truth about book distribution IngramSpark

The Ugly Truth about Distribution and IngramSpark

Independent Book Writers have been trusting the Print on Demand companies like IngramSpark for around 15 years to tell them the truth about distributing books. But are they telling you everything? Let’s find out.

Ingram Group (IngramSpark) claim that your book listing goes to 40,000 distribution points. Print on Demand lets an author distribute without housing stock of books, in return for a royalty of 35-55%. (Most set it at 50 or 55% and still have okay royalties).

So, I built an author-publishers’ support business and own indie imprint based on these fundamentals. Little did I know that we are all pushing sh#t uphill to get any sales at High Street bookstores.

I couldn’t even get ‘The Nile’ or ‘Fishpond’ online retailers to list my books or make them a bit easier to find, if in fact they did. Booktopia charged exorbitant prices onwards for my colour book, but it is a bit better now that Melbourne Lightning Source printery have started printing colour books again.

Most of us have read about how Trad. Publishers don’t want to take on any more new authors’ books or take anything but a ‘formulaic’ approach. But we thought Print on Demand would be different – as we call the pricing and production shots.

opened copybooks placed on school bench
Photo by Katerina Holmes on Pexels.com

A-ha, but one blogger told about an experiment. Her friend tried to buy her self-published book and looking at the booksellers’ screen, it said: 5% commission, not the 25% that it should have said. (She set her royalty at 40% of RRP, then expected them to take a portion for retailer and shipping). The difference was taken by Ingram’s book distribution arm.

RRP = Recommended Retail Price.

Low book sales report – AUD

($10.78 appears to be the retail price made up by whoever the retailer was – no information to that regard).

Just Like a Bulk Bookstore Distributor Agreement

It is almost similar to if you opted to print 500-1,000 books and get a Booktopia Publishing System agreement. In other words, not using print on demand at all. They will want 70% of book RRP and this goes towards shipping/returns, distributor markup and retail markup. You get to wear the cost of printing the bulk books and the subtraction of revenues for any books returned, unsold. What a great deal, not!


The Actual Game of Book Distribution

But if the system does not enable the author to deliver it for a genuine retail markup, we now know why self-published authors have suffered poor sales and practically no take-up of stocking in store.

And that is why when you go into a Big W, a Dymocks or a Target, you will see the traditional publishing houses front-running books. You will see the odd Lisa Messenger book, as she turned into a small book publisher with sales clout, but little else.

We still can sell through library suppliers though, and through our online web-stores with some creative marketing practices. As well, we can sell through KDP (eBooks) and upload to KDP for Print if nicely designed. Then the profitability is all taken care of, because you are not going to lose through returns or poor consignments.

The only thing is, you may need to advertise on Amazon (AMS) and you will want a nice and high click-to-conversion rate to profit wisely.


Below is the Royalty screen for a US $2.99 eBook on Amazon KDP. At least this method is crystal clear and the royalty is either $1.05 or $2.04 USD.


Jennifer Lancaster, author of five marketing or money books and author mentor, has created a members portal to help Australian/NZ/US authors learn successful self-publishing and help market their books. It’s called Book Creation Success program. Learn more DIY and insider secrets in the program!

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