For a while now, authors who use IngramSpark or Lightning Source have noticed that their books can sometimes be hit with a nasty problem at Amazon. Instead of a book being reported as In Stock, its status will be reported as Ships in 2 to X weeks. All other things being equal, a customer is more likely to buy a book that’s in stock.
Because IngramSpark/Lightning Source is a POD (print-on-demand) outfit, there’s no reason for a book to not be in stock. When a customer buys a book, Amazon orders a copy from IS/LSI, which prints (and usually ships) the book.
People have speculated about why this problem occurs. Some think Amazon is trying to push people to use CreateSpace, its POD outfit. Others think it’s a problem with the IS/LSI data feed. Who knows? What matters to us is that our books can be hit with this problem, which can potentially cost sales.
I was aware of the potential problem for the longest time, but I didn’t do anything about it because my books were fine–until last month. I rarely go to my Amazon pages, but I was checking that a link was going to the right place and discovered this:
How to Fix It
If those who speculate that Amazon wants people to use CreateSpace are right, then this tactic works, sort of. To get around this problem, you have to also set up your book at CreateSpace, but only put it into the Amazon distribution channels. Do not put it into the expanded distribution program. Now maybe you’re thinking, “If I’m going to have to set up my book at CreateSpace anyway, why bother with IngramSpark/LSI?” You can set a lower discount at IngramSpark/LSI, and some people say the distribution is wider, even though CreateSpace uses Ingram for its expanded distribution program. Some like the quality of IngramSpark/LSI books better than those printed at CreateSpace. There’s no right or wrong answer.
If you have books set up at IngramSpark/LSI, or you plan to, then to guarantee that your book will never appear out of stock or with delayed shipping at Amazon, you have to also set up the book at CreateSpace.
You may have to adjust your cover’s spine width. The paper used at CreateSpace is thicker than that used at IS/LSI, so the spine width for CreateSpace is usually larger. Since it only costs you the price of a proof to set up your book at CreateSpace, you could try using the same cover file and see if the book still looks okay, or you could go ahead and adjust the spine width up front.
You can’t put your book into the expanded distribution program at CreateSpace, but if you’re also at IS/LSI, you don’t need to. I’ve tried this both ways: setting up a book at CreateSpace first, not putting it into the expanded distribution program, and then setting it up at IS/LSI, and vice versa. You’ll see that if you’ve already set up the book at IS/LSI, CreateSpace won’t even let you put it into the expanded distribution program.
Use the same ISBN at both printers. You don’t want multiple book pages at Amazon for your print book. If you started with CreateSpace and want to move to IS/LSI (or also set up your book there), you can ask CreateSpace to retire your book. Once it’s been removed from the Ingram database, you can then go ahead and set it up at IS/LSI. I believe you can then ask CreateSpace to re-enable your book and only put it into the Amazon distribution channels, but I haven’t tried it myself.
Problem Solved, and Quickly, Too!
Within 24 hours or approving your proof at CreateSpace, your book will go back to being In Stock.
Amazon will now draw your book’s information from CreateSpace, not the IngramSpark/LSI feed. When I set up this particular book, I forgot to set the publication date, so it defaulted to the date I approved the proof. You’ll see that the Amazon book page now says the book was published in May, 2015. If you go to any other online store, you’ll see the old date of October, 2010, because those stores are getting the info from IngramSpark.
You’ll notice that Amazon is now discounting my book, too.
One More Tip for CreateSpace
When entering your book’s description, you must use the <p> tag for paragraphs. Pressing enter a couple of times doesn’t cut it. Your description will look fine in CreateSpace but not on your Amazon book page.
To get around the stocking problem at Amazon, also set up your book at CreateSpace using the same ISBN you used at IngramSpark/LSI. You might have to adjust the cover’s spine width.
I went ahead and did this for all my books, so I no longer have to worry about this problem. From this point forward, whenever I set up a book, I’ll do it at both IngramSpark and CreateSpace.