How to Use Ingramspark Self-Publishing

by | Oct 10, 2019

By Lee Foster

Are you considering IngramSpark self-publishing as an option for your book? What do you need to know? What’s new?

I discussed the Amazon Kindle print book/ebook in some detail in my last post, which was Publishing Your Book is Changing on Amazon Kindle.

My practical experience in question is my new book Northern California History Travel Adventures: 35 Suggested Trips. This is my fifth self-published print book/ebook.

So, is there a publishing life beyond Amazon Kindle? The answer is a definite yes, from my perspective. Moreover, authors play an important role in keeping our publishing system healthy by succeeding with a diversity of suppliers.

I want my printed books to be sold in independent bookstores, such as Book Passage, near me in California. They could do a direct order from Ingram or get consignment books from me.

I want a print-on-demand (POD) manufacturing source that would be acceptable to independent bookstores, plus chain bookstores, such as Barnes & Noble. I want a manufacturer who supplied libraries.

For all this I need Ingram. I also want some “Ingram-manufactured” books to sell to individuals and at events where the folks may not be “Amazon-friendly.” There are raging controversies about the book-selling ecosystem, as you probably know.

I also want my ebook version in iBooks, B&N, Kobo, and other ebook retailers beyond Amazon. For my ebook-for-everyone-beyond-Amazon, I chose Smashwords. I’ll discuss Smashwords next time in my “every-five-weeks” column in Joel’s publishing ecosystem.

I am the “non-exclusive type” when it comes to print books and ebooks. You may have a different perspective.

So, how did placing this new book into Ingram print-on-demand work out?

My Ingram Migration, Lightning Source to Spark

The big new decision with Ingram, of course, was whether to move my four earlier books from their Lightning Source world over to the newer IngramSpark realm. Then I would place the new book also in Spark. After studying this, it appeared to me that a change was appropriate. So I requested it.

The Ingram response on this was fairly hospitable. As in all systems, the quality of your Customer Service experience can vary.

Here is what happened:

  • Ingram said they would add an opt in to change to Spark on my Lightning Source page, with the words Learn About Spark. This did appear, upper right center, in small type on my page. I almost missed it.
  • The “migration” from LSI to Spark proceeded smoothly and in an orderly way. I was required to sign the Global Distribution agreement and an Ebook Agreement, even though I was not uploading an ebook at this point.
  • Once I made the migration from LSI to Spark, they said it would be one-way. You are not coming back. That was OK. I did not plan to go back.
  • The prices for printed books would be the same, they said. I always choose the 55% discount because that is what is needed to get bookstore sales.
  • It appeared that with Spark I would avoid the $12/year Market Access fee that LSI charged for each of my titles each year. That would be welcome.
  • It appeared that, as a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), I would have a code and could avoid book setup fees. That would also be welcome. The book setup was a $49 cost. Later updates of the interior or cover file would incur a $25 charge, however, as I understood it.
  • I had a personal rep in LSI, but never used the service. So I felt no loss without a personal rep in Spark.
  • I had options for bank credit payments, etc. in LSI for large orders, rather than a simple credit card, but never used it. So, no loss. I could continue dreaming of imagined bulk purchases of my books. You will be among the first to learn about this when the lightning strikes.
  • Spark also appears to be an ebook-selling structure, not an option at LSI. I noted this, but did not intend to use Spark for selling ebooks at this time. I’ll watch to see how the Spark ebook option develops.
  • A welcoming note from Spark was encouraging. It had lots of their self-pub educational resources listed. Amazon Kindle, IngramSpark, and Smashwords are all major author-learning ecosystems if you take advantage of their how-to posts and videos.
  • When I engaged Spark in an online chat, they always sent an email follow-up with all the chat documentation written out. That was helpful. The chat was always so immediate that I had little desire to call by phone.
  • In one chat, for example, their rep confirmed that my book in IngramSpark would automatically show for librarians in the Baker & Taylor library listings, even if I did not spend $85 to advertise my book in their Ingram/Baker & Taylor catalog. That was good to hear.

I uploaded my new book in the PDF form requested. The system appeared to save everything as I moved forward. I first posted all the book data and then uploaded the interior file. All was saved.

A few days later I had the cover file ready. I uploaded that and proceeded to publish and go live.

I ordered a sample to hold in my hand and marvel over what hath God wrought. It looked good.

The IngramSpark Self-Publishing Process Requires Patience

As with Amazon Kindle, the more attention you put into the book data presentation, the better.

Some of my data, which I thought I had in LSI and in CreateSpace, did not seem to come through completely in the new systems. Look carefully over any earlier books with LSI to see if your data is present or missing in Spark.

The data fields in the Spark template forms include:

  • Keywords, separated by semicolons. Use as many words or phrases as the space allows.
  • Subjects – Good to study the BISAC subject codes and make the best choices, using all your available slots.
  • Their Thema field, book description.
  • Table of Contents – Be sure to put that in.
  • Audience – Adult, trade book for me.
  • Short Description – Needs to be succinct.
  • Full Description – Plenty of room for a full description of your book’s many virtues.

There is also an About the Author section, so prepare some bio, prior work, location, and affiliation info on yourself.

A Fuss About Photo Profiles

Ingram did raise a fuss about the photo profiles and the dpi (dots-per-inch) of the photos in the PDF upload for print. My book is a travel guide and has some color photos presented as black and white photos. Color photos still seem to me too costly to manufacture as color in print-on-demand books.

So I have my color photos set to show as black and white photos. I realize they will look OK, but not pretty. Ingram made me sign off on the color profiles in the book upload as suitable for my black and white photos in the book. I signed off. The photos came out OK black and white. I am not convinced that changing the color profile would have improved their appearance. However, I am teachable, so will keep watching over this matter.

The color looks good in the ebook versions with Kindle and with Smashwords.

About Purchasing and Mailing Author Copies

Both Kindle and Ingram are major printing systems with a credible ability to deliver serviceable books to you. Both are also necessary for your success. Working directly with Kindle for its immediate print-book customer audience is a wise approach.

Kindle will always list your POD book “In Stock” if you POD directly with them. There might be issues about this if you try to distribute from Ingram to Kindle/Amazon. There have been issues in the past. These giants do not always play nice in the sandbox.

Working with Ingram is necessary for bookstores, which will not order from Kindle. Amazon Kindle will not allow bookstores to return un-sold books, something the trade has accepted for a long time. It is not easy to make a profit in the retail bookstore market.

Learn the printing codes on the inside final page of your books for Kindle and Ingram. They are usually there, but they can be blank, making the printing source agnostic. Don’t accidentally walk into a bookstore with consignment books that show some Kindle-manufactured volumes, as marked on the final page. We wouldn’t want a homicide to occur.

There were some differences when I ordered initially five copies of my new book from Kindle and five from Ingram. Kindle cost me a little less, $3.30 each compared to $3.74 Ingram.

The charge for most-economical shipping was about the same, $5.95 Kindle and $6 Ingram. But there were some differences. Kindle gave me a defined delivery date and a trackable courier bar code number. Ingram shipped by USPS Media Mail and could not provide a definitive delivery date. Ingram alerted me that I was responsible if the books got lost in the USPS Mail.

Specifically, Ingram wrote me, “You placed the order with basic shipping which is through USPS and is non-trackable and non-insurable so once it ships from the printing facility, we have no way to track its arrival.”

Another issue is how quickly Media Mail moves in busy times. I ordered in quiet August, but the later autumn holidays might be slower for Media Mail.

Ingram also tacked on a $1.99 handling fee, while Amazon did not.

So my Kindle cost for five books was $22.45, with trackable courier shipping, while my Ingram cost was $26.69, with no trackable USPS shipping.

The books arrived from both systems in about nine days. However, I must say that the Ingram purchase was a little more stressful because there was no tracking and lost books would be my problem. Both batches of printed books looked reasonably good.

Amazon will likely always be a little ahead of Ingram on these delivery matters, due to their vast experience with logistics and customer care.

So I then did larger orders with both. I bought enough Ingram books to manage local bookstore consignment opportunities and individual buyers who were “Anti-Amazon.” I will probably be inclined to get the bulk of my books from Amazon Kindle.

However, the situation is fluid, and your commentary from the tribe may influence my future behavior.

Conclusion of the First Step

It felt good to have my new book showing well in Kindle Direct, Ingram, and Smashwords. My four earlier books will also be substantially improved in their presentation data in all systems.

I have my to-do list. Independent publishing and book promotion is a long process, as every self-published author knows.

I was pleased that I had learned to navigate the new and evolving systems of these major book/ebook sellers. I can now go in and tweak metadata about my earlier books with ease since I learned new details.

Of course, this was all just the first step. My ongoing promotion of my new book and all my books in social media and on my website will need to proceed simultaneously. However, I paused for a moment, to rest, before pushing forward in the quest.

Next time, in five-weeks, I’ll discuss putting my new ebook into Smashwords for everyone-beyond-Amazon. How well did that go?

Photo: BigStockPhoto

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Viola Simmons

    Hey, there I Write,I journal,I derby, paint illustration my own books.what do you think of getting my books published the way I won’t them tobe with limited access to Resources.

  2. Emma Sue Prince

    Hi there – I have published a hard back journal with Ingram Sparks. The image of the journal does not push through to Barnes & Noble so it’s on there with no image. On Amazon it pushes through only one image and there does not seem to be a way to add more book images in IS.

    My second question is around Amazon – my journal is there but when people go to buy it, it says it’s not in stock and they’ll email the person when it is. This puts most people off buying it. Is there any way around this? Thank you for your help. – Emma sue

  3. Shelley

    Great article!

  4. Maxine Blake

    I’m a 1st time author and due to publish on 15/12/20. I’m planning on using KDP and Ingramspark. How far in advance should I be uploading my book ahead of the launch? I’d like to see what they look like in paperback first to make sure that they look ok. Thank you

  5. Tiffany

    I have purchased my own ISBN #’s and publishing my first book. I would like to use both Amazon (KDP) and Ingram. My preference is to get the eBook out first because it is fast, then immediately follow up with hardback book. My question is, will anything be messed up if I go through Amazon first then go to Ingram. I’m trying not to make a mistake and create a headache on my first time around. So the order of operations is what I’m searching for. Thank you!

    • Lee Foster

      Dear Tiffany,
      You will have your own ISBNs, one each for your ebook and one for your hardcover book. They will identify these two versions forever. The sequence of publishing with Amazon or Ingram first makes no difference. Just make sure you get your distribution set up with no conflicts. I recommend a slightly different approach on the ebooks. I recommend this because it has worked for me. I publish my ebooks direct on Amazon for Amazon’s audience only. Then I publish my ebooks with Smashwords for “everyone else.” Ingram is now moving into ebook distribution also, but I have no direct experience with Ingram on this. Perhaps others do and will comment.
      Thanks and best wishes,
      Lee Foster

      • Tiffany

        Thank you so much for your help! This was most helpful!

        Best Regards,

  6. Janet

    I have my own ISBNs for my last 3 novels. I publish paperback on amazon first, then put the basic info on IS. THEN I contact IS and tell them that I want to metashare. It’s a letter to sign and IS will contact KDP. You have to drop the extended distribution on KDP, but other than that I still sell more paperbacks on Amazon than on IS. Last June, for the first time ever, my books got lost somewhere in NJ for a conference in DC. It was stressful, but Amazon came me a refund. I’ve had not trouble since then. I order my author copies from KDP for consignment and events. IS is for bookstores.

    • Lee Foster

      Dear Janet,
      Thanks for your comments. Your experience is helpful to all of us. One important matter you suggest is: Be careful of the distribution rights you grant. Personally, I like to do Amazon for Amazon alone, and IngramSpark for everyone else, especially bookstores. I prefer to avoid the “extended distribution” on Amazon. Your strategy may differ, and you may have your reasons for your novels. Another insight from you is that books can get lost. When that happens, who is responsible? Amazon seems to take more responsibility than IngramSpark, especially with economical USPS Media Mail shipping from Ingram. As we approach the holidays, a further concern is: Will USPS Media Mail go through or be clogged up for a while? Thanks for sharing your experience, Janet.
      Lee Foster

  7. W. M Raebeck

    Thanks for your response, Lee.

    It’s been my understanding that ASIN numbers are Amazon’s own internal organizational system, and every book listed there is assigned one, as well as any ISBN assigned by either author or Amazon.

    I totally agree ISBNs are generally handy for multi-book authors. For those purchasing them one by one, though, it’s another cost, maybe worth eliminating if ebooks don’t require them. : )

    • Lee Foster

      I have not followed all the details on ASIN and ISBNs. Amazon will have its own ASIN number.

      But long term best practice, as I understand it, will be to assign an ISBN to each book and ebook, putting you in charge for all identification of the book/ebook forever.

      Perhaps Joel F would like to step in an add his perspective to this question.

      • Joel Friedlander

        W. M Raebeck is correct, and if you plan to publish only ebooks for now, you can save money by using the Amazon-assigned ASIN. And when you decide to move to other ebook retailers or print versions of your books, you can acquire your ISBNs then and assign them to your books.

        Keep in mind this strategy will save money, but it will cost you about 40% of the ebook market in non-Amazon sales.

        • Lee Foster

          Thank you Joel, our best-informed observer on all these matters.

          Joel makes a good point: Get our own ISBNs if you want to flourish in all potential ebook markets.

          I want to see every Author selling their ebooks everywhere.

  8. Margaret Pinard

    I am afraid that loading up the .mobi and .pdf to Amazon will make for some confusion in the system. Like when there is more than one version of the same title and format in Goodreads and it splits the recommendations…
    But I will put it on my list! Thanks for responding, Lee!

  9. W. M. Raebeck

    I own plenty of ISBNs, something I never regret having purchased before my first book, but wondering if anyone knows concretely whether ISBNs are actually required for ebooks.

    I always assign a new one to my ebooks, but have heard from several sources that ebooks don’t actually need one. Anyone know?

    I believe audio books do require an ISBN.

    • Lee Foster

      I use my ISBNs with my ebooks on Amazon, rather than let Amazon use one of their ID numbers.

      I used one ISBN on my audiobook.

      I believe it is alway best to have your own ISBN for each of your products. That will always identify the product as yours in various listings.

  10. Margaret Pinard

    Timely post! I was wondering if I could skate by with waiting for Ingram to populate an Amazon listing, but it looks like not, since they don’t play well together. In the past for Smashwords, I have let them make up an ISBN instead of making a separate one. I wonder if I will be able to load the newest book into Amazon without it chirping at me about the ISBN already being in the system–that is what tricked me last time: I’d checked that extended outreach button from the Amazon side so Ingram wouldn’t accept an ISBN already distributed to their system as real. I hope I don’t get caught in the reverse trap this time!

    • Lee Foster

      My experience has been that it is best to have your own ISBNs, one for your print version and one for your ebook version. The two can be used in all situations.

      My experience has also been that it is best to do print and to do ebook with Amazon direct, in their structures.

      Then for print for bookstores etc, I use Ingram Spark.

      And for ebook for everyone beyond Amazon, I use Smashwords.

      My next article will be on Smashwords.

  11. Matt

    Thanks, Lee, for your comments.
    ~ Matt

    • Lee Foster

      You are welcome Matt.

      Keep us informed of your publishing thoughts.

  12. W. M. Raebeck

    I’ve published 5 books, all in e- and paperback, and have always used Ingram Spark for print. From the get-go, it seemed best for going wide. And I’ve always been pleased with the texture- and color-quality of their covers. I frequently use their low-priced ‘basic shipping,’ particularly for small loads of books. I was initially nervous about the ‘non-insured’ factor, but have always received my orders (and I live in Hawai’i). Sometimes slow, but they arrive.

    If you research the ebook option with IS, you may find their fees less than user-friendly. I’ve backed away from doing ebooks with them for that reason, but I may not be up to date.

    Further comments after 7 years with IS: I’ve found shipping around the xmas holidays disastrous—can take weeks and weeks to get the books. Also, once or twice a year, they offer everybody free set-up fees or free revisions, so I try to time new book releases and updates with their freebies. They provide 4-6 weeks advance notice about discounts if you’re on their email list.

    And, yes, there does seem on-going tension between IS and Amazon. Maybe not animosity as much as too many Indians and not enough chiefs? Whenever my prices get skewed on Amazon (constantly), they re-route me to IS to bitch and moan, then IS pivots me back to Amazon. There appears to be an irreparable glitch in the system somewhere. (For example, one of my print books is currently listed on Amazon for $248 instead of $11.99, and I DREAD the ordeal of correcting it.) However, it has to be animosity when Amazon claims a POD book (from IS) is “out of stock”—?? the whole point of print-on-demand is that it doesn’t have to be ‘stocked’—or when my Amazon page states that one of my books (usually a brand new release) requires a 2-4 week wait. Wait for what, Amazon? For you to punish me for using IS?

    • Lee Foster

      Dear W. M.,

      All your practical experience benefits us all. Thank you for your comments.

      Lee Foster

  13. Matt

    That one I can answer: Yes, a separate ISBN is required for a hardcover.

    • Lee Foster

      Dear Matt,

      Thank you Matt. It is surprising the number of ISBNs an author will actually need, especially if you include an ebook and an audiobook in your vision.

      Thank you for this reminder of an ISBN needed for a hardcover.

      Lee Foster

  14. Leslie Tall Manning

    Great article, and timely for me, as I am publishing my 5th novel and plan to incorporate Ingram for the first time. One great thing about Ingram that I have heard from others is the choice to get hardcover books. Did you order any hardcovers? Do you know if a separate ISBN is needed for hardcover? Thanks in advance.

    • Lee Foster

      Dear Leslie,

      Thanks for your note. I have not done a hardcover myself, but good to know of that option available.

      As Matt indicates above, this requires a separate ISBN.

      Lee Foster

  15. Matt

    Thanks for the very helpful post. Can you answer a question I’ve had for a while — especially since CreateSpace died and I faced the prospect of deciding between Kindle POD and Ingram: are separate ISBNs necessary for each, or can you use the same ISBN for a paperback in both?

    • Lee Foster

      Dear Matt,

      Thanks for your note.

      I have note 5 paperbacks with CreateSpace/now Kindle and with Ingram, simultaneously, using the same ISBN.

      I recommend you do both Kindle and Spark, considering this as a win-win rather than an either/or. Both have their territories of distribution staked out. I need them both. So, likely, will you.

      Lee Foster



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