I’ve avoided posting self-publishing tips on this blog because I don’t want to get bogged down with a bunch of technical posts, and there are already lots of blogs out there that cover the subject. But self-publishing from Canada has its own quirks, and I had to look all over the place to figure some of this stuff out. I thought it might be helpful to put all this info into one monster post.
So this one goes out to any fellow Canucks out there who are thinking about going indie.
For the most part, distributing your book from Canada is the same as it would be from the US. Here’s my current distribution setup:
Amazon KDP: Used to add Kindle version to all iterations of Amazon that carry Kindle products
Amazon Createspace: Used to add paperback version to Amazon.com
Smashwords: Used to add ebook version to all other major online retailers (B&N, Apple, Kobo, etc.)
Now, there are some differences from publishing in the US. For example, many indie writers like to use the Barnes & Nobles PubIt! platform to publish with them directly instead of going through Smashwords, but you can only have an account with B&N if you live in the US.
Of course, if you live in Canada, you probably want your book to be available on Canadian websites as well. Createspace offers an Expanded Distribution option for $25 that will list your paperback on Amazon.ca. But be warned: the royalty share for this option is really low.
As far as Canadian ebook distribution goes, you can manage this through Smashwords. They already publish your ebook to iTunes.ca and Kobo through their Premium Catalog program. Kobo has recently opened up their own publishing platform, and their royalty share program is very competitive, but it looks like they only pay out if your balance is over $100, which can take a while in the beginning.
Getting into Canadian bookstores:
Let’s face it. The Chapters/Indigo/Coles conglomerate is the biggest game in town. If you want to be carried in their stores, you will have to approach them as you would an independent bookstore for a consignment deal: one store at a time. Trust me, I have worked for this company for 10 years (at stores and Home Office). If you simply send a copy of your self-published book to Indigo’s Home Office in the hopes Heather Reisman will read it, you will most likely be disappointed.
This isn’t anything against Heather or the company. It’s just that you will be competing with a crazy amount of book samples from traditional publishers, who already have huge catalogues and a strong working relationship with Indigo. Also, the print book business isn’t getting any bigger. Dedicated shelf space for books is slowly being taken over by gift or toy product. With limited space at a premium, it’s even more difficult for a self-published author to worm their way in.
I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you will probably be limited to a consignment deal. This means you have to form a relationship and contract with each store, and take responsibility for providing inventory and picking up returns. So far, I’ve avoided this option, but I might change my mind at some point.
Self-published books that do well in bookstores are usually local interest titles. For example, the Camp X books by Lynn Phillip Hodgson started off on a consignment basis at the Oshawa and Ajax Chapters stores, which are local to the setting of the books, and grew in popularity from there.
Getting an ISBN:
In the US, you usually have to purchase an ISBN (unless a distributor provides you one for no cost), but in Canada, ISBNs are free.
First, you will need to register as a publisher. You can do this either under your own name, or a company name, if you have one. After your initial setup is complete, you will be assigned a publisher prefix that will be inserted into all your ISBNs to identify you as the publisher. You can sign up, request ISBNs and manage them here.
These ISBNs can be used when you add your book to Amazon, Smashwords, etc. Remember: The print version of your book must have a different ISBN from the ebook version. For more details on the nuts and bolts of ISBNs, check out this Wikipedia article.
Registering a copyright for your book:
Whether or not you decide to register a copyright is totally up to you. Many writers have debated this point online, and I’m sure you can find lots of related blog posts if you decide to look, so I’m not going to get into that debate.
But if you do decide to register a copyright, you can do it here. Each title you register will cost $50, and you can register either before or after you publish.
Ordering copies of your paperback from Createspace:
I learned this one the hard way. When you order copies of your paperback from Createspace, you have two shipping options: Standard and Priority. If you are ordering multiple copies of your book, you should probably choose Standard.
When you order multiple copies of your book in a single shipment, the postal services slap a surprise import/customs fee onto your shipping cost, charging you when they arrive at your door. This can really add up (especially on top of the higher Priority shipping option), and prevent your order from being delivered if you’re not around to pay the charges with cash (in exact change) or cheque.
The import fees don’t seem to apply when you order your proof copy (which makes me think there is some kind of weight threshold involved). I usually order my proof copy by Priority, and budget my time to ship my bulk orders by Standard.
Getting a US tax ID (ITIN):
Just for the record: I am not a tax lawyer or expert. I’m only sharing information based on my own experience.
When you get paid by your US distributors (Smashwords, Amazon KDP/CreateSpace, etc.), they withhold 30% of your earnings (in addition to their royalty cut) as tax. To get around this, you need a tax ID from the IRS. Then you can collect 100% of your earnings, but you will still need to report them on your Canadian income tax just like any other income you receive.
The IRS is going through some changes between June-December 2012 with the ITIN process, so it has become more difficult to get one now than it was when I got mine, but it’s still possible. You will need to apply by sending an original ID document (usually your passport), and you must apply yourself, not via an acceptance agent.
Here are some helpful links:
W-7 Application (This is what you submit to the IRS.)
Createspace Letter Template (You must send a completed version with your W-7.)
W-8BEN Form (This is what you submit to Createspace, Amazon KDP, Smashwords, etc. with your new ITIN from the IRS so they will stop withholding your royalties.)
Createspace W-8BEN Info (Where to mail your completed form.)
Smashwords W-8BEN Info (Where to mail your completed form.)
Amazon KDP W-8BEN Info (Where to mail your completed form.)
And here are some general form tips:
W-7: For Canadians, the Treaty Country is Canada, and the Treaty Article Number is Article 12 (XII).
Createspace Letter Template: The ‘To’ section should include your first and last name, and Createspace Member ID. (You can find your Createspace Member ID on your Createspace Member Dashboard, just below the orange ‘Member Dashboard’ header.)
Receiving direct payments from the US:
Smashwords pays royalties via Paypal, but Amazon will only send you a cheque if you don’t have a bank account inside the US, UK, or Europe. (Even then, your balance must be at least $100 for Amazon to pay you.)
If you have a bank account in the US, you get paid monthly as long as your balance is $10 or more, which is a much better option. I use RBC. (Remember: The account you need is not just a US currency account, but one that is with a branch that is physically in the US.)
I opened three RBC accounts:
Canadian USD Savings Account: I use this to accept US funds via Paypal.
US Checking Account: I use this to to accept direct deposits from the US.
Canadian Savings Account: I use this to filter money in and out of the other two accounts. (I don’t use the Savings account very often since I usually write myself cheques from my US account instead. You might find a different Canadian currency account works better for your banking needs.)
You can link all your RBC accounts online and move your money to or from the US very easily. I opened my accounts in person at a local branch, and they were very helpful for setting everything up. To open the US Checking Account, I needed two pieces of ID and a $100 deposit to transfer into the new account. (Not sure if this policy is still the same.)
Whew! This was an epic post. Hopefully, someone out there will find this info helpful. If you have any questions, let me know!
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