Ya Gotsta Get Paid: E-Book Sales in America, For Non-Americans

If you’ve found your way here, you just might be a writer. You might be thinking of joining the glamorous world of e-book publishing.

If you wanna make this easy, make sure you’re from the States. Sell stories. Get paid. File your taxes. Boom! You’re done.

If you wanna make it interesting, be from anywhere else.

Welcome to the wild world of cross-border taxes. Exciting, no?

When I first started publishing, I knew I’d have to pay the Tax Man. No problem, I’ll worry about it later, it’s no big deal. But what I didn’t know, and you may not either, is that unless you file the correct paperwork with American-based publishers (Amazon, Smashwords, and the like), they’ll be withholding taxes from your sales right off the top. How does 30% sound? That’s money going to the IRS before you’ve ever seen it. Then, when you get your cheque, guess what? You’ll be paying MORE tax, this time to your own country.

The good news? If you’re in a country that has a tax treaty with the US, you can reduce or even eliminate withholding.

Now, you might be writing “for yourself”, with nary a thought of filthy lucre tainting your artistic dreams. How lovely. But if you don’t want any of your money, why are you selling in the first place?

Let’s be real.

So, what do you need? You’ll need to send a W-8BEN form to your publishers. And before you can file that, you’ll need an ITIN (takes up to ten weeks to get your number). And before you can file that, you’re gonna need a notarized copy of your identification: a passport works well here. Expect that to take another ten days. And the kicker is that the government doesn’t really walk you through the forms. (Though I remember reading that you can call a long-distance number for help, or contact your embassy…)

Luckily, I found someone who’s written up some great instructions, but before I tell you where to find them you need to know that neither she nor I are legal-types in any way. If you’re filing these forms yourself and you need more help, I’m afraid you’re on your own. Sorry ’bout that.

Good? Good.

Go here for ITIN instructions, and here for help with the W-8BEN. Again, I can’t promise anything definitive, but I can say that I used Angela’s instructions successfully.

E-publishing can be tough; don’t make it any tougher by giving away your hard-earned dollars.

It Pays to Be Nice.

I like to think karma works.

I went to Michael’s today; I had a 40%-off coupon that was ready to expire. I found myself wandering the aisles: knitting needles? Canvas? Frames? This isn’t my regular Michael’s (God help me, I have a “regular”), so when I stumbled across the clearance section it was a surprise.

They had these fantastic stretched-canvas prints, regularly $34, on for $10. C and I were just talking about adding some new decorations to the house, so it was perfect timing. I found a great little piece for the kitchen:

We tend to seek happiness

when happiness is actually a choice

Since it was on clearance, I couldn’t use my coupon, which expires tomorrow. So on my way to the checkout, I offered it to a couple of women who were still shopping. It made me feel nice, and that alone would have made my afternoon a little brighter.


I got to the checkout and the cashier scanned the canvas. “That’ll be one cent.”


She turned the screen so I could see it. “One cent.”

I asked her a couple of times if that was right. She even re-scanned it, just in case. It came up the same every time.

The funny bit is that I never carry cash, and I literally had no money on me. I had to ask her to tuck it behind the register and hold it while I went to rummage through the car.

I got back inside and waited in line again, already getting the sinking feeling that the other cashier had probably spoken up after I left. Would I bother to argue if she quoted me the ten-dollar price I’d expected?

I approached the till. The cashier had a big smile by this point. “One cent, please.”

I plopped a single penny in her palm, and she handed me my receipt.

I like to think it was good karma for doing a small kindness for someone. The new picture looks great under the martini in the kitchen…

…and now when I look at it I’ll smile, since it comes with its own story.

Bonus ZoeyBomb:

PS – When she handed me the receipt, the register had printed another 40%-off coupon. Double score!

Dreams Take Time…And Cash.

I’m in the midst of developing a Grand Five-Year Plan. It has glorious secrets, some of which I can’t reveal yet, but it also involves regular stuff like moving into a better house and having more money in the bank.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how it will all come together. The number one, very-most-important thing I need to work on is saving more money. For a number of my plans to come to fruition, we’ll need a sizable cushion in the bank. And I can’t count on us making more money for a while, so it’s all about budgeting and spending less.

I use Quicken already when I remember to. It’s moderately helpful, considering I don’t use half the widgets. The pie charts are pretty, though.

We use debit for most purchases. Debit isn’t necessarily the best move, because it lets you access your whole bank account ALL THE TIME, but at least it’s trackable when I remember to read the statements.

We’ve been getting better about the little things, like buying less drive-through coffee, but I still feel an unholy consumer lust when I see things like this.

Obviously, I need to get my financial shit together. And, being a word-person who can’t math, I’ll be diving into books for help. (Have any recommendations? I’d love to hear them.)

In the meantime I found some great blogs and websites that are geared to us artsy folks.