My Next Foray into Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing

If you've followed my blog for any length of time, you'll know I'm a BIG advocate of writers enhancing their own incomes by putting their writing talents to good use. That means finding ways to earn more money from your freelance writing efforts.

As a freelance writer, there are SO many opportunities to earn more and more money from your talents. You can create your own blog and find ways to monetize your content. You can write for private clients. You can sell your writing on private marketplaces, such as Constant Content. You can join content mills and write random content for clients. You can pitch your article ideas to magazine editors or newspaper editors.

Or you can create passive income from royalties on ebook sales.

That's right. When you take the time to write an ebook, you do all the work of perfecting your manuscript. You create the content. You edit the words you wrote. You polish your creation and then you publish it. Each time someone buys a copy of your book, you earn a little more income, known as royalties.

Now, if you've read any of my previous posts you'll already know I despise the idea of revenue-share sites. Sharing the revenue some other website owner earns really isn't true passive income at all.

But I seriously LOVE the whole idea of royalties on book sales.

So... Would you like to see the latest series of ebooks I've just released via the Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing platform? Okay, here they are....

Yay!! I'm really pleased with how they turned out.
Here's the fun part - I'll be releasing ONE book per day as a freebie download over the next few days. So if you'd like to check out my Kindle ebooks without paying for them, keep an eye on the freebie lists. They'll only be free for 24 hours each, but I've already set the promotion dates for each of them. Take advantage of them while they're available.
Oh - and if you do download them, I'd love it if you'd take the time to leave a review. That would be awesome


Can You Leverage Amazon’s Kindle Publishing to Boost Your Freelance Writing Income?

Can You Leverage Amazon’s Kindle Publishing to Boost Your Freelance Writing Income?

Did you know there are more than 18 million Kindle devices worldwide? There are almost half a billion Android devices out there as well, along with almost 400 million Apple iOS devices, all of which can download and read Kindle ebooks. Of course, you’re also able to read Kindle ebooks right from your desktop computer screen, using the right software to make reading accessible.

That’s certainly a lot of people around the world with access to downloading and reading ebooks. Of course, Amazon lists almost 2 million ebooks in their e-bookstore for you to browse and choose from. When you combine the sheer number of people browsing for something to read with the massive traffic Amazon generates, it’s easy to see why so many writers are jumping onto the Kindle publishing bandwagon.

So how can a freelance writer leverage the power of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing platform to boost freelance income?

It’s much easier than you think….

Write Your Knowledge

No matter what your clients might pay you to write, it’s very likely you’ll have a hobby or passion that you enjoy writing about in your own time. Think about what you already know a lot about. You might have a great way to help moms think up healthy meals that kids love. You might know a good way to train dogs to be perfect puppies.

You might love gardening and have plenty of knowledge to teach others who have never even pulled a weed before. Your hobby might be golf or fishing or sailing or jogging or….

You get the point. Think about what you already know. Make some notes about your knowledge. Compile those notes into some kind of logical order and turn them into an ebook.

Write Your Research

If you’ve been a freelance writer for any length of time, chances are you’ve written about some strange, bizarre, fascinating, obscure, interesting, helpful and truly weird topics for your clients. I still get surprised by some of the odd topics my clients order from me at times.

Of course, before I write anything at all I spend some time researching the topic. I always keep my research filed for future reference, just in case.

When I’m out of ideas for something new to write, I’ll go back through my research files. It’s sometimes entertaining to see the variety of topics I have lots of information about. Collate your information. Sort it into logical order and turn it into an ebook.

Write from Imagination

Yes, there’s always room for a freelance writer to get creative. Spark that imaginative flair and write a short story or a short novel. Write the type of stories you love to read. Format your story nicely and turn it into an ebook.

Why Bother with Kindle Publishing?

When I first heard about writers making decent incomes on Amazon via the Kindle ebookstore, I screwed up my nose and decided it wasn’t for me. After all, if ebooks are selling for .99 cents per download, that’s mere pennies.

Surely my time is better spent writing highly paid articles, right?

Boy, was I wrong.

You see, a friend of mine jumped onto the bandwagon a few years ago (yes, it’s my regular friend and mentor, Lee. Hi, Lee…) She wrote some simple ‘how-to’ ebooks and published them under a pen name. Her sales were steady, so she wrote some more in a different niche under a different pen name.

Two years later, she has a series of best-selling novels and a huge collection of ‘how-to’ series generating more income than she used to earn writing full time as a freelance writer. If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you’ll know Lee has a team of 12 freelance writers working for her almost full time just to keep up with orders.

Many of her smaller titles don’t make significant amounts of money on their own. In fact, she has a couple of titles that maybe churn $40-$50 per month each. Nothing to write home about, surely.

But then she released those big profitable best-selling fiction titles that blew her monthly income through the roof! Rather than write another series of high-paying fiction, she promptly released another quick series of how-to books again.

My first question to her was: “Why didn’t you focus on writing the more profitable fiction stuff to start with?”

Her answer surprised me. She said “I write full time as a freelance writer. Orders from the clients come first. In my spare time I put together well-researched chapters about information that people need or want or find helpful. It’s all I had time to do.”

Then she said: “Besides, if you write something straightforward like a how-to instructional book, you’re working from reference material. You can have it finished in a matter of days, spend another couple of days editing it for quality and then publish it right away. Writing fiction takes time. A LOT of time. And patience. And creativity. And more time.”

In essence, those short simple non-fiction books and how-to books might only earn $50 per month. But imagine if you had 10 of them selling comfortably every month. Imagine if you had 20 of them. Or 50. Or 100! That would be cool.

And then you’d have income coming in that would allow you to focus on the more time-consuming fiction writing that has the potential to earn even more money each month.

By diversifying the types of books she has for sale, her income can’t be affected if sales of one or two slow down, or if a particular topic goes out of style. She spread her risk and guaranteed her income.

Why All the Different Pen Names?

Now, my friend has an easily-recognizable name in the writing industry. Yet she released a large percentage of her ebooks under different pen names.

I just couldn’t work out why she wouldn’t want to capitalize on the recognition of her own name. Again, I asked her why.

She said: “I chose to use different pen names across different genres to keep them separate.”

If you love to read romance fiction from one author and she also wrote nasty, gory horror books, or books about making model trains, or wrote about cooking with gluten-free ingredients, or wrote about cultivating a worm farm in your back yard, would you buy those too just because her name is on the cover?

Or would you stick to the genres and topics you prefer and follow individual authors across your chosen niches?

Why Start with Simple Books?

That first series of basic how-to books taught her the intricacies of Kindle Publishing. It taught her about the formatting requirements and how Amazon’s formatting can sometimes skew your paragraphs and page breaks. She learned  how to tweak her book descriptions to boost sales a bit more. It taught her about book promotion and marketing tactics. And it taught her how to work through the payment systems Amazon has in place for earnings in different currencies.

I really thought about my friend’s advice long and hard. I definitely saw the benefits of learning the industry and the publishing platform with a series of simple books. I also saw the benefit of having a consistent income rolling in each month on books that were faster to write, giving me some freedom later to write more detailed work.

How Do You Promote Your Kindle Books?

I asked my friend how she promotes her books. She promptly wrote an article for her own blog so everyone can learn some marketing basics. You can find her article about Kindle book promotion here: http://fictionfactor.com/articles/book-promotion-tips-for-marketing-your-amazon-kindle-ebook/


When is your first Kindle ebook being launched on Amazon’s ebookstore? Let me know your thoughts on the whole ebook publishing idea.



Paying Tax On Freelance Writing Earnings as an International Writer - Part Two

I wrote at length about paying tax on freelance writing earnings as an international writer in an earlier post (here: http://ravens-writing.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/paying-tax-as-international-freelance.html)

The original post looks at tracking your ACTUAL foreign income earnings from other countries in each different currency. It also looks at being accurate about tracking your converted earnings to your local currency as soon as you earn it so you're able to pay taxes correctly in the right currency.

While I provided a few examples to illustrate where you should be paying your own taxes, one reader offered an example I didn't cover.

Jords wrote:
What about this. A further complication....
Australian writer, living in Spain for the year.

Australian government still classifies me as a resident for tax purposes. Spanish tax office says I need to pay tax here as I will be here for more that 180 days.

Any advice before I pull my last hairs out.

That's an interesting dilemma - but it's not impossible.

Here's how I would work this situation:

Let's assume Jords is earning a mix of US dollars, Euros and UK pounds. Being an Australian writer, Jords still needs to pay taxes in Australia to the Australian taxation office each year.

However, the Spanish tax office wants Jords to pay taxes on earnings in Spain as well. I note that the Spanish financial year runs from 1 January to 31 December, while the Australian financial year runs from 1 July to 30 June. This overlap is a real pain in the @$$ (it's also the same overlap with the Aussie to US financial year).

I don't have to pay tax in Spain, but I sometimes end up paying tax in the US during that overlap of financial year.

So... let's get into it.

Step One: Create a spreadsheet that shows precisely how much was earned in foreign currency AND how much that converts to in Aussie dollars in the next column. Create a new column to reflect how much the same amount converts to in Euros. Tally each column at the end of the reporting timeframe.

Step Two: Register your Australian writing business to complete your BAS (Business Activity Statement) quarterly via the Australian Taxation Office web portal. (this is a painful exercise all by itself.... but awesome once it's set up)

Step Three: Enter ALL your non-Australian writing earnings into the 'foreign income' category, (no GST paid on foreign income - yay) but be ABSOLUTELY certain you enter the Australian-dollar equivalent amount into the form. If you also earn Aussie dollars, enter that amount into the regular income section, along with any GST claimed (if applicable). Provide a total income amount and your quarterly PAYE tax amount will be calculated automatically for you. You CAN amend this down to zero on the online form if you wish, but it's not usually a good idea.

Step Four: Declare any tax you have already paid to the Spanish tax office on your quarterly BAS AND your annual Aussie tax return. After all, you don't want to be paying taxes on the same income twice in two countries!

Step Five: Declare any tax you have already paid to the Australian tax office on your Spanish tax return. From what I can tell, Spain won't care what you've already paid elsewhere. But the Aussie tax office DOES! They should (.... remember the operative word here is should!) reduce the amount of tax owed here in the form of a tax credit for amounts already paid overseas on the same income amounts.

Step Six: Keep track of the two different end-of-financial year dates and be aware of the overlap. Always double-check your conversion rates and always report in the correctly converted currency.  You're reporting in two different countries with very different tax laws, so it matters that you get it right.

Step Seven: Learn as much as you can about what's deductible in which tax system for where you live. After all, there are some benefits to earning foreign income living abroad in terms of deductions and costings with the ATO. This will help keep your taxes down :)

***Important Note: I am not an accountant! I am just a freelance writer earning money from multiple countries in a variety of currencies.***

I hope this helps :)


How to Get a 30% Increase in Amazon Kindle Royalties

Have you written and published anything on the Amazon Kindle store yet? You're a freelance writer, after all. It makes sense to write your own stuff along with articles for clients too.

I've had a couple of different book series selling well in the Kindle bookstore for almost 2 years now and they royalties are really handy each month.

The biggest problem I've had as a non-US author is that Amazon insist on withholding 30% of my royalty income and giving it to the IRS. You see, when you sign up for your Kindle Direct Publishing account, you're required to submit a short tax questionnaire. Your answers determine whether they withhold almost a third of your income or not.

The only way I had to get that income back into my account where it belongs was to submit a tax return in the US each year. That's really painful, especially since I already submit a tax return here in Australia at a different time every year.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was when my long-time friend and mentor figured out a way to get out of paying that 30% withholding amount.

You can find the original article, along with instructions how to stop the IRS from withholding 30% of your royalty payments here:

Now, I followed the instructions and I figure it took me around 15 minutes to complete the necessary steps. The IRS issued me a new EIN immediately.

I logged into my Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing account, re-submitted the tax questionnaire with the EIN included and now they don't withhold ANYTHING from my income.

That's an instant 30% pay rise I just received on my royalty checks each month!! Thanks for the tip, Lee. The additional income is MUCH appreciated.



Bubblews Has NO Confidence In Its Own Future!

You may recall I wrote at some length about whether its worth writing for a site called "Bubblews" earlier on this blog. After learning that you give up all your rights to anything you post there, and after comparing the low pay to real freelance writing opportunities available (here and here) I gave up trying to help those writers who seem to be somewhat brainwashed by the whole pennies-per-hour culture.

I also learned they are asking people to "interview" the site owners. According to the Bubblews website, they're happy for ANYONE to email them with questions they say they will answer "honestly".

Of course, in my efforts to warn REAL online freelance writers away from rip-off scam sites paying writers pennies-per-hour for their time and effort, I immediately emailed the Bubblews staff a list of questions at once!

Here is an exact copy of the email I sent:

I own a blog that focuses on helping freelance writers increase their income from home. The blog is at http://ravens-writing.blogspot.com

My questions are as follows:

1) What do you see Bubblews evolving into over the next 12 months? Or will it stay as it is right now?

2) Does the threat of a "Google Slap" punishment for low-quality content bother Bubblews in any way in terms of traffic or advertising revenue?

3) Is the revenue-share model and payment structure you've adopted for Bubblews sustainable over the long term, or is the payment structure chosen simply a way to build popularity during the start-up phase?

4) Is there a valid reason as to why so many people receive zero response from admin staff to queries received regarding redemption issues, other than "we're too busy"?

5) Do you actively employ writers directly to endorse the site on this site, or any others, in blog posts, Bubbles, or other forms of endorsement, to improve the perception of Bubblews, or to enhance the online reputation of the company?

Thank you in advance for your responses. I'm certain my blog readers will be very keen to see your replies.

That email was sent to Bubblews almost 2 months ago. As expected, I received ZERO response.

Apparently, the Bubblews management, admin and staff only bother to respond to people who offer them positive feedback on their amateur efforts, their low pay and their poorly designed, badly coded and unreliably hosted site. They don't seem interested in honest questions from real freelance writers who want honest answers.

If you're one of those poor, mistreated, misled, underpaid people being paid a few pathetic pennies-per-hour for your time and effort on Bubblews, I'd love to hear from you.

Likewise, if you've managed to get the Bubblews team to respond to your interview questions at all, I'd REALLY love to read their responses to your questions - almost as much as I'd like to read your initial questions.

After all, any long-term professional website with any credibility or future would happily answer questions from ALL their readers - not just the brain-washed slaves willing to sing their praises...


Are You Giving Away All Your Rights When You Write on Bubblews?

Blowing Bubblews

You've probably heard all the hype surrounding revenue-share site Bubblews. There are plenty of people singing the praises for Bubblews being an 'easy way to make money online'.
The rules are so simple. Write about anything you want, make sure your post is at least 400 characters long, post it and you make money. 400 characters is around 100 words, so it's quick to get going.
What could be easier?
The site is filled with thousands of people posting endless 'bubbles' about what they ate for breakfast or about some mundane thing they saw on the way to work.
There are also loads of posts containing highly personal information, such as kid's names, family member's names, pet names, locations of where they live, personal family photos, and other personal trivia.
Of course, there are also people there willing to publish their own creative inspirations, such as poems and short stories, all in the hopes of earning a few extra pennies.

What Are Your Rights?

When you write anything at all for Bubblews, you do all the hard work. You do the writing. You promote your posts. You try hard to find more people to view your work. And then Bubblews pay you a few pennies (if you get paid at all, that is....)
But what does Bubblews get out of the bargain?
Maybe it's time to read their Terms of Use a bit more closely and see what you're REALLY giving away.
If you look at Paragraph 5, Section C in some detail, you'll notice a lot of legal sounding jargon that looks as follows:
Bubblews.com owns a copyright in the selection, coordination, arrangement and enhancement of such content, as well as in the content original to it. You may not modify, publish, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale, create derivative works or in any way exploit any of the content, in whole or in part.

Is Your Work Still Your Own?

So, once you've published your 'work' on Bubblews, do you still own it? Or is the copyright for your work handed over to Bubblews in return for a few pennies?
What about those beloved photos of your kids and pets you posted to the site? How about those precious poems you labored over during their creation? Do the rights for those now belong to the site's owners?
I've seen it written that many people are happy to post "otherwise under-performing" articles on Bubblews in the hopes of making a few extra cents.
When the next big revenue-share site fad is launched and you want to shift your work over to the new site, what happens then? If you delete your own posts on Bubblews, they deduct money from your account. If you don't have much in your account, your bank balance will drop to a negative figure indicating that YOU owe THEM money for removing THEIR content!
Let's find the nicely worded section in the Terms of Use that explains that little bit of trivia more clearly. You'll find it in Paragraph 5, Section D:
...you grant Bubblews.com and its assignees and licensees right to review and make public any and all game play, film, photograph and record your name, nickname, pseudonym, persona, picture, biographical material, voice and/or likeness and to use and distribute the same in any manner or media whatsoever, by any and all means, media, devices, processes and technology now or hereafter known or devised anywhere in the universe at anytime in perpetuity, for any lawful purpose whatsoever, including advertising, publicity or trade.

Blowing Bubblews Back at You

In Paragraph 5, Section D, it actually states that by posting any of your work to Bubblews, you're handing it over to them in exchange for a few pennies. That's right, folks, they can do what they want with YOUR hard work. You accepted the pennies in payment and they get to do what they want with YOUR work, photos, artwork or whatever else you post to the site.
Aren't you generous?
By submitting material to any public area of this Site, or otherwise submitting materials to Bubblews.com, you automatically grant, or warrant that the owner of such material has expressly granted Bubblews.com the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive right and license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, edit, creative derivative works from, distribute, and sub-license such material (in whole or in part, through multiple tiers and/or via syndication) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media or technology now known or hereafter developed for the full term of any copyright that may exist in such material. You also permit any other user to access, view, store or reproduce the material for their personal use.

What About Using Graphics on Your Bubblews Posts?

Almost everyone uses graphics to highlight their Bubblews posts. Some people make their own graphics featuring nothing more than their name or random pictures. (yes, Bubblews owns those too - you submitted them. You got a couple pennies. They're not yours any longer...)
However, lots of people choose to use images from royalty-free stock sites. As long as you have the rights to use and reprint those images - and you credit the source correctly - you have no problem.
But if you spend even 5 minutes on the site, you'll see tons of Bubblews posts float past the 'recent additions' scroll featuring images that are copyrighted to other people. There are pictures of celebrities and products and name brands floating around on the site at any time.
So, what happens when the rightful copyright owners decide to take up legal action against Bubblews for publishing a copyrighted image? Yet again, their Terms of Use make it really clear how they intend to deal with that. Just read Paragraph 6, that states:
Any controversy, claim or dispute arising out of or relating to these Terms of Service, its breach or claimed breach shall be settled by arbitration administered by the American Arbitration Association in accordance with its Commercial Arbitration Rules in Virginia, except that, to the extent you have in any manner violated or threatened to violate Bubblews.com 's intellectual property or confidentiality rights, Bubblews.com may seek injunctive, monetary or other appropriate relief in any state or federal court in the State of Virginia (and Bubblews.com may assert both intellectual property causes of action and other appropriate causes of action in any such action), and you consent to exclusive jurisdiction and venue in such courts.
They even TELL you they're coming after you to seek compensation for any damages YOU caused them by publishing whatever you want in your 'bubbles'.

Did Bubblews Make it Clear Enough Yet?

Just in case you didn't read the rest of the Terms of Use on the Bubblews website, they decided to make it abundantly clear in Paragraph 8 that YOU will be held responsible if someone decides to pursue legal action against them in anyway, including coming after YOU for their expenses and fees:
You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless Bubblews.com, Bubblews.com affiliated companies and their respective directors, officers, employees, agents, assignees and licensees from and against all claims and expenses, including attorneys' fees, resulting from (i) any breach of these Terms of Service or your negligent and wrongful conduct; (ii) your use and access of this Site, including the posting of any content on this Site by you; and (iii) violation by you of any applicable law, rule or regulation.

Think Before You Bubble

If you're happy bubbling away on Bubblews, fine. Go for it! Have fun!
Just be sure you think about what you're posting - because you're giving away all your rights the moment you hit that submit button.
I still refuse to endorse any site that makes getting paid a random event.


Claiming Foreign Earnings as Export Income for International Freelance Writers

A reader left an interesting comment on a previous post about international freelance writing income: http://ravens-writing.blogspot.com.au/2010/08/benefits-of-being-international-writer.html

Emma asked:
Hi Bianca, I was wondering how you claim income if it is not a full rights sale of an article and the income is from a foreign country? For example, if you earn residual income from a company like Hubpages where you do not sell them your article, or if you earn income from an affiliate sale that came from an article written on your own site about a product? Do you still claim these as export income, or as regular income?

Basically, if you earn any income from a foreign country in a currency that is different to your own local currency, it's instantly foreign income - regardless of where you earned it.

For example: if you live in Canada and you sell an article to a US client and you're paid in US dollars, you earned foreign income.

Now, Emma's questions was more about residual income, such as through HubPages. In this case, you're not selling your own article, but you ARE still earning foreign income. The amount you earned is still paid to you in US dollars and it still forms part of your freelance business's revenue.

Obviously, you'll need to convert that income to your own local currency in order to spend it. But the amount you earned was still derived from a foreign source.

Personally, the Australian Taxation Office asks that I report ALL income in Australian dollars. Yet I earn the vast majority of my income in US dollars, Canadian dollars, British pounds or Euros.

So I keep a spreadsheet that shows me exactly how much I received in which currency AND what that amount of money equates to after it's been converted to Australian dollars. I also take careful note of any fees charged for the exchange, as those are tax deductible for me.

Then I report the TOTAL income amount to the Australian Taxation Office - but the form includes two separate components: one is for locally earned money and the other is for export income earned. It's important to keep the amounts separated wherever you can.

While the total income may be shown in your local currency, one component of your income will be comprised of foreign earnings. Those foreign earnings are usually taxed differently within most countries' taxation laws. It pays to ask your accountant how this works for your own country's laws and how you should report it, just to be sure you're getting it right.

What If You're Paid in Local Currency from a Foreign Source?

One aspect of foreign earnings that can be very tricky is when you're paid in your local currency, but the source is still a foreign client.

As an example, if you set up a Google Adsense account you can change the currency you receive to be the same as your local currency. I personally receive Australian dollars when I reach payout with Google.

However, the client is still American. The source of the income is still American, despite the fact that they pay my in Australian dollars.

Therefore, any income I earn from Adsense ads is automatically export earnings and is considered foreign income.

I hope this helps!