Squaring the Circle: Selling your books using a credit card

square_logoI’ve been doing a lot of in-person sales lately (or rather: I’ve been doing a lot of in-person appearances lately; sales…not so much) and I’ve found an indispensable little gadget that you’ve probably already used, seen, or heard of: Square.

Square.com is a company that gives away a tiny widget that slips into the top of your iPhone, iPad, or Droid and allows you to swipe credit cards. Square processes the transaction, verifies the card, sends an electronic receipt, and deposits the money in an account of your choice for just 2.75% per transaction (i.e., 3 cents on the dollar). There are no other fees and registration to receive a Square is quick and simple.

(Addendum: just to clarify, the card reader widget itself is free…$0 cost to you to get started. Square makes their money off the transactions only).

I can tell you in this plastic-carrying age of consumerism, offering credit card transactions is a very cheap and easy way to increase your sales in face-to-face meetings. If you plan to do more than one book signing or in-person appearance where your books are sold, this is a must-have device (or one like it…Intuit and a few other companies offer similar devices, but I love my Square).

Use Square –  Don’t Be One

Some tips for those of you planning to use Square:

  • Definitely do a dry run on your own card for $1.00 or whatever before you try using it out in the wild. Experience talking, here: you will be mortified if you do it wrong the first 15 times in front of a customer.
  • Make sure you are logged into Square at the start of the signing/festival, etc., not when a customer is handing you their credit card.
  • square_card_reader_693414_gTechnical issue: the little Square device has a “fat” side and a “skinny” side to the slot where the credit card goes (see image, right). While it doesn’t matter which way Square is turned as it rests on your phone or iPad, the credit card’s magnetic strip must face the fat side of the device when you swipe.
  • I haven’t found a way around this: unlike the iPad version of Square, where you can enter a permanent inventory like a cash register, each time you do a new transaction, you have to manually type in a Description–you can save yourself some time by pre-typing your book Description and saving it to whatever Notepad/Notes app your phone has. Copy and paste this into the transaction Description each time you need it. (Update: looks like Square just fixed this with a software update on May 31: you can now enter inventory descriptions directly into the iPhone for one-touch transactions).
  • When you use Square, turn off Wifi on your phone and rely on your phone’s cell network to send the transaction. Most phones default to using the nearest open Wifi rather than the cell network (to save you data charges), but you have no idea how secure that Wifi is…and you don’t want to be sending someone’s credit card information over an insecure network.

Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in Tip Tuesday, Tips for eAuthors
6 comments on “Squaring the Circle: Selling your books using a credit card
  1. Tuan Ho says:

    Wow! Very cool. Matthew, how much was that little swipey plugin adaptor thingy?

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Hey Tuan – It’s free! Square (the company) uses it as a loss-leader to get you to use the thing, then make their money off the transactions. $0 startup cost to open up an entire revenue stream…

  2. philipparees says:

    Thankyou Matthew for this invaluable suggestion ( or it will be if ever I get to some dingy village hall to talk well enough for those who come without any intention to buy a book, deciding to do so!

  3. philipparees says:

    Tried to sign up and discovered not available in the UK. Oh dear why are we so behind the times? I wonder whether there is an equivalent here. Anybody know?

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