I recently recorded a podcast with Debbie Lee from Ingram Spark, and this post is drawn from the second half of our conversation. (Read Part 1 here.) 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.
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.
Book distribution companies on the ground do have a direct relationship with retailers, because retailers don’t necessarily want to order directly from authors unless there’s an existing relationship. It was a great shame that the book distribution company, Dennis Jones, had to close in Australia in 2018, but that is also a sign of the times. Things are changing in this publishing industry, but print on demand is actually a steady distribution partner, if you like. It’s actually growing its foothold in the market, because we do feed direct to retailers.
You don’t have to have a book distributor to be in bookstores, like in the past. But a distributor makes a book more visible by highlighting it in their catalogue, because they have direct relationships with retailers. Even then, a lot of times the distributors would order the books from us and send them to the retailers.
Now the retailer can see that Lightning Source Australia is the distributor on the feed, and they will come to us. It doesn’t mean that they’ll automatically know about your book, it just means that they can look up the title. They won’t necessarily know about your book unless someone comes in and asks for it, or you’ve gone to them and promoted it. That way, they might take a few copies speculatively, but that’s a risk that they have to bear because in Australia we don’t offer sale or return.
They’re not going to fill a shelf with a local title unless there is demand for it and they believe it’s going to sell.
As a business author, you can do a lot of marketing activity online to potentially achieve greater reach to a specific audience than bookstores can on the ground.
ONLINE BOOK RETAILERS
Our book metadata feeds out to Amazon Australia, Fishpond, which is New Zealand-based, and also The Nile. They receive an ONYX feed. There are a lot of online retailers that do take a feed from us, that will distribute or make the books that are available in our system accessible to market.
By supplying us with an .epub file and a jpg cover, your e-book’s metadata can go out to Amazon, Apple, and the 20 other online retailers, including Booktopia. (You can choose to upload directly to Amazon and Apple, using their systems, but there is an advantage with using us as a one-stop shop.)
Again, we transact the sale on behalf of the publisher and we pay the publisher for those sales, 90 days after the month the sale has occurred. You’ll get the reportage pretty much at the end of each month in terms of sales. That includes Apple, and Apple is one of the online retailers that also accepts fixed file format.
You’d only use fixed file format if you were doing a particularly sort of illustrated book—something like a cookbook or a children’s book, if it’s got sort of illustrations and content that you want to retain on the same page.
For your average non-fiction business book, an .epub file which is flowable and can convert to whatever platform it’s being read on, is the best option because it goes out to all the online retail partners that we have.
Amazon will convert .epub files loaded through us to .mobi format and you don’t need to do anything in that regard.
If you actually upload an e-book to Amazon direct, then you can’t use IngramSpark for the distribution.
NEW HARDCOVER OPTIONS
We do two types of hardback. One is just a case laminate, which is where the cover emulates the paperback and it’s on a type of hard cardboard backing. Then there’s the new digital cloth, which looks like a cloth-covered book. Usually it would come with a dust cover as well. You don’t have to use the dust cover, but that’s what most people do. The digital cloth comes in grey or navy.
In the past it’s been a cloth product and now it’s like a case laminate but it’s designed to look like cloth. You can choose to also have a gold embossed spine, which is the title on the spine of the book in gold. That’s actually a nice feature and it has an element of elegance about it. It depends on the type of book, but we do actually advise authors to make your book available in as many formats as possible: paperback; hardback, whether that be case laminate or digital cloth with dust cover; and e-book.
Business books tend to be a pretty standard trim size, maybe A5 or six inch by nine inch, or in that sort of realm. They are often paperback with white stock paper.
But if it’s a special edition or something similar, libraries in the US and the UK prefer case laminate hardback for durability. If you want the book to be more of a gift book, certainly the digital cloth with the dust cover can look really, really special. Then you price accordingly because obviously that’s going to cost more to print.
WEBSITE RESOURCES at INGRAMSPARK
There’s a cover template generator that will drop down once you’ve uploaded all of your book’s metadata and the content file. The cover template generator is really important for getting the spine width correct, and of course the dust cover is part of that. That’s where an author service provider becomes so integral to the process, as they are able to provide what is required.
There are also calculators, which will show the cost of the various options available, when you enter the specifics of your book, such as preferred size, chosen from our list of options, and page number, which you can estimate for the purposes of finding probable costs.
You can also choose internal colour options:
- A business book with just a little bit of colour would suit ‘standard’, which is the most economical, but has impact.
- A children’s book would suit ‘premium’ for high impact, and is the most expensive.
- In between, we have ‘standard 70’—it’s inkjet printing versus laserjet.
There is a dropdown printing and shipping calculator will tell you exactly what a book costs, based on the trim size, the page extent, whether it’s hardback or paperback, and whether it’s black and white or colour, and which option of colour.
Author-publishers can play around with the calculator without setting up an account so there are no surprises in terms of the ultimate cost. It also helps you decide how you are going to create the book in the first place, because it helps you visualise the book and decide on things, knowing what the cost is going to be.
You can also use our list of trim sizes to guide you with choosing the size. It’s a great tool for conceptualizing the layout of the book. For example, when the book pages are laid out and you feel there are too may pages, you can code in a larger page size in the calculator to check how that will reduce the page number and therefore the costs. So there’s all sorts of reasons to avail yourself of that resource.
The Publisher Compensation Calculator actually tells you how much you’re going to earn from your book once you’ve priced the book to market. You add in all the book variables: trim size, page extent, type of binding, whether it’s white or cream stock. Paper colour doesn’t change the price, but it does help the costing process. The other thing that doesn’t change the price is the cover finish—gloss or matte.
Do your research in terms of other books in the market, then put all those variables into the Publisher Compensation Calculator and see what happens if you price the book at $29.95 with a 50% discount versus $24.95 with a 40% discount. You’ll see your return, which we would refer to as the publisher compensation, on a sale to the retail market.
SAMPLE PRINT COPIES
There are several benefits to the ease of our system. If you are not sure of options like cover finish and paper stock, upload your files and choose a print sample which has a matte cover and white pages, and then choose a print sample that has a gloss cover and cream pages. Get them both sent to them, and make your final decision about the details from real books in front of them.
You can also print your first copy for a final proofread. It’s amazing how a typo will jump out at you when you have the real book in your hands (or in the editor’s hands). Your author service provider can then correct the original file, upload it again, and all future copies will be correct.
UPDATE YOUR BOOK
Or if you happen to receive a wonderful testimonial, add it to the back cover or front pages, and upload a revision file. You’ve got this organic way of maintaining the currency of your book without having to sell through an entire print run. You can do a new edition down the track, but it just means that if you want to maintain that ISBN, literally just update it.
- Overview of IngramSpark print on demand and global book distribution services
- Using quality author service providers
- Book pricing & sales
- Book printing
- Book retailers
You can find IngramSpark at www.ingramspark.com.au
Their calculators are available on this webpage.
Bev Ryan provides author publishing services at www.bevryanpublish.com