‘Three Steps’ – Repost with comments

Hard copy proofing never seems to end. One of the non-fiction books I am working on at the moment is so complex to create (even though I am working in InDesign) that I keep having daymares that I’m going to miss grammar, spelling, numbering and style mistakes. Nearly every sentence of the book has a Xhosa word. I don’t speak isiXhosa. The author and I are currently going through the process of hard copy proofing and correcting, outlined in the latter half of the post below. When we are done, the 2nd edition of AmaZizi: The Dlamini of Southern Africa will be a book to be proud of.

Three Steps – (Sep 16, 2014)

Three steps were taken in my journey to recognised authorhood in the last 24 hours. Only one was taken by me. The other two were propelled by Keg1901 and Anonymous.

Keg1901, bless her heart, wrote a review of Cheery Red – and gave it five stars. This is harder to achieve than some people might imagine, because getting reviews that are from people unknown to a new author, that are not paid for, is mostly random luck. You can ask people to post a review but they mostly don’t. Getting 5 stars when you didn’t ask for it or pay for it? That’s magical.

Anonymous paid $4.00 for Cheery Red, leaving me as gobsmacked as the first payment, because $4.00 is a lot of money for a 20 A5 page story. Anonymous must really have liked it. I am just as thrilled.

Thank you, Keg1901 and Anonymous.

Step number three was completed this afternoon. I finally managed to get the print version [of Innerone] ready for the printer.

If you are an author or in the publishing business, you will know that e-mailing the file is the start of the hard copy proofreading, not the actual printing of the book.

The process is as follows:

Once you’ve approved the quote for the print run, the printer sends you a hard copy of the text, pages folded in sections, for a format proof reading. The proofreader or publisher or author or all three go over the text carefully, checking for format errors – the wrong spacing, missing pages, text repeats, page numbers, font size or type mistakes etc. Text errors like spelling and grammar should have been sorted by this time, but usually more are spotted and corrected at this time.

Aside from the above, I make sure that the imposition is correct – that the proofs are aligned correctly on the page, that the headers are in line, that the spacing around the text is adequate, that the pages are cropped straight. If your book is skew, it’s not a quality, bookshop worthy item.

You then correct and sign-off errors that you found with the author (one and the same in this instance) and send the new hard copy to the printer. This usually happens a couple times. The cover is done at the same time; and again, all cover items are checked for accuracy, including the all important spine width. Get that wrong and your entire cover goes out of whack.

One of my big worries, using an overseas company to do print-on-demand (postage from South Africa is prohibitively expensive) for possible overseas orders, is that they’ll print the book any which way, knowing that their clients are too far away to oversee the printing quality; and that my reputation will suffer as a result. Ah well. I’ve chosen IngramSpark for that and we will see how good their print quality is, should I receive overseas orders for the book.

What to check for in hard copy and on the cover are detailed topics deserving blog posts of their own.

In the meantime, tonight, I am celebrating those three steps by writing this blog.

Knock Me Sideways

Breaking news:

Holey Gamoley, people!

An anonymous person just chose to pay $10.00 for Cheery Red.

I want to thank that person. I’m eager to hear what they think of the whole story. I’d love to discuss it with them. If you read this and the person was you, please do contact me – I’d love to hear from you!

If you’ve been following my posts, you’ll know that Cheery Red is one of my short stories. If you read my blog on pricing and marketing, you’ll also see how this has again validated Steven Trustrum’s marketing advice, which I urge you to read here:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

Thank you, anonymous person, for validating my faith in my stories. I hope you really enjoy it.

Cheery Red is now on 306 downloads.

‘W8-BEN forms – the Non-US Meal Ticket’ – repost with comments

A few months ago, one of the groups I belong to on LinkedIn had a huge discussion about how tax works with e-books and print books in the US. It was so nice to be able to point to this explanation and say, read this blog and you’ll be able to assemble all your nuts and bolts easily. I did wonder for a time whether it did anything for anyone, then the lady who started the discussion sent me a message. The blog post had helped her. This felt great!

W8-BEN forms – the Non-US Meal Ticket (Sep 04, 2014)

Disclaimer: This is what I have learned, the basics, and I am sharing it with you in good faith. Since I’m not a financial or tax expert, just an author navigating financial and tax implications, I’d advise you not to rely on what I have written but to do your own research too, contact an appropriate tax professional, etc. etc. Having said that, here goes:

If you are not American and you sign up as an author on Smashwords or Amazon.com, you might sell some of your work. How do you receive payment and how much of that payment is taxed?

This is a big question for authors who do not live in the States. It became more important for me to face what seems like a daunting question when I was paid for my first story, as you can see from my last blog ‘A Cheery Surprise’.

However, it is reasonably simply to set up as you only need to do three things:

  1. Get an EIN or a TIN from the IRS
  2. Sign up for Paypal
  3. Post your W8-BEN form to Smashwords / do it automatically on Amazon.

Of course the devil is in the details, but it is a small and friendly demon. Let me introduce you.

What is an EIN / TIN?

They are tax numbers, the former for non-US corporations and the latter for non-US individuals.

EIN (Employer Identification Number)

TIN (Taxpayer ID Number)

I have a publishing company, so I asked for an EIN, when I went through this process a while ago.

Why do you want one?

  1. To get paid
  2. To benefit from withholding treaties that might exist between your country and the US (i.e., pay less or no tax)

How do you get one?

It is so easy to get a tax number that when I did it, I was astounded enough about the experience (it took 15 minutes) to post about it to my friends on Facebook in my ‘status’ box. And I seldom update my status on Facebook (although that might have to change).

Just call the IRS on this number: +1 (267) 941-1099

Explain why you want a number. They will ask you questions and fill in the form for you. They will give you a number. Wait two weeks and after that, the number ought to be uploaded in the IRS system and you can use it.

Note that you have to be non-US in every way to be eligible. You can’t be a US citizen, hold a US passport, have a business in the US or anything like that. The details about that are here:

What is a W8-BEN form?

A W8-BEN form is a form that you download, fill in, sign and send to US companies either electronically or physically, stating that you are a non-US citizen with a US tax number. This is the kind of form that you will sign and send to every company you deal with. It can make a great financial difference to you, this form, because if your country has a withholding treaty with the US, you benefit. You benefit because you would be charged 30% tax on any payment you receive otherwise. The US charges 30% tax – but it will charge less or nothing depending on the withholding treaty it has in place with the country in question. My country gets charged 0%; yay! South African authors and publishers, take note.

(Aside: The US might not tax but other countries may, if your work is bought from an Amazon site in another country like Brazil or the UK. More information here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1CTSIBPDAAJ0M )

If you are not from South Africa, go to table one on the following link to see if your country has such a treaty with the US and for what percent:

http://www.irs.gov/publications/p515/ar02.html

Send off the form

Amazon: You can fill in a W8-BENform on the website and sign it electronically. They will then pay you (after a certain accumulated amount) via cheque and your US tax will be less than 30%, or nothing. Sometimes they do want a physical copy and if that is the case, they will ask you for it.

More information here:

https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=A1VDYJ32T5D3U4

and here: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=201274700

Smashwords: At the time of writing, the following details are correct. You need to email a copy of your signed W8-BEN form

to: keri@smashwords.com

Then post the actual signed form to this address:

Smashwords, Inc.
Attn:  Tax Compliance Dept.
PO Box 11817
Bainbridge Island, WA   USA  98110 

The good people at Smashwords will then pay you (after a certain accumulated amount) via Paypal.

How do I get a Paypal account?

In South Africa, you need to go to First National Bank and get an FNB account (get an account with the lowest bank charges that links to the internet), then link it to a Paypal account, which you set up on www.paypal.com. Get the people at FNB to show you how to do that. In other countries, I don’t know. Go to www.paypal.com and find out.

Do I have to pay tax in my country on my earnings?

You’ll need to find out about your country, but if you live in South Africa, most probably. You have to add what you’ve earned through book sales to your other earnings (for example, from your day job) and then you are taxed according to your accumulated earnings.

….and you’re done.

‘A Cheery Surprise’ – repost with comments

Only a few people have paid for stories since. But I still say: give people the option! I’m nine dollars richer than when I started and that’s nine dollars better than nothing.

A Cheery Surprise (Aug 28, 2014)

It has been a tumultuous time since my last blog.

I’ve been sick, as has my husband and both kids. Apparently flu is doing the rounds because many people I know have been enjoying this change of weather sickness too.

Yesterday my eldest child started nursery school. I took her in and she was immediately swamped by the other kids in a mob. Charley Ruth is tiny for her age and I was terrified. When my vision cleared, I realised that the bigger kids love little ones and are protective of them. They led her off, hand-in-hand, to show her swings and slides and the classroom. Charley was fearless, as usual, and for that hour seemed to have the best time. I, of course, wanted to howl.

I’ve been doing my best to keep on my stepping schedule with getting the Innerone formats ready (focusing on on the InDesign for print version), as well as doing some work on the AmaZizi 2nd Edition and pushing some marketing for my authors, who are all such lovely people with excellent texts and deserve the best I can give them. I also spent a couple hours on Goodreads, where, a month ago, I became friends with Ellie.

Ellie liked Susan Woolf’s Taxi Hand Sign book, so I wrote to her. And when she liked a blog post of mine, I wrote again. In our correspondence, it turns out that not only has this American met South African Susan, she is good friends with Susan’s sister, Lesley, who lives in Atlanta. I could hardly believe it.

And then, today, somebody paid for a copy of Cheery Red. In other words, someone actually paid real money for a short story that I had written. It’s taken me a while to get over the shock.

Now, I’m a publisher. You would think I was used to people buying books from me; and it’s different when the work is your own. It’s a milestone for an author when someone you don’t know pays good money for something you wrote. So I’m having a little celebratory dance inside my head.

However there is a marketing gem contained inside my cheery surprise that I want to share with you. A week or so ago I was reading Steven Trustrum’s blog:

http://trustrum.com/self-publishing-marketing-mistakes/

One of the things he said was that, if possible, rather use the ‘reader-sets-the-price’ than the ‘free’ option when putting up works. This means that if somebody wants to pay you, they have the option (he said a lot more – I recommend reading the article). I wondered if people would stop downloading at the story if it wasn’t marked free but, after 81 downloads, I decided to try it. The downloads did slow down – but that also could have been because it was no longer on the Smashwords home page, or because people who know me and who wanted to support me by reading the story ran out. Today, I am $1.39 richer ($2.00 minus fees) because I chose to give people that option.

Once I had uploaded Innerone for pre-release on Smashwords, I now had the opportunity to do something I had wanted to do for a while – create a coupon code for Innerone and put that code into Cheery Red, both as a marketing tool for Innerone and as a thank you for choosing to read Cheery Red. I put it in the ‘Thank You’ section at the end of the story and re-uploaded it. I like getting coupons for books so I hope my readers do too.

And maybe the marketing ideas in this blog can help aspiring authors too. Now isn’t that a cheery thought!

‘A Giant Leap’ – repost with comments

I did get all the versions ready in time… and I didn’t publish. I just wasn’t ready to publish. I’m still not ready to publish Innerone. Not all of the endorsements have come in (note to self, I need to write a blog on endorsements) and I haven’t built up a big enough following for the release that I want. Moreover, I will need to create new e-book versions, because there have been small changes since the last upload. So what looked like a giant leap was rather something that felt like one.

I have also realised, as I reflect on the the earlier blog posts, that I was again remiss in providing information. I was so busy thinking about the nuts and bolts of publishing books that I never gave descriptions of the works I was talking about. How is that going to attract interest in those books? Seriously, I sometimes wonder what is going on in my head. It would be too much to describe all of them now, so I’ll just give the blurb for the one that I’m experimenting with. This book, Innerone, is the one I’m using to learn how to publish in the US, so that I’m much more savy about the process when I publish my authors there.

Here is the blurb for Innerone:

How deep would you go to reclaim yourself?

A contemporary myth of courage and healing,  Innerone is an extraordinary narrative in which the protagonist meditates to her mind’s underworld to find the younger self she betrayed.

Although she thinks she knows what to expect, the surprises keep coming. Her  expectations dashed and new-age ideals thwarted, she discovers she is neither alone nor in charge. Her spunky inner-child, her esoteric higher-self, her unconvinced inner-scientist and others—all of whom hold different beliefs, values and desires—converse and argue, travel and shop (not your usual mall).  

And the subtle question swirls… how different would her actions be, what changes would play out in her life, if she flipped from believing she is broken to recognising that she is whole just as she is?

A Giant Leap (May 14, 2014)

If you have been reading my previous posts, you’ll know that I have been applying myself to the practical metaphor of ‘small steps’. Today I made a giant leap instead.

I have finally finished the Innerone e-book and am uploading it to Smashwords. I have set it on pre-order for a month, so that I have time to get the print,  print-on-demand and Amazon e-book versions ready and release all of them in early October. (That’s right – there are three versions of this book and each of them take a long slog to get right. It’s a good thing I’m doing all of this in my spare time. If I had to pay someone to do it, it would cost a fortune.) Apparently, putting a book on pre-order also generates a buzz and is good marketing. I hope so. (Tell your friends!) I’ve also given a larger sample of the book than usual – 25%.

Curiously, Amazon only allows big, favoured publishers to put a book on pre-order. That means that I can’t create and upload a .mobi file at any point – I have to upload it the day before the pre-order on Smashwords expires so that the book on Amazon is semi-synchronised.

One thing I don’t know how to do is reach the 81 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red and give them a coupon code for Innerone, to say thank you and to help market the book. I’m going to put the word out on Facebook and my website.

So…let’s hope I get all the versions of this book ready in time 🙂

‘Watching the Stats’ – repost with comments

I have to admit it – despite how keen I was to collect and analyse data, after all the analytic setting up I did after this post, I never looked at it again. I have discovered that analysing data is last on my very long to-do list.

I need to treat analytics like a writing a book, something I’ll blog properly on later. In brief, you have to write the book before you edit it or you’ll never finish writing the book. I think, when all the rock climbing up the cliffs of communication and publishing are accomplished and I’m sitting flushed and triumphant on the plateau of maintenance, I will finally be able to turn my attention to analysing the data properly and making the adjustments that are necessary.

As for asking for reviews – of the many people who contacted me to say they loved the story and promising to put up a review, only one did. I’ve thought about why this is and it did not take long to understand why. It’s not about being better at asking for a review. The fact is, asking for a review is a lot to ask for. In a person’s busy life, they have to make time to think about what they want to say, write it down in a way they feel they can put in a public space and then go through the process of putting it on their favourite site. It’s a charitable act. Perhaps people need to be incentivised with a coupon for the next book or something. In any case, you can ask, but it is better to expect nothing to avoid disappointment.

Watching the Stats  (posted Aug 21, 2014)

At this moment I’m up to 64 downloads of Cheery Red. It’s exciting! I never hoped for so many.

It’s also a period of discovery. Aside from a journalist friend of mine, Jon, who wrote on Facebook that he enjoyed the story, there have been no other reviews. Two of the 64 people have put Cheery Red into their permanent Smashwords libraries. And I foolishly didn’t add Google Analytics to my new website before I published it, so I have no idea where visitors preferred to go on the site or any other stats at all.

What does this mean? Well, firstly, I’m going to have to get better at asking for reviews. They are important for both author and readers. I get to understand what people think of the work and readers can see at a glance what others thought of the story.

Regarding the permanent libraries, it’s a compliment every time someone wants to keep your work in their collection. So the story has been complimented twice. Of the 64 people who have so far downloaded Cheery Red, there is no way of knowing how what percentage have Smashword accounts, so I don’t know whether it is 2 out of 64 or 2 out of 2. I just don’t know. I also don’t know what the typical download of a free short story is within 48 hours, so I cannot say whether the download amount is good on average or not. I’m still trying to find out.

Finally, I must add Google Analytics to my site. I will never recover the first few days of stats, and I have lost the information it would have given me. Let that be a valuable lesson to my fellow writers who wish to share their creative output with a new website. Ensure you have statistical functions in place before you go live!

‘Cheery Red’ – Repost with comments

Sorry for the long wait! Life got in the way of blogging about it. Here’s the next repost, focussing on the the release of the short story, Cheery Red.

This was exciting to experience and write about. This moment is the one I think all authors anticipate, the release of a work and how it is embraced by others. It’s a mental holding of the breath – the work to get it out there is done – and now what? Either you slump, or there is a steady movement, or a whoosh of delight as the work streams from the distributor.

I marvel that, as an unknown author with no followers and minimal marketing, I had so many downloads for this work in those first few hours. To date, 291 copies have been downloaded.


Cheery Red
(posted Aug 19th, 2014)

This morning, after weeks of five minutes here and five minutes there, I finally finished the Smashwords formatting for my first short story ebook, Cheery Red. I uploaded it to Smashwords and dashed out the house to meet a friend, Sedrick, and do some chores. I came back to discover that 22 people had downloaded the story!

I wanted to dance a celebration dance of happiness. I wrote on Facebook, something I have seldom done in the past and suspect will do more regularly in the future:

“I am so excited! I just published ‘Cheery Red’ on Smashwords and already 22 people have downloaded it! It’s free and it’s short, but there are now 22 people I don’t know who are reading my work. I’m so inspired… I’m breathless with it! https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/468557

The “so’s” and exclamation points get across my emotional state quite nicely, don’t you think?