Platforms – but not the 70s kind.

This week I’ve taken my print-ready cover and interior files and headed onto the IngramSpark and createspace websites to finally get my book printed. Or a couple of proof versions, anyway.

Last year, in pretty much everything I read about POD platforms, the general consensus was that Amazon offers much greater speed to market than IngramSpark; as well as a much more customer-friendly service, with excellent customer support, easy-to-use templates, file fixes and so on. The general impression was that there was no real reason to go with IngramSpark – unless you wanted to get books into stores rather than only sell online.

Although that is probably still true, fast-forward a year and the playing field seems to have evened out – a lot. IngramSpark have a customer service centre with a phone number and helpful staff, they have a cover template, fix files (for a $10 fee) and tell you what file problems exist so that you can get them sorted DIY.

I’ve been really surprised how much IngramSpark have adapted and taken on customer feedback. Createspace might be the pace-setters, but IngramSpark seem to be keeping up. Still, somewhere my mind hadn’t really processed the latest information about IngramSpark so I was expecting a rocky ride.

As it turns out, so far, the IngramSpark vs. createspace experience has been pretty similar. I had glitches uploading my files onto both sites – though for different reasons. Createspace didn’t like my ISBN – found it too small – and warned about a low-resolution interior image. IngramSpark needed me to adjust the spine width and save the illustrations in a different format. And when I say ‘me’, I mean Amanda Ashton, the graphic designer. Frankly, I wouldn’t have known where to start.

Both sets of changes ended up informing the final product in what I imagine (hope?) will be a positive way. I’m really pleased createspace flagged the resolution issue – and just as happy to have been warned about the layered illustration file.

In terms of speed, IngramSpark came back within minutes to set out the problem issues, while createspace took around 24 hours. But they both got the files through final review and ready for print in about the same time – something like 48 hours.

I haven’t yet received a book from either company. Am nervously waiting. This is the pudding moment – will the hard copy live up to the expectation?

Once the hard proof is approved, I imagine that createspace will have the book available on Amazon within no time (a couple of days?), whereas IngramSpark apparently take 6-8 weeks to fully get the title into their distribution network.

And that, to me, sums up a central point in the debate around whether to use IngramSpark or createspace. Turns out it may be a moot argument. The reason behind my (unoriginal) master plan of using both IngramSpark and createspace is that, especially for self-publishers outside the US market, they fulfil very different needs. And because they are such close competitors (and sometimes don’t play nice) you seem to need both. Printing solely through IngramSpark would mean a long wait for my book to appear on Amazon – more importantly, I’ve heard that a couple of times a year IngramSpark titles show up as unavailable on the Amazon list. Not funny when you’re trying to run with the big boys.

Conversely, many independent bookshops won’t stock titles printed only through Amazon. And another huge factor against sticking only with Amazon is that for some reason they print and ship author copies from the US so that the cost of buying copies for ‘self distribution’ becomes uninteresting.

So here I am – waiting for my proof copies to arrive, wondering what the quality difference between the two will be. And feeling very worried about how the colours come up ‘in real life’. It could be a dog’s dinner … turquoise isn’t a good colour when it goes wrong!

Still, if all goes well, then book launch is in sight – and I use the term “launch” in the loosest possible way. This is going to be a long haul rather than a big bang.

Let’s face it – getting the book printed is a big (and exciting) milestone but just the beginning of the journey.

Thanks for reading!



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