Jacquelyn Smith

Self-Publishing Tips for Canadian Writers

I’ve avoided posting self-publishing tips on this site because I don’t want to get bogged down with a bunch of technical posts, and there are already lots of blogs out there that cover the subject. But self-publishing from Canada has its own quirks, and I had to look all over the place to figure some of this stuff out. I thought it might be helpful to put all this info in one place. 😉

So this one goes out to any fellow Canucks out there who are thinking about going indie.

Online Distribution
Getting into Canadian Bookstores
Getting an ISBN
Registering a Copyright
Ordering Copies of Your Paperback
Getting a US Tax ID
Receiving Direct Payments from the US

Online Distribution:

For the most part, distributing your book from Canada is the same as it would be from the US. Here’s my current distribution setup:

Amazon KDP: Used to add Kindle version to all iterations of Amazon that carry Kindle products.

Smashwords: Used to add ebook version to all other major online retailers (Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc.)

Amazon Createspace: Used to add paperback version to Amazon.com and Amazon Europe.

Blurb: Used to add paperback version to non-Amazon sites. (Barnes & Noble, Indigo, etc. I’m currently testing this distribution method.)

Now, there are some differences from publishing in the US. For example, many indie writers like to use the Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press platform to publish with them directly, instead of going through Smashwords, but you can only have an account with B&N if you live in the US.

Kobo has also developed their own self-publishing platform, which is open to writers from pretty much everywhere. I haven’t bothered with this option because:

  • I’m already formatting and uploading my book files 3 different ways as-is.
  • My existing titles are already on Kobo via Smashwords anyway.
  • My Kobo sales are consistently lower than any other channel, so if I dealt with them directly, it could take a long time to reach the minimum royalty payout. With Smashwords, all my non-Amazon royalties are rolled together, including the trickle I get from Kobo.

Of course, if you live in Canada, you probably want your physical book to be available on Canadian websites as well. Createspace offers an Expanded Distribution option that will list your paperback on Amazon.ca, as well as third-party US sites like Barnes & Noble. But be warned: the royalty share for this option is really low, so take that into account when setting your list price. It takes several weeks for your titles to propagate beyond the realm of Amazon.com, so be patient. (Although some authors claim Expanded Distribution has gotten their book listed on the Chapters/Indigo website, I have yet to see this happen for any of my books.)

I’m currently experimenting with Blurb’s Worldwide distribution model, which offers multiple royalty options. (The deeper the wholesale discount you offer, the wider your chances of distribution.) My hope is that this will allow me to break into the Indigo website, as well as the in-store kiosks as an ordering option.

Overall, my strategy has been to make my books as widely available as possible. Many authors have hopped on the KDP Select train and experienced success, but despite the popularity of Kindle ebooks, they are still only part of the overall ebook market. The KDP Select exclusivity contract means cutting yourself off from other potential lines of income, which is really only in Amazon’s best interest. There was a time several years ago where Amazon was my main source of income, but it was quickly surpassed by Barnes & Noble. Now, my highest-selling channel is Apple, reaching readers in countries I never would have imagined might be interested in purchasing my English-based titles. None of these non-Amazon sales would have been possible if I had joined KDP Select.

I like to think of it as an investment. It makes far more sense to diversify your portfolio instead of putting all your eggs in one basket. That way if one channel underperforms one month, the others can compensate. And while Amazon is a powerhouse now, anything could happen. It doesn’t make sense for me to tie up all my hard work in one place, with a company I don’t control, and will ultimately do what is within its own best interest.

Getting into Canadian bookstores:

Let’s face it. The Chapters/Indigo/Coles conglomerate is the biggest game in town. Unless you have taken the steps beyond self-publishing to establish a small press, you will have to approach them as you would any independent bookstore for a consignment deal: one store at a time. Trust me, I have worked for this company for 15 years, both at stores and Home Office. If you simply send a copy of your self-published book to Indigo’s Home Office in the hopes Heather Reisman will read it, you will most likely be disappointed. (At this point, I’m required to say that all opinions expressed on this site by me are my own, and are not to be considered any kind of official post from Chapters/Coles/Indigo.)

This isn’t anything against Heather or the company. It’s just that you will be competing with a crazy amount of book samples from traditional publishers, who already have huge catalogues and a strong working relationship with Indigo. Also, the print book business isn’t getting any bigger. Dedicated shelf space for books is slowly being taken over by gift or toy product. With limited space at a premium, it’s even more difficult for a self-published author to worm their way in.

I’m not saying it can’t be done, but you will probably be limited to a consignment deal. This means you have to form a relationship and contract with each store, and take responsibility for providing inventory and picking up returns. Your book will be assigned a generic ISBN (“Consignment Title X”), and will not be listed in the store kiosks. This means you must rely on events and a strong relationship with store management and employees to get your book into the hands of customers, since it will not be searchable.


How to build a successful consignment relationship:

I’ve seen many consignment authors come through the stores with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, a long line of clueless/high-maintenance authors have given consignment authors in general a bad rep. The few exceptions are the ones who tend to perform the best. This is who you want to be. Let’s cover the don’ts first.


  • …be a prima donna. Every store receives multiple inquiries from consignment authors every day, and only has a limited amount of ISBNs to dedicate to these titles, depending on store size and volume. Just because you have a book doesn’t mean you are owed a spot on the shelf. Demanding your own fixed table or endcap in the store once your book is accepted is out too. These spaces are already paid for by traditional publishers for their titles as part of a binding co-op agreement.
  • …harass the store manager who handles the consignment program (or any other store employees for that matter) in an effort to get your book into the store. Again, there are limited slots available, and decisions are made at the manager’s discretion. Don’t make it easier to be dismissed for another author.
  • …ship your books to the store. The consignment process is a manual one. If you just send over a box of your books, they will likely end up in the store’s receiving area, where all the traditionally-published books go to be processed. Since you will not have an Indigo purchase order or handling unit, this will only confuse the receiver. Your box could end up in a quarantine pile indefinitely.
  • …expect any hand-holding. Consignment is a very small part of the company business. The store staff is there to serve customers and keep the store running, not act as your personal staff. You are ultimately responsible for your own titles and their sales. Yes, the store staff can help you and answer questions, but there is a lot more to selling consignment than just dropping off a few copies of your book and just hoping for a cheque in the mail. Do you homework and take responsibility. (More on that below.)

Steps for success:

  1. Make sure you have a professional-looking book to sell. You want your book to look as much like a traditionally-published title as possible. (This is actually just a general rule, and isn’t specific to consignment.)
  2. Order 5-10 copies of your book. Some of these will be given as sample copies to the stores you approach, with a few left over for initial inventory if your title is accepted into the consignment program.
  3. Call the store(s) in your area and ask to speak with the manager who handles consignment. (It’s best to limit yourself to a geographical area where you can easily handle transporting inventory to the store on an ongoing basis.) If the manager you need is not in, try to find out when they will be in next and get their name and contact email.
  4. Send a brief email stating your interest in becoming a consignment author at their store, along with the basic details of your book. (Title, genre, cover, product description.) Be polite and professional.
  5. If the manager you need is in, or you call back when they are working, introduce yourself as an aspiring consignment author and mention your email if you have sent one. Ask when would be a good time to visit the store and drop off a sample copy of your book.
  6. Visit the store with a few copies of your book. Visit with the consignment manager and try to make a good impression while finding out whether there are any open slots available. If there are no openings at the moment, ask whether they believe any openings might be coming up in the near future. Either way, offer them a sample copy of your book and ask to be kept under consideration. You can also offer more sample copies to be left in the staff lunchroom.
  7. Once you are offered a contract, decide the price point for your book. On the consignment program, the author royalties are 55%, which means you will earn a little more than half of the list price you give the store. Determine the cost of printing and shipping your book to yourself (including the US exchange rate and any border crossing fees, if necessary), and try to come up with something that puts you in the black while remaining reasonable for the customer, who will likely be looking at your book as an impulse buy. Look at the pricing of other titles in your genre in the same format (hard cover, trade paperback, etc.) and use that as a general guideline. If you have more than one title in a series, you might be able to convince the manager to let you sell all your titles under the same ISBN and price point. (This isn’t ideal for individual title sales tracking, but opens the door to sell multiple titles to each customer.)
  8. Order more copies of your book to sell, and organize an author event with the store. (Basically, you need to agree with the store on a date and time. The rest is up to you. Saturdays are usually the busiest, which means more potential customers.) Suggest a blurb and image about your event that can be placed in store signage (8.5×11), and write up something that can be used as a brief announcement over the store PA system on the day of the event. (These can be sent via email.) If you are a children’s author, you can arrange a storytime event, where you read your book to any kids who have shown up. (11:00am is usually a good time for this. It’s the unofficial regular storytime for most large format stores.) If you plan to bring anything out of the ordinary to the event (live animal, electronics, etc.), communicate that as well. This will help the manager prepare for things like making sure your table is near an electrical outlet.
  9. Invest in promotional materials like bookmarks to give away at the event through someone like Vistaprint. (These should have your website info listed on them.) Depending on your budget, you can also get a free-standing banner, stickers, magnets, etc. to help you interact with customers and make the table where you will be selling your book stand out.
  10. Put the word out to friends and family about the event, and consider running an ad in the local paper or a promotional post on your Facebook page. Blog and tweet about it. It’s easier to gain attention if you already have a crowd around your table, and it helps to have people you know in your corner for the big day.
  11. On the day of the event, show up early with your books and promotional materials. Get in touch with a manager to find out where to set up camp. (Ideally, this will be somewhere close to the front of the store where traffic is highest, or in the children’s section if you are a children’s author.) Make sure you get ISBN stickers from the manager for your books and use them to cover the bar code printed on the back. Only books with your Indigo consignment ISBN will be counted as sales. If any of your books get scanned at the cash desk by the barcode that is printed on the cover of your book, it will cause an error. If the cashier is unaware that the book is from your event, it will likely be sold as a dummy SKU, which isn’t traceable back to you.
  12. Greet customers passing by your table and invite them to stop by in a friendly, non-aggressive way. (“Hi there. I’m a local author. Can I tell you about my book?”) Give them a brief overview of what your book is about and maybe tell them a little about yourself if they seem interested. (It helps to practice this in advance with friends or family before the big day to get comfortable.) Offer one of your bookmarks even if the customer doesn’t pick up a copy of your book. It at least puts your name and website in their hands. It’s better to stand and circulate the area around your table than to sit behind it and wait for people to come to you. The most successful consignment authors are dynamic and approachable. If someone expresses interest, offer to sign a copy of your book for them after they have purchased it. (If you personalize the book with the customer’s name, it won’t be returnable.) Make sure they get one of your bookmarks as well. If they like your book, you want them to be able to find you online. Thank them and encourage them to let you know how they enjoy it.
  13. Stay at the store as long as you feel is appropriate. I have seen authors stick around for half the day, trying to reach as many customers as possible. If you need to go to the bathroom, you can ask a staff member to keep an eye on your table to let people know you will be back shortly. If you are committing to a long day, ask the manager whether you might be able to use the staff lunchroom to store and heat up a meal.
  14. Make connections among the staff members with small talk. If you feel comfortable, offer them a free sample copy of your book, or ask whether they have had a chance to read any of the copies you dropped off for the staff earlier. Having a staff member back your book can be extremely helpful because once your event is over, you book will be hidden on the home shelf as “Consignment Title X” in the system. Yes, someone could stumble across it, but no one will know to look for it there, unless a staff member knows about it and helps them. If a staff member is enthusiastic about your book, you can ask them if they might be willing to make it a Staff Pick. This is a huge foot in the door because the store’s Staff Picks are prominently displayed either on a table at the front of the store, or in the front alcove, which are both high traffic areas. This is like getting a paid co-op display for free.
  15. When your event is over, decide how many copies of your book you will leave behind on the store shelf. (Unless you’ve won a Staff Pick spot, 5 copies is probably enough.) Keep track of this number for inventory purposes and pack up the rest. (Some authors don’t leave any copies behind and only sell during events. This is completely up to you.) Sign the copies you are leaving behind and ask whether they can be stickered as “Signed by the Author”. Make sure all copies have your consignment ISBN sticker in place. (You can tuck one of your bookmarks in each copy as well.) Check out with the manager.
  16. Once you find out how many copies you sold, you can create a basic PDF invoice detailing the list price, copies sold, and 55% royalty for the amount you are owed. (The consignment manager should be able to email you an invoice template.) Make sure you include a unique invoice number, your name, consignment ISBN, and contact information on the invoice, including mailing address. Email it to the manager handling consignment. If you do not send an invoice, you will not get paid. This invoice is sent to Indigo Home Office to be processed. Eventually, you should receive a cheque in the mail. (In a perfect world, payment terms are 30 Days End of Month, but in my experience, it can be quite a bit longer.) If several weeks go by without anything showing up, get in touch with the consignment manager to make sure your invoice was sent, and that your contact information is correct. Save the receipt attached to your cheque once you receive it, and make sure you remember to claim the amount paid by Indigo on your annual income tax.
  17. If you are leaving copies of your book in the store, check back every month or so via email to find out how many copies have sold. Make sure you include your title and consignment ISBN in the request. Send additional invoices as needed on whatever schedule you decide.
  18. Set up another event, if you like. If you have been easy to deal with, the store will be happy to have you back. Good sales for you means money for them as well. Some authors come back every few months, and others might do a few days in one week before coming back a month later. It’s all about how much time and effort you are willing to put in. Just bear in mind that some times will be off limits, such as the Christmas season, when the store staff is far too busy to support an author event.

Getting an ISBN:

In the US, you (or your distributor) usually has to purchase an ISBN, but in Canada, ISBNs are free. While many distributors will offer a free ISBN as part of their publishing services, the distributor will then be listed or flagged as the imprint/publisher of record for your work. Many indie writers are OK with this (especially in the US, where the other option is to pay for an ISBN yourself), and distributors are quick to point out that your work is still your own. My thought is that the self-publishing world as we know it today is still a relatively new and expanding industry. It’s difficult to see at this point what the long-term legal/rights implications are of this arrangement. Since Canadians can get ISBNs for free anyway, I would rather eliminate any potential confusion and keep everything strictly in my own name. Here’s how I do it:

First, you will need to register as a publisher. You can do this either under your own name, or a company name, if you have one. After your initial setup is complete, you will be assigned a publisher prefix that will be inserted into all your ISBNs to identify you as the publisher. You can sign up, request ISBNs and manage them here.

These ISBNs can be used when you add your book to Amazon, Smashwords, etc. Remember: The print version of your book must have a different ISBN from the ebook version.

Bowker manages all ISBNs in the US, and their catalogue is used as a reference for many book retailer platforms, including Amazon’s Createspace. For a long time, I got away without dealing with Bowker at all, since my ISBNs are Canadian, but I eventually started having some weird metatdata issues with my Createspace paperbacks, which had my imprint name suddenly listed as ‘Jacob Smith’ on some of my existing titles for some bizarre reason. Initially, I tried fixing this via Createspace customer service, but the source of the problem was actually Bowker, where this weird glitch was originating. I have also found recently that Createspace no longer accepts my Canadian ISBNs during the paperback publishing process until I have set them up via Bowker. So if you want to use Createspace to publish your paperbacks with your own ISBNs, you will have to set up an account with Bowker as well.

Getting an account with Bowker as a Canadian was a bit of a roundabout process, since I didn’t want to actually purchase any ISBNs from them, just fix the ones I already had. I originally went through BowkerLink to have an account set up, which resulted in some back and forth email over the course of several days (including an Excel spreadsheet of all my ISBNs from Library & Archives Canada) before getting a login setup for Bowker Identifier Services. I would try starting with Bowker Identifier Services to set up an account if you don’t have any information that needs to be corrected. Once you are registered there, you can add any new ISBNs from Library & Archives Canada that have your registered publisher prefix, and update your metadata for existing titles (aside from your Imprint Name). Once updated, it takes a day or so for this info to be approved by the system and feed back to places like Amazon’s Createspace.

For more details on the nuts and bolts of ISBNs, check out this Wikipedia article.

Registering a copyright for your book:

Whether or not you decide to register a copyright is totally up to you. Many writers have debated this point online, and I’m sure you can find lots of related blog posts if you decide to look, so I’m not going to get into that debate.

But if you do decide to register a copyright, you can do it here. Each title you register will cost $50, and you can register either before or after you publish.

Ordering copies of your paperback:


These books are shipped from the US, and you will be charged in US dollars, which can be a real pain, depending on the exchange rate. Also, they do not accept Paypal, so if you’re using a Canadian credit card, you will get hit with exchange fees on top of the exchange rate. (Check out the banking section below for a way around this.) The only time when I find Createspace helpful, is when I’m running a Goodreads giveaway, and I want to drop-ship a single copy of my book to a third-party winner. (Createspace=Amazon, so they have multiple warehouses in the US and Europe, which means it’s much cheaper to ship straight from them to the end customer/winner than for me to physically ship a copy from Canada via Canada Post.)

When you order multiple copies of your book in a single shipment, the courier services will often slap a surprise brokerage fee onto your shipping cost (which never seems to have any clear explanation of how it’s calculated, as far as I can tell), charging you when they arrive at your door. This can really add up (especially on top of the higher Priority shipping option), and prevent your order from being delivered if you’re not around to pay the charges. In my experience, this seems to happen if I order 10+ copies.

The other downside of ordering 10+ copies is that usually the order will end up shipping by DHL instead of UPS, unless you’ve shelled out for Priority Shipping. (This is not a hard and fast rule, but it has always been my experience.) DHL is way slower than UPS, and I’ve had shipments where the tracking information from DHL did not exist at all and took weeks to arrive.

Meanwhile, we also have tax fees (GST) that can be applied in addition to brokerage fees. This is usually related to cost of goods shipped. As long as the value of the order is less than $20 Canadian (approx.), no additional fees *should* be applied.

Basically, if I order from Createspace, I try to keep it to 5 copies or fewer. This means it’s likely to be shipped by UPS (which is trackable, and only takes about 3 days in my experience, once the books have been printed and the shipment has been picked up from the warehouse), and it should avoid brokerage and tax fees as well. Unfortunately, this still doesn’t get around the exchange rate, and is not always cost-effective if you need a lot of units. Which brings us to…



Blurb is my new best friend. They ship from within Canada and charge me in Canadian dollars. They also offer volume discounts (10+ copies = 10% off, 20+ copies = 20% off, etc.), as well as the occasional promo code to save even more without a minimum order quantity. I don’t have to worry about surprise brokerage or tax fees either. The print quality is on par with Createspace, with orders being fulfilled by international distribution powerhouse, Ingram/Lightning Source (without any of the painful ‘title setup fees’ Ingram usually charges if you deal with them directly). Honestly, I’m kicking myself for not trying Blurb sooner.

Getting a US tax ID (ITIN):

Just for the record: I am not a tax lawyer or expert. I’m only sharing information based on my own experience.

When you get paid by your US distributors (Smashwords, Amazon KDP/CreateSpace, etc.), they withhold 30% of your earnings (in addition to their royalty cut) as tax. To get around this, you need a tax ID from the IRS. Then you can collect 100% of your cut of the royalty share, but you will still need to report it on your Canadian income tax, just like any other income you receive. There are two types of foreign tax ID: Employer Identification Number (for companies), and Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (for individuals). This is the process to secure an ITIN on your own, without a lawyer or acceptance agent, for under $50 (assuming you already have a valid Canadian passport).


What you’ll need:

  • Proof of your foreign status. (A certified copy of your passport.)
  • Proof that tax is being withheld. (A form letter from one of your US distributors.)
  • A completed W-7 application form.


Proof of Foreign Status

The easiest way to fulfill this requirement is to get a certified copy of your Canadian passport. Your passport must be certified by the issuing office (Passport Canada) to be acceptable. A notarized copy is no good.

As of January 2018, a certified true copy of your passport costs $45. Whether you decide to go through this process by mail or in person, make sure you won’t be traveling for the next few weeks, since you won’t have your passport available while your certified copy is being made. If you drop off your passport in person, you will be given a slip in exchange for your passport, along with a pickup date. Do not lose this slip. You will need to exchange it for your passport and certified copy when they are ready for pickup. The certified copy is what you will send to the IRS, along with the other required documentation listed below.


Proof that tax is being withheld

This is a letter provided by one of your US distributors, such as Amazon KDP, Smashwords, or Createspace. You can request such a letter from any of these companies through their FAQ or Support links once you are logged into your account. You only need to send a valid letter from one of these companies to the IRS with your completed W-7 form.


W-7 Application Form

Once you have a certified copy of your passport and a letter from one of your distributors, you can fill out the IRS W-7 form. It’s fairly straightforward. Fill in all your information, including name, birth information, foreign address and tax number (your Canadian Social Insurance Number), and your passport information. You can find the official instructions here.

In the top portion outlining your reason for needing the ITIN, check ‘a’ (‘Nonresident alien required to get ITIN to claim tax treaty benefit’), and make sure you write ‘Canada’ as the treaty country and ‘Article 12 (XII)’ as the treaty article number at the bottom of the section, just above where your name goes. Don’t worry about the Acceptance Agent section of the form. Leave it empty.

The completed form  must be sent with the certified copy of your passport and the letter from one of your US distributors to the IRS. (It can be helpful to either take a photo or scan of all three items your are sending so you have a digital copy of each, in case you make a mistake on your application and the IRS sends you a notice that information needs to be corrected. They seem to send a non-specific form letter in this instance, and a second look at a digital copy of what you sent several weeks before could save you a potentially complicated long-distance call the IRS.) Your completed application, letter, and passport copy can either be sent by mail to the related IRS PO box, or by courier to a separate IRS address. (Both addresses can be found in the W-7 Application Instructions.) Once you send everything off, it will likely take several weeks before you get your ITIN in the mail. Make a digital copy and save both it and the physical copy in a safe place for future reference.


Stopping the Tax Withholding

Once you receive your ITIN in the mail from the IRS, you need to communicate it to each of your individual US distributors (Smashwords, Amazon KDP, Amazon Createspace, etc.). This is done via a completed W-8BEN form or tax online interview, depending on the distributor. You should be able to find this info in each distributor’s related Account or Support sections once you are logged into your account.

You will need to submit a new tax interview or W-8BEN form every few years to ensure all your information is still correct. You should be prompted by each of your distributors for this as needed.

If you have already had tax withheld from a distributor, you *should* eventually have it reimbursed to you, once you have completed the W-8BEN process either via online tax interview or by mail.


Your Annual US Income Tax Documents

Since you are outside the US, it can take quite a bit longer to receive your annual income tax documents (AKA: 1042-S) than a typical Canadian T4. (I’m talking around end of March.) You can now receive all your 1042-S docs online, instead of by mail from Smashwords, Amazon KDP, and Createspace, which helps to shave off the mailing time. You must be signed up for paperless tax documentation for this, either via your account on Smashwords, or through Amazon’s online Tax Interview process.

Smashwords usually emails you when your documents are ready, which you can access through your account. Amazon only started going entirely paperless this year, and I don’t recall receiving an email from them. Instead, I found this handy link that has both Amazon KDP and Createspace tax documents in one place as Amazon Tax Central. (It also includes Amazon Associates, if you are an affiliate.) You can log in using your Amazon account. Hit the View/Edit button beside the channel you want, followed by ‘Find Forms’. You can then select the tax year you need to download.

Again, I am not a tax expert or an accountant, so how you choose to report your writing earnings for your Canadian income tax is up to you. (Some people stick with entering their royalties as ‘Other Income’, which is very easy, but claiming them as ‘Self-Employment Income’ allows you to claim related business expenses against your earnings.) However you or your accountant decides to do it, you must report your writing royalties as taxable income. You will need to use an average exchange rate from the year the royalties were earned (USD to CAD) from the Bank of Canada to convert your earnings properly into Canadian Dollars for income tax purposes.


Receiving direct payments from the US:

Smashwords pays royalties monthly via Paypal with no minimum earning threshold, but Amazon KDP and Createspace will only send you a cheque if you don’t have a bank account inside the US, UK, or Europe. (Even then, your balance must be at least $100/channel for Amazon to pay you. KDP and Createspace are separate branches of the company, with separate accounting departments.)

If you have a bank account in the US, you get paid monthly as long as your balance is $10 or more, which is a much better option. I use RBC. (Remember: The account you need is not just a US currency account, but one that is with a branch that is physically in the US. At the time I signed up, RBC was the only game in town I could find.)

I opened three RBC accounts:

Canadian USD Savings Account: I use this to accept US funds via Paypal (free).

US Checking Account: I use this to to accept direct deposits from the US ($3.95US/month). It comes with a US Visa Debit card, which is also handy for making business-related payments (web hosting, image licenses, etc.) in US dollars without getting slapped with foreign conversion fees like you would with a Canadian credit card.

Canadian Savings Account: I use this to filter money in and out of the other two accounts  as needed (1 free transaction/month, no monthly fee). You might find a different Canadian currency account works better for your banking needs.

You can link all your RBC accounts online and move your money to or from the US very easily. I opened my accounts in person at a local branch, and they were very helpful for setting everything up. To open the US Checking Account, I needed two pieces of ID and a $100 deposit to transfer into the new account. (Not sure if this policy is still the same.)


General Banking Thoughts:

For a long time when I first started out, I moved money all over the place. (Personal funds into US accounts so I could pay for writing-related expenses, writing earnings into my personal accounts to pay for personal items. *shudder*) I have found that it’s much better for my peace of mind (and more logical) to keep my business and personal accounts separate.

Basically, I now only use my RBC accounts to move my Smashwords royalties from Paypal to my RBC checking account, where it can pool with my Amazon direct deposits. I let it accumulate there so I have US funds available to cover any USD business-related costs I might rack up (Web hosting, inventory from Createspace for drop-ship giveaways, etc.), and then I don’t have to worry about getting dinged by the exchange rate.

I also have a separate Canadian savings account where I do my personal banking (Tangerine). This is where I put my CAD earnings from my Indigo consignment cheques. I use these funds to cover any CAD-related costs (usually more inventory from Blurb to feed back into my ongoing consignment contract).


Hopefully, someone out there will find this info helpful. If you have any questions, let me know!


38 thoughts on “Self-Publishing Tips for Canadian Writers

  1. Lisa

    This is really helpful info, thank you for taking the time to compile this in one spot. I am looking to self-publish my first book in February 2019, and these tips are invaluable.

    One question I have regards publishing to Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. Do you have to publish your books on both sites, or is there some option on the Amazon.com site that allows your book to also be displayed on Amazon.ca, or vice versa?

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Lisa,

      For ebook, Amazon KDP publishes to ALL Amazon sites simultaneously, which is super-easy. (You can even set individual price points in the local currency if you want, or allow them to auto-calculate based on the US price.) For print, you can select Expanded Distribution via Createspace, which will distribute your paperback to Amazon.ca, as well as third-party retailer websites, like Barnes & Noble. (This is the only way to get physical books onto Amazon.ca via Amazon. IngramSpark is an alternative, however they do charge a ‘Setup Fee’ for each title you distribute with them, which can add up with multiple titles. I haven’t tried them yet, but I might experiment in future. Distributing with them would likely also get you listed with Indigo, who generally doesn’t touch anything Amazon with a 10-foot pole.)

      It does take awhile for the print version of your book to actually appear on the Amazon.ca site and other third-party sites. If you select Expanded Distribution, you will also have to increase your list price to account for the third party’s cut of the royalty share. Another fun fact: Amazon only has their POD machines located in their US and European warehouses, so your shipping time on Amazon.ca will probably be 1-3 weeks by default, as your books will actually be shipping either from one of their US warehouses, or an international third-party printer (usually Ingram).

      Amazon is currently merging Createspace with KDP, so print will be managed in the same place as ebook for them going forward. I haven’t made the jump yet, but it should be pretty similar to Createspace, only more streamlined. They’ve been testing it out and tweaking for about a year now. (I’ve just been waiting for all the kinks to get worked out.)

      Hope that helps!

      1. John Collins

        Amazing in depth article. Thank you very much for sharing this. As a debut author, I am thinking of using Friesen or tellwell for simplicity. Do you have any thoughts on this? John

        1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

          Hi John,

          I don’t have any experience with either company, but I would personally avoid any publishing services/packages that involve paying fees to have your work published (even if the package includes editing and/or other services). Even companies that are owned by major traditional publishing houses are often predatory vanity presses in disguise. Best-case scenario, you end up paying more for services you could have sourced on your own or done yourself. Worst-case scenario, you pay more, plus you sign away valuable rights to your own work. (Everyone seems to want to gobble up intellectual property these days, even if they just want to sit on it.) I’m a strong advocate of staying in control of as many aspects of your work as possible.

          I know self-publishing can seem daunting at first, and depending on how elaborate you want to get about it, it can be a steep learning curve. But it’s actually ridiculously easy to do a lot of the basics yourself now in terms of the actual publishing, and there are plenty of editors, cover designers, book formatters, etc. who cater to self-published authors with reasonable pricing. Once you have your book formatted and ready to go, it takes minutes to publish, and you can have it live on Amazon and other markets in a matter of hours. You really don’t need a publishing service to do this. And sometimes, depending on what kind of relationship the publishing service may have with other companies or platforms, publishing through them may actually hinder you in terms of reach.

          These are MY personal rules for self-publishing costs:

          Book Services (Editing, cover design, formatting, etc.):
          Pay a one-time, per-project fee, that is clearly negotiated up-front, with no ongoing royalties or copyright grabs. (If your project needs to be resubmitted for a new cover design, re-formatting, etc., it means you will likely have to pay again.) Editors, formatters, cover designers, etc. should not request to be listed as co-authors or anywhere else in the metadata of your book. You should always credit your cover designer in the copyright statement of your book, and you can mention editors or formatters there as well, if you like, or in your acknowledgments. Royalty-share options may seem cheaper up-front, but if you choose this option, you (and your estate) will be paying for those services for the lifetime of your book (your lifetime + 50 years). The royalty-share option in this instance is like taking a deal with Kevin O’Leary on Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank. He wants to make money off you FOREVER for services rendered once.

          Artwork (Stock images):
          Always, always, always go royalty-free. Pay once, and avoid the Kevin O’Leary option. (You may need to invest in an extended licence if you want to use the image in certain ways–printed on T-shirts, as a desktop wallpaper you sell/distribute, etc.)

          Publishing Services/Distribution (Ebook, paperback, etc.):
          This is where it’s the opposite of everything above. You want an ongoing relationship with your publishing partners, where all parties are invested in the long-term success of your book. This means paying nothing up-front, and sticking with a royalty-share option that’s as advantageous to you as the author as possible, with no copyright grabs. (There may however be incidental costs when dealing with print books for file setup, and of course the actual cost of printing the book itself, which usually comes out of your share of the profits.)

          Physical Copies of Your Book:
          Can you save money by placing a bulk order of your book? On paper, sure. But can you actually SELL all those copies? That’s the question. It’s easy to get overambitious in this area, and offloading a bunch of copies to the local bookstores doesn’t really count, because the stores will probably just return all the unsold copies right back to you a couple of months down the road. Space in bookstores is at a premium, and major publishers pay big bucks for prime real estate there. This is not an advantageous battleground for self-published authors. I know every writer’s dream is to see their book on the shelf in the bookstore, and I’m not saying it can’t be done. But at the end of the day, self-publishers have a far higher chance of visibility online, where the playing field is more level (especially at Amazon), and self-publishers usually earn MORE on an ebook sale than a paperback sale, even though the retail price is substantially lower. (Plus with COVID, ebook sales are definitely on the rise, so decent ebook distribution and support is key.) I’ve heard multiple stories of authors signing up with some kind of paid publishing service that includes a large print run of their book, and years later, the author is stuck with boxes and boxes of their book in their basement or garage. For these reasons, I always stick with print on demand. I order the number of copies I need, when I need them. When handselling to friends and family, I usually get them to transfer/pay me the money first, to make sure they’re serious about buying, and not just trying to sound supportive.

          Hope some of this is helpful… If you have any other questions, let me know, and I’ll do my best to answer. 🙂

          1. John Collins

            You hope this is helpful? – it is tremendous! Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Sorry for the late reply, I was bogged down with my rewriting. I am moving away from the idea of these self publishing companies. They do provide a good cost design and editing combination, but I believe they increase the printing charges if you have printing and distribution done by them (via Ingramspark), which means no profit left for me! I am looking now more at contracting the design and editing but it seems to more expensive than your suggested amounts.Do it yourself seems to be a complicated process and overwhelming as does the engagement of Ingramsparks and KDP. Plus your insight into the tax implications raises another challenge.
            I live in Brampton and note that you are outskirts of Toronto. My Probus club often has authors speak to us and sell their books. If this is of interest to you, let me know. I would like to buy one of your mysteries but avoid the shipping fee.

          2. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

            Glad to hear you found it useful! Don’t get overwhelmed by the tax stuff. It’s actually WAAAY easier now than when I first wrote this post. (I need to get around to updating it at some point…) Most companies now seem to allow a Canadian SIN in the place of a US tax ID for filling out the required IRS info, and it’s all done online through a simple form. You just need to re-confirm your info every three years or so. (Every company I’ve worked with has sent an email to remind me.)

            As for doing it yourself/hiring contractors, I can offer some resources for you to check out… Not sure if you’ve heard of them, but the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi, for short [affiliate link]) is a non-profit professional business membership organization for self-published authors that also acts as an industry watchdog. They have a whole bunch of free self-publishing guides for members, as well as discounts with different publishing services that they’ve vetted, and legal counsel services. Membership starts at $119/year (CAD) for authors who are just starting out. Even if you don’t want to join, they have a great YouTube channel where they post regular podcasts with lots of advice and help for both new and experienced indie authors.

            You might also want to check out this blog post by David Gaughran on how to self-publish a book in 10 steps. Dave is an absolute goldmine of information. I’m a long-time subscriber of his weekly newsletter, which is always packed with great info. His books on self-publishing are all worth reading (you can probably get one or two of them for free), and he even has a free course on book marketing, and a YouTube channel as well. (And yes, the Starting from Zero course is really free, with no upsell or catch. You can find links to all this stuff in that blog post I’ve referenced.) He’s really good at breaking things down step-by-step and making them seem more manageable, while providing his own extensive, real-world experience.

            Self-publishing is definitely a steep learning curve at first, but in my opinion, it’s really worth taking the time to learn, so you can maintain control of your work and keep more money in your pocket. I’m always learning new things about the industry as it continues to evolve and grow, which I find quite rewarding. Once you wrap your head around some of the basics, you start to see how we can do pretty much everything a publishing company can do on our own, without having to hand over all of our copyright, or a huge chunk of change.

            Thanks for the invite to your Probus group, but I’m out in the east end (Durham), and I don’t really get out that way… (I’m also a hard-core introvert, so I generally avoid groups and public speaking like the plague, lol.) But thanks so much for thinking of me! Again, I hope some of this stuff is useful to you on your publishing journey. 🙂

  2. Lisa

    Thank you! The whole Createspace/Ingram thing is a bit confusing. I’m trying to figure out which I want to go with to do the print version of the book. I’m leaning towards Ingram as i have heard the quality of the books is better.

    There’s a lot to think about! But I really appreciate your help in wading through the weeds. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will have got all these details looked after.

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      I’ve had books printed by both Ingram and Amazon, and the quality is pretty comparable. (Ingram usually ends up doing the printing for Blurb, which I use to buy my own copies for hand-selling, and I’ve even had Amazon outsource to Ingram on one of my shipments during the Christmas rush.) The gloss on Ingram’s covers seems to have become higher quality over my past few shipments though.

      I would start with whichever channel you feel most comfortable. It’s easier to dip your toes in the water with Amazon, but their distribution isn’t as wide. You could very well end up using both down the road, as going solely through Ingram will also likely make your book listed as 1-3 weeks shipping on the Amazon sites. (Amazon likes to play with Ingram only a little more than Indigo likes to play with Amazon.) Welcome to the crazy world of self-publishing. 🙂

      1. L.A. Smith

        OK, I have another question. I’m in the midst of setting up my KDP account. In there I see that they state they will pay royalties by direct deposit, in CAD, to Canadian banks. So why do I need the US based bank account?

        1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

          Huh, that must be new, which is great news! It looks like you can still use a US-based bank if you want, but I only did it because it was the only way to get paid by direct deposit by Amazon before. The only other potential benefit of having the US bank account I can think of is being able to cover writing-related costs in US funds, without having to lose anything in the conversion. (Most of my expenses, aside from physical paperback inventory, tends to be in USD.) Either way, it looks like you now have the option for what works best for you. 😀

          1. L.A. Smith

            Yes, I think this must be a new feature. Thankfully! But I have still set up a US account, just in case I need it for US-based expenses, as you say. They also have a whole section on the tax withholding, where you can fill out the form online and submit it there. They don’t ask for a passport copy, either. I filled out the form and they said my tax interview was complete and on file. So maybe I don’t have to go through all that passport rigamarole either.
            At any rate, once again I thank you for your help and tips. it really it appreciated. Now I just have to figure out the KDP/Ingram/Blurb. Onwards and upwards!

          2. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

            Wow, that’s great news about the taxes! (Pretty sure I’m going to have to update this page at some point, lol.) I know there’s lots of other new publishing stuff that I’m experimenting with as well. Always so much more to learn. 🙂

  3. Farshid Sadatsharifi

    Hi dear all,
    I am writing this email to you like a kindly ask to help me with my question:
    How can I be registered as a publication service here in Canada?
    I have a cultural corporation which is registered this April. Both in federal and Quebec.
    It covers any of the activities related to a cross-culture approach between our community -Persian Community- and our lovely second country Canada.
    It is one of our primary goals to publish some related books but to be honest, I have been lost in various links and web pages, and at the end of story I did not find a clear guidance about the procedure of being a resisted publisher an have a “publisher Prefix” before applying for ISBN.
    It is very kind of you if you can help me.


    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Farshid,

      You’ll want to start by registering an account with Library and Archives/ISBN Canada. Once your account is set up, they will assign you a publisher prefix, which you will be able to use through their website to create ISBNs for your books. (It’s a fairly easy process once you are set up.) You can do all this online here: http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/services/isbn-canada/Pages/isbn-canada.aspx. (There is also an FAQ section, and a tutorial video on the same page.)

      Hope that helps!

  4. Dave Smith

    As of Mar 2020, does either KDP or Ingram charge duty fees for shipping author copies to Canada? I’m reading conflicting reports of whether they print author copies in Canada. Thanks

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Dave,

      In my experience, the brokerage fees are determined and charged by whatever carrier delivers the package (in addition to the printer’s stated shipping fees). These extra fees are also usually not advertised ahead of time, and seem to be arbitrary. (I have had 2 exact same shipments come from the same destination to the same address in packaging of the same dimensions, and been charged 2 different brokerage fees by 2 different couriers. There doesn’t seem to be any breakdown of how these fees are calculated on the invoice you get from the courier either.)

      In the case of KDP, there is still a chance of being charged these extra fees, since Amazon will probably want to print and ship in-house from one of their US warehouses to keep the production costs low on their end, with you footing the shipping bill. (I have had an exceptional case during the peak holiday season where they were presumably running behind and outsourced my order to Ingram, so it printed and shipped from within Canada.)

      I have no experience with using Ingram directly at this point, but since they clearly do have a POD facility here (used to fulfill the occasional KDP author order, any orders of your books by customers on Amazon.ca, as well as most Canadian orders from Blurb.ca), I *think* you would be OK. I have been using Blurb.ca for my inventory needs for awhile now, and have never been charged anything above the shipping and printing costs, and every order but one has come via Ingram’s Lightning Source warehouse in Etobicoke.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Tony Berryman

    Hi Jacquelyn: wonderful post, thank you so much for the detailed information! I am climbing the self-publishing learning curve in preparation for the launch of my first novel later this Spring (The Night Nurse, a massage therapy thriller).

    My intention is to use a combination of Amazon KDP and IngramSpark for both print and ebook, to get the widest distribution and easiest access to author copies. I’m doing the ‘legal’ page for my front matter now.

    My question is – as a Canadian author and self-publisher, using two services with a US base but international reach, do I want or need to put ‘Printed in USA’ or ‘Published in Canada’ anywhere on the legal page? Does it help or hinder any aspect of my book’s appeal or reach? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Tony,

      Yes, I think using a combo of KDP Print for Amazon and IngramSpark for everyone else (print-wise) is probably the best way to go. (I’m planning on heading in that direction myself, once I have all my existing titles ready to migrate to Ingram.)

      As far as the copyright/legal page, I don’t bother including a ‘Printed/Published in,’ since this will likely vary, depending on where in the world the book is ordered, and we’re dealing with Print on Demand. Both Amazon and Ingram also insert their own small ‘Printed in’ section on the very last page of each book they print, so you could end up having conflicting information if you’ve included something of your own on the copyright page.

      Personally, I don’t think the average customer bothers reading the copyright page at all, so I don’t think skipping the ‘Printed/Published in’ makes any real difference in terms of overall professionalism/appeal, but this page is obviously an important part of your book, and you want it to look as close to something that’s traditionally published as possible. This is what my copyright page looks like:

      ISBN 978-1-999999-99-9
      Copyright (c) Year by Author Name
      Excerpt from Title copyright (c) Year by Author Name [This is if you’re also including an excerpt/teaser of another one of your own titles.]
      All rights reserved.

      Cover design by Designer Name
      Stock Images:
      ‘Image Name 1’ ID Image ID Number (c) Artist Name | Source Image Website/Company Name
      ‘Image Name 2’ ID Image ID Number (c) Artist Name | Source Image Website/Company Name

      [Characters and events are fictitious disclaimer.]

      [Copying/pirating and distributing without consent is illegal notice.]

      Your Publishing Company/Imprint Name
      Business Address

      Hope that helps. If you have any questions, let me know. Good luck with your book!

  6. Tom

    Thanks for this post, I’ve referenced it a few times. I’d love to get your and others’ opinion on this:

    My book is 1-2 months away from being published. I need 300 author copies for the launch reading. I want those copies 3-4 weeks before the launch and before I publish and publicize the book. But as I understand, you can’t order author copies (AC) on Amazon until you publish. I want to make sure I rank as high as I can during the launch and new-release month. I don’t want to publish, order 300, then no reviews for 3 weeks while I wait for the official launch. I could order those 300 from Ingram or a local printer, then have my concentrated Amazon sales start at the launch day.

    How much do author copies count towards Amazon sales ranking/algorithms? Am I costing myself Amazon ranking ordering them elsewhere?

    There’s actually a few options and I want to get it right…. Also, I live in Canada and Amazon prints author copies from US; Ingram from Canada, I believe.

    Any thoughts?


    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Tom,

      To be honest, I’ve never done a physical launch with a reading or anything. I’ve stuck to keeping the majority of my sales online, with small batches of physical copies for hand-sales or to stock my local bookstore. But if you’re set on a large order from here in Canada, I would recommend Ingram, or someone who outsources to them, like Blurb. (Blurb often runs discount promos, and they also offer volume discounts. Not sure how these stack up compared to ordering from Ingram directly.)

      You are correct that you can’t order copies from Amazon until the book is published, and with the changes that Amazon has made since moving their paperback platform from Createspace, your book gets published as soon as it clears their (automated?) vetting process, within roughly 24 hours of the interior and cover files being submitted. (It used to be that you could submit your files, and then wait after Amazon’s approval to order proofs and give YOUR final approval to release the book.)

      I could be wrong, but my understanding is that author copy sales from Amazon do not count as actual ‘sales’ according to Amazon, so probably no worries about ordering your copies from Ingram. (It seems unlikely to me that Amazon would allow authors to goose their numbers by ordering author copies.) And by ordering author copies from Amazon, you also run the risk of them fulfilling your order in-house and shipping it from the US, which could get REALLY expensive in terms of extra brokerage fees and surprise GST charges at the border when you’re talking about 300 copies. With Ingram, your order *should* ship from their Canadian fulfillment center, so GST would be charged up-front and there wouldn’t be any surprises. (Not sure how the current situation with COVID-19 has affected their shipping and fulfillment processes and timelines.)

      If you’re looking for a solid resource on Amazon algorithms and rankings, you might want to check out David Gaughran. He has an ebook called Amazon Decoded. The first edition is free when you sign up for his newsletter, which also includes some great marketing/promotion tips. He’s been working on an updated version of Amazon Decoded, which is supposed to be coming out any time now at a special price for subscribers, plus he’s got a ton of blog posts, and even some videos now too that are full of self-publishing tips. Here’s the link to his Amazon Decoded newsletter signup page if you’re interested: https://davidgaughran.com/2018/01/19/amazon-decoded-a-marketing-guide-to-the-kindle-store-is-free/

      Hope this helps, and good luck with your book!

  7. Liesbeth

    Hi, thank you so much for this pages full of extremely useful info. I’m in Canada, ready to publish two small books. I want them to be available in Europe and the US too. I looked at Ingram, because I like their taxes / admin solutions better, and they are good for Europe. BUT … I don’t think Ingram prints and sends from Canada. They state it takes at least 22 business days + shipping, and indeed their printer seems to be in the US and UK. Whereas books ordered via Amazon seem to ship from Canada within a day. What is your experience?
    I am almost tempted to ship the US and Canada myself and have the books printed locally …

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Liesbeth,

      I haven’t dealt with Ingram directly yet, but whenever I’ve ordered my books from Blurb.ca or even as a customer on Amazon.ca, they have usually been fulfilled by Ingram, and shipped out of the Etobicoke, Ontario area by Ingram’s Lightning Source brand. I haven’t ordered with Blurb recently, but my orders from them usually took ~2 weeks. Amazon only takes a few days. (Again, this was me ordering a few copies of my own books as an Amazon Prime customer. Ordered on a Wednesday, and got the books that Saturday.) So Ingram definitely prints and ships from Canada.

      I tend to think Ingram quotes a slower delivery time due to COVID, plus I suspect their turnaround for author print runs is slower than the odd jobs they fill for Amazon customers. If you do end up going with them, make sure you do it through IngramSpark and NOT Lightning Source. IngramSpark is supposed to be geared toward indies/self-publishing, whereas Lightning Source is more for bigger companies (and I’ve heard is much less user-friendly).

      Hope this helps!

      1. Liesbeth

        Hi Jacquelyn thank you so much for your quick reply!! Interesting how the book sales are fulfilled by Ingram. I just ordered a POD book (from someone else) on Amazon Prime, and it states “printed by Amazon in Bolton ON”) it was there, like you said, in a few days, very quick. I am just looking at Blurb.ca. I really like the diversity of sizes and books they offer. But their shipping rates seem over the moon! I like the fact that customers can order a book on Amazon Prime and get the delivery for free. (if they pad for Prime of course). Do you have a publisher account on Amazon (Kindle Direct it is called I think). I just really hate that they need to know my SIN number, and this whole tax hooha in the US.

        1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

          Yeah, the shipping with Blurb can get pricey (and I’ve had a bait-and-switch issue with shipping prices from them a couple of times where the amount they quote on their own Canadian shipping calculator ends up being lower than what they actually end up charging, so keep an eye out for that). My current paperback setup is with Amazon through the KDP (Kindle Direct) platform, which is really user friendly and easy to set up for both ebook and paperback. It only takes about a day after you upload your book files for your paperback to go live on Amazon. (For hand-selling, I just order small batches of my books through either Blurb or Amazon.ca.) And if you click Amazon’s Extended Distribution option during the paperback setup, your paperback will also be available on a whole bunch of international sites as well (with Ingram doing a lot of the heavy lifting behind the scenes).

          My paperbacks uploaded to KDP are available from retailers/redistributors from all over the world, in addition to all the Amazon sites. Their reach isn’t as wide as Ingram’s (even though they work together to fulfill orders), and of course, you have both Amazon and Ingram taking a cut of the royalties for sales beyond the reach of Amazon’s core webstores, but honestly, it’s not a bad trade-off in terms of keeping things easy, especially if you’re just starting out. I’m planning on trying a hybrid with my books at some point, using KDP just to distribute to Amazon, and Ingram to get to everywhere else, to get the best of both worlds.

          As for the tax stuff, it’s actually much easier now than it was when I first started and wrote this page, and it’s something you’ll have to deal with for pretty much any distributor (Ingram included), if their main business is located outside of Canada. Otherwise, they will withhold 30% of your royalties as tax, which they are required to do by law unless you follow the proper steps to inform them that you are a Canadian citizen claiming tax treaty. You cannot get this portion of your royalties until you properly file your tax information, and this is something that needs to be done with each company you do business with. The good news is I think pretty much every self-publishing company (KDP, Smashwords, Draft2Digital, etc.) now just has this as an online tax interview form that takes about five minutes to fill out. (They also send you a reminder to fill a new one out every few years to make sure your information is current and correct.) Just think of it like giving your SIN to an employer for a new job. (…While obviously making sure the browser page you’re using is secure, and using a private computer/device.)

          Any questions, let me know! 🙂

  8. Liesbeth

    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I think I will go with Amazon and Blurb and Ingram all 3. That might be a bit of a hassle, but they all offer different formats that I need. Also, I contacted Ingram. They said they have deals with the different corporations; so Ingram’s delivery is now 22 bizz days, but Amazon (even if Ingram is actually doing it!) might be faster. Bit weird, but well.And yes, I guess you are right about the SIN … 🙂

  9. Dave Kwan

    Hi Jacquelyn,

    Your research information and personal insight for self-publishing is excellent and most helpful. Thank You very much!

    As an indie author, I have 5 books (both print and e-books) on Amazon via KDP. As you wrote in the article, I got my ‘feet wet’ by first using Amazon, which I found very easy. My next goal was to create an IngramSpark Account, which I just recently completed. I have also applied and received my Canadian Government ISBN Prefix for which I am very happy and grateful.

    Now, at this stage, I have a couple questions that you may be able to help address. First question – Do I simply use my Canadian ISBN and upload one of my book’s Scrivener’s Pdf to IngramSpark, and rename it with a new Title different from the one on Amazon? Secondly, can I use my Canadian ISBNs and just transfer the manuscript Pdfs from Amazon over to IngramSpark? Someone on the KDP Community Forum wrote that you can upload the new book with the new ISBN to Ingram and Amazon at the same time – then, make sure you unpublish the former book on Amazon. The writer said you have to make sure the exact copy and cover are uploaded to both IngramSpark and Amazon.

    For my purpose, it seems straightforward to leave my Amazon books/e-books ‘as-is’, and use IngramSpark to self-publish paperback versions with my new ISBNs. Would that be a good way to go?

    Jacquelyn, I would welcome any insight or advice that you would kindly share.

    Thank you again for your wonderful compilation of helpful information on self-publishing!


    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi Dave,

      Glad the info has been useful! I haven’t had any personal experience with Ingram Spark just yet, but it’s definitely something I’ve been looking into. My understanding is that you can publish your book with them for distribution beyond Amazon (while continuing to use KDP for Amazon print sales) in 2 ways, depending on your situation:

      Scenario 1: Your current KDP paperback version has an Amazon-issued ISBN
      In this case, I believe you would have to set up your paperback directly with Ingram Spark with your Canadian-issued ISBN (which will be different from the one issued by Amazon). Ingram does not accept titles with Amazon-issued ISBNs directly, since you’re supposed to use KDP’s Expanded Distribution as a kind of third-party backdoor into using Ingram to fulfill non-Amazon orders. I’m not sure exactly what their file setup requirements are, but I’m guessing they can’t be too different from your Amazon version, since Ingram already uses the same files you upload to Amazon to fulfill any expanded distribution orders. There probably will be some minor tweaks for dealing with them directly though, like barcode placement on the back cover of the book.

      Scenario 2: Your current KDP paperback version has your Canadian-issued ISBN
      In this case, it seems there is a legitimate workaround to get your book fulfilled by both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark directly, using the same ISBN. Basically, you make sure you have Expanded Distribution selected on KDP for your paperback. (I’m guessing this would have to be checked off long enough to register with Ingram as a third party. Not sure what the window is on that.) Then, you go through your Ingram Spark account to let Ingram know you would like to transfer the distribution of the title beyond Amazon directly to them. (Which I’m sure they’re happy to do, since it means Amazon gets cut out of the profits.) This triggers a back-and-forth process between Ingram, you, and Amazon to get the expanded distribution switched over, that will likely take several weeks (at least). This method is slower than the direct version used in Scenario 1, but has the benefit of using the same ISBN across all paperback platforms, and potentially the same files as well. (Not entirely sure if Ingram would make you upload new files directly once the ISBN transfer is complete, or just use the ones that have been ported over to them from Amazon via Expanded Distribution.)

      Some references that might help with transferring:

      If you’ve already used an Amazon ISBN, but would still like to try Scenario 2, you can definitely upload a second paperback version of your book to KDP using your Canadian ISBN and unpublish the Amazon ISBN version. BUT, there is a bit of a process to get Amazon to publish using your Canadian ISBN, since you will need to get registered with Bowker first. (KDP pings Bowker during title setup when you enter your own ISBN now, and won’t let you continue if there is any mismatching information.)

      Tips and Tricks for Getting Set Up with Bowker:
      There are several different divisions of Bowker, who all handle specific things. Canadian publishers seem to be confusing to them in general, since they have no visibility to our ISBN system. I’ve gone through three different reps in three different departments in the same day, all with different answers in my quest to have my Canadian ISBN prefix added to my account. This is what has worked best for me.

      1. In your Library and Archives Canada account, either create a new ISBN for your paperback (if needed), or go to Manage Logbook, and click on your existing paperback ISBN. Whether you’re setting up a new ISBN, or reviewing an existing one, click the little box at the bottom of the screen that says ‘Send confirmation by email’ and hit Update. This will be your proof of ISBN prefix ownership for Bowker.

      2. Email PAD@bowker.com to let them know you are a Canadian publisher looking to set up a new account with your Canadian ISBN prefix. They will want the following info: Company name, Company address, City, Province, Country, Postal Code, Primary contact, ISBN prefix, and Documentation of ISBN ownership (an attached copy of that email from the previous step). Once they review your information, they should set you up with a My Identifiers account, which is their ISBN management platform.

      3. Log into My Identifiers and go to My Account > My Identifiers/Manage ISBNs (same thing). Plug in the ISBN for your paperback.

      4. Click on the ISBN and fill out all the relevant fields. (Title, author, etc. Audience is ALWAYS ‘Trade’ when selling books to the general public.) REMEMBER: All data entered here must match EXACTLY with what you enter for your paperback title when adding it to KDP. Ingram considers any part of a title beyond a colon (:) as a subtitle, and will usually bump it (or tell you to move it) to the subtitle field. You will need to replicate this split on KDP, or you will trigger an error message. Each field must match exactly when Amazon pings Bowker, or the KDP bot gets angry. As far as Amazon is concerned, if the information doesn’t exist or match Bowker, then it must be wrong.

      5. Save your changes and check back in a day or so to see if Bowker has updated your changes in their system. (Just look up your ISBN on My Identifiers again and look for a green checkmark in the Status field.) Now you’re ready to upload your Canadian ISBN paperback to KDP. (Finally!)

      Good luck, whatever you decide, and if you have any questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. 🙂

  10. Kuroi

    Hi Jacquelyn, wonderful article! It has been so helpful as I’m very new to this.

    My question is, when I registered for the ISBN account (I haven’t gotten the account creation reply yet) I left the imprint section blank. Now I’m thinking I might be interested in choosing an imprint name. Do you know offhand if I can modify the imprint name at will in the Library & Archives Canada account, when I am able to access it?

    Secondly, I found a lot of resources about creating an imprint in the USA but basically nothing in Canada. Would I need to register it somewhere? Make something like a DBA?

    My apologies if you don’t have the answers here. I figured if I commented and you did, the response could help someone else in future.


    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Hi there!

      I did the same thing and left the imprint section blank when I created my account with Library & Archives Canada back when I first set it up. (Whoops!) What I did was update my profile online after the account was created, and added my imprint in the ‘Other Name Used to Publish Under’ section. The only place you really need the imprint name to be set up is with Bowker (the US ISBN people), since that will be what Amazon pings against during your title setup with them (for paperback), and they’re what pretty much everyone else references. (I don’t know if anyone even has visibility into the Canadian ISBN system outside of Canada, so I wouldn’t sweat the Imprint Name setup there too much.)

      Possibly useful to know: You don’t need to worry about imprint name setup for ebooks. You can just plug in your desired imprint name on whatever platform you’re publishing on (Amazon KDP, Draft2Digital, etc.) during the title setup process. This input doesn’t get pinged against anything. It’s only for print where imprint name requires a formal setup with Bowker.

      Once you’re set up with Library & Archives Canada and get your first block of ISBNs, you can go to Bowker to get set up there. It’s a bit of a process, so I’m just going to copy/paste some of the steps I posted from an earlier comment with some tweaks.

      Tips and Tricks for Getting Set Up with Bowker:
      There are several different divisions of Bowker, who all handle specific things. Canadian publishers seem to be confusing to them in general, since they have no visibility to our ISBN system. I’ve gone through three different reps in three different departments in the same day, all with different answers in my quest to have my Canadian ISBN prefix added to my account. This is what has worked best for me.

      1. In your Library and Archives Canada account, either create a new ISBN (if needed), or go to Manage Logbook, and click on an existing ISBN. Whether you’re setting up a new ISBN, or reviewing an existing one, click the little box at the bottom of the screen that says ‘Send confirmation by email’ and hit Update. This will be your proof of ISBN prefix ownership for Bowker.

      2. Email PAD@bowker.com to let them know you are a Canadian publisher looking to set up a new account with your Canadian ISBN prefix. They will want the following info: Company name, Company address, City, Province, Country, Postal Code, Primary contact, ISBN prefix, and Documentation of ISBN ownership (an attached copy of that email from the previous step). Once they review your information, they should set you up with a My Identifiers account, which is their ISBN management platform. *I think I used my imprint name as my company name during setup. Alternately, you can probably indicate your imprint name in your email to Bowker.*

      3. Log into My Identifiers and go to My Account > My Identifiers/Manage ISBNs (same thing). *You can either run a search for a specific ISBN, or review your entire existing list. All ISBNs from the block you were assigned from the Canadian gov’t. should be there, but they will likely be blank in terms of title details.*

      4. Click on the ISBN you want to use and fill out all the relevant fields. (Title, author, etc. Audience is ALWAYS ‘Trade’ when selling books to the general public.) REMEMBER: All data entered here must match EXACTLY with what you enter for your paperback title when adding it to KDP. (Doesn’t matter for ebook.) Bowker considers any part of a title beyond a colon (:) as a subtitle, and will usually bump it (or tell you to move it) to the subtitle field. You will need to replicate this split on KDP, or you will trigger an error message for your paperback. Each field must match exactly when Amazon pings Bowker, or the KDP bot gets angry. As far as Amazon is concerned, if the information doesn’t exist or match Bowker, then it must be wrong. *If you scroll down to the bottom of the title detail page on My Identifiers, you should see your imprint name under ‘Publisher’ in the Sales & Pricing section. It cannot be changed manually, and is applied to all of your titles by default.*

      5. Save your changes and check back in a day or so to see if Bowker has updated your changes in their system. (Just look up your ISBN on My Identifiers again and look for a green checkmark in the Status field.) Now you’re ready to upload your Canadian ISBN paperback to KDP. *You don’t need to wait for this step for ebooks.*

      So yeah. Long story short, the only place you REALLY need to register imprint is with Bowker.

      Hope that helps!

  11. Loren

    Do you happen to know of any other Canadian alternatives to Blurb…? Really wanted them to work out, but my book was sized and proofed for a 5.060″ x 7.810″ trim size and Blurb doesn’t offer that. I’m already in the pre-order process with Ingram (and I chose the size specifically to match others in my genre) so I unfortunately can’t resize now!

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Yeah, there are certain print sizes that are considered industry standard, regardless of genre, which you’ll find more easily across most platforms. (6″x9″ is probably one of the most widely used.) If you’re locked into that particular trim size, Amazon KDP Print does have that option… You can distribute it with them no problem, and if you need to order a few copies, I would recommend doing it as an Amazon customer. You’ll pay whatever you set the retail price at for Canada (plus GST), but you can avoid shipping costs this way, which can mean big savings. (And you’ll get royalties on the sales, of course.) The delivery turnaround time is also much better as an Amazon customer vs. ordering author copies through the KDP Print back-end. Once you upload your cover and interior, and set up your metadata, your book will go live on Amazon in around a day (assuming there are no issues with their vetting process), at which point you can order copies if you need to. Other than Blurb and Amazon, I don’t have any experience with other printers in Canada. (Ingram Spark would have been my go-to as a recommendation, since they seem to have the widest print options available.) Not sure if any of this is helpful, but good luck!

      1. Loren

        Thanks, I appreciate it! I went with that size because my favourite author’s books are the same size, I didn’t expect it to turn out to be irregular! Oops!

  12. Loren

    Curious as to whether you’ve managed to break into the Indigo website yet! I recently got set up with BibioShare as another blog recommended that that was the way to go, and now my records are there but not yet on CataList (so probably not accessible by Indigo either). I don’t mind going the consignment route in-stores but was at least hoping to make my way onto chapters.ca. Have you had any luck?

    1. Jacquelyn Smith Post author

      Not yet… Ingram is probably going to be the way for this, at least to get listed on the website. (Getting books on actual store shelves is a whole other thing.) I’m still with Amazon for all my paperbacks, which means I have no control over things like wholesale discounts or making my books returnable for third-party retailers. I’m planning on layering Ingram distribution in at some point, but there’s still the decision about returnability, which is non-negotiable with Indigo. Right now, I’m kicking that decision down the road a bit while I focus on other things. If you get anything listed on the site, let me know! I’d be interested to hear how the process went. 🙂

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