Posts Tagged Smashwords
A lucky turn of the radio dial this week and I got a real treat: the Radio 2 presenter Jeremy Vine interviewing Brian Eno. The whole piece is worth listening to, but this exchange particularly caught me.
Vine was trying to pin down what made some of Eno’s collaborators so special – David Bowie, David Byrne, Bryan Ferry. He said this: they all had ‘a different quality of imagination’.
And Eno replied: ‘I think everyone has much more imagination than they give themselves credit for. But the difference is that some people take their imaginations seriously.’
Yes. One thousand per cent.
Today, I’d planned another kind of post. Usually my new year kick-off is publishing options for twenty-whatever. I began to write it. I realised as I did that not much had changed. What I’d say for 2017 is much the same as I’d said in 2016. And when I wrote 2016’s post I referred heavily to 2015’s. I’d lined up some good reference posts – Mark Coker of Smashwords, who looked back at 10 years of ebooks and forward to how the publishing ecosystem will continue to evolve. And to Jane Friedman, who give some great pointers for sizing up a publishing offer from a small imprint.
But lordy, it was a slog. I felt like I was rehashing material I’d already tackled exhaustively. Planet Earth did not need another article about how to publish wisely in 2017.
And then, by chance, out of my radio come Messrs Eno and Vine. Take your imagination seriously.
I thought that’s IT. That’s how I want to go into 2017. While we’re figuring out whether to self-publish or look for a deal, or mix a trad indie cocktail never tasted before, we must not lose sight of this.
What we do is about creation. Listening to what interests us, moves us. Growing as artistic, communicative beings, finding things that seem to peel back something we must say about our world and our lives. This is where the joy of our work comes from, where we make our distinctive contribution.
Eno said more:
‘It’s not just having ideas, but being prepared to push them through and try to make them work. Some people get discouraged very easily, but I think successful artists don’t. They get confidence in what they’re doing and they decide “I want to see how it works; I want to see what happens when I do it”.’
At a time when we’re all making resolutions, and resolutions to help us keep our resolutions, and tips for success, I’d like to offer this one. Who’s with me?
If you are not a US citizen or resident in the US and you want to publish on Smashwords, Amazon Kindle or CreateSpace, your earnings will be taxed unless you have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This means that 30% of your money is kept before you ever see it – and then when you get the payment you have to pay your own country’s tax rate all over again.
Not good, huh? But Amazon will pay you gross (without tax) if you provide an ITIN. So an ITIN I would have.
Boy was it difficult. I had three goes. Yes, three – about as many as my driving test. Then I had another two with the form you then have to send Amazon. And I regard myself as pretty good at following instructions, so this seriously annoyed me.
The problem is, the IRS is incredibly pedantic and doesn’t tell you half the things you need to know. So to protect your blood pressure and stop you spending unnecessary money, I’m going to tell you how to do it.
No. Just don’t. If you look on the IRS website they talk about acceptance agents in the UK. Do not touch with a bargepole. I phoned one and they wanted to charge me £500 to handle the application. However, they sounded so ashamed that I persuaded them to tell me the tricky bits I needed to know, like treaty numbers.
Filling in the form
Get a form w-7. You need to know treaty numbers but I’ve outlined them in red in the picture above. I’m in the UK so this is the treaty number I need, but if you’re outside the UK you can find the right number here on the detailed notes for the W-7 form. In the IRS notes it wasn’t clear that two boxes had to be ticked in this question, not one.
UPDATE The forms have now been updated and the treaty number is now different. New info on tax treaty numbers is here.
You need to supply a letter explaining why you need the number, that you’ve published a book etc etc. (This wasn’t clear in the IRS notes when I originally applied, just so you know how helpful they are.)
This was also a royal pain. At first Amazon told me all I needed was to print out their terms and conditions and my listing. That was rubbish.You need a proper letter addressed to you.
Here, Smashwords led the way. You can ask for the letter after you’ve sold USD$10. Fortunately, Amazon now provide one too. Send this note to CreateSpace Member Services, which you can find on your Createspace dashboard (there is probably a Kindle version of this too, I just chose CreateSpace because they seemed better at replying)
Hi – because I live in the UK I understand you will take US tax off my revenues from selling via Createspace. I want to apply to the IRS for the exemption so that you can pay me gross. I understand I need some documentation from you to support this.
Please could you email me a letter on official Createspace paper which shows:
my member ID number
my name (full name is ;lkjl;kj;lkj, publishing as lkj;lkj;lkj)
a statement that I am publishing through you and that I am a taxpayer in the UK, which is why I need the ITIN
Copying your passport
You need to prove who you are with a notarised copy of your passport, of course. There is only one type of copy the IRS will accept. Not, as they imply on the form, any notarised copy – the kind you can get from the post office or your doctor, even though they are accepted just about everywhere else and you have to pay for them (which is what I wasted money and blood pressure on). You need your passport notarised by an officer of the IRS.
You can find an office of the IRS at the US embassy. If you’re near London, visit them in person. I went there with my form and my CreateSpace letter and a charming chap there filled in everything for me, copied my passport and sent it off. Plus we had a lovely conversation about the time he was a spy working undercover in Hungary. He’s going to write a novel.
Before you wonder if that’s worth the faff let me tell you this – it’s FREE.
If you can’t get to the embassy in person, phone them. Other people I spoke to on Facebook said they did this and hung on for a while and eventually someone answered. They’ll then tell you what to do – though you’ll have to trust the postal service with your passport. But honestly, even if you have to try several times before you get through, it’s much better than spending £500.
Eight weeks later, I had my ITIN.
The final stage – you’re not out of the woods yet
Then I had to send another form to Amazon, a W-8BEN (you can download this from the IRS website) .
Two things to remember:
1 use blue ink
2 do not abbreviate the country name, even though the space for it on the form is tiny. Believe it or not, my first go was rejected because I did this and I had to post another one to the US. The neighbours all heard as I leaped about, spluttering ‘do you mean to tell me these people can’t tell that UK means United Kingdom? And they have jobs?’ But the IRS is looking for reasons to reject. And not following these footling rules will get you rejected.
Find an example of exactly how to fill in W-8BEN here.
Residents of some countries can now bypass the initial form-filling and call the nearest US consulate for an EIN. Tell them you are a ‘sole proprietor’ and you are an author selling ebooks in their country. Tell them it is for compliance with tax withholding – and you get the number there and then. Wow. After that you’ll still need the W8-BEN – but that’s one stage of faffing and waiting dispensed with!
The rules have recently been updated, and WilderSoul was kind enough to send me this link of FAQs, including the requirements for support documentation.
Now available: My Memories of a Future Life (The Complete Novel)… ‘Classy, stylish, gripping… profound’
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Some people would say it’s about time too, as for a while now I’ve been getting requests to put my book Nail Your Novel onto the Kindle.
What took me so long? Two things.
1 – I don’t have a Kindle
But I’ve been knocking around writing blogs for long enough to know that we like our own ways of reading. People who read on the Kindle want their books in that format and some of them don’t even buy print any more. At the moment I prefer paper and print, but other people prefer pixels.
2 – Design
I designed the print version of Nail Your Novel with sections and sub-heads, identified by typefaces – a legacy from my years in magazines. As the Kindle does away with typefaces, how was I going to make it look right? The very thought of it was nailbiting.
Until I happened upon this blog post by Cath Ryan Howard of the blog Catherine, Caffeinated: How to format your e-book without the migraine. She made it look so simple I thought I’d have a go. She also references the Smashwords Style Guide, which filled in the whys and wherefores and is so darn clear that it deserves a plain English award. It’s deesigned for epub, but the principles also hold for the Kindle. With these open on my desktop, I had most of what I needed. Even with my complicated format, it was easy peesy.
I’m not going to rehash their instructions as they’ve done the legwork and deserve the site hits. I’ll just mention a few points that weren’t covered, although most of these will apply to non-fiction rather than fiction:
Yes, bold and italics will work on the Kindle. Apply them as you normally would in Word with the toolbar buttons – they translate just fine.
Bullets don’t work on the Kindle. So I rewrote the bullet-point lists as numbered lists.
If you’re writing non-fiction you’ll need a hyperlinked contents page, and you may want cross-references to increase the book’s usability. I found this post from Foner Books answered my remaining questions. You do not need an index as there are no pages, but there are a few electronic markers you need to put in to identify the start of the book. You also need page breaks on a Kindle, which you don’t need on an epub book. The Foner Books post explains it all.
Without a Kindle, how could I check it worked? Fortunately the Kindle publishing system has a simulator. Upload your file, check it looks okay, tweak as necessary, upload again. You needn’t worry you’ve published prematurely as you have to go through several more steps to actually launch your book on Amazon. As an extra, a friend converted my file to a format called Mobi and was able to test it on her Kindle. She gave me the thumbs up – and we were ready to go!
So…if you’re wondering about putting your book on Kindle, all I can say is do. It really is easy.
Particular thanks in my journey to this Kindle edition go to the people whose excellently written resources made it possible, and to Suzanne Fyrie Parrott of Unruly Guides and Kevin McGill of Guys Can Read. And there are many, many more of you who have given me such wonderful feedback on the book and have cheered me on in reviews and have spread the word. Thank you – I really appreciate it. (And thank you, .bobby, for the picture.)
What’s it all about?
Read the first 16 pages for free here – although on Kindle you can get a sample anyway.
Read reviews from Sarah Peppel (Novel Inspirations from Nail Your Novel) New Book Blogger, listen to me talk about the book to Joanna Penn here. Also I’m going to be popping up in a few guest posts around the virtual town, so stay tuned.