I just wrapped up my first experience self publishing with IngramSpark and an author client. My initial impressions:
- The experience has added much value to my business offerings.
- I had a doll of a client for my introduction to self publishing.
- And I am so proud to have been a part of such a positive contribution to the field of early childhood development.
To clarify, the services I provided were unique in their scope. What I mean is that I did the copy editing, design (including cover and layout), proofreading, some publishing research, and a little last-minute photo retouching.
In addition, because I was the copy editor, I was able to make content recommendations throughout the design process. These last tweaks included final additions such as reviewer quotes and back-of-the-book descriptions.
Reflecting on Self Publishing with IngramSpark
Now that the process has wrapped up, I’ve been reflecting on the most challenging aspects. I’ve also been noting a few things I wish I had known at the start.
So here’s my list of five tips, plus a bonus, I wish I’d known going into this process of self publishing with IngramSpark. These points will be heavy on my mind next time around, and I recommend other freelance designers and editors take note!
1. Beware of revision fees when self publishing with IngramSpark.
We ended up publishing all formats, including the print edition, with IngramSpark because it’s the leader in self publishing. However, besides having notoriously inefficient customer service, IngramSpark loves to charge a revision fee of $25 for each file.
Now, I did know this going into self publishing with IngramSpark, but I did not understand that “each file” means the cover (1) and the interior file (2).
That’s two files, so if you need to change both after IngramSpark has generated an eproof for you to approve, IngramSpark charges $50. That is already a pretty hefty fee, but that adds up if you need to do multiple test runs. I’ll talk about that more down this list.
2. Paper weights have dramatically different effects.
If you’re going to print in color, paper weight is very important. We decided to go with the lightest and cheapest weight, 50 lb, to keep the price of the book down. However, the 70 lb weight is really the most ideal for photos.
We had about three photos in each chapter, which is the main reason we had to do multiple print runs. With each test, we tweaked certain photos and held our breath that those would be the winners.
We did do a test run with a local printer, but they only had 60 lb paper. That test run turned up deceptively beautiful pages, so we were quite disappointed when we got the first printed copies from IngramSpark.
If you or your client have access to a professional printer with 50 lb paper, try a few test pages there. Both of you will save time and money before self publishing with IngramSpark.
3. Using cover templates can be challenging when self publishing with IngramSpark.
IngramSpark provides cover templates. These templates are useful and easy to obtain from its website without even having to sign into an account.
However, being new to this game of self publishing with IngramSpark, I found the spine guides a bit challenging. With each paper weight change, you have to get a new cover template. That’s because the spine has to be wider to make up for the thickness of the pages. You also need a new one for each change in page count, obviously.
In the beginning, I found this challenging to grasp because I struggled to get my image to fit on the page properly. My image was a bit complicated in that the back cover was split up into several pieces. The pieces combined to mimic a large forested background that was actually quite small in the original photograph shown on the front cover.
Fortunately, the cover turned out great and the “pieces” were not at all obvious. However, it was difficult to reinsert them into each new template revision. In short, make room in your budget for revisions if you have a complex cover design when self publishing with IngramSpark!
4. Printing takes a long time.
When you submit a new file or two, be aware that it takes up to two days for IngramSpark to process it before you can order a print copy. But the next thing I didn’t know was that I should wait until the first order has been printed before submitting new files.
Basically, we thought we would get a print run on the 70 lb weight first. Then we would immediately submit files in the 50 lb weight. The result was that we both got the 50 lb weight.
I complained to IngramSpark and was briskly informed after waiting four days for a reply that I should have been more patient. Basically, I should have waited almost two weeks before asking for another print run or just set up a new title—for a $49 fee plus the cost of an additional ISBN, of course.
I gently then asked what can they do about the inconvenience since it is not clear on their website when self publishing with IngramSpark. After another four days, I got a promo code for revision fees. That timing turned out well because I needed to submit new files the very next day.
In conclusion, all this takes a long time, not only because you have to wait for the files to be processed, printed, and then sent to you, but also because IngramSpark customer service is sluggish at best and the online chat option is hit or miss and not really all that helpful from my experience.
Right at the end of this process of self publishing with IngramSpark, I joined the #IngramSparkAuthor Community Facebook group. That is how I found out that I could message IngramSpark through its own Facebook page. The difference was remarkable. I got someone on chat within an hour or two each time, and my issues were resolved the same day.
The rep I worked with was named Patrick. Patrick sure saved the day when we were having issues with transferring my account over to the author’s. We needed it fixed fast to stay on target with the intended distribution date (which had been delayed from late October to early February).
5. A fast-paced schedule is relative when self publishing with IngramSpark.
We were naïve about self publishing with IngramSpark. The author and I had a productive first conversation in August, I got started on copyediting in September, and we finished the content revisions with no delay by the end of that month. Then when we discussed the design schedule, I actually suggested that we could have it all done in a few weeks!
The first week was cool, we decided on a basic layout and maybe got held up a day or two. Then we needed to do some research on self-publishing logistics and that’s when we had our first real delay.
We ended up pushing our initial test run to just before Thanksgiving (late November), with the innocent assumption that we would then publish in early December. That would have been just about five weeks later than originally determined.
When we got our first copies of the book, we realized that a few things needed tweaking, especially those photos on 50 lb paper. Another two weeks later, and we got the next version.
We only had to tweak two photos then, finalize the back cover, edit the acknowledgments, and provide new metadata. But since it was a couple days before Christmas, we didn’t get the final test run until early January.
This final run was the winner, but then we started to look into the ebook edition. We originally thought we would go with Draft2Digital, which has excellent customer service. However, D2D couldn’t get us the colorful headings and photos that self publishing with IngramSpark seemed to promise.
The final conclusion was that we would have to wait another two weeks while IngramSpark converted the paperback to EPUB and then decide if we were happy with it.
Then! Once the EPUB was converted, IngramSpark neglected to send the author a link to the file. They did proudly proclaim, however, that the book had been put into distribution! A couple days later, we had discovered the Facebook chat option I mentioned earlier and were able to get a file to look at.
To our pleasant surprise, the EPUB looked great, and we published both editions on February 1, 2021. That was just a little more than three months later than our original target.
Always, always, always set up the account in the author’s name when self publishing with IngramSpark. I followed some bad advice somewhere out there in the cyber ether and set up the account in my name.
As a result, I had some painfully anxious moments later when I realized it could take up to a month to transfer the account over to the author. I was also warned that she might need all new ISBNs in the process. Fortunately, we worked it out in the end, and it didn’t take as long as expected. But, just save yourself the stress and don’t risk it!
Final Thoughts on Self Publishing with IngramSpark
Although I may have bashed IngramSpark quite a bit for customer service and seeming overcharges, the resulting product is beautiful and well worth it. That’s especially if you’ve already been through the process once and know what to expect.
Takeaway #1: Have a Realistic Timeline
Even if you and your client are fast workers, production is bound to hold you up at some point. And that’s the game in publishing in general as I’ve gleaned from others working in the field.
Takeaway #2: Consider the Time of Year
We began the design process shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday in the United States, which is closely followed by Christmas and New Year’s. If you publish any other time of year, you might not be held up as much as we were. At one point, IngramSpark was warning customers that, due to the holiday season, print runs could take up to 10 days before even being shipped out!
Takeaway #3: Keep Track of Your Costs
When self publishing with IngramSpark, be sure your client has a solid budget. Also, suggest that the author have a contingency allowance of about 20% more for those unplanned expenses like additional test runs or last-minute photo tweaking.
Takeaway #4: Establish a Good Team
The fact that I can both edit and design probably kept us from being even four or more months later than originally planned because we didn’t have to call on an editor for last-minute proofreading. If you don’t have such a skill set yourself, be prepared to need extra time at the end for someone who can’t just hop in whenever they are needed.
I hope this post has been helpful to you as you embark on your own adventure of self publishing with IngramSpark. To keep up to date on my weekly blog posts, learn tips on freelancing, and get my ebook Quick Guide to Freelancing (for free!), be sure to sign up for my newsletter.
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