I find it exciting that by using IngramSpark, a business owner and author who is about to publish a book will also become a publisher with a global reach. As part of the author services I provide, I set up my clients’ IngramSpark accounts in their name. They then have full access to their print on demand service, as well as their global book and e-book distribution channels, including Amazon. My clients retain full ownership of their own book and book files, and 100% of the royalties. I recently recorded a podcast with Debbie Lee from Ingram Spark, and the post below is drawn from our conversation.

Bev Ryan

Debbie Lee is the Senior Manager of Content Acquisition and Business Development with Lightning Source Australia, and explains the scope of the services they supply in the book publishing industry.  


Part 1


We’re part of Ingram Content Group and IngramSpark is a platform within that organisation. We do print on demand and global distribution for publishers of all shapes and sizes—publishers that are multinationals based overseas, publishers that are Australian companies, and author-publishers (or indie publishers) that may only ever do one or two books.

The head office is based in Nashville, US, and we have a facility in the UK, as well as here in Australia. We support publishers all over the world.

Using IngramSpark, a client can have a book printed and then shipped to anywhere in the world within three to five days.

We also work with retailers to make our publishers’ books available to the retail market. We have something like 30,000 publishers with their titles in our system. They all have their own account and they upload their book files with us. We have about 40,000 retail partners, and that includes online retailers, physical booksellers, library suppliers, other wholesalers, institutions. They have access to our publishers’ titles in our system.

Publishers can indicate whether or not they want their titles to be available to the retail sector, or whether they just want to use our system to print their own stock.

Publishing with us doesn’t exclude you from printing a book with an offset printer (a regular print company) but it does enable you to easily print one book at a time or only print exactly what you need.

So gone are the days where you had to print a thousand copies or more to get your economies of scale. This way you print as you need, and you can also access the retail market that is part of our network. So it’s democratized the publishing industry. It’s enabled authors, who in the past may have had to seek a mainstream publisher contract, to actually now do it themselves.

It’s really the only immediate platform that people can easily access to produce a top-quality book in a variety of formats: paperback, hardback and e-book. You can choose full colour or black and white, and cream or white paper stock.

You’re only limited in the sense that we don’t do embossing and some of the fancier print effects that an offset printer might do, which add extra costs to books anyway.


We recommend to self-publishers that they work with ‘author service providers’ who are experts in the production of PDF files that comply with our platform requirements. The author themselves might be a designer, or they might be an editor, but generally they need other help as well to make sure that the book is produced to the most professional standards, as with a mainstream publisher.

Indie authors, or author-publishers, have come of age, I believe. By employing experts to produce their book files, they get some distance from the process. As the writer, they have collated the information, done the research, pulled it all together and then moulded their book into something that they’re going to be very proud of: but they are not expected to be the designer, and the editor, and the proofreader, and the cover artist.

An author service provider will collaborate and work closely with an author to create the most fabulous-looking books. They can provide editing, design and production support, and create the pdf files suitable for use within the IngramSpark system. They might also create the client’s account with us, and upload the files, or the author-publisher might do this themselves.

Then off they go: they can print as many as they need, and they can also make the book available to the retail market, just by applying price points for the different regions around the world. That sends a message to send their book metadata out in our system to our retailers.


In terms of book pricing and sales, this is how it works: When you apply pricing, say AUD$29.95 RRP for the Australian market, you put a list price in our system that’s ex-GST. So the $29.95 would be, I think $27.23 cents. We feed it out to the retailers in our system. If you’re the publisher who holds the IngramSpark account, you also need to apply a discount and we’d recommend say 40% for a professional book or maybe 50% if you want it to appeal to a broad mass-market audience.

Ingram takes a little commission on the retailer’s margin as the distributor, but that 50% is what the retailer gets, less our distribution fee. You get back on a sale your net receipts, which is your list price less the discount, less the cost of print. That’s called your publisher compensation. That comes up as a sale in your account, so you can actually look it up and see how many books have sold in a given month. Then 90 days later you actually get the payment into your bank account.


As an author-publisher you might want to have 10 or 20 books on hand at your disposal, for networking or running workshops, or gifting. You can also hand-sell to retailers yourself: some local bookstores might be happy to carry a couple of titles, even on consignment, from their local authors.

The other thing you can do through Ingram Spark is fulfil book orders if someone actually orders a copy from you. You can place the order through your account and we will deliver it anywhere in Australia and New Zealand: we’ll print it here and we’ll deliver it to that end address, so you’re not double-handling. Rather than you sending it from your precious stock that you have at home, it’s probably cheaper for us to just print and ship, and you sell your stock more locally.

We can actually ship anywhere in the world, not just Australia and New Zealand. The Australian print facility based here in Melbourne prints for that region. But if you want to send a copy of a book to someone in North America or South America, you select US as the print location. If they’re in Asia, Africa, Middle East or Europe, you select the UK as the print location. That means that it will route to that facility to print and you’re not incurring the same exorbitant freight fees as if you were sending it from Australia.

Also, you can hasten the process by selecting a higher service level. There’s various options—we can print overnight, and we can ship overnight. Obviously you have to pay more for that. If something was really urgent, that can be done as well.


There are various ways that we feed book metadata out to retailers. When you upload your file you have to fill in various fields. The fields include the title, the blurb, the author, the ISBN, the price, even key words and quotes that you might’ve received from pre-publication reviews, those sorts of things. Those sort of nuggets of information are really critical and that’s all referred to collectively as the metadata. There’s also BISAC codes, which is the library cataloguing codes. They’re drop-down fields in our system that categorize your book, whether it’s fiction, non-fiction, romance, etc.

There’s all sorts of fields, and you nominate the way that you want to describe your book because that makes the book discoverable to markets. The key thing is that you can upload all the metadata, but not apply pricing, and we don’t feed that out to retailers. Some publishers only want their book to be printed by them; they don’t want to be selling it, the broader market. But once you’ve applied pricing in Australian dollars, US dollars, British pound, Euro, Canadian dollars, you can choose also which markets you want to sell to.

You don’t have to put the pricing in all markets, but we do recommend that you make your book available as possible by pricing for all markets and pricing to market. What that means is you don’t just convert your Australian dollar price. You actually look at what a similar book would cost in the US for example, and you price it accordingly. With that preamble, once you’ve got that pricing up there, we send the metadata out as a catalogue feed by Ingram’s own catalogue, which is called iPage, to all the retailers that I mentioned before. That’s including library suppliers, wholesalers, institutions, and bookshops that are physical and online.

We feed the metadata out via iPage and via ONIX files to online retailers, and via another catalogue feed in Australia and UK called Nielsen. Retailers can then look up a book title online, so if someone comes into a shop and says, “I want to find a book by Bev Ryan. I think it’s about women in business publishing books,” that’s enough information for them to search for it and up will come the title, ‘Smart Women Publish’. If the customer has given the ISBN, they’d definitely get a hit.

The book seller can then order the book for their customer, and that order will come through to IngramSpark from the retailer. They pay us, and then we deduct the cost of print from that sale, and we pay the author their portion.

That’s the key to what Ingram does that’s different from any other printer. Ingram is actually a distributor as well. It is the largest wholesaler of books in the world. It has the most retail customers of any other wholesaler/distributor. We store the metadata from all the books that are in our system. Any retailer, whether they use iPage or Nielsen or they receive an ONYX feed, can actually look up a title and order it from us.

Part 2 contains:

  • Book distributors
  • Online book retailers
  • E-book distribution
  • New hardcover options
  • Website resources at IngramSpark
  • Sample print copies
  • Update your book


You can find IngramSpark at

Their calculators are available on this webpage.

Bev Ryan provides author publishing services at