Home » Bookstores, Self-Publishing » IngramSpark


12 January 2016

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

I’d been hearing a lot about IngramSpark, but I hadn’t ever figured out why I might need them as a print book manufacturer/distributor. My books were on CreateSpace and selling well through Amazon. It seemed as if my relationship with Amazon was filling the print book need.

At the NINC conference in October, it finally fell into place: bookstore distribution.

I tend to pooh-pooh bookstore distribution.  My pooh-poohing is premature.  I do, according to my Penguin-Random House royalty statements, still sell a lot of print books. The statements are, however, less than transparent, but I’m still going to assume that those print sales are also at non-Amazon retailers. I tend to have a dim outlook on the future of large, Barnes&Noble-esque booksellers, but the truth is that print isn’t going anywhere anytime soon and B&N isn’t the only game in (many) towns.

The point is that some retailers might rather not stock books or order through a competitor…Amazon.  Additionally, Ingram makes international order fulfilment possible.  They not only ship internationally, they print internationally.  This ensures that shipping costs are kept to a minimum and that readers receive our titles quickly.

. . . .

My first question was—can I be on both IngramSpark and CreateSpace? Yes, we can. This means that we’ll likely want to discontinue expanded distribution with CreateSpace (which we have to pay for) and that we’ll want to make sure that we use the same ISBN for both the CreateSpace print version and the IngramSpark print version (or else Amazon will “see” the title as a separate book).

This also means that we need to have an ISBN, obviously, of our own for the print format. Not the free CreateSpace one. IngramSpark does require authors to have ISBNs.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Bookstores, Self-Publishing

36 Comments to “IngramSpark”

  1. following.

    just I think a rumor from last year that if youre an indie you can go straight to ingram for distrib if They accept your work? Might just be more internet dust blowing. But, I wonder.

    Having clicked through to the whole article, it is very enlightening I think, and the comments there are well worth reading as some are old pros who are focused on distribution

    most interesting to me was this speculation “Also interesting is that IngramSpark purchased Aer.io. This acquisition may mean some cool opportunities to sell on our own sites and allow Ingram to do order fulfillment. ”

    Now, THAT would be far well worth the cost of investing in Spark. But wonder too if amz will close off options to be with Ingram and amz at same time.

    Thanks Elizabeth!

  2. Question regarding ISBNs — CreateSpace has a couple of options, don’t they? If I remember correctly, there’s a free option and then there’s a premium one authors can purchase to customize/personalize as seen fit. It’s been a long time since I set up via CreateSpace, but as I remember authors can pay something like $10, and the ISBN purchased never mentions CreateSpace (I’m pretty sure that, when/if someone looks up The Prodigal Hour, there’s no mention of CreateSpace as publisher/distributor whatever. I may be totally wrong on that, though).

    All that said, great idea for sure. I’ve always been against ISBNs for digital, but mostly understand the need for them in print. Of course, I’m not really interested in getting books into stores, but that’s all beside the point and related to my own goals as an author and for my business, so as always mileage varies.

    • CreateSpace does indeed offer a $10 ISBN that will list your publisher’s name as the book’s publisher to bookstores and on its Amazon product page, rather than CreateSpace. Much cheaper than buying directly from Bowker.

    • And, if you wanted to go with IngramSpark for int’l distribution or use a short-run printer, CreateSpace will sell you a $93 ISBN that you can use anywhere. At that point though you’d probably spend the money on a block of 10 from Bowker.

      • I bought a block of 10 ISBN’s for $250.

        That’s $25 each. C’mon folks, it ain’t that much and there are advantages to having ISBN’s for your books.

        Cheap conpared to the costs for editing, cover art, and formatting a pbook and an ebook.

        Oh, and you can buy a block of 1,000 ISBN’s for a grand, if you want. A buck apiece…

        • there are advantages to having ISBN’s for your books.

          Such as?

          And yes, when you buy in bulk you get a discount, but lots of authors don’t need bulk. I’d pay a buck per, but I wouldn’t drop a grand.

          You’re also right that editing, formatting, and design can all cost more, but I’d argue those particular investments (especially) are also easier to justify and demonstrate the value of.

          What’s your ROI on that $250?

          (Note: I’m genuinely asking here. I’ve been wondering this for literally years and so far I haven’t gotten much in the way of a satisfactory answer.)

          • I always understood the point of ISBNs as getting into brick and mortars and /or dealing with other traditional outlets: libraries, both schools and public, book reviewers and so on.

            Literally every book that comes into us for review is an ARC, and they all have the ISBN on them. I suppose a traditional book reviewer would look askance at the absence of an expected element, but you’d just skip worrying about it if you weren’t trying to reach that market.

            I believe Paul Draker commented here a while back that getting into stores was expensive for *him* due to the printing costs of POD. It would depend on your page count, I think. I had the idea that short-run would be the way to go if you reached a certain sales threshold (but what that is I don’t know). At that point you’d have to get ISBNs, unless you knew that both the outlet you were selling to and the printer you’d picked were both cool with not having ISBNs.

            • Thanks Jamie. Yes, that’s as I’ve always understood it, as well — if you want to get into a brick-and-mortar store, you need an ISBN.

              In my experience, brick-and-mortar stores eschew indie titles, usually for myriad business reasons (discounts and returns), as well as some subjective ones (some just seem to be against going indie).

              When you say “us,” whom do you mean? A bookstore or publication? So far as ARCs, you may be right, but then I think traditional book reviewers generally eschew indie authors and titles, as well.

              So I think that’s why I ask about it. The reasons that do necessitate ISBNs generally seem moot for indie authors’ purposes. As you note, “you’d just skip worrying about it if you weren’t trying to reach that market,” or, potentially further, if that audience wasn’t interested in what you’re doing.

              But in terms of getting into all those traditional markets you mention . . . it seems as though if that’s the market you want to reach, you’re better off submitting to agents and hoping for a corporate publisher.

              Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that bookstores don’t sell indie titles. But I’d posit both that it’s relatively rare and that most indie authors make the majority of their money elsewhere.

              So I guess the question is whether ISBNs are useful for either ebooks or indie titles or both. That’s what I haven’t heard good reason for yet.

              • My working assumption has always been that ISBNs are not useful for ebooks. There are only a handful of places to buy ebooks and they make it pretty easy to figure out which version is which. I can’t think of a scenario where an ebook ISBN would be vital to either the buyer or the author. I’m wondering if it would be useful in audio books, to distinguish abridged vs. unabridged?

                When I say “we,” I mean the newspaper I work for. Publishers still send us review copies, even though the book reviewer left two or three buyouts ago. Last I knew the entertainment editor would still get take reviews for in-state authors, but I don’t think he does this anymore for out-of-state authors.

                I will say that KKR’s Business Rusch advice on getting reviews from the media tracks with what I saw at work. If I remember correctly she was explaining how indies could “blend in” with trad publishers in order to capture those reviews and get into stores. I think her advice would work based on what I saw.

                I just don’t see the point of an ISBN absent that particular ambition. I’d wonder if it wouldn’t be better to try to negotiate a paper-only deal with a trad-publisher first. Let them pay the money 🙂

          • @ Will E

            Distribution and search engines. Not as required as earlier, but touching all bases is good to do. ROI isn’t something I couldn’t quantify, but IMHO the cost is insignificant compared to other costs associated with publishing your work, both POD and electronic.

            And then there’s the “validation” of having one’s very own ISBN’s. 😉

  3. I wonder, can a group of people buy isbn’s to distribute the cost IF they bought from the frenemy Bowker? And thanks Will and Timothy
    for that new info. I did not know one could buy ISBN’s for all distrib for ten dollars@ which is much more reasonable. Bowker, seriously, time for disruption, but how? I wonder, if Bowker can be ‘licensed’ to sell isbns, cant anyone? Is it a usa govt program that might belong to ALL the people? I wonder.

    • Technically, no. Bowker doesn’t let you redistribute ISBNs. But that doesn’t explain how CreateSpace and other distributors can give you ISBNs. So probably yes.

      A word of warning: You can’t just put your CreateSpace-formated books on IngramSpark. You have to use their templates. I found that out the hard way.

      • That’s not what CreateSpace is doing.

        When you use a CreateSpace-provided ISBN, your book is listed in databases like Ingrams (which CreateSpace uses as its distributor) as “Publisher: CreateSpeace”.

        Here’s a long article I wrote on the subject: http://hollowlands.com/2015/04/using-createspace-vs-ingram-for-print-on-demand-pod-distribution/

        You can use Bookwire to search for your own books and see how they appear.

        • Does Ingram see information Bookwire doesn’t? There’s no mention of CreateSpace when I searched for The Prodigal Hour on Bookwire.

          And corroborating Meryl, from what I’ve read, once an ISBN is purchased, it’s associated with whomever purchased it. I’ve heard of entities bulk-buying and then turning around and selling those ISBNs they’d bulk-bought to authors, but in almost all cases, those ISBNs continue to be associated with those bulk-buying entities regardless of the information with which the further purchasers than associate those ISBNs.

          • I mis-stated the Bookwire issue (sorry). Bookwire pulls from the ISBN database, not the Ingram one. My error.

            Educational, though, if you’re using a Createspace-provided ISBN.

      • How does Bowker have so much control over this? Are their numbers different from the ones I can generate at my Archives Canada account?
        It seems insane that they expect so much money for a simple number. Sure, they maintain a database, but how much would that cost?

        • Different philosophies when setting up how ISBNs would be distributed in each country.

          Bowker has an exclusive government contract in the US. With bulk discounts, the self-published indie can spend up to 1000x as much for an ISBN as a big publisher. Checking their website right now, a single ISBN is $125.

          Thorpe-Bowker (same company at the top) is the sole official provider of ISBNs in Australia. Checking the Bowker website right now, a single ISBN is $42. It doesn’t specify US$ or AUS$, but that’s no more than one-third the cost in the US. But you have to pay a one-time fee to register to be eligible to buy an ISBN.

          In Canada responsibility for distributing ISBNs was assigned to Library and Archives Canada (a government department). They are free upon application.

          From the International ISBN Agency website:

          How much does it cost?

          The International ISBN Agency does not influence or determine the cost of ISBNs since it is not directly responsible for their allocation beyond the group or national agency level. Hence this task falls to the group or national agencies and due to varying economic factors the costs of ISBNs is likely to be different for each agency. Some agencies receive governmental or other funding which enables them to provide a free service to publishers. Where an agency charges for ISBN assignment the price for ISBN should be relative to the living standard in the agency’s area of operation.

          I think the US has the highest prices per ISBN for up to 100 ISBNs, though it drops off rapidly after that.

          Note Bowker also sells bundles of ISBNs and CopyrightsNow Apps. For example, 1 ISBN + 1 CopyrightNow App is $184.96 with a note that the U.S. Government charges a fee of $35 – $55 for each completed copyright application. Note also that $184.96 – $125.00 (Bowker’s price for a single ISBN) = $59.96. You do not need to register your copyright. Copyright protection is automatic. The way it was explained to me as a photographer was that registering your copyright allows you to collect damages in court if someone violates your copyright. The copyright database maintained by the WGA is for settling disputes that go to WGA arbitration.

          Bowker’s single unit and small bundle pricing seems designed to keep out the riff-raff. Which doesn’t work when the riff-raff eschew print and ignore ISBNs.

          • As an indie author in Germany, I cannot buy ISBNs in bulk. Only listed publishing houses can do that (including small press.)

            I would have to pay € 90.98 per ISBN (including VAT, shipping and handling).

            Publishers have three options:
            10 ISBNs = €27
            100 ISBNs = €55
            1000 ISBNs = €94
            In addition, the agency charges a one-time publisher registration fee of €146, and € 1.45 per order for postage.

            Even so, I find it rather ridiculous to charge indie authors practically the same sum for one single ISBN as publishers pay for 1000. It definitely shows an incredibly bias.

            Yes, they try to keep out the riff-raff, just as Bowkers.

            (Not surprising, really, as the agency for German ISBNs is a subsidiary of the Börsenverein, which is the umbrella organization for all publishers and bookstores.)

            • Shipping and handling for a number? Sounds legit…

              Why can’t they just email the darn thing. Germans are usually a pretty efficient folk. I remember watching our Canadian officers photocopying multiple orders to get a division moved while their German counterparts just picked up a phone and gave a few verbal orders.

              It seems odd to me that the Canadian process should be so much more streamlined. I just log in to my account and I can generate free ISBNs for my entire catalogue.

              Of course, we also have pretty high taxes, so…

  4. Giacomo Giammatteo wrote a couple of articles about CreateSpace & IngramSpark in 2014. If you’re going to do IS, you should read them: http://www.selfpublishingadvice.org/watchdog-ingram-spark-vs-createspace-for-self-publishing-print-books/

    And beware! IS is unhelpful & difficult, at least it was last fall. They are/were apparently revamping their systems, so perhaps I hit them at the worst time. Their formatting standards are finicky beyond belief, especially for covers. You and your designer may have to go around several times. IS won’t help you figure out what’s wrong. They won’t even keep you posted on the status of your project; you have to keep checking the site. And you might have to call them to move your files forward in the processing queue.

    Getting my books into their catalog was a major ordeal (might be easier now), but I did it because I want them to be everywhere. One of these fine days, I’ll get a positive review in something librarians read and I want to be ready.

    Oh, and if you chose Expanded Distribution at CS, you have unchoose that and connect with both CS & IS to get your ISBN released from the CS database. It’s complicated. CS is super helpful, IS is not.

    YMMV of course!

    • I had to have CreateSpace “release” my first novel from expanded distribution so I could put it on IngramSpark. And who does CS use for their expanded distribution? Ingram. It’s unbelievably annoying.

      • I had a talk (online) with an Ingram representative from the U.K. once. Yes, Amazon does use Ingram for distribution, but only in the U.S. (and maybe Canada; he wasn’t sure about that). They do not use Ingram’s global distribution, however, and Amazon’s own global system is not as widespread or as inexpensive as Ingram. So, if you want to target foreign markets, Ingram Spark might be better for you.

  5. I might be wrong on this USAf, long time since I checked, but IIRC whoever purchases the ISBN is listed as the publisher by Boweker. So if you and I each kick in $500 toward 1000 ISBNs and you pay for it with your credit card – they are registered to you. If I publish a book and you provide my half of the ISBNs to me, Bowker still lists you as my publisher.

    Again, that’s if memory serves.

    The sad things is, in most countries ISBNs are free… after all, they are just numbers in a sequence.

    Considering 1 ISBN is 250 bucks and 1000 are $1000, does it seem that maybe the system is rigged against the small/self pubber and pretty easy on a big guy?


    • Yeah, how Bowker has continued to maintain this monopoly in the US is utterly beyond me.

    • I went in as part of a consortium to buy a block of 1000. We have a primary entity who was the buyer of record, and each of the rest of us are registered with Bowker as imprints of the primary. (This is a stupid process, BTW, requiring emails and hand-entry on their end.) The books are listed under the imprint of whoever assigned the ISBN to the book.

  6. My understanding was always that Createspace distributes through Ingram.

    I did a quick Google search and found this on CS’s website:

    “Bookstores and Online Retailers – make your book available to online and offline retailers such as Barnes & Noble and to distributors such as Ingram and NACSCORP.”


    If you read Kristine Rusch’s blog, then you know pricing is important. Your book will not work in traditional channels unless you price it high enough to compensate the middle men after the 60% discount to bookstores. And CS is an extra middle man which means an extra mouth to feed. So your pricing needs to consider CS (which is built into the portal’s base price), the distributor (i.e. Ingram), and the bookstore which will often want to apply their own discount to customers. Finally, you need to make sure there is a significant royalty in it for you as a writer to make your paperbacks worth promoting.

    One idea is for doing two editions, one in CS and one in Ingram Spark to accommodate pricing. Normal retail pricing at Amazon is tough b/c Amazon does not discount POD books by much. A traditionally published book will have a retail price of $16.99 and be discounted to around 10 dollars whereas your POD $16.99 will only be discounted to $15 and change.

    So perhaps doing a CS edition for Amazon and an IngramSpark edition for Ingram is a way to go. Also, you can appease CS/Amazon boycotters and some of the issues that comes with books being listed as out of stock when you use Ingram to distribute to Amazon.

    Personally, I’m just starting. I can’t handle IS’s fees and higher costs. And when I publish shorter books it just doesn’t make sense to pay $12 a year to keep them in print on top of the set up fees. Createspace is easy, one-stop shopping. Also purchasing ISBN’s can get expensive with Ingram.

    Buy your own ISBN’s deeply discounted by logging into your Bowker account with CS and no one knows the difference unless they go out of their way to ask. They should be hooked on your work by then. And you could just as easily do two editions through CS. Do a widely published edition at traditional retail pricing and a special retailer discounted edition exclusive to Amazon. It would be like your own version of a mass market paperback (just not so mass in market).

    I do skulk around in the CS forums, and I have heard though that going (more) direct with Ingram through IS can be valuable for the international market b/c books published through CS are often listed with higher retail pricing whereas IS books have the same suggested retail pricing.

    It’s nice to actually have some good business talk on The Passive Voice. I an so tired of Amazon vs. publishing posts. Everyone really knows whether or not they want to go indie by now. Even when they claim to be debating options, they really know deep down. Being indie is more about having the spirit then about being a good business decision. There is a learning curve, and you have to have the personality–the creativity, craft, and drive–to pursue it.

    • Everyone really knows whether or not they want to go indie by now.

      Perhaps you mean that you know, and everyone you’ve spoken to about it knows, and all the authors of the blogs you read know. But those people don’t constitute “everyone.” just as there was a time when you were starting out and considering your options, so others are just starting today. Or tomorrow.

      Being indie is more about having the spirit then about being a good business decision.

      This may have been your experience, but the experience of others may differ from yours in this as in anything.

  7. IngramSpark, the LightningSource program for small/indie publishers, was very good, epecially for Europeans. There were a few caveats but the best points were that you could order your own stock (Createsace is not cheap if you have to ship to Europe) and colour printing was much cheaper thn Createspace. And also, as the OP says, you were available to bookstores. I even sold to some bookstores in the US and UK (titles in French).
    You have noticed that I say “was”. Why ? Because next month, IngramSpark is raising its printing prices +30/40% for B&W and color. And that makes a HUGE difference in the economic equation for us. A huge dent in our margin.
    High time for Createspace to enter the European market more decisively, by offering bulk order to publishers, printed at their European print, and other colour options. With their present prices, of course…

    • Yes, I WISH!

      I really do not understand why Amazon can print my books in Germany when I order through them, but CS cannot – or refuses to do so.

      If CS would consent to printing my author copies in Germany, thus massively reducing the cost in shipping (and toll!), I’d gladly do so. They could really have a cutting edge…

  8. I purchased a set of 100 ISBNs from Bowker; they have sales from time to time. So now I own those ISBNs; they are registered to me. Both CreateSpace and IngramSpark allow you to use your own ISBN, and when you do, YOU are listed as the publisher. You retain control that way.

    I have my books on both CS and IS; the print version for both uses the same ISBN.

  9. Isn’t using the Same ISBN for different books a no no? (I know, text is the same, but surely there are differences with the different design templates.)

    • I understood the different numbers to be with respect to format (I’m not sure if that’s what you mean by design template). Your hardcover has a different ISBN than your trade paperback or your mass market or your box-set or your omnibus edition. It has nothing to do with a change in cover art. And if I remember, they also have an option to show if a book is part of a series / trilogy (or I’m confusing that with something else).

      • So it doesn’t matter who prints the books as long as the format is the same? It’s considered the same edition and you use the same ISBN.

  10. I did find an article, but it was written in 2011 that was bashing back at bowker for their raising of rates and squatting on isbns. It explained the state of the state pretty well in one place I thought, including WHY bowker is given such priviledges and a couple work arounds also.


    There are also interesting others if one googles bowker monopoly isbns

    THanks Meryl and others for that long string upstream about how Bowker works.

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