IngramSpark

By Elizabeth S. Craig, @elizabethscraigIngramSpark

I’d been hearing a lot about IngramSpark, but I hadn’t ever figured out why I might need them as a print book manufacturer/distributor. My books were on CreateSpace and selling well through Amazon. It seemed as if my relationship with Amazon was filling the print book need.

At the NINC conference in October, it finally fell into place: bookstore distribution.

I tend to pooh-pooh bookstore distribution.  My pooh-poohing is premature.  I do, according to my Penguin-Random House royalty statements, still sell a lot of print books. The statements are, however, less than transparent, but I’m still going to assume that those print sales are also at non-Amazon retailers. I tend to have a dim outlook on the future of large, Barnes&Noble-esque booksellers, but the truth is that print isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and B&N isn’t the only game in (many) towns.

The point is that some retailers might rather not stock books or order through a competitor…Amazon.  Additionally, Ingram makes international order fulfilment possible.  They not only ship internationally, they print internationally.  This ensures that shipping costs are kept to a minimum and that readers receive our titles quickly.

Also interesting is that IngramSpark purchased Aer.io.  This acquisition may mean some cool opportunities to sell on our own sites and allow Ingram to do order fulfillment. You can embed a store on your site. Journalist Porter Anderson wrote an article, “Ron Martinez on Aer.io’s acquisition by Ingram: ‘We’re very lucky’” for The Bookseller that gives an overview of what this acquisition might mean for authors.

My first question was—can I be on both IngramSpark and CreateSpace? Yes, we can. This means that we’ll likely want to discontinue expanded distribution with CreateSpace (which we have to pay for) and that we’ll want to make sure that we use the same ISBN for both the CreateSpace print version and the IngramSpark print version (or else Amazon will “see” the title as a separate book).

This also means that we need to have an ISBN, obviously, of our own for the print format. Not the free CreateSpace one. IngramSpark does require authors to have ISBNs. I know this may be a sticking point for many writers. I’ve always just bought my own ISBNs, in bulk, directly from Bowker. I want my name as the publisher on record, not CreateSpace or Smashwords, etc.  Bowker does run sales…I like to buy the ISBNs on sale. I wish they’d make the things much, much cheaper, but there it is. I write the expense off on my taxes.

Besides ISBN costs (if you don’t already have them), there are separate costs to working with IngramSpark.  For instance, there’s a set-up fee. It’s $49.  Here’s a link to the costs of working with them.

The process of uploading my files and creating an account was simple.  It was very similar to the CreateSpace process, if you’re familiar with it.

I did find that one of my covers for CreateSpace did not pass through the IngramSpark review process.  The bleed was off. I will need to get with my cover designer to make an adjustment.  This cost is expected to be minimal.

If you’re going into the process with a brand-new interior/exterior file, you should be in good shape because you’ll use their specs. If you’re wanting to publish to both CreateSpace and IngramSpark, the general advice seems to be to choose a trim size that’s compatible on both platforms, right from the start. There are other considerations for production, too. Jen Lang has a very helpful post, “Book Production: More Tips on Using CreateSpace and IngramSpark Together” on ALLi’s blog.

You can also find more information on using CreateSpace and IngramSpark together in “How to Use CreateSpace and IngramSpark Together” by Karen Myers, also on the ALLi blog.

Hope this helps to make the two services and what they offer a bit less confusing. I know that I put off making a decision on IngramSpark because I didn’t understand what they could offer me.  Have you taken a look at IngramSpark? If you’re using it, are you pleased?

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27 thoughts on “IngramSpark

    1. Diane–My understanding is that Ingram has made a shift and now directs indie authors to Spark and no longer accepts indie authors at LS. Lightning Source is to be used by small publishers (as opposed to indie publishers).

  1. I have used both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark and here are a few things I’ve learned. My only “warning” to Ingram users would be to be patient. It can take a while for your books to appear on B&N and other bookstore websites, so if you want to release a book for a holiday or event or want to plan your launch and marketing, make sure that you get your material to them well in advance. The period leading up to Christmas is very busy. Though both editions of my book (a journal for teen writers) were submitted to IS and CS withing a day or two of each other, the CreateSpace edition was up and running in a couple of days and Amazon sales followed quickly. IS was much slower and there was a wait of over 3 weeks for the book to show up at B&N and Chapters/Indigo. I’m a Canadian author, so I need my books at C/I and Amazon.ca in order to promote to Canadian readers (though, in reality, most of my sales are US through Amazon.com.) Sometimes your cover doesn’t appear when the book’s description does. I’ve contacted B&N and sent my cover photo directly to them. CS and IS don’t use the same paper thickness when calculating the spine of your book, so sometimes you need to adjust your CS cover to fit IS. If you are doing your own design, you will probably have to tweak your bar code image for IS. The bar codes you download from free conversion sites often need to be run through software, such as Photoshop, to make sure that they are black and white only, which is what IS requires. Customer service for both? Excellent.

    1. Heather–Oh wow. Yes, CreateSpace is almost immediate for me. I’m in no hurry because these are books that have been published for a long while and I’m just expanding my distribution…but that would be a real pain if we were *planning* on having our books available in stores (especially if someone were planning a launch at a Barnes&Noble, for instance).

      I am going to have to pay my cover designer to do an adjustment because the bleed or trim isn’t right for one of my books. Haven’t gotten around to addressing it! Just another reason why a virtual assistant is going to be a good thing for me.

      Good to hear the customer service is great. :)

      Thanks for weighing in, Heather–good to hear from someone who has done this before.

  2. Oh, this is really helpful, Elizabeth! I’ve got one thing on CreateSpace, and I’d love to have it distributed. Nice to know that I can. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  3. I wish D2D had IngramSpark as a distribution option. I find this whole thing confusing, because BN shows my paperback online, but not in their store. Where are they getting it from? And if I set up an account with IS, how do I get my local BN to put it on the shelf?

    Thanks for a great post, Elizabeth! Lots of things to get me thinking…

    1. Kathy–You and me, too. Hoping D2D will put that together soon.

      Your questions are good ones and the answers are complicated. :) My understanding is that, if you’re on CreateSpace’s expanded services, when Amazon gets orders they use Ingram to fill them…and they set up a sort of quasi account at Ingram with CS listed as the publisher of record. According to the ALLi article I referenced: “This means when a bookstore (including online bookstores) looks for your print book, they search the Ingram database, find it under “Publisher=CreateSpace”, and if they are sensitive about Amazon as a competitor they may refuse to carry it. For example, at Barnes&Noble, where my ebooks are sold, my print books appeared as “available from third parties” (when I only used CS).”

      So I’m thinking that B&N *would* show your paperback available online because they’re getting it from Amazon’s listing, through CreateSpace, at Ingram.

      I think, if we have a listing at BN, stocking will be random. I think they’d consider stocking it if we directly called a store, for instance. I even called stores for my trad-pubbed books because not every store’s buyer would put all Penguin titles in (especially for a first book in a series). But with less shelf space, I’m thinking it’s trickier than it was before. But I do like the international option with IngramSpark.

  4. Hi ELizabeth – lots of new stuff here … with Heather adding to your salient notes – it’s great to have the community helping out … thanks once again – cheers Hilary

  5. I recently switched from CreateSpace extended distribution to IngramSpark, and encountered some confusion about my ISBN being already in use. It turns out that CreateSpace sometimes uses IngramSpark to print their extended-distribution books — which meant my book was already in IngramSpark’s system. Once I sent an email as they directed, asking that the files be transferred to the proper category, there was almost no delay in the book’s reappearance on B&N. I’d had my cover designer prepare an IngramSpark version of the cover, but I never had to upload it.

    1. Karen–Thanks for this! While I was researching IngramSpark, I did read a lot of forum entries where authors mentioned having issues with ISBNs for various reasons. It sounds like, from what you’re saying, that it can be especially tricky if a writer has been part of CreateSpace’s expanded distribution system. Good to know that an email cleared the issue up and prevented a lengthy delay for you.

  6. Great minds think alike, Elizabeth! I’d held off publishing on Ingram Spark because I wasn’t convinced I’d get into more markets unless I did a marketing campaign – which would be an expensive gamble. Then I saw the news about Aer.io. I believe it opens a massive opportunity. Glad you thought so too!

    1. JP–Good question and I can really only give you my gut reaction on it. I did *not* allow my books to be returnable.

      My thought process on it was: I don’t have a sales rep. Usually a publisher has a rep who presents booksellers with the spring and winter, etc. catalogs. The bookseller listens to the pitches and buys. I think most of the time my book sales through Ingram will be via a different process: that readers will *request* a title and B&N, etc. will stock based on individual demand. A guaranteed sale.

      I also hoped that, very soon, the whole returns process (which really makes the trad-pubs lose a tremendous amount of revenue) will be revamped. If returns are bad for trad pubs, they’ll be bad for me, too.

      But…we can change our selection, too. If we feel it’s not working out for us, we can always change our selection. Bookstores won’t stock unsold merchandise unless they can return…for now. If that’s important to a writer and if he or she can contact stores individually and push for having a book stocked, that might work, too.

      More on returns on the IngramSpark user guide: https://www.ingramspark.com/documents/Spark%20User%20Guide.pdf (control-f for “returns”)

  7. Thanks for this article and all of the links. I thought it would be hard or impossible to use both CS and Ingram. This changes my thinking on my WIP. Of course, this will cause a loss of sleep tonight. Thanks for that, too!

    1. Gary–Ha! Hope you were able to get a little sleep, after all. Yes, it’s a game-changer when we realize it’s not an either CreateSpace or IngramSpark. Really, at this point, we should be doing both, if possible, to increase to maximum distribution.

  8. I put my first ten books up on Ingram in May last year, when I got a coupon for free set-up. Note that the $25-50 set-up fee is per book, not per author, and there is another $25 fee if you want to make a change down the line, unlike Createspace where you can make changes at any time for free. Make sure everything is right on Ingram before you approve it!

    I set up all ten as both paperback and hardcover books, and yes, it took some getting used to their setup and reformatting everything with their template.

    I can get my own ISBN’s free, so I have always used my own ISBN’s with Createspace as well as Ingram.

    Some issues that I ran into with Ingram
    – taking time to figure out how to fix the issues they flag and get through the process to approval
    – when the books showed up on Amazon, a lot of the Ingram books didn’t have cover images. They also didn’t merge with the existing listing (KDP and Createspace). So I had to keep watching for duplicate listings and getting them merged through Amazon Central so that I just have one page listing for each book that shows all formats

    Ingram has added a bunch of new meta data fields since I did my original listing. I just started filling out the extended meta data last night. Hopefully this helps make them more discoverable.

    I did not do any kind of promotion through Ingram’s catalogue (though that looks promising) or anywhere else. Just kept doing my regular promotional activities. I got a few sales. But in December, my Ingram sales suddenly leapfrogged ahead of my Createspace sales. If they continue to do well, I will start paying to set up my newer titles. Though another coupon code would be nice!

    I am not in the US, which means that my royalties from Amazon/Createspace come via cheque in the mail. But Ingram is set up to deposit directly into my PayPal account, which is kind of nice. They are on a 90 day delay, though.

    I have not set up any ebooks through Ingram, because I already had KDP and Smashwords going and figured I was covered. Seeing the sales from Ingram, though, I’m wondering if I should reconsider. I need to look at their distribution and see where they go.

    1. P.D.–Yes, an important detail to point out…I’m paying $49 a *title* for the Ingram set-up.

      You must be Canadian. :) I envy the free ISBNs that are available there. Bowker is very frustrating.

      Ugh. Hoping for no additional problems. I’ve got the unresolved cover bleed/formatting issue, but that’s my fault at this point because I haven’t made the time to get it corrected. One of my books went through with smooth sailing.

      Wonder what accounts for your surge in sales on the retailer? I love hearing that. :)

      At this point, I’m not using Ingram for ebooks. But I’m open to changing that, depending on their distribution channels.

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