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Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Payments from Amazon for non-US Authors, or, Pass the Valium

This is a bit of businessy post, which I don't do too many of, and it's more to give anyone not in the USA a bit of a heads-up regarding Amazon payments.

There are two options for writers like myself in the UK & EU - I'm not sure about the rest of the planet, so if you're not in the USA and you are waiting for your first payment, double-check your options. For me, the option was BACS transfer or cheque. The cheque has a minimum limit of $100 US dollars before Amazon will issue it. When I first entered my details I was at war with my bank and changing to a different bank altogether, so I opted for the cheque payment, and then promptly forgot about it. To be honest, I was never sure I'd hit the $100 mark, and my priority was on writing more stuff.

This was a mistake. If you have the option, go the transfer route - you need to get International numbers from your bank - if they aren't on your statement, contact your branch and get it that way. The reasons I say it was a mistake are listed below, and keep in mind this is me and I've never had a moment (particularly involving finances) that didn't descend in farce and moments of WTF, so I might have managed my usual SNAFU and other folks won't have these issues.


One magical day I got an email notification telling me my cheque was in the post. Several weeks later, it landed on the front door mat, and I did The Happy Author Dance of Monetary Payment. I pinned the cheque to my cork board and made cooing noises at it for nearly a week, until Saturday came around and I bounced up the road to the local Barclay's bank.

The bank had changed it's operating hours (just this branch, by the way) and was no longer open on Saturdays.

Things went a bit pear-shaped on several levels, and it was some-time before I could get near an open branch, so fast forward three weeks.

Bit of a segue here to explain - my new bank is lovely. Their support is brilliant, and there are no nasty surprises like an overdraft that you can actually go over (still trying to figure that one out) - in fact, there are no overdraft facilities. It goes in, it comes out, I can check everything on-line in a very easy to follow format. They don't have a physical branch - everything happens on-line - but they have an arrangement with Barclay's if you need to pay in to your account - you complete a slip, and it goes through.

Unfortunately, nobody seems to have told the folks working the counters at Barclay's.

Our heroine bravely explained the situation. The dragon at the counter tapped the cheque. "It's in dollars!" he hissed.
Um, yes. Quite. It's been a number of years since I even saw a cheque, to be honest. I had no idea that you couldn't deposit a US dollar cheque** into a UK bank account. I have no idea why, apart from it being a plot by the powers that be to make me wilt.

I wilted so much that the dragon stopped breathing fire and directed me up the road to a place that cashes cheques and foreign exchange.

I dashed into the little shop, and the very sweet guy behind the counter asked me to come back at 3pm.

(It should be noted at this point that I was zooming in and out these places in between work, and it's at least a twenty minute walk each day. I am still sulking; with that exercise, my butt should be able to crack walnuts by now. It can't, but it still shudders involuntarily when I glance down that road.)

At 3, I ran into the little shop again. Sweet guy transformed into a used car salesman, sucking his teeth, gleefully listing the exchange rate - the commission would have choked a python - and told me it would take 3 weeks to cash the cheque. That isn't a typo. THREE WEEKS.

I wilted again. Then I dragged myself back into the office, and promptly ran into a colleague is from the US.


The cheque got countersigned and then sent back to the US so she could bank it. When the funds transfer, I'll hopefully get the money.

I went home and changed the payment method as fast as I could type.

So the moral of the story is, get the bank transfer. It will safe you a lot of hair pulling, and wilting, and dealing with dragons.

However, make sure you tell your bank that Amazon are doing a transfer and for how much, because most bank assistants seem to stumble over the fact that you are getting paid by Amazon, and not the other way around. It took six emails and several head-desk moments to get the BACS payment through because it confused the hell out of them. However, there is no minimum payment and eventually it does come through.

** The cheque is from Wells Fargo. The only way to open a Wells Fargo bank account in the UK is if you make enough money to think Richard Branson is small beans. From what I can discover opening any US bank account in the UK requires minimum funds that made me choke, a bunch of ID requirements, and possibly sacrificing a small goat.

J H Sked is the author of WolfSong , Basement Blues , Die Laughing , and Quarter the Moon  and a contributor to Sweet Dreams, all of which are on Amazon as ebooks.