Sunday, July 17, 2011

Any suggestions on how to finance large, sprawling crime fiction web site?


Just tinkering on the site on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and force of habit, I'm looking up ISBNs for Amazon buy links, which of course is a complete waste of time, since I've been shitcanned by them thanks to their on-going pissing contest with California over sales taxes (see below).

Unfortunately, B&N (which already does collect sales tax on online orders), has such a convoluted process for creating buy links that's not really worth the effort. I was able to create Amazon links by simply cutting and pasting an ISBN (or ASIN) into a simple strip of code; B&N requires a visit to a third-party site, and searching for a book or other product. then clicking a button that will then theoretically generate chunk of html code which I then can cut and paste into my web page. What used to take seconds now takes several minutes; a substantial amount of time when you're talking about a site that -- I kid you not -- has tens of thousands of links.

And so far, I can't even get the damn third party search engine to turn up something as obvious as THE BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler.

So that's pretty much out.

Begging for donations actually makes me feel a little queasy. And truthfully, most people talk a good game, but the cheque never quite arrives. And seriously, I need a solid, reliable method of financing the site that doesn't rely on the (sporadic) kindness of strangers.

So that's out.

More advertising? Sure. But how do I attract more advertisers? Any suggestions?

Charge admission? For this stuff? I'm not exactly the New York Times here. Or the Wall Street Journal. People won't pay just to see what I think about some obscure gumshoe.

Move back to Canada? (Where, surprise, surprise, Amazon does collect sales tax and is somehow still able to turn a large profit)


I'm looking for real suggestions here; not more whining and crackpot conspiracy theories from corporate apologists, tax evaders, and other cheapskates...

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Mother of Mercy, could this be the end of the Thrilling Detective Web Site?

It's been a while, but I've got a little news....

I've been fired. By Amazon.

The recent law passed by the California government that dares to suggest that Amazon collect sales tax on purchases made online by residents of California (just like the store around the corner) has provoked Amazon into firing all its affiliates in California. Not right away, mind you, but soon. September, it looks like.

Regardless of what you think of the government's action, it's worth noting that Amazon didn't simply stop doing business in California -- no, they would never risk losing millions and millions of dollars of revenue simply on a matter of principle. Rather, they've sacrificed their affiliates (most of them small mom-and-poppers like me) and expect them to get pissed off enough to do their fighting for them.

Great plan, that.

Because, yeah, I'm angry. But not at California.

Sorry, Amazon, we've had a long and beautiful relationship over the years, and I really don't mind collecting (or paying) sales taxes. It's a consumption tax, after all, and let's face it, somebody has to pay for roads, schools and the like. I think it's my duty as a citizen to pay such taxes, even while reserving the right to complain when I'm not fond of what they're sometimes used for, and I've never bought into the notion that penny-pinching and greed (or tax evasion) is a sign of patriotism.

We'll leave that sort of revisionist history for those who think Paul Revere was a cowboy serial killer who freed the slaves or whatever.

Nope, penny-pinching and greed are simply signs of penny-pinching and greed, and hiding behind an antiquated, pre-internet loophole in the tax laws to avoid paying your fair share, whether you're a fat ass corporation or simply a cheapskate, is just wrong.

C'mon, Amazon. Do you really think your business will collapse if people have to pay sales tax on the items they purchase from you? Other online entities do it, and have been doing it for years, and they're at least as obsessed with the bottom line as you are.

And I laugh at the notion of you blaming the law on pressure from big box stores, as you did in one of your letters to me. That's like the Russian Mob demanding the cops arrest pickpockets.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of politicians in office (and plenty just dying to get in) who think anything good for big companies will automatically be good for all of us (or at least their re-election coffers).

But after years of waiting for some pie-in-the-sky trickle down theory to actually start working, it's clear it never will. The rich have steadily become richer in this country (despite their constantly whining ) while the average working family's spendable income has been stagnant (at best) for over thirty or forty years (most of it under "business-friendly" administrations), their manufacturing jobs have been outsourced (thanks, GOP!) and what little protections and services they/we once could counted on have been gutted to appease the corporate overlords. (Do we really need to know if our food is safe or our coal mines won't collapse? Do we really need to look after our soldiers?)

Here's a clue. That isn't wealth that's trickling down on us from the fat cats.

All that's left, for those of us lucky enough to still be employed, are poorly paid jobs in the service and retail industries, the only part of the economy to show any real growth over the years, and now on-line desperadoes like Amazon, who make zillions off working Americans, feel they don't have to follow the same rules as the little shop (or even the big store) around the corner does. And expect those same small shop owners, who may have once supplemented their income by being an Amazon affiliate, to take up arms in the name of corporate profits?

Yeah, so who cares if some local store goes out of business? Most Americans don't really care, despite all the flag waving and rhetoric. What really counts, apparently, is that someone saves 30 cents sales tax on a used book from Amazon.

Say what you like about big box stores (I work for one, and I could say plenty), but at least they hire LOCAL people.

But I digress....

In case you haven't quite figured out what this has to do with anything, well, the Amazon affiliate program is essentially what keeps THRILLING DETECTIVE WEB SITE going.

Sure, I accept advertising, and occasionally someone slips me a few bucks, courtesy of PayPal, but without Amazon, I'm not sure if I'll be able to justify the time and resources the site requires. And yes, I would gladly collect sales taxes, just as I gladly pay them.

But Amazon wants to use me and thousands of affiliates just like me in their pissing contest with California, so I'm not even being given the chance to be a good little tax-paying, law-abiding citizen.

Hell, just venting may be dangerous. Amazon may have me deported.

I'm looking at alternative affiliate programs now (B&N wants a DNA sample from my great-great grandmother) but Daddy Warbucks, if you're out there, now's your turn to speak up.