How Indie Authors Can Work Best with IngramSpark
IngramSpark provides a variety of tools for authors to publish in ebook and print and have a distribution network that is linked to physical bookstores through a facility called iPage. Andy Bromley, of IngramSpark, explains best practice for their platform
Andy Bromley is Marketing Manager at Ingram Content Group and based at Milton Keynes, England. He previously worked in academic publishing, with management posts at Cambridge University Press, Pearson and others.
IngramSpark is over the moon to be involved and supporting the 2016 Indie Author Fringe events. The first of the three, totally free, educational conference focuses on the first part of the author’s journey: writing, editorial, design and formatting, and finally production and distribution. This would be a great time to clarify and answer many distribution questions be get from indie publishers.
First of all, when we talk about book distribution there are two different models that you need to know about:
- Full-Service Distribution
- Wholesale Distribution
Full-service distributors are companies that provide a variety of services on behalf of traditional or well-established publishers with a proven sales record. These services can range from sales representation directly into stores, libraries and wholesalers, warehousing, order fulfillment and back-end office functions such as paying royalties and doing collections. Examples of these companies are Ingram Publisher Services (IPS), Publishers Group West (PGW), Independent Publishing Group (IPG) and Midpoint to name just a few. Some specialize in genre specific, academic or religious content. Typically a new publisher will not have the sales to support full-service distribution partnerships.
So let’s focus on wholesale distribution since that’s likely the model that fits most indie publishers. In this model, the publisher makes their book available to a wholesaler like Ingram who in turn makes that book available in their catalog to retailers and libraries to order. The wholesaler is not actively promoting or selling that book; the publisher is doing that. Since Ingram is the world’s largest book wholesaler servicing 39,000 retail and library partners, it’s a good thing to get your book listed with Ingram. It makes no difference if stores and libraries are built of brick or live entirely online, sell printed or e-books, it is wholesale distribution.
With IngramSpark, print on demand (POD) is tied directly to Ingram’s global network to make for a seamless and inexpensive way to distribute your books. With no inventory on hand, books are manufactured (POD) or distributed (e-book) as retailers place orders. The publisher is paid for the sale minus the cost of printing (POD only) so there are no up-front inventory costs other than a nominal fee to set up your title in the IngramSpark platform.
The reason distribution is so important for indie publishers is that most booksellers and certainly libraries would rather not order a single title directly from the publisher because it’s just not manageable. It’s far more convenient and beneficial for retailers and libraries to order from a single supplier. This is exactly the role that Ingram plays in the industry—being the center hub of the very complex publishing wheel between publishers and retailers.
When you set up your title in the IngramSpark platform, you provide the completed digital files (PDF for print and EPUB for e-books) along with the metadata (book information). In this metadata you will also include a list price and a discount to offer retailers/libraries who might want to purchase your book. The discount represents the profit that both the bookseller and Ingram make transacting the sale. The standard trade discount is 55% of the list price but you can set a range anywhere from 30-55% in IngramSpark. Applying a discount less than 55% can possibly limit the sale of title to booksellers; however, this may be the right choice for many publishers depending on their sales strategies.
Returnable vs. Non-Returnable
The same holds true for choosing to make your book “returnable” or “non-returnable”. Most booksellers, including chains like Barnes and Noble and Waterstones will not consider stocking your book without the returnable option. Remember you can always change your price, discount and returnable options so do what makes you feel the most comfortable. If your book isn’t selling and you are actively marketing, you might want to try adjusting your pricing, discounts or returnable option to see if that helps move the needle. In the UK and throughout Europe we also connect with local wholesalers. These include Gardners, Bertrams, and Libri to name but a few.
IngramSpark also encourages publishers to place orders for their own books that can be shipped to them or drop shipped directly to their customer. This is known as a “publisher direct or drop-ship order”. In the case of these orders, the publisher only pays print and shipping fees (no discount is applied). The beauty of this service is that publishers don’t need to worry about inventory or have books stacked in their garage. They don’t have to invest in packing supplies or be burdened with packing orders on dining room tables. For anyone who has packed books like I have on my dining room table know why I smile as I type this.#IAF16 @IngramSpark Help you Demystify Book Distribution bit.ly/IS-O Click To Tweet
Whether you’ve been self-publishing for years or are fresh on the indie scene, this quiz lets you know where you are on the self-publishing spectrum: Professional, Skilled, or Novice.