Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ingram Spark and Barnes and Noble - A Different Perspective

As the self-publishing industry has evolved, print-on-demand, POD, what was once largely the domain of Lightning Source, LSI. Amazon moved into the POD business with its purchase of Booksurge which became CreateSpace, CS.  LSI's parent company, Ingram, is hoping to reshape the POD market to some degree with the creation of Ingram Spark (Spark).

LSI is a more difficult platform for self-publishing authors to use while CreateSpace was designed to be highly user-friendly for authors. LSI's platform was intended for publishers who desired to keep slow selling backlists in print and as a venue for small publishers to gain distribution.

CreateSpace's advantage for authors, and some small publishers, is its direct access to Amazon. Since most self-published authors realize there is little to no market for their books in traditional brick and mortar bookstores, the ability to distribute directly to Amazon was not only essential, it was a game changer as it allows authors to have access to both customers and Amazon's amazing marketing software.

So why did authors want to self-publish with LSI? Simple, the ability to control the discount of the list price. Distribution to bookstores requires a 55% discount. LSI allowed authors to decline returns and set a discount as low as 20%, increasing the profit margin for authors.

CreateSpace does not allow authors this luxury. The discount to Amazon is a pre-set 40% and the discount for expanded distribution is 60%.

While initial views of Ingram Spark by such traditional POD gurus as Aaron Shepard have not been particularly positive, largely because Ingram Spark requires the 55% discount, there is another reason to consider Spark.

If you really think your book has a chance to sell in traditional bookstores, Spark will provide that access. Additionally, if the 5% difference in discount for sales via Barnes and Noble is worth it to you, then Spark might be worth looking into, particularly if your titles sell as well, or better, than on Amazon.

Where Spark seems to miss the boat is the mandatory 40% discount required on ebooks. I am willing to experiment with my next paperback, due to come out in July or August of 2014, by using Spark instead of CS. I am not going to bother with Spark for ebook distribution when I can load my ebook versions directly to Amazon's KDP and Barnes and Nobles Nook Press directly for 70% and 65% royalties respectively.

If Ingram Books wants Spark to grow and compete with CS and even Lulu, it will have to adjust some of its policies and make certain the user interface provided for authors and small publishers is every bit as easy to use as that of its prime competitor, CS.

For authors interested in learning more about Spark, check out Spark's site, and the initial review of Spark by Aaron Shepard and Joel Friedlander, The Book Maker.