February 23rd, 2012

Snoopy

Updates: Income and Amazon

First, a follow-up to my 2011 Writing Income post. My 2011 income jumped significantly from last year, which has been lovely. However, it’s important to keep in mind that the numbers I posted were pre-tax.

Having pretty much completed our 2011 taxes, it looks like we’ll be paying roughly $8000 to the state and federal government. This also means paying significantly higher quarterly estimated taxes for 2012.

I’m okay with this. I’ve been setting a fair amount of money aside, because I knew this was coming. And I certainly don’t object to paying my share for the services I and my family use.

That said, it’s still rather gut-wrenching to see that final figure come up in the tax software…

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And now, to Amazon and my mysteriously changing e-book price. As of yesterday, I’ve sent five e-mails to Amazon’s KDP support about this issue. To their credit, Amazon has responded within 2-3 days to each of my messages.

Unfortunately, it’s not the same person responding each time. First it was Dieter, who said they’d change the price back, but didn’t tell me why it had been lowered in the first place. When I wrote back for clarification, I got a response from Aishwarya, who linked me to their terms or service and pointed out that they had price-matched my book to the Kobo price a month ago (but didn’t explain why they had done so again). Then Craig e-mailed and said my price was now $2.99 … ignoring the actual questions I asked.

Next time, I asked if they could escalate me to someone who might answer my questions. I got an e-mail back from one of the KDP Executive Customer Relations people, who again pointed to the lower Kobo price from a month ago.

I’ve written back to ask him to clarify if he’s saying Amazon will price-match to month-old listings even if your book isn’t currently offered for a lower price anywhere.

It’s conceivable that Kobo or someone else briefly dropped the price to $.99 this month and then restored it, and that while I didn’t see this, Amazon did. Especially if they’ve got search spiders automatically checking competitor prices and marking down their own. I find this scenario highly unlikely, but I can’t rule it out.

The lessons I’m taking away thus far:

  • Amazon responds quickly, and if it’s an easy question, they’ll probably take care of you within a day or two.
  • If it’s a question requiring follow-up, things get a lot messier.
  • Amazon has a higher level of customer support; if you’re not getting a satisfactory response, ask them to bump you up the chain.

A few other Amazon-related items have hit the news lately…

As before, I’m not trying to paint Amazon as the kitten-hating, puppy-kicking, Smurf-stomping reincarnation of all things Evil. But as an author, this is the sort of thing I think it’s important to be aware of.

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To end on a completely different note, I just received my first fart question at Ask A Goblin

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Snoopy

Oatmeal, McGuire, and Entitlement

I like The Oatmeal, and I’ve seen a lot of people pointing to this comic, often with a comment like, “This is why people pirate!”

I see two things in this comic. The first is an excellent point: people want to be able to buy and download things when they come out. More and more people watch and read things online, and it’s incredibly frustrating when that option isn’t available. In this example, I think HBO is probably making a mistake by not selling Game of Thrones to people who want to watch it.

The second thing in this comic, however, feels like pure entitlement. HBO has made a business decision to only offer the show for download to HBO subscribers. I think that’s a bad business decision, but does the fact that the show is not available RIGHT THIS SECOND mean people have the right to say, “Oh well, I tried. Time to go swipe it off a torrent site!”

My next book is going to be released as a hardcover, which means it will cost about $25. I totally understand that not everyone will want to pay $25 for a book, and I’m happy that a year later, you should be able to buy it for $8 as a paperback. But if you want a copy of that book for $8, you have to wait. You don’t get to say, “I want it now!” and just swipe it off a bookstore shelf.

DRM is annoying. Businesses that don’t make their products available to users who want to buy them is frustrating as hell. But the entitlement thing is a problem too.

Case in point: Seanan McGuire’s latest book went on sale early at Amazon … in print format. The e-book edition won’t be available until the on-sale date. As a result, readers and so-called fans have been heaping abuse on her because … well, because they might have to wait a whole two weeks to buy the e-book:

People who have to wait for their electronic books are not being denied anything; they’re doing what was supposed to happen in the first place. This has not stopped the exciting emails from rolling in. They mostly stopped after the first day, but on that first day, I was called…

…a bitch.
…a whore.
…a cunt.
…stupid.
…greedy.
…ungrateful.
…narcissistic.

Because that sense of entitlement, the idea that I WANT IT RIGHT NOW!!!, is so powerful that these people felt justified in attacking and threatening the author, then running out to pirate all of her books. The author who, incidentally, has no control over this situation!

Naturally, since Seanan is female, the abuse is even harsher and significantly sexualized. Because women, like books and TV shows, are possessions, right? And we’re entitled to say or do whatever we like to them.

What the f*** is wrong with people?

I get being frustrated when you really want to watch/read something and you can’t. It frustrates the hell out of me when publishers limit availability or cripple a file’s usability. And I know perfectly well that people will choose to pirate files when they can’t easily buy them.

But for God’s sake, get a spine and own that choice. Don’t pretend the evil publisher made you do it. Take responsibility for the fact that you couldn’t bother to wait two weeks for Seanan’s book to be available legally, or that you didn’t want to subscribe to HBO and didn’t want to wait for them to make the show available through other outlets.

I don’t really get worked up about piracy these days. I have more important (to me) things to care about. And I get that it’s a more complicated issue than a lot of people want to admit.

But the entitlement thing pisses me off, especially when that attitude leads to such vicious attacks on my friends.

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.