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...


Anonymous Keith Logan said...

I vote for the "move back to Canada" option. Try to convince DL to give it a try.

6:20 PM, July 17, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Well, I'd never try and talk anyone out of moving back to Canada, but it is a big step.

If you sold issues of Thrilling Detective for $2.99 that I could read on my iPad or Kindle, I'd buy them. If you sold collections of short stories that appeared on the website, I'd buy those.

8:43 AM, July 18, 2011  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Yeah. I'd love to, but I don't think that'll work, Keith. It's hard enough getting her off the couch (she's not a potato -- that's where she writes mostly).

As for branching out into publishing, John, it's something that keeps cropping up. But the idea is to make what I'm doing pay -- not start new, even more time-consuming ventures. Eventually, I may do something along those lines -- I'd love to do some sort of TD anthology. I miss editing fiction.

So right now I'm weighing workaround things like mail drops and out-of-state incorporation, but I'm not even sure they'd work. Or how ethical/legal/practical either would be.

The irony is that, as a good little hoser, I may bitch about taxes, but I pay 'em. I think it's genetic; something deep down in my Canadian DNA. But there are some folks here who are absolutely rabid about taxes -- any taxes, like weaseling out of paying them is some sort of sacred, admirable patriotic duty.

Like buying Bristol Palin's book.

But I digress...

Anyway, I really don't see the problem Amazon has with having to collect sales tax -- and do it back home, and plenty of other online businesses down here do it. As far as I know, none have them have been driven to bankruptcy because of it.

Sigh. Is the home team still on fire?

9:52 AM, July 18, 2011  
Blogger Graham Powell said...

There's got to be a technical way to do this. <geek> You should be able to use the ASIN to look up the ISBN, then feed that through an API on the new site to get you the correct code.</geek>

Maybe I'll look into it/

10:46 AM, July 18, 2011  
Blogger Guillaume said...

Moving back to Canada (or better: in Montreal) might not be realistic at all but that would be great (and I would then envy you big time). Publicity revenue could work, you could maybe sell space to bookstore chains or publishers or whatever, but even they are struggling big time these days.

11:12 AM, July 18, 2011  
Anonymous Keith Logan said...

Seriously now, maybe John is onto something. Perhaps keep the site as is for a while (does that cost much?), and put your time/energy into e-collections. It is a growth sector,as the business people would put it. I completely get you not wanting to start a new project. If you took the time and energy and invested into the publishing while putting the site on hiatus, could that work?

From there, when renewing the site on a pay basis would be less painful a transition, maybe.

Like many, I love the resource. Not sure how to make it work for you, though, sorry.

1:30 PM, July 18, 2011  
Anonymous Keith Logan said...

Or how about changing the links to links? Would that generate income and be acceptable as well?

Just throwing ideas out there...

1:43 PM, July 18, 2011  
Anonymous The Vintage Reader said...

I don't know how profitable it is compared to Amazon, but have you looked into being an IndieBound affiliate?

I'm not an affiliate of IndieBound or anybody else, but I tend to see the IndieBound link on a lot of sites I respect. :-)

I've also noticed that some of my favorite sites, instead of using AdSense or something like that, have one or two regular sponsors. ProBlogger has a good article about this (although it's a few years old, and things might have changed):

Good luck! I'd hate to see the site go away.

1:51 PM, July 18, 2011  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Graham, part of the problem is that Amazon uses a simple cut-and-paste ISBN-based link; B&N uses a clunky URL-based link that has to be generated through a third-party web site, which eventually spits out a link, which then can be cut-and-pasted.

Possibly some super geek can figure out an algorithm that can do it all, and write a small program that can convert all a site's links, but even then, some products from Amazon (DVDs, used books, etc.) don't use ISBNs -- they use a special number, an ASIN, that Amazon themselves assign.

Vintage Reader-- I thought of using IndieBound, but their selection is quite limited. They don't sell electronic or used books, as far as I can tell, nor do they carry DVDs and the like. Amazon was ideal -- they sell almost everything. B&N is clearly my second choice. They don't offer as wide a range of profits, but I might make some money. IndieBound is a nice theory, but it's too little, too late. They should have done it 10 years ago. Plus I feel a certain amount of loyalty to B&N anyway.

In fact, loyalty plays a big part in my disappointment here. I feel like Amazon has betrayed me somehow.

As for corporate sponsors, it's a nice idea, but so far nobody has come knocking. Part of it, of course, is my own issues about control. I don't want to have to say nice things about a book just because a sponsor is publishing it. Or not list something because a sponsor doesn't carry it. I guess if IndieBound or B&N or --HAH! -- Amazon wanted to underwrite the whole site, that would be different...

And Keith, selling through certainly would work, but most of my sales are to Americans, and most of them would not buy from the Canadian wing of Amazon. Or from Indigo. They'd have to pay foreign shipping costs -- no super saver shipping there. And with the exchange rate breaking our way for a change, there's even less incentive.

Converting Amazon's links to those of another vendor is not a task I want to commit to; rejigging the links and re-directing them to another Amazon affiliate, though, might just work...


9:03 AM, July 19, 2011  
Blogger Kevin Burton Smith said...

Still looking for rich widows and sugar daddies. Won't blow at high dough.

11:16 AM, July 25, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm really sorry to hear about all the troubles you're having. Boo hiss to Amazon! Frankly I'm disappointed in them for doing this and will think seriously about using them again.
I am no tax expert or anything, but is there a chance of doing a corporate "overseas" trick for accounting purposes, but instead of moving overseas you just incorporate TTD in another state that DOES collect Amazonian taxes (such as one of the states where Amazon has a warehouse)? You may need to rent some "space" for the new headquarters - I'm sure your network of friends here on TTD can muster a spot in their basement - and create a TTD mailing address for it. I really don't know if this would work, but think of it as your corporate headquarters moving to some tax sheltered haven in the Grand Caymans, while the factory in Palmdale still churns out the product.

5:26 AM, August 14, 2011  

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