Okay, this isn’t exactly a tool ONLY for writers, but it’s a great tool nonetheless. It’s called Square. The reason I consider this a tool for writers is because it provides a payment method not normally available at book signings and conferences.
Have you ever been to a conference or listened to a speaker, liked their information and wanted to buy their book, but didn’t have the cash? Or worse yet, you as an author may participate in a book signing and have someone say, “Do you take credit cards?” In the past, that was a lost sale, but today, we have an easy solution.
Square can turn anyone into a credit card accepting merchant. It works with any Android based device, iPhone, or iPad. Best of all, the startup cost is $0. Square even provides the device for free.
Simply go to the Android Market or the Apps Store, download the Square application. Sign up for an account at squareup.com. Sign up is easy and painless, but does have one challenge – you will be asked a series of identity related questions that only the account holder should know. Some questions are related to past residences and past credit information. If you miss these questions, your account will be banned on the site. It isn’t clear whether there is a process for getting unbanned, but I found several people who complained about not knowing the correct information. As a precaution, you may want to pull your credit to make sure the information is correct. Info pulled from misreported items could cause problems.
Once approved, you will be sent a square card reading device. Setup couldn’t be easier. Simply install the app on your device, sign in, and plug the device into your headphone jack. The app will recognize the square, and you’re ready for a payment.
To make a sale with Square, simply type in the price, enter the description, and swipe the card. If desired, you can include a photo with the purchase. This can be the customer, or a photo of the item being sold.
The Square app makes a secure connection to the major credit companies, authenticates the card, and authorizes the transaction. Once authorized, the application will prompt for a signature and the customer will use their finger on the touch screen to sign the receipt.
The customer can be confident in the transaction because you don’t have access to the card number or customer info. All this is handled by the issuing authority (i.e.. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, or American Express). You can manually enter the card number, but there is a higher fee associated when the card isn’t swiped. I imagine that this is because the transaction has more risk since the card is unverified.
The swipe fees are as follows:
2.75% + 15¢ for swiped transactions
3.5% + 15¢ for keyed-in transactions
This is very reasonable. PayPal charges 2.9% for transactions, and the merchant services offered by most banks require a monthly fee. It gives small businesses or individuals the opportunity to make products available to buyers without having an upfront investment.
Another benefit is the automated receipt process. The customer can have a receipt emailed to them at no cost. The receipt will include the information about the transaction, and a map showing the location of the purchase. This could be helpful to jog the customer’s memory, and possibly avoid disputed charges.
To get started, you need three things – four if you are a registered business.
1. A U.S. bank account
2. A U.S. mailing address
3. A Social Security Number
4. If it’s for a business, the EIN number.
Setup is quick, but the bank verification process can take a few days. It’s recommended that you set up a separate bank account for business transactions. This will help with tax information and tracking of sales. Plus, if there’s ever a disputed transaction, you don’t want unplanned money to be tied up.
Squareup.com will initiate two deposits into your bank account between .01 and .99 cents. It could take up to 3 business days for these to show up on your account. When they do, return to squareup.com, go to authentication, and enter the two deposit amounts. Once this is done, you are fully authenticated and ready to go.
After making a sale, the money will be transferred to your bank account minus transaction fees. The transfer is initiated by Square.com within 24 hours, but transfers could take up to three business days, depending on your bank. Business days are Monday through Friday.
You should also be aware of the need for connectivity before being able to use this device. As with all credit card transactions, there must be a way to communicate with the credit card company. Square will need a data signal for the phone, or a Wi-Fi connection. Either this, or the merchant will need to record the information and manually enter the card and purchase amount at a later time.
Square has brought the business to the smaller merchant. This is especially helpful in our market as writers. No longer do we have to lose book sales because we can’t take credit. And we can assure customers that Square is just as secure as making a purchase at a traditional retailer. The process is exactly the same. Instead of the computer terminal at the retailer, the Android, iPad, or iPhone becomes the computer terminal. Beyond this, everything is identical and the process for making a department store purchase is no different than the process used by Square.
Squareup.com is certified with the Security Standards Council (https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/security_standards/index.php) and is VeriSign trusted(https://sealinfo.verisign.com/splash?form_file=fdf/splash.fdf&dn=SQUAREUP.COM&lang=en) – both are industry standards for payment security.
The next time you’re selling books at a conference or other venue, provide customers with the option of cash, checks, and credit.