So you want to publish a book… Not just any book…
Welcome to Ian Andrew’s Guide to Professional Independent Publishing on Demand.
No. 3 – Which companies to use… Paperback Copies.
Like the last post in this series, I’ll make a simple declaration at the start… with a small caveat… I don’t have any professional or monetary reason to recommend any company for Publish-On-Demand (POD). However, I am a member of the Ingram Spark International Advisory Board, but only after I had been using their services for a good few years anyway. So I think my opinions are as unbiased as they can be. Simply put, I know what works for me and why I chose what I did.
Though my choices were far from straightforward at the beginning of my Indie publishing journey. I stumbled my way through publishing the first couple of books and should have probably come to a lot of realisations sooner than I did… But I didn’t. Now you can benefit from all of my hindsight…
Also, there are loads more companies out there, so don’t feel you need to be constrained by my choices either. But, we’re going to look at the two main companies: Amazon’s CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.
There is a major elephant in this particular room. Booksellers, actual bricks and mortar stores, will struggle to stock your paperback as an independent author. This is not because of you, or your books. It’s not that they aren’t ‘good enough’ and it isn’t that the owners don’t think they will sell. For the most part.
I mean, there are exceptions, but not you. Or me. Obviously.
The reason most will not stock your books is due to the discount requirements that book stores expect, and of course get, from the traditional publishers. For the majority of book sales that discount will be at least 40% off the recommended retail price and often 55%.
You cannot control your discount through Amazon’s CreateSpace. You can through Ingram Spark.
Book sellers would also prefer a sale or return model for all books. That way if they don’t sell them they can send them back at no cost. Traditional publishers can do this because they have more authors to spread their risk over. They also use re-buyer and reseller services and can generally rely on a successful author or two carrying the new, potentially ‘unknown’ authors trying to break into the marketplace. They also have reps on the ground to recommend authors to book shops and quite large marketing budgets. You are unlikely to have any of that at your disposal. You also run a major risk of offering sale or return as you will be wholly liable for the residual print costs for any books returned. So it is much more likely you will only offer firm sale as a model. Book sellers, for the most part, won’t like that.
Regardless, Amazon’s CreateSpace won’t allow you to offer anything but firm sale. Ingram Spark will give you the choice.
Finally, book shops like buying their books from publishers. They tend not to like the idea of buying their books from a fellow bookseller. Like Amazon. So they mostly won’t. By now, you may be thinking, ‘Why on earth would I use Amazon’s CreateSpace at all?’. Well the answer to that is simple. Amazon’s CreateSpace interface is brilliant and they will quickly and efficiently list your book on the Amazon’s websites with little or no hassles. So, that’s pretty much a ‘lock-in’.
But what about all the negatives? Simple – use both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.
Ingram Spark is part of the Ingram Group, the biggest book distributors in the world. That is rather a handy thing when you, the independent author, want to get your books seen by the world. That’s the good news. There is little ‘bad news’ to be fair. Except their interface is a bit clunky (we’ll look into it in a little more depth in later posts) and their overall print discounts can be tricky to understand when taken into the context of the whole book selling chain of suppliers and shops. However, if you want to be taken seriously and are keen to get your book sold at outlets (both online and bricks and mortar stores) then Ingram is a must.
They can supply you with an ISBN, but if you are a serious Indie author you will BUY YOUR OWN ISBNs. Of course you will… (Probably gonna need a whole blog post just about those later, but we will get to that…). Ingram, via their parent company Lightning Source, will supply you with a fantastic cover design template. Use it. But use it by giving it to a proper cover artist and getting them to make your cover fit the Ingram Template.
Ingram also have a major advantage over Amazon at the moment (July 2017) for Aussie based Indie authors. Ingram have a printing distribution hub in Melbourne. It reduces your postage costs within Australia by significant amounts when compared to the CreateSpace printing options in either Europe or the US.
So use Ingram. They will have global reach, allow you to set bookshop friendly discounts and their print quality is great. They do charge for book setup (unless you happen to have access to discount codes through the Alliance of Independent Authors) but even if you have to pay, it is quite cheap (in the region of $50 US Dollars) and if you order an amount of your own books you get the setup fees refunded.
Also, use Amazon’s CreateSpace.
They have global reach, allow you to practise with your interior setup as much as you like, don’t have any setup fees, have relatively good print quality and are going to supply your book directly to the biggest bookshop on the planet; Amazon.
Just don’t let them try to distribute it to any others. An easy enough thing to do. In the interface on CreateSpace is a distribution section. Only choose Amazon store distribution. Turn the other expanded distribution channels off.
That way you will get the best of both worlds. Amazon distribute to Amazon with excellent royalty rates and Ingram look after your wider distribution channels.
I use both with success and have definitely benefited from Ingram’s Melbourne printing operations that allow me to order in books for personal appearances and book launches at a much reduced cost. That said, I started exclusively with CreateSpace because their interface was so easy to navigate.
The last word on this is that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing E-Book platform have, in the last 12-18 months, rolled out their Kindle Paperback service. This may, possibly, probably, or will (take your pick) replace the CreateSpace platform at some stage. For now, there is no real clear message coming out from KDP or CreateSpace, so please pardon the pun, but watch this space…
Next time we’ll look at those ISBNs
What they are, where you get them and why you need them.
So as Dory didn’t say… “Just Keep Writing…”
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