With all the options available for self-publishing these days, and how easy it is to do, you might be wondering if you can manage some of your distributors yourself to cut out the middle man and earn more money.
After researching royalty rates through IngramSpark, Amazon KDP, and Barnes and Noble Press, I wondered if I could distribute myself through all three services if I have my own ISBN and don’t let them assign me a free one.
It is difficult to get your books in libraries, schools, indie bookstores, etc. as an indie author. Using IngramSpark would make that hurdle much easier to jump and is something Amazon KDP and Barnes and Noble Press don’t offer.
So, I reached out to IngramSpark with this question:
Q. Can I choose what partners I want IngramSpark to distribute to? For example, can I distribute to Amazon and B&N myself (I have my own ISBN) and have IngramSpark to deliver everywhere else? (libraries, bookstores, etc)?
Three hours later, IngramSpark sent me this reply.
Brad P. (IngramSpark)
Mar 29, 2021, 6:10 PM CDT
If you are using IngramSpark for distribution, individual retailers can’t be selected to receive or not receive your title. The information for your title is sent to everyone in Ingram’s global distribution network.
IngramSpark Customer Support Team
At first, I accepted this answer as “No, you cannot use both” but I kept digging when I downloaded IngramSpark’s PDF on the merits of paid vs unpaid ISBNs and came across this little tidbit:
Distribution: if you purchase your ISBN, you can publish it on other platforms. IngramSpark distributes your book to Amazon, but if you wanted to publish through IngramSpark and Amazon directly, you cannot use either platforms’ free ISBN to upload your book to the other. Owning your own ISBN allows you more distribution freedom than free ISBNs.
This got me thinking, perhaps I asked the wrong question because I am imagining their interface based on my experience with my music distributor’s interface where we can choose which platforms the music is sent to.
So, my next step was to actually create an IngramSpark account to get a peek at their terms and conditions, see the flow of their UI, and discover what options are available when you’re setting your book up in their system. This was going to require some rolling-up of my sleeves.
When you sign up for an IngramSpark account, you see this:
As you can see, there are separate agreements covering ebook distribution to Amazon that are OPTIONAL agreements.
My next step was to read through IngramSpark’s UserGuide to see if I could clear this up. Here’s what I found on page lucky number 13:
The part that stood out to me was this:
You can have your book in your own IngramSpark account and available for sale through Ingram’s global distribution network AND have it in your Amazon CreateSpace or Kindle Publishing (KDP) account, so long as you do not use their Expanded Distribution option.
Questions Questions and More Questions
- But since the optional agreements concerning distribution to Apple and Amazon clearly say they deal with ebooks, how does this affect existing paperback distribution through Amazon KDP?
- What happens if a book is distributed through Barnes and Noble Press and then distributed through IngramSpark? Does it violate the terms? Or does the Barnes and Noble Press agreement supersede IngramSpark’s if it was created first?
I don’t know the answer, but I’ll keep digging until I find out. I’ve got another email out to IngramSpark’s Customer Support and will update this blog with information as I get it.
Update April 1, 2021:
I received another email from IngramSpark’s customer support that was AMAZINGLY HELPFUL! (He spelled my name wrong, but that’s ok)
If you want to use both IngramSpark and Amazon KDP, you can do that. Just be sure you don’t select the Expanded Distribution service they offer. This article should explain more about it: Amazon: Can I Set Up My Print Book With KDP and IngramSpark?
IngramSpark Customer Support Team
YAY!!! I finally got the answer. As per the webpage Brad sent me:
IngramSpark is non-exclusive. You can set up your book on your IngramSpark account and sell it through our global distribution network, plus you can use other printers, distributors, fulfillment services, or any companies you choose to work with.
The problem is on Amazon’s side, because the expanded distribution on Amazon locks you into their service. Furthermore, Amazon KDP actually USES Ingram for their expanded distribution, so in reality, Amazon is the middle man!!!
The plot thickens.
Then there’s this juicy tidbit:
If you want your book available through IngramSpark and Amazon, unless something has changed at KDP, you would have to remove expanded distribution services and have the title, ISBN, and files transferred to your IngramSpark account, which you would activate first. Then your book could be available through Ingram and Amazon. If you decide to do this, there is a transfer process and an addendum that has to be completed by you, the publisher, and KDP would have to approve the transfer.
Note about ebooks:
If you have provided any e-books to Amazon for the Kindle in the past 12 months we will not be able to provide service to Kindle through the IngramSpark program. If it’s been at least 12 months since you uploaded any ebook titles to Kindle on your own, you can use IngramSpark to supply your ebooks to Kindle by accepting and signing the Amazon agreement.
So, there’s the answer. Yes, you can distribute through IngramSpark and Amazon KDP at the same time… as long as you’re not using KDP’s expanded distribution and as long as you pay attention to that note about ebook distribution above and make sure there’s no conflict. Furthermore, your ebook cannot be enrolled in KDP Select, which gives Amazon exclusivity over the ebook distribution.
As far as my other question regarding whether or not IngramSpark can deliver the hardcover format of a book to Amazon if KDP is handling the paperback/ebook. I reached out to an Amazon representative and they said that it should automatically link up if the metadata matches exactly. IngramSpark’s representative also confirmed that yes, the hardcover would still be distributed to Amazon.
Hope this article was helpful! Good luck on your publishing journey.