I have been looking at various possibilities in terms of making money. One obvious one given that I do loads of writing is Amazon. The thing is that as soon as you do anything connected you things outside the kingdom you end up having to do a lot of thinking. Or maybe given the reputation of Amazon in some circles, it should be heart-searching.
Let’s start by thinking about what Amazon is. It is nothing more than a huge marketplace. Going way back to medieval times here in the UK there have been marketplaces. There would be stalls set up along the street and people who had things to sell would arrange to use one of those stalls. They would wait for people from round about to walk past and buy something. There are some towns where this still happens.
To make this system to work there needed to be some people who were willing to do one of the three things that were needed. There needed to be:
- People who had something to sell.
- People who wanted to buy.
- People who were willing to provide a place where they could meet i.e. a marketplace.
Amazon is nothing more than a huge online marketplace. It works hard to attract people to become buyers. They have used old techniques like advertising and given them a modern twist. It is one of the best customers for those who provide advertising. They have developed a variety of different new methods that other people have since copied. Things like “people who have also looked at this time have bought”.
It is one thing having visitors looking to buy things and there is a limit to what you can do yourself to provide them with something to buy. Therefore they also make quite a bit of effort into finding people willing to sell in their marketplace.
Amazon and sellers
Amazon’s efforts to attract buyers is legendary and that in itself attracts some sellers. But what do all these people sell? In the beginning it was just books then they moved into helping people self-publish both hard copy books and ebooks. These days they also make it easy for people to sell all sorts of different things that they can easily store in their warehouses.
Cast your mind back to the 19th century there were times when someone found gold. When word got out thousands more people flocked to the area to see if they could make their fortune as well. Something similar has happened with Amazon. Some people have made their fortune and others have tried following in their footsteps.
In the 19th century there were people who had a better chance of making money than the gold-prospectors. These where the people who sold them the tools they needed. Those who sold the shovel was bound to make money. The one who used the shovel to look for gold might make their fortune or they may lose everything that they had in the process.
Look at online and you will find people saying that they can give up their job and still buy the big house and flashy car because they sell stuff on Amazon. There are also people who make their money from selling courses that help you improve your ability to make money on Amazon. Then there are people who provide other services to those who sell stuff on Amazon.
Should I get involved with Amazon or not?
This is a question that has been haunting me for ages. It is really tempting to follow the crowd into the gold rush. Like everything else not everyone can reach the highest levels of success. Some will be trying to do this others will be happy climbing the foothills rather than scaling the mountains. It is possible to maintain kingdom principles and sell on Amazon. It is not necessarily easy but it is possible.
Part of my deliberations led to me thinking about where the name Amazon came from. If you think about it names carry meaning and often the ways that it has been used before influence the way it is used today. I had heard people use the word Amazon before I had heard of the Amazon website, and it was not just things related to the River Amazon.
I looked it up in the dictionary and found that it was used for a group of female warriors. The legend surrounding these women was that they used a bow and arrow and to make this easier they were willing to lose a breast. In other words they were so determined to be good fighters that they would not let anything get in their own way, not even their own bodies.
Think about that level of determination. Think about the emotional costs paid by women who have mastectomies as part of treatment for cancer. Things like concerns about physical attractiveness and losing part of what makes them a woman. It is not an easy operation to face even with modern anaesthetics that make it easier for a surgeon to take their time and do a good job. For Amazons to be so determined to be good warriors that they were willing to lose a breast was a big deal.
The reason I checked it up was really to see if there was any connection of pagan deities or anything else that seemed scriptural. The first thing that came to mind was the idea that if your eye caused you to sin then you should get rid of it as it was better to arrive in heaven maimed than not to get there at all. It is there in scripture (check Matthew 5:29, Matthew 18: 9 and Mark 9:43).
That suggests to me that that level of determination is not wrong if the outcome is a godly one. One of the problems with determination though is that we don’t just hurt ourselves but we hurt others in the process. We are not told that we can hurt others. What we are told is that we need to love others in the same way as we love ourselves.
OK that opens up a whole other can of worms about unconditional love of self and others. We can agree to allow ourselves to be hurt our determination to follow God. The question is though, is it right to hurt others in the process? I must admit I struggle with the idea that we are supposed to be so determined to follow God, that we end up hurting others. Somehow it seems as if this goes against other scriptural principles.
There are few people who would doubt that Amazon are determined to achieve their goals. They would not have grown to the level of dominance that they have in the global economy if they had not been.
Amazon warriors were renowned for doing something that was unexpected because of their determination to be good warriors. The Amazon website has done and is doing unexpected things because of their determination to reach their goals. The way they structure the payments made to sellers encourages them to make certain choices. This includes:
- To only sell ebooks through them rather than via other ebook distributors
- To sell items that are within certain parameters of size and weight so that they are easy to keep in their warehouse
- To sell items within certain price ranges
The term warrior seems to be appropriate as well. Warriors have a habit of coming into an area and taking it over. Ask any bookseller on the High Street and you will soon see that they are fighting Amazon for a share of book sales. These days it is not just booksellers but anyone selling items that can be stored easily in Amazon’s warehouses who sees them as “the opposition”.
So where does that leave God’s Lily?
One problem that many people have is how do you sell without using some kind of marketplace? It is the marketplace where the seller and the buyer meet. Where would they meet otherwise? OK some people go door to door trying to sell things and use other techniques that lead to them connecting with buyers. However, it is not as easy going door to door as it is to arrange to have a stall in the marketplace.
It is so much easier to use a marketplace. One of the reasons for this is that, in addition to helping to bring buyers and sellers together, they also deal with some of the practical problems related to selling. These days one of the problems with selling is dealing with the taxman.
The changes in the way that VAT is collected has made everyone who sells ebooks, software or any other automatically delivered digital product to someone in the EU is expected to be an unpaid tax collector. Fulfilling the requirements of being an unpaid tax collector is not easy from a technical and administrative point of view. In fact it is so hard that it is beyond most ordinary mortals who run an online business singled handed.
The tax authorities and politicians have told those who want to know how to comply with these rules for selling automatically delivered products is to start using a marketplace like Amazon. It is also possible to get out of this taxation nightmare if you can redesign your product or service so that it includes live and interactive content i.e. is no longer automatically delivered.
One of the things that is planned for the God’s Lily site is to offer ebooks. These of course get caught up in the nightmare of the EU Digital Services Regulations. Being an ordinary mortal trying to cope with the superhuman challenge of EU VAT means that I need to use a marketplace.
It is a question of assessing which is the best marketplace to use to start with. Once that is settled there is the question of whether I should use more than one. Until such times as the impact of the law is lessened on small traders the question is not should a marketplace be used, but which one, or ones, best deals with the issue of compliance on behalf of the seller.
The obvious one is Amazon, although there are others including Smashwords, Payhip and Selfie. All of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages of Amazon is that their determination has upset some people. The very thing that has helped them grow has turned some people away from them.
Now do you see what I mean by heart-searching. Staying in touch with the world and staying pure is not easy. Important choices like what marketplaces are used need to be made prayerfully and with due consideration.
Just ebooks or is there something more?
I started writing this being reasonable certain that selling ebooks via Amazon was a good idea. As I written this and deliberated on it I still see writing and uploading Kindle books as a good idea. What I was really struggling with was whether or not I should join the gold rush of selling other things via Amazon.
The answer to that choice comes down to two things. Firstly, am I right person to do this? In other words, am I someone who has been designed by God to do this? Secondly, do I have the financial resources to get the help that I need to get started and to be able to buy the necessary inventory?
I don’t think I can answer in the affirmative to the second question so I am taking this as a reason not to go forwards. There is a saying that you should not invest money that you cannot afford to lose and from that perspective the paid course I have seen offered is too much of a risk.
There again I am not sure if I am the right person. I did try and join this gold rush in the early stages and it was a very competitive male orientated group I joined. I struggled with the competitiveness. Competitions lead to me shrinking back as I struggle to believe I have a chance of doing well. The last thing that they do is encourage me to go further faster. People with that kind of competitive streak will probably do well in a marketplace like Amazon. In the end I was so discouraged that I withdrew from that program and got my money back. Of course I picked up some of the ideas of how to make a start so I could possibly do something on my own if I had the boldness to do it.
The question is still what have I been designed by God to do? Does that include include making money by finding things to sell in the Amazon marketplace? I am still thinking and thinking hard. Although some would say if you have to think that long and hard then it is not really for you.
HEEEEEEEEEEEELP Father God what do I do?