February 22, 2016

Printing Books with @IngramSpark: the Problem Persists

Update: I have finally received a correct shipment! Read on for the whole story.

I question the intelligence of writing this post, because as authors, we're so often told to keep any problems—rejections, bad reviews, etc.—under wraps. But this problem I've had with getting correctly printed books (through IngramSpark) has gotten ridiculous. And it's been pointed out to me that readers, and other writers, like to see behind the curtain, to know what's happening, and to see the less-than-smooth road. This post is for people like that. If you prefer to leave the author's life & the ups and downs of the behind the scenes kept out of your view on a book, you should stop reading.

Okay, for those of you who are still with me, you probably know that I've written before about why I originally chose IngramSpark over CreateSpace (the two biggest POD providers), and about the first time I received incorrectly printed books in January. To recap: 

Originally, I chose IngramSpark because:
  • They are known for better quality.
  • They have a more fair earning structure for all book sales outside of Amazon, including for international distribution. And the earning structure with Amazon is still comparable.
  • They offer the trim size I like (5x7), which CreateSpace does not.

Two out of three points are still true. But what has happened to the quality?? Here's a recap of my experience this time around (Mortal Musings didn't have these problems):
  • Early January, I ordered two test prints. These came with horrendously messed up margins, tiny on some pages, huge on the others. Unacceptable, but it was two books. So, I filed a claim with Ingram Spark.
  • Mid January, I received two correctly printed test print replacements. Problem solved, right? (That's the update in the last post on this topic.)
  • Soon afterward, I ordered a large shipment of print books to have on hand, for giveaways, in-person events, etc. 
  • Those books came with the exact same problem as the first ones. So I contacted Ingram, filled out the forms, explained that I had release events coming up and I needed correctly printed books ASAP, etc. It took a while, but the customer service rep & I seemed to understand each other. They placed a replacement order and eventually sent me return shipping labels. (There was actually more drama and delays in there, but I'm trying to be concise.)
  • Replacement books came a few days before the book release not only with the same problem, but also with a new one!! The cover was now wrapped incorrectly, with the front cover going onto the spine.
    • Let's not forget, at this point I had received two correctly printed & bound books! I know it is possible, they just can't be bothered to do it correctly.
  • So I went through the same claim process again. And though Ingram Spark has drastically stepped up their customer service game in recent months, implementing a live chat feature and such, it still takes days for anything to actually be done, because no one there seems to understand that this is a time-sensitive issue! 

    By the time I heard back, it was after the release. Same spiel: send us a claim form, and photos of the problem, and we'll send you shipping labels to return the books to us, and then we'll place a replacement order. Not okay. So I convinced the rep to send me the replacement order without waiting the 10 days for the books to arrive at their office. I also sorted through the books I had & just in case chose the least messed up ones to have on hand for the event planned at the library, because Ingram left me no choice. (I'm actually a little relieved those didn't end up being necessary.)
  • Friday, I received the third batch of books. Now, remember when I said this was a big order? Already, thousands of sheets of paper have been wasted, not to mention time, shipping costs (on their end, at least), etc. And guess what? This newest shipment has a third problem! So now I have books with:
    • Noticeably uneven/inconsistent margins.
    • Covers wrapped incorrectly.
    • And weird air bubbles trapped under the top layer of the cover:

Pretty, right? (OY.) So much time spent on the interior layout and the cover design, and the printers can't seem to do their job! I've been through the spiel of IngramSpark customer service reps trying to blame me for these problems, too. But each time they send the files to their techs, those confirm that the files I uploaded are correct and these are printer errors. Meanwhile, they keep telling me that their quality assurance reps check these orders. Really??

Literally, each round of books shipped has had a new problem. And it's incredibly infuriating and frustrating. The part of me that's an author who's spent so much time bringing this book into the world wants to cry. The part of me that's an entrepreneur is at a loss. Who has absolutely ZERO pride in their work like this? How can they be okay with wasting not only my time, but also all of that paper and all of that money (theirs) on reprinting equally problematic books?! 

And I have no way of knowing if books printed at a different facility are affected, because apparently (as I found out Friday), the system automatically puts each shipment in at the most geographically proximate printer, and therefore all of these problematic books—and the two good oneswere all printed by the same place. So I can't even get new books printed somewhere else with the hope that this is only one printer having these problems. I'm stuck.

Honestly, I don't know what to do. I wouldn't blame any of you for holding off on ordering print books, though I hope other printers won't have the same problem. If you have ordered a book through any retailer, please don't hesitate to return copies that have problems like this for replacements

Because all I can do is keep fighting, and keep insisting they actually do their job and send me correctly printed books. I have no idea when that will actually happen. I am so unbelievably disappointed in this experience with the Ingram Content Group. It's ridiculous—especially because I have two correctly printed books that show if someone just gave half a damn, they could have gotten me properly printed books a month ago.

So there's your glimpse at the "glamorous" life of being an author. While this is being sorted, I have also started looking into local printers who can do a short run for me to have on hand, even though that will likely mean spending money on revamped interior and cover files, not to mention the money for the print run itself. Money I've already spent at Ingram, for this nightmare. As one friend put it, it seems Ingram's new motto should be: 

Lowering your quality expectations with every shipment.

Update: As mentioned at the top of this post, the issue has finally been resolved. So if you've been waiting to order your print copy, now's the time!

In happier news, there's still a little bit of time left to enter the Mending Heartstrings blog tour giveaway!


  1. Dear Aria: I have had the same problem recently with IS . . . looking into going with integrated books international to print and stock my books for me. Quality is just as important as content, and maybe more important.

    1. How did going with the other company work out for you, Red Roots?

  2. "The part of me that's an author who's spent so much time bringing this book into the world wants to cry."
    Here we are, 4 years after you wrote this article and I am up in the middle of the night, sick to the stomach after my experiences with IngramSpark. It isn't only the money I am losing but somehow, my dreams for my beautiful book also. I am hurting, gutted at their callous inability to address the issues.

    1. I wish you didn't know exactly how that feels. I have continually had problems with IngramSpark and they refuse to take any responsibility for their quality. When the books are printed well, it's great. My latest print book (Fallen) was printed crookedly! As in pages on the diagonal. Repeatedly. They refuse to recognize that there might be a clear issue with their process.

      Unfortunately, 4 years on, the problems persist and I haven't been able to find a reasonable alternative. If you do, please let me know. Don't give up on seeing your book printed well! It is possible. We just have to fight for it, which I know can be exhausting after already fighting to create the content in the first place.

      Hang in there, and congratulations on your book!

  3. Where do I start with my problems with IngramSpark other than saying that their quality control of their printing process is non-existent. Nit sure how they make money. I finished a children's book series 2 months ago, series of 12 books, glossy hardback with full color pages. On my test orders for books, about 25% of the books were bad, covers printed out of alignment, books glued out of alignment, bottoms of interior pages cropped off. Today I just received 2 replacement books from one of those test orders and one is OK and the other has my book cover on it but the interior book is someone else's book all together. That's a new problem. Had an order come in last week of 34 books, each of the 12 books in the series. Only 2 of those books were correct, all 34 books each. The rest were messed up in some way. Some books I received more than I ordered, others I received less than I ordered, many had pages cropped off, others had covers cropped off. Many books were glued where the covers were way out of alignment. Literally 34% of the books on that ordered were unusable. And they shorted me 2 books on the order. TOTAL Incompetence. Not sure how they make money but if I was CEO, heads would be rolling.

  4. I've been having this issue on short books with a small spine. Thought not as big of an issue as yours, they can only manage to get about 65% of the books I order lined up straight. On the other hand, the same thing happens with Amazon. Not a huge deal but definitely looks unprofessional - I can't do writing on the spine if it's under 100 pages.

  5. I have just experienced this. First time printing with IS was fine. This second time, not so much. The eproof and cover file looks fine, but the test print copy has a misaligned spine and front cover (not centred like on the eproof and cover file). I emailed them and they made me put in a claim. I did that only to find I have to wait two to three WEEKS for them to review my claim. I ordered this in advance, thinking it would be fine, because I need to do a large order for a book fair in May. Seems like there's a good chance I won't get this done in time, so then I'll have nothing to show for the fair.

    1. I'm sorry to hear this issue is still ongoing. I wish IS would finally fix it! I have a hunch the issue is with their software, and they just don't have the incentive to put in the effort to change that for the sake of indie authors.

      Last time I filled out their form, there was an option to add an event date, so they would expedite the printing and shipping. I hope that's an option that still exists and that you get the books you need in time!

    2. Oh man, I'm so glad I found this. I thought I was going nuts. I went all out and made hardcovers for the first time. What a terrible experience. First off, they rejected my claim because it can be up to a 1/16th of an inch off on the spine. I wish! It was nearly an eight of an inch. It looked terrible. (The cover had nice lines so it should have been easy to line up correctly. Whoever did the paperbacks did them perfectly.). So I sent a photo of the issue with a rule. No response. I tried again. Ghosted. I might just reset up the cover, but holy hell, I already released the book and a bunch of people got this crappy product from them. I wish there was another option. I'd take it in a second. KDP hardcover is not it, that's for sure. The proof I got back from them had a gigantic hand print in glue on the front cover. I didn't even bother trying to deal with that mess.

    3. I'm sorry you're dealing with this, but you're definitely not nuts!

      I agree, it'd be nice if we had any real alternative, but most other print distribution options that I'm aware of use IngramSpark for printing themselves, so it seems like just giving more of your income away for no benefit.

      I hope you're able to reach IS, and they actually fix this for you!