Breaking News: New Ingram Spark Discounts for Indie Publishers

by Joel Friedlander on January 8, 2014 · 145 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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    { 142 comments… read them below or add one }

    Michelle Kamhi October 3, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Is the 55% discount absolutely essential for bookstores, or do they sometimes accept the 40% discount?

    Reply

    chris behrens September 27, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Hey, all-

    I just received my proof copy from Ingram, and I loved it. Very high quality! I had some conversations with Joel about this on other threads. No quick fix. I think the bright side is in having choices and doing so at reduced costs. Just a few yrs. ago, self-pubbing was very expensive. I was able to check the quality of a Createspace proof vs. an Ingram proof at very little cost. Ingram offers good pops. for very little cost, I think.

    Alos, I used Jera Publishing to format my files, as I have interior illustrations. Jera did a fine job at a reasonable cost. Jera offers lots of services at good prices.

    Enjoy the journey…it’s a great time for self-publishers although I’d love to have the backing of a trad. company. Good Luck, everyone!

    C. Behrens, Author of Savanna’s Treasure
    “…good fit for early readers…inspiring…” —Kirkus Reviews

    Reply

    Martin August 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I’m a little late to this thread but have been doing lots of research and found that both Spark and CreateSpace have serious drawbacks for authors.

    1) CreateSpace (Amazon) takes a HUGE cut of your royalty for print books sold outside of Amazon. The “commission” for a print book sold through Amazon is 40% of list price. The “commission” on a print book sold through other retailers (anybody non-Amazon) is 60% of list price. If you sell a 14.99 print book through Amazon your royalty is about $3.00… if you sell a print book to an independent book store your royalty is about $0.78…. yes that’s a cut from three bucks to 78 cents!! The business model of CreateSpace is geared toward pushing ALL print book sales through Amazon.

    2) Spark makes a similar ploy with indie e-books. The contract with IngramSpark specifies that you appoint them SOLE GLOBAL DISTRIBUTOR of your ebook… then Spark takes a 60% cut of EVERYTHING e-based… your flat author royalty is 40% for all e-book sales. That’s almost criminal. Amazon pays 70% royalty minus download fee (which for a standard fiction novel is about $0.15… your standard mass market or trade paperback is about 1MB). Smashwords pays 85% for ebooks sold through their platform. Yes… Smashwords, Vook, and other platforms take a cut of your ebook sales (usually 10% to 15%) when you sell through another platform: on top of the retailer cut. But your author royalty varies depending on the outlet… ranging from about 35% to 85%. For Spark to give you a flat 40% of your own work stinks. It prevents you from earning more where the book e-tailer takes a lower cut… on IngramSpark’s platform, if the e-tailer takes a lower cut, then that extra money goes to Ingram’s bottom line. Not yours. It’s basically free money for Ingram.

    Both CreateSpace and IngramSpark have very clear and distinct business priorities — clearly visible in their pricing strategies. They do not care prioritize authors. They prioritize their bottom line and supporting their business model. It’s an uphill battle with these services to get fair pay for your work.

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander August 29, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    Martin, this is why indie authors search for the best distribution deals. For instance, using CreateSpace to service Amazon orders makes a lot of sense, and using Ingram to service the rest of the book industry will also work well. As far as ebooks are concerned, there are a number of distributors like BookBaby and Smashwords who are author-centric and retain a very small (or no) percentage of your sales. But if you’re looking for 1 solution for every market, I’m afraid you won’t get a very good deal at some point.

    Reply

    Martin August 30, 2014 at 9:35 pm

    Joel. Thanks for responding (and Skye as well)… I have definitely learned that there is no one-stop shop for indie publishers. Something you pointed out.

    Where I am extremely frustrated (and maybe I am wrong on this), is that these big distributors want to bundle your distribution. For example, the IngramSPark contract you sign to set up an account appoints them EXCLUSIVE global distributor of your e-book. As far as I am aware (the way the contract reads) you cannot un-bundle POD print books from e-book distribution on Ingram Spark. You have to sign up for both or nothing. [???]

    As for CreateSpace… same question: I know you can upload direct to Kindle for e-book sales on Amazon and then use Smashwords, or Vook, or somebody else for e-book distribution… BUT can you unbundle the CreateSpace print offering and use them only for Amazon POD… and then use a different POD distributor for everybody else? The way the contract reads it does not look that way.

    THe ideal mix is to unbundle POD print books from e-books. And I have found some very affordable e-book wholesalers (like ebookpartnership.com) that charge a flat fee and do not take any % of your sales… and Vook which takes only 10% as opposed to Smashwords 15%… but I have yet to find a high-quality POD printer that will do all of the following… 1) will do only print without demanding your e-book too; 2) does high-quality print in a range of trim sizes; 3) makes books that actually looks like books from a bookstore; 4) has a wide reach / broad distribution network that includes the major catalogues, etc.; and 5) is non-preferential as to the end-retailer.

    The e-book distribution is not the issue for me right now. It’s the POD print vendors. Any thoughts/ideas/suggestions would be very much appreciated

    Reply

    Skye Lotus August 31, 2014 at 12:56 am

    I can’t speak for CreateSpace because I haven’t used it, but WRT IngramSpark, as far as I know there is no exclusivity clause on the eBook. It is mine, and I can distribute anywhere that isn’t already one of IngramSparks distribution partners.

    For example, I have had other books with Amazon so I couldn’t distribute the eBook to Amazon via IngramSpark. That doesn’t mean I can’t upload my ebook to Amazon myself. There’s nothing to stop me doing that.

    And when it comes to distributing with others, it doesn’t make sense to double up, so if IngramSpark are listing your book with thebookdepository (for example), there’s no point in trying to do this myself.

    I’d like to distribute via Smashwords as well, but unless I can be sure there won’t be a conflict I’ll hold off.

    Reply

    Martin August 31, 2014 at 10:09 pm

    Skye, thanks for the reply… according to Section 2(b) of the contract… appoints IngramSpark as “exclusive” provider to resellers…

    (b) Distribution. From time to time during the term of this Agreement, LS, as Publisher’s exclusive provider to Resellers, will make Digital Media Files available to Resellers for the purposes of selling, marketing, displaying and distributing Digital Media Files to End Users. LS shall provide the following services to Publisher

    You said (1): “It is mine, and I can distribute anywhere that isn’t already one of IngramSparks distribution partners.” This means you can’t distribute directly to IngramSpark partners?? That’s what I was talking about re: exclusivity… you can’t go around them to reach their partners.

    Also… you said: “when it comes to distributing with others, it doesn’t make sense to double up, so if IngramSpark are listing your book with thebookdepository (for example), there’s no point in trying to do this myself.”

    This is exactly my problem.. My view = I don’t want IngramSpark distributing my e-book at all… Period. Because they take a 60% cut of all e-books revenue right off the top… and I don’t want to pay it.

    I want to use Ingramspark for POD print only, but I don’t know how to unbundle the e-book distribution from the print distribution in the contract.

    Thanks for your help.

    Martin August 31, 2014 at 10:15 pm

    Here is the specific paragraph from the contract that give IngramSpark exclusive rights to your e-book for their network of re-sellers…

    (c) Exclusive Distribution. During the term of this Agreement, Publisher shall not directly distribute Digital Media Files to any Reseller for which LS is providing Publisher’s Digital Media Files pursuant to this Agreement. In the event that a Publisher has entered into a distribution agreement directly with Reseller for the distribution of its Digital Media Files and such agreement with the Reseller terminates during the term of this Agreement, LS shall make Publisher’s Digital Media Files available to Reseller hereunder.

    Skye Lotus September 1, 2014 at 4:43 am

    Martin,

    When we set up Aim for distribution via IngramSpark we had the choice to do POD only, or POD+eBook. We weren’t force to bundle both. Each year, from memory, we have to pay a fee to keep each running, and at the moment, we’re considering the possibility of only keeping the POD going after the first year and trying out Smashwords+Amazon with the eBook. There’s nothing there (at least when we setup Aim), to force us to use both. I’m pretty sure that even now I can go into the setup of the title, and discontinue eBook distribution though there will be some period of weeks or months during which the various websites hosting the book will gradually remove it from their listings. I’m not sure how that will work yet.

    Reply

    Skye Lotus August 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Having previously used Smashwords for my first eBooks I think they have a great system. When I published my latest book via IngramSpark I chose to use them for both POD and eBook sales. In hindsight, I think I will. in the future use Smashwords for the eBook sales in preference; their reach is quite good, though not as wide as Ingrams (who seem to use CoreSource for the actual distribution). I prefer the control you have with Smashwords, and the reporting. The IngramSpark reporting system is sadly lacking, giving no real indication of sales dates or on which channels the sales were made.

    The rates charged by the various entities do seem high but that is the industry, and as has ben stated many times, editing, designing and producing a book is expensive work so that’s why those charges are there historically.

    I agree with Joel that there is no single distributor that will do what you want, for how much you want to pay. Like the consumers that don’t want to pay enough for our books, we don’t want to pay enough for the services that act as our shop windows.

    Reply

    Sheila Brodhead August 18, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    I’ve published recently on createspace, and was told by the first bookstore I approached that they “wouldn’t touch anything published on amazon,” presumably due to all the bad things happening there recently and the fact that amazon is killing independent bookstores. My question to anyone willing to give me an opinion is this: should I also publish on ingrahamspark? would bookstores be more likely to stock my book if I did? what benefits might I gain from doing so? any thoughts? much appreciated!

    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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