Research is getting harder on the Internet. All the information you need is there, of course, but finding it can be difficult.

The main issue I had with researching self-publication was the amount of out-of-date information that is out there. As an example, I was investigating US tax withholding for non-US authors and was immediately bogged down in ways to get tax IDs from the IRS to be able to fill in the require W8-BEN form. I eventually found out that this process has been simplified by the IRS, and authors can use a local tax identifier – providing that your country has the relevant tax treaty with the USA. In the UK, you can use your National Insurance number.

There was a further wrinkle. Some publishers are obviously not aware of the change, so still require the old process.

That was, admittedly, an esoteric sample, but the self-publishing industry is changing. New players arrive, old players improve. Any author wanting to move into self-publication must be careful to pick the right path for them.

My first decision was whether to go it alone or to pay for help. There is no right answer to this. There are a wide variety of publishers who will take your Word (or whatever) document and turn it into an ebook or into print. They will, however, charge for that, and some of those charges can be savage. There is a useful analysis of the market in Choosing A Self-Publishing Service 2014 (updated each year, I believe) from the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi).

Being technically minded (and a web developer), I was not afraid of constructing EPUB (the most common format) ebooks myself, so I didn’t feel the need for professional help. Many other authors would find this incredibly difficult. The only real advantage that could see for me in picking a publishing partner was to get help in UK-based distribution. Like every other UK author, I want my books in Waterstones. If I can find a sensible deal to do that, I’ll jump at the chance, but I can’t afford to pay a fortune for the chance of selling a few copies and having the rest returned at my expense. Bookshops need large discounts and a sale-or-return agreement which, for print-on-demand, is almost impossible to meet at a sensible price.

I will discuss this issue in a later post specific to self-publishing in print.


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