1. Epubbing

What is an epubber? Continuum, creative control

2. Your Book

Editing, elements, experience and friends

3. Pathways

Choosing a pathway, retailers, distributors, strategies

4. Formats

File formats, epubs, Linux and LibreOffice

5. Structure

Front, body, end matter for ebooks

6. Covers

Creating a cover, channel requirements

7. Details

ISBNs, payments, tax issues compared

8. Promotion

Promotion, pricing and possibilities

9. Resources

Epubbing Pathways table, antipodean issues, blogs, links

7. The Details

The Turning Tide
  1. Using ISBNs
  2. Getting Paid
  3. Tax Affairs
  4. Summary Table
  5. Digital Rights Management

1. Using ISBNs

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.

But if you want to create your own publishing imprint for your work, as I did with Seabooks Press, then you'll probably want to get your own ISBNs.

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.

2. Getting Paid

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.

3. Tax Affairs

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.

The bottom line is that for most US channels you simply submit a W-8BEN form and then everything should be fine.

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.

5. Summary Table

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?

6. Digital Rights Management

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.

Where to Now?

The next step is finding out how to get the news of your book out to the world. Go to 8. Promotion.