Running on Crocs

So, how about Paypal? Great, uh? Overnight, it becomes unstable enough that I’m not sure what to do. Because some of my contracts with small presses pay specifically through paypal. Except, of course, for the press that Paypal suddenly noped a year and a half ago, and who now pays by check.

I wish the others did, but they — including one of my greatest money makers — don’t even have my physical address, which has changed anyway since then.

For the last five years or so, most short story indie contracts just had the “Give us the email address to pay you through.) The brainless ones didn’t even do that, and tried to send money to my communication email which is a) personal not company. b) does not have a paypal associated. That was …. fun.

So, even though I’m more exposed to shenanigans than the average bear, I cannot cancel paypal without causing complete insanity in the business. And then my accountant will try to kill me, which is bad because he knows where I sleep. (He knows very well, actually, since my husband is the CFO of the writing company.)

So…. sigh, adjustments are being made. But it’s not simple.

And I wish I could say it’s the last of such shocks we’ll have in a while, but if I’m diagnosing the cause of paypal’s insanity correctly (They were dying anyway, so decided to go out as heroes of the revolution. No, no proof, but there’s… indications in the financials) several others are going to try to pull this.

If we’re very lucky, the next one won’t be Amazon, which lost a ton of money on Rings of Power, and might try to virtue signal to the trad publishers, because they think this will get them more support or something, by knifing indies in back.

And please, for the love of bob, don’t tell me that’s why I should abandon Amazon. That’s like saying “You’re going to run out of air, so you should stop breathing preemptively.” Right now, that’s where 90% of my readers are, so I’ll continue going there, until I’m forced to do a fast switch up.

I’m just hoping they take long enough to do the crazy that another stable method of payment has emerged (I expect it in six months or less) in which case I’ll be fine. Because I can side-step and sell directly to my fans. Probably at a discount.

I WAS investigating a way to do e-arcs for new releases, where you get them a month in advance, but there might be a few typos that haven’t been caught. (Oh, the glory of sending me typo lists FIRST. What? Well, this is what computer companies do. The public are the ultimate testers.) But I was counting on paypal. Okay, so that won’t happen. I’m …. looking into another service. I’ll get back to you, soonish.

I was belly aching in a group of fans on discord about how indie is like playing hopscotch on a river full of crocodiles. Every time you chart out a path, crocs appear. And then you have to change course, and….

Then I realized so was traditional. This week I had to burst a “always been indie” friend’s illusions about her favorite trad writer. No, that person wasn’t making millions. That person was BARELY making middle-class income, and a delay in getting a book bought would send her into distress or welfare. I know because we have mutual friends. Yes, she was everywhere, and her books were getting bought. Look, that particular house gets paid to the bookscan by the distributor. And bookscan only captures 1/3 the sales AT BEST. And then there’s the percentage the author actually gets, and….

And in trad, you have to worry about if someone is talking about you behind your back, and perhaps getting your publisher to drop you. Sure, people talk about you behind your back in indie too, and try to plot against you. But it’s much, much harder to turn enough people against you to make a difference.

And in trad you had to worry that the EDITOR who bought you would either get fired, quit, or simply be less-favored by the time your book came out, and your book would be sabotaged to get to the editor. (It wasn’t even a hit on you.)

And there was almost nothing you could do. As with my first published book, you’d watch the Titanic heading to the iceberg, and all you could do is scream, because nothing you did would change it.

So… Swigs coffee. Look, at least in indie, we don’t have to pretend there are no crocs, or tell our fans the river is beautiful and smooth so we don’t get blacklisted.

And at least for me, indie is selling, which is a massive plus in this not-a-recession we’re having. The more I write the more I sell. I need to write more. And keep running.

I survived trad. I can survive indie.

I just wish the crocs would stay still long enough for me to get a head start.

The alternative is I’m gonna get me croc skin shoes.

40 comments

  1. Okay, disclaimer, I don’t hate ROP, I enjoy it at about the same guilty pleasure level as, say, Attack of the Clones, Krull, Phantom Menace, with Galadriel as a marginally better acted Anakin Skywalker. I watch it, and it gives me Ideas about how to do it better.

    My own feelings is that Rings of Power might or might not end up playing Gurthang to Amazon Studios‘s Turin Turambar (“Yea, I will drink thy blood gladly, that so I may forget the shame to Tolkien my master, and the blood of lore slain unjustly. I will slay thee swiftly.”)

    But if so, I feel like it probably won’t make as big a dent as all that in the company overall. One, it’s a really big company, and two they just started filming the second season, and three, they supposedly don’t expect to air it before 2024. It’s going to kill Amazon Studios slowly, if at all. If there’s confident predictions of the show’s or Amazon Studios’s imminent demise from the same people who’ve been confidently predicting the imminent firing of Kathleen Kennedy every couple of months for the past not-quite-five years…well, consider the source. I tuned those youtubers out somewhere around two years into the Kathleen Kennedy firing predictions, much as I wanted to believe them.

    More importantly, I think from Amazon’s POV, the indies are too useful as a stick to beat the tradpubs up with, when the tradpubs get annoying. In my mind, there’s possibly a greater risk of Amazon just letting the entire book business rot, trad and indie together, as they try to be the Online Everything Store, than Amazon shutting down or aggressively censoring the indies.

    1. I agree with the last point – Amazon has too much invested in the indy author market to venture upsetting that very profitable apple cart. When they came up with the Kindle eReader, the indy writer group that I was associated with at the time, all of us leaped at the chance to make our books available.

        1. I’ve been told that Amazon no longer considers itself a book company, but a data service. If that’s true, I wish they’d spin books off to someone who cares about indies.

          1. As I recall, Netflix essentially did that with its DVD service. It’s still under the same payment system thing, but it’s now on a different website and has a different name, though I think they kept the overall branding the same.

            I think it’s a subsidiary company now.

          2. Well, sometimes that’s good. I believe Microsoft considers itself a data service (Azure) and enterprise (Office) company, and it’s been good for programmers (they’ve open sourced and ported a LOT of stuff to Linux, including GUI stuff I thought they never would).

            And I have to give them credit that you can still buy a permanent license for Visual Studio Pro (just about to buy one at work for VS 2022), even if they do hide the option better than Amazon hides the Cancel Prime button. (Yes, I know MS still isn’t a cuddly teddy bear)

  2. Suspect we’re all going to be running on crocs for quite some time. And for whatever reason, a lot of people seem to act like not talking about it makes it go away,

    Oh well. I figure Heinlein’s rules still apply so probably time to unnerve my local minders yet again by adding research into addiction’s effects on brain function, child soldiers and relationships into the pile.

    Just need to find sources that are actually reliable and not complete irreproducable pseudo science masquerading as legitimate research, and don’t have a great idea how to tell how yet.

  3. Maybe this will help with your research? https://hostingpill.com/paypal-alternatives/

    I’m looking into several. I have Stripe now, but it takes forever to get your money from them (like 5-7 days! Whoever heard of it taking 5-7 days to get your money?! What, are they mailing it to your bank?). And there are a few that aren’t on that list like GABPay – not sure about them, since they are a baby start up. The big thing is…how many places will take it as a payment source? Very few will take anything but Paypal. Maybe AmazonPay…but, yeah.

    But for getting paid from your own website, some of those may definitely by a possibility.

  4. The Rings of Power debacle (it’s a veritable workshop in how to fail as telling “story”, much less the story choices re: their material that they are making overall), is no risk to Amazon itself, but it might kill Amazon Streaming, depending on how unpopular it continues.

    This is especially amusing since House of Dragons, while not without significant issues, is miles better as story choice and story telling and thus serves as an embarrassing comp that’s hard to ignore. When they’re blaming fans instead of product, you know they’ve lost the comparison.

    1. I recently read a trade article (Hollywood Reporter or Variety I think) wherein an Amazon employed movie person, who was doing it for work, admitted to having fallen asleep while trying to watch Rings of Power.

      I have not turned it on myself, but another person at Chez Phantom watched the first ten minutes and was forced to turn it off. Said individual ended up watching a Korean soap instead. So, at Chez Phantom, data shows that “Extraordinary Attorney Woo” is better than RoP. Ten minutes vs. the whole series.

      Personally I think Love Island is better. LI is mildly entertaining at best, dreadfully boring usually, but it doesn’t go out of its way to -enrage- its viewers. The same cannot be said of RoP.

      1. I attempted to watch Amazon’s Wheel Of Time last year. I couldn’t make it ten minutes there, so I’m not really willing to give their LotR the benefit of the doubt at this point.

          1. WoT doesn’t have the same following as LotR or GoT so I didn’t see much hype online and I missed the trailer. I like Rosamund Pike so I was at least willing to give it a shot for that reason, but boy was I disappointed.

            1. GoT didn’t have that following before the HBO series, though. There were fans (I was one of them, though I was getting tired of it just as the series came out), but I would have said it was way behind WoT in terms of fanatical followers. There’s no reason that, if Amazon had done it well, that they couldn’t have built the same hype around WoT.

    2. Basic questions are a) do we infer things about the rest of Amazon’s management from Amazon streaming b) do we have reason, generally, to doubt Amazon’s management c) is there any danger from elsewhere to whatever combination of investor confidence or business fundamental that means Amazon has money to spend?

      A) is probably a weak inference.

      B) is a yes. The replacement for Bezos is maybe not a replacement. Unless the various little things are purely a result of circumstances.

      C) I have doubts that anyone knows. Right now, a lot of online retail business, beyond books, but i) tolerance of scammers ii) customer service issues iii) margins on their shipping labor could, hypothetically, turn that into a loser fast.

      There’s also D: As an AI company that is now deep into web and cloud services, why would they be planning to ‘fail left’, and move to trad publishing? Tradpub is not the sort of business that can employ much of Amazon’s engineering management. Amazon’s share of one of the Big Tech markets means that a deliberate business failure would probably mean screwing over most of the places that otherwise might be able to hire ex-Amazon execs.

      This does /not/ mean that it is impossible for Amazon to fail.

      And with clownworld, there is a risk of underestimating crazy.

  5. It is possible to set up e-commerce sites on WIX and Shopify. They take credit cards. As long as you don’t have hundreds of items for sale, like a vitamin store for example, it isn’t prohibitively difficult. Less convenient than paypal, but also less chance the payment will be diverted because your fiction book is “fake news”.

      1. My experience was in Canada admittedly, and Shoppify is Canadian. But WIX is an American company.

        How does “Joe Blow’s Comic Shoppe and Emporium” handle this problem? There’s a million little guys selling comics, Hatsune Miku figurines and assorted stuff all over the USA.

        Have you considered an off-shore company? Such things exist. Might be worth inquiring about it.

        If I can buy a Japanese anime figure that gets shipped from the USA to Canada, from some dude in Florida who may or may not even have a storefront, I’m sure there’s a way to do it.

        On the other hand, Amazon has been bothering me for American tax information for my sales in America, which amount to a case of beer this year, so there’s that. (My poor book is dead. Sad face. ~:(

        1. Someone has to collect sales tax and send it to a thousand-odd sales tax districts. States, cities, counties . . .

          And therein is the problem. If you are Joe’s Comics, your store is in City, you collect based on your store location. If you are selling online or mail order, you are supposed to collect sales tax for the BUYER’S location AND send it to the relevent tax districts.

          Now, if they’d decided back when, that those sales counted as happening at the seller’s location, you’d just have to deal with the one. Annoying, but easy. (And the no sales tax locales would win.) But Congress decided those sales happen at the buyer’s location, so it favors the Big Companies and not the small.

          1. And most of “those little guys” just hope they are “under the radar” because they are too small to bother. They wish.

  6. I am watching Rings because about half my D&Ders are watching it. Good husband and wife dwarf dialogue. Loved the stolen table bit. And it was a mostly interesting conversation between Elf Girl and Elf/orc boy but the volume varied from 3 to 6.
    Great music. You know it great because volume goes to 10. Nice looking costumes. Excellent scenes in the forge where they are actually hammering on a sword. And the sword have half or full tangs but not hilts.
    But only elfs and main cast know about soap. Especially face soap.
    The rest is generic fantasy with fight by wire combat with a dash of Tolkien.

    1. I’m mostly watching for the production design, Elrond, Durin IV and Disa (2 core Dwarves), and to a lesser extent Celebrimbor, Elendil (you go be mad at Galadriel Skywalker all you want, dude, she’s earned it), and Isildur’s horse. And Morfydd Clark’s stunned reaction whenever she has a scene with a remotely attractive man.

      1. Disclaimer for those not watching the show, the last line of the meme I borrowed is invented by the memester. She doesn’t say that. She just kind of looks like she’s thinking it.

  7. I don’t want Paypal to go away. It’s how I pay for several of my artist commissions and other things that need me to pay for them. Frustrating.

    And, make some croc boots, you need them.

  8. To be honest, when I saw the title, my first thought was “Not well, they don’t.” But that’s based on observing people in the Crocs™ shoes, not jogging over reptiles.

  9. Amazon torqued me off as a reader when they decided to throw up road blocks to using my device to read Project Gutenberg books.

    I have, since then, found a replacement reader.

    When my Kindle dies, if Amazon has not mended its ways, we’re done.

    1. Kobo devices all the way for me (and Calibre, so I can keep the books I buy from Amazon without them reaching into my computer to remove or modify them at will.) Once I convert them to epubs, I can use any device I want to. [All this for my personal use, of course.]

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