Is Smashwords Losing Steam, Part Two

by Aaron Dennis 26 days ago in advice

Publishing Through IngramSpark

Is Smashwords Losing Steam, Part Two

Welcome back, readers. The last time I reviewed Kobo Writing Life, a publishing platform, which could be a viable replacement for Smashwords or KDP. I have an update about that.

For some reason, my first book, which is also published on Smashwords, was accepted, but the second book I added, also published on Smashwords, was already on their list, so they wouldn’t accept a duplicate, which makes me wonder if all my books from Smashwords were added to Kobo like they’re supposed to have been, or are there other missing titles?

I put my name in the search bar. All of my books were there. Even my audio books were listed, so I don’t know why I got to publish that first book, but whatever. It worked out for everyone because I got to write about it.

Anyway, this time, I’m reviewing IngramSpark, another independent, publishing platform, and one that may or may not be suited to your needs. What you read below is my experience and my decision.

Here’s the skinny: Many people write. Many writers want to publish their books. Many people want to sell books. Some people think KDP is the best publishing platform. Some people like Smashwords. Some want to utilize as many platforms as possible, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but which platforms are actually worth your time?

IngramSpark is not worth my time! Read this review before using them. No matter what kind of action you take, be sure to get informed before you take that action.

Naturally, the first step with IngramSpark is creating an account. Then, you have to validate it before you can continue. This isn’t out of the ordinary.

After validation, you have to accept numerous agreements, but some of them are about expanded distribution, so be sure to accept them if your books aren’t already distributed through Smashwords.

I sell plenty of ebooks through AppleBooks, and some through Barnes and Noble Online, and it’s all thanks to Smashwords, so do understand that publishing and distribution are two very different issues.

Publishing means making your book available. Distribution means making your book available for purchase through actual retailers and stores.

Your book needs to be available in stores, whether physical or online, because potential readers unfamiliar with your work won’t be shopping from your website or your publisher’s website if it’s an obscure one. People buy books from distributors—bookstores. Get your books in stores!

Anyway, unlike Kobo Writing Life, IngramSpark allows you to choose to be paid through Paypal if you choose US currency. I like this feature, but it’s a moot point, which you’ll eventually see.

The next step requires ensuring your payment info. You have to agree to add a credit card, which I found to be extremely odd. I thought it might be in the event that I wanted to purchase services beyond publishing, such as ordering print copies or whatever, so I continued by adding the info from my cheesy CreditOne card—the card I use to gas up my car or buy cheap vodka from the liquor store

After filling out all required W-9 info, you reach the dashboard. Click “add new title” to begin publishing your ebook. You will eventually be able to order print copies as well depending on the files you upload…I guess…. I’m not sure. I didn’t get that far.

Since I wasn’t familiar with IngramSpark, I began with simply adding an e-book, not the print version. You have the option of adding print, ebook, or both. I don’t know why it’s set up this way. It’s very confusing. I use KDP for print copies anyway, and I have never had issues with their POD services. Yeah, I gotta’ give ‘em that much.

The first problem with IS arose with the “short description” of the book.

Smashwords does the same thing by only allowing something like 90 words or 300 characters—don’t quote me right here—but IngramSpark allows you 350 bytes, yeah, bytes, to describe your book in the short description (blurb). You can use way more in the regular description, but what on earth is this about? There should be no limit to blurb length. I mean, KDP has a limit of around 3,000 words. Okay, 3,000 words is a short story in and of itself, so that’s reasonable.

At any rate, I had to fiddle around with my blurb to get it to fit the allotted description. Does this matter? Well, that depends on you and your book and how you want to market your book to potential readers. I think this is a bunch of crap. Blurbs should be one size fits all no matter what. It’s 2019 not 1999. The number of words used to describe an item should never be an issue.

After the whole blurb thing, I began adding the rest of my ebook information, and it’s a real mess. IngramSpark is not user friendly at all. Firstly, I had an issue with the imprint. Technically, I publish my books as StoriesbyDennis. My actual business is Dennisauthor, as denoted by my BoA business account, and this became a real issue through IS.

Just to be clear, my website/publishing name is StoiresbyDennis, but my business is Dennisauthor, and that business offers more than ebooks, but whatever. This isn’t your problem. This is my issue.

On top of all that imprint nonsense, simply adding my ebook info became a serious process. It was downright an ordeal.

Filling out all the information in order to process and publish a book with IngramSpark is re-duck-ulous.

Quack!

I was having numerous doubts throughout the entire process, I even started thinking that they charge you to process and list your ebooks, but I’m not sure. I really wanted to get it all done for your sake. Spoiler alert—I didn’t get it done, and am warning you against using IngramSpark. Do not publish through IngramSpark is my official warning.

Once you’re actually ready to upload your ebook file, you have to use an .epub extension. Then, you have to actually fill in the information for trim size, paper type, etc. Some of it makes sense for print copies, but KDP does a much better job of setting all this up for writers. All of this should be automatic based on the file uploaded, and I can’t imagine why the IS platform is so lazy; it’s a program. Programs shouldn’t be lazy.

Next, you have to allocate an ISBN. I really hate the misinformation circulating out there regarding ISBNs. You don’t need one unless you’re a publisher. ISBNs denote the publisher. Most publishing platforms, like Smashwords, assign an ISBN, or ASIN for ebooks, automatically. Unless you are an actual publisher publishing books for multiple authors, you DO NOT NEED AN ISBN. DO NOT BUY THEM. However, IS has a weird ISBN allocation format.

Regardless, I went ahead and allowed IngramSpark to allocate an ISBN, and then continued filling out the ebook info. They didn’t allow me to enter a price of $0.00, so I had to charge at least $0.99, which is the same for KDP, but still a bunch of crap.

Finally, I uploaded my .epub file and my cover art. Then, I had to wait a moment to see if there were any issues. There were issues a-plenty!

I got a crap-ton of errors, and wasn’t sure what they were. I told you guys once that I have a degree in computer sciences, but this is more like formatting/programming issues exclusive to the website, and since I didn’t create the website, I have no idea what the errors are.

Unfortunately, IngramSpark didn’t allow me to continue. They made me click “back to files.” I didn’t have another .epub copy, and I don’t really know what’s wrong with my file, so I couldn’t continue because I don’t know what to fix. I can’t even guess without seeing how the ebook looks after formatting.

How can I fix issues if I don’t know what they are? This applied to Kobo as well; if you read the article about publishing to Kobo, you know I had validation issues with them, but my book file worked just fine—external links and all; I was able to publish my book with Kobo, so I didn’t worry about the issues. In this case, I wasn’t able to continue; I had to go back and fix the issues.

Judging the way the entire process was going, I no longer felt comfortable using IS, and I wanted to completely delete my account. This also was an issue. There’s no way to simply delete an account, so I emailed them, letting them know I wasn’t going to add any books and was ready to delete my account.

I will not publish through IS, so I don’t want them to have my info.

IngramSpark was a nightmare. If you’re interested in using IngramSpark despite my warning, that’s okay. Just be sure to read this article by another IS user. We’re not alone; lots of writers don’t like IS.

Look, I’m all up in here trying to provide you actual information. I relate to you my experience and my perspective. I am not instructing you on which publisher to use. What I’m doing is giving you a review of my experience, and in this case, someone else’s experience, which was also awful.

My advice is to avoid IngramSpark like a plague rat. I don’t know if plague rats avoided IngramSpark, but I think that you should. Smashwords, KDP, and Kobo Writing Life are all better.

That said; Kobo Writing Life is not very good at selling books. You’re going to have to actively sell your books if you use Kobo, but at least the publishing process is simple and effective. You should be actively selling your books anyway, but I digress.

Long story short; there are some alternatives to Smashwords if you want to go the self-publishing route. You can find those alternatives through this link. I will continue to review those platforms, too, but so far, I think Kobo is worth using. IngramSpark is BS.

Thanks for reading. Tip me if you’d like to receive more quality information regarding reading, writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. Visit StoriesbyDennis.com for more info and articles like this one.

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Aaron Dennis

Creator of the Lokians SciFi series, The Adventures of Larson and Garrett, The Dragon of Time series, and more.

See all posts by Aaron Dennis