Once upon a time, there were two book distributing services in the United States. Ingram, and Baker & Taylor. Baker & Taylor distributes to schools and libraries. Ingram distributes to book sellers.
Then the book publishing industry began changing in the early 21st century. Personal computers were becoming more sophisticated and more affordable. At the same time, new software was allowing people to publish from home. It even had a name. Desktop publishing.
So along came Lightning Source
Ingram created subsidiary called Lightning Source. I’m not exactly sure when this came about. However, I first heard of Lightning Source in 2003, after I wrote my first Luke and Jenny novel. My original publisher used Lightning Source for their distribution.
I began working with Lightning Source directly in 2011, when I created my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. At the time, they were a fantastic company to work with. They were there to help you succeed. If you had any question or concerns, or if you just needed a little help uploading a file, they were only a phone call away.
Then came Ingram Spark
A new subsidiary, Ingram Spark, came along a few years later. It worked with independent, or self-published authors, so I migrated to the new site. Same company, same great customer service. I had a long and happy business relationship with both subsidiaries for over a decade
Unfortunately, times have changed, and I’m afraid it hasn’t been for the better. It all started when I was having some serious log in issues with my account. No matter what I did, nothing would fix it. It’s a rather long, complicated story, so I’ll sum it up by saying that after much frustration and emails back and forth, I was told the problem was fixed. Only it wasn’t fixed. The issue still persisted.
All I can tell you is Ingram Spark is longer the helpful company I signed on with back in 2011. They have discontinued telephone support. Tech support is only available by email only. Unfortunately, the more complicated the issue, the more difficult it is to resolve it by email alone.
In my case, the response to the emails I sent usually asked me for more information, which I had already included in the original email. Each response also came from a different sender, who had obviously never read the prior response. Needless to say, this only made matters worse, and the issue was never resolved. Sometimes you need to communicate in person, but I no longer have that option. There came a point when it finally became a deal breaker. Thankfully, there are now some alternatives.
Kindle Direct Publishing
All we all know, the Amazon Kindle has been a game changer. I started publishing my ebook editions directly with Amazon shortly after the Kindle came on the market. The platform easy to use, and I could upload my files for free. However, I just wasn’t sure about using it for publishing my printed books.
I recently learned that one of my author friends has never used Ingram Spark. This came as a big surprise. He’s been writing books longer than I have, and he has built himself a good following.
He distributes his books through Amazon Extended Distribution and SmashWords. SmashWords also distributes his books to Barnes & Noble. This includes his printed books as well as his ebooks. Unfortunately, SmashWords has had its share of controversies, so I don’t use them myself. I have, however, used Barnes & Noble press in the past to distribute some of my ebook editions. So, I’m now changing course. I will no longer be distributing my print editions through Ingram Spark.
Unlike Ingram Spark, Amazon does not charge you a fee to upload your files. You can upload them for free. So why spend money when you don’t have to?
I was also concerned about the printing quality, but after receiving my first author’s copies, I can find no difference between KDP and Ingram. Both companies produce good quality print books.
Amazon has outstanding customer service. You can contact them by phone, email or chat. I’ve found their phone support to be friendly and helpful. No long waits on hold either. You enter your phone number, and they will call you back. They will also work with you until the problem is fixed.
To the best of my knowledge, KDP does not distribute to Barnes & Noble. However, Barnes & Noble does also their offer self-publishing services through Barnes & Noble Press, and I already have an account with them.
Ingram Spark is by far the winner when it comes to the most thorough book distribution. Unfortunately, because of all the grief they have caused me, they simply aren’t worth headache in order for me to sell that one book through an obscure book seller. I can only hope that they will take whatever steps are necessary to improve their customer service.