In today's blog post, I'm going to walk you through how to list your book on Ingram. We'll start with getting your ISBNs (if you're in the US), and we'll go all the way through ordering author copies and seeing your book listed on retail sites!
Let's get started... This is a long one, so just be ready!
Getting ISBNs with Bowker
In the United States, the only authorized, legal dealer of ISBNs is Bowker. There are other places that may sell them, but if you want your book to say your name as the publisher and not whatever company you bought them from, you have to go through Bowker.
I want to be clear here before we get started. This is for the UNITED STATES. If you're outside the US, this information is going to be incorrect.
In the US, you need an ISBN for your print books (they're not necessary for ebooks), and you need one for each format you want to sell in (paperback, hardback, large print, audiobook).
Meaning, if you are planning to sell a paperback AND a hardback, you need 2 ISBNs. These are unique identifier numbers used by stores and retailers that contain your title information, format, meta data, price, and all that jazz, which are different for each format you publish in.
If you are outside of the US, you need to check with the official ISBN dealer for your country. In the UK, that's Nielsen's. In Canada, that's registering with the government and you get them for free (lucky). In Australia, that's the National Library of Australia. Do your research.
Okay, Jess, we get it, now tell me how to get them. alright, alright, let's get into it.
Here's how you would purchase your ISBNs from Bowker:
1. Create a Bowker account and set it up with your information. Your "company name" is what will appear in your Publisher Imprint, so make sure this is what you want the public to see on your listings.
2. Buy the ISBN bundle you want. They are cheaper the more you buy.
You DO NOT NEED TO BUY BARCODES. I mean it. Don't buy them. Every publishing platform that does print books will generate you one for free when you publish.
3. Log into your account and go to “My Identifiers”. Select an unassigned ISBN and click “Assign Title”.
3. Fill out the requested forms, and upload your cover if you have it. If you don't have your cover yet, leave it blank. Do not upload a placeholder cover.
The "describe your book" is the blurb on your back cover.
Once you’ve filled out the title and author information, continue to the Sales & Pricing section. (Your imprint will automatically be your “company name” you selected during your Bowker account set up.) Continue on and fill out your pricing information.
You can now hit submit! Your ISBN will show as "pending" as it processes, which usually takes anywhere from 20 minutes to 4 hours in my experience.
You can go back and make any changes to this page up until your publication date.
Now, you're ready to set up your title on Ingram Spark. Take note of how your title and author name are written in Bowker, because they have to match exactly the same in Ingram.
A special little story: My author name is Jessica S. Taylor. Bowker has a "middle name" box. Ingram does not. Originally, I had the S. in the middle name box. Ingram didn't like that and said my metadata didn't match, so I had to put it in the first name box as "Jessica S." You might have issues like this if you use initials, so just be prepared to play around with it some.
Another tip. If you're planning to use the same ISBN on multiple platforms (i.e. you're going to publish your paperback on Amazon through KDP and also through IngramSpark), you're going to want to work very quickly so that you can set it up before either platform reports back to Bowker that the ISBN is now in use.
Remember: AMAZON KDP DOES NOT ALLOW PRINT PREORDERS. If you're going to upload your print to KDP, you better be ready for it go live. If you want to do preorders on your print book, you have to go through IngramSpark or another print distributor.
There are recommendations of which order to do this in, and most suggest having Amazon and Ingram open in two different tabs and putting in Amazon first but don't hit submit and then Ingram, and then hit submit on Amazon and submit on Ingram within a couple a minutes of each other.
If it doesn't work and one of them comes back saying you can't use that ISBN because it's already in use, you took too long and you're going to need to use another one. Does that make sense? No. Is it fair because its the same book and it should work? Also no. But that's how it goes. The ISBNs were not created with indie authors publishing direct to multiple platforms with the same number in mind.
Move quick, or just go through Ingram and use the free Amazon ASIN and then email KDP support to have them suppress the Ingram listing. It's up to you, but this blog post outlines how to do it better than I could.
(Personally, I just publish through IngramSpark so all my print sales data is in one place. But I have anxiety and that's just me)
Okay, okay, I'm shutting up. Now let's get into why you're really here: How to upload your book to IngramSpark.
Uploading to IngramSpark
1. Create an Ingram Spark account. Fill out the information correctly and be very careful, as it's difficult to change this information later. You'll have to fill out some tax forms and sign some authorization and terms and conditions stuff.
I don't have screenshots of this part, sorry!
2. On your home page, under “Upload a Title”, select print book only. (Note: you don’t want to use Ingram for ebooks, use Draft2Digital if you want to distribute your ebook wide through one distributor). Stay tuned for that guide)
3. If you do have your files ready, you can now select that option. If you do not have your files ready, that’s fine, you can still set up your title! Follow the prompts and answer the questions. Now, hit continue. It will take you to a page that looks similar to the Bowker title set up.
If you want to distribute your books, select the "print, distribute, and sell book" option. If you only want to print copies for yourself, click the "only print book" option. Hit continue.
4. Input your title information, including the ISBN you just assigned in Bowker.
(Note: You can use the Ingram provided free ISBN, but it will show IngramSpark as the publisher, not you)
5. Continue filling out the book information, making sure that the author name matches exactly how you inputted it into Bowker when registering your title (if you don’t, it could cause issues down the line not recognizing it as the same book)
6. You can now add your imprint (the "company name" you set up in Bowker) and also select the broad subjects for your book and your audience. (Trade means adult, just FYI)
7. Add your description (your blurb) and keywords and then hit continue.
8. Now, select the “Print Information” you want, including your trim size, paper color, and printing type.
9. If you would like your paperback to have duplex printing (printing on the inside of the paperback cover thing), select yes or no, and then move on to your page count. This can be an estimate for now, we can go back and change it later if you don’t have your final files ready.
10. This will now spit out what your printing cost would be based on that page count and those print settings. This helps determine what your price should be. Each option (trim size, page color, etc. will impact your printing price. If it's too much, play around with it)
11. Now, you want to set your pricing for all marketplaces for your book. You can input your US price and hit enter and it will automatically convert your pricing for other marketplaces. If you don't want to do that, you can manually adjust the prices for each country.
12. You also now have to select your wholesale discount and if you will allow returns. Your wholesale discount is recommended between 35%-55% but you can select whatever you’d like. Use Ingram’s royalty calculator to see how that wholesale discount affects your earnings.
13. You now also select if you would like to allow returns. Be sure to read Ingram’s return info before deciding, but keep in mind that if your goal is to get into physical stores, you MUST allow returns. Stores will not purchase your book without it, it's just too risky for them. If you chose Return-Deliver, you will be charged shipping, btw.
14. Then, you can set up what features you’d like to enable, like “Look Inside” or Large print. Here, you also input your publication date.
Note: For some of the upcoming steps, I do not have screenshots right now. I did this post after I had already uploaded my files, and the screens look different for revisions than for initial upload. When I do a new book, I will take screenshots and update this post!
15. Now to the good part! If you have your files, upload them now. If you don’t, hit “Save and Exit” and everything will be ready for you once you come back. Your book will not be available for preorder or listing without your files uploaded.
16. Let’s assume we have our files ready, now you’re going to upload your interior file and full wrap cover. Both of these should be in PDF format. If you’re having issues with your cover, be sure to use the Cover Template Generator to get the proper spine width and sizing. (If you decide to use placeholder files to get your preorder launched, just realize that you might have to get your cover adjusted if your page count changes from what you input during setup.)
17. Once your files process, you will get either a “Your Files Are Good” or some type of error message in an intimidating red box. (If the red box is just "you're using the wrong color type" I ignore it. If it's something else, like margins or cover file size, it will tell you exactly what's wrong.)
18. Hit continue once your files are approved and then you can now pay your $49 title set up fee. Keep an eye out for free title runs by subscribing to Ingram’s email list. You can also join the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLI) to get free title set up and revision discount codes. (Note: I highly recommend this if you plan to publish more than 2 books per year with Ingram. The lowest ALLi membership is $89/year and gets you access to 50 Ingram codes per year, and a boat load of other resources and support.)
19. Upload your files and now you get to play the waiting game. Files are verified and ready for proof review anywhere between 2-5 business days typically. Most of the time they run pretty close to the 2 days, but recently I've seen more like 4-5 being the average. So don't wait until the last minute counting on them to be quick. They're not.
20. You'll get an email when your eproof is ready to review. Go to the approval page and download your proof. Review your proof, and if you’re happy with it, click continue and distribute and congrats! Your book is now listed! It can take anywhere from 1 day to 4 weeks for your book to populate on retail sites, depending on how often those retail sites refresh from the Ingram catalog. (And even if your book populates quickly, your cover and blurb can sometimes take much longer, so just wait it out. If it's still not there after 4 weeks, then you can reach out to Ingram's support.)
21. Once you've approved your proof, whether you list it for distribution now or not, you are now able to order author copies. These take about 10 business days to print (and usually take the entire time) and then the shipping is up to you.
22. If your files are incorrect, or were placeholder files, or you change something later, you CAN re-upload new files at a later date. However, there is a $25 revision fee. Once you go through this, you have to wait another 3-5 business days for a new proof and then you repeat the process. If it looks good, hit approve! (Hint Hint: ALLi codes are good for revision fees too)
Once your title goes live (on your publication date), Ingram will handle the distribution to retailers to ship out!
Royalties are paid out typically 90 days after, so for example, any sales I got the month of November, I will receive that money in February.
Congrats! You’ve done it! This is a very high level overview, and of course there are more nuances to each step. If you have questions, please let me know and I would be more than happy to talk it through with you.