Back in June, I decided to no longer publish my ebooks to iTunes via Smashwords. There were many issues that resulted in that decision.
1. Smashwords, while a wonderful asset for an indie author, has become extremely slow to respond. Getting a change to your book file is slow. Premium acceptance is slow. Weird little glitches have started appearing. For instance, one of my books was archived. Why? I have no idea. It took quite some time to even get Smashwords to respond to my plea for help with the situation. In the last few months, I've found it very difficult to get any kind of support. Perhaps it's just me, but I don't think I'm the only one experiencing these problems.
2. When publishing directly to Apple, you get access to a Dashboard with your actual sales numbers instead of trying to compile data from the massive spreadsheet Smashwords generates.
3. You get higher royalties by publishing direct.
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Of course, in order to be allowed to publish your work directly to iTunes, you have to be approved as a Publisher. You also have to upload your work with an Apple computer. No PC allowed. That's a deductible business expense so I decided to go for it.
Four months later, I still don't have my ebooks published through iTunes so I'll have a gap in earnings for these past months since I've already pulled my books from Smashwords distribution. The problems I ran into are what I want to warn you about today. That way, you can take steps to minimize the time it will take you to overcome or avoid similar problems.
Visit iTunes Connect and read or download the information. While the iTunes process isn't particularly user-friendly, it's not impossible to understand either.
Once you're read all that, and you're equipped with a Mac computer, you should be ready to rock and roll and set up a Publisher account. You must wait to be approved by Apple as a Publisher. Once that's done, you can start filling out the forms, and this is where it gets challenging.
Vital Info To Know
If you already have an iTunes account, your information recorded for that account will pre-populate when you start filling in the Publisher account forms.
1. Make sure that the name you set up on your iTunes account is your legal name, i.e., the name is identical to the name on your social security card or TIN. If it doesn't match, expect delays.
2. Make sure that the name on your credit card matches the name on your social security number or TIN. If it doesn't, expect delays.
3. Apple is NOT equipped on any of their forms to deal with a middle initial.
For all these reasons, I am still not set up to publish directly with Apple.
1. I've had an iTunes account for years, but that name doesn't contain my middle initial. So when I started filling out the W9 U.S. Tax Form on the Apple Publisher site, my iTunes account name was pre-populated into iTunes, and there's NO way to edit it.
2. The name on my credit card of record is just my initials and surname. Also not the same as my SS# name. Apple pre-populates the WHO IS AUTHORIZED TO SIGN THIS FORM with the name from your credit card. That's just my initials and last name.
3. Apple cannot change the form online. You can't publish unless you fill out the online form. The information will be knowingly wrong which will put you in the naughty chair with Uncle Sam. There are no provisions for middle initials in any of the forms needed to set up the account.
I contacted Apple. Took a week for a reply from a very nice guy in the Finance office. He acknowledged that the online form could not be changed, but it had to be filled out anyway. Then, he explained that I had to mail their Finance office a completed hard copy of a W9 with the correct information. They would "hand correct" the account, but it will never show up online when I look at it as being correct.
What To Do
If you want to publish directly to iTunes, do this:
1. Check your existing iTunes account now. If your user name is Rock&RollBaby, you might want to start a new iTunes account with your legal name. Set up every aspect of your iTunes account as a professional publisher. I had already been approved as a publisher before I ran head-on into the problems described above. If I'd known about this, I'd have started a new iTunes account.
2. Make sure the credit card you register for your iTunes purchases has the name that matches your tax number.
3. If your legal name has a middle initial, go to IRS.gov and print the W9 form and instructions. Print it out, fill it out so it's ready to go.
4. When your iTunes account is cleaned up and ready, register with iTunes Connect as a publisher. Once approved, view the Tax and Banking forms you must fill out. Contact Author Support and tell them you'll have to mail a hard copy W9 because the pre-populated name doesn't match the name on your Tax ID. (Of course, you may be lucky, and your name does match. Or, if Apple gets enough problems with this issue, they may update their form. However, they've been publishing for several years so that probably isn't likely.)
Wait for the email from them giving the address to use when mailing the form. Mail the form Certified, Return Receipt Requested. You need all the CYA you can get when dealing with tax issues.
Once you receive approval, then you really are ready to go.
Get things cleaned up or set it up right from the get-go, and you'll avoid problems.