An ISBN is an International Standard Book Number, which is the global standard for identifying titles. Each version of a book, print or digital, usually gets its own ISBN because most retailers require them to track book inventory.
Some of the channels give ISBNs out for free, but those numbers are forever associated with those particular entities – however that doesn't give them any rights at all over your work, it's still yours.
And in what must be a first for Australian writers, we have a win: the Australian purchasing system for ISBN numbers is cheaper than in the US! For a US author to buy a single ISBN is US$125, but for Australians to buy a group of ten is only AU$84, or around US$62.
Australians can get them at Thorpe-Bowker Identification Services. When you're ready to publish something, select one of your unused ISBNs and put it on the ebook's Copyright page (or make a note of it to enter during the submission phase). Then go to the Thorpe-Bowker page and enter the ISBN and the details of the book just before you actually publish.
So how important is actually having an ISBN? It's essential for print works, but interestingly, AuthorEarnings.com reports that more than 33% of all ebooks sold in the US each year have no ISBN, so it's clearly less essential for ebooks.
The Big Four retailers don't supply ISBNs but assign their own identifiers, or let you bring your own ISBN. So if you want to define your own epublishing imprint, BYO. If you're happy to have your channel as the publisher of record then use their freebies. If you want to, pay those folk who charge for theirs.
Most channels pay authors via Paypal, some through EFT or direct bank deposit. US authors also have a check/cheque option, but that usually has a higher threshold before payment than the other methods. The table below lists the frequency and main means of getting paid by each epublisher.
They all have very different thresholds before a payment is triggered off, and most don't pay until after 75-90 days have passed. Then some pay quarterly after that, some monthly, and if you're earning lots, one even pays weekly.
I assume most Americans are well-acquainted with their own tax system and know what to do. It's more difficult for international authors, for whom most US channels must retain 30% of any earnings, unless they live in a country with a tax treaty with the US and supply the channel with a declaration of non-American status.
That declaration is a W-8BEN form, or Certificate of Foreign Status of Beneficial Owner for United States Tax Withholding and Reporting (Individuals) and Australia has such a tax treaty with the US, though sadly 5% is still retained. The W-8BEN form isn't too difficult despite its daunting appearance: essentially you must state your name, address, date of birth, foreign tax file number ( Australian TFN), and declare you are a foreign resident.
The form has fields for 'US taxpayer identification number' (line 5) and 'Foreign tax identifying number' (line 6) and the guide on the IRS site says clearly: To claim certain treaty benefits, you must complete line 5 by submitting an SSN or ITIN [Individual Taxpayer Identification Number], or line 6 by providing a foreign tax identification number (foreign TIN).
Note the "or line 6", and indeed, KDP has an online form which lets you enter just a foreign TFN, rather than demanding an ITIN. Smashwords wants you to print out the W-8BEN form and post it to them, but they also say it's a matter of "or", they don't insist on an ITIN. Pronoun, Draft2Digital, Lulu and eBookIT only ask for a completed W-8BEN to be sent to them.
However, Booktango states you have to apply for an ITIN first and enter it on your W-8BEN. But according to the IRS quote above you don't need the ITIN if you already have a foreign TFN.
Some channels have online submission, others are happy with a scanned email form, others want a paper form. Here's a great article explaining how and why all this confusion over foreign tax exemption requirements has arisen.
|Channel||Cover Size (pixels)||Cover Format||ISBN||Payments||W-8BEN Form|
|KDP||1563 x 2500||jpg, tif||Own ID or BYO||Monthly, EFT||Fill in online|
|iBooks||1600 x 2400||jpg, png||Own ID or BYO||Monthly||Send form|
|Nook||1333 x 2000||jpg, tif||Own ID or BYO||Monthly, EFT||Send form|
|Kobo||1600 x 2400||jpg, png||Own ID or BYO||Monthly, EFT||Send form|
|Pronoun||1600 x 2400||jpg, tif, png, pdf||Free or BYO||Quarterly, Paypal||No need!|
|Booktango||1400 x 2100||jpg, tif, gif||Free, no BYO option||Quarterly, EFT||Wants ITIN (incorrectly)|
|Smashwords||1600 x 2400||jpg, png||Free or BYO||Quarterly, Paypal||Post form|
|Draft2Digital||1600 x 2400||jpg||Free or BYO||Quarterly, Paypal||Send form|
|Lulu||612 x 792 (?)||jpg||Free or BYO||Monthly, Paypal||Email form|
|eBookIT||1659 x 2500||jpg, tif, png, etc||Free in package||Monthly, Paypal||Email form|
|BookBaby||1400 x 2100||jpg, tif, png||$US29 or BYO||Weekly, Paypal||Send form|
|IngramSpark||1600 x 2560||jpg||US$125||Monthly, Paypal||Who knows?|
From Wikipedia: DRM schemes are access control technologies used to restrict usage of proprietary hardware and copyrighted works, but the use of DRM is not universally accepted. Proponents argue it is necessary to prevent intellectual property from being copied, that it can help the copyright holder maintain artistic control, and that it can ensure continued revenue streams.
Those opposed to DRM contend there is no evidence that it helps prevent copyright infringement, arguing instead that it serves only to inconvenience legitimate customers, and helps big business stifle innovation and competition. Smashword's Mark Coker argues the non-DRM side convincingly. Amazon and the other channels now offer the option not to use DRM.
The next step is finding out how to get the news of your book out to the world. Go to 8. Promotion.