Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Switching from CreateSpace to IngramSpark

One of the first things my support team told me that needed to be changed post-haste when I hired them was to switch from CreateSpace to IngramSpark/LightningSource for paperback distribution. They gave two reasons to support their recommendation: the quality of print books from IngramSpark, they said, was superior and allowed for higher quality graphics and images, and bookstores would never ever buy from CreateSpace because of the financial model, whereas IngramSpark gave the needed price discount for bookstores and allowed returns.

As to the first reason given, I've now received my first shipment of books from IngramSpark, and I can see that the cover image is noticeably sharper and the colors are a little truer. My cover is matte, and the colors are dark and brooding, and they definitely came out better in the paperback from IngramSpark.  Paper quality seems to be comparable (I used cream), but the ink print in the IngramSpark book is a deeper black that just looks nicer. As an independent author, I'm very sensitive to the need to make my book look as polished and professional as a regular trade paperback. I do think IngramSpark (and working with a professional book designer, of course) has helped me to have a product that can sit proudly on any shelf.

As to the second reason, Ingram provides the 55% discount (40% to bookstores) and the books are indeed returnable. I found a very helpful blog post on the subject here from Giacomo Giammatteo of the Alliance of Independent Authors that provides multiple analyses and some very helpful math. Mr. Giammatteo confirmed what my advisors were telling me as far as bookstores being more willing to stock books under the economic scenario given by IngramSpark. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I remain skeptical, as an independent author, that this could actually happen. I'm not sure if any independent authors have been picked up by bookstores without having been picked up first by an agent and a large-ish publishing house. But I'm glad to at least have the possibility of it happening.

Here is where I miss CreateSpace--not enough to override the other factors, but just the downside to be aware of. The paperback has only been available for a few weeks now, so I have no idea if there have been sales or not (although I'm guessing not since my publicity is just now starting to ramp up), because IngramSpark doesn't report them to authors until the end of each month. I will only find out about sales on a monthly basis, within a week of the month-end. This may not be a big deal for a regular publisher, but for an independent publisher like myself who is investing in different promotional campaigns and needs real-time information to see which campaigns are getting traction in the marketplace, this leaves me flying blind. Fortunately I still have my ebook available for Kindle readers on Amazon directly (I am also distributing through BookBaby to non-Amazon ebook outlets), and Amazon does provide near real-time sales reporting (24-hr delay). It's like trying to watch an entire living-room full of dinner party guests through a keyhole viewer (not that I have experience in that...), but it's something.

As to some of the other differences--needing to buy my own ISBN's and the fees, IngramSpark was still affordable enough to make the shift. Ultimately it came down to wanting to be taken more seriously as an independent author, and taking the steps I needed to to have the most polished product possible, at the most economically attractive terms for buyers.

Has anyone else made the switch? How did it go for you? Did your book get picked up by any bookstores?

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