Publishing with IngramSpark
This week I did some research on IngramSpark. They provide services for independent authors and publishers by providing services for publishing a physical book and/or an ebook. They also provide FREE resources to help with self-publishing. The catch? They want you do to the formatting.
Here’s a more in-depth look at what they do and whether or not this author will be printing / publishing with them.
Publishing with IngramSpark
When you first go to IngramSpark’s page, they don’t have an overwhelming amount of stuff going on. They have their mission statement, four tabs, the option to Publish a Book, Learn About IngramSpark, or Learn About Self-Publishing. At the bottom there are photos of happy people holding books. It’s unclear if these are all authors with their books (which I would assume to be the case) and/or if these books were published by IngramSpark (again, I’m pretty sure this is the case, but I don’t like assuming).
Being a writer who’s been warned about scams on the internet, I’m pretty cautious when someone sends something new and exciting my way. This particular platform caught my attention with the appealing cost for the services they provide.
If you follow their Publish a Book option, you’ll see three prices and a list of what those prices get you. Below is a screenshot of what it looks like. I don’t have a book that’s formatted and ready for print, so I can’t tell you what the steps involved look like or if there are any other fees, but I can tell you that the Print and Ebook option has my attention.
The best way to see if something is for real or not, besides buying the product, is to research the crap out of it. Here are a few sources I looked at and what I took away from them. Reedsy came up, and after reading some sections and skimming others, I can say that they did a great job of describing when to use IngramSpark and when it may be more beneficial to go with someone else. I’ll be looking into that more later to see what else is available.
The next step when I feel myself inclined to go with a company is to look at the reviews. ALWAYS look at the reviews. The few times I’ve been burned by a company have been those few times I decided not to look at the reviews. Since then, I’ve done a much better job. So, I then pulled up reviews for IngramSpark. Sadly, the majority of the reviews were bad. It’s important to note that there were also only 18 reviews. See picture below for a breakdown of the percentages in each category.
As usual, I try to take reviews with a grain of salt. Some people like to blame someone else for their error. Others like to complain. Sometimes disgruntled employees strike back. Some people are paid by companies to leave reviews. Some people are easy to please. Some leave a review just to boost their rating as a reputable reviewer. Some people don’t do well with technology.
I try to keep all of that in mind and more when reading both the positive and negative comments. That being said, I did see a pattern. There were three top complaints that repeated: poor quality of printed books (skewed print on pages, blurred letters, etc), poor customer service (phone and email both bad), and issues with technology (using their website mostly). The good news is that each of these were also listed in the positives too. I know that should be confusing, but here’s a quick breakdown of part of one issue. The print quality appears to be a problem in certain areas. In particular, the printer in Fresno, CA was called out in 2018 as being very poor quality. Whereas, a person living in England said they were quite happy with their printer’s quality and the binding quality.
All that being said, as you read the reviews at the bottom, a huge red flag comes up as someone claims the company lacks transparency. They went on to explain that there is no way for you to see your book sales, no way to track inventory, no way to know what stores your books are in and thus no way to know how much money you are owed. There was also one mention about Amazon and IngramSpark owning your book? I didn’t follow what that was about, but the rest had me concerned enough.
What I will say is that a lot of the negative reviews called them out as being a poor POD (Print on Demand) company. While many of the complaints were from 2018, the lack of voices in 2019 had me just as concerned.
Another red flag comes up if you go to their website on Book Distribution (also visible above in Photo 1). The US has 3 companies blatantly listed, and one of them is for Canada! Aside from Amazon and Barnes & Noble you don’t know where your book is going. They don’t list how many libraries, schools, etc. or which ones. This is a concerning lack of transparency.
As suspicious as I was feeling after that, I had one more source to look at: The Better Business Bureau. I must say, if I was on the fence before, I toppled over after reading the comments on the BBB’s page. One word: Scary. The main consistent complaint seemed to be that IngramSpark will do the printing but doesn’t care about the condition the books arrive in due to shipping issues. Customer service also remained a number one issue for authors. While many of the issues were marked as resolved, I left the page with doubts about the truth of that.
All in all, I have some serious concerns about IngramSpark. While it doesn’t strike me as a scam, it does have me concerned. To my fellow writers, I hope my search for a POD service has helped you. If you have a recommendation, let me know. In the meantime, I will continue my search for a more reputable POD source.