Sunday, April 06, 2014

IngramSpark for Indies

I've had more than a few folks ask me about free publishing services for indie authors, in hopes that I had something tucked away in the No-Cost file. Unfortunately:

1. I am not an indie author, unless you count self-publishing e-books for the last thirteen years. Since they're all free I think that makes me crazy, not indie.

2. From my limited POV (and when I say limited I mean it in the comfortably-fits-in-my-favorite-thimble sense because I don't do it myself) unless you handle everything -- formatting, cover art, promotions, web site, Twitter, Facebook etc. -- indie publishing is never 100% free.

So those are the disclaimers, and I defer anything I write in this post in advance to any dissenting indie author with more experience than me, which is basically every indie author.

That said, I did a little homework and found that if you're interested in going the indie author route IngramSpark may offer the most pub for your buck as an all-in-one low-cost pub/concierge POD service:

Ingram Content Group has introduced IngramSpark, a new Publish-on-Demand platform that enables the delivery of content worldwide to readers in print and electronic formats. Powered by Lightning Source and CoreSource, Ingram’s ebook distribution platform, IngramSpark is specifically tailored to the needs of the small and independent publisher.

IngramSpark streamlines sales, account set up, content management and customer support activities into an easy-to-use, self-service platform. All you need to get started is an email address, print-ready PDFs for print titles, EPUB and JPEG for ebooks, an ISBN, and a credit card.

Here's a look at their pricing (my comments are in italics):

Account Set-Up: Free (excellent)

Title Set-Up ~ Loading, storing, and managing book, ebook files, and metadata per title.

Book and ebook -- $49.00 (submitted at the same time)
Book -- $49.00
E-book -- $25.00

(Admittedly not cheap but I think in the range of reasonable for most wallets.)

Titles are eligible for automatic free set-up with an initial order of 50+ copies. When a print order is placed for 50 copies within 60 days of title set-up, the customer will receive a $49 refund. (I would first figure out how much 50+ print copies are going to cost you before signing on for this. As in spending $1000.00 to save $49.00 is a bit silly.)

Print On Demand (Print & Ship): Printing and shipping costs will depend on your book type, volume, and shipping location.
You can print as many copies as you need (one or thousands). We have volume discounts available for large print orders. (They have a Print and Ship Calculator to help you estimate costs, too, which can be helpful.)

Global Market Access (Book & Ebook Distribution) ~ Your title(s) are automatically available for purchase to over 39,000 global retailers, and their consumers. (I would want to know upfront if Amazon, B&N and BAM are among these 39K retailers, but that's me.)

Book and Ebook Market Access -- $12.00 per title, per year (if submitted at the same time)
Book Market Access -- $12.00 per title, per year
Ebook Market Access -- $12.00 per title, per year

(Not so thrilled about this charge, as access has already been granted via the set-up charges, but a dollar a month is also reasonable for most wallets.)

Publisher Compensation:

When your books are sold through our distribution network, you are paid:
Printed (POD) Title -- Dependent upon your wholesale discount, you are paid 45% or 60% of List Price minus print costs
Ebook Title -- 40% of List and Agency Price

(And this would be when? Something you might also want to find out in advance.)

Upside: This is quite a bit cheaper than the indie publishing platform my literary agent recommended to me some time back, so I hope that means indie author services are becoming more competitive.

Downside: It's all self-service, so if you mess up something along the way you might end up with a clunker or having to repeat the entire process. I also suspect that if anything goes wrong it may take some doing to correct, so you might want to find an author who has used the service and ask them about their experience with it.

Speaking of that, does anyone out there use IngramSpark's services, and if so can you share any intel on how they perform? Or do you use another POD publisher that provides more services for less $$$? Please let us know in comments.


  1. I use CreateSpace / Kindle / Smashwords / BookBaby / Lulu. I don't use IngramSpark.

    For ebooks, there's no advantage to use IngramSpark. All of the above services except BookBaby (which charges $19) are free.

    I looked into IS for paper publishing, because some bookstores refuse to deal with CreateSpace, but it appears they require the PDF to be created using a plug-in designed for bookpublishing that's best used through InDesign (which I don't have). It seemed too complicated for a one-man operation, so until I learn more about it, I dropped the idea. There's also the per year cost for maintaining the title there.

    Here's my blogpost about my experiences:

    Meanwhile, I publish my trade paperbacks through CreateSpace, using Word 2007 / CutePDF (free) and design everything myself. Total cost: Free.

  2. There you go -- one completely free service. :)

  3. I haven't used IS. Last year, my ten (short) stories paid out the same as 25% of my usual salary, so I'd say I'm pretty successful. (Publishing the stories started as a bet with my girlfriends but is now paying enough to help my mom retire, so!).

    I use Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords (although I'm considering dumping Smashwords, it's how I get a free ISBN). The Kindle and Nook are both free. (Am I thrilled with their business practices? No, but they're the major players, and this is how I can afford to help my mom retire. I'm willing to compromise a bit on principles if it means my mom gets to retire.)

    I design all my covers myself, and I exchange services with a tech savy friend who uploads my stories in exchange for my making *her* covers. I buy my cover stock from Canstock photo, where I buy credits in a bundle that costs about 25$ per year. Total set up costs: 25$ per annum, which is pretty reasonable. You could include my Adobe Cloud subscription (where I pay for Photoshop), but a lot of people I know use free programs and are happy with them. A month of Cloud is free as a trial, so you could do all your covers at once for no cost, if needed.

    I don't think there's much of a market for paper books in my genre, right now, so I continue to only use Lulu to make personal copies of whatever stories I write for friends with no expectation of making a profit (basically impossible). I use Lulu out of habit, and because I have an account already set up there. I'm assured that some copy shops make just as nice books, slightly (a few dollars) cheaper, but finding one nearby seems like a lot of effort when I'm already happy with Lulu's quality and reasonable prices.

  4. I use createspace and I've been really happy. We did pay for professional covers ( well, some really exceptionally talented pro artists friends did us some epic favors) and we set ourselves up as a really small press while we were at it. That is, I won't rule out doing others books under our small press name.

    Createspace sells packages to do all the set up, but frankly it wasn't all that hard to DIY it if you're passably computer literate.


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