IngramSpark: More Spark Than Shark!

Today Ingram Content Group officially went live with IngramSpark, a user-friendly online load and distribution tool for small publishers looking to publish books through print on demand and e-book. In a nutshell, this is a streamlined and sexy LSI (Lightning Source) redesigned, reinvented for the digital age and the small publisher and self-published author with smarts and business nous. The frustration of LSI’s chunkiness, wink-wink, nod-nod and countless hours of video tutorials is gone. This is plug ‘n’ play so long as you know the rules. 
Is it a rival to CreateSpace and Lulu?
Is it an option for the self-published author with an MS Word file, a casual understanding of the publishing business and a smile on their face this morning?
Is it an option for small publishers and self-published authors wanting flexibility?
Hmmm… yes and no.
The real power of IngramSpark is ease, time efficiency and go-to-market speed once all the full benefits of the platform are rolled out. IngramSpark is still a work in progress between now and August. I’ve stressed that in the recent reports and pieces I’ve written here and elsewhere on Spark.
Robin Cutler is Manager of Content Acquisition at Ingram, and she describes IngramSpark as an attempt to ‘marry the print on demand technology with our ebook distribution technology together and then streamline all of our processes related to setting up an account making that as easy as possible and then setting up titles as easy as possible for publishers.’ This is a one-stop-shop for publishers to access distribution, rather than designed as a one-stop-shop for self-published authors.
Cutler, in an interview with Joel Friedman from, is careful to underline the difference between IngramSpark and other one-stop-shop services. ‘So if we run across someone and we think they’re better served by CreateSpace or Author Solutions or whatever, you know we’re happy to refer them over that way…’
Yikes! The referral to CreateSpace might be a sound decision, but referral to an Author Solutions’ imprint is certainly a horse of a different colour! IngramSpark is no assisted author service provider by any means, and I think it should just stick to what it knows best.
Here is what we do know about IngramSpark today:
  • It is a one-stop-shop for small publishers or savvy self-publishers
  • File load up is in ePub and PDF
  • The main ebook retail channels like Kobo, Amazon and Nook won’t be online until August
  • Reporting metrics—print will be daily and ebook monthly
  • ISBNs required for accounts, but IngramSpark will become a Bowker agent
  • eBook conversion tool won’t be online until August (from PDF)
  • Print costs and print options mirror what LSI has
  • $49 cost to set up p and e books
  • $49 cost for p only set up
  • $25 cost for e only set up
  • $49 refunded if 50 copy run ordered by publisher within 60 days
  • $12 annual fee per title
  • No proof cost (if PDF)
  • $25 revision fee once in distro channels
  • 55% locked discount (on list price) to retailers—Spark might revise this following publisher feedback
  • 45% publisher revenue on list price, but only after deduction of manufacturing costs
The biggest trade-off for publishers using IngramSpark will come with the locked retail discount. I’ve been stressing for the past couple of months that this was happening at launch but it is not set in stone and Spark is open to feedback from publishers and prepared to consider flexibility further down the road of development if that is what publishers want.
So, in short, IngramSpark looks very promising, but there is a serious trade-off on retail discount. Beyond that, this is a real option for the small publisher or serious self-published author. I don’t see any nasty bites anywhere else, but for many self-published authors with one or two titles, the retail discount will be enough to put them off.
TIPM will have a full test and review of Spark over the coming weeks.

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