Yesterday at BEA, I had the chance to speak to Robin Cutler, independent publisher manager for Ingram about their new publishing platform for self-publishing authors.
On July, 1, Ingram, the world's largest book distributor, is launching Spark, a "Publish on Demand" platform for authors which will incorporate both print and ebook distribution. By combining print and digital platforms, it is supposed to simply the entire distribution process while offering Ingram's worldwide reach. It all sounds really great.
On a second look, maybe not quite so great. When the program goes live, an author will provide Ingram with three finished files - an epub file and a JPEG cover for ebooks, and a PDF file for the print book. Ingram does not offer any file conversion services.
They will then make the print books available worldwide, which is effectively the service already provided by their subsidiary Lighting Source and through CreateSpace's extended distribution option. An author using Spark will no longer have to submit files seprately to Amazon's KDP, B&N Nook, the iBookstore, Kobo and/or Smashwords.
The convenience, however, comes with a high price tag. Ingram pays the author a royalty of 40% on each ebook and 45% on print (which I am assuming is net of production costs.)
If you submit your work directly to Amazon, you receive 70% of the retail price. B&N is 65% and Kobo is 80%. So Spark is taking an additional 30% off the top, on average. This compares to Smashwords and D2D which each charge 10% for distribution.
The selling point is that the ebook is distributed to 200 on-line retailers around the world. As a practical matter, however, most sales will probably come from the top five. How much the value the additional 195 retailers add is unclear.
One word about this pricing. I have not seen it in print in any Ingram marketing materials or on any web site or blog (that's right, folks you heard it here first.) I got the information directly from Robin Cutler, the program manager. Things may change between now and the July 1st launch.
As it stands now, however, it appears that Spark is a great idea, but poorly priced.