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    June 30, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I try not to complain around here. I don’t think this is the proper forum for airing our personal laundry. From the very beginning, I have wanted this blog to be about ideas…with a few personal antics {compliments of my beloved children} on the side. But I’m hoping you’ll indulge me today because I’m just…so…frustrated.

    Exactly five-and-a-half years ago yesterday, I started this blog. I had been reading blogs for a time, and for even longer than that, I had written a little–and sometimes a lot–almost every single day. This started when I was a little girl, and continued through high school, and college, and {save a year-long hiatus after I had my firstborn}…through life.

    I never wrote for the money, and I don’t intend to stop.

    But the money has been nice. And I suppose I should thank all of you for this, because without all of you shopping the Amazon affiliate links all these years, there would be no money about which to say such things.

    Why am I talking about money?

    Well, if you read The Drudge Report, for instance, then you probably know that my state passed an internet tax, one which is in direct violation of the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution {the U. S. Supreme Court ruled this in Quill v. North Dakota}. Governor Brown says this is “a common-sense idea” which I suppose is true if law and justice mean absolutely nothing.

    Where are we to flee, and who will protect us, when there is no rule of law?

    I heard on the radio last week, this rumbling about a new “Amazon tax.” I knew that when some other state had tried this a while back {was it Illinois? I think I remember that it was}, that Amazon fired everyone in that state who worked for them.

    Good for them! Someone has to stand up for the rule of law, and I appreciate them doing so.

    And I knew then that the same would happen here if the law passed.

    Well, pass it did, as part of our recent budget package.

    And so, last night, not long after Governor Brown signed the budget, Amazon fired me.

    Along with all of their other California affiliates.


    The amount of money I have made through all of this has not been a lot. Until the last year or so, it wasn’t even enough to cause me to pay income tax.

    But it has made a world of difference to us. It has paid for Christmas gifts and birthday gifts. It has allowed us to send books to people who needed them. Last year and this year, it paid for almost all of our school books.

    I was thrilled to know, that after all these years, my husband wasn’t buying his own birthday gifts from me.

    I am sure you all understand. Most of you know a lot about making sacrifices for your family in order to homeschool. We have sold a house, moved jobs, and worked jobs and hours we don’t like, in order to be able to do this. We have gone without nights out and coffee drinks and vacations in order to make sure that we could afford a proper education for our children. And you have done the same.

    And so I’m sure you understand what it might feel like to know that your entire school budget has just been wiped out.

    I am just so angry. This is the second time I’ve lost an affiliate because of the government {the first time was when the FDA shut down the Wilderness Family Naturals affiliate program back in 2009}. The government is a greedy beast and it will stop at nothing to take money out of the pockets of hard working citizens. And this just makes me feel ill. First my WFN affiliate. Then, we move to a neighborhood where the school creates a “special federal district” that allows them to steal charge an additional tax fee of more than $500 per year per household in addition to our property taxes, a fee which goes up every year, regardless of property value, and has no sunset provision at all–a fee which just goes up and up into the sky, with no end in sight.

    And now Amazon.

    I love California. I love living near the beaches and the mountains. I love living near first, second, and third cousins. I love the farming and the oil and the relative ease of home educating. This is our home.

    But for the first time I considered that maybe we should just leave.

    We can’t, obviously, at least not right this minute, but it is sure a temptation after being burned so personally.

    It feels personal, even though it’s not.

    It’s not personal, it’s business, right?

    Anyhow, all of this to say that I’ll be taking down the affiliate links in the side bar, and generally moving some things around. None of this will make me stop writing, of course, for the writing has always been done for the love of it.

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 4, 2011 at 10:48 pm


    I think it *is* going to end up in court, but not through Amazon. I just read that PMA is going to court in Illinois over the attempt to tax marketers in this way. You can read about it here. Considering that these states have recently invented this “nexus” idea, I think it’ll end up at the Supreme Court eventually…

  • Reply Stacey July 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    Grr. I heard about this on another blog. πŸ™ Another poor decision by the Cali. gov. I’m so sorry it’s impacted you (and 25,000 others). I suspect you’re right, if it works here, other states will follow, but I do hope it ends up in court.

  • Reply Silvia July 1, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I think you explained it perfectly. I know enough as to know they do not want us to know about legal matters, if we are defeated before we even present a fight, they win it with no effort.
    But I’m glad you are there to support any legal action taken, and yes, irony, you’d have given taxes to the government that now they’ve cut.
    And yes, you provided a service. I hope you keep finding alternative routes.

  • Reply Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life June 30, 2011 at 11:45 pm

    Brandy – Look at this discussion in the General forum:

    They linked to this post written by a woman in Arkansas:

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 30, 2011 at 11:17 pm

    Sallie, I read through the forums, but it sounded like Amazon does not actually have a business option and that the Affiliate program is based entirely upon location of residence. Am I missing something?

    Silvia, I don’t completely understand what happened, but what I do know is that this was nestled inside of the new CA state budget, not voted on as an individual bill. Personally, I forsee this ending up in court eventually. What CA wants is for each affiliate to be considered a point of sale–sort of like their own store. So then each time someone clicks through a link, they want Amazon to collect CA state sales tax–regardless of where the purchaser lives. At least, this is my understanding (I admit I could have read it wrong). If this is true, this law is treating ADVERTISERS as if they were STORES, and that is very dangerous. Afterthoughts was willingly and deliberately offering ad space to Amazon, both in the sidebar and embedded in posts, in exchange for minimal compensation. In my mind, it benefitted my readers, because it made it easy for them to check out the books that were being discussed, so I also saw it as a useful service I offered.

    With that said, we see that here CA is treating internet marketers like me as being different from a newspaper ad, or a billboard. Obviously it is easier to track sales from internet marketing, but in the legal sense of this issue, this is as if the state said that every sale that was a direct result of a newspaper ad had to charge sales tax for the state the newspaper was in, regardless of where the STORE was located. This is why it is considered a violation of the Commerce Clause–because stores are only supposed to be required to collect taxes for their own state, not for other states.

    The irony here is not lost on me. Had I continued my earning at the current rate, this would have been the first year I had to pay income tax. As it is, my state got me fired before I ever crossed that threshold!

  • Reply Silvia June 30, 2011 at 10:49 pm

    I’m a coward for these things. One, I always felt very uncertain about typing my social security number, even for Amazon. Another time I put google ads, in two days with the traffic of both blogs, it told me I had earned my first 15 dollars or so, and when I looked into cashing that, again the social security, and I read on the Interent, on reliable sources, that google sometimes had asked for refunds, and claimed illicit clicks on websites, even when the people had not than those clicks… I don’t know, I backed off from that and cancel googles ad.
    But if it works for you, I fully support you, and I’m not bothered or offended by any ad, unless they show something without decor, profane, but I don’t think that’s the case.
    I’m still flabbergasted, I had to call my husband and he said… what did those Californian polititians do to the people this time? We are very indignant. I do love what you write, and I would have been very happy to know you could get some minor but important thing, such as books and Amazon credit, for your children education.

    I don’t know how much or little I help Amazon to profit. Regardless of not having an affiliates account, I’m always linking to them. I love books, I like getting them for little, and I end up then buying some from them. I always thought it is a service to provide people with the link to the book, if they like it, if they are interested, as you say, regardless if they buy it or not.

    I don’t know much about this situation, I’m presuming it is the government of CA responsibility, but doesn’t Amazon have a saying in this? How come they still and always get the money from us, and when government makes it impossible, they pick up their belongings and leave you like that?

    I sincerely do not understand this or anything else that happens in our dear country.

  • Reply Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life June 30, 2011 at 10:17 pm

    Re: the LLC… Check out the Amazon forums. Someone mentioned they opted for Delaware over Nevada because Nevada had introduced similar legislation…

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 30, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Well, well, Sallie, that is an interesting loophole.

    My problem is that I never wanted to be commerical…that was why I liked Amazon. It never felt commercial; it felt helpful. If that makes sense.


    I don’t know that the LLC thing would be worth it to me, other than to do it just to do it…because it feels sort of like “sticking it to the man” as they say. It wouldn’t pay for itself in the short run, though this isn’t really about money. I think it bothers me most because it feels like such an injustice. I know of some people where this is their primary source of income…poor them. πŸ™

    ps. I am giving myself one whole day to wallow in this…

  • Reply Sallie @ A Quiet Simple Life June 30, 2011 at 8:27 pm

    I thought of you when I saw that on Drudge. I was reading in the Amazon forums that you can set up as an LLC in a different state (such as Delaware). You don’t have to live there. Apparently it is a legal loophole you can check into. I don’t know how much you make and if it would be worth it since the fee is like $300 a year, but it is an option.

    As outsiders, we always wonder why people stay in California. I know why, but as outsiders we look at all of the problems you have there and wonder why the people aren’t streaming out more quickly.(Although people probably wonder the same thing about living in Michigan, but not to the same degree.) I have two sets of relatives who moved back to Michigan from SoCal and they said you couldn’t pay them enough money to go back.

    Re: making money on blogs. Most readers seem to think that Amazon affiliates are okay. But know in advance that some of your readers will really be offended and drop you if you go commercial and add ads and such. I know from personal experience. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 30, 2011 at 8:00 pm

    Mystie, I forgot to say that they said that, yes, I would be paid out for what I earned prior to the enaction of the law. I just can’t earn anything in addition as of today. πŸ™

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 30, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    As far as I can tell from keeping up on the news today, there were about 25,000 of us who lost jobs last night. I am hoping this means legal action will be taken. I can’t afford a lawyer, but this doesn’t mean I wouldn’t help if someone was to take it to court. Since there is a precedent in this area, I have a feeling it would go in our favor (though maybe that is naive of me).

    I was wondering that about Google, Mystie. I don’t like clutter, either. That is why I’ve always just worked for Amazon–it was a perfect fit, and complementary rather than distracting. I’ll look into Exodus and the other you mentioned. I’m still trying to decide what to do…

  • Reply Mystie June 30, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    I’m so sorry, Brandy! That’s awful! Were you able to use what you already had earned, or did you lose what was already due you?

    I only get about $20-$30 a year through mine, but it’s still nice to get a couple bonus books here and there.

    I hope CA wises up and revokes the law soon. If they don’t, I expect it will creep north in a few years. Amazon has a lot of actual, payroll employees in WA, even here in the Tri-Cities, so it would be a really big deal for our whole town and not just for affiliates.

    Exodus Books and Westminster Seminary books ( have affiliate programs, too, that work in a similar way. Google ads did nothing at all for me the couple months I tried them, but somehow my dad gets about $50-$100 a month through them — he uses tags and such so he brings in a lot of Google-search readers.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 30, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Thank you all for your kind words. Misery loves empathy. πŸ™‚

    I’m experimenting with a couple things, and I’d love feedback while I do it. I’ve applied to be an affiliate with Barnes & Noble, a company I assume still works with Californians because it has a physical presence here in the state. I like being able to provide links about the books I’m reading so you all can look and them and read reviews, regardless if you choose to buy them.

    In addition to this, I tried adding AdSense links directly into the RSS subscription feeds. Please let me know if these are a problem. Google sovereignly chooses the content, and I have no way of knowing if they are actually appropriate. If you see an ad that you know I would hate, let me know by clicking “Contact Me” in the lower left sidebar–if it happens too many times, I’ll discontinue that function!

    And Rebecca, yes: just yesterday I told you what a blessing Amazon had become to our family. Ah, the irony. I checked out BlogHer as you suggested, but right now my blog doesn’t qualify because of my relationships with publishers and the occasional reviews I do for them. Getting a chance to read those books is something I enjoy doing, so I’m not willing to discontinue my relationship with the publishers in order to make money.

    I guess I just don’t have the heart of a businessman.

    I am more like the country housewife who lost her egg money.

    Sigh. Again.

  • Reply Silvia June 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    I can only imagine how you feel. It is outrageous. I would be furious too… and if you move, consider Texas, seriously! But I agree with Kelly’s words. It’s sad though that the place you call home is so abusive to put you in this ridiculous predicament. And also I’m with her, this is personal. And Amy is right too… this is a malady that is spreading, however, we in some states are ready to face those bureaucrats, politicians and men of no good in fight.


  • Reply rebecca June 30, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    I’m sorry, Brandy. Weren’t we just talking about what that affiliate has meant for you guys? Yesterday?

    Maybe it is time to check out some other ad sources. I certainly think you should be compensated for your writing.

  • Reply amy June 30, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    Can I just say how much I hate living in California, and yet I love California? I’m with you… sometimes I just want to leave. My husband always says “where would we go? California may be the first, but it definitely won’t be the last.” Ugh. Sometimes it’s too much though.

  • Reply Blossom June 30, 2011 at 5:26 pm

    Sorry to hear about this. My mom *just* moved from CA to OR… she got the email as well.

    For her, it has turned out well because she no longer lives in CA but I am upset for those who *do* live in CA.

    It’s just another way for government to take what they can (even if they shouldn’t). Sorry again.

    But glad to hear you will still be writing!

  • Reply Kelly June 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    I just hate this for you!

    I begin to think that there’s no point in moving, though. You’d just be changing the devil you know for the devil you don’t know, and you can never ever get the family connections anywhere but at home (though if for some reason you did move, it’s possible your great-grandchildren could have them).

    I have a second cousin who lives in Santa Rosa whom I met for the first time this month. Her granparents moved out there when the federal gummint bought 72 thousand acres of prime farmland in Arkansas (for pennies on the dollar) in order to build a military base at the beginning of WWII, thus displacing hundreds of families. Her grandparents never got to come back to Arkansas to visit relatives, but a few of their siblings were able to go out once, at different times, to visit them. Her dad has been back twice — once for the family reunion this summer, and once in 1983.

    Government policies have such far-reaching and potentially devastating effects on families, so yes, it IS personal. It’s not just business. And there are so very many things that they do that harm the family that I honestly think that prefer it that way.

  • Reply Pam Asbury June 30, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    This makes me so angry for you. I’m sorry…

  • Reply Ellen June 30, 2011 at 4:58 pm

    I’m really sorry, Brandy. I would be furious as well. It’s California’s fault, not Amazons. I’m glad they’re fighting back, or this thing will be more likely to spread to other states. But it truly stinks for you, and I hate that. N.C. is a nice place to live. But for real hands off government, you’ll have to go to AL. =)

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