Updated: Mar 3
If you've decided to self-publish your children's book, you might be looking into print-on-demand companies. If you're not sure what that is, read this blog post before reading on.
IngramSpark is a print-on-demand company owned by Ingram that allows authors to self-publish in hardcover, paperback, and ebook formats. Ingram distributes books to hundreds of online retailers including but not limited to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, and much more. Using IngramSpark allows you to tap into this distribution channel for your children's book!
But do not confuse IngramSpark with a publisher.
IngramSpark is just a printer and distributor for your self-published titles.
Using IngramSpark also puts your book in Ingram's database which is where schools, libraries, and bookstores go to order books at a wholesale discount. Unless you have a traditional distributor, there isn't another way to get your book into Ingram's database as a self-published author.
How print-on-demand companies like IngramSpark work
A print-on-demand company like IngramSpark makes your book available worldwide to hundreds of online retailers. When a customer orders the book from any of those websites, IngramSpark will print it, ship it, and then send you money.
Other companies like KDP work the same and don't have as wide of a distribution channel as IngramSpark but have other advantages.
When a customer orders your children's book, the sale will appear in the back end of IngramSpark when the book ships. If you're running preorders, those sales will usually appear about 10 days prior to the release date.
IngramSpark's payment schedule is on a 90 day delay so you'll receive the money from January book sales at the end of April. You can receive funds via a bank account or PayPal.
Uploading and Approval
After you upload your book to IngramSpark, it enters the review process. This takes about 5-7 business days so be patient! You'll then get an email with directions to approve an eproof file. You'll open this up, make sure everything looks correct, and then submit your approval. From this point, IngramSpark will start sending out your metadata to online stores but this is a slow process.
This is one of the reasons I recommend uploading to IngramSpark a minimum of 4-6 weeks prior to your publication date (I often upload much earlier).
You can set up a preorder for your paperback and hardcover books using IngramSpark but if you're planning on having an ebook (which I recommend!) then use another platform like KDP for the ebook. This will not be an issue for your Amazon listing page - as long as all formats of the book have the same title, author, and other metadata, the different versions will link to the same Amazon page even if you use different distribution platforms on the backend.
Check out this video below for a complete walkthrough on how to upload to IngramSpark:
Pros and Cons of IngramSpark
Overall, print-on-demand through IngramSpark is an easy way to distribute your self-published book worldwide and in many different online stores.
Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of IngramSpark specifically:
Pros of IngramSpark
👍 You don't have to keep inventory
One of the most convenient parts of print-on-demand is the fact that you don't have to keep inventory on hand, and deal with shipping, returns, or other logistics. When a customer orders your book online, IngramSpark will print it at the nearest fulfillment center and then ship it to the customer's address.
👍 Wide distribution
IngramSpark makes your book available in hundreds of online stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Target, and much more. You can read more about their distribution here.
👍 Offers preorders
If preorders are an important part of your book marketing strategy (it's a huge part of mine!) then IngramSpark is the way to go. It's one of the only ways to offer preorders for physical books as a self-published author.
Cons of IngramSpark
👎 They don't format your book files
Before you upload to IngramSpark, your files need to be professionally formatted according to their specs - this is the case with any printer but not all new authors realize that the printer doesn't help with formatting.
👎 Customization is limited
When you use any print-on-demand company, your trim sizes, binding, paper weight choices, and cover options are limited to what that platform offers. Click here to read more about IngramSpark's options. If you want different binding options, thicker paper weight, or special cover finishes (like UV coating or foil) then you'll need to consider offset printing.
👎 Customer support is slow
IngramSpark customer support is slow because they typically request that you email them. They do have a chat option but whether or not you can use that feature is hit or miss with little pattern.
👎 Small upload fee
Uploading a book to IngramSpark is $49 and file updates are $25 each. They do occasionally offer free upload coupons but this only occurs a few times per year so it may not line up with your launch.
Before you use the platform
Before you upload your book to IngramSpark, make sure the story has been professionally edited, illustrated, and formatted according to their specs. IngramSpark is just a printer and distributor - they don't have anything to do with the book production process.
Before you upload your book to IngramSpark, make sure the story has been professionally edited, illustrated, and formatted according to the their specs.
Next, let's take a look at each of the phases in the production process for your children's book:
There are several different types of editing that your book needs before you get it illustrated. New authors sometimes assume that editing is just correcting grammar and spelling but it's SO much more than that and it's important to use a professional!
Developmental editing deals with your character development, vocabulary, story arc, plot, pacing, and overall concept. Copyediting is where the editor corrects mechanics, grammar, spelling, etc. A proofread is a final check of your manuscript. Really, your manuscript should undergo several rounds of each of these different types of editing.
Watch the video below for more details about the editing process and how it works:
⭐️ Download our FREE list of professional editors, illustrators, and formatters ⭐️
Once the editing phase is complete, you'll hire a freelance illustrator to bring your children's book to life! The cost depends on the artist's style, experience, and schedule but budget for anywhere from $1,500-6,000+.
Where can I find a children's book illustrator?
Be careful with a site like Fiverr - there are some talented artists there, but there are also a lot of scammers who use clip art. The easiest way to tell if the art is custom-made is by ordering a sample - if they never show you an uncolored sketch, it's highly unlikely that the "illustrator" actually drew it themselves.
Here's how the illustration process usually works:
Research some illustrators and styles to figure out what you like. Then, order a sample illustration as a test run to see how well you and the illustrator work together.
If you feel good about your illustrator choice, get on their calendar and sign the contract after reading it carefully. If you have questions or concerns, ask!
Your illustrator will get started! You'll get a storyboard or sketches, (or both) to approve before coloration begins. If you want any changes made, this is when to ask because it's more difficult to make changes after the images are colored.
You'll receive the final illustrations.
This is just a snapshot of the process, of course, and every illustrator will have their own schedule so be flexible within reason. I strongly recommend ordering a sample illustration before you sign a contract so that you get a feel for how you work together.
This is the process of actually putting your files together according to your printer's specifications. Your book designer or formatter will put the text on your illustrations, handle bleed, and make sure that the files meet all the requirements of your chosen printer (i.e. proper font height, distance from the gutter, etc). Be careful though - not all illustrators can format books. It's a highly detailed process that requires graphic design skills so it's not something you can easily do on your own in a hurry either.
Uploading your book to IngramSpark
Once all your files are ready, you can upload them to IngramSpark! Make sure you have everything on-hand: your ISBN number (always own your own!), book description, categories, keywords, pricing, etc. IngramSpark's dashboard is not quite as intuitive as KDP so if you need a tutorial, click here.
Remember that the first 7 days that any format of your children's book is published is the most important for your book's success. Don't release without a strategy in place! Create your marketing plan well in advance (4-6+ months) and work towards getting traffic and sales during your first week of publication. Need help with that? Reach out and we can chat!
Overall, IngramSpark is a great platform to help you self-publish your children's book. Its wide distribution and preorder capabilities set it apart from other print-on-demand companies but keep in mind, you don't have to just use one POD company. In fact, I use KDP and IngramSpark together!
Have questions? Don't forget to comment below!