Friday, July 25, 2014

IngramSpark:CreateSpace::Phone Company:Amazon.com

In an effort to widen distribution for ESaaS, I've been trying to move the "expanded distribution" channel from CreateSpace to IngramSpark.

[Since I now know more about book distribution than I ever expected to know: CreateSpace is an author-facing print-on-demand (POD) service that was acquired by Amazon.  When someone orders your POD print book on Amazon, CreateSpace fulfills it.  They also have an "expanded distribution" channel for reaching bookstores, retailers, etc., but apparently bookstores don't like to deal with them for a variety of reasons.]

In contrast, Ingram is one of the two biggest book distributors, i.e., one of two big companies that bookstores call when they place an order for a book on behalf of a customer.  Historically Ingram only dealt with publishers, but they recently launched IngramSpark, an independent-author-facing service that allows your books to be POD'd and distributed through their network.  A colleague of ours who is a publishing industry veteran suggested this would be a much better channel for that expanded distribution, since (a) bookstores are already used to dealing with them and (b) bookstores hate Amazon and there is a guilt-by-association with CreateSpace, plus CreateSpace has a "no returns" policy that is incompatible with how many bookstores operate.

So I figured, simple.  Turn off "expanded distribution" on CreateSpace, and list our book on IngramSpark instead.

Not so fast.  Apparently only one distributor at a time can handle your book, and I was told it would take 6 to 8 weeks from the time I disabled "expanded distribution" on CreateSpace for the ISBN to be "released" allowing me to list that same ISBN on IngramSpark.  Note that "released" presumably means "moving it from one electronic catalog to another."  I thought the phrase "6 to 8 weeks" went out with mail-order products in the 80s.  Hmmm.

But the real eye-opener has been customer service.

Whenever I've had a problem or question using CreateSpace, I login to my author account, click the "Call me now" button, and within 2 minutes I am talking to a live well-informed human being (not a droid) and my question always gets answered without so much as escalation.

Whenever I've had a question using IngramSpark, I have to "fill out a support request".  It can "take up to 48 hours for us to respond, although we can often respond much quicker."  Only the first part of that sentence turns out to be true: 48 hours is about right.  And the responses aren't always helpful, so I always have a followup question…which takes another 48 hours.

Today I noticed there is another help option "Request a call."  Since that had worked well on CreateSpace, I tried that option.   They will call me..."within up to 48 hours".  Great.  So instead of checking my email I have to keep my phone around.

Customer service for Ingram says: "We'll call you when we call you.  Deal with it."  Customer service for CreateSpace says: "You are a customer.  How quickly can we speak to you to resolve your problem?"  IngramSpark is owned by a bricks-and-mortar book distributor: historically, authors are beholden to them (and to the publishing industry generally) to get their books out.  CreateSpace is owned by the most successful e-tailer: historically, they are beholden to their customers to stay in business.  Draw your own conclusions.

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