Keith Gascoigne

Writer’s Blog


Epublishing: some problems encountered

I am trying to convert Travels in Turkey to epub format, which is difficult enough but far too much of my time recently has been used up coping with all the technicalities and legalities of ebook selling and these seem to take any sense of enjoyment out of trying to get epublished now.

The technical and legal aspects of selling an ebook are tremendous and I think that most writers of ebooks, or more specifically new writers, prefer to leave all this complicated and ‘mundane’ stuff to so-called ‘experts’. However, many of these ‘experts’ are in business to make money and a large amount of these businesses screw and screw more and more money from the writers who, in the main, seem not to care. These writers undervalue not only themselves but also other writers or maybe they have other means of income? I do not know.

Some ebook sellers(1) take the ebook and sell it for as little as they like – even as low as 99 cents(2), probably as loss leaders to generate a feeding frenzy of buying. I think this demeans the writer’s work. I certainly would not want my books being sold for that amount, after all, I spent years learning and teaching myself to be a good writer and then many months writing each book.

I prefer to deal with sellers of ebooks who follow the long-standing, tried-and-tested agency model where I set the price and they sell it and take a commission from my cover price. This has many benefits:

Everybody wins with this organic, tried and tested agency model. At the moment, Apple ibooks operate the agency model. Long may it prosper.

With the other model, where the seller dictates the conditions to the ebook writer, the only party that wins is the ebook seller. Eventually writers will realize that they cannot afford to write for nothing while sellers like Amazon et al grab all the profit and the readers, eventually, will get substandard writing in the ebooks. The greed of the seller will kill the golden goose – the producer and writer of the books.

It took me months to work through all this – as well as working through all the income tax problems.

As nearly all ebook distributors and sellers are based in America and I live in England, I have to get a tax waiver form from the USA Inland Revenue Service (IRS) so that I can get my payments from America without them deducting 30% tax from my meager earnings and this is before I keep my own records and then pay Income Tax in the UK.

Then there is the avoidable minefield of VAT on ebooks. Most people do not think that there is VAT on ebooks because there is no VAT on printed books. However, at the moment, the authorities in Belgium and Luxembourg charge 3%VAT, France 5.5%VAT and in the UK no-one really knows if ebooks are VAT rated or exempt although some ebook sellers have been charging 20%VAT.

To add to the confusion ebooks are not marked as either taxable or exempt on the latest VAT information leaflet from HMRC: ‘VAT Guidance from HMRC’. This didn’t stop Amazon (located in Luxembourg) charging ebook writers 20% VAT and keeping most if not all of this for themselves.

See: Amazon forces publishers to pay VAT on ebooks

Chaos and unfairness reign supreme in ebook selling.

I once thought that writing books was difficult but negotiating this recent minefield of selling ebooks is appallingly bad. It should not be like this. I want the government that unfortunately rules me to sort themselves out and stop faffing around like the multiheaded hydra that it has become, while I am still able to write. All they seem to do is look after their rich and powerful friends who don’t want to pay any tax so that the masses of people have to pay more in tax to make up for that. The situation is normal - for an uncaring, divided, lunatic society.

Pardon my skepticism. The more is see of political and social life in blighted Blitey the more cynical I seem to get. There must be a reason for that.



  1. Amazon are infamous for reducing the retail price of ebooks to get the largest slice of the ebook market but consequently the small amount of money paid to the authors is reduced drastically. Kobo and Barnes and Noble Nook operate the same model. Why writers let themselves be treated so badly is beyond comprehension. I think that their behavior is woolly in the extreme.
  2. The money is always in American dollars because that is where innovation lives now. It is also a sign that Great Britain – the UK, England – whatever it calls itself now, has not only lost its ill-gotten Empire but has also lost the plot.


Class: Publishing ebooks plus taxation and confusion.
Tags: political incompetence (as usual), legal confusion, taxation, travel-writing, VAT on ebooks, frustration et al.