The Perils Of Online Business

Little did I suspect. when I set up Wizard’s Tower, that I would be spending a lot of time dealing with the petty bureaucracy of people like PayPal and Amazon.

Much of the past week has been spent worrying about how to deal with the unexpected cash flows resulting from the Great Finnish Book-Buying Event. Partly that has been financial. The money came in as GBP, and needed to go out as USD. Thanks to the Bank of Morgan-Standlee I managed to save over $50 in currency conversion fees. But I have also been fretting about whether any of the payments I’m making are going to trigger alarms at PayPal, and I still have far more cash in the account than I’m comfortable with. PayPal are liable to freeze your account at any time, and set impossible conditions for getting it back. Their idea of customer service is more reminiscent of a loan shark than a bank.

As a result of this I’m considering adding a Google Checkout payment option to the store. Financially it doesn’t make much sense. The percentage fee that they charge on transactions is lower than PayPal’s, but they also charge a flat fee of around 30c per transaction. That’s fine if you are, for example, selling art prints at $100 a pop, but if you are selling books and your average price per order is around $5, it is a significant extra charge. The reason for having it would be so that the store doesn’t have to close down if PayPal suddenly decides to freeze my account which, frankly, could happen at any time for no apparent reason.

Of course my own books are on sale elsewhere. You can now get Archangel Protocol from the Nook store. It should available from Kobo, Weightless and Angry Robot fairly soon too. As for Amazon, who knows? I uploaded the book shortly before I did the same for the Nook. It’s not on sale yet, and I have no idea when it will be. That’s because Amazon have, once again, started from the default position of assuming that I pirated the book, and they won’t put it on sale until I can prove to their satisfaction that I haven’t.

This happens pretty much every time I try to put a book on sale there.

Things are getting better, though. Last time this happened they insisted that they had proof that the book was pirated and took all of my books off sale for weeks. And they refused to talk to the author. This time they appear to be willing to speak to Lyda. Here’s hoping that works.

The annoying thing is that I have to keep doing business with Amazon because there are so many people who refuse to buy from anyone else, even though they can get exactly the same book, at the same price, from other stores.

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6 Responses to The Perils Of Online Business

  1. Mike Scott says:

    You can’t get a book that will synchronise your reading position between your Kindle, the Kindle app on your iPhone and the Kindle app on your iPad from anywhere except Amazon, which is why I for one prefer to buy my ebooks from Amazon rather than someone else who charges the same price.

    • Cheryl says:

      Fair point. I can see that being important to people. But Amazon isn’t the only solution to that problem.

      For some time now I have been recommending Ibis Reader. It is a cloud-based reader with a browser interface. It enables you to read your book from any device that has a browser, and because the book is stored in the cloud you always open it to the last point you read.

      I see that Fetch, who are the fulfillment service my store uses, are now offering delivery to another cloud-based service called ReadMill. That appears to use apps rather than a browser, but other than that the same argument applies. I need to check it out before enabling it in the store, but it look promising.

  2. Paypal are bringing out a credit card that you can use as a normal card, and spend money in your paypal account anywhere. It’s (hopefully) going to make it a lot easier.

    • Cheryl says:

      Oh dear Goddess no! That will just provide them with more excuses for freezing your money. The trick with regard to managing PayPal is never to leave much money in your account, and never to do anything unusual that might attract the attention of their bots.

  3. I use Paypal a lot for the Deepings Dolls and I have the same attitude as you – I keep as little money as possible in that account! I haven’t managed to have the same number of problems, though that’s probably because I deal with far fewer transactions, sometimes only a few a month. I tend to transfer the contents into my bank account every time I have more than $100 in it.

    The Amazon stuff sounds terrible! Surely there must be some simple thing they could set up so the publisher can prove ahead of time that they have a contract with the author, without having to go through all that rigamarole. Adding a check box to their form with ‘yes I have the author’s permission, here is their contact details if you want to verify’ would be, you know, USEFUL.

    It’s not like publishers being separate from authors is in any way a controversial concept… right?

    • Cheryl says:

      I suspect that Amazon’s problem is that the vast majority of people uploading books are not really publishers, they are a combination of the self-published and genuine pirates. They don’t seem to be able to willing to spend the man hours necessary to distinguish, so the put all of the onus on the small publishers. I’m pretty sure that’s what their lawyers have told them to do as well.