Removing US Withholding Tax from your royalties (Part 3)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. Towards the end of 2012 I began proceedings to strip US Withholding Tax from any royalties earned through US companies. This short series of blog posts documents the process I followed. The usual caveats apply: this is the internet, folks, so you shouldn’t consider this to be professional advice. That said I hope you still find these posts of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part Three: Completing W-8BEN forms for each publishing platform

In the previous part I described how to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS. In this part I’ll detail how you can use your number to remove or reduce US Withholding Tax levied on your royalties.

There are a number of platforms writers can use to self-publish their work, such as Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) and Smashwords. Both of these companies will automatically deduct 30% of your royalties to pay US Withholding Tax unless you apply to have this tax reduced or removed.

To do this you need to submit a completed W-8BEN form. You can download a form from the IRS website via this link: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw8ben.pdf

You will need to complete a W-8BEN form for each company you use to publish your work, e.g. one for Amazon, one for CreateSpace, and another for Smashwords. When a company has a completed W-8BEN form they can then reduce or remove the tax, meaning more royalties for you.

Here is a run-through how to complete the form. (The following assumes you are an individual tax payer, not a company. These instructions apply to the February 2006 revision of the W-8BEN form.)

– Enter your full name in line 1, e.g. LUCIAN POLL. Do not add any titles, e.g. no “Mrs” and no “Esq”. You might think your MBE is terribly important, but the IRS couldn’t care less.
– Enter N/A in line 2, as you are not a company.
– In line 3 tick the Individual box.
– Enter the house number and street of your permanent residential address, e.g. 123 ACACIA AVENUE
– Enter the remainder of your address in the next line, e.g. NORWICH, NORFOLK NR99 9ZZ
– Enter your country, e.g. UNITED KINGDOM
– If you have a chez away from chez enter it in line 5, otherwise leave it blank
– In line 6 enter your tax identification number. For an ITIN this will be three digits, a dash, two digits, a second dash, and then four digits, e.g. 999-99-9999
– Tick the SSN or ITIN box.
– Leave line 7 blank, as this is optional
– Line 8 is used to house a reference that identifies you to the company that is paying you royalties. Amazon’s example W-8BEN form has this section blank, but for my form I’ve put in my KDP publisher number, which I found on the account settings page of my KDP dashboard. Smashwords, on the other hand, requires you to enter either your email address or Smashwords display name. CreateSpace requires your membership number, which you can filch from the CreateSpace dashboard.
– Tick box 9a and enter your country of residence, e.g. UNITED KINGDOM.
– Tick box 9b, as you will have provided your tax number in line 6.
– Line 10 in Amazon’s example form is empty, however I have seen several people complete this line, so I’ve done likewise. Line 10 therefore reads as follows, with the gaps completed as highlighted:
The beneficial owner is claiming the provisions of Article 12 of the treaty identified on line 9a above to claim a 0 % rate of withholding on (specify type of income): BOOK ROYALTIES. Explain the reasons the beneficial owner meets the terms of the treaty article: BENEFICIAL OWNER IS A PERMANENT RESIDENT OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.
 – Skip Part III and move to Part IV. Sign the form, enter the date in MM/DD/YYYY format (remember this is a US form) and enter SELF for “Capacity in which acting”.

Your completed W-8BEN form will look a little like that shown below. (Click for a larger image.):

Example of a W-8BEN form, complete except for a signature and a date

Example of a W-8BEN form, complete except for a signature and a date

You will then need to post the form to the company that will pay you royalties. A covering letter for each form won’t go amiss. You are advised to make a copy of each  form you complete in case you receive any queries about your application.

The postal addresses for Amazon Digital Services and CreateSpace are much the same, which is unsurprising given one is a member company of the other. (Scroll down each respective page for the address.) The postal address for Smashwords can be found here.

And that’s it for this short series of posts on removing US Withholding Tax from your royalties. I hope you found it of some use.

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

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Removing US Withholding Tax from your royalties (Part 2)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. Towards the end of 2012 I began proceedings to strip US Withholding Tax from any royalties earned through US companies. This short series of blog posts documents the process I followed. The usual caveats apply: this is the internet, folks, so you shouldn’t consider this to be professional advice. That said I hope you still find these posts of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part Two: Applying for a US Tax Identification Number

In the previous part I discussed what US Withholding Tax entailed, and gave an overview of the steps non-US residents need to take in order to remove or reduce the tax from their earnings.

In this post I’ll go into more detail on these steps, specifically in applying for a Taxpayer Identification Number. These posts are written from the perspective of an individual tax payer, not a company. (Amazon’s KDP help pages contain a decent amount of information for those who wrap up their tax affairs within a company.)

Step 1 is to gather some appropriate ID. You’re going to need it to accompany your application form, because Uncle Sam will want to know who you are. If you have a valid passport then that should be all you require, otherwise you’ll need ID to prove your foreign status and identity, for example a birth certificate and a driver’s licence. My passport expired recently but I decided to bite the bullet and invest in a new one, if only for all those American book signings I’ll be doing in the next ten years. 😉

Step 2 is to download and complete a W-7 form from the IRS website. (Here’s a link: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf ) The W-7 form is an editable PDF file that can be (mostly) completed on screen and saved on your computer. Why “mostly”? Well, let’s go through completing this form and you’ll see why.
(Note: this guide is for the January 2012 revision of the W-7 form, and remember I’m assuming you are an individual UK taxpayer.)
* In the set of tick boxes a – h you need to tick boxes a and h.
* Next to box ‘h’ enter EXCEPTION D ROYALTIES on the dotted line
* Underneath that enter the treaty country as UNITED KINGDOM
* To the right of that, under treaty article number, enter 12
* In line 1a enter your first name, middle name(s) and surname in the appropriate boxes
* If you were born under a different name enter it in line 1b – again first name, middle name(s) and surname.
* In line 2 enter your house number and street name in the first part, e.g. 123 ACACIA AVENUE, and then the remainder of your address underneath, e.g. NORWICH, NORFOLK, UNITED KINGDOM, NR99 9ZZ
* You can ignore line 3 unless you have another non-US address that acts as your chez away from chez, in which case enter it in much the same fashion as you did your main address in line 2.
* In line 4 enter your date of birth in MM/DD/YYYY format, e.g. 05/04/1990 for 4th May 1990. Remember this is a US form you are filling out. In the box to the right of that enter your country of birth, for example UNITED KINGDOM.
* Oddly, line 5 is actually a box further along to the right. In here indicate whether you are male or female.
* Line 6 is a biggie, so I’ll split it out further:
—> For 6a enter your country of citizenship, e.g. UNITED KINGDOM
—> For 6b enter your National Insurance Number, e.g. AB123456C
—> Leave 6c blank unless you have a US visa
—> For 6d enter your ID details. Assuming you are including your passport, tick the passport box, for “Issued By:” enter UK (there isn’t enough room to type UNITED KINGDOM), for “No.:” enter your passport number, e.g. 123456789, and for “Exp. date:” enter your passport’s expiry date, again in MM/DD/YYYY form, e.g. 12/13/2014.
—> For 6e, assuming this is the first Tax Identification Number you are applying for, tick the No/Do Not Know box.
—> Lines 6f and 6g can be left blank if you answered no for 6e.
* Sign and date the form (remembering MM/DD/YYYY). Enter your full telephone number. For my form I had to manually write the number as +441603123456 because the form only allowed 12 characters to be input.

Your completed W-7 form will look something like the example shown below. (Click for a larger image.)

Example W-7 form, complete except for signature and date.

Example W-7 form, complete except for signature and date.

Step 3 – With your W-7 form completed you need a letter (signed, and on official letterhead) from someone in the US stating they are going to pay you royalties. Smashwords will give you access to their letter once you have accrued $10 in royalties, whereas Amazon offer their royalties letter for all – just fill in your name and the date (again in MM/DD/YYYY format).

Step 4 – Send off your application. By this point you should have: 1) a letter from, say, Amazon; 2) your completed W-7 form; and 3) appropriate ID (I’m assuming your passport). These all need to find their way to the IRS so they can process your application. You could stick them all in an envelope and send them off to the States, but perhaps a better way would be to use the US Embassy. They can create a notarised copy of your passport, check your application for obvious errors and forward everything on to the IRS. They then return your passport quickly by Special Delivery. (I got mine back in 4 days.) All this for a fee of exactly zero pence too – you just need to pay to get the documents there. (Special Delivery cost me £5.90.)

I’d strongly recommend writing a covering letter to accompany your documents. Here’s one I used that seemed to do the trick:

Dear Sir/Madam,

I would like to apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number in order to strip US Withholding Tax from any royalties I receive from Amazon for my self-published work.

I have completed the W-7 form, which please find enclosed along with my passport and a letter from Amazon regarding payment of royalties.

Please could you arrange for a notarised copy of my passport to be forwarded to the IRS along with my W-7 form and letter? If there are any problems with my application please do not hesitate to contact me on ______________.

Thank you in advance for your help.

Yours faithfully

(Before sending everything off I would recommend taking a copy of your W-7 form. If the IRS come back with queries at least you can see what you sent.)

As mentioned you should receive your passport by Special Delivery in around a week. Your W-7 application form, if successfully processed, should yield a US tax number in around 7-8 weeks. Once you have your tax number you can move onto the next stage.

Coming next in Part 3: Completing W-8BEN forms for each publishing platform

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It is not my intention to misinform!

Removing US Withholding Tax from your royalties (Part 1)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. Towards the end of 2012 I began proceedings to strip US Withholding Tax from any royalties earned through US companies. This short series of blog posts documents the process I followed. The usual caveats apply: this is the internet, folks, so you shouldn’t consider this to be professional advice. That said I hope you still find these posts of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part One: US Withholding Tax – if you don’t need to pay it, don’t pay it!

If you are a non-US resident then companies like Amazon and Smashwords are required by law to withhold 30% of the gross payment to you and hand it over to the IRS. This is US Withholding Tax and it is essentially a default setting to make sure Uncle Sam gets paid when a non-US resident earns a slice. The tax applies to interest payments, dividends, rent payments, and, among other things, royalty payments.

The trouble with this arrangement, however, is that you can get stung for tax twice: once by Uncle Sam and again by the taxman in your own country. For example if you are a basic-rate taxpayer in the UK and you earn $100 through Amazon, Uncle Sam will take his $30, and you will owe the UK taxman 20% of the $70 remaining, leaving you with $56. That $56 equates roughly to £35. Once your bank has charged you a £5 processing fee to pay in a US$ cheque and then applied its terrible exchange rate on the remainder you end up with approximately Bugger All.

(I have assumed the worst-case scenario here, namely UK tax applied immediately after US Withholding Tax. It may be that UK tax can applied on the monies you finally get from the bank, but I’m no accountant. It’s a moot point either way, as you will discover.)

This double-taxation of your hard-earned royalties is, of course, is a trifle unfair, but fear not! Many countries have a tax treaty in place with the US that allows non-US residents to waive all or part of the Withholding Tax. In order to do this, however, you need to be on Uncle Sam’s books.

In short, you’re going to need a US tax number. You can apply for one by completing a W-7 form from the IRS if you are an individual, or, if you have structured your tax affairs within a company, then you’ll need to complete a SS-4 form. (This series of posts will only cover the process from the perspective of an individual non-US resident. Amazon KDP’s help page has more info on completing the SS-4 form.)

It will take 7-8 weeks for the IRS to process your application and to issue a tax number. For example I submitted my application late October 2012 and received my Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) early December 2012.

Once you have received your tax number you can then apply to have the US Withholding Tax waived or reduced from your assorted income streams. For that you will need to complete and submit a W-8 form to each US-based publishing platform you use. Bingo! More royalties for you, and a little more tax into HMRC’s coffers to boot. Your social conscience may rest easy again. (You were, of course, going to declare that extra source of income, weren’t you?)

Okay, that’s a run-through of what the tax is and what you need to do in order to reduce or remove it from your earnings. I’ll go into more detail on these steps in subsequent posts.

Coming next: Applying for a US Tax Identification Number

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 4)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 4 – About Amazon’s Author Central

In Part 3 I discussed the process you would undertake to build and publish an eBook on Amazon. In this final part I’ll give you an overview of Amazon’s Author Central profiles, and some of the things you ought to keep in mind.

When someone views a book on Amazon and scrolls down around halfway they will often see a link that reads something like “Visit Amazon’s Lucian Poll Page”. This link takes browsers to the author’s profile so they can see all of his or her books in one place, and perhaps read a few words of their bio too.

Said profiles are maintained within Amazon’s Author Central service and you’ll be glad to hear that registering is fairly painless. You can use your existing Amazon account to register. You will then be asked to identify the books you wrote (a button is provided if you write under a pseudonym) and, following activation via a confirmation email, you’re in. Job done.

…ish.

It must be said at this point that each Amazon marketplace is separate. That is to say Amazon US differs from Amazon UK differs from Amazon DE and so on. The upshot of this is you will need to consider creating profiles for each Amazon marketplace. This has caught out a few authors who have focused on a profile for one marketplace, thinking it was universal.

You do not need to create Amazon accounts in each marketplace in order to register with Author Central. Your regular Amazon account should suffice for all. (It did for me anyway.)

The functionality across each Amazon marketplace differs slightly. Amazon.com’s Author Central, for example, is more fully-featured than Amazon.co.uk’s, with lots of lovely stats, but only if some or all of your work is in print. (Kindle sales data doesn’t show here. You will need to see your KDP dashboard for that, under “Reports”.)

There is a standardised bunch of things you complete in across all Author Central profiles, such as a bio, author photos, videos, links to your Twitter feed, and any events you want to organise with your readers.

Each Author Central profile also comes with its own forum. I haven’t really explored this feature, if I’m honest, so I can’t say how much control you have over it, if any. As I’m only just starting out in this writing lark I haven’t exactly got what you could call a broad readership!

The US version of Author Central allows you to input more information about each of your books, for example if you would like to draw the reader’s attention to a particularly glowing review of your book (preferably not written by a sockpuppet). You can also add a feed from your blog through RSS or Atom.

(WordPress hint: You can use your regular blog URL suffixed with “/?feed=rss” to make this work on assorted websites, e.g. https://lucianpoll.com/?feed=rss. See here for more info on the other standards supported. I can confirm this works for Author Central US, Smashwords and Goodreads.)

In short, each Amazon marketplace offers its own promotional tools. You’ll have to explore the tools offered in each one to get the most out of them.

So that’s it for my whistlestop tour of setting yourself up on Amazon, Kindle and Author Central as a self-published author. I hope some of the info presented here has been of some use. You can lurk on the KDP forums for other tasty nuggets of information.

And now to find something else to yak about. Laters ‘taters!

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 3)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 3 – Publishing an eBook via Amazon KDP

In part 2 I discussed how register for Amazon’s KDP service. Now I’ll go through the process of publishing an eBook.

For this recipe you should ideally have two ingredients: a finished and correctly formatted piece of work of which you are proud as punch, and a reasonably high-def cover image to stick on the front. (You can let Amazon apply a generic cover if you do not have one of your own. Your astonishing masterwork, however, will have to come from you.) (Unless you are Alexandre Dumas.)

By “correctly formatted” I mean that your book should conform to certain standards. eBook readers work best with consistent, well-formatted text because it is the reader that dictates the layout, not the author. Mark Z. Danielewski’s “House of Leaves” just won’t work here, unfortunately. In short: 1) you’ll need Microsoft Word or OpenOffice to create the text of your book; 2) you shouldn’t use umpteen spaces to “tab in” the start of paragraphs and dialogue, and 3) similarly you shouldn’t use umpteen carriage returns to demarcate a new chapter.

If you haven’t done so already I would download and read Smashwords’ Style Guide, because a book that conforms to the rules laid out there should also work pretty well on a Kindle. (And if not you’ll be 90% of the way there.) Amazon’s own guide is good (and shorter) if you only plan on releasing stuff on Kindle.

Leave a comment if you’d like a walkthrough of how I created my template in Microsoft Word.

Once you have your book correctly formatted you will need to save it as a Filtered Web Page. If your book contains images you will have to perform an additional step in creating a ZIP folder that contains both the webpage copy of your book and the image files. (If that sounds like gobbledegook see Amazon’s guide for more details.)

You are now ready to rock n’ roll. Go to the Bookshelf in your KDP dashboard and hit the Add New Title button. The process for publishing an eBook is spread over two pages, where you will be asked to complete assorted information about your book and how much you would like to charge.

Page 1: Section 1: You will be asked to provide all the pertinent information about your book: Title, Edition (used if you update your book with new content), blurb, book contributors (this is where you input the name of the author(s) – pseudonyms are allowed), language, publication date (if applicable), publisher (ditto) and ISBN (ditto). (Note: You don’t need an ISBN as Amazon will allocate an ASIN to your eBook.)

Page 1: Section 2: Here you declare that you own your book, or that the work is in the public domain.

Page 1: Section 3: Here you can define up to two predefined categories (e.g. Horror and Thriller) and seven free-text keywords that can help readers search for your book.

Page 1: Section 4: This is where you will upload your book cover. Images need to be big: at least 1000 pixels down the longest side and 1.6 times longer than they are wide. My cover for “The Buskers’ Union“, for example, was 1000 pixels wide by 1600 tall, which seemed to work well. Amazon recommends creating a cover that is 2500 pixels tall (1560 wide) for better quality. If you do not have a cover image then Amazon will create one for you. (You can always update your book with a different cover image later.)

Page 1: Section 5: This is where you can upload your book to Amazon and, combined with your cover image, have it all converted it into a single MOBI file. It is here where you can dictate any DRM options. (Sorry, I haven’t explored this area as I’m not a fan of DRM.)

Page 1: Section 6: The final section of this page is by far the coolest. Here, once Amazon has completed the conversion process, you can download a copy of your eBook! While the MOBI file you download may not be recognised by your computer, Amazon do provide links to download a Kindle simulator for both Windows and Mac. The simulator is very good as you can see how your eBook will appear not only on all generations of the Kindle but also the apps for iPad and iPhone. An online preview of your eBook is also provided in this section if you’d rather not download software.

Hitting the Save and Continue button will move onto the next, much shorter page. Alternatively you can save a draft if you’d like to spend time checking the eBook for formatting errors prior to publishing. (A wise move.)

Page 2: Section 7 – This is where you declare the geographic rights you possess for your work. You can select Worldwide rights (default) or individually select territories.

Page 2: Section 8 – Here you define the prices for your eBook. Anything $2.99 or over will grant you 70% royalties, which is very nice. Anything below that, down to $0.99, will attract 35% royalties instead. You can define individual prices for each Amazon Marketplace (US, UK, Germany, France etc) or have them all linked to the dollar price to save a lot of farting about.

Page 2: Section 9 – This is a simple tick box that lets you opt in your eBook for Kindle Book Lending.

Hitting Save and Publish on this page will start the publishing process and return you to your bookshelf. Your eBook should be listed as “In Review”, which means that it is working its way through Amazon’s assorted sausage machines. It says you should expect your eBook to appear between 24 and 48 hours, though in my experience “The Buskers’ Union” was “Live” in 8.

Now all you need to do is wait for the eBook to appear on Amazon, crack open the Vino Collapso and pat yourself on the back. You’re an author now! Congratulations!

Coming next in part 4: About Amazon’s Author Central.

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 2)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 2 – Joining Amazon KDP

In part 1 I discussed the merits and drawbacks of publishing your work through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) service. In this part I’ll discuss the process of joining KDP.

You can find Amazon’s KDP service via this link to their homepage. Alternatively look towards the bottom of most Amazon pages and you’ll see a link that says “Self-publish with us”.

Once on the homepage you can sign up to KDP using your existing Amazon account, which is a cinch. (I don’t believe there is anything to stop you creating another Amazon account if you wish to keep things separate.)

Once in you will be asked to complete a few details about yourself, such as name, address and phone number. Finally, on this same page, you can enter the details of a bank account for your royalties. (Amazon will send you a cheque each month subject to a minimum of £100/$100/€100 if you do not supply a bank account.)

UK authors should be aware that sort codes and account numbers won’t cut it here. Instead you will need your account’s IBAN number and your bank’s BIC code. Your IBAN will contain your sort code/account combination prefixed with a country code and some check digits. The BIC code is used to globally identify your bank. You can often find these details on your bank statement. If you bank online should be able to find your IBAN and BIC after some digging. (Look for anything that allows you to print a statement.) Failing that you can contact your bank.

UK authors should also note that providing a UK bank account will cover royalties for most Amazon marketplaces (currently UK, Germany, France, Spain and Italy), but not Amazon US. I think for the US marketplace you need to provide details of a US$ bank account, for which a UK bank may charge. (I think that’s a reasonable assumption to make in this day and age!) The alternative is to have Amazon send you a cheque, as mentioned earlier. Annoyingly this too will be in US$, and your bank will likely charge you a sizeable sum to pay it into your account. I sincerely hope this arrangement changes the more that Kindle catches on in the UK.

Finally, and this is absolutely crucial for non-US residents, make sure you don’t pay any unnecessary taxes. By default Amazon has to apply 30% withholding tax, payable to the IRS, on all royalties it pays to non-US residents. If that’s not bad enough authors then need to apply their own domestic income tax to whatever remains! Thankfully there is something you can do, but it requires a fair bit of legwork. A number of countries have a tax treaty in place with the US so that all or some of the withholding tax can be waived. You will need to apply for a US tax number, called an ITIN, and complete a form for each US-based publishing platform you intend to use. (I’ll cover this in a separate “General Setup” post as I’ve only recently started the process.)

So that’s the initial setup of KDP performed. Next we’ll move onto the fun stuff!

Coming next in part 3: Publishing an eBook via Amazon KDP.

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

Setting up as a self-published author on Amazon (Part 1)

Intro and disclaimer: I am a UK-based writer. I signed up to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing service during September 2012 with an aim to publish a selection of stories on Kindle and Kindle apps. These posts are aimed to describe the process I went through and shouldn’t be considered professional advice. This is the internet after all. Still, I hope you find it of use. Okay, let’s get stuck in.

Part 1 – About Kindle Direct Publishing

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is a service provided by Amazon that allows writers to publish their work on Kindles and Kindle apps for tablets and smartphones. Readers can then purchase and download said work to their device as they would any other eBook.

Authors using KDP can earn 70% royalties on works priced $2.99 or more. If the author drops the price below $2.99 then a royalty rate of 35% applies. The minimum price an author can charge is $0.99. By enrolling their work in the KDP Select program for 90 days authors can drop the price to zero for a total of 5 of those days, but they must grant Amazon exclusivity on that work during the 90 day period. Authors can enrol their work in KDP Select for another stint once the 90 day period ends, but any remaining free days will not carry over.

Once you have published work through KDP it will be listed on Amazon like any other book. (Believe me, few things beat seeing your debut book listed for the first time!) There are a number of benefits to this. For a start, now that you have published a book, you can build a profile on Amazon’s Author Central. (The “Visit Amazon’s Lucian Poll page” link around halfway down your book’s Amazon page.) Said book will also have its own ASIN number, which is similar to an ISBN but relative only to Amazon. Armed with an ASIN and a cover image you can then add your self-published books to sites such as Goodreads. This then helps you to change your Goodreads profile from a standard user to an author, which in turn allows you to promote your books on their site with the odd giveaway. (They have to be hard copies, though.)

Oh, and if you needed any further incentive to give Amazon’s KDP a try, it doesn’t cost a bean to publish a book. They will slice off their pound of flesh when you make a sale, but there are no monthly fees to worry about, and your book will stay available as long as Amazon sticks around, allowing you to become that overnight sensation thirty years in the making.

While I love the idea of Amazon KDP and the huge marketplace it presents, the minimum $0.99 price tag does make it harder to promote one’s work. On Smashwords, for example, authors can make the first novel of a trilogy permanently free and perhaps encourage readers to purchase the remaining books. On Kindle you can’t do that. Well, not really. A tactic some authors use is to list their title on Amazon for $0.99 and free on another platform, and then hope that Amazon price-matches the book down to zero. I’m not sure if this tactic still works, being new to this self-publishing game, but it’s curious how I keep seeing the same books in the Kindle Top 100 Free Books chart…

Finally, consider whether you will ever want to see your work in print. Publishers and agents may be less enthusiastic to represent your work if it has already been published. That said the industry is changing. Indie authors such as Amanda Hocking have found publishers more than happy to print her novels following strong sales of her eBooks, and more agents are turning into eBook publishers. If you are lucky you can let your sales do the talking!

Coming next in part 2: Joining KDP (and the potential arse-ache for UK authors!)

Final note: If you see anything that is incorrect in any of these pages please let me know. It’s not my intention to misinform!

The Story So Far

My last post elicited an interesting response from Eric J Baker. (Check him out. His neat short story ‘Worm‘ made me smile.) As I’m fairly early into the process of setting up Lucian Poll he suggested I perhaps posted about the experience. It was an idea that I had toyed with, especially if the ups and downs of my somewhat improvised approach can help others.

So why not? If anything it’ll help me keep track of the stuff that I still need to do!

This post is therefore a précis of what has gone before. I’ll expand on the finer details with less garrulous posts under a category called “Setting up”.

1. Writing some stories – I think that goes without saying! In truth, I feel I should have perhaps written more stories before setting up this blog, but that’s what the winter months will be for. As it stands I have three short stories that are finished, three that are in progress, umpteen ideas still to get onto paper, and then there is the plot outline for the novel which I continue to flesh out. There’s a bit to be getting on with, anyway.

2. Maintaining a web presence – I chose a handful of sites, services and social networks that I hoped would help me build a presence on the web that could, in turn, lead to a few readers for my stories. I’ve likened these sites to spinning plates: I don’t want too many of them otherwise they’ll encroach on all the other things I need to do, namely writing!

With regards to social networking I have set up accounts with Facebook and Twitter, along with profiles on the forums of a few well-respected fiction magazines, such as Cemetery Dance. For publicity I’ve created an account with Goodreads, Amazon’s Author Central, and this blog on WordPress, plus I also purchased a domain name to help keep my address short and easy to remember. For the actual publishing side of things I have an account with Kindle Direct Publishing, and another with SmashWords so that I can hit other eBook platforms, such as the Apple Bookstore, Kobo, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and so on. Finally I have an account with NaNoWriMo for moral support as I tackle writing the novel in November! (Do lurk!)

I’ll talk about each of these in dedicated posts as some, especially Kindle Direct Publishing and Smashwords, aren’t so simple for non-US writers such as yours truly.

3. K.B.O. – Which stands for Keep Buggering On! That is to say: Read! Write! Post! Blog! Don’t lose sight of what you are trying to achieve and, above all else, try to enjoy it. Unless you’re writing misery-lit, of course.

Okay, that’s a quick run through where I’ve been to get to this stage. I’ll add a few more posts shortly with more detail about self-publishing on Amazon, and the travails of a UK-based writer. The whole web presence thing is still a little rough around the edges so I’ll post other odds and sods as I iron them out.

Hope this helps!