[Updated July 2022]
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.
Getting into Canadian Bookstores
Getting an ISBN
Registering a Copyright
Ordering Copies of Your Paperback
Receiving Direct Payments from the US
Additional Tools and Resources
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. Also used to add print version (paperback/hardcover) to Amazon (previously Amazon Createspace).
Draft2Digital (D2D) [Affiliate link]: Used to add ebook version to most other major online retailers (Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, etc.). Fun fact: D2D can format your ebook files for free!
Smashwords: Used to add ebook version to online retailers not reached by D2D (Library Direct, Gardners, Odilo). Smashwords has recently merged with D2D, which will probably shift some of their distribution processes, which do overlap.
Streetlib: Used to add ebook version to online retailers not reached by D2D or Smashwords. (Google Play, 24Symbols, etc.)
IngramSpark: Used to distribute print version (paperback/hardcover) to various online retailers and bookstores around the world. (I’m just about to start playing with this method. There is a setup fee for each title, but if you are a member of ALLi/the Alliance of Independent Authors [affiliate link], you can use up to 5 coupon codes for free title setup/month.)
BookFunnel + Payhip: Used to sell ebooks direct to customers, with no distributor royalty split (just Stripe/Paypal transaction fees). BookFunnel handles the ebook delivery and customer support to help people get your books downloaded onto their device, while Payhip handles the payment side.
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 D2D/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. Apple and Google Play have also both become more accessible in recent years as direct self-publishing platforms. I haven’t bothered with any of these options because:
- I’m already formatting and uploading my book files 5 different ways as-is. I don’t really want to manage more accounts at this point, on the uploading or the payment side of things.
- My existing titles are already on Kobo, Apple, and Google Play via D2D/Streetlib anyway. (And it’s worth the 10% distributor cut for me in terms of convenience. But it’s totally up to you.)
Of course, if you live in Canada, you probably want your physical book to be available on Canadian websites as well. Amazon KDP Print offers an Expanded Distribution option that will list your print book on third-party 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.
While this option might possibly make the print version of your book available to order at smaller/independent Canadian print retailers, it will not work to get you in the door at Chapters/Coles/Indigo (the biggest game in town). Indigo (the parent company) has certain requirements that can’t be met via Amazon’s Expanded Distribution. Listing the Canadian retail price on the book jacket is no problem, and can be done through your cover design, but your print books must be flagged as returnable, which is an option that Amazon does not offer. Flagging your book as returnable means that the retailer (Indigo) can return any or all copies of your print book back to your distributor as needed, with you having to reimburse the value of the returned copies. So you can be in the black with your print sales one month, only to dip back into the red if the retailer sends back copies of your book the next month. Retailers are also more likely to list your book if you increase the wholesale discount, another option that isn’t available via Amazon.
While there are several print book distribution platforms available, virtually all of them (including Amazon Expanded Distribution) use Ingram to fulfill orders of your books worldwide from behind the scenes. So it’s really just easier to go straight to the source and deal with Ingram directly via IngramSpark (and will usually save you a bit of your royalty share, since you’ll be cutting out the middleman). IngramSpark allows for virtually any format and size of print book, but bear in mind that there are certain international sizing standards that will make it easier to get your book listed on various retail websites. (For example, 6″ x 9″ for trade paperback is the industry standard. In cases like this, it’s better to fit in than try to stand out with a wonky size that a lot of retailers won’t carry.) IngramSpark also allows you to set up your distribution however you like, at the wholesale discount of your choice, with the option to make your titles returnable if you so choose.
The one place you probably shouldn’t use IngramSpark to distribute to is Amazon. First off, it’s better financially to deal with the Amazon directly to avoid any extra royalty share splits, plus your books will go live faster once you submit your files, without them having to go through IngramSpark first, and will likely display better availability on Amazon, as opposed to the dreaded 1-3 weeks delivery window.
If you want to keep things simple, just upload your print book to Amazon and select the Extended Distribution option, knowing that there will be some places you probably won’t reach, and there will be some distribution elements you won’t be able to control. If you’re feeling more ambitious, upload your print files to Amazon and don’t select the Expanded Distribution option. Then, upload your print files to IngramSpark, and make sure you aren’t using IngramSpark to distribute to Amazon. Again, there are file setup fees associated with IngramSpark, unless you have a coupon code for them.
When it comes to ebook distribution, you can make it as simple or complex as you like–using a distributor like D2D to do most of your heavy lifting, or going direct through as many (or few) individual retailers as you feel comfortable. Again, either way you choose, you will want to go directly through Amazon KDP. Not only is it easy to use and you ebooks will go live faster, but even distributors like D2D and Smashwords recommend going through Amazon directly.
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 (especially outside the US). 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. While going through IngramSpark can make your print books available to order on the Indigo website and on the in-store kiosks, it is highly unlikely your books will ever be allocated to shelves in stores by the company buyers. As Indigo continues to diversify its in-store offerings, bookshelf space becomes increasingly restricted, and usually reserved for the major publishing conglomerates, who are able to provide deep discounts in exchange for large orders and premium display space. Unless you have taken significant steps beyond self-publishing to establish a small press with a healthy front and backlist of titles that Indigo considers salesworthy, 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. And as I’ve already stated above, dedicated bookshelf space in stores is becoming more of a premium every day, so 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 unless you’ve gone the IngramSpark route and gotten your title set up in the Indigo system.
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. [Exception: Your books are distributed through IngramSpark, and have been set up in Indigo’s system. In this case, you can ask the consignment manager to place an order through the Indigo system to have the books shipped directly to the store.]
- …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 your homework and take responsibility. (More on that below.)
Steps for success:
- 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.)
- Order 5-10 copies of your book. Some of these can 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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 or a QR code.) 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.
- 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.
- 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. [Exception: Your books are distributed via IngramSpark, and have been ordered through the Indigo system. In this case, Indigo’s cash system will recognize your title when it scans at the cash desk and you will be reimbursed accordingly via IngramSpark.]
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- When your event is over, decide how many copies of your book you will leave behind on the Lacal Authors table. (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 up to you and the consignment manager to decide.) 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.
- 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. [Exception: Your books are distributed via IngramSpark, and have been set up in the Indigo system. In this case, no invoice will be necessary. IngramSpark bills Indigo for the books they ordered, and IngramSpark passes your royalty share on to you.] 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.
- 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.
- 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 certain times will be off limits, such as the Christmas season, when the store staff is far too busy to support an author event.
Whew! If all of this sounds like more than you really want to deal with, that’s totally understandable. I’m a hardcore introvert, and have never done a consignment event. (But I’ve watched a lot from behind the scenes and had a low-key, ongoing consignment deal set up that I could run passively because I worked at the store.) A consignment event is definitely a lot of work for potentially not a lot of payoff. (Let’s say you’re earning $5 profit from each copy of your book that you sell after Indigo’s cut, plus production costs. How many copies can you sell per hour that you’re at the store where you’ll feel the time and effort is worth it?)
Extroverts definitely do better in this area, as they are generally more comfortable approaching strangers to talk about their book, but customers can be leery about a stranger coming up to them to try to sell their book. A lot of the consignment sales that come through the cash tend to be from customers who are more interested in supporting a local author than the book itself, which leads to the question of how many of the purchased books actually get read. I have literally never heard a customer come into the store to follow up about a local author they purchased from, which means sales of consignment books are usually limited to times when the author is around to hand-sell them.
This might be painful to hear, but for most customers, the purchase is something like a donation to a cause they’ve decided to support that day. On the other hand, having an event at the store, where your family and friends can come and celebrate your book can also be a nice payoff to the solitary process of writing your book and bringing it into the world. Going through with a consignment event is something you should only worry about doing if you feel like it will be something you would enjoy, since it might not be as profitable as you would think.
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 only 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.
What you will need an ISBN for:
Basically, an ISBN (International Standard Book Number) is a unique identifier used throughout the book industry to track titles and sales by format. So each title/format combination requires its own unique ISBN. (The ISBN for the ebook version of Title A can’t be the same as the paperback version of Title A, or the hardcover version, etc., even though they all contain the same story/content. Each format is considered a different slice of intellectual property to be licensed.)
So, you will need to get a different ISBN for…
- The ebook version of your title that will be distributed through everyone other than Amazon. (Amazon uses their own unique identifier called an ASIN, which is generated automatically.) You can (and should for both tracking purposes and your sanity) use the same ISBN for your ebook title across all of the other retailers and distributors. For all intents and purposes, the non-Kindle ePUB version of your book is considered to be the same format across all other retailers and distributors.
- The print version of your title. (Each print version of the same title must have its own, unique ISBN. The paperback version cannot have the same ISBN as the hardcover, large print, etc.)
- Any other format of your title. (Audio, special or anniversary editions, etc.)
In the beginning, it might not seem like that much to manage, but you’ll probably want to think about setting up a spreadsheet with all your titles that includes things like the various ISBNs for each format, Amazon’s ASIN for the Kindle edition, print page count, publication date, etc. (It’s very useful to have all your data in one place.)
Important to know:
Bowker manages all ISBNs in the US, and their catalogue is used as a reference for many book retailer platforms, including Amazon, who pings them whenever you add an ISBN to the print version of your book on the KDP platform. If the data isn’t a match, you won’t be able to proceed with publishing your print book. All of the title, author, ISBN, and publisher imprint data must match verbatim. (I’m talking right down to using the same kind of apostrophe in your title. If Bowker has a curly apostrophe on file, and you enter a non-curly one on Amazon in your title field, you will get an error message. Trust me, I know.)
All this means that in addition to getting your ISBNs from ISBN Canada, you must also register them with Bowker to get anywhere with Amazon’s KDP Print (or most other print distributors). While you can also manage your ebook ISBNs on the Bowker side of things to keep your metadata accurate, you really only need to worry about your print ISBNs.
How to set up your ISBNs:
- Register as a publisher through ISBN Canada. 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.
- Once you have an account, you can log in, request ISBN blocks and manage them here.
- In your ISBN Canada account, create a new ISBN for your book. If your are setting up a print edition, 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. If you’re setting up an ebook, your work is done. You can enter your new ISBN into the various distribution platforms when they request it.
- If you are publishing a print edition, 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 (or your 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.
- Log into My Identifiers and go to My Account > My Identifiers/Manage ISBNs (same thing). Plug in the ISBN for your paperback.
- 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. 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. 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.
- 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 and beyond. (Finally!) When entering your imprint name on KDP, use the publisher name that is listed on Bowker under the Sales & Pricing section. (This should be the individual/company name you provided Bowker to set up your account.)
If you run out of ISBNs, you can submit a request to ISBN Canada through your account for another block. You will also have to email Bowker again to explain the situation and ask them to add the new block of ISBNs to your existing My Identifiers account.
For more details on the nuts and bolts of ISBNs, check out this Wikipedia article.
Registering a copyright for your book:
First off: I am not a copyright lawyer or legal expert. 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.
Highly Recommended Reading:
- The Copyright Handbook published by Nolo Press. (You can usually find a used edition for a decent price on Amazon. I’m not linking because they put out a new edition every so often.)
- Canadian Copyright Law published by Wiley.
Sadly, most authors have little to no idea of how copyright law actually works, which leaves them vulnerable to terrible contracts and scams (regardless of whether they decide to register their copyright or not). Your books are intellectual property. It is within your best interest to understand how to leverage and protect them.
Copyright might seem boing, but understanding how the laws work (both in Canada and beyond, since we are selling our books internationally online) is critical to understanding your rights and how to license your work. Both of these books are written in layperson terms and are great resources. The Magic Bakery by Dean Wesley Smith is also a solid introduction to copyright to help get you in the right mindset of how powerful copyright can be if leveraged properly.
Ordering copies of your paperback:
Amazon KDP (Formerly Createspace)
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 Amazon KDP 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. (Amazon has 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.
Basically, if I order from Amazon KDP, 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 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 Amazon KDP, 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. But you might also want to try…
If you’ve set up your print books with IngramSpark, you can bulk order through them as well. (Again, if you have an account with ALLi/the Alliance of Independent Authors [affiliate link], you can use monthly coupon codes to get around the pesky setup fees.) Presumably, this will be a little bit cheaper than going through Blurb, since you’re cutting out the middleman, but I haven’t gotten around to trying this option yet. If nothing else, the quality will be the same, since Ingram fulfills Blurb’s orders here in Canada.
So it looks like we’ve come full-circle here, and this might seem counter-intuitive… but if you only need a few copies of your book, you can also order them as a customer on Amazon.ca. The benefits of this include: no exchange rate or border-crossing fees, and fast, free shipping. You will end up paying more per unit, since you won’t be buying the books at cost like you would through the other platforms, but you will also get some of this money back as royalties. (Also remember that you have the power to adjust your Amazon retail price temporarily if needed.)
Just for the record: I am not a tax lawyer or expert. I’m only sharing information based on my own experience.
OK, so things are WAAAY easier now on the tax front than they were back when I started. The most important thing to know is that when you get paid by your US distributors (D2D, Smashwords, Amazon KDP, etc.), they withhold 30% of your earnings (in addition to their royalty cut) as tax.
The good news is that Canada has a tax treaty with the US, which means that once you properly identify yourself as a Canadian citizen within the eyes of the IRS, the amount of withholding tax goes down to 0%. (This doesn’t affect your royalty share.)
What used to be a runaround of IRS forms is now a simple online document/tax interview. (The format and delivery varies from one company to another, but they’re all basically a digital W-7 application form.)
First, you will need to fill out some version of this online form for every US-based distributor you work with. You’ll also need to fill out a new one every 3 years or so with each distributor to make sure your information is current. (Usually, the company will send an email to remind you.) You’ll need to fill out your basic info (date of birth, address, citizenship, etc.). You will also need to provide your Social Insurance Number. This last piece of information is necessary to provide the IRS with a foreign tax identifier. If you don’t provide this information, your application can’t be completed. (Think of it like when you have to give your SIN to a new employer when you start a new job here in Canada.)
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, which helps to shave off the mailing time. You will need a 1042-S for each US-based company you work with, just like you would need a T4 for each Canadian company you worked for during the previous year.
Most companies will email you when your documents become available to download. Amazon is usually the slowest in my experience, and up until this year, I don’t recall receiving an email notification from them. This handy link will take you to Amazon’s Tax Central, where you can find all your documents when they are ready. (Just use your KDP credentials to sign in.) If it’s April, and you’re still missing a 1042-S from someone, get in touch with the company’s customer service department to request one.
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 decide 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:
Some companies like D2D, Smashwords, and Streetlib pay via Paypal with no minimum royalty threshold. (D2D and Smashwords pay out monthly, while Streetlib pays out quarterly.) Amazon KDP doesn’t use Paypal, so the only payment options are cheque or direct deposit. If you’re getting paid by cheque, your royalty earnings must be at least $100 USD, which can take awhile in the beginning to add up. Plus, you have to wait for the cheque to arrive in the mail and hope it doesn’t get lost.
The direct deposit option is WAAAY better. No minimum payout threshold, and instant, monthly royalty payments. Plus, it’s also supported by D2D. The trick is that you need a US-domicile bank account (as in a chequing account with a branch that’s physically in the US), as opposed to a Canadian-based US currency account. I use RBC, which has a branch located in Georgia.
I use two RBC accounts:
US Checking Account: I use this to to accept direct deposits from the US ($3.95 USD/month service charge). I also funnel my Paypal royalties into the same account. 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.)
Additional Tools and Resources:
These are not necessarily specific to self-publishing from Canada, but they are tools and resources that I have found extremely useful.
For years, I formatted all of my books manually. Even though I had gotten it down to a science, it was tedious, mind-numbing work that took more time than I really wanted. Then I discovered Vellum. I can’t emphasize enough how much of a game-changer this software has been for me. It’s easy to use, and creates beautiful books in a fraction of the time I used to spend. (The downside is that it’s on the pricey side, but you only pay once for the license, and receive all updates for free. Also, it only works on Mac.)
Recently, Amazon expert and software geek Dave Chesson has developed an alternative to Vellum that is more affordable, and works on both Mac and PC. Atticus launched in 2021, and has been evolving quickly in an effort to match and possibly surpass the tools available in Vellum. (Which has pushed Vellum to become more innovative and competitive in turn.) I haven’t tried Atticus yet, but I’ve heard great things, and I’m keeping an eye on it.
Up until last year, I had always just written all my manuscripts in some version of Word/LibreOffice/OpenOffice software. I could never understand what the big deal was with this Scrivener thing so many writers seemed to talk about. Then I tried it and fell in love.
It’s like a digital binder for your manuscript. There’s a section for character sketches. A section for research. A section for notes. (You can include images and links in these areas.) You can view these sections as a corkboard. You can move scenes or chapters of your manuscript around to re-order them–a total nightmare in any kind of office software. You can tag scenes or chapters for easy reference. You can set a word-count goal with notifications. It’s awesome.
I used to have multiple document files for all my notes that were separate from my manuscript, but now I have everything in one file that I can navigate easily while I’m writing. I wish I had started using it years ago.
Amazon Category & Keyword Software:
Making your books discoverable is super-important. Selecting the correct categories and keywords for your books can make a huge difference in reaching the right readers and can even boost your ranking if you play your cards right. Amazon is always tweaking their system and adding new categories in an effort to match as many readers with the most relevant books possible, and they are at the cutting edge in this area.
Publisher Rocket (another software baby by Dave Chesson) is a dashboard that allows you to peek under the Amazon hood to find out how competitive keywords and categories are, so you can find that niche that’s relevant to your book, but not overly crowded, so you’re actually visible.
I would also recommend Dave’s Mastering Keywords and Categories course, which is a series of videos that explain exactly how to get the most out of Publisher Rocket. (You can use Publisher Rocket without it, but the course really made a difference for me.)
General Writing and Publishing Tips:
I was recently pointed to this link by a writing student named Megan. It includes resources on skill development, conferences and conventions, poetry resources, and more.
If you are interested in screenwriting, check out this post on writing for theater and film (which also includes links to additional resources on dialogue, script formatting, etc.), submitted by writing student, Anna.
The Alliance of Independent Authors/ALLi also has a ton of great podcast videos on YouTube that range from beginner to advanced on both writing and publishing.
Publishing Industry News and Updates Worth the Follow:
- The New Publishing Standard (Blog)
- Kristine Kathryn Rusch (Blog)
- Joanna Penn/The Creative Penn Podcast
David Gaughran has countless resources that are worth checking out in this area, and many of them are free. He has a newsletter, a blog, YouTube videos, and even a full course that’s totally free (Starting from Zero), with no strings attached. His books are also super helpful and worth the read (plus, he’s got a great sense of humour).
This year, I discovered Becca Syme–a Gallup-certified Strengths coach, who focuses on helping writers of all levels figure out how to leverage their unique combination of strengths, overcome blocks and burnout, and take their writing to the next level.
Becca has tons of YouTube videos known as the Quitcast, plus a series of awesome books, a Patreon, coaching, and courses. (I’ve listened to all of the Quitcast videos, read all the books, and become a Patreon follower, but I haven’t taken any of her courses yet.)
When Becca talks about quitting, she doesn’t mean you need to quit writing. She means you need to quit doing the things that are holding you back, like making certain assumptions. (Question the premise!) She has this uncanny knack of being able to explain exactly why you do these things in a blame-free way that completely changes your perspective. I can’t recommend her highly enough, and I’ve found the Gallup Strengths test she bases her coaching on to be really insightful and fascinating.
Publishing and Writing Craft Courses:
I have the lifetime subscription to both the lectures and courses with WMG Publishing, which are taught by Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. (They write the course material together, but Dean is usually the presenter.) Dean and Kris have 30+ years of writing and publishing experience each. They are also insanely prolific, and multi-time bestsellers.
Kris and Dean are blunt, no-nonsense types, who have no problem telling you how it really is when it comes to both craft and business. They have literally seen it all. You might want to check out their respective blogs first to get a feel for them before shelling out for a course.
Whew! Hopefully, someone out there will find this info helpful. If you have any questions, let me know. 🙂
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?
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!
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
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. 🙂
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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. 🙂
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?
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. 😀
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!
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. 🙂
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.
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!
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
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!
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.
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:
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
‘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
Hope that helps. If you have any questions, let me know. Good luck with your book!
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.
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!
I appreciate that Jacquelyn. Thanks.
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 …
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!
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.
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! 🙂
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 … 🙂
Good luck, and have fun! It’s so cool to be able to physically hold a copy of your own book. 🙂
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!
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. 🙂
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.
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!
Thank you so much, it was super helpful!!
Glad to hear it!
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!
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!
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!
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?
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. 🙂
Your information here is really great. I have a question about imprints. You gave some useful information about this in another comment but I am still uncertain about a couple of things, I hope this isn’t a repeated question and please excuse me if it is (I am actually English and emigrating to Canada at the same time as publishing my first book, which makes things confusing!).
My main question is, is it necessary to register a Canadian company in order to have an imprint? In the UK you can just write the name of your imprint on your book and receive the royalties into your personal bank account, but my impression is this isn’t acceptable in Canada, due to the need to register with Bowker?
If I do register a Canadian company, is it the situation that that company is the ‘publisher’, for things like the ISBN set up, and that the company must have a bank account that receives royalties before paying them to me?
Thanks very much
Hi Paddy! Welcome to Canada. 🙂
It sounds like things are pretty similar here to the UK. You don’t need to register as a company to have an imprint name with Bowker, ISBN Canada, etc. I just use the company registration as a way to claim my imprint name in a more official capacity to prevent others from registering the same business name, with the long-term view of potentially turning it into a corporation in the future. (At this point, I’d like to mention that I’m not an accountant, or tax/business law expert, lol.)
If this is your first book, you definitely don’t need to worry about this, or anything like opening bank accounts in a business name. Keep everything as simple and streamlined as possible. Even though I use my imprint name with Bowker, ISBN Canada, Amazon, etc. on my books when I publish, I still have all my payments going into a personal bank account, and my login accounts (Bowker, ISBN Canada, KDP, D2D, etc.) are registered in my own name, rather than my business name (at this time).
Hope this makes sense! If you have any other questions, please let me know.