Publishing Advice - [CreateSpace] Help with W8-BEN and publishing

Posted by: Claus On: Apr 18th 2010

I've been selling my first self published book (Trauma) through Lulu and with the second edition I've managed to get a harcover I'm quite happy with.

However, I've seen my "profit" (cough) margins drop and so I have for the last few months been researching other POD avenues and CreateSpace seems to offer much better prices. From my reading CreateSpace also gives you an ISBN (if needed) and you get listed on the US amazon which is good too.

However, unlike LULU CreateSpace requires the completion of a W8-BEN form to prove I live in the UK which has a tax treaty with the US, or they withold 30% in taxes. To do this I need an International Tax Identification Number (ITIN) from the IRS (US tax department) which is done with the W-7 form and takes about 3 months from what I read. Getting the ITIN requires sending off notarised documents or visiting the embassy, the first requires money and the second time, neither of which I have much to spare.

Perhaps further complicating matters I have permanent UK residency (10+ years!), but Norwegian citizenship...

So, have any of you been through any of this and can offer any advise on how to deal with this? I'm interested both in the tax issue in general for printing in the US and in CreateSpace in particular.

As an aside I published Trauma in 8.5x11 inches, but the largest offered by CreateSpace is 8x10. For my new book I've therefore used 8x10 when working on the layout, but this may in turn cause problems at UK printers. Any good tricks for doing page layout (I'm using Open Office) that is easily tweaked to suit slightly differing size formats?

Posted by: Malcolm Craig On: Apr 19th 2010

Hi Claus,

I'll say straight off that this isn't a situation that I've personally encountered, so I can't really advise on the technicalities. However, in more general terms, this does seem like an awful lot of effort and red tape to go through. Does the increase in revenue justify the seeming horrible bureaucracy? And, as a point of interest, what is it that has affected your profits margins drop recently?

In terms of printing in the US, we've certainly never had any tax issues. It seems that as a non-US company, many of the taxes are not applicable. Then again, I Am Not An Accountant, so I could be wrong.


Posted by: Gregor Hutton On: Apr 19th 2010

Hello Claus

That sounds like a lot of hassle. I have no experience of CreateSpace at all (I had read posts by Fred Hicks and Jeremy Keller on them, but they are both stateside). So I can't be any help on this one.

For hardcovers I had looked at, who do full-colour hardcovers in the UK. They're not cheap though, but I hear the quality is very good.

I assumed by dropping margin you mean that you make less on a hardback than you do on a softcover, and to me there is no sense in running a business on that basis. The customer pays more for the hardback and they feel you got more money but you didn't.

Posted by: Claus On: Apr 20th 2010

Malcom, you're quite right that as a non-us company we do not have to pay us taxes, but all the terrible bureaucracy and paperwork is to prove this status which CreateSpace requires or they withold 30% tax.

As for the pricing. In 2007 when I first (quietly) published Trauma I earned £8.95 on the paperback and £8.65 on the hardcover. The book was just over 200 pages black and white. I think the paperback retailed for around £14 (lulu taking £5.80) while the hardcover was something like £17, but don't have the figures at hand.

When I created the second edition I went with a slightly smaller font and somewhat better layout, and together with the strict revision (and cutting) of material ended up with 187 pages. However, I found that the paperback and hardcover versions cost pretty much the same to produce so I didn't see any point in a paperback version. I now earn £5 per copy and lulu takes £10.15 (strangely the book is listed as £16.40... exchange rates?)

In comparison for the same book on CreateSpace the cost of producing the book (albeit 8x10) is quoted as $5.26. $3.10 with the pro plan which seems worthwhile with a $39 setup and $5 annually. This is massively cheaper than the £10.15 and the book would be listed on amazon which is a great bonus as I know some people hesitate to order from lulu because they don't know them.

Gregor, looks good for colouring and if I decide to go with colouring for my next book I would probably get a quote from them. However, since it is around 370 pages and my art budget is rather restrained I don't think a colour print is a realistic option and they only seem to offer 5x8 for b/w text.

Posted by: jasonhubbard On: Jul 2nd 2010

My wife has had two hard back books published through Blurb, and the quality is very good. They are pricey, but then hardbacks generally are these days. I would definately recommend them as a possible print avenue.

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