aprile 21, 2011

Cornelia Grey and the adventure of the ITIN number

Hello, dear readers & authors :)

Since I'll soon be receiving my first royalties, I've had to embark in the much fabled quest of requesting an ITIN number for the dreaded W-8 Form of Doom. I'm an Italian living in the UK, which complicated matters a little.

Now, to request an ITIN, the author must send a filled W-7 form, a letter from the publisher and certified copies of passport or other ID. Here's how I tackled, rather clumsily, the matter.

• W-7 Form
Due to my utter lack of understanding of bureocratic anything, I was left staring at the thing with emptiness and despair in my eyes. But! I would invite you all to check the incredibly helpful tutorial Angela Stone posted here. I followed it and the dear man at the Embassy office gave the form his blessing, so it's officially approved :).

• Letter from publisher
My pulisher was very swift to send me a letter, which I took to the Embassy with me. Unfortunately, the dear man there told me that the wording was incorrect and that he was sure the application would be rejected. He was kind enough to write down for me what the letter should say, which I report here for you:


Please be advised that .... is entitled to receive US royalties that are subject to IRS reporting / whitholding requirements in 2011.


• Documents
There are a few choiches regarding which documents one can bring, and they're listed in the form instructions linked on Angela Stone's lj. The only stand-alone document is the passport; since I don't have one, I had to bring two documents instead. I brought my Italian ID and Italian driving licence. Since there was no way I would send the originals, I tried to figure out exactly what they mean by 'certified copies'. On the instructions there's an awfully complex paragraph in which they explain who and how can certify photocopies, mentioning notaries and appointments and making me sink in a feeling of impending doom. However, since a few reports I'd read said that it was enough to show up at the Embassy with the documents and they'd take care of the rest, I decided to give it a go and see what happened.

• Embassy
I live in London, so I decided to just pop at the IRS office with papers and documents and cry and ask them what the heck I was supposed to do with it all. Please note that while the Embassy is open all week, the IRS office is only open on tuesdays, wednesdays and thursdays from 9 am to 1 pm and from 2 pm to 4 pm (see their website page here).

It's not allowed to bring cellphones or MP3 readers or other electronic devices inside the Embassy, so a friend kindly agreed to meet me outside Bond Street station to collect mine before heading off to university (I had to skip the morning class). However, when I got in front of the Embassy, I noticed that some people were being sent off to deposit their phones and such in the lockers offered by some shop nearby, while others were being allowed to keep them in plastic sealable bags which, I believe, were then stored at the Embassy's security checkpoin. I'm a little confused regarding which criteria they were using.

Anyway, I settled in the cue for the Citizen Services, which was much longer than the one for Visas, at that (probably due to the impending tax season). Luckily it was a warm and sunny day, so waiting in the open was kind of pleasant. Then I was called in this little glass square construction where I went through airport-like security checks - ID check, X-rays for the bag and metal detector for me. Then I was buzzed through a door and inside the Embassy's gate, and instructed to walk around the building to the door on the left side.

Inside, there's an info desk with lots of signs saying that you have to get a number at the desk before proceeding, but when I asked, I was told I didn't need one for the IRS office and sent downstairs. I rang the bell for the IRS office and was let in, where a nice middle-aged man with a really pleasant southern drawl welcomed me at the desk.

So! He went through my form and confirmed it was ok, signed it and dated it. He told me that the letter from the publisher wasn't going to work and wrote down for me the correct wording. Then he took my documents, made a photocopy and stamped it, and that was it, with no need for notaries and whatnot. He signed and dated everything and handed it back to me, then instructed me to get a new letter from the publisher, add it to the pile and mail everything back to their office, where they would proceed to ship everything off to America for me. Gotta love the nice men at the desk ♥.

So now I've mailed everything back and am now anxiously waiting for the verdict from the tax gods.

aprile 14, 2011

London Book Fair + rant re: Italian publishing industry

So! On tuesday afternoon, I joined a couple of classmates and we headed off to Earl's Court for the London Book Fair. It was of epic proportions and very interesting! We wandered for hours among the hundreds of stalls (most of which, I should confess, belonged to publishers I'd never heard of before!), grabbed piles of catalogues and promo postcards from the Illustrator's Corner. I could only find one single stall with m/m books, the one belonging to Xcite Books. It was nice to see a representation - and I should note that when I picked up one of their anthologies to skim through the authors, the first name I glimpsed was 's ;)

After some aimless browsing, I spotted the Italian publishers' corner, and decided to go investigate. Prepare yourself for much disappointment and learning things you maybe didn't want to know about how Italy works.

Some of you already know that I'm Italian but, almost three years ago, I moved to London to study Creative Writing at university. Of course it's been much, much harder than what it would have been if I could have just stayed home, without leaving my family and boyfriend and especially writing in my native language. So the question I get more often is: why did you change country and switch language, then? And there's two simple answers: one, in Italy there is no such thing as a writing course; and two, the publishing industry in Italy is a honest to God nightmare.

Now, in Italy, pretty much all systems - how to get into politics, get work in theatre companies, get the best treatment in hospital, work in universities / the public sector in general - are warped. The mafia-structure is endemic and so yes, the general rule is that you have to be related to someone, to know someone, if you want to get anywhere. In alternative, you have to pay. Often there are no official ways for a newbie to even apply for consideration (queries, open calls...), and the only way to let someone know you even exist is by recommendation. The same general rule applies to submitting material to publishing houses. At the fair I sat down with a very nice editor from a Sardinian press, who seemed to have taken me in sympathy, and we started chatting about it.

Vanity Press epidemic ) Basically, most smaller presses accept unsolicited submissions, but they also require a 'contribution' by the author who wishes to publish with them. In fact, every time I tell an Italian I've been published, the first thing they ask is: "How much did you have to pay?" Since pretty much every Italian publisher does it, people just assume it's the normal route to go. No one that I've spoken with so far was aware of the term 'vanity presses' and that this isn't the way it should be. (although I should say my new Sardinian friend hurried to specify his press is a serious press and they'd never do that. Kudos to him.).

The big fish's absence ) The big presses, instead - and there's no more than 3 or 4 - don't ask for money, and thank heavens for that. But! It's been repeatedly confirmed that they won't consider your submissions unless they know who you are. If you haven't published with them before, how are they supposed to know you, you'll wonder? But by personal recommendation, of course. You have to know someone in the house who will read your manuscript. Two of them actually say on their website that they don't accept submissions at all. They rely entirely on who their editors know for a supply of manuscripts. But what of submissions sent by agents? Ah. Here's the biggest, nastiest catch of all.

The 'literary agencies' national scam ) Until a few years ago, there were no literary agencies in Italy. At all. They did very well with their personal recommendation system. Until someone realized there was the chance to make large wads of cash off wannabe authors who lacked social capital, and the first agencies were born.

I will have to try very hard to keep objective, because this particular topic makes me very angry.

I read several articles claiming that 'Anglo-American-style' agencies are budding in Italy, but that's a plain lie. These agencies state clearly that their primary function is the evaluation of manuscripts. That means you send them your manuscript with 300 Euros and they'll fill in an evaluation form in which they tell you what they liked/didn't like about the book. Then, you have the option to negotiate expensive rates for them to 'fix' what they didn't like in your book. Then, IF they really like it, they MIGHT submit it to their personal acquaintancies in some publishing houses, and if the manuscript gets picked, you have to pay them a further 10% fee.

ALL the agencies are like this. This is the official literary agency model in Italy. The industry standard. And as these 'agencies' spread, big publishers will begin to ask that you submit through an agent because hey, that's what the Anglo-American market does, right? And Italy's always been an America wannabe. Except as you've noticed, the agency system is just plain wrong.

I can't even wrap my head around just how wrong it is. But then again, that happens with most things going on in my country at the moment. I am saddened to find once again that my best option is to abandon my country and my language if I want to work in a decent environment and have a honest shot at succeeding.

aprile 10, 2011

Random London + Mercenary Reviews

London has been most pleasantly warm and sunny in the past few days. What a wonderful surprise! Apart from providing me with the perfect excuse to buy a new pretty summer dress (I have all summer clothes back home in Italy... never really got a chance to use them here!)... the sunshine was perfect for some exploration and gallery-going. I especially loved Gabriel Orozco's exhibition at the Tate Modern - the piéce de resistance is Black Kites, a human skull with painstakingly drawn graphite lozenges.

In the Turbine Hall there is still Ai Weiwei's Sunflower Seeds installation, 100 millions hand-crafted porcelain sunflower seeds. Weiwei has been arrested by the Chinese police because of his political activism, and his whereabouts remain unknown. As I was there, a group of protesters were walking across the endless span of seeds placing rows and rows of printouts requesting he be freed. Among them there was a little girl, about 3 years old. An old Chinese man was handing her leaflets and she was carefully placing them down one beside the other.

I studied fine arts for 5 years in Italy and another year here in London, and I have to say... sometimes I really miss it. This weekend an artist friend came to visit me from Wales, and we've visited several galleries. It was great. ♥

Protester laying in the sunflower seeds from the Guardian.

On more frivolous matters... I got another couple of warm-and-fuzzy-feeling-inducing reviews for The Mercenary.

5 stars from Yzola Kitchi on Amazon:
Overall a clever, funny and beautifully written story. Would love to read more about these characters and their world!

4 stars from SMK on Amazon:
This was a short, fast-paced read with a setting and characters that were impressively fleshed out.

4 stars from Natasha on Goodreads:
I wasn't ready for it to end.

And that is all. Peace and pandas handing out pink candyfloss. ♥