start earning American royalties. Otherwise, you'll need to file an appeal to claw back any money grabbed in the meantime.











Tuesday, 16 August 2016

NO MORE BOOKSHELVES: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Miraculously, I've just added 35 42 feet of shelving. How I did this, I know not. It occurred to me that I might shift one small container...
   And then I'd make room for a bookshelf end-on, at the other side of the room. The shunting of furniture was required.


*

It's true. I sit here and type no more books. Then I reach saturation AGAIN, and I find a way to reorganise or rearrange available and unavailable space.
   But I don't go daft buying bookshelves. Last time I went daft buying a bookshelf, I rearranged things so much that I suspected I'd created room for two more massive bookshelves when the time came.
   The time came, but I moved that one small container and made room for an extra monolith.
   So, yes, this year, three jumbo bookshelves waltzed in and pushed saturation away from me. For...


*

No, I don't know how long.
   I recreated an alleyway. Placing bookshelves against the wall becomes a luxury. You hold off projecting books and their shelves into the room itself. The library doesn't put up with that nonsense...
   But the old office does. Easily, I walk into one room. Cautiously, I navigate my way through another.
   One place, I could run into. Not very far. The other place, well, if I ran in...
   I'd need to be stretchered back out.


*

At least I resolved thorny issues like bookcases in cupboards downstairs, or, gasp, bookshelves in the kitchen.
   A temporary horror, I assure thee.
   If I put bookcases in the loft, the loft will collapse on me in the middle of the night. That much we know as truth.


*


Foolishly, I thought I'd published this post. It's a post in need of a follow-up...
   Oh. Unpublished. In that case, I'll score through the figure at the start, and update the number.
   I clambered through awkward spaces after introducing new bookshelves, and reached a conclusion. That's a technical term.
   Wooden bookshelves in the loft? Bad idea. Those awkward plastic shelf units? If I reorganise my reorganisation of my reorganisation of things, I can shift those plastic terrors to the loft.

*
And so...
   Once I added organisation to my reorganisation, I had more space to fill. Instantly. And I moved another eight feet of shelving into the office.
   Doesn't sound like a huge amount of shelving. But to me, that's a golden value. It means I can shift another 35 feet of shelving in, spread across two rooms, at a later date.
   No, not next Monday.

*

The cry is not about books, and no more of them.
   Now the cry is of bookshelves, and where to cram them in. Nowhere. I am in sight of the final point of saturation.
   Books on shelves. Shelves in rooms. Less room available in rooms for things that are not books or shelves.
   My handy tape is sitting here, and I believe I can squeeze two more giant bookshelves in, if I take the chance on a measurement.
   It's taking that chance that'll kill me. Bookalanche is not a word you want to use on your epitaph.

Friday, 5 August 2016

BEHIND THE SCENES: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Writers scribble scenes. What lies behind those scenes? Activity. Why, look at that graceful swan gliding across the lake. How does it work, you wonder...


*

Underneath the peaceful mere, inside the clockwork swan's belly, there's a rat-faced goblin shoving a spike-laden stick in circles, connecting the wizard in the gizzard to the machine's cog-heavy dregs way down in the legs.

*

No swans were harmed in the writing of this blog.
   One goblin, tragically, died a fictional death.

*

Sometimes in life, and in fiction, events draw you away from the main action into curious alleys and quirky waterways.
   Worldwide embargo covering transportation of lithium-ion batteries by air? I'd better read up on that action. For. Y'know. Reasons.
   And so it goes. Activity. Behind the scenes.

*


I'm still running this blog monthly.
   When I have something more solid to report, I'll have something more solid to report. In the meantime, it's dinner-time, and I must away - to see to the ritual slaughter of packet soup.
   That polystyrene swan floating by, nodding, as if in sleep, or as though in danger of sinking gracelessly, conceals a fair deal of activity that may yet come to nothing.
   I hope it comes to something. There's a book giveaway and a contest off the back of it, for starters. But I have said too much, for I am, indeed, reading this aloud.
   Take this with you as you go. Writers. Read your work aloud. Also. Work on projects in secret, in case the polystyrene swan sinks atop a dying goblin.
   (Terrible sense of déjà vu as I typed that. I'm always rattling on about goblins and swans.)

*

Summary.
   Remember this great writing advice about, er, the polystyrene swan sinking atop the dying goblin. It's right up there with...
   Don't run with scissors.
   Definitely don't dance with wolves.
   Guest-writer, scribbling an intro to a book? Don't give the plot away. No. Seriously. I'm looking at you, FAMOUS WRITER WHOSE NAME HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THIS BLOG.
   Obviously, I can't name the book in case that spoils things.
   My mention of lithium batteries hasn't destroyed the plot of the story I'm working on. I don't know if a book could be ruined by the release of a lithium battery snippet into the wilds...
   And on that note, adieu.
   







Friday, 15 July 2016

WHEN WRITERS RETURN FROM THE DEAD: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Two weeks from posting an obituary, I was tapped on the shoulder by the deceased and informed that she's still alive. Reports of her death would've been greatly exaggerated.

*

I've published an obituary on this blog before, but that one featured news of zombie hordes and time travel. Try not to take it seriously if you stumble upon it down in the archives.

*

What to say of this highly embarrassing incident before me? Well, it still lies a fortnight ahead of me and I've cancelled it. Suppose I'd published it, though?
   Writer fakes death to hear what people thought of her at her own memorial service.
   They thought she was really helpful on the writing-front.
   Writer sneaks away, blushing, and is then arrested for faking her own death.
   Worth the jail-time, she says, dragged away in handcuffs.

*

Now I must write that embarrassing e-mail. You know the one. Oh, hey, still alive I see.
   It's better than writing that embarrassing blog post. You know the one. Oh, hey, I told the world you were dead. And. Er. Well. I said you were really helpful on the writing-front. That counts for something. I'll write to you in jail. You'll be out in no time.

*

In researching this blog post, I discovered that it isn't a criminal act to fake your own death where this writer lives. The precise term is pseudocide.
   Death by pseudonym. That definitely sounds like a writer's thing.



Sunday, 3 July 2016

WRITING MAINTENANCE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

My mouse foamed at the mouth. Or perhaps my computer foamed at the mouse. Either way, I sensed a spot of writing maintenance coming on.
   The horrible kind.


(My keyboard looks cleaner when photographed with the flash off.)

   What kind of maintenance? That oh no, I don't want to shake crumbs out of my keyboard kind. Yes. That.
   Putting the EW in QWERTY.
   This time, though, I was concerned about the mouse. An optical mouse feels sluggish and unresponsive. Is it the plague? I believe it is the plague. Nay.
   Aye, the plague it is.
   Nay, it cannot be. The optical mouse is not prone to the dread disease.
   We must operate upon the creature's innards.
   Nay.
   Aye!
   All those in favour, reach for the screwdriver.


*

And so...
   Writers, look after yourselves. Scribblers, secure your files. Save your data, and save in more than one location. Wordsmiths, maintain, fix, or replace vital equipment.
   Those of you writing books on your interactive smart rings, sentient piercings, or wifi-capable coffee mugs should take the keyboard/mouse advice and adapt accordingly.


*

What was inside my mouse? Er.
   By that, I mean ew.
   There were fragments of toffee. Am I a passionate consumer of toffee? Coffee, yes. Toffee, no. The mouse was upset by fragments of a toffee-like substance. I'm going to draw a veil over the rest of that scene.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

WHEN WRITERS DIE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Better, perhaps, to label this post WHEN WRITERS DISAPPEAR.
   What happens to writers who disappear, in the Digital Age? Sometimes the disappearance is planned. A writer becomes noticeably ill, and an ailing bugle sounds the digital retreat from social media.
   It’s a different story when a writer vanishes in an instant.
   If that happens across all platforms, and bills go unpaid, a Moonlight Digital Flit just occurred. The nastiest form of this event goes down when an e-book writer is unmasked as a plagiarist. (Fancy term for a thief.) You’ll see accounts dive faster than submarines caught with their rear ends exposed to enemy fire on the choppy bullet-ridden surface.

*

What happens if sudden death switches everything off? Can a family member step in and take over? Does your husband/wife/love-muffin/bleak overlord of pain/snuggle-bunny/significant coffee buddy take over the reins with nary a pause?
   In short, who has the nuclear codes granting access to that Twitter account, those e-mail addresses, the Amazon bookshelf, this/that/the other blog, and whatever the hell else a writer gets those typing fingers into?
   The people who handle your literary estate may not end up being the ones who deal with your dying digital presence.
   Certain accounts allow a legacy angle on use – an extra hand on the wheel, should you stop steering…

*

But this blog post isn’t about taking steps to ensure your password legacy is in safe hands.
   No.
   This post asks what happened to someone who went quiet…too quiet...and what to do about that? I have a small yet dedicated group of writing contacts. If an important scribbly topic dominates proceedings, there’ll be daily e-mails, or even hourly ones.
   It’s also true to say that I’ll go months without e-mailing a particular contact. That writer is still out there, blogging away, or Tweeting. E-mail is usually reserved for business matters, and not chat about what to have with the latest coffee.
   There’s always coffee. And coffee chat is the province of Twitter, not e-mail.


*

What proof of life exists, with regard to my own output? My blogging ceased its regular weekly flow. I announced that in a blog post. Twitter carries on, regardless. Even there, I stopped when technical difficulties killed the internet one day.
   For a few days, work was done on the house. I walked away from the keyboard then.
   And there was the small matter of staying well away from Twitter in the build-up to the release of a movie I didn’t want to read about, in its entirety, before I saw the bloody thing.
   (Harrison Ford wanted out of STAR WARS at an early point, back in the eighties. No shocks or surprises there.)
   Twelve days I went, before I could watch the movie. Managed to dodge it all, right up until the viewing. This achievement was only made possible through the temporary abandonment of Twitter.


*

Warning. Twelve days off Twitter translates to a time span of around 50 Dog Years.


*

Yes, I’ll seem to disappear from the internet…depending on the energy pulses viewed. I haven’t e-mailed in ages? Well, I’m on the Twitter. Didn’t blog this week? I’m on the Twitter. Haven’t used Skype in an old dog’s age? Skype I can skip. I’m on the Twitter. What about Facebook?
   Facebook is for stalkers, cat obsessives, and cat-obsessed stalkers.
   If I have the opporchancity to say I’m going away from the blog or, hell, the internet…then I’ll take that opporchancity. Even if I am cut off suddenly, that doesn’t automatically mean I died.
   Twitter is the measure of my continued existence, pulsing away on a daily basis, announcing breaks for coffee.
   Or as I like to think of it on Twitter, #coffee.

*

When writers disappear.
   Yes, I am writing of a specific person. A writer contact. She might be dead. I’ve looked into this, and tried to find out more. A gradual social media effect of tailing-off, brief return, and sudden absence tells me something.
   Though I am not sure what.
   Illness. Recovery. And swift relapse. Maybe. You don’t stop living if you fall off the internet overnight. I went looking. It is amazing the amount of information my writer contacts throw out there on the internet...
   I can tell what some of them had for breakfast, and where they bought it. For how much. And how often.
   They can’t impersonate you on the internet unless they know your shoe-size. So limit the amount of info on display.


*


Based on things she told me, and shared with the world, I knew where this writer lived. I easily accessed a database of newspaper reports on obituaries for the time-period I investigated. No sign of her. Does that mean she is alive? Or only that her passing didn’t make it into an obituary column?
   You might think this less a puzzle than it is. Add the idea of writing under another name, and you’ll realise how difficult it is when trying to trace the death of a writer.
   We’re not all mega-famous, of course.
   When FAMOUS AUTHOR of FAMOUS BOOK dies, the internet pulses with information. Sometimes, those death notices are even accurate.


*

I’ve no wish to post an obituary of a writer, only to find she’s just answered me in the comment section of the blog with I’m still alive! Moved house and went to live on a tropical island with no internet. Now have internet! Still not dead!
   Though I’d be relieved to see a comment along those lines, naturally.
   We are all dead on the internet, eventually.
   Checking pulses of information is a way of checking pulses. I’ll keep checking, and refrain from posting an obituary just yet.
   If the worst comes to the worst, I’ll imagine a writer who went a bit quiet. One who is typing away, in a sun-dappled corner of Somewheresia, in the Grand Duchy of Elseland.


*

Obviously, if she's reading this...
   Drop a line from that island. Tropical, or otherwise.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

FUCK MY (WRITING) LIFE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Calm the fuck down. This is not a gloomy blog post about my gloomy writing life. Fuck that shit.
   No. This is about having shit great timing. Or great shit timing. I'm undecided. Well. Damn.


*

I can't go into details. All of my writing plans are sitting to the side of a complicated book project that's orbiting this part of the universe in a treacle-paced loop.
   Set your alarm-clocks for Halley's Comet in 2061. I hope to publish again before then.

*

The best-laid schemes go tits-up.
   I quote loosely from the general text.
   My time is consumed by a writing project. Let's call it a collaboration. We'll say this hasn't gone smoothly. On the one hand, my timing was great. And on the shitty hand, not so much.
   Bad timing threatened to kill the project. But I did something, before reaching the death-knell. I made use of good timing, and that saved the whole project when the shitty timing kicked in.
   Shit great timing or great shit timing? The jury is out.


*

I spent a long time working on a book. The hammer-blow fell, and almost wrecked the deal. But I dragged the bloody pages from the jaws of defeat. Sleight-of-hand, trickery, misdirection, and the subtle use of mirrors all played a part upon the stage.


*

If I can't talk about this yet, what is my message to you? The show must go on. Standing on the stage with the curtains ready to part, I take a quick peek at the assembled audience.
   They seem like a nice couple.
   My advice to writers remains the same. Write. Never give up. Accept that a job you love doing, which seems like a dream-job to others, has its fair share of drudgery. Deal with it.
   Carry on. Pick yourself up. Dust off the defeat, and be as deluded as humanly possible. Believe in the delusion of writing.
   I've been on a long strange journey to nail this project to the wall marked DONE. And I've a longer stranger journey ahead of me now as I take stock of a major diversion.
   This is blog post 302, according to the counter. I know that's not quite true. Once or twice I accidentally published a blog ahead of being finished.
   Damned dodgy interface.
   But we'll go with the official counter, for want of an accurate machine.
   I'm staring at a book that almost died a death. Mouth-to-page resuscitation works wonders. If a project falls to bits, catch the bits. Revamp, regroup, rewire, and rewrite to save your writing life.
   It's not easy. But it is interesting.
   Did you write a book that fell apart? Were you lucky enough to save it for a rainy day? Did you change the names to protect the innocent?
   Learn from failure. Try again. Climb mountains, blast tunnels through solid rock, and parachute from the moon. Also remember, while you are doing those grand things, that it's only typing - and easy to fix.

Sunday, 8 May 2016

AMAZON KINDLE'S 70% ROYALTY RATE: A REPORT FROM A FUGITIVE.

Once your Amazon Kindle story is published, there's no reason to change it unless there's a reason to change it.
   If there's an illegal item in there, fix that before you are sued. You might be sued anyway.
   Should Amazon pull the rug from your flailing feet, and alter the formatting process, learn the new process and make changes before changes flatten you.
   Hyperlinks in your book? Check them regularly, to see if they still lead down the set path.
   Update. Fix. Scrub clean. Check facts. Correct errors. Maintain your e-books. Don't alter the plot, the characters, or the setting. If you plan on updating those things, write a fucking sequel.


*


Routine book maintenance went on. No big deal. It's routine for a reason. I know I fixed an item in VAMPIRES. Most likely suspect? Hyperlinking.



Click on the image above to head to the Amazon page. Cover modelled by Kaya Lili Brown - TOXIC TEARS.


*

Maintenance done, I let the book cycle through the update process. Only, this time, thanks to the American economy, the book's price rose automatically. Why?
   To gain 70% of the take from a Kindle book, I can't sell it at too high or too low a price. If I go outside Amazon's limits, my slice of the cake grows thin.   My dollar-equivalent price, stacked against local yokel pennies, clashed with the lower limit thanks to the vagaries of the exchange rate.
   So the book, after calculating Value Added Tax, no longer stood at £2 for the local purchaser. Could I adjust prices, absorb the increase, and take the book back down to £2 including tax?
   Yes. If I gave up my 70% royalty rate.
   Not worth it. How is my pricing doing? For a time, VAT dropped right down and shot back up. I handled those changes with ease. Now, under a different economy, I'm seeing a shift.
   For a story around 30,000 to 50,000 words, I've charged £2. This price is close to the lower limit imposed by Amazon. I could maintain that threshold now, without VAT.
   But VAT is here to stay.
   Uniform pricing of those stories, my FICTION FACTORY series, is designed to steer readers to the omnibus. Sure, pick up a story on the cheap as a sample of my wares.
   Or save cash, and buy in bulk.
   That plan still holds true if the £2 sampler increases in price. You saved money on the omnibus. Now you save more.
   My plan to charge £2 for shorter works, £4 for longer ones, £5 for a collection, and over £6 for gargantuan efforts...
   It's still a plan. At the lower end, I'm forced to charge a little over the £2 level to maintain the 70% royalty. All the books at £4 are unaffected.
   At the high end of the scale, I can charge more for the gargantuan works without losing the 70% royalty.
   What does it mean for the customer? Once I noticed a single product at a higher price, the desire for uniformity kicked in. The enforced increase gave an odd price.
   At best, I think it was around £2.06. Each book’s cost varies slightly backstage, depending on length, thanks to an Amazon data charge…
   I consider the raw cost of the book, before the size of the file comes into it. Then there’s VAT for European customers. I muddle around with the controls, and set the final price. Inconsistency must arise somewhere. I try to keep one range of stories at the same price level in £ and $…
   Push comes to shove, and I match all the £ costs. Upshot to the customer…my books for £2 went up to £2.20. VAT swills around in that charge. The last time VAT changed, I absorbed the hike to the customer, to keep prices on an even keel.
   You can’t always take the hit, nor should you. New costs go to the customer eventually.
   Routine maintenance means keeping a wary eye on price, too.

*

No plots, characters, settings, or animals were harmed in the republishing of those stories.