My Experience with Ingram Spark

I’m not good at marketing. I’d rather just make my comics. But I do try. I’ve gone to conventions, taken ads out in The Comics Journal, and submitted work to various publishers and anthologies. None of it has done me much good, which, over the years, has just encouraged me to spend even less time on it. Still, I want my work to be read. So I keep trying.

After I completed Carnivale in 2014 and met with no interest from any publisher I submitted it to, I wanted to try things differently. If insanity is to expect different results from the same actions, then I didn’t want to go crazy. So I decided to explore beyond the boundaries of the comics world. One idea I had, and am still doing, was to submit my comics work to literary anthologies. My other idea was to try a different publishing model.

In 2017, I was out of copies of my book Holiday Funeral and I was considering what to do next. I had read about different print-on-demand options, but these avenues were mostly for writers, not comics creators. Still, I saw various accounts of people who had printed their graphic novels this way. Since I was ready to try something new, I looked at my various options and decided to reprint Holiday Funeral through Ingram Spark. My hope was that this would get my book seen by a new audience that I couldn’t access any other way. Since I was going to reprint the book anyway, it seemed like it would be worth a try.

I did that back in June, so what happened?

holiday funeral cover

advantages:
easy set-up
book included in Ingram catalog
entry for book on Good Reads
offered on Amazon
can convert to e-book for small fee

These advantages look pretty sweet and that’s why I decided to try Ingram Spark out. I already had Holiday Funeral all laid out, so it only took a little tweaking to get the book ready for Ingram Spark’s specifications. I was also excited to see what the inclusion in their catalogue would get me. I had tried out ComiXology previously, and while my sales have never been great, I’ve moved some books and been seen by people who would never have read my work otherwise. So I was hoping for something similar (or better) with Ingram Spark. Their site boasted global book distribution with connections to over “39,000 retailers.” It also promised marketing help, including being featured “in one of Ingram’s family of Advance catalogs.”

Sounds nice.

Until you get to my actual experience.

disadvantage 1:
poor printing

I ordered some copies of the book myself to have on hand to sell and I was a bit disappointed with what I got. The cover was fine and the layout matched what they promised. Yet the blacks were a bit streaked and greyed out. It wasn’t a crisp printing. This is, I gather, pretty standard for print-on-demand, but seeing as comics is a visual medium, it’s a significant drawback.

disadvantage 2:
not much marketing help

Holiday Funeral was included in the Advance catalog as promised; I was sent a pdf. But the site also promised all other kinds of help. Yet when I paid my money, I saw that the only help was for layout and editing, which I had to pay for and didn’t need anyway. As far as I could tell, the only marketing extra was to have Holiday Funeral listed on Good Reads. I could have done that myself. But there was one other thing: my book was listed on Amazon. That sounds pretty awesome, right?

disadvantage 3:
wrong Amazon placement

Holiday Funeral was (and is) cataloged in the “self help” section at Amazon. Why? I have no idea. This certainly was not my choice. When asked the category of my book, I stated that it should go in “comics/graphic novels.” But someone, either at Ingram or Amazon, decided to list it under “self-help/grief.” If you’ve read the book, just imagine someone buying it to help them with their grief. If that person is you, then I apologize. I’ve contacted Amazon, telling them that it has been tragically miscatalogued. I have never received a response and it still remains categorized as it was.

disadvantage 4:
no actual sales

That’s right. Besides the ones I purchased myself, I have not sold a single copy of Holiday Funeral with Ingram Spark.

Not one.

I’m sure someone could say that I didn’t do enough of my own marketing. And while that may be true, the whole reason I went with Ingram Spark was that the service promised to open me up to a bigger market and to provide me with marketing tools. As I stated, the only real marketing tools they seemed to offer were the inclusion of my book in their catalogue, the mention on Good Reads, and the inclusion on Amazon. The first didn’t get me any sales. The second is only for people who have already read the book. The third seemed the most promising, but seeing as they listed Holiday Funeral as a “self-help” book, I don’t think I’m being targeted to the best audience.

Overall, I tried something new and it didn’t get me anywhere. If the printing had been better I might be willing to try again and be more savvy about marketing my work more. But it’s hard to promote a book that doesn’t look as good as I think it should. So when it came time to print Sink and reprint Carnivale, I went back to people who knew comics, RA Comics Direct.

So all-in-all, I’m glad I was willing to try something new, but also pissed off that it, yet again, amounted to nothing.

Back to making comics…

Comments

  1. Emmanuel Filteau

    Thank you for sharing your experience!

    I am considering Ingram Spark at the moment. The reason is not so much for them marketing my comic, but to lower shipping cost for customers. It’s pretty hard to sell a book to a market when shipping cost is more than 10$ (I ship from Canada). What I would like is a reliable global retailer that can ship my book within the countries. Since I’m not well known and can’t expect to make big sales, I kinda need to go POD.
    The quality issues with Ingram Spark you saw are pretty disappointing though. Create space was not that great either…

    I saw RA comics direct before, but since they would need to ship them to me first than I reship them, I wouldn’t work for me.

  2. Post
    Author
    Nick

    It’s difficult, because some people seem to have good experiences. But mine just wasn’t.

    Yeah, I was disappointed with the look of the book through Ingram Spark. Previously I had printed it through HP MagCloud and it looked good. So you might want to check that out (I’m not sure about shipping): http://www.magcloud.com/

    Some people recommend Ka-Blam since they know comics. But people say they are spotty on returning e-mails. But it may be worth looking into: http://ka-blam.com/main/

    RA Comics Direct has always been fast and very helpful with any issues, like calculating spine size. And they noticed a problem with my blacks on one book. But yeah, that doesn’t address your shipping issue.

    Do you know of any other Canadian artists in the same boat? It might help to see what they do.

    Good luck.

  3. Cole Davis

    I sell textbooks on statistics, not comics, but I think I can comment relevantly on the lack or otherwise of sales. Distribution is one thing, marketing and sales quite another. Ingram Spark can make your book available everywhere, but in general the author has to market. Even when published conventionally – and I have been – the author has to, I repeat, market. You have to find reviewers and get people to read copies and review them on Amazon and Goodreads. Only then will you sell. And even then it’s an uphill climb.

  4. Post
    Author
    Nick

    I can always do better at marketing. It’s especially difficult with comics because the market is so small, especially for alternative works. I admit I need help, new ideas, et cetera. But my overall point is that Ingram Spark promised marketing help, but actually didn’t offer much at all. There was no advantage to using it than using other methods I’ve used in the past. In fact, it was worse. And in general, I think print-on-demand just isn’t good for comics. The print standards are too low.

  5. Tobias

    Our Author’s proof copy that supposedly shipped from IngramSpark/lightningsourceUK 30th of May hasn’t arrived yet (19th of June). What are the odds that a normal book shipping gets lost during shipping from UK to Norway? While other shippings from online stores from both UK & USA arrive?

    Our book is out of stock on amazon.com and
    “Usually dispatched within 1 to 2 months” on amazon.co.uk
    Out of stock on amazon.de
    And basically every amazon worldwide.

    We are loosing buyers, as we told them the book is available now and it says now says “Delivery time 1 to 2 months” … this is horrible!

    We asked IngramSpark support, they said Amazon doesn’t update their systems more than once or twice a month. But they have shipped every order they have received.

    So basically
    – IngramSpark blames Amazon, and Amazon blames Ingram!
    – Amazon Author Support says IngramSpark/lightningsource doesn’t ship their orders to them that’s why they are out of stock
    – We don’t get our author’s copy from lightningsourceUK
    – Hearing back from Ingram support usually takes 24h per email, which usually doesn’t help, so I have to follow up which again takes 24h or more, so I have been talking to Ingram in the USA and UK/International since over two weeks now, several time the chat support was offline during working hours too and still no solution after 3 weeks.
    – We know of two people who have gotten order confirmations from Amazon and estimated dates of arrival, only for that date to pass without a word and after they got an email from Amazon, having to confirm that they still want to order the book. Ingram is clearly not printing and delivering.
    – We know of 1 person from UK who has gotten the book and thanked us. She received the book after just one week.
    – We know of several people who have ordered the book despite the “out of stock” and getting word that Amazon doesn’t know when they will receive the book.

    So basically Ingram blames Amazon and Amazon blames Ingram. Either way, really great, author- & customer service!

    This is highly frustrating!

  6. Lily

    Really interesting reading your experience – I’ve been dabbling with indie book publishing (so not comics..yet) and funnily enough, I stumbled upon your post because I was Googling “Ingram alternatives” because I’ve begun to REALLY hate the service.

    I didn’t sign up for the marketing services since I have some slight knowledge of it & I’m teaching myself more about it, but I was hoping the distribution would be helpful. Buuuut like the previous poster Tobias, our book is listed as “will ship in 1-2 months” which is ridiculous. We’ve also had to wait weeks and weeks and weeks for copies to arrive in poorly printed conditions.

    So my little team and I have just decided to use Ingram as a wholesale printer and we’re using CreateSpace on Amazon for all Amazon related prints. However, as we’re working on Volume 2 of our anthology, we’re thinking of using something else to avoid the Ingram headaches.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.