Guest Post: Ingram Puts Publishing on Notice

On April 27, 2020 Ingram Book Wholesalers began removing books from wholesale distribution that they determined to lack integrity and therefore negatively affect the reputations of publishers, libraries, and retailers, and, let’s face it, Ingram.

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Ingram sent all the publishers for whom they distribute books worldwide a “Service Alert” beginning with an initial paragraph containing the sentence: “To align with our industry’s needs for content integrity, we will actively remove print content from our catalog that does harm to buyers and affects the reputations of our publishers and retail and library partners.”

That is a pretty broad statement, so what does it mean? In the most general sense, it means if you paid to independently publish yourself, if you published traditionally, or if you published through a full-service self-publishing company for a service fee, your book is most likely safe since most of them vet manuscripts in advance of acceptance (with the help of an actual human being).  

On the other hand, for authors who have published books through Amazon’s CreateSpace or Kindle Publishing Platform, where the whole thing is done by lunchtime, you may have a greater concern since there was no human vetting process. Amazon publishes just about anything because their product isn’t your book, you are.  Ingram knows this, so books published via CreateSpace and KDP are also likely to undergrow harsher scrutiny simply because of how the books themselves were published.

And that’s the problem. Automated, “free” online publishing platforms like KDP are making it possible for nefarious or unscrupulous individuals or companies to profit from publishing what Ingram identifies as content lacking integrity. To that end, Ingram finds itself forced to become the gatekeeper, a role once held by The Big Five publishers (and their various subsidiaries) but a role that has been sorely lacking in the publishing industry since the advent of automated online publishing platforms.  

First Amendment pundits may be inclined to cry “foul” and wave their free speech cards, but Ingram’s use of “harm to buyers and affects the reputation of…” is not a subjective matter of opinion or free speech, but an empirical definition of value and quality. This is an important distinction that few humans have trouble making, but one that even fewer computers can make accurately.  For instance, no legitimate publishing company would accept 200 blank pages titled “Scrapbook” and publish it as a book. A computer, on the other hand, might consider 200 blank pages to be perfect. After all, there would be no mistakes, no copyright violations, and no libelous content!

To support that point, Ingram’s notification to its publishers listed some examples of content lacking integrity:

  1. Content containing 90-100% blank pages like notepads, scratchpads, journals, or similar type content.
  2. Summaries, workbooks, abbreviations, insights, or similar type content without permission from the original author. For example: A Summary of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
  3. Content that mirrors/mimics popular titles, including without limiting, similar covers, cover design, title, author names, or similar type content.
  4. Content that is misleading or likely to cause confusion by the buyer, including without limiting, inaccurate descriptions and cover art. For example: A book with a cover design that does not match the interior content; a cover that appears to be for a product other than a physical book. 
  5. Content listed at prices not reflective of its market value. For example: a blank journal listed at $99.99.
  6. Content scanned from original versions where all or parts contain illegible content to the detriment of the buyer.
  7. Content created using automated means or mass-produced processes.

These are all examples of books commonly accepted through automated online publishing platforms, but are rarely accepted by full-service self-publishing companies with a human vetting process, which is in place for precisely this reason – to protect writers and readers.

Therefore, the question professional authors who use Amazon’s automated publishing platforms may want to ask themselves is this:  Is that the company I want to keep?

brent sampson

In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the President and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including The Book Marketing COACH, Self-Publishing Questions Asked & Answered, and Sell Your Book on Amazon.

Self-Publishing News: 5.07.2019

May -wooden carved name of spring month. Calendar on business office table, workplace at yellow background. Spring time

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

In keeping with its power to assist in democratizing literature, self-publishing has always provided a home for authors traditionally locked out of the traditional publishing process, including authors who are women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ folks, and people without access to great resources. This week, at least one of those groups is seeing themselves and their works reflected on the awards circuit: women took home all of awards for all six of the categories of the second annual ‘Pen to Publish’ contest, sponsored by Amazon India, that recognizes “and celebrates self-published digital literary works across several Indian languages,” according to this article in India’s Business Standard. Barriers to women in publishing exist internationally, and so it’s really quite nice (to put it mildly) to see six Indian women recognized for their skill and craft. Totally worth a look!

Did you know the American Booksellers Association runs online marketing meetups? Neither did we! Now that we do, we’re super excited to hear from BookWeb a little bit about their most recent meetup, the first in a series of tree focused on IngramSpark, Ingram’s print-on-demand and e-book distribution platform. Ingram is one of the major companies to keep in mind when attempting to sell your self-published books through retail locations, including both the biggies (like Barnes and Noble) and indie bookstores. Barnes and Noble, of course, has its own thing going on with the Nook platform, but indie booksellers—and libraries!—rely heavily on Ingram for their purchases, and some will only stock books if they’re available through that platform. Emily Behnke of BookWeb points out a number of the meetup’s highlights, and provides a summary of the IngramSpark offerings. Definitely worth checking out!

In further exciting news for gamers, as the headline from GBATemp makes clear, Platinum Games is breaking into the self-publishing market. As GBATemp‘s Krista Noren says, Platinum’s CEO “Inaba hopes to spend 2019 preparing Platinum Games for a future where all its games will be self-published.” That’s pretty cool! We’ll be watching as the self-publishing phenomenon continues to make inroads into the gaming sector.


As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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The Importance of Distribution in Self Publishing

If a publisher focuses on discounts to an author who buys their own book in bulk, that often communicates two things. 1) That publisher is more concerned with selling to you than to other readers. 2)  The publisher is charging you too much for lower quantities. Do you really want to be forced to buy 100 books at a time just to get a fair price? “Bulk” discounts simply trick the author into buying more books than they need, which defeats the whole advantage of on-demand printing.

I’ve seen many authors go down that road, and then end up with lots of books sitting in their garage or basement that no one knows about, because the distribution piece is missing.  The power of the on-demand printing and EDI distribution offered in custom self-publishing take advantage of wholesale availability via multiple sales channels including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Baker and Taylor, and Ingram—North America’s largest distributor.  Look also to see that your book is available through I-Page, the book ordering system available at over 25,000 bookstores and retail chains world-wide.

Do look also for a publisher that will sell your book to you at a special author discounted price as well.  It’s never a bad idea to have access to an inventory to compliment your virtually endless on-demand inventory.

The power of distribution when paired with flexible pricing creates an advantageous sales combination for the self-publishing author.

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Tips on Annotation for the Self-Publishing Author

Last week we discussed the book marketing value of professional cover scribing. Annotation provides an avenue to use that externally to enhance that marketing online.

ANNOTATION is used by Ingram during the distribution process. When the book is listed on Amazon or Barnes & Noble’s website, it’s the annotation that fills the PRODUCT DESCRIPTION/OVERVIEW section.   The ANNOTATION is also restricted in length, although very often can be substantially longer than the Back Cover Copy.  Ideally, the ANNOTATION should be as long and as detailed as possible, perhaps requiring multiple headings to separate elements of the ANNOTATION.  The total character count, including spaces, should be as close to 4000 as possible without exceeding it.   It’s okay to include the author biography again in the ANNOTATION, provided a separate heading (Like “About the Author”) separates the content. Both Amazon and Barnes & Noble have the capability of understanding basic HTML formatting tags, so judicious use of several tags can help an ANNOTATION really stand out.  Two specific tags that should be used are the <b>BOLD</b> tags and the <em>italics</em> tags, both of which can help draw a reader’s attention to specific words and phrases within the ANNOTATION. Bullet point and numbered lists are good here, too.

Whew. Have fun. Keep writing.

– Karl Schroeder