GREAT News! IngramSpark Is Revising Their Fee Policy

open book with Scrabble tiles spelling "bibliophile"


I’m not shy about voicing my opinion on this blog. I write honest reviews, and I’m upfront about my experiences as a self-published author (both good and bad). I believe this is the best way to help other indie authors on their journey so they don’t make the same mistakes that I did!

IngramSpark’s recent announcement about eliminating their setup and revision fees is HUGE for me, and in this article, I’ll explain why I’m so thrilled about their decision.

IngramSpark’s Pandemic Decline

In 2019, I transferred my title from B&N Press to IngramSpark. Two of my most popular articles were my side-by-side comparison of these two companies and my review of IngramSpark.

At the time, I raved about IngramSpark because my experience with B&N Press was so awful that IngramSpark was, in comparison, phenomenal.

But unfortunately, something changed with IngramSpark during the pandemic. Their exceptional customer service plummeted. Authors no longer had access to a CX rep by phone or live chat—only email (which was one of my complaints about B&N Press). Their reps also seemed to have become much less helpful and knowledgeable than they were before. Books took much longer to print and ship.

For a while, I was understanding. COVID-19 disrupted not only the entire country, but also the worldwide supply chain. IngramSpark had a whole new set of challenges to face, just like everyone else.

And yet… they never returned to their pre-pandemic glory. To make matters worse, in July 2021, IngramSpark decided to put the brakes on public-accessible promo codes to waive the fees for setups and revisions. The only way to get these codes was by joining a publishing association that had partnered with IngramSpark (which meant that instead of paying the fees, you had to pay an annual membership) or waiting for IngramSpark to run a promotion.

For me, this was one of the worst moves they could have done. It was a critical factor that made me reconsider whether I’d return to IngramSpark to publish the fourth novel in my series.

Why I Hated IngramSpark’s Revision Fees (But Didn’t Mind Their Setup Fees)

Obviously, fees in general aren’t something most people are happy about. But here’s the thing—during my research back in 2018 when I was publishing A Fallen Hero, my first novel, I realized that IngramSpark’s global distribution network was the best option on the market.

That has proven true over the years as I’ve continued to publish books and build my brand. When approaching bookstores, I found that they relied on two primary distributors—Baker & Taylor and Ingram. Which meant that I was rarely turned down. The only time a bookstore said they wouldn’t carry my book was if they had a personal no self-published books policy, which, unfortunately, does still happen.

Not once was I ever turned down because a store couldn’t order from Ingram.

Because of Ingram’s strong distribution network, I honestly didn’t mind paying a one-time setup fee for each title in exchange for gaining access to that worldwide network. IngramSpark made my books available through Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Walmart, Kobo, and more, not to mention countless libraries and indie bookstores. To me, the setup fee was simply the cost of admission, and I factored it into my publishing budget.

What bothered me A LOT was the revision fees.

I never liked them, even before the policy change in 2021. However, there used to be ways around those fees. With a little online sleuthing, one could find a promo code to waive them. IngramSpark also ran a reliable NaNoWriMo promotion that lasted from November through March every year, and it waived all setup and revision fees. There was no limit to how many times you could use the code during that time period.

As of July 2021, that was no longer the case. IngramSpark cracked down on those accessible codes, and their NaNoWriMo code could be used only once for setup OR one revision.

I haven’t been quiet about how I feel regarding IngramSpark’s revision fees—whether that’s here on the blog or directly to IngramSpark’s customer service team. They probably aren’t too fond of me after we went back and forth multiple times on this very issue earlier this year when I released my third book, and I also encouraged other authors to fill out IngramSpark’s customer feedback form and make their opinion about the ridiculous fees heard.

Here’s why I abhorred the old revision fee policy:

1. Self-Publishing is already expensive (if you’re investing in it properly).

I, like many indie authors, operate on an extremely tight budget. I cut costs wherever I can—I create my own covers, do the interior layouts myself, handle most of the marketing, etc. But I always, ALWAYS advocate for authors to invest in a professional editor. That is the one corner I will not cut. A good editor WILL make your book better and catch typos that you and your beta readers have missed. It is 100% worth the cost, even if you have to wait and save up to make it happen.

(By the way, I LOVE my line editor and happily recommend her to other authors! She’s incredibly knowledgeable, and she’s willing to work out payment plans with me so I don’t have to come up with the full amount all at once.)

I’m an artist with a background in landscape architecture (which came with some experience with basic graphic design). Because of that, I’m equipped to handle the cover and interior… but other authors might not be. We want our books to look as professional as traditionally published works, which means that if parts of the publishing process are beyond our skills, we have to pay someone to help us.

Those costs add up quickly. I write big books, and since my editor charges by word count, that’s easily over $1,000 investment right there. That’s not counting any other publishing expenses.

IngramSpark’s revision fees were $25 per file upload. What does that mean? If I found a typo that had slipped through my hardcover, paperback, and ebook, that’s $25 x3 file uploads for $75.

You might be saying, “Easy solution. Proofread your book and make sure there aren’t any typos.”

Trust me, that’s easier said than done. Even with a professional line editor, and even with the author and beta readers hunting for mistakes, I guarantee you that at least one error will slip through into the final manuscript. It never fails.

For a perfectionist like me, it drives me NUTS to leave it in there after I’m aware of its existence! One typo could cost $75, which is just ridiculous.

2. Indie authors have to fight a stigma against low-quality self-published books.

Earlier in this article, I mentioned that some bookstores have a no self-published books policy. There could be several reasons for that, but the one I usually suspect is… you probably guessed it… Amazon.

Amazon is killing bookstores, and they have their own self-publishing company (KDP). Not surprisingly, bookstores aren’t usually keen to carry books that are printed and distributed by their biggest competitor. But it goes deeper than that.

Because Amazon self-publishing has always been completely free to use, it developed a bad reputation early on. Authors could churn out low-quality, unedited books because it was easy for anyone and everyone with minimal writing skills to publish through Amazon without investing a dime in their books. “Self-published” became synonymous with “low quality” when it first started to take off.

Some bookstores have a specific policy against KDP-published books but will still allow other indie books. Others simply put a ban on ALL self-published books.

Even though self-publishing companies, including KDP, have been pushing to improve the quality of their books, indie authors still have an uphill battle to fight that lingering stigma. I’ll admit that before I published in 2018, I wanted to go the traditional route because I believed that bad reputation. I felt that self-publishing was for the authors whose books weren’t good enough to be accepted by a publishing house.

I was wrong, of course, and I wrote about that in another post: 3 Reasons Why I Self-Published. But still, there’s no denying that the stigma exists, so indie authors need to work extra hard to make sure they’re producing high-quality books. Charging revision fees is counterproductive to that goal. Authors should be encouraged to fix mistakes in their books.

3. IngramSpark’s revision fees actively DISCOURAGED authors from fixing errors.

When rolling out their new policy to limit promo codes in 2021, IngramSpark made this public statement made to IBPA:

“IngramSpark works to ensure independently published books are valued for their significant contribution to the publishing industry at large. Part of connecting the work of our joint community with readers is maintaining a catalog of books that distribution channels and end consumers can trust. In line with our ongoing catalog integrity efforts, we now limit per-account use of promotional codes to help distinguish the works of our community from the millions of mass-produced and public domain books too often found in the self-publishing landscape. In this way, and many others, we hope to reduce bias against self-published works.” 

Basically, they claimed that they were limiting their promotional codes in order to improve the overall quality of IngramSpark-produced books and “reduce bias against self-published works.”

But… by charging revision fees, they were doing the exact opposite. The authors who genuinely cared about the quality of their books and wanted to fix any errors were being punished, while those who didn’t care about typos or formatting issues after the book was approved just let it slide and didn’t have to pay additional fees.

By doing this, IngramSpark was encouraging authors to NOT improve their books! After all, it was cheaper to shrug and say, “Oh well. Guess there are some typos I missed!” than it was to actually fix them.

Ghost Realm candle by Old Soul Artisan

4. IngramSpark didn’t allow authors to receive a proof copy before approving their title.

This really irked me. Once you submitted your files, IngramSpark took a day or two to process everything. Then, they sent you an eproof (a digital mock-up).

From there, you had three options: you could reject it and submit new files, approve it and make it immediately available for distribution, or approve it but NOT enable distribution so only you could order copies.

However, if you wanted to get a hard copy to review before enabling for distribution, you HAD to approve the eproof first. And once you did that, even if nobody but you was authorized to order copies, you immediately became subject to revision fees if you wanted to make changes.

First, reading an actual book is different than reading an electronic copy. My brain processes the text differently. I always catch typos, mistakes, and formatting errors that I miss on the computer screen, and I mark up sentences that I want to tweak. I really need to read the printed book for one last check.

Second, there’s no way to tell how the margins are going to look on the eproof. It all depends on how big the book is and how the pages are bound together.

This was a relatively minor grievance for me with my first two books, but with Book III, I published a two-page map for the first time. I needed to see how it printed since it was at the beginning of a thick book. Just because I’d centered it digitally on the pages didn’t mean that would be the optimal printing layout once the pages were bound and glued to the spine. Sure enough, I had to make some small adjustments. And I was charged for it because I had to approve the eproof first in order to get a hard proof copy, even though there was no way for me to accurately judge how that margin would look until I had the book in my hands.

Map of the Ghost Realm Avilesor in Blood of the Enemy by Sara A. Noe

5. Authors who won awards and wanted to boost the marketability of their book had to pay for it.

I’m incredibly fortunate to say that all three of my novels have won a Literary Titan Book Award. As part of the honor, I’m allowed to include an award medallion on the covers of my books.

That should be a huge accomplishment, right? Since IngramSpark claims that they care so much about maintaining high standards and reducing bias around self-published books, they should have been happy that one of their authors wanted to improve the marketability of her book by including an award on the cover and mentioning it in the About the Author section. Right?

Their response when I inquired about the possibility of waiving the revision fees to include the award on/in Book III: “I do understand where you are coming from, but policy is still a policy.”

Translation: Congrats, that’ll be $150 to update your book ($25 x3 to revise the covers for the hardcover, paperback, and ebook, and then double that amount since you’re also uploading new interior files for each format as well).

That’s more than it costs me to buy an entire box of my books!!

6. IngramSpark’s response to complaints about fees was to pay different fees to get free promo codes.

In my many exchanges back and forth with various members of IngramSpark’s customer service team, I frequently received this copied-and-pasted email template:

While we currently do not have any promotions regarding complimentary revisions, we work with several publishing associations who offer promotion codes to their members to use for complimentary title setups and revisions for print and ebook titles. Many times, the offer of complimentary title setup and free revisions more than pays for the membership fee. Check out their websites and see what they have to offer.

Alliance of Independent Authors
Australian Society of Authors
Association of Authors and Publishers for Special Sales
Christian Indie Publishing Association
Independent Book Publisher Association
New Hampshire Writer’s Project
Non-Fiction Authors Association
Novelist Inc.
Romance Writers of Australia
Small Press Network

Is joining a publishing association a bad thing? No… if that’s an extra expense you can afford. I had looked into joining ALLi, but after producing my first audiobook last year and going full-time with my business, it wasn’t in my budget.

And that right there is the kicker. IngramSpark was basically telling me that if I didn’t like having to pay $150 to revise my files when the book won an award, then I should pay $119 for an annual ALLi membership instead, and then I could receive free promo codes to waive their fees.

Some of us live paycheck to paycheck. Some of us put all of our savings into other aspects of publishing, such as paying a line editor, purchasing ISBNs, and ordering boxes of books to sell at local events. IngramSpark liked to play the “it’s only $25” card, but it wasn’t. That $25 added up VERY fast when charged multiple times per file, per book format. The insensitivity from IngramSpark was infuriating, and as a result, I was truly on the fence about continuing any further with them.

I still felt that they had the best global distribution network on the market, and I honestly don’t trust Amazon/KDP due to their shady past (and, let’s be honest, current practices) of screwing over authors. A couple of years ago, I had received a paperback proof from KDP to compare against my IngramSpark books, and the print quality was noticeably lower. Hence, I kept my print books with IngramSpark even though KDP does have my Kindle ebook version. However… when my third book won the award, KDP let me update the Kindle version for free, no strings attached. IngramSpark made me pay.

I hated that IngramSpark was forcing me to choose. Should I switch to KDP where I could afford to publish the best book I possibly could while sacrificing print quality and losing Ingram’s distribution network? Or cough up the extra money while IngramSpark treated me more like a cash cow than a respected author?

IngramSpark no more book setup fees

IngramSpark’s Announcement: No More Setup Fees + 60 Days of Free Revisions

This week, IngramSpark made a big announcement: starting on May 1, 2023, their setup and revision fees would be no more!

(Yep, I did a little happy dance!)

The setup fee for new titles will be completely gone. Before, you had the option of setting up a print book for $49, an ebook for $25, or a bundle print + ebook for $49. That’s $98 if you’re doing hardcover, paperback, and ebook while bundling the ebook with one of the print formats.

It’s worth noting that the revision fee isn’t completely gone. Authors will have a 60-day window from the book’s first production date to make free revisions before they start getting charged.

Ideally, I would have liked for the revision fees to go away completely. However, this is still a much better policy than their old one. At least now, authors have some time to order a proof copy for review so they can make necessary updates before they have to start paying.

Will IngramSpark eventually eliminate their revision fees completely? They might down the road. Their competitors, including KDP and B&N Press, don’t charge any revision fees at all. I’ve been predicting for a long time now that IngramSpark’s fees are hurting the company and driving indie authors to alternative self-publishing companies.

IngramSpark needed to strike a better balance between weeding out the types of authors who wanted a free, easy option to upload their book without putting in any extra costs (including, unfortunately, editing in many cases) vs. fostering a healthy community of authors who genuinely care about producing great books and being successful.

This feels like a great step in the right direction. IngramSpark is finally removing most of their unnecessary extra financial barriers to make self-publishing quality books accessible for authors on a tight budget.

Of course, their new policy does come with a trade-off. Although the setup fees are gone, IngramSpark will be compensating by adding a new distribution fee they didn’t have before: “Books enabled for distribution will be charged a market access fee equivalent to 1% of the local list price at the time of sale.”

This new fee will start in July 2023. In the long run, this change will certainly benefit IngramSpark. The distribution fee won’t be a one-and-done charge, so as long as authors keep selling books, IngramSpark will keep bringing in money with this new fee tacked onto every sale. 1% isn’t much, but as indie authors know all too well, a little bit from each sale does add up over time… especially after IngramSpark recently raised the print cost to produce books. Every per-sale fee takes a little more out of an indie author’s pocket.

What are your thoughts? Are you happy about IngramSpark restructuring its fee policies? How do you feel about the new distribution fee going into effect? Please share in the comments!

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I'm an award-winning fantasy author, artist, and photographer from La Porte, Indiana. My poetry, short fiction, and memoir works have been featured in various anthologies and journals since 2005, and several of my poems are available in the Indiana Poetry Archives. The first three novels in my Chronicles of Avilésor: War of the Realms series have received awards from Literary Titan.

After some time working as a freelance writer, I was shocked by how many website articles are actually written by paid "ghost writers" but published under the byline of a different author. It was a jolt seeing my articles presented as if they were written by a high-profile CEO or an industry expert with decades of experience. I'll be honest; it felt slimy and dishonest. I had none of the credentials readers assumed the author of the article actually had. Ghost writing is a perfectly legal, astonishingly common practice, and now, AI has entered the playing field to further muddy the waters. It's hard to trust who (or what) actually wrote the content you'll read online these days.

That's not the case here at On The Cobblestone Road. I do not and never will pay a ghost writer, then slap my name on their work as if I'd written it. This website is 100% authentic. No outsourcing. No ghost writing. No AI-generated content. It's just me... as it should be.

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