Breaking News: New Ingram Spark Discounts for Indie Publishers

by Joel Friedlander on January 8, 2014 · 133 comments

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Last year’s launch of Ingram Spark—the new publishing portal from the biggest and most experienced print on demand supplier anywhere—got off to a rocky start.

Although many people anticipated that Ingram would eventually consider augmenting their publisher-oriented supplier, Lightning Source, by creating another service oriented toward authors.

(In fact, for years Lightning Source had a notice on their website advising authors to go elsewhere for their books, since it was never set up to accommodate the needs of single-book authors.)

And that’s why I was optimistic about Spark. When they launched I interviewed Robin Cutler, Manager of Content Acquisition at Ingram. Although I found a lot to like about Spark, there were some serious obstacles that would keep a lot of indie authors from using the service.

I’ve kept in touch with Robin since then, and we talked again about whether authors would be able to choose between Spark and Lightning Source, and we’ve continued to talk about some of these issues.

The most troubling to me was the fixed discount that Ingram had set for all Spark authors: 55%. This makes sense if your aim is to sell books through the bookstore distribution system, and that’s what Ingram is known for.

But now that they are also a supplier to self-publishers, it seemed to me that more flexibility was needed. After all, there are a lot of self-publishing authors who don’t sell through bookstores, since they have other ways of vending their books. These authors would never choose to go with Spark if they were forced to accept the 55% discount.

Breaking News: Change Is Here for Spark Discounts

That’s why I was very excited to hear from Robin that this situation is about to change.

Starting on Thursday, January 9, IngramSpark publishers will now have two wholesale discount choices in setting up their titles for POD distribution—55% and 40%.

This choice of discounts will accommodate many more indie publishers. Even though Spark will not offer a “short discount,” the standard retail discount of 40% is both reasonable and on a par with other suppliers to this market.

This is great news for indie authors whose sales can benefit from wide distribution. It also better positions Spark as an alternative for CreateSpace, the most popular platform for indie authors.

Combined with Ingram’s reach to 133 countries, and the possibility that it will mature into a single point for manufacture and distribution of your print books and ebooks, Spark has real upside potential.

And for those authors who see a real future for themselves in publishing their own books or even the books of others, once you can project a growing list of titles, there’s the business-oriented Lightning Source available.

Robin also addressed the problem of Spark’s low payout on ebooks:

We are also reviewing our ebook discount schedule in hopes we can make some adjustments there going forward but that is still in the works.

This is all good news. As the self-publishing industry matures, we’re going to see a variety of solutions for authors, from formatting and printing to distribution and fulfillment. This continuing innovation is going to allow more indie publishers to reach their goals.

With this change to Spark’s discount, are you more likely to try out the service?


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    { 130 comments… read them below or add one }

    Bill Peschel January 8, 2014 at 4:16 am

    No.

    That was never the problem I had with Spark. It’s their technical requirements.

    I can submit books to CreateSpace using Word 2007 and CutePDF. My books look fine.

    To submit to Spark I’d need InDesign and the ability to create a PDF of the proper flavor they want (the standard the book industry uses).

    As a one-person operation, I simply don’t have the money to spend and the time to learn how to do this, even at 40 percent. Ain’t gonna happen.

    Reply

    Lianne Simon January 8, 2014 at 5:50 am

    If you’re formatting novels, LibreOffice is a free alternative to InDesign. It will do everything you need for print. You could even import your Word files and export PDF. The learning curve isn’t bad.

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    Jamie January 8, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Ahh, LibreOffice. I downloaded it so I could examine the Create Space Word templates. I hate Word for its intended purpose and I don’t even own it; I use WordPerfect. Libre was surprisingly easy for adapting those templates. The only thing giving me fits was updating or creating styles so I have to tweak my compile settings in Scrivener to get the styles as close to the end-product as possible.

    I still would prefer to own or rent InDesign (it’s $40 bucks a month to rent). I want to get a little more complex with the interior design. If you want to keep it simple then Libre is promising. It exports to PDF and you can embed your fonts. And it’s free …

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    Once you start producing books with InDesign, Jamie, you’ll never want to go back to a “word processor.”

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    Alex Stan Campbell January 11, 2014 at 2:32 pm

    I totally agree. I’m just about to unleash my first book and thanks to the fact that my wife is a graphic designer, she is doing the layout with InDesign. It’s amazing what it can do.

    Chi Quaria February 3, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Also consider using LaTeX (on Windows, it’s MiKTeX). Free, and produces typeset PDF that uses formatting strategies that are similar to what you would get with InDesign. If you know how to use it, you can product the industry-standard PDF/X-1a.

    This is not for everyone. The learning curve is steep, and it’s particularly hard to use if your book has anything but text.

    Yet I agree that once one is familiar with InDesign (or typesetters), you’ll never want to use a word processor again.

    I’ve tried this as a test case. There is a very visible difference between a block of continuous text (novel) that is typeset, and one that comes out of a word processor. The first looks like a real book. The second looks like a homework assignment. Of course, it also depends on whether you are using a typeface intended for books (such as Garamond or Calson) or one intended for office documents (such as TNR or Palatino).

    Joel Friedlander February 3, 2014 at 3:18 pm

    Good points, Chia, with the exception of our own, extensively tweaked, font-enabled, pre-designed and pre-formatted book design templates for MS Word.

    Reply

    Aaron March 16, 2014 at 5:24 pm

    Jamie, I’m not sure which InDesign you were looking at, but I have the Adobe Creative Cloud, yet I only subscribe to InDesign for $19 a month. The learning curve is higher, yes, but I have found the broader spread of tools very beneficial.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry March 17, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Owning ID 6.0 got me a discount for the first year of the full Creative Cloud. But the one app I use other than ID is Photoshop and the CS 3 version of it that I own is enough for my purposes. Like Aaron, I’ll be on the $19.95 one-app plan when that discount runs out. I get more than enough value out of ID to make it worth that.
    Also, having either CC plan offers a great bonus, membership in Adobe’s Behance and Prosite. Behance is for professional portfolios and can be used to feed Prosite, which can host your work for the general public.

    If you don’t have a website to host your books, you might want to consider using Prosite. It’s like those easy-to-use hosting sites that typically charge $10/month, so that’s half your CC membership paid for there. The only downside is that, being web-based with two-linked sites, it’s a bit confusing at first.

    In my case, a Prosite proved easy to set up once I understood its quirks. Each book has the front and back cover followed by sample pages either from the book’s PDF exported as JPG or screen shots of how a pages looks on an iPad. You can see the results here:

    http://inklingbooks.prosite.com

    I still need to add some text content to go with the pictures and links to retail sources, but creating pages for over two dozen books went far more quickly than creating them any other way would have been.

    Keep in mind that if you work a ID-CC membership at $20 a month into your business plan you’re far better off that most professionals. Many in law or medicine have to spend hundreds of dollars a month for magazine subscriptions and access to databases.

    And to deal with that ID learning curve, you might got through all Adobe’s free training materials, if that’s not enough, join Lynda to get access to their video training:

    http://www.lynda.com/

    As well as subscribe to an excellent podcast, InDesign Secrets:

    http://indesignsecrets.com

    Those should get you up to speed on ID and once you do, I suspect you’ll never look back. It’s an absolute delight to have an app that can generate, from the same document, excellent PDF and good and rapidly improving ePub.

    And by the way, if you’re a publisher who works with writers, it shouldn’t be hard to adapt some of The Book Designer’s templates, so they have your authors write using paragraph and character styles. Those styles can then be used to making importing that author’s version into ID relatively painlessly. Just match the styles in the template with predefined styles in an ID template.

    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    I don’t believe that’s accurate, Bill. Ingram tells me they receive many books produced with MS Word, and as long as your PDF is accurate and to their spec, it doesn’t really matter what program produced it.

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    Diane Tibert January 8, 2014 at 4:59 am

    I echo the same sentiments as Bill. I don’t use InDesign (yet). In a year or two I will be switching to this software, but in the meantime, CreateSpace offers the ease of creating books in their templates using MS Word, which then is converted to a PDF. Each book becomes easier and easier, and I’ve taken the generic template and created my own that suits me better. It can’t get easier than that.

    That said, by the time I’m using InDesign, Ingram Spark, with this change (and I’m sure many to follow), will probably be more beneficial to me. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date.

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    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Congrats Diane on coming up with a system that works for you, and modifying the “generic” template is a great way to start.

    For other authors who would like to skip that step, check out the pre-designed, pre-formatted templates available at Book Design Templates

    Reply

    Skye Warren January 8, 2014 at 6:17 am

    I tried signing up for LightningSource recently and it required I use IngramSpark instead, even though with ten books I’m not a single-book author. Plus, the process for finding that out was frustrating. I submitted an inquiry for LightningSource, waited a day, submitted another request for Ingram, waited another day. The lack of automation was a pain…

    The ebook terms were basically a nonstarter. I didn’t see any benefits to me and certainly I’d make less money with the same sales numbers.

    The print options seemed okay, but ultimately more trouble than they were worth considering the ease of CreateSpace. I couldn’t even find print layout requirements on their website (admittedly, I gave up rather easily rather than hunt or ask).

    I don’t mind the 55% return at all. The potential to get into bookstores with that more traditional return number would actually be the biggest draw of printing with LightningSource. So, this change doesn’t really encourage me to make a switch, since it wasn’t a barrier.

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    Theresa M. Moore January 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    As a long time self-publisher I use Lightning Source, after experiencing a debacle of publishing snafus with CreateSpace. Also, CS does not offer a better distribution platform and if you use your own ISBN your books are not available to libraries. In fact, CS is only good for Amazon and nowhere else, since bookstores will not buy CS printed books.

    I am considering using Ingram Spark for my ebooks and it does appear less expensive for setup than Lightning Source, but I do not see a distinct advantage to transferring my printed books over there. Also, the barrier to using Ingram Spark is that it only accepts ePubs, not any other format, and there is significant doubt that the ePub generated on a Windows OS will pass through to Apple even if it passed the epubchecker. I am still trying to make sure my epubs will do so, as I use caliber for other formats.

    For authors with only one book, however, I would recommend Ingram Spark over CreateSpace, Lulu, or any other online book publishing service, because it is an Ingram company and there is the potential for better distribution.

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    Jason Matthews January 8, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Tempted to get some titles printed with Spark just so I can compare with what I have from CreateSpace. Must admit a preference to the user-friendliness of CS at the starting line.

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    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    I hope if you try that Jason that you’ll report back on your results, that would be an interesting comparison.

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    Dorothy January 8, 2014 at 9:01 am

    I have books with both Createspace and Lightning Source (although not their Spark program). But am considering switching the LS books to Createspace. I’m not dinged $12 a year per title with Createspace, nor does it cost me to make a revision. If I have to pay, I won’t change just one typo. But if I know there’s one typo in a book, it’s going to bug me and bug me. With Createspace, I can change that one typo free of charge, and so I do.

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    AJ January 8, 2014 at 10:10 am

    I’ve used both and ordered proofs from Ingram Spark and Create Space. Digital file requirements aside, since I’m a graphic designer and it wasn’t overwhelming for me, the quality of Ingram’s books are certainly lacking.

    1. The paper quality inside the book is more along the lines found in trade paperback – nearly newsprint as I like to call it. The cream color paper used by Create Space is really quite nice and thick. The weight of the paper including the cover is much thicker, too.

    2. Binding – I don’t know what kind of cheap glue they’re using but Ingram’s spines break pretty much right away if you’re trying to open the book up a bit.

    3. The typo issue!

    4. Even as a professional, I submitted the cover guidelines perfectly and they still managed to get the spine printing off.

    I’m definitely happy about the channels Ingram Spark is able to offer me but they really would need to step it up a notch on the physical book’s quality in order for me to even think about not using Amazon.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    Interesting comment, AJ. Historically, most authors reported the opposite, with LSI books appearing to be better manufactured than the ones from CS. However, it’s something of an open secret that many CS books were produced by LSI. To me they seem very similar. I believe both use 10 point stock for their covers, and the weight difference of the interior stock is very small. Thanks for reporting your own results.

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    Margaret Harrell March 16, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Hi, I agree with Joel, that I prefer the Ingram Spark quality of my books. The print and photo reproduction seems sharper. I was initially concerned that the Spark paper is 50 weight and the Ingram 60, and with 28 images in one and many in the other, I thought there would be bleed-through. I’ve been pleasantly surprised, however. But I still use C.S. for an Amazon version. And C.S is much easier and less expensive to navigate. Once I finish the setup on my new book at Spark, however, the expense of corrections will be over and I’ll have the distribution advantage of both outlets. Orders by the author are also more expensive, likewise shipping cost, at Spark. So I’ve found uses for both. I set the Spark discount at 40% but imagine that I’ll have to go to 55% o really see results in sales. I hope the spine at Spark holds up. It looks okay so far to me.

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    ipg January 10, 2014 at 2:49 pm

    Having tested over a hundred proofs of various titles (in 5.25×8 and 6×9 sizes) from both CS and LSI, I have to disagree with this. (Note: My experience is with LSI proper and not IngramSpark. Still, I can’t imagine there’s a difference in how the prints are made.)

    1 – Yes, the CS paper is thicker. However, the LSI paper is actually closer to what you will find in any NY-published trade paperback. It is a misconception that thicker paper means better quality. The thicker CS paper is clunky (in my opinion). Now, folks may prefer the thicker paper, and that’s fine–but if you’re comparing the paper’s look-and-feel to traditionally published books, then LSI is closer to what you’ll see out of NY.

    2 – This comment astounds me. The difference in binding is like night and day between CS and LSI. CS’s binding is tighter and the spine breaks much more easily. LSI, on the other hand, seems to allow a bit more “flippability,” which gives it a very pleasing and professional feel. And after hundreds of copies from both companies, I have yet to own an LSI book where I managed to break the spine. The CS books, on the other hand, look like wrecks after one read.

    3 – Typo issue. Sure, LSI costs more. No argument there. But instead of worrying about the $40 fee to fix a typo, we should be worrying about the much greater cost to the author’s reputation when a reader gets a book with typos. The answer is to pay up front for at least 2 passes by professional copyeditors.

    4 – Again, I disagree. CS has more variance in both text-block positioning as well as cover placement. Almost every CS book I have has a few pages where the text block is crooked or badly placed (messing up the margins). Same with the covers. I have not seen anywhere close to the same degree of variance with LSI.

    Anyway, like I said, my experience is with LSI proper and not IngramSpark, so perhaps what I’m saying doesn’t count. Just wanted to add my experience here for folks starting out. Best way is to spend a hundred bucks or so and get a couple of proofs of the same book from each company and decide for yourself.

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    Margaret Harrell March 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    I agree with the comments. However, I wonder if others have had this issue with errors coming in through the file transfer into InDesign. I can have a perfectly proofed book or nearly perfectly and then in the InDesign process some of the formatting is intentionallhy removed, and stand-alone hyphens appear in odd places or I’ve even had deleted text reappear – in the transfer of the file out of Word. I am using the most current Word software and two good designers, and I’ve run into various problems with transfer of Word into InDesign three times. This means that the perfectly proofed Word doc has to undergo thorough reproofing. Anyone else had this issue? If I knew InDesign myself, I think it would eliminate some of the issues. Especially by typing straight into InDesign to start with. Do others use InDesign for their drafts?

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    Michael W. Perry March 16, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    Word to InDesign is a real pain and I don’t know who is to blame. Adobe’s developers blame the complexity of Word’s formatting. I’d suggest not spending much time proofing Word documents for anything but content and typos. Save the close proofing for the ID version. That’s where it matters.

    I layout books for another publisher that are written in Word. Normally, I engage in ‘nuke and pave,’ destroying everything in the imported document but the italicization. But in the latest, I had good luck giving the author a Word document with paragraph styles names the same as what they’d have in ID. Then when imported they took on the ID formatting. That was much easier. Even the footnotes worked.

    Use ID’s ability to display a book’s fonts to hunt down and destroy stray fonts from the Word document, particularly that dreadful font-virus, Times-Roman. A wrong font may not show up in proofing but can look terrible in the printed version.

    –Mike Perry

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    Margaret Harrell March 16, 2014 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks. That’s very helpful. I’ll surely try it.

    Alinka January 8, 2014 at 10:43 am

    Thank you, this is just what I was looking for! I publish my books via CreateSpace and the problem is that Ingram only gives retailers a 25% discount for CS books and no returns option. A 55% discount would be great but I would have to learn everything that I have already mastered with CS. And the quality issues? The CS quality is outstanding. I don’t want to change that. I think going to Spark might not be worth it, for now.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 8, 2014 at 11:07 am

    I’ve been with Lightning Source since 1999 and like their service, print quality, and global reach, particularly to bookstores.

    * If you’re allowed into Lightning Source, you get specific person to deal with and not just a 1-800 number. You’re treated as an experienced publisher rather than a neophyte author. That’s great if you are experienced.
    * Even though the cost of promotional copies is higher, print quality also seems better at Lightning. I got 50 copies of my latest book from CreateSpace. The cover had been designed with an assumption that would work with tight specs of cover placement Lightning maintains. It didn’t work with CreativeSpace. Copies in the same shipment varied in spine alignment by 1/8-inch or more. I can design covers to be less picky, but they won’t look quite a good.
    * Lightning Source prints in the U.S., U.K., Australia, and on the European continent. If you’ve got global print buyers, that speeds delivery and cuts costs. Also, quite a few bookstores, for understandable reasons, refuse to get books from Amazon. If you want to be in the bookstore trade, Lightning is the way to go.
    ——–
    Dorothy has hit on the negatives of Lightning Source. That $12/year database title fee might have seemed OK in the era of mainframes. It makes no sense today, particularly when no one else charges that fee. Also, charging about $50 to revise the interior or cover of a book gets irritating when CreateSpace doesn’t. Upgrades should be automated enough, Lightning doesn’t need to charge for them.

    There’s also an irritation with Lightning that Dorothy did not mention. Their work flow for book availability during revisions makes so little sense, it must be a holdover from the era before POD. When you send in a revision, Lightning immediately tags the book as unavailable for order, a tag that soon spreads to Amazon, B&N, etc. Then it prints all existing orders (that’s likely to take 2-3 days). Then the revision is processed (another 2-3 days). Only when that revision is approved does a book become available again. That means revisions make a book unavailable for sale for about a week.

    I’ve had Lightning staff pass along to their management a much better, two-track flow for revisions. Unless otherwise ordered, the old version would continue to sell while the revision is processed. When the new is approved, within just a few minutes, orders get printed with it. The result would be that books would never become unavailable. They’re never be a delay in shipping. And revisions would become as available as quickly as the system permits. We’ll see if that happens.

    Those who find sending files to CreateSpace in Word should keep in mind that they’re not able to control all the features that need to be controlled in a professionally done books. PDF does let you do precisely that. What you see is precisely what you’ll get. Also, you can send both CreateSpace and Lightning that same PDF and know that both books will look exactly the same. CreateSpace may have issues with covers, but its interior quality seems to be just as good.

    The one glitch with the publish through both plan is that the two use different thicknesses of paper. That makes the spine width different and thus the cover different. That’s frustrating because, if you use InDesign for covers, Lightning supplies an excellent ID template. CreateSpace just provides a crude background image. That matters, because a template means objects attach themselves to lines, making precision alignment easier.

    I’ve kludged around that by selecting different paper types for CreateSpace and Lightning. If I remember right, selecting white for Lightning and the off-white for CreateSpace resulted in spines for my latest book only a hundredth of an inch different. Close enough there wasn’t an issue with spines. There was, however, an issue with the entire cover printing. Lightning uses outside the cover space on the paper for printing information like a bar code. CreateSpace doesn’t, so eliminating that additional material took extra labor.

    I’ve bounced back and forth over whether I should go first with CreateSpace or Lightning. At present, I’m tilting toward CreateSpace. They actually seem to do a better job of checking for printing issues such as a too-low effective dpi for images. And I can get five proof copies from them in three days for about the same price as I pay to get a single proof from Lighting in about two days. Of course, that’s because surface shipping from CreateSpace in SC to my location (Auburn, AL) is almost as fast as overnighting from Lightning (TN). And having examined that final proof from CreateSpace, I can submit to Lightning knowing it isn’t likely to near a pricey revision.

    All in all, what a number of posters are saying makes sense. If you’re just getting started, publish even if it means less than perfect documents created by Scrivener, Word, or LibreOffice. Get that book out and get some income flowing in. Over time, work on becoming more professional, perhaps shifting to InDesign and PDF submissions. For my last two books, I’ve had good luck using ID to create both a print version and the ePubs I send to Apple, Amazon and Smashwords. That saves me time and helps cover the cost of that monthly CreativeCloud fee.

    And if you’re using IngramSpark and are not famous enough that bookstores want to stock your book, opt for a 40% discount rather than 55%. Depending on your pricing, that should increase your book income by about 50-75%. And a store that has a sale lined up isn’t going to refuse it over that difference. It’s still income for them.

    –Michael W. Perry, My Nights with Leukemia: Caring for Children with Cancer

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    Bill Palmer April 22, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    As of April LSI has not taken up the two track revision scheme you suggested. I had to wait for current orders (i.e., from Amazon) to complete before my revision order could process. :-(
    I found that CreateSpaces pricing policy was too high to make it feasible. For my 216 page color-illustrated book, they wanted over $16 just to print, add to that their 40% take on the gross meant that I would have to price my book at $26 to make exactly ZERO on each sale. With LSI, I can price the book at 19 retail, set the discount to 20% (bookstores won’t buy the indi pubs anyway, so it’s really just for Amazon and BN), and still make a few dollars per copy.
    I will then purchase books from LSI to work with the few brick and mortar bookstores directly. If I were to set the discount rate to the traditional 40-55% off retail then Amazon will discount the price to the point that no bookstore could match the price anyway.
    As far as the return option, I’ve heard a few horror stories about returns from bookstore orders that have prevented me from clicking that box.

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    Joel Friedlander April 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm

    Bill, I think you’ve arrived at exactly the right strategy. Good luck with the book.

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    Michael W. Perry April 22, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    QUOTE: As of April LSI has not taken up the two track revision scheme you suggested.

    Not surprising. I even had my LSI rep to pass the idea on to the powers that be. Nothing. I think it will take a major publisher insisting on the change to get results. My own hunch is that at one point the choice lay between two options:

    Stop all printing, including pending orders, until the revision was in place. As a author with a perfectionist bent, I like that best.
    Print all existing orders. Then process the new edition. Then print new orders.

    And at that point Amazon may have engaged in their 800-gorilla chest pounding in favor of #1 (orders ship faster). But keep in mind that a two-track scheme makes everyone happy, including Amazon. It’s coding the workflow for two tracks that may be the issue.

    QUOTE: I found that CreateSpaces pricing policy was too high to make it feasible. For my 216 page color-illustrated book, they wanted over $16 just to print, add to that their 40% take on the gross meant that I would have to price my book at $26 to make exactly ZERO on each sale. With LSI, I can price the book at 19 retail, set the discount to 20% (bookstores won’t buy the indi pubs anyway, so it’s really just for Amazon and BN), and still make a few dollars per copy.

    Not surprising. One of the marvelous things about being a LightningSource client is that you’re treated as a full-fledged publisher who knows what he is doing. Amazon’s CreateSpace tends to treat everyone as if they were a first-time author, dictating what you can or cannot do.

    And with pricing, Amazon is very careful to make the rules so it makes a lot of sales and money. It doesn’t want a mere 20% discount, since that would leave it with little room to undercut the prices of other retailers.

    QUOTE: I will then purchase books from LSI to work with the few brick and mortar bookstores directly. If I were to set the discount rate to the traditional 40-55% off retail then Amazon will discount the price to the point that no bookstore could match the price anyway.

    Sounds like a good move.

    QUOTE: As far as the return option, I’ve heard a few horror stories about returns from bookstore orders that have prevented me from clicking that box.

    Smart. Returns might make sense if the book just went back onto Ingram’s shelves as with traditional distribution. But with POD, your only options are destroy or ‘ship to me.’ Neither makes economic sense.

    Thanks for letting us know about a situation where Amazon’s pricing rules make printing with LSI result in a lower price for customers, more profit for bookstores other than Amazon, and more profit for the publisher–all at the same time.

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    Liana Mir January 8, 2014 at 11:18 am

    Converting a Word .doc to PDF with embedded fonts is so easy with Word itself or OpenOffice, I can’t imagine why I need InDesign to get a PDF. If I really want to get fancy, I can use Scribus, which is where I format my cover PDF.

    I won’t move over to IngramSpark because it’s more finicky and I’m all about how fast can I get through publishing and get back to writing.

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    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Hi Liana. Of course, you don’t “need” InDesign to create a PDF, that’s not the problem. But MS Word has none of the graphic sophistication, beautiful typographic output, and flexibility to be found in InDesign, and that’s why it’s preferred by all professional book designers, at least the ones who aren’t using QuarkXPress.

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    Liana Mir January 9, 2014 at 8:18 am

    I was referring to the commenters who were using CutePDF or needed professional software to get a good PDF. Uh… no.

    As for the other, I have been using MS Word since I was five years old. To be honest, I have never found something I wanted to make it do that I couldn’t make it do and I love typography, formatting, layout, and design with enough passion that I had a ball designing my resume.

    I’m a graphic designer, which I’ve done professionally. I treat my books the same.

    I will say this, I also have little patience with complicating the process. Between Adobe and Corel design suites, I’ll never bother with Adobe unless I have to. The same function takes four extra steps with no increase in quality. No thank you. Scribus has all the quinky dinks I could desire for doing fancy PDF and frankly, I hate it. Word processing, WYSIWYG-style layout works the way I think. I just did the huge project of actually perfecting a novelette for Createspace instead of throwing one together and getting back to writing (going to go back and redo the other).

    Easy peasy, fun, and flexible as all get out. But then, like I said, I’ve been harrassing and customizing Word since I was five. That’s almost two decades of intensive mastering the program. I find specialized programs to be good for one thing: exceptions that require extra functionality, e.g. my covers. I do that in Scribus.

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    ipg January 10, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    In all this talk of Word and InDesign, I haven’t seen any mention of what I consider something extremely important for book-design: The justification and hyphenation engine. For me, this is where InDesign earns its money.

    I assume most of us are publishing novels or text-heavy nonfiction, and so the one design element that matters more than anything is how the software justifies text. This is something that impacts the reader on every page and in every sentence, and in that regard should be the #1 design element any professional typesetter should worry about.

    Word basically justifies text by adjusting the spacing between words and using simple hyphenation. InDesign uses a complex, multi-input algorithm that allows for adjustment of each of the following (and you can specify ranges for all these):

    1 – Spacing between words
    2 – Spacing between letters
    3 – Miniscule changes to the scaling of the glyphs

    On top of that, InDesign allows a much higher degree of control over hyphenation also.

    The difference good justification makes to a reader over 200+ pages is very real and very significant.

    Just another consideration for those of you starting off. There is a learning curve and some up front expense, but if you’re planning to be a long-term professional publisher, you’re going to have to invest that time and money at some point, and the earlier the better.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm

    Well said, ipg. Add to those InDesigns paragraph-oriented justification, tracking adjustments, and minutely fine-grained controls, and you can get world-class typography to address just about any situation you run across. Then add InDesign’s support for long-document creation, like master pages and variables that can be assigned within paragraph styles, and you’ve still just scratched the surface of this program. While Word is perfectly good for office documents, it takes a real effort to produce a good-looking trade book. I know, because we had to confront these issues when we created the Word templates at Book Design Templates.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 8, 2014 at 11:43 am

    Quote: “Converting a Word .doc to PDF with embedded fonts is so easy with Word itself or OpenOffice, I can’t imagine why I need InDesign to get a PDF. If I really want to get fancy, I can use Scribus, which is where I format my cover PDF.”

    I actually looked into using Word when I first began publishing, but turned way in frustration. There’s a host of reasons why InDesign is better. Most revolve around:

    1. A page layout program such as InDesign has a totally different design philosophy than a word processing program such as Word. Long documents done in Word or much more fragile than those done in InDesign. That’s the main reason I gave up on Word. Things change for reasons I could not explain.

    2. Word’s designed to speed up letter writing with irritating little gimmicks. ID’s features are designed to make complex layouts simple to create and change. Last year a publisher I was working for wanted what seemed to be a major change in a book I was laying out for him. With InDesign, the change was so easy, I did it while he explained it to me over the phone.

    3. Microsoft doesn’t care how badly some features (such as styles) are done as long as their product continues to be the standard for offices. ID is built for seasoned pros who want work quickly so they can still charge a lot per hour but make clients happy. If you’re buying something, it’s always wisest to go with one with a sharp and experienced audience.

    If you write in Word and aren’t publishing books with a complex format, then Word may be fine for you. But if you are writing in some other app and what you’re doing needs to have a complex and attractive format, then ID is vastly better.

    But it’s also true, because it is powerful, ID has a very steep learning curve. If you’d like to just write, you might not be happy with all the time learning takes. You might, however, want to pay someone else to lay it out in ID for you. Create an attractive template for a book, and it doesn’t take long to drop a book into that template.

    –Michael W. Perry, Untangling Tolkien

    Reply

    Jamie January 8, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Things change for reasons I could not explain.

    The absence of a proper Reveal Codes feature that WordPerfect has is one of many reasons I avoid Word. From what I understand, WP has a Reveal Codes feature because the document is actually coded. Whereas Word just “paints” the document; there are no actual codes to help you figure out the insanities it inflicts on the documents.

    I’m wary of Scribus, primarily because it can’t open InDesign files. I may contract out production to other pros so I have to be on the “same page” they are software-wise. If ID is the industry standard, a lot more contractors will be set up to deal with that. I’ve already discovered the value of asking a cover artist to give me the .psd (Photoshop) version of file instead of the .jpg so I can manipulate the title on a separate layer from the image if I need to.

    Reply

    Liana Mir January 9, 2014 at 8:30 am

    Since the topic came up, I’ll take these apart like I usually don’t.

    1. The design philosophy in a page layout program is object-based. I CANNOT stand it. I’m working with text, highly customized text. Word works with text, highly customized text. It works the way I think. I tried learning a page layout program (several in fact) for doing text and understood why proofing is such a big deal. It was an awful, horrible nightmare because I’m heavy on italics and special formatting.

    Long documents are significantly less fragile in newer versions of Word and you don’t write and typeset in the same document. Bad idea. Additionally, things only change inexplicably in Word if you don’t know how to use the settings and parameters to lock this or that down, do this automatically, do that manually, and while we’re at it, let’s look up the formatting and styles and see what’s really going on in this paragraph. Etcetera.

    You get the idea.

    2. I leave on the very, very few auto-tools I want on and turn most off. Have for years. Those “gimmicks” have never been mandatory and all it takes is a quick peruse through a dialogue box to fix them.

    I find layouts simpler to work with when I can just manipulate the text directly, thank you. I’m happy that you think better the other way and have a tool that works for you. I’m happy I think better the way I do and have a tool that let’s me modify it to do as I please.

    3. Word comes with my computer. InDesign doesn’t. Most people use Photoshop too. I was raised by a professional graphic designer that ran circles around his Photoshop compatriots with Corel Photopaint. I will never consider following the crowd to be a reason to pick one program over the other.

    What program you’re writing in is irrelevant. Reference works, please don’t use Word. Most fiction, Word is fine. Same with most poetry. There are exceptions, but yeah. EVERYTHING has exceptions.

    Word has a steep learning curve (apparently) for people who don’t think that way. I once started on a program that supposedly had a steep learning curve and mastered it in less than a week. It thought the way I did. It took two years and hacking away at it to get the hang of Scrivener.

    If you use ID, great. I provided a comment for those who are uploading Word documents instead of PDF or using a second-rate PDF-printer. Since they were told to upgrade to ID for PDF-creation (a tad excessive for the need), I suggested they learn how to export a PDF with the built-in function.

    So pick the program that works for you and MASTER it. If you’re a writer. I’m talking about the writers who mentioned they are using Createspace with Word ALREADY.

    Reply

    Jamie January 10, 2014 at 6:27 am

    In response I would say that Word frequently gets in my way. I don’t have a problem with object-oriented, I have a problem with a program that thinks its helping but achieves exactly the opposite. I know how to turn off the annoyances; I just consider it badly designed that I have to turn them off. With WP and Scrivener I pretty much set-it-and-forget it.

    I get that you like Word–we all have our oddities! So no offense to you if you get a lot of use out of it; I’ve just never had any use for it. For fiction or non-fiction it really does nothing for me that WP or Scrivener doesn’t do better.

    Second, I never claimed that one should follow the crowd–that is a peculiar interpretation of what I said, which is that if you’re collaborating or contracting, it helps to use compatible software/formats. I’m sure your graphic designing parent would agree with that; the graphic designers I work with certainly would. If you send someone a file they can’t open, it’s no good to them. If they send you a file you can’t open, it’s no good to you. If you know the pros are most likely to be using a particular software, then you broaden your options when you can deal with that software, too (I like options). It’s also worth the learning curve when you can go to any number of outlets to find tutorials, or any random forum or website to find assistance using a popular program.

    I work in media as well; it’s frustrating when we’re sent video to edit that we can’t open because the sender (especially the police) are using different formats than what we’re expecting. You learn very quickly the value of compatibility when you have to spend over an hour searching for, acquiring then setting up the conversion programs just to get to the task you wanted to do in the first place. YMMV, don’t see it as an attack on you.

    Reply

    mo kane February 4, 2014 at 10:30 am

    A lot of new authors use Word simply because they have it. There is nothing wrong with using Word to write your book. But typesetting your book is a different story. The learning curve for most typesetting programs is indeed steep. InDesign is expensive and requires you to make many design decisions that a new author has no experience with. You may know about kerning but there’s tracking and fixes for things like runt lines.

    There are two free associated alternatives that solve the problem, make most of the decisions for you and yield both an Ingram/Lightning and Createspace compliant interior file. Lyx is a front end to the LaTex typesetting program. Many people think of LaTex as a tool to set mathematics, but it was specifically designed for the creation of beautiful books. While this is somewhat of a simplification, all you need to do is import your file into Lyx, identify chapter and section headings and the like, set your page size and you are done.

    Another free option is to use Open or Libre Office with the export to Latex plugin. You can then export your file and compile it in LaTex. This is less advantageous for the beginner, because LaTex has a steep learning curve as well. Using Lyx practically eliminates that.

    Reply

    Lavie Margolin January 8, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    Joel,

    Thank you for being at the forefront in sharing information about Spark.

    In regards to your question: No. Not anytime soon. I am happy with Createspace and it seems like Ingram is still playing catch up.

    Reply

    Theresa M. Moore January 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    Ingram has been in business far longer (years, in fact) than CreateSpace. Ingram is the goal for many publishers, including me, and I have never had any problem with it. People squee about the $12 annual catalog fee, which gets the book listed in Books In Print. Versus CreateSpace which charges nothing, and gives you nothing.

    Reply

    Jamie January 8, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    I’m curious what kinds of changes you all are making to your finished books that LS’s fee is an issue here. I’ve been planning to just use CreateSpace for proofing, and LS for the finished product. Is there something wonky about the proofs LS makes that will force you to update the book even when you think you’ve done everything right? Does LS introduce formatting errors or something like that? I’m wondering if there’s a secret best practice that people have to stumble across before the books turn out properly.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Jamie, some people only use LSI, which can make re-proofing rather expensive: your plan is better. LSI does not introduce errors, but their system needs a file that’s prepared properly to begin with. I’ve been sending client’s books to LSI for almost 5 years and have had no difficulties with their process. However, if you are not a graphic designer or don’t know the software and output requirements, it can seem daunting.

    Reply

    Jamie January 10, 2014 at 6:28 am

    Ah, thanks, that’s a relief to know.

    Reply

    Margaret Harrell March 16, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    An example of a correction at Ingram Spark. I had two books from Create Space transferred to Ingram Spark, and on one the old photo of a face in black and white had a greenish hue after the transfer. It had been printed in warm tones by CS and looked fine. With Spark it was printed in different settings, and my designer had to desaturate the face. So that’s an example. It was just a different setting used by Spark. Otherwise, the cover looks gorgeous. Both interiors look perfect. And in my new book, being processed right now, the interior, a pdf from InDesign, had no issues at all. Again, the cover needed a bit of tweaking, very minor, but they gave me the option that they would fix it for $10. If there is a tiny tiny issue, they will fix it for $10 and that goes with each time there is any issue: $10. But they don’t introduce problems. Also, though, they do nothing free. I think the end result looks very very good.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 8, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Quote: “I’m curious what kinds of changes you all are making to your finished books that LS’s fee is an issue here….”

    I’ve always used Adobe products (FrameMaker and then InDesign) to generate PDFs, so I’ve never had a lick of trouble with the PDF formatting. The issues are mistakes I’ve made. Going with CS first seems to make sense now because:

    1. For a book last year, I botched numbering chapters and ended up with two Chapter 20s. Still worse, I had an order for 50 copies from LS already in. Two days before it printed, they would not let me cancel that order. Two days! That’s perhaps the last bulk order I’ll make from them until that’s fixed.

    2. For my most recent book, Amazon still went second and it flagged a picture as having a 100 dpi when most printing asks for 300 dpi. I’d enlarged it a bit too much inside ID. Since the CS revisions are free, I fixed the CreateSpace version with Photoshop. I left the Lightning version unchanged. The difference, if any, wasn’t worth $50.

    At present, going first with CreateSpace seems to make the most sense, because of issues with Lightning. That gets it on Amazon the fastest and Amazon is where the early sales are likely to come. At the same time, I get five printed proofs from CS for under $30 and typically in three days. Mistakes that don’t show up on screen often do in print, so I proof the printed version carefully. I also have four other copies to distribute.

    If there are problems, I fix them and upload the revision to CS. Once I’m sure the book has no real bloopers, I send it to Lightning.

    In the between time, I can do the free-to-update digital versions. That means epubs to Apple (because they take about a week) and Amazon (typically 10-12 hours), with Smashwords last of all. Apple and Amazon ePubs have to be different because Apple is very picky about the cover image and Amazon want interior images to be small. One plus of ID is that it makes batch changes to all the images in a book easy. I can take the print version with dozens of B&W images and in about a minute have every image changed to a color jpeg.

    Usually after about a week, copies sent to Smashwords start appearing at the other ebook stores such as B&N. I could have Smashwords distribute to Apple, but I’d rather have to control that comes from doing it myself.

    My own hunch about CreateSpace v. Lightning is that, given Amazon’s tendency to bully, Lightning is afraid to compete very aggressively, lest Amazon do something nasty. In the past Amazon has treated books printed by other POD printers badly, yanking their Buy Now buttons. That got nixed when they got sued in federal court. Larger publishers have told me that Amazon sometimes plays games with POD books by Lightning that are selling well. Amazon still sells them but claims a two-week availability to pressure the publisher to use CreateSpace.

    I suspect CreateSpace is printing almost all their books. The ones I have ordered have come from SC and Lightning doesn’t print there. There’s is some sort of agreement, but it may be that Lightning prints when CreateSpace gets behind or that Lightning handles the odder sizes that CreateSpace doesn’t want to handle.

    –Michael W. Perry, Hospital Gowns and Other Embarrassments: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Hospitals (the one that had two chapter 20s)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 8, 2014 at 1:56 pm

    Michael, thanks for your valuable comments, but I would caution you about spreading unsubstantiated rumors about any company. There is no evidence I know of to suggest that Amazon “plays games” with books that are selling well because of who the printer is, and the availability problem is the result of ordering and stocking decisions that were made with profits in mind, not punishment. You can find a rather extensive discussion of this last topic here: Amazon and Lightning Source: The End of an Era?.

    Reply

    Theresa M. Moore January 10, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    You complain about having to do damage control for bulk ordering, etc. when you should have inspected your galley proof before approving the book for printing/distro in the first place, and begun with a fully edited and polished file. Proofreading is the best way to make sure your book is fit for printing, so I have no sympathy for your plight. Lightning Source is a professional publishing service, not a bookstore like Amazon. You are comparing apples and oranges. LSI distributes to all bookstores which care to order from them, including Amazon, so there is no “bullying” or any such interaction between LSI and its customers. As for Amazon yanking buy buttons, it is notorious for that by now and if you lie down with the lion prepare to get eaten.

    Reply

    J. Tillman January 8, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Joel, could you comment on two things?
    1. How does this affect author/publishers who want to print offset in bulk for the cost savings?
    2. Does this change the dynamics of the POD vs offset decision?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander January 10, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    J.

    1. It has no affect on publishers who plan to print offset, the companies under discussion are all print on demand vendors. Although LSI will offer to move your book to offset if the sales volume warrants it, I haven’t seen their offset books, don’t know who they are using for offset production, and as a book printing professional, I’d rather deal directly with an offset printer. For authors who are not experienced and doing their own production, the LSI solution might be a good one.

    2. It changes it in that some books will be profitable at 40% discount that would not be profitable (not publishable) at 55%.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 8, 2014 at 4:57 pm

    Quote: “There is no evidence I know of to suggest that Amazon “plays games” with books that are selling well because of who the printer is, and the availability problem is the result of ordering and stocking decisions that were made with profits in mind, not punishment.”

    Punishment isn’t the word I would use. “Encouragement” might be more accurate. All I know is that a couple of years ago, I was contacted by a publisher who wondered why some of its Lightning POD books had such long shipping times on Amazon. I couldn’t see any reason for it. The books the same 6×9 perfect-bound that mine were and yet none of mine were having any delays. And keep in mind that this was a on-going problem, not a brief supply fluctuation. At the time others were making similar complaints.

    That “profits in mind” is more than broad enough to encompass pushing publishers toward CreateSpace. In fact one of Amazon’s central business guidelines is to forgo current profits to grow market share.

    Also, shortly before that happened there was excellent evidence for Amazon acting with precisely the same goal in mind (growing CreateSpace) and the same pressure technique (delayed shipping). It involved yanking Buy Now buttons from POD, author-assist publishers who’d been using Lightning exclusively. You might remember that.

    In that case, Amazon did get flack for revealing why it was doing that and got sued (for illegal bundling) by one of those publishers in a Maine federal court. I knew the publisher and she sent me the legal documents. Initially, Amazon didn’t seem to know just how much trouble they were in. Eventually, Amazon settled out of court for a large sum.

    Assuming a learning curve at Amazon, this next time they would not leak threats. They’d let actions speak louder than words. And they seem to have done just that. The publisher who contacted me decided to take the hint, if hint it was, and also release through CreateSpace.

    Keep in mind that I think ethics, both business and political, has been on a steep downward curve in this country since the early 1990s. More and more, I’m losing patience, particularly with our laggardly press. If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, I call it a duck–meaning up to no good purpose. A company that wants to convince me that it’s an eagle needs to fly like one.

    I should point out that while Amazon does seem ethically challenged, it does obey laws strongly enforced. When it finds that something really does have legal penalties, it does an about face. That’s what happened with bundling. It’s starting to happen with sales taxes.

    That’s why the DOJ’s “see no evil” attitude toward Amazon irritates me. Left untouched, Amazon is going to keep pushing the envelope until finally a host of things blow up–much like it did with another Seattle-area company, Microsoft, in the mid-90s. And if that happens, the company will never be the same.

    I know. I lived in Seattle, worked as a contractor for Microsoft for a time and had friends at Microsoft. Something went out of the company when the lost to the feds. The magic was gone.

    I want a healthy book industry that includes a healthy, Amazon. Eventually getting dragged through the courts and hit with major sanctions isn’t going to make Amazon stay healthy and it will hurt all publishing.

    ——

    For J. Tillman: If you’d like to kick off sales using offset or if you think a book might take off well enough to justify that, then Lightning Source is one option. They can take your POD titles and run them offset as easy as pie. If fact, I found their email about that option from last November. You can get details through: contactpam@ingramcontent.com

    Lightning does give increasing discounts for POD orders over fifty with the best discount jump coming at 200. If I remember right, over 500 offset becomes cheaper.

    Reply

    David Ivory (@ivori) January 8, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    I’ve used LSI exclusively and apart from a couple of early hitches found them pretty great. The issues were solely to do with setting up the contract agreements and mainly stemmed from having to deal with their UK office when my timezone is closer to their Australian office and that meant turnaround of queries was slow… but you get your own support person! A real person that you can phone and talk to if needed. That’s worth a lot when you have an issue and have a lot of books to get out.

    I did find that the LSI Australian printers do a better job than the UK based operation. Alignment tolerances were much better from Australia.

    I’d never use Word for writing or production. I’ve used it since Word for Mac (1985) as I’ve needed to – but not out of choice. I’ve found that Scrivener is the best tool for outlining, organising, composing your writing. Then when it comes to producing ebooks and PDFs then the built-in tools are great, quick easy and configurable. The configuration options are very good but might result in a somewhat basic design – Joel’s templates will usually produce a better result.

    For covers I use Adobe Illustrator – a brilliant tool that edits PDFs natively so all the LSI templates just work.

    But, like Joel says, if your really serious about lifting the quality of the interior to another level then InDesign is purpose built for laying out publications – especially graphic intensive works. Novels? Might be overkill for most people I think.

    There are not a lot of good examples of workflows for indie publishers out there so here is my suggestion for print books:

    1. Outline and write in Scrivener
    2. Compile for PDF (for basic print design)
    or
    3. Compile for Word to flow it into a great Word template like Joel’s (for quality print design)
    4. Print as PDF
    5. Consider LSI/Spark for production and distribution – especially for bookstores / libraries

    Reply

    David Ivory (@ivori) January 8, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Of course I’ve just illustrated a point in CreateSpace’s favour – spotting typos after you’ve pressed commit! LSI is more costly.

    So if you’re serious… and don’t make typos…

    Reply

    Natasha J January 9, 2014 at 2:54 am

    There are many valuable insights here – thank you.

    But most people seems to be opting to stay with CS as they say it’s better in terms of set-up costs and cheaper for making amendments; and some seem to think their quality is better, too.

    What about the fact that, as Joel pointed out, IS offers far more distribution outlets and options? Surely that has to be key to aspirant writers who want to open more doors.

    The only reason I haven’t sign up with IS is that their previous (well, current, at the time of writing) mandatory discount limitation meant my book’s proposed UK price wasn’t viable since it generated (as they neatly put it) negative publisher compensation. If the only two options with the new IS deal turn out to be 55% or 40% I’ll still be in a quandary: should I raise my cover price and risk nobody buying it because it’s too expensive and not competitive alongside similar novels, since I’m unknown? Risk my book not being ordered by retailers at the 40% rate? Or use CS after all for ED? Hmmm.

    As for quality. Well… I have yet to order a proof from Ingram Spark but although the CS proof of my book, printed in Charleston, US, was fabulous and convinced me to use them for orders via Amazon (though not for extended distribution), a recent copy of my book, ordered from Amazon UK by a friend, was nothing short of shocking. The stock was so thin and flimsy that you could read the text three pages back! I am about to call CS and ask for an explanation.

    And, incidentally, it takes forever for a hard proof to be sent to the UK from the US (the only place they print ‘em) so for British writers it’s not particularly convenient, especially if it fails to turn up – as one of mine did – thus delaying publishing by three weeks).

    Additionally, I was resentful that, despite using an independently purchased ISBN, the final page of the book clearly stated ‘Printed by Amazon.co.uk’. For heaven’s sake! I only bought the ISBN (in a book of ten, at significant expense) to get away from being associated with Amazon and labelled as ‘self-published’ and the negative connotations it brings to the uninitiated reader. This, to me, is a significant stumbling block.

    Needless to say, I await the Ingram Spark announcement with interest and trepidation.

    And Michael W. Perry, I think your comments are spot on!

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 9, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Natasha commented: “Additionally, I was resentful that, despite using an independently purchased ISBN, the final page of the book clearly stated ‘Printed by Amazon.co.uk’. For heaven’s sake! I only bought the ISBN (in a book of ten, at significant expense) to get away from being associated with Amazon and labelled as ‘self-published’ and the negative connotations it brings to the uninitiated reader. This, to me, is a significant stumbling block.

    Yes, there’s those dreadful prices Bowker charges for ISBNs in small quantities. Would you believe I got 1,000 ISBNs in 1999 for 60 cents each? I thought about getting 100 at $4 each, but the huge discount for 1,000 was too tempting. I’m glad I did. I’ve now used about 70.

    Natasha is most interested in the UK, but for those in the U.S., I just checked two Amazon-printed books. Both say, “Printed in the USA Charleston, SC” followed by the print date. No mention of Amazon or CreateSpace. As best I can tell, there’s nothing that would say to the average reader, “Self-publisher,” as long as a book has a publisher name different from the author.
    ——-
    I should mentioned one other reason to either use CreateSpace or both. At the same retail price, CreateSpace does pays more than Lightning. I was surprised by how much more, as well as how much cheaper the short-order copies I got for myself were.

    I see that as Amazon’s efforts to dominate this market like it does others. But, unlike yanking Buy Now buttons, competing on price is legitimate.
    ——-
    Long term that may create problems though. If Amazon begins to rule POD, that generosity could disappear, probably under the cloud about the increasing cost of paper

    Look at the ebook market, where Amazon rules. There, Amazon pays significantly less than any of its major competitors. Between its hefty download fees and royalties that vary with price, Amazon makes more on the average ebook sale and authors make less than from other retailers.

    For instance, My Nights with Leukemia has a color picture at the start of each chapter, which makes it a larger download. The book sells for $2.99. Apple pays me 70% of that or $2.10, with no other fees. Technically, Amazon pays that same percentage, but it also charges a download fee of about 40 cents, reducing what I get to about $1.70. Instead of 70% of retail, I’m actually getting 57%.

    Now, translate those numbers into what they really mean for Amazon’s bottom line. Instead of making 30% of retail and from that covering all their costs, Amazon is making 43%. And no, that’s not 13% more profit than Apple makes. For every $300 Apple gets from selling $1000 worth of my book, Amazon is getting $430. That’s 130/300 or 43% greater profit than Apple. And that’s $130 more for them and $130 less for me.

    That’s not even the entire story. Both Apple and Amazon have expenses. Let’s assume they’re around 20% of retail. Selling $1000 of my books, Apple takes in $300 and spends $200, making a net profit of $100 or 10% of retail. In contrast, Amazon spends that same $200 on costs, but takes in $430, giving it a profit of $230. That’s 2.3 times as much as Apple is making or 230% more.

    That, I think, explains why, for the ebook market, an ex-Amazon executive market said that all the company’s divisions are making profits. It also explains why Amazon wants to continue to dominate the ebook market. If you make roughly 230% more on a sale than your nearest competitor, wouldn’t you want to put him down and stay on top?

    Wouldn’t you also be delighted to see the DOJ going after Apple and doing nothing about your various price-fixing at the wholesale level that lets you earn roughly 230% more than that allegedly evil and greedy Apple? Of course you would.

    Were I Apple, I’d be spreading the word to authors and publishers about the difference in earnings between them and Amazon. I’d say, “Publish First With Us,” “Send Your Fans to Us Rather Than That Greedy Amazon,” and perhaps even “Publish Only with Us.”

    After all, from an author’s perspective, earning $230 more for every $1000 in sales quickly adds up. Sell $10,000 worth of books in a year, and that a hefty $2,300 more in income. Hamburgers instead of Ramen noodles!

    And yes, if Apple began to do that, Amazon would quickly adjust what it pays out. But for pittance, Apple would have slashed its chief competitor’s substantial profits in half. As a result, Kindles and Kindle Fires would have to cost more, making for more iPad sales and thus more iBookstore sales.

    Maybe Apple should hire me as a marketing consultant.

    Reply

    Theresa M. Moore January 10, 2014 at 12:33 pm

    CreateSpace is an Amazon company, so Amazon will print it whether you like it or not. LSI makes no such claims. It prints what it gets, and apart from the proof copy, which is an extra sheet, there are no such advertising claims inserted anywhere. Best to move to LSI or IS before your effort to disassociate from Amazon fails utterly.

    Reply

    Natasha J January 9, 2014 at 11:42 am

    A quick update: a call to CS revealed that all their UK printing is done by an Amazon for CS, and Amazon thoughtfully ‘decided’ to add the line ‘printed in Great Britain by Amazon.co.uk’ on the final page of the books they produce there.

    This is outrageous! They don’t warn that it will happen and no mention of printing by Amazon was seen on the US-made proof.

    I suspect that most UK and US writers/publishers using CS have no idea about this statement because they have no reason to order directly from the Amazon UK website, so don’t know what their ‘normal’ UK customers receive. It was through sheer chance that I saw one, because a friend ordered and was appalled by the cheap, thin paper used for the interior.

    Be warned. Or, better still, complain to CS or Amazon if you don’t want the self-published POD label attached to your beautifully crafted work.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 9, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    Natasha: “I suspect that most UK and US writers/publishers using CS have no idea about this statement because they have no reason to order directly from the Amazon UK website, so don’t know what their ‘normal’ UK customers receive. It was through sheer chance that I saw one, because a friend ordered and was appalled by the cheap, thin paper used for the interior.”

    Interesting. Here in the U.S., it’s Lightning that uses thinner paper than CreateSpace. They claim that’s because publishers want lighter books to reduce shipping costs. Maybe, but that’s bad in two ways.

    1. Thinner paper means the print on the reverse side can bleed through the page, making it look worse. That said, I just compared my latest from Lighting and CreateSpace and couldn’t tell a difference. Both have just a little bleed through. Not bad, but I wouldn’t want it to get worse.

    2. Thinner pages makes a book thinner and that can play havoc with the spine and cover alignment. Lightning has been compensating for that by adding blank pages (at no cost to publishers) in the back. I’m not sure if CreateSpace is doing the same. That’s something else you might want to look at.

    I love being able to run front-page pictures right up to the spine. With the tight specs Lightning was maintaining, that was doable. But it looks like, with all these games being played with paper thickness, I might be better advised to create a color box for the spine that wraps over into the front and back. I hate that though, because it’s almost impossible to get one that isn’t distracting.
    ——-
    Those with a significant number of readers might work out a deal with a fan in the UK. Offer then a free copy of each book as it comes up in exchange for a report on how it looks.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

    Reply

    Theresa M. Moore January 10, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    There are no games being played with paper thickness. I have never heard of such a thing, and none of my books have ever exhibited any such effects. LSI is a professional publishing service. It is not like CreateSpace, and the comparison being made smacks of CS favoritism.

    Reply

    ipg January 10, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I use LSI and am very happy with it. They did, however, change their paper in 2013 and the new paper is a bit lighter (I mean weight). Thinner paper does not necessarily mean lower quality, though. I find the thicker CS paper to be a bit clunky, actually. In my opinion the LSI books are better quality across the board: printing, binding, paper, and cover. The only thing that bugs me about LSI is that sometimes the print looks “shiny” in certain lighting. Apart from that, LSI is very close to a high-quality trade paperback you might get from any NY publisher. CS is not in the same league yet, but I expect them to improve over the years.

    Reply

    Roberto Santos January 10, 2014 at 1:26 am

    Hello,

    Thanks, again, for this great information Joel. So your blog is the segment leader. I live in Brazil, and always accompany your blog.

    In relation to the theme of the topic, I believe the BIG problem is the initial setup fee (this compared to CS).

    However, it is good to know that competition is moving.

    BTW, if any Brazilian author read it here, know that here in the country IngramSpark uses as the retailer http://www.saraiva.com.br

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 10, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Quote: “People squee about the $12 annual catalog fee, which gets the book listed in Books In Print.”

    Books in Print is connected to Bowker rather Ingram. As I understand it, the one-time-fee for the purchase of an ISBN gets a perpetual listing there. The ongoing cost of operating Books in Print comes from subscribers rather than publishers.

    Ingram’s $12 fee is for listing in their own database. That’s why I said that it seems outdated. We’re no longer in an era of IBM mainframes. The cost of operating computer databases is much less today. It might be legitimate as a warehousing fee for traditional publishing. But POD books need no warehousing.

    Also, my own impression is that today bookstores go first to their primary wholesaler, such as Ingram. If it’s available there, they order it there. If not, then they may consult Books in Print.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 10, 2014 at 1:11 pm

    Quote: “There are no games being played with paper thickness. I have never heard of such a thing, and none of my books have ever exhibited any such effects. LSI is a professional publishing service. It is not like CreateSpace, and the comparison being made smacks of CS favoritism.”

    If you publish with Lightning, about 2-3 years ago, they announced they’d be using thinner paper. They said it was to please publishers by saving on shipping costs. But that also meant that covers of existing Lightning books which had been designed for that thicker paper wouldn’t quite match the new interior.

    About the same time, Lightning also announced that publishing requirements meant that some books would be shipping with added blank pages. I don’t recall a specific reason given. One reason is that they are using what is left of the larger sheets that are folded and cut to make a book. But another reason may be to fatten that older book so the cover still fits.

    No one who follows my posts would accuse me of CreateSpace (or Amazon) favoritism. I’m simply stated what I’ve seen. CreateSpace does pay better while Lightning seems to retain tighter specs with the cover, although I suspect Amazon is still staying within their stated specs for spine alignment.

    And I have no complaint with the interiors of either. There, the technology has improved enormously in the last 13 years. Early on, I tried to do gray-scale with Lightning, including pictures and shaded areas. The results were so dreadful, even inside the same printed copy, I gave up.

    More recently, encouraged by another publisher, I took a chance by including a b&W photo with each chapter. The results are so impressive, I’m now using b&w photos whenever I can. For my next book, Lily’s Ride, most of the photos are from the Library of Congress farm life collection and cost me nothing.

    I might add that, for those who’re doing both print and digital books, there’s a useful trick to keep pages from breaking at awkward places due to pictures. Break the page in the digital and print versions at the start of a chapter and immediately follow the chapter heading with that picture. It’s also a good way to open a chapter.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 10, 2014 at 4:27 pm

    Quote: Yes, the CS paper is thicker. However, the LSI paper is actually closer to what you will find in any NY-published trade paperback. It is a misconception that thicker paper means better quality.

    Thanks for judgments far more expert than mine. I can see why Lightning would want to make the NY trade happy. They’re probably Lightning’s primary customers. I also suspect major publishers don’t want to depend on Amazon when they don’t have to.

    Quote: The difference in binding is like night and day between CS and LSI. CS’s binding is tighter and the spine breaks much more easily. LSI, on the other hand, seems to allow a bit more “flippability,” which gives it a very pleasing and professional feel.

    Publishers (and customers) were complaining about the spine durability when CS first began. It’s not good if the problem still isn’t fixed. We should remember that if a book falls apart, readers will blame the publisher rather than Amazon.

    Quote: CS has more variance in both text-block positioning as well as cover placement.

    I’d noticed this with covers. I’ll look for it with the interior. It’s probably paper not feeding right.

    Quote: Anyway, like I said, my experience is with LSI proper and not IngramSpark, so perhaps what I’m saying doesn’t count.

    Given the cost of the equipment, I’m imagine Lightning and Spark print on the same machines.

    What you’ve said brings up one of my Life Rules: When you can, always go with the smart market. That’s especially important when you don’t that much. A Lightning that has to please well-established publishers is likely to create better books than an Amazon that caters primarily to independent authors.

    Thanks again for your words of experience.

    –Michael W. Perry, Inkling Books

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

    I’d add to the other remarks another advantage for InDesign, the excellent Preflight checking. Yesterday, I imported a Word document I’m going to layout into a book for another publisher. The document was actually very well done, with Word styles that mapped to InDesign styles. That went great.

    But there seems to be something about Word documents that creates glitches. Preflight had tagged some 360 problems, almost all of them cases where the Adobe JensonPro font had come in as something like AJensonPro, which was seen as a missing font. Preflight listed all the missing font problems with double-clicking to take me to their location. A few universal font replacements, and all was well.

    Preflight is a bit like using Reveal Codes in WordPerfect only better. When there are hidden glitches, it spots them and make the fixes easy. It doesn’t take many glitchy documents for that Creative Cloud subscription to pay for itself in saved time.

    Reply

    John F. Harnish January 11, 2014 at 10:08 am

    Here’s a bit of history regarding Lightning Source and CreateSpace. Early in the dawn of POD, LS was the commercial digital printer used by almost all of the major POD “publishing services” such as: First Book which became Author House, iUniverse, Xlibris, and Trafford—in more recent times these companies were acquired and became Author Solutions. (Trafford being in this grouping is interesting because the Canadian based company produced digital books in-house.) Two other mid-size digital POD publishers producing books in-house were Infinity Publishing and The Great Unpublished which became Book Surge which was acquired several years ago by Amazon and became CreateSpace.

    Early in the 2000s a huge bombshell was dropped at the BEA in Chicago when B&N announced if POD authors wanted their books available for sale in the chain’s bookstore their books needed to be “administrated” through Xlibris and digitally printed by LS and distributed by Ingram. There was no guarantee books printed by LS and distributed through Ingram would ever make it into B&N stores. Lightning Source’s plant in TN is across the parking lot from Ingram’s offices and warehouse.

    I was employed by Infinity Publishing, and was totally shocked by this insane mandate—we competed with Xlibris. Of greater importance, our parent company was a large commercial printer doing both digital and offset printing. To put it bluntly, Infinity’s printed books produced on our high-speed digital printers were of a higher quality than LS. As a benefit to our authors wanting expanded distribution through Ingram and access to B&N, we eventually put several hundred titles into the LS system. Amazon, Baker & Taylor, independent bookstores, bn.com, bulk sales, and IP authors continued to order from Infinity—like other publishers we gave standard trade discounts and accepted returns. Monthly royalties were paid on the selling price of the book. It was ironic, bn.com—B&N’s online bookstore—ordered from Infinity but B&N brick and mortar store could not.

    Now as if this imposed convoluted print and distribution arrangement wasn’t enough for authors and POD publisher to contend with, there was more conniving to come. Approaching the mid-2000s the major traditional publishers became concern with the increasing acceptance by the public of POD books—customers where asking for specific POD titles at the chain stores, indie stores were selling POD books, and every day more POD books were for sale on the mighty Amazon.

    Thusly it came to be that a certain segment of the traditional book publishing industry with vested interests in retaining their market share created a Catch-22. The publishing giants more than likely explained to the bookstore chains if they wanted to continue to receive sweetheart deals with favorable discounts and A-list authors appearing for in-store events then they damn well better not give an inch of shelf space to those blasted POD books. Next they hit the major newspapers and trade publications with the warning that if they want to continue to receive meg-bucks for book advertising, then they damn well better not write reviews about those vanity POD books. When big bucks are in play, those with vested interests make merry with the money.

    The national bookstore chains could now tell authors and POD publishers, “Sorry Charlie, without the support of reviews by the big name reviewers we can’t handle your POD books.” Of course the reviewers could say, “Gee, we’d like to write a review for your book, but without national distribution we’d only anger our readers when they can’t find the book in their favorite bookstore chain.

    POD books were still selling in significant numbers through Amazon and independent bookstores. Most likely the giant publishers tried to discourage Amazon from offering for sale what had become a rapidly increasing surge of POD books. However, the mainstream houses lacked the clout they had with the chains. They needed Amazon’s commanding online presence. Authors once asked how soon their books would be in bookstores, now their burning question: when will their books become available for sale on Amazon. Most likely Amazon told the big publishing wheels to take a hike, explaining that to suppress the sale of POD books would conflict with their goal to grow the world’s largest bookstore—as Amazon and the book buying public saw it a book is a book regardless how it is published. Besides, it would be stupid for Amazon to cutoff a steadily increasing revenue flow—say what you will about Amazon, they are not stupid.

    Amazon did more to open the marketplace for evolving authors than any technological advancement since Gutenberg perfected printing books using moveable type in the mid-1450s. The Digital Age has made direct publishing possible with worldwide distribution for authors. Yes, Amazon is in business to make a profit, but in doing so they annually sell billions and billions of books—print, ebooks and audio. Amazon has also changed the very method of selling books. Although major publishers continue selling returnable books through distributors, wholesalers, and eventually to the one remaining national bookstore chain and independent bookstores, the new book marketing dynamics has evolved to motivated authors promoting their books directly to the consumers—the end user. A half-dozen reader reviews posted on Amazon generates more sales than one brief review by a jaded reviewer appearing in a print publication with dwindling subscribers and no “buy button.”

    After more than a decade and a half of Ingram shutting out POD books now they want authors to publish their books through the LS/Ingram Spark/Ingram connection with extended distribution available to make their books available to be ordered by B&N and bookstores worldwide makes me ask if Spark POD books will be included in Ingram’s catalogue—or will that incur an additional fee, or will the mainstream houses cringe at the thought of their new releases sharing catalogue space with “POD trash.” The timing of this Spark announcement and policy change is rather interesting—makes me wonder if there’s a connection with John Ingram being a presenter next week in New York at the Digital Book World conference.

    Several years ago there was a connection when LS was courting mainstream publishers to put their backlist titles into the LS system to keep them from going out of print. This use of POD effectively kept the rights from reverting back to the authors. Thankfully the Authors’ Guild cried foul and through legal action brought a halt to this usury practice.

    There is a connection between LS requiring ISBNs purchased from R.R. Bowker for all formats—buying numbers can get very expensive for authors with limited funds. CreateSpace has an option to provide authors with free ISBNs for print books. Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing and B&N Nook Press assign their own unique identifier to ebooks at no cost to the author.

    The $12 annual fee to maintain authors’ books in the Spark digital book publishing system is ridiculous—once a book has been added to the system there is nothing that needs to be done to maintain it. When Infinity Publishing hired me early in 1999 part of my duties were to make the company more author friendly. One of my first recommendations to be acted upon was to get rid of Infinity’s annual maintenance fee. We focused on earning our profit from selling books.

    I wouldn’t publish my ebooks through Ingram Spark. In addition to the cost of purchasing an ISBN, giving up a percentage of my earned royalties from Amazon and B&N in additional to the lesser venders that only pay royalties quarterly, paying a needless maintenance fee, there’s that blasted Agency Pricing fiasco Spark tosses into the mix on ebook sales. I don’t understand how Agency Pricing benefits authors.

    Regarding the post about Amazon assessing a download fee based on the size of the ebook file, considering the 70% royalty paid on ebooks priced within the consumer friendly price range, I believe the nominal assessment is reasonable for Amazon’s global distribution. B&N doesn’t charge a download fee, however the amount of the corresponding royalty is 65%–personally I’d rather earn the additional 5% in royalties. Amazon has eliminated the threshold minimum for monthly royalty payments and there is no transaction fee.

    I’ve been involved in some aspect of writing, publishing and marketing for more than half a century. I’ve evaluated numerous publishing models, contracts and agreements, with all things considered, if I were to publish my ebooks as a printed on paper books I’d go with CreateSpace—it’s more cost-effective, provides greater benefits, and is author friendly.

    Since my premature retirement from Infinity Publishing late in 2011 as VP of Author Services, I’ve referred several authors to CreateSpace. Their feedback was very positive. In the spring of 2010 an investment group acquired Infinity which caused the innovativeness and author friendly nature of the company to begin to deteriorate. I heard from reliable sources the in-house book production department was discontinued in the spring of 2013.

    The Digital Age has drastically altered the entire publishing industry; hopefully authors will continue to benefit from the winds of change sweeping away the cobwebs.

    Enjoy often… John

    Reply

    Lady Jan February 22, 2014 at 7:35 am

    BRAVO!!!!!! Awesome insight John!!!

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 11, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks for you comments John, particularly what you had to say about the hostility the more established publishers have had to POD. I suspect they’re earning their due reward. If they’d be more flexible about POD and eager to learn its benefits, they might have been better prepared to adapt to digital. Fight the future and it will turn around and bite you.

    I disagree with you about this though: “Regarding the post about Amazon assessing a download fee based on the size of the ebook file, considering the 70% royalty paid on ebooks priced within the consumer friendly price range, I believe the nominal assessment is reasonable for Amazon’s global distribution.”

    The assessment is not even remotely nominal. It’s $0.15 per megabyte or $150 per gigabyte. Compare that to Verizon’s prepay cellular digital:

    $60 for 2 GB or $30 per GB
    $70 for 4 GB or $17.5 per GB

    Even the smaller plan is one-fifth the cost and that is cellular rates. Most Amazon purchases, I imagine, take place over the Internet/WiFi, with the customer picking up the download costs and Amazon’s costs being virtually zilch.

    But even if every book download was taking place over cellular with the costs covered by Amazon, and even if Amazon hasn’t been able to win the slightest bulk discount, Amazon is still making out like a robber, charging $100 for what costs them–at the very most–$20. That’s already a 500% markup.

    So no, Amazon’s download fees are not nominal. They’re not even not even grossly inflated. They’re sheer utter robbery. A more realistic guess is that Amazon is pocketing $100 in fees for downloads that cost it much less than $1. The fact that those fees come 20 cents here and 50 cents there doesn’t make them any less evil.

    I also completely disagree that there’s little wrong with Amazon limiting its 70% royalties to books priced from $2.99 to $9.99 (what you call a consumer-friendly price). That’s unlike Apple, which has a flat 70% rate (and no download fee) for all prices from $0.99 to $200.

    I’ve gone into the specifics elsewhere. The essence is that books that target a very narrow audience–say one on the nursing care for children with a rare disease–have to cost over $9.99 to simply recoup the cost of creating them. No amount of price cutting will make them sell more copies. They cost X to create. They will sell Y copies. That means that X must be greater than Y times the amount Amazon is paying. When that is true, the difference between 35% royalties and 70% become very important.

    Once an ebook’s price rises above $9.99, Amazon slashes that 70% royalty to 35%. That’s not just cute; that’s evil. That means that the book then has to be priced about $27 simply to earn a penny more than it did at $9.99. And that is not all. For each 35 cents the author/publisher needs to earn to recoup costs, they have to raise the price by a dollar.

    What’s the end result for say that nursing book I mentioned? Typically, the price will have to rise to $50 a copy. That’s a lot of money for nurses to pay for an ebook and even then it’ll only earn the editors and authors $17.50 per copy before that exorbitant download fee. They’ll be lucky if they break even for all their work.

    In contrast Amazon is pocketing $32.50 for doing nothing more that process a financial transaction. (Don’t forget, Amazon is making a 1000+% markup on the download.) If that’s not greed, what is?

    In short, there’s no way the money Amazon pays authors and publishers is anything close to industry standard rates. Whatever the size of your book and however you price it, you’re getting ripped off.

    If you doubt me, run the numbers, taking care to look at what the numbers mean to Amazon’s average per-sale profits. Toss in some reasonable guess that what it costs Amazon and Apple to run their systems. Mine guess was about 20% of retail.

    You’ll find that given all its gimmicks Amazon is making twice as much or more profit per sale as Apple or the other ebook retailers. That’s because pocketing an average of 10-20% more of the retail price than the others isn’t earning Amazon 10-20% more in profits, it’s probably doubling or tripling Amazon’s ebook profits. Every single penny of that added income is coming out of the pockets of authors and publishers. Amazon is not your friend.

    In short, my contempt for Amazon’s ebook policies is quite justified, as is the contempt I have for the DOJ for going after Apple for ‘price-fixing’ and not going after the rather devious ways Amazon is engaging in highly profitable price-fixing at the wholesale level, ways that inevitably inflates ebook prices at the retail level. Nothing I am discussing here requires any internal audit of Amazon’s books or any math above 7th-grade algebra.

    If you doubt what I say, run the numbers yourself, calculating the splits of income for authors, Amazon and Apple for a wide range prices and probing down until you get the difference in profits.

    Don’t assume every book is a picture-free novel that can safely sell for $4.99. Many books, including that nursing book I mentioned, need lots of pictures and need to earn more that $7 per sale.

    I’ll add that I don’t think Amazon’s executives are stupid. They’re quite aware of what I’ve discussed here. They no doubt gloat over how much they’re ripping off authors and publishers with that outrageous download fee. And they’re not going to change until a bit a pain is inflicted or legal action is at least began.

    If I could live a dozen or so lives at once, in one of them I’d still be in Seattle and I’d hit Amazon with a class action suit on behalf of authors to force Amazon to reveal the real cost of ebook downloads. My rationale would be to investigate allegations of advertising/marketing deception. By calling it a “download fee” Amazon implying that it’s imposed to do little more than cover their costs, much like the disposal fee you may pay when you get new tires on your car. If Amazon is raking in 1000% or more profits like I suspect, it can’t be called a fee.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 11, 2014 at 1:38 pm

    There’s an interesting discussion of Amazon’s download fees here:

    http://www.mhpbooks.com/what-does-it-cost-to-deliver-an-ebook/

    It compares Amazon’s download fees for ebooks with the fees Amazon charges for other data delivery services. Here’s a key paragraph, one that show a far greater ratio of charge versus cost than the ones I assumed for the sake of argument.
    ——
    To which Doctorow retorts: “Presumably many of those costs are also present in S3 [an Amazon hosting service] which charges 1/12,000 of Kindle rates for delivering bits on like-for-like networks (I’d bet good money that S3 is the back-end for Kindle delivery).”

    Keep in mind that as an online storefront, Amazon is offering nothing that both Apple and B&N aren’t offering.

    In fact, if anything, Amazon is offering everyone less. Those bizarre royalty fees discourage the creation of ebooks that need to be priced over $9.99. Those enormous download fees discourage including more pictures and graphics in ebooks. And Amazon’s smaller actual payments discourage writing and publishing.

    Reply

    Ian March 10, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    It’s all about shifting Kindle devices. The cheaper the books, the more Kindles will sell. Amazon needs strong competition before they will bend. Until then the prices of Kindle books will continue to fall.

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    Denise Gaskins January 13, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    Back to the topic of IngramSpark: I appreciate the change in discount terms. This may well make them compatible with CreateSpace on discounts, since CS’s expanded distribution only pays 40% of list. I would not have to sell too many books at Spark’s new discount to make up for their additional fees. It might be worth a try, at least.

    But does Spark force authors to allow returns? I’ve heard that, but I don’t know if it’s just a rumor. For low-budget me, that would be a deal-killer.

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    The Equestrian Vagabond January 20, 2014 at 4:54 pm

    This was a great post, as well as great comments from all of you – thank you! Makes me think I will stick with CreateSpace for my first full-length book in the next couple of months.

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    Natasha J January 21, 2014 at 12:43 am

    Denise, IS doesn’t force authors to offer returns. It’s an option. Take a look at their website.

    I’m using CS for Amazon orders and IS for extended distribution. Their modest fees seem worth paying for extended international coverage, including libraries, and for the extra credibility. Plus, not least, they stand a chance of being ordered by bookstores BECAUSE they can be returned.That’s a positive, not a negative, if you want offline sales.

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    Ian March 10, 2014 at 12:41 pm

    Natasha, if you have a minute could you elaborate a bit on using both CS and LSI. I first published in 2011 with both CS and LSI (initially for short-run orders for my own sales), but made a mess of the distribution by using Amazon’s EDC. I then found Aaron Shephard’s Plan B whereby he recommended using the 2 companies but differently. I’ve had to take a year off from publishing so have lost touch with developments on this. Having just returned and with a book due out in about 2 months, I’m looking for the latest ideas on this as Aaron no longer seems to recommend using LSI.

    Would you say this is about right to maximize sales:

    Publish with LSI first and activate their EDC > Publish with CS using the same ISBN and activate their Standard Distribution Channel so the book goes onto Amazon.com and European sites, plus CS Direct.

    Is that basically how you do it? Or do you get LSI to supply Amazon somehow?

    Thanks a lot

    Reply

    Natasha J March 10, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Hi Ian

    I’m currently very unhappy with IS and very happy with CS, because using the latter is a breeze. In fact, compared with IS it’s a veritable joy.

    CS’s automated system doesn’t squeal in horror or charge you ¢10 extra to correct a fragment of RGB colour profile that’s accidentally crept into your interior file (without giving a clue about where – in 400 pages – it is). It just gets on with fixing it without a charge. Neither does it inform you that your cover’s unacceptable (again, no explanation) when your artwork’s 0.25 of a mm over the suggested safe margin. And best of all, it doesn’t charge you $US25 each time you revise a file or even part of a file, like a cover amendment or fixing a minor typo. It’s entirely free.

    It seems a paltry amount the first time but as new or self-published authors there’s a pretty good chance we’re going to make the odd mistake, especially when things get technical – and then spot another a month later. No, I agree that it shouldn’t be the case, and we all fervently believe we’ve proofed and proofed again – but IS must be well aware that their target audience of inexperienced publishers is likely to cock up – regularly – and they’re cashing in big time.

    Then there’s the fact that IS doesn’t give you the chance to preview your baby once you’ve uploaded it, to check that it looks alright. Nope, it’s a question of trust and, at the moment, you can’t change your mind once you’ve pressed the button to confirm either that you accept the proof (thus incurring charges to make any further revisions) or want to order 100 printed copies. It’s a done deal. Irrevocable, even if you meant to order 10 or accidentally selected the wrong book. To be fair, I have it on good authority that they’re planning to introduce a 30-minute window for the latter, but we’ll see.

    Also, the IS website is a bit of a nightmare. Once you’ve logged in you lose access to the bits that tell you about how things work, costs etc, so you have to swap back and forward to find the information you need. It hasn’t been designed with users in mind, but seems bolted together.

    Finally – as has just happened to me – twice! – I’ve never known an uploaded file to get lost or mangled on CS (or KDP) yet epub files that sailed through IS’s checks have somehow corrupted on their side. And the worst part? They haven’t even bothered to tell me. Moreover, they didn’t know until I told them, because it seems that there’s no alert built into their system. I was blissfully unaware that my ebook wasn’t on sale on the chosen date that still showed on our dashboard. I only found out that it hadn’t been published or distributed when I tried to buy one to test it.

    Customer service was virtually non-existent, at least in the UK. No response to the online messages I sent repeatedly, asking for… well, help. Guidance. Support. No phone number on either side of the big pond. In short, a black hole. Again, apparently, this will soon change (weekday working hours only though) but as it stands, I’m not confident. But compare this to CS’s 24/7 fantastic customer service by phone and then follow up email, and spot the difference. And of course, like or loathe them, Amazon can undercut everyone else’s prices and get books printed faster in house, so customers love ‘em.

    I’ve told IS that their charges for revisions are discouraging some authors from using them and forcing others to publish books with minor errors simply because fees are too high. They’re giving writers an incentive to let typos ride, hoping they’ll be tolerated by long-suffering readers. This policy fails to rectify a poor impression of indie books which those of us who take pride in our work are fighting hard to change. Will IS listen? Do they care? I doubt it.

    But here’s the rub: even though CS offers free ED, IS via LS offers far, far better extended distribution worldwide as well as access to libraries. Plus, they don’t say ‘Printed by Amazon’ at the back, which the UK-produced CS paperbacks do, and on horrible flimsy stock with bad show-through. And, importantly, they’re cheaper for UK authors, though I’m not sure about US ones.

    As aforementioned, I’ve opted to go with CS for Amazon buyers but – reluctantly – IS for everyone else. If CS upped their game by using heavier paper, improving their ED and desisting from printing their name on the back page, they could have me. It’s a simple as that.

    Are you listening, CreateSpace? Are you reading this, Ingram Spark?

    Phew. Can’t tell you how glad I am to get this off my chest. Thanks for asking me for my thoughts, Ian. Bet you didn’t expect so many of them, but I feel a lot better for it. T’was cathartic! Hope it’s helped you, too.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 21, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Natasha is right. With Lightning (and I assume IngramSpark), accepting returns is an option. The downside it that the choices are to destroy the book or ship it to you, with you covering the cost of the book and shipping. There’s no option to put it back into inventory as with a typical title, because with POD there’s no official inventory.

    The downsides to returns is that it involves financial risk. A few copies here and there might be acceptable. But you’ve got to realize that some jerk, knowing he can return them, might order 100 copies for a conference and return 80 of them. That could be a big bite out of your budget.

    She’s also right that going with CS will leave your print editions in an Amazon ghetto. Many bookstores don’t want to stock books from Amazon, a competitor. Ingram has been very careful not to become a publisher and has an excellent global reach. They print on three continents and wholesale, sometimes through others, almost everywhere. If you want a real reach to readers, you must have Lightning or Spark.

    Keep in mind that, if you choose your book size right (a 6×9 trade paperback is safe), you can send the same interior PDF to both. You will have to create two covers because the spine will be different, but if you use InDesign (even an old version will do), the template Lightning (and I assume Spark) supplies is far better than the mere background image CreateSpace will give you. It’s so much better, I’ve been adapting Lightning’s template for CreateSpace covers.

    Reply

    Deni B. Sher January 21, 2014 at 8:07 am

    My website is not up yet…I am a new Author/Self Publisher. Because CS doesn’t offer color interiors I am going with LS. I was told I could work with 25% and not be in any book stores. I was thinking to do that since most people purchase books online today. Am I being short-sighted to think this way? Should I want my book in stores with almost no profit? At 40% will stores put them on shelves?

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 21, 2014 at 8:37 am

    You touched on another advantage of Lightning. They have more printing options include many sizes of color formats that are excellent for children’s books. Your Lightning rep can probably send you samples.

    Keep in mind that it is very hard to get into bookstores anyway, which is particularly unfortunate if those color books you’re creating are for children. Parents like to see the book they’re buying. And the real issue with a store stocking the book isn’t likely to be the 25% versus 40% but will it sell in a reasonable amount of time? A maybe know answer means no stocking. (Also are returns allowed?)

    And if you’re not going to be in stores anyway, then the discount doesn’t matter much. If a customer comes in wanting a particular book, they’ll probably order it, whether the markup is 25% or 40%. At 25%, they won’t make much, but small bookstores often need the volume to get free shipping from the warehouse and to stay in the Ingram system.

    That said, my current discount is 50% and while I may soon drop it to 40%, I doubt I’ll go below that. Bookstores need help to stay in business.

    If you’re planning on promoting your books yourself, you might take a different path. Distribute the books through Ingram with a 25% discount, maximizing your income there. But also offer the bookstores you contact a 40% discount if they order through you and order more than a certain number of copies. Locally, you might even accept returns.

    That’d encourage bookstores to stock and sell it, particularly since that short discount means that Amazon (stuck with that 25%) can’t discount it much. They might even be able to beat Amazon’s price.

    If you consider that, do the calculations before you settle on a price. You can easily do a short order from Lightning and have them ship it directly to a bookstore. But the short order price, for reasons I’ve never understood, is little more than the wholesale price. Also, the bookstores would probably rather you covered the shipping, so include that in your pricing.

    In short, you might have a 25% discount for Ingram orders and perhaps 40% for those who order direct from you and put the books on their shelves. That’d encourage stocking them.

    –Mike Perry

    Reply

    Ian March 10, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    My contact at LSI in the UK always recommended 35%. I tested at both 50% and 20%, no change so I slapped it back to 35%.

    Reply

    Diane Tibert January 21, 2014 at 8:35 am

    CreateSpace does offer colour interior.

    Reply

    Deni B. Sher January 21, 2014 at 10:01 am

    First I want to thank you Mike for your thorough and helpful comments. Much appreciated. I know CS prints in color, however, their pricing is way too high. They were my first choice. CS did tell me they are in process of changing their color printing to be able to do color inserts (like I only needed 8 pages of color) vs printing entire book in color. But, they would not elaborate or say anything firm at this point. Meanwhile Ingram’s LS can print a color book at a price that I can make work in a paperback. Hardcover will be tough. I will be seeing samples soon. Will let know how they look. FYI, my book is for adults (not a children’s book)…a memoir of my journey through my son’s addiction.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry January 21, 2014 at 10:10 am

    Best of luck with your book about your son’s battle with addiction. My latest, out last August, was about when I worked at a major children’s hospital with children who had leukemia. It’s not light reading and mostly intended for nursing students and nurses.

    Your best hope of reaching readers might be through support groups for the parents of such kids.

    Don’t neglect ebooks. There a color interior comes free. And if you need to closely control the appearance, you might want to look into the iPad’s fixed-format.That will let you control much more closely than other formats where things appear on a page. If you have a Mac, you can create that sort of book with Apple’s free app, iBooks Author.

    Reply

    elizabeth March 10, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    It seems to me that IS comes across as more professional, being that it is connected to Ingram. Am I deluded? I, too, looked at both the 40% discount and the 55%. 40% put my estimated profit in the negative. Is this because of the 15% IS takes for itself?(if I understand correctly 40% of the 55% discount goes to retailers, and 15% for IS) It does seem to me that offering 55% discount is more professional, as is accepting returns. I’m not sure what advantage uploading the ebook through IS would be. I’m leaning toward Smashwords for that. Any thoughts? I like the idea that LS has printers in UK and AU. That makes sense. I have a sense that IS is a more expensive way to go, but is what I am paying for is a sort of prestige – a good-looking print book, distribution, and access to foreign bookstores? Or am I mistaken? Has anyone actually used IS (not LS)? How does the quality compare?

    Reply

    elizabeth March 10, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    I forgot to ask Joel about his templates. One of the design elements I really want is to have different chapter titles as headings. It didn’t look like that was an option in your templates..?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander March 13, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Yes, you can have chapter titles in your running heads. Although our samples don’t show this use, it’s explained in detail in our free Formatting Guide you can download from the site. If you run into problems or have any questions, shoot an email to support@bookdesigntemplates.com

    Reply

    Ray March 31, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Joel,
    This may be a bit off-topic, since the discussion here mostly concerns standard trade paperbacks, so I apologize for that. I am wondering whether you would recommend Ingram Spark at all for hardcover photo books. I’m looking for fairly high production quality at a competitive price. Initially my plan was just to have the book printed at a commercial outfit in Asia and sell it directly (I have an audience for it). But the ability to get it into Amazon and stores is very alluring. I’m just concerned about being able to match the quality of comparable products with Ingram Spark, and at a reasonable cost. Any input would be greatly appreciated!

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry April 1, 2014 at 5:37 am

    I’d suggest you contact Ingram, stress that you’d be printing quite a few copies, and ask them to send you a sample of their hardback and color books in the various forms.

    For a time, I created most of my LightningSource books in hardback and paperback editions. But I found that the former wasn’t selling well enough to justify the bother. My attitude became, “Well, if they want it and it’s only available as a trade paperback, they’ll still buy it, so this isn’t about making a sale” Hardback makes more sense if a lot of your sales will be to libraries.

    I’ve had no problem with Lightning Source’s hardback four-color covers. They look as good as their trade paperbacks, which I’m quite happy with. I’ve never seen their stamped onto cloth hardbacks. My impression was that, with just a title and author in a fixed format, they’d look dull. For a photo book, you’re probably not interested in that.

    Keep in mind that hardback covers come with a large additional cost, $6 versus 90 cents. About six years ago, Ingram talked about finding a way to reduce that cost, but I’ve not heard anything since. I suspect it’s a heavily manual process whose cost can’t be cut much.

    Also, look at the color interior samples and see if they’re up to your standards. It’s been years since I got Lightning Source to send me samples, but as I recall, they had two qualities. One about what you’d expect for a children’s story book–meaning it looked a bit like watercolor painting. The other was a bit better, perhaps adequate for a textbook that must use color illustrations, but definitely NOT vibrant photo quality. That may have changed, so be sure to get samples.

    Printing in Asia is definitely an option and if you choose well the quality will be excellent. But getting a reasonable cost might require a print run in the thousands. There’s also the time involved and the shipping costs.

    At the other extreme, there are companies here that do POD photo books using the commercial equivalent of photo printers, so people can turn their travel photos into a bound book. You might contact some to see what their volume price would be. Printed without a tight deadline, they might make you a good deal. If you live in or near a big city, check with local printers. That’d give you more personalized service and save you the cost of shipping.

    One final suggestion. If this is a one-of-a-kind book, then you’ll need to go with IngramSpark. But if you plan to do a series of such books, you might push to be in LightningSource. I’m almost certain they use the same printers for both. But that’ll get you more freedom with pricing and other issues and probably more advanced technical support. That said, you’ll need to know what you’re doing. Lightning Source won’t be happy to baby you with the simple stuff. That’s what IngramSpark is for.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 1, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    Ray, I don’t think the color quality of these books is going to match your requirements. Although it’s possible to produce gorgeous color books on digital equipment, that’s not what’s on offer here. The problem is, in order to get a manufacturing cost that’s realistic, the books need to be produced quickly and automatically. High quality digital books, unfortunately, are going to be priced out of retail distribution. This will change eventually, but that’s the situation today.

    Reply

    Margaret Harrell April 22, 2014 at 10:05 am

    So do you have a suggestion for printing a limited-edition high-quality art book? I have an art book project as well, with no deadline for production. I would rather print it here than in China, mainly because of the problem of supervising the production and proofing it. I have seen art books printed in China that have some spectacular high-quality photographic sections and some text sections that look low resolution.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 22, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    Margaret, like anywhere, there’s a whole range of printers throughout Asia that print books for the U.S. market, some better than others. I’ve printed many books there, and I would guess that the vast majority of coffee table books you see for sale these days were printed in Asia. The best approach is to contract with a print broker who specializes in color printing overseas, since they will be able to handle the printer contact and technical end of things.

    Reply

    John Rehg April 20, 2014 at 3:52 am

    Joel,
    I’m surprised more people aren’t aware of or have checked out Scribus. It has come a long way in the last few years (from when I looked at 1.3 vs. 1.4 versions). I use it for all my print book layouts, even though I type the initial draft in a word processor (Word, now moving to LibreOffice). I think it works great, and the price is right.
    I just came across IngramSpark, and because they do hardcover, I’m considering them for a new book. I might also generate a perfect bound version, and for that I’ll use CreateSpace. I’m also checking out a local printer, but Spark’s distribution has me intrigued, and the price (it’s a children’s book) isn’t exorbitant to me (like some of the other online publishers).
    Thanks for the article!

    Reply

    Chris April 28, 2014 at 10:30 am

    This may be a very basic question, but I’m still wondering: Does it create problems when you publish a book using multiple platforms at the same time, i.e., publish e-books directly via Kindle/Amazon, Kobo, Apple, etc. and simultaneously use Ingram Spark and/or CreateSpace to produce POD paperbacks?

    Other than having to learn the various sites’ formatting requirements and needing additional ISBNs, are there other disadvantages when taking this approach? (Or, at the very least, creating POD paperbacks through one company and e-books through another?)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander April 28, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Hi Chris, there’s no problem since all these arrangements are nonexclusive, and it’s become standard practice for self-publishers to try to reach as many readers as possible through using these different publishing platforms.

    Reply

    Chris April 28, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks for your quick response! This is great information to know.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry April 28, 2014 at 11:10 am

    Chris, what you’re talking about creates no problems at all, in fact I’ll be doing just that today and tomorrow with my next book, Lily’s Ride: Rescuing her Father from the Ku Klux Klan.

    Just be sure to have separate ISBNs for different formats or let the distributor (i.e. Smashwords) assign one of theirs. I assign four ISBNs and use these formats:

    Print PDF (trade paperback) to all POD sources.
    Epub 3.0 to Apple’s iBookstore.
    Epub 3.0 to Amazon’s Kindle store to be converted into its in-house formats, so I guess that’s the mobi/KF8 version.
    Epub 2.0 to Smashwords. This becomes the ISBN for B&N and others.

    Depending on your marketing plans, you may want to assign separate ISBNs to LSI/Ingram Spark and CreateSpace. CreateSpace will print and distribute your print book with the same ISBN as that LSI/Ingram Spark is using, but it will NOT wholesale it to brick-and-mortar bookstores. For that, you’ll need to give Amazon its own ISBN. I don’t do that because I like to view that one print ISBN as the master ISBN for all versions.

    For POD, as long as you use a book size supported by both (typically 6×9), you can send exactly the same interior text PDF to both. Their paper thickness and a few other features of the cover as printed is different, though, so you’ll need to format and send different cover files to each. That’s a pain.

    There is a trick. If you specify creme for the paper color with LSI/Ingram Spark and white for CreateSpace, the resulting spine thickness will differ on by a few thousandths of an inch–easily within tolerances. That’s save you the bother of resizing images and text.

    For marketing and sales reasons, it makes sense to release print and ebook through every source you can. Amazon doesn’t make as much effort to keep an inventory on POD from Ingram as it does for its CreateSpace books. And Amazon won’t link to your ebook at the iBookstore nor will Apple link to the print version at Amazon. The more versions you have in the more places, the better.

    If you want to simplify matters for ebooks, release through Smashwords and Amazon. That’ll get you on all the major U.S. retail outlets. To simplify matters for POD, just go through Ingram Spark. Your book will appear almost everywhere globally, including Amazon. Just be aware that your book is likely to be a second-class citizen on Amazon.

    Given how little trouble it is to create separate versions for each of the major distributors in comparison to how long it takes to write, edit and layout a book, the added time to have more points of sale is almost certainly good investment. I’ve been working on this book since last September, over seven months. It’ll only take me today and tomorrow to send out multiple versions. Then I can tell people it’s available in print or digital almost everywhere.

    The bigger the net, the more fish you catch.

    Reply

    Chris April 28, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Michael, thank you for taking the time to write up this detailed explanation. This is great info to have, and I’ve printed it out so it’ll be handy when I’m ready to publish. Thanks again — and best wishes for your new book!

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2014 at 9:44 am

    Thanks for your input, Michael. A couple of points:

    “you may want to assign separate ISBNs to LSI/Ingram Spark and CreateSpace.”

    I don’t recommend doing this, because you’ll end up with two identical books with different ISBNs, and that can only create confusion in the marketplace.

    “If you specify creme for the paper color with LSI/Ingram Spark and white for CreateSpace, the resulting spine thickness will differ on by a few thousandths of an inch–easily within tolerances.”

    I find this an odd suggestion. The corresponding measurements of the two books will not be the same, and Ingram’s production guidelines measure spine width to 4 digits’ accuracy, so I’m not sure I would rely on your cover being “within tolerances.” But more, the decision of which paper to use, in my mind, should not rely on which is less work for the publisher, but which creates the best reading experience for the reader.

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry May 7, 2014 at 10:26 am

    Amazon makes two ISBNs an issue. It has no problem printing and selling CS books through their stores with the same ISBN as those being printed by LSI. But it doesn’t let publishers distribute through CreateSpace to other bookstores without a separate, CreateSpace-only ISBN. That’s why some authors may want to use two.
    That said, I do agree that two ISBNs for virtually identical books could be confusing for customers. That’s also why I give a book’s page count as the printed page count even though that last page has none of my text. Otherwise, some sources would give the number of actual text pages (205 for my latest) while others would get the as-printed page count from LSI or CreateSpace (206). That’d leave potential customers wondering if an older and a newer version were floating about.
    I used the same cover image for Lily’s Ride, which I sent in last week, and Amazon’s checkers emailed me that that spine was too big. They fixed it themselves, bless their hearts, so I was out no labor, but I wonder how their thinner spine will look in an actual printed copy, given alignment issues. Offered a choice, I’d rather that the spine, which is a solid color, wrap slightly onto the front or back cover than to have the varying colors of the front and back intruding onto the spine. For this book, that’s not much of an issue. The front, back and spine are all dominated by a fiery sunset red:

    http://www.amazon.com/Lilys-Ride-Rescuing-Father-Klux/dp/1587420821

    Oh, and by “within tolerances” I meant that in my last shipment of copies from CreateSpace, the spine alignment varied by about 1/8″ which is 125-thousandths of an inch. With that sort of variation in the same print run, the few thousandths variation between LSI creme and CS white doesn’t matter. If I did not like covers who image wraps to the very edge so much, It’d put a big one-color rectangle that wraps the spine well into the front and back covers.
    Alas, POD isn’t like traditional publishing. With POD, every single copy that rolls out to customers is slightly different. I’m just glad it’s not like the old days. Once I sent LSI a book with some 40% gray rectangles. Some ended up almost black. Others in the same copy were virtually invisible. I had to redo the book and I swore off grey objects of a few years. Now even greyscale photos seem to print well.
    I just sent Amazon the Kindle version of Lily’s Ride and it was far easier and smoother than what I remember of my last upload months back. Apple is will need to improve their upload process if they want to stay competitive.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2014 at 10:35 am

    Hi Michael, thanks for your detailed explanation.

    “by “within tolerances” I meant that in my last shipment of copies from CreateSpace, the spine alignment varied by about 1/8″ which is 125-thousandths of an inch. With that sort of variation in the same print run, the few thousandths variation between LSI creme and CS white doesn’t matter.”

    I think you may be confusing file submission guidelines with print production tolerances, and that’s very understandable. Files submitted to Ingram that are outside their specifications often get rejected, requiring the publisher to revise and re-upload the files, at the cost of their time and the submission fee. These are very stringent requirements. However, the tolerances allowed during production are quite different, and have nothing to do with file preparation requirements.

    So your file that is .01″ off might be rejected, but the printer will allow printed books to vary by as much as .25″ in terms of image placement or skew, and still be within their own tolerances.

    Skye Lotus May 4, 2014 at 1:59 am

    Having just yesterday released my first IngramSpark book for distribution the process is very fresh in my mind.

    I used one of the templates from this site for both the POD and eBook. Both had problems (I emailed in detail about these to support Joel), thought the eBook was the hardest of the two to get right.

    Having got the files correct for submission to IngramSpark, I found their system clumsy and non-intuitive, especially being a newbie to this business (I’ve previously just used Smashwords which is a walk in the park by comparison).

    I’ve found the IngramSpark system encourages you to download an eProof to check the layout of the cover which I created using the 30-day trial of InDesign (doing it any other way doesn’t make sense to me; the template provided for PDF or EPS lacks most of the most useful features that the InDesign template contains).

    The eProof was spot on, so the next thing you get is a prompt to approve the book for distribution, or, as they recommend, approve the book for a galley proof order but hold off on the distribution. I took the second option and ordered a galley proof. Lucky I did. The eProof is great, but there’s nothing like sitting down at a table with a paper book and a highlighter to find things.

    The down side of this though is that even though you haven’t approved the book for distribution, the act of uploading a new version of any part of the book means you get hit for another $25 fee! There’s no way around this. IngramSpark suggest that you purchase a galley proof, but this is only AFTER you’ve reached a point in their process that requires a new submission fee to be paid. Very annoying.

    Anyway, having accepted the above, we’ve paid the extra fee and the book has now been released for distribution.

    Regarding the galley proof, the cover was outstandingly placed, and the internal was perfect. I was very happy with the quality of the printing.

    We’ve now placed our first batch order and we’re wondering how long it takes for IngramSpark to communicate the books existence to it’s various channels and when we can start letting potential buyers know about it.

    What do others do here about that? IngramSpark don’t seem to provide any information about what to do AFTER the book has been released for distribution.

    Reply

    elizabeth May 7, 2014 at 8:48 am

    Skye,
    What were the problems you had with Joel’s templates for IS?

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2014 at 9:46 am

    Elizabeth, authors are publishing books every day using our print and ebook templates, on every significant publishing platform available. While some authors have specific formatting issues for their books, we’re happy to help customers get their files in proper shape for submission.

    Reply

    elizabeth May 7, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I have your templates. So far I find them very user-friendly, and the guidebook easy to understand. One concern I have is that when I print out the pdf from my computer the page size is wrong. I don’t know if there is a reason for that I am missing. Something simple. Thanks for answering.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 7, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    Yes, they are not meant for printing on your home printer, because PoD equipment images the pages differently. The trim size is set within the template file, but because your home printer does not have 6 x 9 (or whatever the trim size of your template) paper or the capacity to print it, it will not reproduce correctly.

    elizabeth May 7, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    What a relief! Thank you!

    Skye Lotus May 7, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    First off, I need to highlight that I’m using a Mac running Mavericks with MS Office 2008 on it. I say this in case it’s part of the problem.

    First, the POD template: Overall, it works just fine; I used the Legend template from Joel’s site. I purchased the bundle that included the eBook template a well.

    My main problem with the POD template was that I found that MSWord Save-as or the Print–>PDF function produced a nice PDF of the book, but IngramSpark’s system wouldn’t accept it because there was an embedded colour profile. IngramSpark offered to fix this for $10. I spent an afternoon trying to find a way to remove the colour profile, but the only solution ended up being to use Adobe Acrobat X! Pro to open the PDF created by MSWord and then save it using the Save-as-other–>Press-Ready-PDF function. This done, the POD book was accepted by IngramSpark without a problem, and the printed result is awesome.

    My main problem was with Joel’s eBook template. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with it in the future as I spent more time trying to work out was wrong with it’s table of contents than was worth it.

    The formatting guide recommends saving the file as a doc and then using something like Calibre to convert it to an ePub. This all works, so long as you don’t want a functional table of contents in your ePub.

    The ONLY way I could get a decent looking ePub was to follow these steps:

    Don’t use MS Word, or at least, don’t use MS Word 2008 on a Mac.
    I opened the template file in the latest version of Apple’s Pages app on my Mac and imported all of the text of the book into that. This gave me the page layout and some formatting, but still no functional table of contents.
    I had to play with the style of the chapter heading to remove hyphenation; the table of contents didn’t like them.
    I used Pages’ export to ePub to produce an ePub. You can test this by opening it in iBooks where you can then see that the table of contents works as desired.
    Pages doesn’t put a cover page in by default, unless you insert one on the first page. I found this problematic because the image size didn’t look right in the final ePub file. What I then did was use Calibre to import the ePub from Pages, add the cover image in the meta data, and then re-generate the ePub.
    This gave me a fully functional ePub that I was then able to upload to IngramSpark.

    Regarding the eBook template, if you look at the TOC field in the template and show the field codes you’ll see:

    { TOC \o “2-3″ \n \h \z \t “Heading 1,1,Chapter Title,1″ }

    This combination of switches isn’t even valid. Refreshing this field with F9 results in:

    Error! Not a valid heading level range.

    No amount of fiddling with the chapter heading styles or this TOC field would produce a meaningful table of contents that Calibre would then use to create the correct TOC in the ePub.

    So in the end, I’ve succeeded and the book is popping up everywhere now. Some sites started showing it after only 2 days. More keep coming. One big problem is that IngramSparks’ system seems to have failed to provide the cover artwork for the POD format to ANY of the distributors. I’ve asked support to look at it but they insist on waiting 6 weeks to allow the distributors time to get it right which is incredibly frustrating. I’ve managed to get both Amazon and The Book Depository to apply images I’ve sent them, but the rest of the POD distributors have yet to show an image.

    The POD template was great; there were things it did I hadn’t thought of, but for both POD and ePub, I found having Adobe’s applications available to be essential. I used InDesign for the cover artwork (though I think that second time around I could do it with an EPS template and GIMP), and Acrobat Pro to generate the correct PDF without a colour profile.

    The book, “Aim” can be found at:

    http://www.bookdepository.com/Aim-Skye-Lotus/9780992501006
    http://www.amazon.com/Aim-Skye-Lotus/dp/0992501008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1399504038&sr=8-1&keywords=skye+lotus

    and lots of other places…

    Reply

    Skye Lotus May 8, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    One more thing. Whilst I’ve not changed it, the advice from Joel and the template encourages that chapter titles always begin on an odd (recto) page. This can leave a blank page prior in some cases.

    Whilst I’ve kept this in Aim because I took Joel’s advice, having since looked at numerous novels, I have yet to find one that actually does this. Both modern paper books like the Percy Jackson books, or older ones that I’ve had on the shelf for decades have chapter titles on the next page, left or right.

    If I ever revise the book, I’ll change it to be more consistent. This rule might apply to non-fiction, but from what I’ve seen in the books I’ve checked, it doesn’t seem to be a rule for fiction.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 8, 2014 at 6:41 pm

    I agree Skye, and all the novels I work on use the next available page for chapter openings. I think it helps keep the reader “in the book.” In nonfiction, I almost always use the right-hand chapter opener, where the reader’s needs are more for organization and consistency. I’m sorry this wasn’t clear, and I’ll try to make sure this is explicit in our formatting materials from now on.

    Tracy Atkins May 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Hey Skye (And Peter?)

    Thank you for the kind praise on the print template, we really appreciate it!

    Last we spoke last via the support emails about the TOC; I thought you had worked it all out. I apologize if I misunderstood that you were still having issues. Doing some digging myself after your email, the TOC / field codes are valid in most every version of Word, with the exception of some versions of Word 2008 for Mac. I am not sure if it is an inherent bug / issue with that version, or if a secondary software issue attributing to this. Using our in-house versions of Word, the TOC will refresh and work every time. As a work around, if you have a TOC that won’t behave as intended, we are more than happy to assist or offer a work around free of charge. Just give us an email and we do everything we can to help.

    We also offer help and support if you run into trouble with conversion issues too. We have run into most every situation and can offer guidance or a solution on a case by case basis. We strive to have happy clients.

    Thank you for being a great customer, we appreciate your business,
    Tracy

    Reply

    Skye Lotus May 15, 2014 at 1:48 pm

    Hi Tracy,

    Thanks for that. I’m not too worried; I just wanted to document my process a bit. I’m not surprised that it is a Mac MS Word 2008 issue; it was frustrating at the time, but I found a way.

    Skye is the author, Peter is the father. Yes, I try to act on her behalf. Never thought I’d become a book publisher/editor/typsetter/marketer/….

    Thanks Tracy, the templates really do make a difference.

    Michael W. Perry May 7, 2014 at 10:53 am

    How fast LSI books appear at online stores seems to depend on the retailer. B&N had my latest only a couple of days after I released it from Lighting Source to Ingram for distribution.

    http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/lilys-ride-albion-w-tourg-e/1119425599

    That was impressive. But Books a Million still doesn’t have five days later nor does The Book Depository.

    Since what happens is an exchange of data between two computer systems, it’ll depend on how often that is updated. Since both IngramSpark and LSI are probably passing through Ingram to reach the world, I suspect the time for each will be about the same. I generally expect that to take about a week, which is why I was surprised that B&N was so quick. Maybe I hit Ingram’s database just before B&N did a weekly upload.
    I can understand your frustration with IngramSpark’s work and ordering flow. I’ve had similar frustrations with LSI. Eventually, I hope, things will get smoother.
    After you release a book from IngramSpark for distribution, you need do absolutely nothing more until you want to change the price or the discount. They’ll keep distributing your book until you tell them to stop. I’ve had books I’ve hardly touched in a decade or more.
    The marketing is all up to you. The book description you gave IngramSpark will probably follow the book to retailers. If you want that changed, you’ll have to see if the retailer offers a way to do that.
    One other suggestion. Unless it has changed, Amazon is a bit picky about who can change a book’s description. Even if all you did is layout a public domain book, write some little something that lets you claim to be one of the book’s authors. Otherwise, you may be told, “Why do you want to edit the blubs? You’re not the author.”
    In short, if you want to keep control of how your book is treated, make sure your name is on the cover, on the title page, on the copyright page, and listed in databases. That way you own it.
    In the case of my latest, Lily’s Ride is a very major revision of an 1879 bestseller. When I was asked for the primary author, I gave myself. I assumed they meant the one who was managing the book’s distribution. The other author, Albion Tourgee died in 1905, so he can’t do that.

    Reply

    Bill Palmer May 4, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Skye Lotus: The $25 fee is another difference between the full Lighting Source and Spark; at Lightning source it’s $40 a pop for either a cover or internal change.

    Reply

    Skye Lotus May 5, 2014 at 5:40 am

    Thanks Bill, put’s it in perspective a little. You wouldn’t want to do that too often.

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    Michael OKane May 7, 2014 at 8:58 am

    One issue with the IS templates is a mismatch between the required resolution for publishing and the resolution of the template itself. With the .psd template, the resolution is set at 72 dpi which is not adequate for print. You have to change it to 300 dpi at a minimum. Also, the color space for print must be CMYK and not RGB. These are two issues which the designers had difficulty with–they matched the template and the template was wrong.

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    Carol Bodensteiner May 7, 2014 at 9:36 am

    Please help me gauge the need for the bookstore return option. Other than bookstores in my own state (and even in some of those), my books would be ordered by specific customers who know what they’re getting. Given that, how important do you believe it is to offer returnability?

    Reply

    Michael W. Perry May 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Unless you’ve got credit cards that say Bill Gates, I’d suggest not checking to allow returns. Unlike traditional distribution systems, where they’ll return the copies to Ingram’s shelves, POD books will either get shredded or shipped to you. That could get expensive. Some idiot might order 100 copies for a conference, sell 10, and stick you with 90 returns. Ugh!

    If you’ve got friends at bookstores who want to order multiple copies of your books, you might offer them a personal return-to-me policy. That’ll let you manage your risk. You can probably find a use for those returns, if any.

    You might also want to supply those bookstores directly. Instead of their buying through Ingram or some other wholesaler, you can sell directly to them by making what is called a short order with IngramSpark and have the books shipped directly to them. That beats the socks off keeping your own inventory and fussing with shipping.

    I do that with an online bookstore that doesn’t qualify for Ingram distribution. I typically ship them 50 copies at absolutely the best price they could get from Ingram (typically 55% of retail). I cover the cost of shipping and toss in any discount that Lightning Source gives me for a bulk order. Even giving them every possible break, I’m making a substantial extra profit. That’s a win-win for them and me.

    Just be careful about shipping times. Ingram ships from Tennessee or Pennsylvania. If you can allow two weeks or little more for printing and shipping time, you can save substantially on shipping costs.

    Reply

    Carol Bodensteiner May 7, 2014 at 12:28 pm

    Thanks, Michael. I value the benefit of your experience.

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    Sophie Dawson May 10, 2014 at 9:30 am

    As an author who wants to break into the name brand stores I had to find an alternative to Createspace. I looked around and found Lightning source. I found the website absolutely horrible. I couldn’t find the titles I was trying to develop, had difficulties with getting a hold of my rep, someone I spoke with was rather rude, and couldn’t find the answers online I needed to answer my questions. Also if I needed to upload a different file they charge $40. That’s BEFORE they do anything with it. I’d not submitted it. As an independent publisher, that is simply unacceptable. I’ve spent close to $150 and haven’t gotten a single book working.

    I decided to give IngramSpark a try. I’ve been quite pleased so far. I just submitted my upcoming title for both print and ebook. Yes, it cost $61.00, but I realized going in that going through any printer there would be a cost.

    I’m on a Mac and format my novels in Pages 09. I use Photoshop Express to create my covers. With both I ran into the CMYK issue. They offer to fix the issues for $10 each file, but I found a website for free RGP to CMYK conversion. http://online.puzzleflow.com/ It was simple, fast and the files were accepted. I guess I’ll see how well it did when I get a book in my grubby little hands.

    I did contact support when I had an issue with the compensation calculator. They responded in less than 24 hours and solved my problem.

    I guess the bottom line is I’ve had a better experience with IngramSpark than I did with LightningSource. I plan to cancel my account with them if things go well with the completion of this book.

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    Skye Lotus May 11, 2014 at 12:00 am

    @Sophie Dawson, thanks for that post; whilst I didn’t try the LS path, my experience with IngramSpark was similar. I also had the offer to fix my colour profile issue for $10, but I objected to paying this, and found that I could use the trial of Acrobat X to do the same thing. I resisted using the online converters because you’re basically giving them your book and you don’t always know what they might do with it.

    I’ve found the support at IngramSpark to be very responsive (I’ve asked heaps of questions; I’m very new to this process), though if you want anything slightly out of their system I don’t find them very helpful.

    I’ve posted a more detailed comment here about how I got the templates to work, but it’s waiting moderation.

    The trick is how to get the book stores that aren’t in the IngramSpark system to add your book to their catalogue. In Australia I’m finding that most of the bookstore “chains” are franchises that all buy their books individually, so there’s no centralised way to approach them.

    Needing to write to every individual store is tiresome.

    Reply

    Belinda Pollard May 13, 2014 at 12:07 am

    Hi Joel, do you know if they’ve followed through on the 40% discount? The materials I’ve just received from Lightning Source Australia are still saying 55%.

    That’s a deal breaker for me.

    An indie can’t sell a book for a competitive price without making a loss, on 55% discount. I’ve been setting 30% on LS, which I know is below the 40% industry standard, but it doesn’t seem to stop the online bookstores selling it.

    My clients have been with LS because the shipping costs from the US to Australia are huge, but I’m looking to set up some new accounts shortly, my first newbies since the Spark monster emerged from Frankenstein’s lair. ;-) If these other clients are forced to go with Spark instead of LS, I’ll be recommending they do CreateSpace instead.

    I’ve been using LS for a couple of years now, and am very familiar with their process, so it would be sad to have to move, but I guess that’s life. All of these facilities are a blessing none of us had access to a few short years go, so I need to lose my sense of entitlement. ;-)

    Cheers, Belinda

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander May 13, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Belinda, as far as I know authors can choose either 40% or 55% at Spark. I don’t know whether there’s any parity with LSI Australia, so no help there. I do think Ingram is committed to monitoring Spark and continuing to adjust to authors’ needs, so hopefully it will continue to improve.

    Reply

    Skye Lotus May 13, 2014 at 7:32 pm

    Belinda, when I recently submitted my book Aim, I had the choice between 55 and 40. I went with 55 because this is my first POD book and I wanted to favour reach over that extra 15%.

    I’m based in Melbourne, Australia so it should apply for you also.

    I’ve started doing the legwork of approaching stores here that don’t seem to be in the IngramSpark network. Would appreciate any shared wisdom on how to do this well.

    Skye

    Reply

    Belinda Pollard May 14, 2014 at 4:57 am

    Good to know, Skye, thanks.

    Reply

    Another tool! June 3, 2014 at 7:23 am

    I read today that another open-source tool called Scribus has just been updated to include support for CMYK colour profiles and exporting PDF/X-1a format.

    These are crucial for IngramSpark submissions. I don’t know Scribus myself, but I’ll be looking at it for the next book/update to see if it will fill the shoes that the Adobe CC applications were filling.

    Scribus can be found at: http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

    Reply

    Cindy June 20, 2014 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks for posting this info. I just submitted the initial required info with LS, and received an auto-response that referred me to Ingram Spark. Is there no longer a choice if I’m a new publisher with my first title?

    Reply

    Frederic June 28, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    I have self-published a quite successful book both on CreateSpace (for Amazon distribution) and IngramSpark (for orders in book stores and international distribution, and for a hardcover version, simply because I wanted to have a hardcover version :-)). I’m very happy with this dual strategy, it has worked great for me so far.

    I’m now thinking about creating an illustrated version of the book, and the project would really come to life it the book was in color rather than just black & white. CS is prohibitive for color, IS is alright if you go with 40% discount.

    I have two questions: does anyone know
    - how this book (IS with 40% discount) would appear on Amazon? Assuming it sells well, would Amazon take it ‘in stock’ or punish me for using IS and claim 1-3 weeks order time? (I’ve read in the past that Amazon was doing this).
    - if a reader goes to a bookstore and asks to order the book, would the bookstore still order it, with “only” 40% discount?

    Thanks if you can help out! I need to decide now with the illustrator if we go for color and b&w, so I’m really curious about your answers!

    Reply

    Bill Palmer June 29, 2014 at 2:26 am

    Frederic,

    I published a color book with Lightning Source.
    Resigned that that no bookstore would buy a self-published book, and that if they did Amazon would attempt to undercut them. I set the LS commision rate at 20%. Amazon picks up the book anyway if people order it. Initially it was print on demand (“available withing x days), but they I started to see (“only 18 left…”), so I could see that they started order more than one at a time.
    Amazon seems to price it somewhere below the retail but at a cut above their cost price. The lower the cost price you set, the less they’ll charge, and the less you’ll make.
    For the few bookstores that I work with personally, I work with them directly and either have the shipment sent directly to them or ship from my own inventory.

    Reply

    Frederic June 29, 2014 at 5:15 am

    Thank you Bill, that’s helpful. Good to see that Amazon stocked in when there was demand, despite the 20% discount.

    When you say “resigned that no bookstore would buy a self-published book”, you mean resigned that they wouldn’t stock it, right? They do buy it when a customer orders it, I imagine? (I wonder if that is a usual practice in the US, where Amazon is so dominant. In Europe, readers are used to go to their bookstore, and order a book from the bookstore if the book isn’t in stock)

    Reply

    Bill Palmer July 6, 2014 at 11:56 pm

    Yes, I mean that they would not stock it. I can’t tell where the print orders that come through Lightning Source are coming from. I assume they are almost all from Amazon, which outsells every other outlet by 10:1.
    My feeling is that if a local bookstore doesn’t have something, most US residents will order it from Amazon and have it before the bookstore would – often with free shipping.
    I’ve set my discount rate to take advantage of the fact that Amazon doesn’t require a 55% discount off retail like the brick and mortar places. I have a full color book with a narrow market (Aviation) that’s relatively expensive to print. I’m not happy making $1 each. So, I see no point in setting a discount rate so that they can buy it, when they won’t anyway.
    For the few specialty retailers that do carry it, I work with them directly and don’t go by the Ingram discount rate. But Amazon sells more in a day, then they do in a year, so that’s where my focus is.

    Reply

    Skye Lotus July 8, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    Some feedback on IngramSpark:

    Having the book ‘out there’ for 2 months now one thing I’m noting is that IngramSpark really mean it when they say some distributors take 6 weeks to add your book to their site.

    I had to manually contact a number of sites and provide the cover artwork.

    When the book hit the Apple iBook store, it only showed up in the US and Canada. I had to write several emails, and make a phone call to IngramSpark in the US before they would believe me. Only then did they contact Apple and have the matter resolved, and even now there are still some countries in which Apple doesn’t list the book.

    Sales reports in the IngramSpark dashboard are atrocious. You are presented with a page of checkboxes which implies that if I select everything I’ll get a report listing everything that matches. Not true! You ONLY get a report if you get the combination of currency and Lightning source factories correct. There doesn’t seem to be a way to request a single report listing all POD, or eBook sales for a period, worldwide.

    The support people are pretty responsive, though I tend to find that if you wander outside the ‘typical’ set of questions, you’ll get a very scant reply. Most of the replies I get come across as template replies. In saying this, I would note that after speaking to them about my issue with Apple, the responses have been much better and much more informative.

    Don’t be afraid to talk to them. Don’t expect that, even though the system says it will do all the distribution to partners for you, that you won’t have to chase things up and check things. Don’t forget it’s up to you to market the book; that isn’t their job.

    Reply

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