If you are not a US author, self-publishing has some hurdles to jump before you are paid book royalties
International self-publishing has a number of financial, legal and logistical obstacles to overcome before you can expect to make money from ebook and book sales.
For those authors who are new to, or considering self-publishing for the first time, there are important issues you need to consider, some traps to avoid and some extra international hurdles to leap.
To avoid considerable frustration and wasting both your time and money, here are some of the major points that you should consider and understand before plunging into self-publishing from outside the US.
Can You Self-Publish Everywhere?
Not all self-publishing platforms allow international self-publishing authors to use their services. For example, Nook Press, which is the self-publishing platform of US-based Barnes & Noble, restricts access to only a very few countries. This is from their website.
NOOK Press is currently for authors and publishers in the following countries: US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, The Netherlands, and Belgium.
The vast majority of self-publishing companies are US-based platforms, and some offer very limited, or indeed no access at all to international authors. So before considering a platform, check this basic point in the fine print before you do anything else.
Withholding Tax For Authors
Withholding tax is undoubtedly the biggest trap for non-US self-publishers.
To avoid having between 30% to 50% of your book royalty based income deducted due to international tax laws and agreements with the US, you will need to get a US Taxpayer Identification Number, (TIN).
You also need to live in a country that has a tax treaty with the US. In some cases, you can use your local business identifier number if you are registered for one in your country.
There is a lot of information regarding this topic in the account sections of the popular self-publishing sites, but they all make it sound like a difficult process.
From bitter experience, I can tell you that the first time I tried, it became a paper nightmare, as I sent off my application to the IRS in the US, only to have it come back rejected.
There are so many regulations regarding what is considered as valid ID, as well as translation and language difficulties from different countries that it can be a very hit or miss affair, and often a lot of wasted time.
Luckily, however, some years ago when I tried again, I read this post by Merita King, a UK author, who had found an easier way to get a TIN. She simply called the IRS and asked for it. I did the same and had my TIN in five minutes.
Unfortunately, Amazon, Smashwords and other sites do not give you such simple advice. Perhaps they are not permitted to do so by US law, but it does prove that asking the advice of others is very often far more rewarding.
Google Search and social media are valuable resources in getting the information you need for this and many other issues that you will have to confront.
You can find out more about how to avoid reduced rate royalties, read the Amazon tax information for non-US publishers.
How Will You Get Paid For Your Book Sales?
This is where the wheels can really fall off your dreams of making money from self-publishing.
There are so many restrictions, limits and methods of payment, which differ enormously from one service provider to another regarding book royalties.
Just because you sell some books, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will get paid for them anytime soon.
Draft2Digital pay monthly on balances over $10.00. Both are simple, easy to understand and as they are aggregators, it is for all sales made through all the sales channels they service.
Kindle Direct Publishing divides sales royalties into each one of twelve individual stores. Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, Amazon.fr, Amazon.es, Amazon.it, Amazon.co.jp, Amazon.in, Amazon.ca, Amazon.com.br, Amazon.com.mx and Amazon.com.au.
For each of these stores, you need to accrue US$100 in sales income (or the equivalent in the currency of the individual store, eg Euro100) to be eligible for your royalty payment by checks from each individual store.
For some countries, however, it is possible to have your payments made electronically into your bank account, and this negates the $100 limit. So even small amounts of a few dollars will be paid into your account monthly.
If you live in a country that is not eligible for electronic payment from KDP however, you could be waiting years and years to accumulate enough sales from say, Amazon.fr, to reach Euro100. This is in my mind very unfair.
The only way around this problem is to remove your ebooks from all Kindle stores other than the US and then hope that your ebook buyers can access the US Kindle store.
Createspace is Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing arm for paperback self-publishing. See the update note at the end of this article.
Its payment criteria is similar to KDP but divided into only three divisions: US, UK and Europe. Again, there is a $100, £100 or Euro100 sales barrier to break before you get paid by check.
While Createspace does offer electronic payment, the list of countries that can do so is far more limited than with KDP. In my case in Switzerland, I do receive electronic payments from KDP, but
I am not eligible to receive them from Createspace.
As you can see from my current sales report on Createspace above, I could be waiting for years to accrue enough sales to get paid for my UK and European sales. Note: Createspace now finally pays by EFT in my country!
Another issue with payment by check is that you will also have to pay bank fees to clear your check from Amazon, which is yet another financial penalty on non-US authors.
As with all things self-publishing, read the fine print. KDP and Createspace are both Amazon companies, but they have very different rules when it comes to getting paid.
Publishing Print On Demand Paperbacks
If you are thinking about publishing in paperback, you may think that it is an inexpensive way to produce your book and have hard copies available for you to sell either locally or online.
On average, it will cost you between US$2.50 to US$4.00 per copy from a provider such as KDP, Lulu or Blurb.
However, when you place your order, you will immediately see that the postage cost for your books is equal to or above your cost per copy. This does not take into account possible customs duties levied by your own country that you may have to pay upon delivery.
This can mean that your books might cost you upwards of US$12-14 per copy by the time they get to you. On top of this, delivery times can be up to two months if you use the most economical postage rate.
These are many self-publishing platforms and service providers, and I have only covered a few key points and the three major publishing companies.
But before jumping into self-publishing, do your research first and look for the answers to these key questions before deciding on which avenue is best for you.
Questions for non-US self-publishing authors.
Am I eligible to publish?
Will I have withholding tax deducted from my book royalties?
Will I have to pay local income tax and bank fees?
Do I need a Tax Identification Number or EIN?
How, when and how often will I get paid?
Should I publish ebooks only?
Should I publish paperback POD?
As with any new business venture, do your homework and research first.
Ask questions of people online, and make sure you read the Terms and Conditions of each service provider carefully before you click the publish button.
Update: Createspace has now been merged into Amazon KDP. Read more here: CreateSpace books are moving to Kindle Direct Publishing.