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

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 3:
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…

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