To be or not to be: IngramSpark

I’m going to divert a bit here from my current streak of writing process posts and focus on the publishing.

I am an independent publisher. I have published both of my books in print and ebook format.

When I wrote “Memoirs of a Reluctant Archeologist” (2011), CreateSpace was complicated and not user-friendly. It was so complicated, they offered a paid service to help authors publish their books. It was expensive (+$2000); however, I was seriously considering using the service just because I really wanted my book in print and was getting nowhere with traditional publishers.

Then I stumbled upon Smashwords.

It was free, it had a software machine that crunched your manuscript to churn out an ebook, and it provided more distribution avenues than Amazon. Smashwords was also non-exclusive, meaning I could publish “Memoirs” elsewhere, should I choose. (Amazon at the time was exclusive.) Booyah!

I’m not an ebook reader (by personal preference which I’ll explain at another time); however, Smashwords checked all the boxes. “Memoirs” has been on Smashwords for over ten years now.

Because “Waiting for Fate” has been siting on my shelf for so long, I was regularly checking into how to publish it. During this time, CreateSpace became a free publishing service and user-friendly. And CreateSpace was acquired by Amazon and became Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Smashwords continued to broaden its distribution channels, and “vanity” publishing became “independent” publishing.

I took advantage of KDP and its now non-exclusive distribution channels. I published the print version of “Memoirs” via KDP in 2017 and added the Kindle version in 2022.

The independent publishing world has changed a LOT in the last ten years. What I outline here is just my meagre experience and only scratches the surface of this very deep and growing iceberg.

Enter “Waiting for Fate”.

I know my way around KDP print now. It’s a decent interface, they have Word doc templates that have their own quibbles (of which I’m now familiar), and you can go back in after publishing to fix any (umpteen) errors.

KDP Kindle isn’t all that bad. At least they try. The software that takes your manuscript and churns out an ebook isn’t pretty, but at least you can do it without bashing your head, your computer, or your partner’s head.

For those of you who haven’t yet discovered Draft 2 Digital (D2D), in my opinion, it’s a gift from the gods — it’s divine. It’s intuitive, easy, free, AND churns out a beautiful ebook. Distribution is far and wide too (they acquired Smashwords in 2022). They even give authors a universal link to each of their books so that their readers don’t have to each vendor to find the author’s book. Lovely!

However, D2D doesn’t yet offer print services.

When you publish your book via KDP, your book is ONLY distributed on Amazon. Period. Full stop. There are no other distribution channels. No bookstores, no libraries, no schools. If you like shopping at bookstores, or are living outside the US and want to patronize a non-Amazon online source, you’re hooped.

For example, you cannot buy either of my books through Indigo, a Canadian bookstore with online ordering.

How do you get around this? How do you support your own country’s bookstores while also increasing the reach of your books? How do you get your books into libraries and schools?

I’ve heard that IngramSpark (IS) is the way to go.

IngramSpark has a WIDE distribution reach. Bookstores, libraries, and schools buy from IngramSpark. IS also offers both print and ebook publishing.

The crux of this is: IngramSparks’ independent publishing platform SUCKS.

From Dreamstime.com

If I had a partner, he’d likely have moved out. My cats hide from me, and I paid way too much for my new computer for me to smash it.

My friend, artist and author Carolyn Bergen, had no option but to use IngramSpark for her children’s books. Between her hard-won knowledge, YouTube videos, chat forums, and IS ‘help’, I tried but finally gave up. It was just too much. Besides, I’d rather be creating that putting all my precious energy and time into figuring out how to fix whatever I did wrong yesterday.

It seems I’m not alone in this. I’ve done a quick (definitely non-comprehensive) scan of some independent authors and discovered that they are available through Amazon but aren’t available through Indigo. Either they, too, have given up on IS or have chosen to focus on Amazon’s megalithic distribution.

I really don’t want Amazon to be a monopoly in my life, but what’s an author to do?

I truly appreciate Joanna Penn’s advice to ‘go wide’. Is IngramSpark the only way? God, I hope not.

It seems there is a bright spark in our future, and I am pinning my hopes on it. D2D is preparing a print version of their services. If it’s anywhere as easy as their ebook platform, my hope will be sustained for some time.

Until then, I’m sorry for both of us, dear Reader: Amazon will continue be the single print source for my books.

Further Resources

The Creative Penn – Exclusivity vs Publishing Wide for Ebooks, Print, and Audio with Joanna Penn

M.K. Williams – Troubleshooting Your IngramSpark File Submission

Alliance of Independent Authors – For Independent Authors: The Ultimate Guide to Publishing Wide and Opinion: How Should Indie Authors Manage Their Time – and Should We Even Try?

Indie Author Magazine – Publishing Wide: The Direct vs. Distributor Debate

Draft 2 Digital – Sign Up (affiliate link)

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