Q&A with Chad Sellers, One of the Few Indie Mac Devs in the Amazon Mac Downloads Store

The Amazon Mac Downloads Store launched just a few days ago.

According to Macworld there are currently 217 titles available for download on Amazon’s store. Of those titles, just a few are from independent Mac developers. One of them is Pear Note.

Pear Note is written by indie developer, Chad Sellers, who runs Useful Fruit Software. I’m friends with Chad, and Useful Fruit has sponsored this site’s RSS feed in the past.

When I saw Pear Note in the Amazon downloads store I contacted him to ask how he got in. Since Amazon is not accepting submissions for applications I was curious about a few things, such as how and why they approached him, what the submission process is like, and how the contract works.

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  • SHAWN BLANC: How did Pear Note make it into the Amazon Mac Downloads Store?
  • CHAD SELLERS: Amazon contacted me back in February. I’m not sure why I was picked, but I presume it had something to do with being ranked decently high on the Mac App Store’s Top Grossing list at the time. I know they contacted some other developers as well, but I seem to be one of the only indies who signed up right away. Most others seem to have taken a “wait and see” approach.Pear Note went live on Amazon in mid-March. I’m not sure why they waited until now to announce anything.
  • SHAWN: Do you know which other developers were asked to sell their software on Amazon?
  • CHAD: I certainly don’t have an exhaustive list. Peter Maurer of Many Tricks and Gus Mueller of Flying Meat were tweeting with me about it a couple days ago. Both of them were unhappy about the terms of Amazon’s contract based on their tweets. I believe Jonathan Rentzsch sent me a tweet when Pear Note went live on Amazon that Victoria Wang was contacted about it for Hibari as well.
  • SHAWN: How are you giving Amazon your application? When you update your app, how do you get that update to Amazon?
  • CHAD: Currently, I email it to them. They are working on an online submission system, but it doesn’t exist yet. It’s non-ideal, but they processed my latest update very quickly.
  • SHAWN: What are your thoughts on the lack of an “approval” process for software? Do you know if Amazon has any safeguards to stop their sellers from distributing buggy or malicious apps? Since Amazon.com is such a trusted reseller, people will have faith that if they buy an application from Amazon.com it should be a safe application.
  • CHAD: For now, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. Amazon seems to be approaching specific devs and presumably would only approach reputable developers. The contract of course specifies that you will not give them malware, but that’s probably not a huge deterrent.
  • SHAWN: What is your preferred point of sale for Pear Note?
  • CHAD: I’m happy for people to purchase from usefulfruit.com, Amazon, or the Mac App Store. I’d like them to purchase wherever they’re most comfortable.That said, if someone really has no preference, I’d prefer them purchase from my site, as I keep a much larger percentage of the sale price in that case.
  • SHAWN: If someone buys Pear Note on Amazon instead of from your website, how do the licensing and upgrades work?
  • CHAD: The licensing and upgrades are the same on Amazon as they are on my website. Amazon seems to treat licensing of downloads just like licensing of boxed software — they are simply delivering the file to the user.
  • SHAWN: What’s your take on the whole download process? Dan Frakes wrote about it for Macworld yesterday and it sounds pretty rough for the end user.
  • CHAD: It’s certainly non-ideal, but it is much more flexible than the Mac App Store. Amazon takes the approach that a developer can supply whatever installer they like. This means Amazon can accommodate more complicated installation requirements (like those of Microsoft and Adobe apps). The result is the multi-step process where Amazon handles the first part consistently, then the app handles the second part in their own way.There’s certainly work that Amazon could do to improve the process, but it will never be as streamlined as the Mac App Store unless they begin to place requirements on the app developer.
  • SHAWN: What are your thoughts in general about having Pear Note in the Amazon store?
  • CHAD: That’s a good question. The short answer is I don’t really know yet.Amazon does not yet have an online system for tracking sales. Instead, I get a report along with payment on a monthly basis. Amazon has 45 days from the end of each month (and 90 days from the end of the first month) to give me my report and payment.

    Since Pear Note just recently went live I have yet to receive any reports or payment, and so I don’t yet know how sales are. The only indicator I have right now is to watch Pear Note’s ranking move up and down. Based on that, I would guess that I’ve only sold a couple downloads since the app went live in mid-March. But that is not surprising since Amazon just began pushing this a couple days ago.

    Amazon takes a much more traditional reseller approach than Apple. This is both good and bad. It means they stay out of my business when it comes to how my app works. Consequently, the Pear Note from Amazon is the same one you get from my site, while the Mac App Store version is a custom build to work within Apple’s system. So, on Amazon I determine what my product is, they just sell it. That said, they are in charge of selling it and I have little say in the matter. I set a list price and a wholesale price (which I get paid and can be no more than 70% of the list price), but they are free to sell it for whatever they like. They also have a rule that I cannot charge them more than any other distributor (which turned some other devs off).

    Overall, I’m hopeful that it will be a good extra stream of revenue. Amazon certainly has a large customer base and knows how to sell. If it doesn’t bear much fruit, at least I didn’t have to spend the effort to roll a custom version of my app (like I did for the Mac App Store).

Q&A with Chad Sellers, One of the Few Indie Mac Devs in the Amazon Mac Downloads Store