Bad IngramSpark Review, I Lost Thousands

I have mentioned recently on my twitter that after selling 1500 books and making the top 100 on Barnes & Nobel I will be making only about $500. Here's a description of why this has become such a shitstorm.

It's taken me a while to post about this because I want to throw up even thinking about it. It makes me want to lay in bed for weeks until I die. It won't be worded well because I feel like garbage but I will do my best.

I recently printed and sold my book "Fragments Vol.1" it is a compilation of about 3 years of sketches that I have done. A fire was lit under my butt to make this book because I made a somewhat bad decision to take on a 6 month long commission, to keep my household's head above water I made the book to make some much needed money. This book was meant to pay my debt from supporting 2 people and making the terrible decision to move, it was meant to pay my taxes, it was meant to pay for a Japan trip which had come and gone, it was basically meant cure all of the anxiety and stress I've felt for the past year. 

I went through @IngramSpark after much research, other reviews had led me to believe it was a good choice but had mentioned it was a learning curve using the site. Feeling confident I went with the site because it offered better quality for coloured books. I carefully read everything with the help of my boyfriend (a smart guy, a seasoned programmer & aspiring author). I spent a lot of time over the past year compiling sketches to put into the book. I took time away from my demanding commission to make the book to keep our heads above water. After finally finishing it my bf and I went through the book uploading process together.

It was convoluted, @IngramSpark is not very user friendly to say the least. I messaged them multiple times and they would either not respond or it would take a month to receive an email back. When I asked for a sales update they would take 3 weeks to send it. When I chose to use @IngramSpark I had read that they have their own shop and that they automatically upload your work to various sites for you. Ingram has a calculator that shows how much you will make from your book and they also have a section where you can choose your wholesale cost. I chose to sell the book for $25 USD, I would receive about $13 per book from that. My bf & I decided that we should take @IngramSpark 's suggestion of giving the best wholesale cost since that is just extra, we would be making the bulk of the money via my following which I would link to Ingram's shop.

I had WANTED to use a platform that had it's own shop because I knew that all of the sales would be from my following so there was no need for me to go through any other companies other than the printer's site. BUT they don't market that anywhere, they don't allow you to set it up. I LATER found out, after receiving an email that was 1 month late, that they do have their own link/shop that you could direct customers to so that you can make the full price. I just assumed that since it was impossible to call them and the fact I didn't get any emails back from them that it didn't exist. But, yeah apparently they have a secret link/shop you can use instead of giving giant companies like Amazon & Barnes and Nobel a huge cut. Nice to know that was an option considering I just made Barnes & Nobel lots of money from 3 years of my hard work.

Anyways, when we were uploading the book we chose to give the bookstores a large percentage because it was "extra", later we discovered that the wholesale cost includes Barnes & Nobel + Amazon. "Wholesale" was the key word. This word lost me a LOT of money. "Wholesale" to me is the cost that is given to the physical bookstores to sell them so that they can pay their staff. "Wholesale" is cheap bulk quantities of stock, what "I" was selling was POD so it was singular orders so to me "wholesale" meant a bookstore buying a large amount of books, that didn't include my followers buying individual books. On IngramSpark's site they say that you should give as much money as possible to the wholesalers because that is what will convince them to sell your book. Knowing that Barnes & Nobel and Amazon automatically sell the books regardless meant, to me, that those sites don't count as wholesale. The wording and confusing manner of @IngramSpark 's website has lost me over $20,000. So instead of making $13 per book I made 10-40 cents per book. They SHOULD have said "retailer" cost instead of "wholesale" this would have saved me. They also should have a better customer service team that will actually respond to you when you have questions! What ALSO would have saved me would be better customer service. If I would have been able to view sales reports on time then this could have been avoided. It took weeks to get a sales report. When I had my own shop I could see everything that was sold by the minute. I feel like since Ingram is such a huge company that they should provide these things.

It's frustrating because I had questions about things and they never answered so I went ahead thinking it was okay and it screwed me over, there's nothing I can really do about it cause in the end "I" made the mistake and they can't return the money because the wholesalers are who made bank. IngramSpark's wording was bad, the user interface was terrible and the customer service was practically non-existent. 

I love my job but it can be so hard because the business side of this job is nothing I ever wanted to do. I am here to make art, that's all I am good at. I am not here to be a lawyer, a salesperson or a logistics manager and because I don't know everything about all of these things it has crippled me time and time again. I WANT to release things aside from just originals and art prints but it is challenging and it feels like there is no one experienced watching my back and it's scary because any company or person can steal from me or take advantage of me and there is nothing I can do but let it happen.

This money was meant to help me out. I feel like I have been manipulated in some weird way and have never felt more depressed and angry at myself. 

If I don't get anything else out of this experience please PLEASE do TONS of research before allowing a company or publisher to sell or distribute your work. Maybe try emailing them and make sure you get a response in a couple of business days? Read every page of their site, read the FAQ 3 times over.  Make sure you don't miss ANY info and if the site is complicated then either don't use it or call the company to walk you through it, even if it takes an hour to get through to customer service (yes it took an hour when my partner first called to dispute the issue). Stay safe, ask lots of questions and keep your work protected.

Please do not attack the company, as I've stated, this is a huge misunderstanding. I am not going to try and sue them because it's not entirely their fault, they just have a terrible website and it needs to be fixed, besides I am not the type of person who could handle dealing with something like that, I hate confrontation. That doesn't mean that IngramSpark shouldn't change it's site, but I certainly don't want people to bully them cause that's not how positive change happens. Besides, all of the money has gone into Amazon + Barnes & Nobel's hands.

To avoid this in the future I will be using printers that I personally know. I will also be looking into getting an assistant who knows much more about all of the business stuff.


What will happen with the book?

I will likely remove my book from IngramSpark so it will no longer be available through 3rd party sites. I am in talks with other printers about whether or not they would like to sell it.


How can we support you right now?

I've had lot's of people ask me how they can support me through this and I am not sure at the moment. I am thinking about making something through Rhino Barking Sparrow, perhaps a print or something. I had friends mention opening up a GoFundMe account but that feels "too much". I'm not sure what to do to be honest because I don't have much time. I am going to leave the comment section open for suggestions.


UPDATE No.1:

I just made a Ko-Fi account for those that had wanted to support financially.
ko-fi.com/audraauclair

I am still trying to figure out where to print the book, there are a few options so I am waiting for responses and Lopi is doing some research for me. I am going to be releasing a $25 print tomorrow via RBS as well.


UPDATE No.2:

Holy butts guys, thank you so much for all of the love and support through words on social media and Ko-Fi. I have managed to make back 1/4 of what I WOULD have made if this whole fiasco hadn't happened. It softens the blow so much, my stress about moving and debt has lessened. I am just overall relieved and can't thank everyone enough. Just, thank you.

I have talked with Rhino Barking Sparrow, the print company that usually prints and ships my work and they said they will be able to print and ship the book. There is a set-up time and everything so it will take a short while but I will re-release the book shortly. I'll post an announcement on social media when it's ready.


UPDATE No.3:

After emailing IngramSpark to have the book removed they finally removed it 15 days later in their usual slow fashion. I still get Wholesale Comp Reports, I have to wait 90 days till I get any money from it. I have realized that I have a distaste for the book industry. I get some bad vibes from it. I don't like how publishers treat their writers/illustrators, I don't like how they draw out payments, they don't let a lot of writers choose the covers they want, I don't like how printers work and that could all just be my experiences but I don't like it. Rant over.

I'm glad it's over, I'm sorry I was a drama queen about this, it just hurt and I was heartbroken to see my work just thrown away without the compensation I had deserved. I have had this happen to me before, I've had gallery owners steal paintings, I've had people auction painting's I've spent 20 hours on for $30, I have had some shit experiences with selling my art and I had told myself I wasn't going to let it happen again. And I think that's part of why I was so shook up about it. I am waiting on RBS to start printing the next run of books still. They have been ultra busy so it will be a bit longer.

Personally I am moving on from the experience, I have learnt a lot. I feel bad complaining about it but I was pretty heartbroken at the time. Tax season has passed and thanks to the prints I made recently, a commission payment, and the ko-fi I received from some amazingly kind-hearted people I am back on my feet financially plus emotionally and will be able to move back to Victoria. Lopi just did an interview at a Dev company and we will be a dual income household which will allow me to work on my personal artwork, YouTube and perhaps even my comic finally. We have mostly been a single income relationship for the past 8 years we've been dating because we both took turns helping each other with getting each other's creative careers going. So things are looking up!