If you’re outside of the US, then this post is for you.
I’ve been feeling very guilty about neglecting my wonderful non-US readers with posts and tips that are aimed directly at self-pubbers in the land of Uncle Sam. I’m a Brit abroad, so while I know how frustrating it can be reading advice and stories that are US-only relevant, I had never self-published before I moved here, so I’m not the best person to comment on the differences or the experience.
There is one person who is spot on for the job, however. She has published 7 eBooks and counting, and has a very keen eye for observation on the publishing industry, as made apparent through her uber-informative blog, Catherine, Caffeinated.
Catherine brilliantly explains the differences between publishing in and out of the US, and why, at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter all that much at all.
(And all with a touch of snark. Love her!)
I’m very excited to welcome – drumroll! – Ms Catherine Ryan Howard to the blog! You’re in good hands.
Take it away, CC.
For self-published authors who live outside the United States, self-publishing can be a tricky business.
On top of the usual concerns—fighting against the horned demon that is Microsoft Word in order to get the words in your e-book into the right order; trying to annihilate every last typo in 100,000 words you’ve already read 100 times; wondering exactly how you’re going to convince strangers to buy your book over the few million already on the market—the non-U.S.-based self-publisher has a few additional hurdles between her and her first Amazon royalty cheque. (And it is a cheque, if she doesn’t live in the U.S.—not only because of British English spelling, but because she can’t avail of direct deposit…)
Luckily nearly all of the most important ones can be overcome, or at least circumvented.
NO FOR NOOK
Barnes and Noble, as I write this, still have their doors locked to non-U.S. self-publishers. In order to self-publish your title on their self-publish-to-Nook platform, PubIt, you need to have a US address, a US credit card tied to that address and a Social Security Number. While I understand that a new platform can’t necessarily go global right out of the gate (especially since there’s no Barnes and Noble stores outside the U.S.), I find it odd that we’re here today still facing this lock out—especially considering that the Nook device is about to launch in the UK in the coming weeks.
Maybe B&N will get a clue and change this soon, but in the meantime you can get around this problem by publishing through Smashwords.com. Their “Premium Catalogue” includes distribution to B&N’s Nook store. You might also consider going to a distribution service like eBookPartnership.com who, for a small annual fee, will distribute your e-book to a large number of retailers not included in Smashwords’ network.
THE COST OF SHIPPING
Whenever a self-publisher groans about the relatively expensive cost of shipping Print On Demand paperbacks from a company like CreateSpace to their home, a fairy dies.
That’s what I tell them anyway, in the hope that they’ll stop complaining about it. Because why would you be shipping books to yourself? The whole point of this wonderful digital publishing revolution is that the days of hiding dusty boxes of books—your books—under the stairs or in the garage are long gone. Moreover, you can’t sell a POD book to bookstores and make a profit; the profit margin is just too slim. Yes, you might order a few copies for yourself and some for family and friends, and maybe you’ll even order a stack or six for the book launch you’re throwing yourself. So what’s that, one box? Maybe two? Let’s say one big box.
Guess what? That’s a once-off big box. You’re not going to be ordering stock of your own book all the time. If you are, there’s something wrong with your business model, because instead of POD you should get in contact with a local printer who can knock up the copies you need and get them to you without having to cross the Atlantic. So why are we all getting our knickers (panties, my American friends) in a twist over shipping costs? There’s no need.
Some self-publishers order personal stock to send to reviewers—at great cost, considering that in most cases, shipping can add a dollar or two to the unit cost of a CreateSpace paperback traveling across the Pond—and then, presumably because they had a glass of Crazy Juice for breakfast, send it winging its way back over the Atlantic again to get to the reviewer.
FOR THE LOVE OF FUDGE people, stop this now. Instead, order one book from CS and send it directly to the reviewer. It’ll cost a lot less, the book will be shiny and new, untouched by anyone but the machine that made and packed it, and CS don’t put any documentation in their deliveries that show prices so you needn’t worry about the reviewer discovering the unit cost. Should you need to send any other items with the book, such as a sell-sheet, just e-mail them. Your profit/loss spreadsheet will thank you for it and so will the reviewer, who’ll get their review copy in 2-3 days instead of 2-3 weeks.
If you live in the U.S. and have a Social Security Number, I envy you. Not only because I dream of U.S. citizenship and, when I had a temporary SSN while I was in Florida on a student visa, I regularly took it out of my wallet and gazed at it adoringly…
Sorry, drifted off there.
Ahem. Yeah, so, not only because I dream of having one too, but because of what I’d to go through because I didn’t. My options were:
1. Have a 30% chunk missing from every royalty cheque that came my way
2. Endure an eight month long teeth-grinding frustration operation called Obtaining an Individual Tax Identification Number, or ITIN.
If you earn money from U.S. based companies—and CreateSpace, the Amazon.com arm of Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords are all U.S. based—then by law, they must withhold 30% of your earnings as emergency taxation unless you supply them with a valid US tax identification number. For those of us not living in the U.S., this means getting an ITIN or an Employer Identification Number (EIN). For some of us, this will mean our cheques start equalling 100% of our earnings, because many countries—the UK and Ireland, where I’m from, included—have a tax treaty with the United States.
It can be a headache, but it’s worthwhile. You can find instructions for obtaining this magic digits on my blog, Catherine, Caffeinated.
IS THERE ANY GOOD NEWS?
Yes—it’s all good news! Remember that although things might be slightly trickier for the self-publisher who doesn’t live on the U.S. side of the Pond, it’s still pretty easy to get your work for sale on the world’s biggest online book retailer, to get it in front of a global audience and to start making a living from your writing. We should never forget that.
Or the fairies.
CATHERINE RYAN HOWARD is a blogger, writer and coffee enthusiastic from Cork, Ireland. Her latest book is SELF-PRINTED: THE SANE PERSON’S GUIDE TO SELF-PUBLISHING (2ND EDITION). Find out more on www.catherineryanhoward.com.