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Essay

Pennies from Heaven

Finally, the much-awaited, long-awaited day had arrived.  Exactly a week after I’d been informed by Amazon Kindle that a royalty payment for my novella would be deposited into my account in two to five business days, the deposit came through.  At this point, I hadn’t had a royalty payment in nearly a year.  Now would be the moment of truth. I checked my balance on the Internet—to discover that it was exactly one cent greater than it had been the day before.

          In every writer’s life, there come those moments that render him or her speechless.  This, clearly, was such a moment for me.  Obviously I could not go on living my life as I had been, after such incredible largesse.  Move over, Gregor Samsa, I said to myself. The change I was about to go through would make his measly little metamorphosis look like nothing more than a low-grade seasonal moult.

          My first thought was to contemplate what I might buy with the proceeds. While I didn’t want to spend all the proceeds at once, I did want to have something substantial to show for my achievement.  Should I start visiting auto showrooms, looking at Benzes or Rovers or Jaguars? Should I perhaps consider investing in a piece of land, or maybe even a wee cottage somewhere on the South Shore? Or should I simply call my stockbroker and see what his investment advice would be? So little time. . .so many amazing possibilities.

          After revolving those possibilities around in my head for a while, and realizing I would also need to call my accountant to discuss the tax implications this royalty payment would have for me, I then turned to the question of how, exactly, Amazon might have come up with the figure of one cent. Back in the days when I was a flourishing new fiction writer, my royalties would be just over $2 per book sold, whether Amazon sold a hard copy or an electronic one.  In those palmy days, I might make $4 or even $6 in a month.  On one noteworthy occasion, I was able to buy coffee and muffins for two at Tim’s out of my royalties. Mirabile dictu! But this great success would never be repeated. Those days are long gone, vanished as certainly and as truly as Red Tories, full-bar, open-bar office parties, and full-service gas stations.

          Working from the known to the unknown, I spent hours that would have been better devoted to doing laundry or vacuuming the living room trying to make the leap from $2 to $.01.  What exactly did that $.01 represent? A correction of two years’ rounding errors? Three months’ interest on a late payment, at an interest rate of 2%? Six months’ interest on a late payment, at an interest rate of 1%.  And would the interest be simple, or compound? These are thoughts that keep a man awake late into the night, eventually causing him to resort to the pill container or the whiskey decanter in an attempt to get some sleep.

          Eventually I settled on three months’ interest at 2% as the likeliest alternative, 2% being the rate my bank gives me on an investment savings account. As for what I’ll buy with the proceeds, the jury is still out, but that seaside cottage near Lunenburg is looking better and better.

          As I search the real estate ads, looking for that perfect cottage, let me express my profound gratitude to Amazon.  Your payment of one cent is truly an example of pennies from heaven.  I haven’t had this much fun in a coon’s age.  I’m also grateful for the many expressions of support and pieces of advice I’ve received from fellow writers, most of the latter being along the lines of “Don’t spend it all in one place.” The sense of literary community generated by this simple act on Amazon’s part has been most heartening.  If only Amazon had sent me a cheque for the $.01 instead of simply depositing the money in my account, my happiness would be complete.  I would have visual proof  of my achievement to show to fellow writers all around the world, letting them know, in the most dramatic way, that if only they applied themselves as I had, they too might have royalty payments of $.01 in their future.

          Must go now.  There’s a call coming in from my stockbroker that I simply have to take. . .

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