Tag Archives: Amazon KDP

KDP Now Paying ALL Royalties By EFT

6 Feb

We don’t normally have posts with such newsy, matter-of-fact headlines on this blog, but last night Amazon KDP announced something important and I wanted to make sure you all know about it, although if you’re a KDP author and this affects you, you should have received the same e-mail I did. It’s bye-bye to foreign currency cheques and hello electronic funds transfer because KDP is now offering to pay all royalties, be they dollars, pounds or euros, into your European bank account.

securedownload-6

Up until now, I got three different payments from KDP each month: a US dollar cheque for sales from Amazon.com and a British pound cheque for sales from Amazon.co.uk, and royalties from Amazon.de sales (which were minimal; I think my best month ever there was €50) were paid directly into my bank because, being in Ireland, my bank account and Germany shared the same currency, the Euro.

Now I never really minded getting cheques, because I always thought it was wondrous thing that Amazon would allow me to sell my books on their Kindle stores and promptly pay me once a month to in the first place, and so I didn’t especially care how the money arrived. But I’ve been getting these cheques for three years now, and they do have their disadvantages. With one of them coming all the way across the Atlantic, they can take a while to arrive, and once, one got lost. (It was quickly cancelled and replaced by Amazon.) When I lodge them in my bank, it’s a bureau de change transaction, and sometimes they can take up to 5 weeks—5 weeks!—to clear. Also, these cheques are the biggest chunk of my income, so getting paid in such an undependable way wasn’t all that great either; some months they’d arrive by the 1st, another month it might be the 10th, sometimes Amazon.co.uk sent out their cheques in the middle of the month, just for laughs. (And once when this happened, I was in Nice Airport dutifully staying away from the shops when a text message informed me that this unexpected early cheque had arrived. I literally ran into the Duty Free. Toblerones for everyone!)

And I couldn’t switch to EFT, because Amazon would only do that when there was a currency match, i.e. my earnings were in the same currency as my bank account, which is Euro.

Until now.

Now they will convert my US dollars or UK pounds in Euro, and then pay them directly into my account. Hurray! Some people are logging onto their account and coming back telling me the options look the same, but just change the currency symbol to € first and the EFT option should pop up, as in the image below.

Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 11.10.30

For some of you, the big benefit to this is that the threshold for payment will dramatically reduce. For cheques, it was $100/£100/€100. Now for EFT, it’s just the equivalent of €10.

I do have a query about whether this means less or more money (what conversion rate are they using? Is it real time? Will I gain what I was paying my bank in commission for a foreign currency exchange? Or is it my bank doing the exchanging anyway, when the money gets sent to them?). When these EFT payments start to arrive in April, I can easily compare the conversion rate to previous payments anyway, and see what’s up. But overall, I’m just happy there’s no more cheques.

Well, that’s no strictly true. There is still CreateSpace, who follow the same method since they started their European Amazon extravaganza: a US dollar cheque for Amazon.com/EDC sales, a UK sterling cheque for Amazon.co.uk sales and a Euro cheque for other European Amazon sales (with the same payment thresholds). I just logged in and it looks like nothing’s changed there, but we live in hope.

This situation change is true for Irish authors, but I wonder what changes KDP authors in other European countries are seeing. Let me know in the comments below!

Checking Your Kindle Book

11 Oct

In Tuesday’s post, Proofing Your CreateSpace Paperback, I outlined the three options you have when it comes to checking that everything in your print book is good to go.

But what about the Kindle edition?

I would say that it’s far more important to check your e-books than it is to check your paperback because the former has a much—MUCH!—higher chance of having something wrong with it than the latter, but the truth is it’s equally important to check any book you’re putting out there, regardless of the likelihood that you’ll find something to correct. But as we all know, uploading a MS Word document to Amazon KDP for automated conversion can be a tricky business and to ensure it hasn’t caused a nuclear meltdown of your life’s work, set aside a day for checking it, line by line.

You can check your Kindle book in the Kindle Previewer which will appear at the end of Page 1 during the process of “adding a new title” on Amazon KDP. It will only appear AFTER you have uploaded a file, and that file has been converted to Kindle format (or a “Mobi” file). It’s an approximation of what your book will look like on a Kindle screen, and it’s functional: you can flip back and forth, increase and decrease the font size, etc.

Until very recently, it looked like this:

But now KDP have got a clue, and have not only upgraded their Kindle Preview to something a lil’ snazzier (that’s far easier to navigate) but also taken into account that there are different Kindles, and that some readers do not read their Kindle books on a Kindle at all.

Aforementioned snazzier Kindle previewer:

Or see what your book looks like on the Kindle Fire:

Or even on the iPad, with the Kindle app:

Or with the Kindle app on an iPhone:

And you can even change the orientation:

Isn’t that fun? Yes, it’s fun—for the first five minutes. Until you find a paragraph indent out of place and spend the next six hours trying to figure out why it’s just that one…

What’s the downloadable previewer I can see a link to in the screen shots above? you may be asking. Well, it’s a downloadable version of what you’re looking at above. And it’s really for people who have done things far more complicated than merely uploading a MS Word document, so don’t worry about it.

You may also be asking, Are those… BULLET POINTS I see in your e-book, Ms. Howard? Bullet points! In an e-book! What’s next? A hairdryer in the bath??! 

Yes, I have bullet points in my e-book. But that’s because with Self-Printed, I didn’t upload a MS Word document. It just wouldn’t do, not with a book like this. So the lovely people at eBookPartnership.com converted the books for me, and I uploaded the ePub to Amazon KDP.

And it worked a treat.

Note: I think it’s extremely important that everyone who decides to release a Kindle book should get their hands on a Kindle as soon as possible. Borrow a friend’s, play with a demonstration model in-store or even invest in one. It’s not enough to have some vague notion as to what a Kindle is, or how your book will look on one. While you’re at it, enter the Kindle store via the device. Only then will you truly appreciate the obstacles between your book and a potential reader deciding to buy it.

Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing (The Second Edition) is out now in paperback and e-book. Woo-hoo! 

The ITIN, 30% Withholding, Tax Refund Saga: An Update

4 Jan

Back in November I shared with you the long and headache-inducing adventures that was applying for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), the magic digits that stop the likes of Createspace, Amazon KDP and Smashwords withholding 30% of everything you earn and passing it onto the United States’ Internal Revenue Service on your behalf. If you need a reminder, it took me eight months, three attempts and countless stress balls—and that was just to get the number. Once you have that, you have to send it to each of your self-publishing companies on a form called a W-8BEN.

As I said back then:

“If you submit your ITIN successfully and use the W-8BEN that has an affidavit on the end, you will be refunded all the money the company has unnecessarily withheld from you so far in the current calendar year. You can see why, despite starting the process in April, I was starting to get nervous as spring turned to summer and summer turned to autumn. Again, I used the instructions on Roz’s Nail Your Novel blog for filling out the form. Make sure you use the proper form – you want the one with the affidavit of unchanged status at the end, which you can find here. You don’t need to include anything with your letter, but you do need to put something in the “Reference” line of the W-8BEN form that will identify you to the company.”

I sent off a W-8BEN to Createspace, Amazon KDP and Smashwords back on November 4th.

On November 16th, I got an e-mail from KDP confirming that they’d received the form. Then on November 29th, RESULT! A cheque from KDP for every last cent they’ve withheld from me since January 1st 2011.

On December 5th, my monthly cheque from CreateSpace arrived—except with some extra. It was my payment for the month, along with all my withholdings from January 1st 2011. Again, RESULT!

So now, in 2011, I had received 100% of all my earnings from CreateSpace and Amazon KDP. But I still hadn’t heard a word from Smashwords. One day I noticed that on my account information page on Smashwords, there was a notice saying they had received my ITIN and my withholding rate was now set to 0%. Great, but what about my refund? I e-mailed them, and yesterday I got this back:

“We do not hold onto the tax withholdings, but send all the withholdings to the IRS when we pay authors.  This means that we collected and paid your withholdings when we sent your last payment. The IRS requires us to send them the withholdings within 10-15 days from the time we pay you.  Unfortunately, we don’t have the withholdings and you will need to reclaim them from the IRS.”

So… no refund from Smashwords. I’m sure what they’ve told me is true, but why is this different with them than it is with Createspace and Amazon KDP? I think my refund is only around $200—I don’t sell a lot on Smashwords, never have—but the fact that it’s a small amount actually makes it worse, because it would have to be a significant amount for me to even consider going through the additional hell of applying to the IRS* for a refund.

Createspace and KDP made it so easy; they gave me back the money straightaway.

So why is Smashwords different? Anyone know?

*I was considering using a service like TaxBack.com until I found out that in order for you to sit back and relax while they take care of everything, you have to sign a power of attorney form and change your address with the IRS. Your only other option is to fill out a bunch of stuff and get them to “prepare” it for you (check, presumably) for which you pay a fee of around a hundred dollars. Considering how priceless I consider an absence of stress to be, it’s just not worth it.

REPLAY 2011: A New and Improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-book

27 Dec

I’ve been using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. (Or a “I’m trying to finish the first draft of a new book and so I don’t have time to write five new blog posts a week” kind of thing…) On Thursday I’ll be revisiting some of the guest posts I hosted this year, so this is my final replay post. It was first published in September and it’s the way I format my own e-books. Since I posted it, I’ve discovered that Mac users get even better results if instead of “Normal” style, they use “Plain Text.” If publishing an e-book is in your To Do for 2012, I think this is the easiest way to do your own formatting without learning computer code… 

Last week the dreaded day came to turn Backpacked into an e-book.

I did everything I usually do (as I outlined in my How To Format Your E-book the Non-Migraine Inducing Way post) and while it converted fine for Amazon KDP, Smashwords was just not happy with it – the .epub format, i.e. most important format outside of .mobi for Kindle, was alternating fonts every other paragraph. Thinking that maybe I’d done something wrong, I started again.

And again.

And again.

And then because I knew that sometimes using MS Word for Mac can screw up things a little bit, I even tried using the archaic monster from the pre-Stone Age that is our family PC, the machine that makes the Commodore 64 look like a Cray-SV1 (I’ve been reading about super computers this weekend – long story…). But it still didn’t work.

I couldn’t understand where things had gone wrong – I’d followed all the instructions, done everything I was told to do and had pulled out everything that didn’t need to be there, even page breaks. Finally I tried pulling out enough of my hair to leave unsightly bald patches and saying bad, sweary things about Smashwords, but – surprisingly – that didn’t work either.

Which left just one, unattractive option: going nuclear.

The Smashwords Style Guide says that if things aren’t working out, there is one very extreme option – the nuclear option – that strips everything out of your text except the letters, the words they make up and the spaces and lines between them. I didn’t want to do this because I use a lot of italics, and that would mean that I’d have to go back and insert 77,000 words’ worth of them. That wasn’t going to help with the this-book-is-driving-me-crazy thing. But I really wanted to conquer this thing, so I did it.

And it worked brilliantly.

The thing is, Smashwords is not the problem. Smashwords was never the problem (and in fact, their free Style Guide is a godsend). Microsoft Word, which was invented by the devil himself and then evidently coded by horned demons, is the problem. That’s why I work with Pages, but you can’t upload anything but .doc files for e-books. Even though my paragraph style was set to Normal and was in size 10 Times New Roman on screen, it wasn’t really set to Normal and in size 10 Times New Roman. Word was just jesting. It was letting me think it was, while hiding in the corner trying to stifle its own sniggering and chucking everything but the kitchen sink into the code.

I had to go through my book again but, while I did, I was able to pick out a few more errors, clean up a few sentences and generally improve it a bit. So instead of thinking of it as formatting, I just thought of it as another go-through, another revision. Once I was done I copied and pasted that text into my CreateSpace template, which then took only half an hour to format back into a POD interior, so both editions were the same. Then I was so happy with the result I went and re-did Mousetrapped the same way and when I’ve time, I’m going to do Self-Printed as well. I also used it for a formatting client’s e-book that had images and it worked out a dream.

Better yet, once I had scrubbed the formatting from my e-book file, it was so much easier to go back and put in what was needed than the way I’ve formatted in the past. It actually simplified the process. And you can even use your POD interior file if you like – because you’re taking out all of the formatting anyway, it doesn’t matter how much has been done to your document to begin with. I’m never going to format an e-book any other way again.

So here is my new and improved, Even Easier Way to Format Your E-book the Non-Migraine Inducing Way!

Do you need reminding about how in e-books there’s no such thing as a page? Read about that on this post. Or just remember, THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A PAGE in e-books. Got it? Good.

Let’s begin.

Start by making one of these. Or five.

Step 1: Prepare Your Manuscript

Open your manuscript file, whether it be the plain old Word document you and your editor have been working from or the interior of your POD paperback, all laid out nice and stuff, and eliminate anything that just doesn’t work in an e-book. You can either let them go, or leave the pure text in there to do a little work around with it later on, e.g. take the text out of a text box, delete the text box and put the text in a paragraph in all italics instead.

The following are e-books no-nos:

  • Automatic footnotes
  • Text boxes
  • Headers and footers
  • Columns
  • Tables
  • Any other fancy word-processing stuff.

Then click Edit -> Select All -> Copy.

Use a simple text editor program, like TextEdit. 

Step 2: Go Nuclear

Now open a simple text editing program. If you have a PC, this will probably be NotePad; on Mac, it’s TextEdit. Paste your work into here. (On Mac, select “Paste and Match Style” so it matches the style of TextEdit, not the style of the text you’re pasting in as that defeats the purpose.) This will strip your work of all formatting and images. Once you’ve done that, click Edit -> Select All -> Copy. Then open a brand new MS Word document, save it as .doc (not .docx) and turn off Auto-Formatting and Auto-Correct by un-checking the boxes in Preferences. Paste the stripped text in and save.

Turn off Auto-Correct and Auto-Format by un-checking the relevant boxes in Preferences.

Step 3: Style It Up

Working now in this new, start-from-scratch MS Word document, again with all text selected, go to Format -> Style. Your style will be set to Normal, but chances are that normal won’t be what you want. (It’s that damn horned demon again.) So click Modify and make Normal Times New Roman, point 10, left-aligned and single spaced. Click Okay to modify that style and then Apply.

Modifying your Normal style in MS Word.

Keeping all the text selected, then go to Format -> Paragraph and make the settings single line spacing with no extra space before or after, left-aligned with first line indent to 0.3″. So that it looks like this:

Save your document. Switch to Draft View (View -> Draft View) and make your paragraph returns visible (click the little paragraph return symbol in the toolbar that looks like a backwards P). Your book should now be looking like this to you:

Step 4: Put What You Need Back In

Now go through your document and put back in what you need in terms of formatting. Here’s what I do as I go through the book:

  • Insert e-book appropriate front matter including license notes, centered (tip: create a new, modified style where text is not first line indented but is centered – this will keep our formatting pristine all the way through). If you don’t know what that should be, I included an example in my original how to format an e-book post.

If you need some centered text, for example for titles, don’t just click “Center.” Instead, go back to Format -> Style and create a New Style for this purpose.

  • Insert page breaks between chapters (non-fiction/not a lot of chapters) or between parts (fiction/20+ chapters). Because some formats ignore page breaks, always have a paragraph return above and below the break so that if this does happen, the text doesn’t get all squashed up. To insert a page break, select Insert –> Break -> Page Break.
  • Insert bookmarks at chapter headings (non-fiction/not a lot of chapters) or at the beginnings of sections or parts (fiction/20+ chapters) so you can create a working table of contents later, i.e. readers can click on the table of contents and be taken straight to a certain point in the book. Insert a bookmark by clicking Insert -> Bookmark and call it what it is, e.g. Chapter One, Part II, etc.

Inserting bookmarks. You can also see in this image that to start a new chapter, I simply skip a line and make my heading bold. Keep it simple!

  • Format headings. For chapter headings I just use bold + italics and for section headings I switch the text to all caps and make them bold.
  • Put back in italics and/or bold where you need them in the body text.
  • Remove the first line indent where necessary, e.g. the first lines of chapters, chapter headings, etc. (The quickest way to do this is by moving the slide rule at the top of the page, I think. Just be careful to only move the first line and not the whole paragraph.)
  • Make all URLS live, i.e. Insert -> Hyperlink.
  • Insert e-book appropriate end matter, such as links to your blog, the titles of your other books, etc. Your last line in the e-book document should be “###END###’ centered, so that the reader knows they have come to the end of the e-book.

DO NOT:

  • Change your font size. All my e-books are now 10 point right the way through. I make text look different using only bold, italics and all capital letters.
  • Have more than four paragraph returns anywhere in your book. E-book reading devices allow readers to change their font sizes considerably and if you put too many paragraph returns, your readers will end up with blank pages at some font size settings. You really should never have more than one except for the pairs on either side of a page break, which technically aren’t together anyway.
  • Justify your paragraphs. Left-align is the only thing that really works properly across all formats.
  • Refer to retailers. Do you think Barnes and Noble is going to want a link to Amazon in your book? Hardly. I normally do two files, one for KDP (Amazon) and one for Smashwords. I keep the Smashwords file clean because it goes to so many different people, but in the KDP file I say things like, “Look out for [TITLE] in the Kindle store.”

Step 5: The Bells and Whistles

You can stop right here and skip to step 6, Upload and Check Your E-books, if you’re happy with your book as it is, or you can add in some bells and whistles, like:

The live table of contents in the e-book version of Backpacked. The links under the copyright notice/license notes link to the web, i.. my blog, Twitter account etc., but the links in the table of contents link to bookmarks, i.e. locations within the document.

A live table of contents. These are very helpful for non-fiction and reference books. The idea is that you insert a bookmark at the start of each chapter or section, go back to the start and type a table of contents and then make each entry in the table a live, working hyperlink that if clicked, will take the reader to the bookmarked location. To insert a link to a bookmark, click Insert -> Hyperlink and then in the window that appears, click “Document” for in-document links and select the appropriate bookmark.

Inserting images in e-books. 

Images. Yes, I’m talking about adding images to your e-books. Have I ingested some crazy pills? Didn’t I always say you shouldn’t put images in e-books? Didn’t I claim that trying to do it was just bringing on a world of pain? Well, when you use the nuclear option, images are easier to work with just because the body text is already behaving well. To insert an image, you must Insert -> Picture -> From File. (You cannot copy and paste.) You must ensure that the image’s layout is set to “in line with text.” To check, right-click the image and select Format Picture -> Layout. Keep the image small; I make sure mine don’t stretch further than 3 inches across the screen. Centre them for cohesiveness, and for safety, leave a page break before and after. In the image above, I created yet another style for the image caption. Don’t forget that for now, at least, most people read their e-books in black and white.

Work arounds. Everything that’s in your paperback can go in your e-book – you just have to use your imagination. Text boxes are easy: just take the text out and either give it its own paragraph with a return above and below, or just insert it like any other paragraph but in bold and/or italic. A formatting client of mine had a worksheet in her physical book – you can’t put that in an e-book (and there’s no point in doing it, anyway), so I advised her to make a PDF of it, and tell her e-book readers to go to her website to pick it up. They still get the worksheet and she gets a website visit. For footnotes, I went to the text where the footnote appeared in the physical book, went to the next paragraph return and then inserted it using square brackets (see highlighted section in the image below).

Adding footnotes manually (see highlighted section).

The only limit, really, is your imagination. For instance in my novel that’s out next month, Results Not Typical, there are several sections that are supposed to be branded literature from the company at the heart of the plot. They’re in a different font to the main text. In the paperback, those sections look like this:

But how to accomplish that in the e-book? Well, this was a true work around. I took a screen shot of the header as it appears in the MS Word document that forms the interior of my paperback book. Then I inserted that as an image into the e-book. The rest of the text, i.e. the rest of the text in each of those literature sections, will remain the same, but at least those image headers will alert readers to the fact that they’re different. So in the e-book, it looks like this:

Step 6: Upload and Check Your E-books

Checking your e-book is really easy and can be done with your Smashwords converted files. (When you upload to KDP you get to see an on-screen Kindle preview which is great but not ideal and anyway if it’s working at Smashwords, it’s definitely working over at KDP.)

Pre-nuclear: Ugh. It’s all, bad and stuff. Yuck!

Upload your file to Smashwords and while it’s converting, download Adobe Digital Editions and Amazon’s Kindle reading application (both free) to your computer. Then when your book goes live, download the .epub and .mobi (Kindle) versions from your book’s page and check them using the programs you just downloaded. If you followed the instructions above, they’ll look great. If they look anything other than great, immediately unpublish your books (click “Unpublish” on your Smashwords dashboard) and try again.

If you’re having problems, download the Smashwords Style Guide. Honestly, you don’t need anything else – if you follow its instructions, your book will look great on Smashwords and Amazon KDP. It’s where I found out everything I know about formatting, along with trial and error. And caffeine-induced epiphanies after a very long day of e-book formatting.

Post-nuclear: Oooh, look how pretty and correctly formatted and stuff! 

So that’s it, folks. If you want to have this post to hand while you format your e-book, click here to download a printable PDF. I know, I know – I’m just too, too kind. If you want to express your gratefulness, buy a copy of one of these or, alternatively, tell everyone you know about them. Every single last one. I’ll know if you leave a few people out, you know. I have ways.

Click here to find out more about Backpacked

REPLAY 2011: Why I Might Stop Self-Publishing Paperbacks

20 Dec

Between now and the end of the year I’m going to be using Tuesdays and Thursdays to replay some popular posts from 2011, in case some of the people who’ve discovered my blog in the meantime missed it first time round. Think of it as a “year in review” kind of thing. (Or a “I’m trying to finish the first draft of a new book and so I don’t have time to write five new blog posts a week” kind of thing…) This post proved very popular when I first published it back in October, although I think some of the comment-leavers at the time didn’t quite get what I was getting it.

This is not a post about problems I have that I’m trying to solve; I’m not looking for solutions or suggestions on how I can overcome these problems. I’m saying I see a day when I won’t self-publish paperbacks at all, just e-books, that day is coming soon, and I’m fine with that. This isn’t something that makes me sad; it’s something I look forward to, because it’ll be less work and the majority of my sales are in e-book anyway. Will I keep buying and reading paperbacks almost exclusively? Yes. Do I hope that by the time this no-self-published-paperback day comes, I’ll have traditionally published paperbacks on the shelves of some stores? Um, yes. Obviously! But even if that’s not the case, I won’t be giving myself headaches trying to make and sell paperbacks myself.

September was a pretty hectic month at Catherine Self-Publishing HQ. Although I’d set the (purely decorative) release date for Backpacked as September 5th and the release date for Results Not Typical as October 1st, my cunning plan was to get them both out at the start of September, say nothing and then just shine a bright light in their direction whenever their turn came. That way I would be free, theoretically-speaking, to concentrate on writing The New Novel by the end of last month. But self-publishing two books simultaneously had an unexpected side-effect: it showed me – for the first time, really – what a pain in the arse self-publishing can be. Or more accurately, it showed me what a pain in the arse self-publishing is when you self-publish a paperback.

Self-publishing was to me, right from the start, mostly about producing a physical book. At the very beginning, it was only about that. Because that’s what a book was back then. (Ah, back then. Do you even remember November 2009? The Kindle still looked like something Fisher Price made and Hocking hadn’t even self-published.)  I discovered Smashwords while twiddling my online thumbs in the week it took for my CreateSpace proof copy to arrive; when I initially made the decision to self-publish, e-books weren’t even on my radar. When they showed up, they were only ever supposed to be a bonus. Now I’ve sold almost 9,500 books and only about 800 of them were print editions.

But I have, after all, sold 800 of them. Isn’t that better than a slap in the face? Isn’t that actually a great number for a Print-On-Demand paperback, especially when you consider that an outstanding POD paperback success is 200 books, and most authors are lucky to shift more than 10? And it’s not like making a paperback is all that much extra work. You’re making an e-book anyway, so what’s an extra few hours making an interior and adding a back cover to your e-book cover’s front? And even if you never sell any, haven’t you only “lost” the price of your proof copy? And if you do sell some, don’t you only have to sit back and relax while Amazon takes care of everything? Isn’t self-publishing a paperback easy?

Yes, but none of those things are the problem.

When you self-publish, your aim should be to sell as many books as you can, to get as many readers as you can and to improve your standing as a writer as much as you can while spending as little as you can without sacrificing quality or professionalism. But when you add paperbacks to the mix, you don’t do that. At least, I don’t do that. I haven’t. Producing paperbacks and having them available has cost me more money, I’d guess, than selling 800 of them have brought back. And I wouldn’t have had to spend any of that money – or worry about it at all – if I’d been able to say, “Well, actually I won’t be doing that because Mousetrapped [or Backpacked or Results Not Typical] is only available in e-book.”

For instance, stock. You need to get it to send out review copies, to sell books to friends and family, to give books to friends and family, to have at your book launch, to get on a shelf at your local bookshop. But once your hands touch a copy of your POD’d book, chances are you’ve lost money on it. The unit cost of the book is probably cheap enough, but you’ve had to pay to ship it to you. CreateSpace have recently improved the costs of their formerly astronomical shipping charges, but to avail of their economy option you have to be exceptionally organized. Today is Saturday 15th October. I can order 30 books from CreateSpace and get them to Ireland via economy shipping for just $63.99, or just over $2 a book. That’s pretty good. But what’s not pretty good is if I order them today – I’m writing this on Saturday 15th October – they won’t get here until Friday December 9th. That’s two months from now.

You could stomp your feet and say you’re not offering paperback review copies, not bothering with a launch or getting into bookstores, and instruct all your friends and family to order from Amazon (which itself creates another problem which we’ll get to in a minute). But you can only do this if you’re willing to ignore what’s expected of you. If your book is available in both paperback and e-book editions, you should offer reviewers either a paperback or an e-book. I say this as both a self-publisher and a book reviewer who doesn’t read or review e-books. If you don’t do this you look cheap, and you might also potentially offend the reviewer who gets the message that while you want their time and support, you don’t think it’s worth the price of a “real” book. Book launches are easy enough to avoid, but when it comes to friends and family… Well, good luck with that. You’re going to need it.

During last week’s blog tour, I guest-posted on Sally Clements’ blog about the problem of explaining self-publishing to your friends and family. I had a launch for Mousetrapped (for which I had to order stock in for and subsequently made practically no money from the sales on the day) so any of my relatives who wanted a copy simply showed up and bought one. I also left a few copies in store so if anyone couldn’t attend, they could pop in there later and buy one then. For Backpacked, there was no launch and I didn’t want to order in 50 books at my own expense if I didn’t know that I was going to be able to shift them. Then I had what I thought was a great idea. The easiest way to estimate how many friends and family members would want to buy a copy of Backpacked was to get a list together, right? Ask around and find who wanted copies and how many of them they’d like. But this would be difficult to organize and I suspected that despite best intentions, some people would order Backpacked and then not pay for it when it arrived. So I opened a website where the people I know could go to pre-pay for however many copies of Backpacked they wanted. This not only meant that I’d order just the amount I needed, but it also meant that I’d have the money to pay for them outright and nobody could order in a copy without paying. (I also opened it up to the world, charging a bit extra to cover shipping; this was the Backpacked pre-order bookstore.) I circulated e-mails, told my parents to spread the word and pasted it all over Facebook. But no one understood what was happening. My friends and family didn’t get that this was their only opportunity to order a paperback of Backpacked, that this time there wouldn’t be a launch or copies in a bookshop or a stack of them in my house if all else failed. The bookshop closed without a single order from anyone I knew; every single book sold through it was destined for faraway shores. “It’s okay,” was the reaction when I explained – again – what was happening. “We’ll get it from Amazon.co.uk.”

Except they couldn’t, because self-publishing paperbacks brings yet another problem: availability, or lack thereof. You have almost no control over where you POD’d paperback appears available for sale. I’ve paid for the expanded distribution upgrade, CreateSpace’s “Pro Plan” ($39) on each of my titles, but only one of them is available directly through Amazon.co.uk. I always order from Amazon.com – where your book will always be – but there’s a shockingly large number of people who think you have to live in the United States to do that. And there’s another problem with selling POD paperbacks: they cost a lot. I had to charge $16.95 for the paperback edition of Results Not Typical just so I wouldn’t lose money. I’d never pay that much for a paperback myself, and I don’t expect to sell any of them. (And I haven’t even mentioned the book to most of my relatives…) If you are a fan of mine and you bought Mousetrapped on Amazon.co.uk for $14.95, are you still going to be fan when the only way you can get my newest book in print is by paying more than that, buying from a site on the other side of Atlantic and picking up some higher than normal shipping fees on the way? Or would you just not bother? I know I wouldn’t.

All of this could’ve been avoided if I’d just self-published e-books.

Which is why I might do it in the future. I could say to reviewers, “I only have an e-book – it’s not that I’m being cheap!” and save myself not only the unit costs of those complimentary books, but the cost of shipping them to me, shipping them to the reviewer and the envelope. No one would expect a launch and you can’t really put e-books in stores (well you can, strictly-speaking, but we’ll talk about that another day), and as hardly any of my friends or family have e-book readers, I just wouldn’t even bother telling them. If they want to read my books, they can buy a Kindle and figure out how to use it. When you publish an e-book with Smashwords, Amazon KDP or Lulu, your book becomes available where they say it’s going to become available, and those places cover all major e-book formats, e-reading devices, countries, planets, etc. There’s no shipping on e-books, no need to worry if the list price covers the manufacturing costs, no way to lose money. You can only make money from e-books.

This isn’t a random photo of a Gu Blueberry Cheesecake. I ate it while I was writing this post.

And it wouldn’t affect my sales. If someone doesn’t read my book because they only read paperbacks, so be it. There’s enough people who’ll happily read e-books to make this a non-issue.

There’s one other reason why I’d consider this e-book only route. I hope, some day, to be traditionally published. But I also hope that I can continue to self-publish alongside any traditionally-published books of mine. However I don’t want to be competing with my own publisher, and I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t offer me a contract if they thought I was competing with them. Therefore there would need to be a differentiation, clear and recognizable, between the two and I think self-publishing only in e-books would be a good way to do it.

Of course, I might never have this problem, and if I don’t I’ll be crying into my Cornflakes.

But anyway.

Fear not: I’m not about to run off and unpublish all my paperbacks and Self-Printed, which I personally think is best read in paperback form and judging by its sales breakdown between print and e-book editions, you agree, will always remain available in a physical form.

But not selling paperbacks is definitely something I’m seriously considering for the future.

Obviously I’ll still have to make paperbacks of any future books just for myself, because as we all know I’m not a fan of e-books. (Not of reading them anyway.)

There just might come a day when I do that in secret.

5 Things I’m Always Having to Tell Self-Publishers

7 Dec

Once upon a time I was part of a panel talking to a room of writers about e-books when, after a good fifteen minutes of us throwing around terms like Smashwords, Amazon KDP, formatting, XML, DRM and the like, someone in the audience put up their hand and said, ‘I’m sorry, but what’s a Kindle?’

Ah. We saw instantly what we’d done. We were all so used to talking and discussing and explaining and debating and hypothesizing about e-books that we’d skipped over explaining the most basic points, presuming that everyone knew what a Kindle was. Oops.

That sometimes happens in blogging and writing about self-publishing too. I bet the number of “How To Format Your E-book” articles and blog posts greatly outnumber those that just explain, on a basic level, what e-books actually are, what they look like and how they work. This leads to many self-publishers wondering about things that I personally think are hovering somewhere between common sense and a logical conclusion, but then of course I’d think that because I know a lot—way, way more than I ever thought I would—about e-books.

So let’s address these issues today. Here are 5 things I’m always having to tell new self-publishers

1. You don’t need an e-reader to read e-books

‘My mother/sister/neighbor’s third cousin twice removed says she can’t read my book,’ self-publishers say, ‘because she doesn’t have a Kindle/Nook/other e-reader.’ Um, yes she can, actually. You can read e-books on an ever-increasing number of devices, and chances are you already own one or more of them. Downloading the free Kindle reading application from Amazon means you can read Kindle books on Macs, PCs, iPhones, Blackberries, Androids and iPads. If you download Adobe’s Digital Editions program (also free) you can read ePub format e-books on your PC or Mac.

And all that’s just for starters.

Tangent: This is also why I fly into a rage when a well-known bestselling author—say, Michael Connelly or Karin Slaughter—releases a short story or short story collection in e-book form only, and people go nuts. Like, really nuts. The author’s Facebook page fills up with comments drenched in rabid contempt (“Well I don’t *have* an e-reader so just *how* am I supposed to read this?!??!? Thanks a LOT, Michael!, etc. etc.) as fans feel personally insulted that a book isn’t coming out on paper. Now I don’t like reading e-books, but I don’t thrown my toys out of the playpen in a tantrum if an e-book is my only option. Especially since most of the time, these e-book only editions are too short to be paper books; if they had to be produced in paperback they wouldn’t be, because the cost of manufacturing, moving and selling them would just be too high. So next time just keep your toys and download a free e-book reading program, okay?

Of course, it’s possible that your mother/sister/neighbor’s third cousin twice removed just doesn’t want to read your book, which is a different problem entirely. But at least now you can bust her first excuse.

2. You can make your book 99c on Amazon—just change your royalty rate

‘Amazon won’t let me charge less than $2.99 for my e-book,’ is another common newbie self-publisher refrain. This took me a while to figure out, because I knew you could charge 99c or $1.99 if you wanted to, and I was always setting my price at $2.99. But then one day I went to Amazon KDP to lower the price of Mousetrapped from $2.99 to $1.99, and I realized where this was coming from.

You can absolutely make your book 99c or $1.99—but not if you’ve selected a 70% royalty rate. To qualify for a 70% royalty rate, your book has to be priced between $2.99 and $9.99. That’s why if the 70% box is ticked, Amazon won’t let you make your book 99c or $1.99—or $14.99 or $19.99, for that matter. Check the 35% royalty rate box instead, and then make your price 99c or $1.99. Simples!

3. You don’t need to add DRM to your book (or, Piracy? You should be so lucky!)

DRM stands for Digital Rights Management, and if you add it to your book—which you can only do on Amazon KDP; Smashwords is DRM-free—it means that if I buy your book for my Kindle, I can’t send it to my friend who also has a Kindle or worse yet, upload the file to one of those illegal torrent sites that let would-be digital pirates download books for free. (Theoretically anyway; DRM can be skirted around too.) It’s supposed to prevent piracy. But guess what? DRM annoys e-book buyers, and you don’t need it. You really, really, REALLY don’t.

First of all, chances are that no one is going to be interested in stealing your book. It’s hard enough to get people to buy it, let alone convince them that it’s worth breaking the law to get a free read of. And in all likelihood, your book is cheap. An unknown author plus a cheap e-book does not a big demand for pirated copies make. The only authors who really have to worry about this are best-selling ones, the household names, whose publishers charge $9.99 or more for their e-books. You’re not one of these authors, so don’t worry about. And don’t add DRM, which also takes a little nibble out of your profit, by the way.

Also: thousands of people downloading your book for free? You should be so lucky! I can’t remember his name and Googling didn’t help, but you might have heard recently about a self-published Amazon KDP author suing Amazon for making his book free when it shouldn’t have been. A preview of his book was free on Barnes and Noble, and Amazon will match the lowest price offered anywhere, so they mistakenly thought the two titles were the same and made his Kindle book free. As I said I can’t find the details so I’m pulling this out of my memory here, but he sold something like 5,000 free books before the mistake was rectified, he’s mad about it and now he’s suing Amazon for loss of income.

You know what I’d be doing right now if that had happened to me? Sending Amazon a box of cupcakes and a Thank You card. I’d thank them for the 5,000 new readers I have that I wouldn’t have had if it wasn’t for their mistake, and for the ongoing publicity, all over the internet, that I continue to enjoy because of it. And loss of income? Of course we can never know for sure, but I’d hazard a guess that the income the author is going to generate out of this publicity plus his new readers paying for future books will be more than what he would’ve made if this had never happened and he’d sold x amount as normal. And we know x isn’t 5,000, right? That’s why my eyes were rolling dangerously far back in my head every time I read an angry blog post about this situation, because it’s not like he would’ve sold that amount if he were charging for those books. It’s not like Amazon did him out of his royalty rate multiplied by 5,000 copies, because that would be a big problem and worth a lawsuit. So, we’ve wondered off the point slightly (when has that ever happened on here?! Um…) but don’t DRM. You don’t need to.

4. You can order your paperbacks at cost price and download your e-books for free

A while back I discovered that a self-publisher I know had ordered stock for her book launch from Amazon.com. Let’s all take a moment here to appreciate the loss of potential revenue that occurred in that one, swift blow. I wondered if perhaps she was an evil genius taking a hit in order to bump up her sales ranks, but no—she had done it because she didn’t know she could order her own books at cost (manufacturing) price direct from CreateSpace. I know some of you are probably giggling at this, but when you think about it (and all the other similar mistakes newbie self-publishers make) you can totally see how this happens. Most self-publishers are entering a world they know nothing about and there’s some much information to take in some of it just whizzes on by.

Just so we’re all clear: you can order your own books at cost price from CreateSpace. You can order as many as you like, but there’s no volume discount. That’s the price you pay for POD. You do this by visiting your dashboard and clicking “Order Copies” next to your title of choice.

Amazon KDP, unfortunately and a bit strangely, does not let you download a copy of your own Kindle book for free. You get to check an approximation of it during the upload process but if you want to see exactly what the full book looks like on a Kindle or Kindle reading app, you’ll have to fork out for a copy. (You can download the sample for free, of course, but that’s only the first few pages.) Smashwords, however, will let you download your own e-book for free, in any of the formats you’ve chosen to convert it to. They’re great for sending to reviewers or friends with e-readers; just attach a file in their preferred format to an e-mail and hit Send.

NB: Nothing you purchase directly from CreateSpace or download for free from Smashwords while logged in will count towards your sales figures.

5. Amazon Kindle samples are determined automatically—and kindly put up and shut up, thank you

All e-book retailers allow potential buyers to download a free sample of the book they’re considering buying. This is exactly the same as being able to walk into a bookstore, pick up a book and flick through the first few pages. (Or even, if you have the cheek and your bookstore has an in-store cafe and a comfy chair, the whole thing.) Smashwords lets you specify what percentage of the book you’d like included in the sample (20-25% at least; the more a person reads, the more they “get into” the book, thus the more likely they are to pay to read the rest), but Amazon does it automatically. And for the love of fudge self-publishers, let them to it.

Me after reading entries in KDP’s community forums

I try to stay away from KDP’s community forums—it’s really not good for my blood pressure—but I had to pop in their recently for some ITIN/tax refund research, and I happened upon something that read like this:

“Does anyone know how I can get my sample changed? Amazon are giving away the first two and a half chapters and there is WAY TOO MUCH valuable information in there for it to be available for free. I’ve e-mailed them but they haven’t responded. What can I do? I’m going to have to pull this book…’

Dear Crazy Kindle Author Person,

You can’t get the sample changed, for much the same reasons you can’t insist that your paperback only appear on physical bookstore shelves plastic-wrapped and security sealed, and that all readers sign a non-disclosure agreement that forbids them from sharing the information in the book with anyone else. The sample system is in fact a superb way to sell more copies of your book, and you should be thankful it exists. You should be praying Amazon ups it to the first five or even ten chapters, making it harder for a reader to discard the book after reading so far, and sending them straight to the “Add to Cart” button on your Amazon listing instead. On a personal note, if you fear that there is no reason to buy your book after reading the first two and a half chapters, I fear there’s no point in reading it at all. 

Love and bubbles,

Me.

The Bonus Round: Get Your Paws on an E-Reader

How many self-published e-book authors, do you think, have actually read a book on a e-reading device? And I don’t mean a computer screen or their phone, but an actual e-reader, the place where how they format and lay out their e-book matters the most, because it’s the most different? Or here’s the converse, which is a much, much scarier thought: how many self-published e-book authors, do you think, have self-published e-books without ever seeing what an e-book actually looks like on a Kindle or a Nook screen? And isn’t that like trying to make a movie without ever having watched one?

There is a huge difference between the bright, book-like virtual pages of iBooks on a shiny, glossy iPad, and the dull, clinical words squeezed in shades of grey onto the screen of a Generation 2 Kindle. Finding a specific chapter on Digital Editions involves moving your cursor to the active list of chapter headings to the left of your screen, but finding a specific chapter on a Kindle feels like wading through fudge by comparison. Yet e-book authors can make it easier by laying out their book properly and inserting active navigational links. Anyone who has searched for books in the Kindle store through an actual Kindle will never again look at their own listing and product description the same way; you’ll instantly understand how much work you have to do to stand out, and how being found and downloaded makes you the luckiest hay-colored needle in the giant haystack.

You can read every blog post, subscribe to every newsletter and attend every seminar, but they won’t give you as good a grasp of this whole e-book thing as five minutes playing time with an e-reader. Buy one, borrow one from a friend who has one or drop into a store and pretend you’re thinking of buying one and try it out.

I think this might be my longest post ever (can’t you tell someone doesn’t feel like doing her 2,000 novel words today…? This post is 2,349!) so I’m going to stop now. But is there any other basic self-publishing questions you’ve been looking for the answers to? If there are, post them below. For today only*, there are no stupid questions.

*FOR TODAY ONLY. Like, times a million.

Applying for a US Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN): A Saga in 3 Parts

7 Nov

Back in November 2009, I paid my first visit to the Print-On-Demand website Lulu after a friend sent me a link. What’s this? I thought. Upload a PDF, make a cover and have your book for sale on Amazon.com? How easy is this! 

It was easy. But then, to balance everything out, came the process of applying for an Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN.

For those of you not yet familiar with the, um… process, shall we say, if you don’t have a valid Social Security Number (SSN) – which you won’t have unless you live in the United States – CreateSpace, Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords have no choice but to withhold 30% of all your earnings or, in other words, cut every royalty cheque they send to you down by just under a third.

STOP RIGHT THERE. Before you all start whinging and moaning, THEY DON’T DO THIS FOR FUN. It’s the law, not  for kicks. So if you can’t “stand all this bureaucracy” as self-publishers are always telling me, then I have a simple solution for you: DON’T SELF-PUBLISH YOUR BOOK. Don’t forget how lucky we are to be able to do this in the first place. So, has my SUPERFLUOUS USE OF CAPITALIZATION stopped your grumbling? Good. I’m glad to hear it. Let’s continue.

The good news is that if you live in Ireland, the UK or Canada, you can put a stop to this and get 100% of your earnings from those three companies because your country and the US have an agreement known as a tax treaty. (If you live in Australia, you can have this withholding cut to 5%. For other countries, read this.) But in order to do this you have to apply for and get an Individual Tax Identification Number from America’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and then you have to send that number to each of the three companies.

Sounds simple, right?

Excuse me a moment while I roll around on the floor laughing, would you?

Thanks. I’ll just be a sec.

It is simple, relatively speaking. The problem is that there is a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon (up to 446km/277 miles long and 29km/18 miles wide, if you were wondering) between the information provided by the likes of the IRS and the information you actually need to get the job done.

To compound this, they are pathologically pedantic when it comes to the filling in of forms and the inclusion of required documentation; my blogging friend and Nail Your Novel author Roz Morris had a form rejected because she’d written “UK” instead of “United Kingdom” in a space the size of a thumbnail.

The good news is that I have – finally, after three attempts – got an ITIN. Woo-hoo and stuff. But I couldn’t have done it without the trial and error of others, so today I’m going to tell you exactly what I did in the hope that you can get your ITIN in just the one go.

A Word of Warning

I thought this process would take about 8 weeks, total. That’s why I thought – and said, in Self-Printed – that if you were only earning $100 a month or so, there was no great panic about getting the ITIN, especially when, should you start making serious money and get one in the future, you can claim back your withholdings to date.

But now I take back all that. Apply for it right now. This second. The very moment you have a book for sale on CreateSpace or Smashwords (why not Amazon KDP? We shall get to that), get started on this process.

Why? Because I received my ITIN last Thursday, November 3rd, and I started this process eight months ago, back in March.

Applying

When it came to actually getting an ITIN, I relied on the experiences of author and blogger Sally Clements, who generously donated her story to Self-Printed, and Roz Morris, who posted about her own saga of applying here.

To get an ITIN, you need:

  • Identification, usually your passport
  • A letter from one of the companies proving you publish with them
  • A W7 form.

You can download the form and the instructions for filling it out online.

I strongly recommend that you read both Sally’s and Roz’s posts before you fill it out, and that you print two copies and have a practice run first.

Next, e-mail CreateSpace or Smashwords customer service and ask them for the letter you need to apply for an ITIN. The first time I did this, CreateSpace mailed me a physical letter; the second time, they sent me a PDF which I printed out. Either one is okay. Don’t ask KDP, who will tell you that a copy of their terms and condition and evidence of your book’s Amazon listing is enough, because it’s NOT. You’ll get laughed out of the IRS if you send them that. You have to have a physical letter, even if it’s just a PDF you printed out.

As for identification, we’ll get to that in a second.

To apply, you can do one of two things:

  • Visit your friendly neighborhood IRS agent at a US embassy
  • Apply by mail.

(There are some other things, like going to a third-party agent or hiring someone to do it for you, but avoid these at all costs.)

Since the nearest embassy to me is in Dublin, I decided to apply by post.

Attempt No.1

I thought I was being oh SO clever. I got my form, filled it out as per Sally’s instructions, printed out my letter from CreateSpace, got my passport notarized by a notary (you’ll find a list of them in your local phonebook; I paid €20 to get a notarized copy) and then sent the whole thing off to the address on the instructions that came with the form.

Except that’s not where the form was supposed to go.

About six weeks later, my letter gets returned with a stamp on it saying that the forwarding service from the address I sent it to has expired and so they sent it back to the sender address instead.

Oh, great.

And, FAIL. Time to try again.

Attempt No. 2

I get a new envelope, write the address I’m supposed to send it to on the front and send it off by standard mail. It’s now about the middle of May. I’m still thinking I’m oh so clever, but my cleverness has slightly less smug on it now. I figure that my application is perfect, my writing neat and my ink blue, and surely once I manage to send it to the right address, the fabled ITIN will be mine.

No such luck.

At the end of June, I get a letter from the IRS saying that my application is missing documentation. Because my notarized passport copy was notarized by someone that didn’t work for the IRS, it needed an apostille, which is basically a stamp from the government who issued the original passport that says, “This is real.” The letter said to go get that, and then send it back.

Problem is, the letter gives me 45 days to do this, and the letter was dated more than four weeks, or 30 days, before. That leaves me 15 days to get the apostille and get it back to Texas, where the IRS office is. The other problem is that my passport just expired, so I need to go get a new one. There’s a backlog at the passport office, so it takes me three more weeks to get it. Therefore, I don’t make the 45 days and my application is rejected.

(A letter confirming this arrives on September 14th, dated August 11th.)

So again, FAIL.

Attempt No. 3

Third time’s a charm, right?

This time I leave no stone unturned (or box unticked); I make sure my entire application is perfect. My W7 form is filled out correctly; my notarized passport copy has an apostille attached (I got it in my nearest consular office; you can also get it by post); my letter from CreateSpace is in there and the address on the envelope is correct.

The clock is ticking (you’ll understand why in the next section), so to help things along, I sent this application in by express post, making sure that no one has to sign for it on the other end lest I annoy any IRS agents.

I mailed it on Wednesday 7th September, and the post office said it would arrive in Texas within 5-6 working days.

Last Thursday, November 3rd, I got my ITIN in the mail. FINALLY!

Getting Your Money Back

When your ITIN arrives, crack open some champagne and by all means, even have a glass of it. But then get back to work, because you’re only half done. Now you have to submit your ITIN on a W-8BEN form to each of your US-based self-publishing services, which will probably be CreateSpace, Smashwords and Amazon KDP.

And this is why my clock is ticking: apparently, if you submit your ITIN successfully and use the W-8BEN that has an affidavit on the end, you will be refunded all the money the company has unnecessarily withheld from you so far in the current calendar year. You can see why, despite starting the process in April, I was starting to get nervous as spring turned to summer and summer turned to autumn.

Again, I used the instructions on Roz’s Nail Your Novel blog for filling out the form. Make sure you use the proper form – you want the one with the affidavit of unchanged status at the end, which you can find here. You don’t need to include anything with your letter, but you do need to put something in the “Reference” line of the W-8BEN form that will identify you to the company.

  • For CreateSpace, this can be your member ID which you’ll find on your member dashboard
  • For Amazon KDP, you can use your Publisher ID, which you’ll see on your account page
  • For Smashwords, put the e-mail address you used to register in the reference line.

What do you do if you’ve had money withheld before the current calendar year? Well, there is about $500 in the IRS coffers that was withheld from me in 2010. I’ve found a site called TaxBack.com that has a special service for tax refunds owing on royalties. There is a charge of course, but it’s representative of the refund. I’m going to give them a try for that $500. I’ll let you know how it goes.

I sent my W8-BEN forms off last week to CreateSpace, Amazon KDP and Smashwords. I’ll let you know how I get on with retro-refunds, and how soon I start getting 100% royalty cheques instead of just 70%.

So to recap, make sure to:

  • Send your application by express post that doesn’t require a signature on arrival; that’ll shave a couple of weeks off your waiting time if you’re applying by mail
  • Use blue ink
  • Don’t use abbreviations – even if there’s hardly any space
  • Get an apostille from your nearest consular office if you use a non-IRS notary
  • Use the W-8BEN that has the affidavit at the end so you get your withholdings so far this year refunded
  • Have the name on your CreateSpace/Smashwords letter match your actual name, not your pen name.

The forms you need are:

The addresses you need* are:

  • the IRS ITIN section: Internal Revenue Service, ITIN Operation, Mail Stop 6090-AUSC, 3651 S. Interregional, Hwy 35, Austin, TX 78741-0000.
  • CreateSpace (for your W-8BEN): 8329 West Sunset Road, Suite 200, Las Vegas, NV, 89113, USA.
  • Smashwords (for your W-8BEN): Tax Compliance Dept., 15951 Los Gatos Blvd., Ste 16 Los Gatoes, CA 95032, USA.
  • Amazon KDP (for your W-8BEN): Attn Vendor Maintenance, PO Box 80683, Seattle, WA 98108-0683, USA.

*Correct to the best of my knowledge today, Saturday 5th November. Please double-check on the relevant websites that these addresses are still valid when you submit your W-8BENs. 

You may also need:

  • This post (you can print it; see little print button below), Sally’s post and Roz’s post
  • Coffee
  • Alcohol
  • Patience
  • A stress ball or ten.

Good luck!

UPDATE #1:

I posted my three W-8BENs on Friday 4th November by express post, making sure no one had to sign for them at the other end as in all likelihood, they were headed for PO boxes. On the 16th, I received an e-mail from Amazon KDP confirming receipt of my W-8BEN.

UPDATE #2:

After investigating TaxBack.com to see if they could help me get my $500 back from 2010, I decided not to pursue it. It involves more forms than I’d ever care to see in my lifetime, and two that made me uncomfortable: one that gives the company power of attorney in my dealings with the IRS (which they need to act on my behalf) and a change of address form that would change the address the IRS have on file for me from my home to the offices of TaxBack.com (so the refund goes to them; they need to take their fee out of it before they refund me the rest). Now I know all this is above board, but I’ve only just got my ITIN after three attempts—the last thing I want to do is to change any details, such as my address, that the IRS have on file for me, only to have to change it back a few weeks or months later. That just says Future IRS-Induced Headache to me. Secondly, power of attorney? For $500? Or $500 minus their fee? Um, I don’t think so. So guess what, America? You can keep my money. God knows I owe it to you after driving on your roads with only a learner’s permit for a year…

UPDATE #3:

On Tuesday November 29th: success! A cheque from Amazon KDP with a big number on it. Hooray! All my tax withholdings refunded back to December 2010. I thought maybe they’d include it with my monthly payment but they’ve sent an entirely separate cheque. And they’ve sent it pretty quickly. No word yet from the other two (CreateSpace and Smashwords) but as KDP is by far the biggest one, I’m not bothered. And let the Christmas shopping commence!

UPDATE #4:

On Monday 5th December, CreateSpace send me this month’s cheque as per usual—except this one also contains my tax refund going back to December 2010. I have to say excluding Smashwords (and the withholding there is so small, I don’t mind doing it), once the ITIN has been received this refund process has been very quick and utterly straightforward. A nice antidote to the process of getting the ITIN in the first place!

UPDATE #5:

Please read this post. You may not need an ITIN at all, but an EIN.

 

DISCLAIMER: I am not a tax specialist, and I have no expert knowledge of international tax law or any related issues. This post is intended to help you apply for an ITIN and submit your W-8BEN forms to the relevant parties, but it is not intended to be legal advice. I accept no responsibility or liability for the outcome of your ITIN application, W-8BEN submission or refund of tax withholdings. So there. 

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