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Category: amazon

>White December

>I tried to write this post already but it turned into a desperately miserable piece so I’m trying again.  🙂

Last month of the year and I’m already trying to plan next year.  I’m not great with plans.  Hopefully ROW80 will help me focus a little – I’m still trying to figure out what my plans are for Round One.  I know what I should do but that’s never fun.  🙂 

I’m working on a best of 2010 post, my indie picks of the year.  It’s hard because I can’t mention everyone (not sure I still have everything I read) and there are lots that stood out to me even if there are technically better written books.  It’s all personal opinion and I rarely recommend books so take what you want out of it.   Some writers don’t get enough credit and deserve a mention so I might make an Amazon list.  I read a lot of different genres so right now, it’s looking like an extreme mish-mash.  I kind of want to wait to include my December reads – if there’s any.

Amazon’s novel contest is almost upon us.  January 24th, I think.  I had plans on entering but now I’m not so sure.  I was thinking about working on a y/a novel I have – not that I expect to win but it’s nice to be part of the contest – but looking at my newest release . . . let’s just say, I’m doubting myself.  For good reason.  I love ABNA, last year I lurked on the discussion board and it was fun to see so many writers take risks and come up with new ideas.  A couple of Irish writers made it past a round or two so I had people to root for.  🙂  This year, there will probably be more writers I kinda sorta know entering which is cool.

Indie sales in November were fantastic for a lot of people by the way.  More indies made it into Amazon’s bestsellers list.  I wasn’t around this time last year but I know people think fondly of January ’10 because of record sales, it will be interesting to see how the next few months compare, especially with the new gifting feature.  Ha, now I know what I’m getting everyone for Christmas – sorry, family.  😉

It’s snowing still and that means the schools are closed, there isn’t enough grit for the roads, people have a better excuse than normal not to go to work, and the wait for the next Budget isn’t as bad as it should be because we’re all so busy worrying about the cold.  Heating bills are going to be a killer and the Budget is going to screw most of us.  But sure, at least we’re all fecked together.  🙂

I got a cheque from Amazon but they taxed half of it and my bank will probably charge the same amount for cashing it but at least it looks pretty.  LOL.  Looking for upsides in everything right now.  *Cheesy grin*  Really need to sort out the tax thing.  Next year.  *Nods*

I need to move somewhere warm and nice, oh, and cheap.  Any suggestions?

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>Amazon Updates

>Big changes at Amazon.  Tomorrow marks the beginning of the new 70% royalty rate structure at Amazon.  The DTP dashboard has been totally revamped and the option to opt in to the new contract is now available.  Expect a lot of disruption over the next month as people struggle to figure things.  First impressions of the new dashboard and reports – meh.  Doesn’t look great, slightly confusing and has no monthly grand total as of yet so will take some getting used to.  I’m not really interested in weekly sales but I’m sure we’ll settle in with it eventually.

The new structure has been in beta mode for some writers.  Reports had been coming that were panicking a lot of authors.  Rumours were trickling in that pricing discounts on other sites could make Kindle books ineligible for the new royalty rate and worse, that the books would be removed altogether.  This has already happened to some people so many are at panic stations and I’m pretty certain lots of books have been pulled from Smashwords.  Or at least attempted to – the site seems to be down right now. 

There seems to be some automatic trigger regarding pricing disparity but from responses people are claiming to have received from Amazon, it will all be worked out in the end.  I personally can’t see Amazon locking in writers in that way – it would mean we all have to stop distributing to other ebook stores in case they happened to discount our books.  It would be silly of Amazon to try this so I’m hoping it isn’t the case. 

So far, all the changes have done is cause disruption and chaos – and it hasn’t officially started yet.  Here’s hoping it settles down soon.  I’m not raising prices on anything I have on Kindle so it doesn’t really affect me as yet.  Except when all products are unavailable to buy, that is!  I hope people give both Amazon and Smashwords a chance to work everything out.  I’d hate to see Smashwords disrupted because of Amazon’s actions.

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>IRS Complications

>Smashwords have updated their information on withholding tax from non U.S. resident writers.  It seems aimed  at making things as complicated as possible.  Smashwords have said they were told you need a signed letter on Smashwords letterheaded paper to attach to a W-7 form.  (You tick options a and h and say that you are selling books with a U.S. distributor.)  This coincides with one IRS “help” documentation I’ve read but not another.  According to Amazon, all you need to attach is a copy of their terms & conditions, the date you registered your dtp account and links to your books on Amazon.  Although the Smashwords method sounds time consuming, it also sounds more legit.  I’m not 100% certain but I think you have to accumulate enough payments on Smashwords to cash out before you can apply for the headed letter for free.

Also worth noting that the IRS busy period is coming to an end at the end of April.  They have stated they won’t look at W-7 forms until May but we’re just there.  Don’t forget the notarised copy of your identification.  It can take 8-10 weeks to receive a reply from the IRS assigning you an ITIN.  Once you receive this, you can fill out a W8-BEN form with the ITIN and then send this off to Smashwords and Amazon so they are in a position to end withholding.  If you don’t do any of us then you’ll be paying a withholding tax of 30%.  Lots of countries have tax treaties with the U.S. – Ireland’s treaty provides a 0% tax rate on these earnings.  Although Smashwords seem to be making out that it isn’t worth your while, it all depends on what you’re earning and how much you’ll stand to lose.

It is quite a bit of hassle and there is a small chance that Smashwords will work some magic on the IRS and work out some sort of deal but I wouldn’t pin my hopes on it.  Thankfully, Smashwords are willing to defer payments in order to give people time to sort out the tax issues.  I don’t think Amazon do this but their payout limit is at a much higher amount than Smashwords because they will only pay overseas authors by cheque. 

There are quite a few Irish writers who are self publishing ebooks, not to mention those from the U.K. and beyond.  We’re all bound to go through this ITIN mess – nobody tells you about that before you start!  It would be so much easier if we could supply through a European office that could handle the IRS but until somebody comes up with a reasonably uncomplicated solution, we’re all stuck with the above methods.  Part of the problem is the relatively new process of self publishing ebooks.  There aren’t many precedents in place.  It’s changing things slowly but some things are slower than others.

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>Distribution, Taxes and Dreams

>Smashwords have been busy distributing.  This month shipments have gone to both Apple and Barnes & Nobles.  Dates have been listed for all other shipments bar Amazon although the Sony one seems to be getting delayed.  I joined Smashwords last month so my manuscripts were included in a shipment to Kobo although I don’t know how that figures in with actually appearing on their website.  I’m in no hurry, it’s nice to see how things are working – and the fact that they are in fact working is reassuring. 

A lot of people have been wondering why they should opt in on the distribution with Amazon when they are already in the Kindle Store.  I’m almost certain that I read a great reason why we should but I can’t for the life of me find it again.  I’m sure if it was true that it will reappear before the first shipment to Amazon. 

In the updates section on Smashwords, they mention making the subject of tax for those outside of the U.S. easier.  Possibly they are considering giving some kind of guidance.  That would be absolutely fantastic because my head is melted from it and it is necessary to obtain an ITIN before Smashwords (and other places) can pay out.  You have to fill out a W7 form to apply for one if you live outside of the U.S. which isn’t actually too bad if you ignore the help on the IRS website.  Seriously. 

The main problem is that the U.S. don’t accept these forms at any old time, next opening appears to be May and you need your identification notarised.  It seems like I can do this at the U.S. embassy in Ireland for 30 dollars but I’m still not positive all of that is exactly the process.  I am confuddled so a bit of a step by step easy to understand guide would be incredibly superific.  The more I read on the subject, the more confused I become especially when most of the things I have read have pretty much conflicted with each other. It can’t possibly be that complicated.

It is at times like this when I wish everything wasn’t so U.S. based.  A European version of Amazon’s DTP and Smashwords would make things a lot simpler.  That whole UK Kindle Store that was promised would be a bonus too.  If I win the lotto I’m so setting up a European competitor.  🙂

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>Get Up, Stand Up

>The reactions to the new Agency Pricing thing have been great.  Most people are annoyed enough to talk about doing something about it, be it complaining to the publisher, switching completely to indies or going back to the libraries and second hand shops.  I know that in the end most of us will suck it up and accept it but these publishers have done themselves a long term disservice.  Although their plan seems to include diminishing the lure of Ebooks in general, they have made themselves come across as greedy.  A lot of people are noting who these publishers are and many of them are planning on buying secondhand books rather than a new paperback/hardcover so the publisher won’t benefit. 

Amazon has made it easier to pinpoint the culprits by stating those books have their “Price set by publisher” and adding the new price into a different column, i.e. not Amazon’s price column anymore.  This was the perfect reaction by Amazon in my opinion.  Without much fuss, they have given their customers an opportunity to be mad at the publishers and it is now much easier to tell which books are complying with Agency Pricing and which lights in the darkness are not.  I’ve heard a lot of indies mention an influx of sales this weekend.  That could be accounted to the long weekend but maybe it isn’t.  Maybe the cheaper, non-big publishing houses and indies are getting the business the others would have received this weekend had they been a bit more sensible on the pricing issue.

People are going to keep buying Ebooks, particularly with so many different options on the market in terms of Ereaders.  We haven’t all spent a big chunk of cash upfront to pay more for an Ebook than a hard copy.  So books will be bought and fortunately, there are plenty of people more than willing to sell books for a reasonable price.  The rise of Ebooks is unlikely to be squashed this time, both readers and writers have invested too much time and money to scurry back under a rock.  The Big Six have taken themselves out of the game momentarily but I’m thinking that they are thinking too much of themselves.  They might be good at sniffing out the occasional commercial success but they have lost touch with the most important people, the readers.  Big mistake.

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>Submitting to Amazon – Part One

>I wrote about the Smashwords submissions so I suppose I should add what happens on Amazon too. It looks more professional than Smashwords but the time it takes to be approved even for additional updates is quite annoying. This makes it hard to have a simultaneous release on both sites. Smashwords is easier to use and from what I’ve heard about the emails people have gotten from Amazon when their book has been refused, it’s harder to tell why it hasn’t been accepted. Personally, I felt that the process at Smashwords was easier but I’m sure lots of people prefer Amazon.

Submitting an Ebook to Amazon’s Kindle is relatively simple using Amazon’s Digital Text Platform (DTP). You create an account (or use your existing Amazon account) and go to your dashboard. It’s actually called My Shelf and any books or drafts you have remain here to be updated or removed whenever you like. Once you have fully uploaded a book, it takes a couple of days to be accepted and then another day or two to go live. Every time you edit a book here, it takes the same amount of time to go back on sale again which is a little irritating.

There are no real guidelines on DTP so you have to be aware of what looks professional and what doesn’t. Assuming your book is ready to be published, you need to fill out the Product Description first of all. You need a title, a description and the name/s of the author/s. It’s great that you can add author’s names to this very easy – handy if it was a collaboration. The actual description isn’t obligatory but it fills in for a blurb so use it and make it work for you.

Next up, you fill in the name of the publisher, the ISBN, the publishing date and the language. It is not necessary to fill in a publisher’s name or an ISBN which is handy for those of us who have neither. Keywords and categories are the next requirements. Be sensible, be relevant and don’t go overboard. You can now add an Edition Number, a Series Title and a Series Volume but again, you don’t have to.

Finally you choose your DRM options and upload an image. You either enable or disable Digital Rights Management. I didn’t choose to enable it. The image is your book cover – obviously. Use a decent cover and try to resize it like a Smashwords cover, as in book size. There is very little in the way of guidance on Amazon which I feel is silly because they should help those who aren’t in the know create the best product they can.

Once you are happy with all of the above, you click save entries and it automatically takes you to the next step.

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>Smashwords Premium Catalog

>Today, I noticed that my book, A Little Girl in my Room & Other Stories was accepted into Smashwords Premium Catalog. I was surprised by how quickly that happened, I had been expecting to wait for weeks and I didn’t think I would be accepted without making some changes. I had planned to list that particular book as free on Smashwords but I was under the impression it had to have a list price in order to be accepted to the Premium Catalog but I’ll have to double check that now. Take a quick look at how Smashwords distributes Ebooks for a little more information.

The Premium Catalog is basically a list of Ebooks that are sent to some major online retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Sony and Kobo. The requirements seem to be based on formatting and including a correct copyright page but I’m not sure if the books are reviewed manually or not before they are accepted onto this catalog. Now, what happens to the books after they reach these retailers is another thing, it could take months to actually be listed on their site and I’m not even sure if this is guaranteed but I don’t think it hurts to be part of this especially if the buzz around Ebooks continues to grow.

If you update your book, you may have to be reviewed again to remain a part of the Premium Catalog. Likewise, if the formatting requirements are altered in any way, then books that don’t update to include these changes could be taken off this list. It’s worth keeping an eye on.

I think some people might be wary of Smashwords overall. But, personally, I’ve found it slightly more author friendly than say Amazon. The rules are clearer and the royalty rates contrast drastically in Smashwords’ favour. Of course, Smashwords doesn’t have the huge client base that Amazon boasts but I imagine that a lot of the people who self publish ebooks on Smashwords support their peers here. People who are specifically looking for cheap or free Ebooks are more likely to have success on Smashwords than Amazon.

On that note, Amazon’s policies and rules are very unclear. My book was approved for Amazon too but I updated it to contain the changes I made specifically for Smashwords. I thank Smashwords for that learning curve because a lot of their common sense formatting rules were things that I hadn’t even thought of. My book looks much better than before because they had a set list of requirements. As opposed to Amazon – I’m not even sure why my book was accepted in the first place or why the price was increased dramatically. Still, the whole process has been an interesting one and it will (hopefully) make things easier for me when it is time for a full length novel of mine to appear.

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