Friday, 15 May 2015

3 Things I've Learned as a Canadian Indie Author

I’m going to be completely upfront and say that I am not an expert. Surprise! I don’t think anyone can really say that, not when it comes to being an independent author. I don’t have all the answers. I wouldn’t complain, of course. What I do have is an inquisitive mind and a ferocious need to learn, so when I made the life-altering decision to do it on my own I researched. Well, I began researching to make the decision, but you know what I mean. While I found many useful articles and blog posts about how to go about self-publishing, I found I had to alter much of what I was reading for either my audience (which was obvious) or the more surprising country.

I am a Canadian author. And there are very few resources for people like me, despite there being so many of us.

As a Canadian author, I wanted to put together a few things I've learned along the way that can be useful to other Canadians who plan to embark on the same journey, and to indie authors in other countries. It’s quite an eye-opening experience.


How to obtain an ISBN
What the blogs will tell you: You can purchase a batch from R.R Bowker. 1t will cost you $125USD, 10 is $295USD, and 100 is $575USD.

How it is for Canadians:
Get ready…this was the biggest blow to what I thought I knew about self-publishing. I was all ready to scrounge the money together, knowing that this was the route I wanted to use to publish. And then I found this wonderful website: Library and Archives Canada and the Canadian ISBN Service System.

For authors who are Canadian citizens, you can register as a publisher (for free) and obtain an ISBN…for free.

I am now a registered Canadian publisher, with my own ISBN prefix. With each format of my novels, I can request an ISBN for them (which is required, as an ISBN is for one specific format each.) With this comes responsibility, of course, but also great options. You can get together with other indie authors you know and form an indie publishing house under which you can all publish your novels. You can even have imprints, if you want to isolate novels of a certain genre. It’s what I’m thinking of doing for my historical fiction novels (still in the works) as I’d like to keep that separate from my sci-fi series.

You’re a publisher now! And what publisher doesn't have a logo? The lovely Becky Carlyle designed my logo, after going back and forth with concepts and how I wanted to be represented. That brings me to my next point.

Branding



Okay, so this isn’t necessarily just for Canadians…but being a Canadian author is a type of brand. We are a special breed, with a unique history to work with and unique settings in which to place our characters. But aside from that, before a novel is even published, an indie author needs to decide how he/she wants to be known. Am I going to be known as a super serious author? Am I going to pigeon hole myself into one genre? Which genre? Will I be the helpful author who does reviews? Well, maybe you won’t ask yourself those questions, but those are some of the questions that I pondered. Do they count towards my brand? I have no idea. Did I make any decisions? Some. I wanted my logo to represent not only me as an author, but me as a person. I knew eventually I would publish something other than sci-fi, and so I wanted to be able to reserve a portion of myself for that imprint. My umbrella logo for N.M Sotzek Publishing is a simple feather. Take is as a quill to represent writing. Take it as a dove’s feather to represent my faith. It’s sleek. It’s simple. It’s me. Could I have used something more Canadian? Maybe. Who doesn't love a good maple leaf? As proud as I am to be Canadian, I needed my logo to be relatable to more than Canadians. That’s something to think about. Who are you speaking to, and why?

Taxes

Who looks this happy doing taxes? Seriously.

You know, growing up I always heard adults complaining about having to do taxes and blah blah blah. My first time doing taxes on my own, I rocked it. Thanks, free online tax software! I’ll admit that now being married, being a first-time homeowner, and being partially self-employed makes tax season a little more complicated. But it’s something I’ve needed to research. There are so many resources for Americans when it comes to how to declare your sales as income, what to declare, et cetera. The best resource for Canadians is honestly the Canadian Revenue Agency website. Yes, it’s tedious and a little difficult to maneuver. But there are some good resources on there. Google is a really good resource as well.

Most of us indie authors are published on Amazon through Kindle, or Createspace (which is also an Amazon company.) Amazon is an American company. That means you’re earning money in the United States of America. The IRS website is also a great resource, as there are entire sections for foreigners earning money either in the US, or through an American company. Very helpful.

What you need to know:
If in doubt: declare it. Keep records of every expense related to the book (editor, book cover design, proofreading, etc) and keep records of every sale. I have a receipt book for every in-person book sale. According to the CRA, you can only claim specific things as business expenses if you have an area in your home designated as ONLY a workspace, and if it was directly related to your income. Did you buy a new laptop? Could you potentially claim that as a business expense? Those were all questions I needed to ask, and could only find American answers. Until I went to the CRA website, of course. Why do I say declare it? Because why not? Unless your sales push you up into the next tax bracket (which likely isn’t the case for most indie authors…if your sales have been that good, keep going, and obviously you need to declare it, you tax evader. Sheesh.) there’s no harm in doing it. This way you have a record of it, and if anything were to come back to bite you, it’s there.





While these don’t seem like much, or overly Canadian specific, they were the top issues I had when trying to research self-publishing in Canada. I’m still having trouble at times. As a Canadian publisher I am required to submit a certain number of copies of my novel to the Library and Archives of Canada for historical documentation (whaaaaat. History for the win!) Most of the form to send it in was pretty straightforward, but I had to research if my book was even eligible since the print copy of ‘Revealing the Revolution’ has an ISBN produced by Createspace, an American printer. I contacted Createspace to determine whether or not they are they printer or also the publisher, they said they are the printer. The truth is that the book has been published under their independent publishing imprint, so the rights are all still mine and as the book is registered to me (and I’m a Canadian author/publisher) it counts towards my Canadian publications. But the ISBN is also links to Createspace. That made me dizzy.

What I found great is the amount of grants offered to independent authors. Most I wasn’t eligible for, but it’s definitely worth looking into if you’re a Canadian.


If you’re a Canadian author, I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment and tell me about your experience, or e-mail me through the contact form.
If you’re not a Canadian author, I’d still love to hear from you about your own experiences.

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your learning. Very helpful! I also wonder what you experienced with submitting your book for book reviews. Did you find any Canadian organizations that will review indie books? Did you have any luck with any established reviewers in the US (ie Publisher's Weekly Booklife). I wonder if our chance of getting reviewed are even less as Canadians and perhaps, it's not worth it?

    Any insight you share would be very appreciated!
    Kathryn

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    1. Hi Kathryn!

      Depending on genre, there are a few Canadian literary magazines you can look at for reviews. I'm a bit limited as I write sci-fi and the big names for that genre are American. I have had some trouble getting reviews, but I think it's more because my book is set in Canada rather than because it's written by a Canadian.

      I've had more luck with Canadian boom review blogs, trade reviews, and reviews by other authors I know. Networking is a big (and sometimes overlooked) aspect of being an indie author. If you can network with people within American reviewing establishments such as Publishers Weekly then it should be easier to get a review.

      Hope that helps, and thanks for the comment!

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  2. Thanks for this info! I'm currently looking into developing my own imprint.
    I've recently started searching around for other Canadian indie authors; maybe our US counterparts are just better at marketing themselves. I have to believe they're out there, but I just can't seem to find them.

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    1. Hi Stephanie!

      I don't know if it's a matter of them being better at marketing. It's likely that most Canadian indie authors don't identify themselves as Canadian, and just go with the flow. The truth is that the majority of big time authors are American, and popular Canadian authors are published by American publishing houses. I've had a few reviews of my own novel, 'Revealing the Revolution', which asked for me to change the setting of the book from Canada to America...because it's more relateable. Of course I didn't, and thankfully these reviews were few and far between, but it shows the mindset of some people.

      I think developing your own imprint is a great idea! If you want to band together with other Canadian indie authors, all you have to do is say you're looking for them. Chances are, they're looking for you, too.

      Thanks for stopping by, and let me know how things go!

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