Living several continents away from your agents / writing majority has its share of disadvantages. You’re asleep when fellow writers are awake, you can’t participate in a lot of ARCs and giveaways because of the expensive shipping costs,  and it’s not as easy engaging in offline book promotions if your target readers live half a day away.

While a decided minority, there isn’t much collated information out there for those foreign few of us lucky enough to find a great agent. My experience when it came to publishing contracts is different than most given my location (getting agent and publisher and author available for a scheduled conference is harder, for example). There’s also a lot of things I needed that other writers didn’t.

So I decided to make a rough guide on what to expect (and the things you might need) if you’re a non-US resident and just been offered a US publishing contract. Hopefully, for the few people who belong to this category like me, you have a better understanding of things rather than heading into it floundering, like I did!

The W8-BEN Tax Form.

W8-BEN is a form you must complete in order to be exempted from the initial 30% tax required by the U.S for its residents. Your publishers will most likely be providing this form for you upon sending your contract, or will at least provide you a link where you can download it. Publishers may vary though, so be aware that you need this form to prevent the IRS from deducting your cash advances and subsequent royalties, and to prevent being taxed twice.

The W8-BEN form, taken from the IRS website.

The form itself is mostly (see below) straightforward. Obviously, you’ll be registering as an individual, and you will need to check the part that states you are a resident of a foreign country, and that all beneficial treaties between your country and the United States apply to you. (I suggest reading up on any income tax treaties your country might have with the US, as country agreements will differ. To make it easier for you, here is the full list of countries included.)

However, you will still be needing a United States tax identification number even if you are a foreign resident qualifying for W8-BEN. Which leads us to the….

Employer Identification Number.

If you have a publishing contract with a United States publishing house, this is the second thing you’ll be needing. This was one of my mistakes – when I mailed back my contract, I sent in my country’s employer identification number instead of the US EIN because I didn’t know better. My rather frazzled agent emailed back to inform me of the error. This also meant I had to mail the form again, and shipping isn’t cheap.

And here’s the EIN SS-4 form that you’ll be using, instructions included!

Here are the ways to get your own EIN:

1.) The IRS website has a processing form where you can fill up your EIN form online. DO NOT USE THIS OPTION, GUYS. This is only applicable for U.S. residents.

2.) You can download the form, fill it up, and then fax it to the IRS offices at 267-941-1040 or mail it to:

Attn: EIN Operation
Philadelphia, PA

3.) The problem with Option #2 is that it will take some weeks for them to send you all pertinent details, so if you need your EIN asap like I did, calling would be your best bet. It’s not a toll-free number, though, at 1-267-941-1099 (which is why having a US phone number comes in handy – see below again). I recommend filling up the form first before making your call, so that you have the answers at hand when being prompted by the customer representative on the other end.

You’ll receive your EIN immediately, and they’ll also mail you your details afterward. No other requirements necessary!

A United States Telephone Number

This is more of an option than a requirement, but I’ve found it very, very very useful to have a US-based phone number rather than having to rely on an international number that can wind up being expensive in the long run. This is especially a plus if you prefer calling up your agents / publishers rather than waiting for an email.

What about using Skype, you say? Skype works as a computer-to-computer call, and won’t have any free computer-to-phone call services available. A lot of agents and publishers, especially at the start of a publishing relationship, also don’t have that option.

What Skype DOES have though, is a service that allows you to register for a US phone number, which you can use via Skype to call anywhere in the US. All calls made to this number will be routed to your Skype account.

As of this writing, you can avail of this for $18 for 3 months, or $60 for a year. This allows you to receive calls from people, but not to make calls yourself. If your agents / publishers are often the ones calling, that’s good enough.  But if you make calls, or if your agents / publishers use a dial-in conference call service like mine does, then you’ll need to purchase credits or a subscription, both of which are still pretty cheap.


Please note that these only apply to US-based publishing houses. UK publishing houses probably follow a similar route, but with different tax forms and tax identification numbers.

I might add to this post if anything else crops up that I feel would be equally important, but I feel that this is the gist of what to expect!