Behold! The long-awaited blog post regarding my journey from KDP to IngramSpark. This is a post that warrants a stiff drink and a preventative Ibuprofen, let me tell you, because I can't even believe how needlessly taxing this experience is.
Before I get started, I must reiterate the importance of owning your own ISBNs. At first, when offered a free ISBN through your POD company of choice (KDP and IngramSpark each offer this to their customers), it seems like a no-brainer. Really, it's just the first trap in which you're capable of being ensnared — and while I'm sure there's a way to get out of that situation, it's not likely to be easy.
So, stick with purchasing your own ISBNs through Bowker. You'll thank yourself later.
Another quick note: If you're publishing with "wide distribution" through KDP right now and are interested in transferring to IngramSpark (or vise versa), this is going to be a much bigger ordeal than it would've been otherwise.
In fact, this whole blog post is specifically about the scenario in which you've been previously publishing with wide distribution through KDP and are migrating your title to IngramSpark — which, again, is a headache. If you aren't publishing wide, then the migration of your title will be significantly easier. However, who the hell isn't publishing wide? That's sort of the point of being a published author, so I'm assuming most of you (if you're in this situation at all) are in the same boat I was in a few months ago.
With those disclaimers being said, let's get to the first step in this long process: coordinating with two competing companies regarding the transfer for your ISBN. Two companies, I might add, that both desperately want your business.
I will say outright that it felt as though KDP was sabotaging my efforts to leave their platform and transfer my title to IngramSpark. The process was like yelling at a brick wall. I wrote email after email to their customer support, begging them to transfer the title, and all I got in reply were a ton of canned responses such as, "If you would like to publish your paperback, go to your KDP account and —"
No. No, I do not want to publish through KDP. That is why I'm here, jack-ass.
This is when I discovered a recommendation circulating the internet (amongst others stuck in this unfortunate POD purgatory) which suggested stating one's request in a single, straight-to-the-point line: Please release my title [ISBN Number Here] so that it can be migrated over to IngramSpark immediately. Thank you.
When I did this, I indeed finally got answers. Begrudgingly, the KDP representative assigned to my ticket agreed and told me they would be in contact with IngramSpark. Then, for over a week, I didn't hear a single word. Crickets.
Out of desperation, I contacted KDP support again. They said to contact IngramSpar. I went ahead and contacted IngramSpark — who promptly redirected me to KDP. This little merry-go-round defined the vast majority of this experience. It was like herding cats. In a super dark cave I wasn't familiar with. Without a light.
Anyway, eventually IngramSpark gets back to me and lands the coup de grâce: This is going to take about thirty days. That wasn't specifically what they wrote, of course, but it was the core message they were trying to politely convey.
I was planning on having my book available in two months! Which, honestly, I wouldn't care so much about if it weren't for the fact that August 1st is Eos's birthday and that felt like such an awesome day in which to rerelease her story. But hey, I'm nothing if not somebody who's willing to ride a hard deadline and hope for the absolute best — so, that's what I did, and to my surprise, it almost worked out.
Quick note: IngramSpark charges you anywhere from $50 to $75 to adjust the files (the cover or the interior files, that is) of your book. So, don't mess around with this unless you've got a lot of money to burn.
At this point, I continued to glare at my IngramSpark homepage, silently begging my titles to show up and be available. Three weeks before my scheduled launch date, they did. I have, in all of my live, never acted faster, promptly filling in all of the meta-data (such as the synopsis, key words, and such) and updating the interior and covers for both paperback and hardcover copies. They were ready for approval — which, shockingly, happened quite quickly. (I didn't keep track of this, unfortunately, so I can't recall the exact amount of time it took for this to fall into place, but let's say a day or two.)
Great. Fantastic. My paperback and hardcover books were now approved for me to purchase a proof copy and have it shipped to my doorstep for review. Well, guess what? This is when I discovered the first drawback of choosing IngramSpark over KDP: The printing and delivery times don't hold a candle to Amazon Prime.
Have I made a huge mistake? Was all of this for nothing?
I stared at the estimated printing and shipping time, realizing it'd be (at the earliest) ten days before my hardcover and paperback showed up. Jesus Christ. That meant that I wouldn't see the copy of my books until the same exact day they were scheduled to be released to the world at large: August 1, 2022.
God forbid there was an error in the cover or formatting, as that would require paying a slew of fees to re-upload my files and wait another ten-ish days for the revised copies to show up at my doorstep, and and and —
I took a deep breath. Ordered the proofs. Told myself this was precisely why I had invested in a professional cover designer and interior formatter for my books: These professionals didn't make mistakes. There would be no need to adjust these copies, as they were in perfect form, and everything was going to be all right.
Lo and behold, I receive my paperback copy about a week earlier than expected. I opted for the groundwood paper option — which I will rave on and on about forever more, because it's truly the creme de la creme of POD quality. (I'll write a whole separate post for this, which is testament to how much of a game changer I've found it to be.) The cover itself was a shock to behold, as it was richer in color and the paper itself of sturdier, harder-to-smudge stock.
And don't get me started on the book's spine! The binding was glorious. The obligatory and unavoidable crease in the front cover KDP is known for (and which I'd found offensive for the vast majority of myself-published career) simply wasn't there. IngramSpark wasn't joking at all when they named their paperback option "Perfect Bound."
Suddenly, the wait was worth it. The trouble was worth it. The idea that readers wouldn't be able to order my books through Amazon Prime was even worth it — because, for me, I have always valued quality above all else, and to then hold my self-published title with the level of quality afforded to traditionally published authors was a euphoria unlike I've ever felt before.
Hell, I went and flipped through several traditionally published books in my library, and I was thrilled to see they didn't even have the quality that my book now has. There is, of course, still plenty of room to grow — but IngramSpark shows not only the interest but the capacity for that growth in ways Amazon never has. IngramSpark has offered hardcover options for its self-publishers for years, and Amazon only recently released theirs, and had the audacity to do so without offering a dust jacket! Almost every quarter, IngramSpark is releasing loads of new options for its self-publishers: new hardcover customization options, new interior paper options, new dust jacket options. Forgive me if I've lost faith in KDP due to its obvious lack of innovation and their unwillingness to evolve, but I'm done with them.
Unless . . .
Unless, for whatever reason, the issue of Amazon Prime delivery gets in the way of selling my books. Unless readers value that instant gratification over quality printing. Unless I realize I'm stunting my own growth as an author, etc.
In which case, I might do as other self-publishers have: release my paperback book through both KDP and IngramSpark simultaneously, which is actually legal to do, provided that you're only publishing "wide" through one platform. But damn if I'm not married to the quality that IngramSpark provides, and I just can't rationalize my way out of that. If anything, I do think I'll consider selling more physical copies of my book directly. I've seen a lot of indie authors do this with success. Not only would those physical copies be checked for quality, but they also would be signed and ideally include digital freebees to sweeten the pot — and, of course, it wouldn't take ten days for them to be printed and additional time for shipping after that.
We'll see where this journey takes me, but for now, this is what I'm trying. I'm also, as already mentioned, reviving my website to include a "shop" once again, just to test the waters of not only selling my books directly, but doing so on an ongoing bases (which requires a bold level of self-confidence in terms of how many books I'm betting I'll sell, and not to mention also believing I've got what it takes to package and ship those books on my own). I do think it'll be worth it in the long run, though, if I can.
Stay tuned for another post I'm working on, in which I'm exploring the digital freebies I plan to add to those who invest in my book directly! And yes, I'll be included a free eBook copy of the paperback or hardcover, the same way KDP usually does. And yes, I might also be in the process of investigating an audiobook as well!
Thanks for sticking with me throughout this lengthy post. I've got the feeling I've likely forgot something, or perhaps have glossed over something a little too vaguely, so if you have any additional questions, let me know! I'm happy to help!