Self-Publishing 2021-2022: Ingramspark

Welcome back to the Creative Life Adventure.

Today I’m continuing a series of blog posts exploring resources available to self-published authors with a brief review of Ingramspark. Ingramspark (IS) is a distributor of both print and ebooks. Ingramspark is a subsidiary of Ingram Content Group, the primary U.S. book distributor for traditional publishing. As such, IS has sophisticated book-printing resources and reaches a vast network of online and brick-and-mortar retailers. IS is an important channel for print-on-demand books by independent authors, but is generally not recommended for ebook distribution. There are simply better options for ebooks, including Draft2Digital, as I discussed in a previous post.

My current process is to set up my print book on IS first, then create the digital edition on D2D. This is because the print process is more involved – once the print edition is ready, the digital version is much easier.

Screenshot of IS book set-up

Whichever route you go, before publishing with IS you will want to prepare much of the same information for any other publisher: book title, length, summary, BISAC headings, ISBN, etc. Unlike ebooks, with print books you also have to make decisions about such things as trim size and interior paper style.

A substantial difference between print and electronic editions is the cover. Ebooks only have a front cover, but you’ll need a back cover for paperbacks or hardbacks. Also, a high-resolution JPG is generally sufficient for ebooks, but professional book printers have different requirements. For me, the greatest challenge with IS was converting JPG files to the archival PDF format required by IS. I covered this process briefly in a previous blog post. But the first step is calculating your book’s total page count (determined, in part, by trim size!), then obtaining a free cover template from the IS web site. Follow their instructions to the letter, and you should be fine.

Screenshot of IS book set-up

After you’ve set up your manuscript and uploaded the relevant files, IS will provide a downloadable PDF proof of your book. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to review this in great detail. Because the next step is to approve your book for distribution, after which you can order a physical proof copy. The cost of the proof will vary according to trim size, page count, shipping method, and other factors. If, after approving your book for print, you need to revise your manuscript, you will need to upload the revised file(s) to IS and pay a revision fee, which is $25 at the time of this writing.

Screenshot of IS book set-up

Ingramspark Weaknesses:

  • Unlike Amazon KDP (to be discussed in a future blog post), IS charges a setup fee, which for print books is currently $49. There is also the aforementioned change fee.
  • With a pending price change in March, 2022, IS will have increased its printing prices twice in six months. This is not really their fault, but the result of global inflation and supply chain issues (which are largely driven by corporate greed, but that’s a separate topic). Still, print books are not cheap these days, to print or to buy.
  • IS requires that text and cover files be uploaded in the somewhat archaic PDF/X-1a:2001 format. This is easy to do if you are an Adobe subscription customer, but not so easy for the rest of us. I recommended one way to accomplish this in an earlier post, but IS definitely has more strict upload requirements than Amazon KDP.
  • I have read reports from others that IS customer support is basically nonexistent, but I can’t confirm or deny that because, thankfully, I have not yet needed customer support.
  • While IS and KDP supposedly use the same network of printers, I found the cover color reproduction was better on KDP proof copies than those from IS. I believe this has something to do with CMYK vs RGB color profiles, but if both companies use the same printers, and I used the same files in creating both covers, I’m not sure what’s causing the difference. Others have reported the same experience.
Screenshot of IS book set-up

Ingramspark Strengths:

  • Once you get past the PDF requirements, most of the IS setup procedure is fairly straightforward. Yes, you have to answer a lot of questions, but honestly, anyone planning to self-publish should already be considering all the topics covered by the set-up process.
  • Very few print-on-demand books end up on the shelves of physical bookstores. However, by publishing with IS, you reach a wide range of online retailers. For example, my novels Moral Compass and Paradise West can currently be ordered in paperback from Walmart, which I didn’t expect when I published it.
  • IS will automatically generate a bar code that incorporates your ISBN. Plan for this by leaving sufficient blank space on your back cover.
  • When I ordered proof copies, something I’ve done four times so far, I was advised by IS that printing alone could take up to ten business days, with shipping time on top of that. However, in every case, my orders shipped within two business days and arrived within a week of my order. Expedited shipping is available for an additional fee.
  • Despite many criticizing IS for poor customer service, they do maintain a Facebook group and IS representatives often respond to public posts. So this is one possible avenue to the support you need.

Overall, my experience with IS has been quite good so far. I understand the upload fees might be a problem for many independent authors, but for me the up front cost has been worth it to achieve wider distribution. As always, do your own homework and decide what’s best for you.

Next time, a brief overview of POD paperbacks via Amazon KDP.

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