Overcoming Amazon’s Primary Weakness


Last week I rambled on and on about the distribution weaknesses of Createspace (at least when it comes to Brick and Mortar stores) due to the “returnability” of physically stocked books. I recommended using both Amazon’s Createspace AND IngramSpark in order to get the best of both worlds.

I wanted to talk a little bit more about why to do this. Firstly, it’s important to clarify your goals with publishing. Hardly any physical bookstore will carry a title they can’t return (barring some personal connection) as a matter of principle. But maybe that’s not one of your goals. Those stores would likely still order a Createspace title if a customer special ordered it… Createspace DOES utilize the Ingram catalogue—they just have a no returns policy. If you don’t care about being represented on an actual bookshelf maybe this isn’t important to you. It might even save you money to forego the Spark side of things (there is a $50 setup fee per title, plus you must purchase/provide an ISBN separately).

–IngramSpark’s setup is not nearly as user friendly as Createspace and most users will have trouble with it. You must be sure to setup your pricing properly and setup the returnability options properly or else you’ve just bungled the reason for undertaking the added work. You should also go into your Createspace settings and make sure to turn off the Expanded Distribution options in the CS dashboard or else bookstores you approach about carrying your titles might get confused and decide not to order because of multiple listings in their catalogue.

–While there are fees for IngramSpark, I’d point out that there are ways to get your title up for almost nothing. If my Inside the Inkwell blog is good for nothing else, I try to provide the most economical paths for indies… When I setup my IngramSpark titles I used a coupon code and got the setup fees waived. I utilized a highly reviewed ISBN service to get an ISBN for less than ten bucks (http://www.epubbud.com). Because I do my own art and I already had the formatted files prepared and could easily convert them to PDF, I had no other expenses. It literally cost me only $9 to get my title available at IngramSpark with full returnability. Because I try and get out to chain stores and do signings (and stores like Barnes and Nobles like to carry a few extras for their inventory—but won’t order if they can’t return,) having control over the pricing options, royalty/discount ratios, and returnability are absolutely crucial to me.

I make the cast majority of my sales through Amazon (the Createspace version of my book). I get a better royalty through Amazon than through IngramSpark—especially since I’m using Ingram as my wholesale option. A person COULD funnel it all through IngramSpark if they wanted, but the royalties go down slightly and you lose the ability to utilize things like KindleUnlimited for promotions… then again maybe that’s not a part of your plan.

Hopefully you’ve picked up on the key element to this post: if you are an indie, you can’t just release a book into the wild and hope it survives and thrives—you’ve got to have a plan. Luckily, it’s never too late to develop one. If you need help, connect with some other authors and seek advice.

For more reading, here’s a great post with more details on utilizing IngramSpark:


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