Thursday, January 13, 2011

MASSIVE Sqwertz : Sell your book or comic for the iPad & iPhone without Apple’s “help.


Sell your book or comic for the iPad & iPhone without Apple’s “help.


  • I love reading on my iPhone and iPad.
  • I wish people could buy my book/comic for their iOS devices!




Apple’s censorship forbids my books/comics from the shelves of the iBookstore.


  1. Apple shackles a dreadful DRM lock over my book/comic.
  2. Apples price-fixes the sale price of my book/comic.
  3. Apple delays 2-4 weeks before selling my book/comic.
  4. Apple can retroactively vanquish, without explanation, any book/comic.
  5. Apple charges a 30% cut from the sale price of my book/comic.

Try THE NOT .99 METHOD: How to roll-your-own e-payment and delivery system for selling your books & comics so quick and reliable that not even Apple can take it away.

This do-it-yourself iBookstore alternative…

  1. Is DRM-free (simple, shareable and readable on any device forever).
  2. Lets you set the price. (Well… NOT __.99, naturally.)
  3. Can sell, download and read works immediately.
  4. Can never be censored, redacted or removed.
  5. Charges nothing. You keep all the money (or almost all the money).

It’s a great free and simple method for selling indie books/comics for the iPhone and iPad (and every other mobile reading device).


The customer uses their phone (or e-reader) to purchase your book/comic via standard text message (or browser URL) and then automatically receives a download link by email.


This friendly 3-step method highlights uses common free online services (PayPal, Gmail & Google Docs) but feel free to make your own substitutions based on personal preference, terms of service and transaction cost.


Many established online banks now offer a free “pay-by-SMS” service. I prefer (love, actually) PayPal’s version.

A) Open a PayPal account and associate it with your phone number and email address.
B) Set a unique price for each product you wish to sell (Example: $ 0.33) (Not .99!)
C) Create a “point of sale” using your unique price. This can as simple or complex as your marketing strategy requires.

To sell by SMS: Create signage which reads,

“Buy EBOOK TITLE by texting Send 0.33 to <You>‘ to 729725 (AKA “Paypal”).

To sell by link: Make a PayPal landing page that lets the user “Click here to pay $ 0.33.” You could point to that landing page with a TinyURL so it can be communicated verbally. Or get creative: you could point to it with a QR Code that you print on a tee shirt, shave into a dog’s back or embed in a presentation slide ten feet tall and glowing.

Imagine all those camera-phones in the audience snapping away – buying your book. Imagine all those cash-flushed, book-mad dog-lovers.

If the user already has a PayPal account (smartphone owners frequently will) they’ll get a SMS confirming their purchase. It’s fast. It’ll take 3 minutes the first time and they’ll be given an option to pick a PIN number that makes it even faster. If they don’t have an account they’ll be guided through the steps of getting one or paying by credit card.

You may breathe a sigh of relief: this is the one and only step in the NOT .99 method that incurs any cost to the book/comic seller--or possibly none. A PayPal SMS donation made at the time of this writing billed as a “personal transfer” which carries no surcharge!


After the customer’s payment is confirmed you’ll receive an automated email from PayPal containing the customer’s email address and the unique (not __.99) price they paid. Using a custom Gmail filter it is a simple matter to identify the item purchased (by that unique price) and autoreply with a template email containing download links for a variety of formats.

A) Create an gmail filter for each product you sell.  We do this by searching for the unique price. At the time of this writing the following filter fields infallibly retrieved only and all incoming orders.

Subject: “Notification of payment received”
Has the words: “You received a payment of $0.33″ [THE UNIQUE PRICE]
Doesn’t have: “re:”

This filter should naturally be tested often and adapted for your choice of payment method. Thankfully this degrades quite elegantly – in the worst case scenario you’ll still have the customer’s money and the email address needed to ship product or offer a refund.

(If you worry about email spoofing – don’t. See the additional precaution.)

Once you’re satisfied that your filter is catching every single payment notification, you simply attach an action to that filter to “Send a canned response” (with a download link) specific to each product you’re selling.

B) Create a canned response for each product you’re selling. The email will contain the download link to your book or comic online in PDF format (and ideally several other common formats). It doesn’t have to be long but this email a great chance to voice your appreciation and link the reader to all your relevant data.

For ideas on how to make the email see this sample canned response.


The customer will receive your download link by email.

A download link is preferable to attaching your book or comic to the email because it arrives faster and gives the customer more options for when and where they download your work. Additionally, links give you maximum control over and which version is being downloaded and how long that version is available – you can always expire that link at any time.

A) How to host the download link for your book or comic

A free Google Docs account allows you to upload any type of file to share, with customizable permissions.

Upload your PDF as a file (making sure to uncheck the option to “convert documents, presentations, and spreadsheets to the corresponding Google Docs formats.”)

Set your uploaded PDF’s “sharing” option to Anyone with the link can access. No sign-in required. Google describes this setting as being like “an unlisted phone number.” Your book/comic will technically be “public” but Google claims they won’t index it to appear in their search results and that other search engines shouldn’t either. If at any time you feel your PDF is overexposed you can always change the sharing settings to “Private” or change the link address.

The shareable link Google Docs produces for your uploaded PDF will be the download link you forward in your canned email.

B) Why PDF?

The iPhone and iPad in particular handle PDFs beautifully and they can be saved from email directly into iBooks or another installed PDF reader of your choice.

1) PDF is extremely widely adopted on e-readers, phones and other mobile devices.
2) PDF provides extensive formatting and hypertext options for both books and comics.
3) PDF will always launch from email. Not even Apple dares block a business standard format like PDF without jeopardizing their enterprise customer base.

Voila. You’re now selling your books and comics for use on any digital reading device without Apple, Amazon or any  publisher’s interference.

You also say…
BLECCH! Enough of the yak-yak, Perfesser! Make with the funny pictures! Thanks for your patience. Back to Massive Sqwertz.


- Does it only work for iPhone and iPad?

That’s the best part – it works on everything. Android, Palm, iPhone, iPad or virtually any other device you’d want to read a book on. Kindle, Nook and other partially-online hardware e-readers even work alright without too much additional hassle.

- NOT .99 works on Smartphones – will it work on non-Smartphones?

Mmmmaybe. It should work on about any phone you’d want read a book on. The NOT .99 method requires a browser, an Internet connection and someplace on the device to store the data. The rest (file formats, text size and visual design) are up to you.

- No DRM?! Are you crazy?!

“Digital rights management” is the locking down of files so they can’t be shared, traded or owned in perpetuity. DRM insinuates a criminal motivation and highly devalues any digital product for the customer. From the consumer’s standpoint, if you can’t loan your purchase to a friend – you don’t own it and you definitely shouldn’t pay like you do.

With the NOT .99 method the customer receives their purchase via email can forward it to everyone they know – perhaps you should urge them to do and encourage such enthusiastic evangelists. Reserve the right to expire a link if you’re feeling sheepish but hold that option in reserve – how much better to snare a new reader with rock solid recommendation from a friend who themselves buy your other books because you make it easy.

Not .99 can be cheap because you’re not splitting the proceeds. It’s reliable because there’s no DRM. It’s faster than searching for a torrent or bothering a friend. With these barriers removed creators give themselves every advantage.

- Does this work for other digital media? MP3′s? Movies? Games?

Somewhat, but not as universally. Different devices will have different standard settings for how they handle various files. The iPad and iPhone, for instance, won’t permit MP3′s downloaded from the Internet links to be stored with your other music or sync’d back to your desktop. This is anti-competitive and anti-user but the current state of Apple affairs.

- Unique prices?! But I want to charge a normal price ending in _ .99!

There’s no technical reason an item can’t be sold for $0.99 or 9.99 (although only one of each price, obviously) but – pull yourself together, man. The __.99 price point is a virulent and tacky sales manipulation. 99% of all products sold cost SOMETHING .99. Every damn book in the iBookstore ends in something .99 but you’re a writer alive to see the death of centralized publishing!  Cast off the colors of your fallen master and stand a free man!

Shout it with me, brothers: “my comic costs $.83 cents — NOT .99!”

- Unfair! Apple eventually admitted their mistake and allowed Ulyssess and Mark Fiore’s caricatures into the iBookstore!

Irrelevant. These two pieces would still be forbidden if Apple hadn’t gotten such a black eye in the press. Apple censorship is without merit and baldly disingenuous. They stomp individual creators but permit big-name pornographers like Playboy and Maxim to remain. Added to which, the iPhone can never provide “freedom from pornography” while it accesses the Internet.

Consider that before Apple’s rejection Joyce’s Ulysses was last persecuted in America for obscenity in 1934!

- The NOT .99 method is a bit of a hack approach, isn’t it?

TOTALLY! Or… maybe. Well, arguably – I’ll give you that much. BUT using existing online services means that anyone can tailor their e-commerce to their own needs. And fix it when it breaks without hiring a programmer. And it does solve every major problem with the iBookstore.  And the payout for creators is unmatched. And it does works every time.

So, perhaps, yeah,  it is a bit hacked together, but so was Frankenstein and he met the Harlem Globetrotters. We should all soar to such heights.

-The Additional Precaution

The NOT.99 method can be spoofed by someone with knowledge of the method (by sending a filter-fooling email directly to the seller without using PayPal). To prevent this spoofing simply confirm 2 email addresses with PayPal: <You> and <You>

When you append any numbers or letters to your email address using “+” after the username but before the @,  Gmail knows to still deliver it to your normal email address!

Instruct users to text money to <You> and set <You> as your PayPal “primary” email address. Then merely update your filter watch for emails sent from <You> instead of <You>

You won’t advertise your secret email address and so the spoofers won’t know it and actually, forewarned, spoofers will assume you’ve taken this precaution and won’t even try. It’s a good idea to take this precaution anyway.

– A sample canned response for emailing download links to the customer


SUBJECT: Download your copy of COMIC TITLE (Link expires in 7 days)

Dear Beloved Reader,

Thanks for purchasing COMIC TITLE. I just know you’re going to love it and if that’s the case I hope you’ll check out my other titles you can download and read right now.

Download your copy of COMIC TITLE in…

- PDF format (for direct-download reading on iPhone, iPad and almost everywhere).
- CBZ format (for comic book viewers like Stanza ).
- ePub format (also super common and suitable for users of Kindle & Nook).
- HTML format (for reading in any browser).

These links will expire in 7 days. (Doing my part to keep the Internet tidy.)

If you love COMIC TITLE, I hope you’ll forward this email and share COMIC TITLE with a friend or two you think would dig it. A sincere recommendation from from a friend does me more good than any other single thing. (And if you’re a raving super-fan of COMIC TITLE I wouldn’t turn down a review on Amazon, either.)

I won’t ever spam. Want updates? Subscribe by RSS, Twitter, Facebook or Email.

Thanks again,


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This is fucking amazing. I can basically make and sell anything I could ever imagine through the internet. Now I just have to imagine something...

via Warren Ellis

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