Tag Archives: BUY THEIR BOOK

PITCH US! 2014 (makers)

23 Dec

I try to do this every holiday season over at the comic, but I’m slammed this year and I thought it’d be nice for people to have a permalink to their sites. Plus, I’m slammed this year and can’t email the emails. I’m so slammed, I’m just cut-and-pasting this header from the previous writers’ and artists’ pitch posts.


That moment when you realize your search for "makers" is already weirder than anything you could add to it.

That moment when you realize your search for “makers” is already weirder than anything you could add to it.

Makers! Knitters, woodturners, programmers… lend me your fingers! LEGO master builders, Sudoku puzzle crafters, hobbyists and pros of all stripes… What do you do? And why do you do it? Tell us, please, and be sure to link to your work!

(Please try to keep it short. If you’re a writer or an artist, there are other posts for you!)

PITCH US! 2014 (authors)

11 Dec

I try to do this every holiday season over at the comic, but I’m slammed this year and I thought it’d be nice for people to have a permalink to their sites. Plus, I’m slammed this year and can’t email the emails. Did I mention I’m slammed this year?


Judgey Literal Husky is a bit of a dick.

Judgey Literary Husky is a bit of a dick.

Hey! Dog! Don’t be like that. Don’t you know that publishing as an industry is in a state of transition, and that new opportunities for authors to promote and distribute their work to readers seem to be popping up nearly every single day?

Like this one! If you are an author of any stripe, whether that be self-published or traditionally-published, promote your work here! Blurb your book, tell us about your universe, and remember to add a link to where people can buy your stuff.

(Please try to keep it short. Pitching comic projects is fine, but there will be a separate post for artists coming next week, and if you’re an artist you might want to camp there instead.)

VAT MOSS and Taxes

29 Nov

Earlier today, my buddy Ursula linked to this article, What You Need to Know, If You’re Relying on Your Payment Processor to Dig You Out of the VAT-MOSS Mess. If Ursula didn’t post quality content, I never would have clicked. VAT-MOSS? Mess? Obviously this was Somebody Else’s Problem.

Nope. It was mine. And apparently had been since 2006 when the Sixth Directive of the VAT was recast and these directives put into play. (Possibly earlier: one article noted that a similar arrangement has been ongoing regarding businesses who are selling into the EU from outside, [and] this has been the case since 2003″.)

In a nutshell, this is a Value Added Tax (VAT) imposed by the European Union on providers of certain digital products. It is business-to-consumer specific, meaning the provider is responsible for the tax; and location-dependent, meaning the location of the consumer at the time of purchase determines how the tax burden will be allocated. “MOSS” refers to a “Mini One-Stop Shop”, or a store which is registered to participate in the VAT and which sells digital items to customers. The legislation goes into effect in January of 2015.

The non-nutshell version is extremely knotty and I’ve spent most of my Saturday yelling at my monitor about how if I wanted to study international tax law, I’d have a lot more money and wouldn’t be so invested in how international tax law was about to screw me over.

(If you want specifics of how the VAT-MOSS works, I recommend starting with this Q&A held by HM Revenue and Customs. It’s a good breakdown of most major issues. If, like me, you had one question–I am located in the United States, so does the VAT-MOSS even apply to me at all?–I can answer that for you. Yes. Whether the tax applies depends on where the customer is located, not where the content provider is located.)

The VAT-MOSS impacts me directly, as I sell PDFs direct to customers. In fact, since October 2014, PDFs of ebooks and bonus comics are my only store items available to overseas customers, because international shipping and handling costs have become prohibitive. (Not that I won’t ship if asked: just this past week, a reader in Estonia asked how much it would be to send a copy of MAKER SPACE to him. I replied that it would be more than the book. He very reasonably declined.) If I register as a MOSS, I could still sell overseas, but I would be responsible for everything required by the VAT.

I will now relink to that first article to show why voluntarily registering may be a sign that you are certifiably mad. It is also worth noting that the main point of this article is that your payment portal (e.g.: Paypal) is not a solution.

So. It seems I have three options.

1) Registering with VAT-MOSS and complying with their tax laws.

2) Restricting all of my digital products so they are no longer available to EU customers.

3) Use a third-party content distributor.

(Okay, okay, there’s a fourth option, which is to ignore the whole thing and hope it goes away. Shall not be doing this, because Legal Reasons.)

I don’t want to shut off all product sales to EU customers, so the smart money is on the third-party option. I’m looking into different distribution platforms. Some of these I’m already using for .mobi (Amazon) and other digital formats (Smashwords). There are problems with both of these: Amazon is Amazon, and Smashwords will crush a layout like a hummingbird egg. I haven’t gone through either company’s Terms of Use recently, and need to go back and reread the fine print to determine my obligations when/if the EU comes knocking.

I’m not happy. I don’t sell comics or bonus stories anywhere but through my own store. The products look the way I want them to look, and I can accurately track sales. I’m already paying service providers (Big Cartel, Pulley, and the finance people), in addition to my own tax responsibilities. Going through additional service providers to do what I’m already doing will nickle-and-dime me to death.

Finally, I am extremely concerned about how this might affect my Patreon campaign. On the one hand, Patreon is arguably set up as a monthly donation service, rather than a subscription service, and all digital content set up and distributed accordingly. It is not a shop per se, and nothing is being sold. On the other hand, taxes. I think the VAT-MOSS will shake itself out for a few years before Patreon-like service providers are directly affected, but as I’m becoming increasingly reliant on Patreon, this is a cause of concern.

Let the Pimpslaps Fly

15 Aug

The latest skirmish in Amazon vs Hachette happened while I was on the road, which worked out well for me, as I was forced to spend five days as passive observer to the initial volley and the subsequent Category 5 Opinionstorm. I’m actually grateful for this, as when I got home I had already read the email Amazon sent out to its Kindle authors; if I had seen it raw in my inbox for the first time, I probably would have roared and said Things I Would Regret Later.

Seriously. It’s not a very good email. It’s insulting and pandering, and when I asked Brown to read it, he said: “Amazon did know they were sending this to writers, right? Because I’m taking a heavy beating from these metaphors.” You can read the full text for yourself here. If you don’t want to read it (don’t blame ya!), the takeaway argument is that readers (and yet somehow the primary audience for this email was authors who publish on Amazon…) need to come together and put pressure on Hachette to lower its ebook prices.

They referenced Orwell.

The famous author George Orwell came out publicly and said about the new paperback format, if “publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them.” Yes, George Orwell was suggesting collusion.

They referenced Orwell several times, actually, which is a huge warning sign to me because Orwell is synonymous with the little guy fighting against a giant oppressive force. Also? That giant, oppressive force tends to be a self-interested douche. Whoever wrote that email/press release seems to have intentionally misrepresented Orwell. Amazon could have chosen better, stronger quotes from any number of Orwell’s contemporaries to support their position, but Orwell wasn’t picked by accident. There’s never any subtlety when the O-bomb is dropped: it instantly creates the impression of conflict between good and bad, oppression and freedom, mind control and free will… It’s a trigger warning that an emotional argument is underway.

I can’t stand emotional arguments. I make them myself, and I’m as susceptible to them as anybody else, but if I’m being called in as part of Amazon’s own personal army, I’d like there to be a little more logic involved. Crowdfury is an exceptionally useful tool, especially for smaller persons and companies who do not have lawyers and publicists on staff. As one of those smaller persons and/or companies, I know firsthand that you do not release that particular Kracken unless there is no other choice. Crowdfury is nigh impossible to control, and can turn on you in a heartbeat because nobody likes to be used.

Don't knock the militant cuttlefish. Those buggers are small but grumpy.

Don’t knock the militant cuttlefish. Those buggers are small but grumpy.

Which seems to be what is happening here. There’s been a substantial backlash to Amazon’s call to arms for this exact reason. No number of invocations of the ghost of Big Brother can change the fact that they are a giant organization with entire battalions of lawyers and publicists. They do not need us to fight their battles for them.

I am not obligated to go to war for Amazon. I provide content to Amazon, they provide services to me, and that is the end of that. And they are arguably less accountable to me than to some of the other service providers I’ve worked with: my relationship with Amazon has the illusion of transparency, as I can check my stats to see if my books are selling, but I can’t request additional data to verify these sales have occurred. I have to trust that Amazon’s algorithms are working, and that there is a 1:1 ratio between actual sales and reported sales. (I have no reason to doubt this is exactly what happens, but I can’t read an article about ebook price-fixing without thinking, “Hmmm…”)

I’m probably not alone in saying I would fight their battles with them if saw a righteous cause. I happen to like Amazon. They have provided great opportunities for me and many other self-published authors. I like the quality of the paperbacks they print for me. And I love the way their monthly payments arrive on time! If I saw another company actively threatening Amazon, I’d probably go and get my old plowshare and start hammering it back into shape. However, that’s not what’s happening here. Amazon’s existing business model is not being threatened, and many (most) of the points they have made to support their anti-Hachette arguments have been disputed.

Each of Disney's lawyers is formed from a minimum of five smaller lawyers.

Each of Disney’s lawyers is formed from a minimum of five smaller lawyers.

By pushing this campaign, Amazon has made itself vulnerable. Best-selling authors are ten kinds of grumpy with them. And it’s quite possible that they have overextended themselves in going up first against Hachette, and then against Disney. (Disney, people!) Google Shopping Express, the fledgling Google/Barnes & Noble partnership, sees Amazon’s fight against Hachette as an opportunity. Since nearly a third of my income comes from Amazon. I’m watching all of this play out very, very closely.

p.s.: It seems a good time to offer up a new take on old advice. Here! I’ve redone the Orwell poster for you, free!

Follow the link below to download a free copy at Gumroad.

Thanks to the Guilford College library staff for letting me photograph their stack of old Orwells.

Download your own copies here. The .zip has two convenient print file sizes (4.5″x6″ and 8″x10.5″). If you want it in a larger size on heavy paper stock, let me know and I’ll see if I can get it into the store.

Book review-Jean Johnson’s “The Guild”

6 May

I know Jean Johnson as a longtime reader of the comic. For the last few years, I’d see her name in my inbox, or in comments. There was some back-and-forth, and she seemed like a witty, nifty person.

THE GUILD, by Jean Johnson. Berkley Trade, May 2014

THE GUILD, by Jean Johnson. Berkley Trade, May 2014

Turns out she’s also a best-selling author (shoulda guessed from the quality of the emails, honestly…). She was kind enough to send me an advance review copy of her most recent book in her Guardians of Destiny series. So before I tucked into The Guild, I needed to go back and read the first two in the series to get an idea for the worldbuilding.

And holy schnitzels, this woman has something wrong with her. I mean that in the absolute best of ways, of course, but anyone who can envision a world like this one has got to be searching for places to store acorns before the winter snow sets in. Thus begins the review:

_____________________________________

THE GUILD by Jean Johnson (Guardians of Destiny, Book 3)

As a series, Guardians of Destiny is fascinating. The worldbuilding alone is terrifyingly complex. Here is a world in which magic defines both religion and secular pursuits: not because magic is an easy or convenient solution to problems, but because there’s too much of it… and if it’s not used, it will become the end of things. Unfortunately, both the gods and humanity are involved. Religions have sprung up around these gods, and human beings are driven by their basic natures. The end result is a countless number of civilizations, each of which is centered around a specific deity and has cultivated traits and practices unique to its own population, its members convinced they have the right of it.

I’m so glad I don’t live in this world. I’m thrilled I get to visit it!

The Guild is the third book in this series. Like The Tower and The Grove before it, the events in The Guild are about people. Unique people, to be sure–Rexie is a powerful mage, choosing a life of hiding in plain sight over one in which she’d be exploited for her powers, while Alonnen is the only principled priest within a decaying religious order–but they are still just people. Most novels in which prophesies draw characters together focus on those characters within the context of that prophesy. Johnson, on the other hand, puts the characters first. While aware of a prophesy, Rexie and Alonnen are driven by their own personal wants and needs. Alonnen’s unbending moral compass and Rexie’s transformation from persecuted minority to a fully-realized mage are more significant to them than the fate of the world. Their romance, while slow to start, comes together as a natural progression of their own independent personalities, and is far more enriching (and entertaining! hello smolder!) than if they ended up together as a direct result of Fate.

As if this wasn’t enough, the series itself is a puzzle that’s gradually resolving itself with each new piece. Johnson knows exactly where “Guardians of Destiny” is headed as a series. While each novel serves as stand-alone insight into a single civilization within this complicated world, it’s evident that the series takes place within the context of that aforementioned prophesy. I’m looking forward to reading each book as it comes out, then rereading the series to discover how Johnson’s elegant plotting transforms each individual book into part of a whole.

_____________________________________

Formal review done. Honestly, I usually don’t read this type of book myself–I’m conspiracy theories and explosions all the way down–but this world Johnson is building is captivating. The Tower is pretty much what would happen if The Ghostbusters’ containment unit was used for LARPing, and The Grove is politics, politics, politics, and mutated carnivorous plants. Plus sex scenes throughout.

The Guild was released today and the series as a whole is worth reading, especially if you’re into complex worldbuilding. You can also find Jean Johnson at her website, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

 

p.s.: Just because I know I’m going to get a few requests: Yes, I will review your book if you are a longtime reader of the comic. Yes, I will be honest about it (this means you should really, really think twice before sending a copy to me because “honest” does not mean “nice”, and keep in mind that Speedy’s character comes from somewhere). No, I will not do publicity blurbs (I’m just starting out, and my name isn’t going to sell any books for you).

Where should I buy your book?

28 Feb

No no, not “me” “I”. I meant “you” “I” and…

Let’s try this again.

I’m now reading on a Kindle. A friend gave me his Gen 2 Kindle to test the formatting for Digital Divide. I expected to use it once and then stick it on a shelf to collect dust until the next time I had to proof an ebook; instead it has created a fundamental shift in my reading habits. Yes, it’s convenient; yes, it’s portable, but…

Okay, backing up again. I’m an avid reader, and run through at least two or three books a week. Until I got the Kindle, I made a bi-weekly trek to a used bookstore, filled up a shopping basket with whatever paperback caught my eye, and paid about $10 for the entire mess. I discovered a lot of good authors this way, saved a hell of a lot of money, and supported a fantastic independent used bookstore.

Now, I go to Amazon, locate the book I want to read next, download it, devour it, and repeat the process a few days later.

You could argue that changing my habits might have hurt some people: yes, I’m now supporting Amazon instead of a used bookstore; yes, there are repercussions for the publishing industry because fewer print books are in circulation. I would argue that an in-law worked in that used bookstore and I got mad store credit, and that sales of those used paperbacks weren’t tracked by the publishers.

I would also argue that changing my reading habits now means I’m supporting authors. There are (enormous) flaws in the ebook pricing model, but for every traditionally-published book I download, the author gets a cut. For self-published books*, the percentage the author keeps is higher. This was not the case with my used paperback habit: I might have been keeping the stories alive by reading used books, but I was doing no favors to the authors who created them.

There are other hidden benefits in how self-pubbed ebooks are purchased. Speaking for myself, I make the most financial profit through .pdf sales through the store, because the third-party cuts are smaller. However, purchasing my books through Amazon or another online vendor gives me free advertising. Ranking is everything; the more sales that a self-pubbed book gets, the higher it climbs in the lists, so its exposure increases, which results in more sales… It’s a lovely circle of profitability. It’s also an indicator that a self-pubbed book is good–or at least readable–as there is the very real problem of the self-publishing shit volcano.

If you’re a reader of mine and you want to know where to purchase my books, use the purchasing service that best benefits you. I will get different benefits, financial and otherwise, no matter which method you use. But if I were asked about my ideal book-purchasing scenario, I’d say: (1) Download from Amazon; (2) Read, read, read!!! (3) Post an honest review; and (4) Tell your friends if you’ve enjoyed it.

With this in mind, Maker Space should hit on Monday. See you later! I’m off to the Anxiety Pantry for some cake mix, and then I’m spending the weekend in the Weeping Closet sucking that cake mix through a straw.

*Or author-published, or whatever you want to call it. Lately I’ve been saying I practice “artisanal publishing”. Check back in June for my hand-crafted slow-brewed Summer Wheat fanfics!**

**Totally kidding about the Summer Wheat fanfics.

 

More Heads-inna-Jar!

11 Nov

Back in August (Wait, that can’t be right… Holy crap, yeah, August) I made a Futurama Head In A Jar template.  And then I started working on heads-inna-jar. I finished and posted two of them, and then worked on a bunch of others. Two of these I sent to author Seanan McGuire when I sent her a copy of DIGITAL DIVIDE.

Portrait of the Author as a Severed Head

Portrait of the Author as a Severed Head

And her alter ego, Mira Grant.

I love (seriously love) how the nose-fin turns into her hair. BRUSH AND SNEEZE AT OWN RISK.

I love (seriously love) how the nose-fin turns into her hair. BRUSH AND SNEEZE AT OWN RISK.

Seanan has been amazing. We’ve been chatting back and forth since I featured her book cover in a comic strip. At the time, I hadn’t read any of her works and picked the cover of a popular zombie novel off of Amazon at random (because what the hell else would undead pixy Ben Franklin read?). Man, I am glad for that chance landing on Feed.  Seanan has been nothing but awesome. She’s funny, helpful, and willing to say “Yes, that thing you are doing? Do not do that,” or “That other thing? Do that more.”  And today she wrote up a hell of a fantastic review for DIGITAL DIVIDE.

I’m unbelievably appreciative both to Seanan and to her (insanely prolific) writing abilities, because I’ve been devouring her October Daye series like the scrumptious treats they are. BUY HER BOOKS!