I haven’t posted to Self-Publishing Adventure in two years; in fact, my last post was almost exactly a year ago today on June 10, 2013. After making that post, I decided to take a break for a few months. The few months passed, then a year, then two. Time flies. I was away for longer than I expected to be, but I’m back.
In addition to writing and publishing, what have I been doing during that time? Well, lots, but today I’ll tell you about how I moved all my books from Lightning Source to Ingram Spark, and the bumps I encountered along the way.
If you don’t already know, IngramSpark (IS) is Ingram’s self-publishing platform. Before it came along a couple of years ago, the only two real choices for self-publishers were Lightning Source (LSI) and CreateSpace.
LSI is set up to work with traditional publishers. To sign up, you have to register a company and have your own ISBNs. The interface wasn’t all that user friendly when I signed up for an account in 2010, and since they haven’t changed it since then, it still isn’t friendly. Setting up books at LSI isn’t free. You pay to upload your files, you pay for a proof, which LSI insists on shipping to you overnight, you pay every time you want to update a file, and you have to pay an annual fee to keep your book in distribution. On the positive side, you can short discount your books, and you have (or used to have—see later) a client representative you can email or call when problems crop up.
CreateSpace is Amazon’s POD outfit. The interface is user-friendly and the support is great, but you can’t set the discount for your books. One huge positive: book setup is free, and you’re not charged if you want to update a file.
A couple of years ago, IS arrived, and LSI started to steer self-publishers who wanted to open accounts to its new self-publishing platform. To work with IS, you don’t have to register a company and the fees are lower.
At the time, I decided to stick with LSI because of the short discounting and the client rep support. But things change. A few months ago, I signed into my LSI account and discovered that I no longer had a client rep. I’d been assigned to LSI support team 6, which had a generic LSI support email account and phone number. Also, the annual distribution fees were starting to add up. It was okay when I had one or two books, but the more books you add, the more fees you pay. Like many self-publishers, I don’t sell many print books. A couple of my titles don’t sell enough print copies to justify the annual fee.
I decided to take the plunge and explore moving my titles over to IS. I’m in Canada, so I deal with the US divisions of LSI and IS. As you’ll see, my experience with support wasn’t all that great. If you deal with LSI and IS UK or another division, that might not be the case for you.
For Once, Don’t Follow the Instructions
I headed over to the IS site. In the FAQ, it states that if you have an LSI account, you should speak to your customer service rep before opening an IS account. Well, I no longer had a customer service rep, so I emailed the general support account and said that I’m interested in moving my books to IS. No response. I waited two weeks. Crickets.
All right, then. I phoned the general 1-800 LSI support number. The phone was quickly answered, but the person at the other end sounded surprised that I was calling to inquire about moving to IS because I already has an LSI account. She basically said, “Well, just go ahead and open an IS account,” and then asked me if I’d like to speak to an IngramSpark representative to discuss whether I’d be a good fit. I said, “Yes,” figuring that there must be a reason that the FAQ states to call first.
She transferred me to another line. I waited on hold for more than half an hour. Let me say here that the LSI and IS support I experienced was less than stellar. Read on.
When someone finally picked up the phone and I asked about moving to IS from LSI, she asked me whether I’d opened my IS account. I said, “Well, no, the FAQ says to call you first.” She said, “Open your account, and then let us know and we’ll move your books.”
Okay, that was a wasted 45 minutes. I’d say that unless you think there’s something special about your account that may complicate moving your books, ignore the FAQ and just go ahead and open an IS account.
Books in Limbo
I opened my IS account and emailed IS support, providing both my LSI and IS account numbers and asking them to move my books. Can you guess what happened?
I was thinking to myself, “Oh, no, that means I’ll have to call and sit on hold again for who knows how long.” I waited until 10 days had passed since I’d sent my email, because I wasn’t relishing the thought of sitting on the phone listening to elevator music. On the day I decided to bite the bullet, I first logged into my accounts, to make sure the books hadn’t miraculously moved. They hadn’t, and to my horror, all my titles were “on hold” in my LSI account. A quick visit to the Book Depository confirmed that all my books were “unavailable.” Yikes!
I called the IS support number (I figured the “on hold” status was related to the move I’d requested through IS support, so I went that route, rather than calling LSI support). After waiting on hold for 40 minutes, I gave up. Seriously, it is completely unreasonable to expect people to sit on hold for these lengthy periods of time. How many people do they have working the support lines? One?
I decided to email, asking whether my titles were on hold because of my move request, and if so, when I could expect the books to be moved. I wasn’t holding out much hope, but a couple of days afterward, I received several “There’s a message from the IngramSpark team in your IS account” emails. I signed into my IngramSpark account, and joy! Some of my books were there. Some.
Unfortunately, one book had been left behind on hold, and another had been placed back into the proof review queue at LSI, rather than being moved to IS and placed on the review queue there. When they move your books, for some reason they place them on the proof review queue at IS. I’m not sure why the files you’ve approved at LSI have to be approved again, but whatever.
Okay, so we’re partway there, but I’m surprised that I never received a response to my email. I guess they assume the generic notifications the platform sends are the response, but that’s not good enough. They should respond to support emails.
Dealing with the Stragglers
All right, at this point, I emailed them about the two books that weren’t moved. Days go by. No response. When a week had passed, I groaned to myself and prepared to spend who knows how long on the phone, listening to elevator music.
But the book gods were kind to me that day.
About 15 minutes before I planned to call, IS support finally responded to my email. OMG, an actual response from a human being! Excuse the sarcasm, but my experience with IS support had been pretty horrible up to that point. I’m sure they’re all nice people (or perhaps that should be nice person), but this is one area in which IS seriously needs to improve. A one week response time for support emails just doesn’t cut it.
Anyway, a support person had moved the remaining two books over to IS. Yay! My LSI to IS move saga was over.
So there you have it. If I’d ignored the FAQ, hadn’t had to prod support when all my titles were sitting on hold, and the person who moved my books hadn’t left two behind, it would have been painless.
I’m surprised the process didn’t run more smoothly. I would expect that when a move request comes in, it would be a simple matter of running a script, punching in the two account numbers, and we’re done, especially since the IS platform is clearly just a slightly friendlier front end to the LSI back end (in fact, the IS UI is pretty much the same as LSI’s, with different colours). Nothing actually has to be moved; titles just need to be associated with an IS account, rather than an LSI account. Maybe they don’t get many of these requests? Who knows?
I still have my LSI account. It just doesn’t have any titles in it.
I’m pleased that I’ll no longer be dinged with yearly distribution fees. I can’t set a 20% discount, but that’s not really a huge deal. I’ll still have to pay if I want to update a file, but IS charges less for that than LSI does. Recently it did away with the yearly distribution fee, so maybe there’s hope that it’ll eventually ditch the file update charge, too. After all, its competitor is free, easier to use, and has better support, so the update fees feel like a cash grab. I don’t mind the initial setup fee, but what are we getting for the additional fees at IS that we can’t get at CreateSpace? As far as I can tell, nothing.
That’s my “moving from Lightning Source to IngramSpark” story. You’ll have to contact support to make the initial move request. If you can avoid dealing with support after that, there’s not much to the process.