Here’s some news straight from the buzzing stalls of Book Expo America. There are some big changes afoot at Ingram, affecting authors who use Ingram’s POD wing, Lightning Source.
Lightning Source, from my point of view as an author/user, is one of the finest providers in the industry at the moment. They produce books of brilliant quality, have great distribution connections and are very affordable. Not only that, but LS allows authors to short discount, meaning that the author gets to set the retail discount for their books. Shorter discounting has become common in the self-publishing market, thanks to pioneering providers such as LS, and up until now it has meant that the author gets to keep higher royalties on their print books, which is very important given the higher unit costs of printing compared to digital.
However, LS is being reinvented as Ingram Spark, and although a lot of it will be changing for the better, it looks like there could also be trouble ahead for many author-publishers, both new and existing.
Let’s introduce Ingram Spark, a brand new platform that will be released this July 1st. Similar in a lot of ways to its predecessor LS, it’s a smarter, tightened-up POD and eBook platform. It’s easy to see that Ingram have been speaking to a lot of users about their opinions on LS. The little aspects of LS that may have been a bit inconvenient, (such as the slightly irksome upload process, which could do with about three less steps to it), has been overhauled.
The main feature of Spark is that authors can now publish eBooks and physical books at exactly the same time. Before, authors would have to publish the print book separately to the ebook (ePub) edition. This meant that information such as ISBN, description, and publisher details would have to be input twice. Again, irksome, but up until now there was no alternative, so authors like myself just accepted it. With Spark, the process has been combined. Those wishing to publish eBook at the same time only have to input info once. Even better, there’s a discount of the processing fees for doing it at the same time.
The interface has also been revamped. Keeping the same simple nature of LS, Spark is a lot slicker, and also features really impressive drag-and-drop upload features, meaning that authors can publish faster and without any confusion as to which file they’re uploading.
Celebrations all round then?
Not for me. One big difference -- the sort of difference that's a lot more significant than anything described above -- is that authors have no control over their retailer discount. It is set at an inexorable 55% - traditional industry standard. This seems a backward step to me, no doubt influenced by those distributors and retailers were unhappy with short discounting.
From an author-publisher's point of view, this represents a 20-25% reduction in my print income. It also means I may have to re-price some of my books due to their higher unit cost (the curse of writing epic fantasy, I suppose). This is not just a simple case of logging on and making a change here and there. No. It means I have to change the cover design to reflect the new price, and then republish, incurring change fees at LS. These could range from £25-£50 per book.
Is this a case of if it’s not broke, then don’t fix it? Spark is more of an upgrade than a fix, but Ingrams seem to have forgotten the author in this revamp. LS’s ability to short discount was a major selling point. Not only that, but the concept of short discounting, I feel, was becoming more acceptable for retailers and distributors, opening up the print market for more self-publishers and therefore more content available to the all-important reader. Spark restricting discount seems like a step backwards to me, and that is a real shame.
So Ingram Spark represents a bittersweet change for me, and not a few other authors, no doubt.
Spark will go live for new authors from July 1st and I’ve been informed the dual eBook functionality will go live in August.
Existing users will not be automatically migrated, but instead migrated over time. I’ve also been informed that the changes to discounting will not be implemented on the LS side until the migration.