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IngramSpark review.

Why I’ll Never Use IngramSpark Again

Disclaimer: this is not to discourage anyone from using IngramSpark. It’s only a reflection of my own experience with them and why I decided not to publish my paperbacks with them.

A bit of background

IngramSpark is a company similar to CreateSpace, only not owned by Amazon. They, like Lulu and others, help you bring your ebook/paperback self-published book to life.

The kicker?

There’s a fee.

Their pricing is pretty decent.

$25 for an ebook, $49+ for a print book, or $49+ combined package for both ebook and print.

As you can see from the table below, they advertise their combined package as the best deal, which is true.

IngramSpark pricing

Why the change?

Now, why would you pay for IngramSpark when you can get CreateSpace for free, you might ask?

Many of you will have heard the rumours that CreatesÍpace is shutting down, to be replaced by KDP Print. David Gaughran has a really good post on it, and details how to switch to KDP Print, if you’re interested.

I’m not a fan of KDP Print—or Amazon, for that matter—so I wanted to go with IngramSpark.

For the month of July, they had a promotion that you could add one of your books for free without having to pay the fee.

I chose to pull my First to Fall paranormal romance and try it out, thinking it was a good a time as any to try out their interface.

And boy…am I happy I did…

The experience

I restate my disclaimer here that I am in no way discouraging anyone from trying out IngramSpark. I know authors who’ve had good experiences with them, and others where it didn’t work. Mine was one such experience.

I tried over the course of three days to set up First to Fall using IngramSpark, and was at the point of banging my head against a wall when I finally threw in the towel.

Let me put it this way: if I had paid $49 for the print option, I’d have been asking for a refund.

The good

  • The original setup of the account was super easy, no problems with it. Done in less than 10 minutes, and for me, that was superb!
  • I live in Canada, so the tax setup part was just as easy
  • Adding a title? Also, easy. A couple clicks, and you’re there.

The not so good

There are five steps when setting up your book with IngramSpark, and there are a MILLION things to decide on—or so it feels. Without much info on what’s what. Sure IngramSpark has a resource page with videos on each step. Awesome. And I could watch them. But I never did for CreateSpace and I was able to set up my print book perfectly fine. Call me crazy, but I was looking for a similarly seamless experience.

The really annoying

Remember the part in CreateSpace where you set up your price, and it automatically calculates the best prices for GBP and Euro? Yeah, forget that with IngramSpark.

I was asked to price my roughly-300-page book at $28 USD and there was no conversion. So I had to go online and figure out what the approximate price was for Euro, GBP, Australian dollar and Canadian dollar. Unlike CreateSpace that populates everything easily and gives you the royalty calculations. This is where I gave up by the end of day one.

On day two, I went back to it, finished the conversions, still with not much of an idea on what royalty I’d be getting—that’s harder to figure out.

Got to the end, all the while wondering where the hell I’m supposed to put my PDF so I can finally see the conversion. I mean, if you’ll recall, in CreateSpace, you set up your book first then talk about pricing and channels to sell it through, right?

Instead of asking me for that, what I got was a message from IngramSpark basically saying ‘Oh, wait. Before you can add the files, you need to finish setting up your account.’

Why I wasn’t asked this when I first set-up my account? It still baffles me!

This is followed by a simple checklist of 3 sections—easy enough, at first glance.

Two of those things had an X for me, so I went into one section, added my info (about where I want to get paid royalties), and save.

Then I realised there was no way to go ‘back’ to the list, so I had to go from the beginning, flipping through all the steps of setting up my book, and get to the same error message.

This time, I clicked on step three which, surprise surprise, asked for a credit card. Even though this was supposed to be a free setup, because of their promo. I added the info regardless…

Got my three checkmarks.

IngramSpark's setup process requires a lot of steps.

At this point, I was still waiting for the magic message to say, ‘Ok, you can upload your PDF files now and finish setting up your book.’

Nope…

Nada.

So, being a bit of an IT person, I log out, thinking maybe the whole interface needs time to sync and realise I was done uploading everything.

So I log back in…

Again, the three sections have a green check mark. Yet I’m still not able to add files to my title…

By this point, I was seriously missing CreateSpace, and longing for the easiness of the setup with them!

I gave up at the end of day two, thinking I’d give them till day three to update the system, hopefully let me continue.

Day three I logged in, and sure enough the system was letting me add my PDF. I did. Went through the last steps. Then at the end, it wanted to take my money. So I went to the section asking for a promo code and added the same promo code I’d got in a newsletter. The EXACT same one displayed at the top of their home page. Got this:

IngramSpark invalid promo code.

By that point, my patience was shot. I was not about to pay $49 for a crap interface that had given me headache after headache, with still no clue on what the product I would get was.

To top it off, $28 USD for a paperback?

I wouldn’t pay that even if it was a James Patterson or J.K.Rowling book! And I love those authors.

Who in hell would pay that for an indie author’s paperback? Not many readers, that’s who. And the royalties I was to make from it were paltry.

That was the point I called it quits.

Went back in two weeks later to see IngramSpark had reviewed my PDF and needed me to change things. I deleted the title from the account I had created and crossed them off my list of potential replacements for CreateSpace.

Conclusion

This is one author’s story, so please don’t let this stop you from trying them out. You may find that you have the best experience ever! Sadly, it was not meant to be for me.

Would I recommend them to anyone? Nope, not based on this experience.

Would I try them again? Hell, no! Trying them again means paying the $49, so, nope.

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20 Comments

  • 7th January, 2019 at 05:40
    Christine

    Hi
    I’m in a similar situation. I too had a good experience with CreateSpace but since KDP have taken over Australian authors can only purchase their books at retail prices. Can i ask who you ended up going to?

    REPLY
  • 9th January, 2019 at 17:06
    Alexa Whitewolf

    Hi Christine,
    To be honest, I haven’t found anything I love 100%. For the sake of not losing my paperbacks I did the migration to KDP Print and that was a pain in the butt. I ended up having to reformat my interior files and even the covers… And the end result isn’t too shabby. Not quite the same quality as CS though 🙁 I’ve heard Lulu does good quality, but haven’t gotten around to trying them out yet.
    For the time being, I’m sticking with KDP Print. Although I hear Draft2Digital will soon do print books, and that’s what I’m eagerly waiting for 😀 the quality of their ebooks is amazing, so the print would have potential!
    Hope that helps!
    Cheers,
    Alexa

    REPLY
  • 10th January, 2019 at 14:47
    Jason

    Hi! I very much disagree with most of the article. Sure enough, IngramSpark can be a pain at first, but I think a) you entered the promo code for free publishing in the wrong page (looks like you were trying to purchase a copy of your book, e.g. it reads freight); b) the system gives you the royalties you’ll be earning in each region, and by far they are the best compared to Lulu, CreateSpace, etc. — royalties are calculated automatically based on 1. what characteristics you choose for your title; 2. price you enter; c) all new interfaces need to be explored at the beginning and take some reading and trial-and-error before you get them right, and besides, I like the possibility offered by Ingram to enter as much info as possible (up to 3 genres, keywords, prices for different regions, reviews, etc.).

    REPLY
  • 10th January, 2019 at 21:49
    Alexa

    Hi Jason,
    As I mentioned in the article, everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and not all will feel the same way I did. The article is meant to showcase how my experience with IngramSpark went, and despite following their every instruction, it was a disaster. I’m glad Ingram works for you, and hope it continues to do so!
    Cheers,
    Alexa

    REPLY
  • 30th January, 2019 at 06:45
    Susan

    After using CreateSpace for 4 years, I did a lot of research and opted to use both KDP and Ingram. I like the royalties KDP offers and I like the opportunities afforded by Ingram to print hardback books and be attractive to bookstores and libraries. I set up my book with KDP and get a proof. Once I’m sure I like it, I also set up with Ingram. They are running a special for Jan-March – FREE setups, so I’m working hard to take full advantage. Neither of the companies are as easy as CS was, but I’m slowly learning to live with it. Quality is comparable.

    REPLY
  • 8th February, 2019 at 22:00
    Alexa

    Very good points, Susan!

    REPLY
  • 16th February, 2019 at 04:00
    Francella Smoker

    Thank you, everyone, for sharing. I am getting ready to publish my first book and just looking around on the way forward to doing so.
    Fran

    REPLY
  • 16th February, 2019 at 10:44
    Cath Shaw Truelove

    I have had a very similar experience to yours with similar workflow, customer service and web issues.

    REPLY
  • 20th February, 2019 at 19:08
    Pauline Schneider

    great advice and shared experience! Has anyone had the issue of bookstores deliberately NOT carying your book if KDP/Amazon had anything to do with it? My client(and sometimes co-author) just had that happen. How can new, idie, unknown authors get anywhere with that kind of attitude?
    Very frustrating looking for good ways to publish and distribute inexpensively.
    Just put in a hardback order for my client’s book with Bookbaby and it was hellish uploading and setting up and paying for the POD project. $2k for 100 hardback books which includes POD and some perfunctory editing!

    It ain’t easy being small and indie.

    REPLY
    • 20th February, 2019 at 22:29

      Bookshops aren’t allowed to stock books printed by KDP/Amazon. The free ISBNs that Amazon dishes out aren’t ‘proper’ ISBNs and therefore can only be used on Amazon. To get Amazon-printed books stocked elsewhere (outside of Amazon’s expanded distribution), you need your own ISBN.

      REPLY
  • 2nd March, 2019 at 02:27
    Shawn

    I had very similar experience. I wanted the small 4X6 chapbook size that KDP doesn’t offer, so I thought I’d try IngramSparks for an ebook/book. At every stage I was irritated. I ended with 4 file errors- one for each cover and both internals. If they had given the specific format information up front, I could have checked the files before uploading! After several days getting everything in order, I hit publish and THEN I discover their set-up fees. I’ve just spent 4 days doing set up that would have taken an hour or two with Createspace (far more complex projects, I might add!). I was too annoyed, after all MY work, that they wanted to charge me for the pleasure of the task. So. Much. NO.

    REPLY
  • 4th March, 2019 at 20:52
    Mateja

    Yap, I tried too and wasn’t allowed to upload anything because I’m an international writer and apparently Ingram Spark doesn’t allow writers from many countries to use their service. Why they couldn’t make that clear in advance before I already spent all that time on setting up an account is beyond me. One of the worst user-experiences for sure. I then opted for expanded distribution on Amazon KDP since I already have my books there – all it took was one single click and no more than a second of my time spent on that.

    As for Lulu, maybe read this review by The Alliance of Independent Authors first: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/publishing-allis-new-watchdog-checks-out-lulu/. Based on my experience, I can confirm that they charge too much comparing to competition.

    REPLY
  • 5th March, 2019 at 06:32
    delphine

    Nothing beat Create Space. It was a user friendly interface at every step of the process and even an extremely non tech person like myself could work with it easily. So of course, Amazon took it away. Now I have KDP by default but created an Ingram Spark acct—already regretting. They have rejected my interior files—already in print for 2 yrs mind you—“fonts not embedded” No matter how many “corrected files” I upload, still rejected. And covers rejected for not being “grayscale” I am nearly at a nervous breakdown. HAVe to PAY someone to fix those “errors”

    REPLY
  • 22nd March, 2019 at 14:46
    Carly

    Hello all. I have been using CreateSpace since 2009, and IngramSpark since 2016. It’s a steep learning curve, but once you figure it out, it will be as easy as CreateSpace was. I am also using KDP. I’ll try t help with some of these above situations.

    1. Make sure your PDF is saved as PDF/A, it makes everything pass through their system easier. Word sometimes will not do it automatically, you have to click it in the OPTIONS when saving your document.
    2. Make sure pictures/cover are NOT saved with the ICC profile that Photoshop likes to save them with. Just uncheck the box when saving. If a cover: again, save as PDF. Also make sure all pictures/illustrations that are color or black and white are at least 300-350 DPI. Any sketches or line art need to be 600 DPI.
    3. Make sure your cover contains no ‘true black’, or they will reject it. It has a tendency to bleed. Just moving the color palette up a couple notches is enough to keep the error from happening, and still looks ‘black’.
    4. I’ve never seen a paperback having to be priced that high from within the account, and being a small book publisher, I have personally uploaded many books 300 or more pages. The most mine have cost is $18.99 (retail) and that’s with a $4 profit margin. Of course, it has a lot to do with the options you choose. (See below: returns and %)
    5. Make sure you have your own ISBN numbers. Ingram will not accept CreateSpace ones. Unless you paid the $99 one to have as your own Imprint.
    6. Make sure you get Ingram’s cover template (input your ISBN in the cover creator section of the HELP tab). Only do this after you have entered trim size and total page count when setting up your book. It will help tremendously with your errors (and thereby your pain, lol).

    a. Color will cost more than black and white. Standard color on 70lb paper is a pretty good option. Great color, thick paper (as good as KDP) and lower cost than premium. If you choose premium color, expect your price per copy (and thereby retail) costs to go pretty high.
    b. illustrated or books with lots of pictures will cost more than a novel with none or only a couple.
    c. If you keep their ‘industry standard’ royalty split, of 55%, you will have to set a higher retail price to get profit on your book.
    d. I have had many talks with IngramSpark customer service, and they say it makes no difference on the amount of royalties you give the retailer, unless you want them to stock your book.
    ***If you want them to stock your book, you MUST give the industry standard and you MUST click the ‘returns allowed’ option. NOTE: Allowing returns on your book mean YOU WILL PAY THE DIFFERENCE if it gets returned. And if you ever decide to not enable returns on any books that have had it enabled, then any books sold BEFORE you disabled it will forever be returnable. The cost per returned book (to you) is about $4 USD each. This is total. You WILL pay around $4 for each returned book. They charge back the profit you previously made on the book as well, but it generally amounts to a negative $4.
    e. If you choose not to enable returns, NO place will stock your book (unless you go into the shop and make a deal with them, which likely will include you buying back any overstock as well).
    f. Therefore, don’t give the retailers 55% because it will not entice them to stock your book (unless you offer returns). However, do not go less than 30-35%. If you go less than 30-35%, online places won’t even LIST your book as available to be ordered through them.

    Some errors can be ignored if you get to the file upload page. These would include TOO HIGH RESOLUTION. You can also have them ‘auto correct’ several items. Just be sure to order a print proof to be sure it’s OK. Oh yes, and you MUST approve the proof before they’ll let you order a copy. Which means $25 if you have any changes to the file after that. Yeah, this part really ticks me off, but what can a small publisher do?

    I have had several problems with Ingram, but no company is perfect. Their customer service has been exceptional in fixing or helping to fix unforeseen issues.

    Oh, one last thing. If you have bought a block of ISBN’s, like I have, and you set the book up at IngramSpark FIRST, once approved, you can then set the same book up at CreateSpace (now KDP) with the same ISBN. 🙂 Just do NOT enable expanded distribution at KDP. That is because they use INGRAMSPARK as their Distributor to everywhere NOT Amazon. Plus you get better royalty rates at Ingram. 65-70% if you follow my advice above, (unless you are offering returns) compared to 40% or less for expanded distribution from KDP Expanded Distribution.

    Hope all that helps someone. This is my experience. Yes, they have some things that could be improved. But if you learn to work their system, I think it will be worth it to anyone.

    REPLY
  • 7th April, 2019 at 10:07
    Anette

    It is true that their system comes up with a price for uploading to the system, but if you add their promo code NANO you´ won’t be charged.

    By the way, does anyone know if it is possible to exclude some countries from Ingram Sparks distribution? I am having an exclusive contract with a publisher in Denmark, Germany and Sweden but would like to use Ingram Spark for the rest of it.

    REPLY
  • 12th April, 2019 at 13:57
    Mark Ackerman

    I think the most important thing you mentioned in the whole article was “who is going to pay $28 dollars for a paperback by an indie author? Not many readers, that’s who.”

    The goal is distribution and while being on a lot of digital and physical shelves is great, price is far more important to readers. At 28 dollars you can get in front of 100,000 people and few will buy. But what if you were priced at 14 dollars and got in front of 1000 people. You’d sell more copies

    I don’t like the print on demand model for this reason. Buy in bulk from companies like twainspress.com
    It’s an investment upfront but so much better in the long run.

    REPLY
  • 6th May, 2019 at 13:24
    Darci

    I just published my second novel and used IngramSpark for the first time. I only published through KDP and Create Space the first time. I wish I had come across your best practices, Carly, before I stumbled through the IngramSpark process. I’m happy to say that I was successful, but will be keeping your list and reading over it before my next go. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge of the process!

    REPLY
  • 8th May, 2019 at 15:26
    Deirdra Doan

    Do you know the limit of file size to upload to Ingram I have a large colored picture book

    Create space was 450 megs

    Thanks

    REPLY
  • 9th May, 2019 at 21:55
    Brenda

    Thanks for this blog. I have a read another blog pretty much the same thing. I have used Blurb. I used Amazon for digital. I like the ease of Bookwright. I just sell on my website.

    REPLY
  • 20th May, 2019 at 18:59
    A. Eber

    Agreed. Here is a post I wrote about IS. Subject: Ingram S. And what I found out from a small bookstore owner.
    Trying to find a “safe” place to ask about this, without other authors getting upset at me. Note: I am very grateful for all the resources we have as authors, and the opportunities we have.
    I personally have had bad experiences with I.S. From fee-ing me to death, they also printed the wrong titles on the spine of my books, all the pages stuck together in all 50 copies of both titles, and some printing was off center. I was very surprised, since I thought they were supposed to be better than Amazon in that department. Anyway I write metaphysical books, and there are metaphysical bookstores in every city that I would like to be in. I have struggled financially to be able to visit stores in person. (That is still my goal.) To get to the point, I talked with a small bookstore today, interested to get a look through their eyes, and where they buy. I asked if they buy from IS. They said very rarely, because IS only gives them a 5 – 25% discount, even on bulk orders! Typically it is 40-50 for bookstores, so they use other distributors offering that discount. I had no idea they were practically selling retail price to stores. Some time back, the store ordered several copies of a local author’s book priced at $14.95, and they got 5% off. I asked him to look up my book on the store’s IS page, and it is listed to wholesalers for 20% off, and only 1 book is available. The other book says available on my dashboard, but reads “unavailable” on a wholesalers screen.
    In my opinion, this company is doing very little for me, or for wholesalers. I consistently sell on Amazon every month, and my sales from IS are an extremely low percentage in comparison.
    Someone tell me if I am wrong, or if its just me, with unreasonable expectations. Is there another place for print, that distributes? (Btw, I spent a small fortune on IS just getting 2 print books up.)
    Delete this if its not allowed. Not trying to be negative here, just need perspective.

    REPLY

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