Fit to Print? 2: What I’ve been doing and all about IngramSpark

A little over a year ago, I wrote a post comparing two of the biggest players in the Publish On Demand (POD) service for self-published authors, Lightning Source Inc. (LSI) and Amazon’s Createspace (CS), as well as discussing to a smaller extent Lulu and Blurb.  (Original Post: Fit to Print? My take on CreateSpace vs. Lightning Source). In short, I explained that from an economic perspective, LSI was my preferred service as it had a better overall royalty scheme versus Createspace, though its cost-to-publish was higher. I wanted to circle back to these observations and share some of my experiences this year, as well as highlight LSI’s new service that may be a good match for some self-published authors.

Since last year, I’ve put out three books: my contemporary romance/chicklit Have Gown, Will Wed; a new adult romance, Compliments, published under the pen name Mari K. Cicero, and a rewritten edition of my first book, 12.21.12 (now titled 12.21.12: The Vessel).

As a contemporary romance, I wanted to have the widest distribution of Gown with the least work, and maintain my ability to fluctuate the price, hence I went with LSI. Compliments was written under a different pen name for several reasons (discussed here). I initially wanted some distance from my existing titles for those reasons. I also did not anticipate need for many author copies as I don’t do many events requiring stock. So, I decided to go with Lulu. Mind you, because I did this, the cover price of the paperback is higher than I’d like. Lulu didn’t require me to spend a lot of time or money on formatting as their interface is pretty easy, however, and didn’t require funding. (I’ve been looking through my records to confirm, but I believe I only paid for ten copies of my paperback to have on hand for giveaways.) Lulu allowed me to include my title in Ingrams, so it’s also available on sites like Amazon and BN.

As Vessel was the third edition of an all-ready published book, I chose to publish through Createspace so that the title could maximize the benefit of being available from two Amazon entities (it’s also now been released in audio through Audible, so that’s three venues where the cross-media presence folds back in and strengthens the title). Again, there was little out-pocket expense here ($10 to register the ISBN in my name instead of Createspace, which is something I HIGHLY suggest all authors do. Even though Amazon still owns the ISBN and you can’t use it with other vendors, it gives the book a heightened sense of professionalism for very little investment.).

You may ask, have I reversed my original conclusion that LSI offered the superior choice? Actually, no. I did say, however, that there were times when another vendor might make sense. In my case, the two titles I put out through Createspace and Lulu were likely to have very few paperback sales, so investing even the small amount to publish through LSI didn’t make sense. That $125, while not a lot of money in the grand scheme of things, does present a barrier to choosing LSI. Perhaps for that reason, they now offer a service custom-tailored to self-publishing authors, IngramSpark (IS). IS offers many of the advantages of LSI that I talked about in my original article: more size/format choices, better distribution, cheaper author copies, and more control of image and brand. Titles are automatically listed in the Ingrams catalog, and available to both online retailers and brick and mortar stores. The cost to publish is also less than LSI’s B2B operation, with a flat $49 processing fee which allows you to simultaneously publish print and an ebook, if you so chose. (You can publish an ebook solo for $25.) The huge drawback to this is the loss of control over the wholesale discount rate. Because IS’s major advantage seems to be allowing self-published authors to have their titles available for order from brick and mortar stores (many indie bookstores will not order CS titles, even if they’re listed in Ingrams), IS determined it needed to maintain control over this mechanism, locking clients into either a 40% or 55% wholesale rate. Whether that works for you will depend on what your goal is. If you’re experiencing demand for your print book from traditional bookstores who refuse to order from CS, IS could be a good option for you to provide stock in a way agreeable to them and easy for you. If, like me, you’re looking at providing stock for online retailers and the lion’s share of your books sell through Amazon, I still think LSI (or CS) is a better choice.

On the whole, I can’t see how the ebook publishing option through IS is good for anyone with the exception perhaps of titles that may be graphic heavy. KDP offers a 35% royalty option often selected by those whose royalties would otherwise be eaten up by download surcharge fees at the 70% royalty level.  Pushing out through IS would allow an additional 5% in royalties.

So, consider the above and decide what works for you. One additional note: To date, I’ve had nothing but positive customer service experiences with LSI, but I have heard back from a number of people who have said they’re not finding the same is true on the IS side. Whether this is because of something deficient at IS, or because it’s just growing pains from new authors as they learn the process, I cannot say. If you’ve had customer service issues, positive or negative,with either LSI or IS, please share.

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