Oct 21 2011

Credit cards via iPhone – two great apps that work great together

Published by under reviews,tools & tech

I have a bunch of trade shows going on this fall and winter, particularly NCTE‘s annual convention, and customers frequently ask if they can pay by credit card. I now have an iPhone, and one of the main reasons I got it was because I knew I could use it to take credit cards (via any of several apps.)

I only go to a few shows a year, so I ruled out most of the services which require an actual merchant account, as those involve a monthly fee*. The leading services with no monthly fee are Square and Intuit GoPayment. I decided to sign up for both of them, try them out for myself and compare the results.

Both services require personal info such as your birthdate, SSN/EIN, and bank account, so they can pay  you, and presumably also so they can run a credit check. GoPayment also called me to verify some information before they would complete processing on my first batch of transactions. Both services also have a weekly maximum, and this is a sore point in many of the negative reviews. Square will only release $1000 per week, and anything over that they hold for 30 days. Intuit does the same thing, but the limit is $1250. If you do a lot of large sales, you may want to go with a merchant account for this reason. If you’re like me and you have small sales that occasionally exceed those limits in aggregate, you can split them up between the two services, which is what I’m planning to do next month at NCTE.

The software:
I went to a small trade show last weekend where I used both services without the card-swiper hardware. I found that both apps performed very well. My customers were amused that we live in the future, and not at all squeamish about entering card info on my phone. I definitely captured at least a few sales that would have otherwise escaped.

Square starts up quickly and allows you to immediately punch in any amount for a charge, but it does not allow you to keep a list of individual products and prices, so if you sell multiple products like I do, you’ll have to do the math elsewhere — in your head, on a piece of paper or a calculator — and then enter the total. You can also enter any description you want for the transaction. The signature box is nice and big, which is important because it turns out to be a challenge signing with your finger.

GoPayments requires you to log in every time you start the app (even if you switch back and forth using the tray; though not when going in and out of standby mode while still in the app). This is annoying when you’re in a hurry. However, they DO allow you to create a product list, so tallying up a multi-item sale is much easier, AND the receipt it generates is itemized. This is a huge advantage for my purposes. If you want to charge an arbitrary amount, however, you need to add a new item, which is a bit of a pain.

Both services allow you to send a receipt by email or text message, and both keep a transaction history which you can refer back to.

This week I received the card-swiper hardware for both apps. Square’s hardware is a tiny white square. Intuit’s is a sort of half-circle. They both plug into the headphone jack. They both feel a little flimsy, partly because they’re small and light, partly because the jack allows them to rotate. Intuit’s has a little bar that catches on the phone and keeps it from rotating in one direction, but it still freely rotates in the other, so this doesn’t make much difference. Intuit also includes a potentially handy plastic case and a lanyard, so it might be harder to lose. Both readers worked well in initial tests. I did about half a dozen swipes using 3 different cards, and square only made me re-swipe once, while Intuit made me re-swipe twice on one card and once on another.  I will let you know how they hold up after I stress-test them at NCTE next month.

Bottom line, I think these are both great little services. If your primary use is selling a bunch of products with fixed prices, GoPayment is easier and gives an itemized receipt. If you are selling a service and want to easily charge arbitrary amounts and enter custom descriptions, Square is easier. I should also mention that Square’s support is basically email-only, while Intuit has phone support.

Since there’s no sign-up or monthly charge, there’s also no reason you can’t get them both and try them for yourself.

On a side note, I find that this technology fills me with glee. Perhaps it simply appeals to the greed and techno-lust which lurk in the twilight parts of my psyche, but I find myself excited to “play” with them more than any game on my phone. It’s a game where you make money! I just need to get more people to play 😉


(*Merchant account services have a lower percentage fee for processing each transaction; you can see which route makes more sense based on your monthly sales using this handy calculator.
GoPayment offers two pricing plans, one like Square and one like a merchant account.)

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Oct 20 2011

Travel Fatigue

Published by under appearances

I recently returned from back-to-back appearances at the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of English and Language Arts annual conference, and the Algona, IA Public Library. Both events were very successful and smoothly run, and I was glad to be invited, but now I’m home and I am beat. I get a week at home before it’s time to go off on another east-coast series of author visits in CT and MA. Oh, and I have a cold, and I was hoping to attend an aikido seminar this weekend. Yikes! I’m sure it will all work out.

PCTELA is a great organization, and I’d like to thank everyone involved, especially Glenda Daulerio, who made it her mission to get me there, Allison Irwin, who chaired the conference with Glenda and organized a great author breakfast, and Bob Dandoy, Executive Director of PCTELA. I was also pleased to meet local authors Phillip Beard, David Ihde, and Daniel Burns, as well as Shari Maurer, and award-winning, HILARIOUS, and often-banned author Chris Crutcher.

I’d also like to thank all the great teachers who talked to me, bought all the books I brought, and said lovely things about my books and my presentation. The conference was in Pittsburgh, which is quite a nice town, of which I got to see almost nothing (from ground level, though I got a great fly-over on the way in). Here’s a picture of me at the “author’s table”, courtesy of Dave Ihde.

Left to right: David Long, Daniel Burns, Chris Crutcher, David Ihde, Glenda Daulerio, me, Allison Irwin, Philip Beard.


On Monday I turned around and flew to Algona, IA. Where, you may ask, is Algona? Well, it’s sort of in the middle of nowhere, or rather it’s in the middle of a lot of corn fields. A town of less than 6,000, forty-five minutes from the one-room Fort Dodge airport, it definitely qualifies as one of my most remote author visit destinations. But it has charm! The people were super-friendly, the kids were enthusiastic, well-behaved and full of questions, and I thought the visit was quite a success, despite the small turnout for my grown-up presentation in the evening. That was fine, because I talked to almost 300 kids during the day, in the course of four different presentations & workshops. I’m told there will be an article about me in the local paper to share at some point. I’d like to thank Librarian Sonyah Harsha for setting the whole thing up, and Library Director Kyle Neugebauer for going along with it and playing chauffeur at all sorts of ungodly hours. Sonyah’s daughters Carrie, Hannah and Jennifer also helped out with room reconfiguration before and between presentations. I’ll also thank the schools who came to see me — Seton MS, Garrigan HS, Algona MS and HS. Some of the students from Seton (hi, Caitlin!) came back to hand-deliver a very artistic “thank you” note, too. So thanks, everyone, for making me welcome.

I have more to post this week, but I’m trying to balance it with catching up on my schedule, which is in bad shape with all the travel I’ve been doing. Good thing I love my job!

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Oct 18 2011

YALSA Interview

Published by under Uncategorized

New interview on YALSA in connection with Teen Read Week.

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Oct 05 2011

Gifts From the Gods page up

Published by under gifts from the gods

I finally put up an official page for Gifts From the Gods, which comes out in just a few weeks. You can pre-order it now from your favorite retailer.

I promise to do another process post, this time about creating the interior art, and I’ll post again when the book is actually on sale.

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Sep 29 2011

Literary Lights

Published by under appearances,press

Last Sunday I was honored with the Boston Public Library’s Literary Lights for Children award. It was pretty amazing, especially since my fellow honorees were Newbery Medal winner Kate DiCamillo, National Book award winner MT Anderson, and Pam Munoz Ryan, who has also won a boatload of awards. I was definitely the dark horse in that bunch, and was very grateful to be included. Plus they had each author introduced by a Boston school student, and my intro, courtesy of Annabell Asare, was brilliant (and by far the best, if I may say so).

The whole thing was super-gratifying, I met lots of great folks, and I hope they post some official video soon, so I can show you more.

Meanwhile, here are a few shots that Alison took, including some of the awesome Grail murals in the Abbey Room, where the signing was held.

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Sep 28 2011

ASP’s Twelfth Night

Published by under shakespeare,sketchbook

Since I moved to NY I’ve been missing the opportunity to attend ASP‘s dress rehearsals and do sketches of each show. But this time I happened to be in Boston for dress rehearsal night, and made a point of attending. Without further ado, here are the sketches. I would like to color some of them, but right now my schedule is too crazy (why is the fall always like this??), so I probably won’t get to it. Most are drawn traditionally, but some of the ones toward the end were done with Sketchbook Pro.

The show is up until Oct. 22nd, and I definitely recommend it.

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Sep 10 2011

Doodle post of the day – Sinister Whale

Published by under animals,sketchbook

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Sep 09 2011

Cartooning isn’t all fun and games, kids

Section of coffered barrel vault celing I’m working on for the party scene in Romeo & Juliet:

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Aug 22 2011

First star for my newest book

Published by under gifts from the gods,press,reviews

Gifts From the Gods, my soon-to-be-released mythology picture book with Lise Lunge Larsen, just received a starred review in today’s issue of Publisher’s Weekly. Sweet!

Hinds incorporates graphic novel–style elements into his dynamic illustrations, including dialogue balloons and filmic perspectives. A treat for myth lovers and language lovers alike…

(I wonder if “filmic” is a real word.)

You should be able to pre-order the book now from Amazon or (preferably) your favorite independent bookseller. It will not be in comic shops, as it is more like a picture book than a graphic novel.

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Jul 11 2011

Beautiful description of The Odyssey

Published by under odyssey,press

I won’t exactly call this a review, because it’s something else. But it’s truly lovely, thoughtful, and extremely gratifying in its specific praise of sequences from the book.


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