Back to previous post: The Write Agenda: The wrong company to keep

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Look! Up in the Sky!

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

April 21, 2011

Yog’s Law
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:36 AM * 74 comments

Yog’s Law is very simple: Money flows toward the author.

[Yog's Law tee shirt]

The corollary is: The only place a writer signs a check is on the back.

For commercial publishing this is absolutely true, and, I hope, intuitively obvious. Once you’ve moved away from it, you’re out of the realm of commercial publishing. Note: True self-publication is a subset of commercial publication.

(I skip over academic publishing—that’s its own field, and rewards come not in money but in prestige and tenure. You’ll know that you’re in academic publishing when you personally are an academic, you’re writing on an academic subject, and the folks you’re talking with are called the [Something] University Press.)

The next stop is vanity publishing. Here you find the so-called “self-publishing services” along with the true vanities. In this area, the publishers run the gamut from A Very Bad Idea right the way down to An Out-And-Out Scam, with a vast morass of well-intentioned-but-under-capitalized and well-intentioned-but-incompetent in between.

From an author’s point of view, there’s no practical difference between a scammer and an incompetent: Both are time-and-money sinks; neither will get your book into the hands of readers. Worst case: In addition to emptying your bank account you could lose your book for your life plus seventy years.

Yog’s Law will keep you safe from this part of the publishing landscape. Use it as your compass and your guide.

Last is true self-publishing. Yog’s Law is true here, too. Self-publishing is the part of the map where the author is the publisher and hires the editor, hires the cover artist, the typesetter, the proofreader, contracts the printer, buys the ISBN, arranges distribution, promotion, marketing, and carries out every other aspect of publishing.

What you need to recall is that while the author is the publisher, “publisher” and “author” are separate roles. One of the classic mistakes I see with self-published authors is that they don’t put “paying the author” in their business plan as an expense. The money still needs to move from one pocket to another. Those pockets may be in the same pair of pants, but that movement has to be in the business plan, and it must happen. Here, too, Yog’s Law is completely true, and will help the self-publisher run his/her business as a business.

If you can’t afford to put 10-15% of the cover price of every copy sold into a separate savings account, you can’t afford to self-publish.

Avoid unhappy surprises. Live by Yog’s Law.

Google

Comments on Yog's Law:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 11:59 AM:

Money flows toward the writer. It may not flow fast, and it may not flow in large amounts, but that's the way it flows.

You don't pay your boss for the pleasure of coming to work every morning, do you?

#2 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 12:06 PM:

This needs to be linked to everywhere where linking to something like this is a legitimate part of the discourse.

#3 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 12:27 PM:

Thank you for this. It seems like such a simple, obvious thing but sometimes those simple, obvious things need to be stated clearly, loudly and often, just so they sink in.

As an experiment, I self published a book, doing all the work myself. It shows, mostly in the typos. But I learned Yog's law in a very real sense by doing this experiment. But I'm hard headed and learn by doing, so now Yog's law is a visceral part of my writing toolbox.

That's why I'll be shopping the next book around to publishers.

#4 ::: Randolph ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 01:17 PM:

I make it: in an honest publishing deal, money flows to the author. (And I always cite you. If you could collect royalties for proverbial sayings, you'd have a pocketful of change, at least.)

I once put out this warning, too: "Publishers make their money from editing, marketing, and taking on financial risk; authors are in the business of communication. Unless you as an author understand how to deal with marketing and financial risk (that means things like writing a
business plan and cold-calling potential customers) and have the money to risk, spending substantial money on self-publishing is likely to
make you very unhappy indeed."

#5 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:02 PM:

The corollaries stated in 1 are almost equally important.

#6 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:05 PM:

Toward, or at the VERY least, not away from.

I was just mentioning Yog's Law the other day, so am delighted to see this reiterated.

#7 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:06 PM:

I recommend a lighter green for the dollar sign-- it's hard to read Yog's Law, and possibly putting the check above or below the text on the back.

#8 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:19 PM:

Nancy Lebovitz @7

Yes, a lighter green would increase legibility.

#9 ::: cath ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:22 PM:

(sticks head up nervously, given the company)

There is one more option.

Be an amateur writer (for now, at least) and share your work for free - or don't share it at all.

No, it's not commercial publishing and you won't make any money or get professional credit for it. But not everything has to be. You don't have to have your name under the title on a book which people can buy to be a writer. You can just write for fun and for practice and to improve your skill. You don't have to try to get paid for it.

I do wonder if many people end up vanity publishing because they feel like their writing is a waste of time if it isn't published somewhere and if they're not at least trying to make money from it. Why can't writers choose to be amateurs without being considered to have failed? Nobody turns a hair that I play the violin only in my spare time and don't run around trying to find people to pay me for gigs. In music it's normal. In sport it's normal. In acting it's normal. In art it's normal. In writing it's looked down on.

I agree that money should never flow away from the author. But there's a whole class of writing where no money flows at all, and most people start off in it. Getting out of it isn't something to be done at all costs. Much better to be an amateur for free than to throw money at trying to be a pro.

(hopes that Yog's Law applies to her one day.)

#10 ::: Sarah S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:25 PM:

cath @9

Yep, that.
I write a lot of poetry. Sometimes I get paid cash when I publish it. Sometimes I get paid in free copies. Sometimes I get paid in satisfaction.

It's not always about bringing money in. But Jim is correct that it's NEVER about laying money out.

#11 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:39 PM:

The bit about signing a check on the back: the banks in Britain are well on the way to abolishing checks.

#12 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 02:40 PM:

Careful, Dave, they'll quote you as an authoritative disproof of Yog's Law on that attack blog.

#13 ::: thomas ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 03:49 PM:

Even in academic publishing it depends on the field. Statistics definitely obeys Yog's Law. I think most of the sciences do. The humanities, not so much, but even there it isn't usually the author who coughs up the money, it's some sort of funding body.

There's no advances, but I do get royalties. The amounts are pretty small (this year, it's 'Meh' on the Scalzi scale), but there is the advantage that you're allowed to write as part of your day job.

#14 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 04:00 PM:

What Cath is pointing out in #9 is a special case of self-publishing where the cover price of the work is zero. The author is getting 10% of that... but it's still zero.

The publisher is bearing all the costs. That the publisher and the author are the same person is immaterial. It would be no different if the work appeared in a 4theluv webzine or a literary journal that pays a contributor's copy.

This entire web log that you're reading is an example of self-publishing, for which we aren't charging, nor are we paying the authors. It does not violate Yog's Law. (If, however, we were to charge Abi so much as one cent to allow her to post an entry here, that would violate Yog's Law.)

Similarly, the publishers who say "Publishing with us doesn't cost anything! It's all free! All you have to do is guarantee that you'll sell 500 copies in the first year, and if you don't that you'll buy 'em yourself...."

"No," you'd say. "That violates Yog's Law."

"Whassamatter," says the scammer, "Don't you have any faith in your book? If you don't think it'll sell 500, why should I even bother with it?"

"Because if I buy 500 copies, that'll pay for the whole shooting match plus a big fat cigar for you," you reply. "You don't have to lift a finger, and you won't. If the author is the customer that's vanity publishing. See ya."

And you walk away happy, knowing that you've avoided being scammed, heartbroken, and saddled with cases of books in your basement.

#15 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 04:08 PM:

Why can't writers choose to be amateurs without being considered to have failed? Nobody turns a hair that I play the violin only in my spare time and don't run around trying to find people to pay me for gigs. In music it's normal. In sport it's normal. In acting it's normal. In art it's normal. In writing it's looked down on.

It was when I realized that I had hobbies I didn't want to do professionally that I began to understand writing didn't have to be professional for everyone, too. (And also, when I ditched all my attitudes about fanfic, and embraced the idea instead.)

Though I have found ... once I started doing a crafting hobby ... that others actually would keep telling me I could / should sell my work, meaning it as a compliment. It felt very odd indeed to explain that no, I actually had no desire to make money at this, when I had worked so hard to make money at my writing and had justified the decision to do that with equal passion. But I don't, in a way because the writing is vocation--I wanted pure avocations to balance it.

Much better to be an amateur for free than to throw money at trying to be a pro.

That, especially for writing.

Writing and taking joy in it and not worrying about the rest is a fine thing to do.

Paying others to distribute (or, more often, fail to distribute) your writing when your goal is to do this professionally and maybe even make part of your living at it is a path to heartbreak, and to making yourself and those around you unhappy, as well.

I'm still working on ways to express this and yet also express Yog's law, which I still think is sound. "If the goal is for money to flow, then it should always flow toward the author"?

#16 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 04:10 PM:

Crossposted with Yog.

Maybe the real/concise rule is "money doesn't flow away from the author."

#17 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 05:09 PM:

I always wear a seat belt. Even knowing that it won't protect me 100% of the time. Only going with an advance-and-royalty publisher won't protect you from horrible things happening to your book. (See also: Dorchester.)

But I advise seat belt wearing. I advise hand-washing. I advise splitting aces and eights.

"The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that's the way to bet." -- Damon Runyon, in More Than Somewhat.

#18 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 05:28 PM:

If by "money" we mean the medium of exchange in a particular economy, then the fanfic economy, in which the medium of exchange is commentary and feedback, constitutes a strong example of Yog's Law -- since providing oneself with self-generated feedback and commentary is, to put it mildly, disapproved of within the community.

#19 ::: Alan Bostick ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 05:31 PM:

I advise splitting aces and eights.

Ummm, no.

#20 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 05:45 PM:

I'm with y'all on giving stuff away. But I don't think anyone would think it was a good idea to throw in a five-dollar bill with every craft item you gave away.

#21 ::: Joe McMahon ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 06:13 PM:

I've tried the self-publishing route for CDs, blew a chunk of money I won't get back, and only sold a few.

I've released several "CDs" via free downloads and Creative Commons and now actually have fans. I'll never be a professional musician, but now at least I get paid in nice letters from people who are happy I made the music available. So, Yog's Law again confirmed: attention and complements are flowng to me, and I am not spending my money to get them.

#22 ::: Janni ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 06:32 PM:

Debra @18:

If by "money" we mean the medium of exchange in a particular economy, then the fanfic economy, in which the medium of exchange is commentary and feedback, constitutes a strong example of Yog's Law -- since providing oneself with self-generated feedback and commentary is, to put it mildly, disapproved of within the community.

Heh. A good way to look at that.

#23 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 07:42 PM:

Joe @ 21: But your stuff is on a free-but-curated netlabel, right? That's an interesting alternative, and I wonder if there's an equivalent for books.

#24 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 09:59 PM:

Alan @ 19: Ummm... yes. A pair of eights gives you 16. If you stand on 16 your odds are pretty crappy. Splitting a pair of aces gives you rather decent odds of one or more 21s.

#25 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 10:04 PM:

Damn my too-fast mashing of mouse buttons. Add to the above: If you hit on 16 you have a greater than 50% chance of busting.

#26 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 21, 2011, 10:57 PM:

Aces & Eights is the Dead Man's Hand. You don't keep it, points and probabilities notwithstanding.

Because if you're not superstitious, you're not a gambler, because gambling is a loser's game.

(Well, except that there are blackjack systems that will let you win over time. But if you get caught using one of them, the casino will throw you out and probably have some goons give you a beating. So: still a loser's game.)

#27 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 01:13 AM:

Um, I think Jim had the poker hand in mind, the one that Wyatt Earp was allegedly holding when he was shot in the back.

Blackjack is a whole different deal.

#28 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 01:20 AM:

Except that Jim said "splitting". There's no splitting in poker, not that I've ever heard of. But "split aces and eights" is conventional wisdom in blackjack.

#29 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 01:53 AM:

Daniel Boone, you mean Wild Bill Hickock. He was allegedly holding that hand when he was killed in Deadwood, SD.

Earp moved to Southern California in the 1880s and became a real-estate and mining investor. He lived into the 1920s.

#30 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 05:44 AM:

I was indeed talking about blackjack. (A game of skill that it is indeed possible to win.)

But that's rather aside from the point that twenty years on, Yog's Law is still going strong and performing its primary duty: Making the scammers howl. (Want to tell who's a scammer? See who's howling the loudest.)

#31 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 01:03 PM:

Xopher @ 26

I'm aware of poker's Dead Man's Hand. Is there an actual poker hand called "Fool's Run"? I picked it up from a Patricia McKillip story back when I was in high school. (which was when I learned about Dead Man's Hand) I've always been curious about poker lore and named hands ever since.

#32 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 03:02 PM:

#26 ::: Xopher

For what it's worth, the only card counter I know was excluded from casinos, but not beaten. He was making normal income amounts (about 70K/year, as I recall), not looting the casino, if that matters.

I asked him, and as I'd guessed, card counting is very boring.

This was some years ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if the casinos have gotten faster at detecting card counters.

#33 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 03:41 PM:

This was some years ago, and it wouldn't surprise me if the casinos have gotten faster at detecting card counters.

I have a friend who can count cards. He says that yes, it's boring, and also that the second or third time he did it he was approached as he was cashing out by some terribly polite men who urged him to not play blackjack in their casino anymore.

These days he plays poker instead, and does pretty well at it. :)

#34 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 05:07 PM:

I'm amused at the "normal" amounts of income. I'd wager much of the country would see 70,000 a year as a lot of money. Once one leave the major metropoli the numbers change a lot.

The median US income (2010 Census) was 44,000. Of those making less than 44,00, more than half (34 percent of the total) were making less than 30,000.

I know that were I to move to Oak Ridge Tenn. I could pretty own a half acre lot, with house, on my disability compensation.

I can't really afford to rent my own apartment in the San Fransisco Bay.

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 05:11 PM:

Crap, I meant to say "pretty easily".

#36 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 05:45 PM:

Here's a blackjack practice game.

As in publishing, your job isn't to win every hand (although that would be nice), the object is to make the correct bets.

Following Yog's Law is the correct bet.

#37 ::: Daniel Boone ::: (view all by) ::: April 22, 2011, 08:09 PM:

Linkmiester #29, so I did. (Mean Wild Bill.)

David Goldfarb #28, people split pairs all the time in draw poker. Throw away the low pair, draw to the high one. Or split both pairs and draw to a straight or a flush.

I never heard a superstition/tradition about not splitting the Dead Man's Hand, but it sure didn't surprise me when Jim seemed to suggest there might be one.

Moot, though, because Jim did mean blackjack after all. So I was doubly wrong, sigh.

#38 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 01:56 AM:

::penny drops::

Damn. Jim's Yog Sysop? <blink>

Huh. Another of the Great Mysteries, solved....

#39 ::: Darryl rosin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 04:39 AM:

sorry, this might be another of my infrequent and trivial questions about mundane US practices but:

why does anyone sign the back of a cheque? the drawee's client has signed the front of the cheque authorizing the transfer of funds, what function is served by a drawer signing the back of a cheque?

#40 ::: Darryl rosin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 04:39 AM:

sorry, this might be another of my infrequent and trivial questions about mundane US practices but:

why does anyone sign the back of a cheque? the drawee's client has signed the front of the cheque authorizing the transfer of funds, what function is served by a drawer signing the back of a cheque?

#41 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 06:10 AM:

Darin rosin -- in theory, the signature on the back can be used to confirm that the person collecting on the check is authorized to do so. (In practice.... well.)

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 08:39 AM:

It is common practice in the USA for the person to whom the check is made out to sign it on the back when cashing it.

#43 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 08:40 AM:

Daryl rosin: Extending on Debbie's comment, the practice of "endorsing" a check dates back to when they were taken seriously and hand-verified, as a written authorization for someone to receive money from your account. You could¢ also take a check written to you, and sign it over to someone else, so that they could cash or deposit it. My father used to endorse checks he'd received as "for deposit only" (written under his signature) to prevent someone else doing that.

On the other hand, actual verification of checks has slid so far that you (for some values of "you") might well be able to simply deposit someone else's check -- I once mixed up my rent check with a charity check, and the Nature Conservancy had no problem depositing a check that wasn't even made out to them. (They did give the money back.)

¢ AFAIK you theoretically still can, but I wouldn't try it anywhere but a teller's window with both parties present.

#44 ::: Juli Thompson ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 10:04 AM:

My mother sends checks made out to my daughter (age 10), because said daughter is thrilled to get them and it's safer than sending cash.

My mother remembers when I used to get checks as a child, and she would simply take them to the bank and cash them. I tried to do that, and was informed that, even though the teller knows me, knows my daughter, and knows we're legit, if Homeland Security found out they were cashing checks made out to other people, they would be in major trouble. This is an anti-terrorism measure.

I expressed my opinion of that, and now I take my daughter to the bank, and, in front of the clerk, she signs the check over to me, and I cash it. My daughter loves this even more than getting the check, since she really feels grown up. I mutter darkly about the loss of liberty, security theater, small children not being equivalent to terrorists, etc., and get on with my life.

#45 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 02:41 PM:

A bit old, but a first-person account from someone who needed Yog's Law: http://hubpages.com/hub/ASPIRING-AUTHORS-BE-AWARE-OF-AMERICAN-BOOK-PUBLISHING

#46 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 02:44 PM:

Juli @ #44, "small children not being equivalent to terrorists"

Hank Ketcham and whoever has succeeded him in writing/drawing the Dennis the Menace comic beg to differ.

#47 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 04:32 PM:

You could also take a check written to you, and sign it over to someone else, so that they could cash or deposit it.

Happens all the time at real estate closings. Buyer brings (large) check made out to themselves for down payment and signs it over to the closing attorney who cuts the appropriate checks back out of their escrow account.

#48 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 04:57 PM:

re checks: When they were created (ca 17th Century) they were much more negotiable instruments, and might change hands a great number of times.

The serial endorsements allowed the initial promissor to know the payment being demanded was a legitimate claim.

#49 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 05:15 PM:

You'll still see signs in, for example, grocery stores: "No third-party checks."

#50 ::: Darryl rosin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 05:17 PM:

thanks. A curious practice, it seems to me. is there some poor schmoe at the phone company signing the backs of all the cheques people use to pay their phone bills?:^)

over here, you only sign the back if you're indorsing the cheque for payment to someone else, often a debtor finance company, which made me wonder if there was something peculiar about how US authors arrange their finances.

d

#51 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 05:21 PM:

Over at the phone company they most likely use a rubber stamp to endorse the back of the check.

#52 ::: Darryl rosin ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 05:24 PM:

Happens all the time at real estate closings. Buyer brings (large) check made out to themselves for down payment and signs it over to the closing attorney who cuts the appropriate checks back out of their escrow account.

ok, I'm not going to derail this thread any more than I already have, but that's just weird.

d

#53 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 06:32 PM:

Darryl rosin: No, it's insurance. If the deal falls through no money has left the account of the person trying to buy the property.

#54 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 07:35 PM:

Does anyone have any specific opinion about Epigraph Publishing Services, and about Monkfish, the somewhat-more-real-seeming small press they are connected with?

I had the impression Monkfish were nice people, and I would be very sad to be forced to revise that opinion, because I know people who are connected with it.

#55 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 08:46 PM:

Discussion of Monkfish here.

Epigraph Publishing Service's web page is here.

This seems to be a POD printer with extras (actually, they seem to be a third-party front end for LSI).. Doesn't claim to do any editorial gatekeeping, and doesn't seem to take any rights. The contract is here.

#56 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 09:18 PM:

I heard a fellow commuter talking the other night about, if I understood him, how publishers limit the number of authors they have. My response was that it's not like that: most authors aren't published because there's some kind of limit by the publishers, it's because they aren't very good. (He's getting the free/cheap ebooks from the evil A. One author's first (free) book was, he said, longer than War and Peace (which sounds like an editor would have been an excellent idea). My response to that book was 'sounds like slushpile'.)

#57 ::: Thena ::: (view all by) ::: April 23, 2011, 09:59 PM:

Che[c/que]s subthread:

I work in a Big Scary Government Office and one of the things I do is touch checks. We use a rubber stamp to endorse them. What gets dicey is that different divisions of different departments have their own stamps. The bank does not care about this at all; it's so that if someone says they sent a check to, say, the Division of the Blind and Visually Impaired, and DBVI can't find the money, we can get a copy of the endorsement from the bank, and maybe it turns out the check got deposited to the Bureau of Unemployment Compensation or the State Bureau of Identification or whatever.

Sometimes we might get a third party check (for example, if an employee has had travel expenses reimbursed by an outside entity) and if it's made out to the person they have to countersign it before we can stamp it and run it through.

(Don't get me going on all the bizarre things people write on checks...)

#58 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 03:53 AM:

To tie the check thread back to the publishing thread: In some cases some publishers would print incredible and author-abusive contracts on the back of the check. Total rights-grabs. Which the author would have to sign to get the money.

What savvy authors would do would be print "For deposit only" on the back of the check and deposit it to their account, rather than sign something that would, for example, give away all rights in perpetuity.

#59 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 11:08 AM:

Jim Macdonald (58): Even if you write "for deposit only" on the back, don't you still have to sign it, though? That's what I was taught.

#60 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 12:43 PM:

Nope, you don't have to sign it. "For deposit only in account #####" does the job.

#61 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 12:58 PM:

It's what I do, even now.

#62 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 01:27 PM:

Cheques in Britain do seem to be different.

I've never had to sign the back of any cheque made out to me so as to deposit it in my account.

Cheques are pre-printed "crossed" so they can't be cashed instead of being paid in to an account.

I think the only time I've signed the back of a cheque has been when I have drawn a cheque on my account for cash. With ATM machines and such, the last time I did that must be a quarter-century ago.

My father recalls the days when cancelled cheques came back to the original payer. Must be nearly fifty years ago, because he was buying cattle, and his cheques would get serial endorsements. I was checking a bit of history, and at the time the largest banknote was only five pounds. OK, that would maybe be GBP 150 now, but that would make his cheques sometimes worth maybe GBP 2000 in today's money.

My father was also once paid with a cheque written on the inside of a used sugar bag. (This was around sixty years ago.) All quite legal: it bore the correct wording and had a postage stamp attached as payment of the duty.

Endorsing a cheque and passing it on gave you a chance to make a payment without incurring bank charges.

#63 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 03:36 PM:

Dave Bell @ #62: My father was also once paid with a cheque written on the inside of a used sugar bag

The example I was given in my "Money & Banking" class a long time ago was "you can write a check on a banana peel if you want to and it'll be legal."

#64 ::: KayTei ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 03:40 PM:

On the checks subthread: I was taught that it's basically for purposes of being able to prove the check recipient's intent. So you either sign "For deposit only; account number; recipient's signature" or "Pay to the order of; their name; recipient's signature."

That way, if the bank misdeposits it, you have a clear line of evidence as to what they should have done.

#65 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 03:57 PM:

Dave Bell@62 - postage stamp attached as payment of the duty.
I first ran into that practice in Egypt - here in the US we had a revolution to get rid of the Stamp Act taxes (among other things), and they've never been brought back. Banks themselves might charge money to use checks, but that's how the service is priced, not a government fee.

#67 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 04:19 PM:

re duty on checks: It's apparently no longer the practice, or the bank hides it. I made a reference to it re WW2 and was royally upbraided by someone in Britain, not only for it not being the present practice but being (because they had never done it) "never the practice".

Henh.

I don't put my account number, and I no longer sign checks over to people, because most banks (in the states) seem to no longer accept it. I've had several friends whose banks refused checks which had been signed over to them, one from his wife.

As with the example above, they would only do it when the other part was present, and tried to make them cash it, and then deposit.

As to "write it on a banana peel" that's also pretty much been legislated out of existence. My favorite was the check written on the side of cow, which required a tattoo to cancel.

#68 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2011, 06:13 PM:

An outline of the history of stamp duty on cheques in Britain is available for your perusal here

As for cheques on cows, that seems to be one of A.P. Herbert's Misleading Cases.

#70 ::: dbr ::: (view all by) ::: April 25, 2011, 07:34 PM:

When I looked at the picture, I thought it said "Money Slows towards the writer". My eyes and my monitor are getting old....

#71 ::: Rainflame ::: (view all by) ::: April 26, 2011, 12:12 AM:

As recently as 2004, a grocery store I shop at accepted a check written on a deposit slip. The clerk instructed me to cross out everywhere it said "deposit" and write at the top "this is a check".

I remember on the old Truth or Consequences show, someone trying to cash a check written on the side of a very large watermelon. I don't remember if they were successful.

#72 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 09:56 PM:

I've always been curious about poker lore and named hands ever since.

For named hands you can't beat mah-jongg. I was half sure Jane Lindskold had made up Plucking the Moon from the Bottom of the Sea... nope. It's real (and must be incredibly rare, considering the conditions).

#73 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 03, 2011, 11:20 PM:

Janni, #15: Adding to what you say here -- crafting can be an expensive hobby, and it's easy to think that you could at least recoup your expenses by selling some of your stuff. Moving up to that next level is a whole different ball of wax. I started out in jewelry-making with the goal of having a business, but it's been a long and often-discouraging slog, and I couldn't do it at all if I didn't have my partner to handle the financial/legal end. For the hobbyist who starts doing it out of pure love, it can suck all the pleasure out of a once-enjoyable activity, and that's no fun at all.

If the people telling you "You should sell your stuff!" are not themselves in the business of selling art... take it with several grains of salt. They have no idea what they're actually encouraging you to do. I know, because until I got into the business I didn't have any idea what it actually entailed.

Terry, #34: Hell, we'd consider $70,000/year to be a pretty hefty amount of money, and we live in a major metropolitan area! The only reason we can stay afloat is that when my partner's father died, he paid off the mortgage with part of his inheritance, so we don't have that hanging over our heads.

David, #43: I worked at a bank for about a year back in the 80s, and picked up a lot of things about banking practices more-or-less by osmosis. One of those things was that most banks would not take "third-party checks" (which is what they call one signed over to someone else) any more, even then. These days I'd just cash the check at my bank and hand the other person the cash, or deposit it and send them a check made out to them from my own account.

Checks that I receive in the course of my business are endorsed with a rubber stamp that has my business name, the account #, and "For Deposit Only" on it. I forgot to stamp a check once and the bank took it, but that was in a deposit, with my own pre-printed deposit slip as evidence that it was really me.

Oh, and once I was buying something at Northern Reflections and accidentally made out the check to "Northern Exposure" (it was while the show was popular), and the clerk said it was okay, they got a lot of those, and I didn't need to tear it up and start over.

#74 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 17, 2011, 11:02 AM:

Those same elements that make it easy to indie-publish make it hard to indie-succeed.

Make no mistake about it: Self-publishing is a part of commercial publishing. Money still flows toward the author, even if its flowing from one pocket to another in the same pair of pants.

Take Person A. Give her a split personality: A1 is the writer. A2 is the publisher. A2 pays for all the formatting, the covers, the editing, the copyediting, the proofreading, the artwork, the distribution, the publicity, the marketing ... and also pays A1 15% of the cover price of each copy sold. None of those items are optional.

If A2 can't see a way to pay royalties to A1 from the very first copy sold, if A2 doesn't have paying the author built into her business plan, then A1 should take her book elsewhere.

Welcome to Making Light's comment section. The moderators are Avram Grumer, Jim Macdonald, Teresa & Patrick Nielsen Hayden, and Abi Sutherland. Abi is the moderator most frequently onsite. She's also the kindest. Teresa is the theoretician. Are you feeling lucky?

If you are a spammer, your fate is in the hands of Jim Macdonald, and your foot shall slide in due time.

Comments containing more than seven URLs will be held for approval. If you want to comment on a thread that's been closed, please post to the most recent "Open Thread" discussion.

You can subscribe (via RSS) to this particular comment thread. (If this option is baffling, here's a quick introduction.)

Post a comment.
(Real e-mail addresses and URLs only, please.)

HTML Tags:
<strong>Strong</strong> = Strong
<em>Emphasized</em> = Emphasized
<a href="http://www.url.com">Linked text</a> = Linked text

Spelling reference:
Tolkien. Minuscule. Gandhi. Millennium. Delany. Embarrassment. Publishers Weekly. Occurrence. Asimov. Weird. Connoisseur. Accommodate. Hierarchy. Deity. Etiquette. Pharaoh. Teresa. Its. Macdonald. Nielsen Hayden. It's. Fluorosphere. Barack. More here.















(You must preview before posting.)

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.