The Business Rusch: You Asked For My Opinion…

The Business Rusch: You Asked For My Opinion…

Kristine Kathryn Rusch

That soft repetitive thudding sound you hear as you log onto your favorite websites? That’s the sound of writers scurrying in a rush to weigh in with anger and fury over this week’s latest crisis.

Actually, that’s not fair. The crisises have come so hard and fast this year that the anger and fury change direction every three or four days. Barnes & Noble might spin off the Nook division! (Anger and fury!) IPG has removed its books from Amazon! (Anger and fury!) PayPal says it won’t work with sites that sell certain kinds of erotica! (Anger and fury!)

Never mind that most writers have no clue as to what’s really going on with these various business decisions. Someone told these writers that it’s bad. Someone bandies about the word “censorship” any time a business decides not to carry a certain product.

Have any of you looked up the definition of “censorship”? It is the suppression of published or broadcast material. When someone declines to put a book in a bookstore or if a company voluntarily pulls many published products because of a business dispute, then that is not censorship.  They’re not out to get one particular work and make it permanently unavailable from all sources. Censorship targets a particular work for its content; censorship does not mean that the damn work is hard to buy in one particular store because of a business dispute.

Got that?

And let’s talk about these business decisions for a moment. Do these thudding writers actually research what these business decisions mean or how they actually impact writers? Of course not. Because it’s easier to be angry and to fume on someone’s website than it is to run your own business.

Now let me be really honest here: it’s easy to rile up writers. In fact, riling up writers is the best way to get your personal point of view across. Writers believe what they’re told, have time to blog about it, and are articulate. Them riterz don’t rite them ½-baked post what hardly shos a comant of the Inglish langage. Writers are interesting and fun to read, even when they’re wrong.

Over the past two months, dozens have written to me privately about This Crisis or That Horrible Thing, wanting my opinion. Really, what you want is for me to validate your opinion that All This Is Terrible And The World Will End Right Now—Or Maybe As Soon As All Our Books Get Censored And Our Opinions Deleted From Our Favorite Websites!

Well, here’s my opinion, folks, about almost everything you’ve written to me about in the past two months:

Every company, from the smallest to the largest, has the right to run its business the way it wants to.

Now, of course, there are a few exceptions: No company should enslave its workers or beat them bloody or force them to perform sex acts on the boss. Nor should any company violate any laws. And let me add this: If you don’t like the laws, folks, run for office or support someone who will write laws that you like.

But in general: Every company, from the smallest to the largest, has the right to run its business the way it wants to.

And you have the same right with your business.

Here’s the thing: If you don’t like a company’s business practices, don’t do business with them. If you think Amazon is working toward a monopoly and you are opposed to monopolies and all that implies, then for godssake, pull your e-books off Kindle, close your Amazon account, and don’t let money associated with you flow to or from Amazon.

It’s really that simple.

Now a bunch of you are going to say, “But if I pull my e-books from Amazon, then I’m screwed. They’re the biggest market.”

My reaction? A shrug. Either you have convictions or you don’t. Either you act on those convictions or you don’t.

Honestly, it doesn’t matter to me if you hate Amazon or love it; if you think PayPal is screwing you or you think  they’re the best thing since sliced bread.  I really, sincerely, don’t care.

Because your opinion has no impact on my business.

I am a business woman who wants to get her product to market. I draw lines in certain places, but those are private places. They usually have to do with a company’s business practices or the fact that a particular person who is running a particular company once embezzled from me.

Generally speaking, my reasons for refusing to do business with someone or some company comes from personal experience with that company, not because some blogger screamed “censorship” when he has no clue what the word means.

Before you all start screaming at me as a corporate whore or someone who is so naïve that she doesn’t understand how the world works, let me refer you to my fiction. I understand that most writers who read writing blogs never even look to see what the blogger has published, and God forbid if those writers actually read the blogger’s fiction.

So let me make  it easy: In my Retrieval Artist series, the bad guys are almost always work for or are owned by super-powerful corporations. The corporations are the Big Bad in those books.  A subplot in all of my Smokey Dalton mystery series continually shows how hard it is to run a corporation ethically. I spent more than a decade as a nonfiction business reporter. I still read business histories (particularly of companies gone wrong) for enjoyment.

I get it.  I know that corporations are often soulless and evil.

I also know how big they are. They don’t care if you’re running around the web, screaming about their contract negotiations with another company. They know that you’re all bluster, that  you’ll never put your money where your mouth is.

Lately some protests against big corporations have worked, but you’ll note that those protests started on social media and no one noticed them until at least 150,000 people had signed a petition.  About something that had a direct impact on them.

What Amazon and IPG are arguing about may have an effect on you, because you have some indie books distributed by IPG, but that fight is a contract negotiation between two parties, neither of whom are you. When contract negotiations go public like this, it’s because one or both sides are playing hardball and one or both sides want to drum up public support for their position.

Let me make that even clearer: They put the news out into the public to manipulate  you into putting pressure on the other party so that they can triumph in the negotiation. Do they care about you or your opinion? Hell, no. They’re using you.

This whole PayPal thing? It’s not censorship. It’s a business decision. In fact, if you go back to the beginning of this post, you’ll see that the business decision boils down to exactly the line I put out there earlier:

PayPal wants to work with the credit card companies. The credit card companies don’t like to have their brand associated with certain things. So the credit card companies make a blanket statement about this, and set up guidelines that are quite vague and can be enforced with a robotic search engine.

PayPal decided to comply with the credit card companies, and informed the businesses who use its product of the rules. Those businesses then decided if they wanted to continue to have PayPal as one of the ways to pay on their site.

Most of the businesses decided to comply, so they sent information to their business partners who are, in some cases, writers, telling those writers as to what can be on a PayPal sponsored site and what can’t.

Here’s where you come in: You—like PayPal and the other companies before you—decide whether or not to comply.

If you don’t like the rules, don’t do business with these companies. Find a way around it.

It’s really that simple.

I started this blog on Sunday, after I completed an e-mail interview with a Brazilian magazine. The reporter was actually doing a story about the way environmental issues show up in science fiction. She had an eye to the future, and asked if I, as an sf writer, believed that we have a future on this planet, given all of the looming environmental disasters.

I do. Of course I do. I wouldn’t be an sf writer if I weren’t optimistic. I write about the future. There has to be a future or I have nothing to write about.

In that same e-mail download was yet another letter from someone asking me to denounce this business practice or that horrible new thing.

The juxtaposition of those two e-mails made me realize something. At heart, I’m an optimist. I have to be. I’m a successful writer which means that in the face of all evidence to the contrary (rejection after rejection after rejection), I believed in myself enough to keep trying.  I am a successful business owner which means that I survived several failures and had the courage to try again.

I am contrarian, yes, and damn cynical, and you have to prove things to me before I’ll believe them. I’m unwilling to take anyone’s word for anything without proof. And if I don’t understand the proof—and that something is important to me, my family, my writing, or my business—then I do my best to educate myself about that proof so that I do understand.

That’s me. That’s a lot of you as well, because you’re communicating to me on the blog or behind the scenes about the things I discuss, and how you find my never-say-die perspective refreshing.

The other thing I realized from the juxtaposition of those e-mails is that the problem with most of these thudding pedantic writers is that 1) they’re paranoid, 2) willfully blind, and 3) pessimistic.

They worry that everyone is out to get them. If they put their stories up electronically, they worry that someone will pirate the stories. And yet, these writers never worry about shoplifters stealing their mass market paperback from a brick-and-mortar bookstore.

They are terrified that Amazon or B&N will screw them, but they trust their agent—whom they give all their money even if they’ve never met or done a background check on this agent. They also trust their traditional publisher, and most traditional publishers have a history of misleading royalty statements and business practices that screw the writer.

That’s what I mean by willfully blind. In fact, most of the crusades these thudding writers go on are initiated by traditional publishers or someone in the traditional publishing industry, all of whom have a different agenda than the writer. Some of these business practices that the these traditional publishing folk complain about might be bad for those folks. But usually, the things these folks are complaining about—like the changes Amazon has brought to the marketplace—are good for writers.

Amazon has changed the playing field in such a way that writers have control over their work for the first time in my lifetime—and this scares the crap out of traditional publishing folk. Most of the complaints about Amazon have nothing to do with writers—who are, at the moment, benefitting from Amazon’s corporate practices—and everything to do with traditional publishing folk, from publishers themselves to independent bookstores.

Be careful who you’re schilling for, folks, because they might have an agenda that’s very, very, very different from yours. So before you respond to something with anger and fury, make sure you understand that something as it pertains to you. Make sure it’s actually about you.

If someone is trying to censor your book, you have every right to complain. You should publicize the behavior, and fight it in every way you can.

If someone is trying to negotiate a contract, and your book is collateral damage—well, then, have you thought that maybe you shouldn’t do business with someone who uses your book as collateral damage? Hmmm?

Finally, these thudding writers are so pessimistic. To borrow a great phrase from a friend of mine, they see the dark cloud in every silver lining.

We writers have more control over our careers than we have ever had before. Yes, there are bumps in the road. Of course.  All businesses have those bumps, each and every day. The bumps should make you reassess the way you do business.

Do you want to do business with a company like Amazon that uses an anvil when a pen will do? Do you want to do business with a company that bows to the demands of credit card companies?

If your answer is no, then stop doing business with those people. Accept the fact that you will not have your e-books in one of the biggest bookstores in the United States. (Amazon is not one of the biggest bookstores in other countries, not by a long shot.) Accept the fact that without PayPal, it will be harder for your readers to order your books.

That’s your business decision, based on your response to changes in the marketplace. Those are valid decisions, as long as you understand why you’re making them.

They’re your choice.

But if you become one of those thudding writers, running all over the internet screaming about This Latest Horrible Thing or That Really Awful Thing, then maybe you should take a breath and ask yourself this:

Why are you spending so much time promoting an agenda that you don’t even understand? Shouldn’t you be working on your own business? Shouldn’t you be writing a novel or a nonfiction book or a short story? Shouldn’t you be promoting yourself and your work instead of screaming about how someone else manages their work?

Is any of this really your business? Will your little blog post or comment on some big corporate website make a difference? Will your Tweet save the world?

Because if the answer is no, then why are you doing it? And if you’re not willing to take action—pull your work off Amazon if you don’t like their business practices, stop using PayPal or your credit cards because you don’t like their policies—then not only are you wasting your time, you’re wasting all of ours too.

The next time one of these big crisises come up—and it will, probably a day or so from now—ask yourself: Do I really need to weigh in on this? Is it so important to me that I need to lose a day defending it?

Better yet, ask yourself: Do I understand what this crisis is all about? Who wins here? Who loses? Will it actually have an impact—a real, financial impact—on my business?

If so, stop screaming and do  something about it. If it has no impact on you, if—in fact—it has nothing to do with you, then shut your mouth and write your novel. Worry about your business. And keep your thudding little opinions out of everyone else’s.

You’ll be surprised at how much writing you’ll get done. Real writing. Not blog commentary or nasty little e-mails to friends.

That said, I’m going to move onto more positive things. So if you want my opinion on This Crisis or That Horrible Thing, maybe you should research it first, and see if it’s even relevant to a writer, if it’s something we can control or if our only choice is to stop doing business with the perpetrator of That Horrible Thing.

Because now you know that my opinion is simple one: If you don’t like the way someone else does business, don’t do business with them.

Can I be any clearer?

This blog is part of my writing business. I started blogging about business three years ago in April, and I haven’t missed a week since. I have learned a lot thanks to you folks, and I’m very grateful.

I am, however, a fiction writer first, and this blog takes a chunk of words out of my weekly fiction output. My fiction earns me money, so to compensate for the lost time, the blog has to earn me money as well. That’s why I have a PayPal—yes, a PayPal—link at the end of each blog. If you feel so inclined, use it to leave me a tip.

If you have decided that you do not want to do business with PayPal, hit the contact link above and e-mail me. There are other ways to pay people online. PayPal is just convenient. I’m willing to be a bit inconvenienced if that’s what you want.

As for the rest of you, here’s the PayPal link:

Click Here to Go To PayPal.

“The Business Rusch: “You Asked For My Opinion…” copyright © 2012 by Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

 

 

 

 

 

109 responses to “The Business Rusch: You Asked For My Opinion…”

  1. SL Clark says:

    Business, Morals and Screaming Banshees!

    I’m saddened this long post must exist and how deep understanding has become a lost art. Credit cards have strict rules, follow them or don’t do business with credit cards. PCI compliance is, so deal with it or don’t. Visa, Mastercard and the EU have significant voices, meaning Paypal is one small speck in the global marketplace.

    Standing on moral high ground is HARD, ask a Tibetan monk to understand.

    We live in the most AMAZING era ever, but how many know this?
    -Steve

    • Kris says:

      I don’t have time to respond at length to all of you folks, but there are some great comments here and lots of food for thought. I’ll let you continue the discussion while I’m teaching this weekend, and with luck I’ll have time to respond later. That said, let me say that I am very grateful that the tone of the conversation has shifted from insult to discussion. Thanks for that.

  2. Selena Kitt says:

    Christian K says: “Do it think that Selena will see a large hit to her income? Yep.”

    —-

    Nah. As has been said here, you change and adapt. I took a minor income hit (I had three books that involved incest at the time) in late 2010 when Amazon removed my books from their site (they were removing all erotic books with incest themes at the time).

    I just rewrote them, re-released them, and because of the “ban,” I made ten times more on Barnes and Noble than I did on Amazon that month. Everyone just went there to buy what Amazon wouldn’t sell.

    In my body of work, less than 10% falls under the umbrella of PP and the CC’s new policies. So it won’t really hurt my sales much. In fact, so far, it’s done the opposite. Especially in those places where the “banned” books are still being sold, like Barnes and Noble.

    But I would be talking about this even if it didn’t directly impact me. Even if I was just an erotic romance writer, rather than one who explores the edgier erotic fiction under attack. Even if I was a mystery writer or a horror writer or a sci-fi writer.

    I would be speaking out for other writers regardless, because even if it isn’t *technically* censorship, it amounts to the same damned thing in the end.

    And it’s just maddening and infuriating to think that I can’t sell my own books on my own site and let readers pay for them via internet currency (i.e. a CC), but they can be distributed on Barnes and Noble and other distributors without a problem.

    And for the record, I agree with you about the moralizing. And thanks for listening to the podcast. It was fun. 😉

    -Selena

  3. Mark says:

    I hope Mark Coker has a long-term goal of making Smashwords less reliant on PayPal.

    • Kris says:

      Me, too, Mark A. I think this entire controversy will force a lot of people to find an alternative to PayPal or to create one. And that’s a good thing.

  4. DB says:

    Kris,

    You clearly don’t have a clue as to the ramifications of this overall. Because it doesn’t affect you at the moment directly then it must not be all that important. Paypal is an effective monopoly for payment over the Internet and the eBooks, sold over the Internet, are the only cost-effective solution for many writers aspiring to be published. And these types of books obviously sell. If they didn’t then there wouldn’t be any need for Paypal to act at all. When Paypal refuses to process transactions for given “legal products” they have censored those products out of the marketplace. And if it starts here, why do you feel that it will stop here as well? Your idea of payment workarounds are effective garbage, to put it politely. They are all high barriers to sales that are often impulse purchases. Make it hard and it won’t sell. Perhaps you might try them out yourself before saying just how easy it will be for everyone else to shift over to them. As a society we put special rules on legally acquired monopolies. You’ve allowed to have one if you earn it, but once you’re declared one you can’t just use it anyway you wish. It is past time for some rules to be put onto Paypal.

    • Kris says:

      DB and John Smith, I love how you assume this PayPal flap doesn’t affect my business. Do you know what names I write under? Do you know if I write erotica? Does anyone? So don’t assume. I agree. Rules must be placed on PayPal. So do something about it. Take action. A number of people have suggestions or have taken action. Do the same.

  5. Christian K says:

    Dwolla does not provide direct merchant support. They use 3rd party solutions (Shopify, Shopp) which also do business with PayPal, Visa, etc. So, they have very similar rules regarding “adult content”.

    Reading over these comments I noticed that I never mentioned that action I took (which is The Point of the article, taking action not just whining) when I saw and researched the PayPal stories. I contacted PayPal support and got in touch with their Risk Management Department, I informed them I was closing my account, and why. I also used the concierge service with my bank to get in touch with their Risk Management Department to explain my concerns and also to find out if they were involved (I have not heard back yet).

    I also know a number of people who still are in the PCI audit business, and therefore still have relationships with VISA, etc. So, I joked, loudly, about this issue. You can see some of the results of that on PG’s blog (which was product of one of these discussions). My goal was to point out the danger in controlling content. Do they really what to explain why BDSM or watersports is “OK”, but incest is not? Aren’t they worried that this could be considered editorial control and therefore violate Safe Harbor protections?

    Do I think any of this will have an effect? No, I don’t think it will change anyone’s mind, but maybe it might make them think twice in the future. Also it would be interesting to see if the MPAA/RIAA try to go after VISA or PayPal at some point, that would be very entertaining…

  6. Indiana Jim says:

    Dwolla… she married Lee Adama, right? Worked in Galactica’s CIC… oh wait…

  7. Has anyone looked into Dwolla? These guys might be some decent competition for PayPal.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dwolla

  8. Wayne says:

    Selena, have you looked into a non credit card company like Dwolla? It’s only useful in the US but it and the far more unstable BitCoins don’t deal with credit card companies. Dwolla deals with the financial backbone that banks depend on to move money into and out of accounts with low fees.

  9. “When someone declines to put a book in a bookstore or if a company voluntarily pulls many published products because of a business dispute, then that is not censorship. They’re not out to get one particular work and make it permanently unavailable from all sources. Censorship targets a particular work for its content . . .”

    That’s not actually how censorship has worked, historically. It was impossible to show “poor morals” in Hollywood films during several decades of the mid-twentieth-century, not because Hollywood filmmakers had decided that particular, individual films were problematic, but because the Motion Picture Production Code had set down a list of rules which all complying member studios had to follow in all films they issued. And the studios followed those rules, not because most of the filmmakers necessarily agreed with the Code, but because they were trying to avoid government censorship and because certain highly influential groups, such as the Catholic Church, were threatening to boycott them. It was a business decision, pure and simple.

    Likewise, it was nearly impossible to get a gay novel published during the early part of the twentieth century, not because of editor’s resistance to individual manuscripts, but because gay fiction was, collectively, a forbidden topic. And it wasn’t always forbidden because of editors’ moral standards; quite often it was forbidden because, regardless of what editors thought themselves of gay fiction, they knew that influential groups would come down on them like a ton of bricks if they published forbidden topics.

    (Notice that, in all these cases, there were alternative ways to get published without censorship. You could create a little homemade film for your friends. You could mimeograph your story and pass it around hand-to-hand. You could peddle your manuscript to a Continental European publisher. You could wait for society’s mores to change. By your definition, then, this wasn’t censorship, because the works weren’t “permanently unavailable from all sources.”)

    Business decisions and censorship have often gone hand in hand, and literary censorship has most often taken the form of publishers or distributors deciding not to publish works that happened to fall into certain broad, sweeping categories of forbidden material. (“We will not publish Ulysses because we do not publish books with erotic references in them.”) Their reasons for the decisions have often been often practical ones, such as fearing government intervention or not wanting to offend large groups of highly vocal people or, quite simply, wanting to make lots of money in the most efficient manner possible.

    That’s why, when a large business, or a large group of businesses, refuse to carry certain categories of literature, most of the writers who are affected get nervous. If, for example, Amazon decided not to carry speculative fiction, or if the credit card companies declared that one couldn’t use their services to sell steampunk, I think it’s fair to say that most of the professional science fiction and fantasy community would be up in arms, regardless as to how well educated those writers were on business issues, or how well prepared they were to seek out alternative methods of selling their books.

    “Will your little blog post or comment on some big corporate website make a difference? Will your Tweet save the world?”

    A couple of years ago, I watched a handful of tweets by some disgruntled small-press and self-published authors balloon into a protest that caused Amazon to change its actions and issue a public apology. So yes, I do believe in the power of social networking.

    Other protests I’ve witnessed have failed. For the most part, it depends on whether mass media picks up on the story.

    But I don’t see this as an either/or situation – either you do business with an organization and shut up when it screws up, or you don’t do business with it at all. People who wish to continue selling their books through Amazon have the greatest motivation to protest Amazon when it makes a stupid business decision. Stopping doing business with a misbehaving business is certainly one form of legitimate protest; so is creating a public protest so large that big newspapers take notice and begin publishing news articles about it. I’m inclined to think that the latter action is more likely to bring about change.

    That said, I agree with you that simple hysteria, as well as oversimplification of the issues, accomplishes nothing. I agree with you that all writers, before posting their protesting tweets, should take the time to educate themselves on what is happening. The problem is, of course, that it’s not in the best interests of misbehaving businesses to release information on what they’re doing, so a lot of early social networking on literary censorship takes the form of people asking, “What the heck is going on here?” Speculation is a necessary byproduct of ferreting out the truth. But I’d like to hope that, thanks to posts like yours, writers will be thoughtful in their speculation, rather than simply tweeting something along the lines of, “THE SKY IS FALLING ON OUR HEADS!!!”

    • Kris says:

      I probably won’t answer comments for a while, although I’ll keep putting them up. I just started teaching a workshop. Lots of good stuff.

      Earlier, I let a handful of comments through that are marginally insulting to people, but I’m done doing that now. Clearly emotions are high. I’ve just trashed five comments that either insult me or insult other commenters on the blog. If you have something to say, do so without calling other people names. There was nothing marginal about these comments. They were downright nasty.

      Just so we’re clear: You may comment on my blog, but I won’t put your post through if you use vile rhetoric to make your point. So tone it down, folks. And if you can’t say anything without resorting to insults, then you won’t get a forum on this website.

  10. Christian K says:

    Re: Amazon/IDP
    I don’t really see what else Amazon could have done. If contract negotiations have stalled and the contract has expired, it would be copyright infringement for Amazon to continue selling works they have no right to sell. Was it “playing hardball” or a “jerk move”? It certainly was, however I don’t really fault them for it. When dealing with the majority computing platform, it’s most profitable to compromise and hopefully stay out of their way.
    Re: PayPal/CC companies.
    Adult content is a high risk/high reward business.
    Do I think that they are misapplying rules designed to protect banks from obscenity prosecution? Absolutely.
    Do it think that Selena will see a large hit to her income? Yep.
    Do I think a new payment plan/business model will allow her to keep up the staggering income she saw last year? Heck no.
    (Not to tell tales out of school… but her interview with on the Dead Robots Society podcast was enlightening and entertaining)
    She, and others, will follow other adult content providers and move the subject matter slightly. Incest will become Mentor/Student or Teammates/Classmates/Co-workers. Rape will become Roleplay or BDSM, maybe a little dubious consent thrown in for good fun. Bestiality will go back to vampires/elves/trolls. The readers who really want the hardcore stuff will go back to reading fanfiction (50,000 J2 stories can’t be wrong!! hehe).
    Finally, I am more than a little annoyed by the moralizing I saw in some of the earlier comments. It’s rather like telling Agatha Cristie that she didn’t HAVE to write mysteries and if “demonstrating how to commit homicide” crack down includes her, she must have really been asking for it. If that wasn’t the intent of the comments, I apologize for my reading comprehension failure.

  11. Carradee says:

    Another note on e-checks: I make a school loan payment with one every month, because it’s free, while paying with a debit or credit card has a fee.
     
    Convenience isn’t a right. And, since the primary convenient vendors look to be banning certain material—which is their right, as businesses—that means you have to figure out what else to do if you want to sell that.
     
    But the difficulties will likely breed innovation, some company that’ll do what PayPal won’t. Erotica authors just have to hang in there, find it, or make it.

  12. Geri Jeter says:

    I have had an eBay business (off and on) for a number of years. While I did offer PayPal as a payment option, I also accepted U.S. Postal Money Orders (for immediate delivery) and personal checks (with a 10-day delay for processing). About 25% of my business has come from the old-school, non-PayPal system. So that’s 25% of my small business income that had no PayPal charges (eBay — well, that’s another issue). Sometimes just by offering options, you can skirt the credit card companies all together.

  13. Jean Frese says:

    Wonderful post Kris. It kind of amazes me how authors are perfectly capable of having characters deal with the consequences of their actions and choices, but they aren’t capable of applying it to their own lives. (Then again, some authors seem to be sketchy on consequences in their character’s lives, so perhaps I shouldn’t be amazed.)

  14. Sarah McCabe says:

    I think one of the key things to remember is no one is forcing anyone to sit down and write erotica. If it was physically impossible for you to write anything else MAYBE you would have a right to be angry about businesses making things more difficult for you. But the fact is you could write anything and you chose to write erotica. You may have the right to earn a living, but you do not have the Right to sell anything and everything that you produce where ever you want to. And you certainly don’t have the Right to do it easily.

    So I guess my attitude, particularly to this whole PayPal thing is… stop whining and deal with it. Some people are starting to sound like petulant toddlers.

  15. Steven Mohan says:

    Kris, I’ve always enjoyed and looked forward to your posts, but I have to say that this one was especially perfect! Agree entirely! Thanks for saying it so well!

  16. Steve Lewis says:

    Great post, Kris, that also reflects some of my own personal thoughts and feelings.

    With regards to echecks: They’re still around. This is one of the ways my aparment complex excepts payments. With a two second web search I found tons of websites that will set you up to accept them. I don’t know how hard it is because I’ve never been through the process.

    The issue with erotica is a bit ironic because just the other day I was talking to a writer friend and made the offhand comment that in this day and age the only one that can stop you from having a career is you. Not everyone will be able to turn it into a full-time career but you can always have a career. Even with the Smashwords and Paypal issues, this is still true. Will it be harder? Yes. Impossible? Probably not. And I agree that if the market demand for this type of material is strong enough someone will step up to fill the demand.

    Anyway, back to the word mines

    • Kris says:

      Steve, thanks for checking on e-checks. (Pun intended) Great to know. There’s a solution right there for folks who want it. And you’re right about the ironic part of this discussion. Ten years ago, we all had to go through traditional publishing. No matter what. Is it censorship that no one wanted to publish one of my novels? Naw. Just business. And that’s a hard lesson to learn. This is, as I said, a bump. Writers need to go over, around, or past the bumps and continue. That’s how we thrive. And I love the phrase “word mines.” 🙂

  17. Standing ovation from the great land of Cindie’s office! My husband is in politics (and we are not members of the same poltical party). Everything you say here is what we talk about daily regarding political issues. We see so many issues being used for the benefit of political agendas regardless of whether or not those issues have anything to do with the issues they are being linked with that we are perpetually trying to find our footing on the weird side of the looking glass. Makes me wonder if divisive, us-or-them, sound-bite politics is invading our other interactions or if divisive, us-or-them, sound-bite politics is just a symptom of a larger societal trend. Either way, I could not survive this immersion into the world of politics without knowing how to find facts behind spin and constantly looking for intent. Here here! for keeping us on the sensical side of the looking glass!

    • Kris says:

      Cindie, thanks for the political side of things. You’re right; this kind of talk is everywhere. But it has been from the beginning of our country. The political discourse in the first decade of the republic makes our discourse now seem tame. So I think it’s just part of being us. Or maybe of being human… 🙂 (I guess that means I’m swimming upstream. What a surprise.) Thanks!

  18. Lin W says:

    Thanks, Kris! I joined an email writers’ group a while back. The first couple of things were really scary reports of awful things. It took me about three days to realize that there were “The sky is falling and WE’RE ALL GONNA *DIEEEEE*” folks in the group. I still read what they post, but if there’s no link to a real story, I ignore it. If there *is* a link, I follow it (usually takes a couple follow-the-link games to find a real news story and not somebody *else* screaming “We’re all gonna dieeeee” on a different list). Without fail, I’ve found the same thing you have: a fairly straightforward news story that someone has chosen to blow out of all proportion. I find it utterly amazing how well-eduacted, articulate people can be manipulated into a state of constant rage against — whoever somebody else has told them to enraged at/about.

    Which is not to say don’t be informed. Just know what you’re looking at and who has the most to gain when they oh-so-helpfully ‘inform’ you of how you’re supposed to react 🙂

    • Kris says:

      Thanks, Lin. Exactly. Be informed. Make sure you have an informed opinion. And don’t feel the need to comment on every little thing. Writers have been around for a looooooong time. Centuries in fact. We get our words out. One way or another. 🙂

  19. Christian K says:

    Kris,

    Taking credit card information over the internet without using the 3rd party processor is much more complicated and expensive than you are making it out to be. What you describe violates a number of CISP and PCI standards and you wouldn’t be processing credit cards for long. (I am assuming you are talking about taking credit card data over the internet and running it through a merchant reader.)

    PCI audits are expensive, depending on the number of CC transactions $10,000-$30,000 wouldn’t be uncommon (I know because I was there). Violations of PCI standards can result in fines of up to $500,000, so I wouldn’t suggest trying to scam the system. There are NO companies that take credit card data over that internet that have not had a PCI audit and have not approved by VISA, etc.

    All current gateways and most processors have a requirement prohibits any “adult related material”. A small number of processor will allow “adult related material” however they will not allow you to use their service if the act depicted could be illegal. It’s a catch-22 the normal processor will process your fiction about incest, but not if it’s “adult”, the “adult” processor won’t touch incest.
    There really isn’t an option unless you take the internet out of the equation, and switch to physical printing.

    • Kris says:

      I am not saying take credit cards over the internet. Nor am I telling you to violate the law. Make a catalog that people can access on the internet. Have them fill out a form, print it out, –and (gasp!) mail it to you. With a check. Or a credit card number if you have a credit card reader for your business. After they pay, send them a private link to a website where they can download your story. It’s cumbersome, but it’ll work.

      There are ways around things, folks. If it’s important to you, find the way. Sometimes that way is going back to the pre-web way of doing things. So do that until someone invents something better.

      • Kris says:

        And now, one final comment from me.

        The credit card companies are saying they don’t want to do business with anyone who sells this particular product. That’s their right. That’s the point of this blog. If you don’t like it, work to change it. It seems like some of you are. But it’s not censorship. It’s their right as a business to determine what they want their brand associated with. Every business has that right. You don’t have to like it, but it’s the way things are.

        And now, the nit-picky discussion of credit cards is done on this website. Please discuss the blog post at hand or the comment won’t get through.

    • Kris says:

      Mark Coker has a different issue than individual writers do. He has to maintain his vast website with material of all kinds. He’s fighting hard to get this changed. Support him.

      But if you’re worried about your writing, then set up an old-fashioned business. With checks. And paper. And help someone else develop a new, convenient on-line pay system. Yep, it’ll take time. Yep, it’s hard. [shrug] If it’s worth doing, then do it, even if it is hard.

  20. On the subject of checks, there is something out there called E-checks–direct bank drafts based on check numbers. It was big back in the early 2000s (I even sold the service to local businesses for a while for a New York bank)–I’d be surprised if it didn’t still exist. Might take some digging through a merchant bank, but setting up an e-check system shouldn’t be impossible. Paypal, after all, does e-checks for people who don’t use credit cards.

    Might be an ideal solution for those selling downloadable products. Just sayin’

    -Dan

  21. Laura Drake says:

    Kris, Thanks for inserting sanity. Hard to believe, when I look around me, that this country was forged on free trade and capitalism. It’s not looking much like that anymore. Hmmm, could our standing in the world slippage, and the surge in that POV be coincidence?

    I try to sprinkle around the voice of reason, but you have a stonger platform than I. I’m right behind you Sister.

    My dad used to call consumer power, “Leading with your feet.”

  22. Mercy Loomis says:

    Well, my first comment got eaten by the spam filter gods for some reason, so I’ll just make it short and sweet.

    Maybe a good way to sum up Kris’s meaning is “Don’t be a slacktivist. If you want change to happen, take action. Talking is not taking action. Take action, and then talk.”

    Personally, I’m not using PayPal anymore, and I politely informed them why. I’m looking into alternatives as well. All I can do is take my business elsewhere, talk about why I’m doing it, and hope that enough other people do the same that PayPal then stands up to the credit card companies. (I’m trying to find an alternative to them, too, but my mortgage and car loans got sold to them, so that’s a little bit harder.)

    • Kris says:

      Good job, Mercy. Informing them why they no longer have your business is the best way to change their behavior. I love this: “Don’t be a slacktivist. If you want change to happen, take action. Talking is not taking action. Take action, and then talk.” Exactly.

  23. Dario says:

    Kris: Yes, yes, and finally, yes.

  24. TheSFReader says:

    Oh, Kris, I know there are lots of great writers on Smashwords. However, I must say that when I find a great writer there and (s)he goes Select, that really P***es me off !

  25. So well said and so needing to be said, especially on the misuse of censorship. It’s right alongside the misuse of other similar words like “Bigotry” so common today. It enflames stupidity and we don’t need more of that!

  26. Selena Kitt says:

    Are you just being obtuse for the sake of argument?

    We have been told directly by the CC processors that this material IS NOT ALLOWED and they WILL NOT PROCESS it.

    I’m not going to go above or below the current CC policies to do so.

    Credit is the currency of the web. Can we take checks? Sure. But that doesn’t solve the problem of having a convenient way to process the currency of the web – i.e. credit.

    As for Mark Coker, he and I have been in close communication about this issue throughout, and we’re both on the same page. He, too, knows there ARE NO CURRENT ALTERNATIVES when it comes to this subject matter. If you don’t believe me, ask him yourself.

    Sites “not approved” to take CC payments get approved through offshore processors. We’ve tried that route. Denied.

    So you are quite wrong about it being possible right now. Unless we decide to circumvent the “force of law” that is the CC companies, it is actually not.

    But apparently you know all about this, because you’ve already been approved to sell the “offending” material yourself? You’ve done hours of research and made hundreds of phone calls in regards to the matter?

    If so, I think you should clearly share with the rest of us in the interest of the public good.

    If you know of any alternatives, please do expound on your vast knowledge of the subject. I’m sure people would love to have some real alternatives to Paypal in this matter.

    I know I would.

    • Kris says:

      So you’re doing the research, Selena. Good. And you’re supporting Mark Coker. Good.

      But you can still sell the material. Take checks. Do catalogs. You’re not banned from selling your material. You can’t sell it conveniently. That’s the difference.

  27. Selena Kitt says:

    “I am not endorsing apathy. I am endorsing action. I say that throughout the post. And now I’m saying it again.”
    ————-

    And what action can someone take, exactly, if ALL THE CC COMPANIES deny you the right to sell legal material on your web site?

    In that situation, the only currency you have is complaint or boycott.

    There is no action you can take that hasn’t already been taken (i.e. boycott Paypal, make sure your books are available on alternate sites that haven’t been targeted by Paypal – yet – etc)

    So telling people to put up or shut up is all well and good.

    Unless putting up isn’t possible – and the only recourse you have is NOT to shut up.

  28. Selena Kitt says:

    “I would say there is one slight difference in the Paypal/Smashwords problem: Smashwords is saying that Paypal is saying that this isn’t being driven by Paypal. It’s being driven by Credit Card companies. On the internet, credit is the defacto currency, and for credit card companies to refuse to allow people to pay for legal goods with their cards, it becomes equivalent to the force of law.”

    ————–

    That is a VERY important difference. And true. There are no “other options” for this material, in spite of the persistent belief that there is.

    I have had, literally, dozens of conversations with CC processors in the past two weeks and I have a colleague who has talked to at least that many herself and we have both run into the same thing from every single one – NO CC processor will allow anything related to incest, pseudo incest, bestiality or rape for titillation. Period. Including all those processors that normally take extreme adult material like CCBill and Verotel.

    My recent foray into high risk and adult merchant processors (including those offshore) has proven even further that this is the CC processors and not just PP who is behind this. I was referred, through several channels, to a guy who could get an account for *anyone.* He told me personally that his company dealt with some of the most “fringe” and risky Internet businesses out there.

    He turned my application in to his underwriter who came back with an immediate NO due to “illegal activity.”

    That’s right, apparently writing FICTION about sex between two consenting adults is “illegal” now?

    But the fact remains that if you are honest and upfront to the CC companies about what is on your site, they will turn you down if it contains any of the above.

    Which makes what PayPrude and the CC companies are doing effectively “the force of law.”

    All we can do, as consumers, is boycott or complain.

    In terms of competition – I’m not sure any will crop up. From what the CC guy told me, he hasn’t seen a crackdown like this since the one on gaming (i.e. gambling sites) – and that one came directly from the senate.

    So while conspiracy theories may sound crazy sometimes… just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. *shrug*

    • Kris says:

      Selena, on your second comment, you said, ” There are no “other options” for this material, in spite of the persistent belief that there is.”

      Oh, bull.

      Business have run without PayPal for generations. Business have run on the web without PayPal for years. How do you sell your material? Simple–sign up for a business account, get a credit card reader, and take credit cards yourself. Or, if you feel you can’t do that given what you sell, then take checks. That’s how business do it. And you know that sites “not approved” by the credit card companies take credit cards, don’t you? There are ways to get approved. You just have to do the work. It takes time, it’s inconvenient and it’s hard.

      Complain and protest. Support Mark Coker in his fight against PayPal and the credit card companies. Offer your help.

      But at the same time figure out alternatives. They exist. I know they exist. I even know how to set up my company to take all of that information and sell my work without PayPal. I just chose not to. If you feel this strongly about it all, it’s time you learn it too.

  29. Erin says:

    I read your post this morning. Then I read a post someone linked to on Twitter about (horrors!) Apple banning books from the iBookstore if they had links to Amazon. My first thought was, “Why in the world does this surprise anybody?” *sigh* Back to what I can control — my own writing.

  30. I can handle my business as well as be annoyed at financial institutions forcing booksellers to stop selling certain books.

    I am always sorely disappointed in people who look up, go ‘oh, it doesn’t impact ME’ and walk away. There are lots of companies who no longer get my money.

    It’s never helpful to tell people to just sit down and shut up.

    • Kris says:

      Leota, once again…I’m not saying be apathetic. If you read the blog post, I’m telling people to take action if they believe something. If they refuse to take action, then they’re not being constructive. If you don’t like how someone does business, don’t do business with them. End of story.

  31. Linda Jordan says:

    Great post this week. I’ve only been intensively studying the Indie Publishing stuff online for three years and you’re right – every week or two there’s a new crisis or big story which crops up in everyone’s blogs and the publishing news, creating lots of drama. Which is often highly entertaining and diverting and then it dies down or is resolved and never talked about again, often supplanted by the next one. But maybe it serves as human interaction for writers who spend a great deal of time alone.

    That said, I think part of what’s going on is that many of us want to believe that the world is fair. That banks shouldn’t have the power to dictate what’s published. That there’s fair competition between big companies. That we actually have power in the policies our government pushes. I know I wish these were true. But they’re not and that’s where my cynicism about businesses and government come in. I don’t have control over any of that. Geez, I don’t even have control over my eight year old.

    All I have control over is myself and my business. And sometimes not even those.

    • Kris says:

      Linda J, I think you’re right about people wanting to believe that the world is fair. My brother-in-law–who runs a worldwide business–has a saying, “Fair is in August.” And that’s not just true of business, it’s true of life. I just lost a friend this weekend, who is one of the best people I have ever known. He was 50. That’s not fair. And I can do nothing about it.

      So, back to business, I control the things I can control, and I ignore everything else. People always wonder how I’m so productive. That’s how.

  32. I knew it! You are a traitor to the cause! You are in the back pocket of big, bad corporation A (or is it Big Bad Company LLC?) You probably have “I love Amazon” tatooed on your arm. It is all about the money isn’t it? Does WMG in WMG Publishing stand for “Want More Gold”??? Sorry- I felt left out because I haven’t had the chance to rant yet. OK, back to reality. Thanks Kris for your common sense amidst foolish hysteria. Your wisdom on the Business of Writing is appreciated.

    • Kris says:

      OMG, Eric, you figured it out! It is Want More Gold! (I wanted WAYG Publishing [Want All Your Gold], but the idea got nixed.) Thanks for the comment.

  33. Thank you for an antidote to the insanity! The number of people who are eager to have the government force Amazon or Paypal to enter into business agreements is truly depressing.

  34. ABeth says:

    I’m gonna sit in the Middle Ground, I think. I have some issues about Amazon, but I’ll use them as long as they’re a beneficial tool. I have issues with PayPal, because their actions have affected acquaintances and are affecting my plans for erotica fic under a “Sooper Sekrit” name, but for now, their dominant mindshare makes it advantageous to continue to use them.

    But I’m not going to mistake Amazon for my BFF, and I’m keeping my eye open for PayPal alternatives.

    • Kris says:

      ABeth, perfect attitude. Like you, I don’t think Amazon is my BFF, but right now they’re helping me pay the rent. So we’ll stay business partners. And I too am looking for PayPal alternatives, because this is a warning shot across the bow. Not because I disagree with them or I need to blog with them, but because imho one business that controls any marketplace has waaaay too much power. So we always need alternatives. Thanks for the comment.

  35. Thank you, Kris. This post could also go for the hullabalo that seems to be brewing over SFWA changing most of its book links (but not all) away from Amazon.

    I would say there is one slight difference in the Paypal/Smashwords problem: Smashwords is saying that Paypal is saying that this isn’t being driven by Paypal. It’s being driven by Credit Card companies. On the internet, credit is the defacto currency, and for credit card companies to refuse to allow people to pay for legal goods with their cards, it becomes equivalent to the force of law.

    While bookstores should have the right to serve whoever they want to, financial institutions have a fiduciary responsibility to not do the legislature’s job of deciding what can and can’t be bought.

    This, of course, assumes that Paypal is telling the truth.

    • Kris says:

      Camille, I did mention the credit card thing. I believe PayPal is telling the truth. I also think they agree with the credit cards’ policies.

      As for SFWA…there’s always a hullabaloo in SFWA. That’s one of the many reasons I’m not a member. Again, money where my mouth is. I don’t like how they operate, so I don’t give them my name or annual dues.

      And folks, on the PayPal thing and regulations–there are a lot of regulations about commerce. I haven’t looked up the regulations on the items being distributed, but this may be a case of old Blue Laws in various states getting in the way of sales. It’s easy to remove the items than it is to fight the battle state-by-state. Just saying…

  36. Nancy Beck says:

    If you don’t like the way someone else does business, don’t do business with them.

    Makes perfectly good sense.

    They are terrified that Amazon or B&N will screw them, but they trust their agent—whom they give all their money even if they’ve never met or done a background check on this agent.

    I never bought into the “What if Amazon decides to change the royalty rate?” uproar/upset because, frankly, it’s out of my control. Why worry about something that’s out of my control? I worry about plenty of other things (some with good reason), but that’s not one of them.

    Besides, so what if there’s a change? Since I haven’t put all my eggs in one basket, my stories will still get royalties at other venues. And I can scout out still other venues if I want my stories to be available to as many readers as possible. The possibilities boggle the mind (well, mine anyway ;-))

    I’m also going to make the novel I’m currently writing (first in a series) a print book. First time around. But I’m looking forward to it, because it sounds like my kind of fun. 🙂

    • Kris says:

      Nancy B., good points. You’re one of the smart writers who makes certain she’s selling her books on multiple sites. That gives you options, so if you don’t like a company’s policy, then you can move away from that company and still have a business. And good for you on the print book. All of my books are going into print in the next few years, including the e-books only. More markets, more opportunities to find readers. Thanks for the post.

  37. Suzan Harden says:

    LOL A friend and I were discussing the PayPal thing. As she said, it’s not a coincidence the crackdown is happening during a presidential election year.

    How’s that for paranoid writer conspiracy theories?

  38. Selena Kitt says:

    It’s PP’s right to do business any way they like. Check.
    It’s our right not to do business with them if we don’t want to. Check.

    But you miss the fact that we have ALL have a right, as consumers, to COMPLAIN about it as loudly and as vehemently as we want to. In fact, with corporations, that is our only recourse.

    So if you don’t like hearing all the complaining about it then don’t listen. But don’t discourage people from doing the only thing they CAN do in the face of a corporate stranglehold. Because as someone who knows “business” you must know that complaints and boycotts from consumers are the only thing that the business world pays attention to.

    There is no other way to threaten their bottom line – which is their only concern – unless we are free to protest and complain.

    All businesses know that if one person complains there are hundreds who feel the same way who haven’t spoken out. Complaints can work, if there enough of them. If you believe in the free market, then why not let it work? Don’t patronize people writing their little blog posts in protest. They matter. They ALL matter.

    Including – and maybe even especially – those blog posts by people who don’t even have a dog in the race. Everyone should care if someone else’s liberties are being stepped on. Speaking out for your neighbor counts.

    And to say or imply that it doesn’t breeds an apathy that only serves to stifle the free market you are so fond of.

    • Kris says:

      Selena,

      I never said don’t complain. I said don’t complain if you’re not willing to put your money where your mouth is. If someone bitches continually about how bad Amazon is and still shops there, then that person isn’t putting their money where their mouth is. They’re just whining.

      I’m all for complaints backed by action. I’ve complained on this blog about my web hosting service. I’m researching a new one and will move within the month. They didn’t respond to my valid complaints. They didn’t repair what’s gone wrong, and my site went down again this week. Am I going all over the web whining? No. I’m taking action. I’m moving. And when I’ve moved, I’ll mention my experiences on Facebook, etc, so that others will know that I had this problem with this company. Money. Mouth. Taking action.

      If you don’t have a dog in the race, then at least understand what the race is about before blogging about it. Again, if you read my post, you’ll see that I’m talking about the people who don’t even bother to understand the cause they’re championing.

      I am not endorsing apathy. I am endorsing action. I say that throughout the post. And now I’m saying it again.

  39. “Every company, from the smallest to the largest, has the right to run its business the way it wants to.”

    I agree with this sentiment completely Kris, and wish things really worked that way.

    Unfortunately, in the real world this is simply not the case. Businesses are almost never allowed to run themselves in the manner they wish, whether because of labor laws, restrictions on prices they can set, restrictions on wages they can pay, OSHA regulations, environmental regulations, CPSC requirements, licensing requirements, accounting regulations and requirements, federal regulations, state regulations, local regulations, or the general Mrs Kravitz (I’m sure I’ve misspelled that) nature of society these days where no one is willing to simply mind his or her own business. There is almost no aspect of a business’ life that is not in some way dictated by the state in this day and age.

    But then, that’s how it should be, because profit is dirty and evil. Therefore those who engage in its pursuit are of the lowest character and add nothing to society except for tax money. Such people must be held in contempt and kept under strict control lest they corrupt, abuse, and ultimately slay us all. (inset mega-snark here)

    Given that’s the environment we live in and the attitude we’re constantly exposed to, is there any wonder so many people get caught up in being busy-bodies instead of doing something useful?

    • Kris says:

      As I said in the post, Michael K, laws exist to prevent bad behavior. If you don’t like the laws, then run for office and change the laws or fund a candidate who feels the same way that you do. By the way, folks, this is how the wealthy do it. They don’t whine. They don’t complain. They fund candidates. You may not like the system, but it is what it is. The other way to control a corporation you don’t like is to organize an effective boycott. I’ve been around politics, politicos, and activists for more than thirty years now, and I’ve only seen a handful of boycotts work for any length of time. But if you do what Big Ed said below, support competitors, innovate, and create an alternative to the thing you don’t like, then you’ll succeed.

      Of course, when you succeed, someone will find a reason to hate you and bitch about you and the whole cycle will start all over again…

  40. There are two solutions to corporate ‘bad behavior.’ One is regulatory (we don’t let bosses insist that part of the employee’s job description be providing sexual favors). The second is economic. If a company loses enough money due to people not liking their policy, they’ll change or they’ll be displaced.

    Economically, my own observation is that boycotts and organizing for moral purposes don’t work as well as competition. Every community I know has a “buy local” campaign to try to get people to not shop at Walmart. They seem to have very limited success because Walmart still offers customers things they want (low prices, selection, etc.). However, I can certainly remember all the screaming about Microsoft’s de facto monopoly behavior a mere twenty years ago. Did the Government monopoly suits make a difference? Nope–it was competition that took them out of the dominant position.

    Heck, a lot of your posts are about the struggles with a publishing oligarchy that’s discovering they have competition for the first time in a long time.

    So if regulation is unlikely to succeed (definitely the case for what Amazon and PayPal are doing), then the best solution is to support competitors. Or become a competitor. It might be hard, but Bezos didn’t build Amazon overnight either. Also, that competition can take many other forms besides closely following the model of the existing corporation. Apple didn’t beat Microsoft by sticking purely with PC computing, after all.

    Finally, on the PayPal stuff specifically, I fully expect that their regulations will be worked around rather quickly. As I wrote on my blog (http://www.besplace.com/2012/02/29/paypal-pragmatism-and-economics/ NSFW!)[And feel free to not publish the link–I won’t be offended], there’s plenty of demand for the stuff they’re trying to ban. The consumers and the providers will find a way to connect, just as they do in drugs, prostitution, and other culturally undesirable but economically profitable sectors.

    There are pragmatic solutions, once the outrage is passed.

    • Kris says:

      Big Ed, I think you’re right about the PayPal thing. PayPal may not back down, but if it doesn’t, then as I said below, someone will come up with an alternative way to pay that is as effective as PayPal. You’re right about the demand. That always makes a difference. I really like your point about supporting the competitors. As I said in the post, put your money where your mouth is. Do something. If you’re not willing to do something, you’re just whining.

  41. Ice cold water you’re slinging this morning, Kris. Keep it up!

    It makes me a little crazy, too, when I hear writers complain that Amazon is horrible or publishers are evil, etc., etc. Every for-profit business acts in its own interest–to make the most money possible. And that’s as it should be. If these actions turn public opinion (or writers) against them, then the businesses will relent and change their ways. But not out of the goodness of their heart. Out of the goodness of their pocketbook. And how do we express our opinion most readily? Dollar votes. Anyone who’s taken Econ 101 knows that. Withhold your money (or your book or whatever), plain and simple, and if enough people do it, corporations will get the message.

    And you’re on point, too, about public manipulation over contract negotiations, etc.. When B&N decided not to carry Amazon’s physical books in their brick and mortars because they said Amazon “undermined the industry as a whole” and “prevented customers from having access to content,” this was B&N’s blatant attempt to sway the public into thinking that Amazon is evil. In truth, B&N was just spinning damaging PR to ding a competitor. You have only to watch political primaries to understand this!

    When anyone gets too caught up in this fight or that, remember: unless you’ve been named personally, it’s not personal. It’s business.

    • Kris says:

      Monica, good post. I love your last line: remember: unless you’ve been named personally, it’s not personal. It’s business. Exactly.

  42. Catana says:

    Woo hoo! Thanks for that. The latest tempest in a teacup was entertaining for a while, watching all those bloggers running around and screaming that the sky is falling. But it got boring very fast because most of them obviously didn’t know what they were talking about. Overnight, PayPal was enrolled in Amazon’s Evil Empire. Then Smashwords fell to the Evil Overlords, despite Mark Coker being the only person, as far as I know, who’s actually talking to PayPal and trying to negotiate changes to the the policy.

    I really wish I could be as optimistic about the future as you are, but when I see people who are supposedly more intelligent and literate than the average run turning into a pack of mindless ninnies, I have to wonder.

    • Kris says:

      Catana, you’re right about Smashwords. Poor Mark Coker wrote a letter yesterday that went to everyone mentioning all the work he was doing to try to negotiate with PayPal to get them to change their policies, and all the crap he’s getting from writers who–again–haven’t bothered to understand what’s going on. He is fighting this, and he’s actually making some headway. So give him some support, people, instead of yelling at him. He’s doing the right thing.

  43. Robin Brande says:

    Thanks, Kris. Well said. And thanks for pointing out what censorship really is–it drives me nuts when someone can’t distinguish between that and a business decision not to sell a book. Another great post. Keep ’em coming!

  44. Tori Minard says:

    I wrote a blog post about the PayPal incident. I had misgivings about the post when I wrote it, and I’ve since taken it down. What I wonder about that issue is: is it feasible to run an online business without going through PayPal or the credit card companies? But I have to admit I haven’t researched that yet.

    The thing the PayPal issue really brought home to me is how important it is to diversify. I was so glad I had my work at several different sites and that I write in two different subgenres of romance. If all my work had been erotica, I’d be in a much worse position. I’m planning now on diversifying even further, although it might take me longer to establish a broad platform for each pen name. But I’d rather have a stable income than be vulnerable to these kinds of fluctuations in the market.

    • Kris says:

      Tori, it is feasible to do an online business without PayPal. It’s just harder, and it will take some research. I know many folk who are going to do so. When something like this happens and the dominant corporate Bad Thing oversteps, someone always designs something as good or better and starts it up. I know there are some PayPal alternatives out there, but I haven’t researched them. The more writers who use those alternatives, however, the stronger the alternative will become.

  45. Francoise says:

    “Why are you spending so much time promoting an agenda that you don’t even understand? Shouldn’t you be working on your own business? Shouldn’t you be writing a novel or a nonfiction book or a short story? Shouldn’t you be promoting yourself and your work instead of screaming about how someone else manages their work?”

    That is really all of what it boils down to. I worked for Dow Jones (Wall Street Journal / Barron’s) before Uncle Rupert took it over. 98% of the people who scream longest and loudest about Amazon and their practices don’t understand basic business, and/or an even larger percentage have never had any novel, short story or non fiction work published. A couple of weeks ago, Joe Konrath posted something about doing business with Amazon, and the vitriol coming from some folks, especially the publishing industry shills, was absolutely astounding. Yes, corporations can and do suck. Yes, they do some pretty heinous things. Not all of them do, and even not all departments within a corporation are equally bad.

    Just wanted to say that I love reading your blogs, Kris! I now have one non fiction book getting ready to go out (it’s just down to the formatting now!)and an historical fiction piece that I am editing, you have consistently given me a great deal of insight and help with what you write. For those things, I sincerely thank you!

    • Kris says:

      Good point, Francoise. As the Passive Guy pointed out yesterday, everyone who is shouting about Evil Amazon today happen to be the same folks who were shouting about Horrible Barnes & Noble six years ago. It’s rather sad. And thanks for the kind comments on the blog!

  46. Carradee says:

    Perfectly clear, Kris. Hear, hear. 🙂

    So often, things look a lot different if you just look up the articles from the opposing perspective.

  47. Frank Dellen says:

    “1) they’re paranoid, 2) willfully blind, and 3) pessimistic”

    … and 4) people LOVE to get riled. Traditional targets to vent your anger have become obsolete (Damn communism, did it have to collapse?!) or politically incorrect or just plain silly or old-fashioned, so one has to pick other enemies. Since everybody knows corporations are evil, you can yell at them, bath in the applause of the masses and feel like a total rebel, yet never actually risk something important.

    • Kris says:

      Frank, exactly. I have friends from all sides of the political spectrum and you can always tell when someone is riled up or someone actually knows what they’re talking about. The riled up folks have opinions that are an inch deep. The folks who know something actually can have a real discussion with you without spouting the rhetoric of the day.

  48. Melissa says:

    Awesome, Kris! Exactly – stop whining and focus on your business. Well said!

  49. TheSFReader says:

    (Reader only here)
    While I have not (yet) decided to stop using Paypal, I’ve stopped buying anything at Amazon (and tell it to whoever is ready to hear it). For a ferocious indie ereader like me, let me tell it’s quite difficult to bypass the great reading opportunities that are restricted to Kindle.

    However, contrary to some authors, my life doesn’t depend on books revenues, so I understand business decisions that go against my own personal choices…

    • Kris says:

      SFReader, a lot of great indie writers are on Smashwords, and you don’t have to go through Amazon to find them. Plus a lot of great indie writers also have their books on their own websites.

      Folks, this is another reason not to put all your eggs in one basket. Those of you who went to Kindle Select and pulled everything off all the other sites–what happens if your customers don’t want to shop at Amazon?

  50. Ah, level headed reasoning. Thank you. 🙂

    I read the articles and checked my care factor. I don’t write about the listed topics and I don’t buy the listed topics, so the new rules do not affect my income or spending habits, so I set my care factor to zero before I worked on the plot of my next story.

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