The Book Business Phase 1.5: Distribution and Printing Updates

Hello Readers,

Welcome back and thank you for taking the time to read our updates. In our last post, we talked about how and why our storefront has changed. This week, we’re going to update you on changes to our printing and distribution.

gray elephant figurine

The main change we’re making is we’re walking away from IngramSpark.

After all that investment into IngramSpark, why are we leaving? It’s almost entirely a quality issue. Although IngramSpark is still the best option to widely distribute your hardcover book in a cost-conscious way, we’re willing to pay more for a better product, even at the cost of having our books taken off those wide-distribution lists.

The Quality Problem

Check out this picture we snapped of one of the spreads from I Pooped and It Was Amazing.

Depending on your screen quality and size, you may not be able to see all the differences between these books. Listed out, though, the differences are:

  1. The top book does not have that glossy sheen.
  2. The top book is less vibrant. So much less that standing across the room, we can see the difference.
  3. The top book has paper that feels cheap. Not very satisfying. Not what you want in a book.

Self-published books already have a reputation for being, to put it bluntly, not as good as traditionally published books. There can be typos and formatting errors that slip through, poorly designed covers and graphics, odd font choices, and let’s not forget to mention the quality of the text itself. So if you have cleared your manuscript of typos and errors, and you have a fantastic cover, graphics, and font, and you know your story is top-notch, the last thing you want is for the paper it’s printed on to turn readers away.

Frankly, our oldest child said it best:

The first book feels like a school project stapled together and the second book feels like a real book.

Oldest Child

I’m sure it’s apparent already that the top book is our IngramSpark (Lightning Source) print. The second book came from Lakeside Press.

Right out of the box, our proof from Lakeside Press was clearly superior. The spine glue is visibly thicker, and holding better than many of the IngramSpark books (in several Ingram books, the pages were falling out upon the initial read of the book.) The paper feels and looks so much better that we immediately contacted IngramSpark support and asked them to take down our hardcover books from distribution.

Everything about the new book print was what we dreamed of when we wanted to get into this book business.

The Distribution Problem

woman sitting in front of macbook

Now that we have secured an amazing new printer, how do we distribute our books into the world?

Well, this is the problem we face now. Most of the distributors we’ve researched that will actually work with small publishers require an application to join their club.

These applications typically ask things like: what have you published so far? What are you going to publish over the next 12 months? What is your publishing plan?

For us, this is an issue right now. Our current business plan puts us in the realm of publisher service provider rather than a publisher. This is because we are not actively pursuing manuscripts from authors. Instead, we are focused on publishing our own content while offering services to help others publish their content. In other words, we don’t qualify.

All of this has resulted in us being in an interesting place with a new distribution plan, unique to each book format:

  1. EBOOKS: All books that can have an ebook will, and these will be distributed via Draft2Digital for all services except Amazon. We will publish to Amazon directly via KDP.
  2. SOFTCOVERS: All books where it makes sense to have a softcover, we will create them and distribute through IngramSpark or Lulu, largely dependent on price point.
  3. HARDCOVERS, ETC. Hardcovers, picture books, photo books, and anything where color quality is of the utmost importance will be sold direct from us through our store front, using Lakeside Press as our printer.

This is not a perfect solution but it offers us the quality we want. We can get our books at a reasonable price and sell them at a list price that is fair to the consumer while still allowing us to make an acceptable profit. (If you’re curious about what that profit looks like, you can read about it HERE.) And since it’s our own storefront, we can have sales periodically or offer combo deals.

Most importantly, we can provide a quality product.

man in brown crew neck t shirt and blue denim jeans holding black and white book

Some Additional Updates on Lulu

In our original post on distribution, we largely ignored Lulu due to cost issues so it didn’t get a full evaluation. However, there are some key positive aspects about Lulu that need to be mentioned:

  1. Turnaround time on book prints has been faster.
  2. The proofing process is better and more streamlined.
  3. There are additional, higher quality options
  4. Lulu offers LuluDirect, a method for handling sales of books through your storefront.

Over the past few months, we have experimented with Lulu largely because of the LuluDirect integration. If you’re not familiar, this is service that allows your storefront to integrate with Lulu for selling your books. In other words, a customer can buy a book in your store and that book will be printed and fulfilled by Lulu.

LuluDirect is our number one reason why you should consider this service over IngramSpark. If you have the capacity to run a storefront and website, LuluDirect is a great feature to add to your toolkit. You get to maintain your branding but fulfill book orders.

Lulu’s proofing process is more streamlined than IngramSpark’s. With Lulu, you upload your cover and manuscript and immediately see a digital proof in your browser. You can also immediately download their normalized print-ready files for review outside of the browser. But heads up – Before you can distribute your book, they require you purchase a physical proof for review.

Shipping is expensive, which seems to be the norm for all these services, so proof copies are costly. For one proof we did, the book costs approximately $3 to print but our total cost to print and ship that single book was $9.

But if you’ve got some money to throw around – say through a Kickstarter campaign or your own good fortune, whatever – then we recommend giving Lulu a go. The 80# coated premium color product that Lulu offers is far superior to the 70# uncoated option IngramSpark offers. Just keep in mind – You pay for that quality. Lulu frequently offers coupon codes and if you time it right, you can get copies of your hardcover book at a semi-reasonable price.

Final Thoughts

white bubble illustration

A lot has changed for us over the last few months. We’ve made plenty of mistakes and learned a whole bunch.

That’s why we’re keeping this blog – so that hopefully you won’t have to go through the same pain.

At the time of writing this blog post, we’re still unclear on exactly how we are going to approach our distribution. As mentioned above, the idea is to continue using Lulu and IngramSpark services to distribute paperback versions of our books to ensure that if you search for our books in a store you can find them. But ultimately, the best quality books will be sold direct from us and only from us until we can crack this distribution problem.

So, thanks for stopping by and stay with us! Don’t forget to follow us here, on Facebook, or LinkedIn to make sure you hear all about our distribution changes.


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