Posts Tagged With: stellium publishing

PubNews 27/9/2013

Every so often I get an urge to do a news item. Hope you like. It won’t be regular unless someone pays me. Sasha says, don’t hold your breath, don’t look at me…

 

Google announced today that they have launched ebookstores here in the UK, and in New Zealand and a number of Asian countries in the region as well.

They will be selling epub versions of ebooks, which is the open standard accepted widely by the publishing industry. Major publishers like Penguin, Random House, and Hachette have already signed up to provide content. For anyone who doesn’t know about the different formats, here’s a quick summary:

  • Amazon sells its own proprietary format (AZW), Mobi (also owned by Amazon) and PDF, possibly a couple of other smaller players. It doesn’t sell epub format.

  • Epub format is sold practically everywhere else – Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Waterstones, Google, most other distributors / sellers.

  • Apple iBook Store uses epub with DRM (digital Rights Management), but iPads, etc. can also handle PDF.

  • You can also download Kindle apps that work on Android or iPads, etc., so there’s a reasonable choice of reading systems, especially if you’re using a tablet or smartphone. Dedicated ebook readers like the Kindle are limited in what they can handle.

What’s best? Well, at this point, Amazon is the sticking point with its own format, to keep you locked into their bookstore, and they’re big enough that nobody can deflect them.

However, indications are that dedicated ebook readers are likely to fade out, giving way to multi-function tablet devices, which will give Amazon food for thought, even though they already have a range of Kindle Fire tablets. The planned lifespan of an ebook reader like the Kindle is about three years. I have a couple of kindles that I use, partly for reading, partly for checking how our ebooks look on them, but I probably won’t replace them when they die off. The Android Kindle app works fine on a tablet, and we’re going to bring out more and more colour-content ebooks, which, with some adroit footwork, will hopefully come out on a black & white screen as well. However, colour is definitely the trend for ebooks, and I would rather have one multi-function device to carry around.

 ~~~~~

 The Bloomsbury brand Writers & Artists has launched a brand new service for self-published writers. This is on a section of their website for the well-known Writers & Artists Yearbook, and it will host a number of resources for writers, whether novices or cool dudes.

 ~~~~~

 Wordery, a Global online retailer, launched earlier this week. They are a Bertrams (the UK wholesaler) project, they aim to undercut Amazon book prices from the start, and they envisage an annual turnover of up to £15m.

Quite how they expect to confront Amazon, I don’t know. Amazon can undercut anything you can think of, they counter Sony easily, but on the other hand, it’s good to have competition.

Turning to issues closer to my heart as a publisher, this kind of price cutting devilry just affects book prices drastically, and they don’t recover. It creates problems for authors, publishers, agents, printers, bookshops and others.

I really, really wish that we could have better regulation (see my comments on one of my “Money” articles) of the publishing trade, including protective legislation. Why not limit discounts to, say, 50% instead of the current unlimited scenario?

The government is quite happy to regulate speed limits on the roads, why not discounts on books? It kills off publishers and bookshops, drives authors into misery, what more incentive do they need? All very well to say government shouldn’t interfere, but when there’s total war by the big guns, how do the rest survive? How can anyone compete with 80% discounts to the few major retailers?

All I can think of, is exactly what’s happening right now: self-publishing, with sales direct to the public, whether in paper or ebook format. It may take time for a what can we call it… a sub-culture doesn’t sound quite right, but for a new, independent structure to gel.

So, we provide self-pub services, we’re seeing more and more people getting into the idea, and at this rate, who knows, the big players may regret ignoring the people who provide them with content.

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Books – USA Withholding Tax

Here’s an issue for all the self-pubbers out there; if you have a book or books selling through Amazon, you’ll have received a message warning you about IRS withholding tax regulations. Briefly, if you don’t register with the IRS, Amazon and any other entities selling your books (and ebooks) in the States are obliged to withhold 30% of your income / royalties, etc. And it’s not easy to get it back from the IRS once it’s been paid in.

Amazon does give you a reasonable set of instructions about how to deal with the issue, but it may not be clear to everybody, especially if you aren’t good at dealing with forms and tax stuff in general, so I’m putting down a few pointers here that may be useful.

First of all, the bad news. You can’t avoid the issue. Sooner or later, if not already, any commercial entity that sells things for you in the States will withhold 30% of your sales income, whatever form it takes – royalties, direct income, whatever. They will pass this money on to the IRS, and they can’t do anything later about getting it back – you would have to deal directly with the IRS, and your (relatively) unidentifiable money (i.e. if you’re not registered with the IRS ) would be difficult to trace.

Secondly, the good news. It’s actually not that difficult nowadays to sort things out, usually pretty swiftly.

What are needed are an EIN number and a W-8BEN form. Once you have the EIN number, it’s inserted into the W-8BEN form, and you make copies of that form, sending one copy to each organisation that you deal with. They can then release all the millions of dollars you’ve made with your Seventy Shades of Grey book! Provided you’re based in the UK,  there is an income tax treaty between us and the USA, so in most cases, you won’t need to pay any USA tax. If you’re based elsewhere, the same may or may not apply. Check with the IRS website.

The first step is to get onto the IRS website and download a copy of form W-8BEN. Get all the information needed for the form, fill it in.

Then, phone the IRS (I don’t have the phone number offhand, if you can’t find it or the IRS website, let me know, leave a comment on this article, and I’ll trace it for you).

You can deal with them by snail mail or fax, but the system has been upgraded over the years, and the best way is by phone. You may sometimes have to hold on for ten, twenty minutes, but it’s worth the expense to save you grey hairs. I gather that unless they’re very busy, you may get through pretty quickly.

I have found them to be friendly and helpful. They will take down your details (as needed on the W-8BEN form) and if you have all the answers ready, they will give you an EIN number over the phone. You then complete a clean copy of the W-8BEN form, in fact, make a number of copies, as you’ll need to send / fax one to each organisation you deal with. With Amazon, it’s even easier, you can fill in the details online.

You will normally need to be registered with our own HMRC to take advantage of the income tax treaty with the USA, but everyone is different, I can’t cover all eventualities in a short article.

If you need, I can help with a few general questions about the system, but for more complicated matters, do talk to the IRS people – the feedback I’ve seen is that they are helpful.

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Money 2

Hi again.

I thought a short quote from Dickens would be a change from my own chatting:

“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness.

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”

Over a century later, Mr. Micawber’s advice still holds good. Don’t “Fly now, pay later”, do the reverse. Don’t listen to the kids. Do they know better than you?

I do feel for all the single mums out there, it must be really difficult if you don’t have a partner to help with things, so that at least one of them has spare time to learn about how to protect themselves from all the incredible stupidity and greed evident in the world today, that eventually hurts all of us, while the guys at the top seem to have charmed lives. It seems to me that, if you allow leaders to experiment with people’s hard-earned, without real penalties if they muck up badly, then of course, why should they worry. Lost bonus? Maybe, but if your pay package is just bumped up to compensate, one can relax, yes? All I can say is, I’m really glad I climbed out of banking before I could be lumped in with the current lot.

Here’s a little tip for now:

  • No matter what the advertising says, remember that the prime objective of any organisation is to make money for the shareholders.

I’m not attacking the principle, it’s a valid rule, and it lets one remember that the organisation can easily go down the tubes if someone tries to run it as a charity.

What I do have a button about is when people start going overboard. I have a little motto that I use as one of my own guidelines, and I believe that a lot of people at the top ought use it as well:

  • From the Greek, “Pan Metron Ariston”, if I recall correctly.  It means, “moderation in all things”. Works with cooking recipes, works with businesses too. So, if you come across some outfit that isn’t doing that, watch out, it could be heading for problems, either for them or for you…

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