My Self-Publishing Journey – Five


WARNING – this was published in 2014 and much has changed. I’ve left this page for posterity, but don’t take it seriously!

1: Publish on Kindle

This is really simple. I created an account with Kindle Direct Publishing, created the title, and filled in all the details (including uploading contents and cover). Set the price, click “Publish”, and you’re done!

Well, almost that simple.

There is an approval process once “Publish” is clicked, but it didn’t take long (less than 24 hours, I think). Note that this process is triggered every time you upload a revised version of the content, cover or description.

Perhaps the question most likely to trip up a new author, especially one from outside the US, is when they ask for your US Tax Identification Number (TIN). If you don’t have one, Amazon are required to withhold 30% tax which may be hard to get back. So I followed the advice here which might look complicated but actually turned out to be really easy.

  1. Get a copy of an SS-4 form so you know what questions you are going to be asked. From the IRS.
  2. Phone 267-941-1099 and tell them you want an EIN as you are a non-US publisher of ebooks. Note that “EIN” = “Employer Identification Number”: you are declaring yourself to be a sole trader business, which as a self-published author is what you are. I had to wait on hold for about 30 minutes and then spend less than ten going through the details with a very helpful lady, at the end of which she gave me the EIN. Job done.

One nice thing that Amazon have used technology to solve: they have an electronic version of the W8-BEN form which is what they need to have in order not to deduct tax.

Note: the W8 forms changed around the time I was doing this (Feb-Mar 2014) and the latest W8-BEN form is ONLY for individuals (earlier versions were also usable by entities). This individual version of the form doesn’t want an EIN in the tax identifier box (Line 5), but rather an ITIN which is a lot harder to get. As I write this, it appears to be the case that this is OK: just leave Line 5 blank and put your own local Tax ID (a UTR for a UK resident like me) in Line 6. This is an area which is subject to change and reinterpretation so don’t take any of this as gospel!

Incidentally, as a UK based taxpayer, I have also had to declare myself to HMRC as being self employed, and start paying Class 2 NICs – although, if my earnings turn out to be below a threshold, these are effectively optional.

2: Publish on Smashwords

If you’ve uploaded the file to Smashwords then you’ve already published – unlike KDP, which is a two step process. I then downloaded the MOBI and EPUB versions and opened them in my own readers to make sure that all looked well.

As well as the automated inspection of your upload which comes from Meatgrinder, there also appears to be a manual inspection which will catch subtler formatting issues. I had to go round a couple of times driving out the bugs before I was approved for Premium Distribution – this is important because this is how you get to Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sony and others.

As with Kindle, if you make any changes at all then you have to go round the approval loop again.

One of the really handy uses of Smashwords is that you can create a discounted coupon to be used in their own store, which can be 100%. I used this to give free copies to reviewers without impacting the list price at Amazon.

On the downside, they can’t accept an electronic W8-BEN for your US tax status, so I had to print one out and put it in the post. The advice on their website about getting a tax ID is unnecessarily complex; ignore it.

3: Publish on CreateSpace

This is a bit like publishing in Kindle, which is not surprising since this is all part of the Amazon empire. You supply the details of your book, including the cover and interior, say how much you want to sell it for, and click “Publish”.

They have a nice online previewer which you can use to look at the interior of the book that you’ve uploaded, just to check that their interpretation of the PDF file is the same as yours.

I also ordered a single proof copy of the paperback. This took a couple of weeks to come (there are other shipping options) and, when it arrived, was one of the most exciting moments in my brief writing career to date – almost up there with the moment when I reached “The End” on my first draft. It needed a little tweaking, but that’s to be expected – it’s why I got the proof copy! I went for a matte finish and white paper: YMMV.

After making the necessary tweaks, I uploaded the revised files: the next day, I was able to do one final online check, “approve” the proof and order some copies! Note that the author/publisher can buy deeply discounted copies, albeit with rather expensive shipping (from the US).