Working with Createspace & Ingram Spark

This is a long post, but it's filled with information I was searching for prior to using Ingram Spark. So as someone who has just finished the process, I wanted to share my findings.

As we've traveled along this sometimes foggy road called self-publishing, Bret and I have had to make many decisions together - book length, book size, book price, which companies should review the finished product and who should print our books for us. 

As we self-published our books and had done all the work ourselves, it was important to us that we own our ISBN numbers and not have a printing company own a part of our book. This caused a problem with Createspace if we wanted libraries to be able to order our books because they couldn’t list our books with Baker and Taylor if they didn’t own the ISBN number. There is an option to apply to become a vendor with Baker and Taylor, this costs $350 and you have to send them 5 copies of each book and give them your marketing plan. But if you print with Ingram Spark your book can be available to libraries through their distribution even if you own your ISBN number.

We worked with Createspace (CS), who are owned by Amazon, first. They made the self-publishing process very simple, with user-friendly interfaces and customer service reps just an email or a quick phone call away. Then we worked with Ingram Spark (IS). Both Ingram Spark and Lightning Source are owned by Ingram, the largest physical and digital content distributer in the world. We found IS to be a little less "user friendly" and a little more expensive to use and print with (if you're printing in high quality color, which we found necessary for our children's picture books).

With IS you have a set up fee of $49 per title, which we weren't too bothered by as it is a one-off fee per book, and it looked as though the actual printing of each book would be cheaper in the long run (even in color). But ontop of the printing and shipping costs, you also have an extra fee that you don't have with CS: the "How quickly would you like your book printed?" fee. For a premium color, 40 page, paperback book, it's about $1.50 per book if you want your book to be shipped in one day business day, but if you’re prepared to wait five days for it to ship then there is no extra fee.

An important issue for illustrated children's books is color. IS's standard color option is $2.20 for a paperback book, which is less expensive than CS's standard color option at $3.65. I had heard that Ingram Sparks printing quality surpassed CS's and was excited to see our proofs from Ingram because I found CS's color quality to be bright and vibrant. This was not true for Ingram's "standard color" option. The colors looked washed out and dusty in comparison. In order to have those vibrant colors we had with CS, we had to opt for the much more expensive "premium color" with IS which costs $5.50 per book (two and a half times more than standard color) to print. So it works out more expensive to print a quality color picture book with IS than it does with CS.

Regarding book pricing, from what I had researched you should offer a 55% discount off your retail price to booksellers. That really doesn’t leave you an option to compete with traditionally published books already on the market, which are sold for lower retail prices, some as low as $7.99 for a paperback book. We can't charge that for our books because then we would actually owe IS money every time our book was printed. Also IS's interface lets you change your color option from standard to premium yourself, so, like me, you might order another copy thinking it's will now be in "premium color" only to have it arrive in "standard color" again. When I called up to ask about this I was told that only IS can make those changes in your account and they don't stick if you do them yourself, but it's a little misleading because their system allows you to think you made the change successfully.

CS and IS have different guidelines for how your PDF should be formatted. The same PDF that was printed perfectly with Createspace was printed out of alignment with IS, even though the digital proof looked perfect.  On one proof the pages were too far to the right and too high up, throwing off our margins and picture alignment. Then on another proof both the left and right side were off. So we had to redo the PDF for Ingram to make it larger, and then have them convert it to PDF-X and convert the RBG images to CMYK color for us - not too much of a problem, but that didn’t necessarily fix the possibility that the pages could still be printed too far to one side on one printing and differently on the next. I was told by a customer service rep at IS that every time the book is printed it could very well have variance in the margins in each printing.

One thing I wish had been clearer with IS is that you only get a digital proof  every time from them. They do not offer physical proofs of your book prior to approving your book (unlike CS). Only after you officially approve the digital proof can you order a physical copy of the book to see what it looks like. If you receive your physical copy, and the margins are off and you want to upload a new file to fix any errors, you will then be charged $25 every time you upload a new file after approving the digital proof. I assumed it was only after you had approved the physical proof, because once you view the digital proof they give you three options to select from: "1. ___ approves this title and authorizes its inclusion into the distribution channels. 2. ___ approves this title, but prefers to keep it from the distribution channels until a physical proof has been ordered (you will need to place a separate order for this title). 3. ___ does not approve this title and requests alterations." This is confusing again, because there are no physical proofs with IS. That one book I ordered was considered a short run, not a proof order, even though it is worded as "physical proof" in option no. 2. If you were only using IS as your printer, I think these charges could rack up quite quickly until you got your book perfect, especially if you have double-page pictures as we do. CS have a file reviewing tool on their website, and you can make changes any time you like for free even after the book has gone live. However, when I explained the confusion about being able to select the "premium color" as well as the confusion about the proof order and file revision fee, the IS rep I spoke to did say that I could phone again to get those fees refunded as a one time courtesy, and I really appreciated that.

If you use CS you can be on their expanded distribution (ED) even if you own your own ISBN's, but if you use IS too, you will automatically be taken of ED with CS. I called CS and found out they use Ingram for ED, which of course is the same wholesaler that IS uses, so that didn't really matter, but it says in the tiny print on CS that they use other printers for their ED. I asked which color option CS chooses and the rep I spoke to said they don't get to choose that, it will be the nearest one to what you selected with CS. As we have seen first hand that the CS PDF did not print the same with IS, I think we're better off placing our books through IS ourselves because we can check the quality of the books going out in expanded distribution. If you're only printing black and white books this may not matter, and thus you can probably print less expensively with IS.

Working with two printing companies and learning about different practices in the printing industry has been a vital educational experience that has enabled us to make informed decisions, and were happy to be with both CS and IS.

Color variations between IS standard color and IS premium color:

standard vs premium

Color variations between Createspace and Ingram Spark.                                                          Left to right: CS color, IS standard color, IS premium color:

More soon,


A monster poem for July

If you've read Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins you might remember a bright green monster on page 13. Well, when Bret came up with that amazing illustration, I thought that big green guy deserved a poem of his own, which will be added to the growing collection for our monster book.

Here is the poem, and as the title suggests it's a little dark:

Harvey Papier-Mâché (the child-eating monster)


There's a big green guy with horns on his head,

he has huge fanged teeth and his tail glows red.

His tail glows red when children are near

and just after that they soon disappear.

He looks quite harmless in a goofy kind of way,

his name is Harvey, Harvey Papier-Mâché.

It's not a pleasant story, it's not a pleasant fact

that Harvey eats children who act like brats.

You know the kid I mean-- the one who thinks they're cute

and then throws a tantrum and acts like a brute.

Or kids who tease short kids or ones with ginger hair,

the ones who think they're special - who think they walk on air.

The ones who can't play nicely and never share their toys,

it doesn't matter if they're girls or if they are boys.

There's no sugar, no spice and no puppy dog tails,

just scrumptiously juicy and tender entrails.

His only requirement is that they must be brats -

'cause self involved children are the easiest to catch.

They're so self-obsessed they don't see him coming,

by the time that they do, it's too late for running.

But it's all over quickly as he eats them head first,

and really he's only eating the worst of the worst.

I said it wasn't pleasant, but you shouldn't worry

unless you're a brat, then you'd better scurry!

More soon,


My writing buddy

I admit it, I'm one of those dog owners who is besotted with her dog. I do try to limit the amount of dog related posts I put on Facebook to save my friends from an endless barrage of what I think is cuteness embodied in a fur coat. I grew up in a house filled with animals - my dad was like the Pied Piper for stray pets. He often came home with new additions to the family, mainly cats and dogs that had followed him, puppies who needed homes from colleague's dog's litters, and once he even brought a parrot home.  Of course all of these animals loved him the most out of anyone in the family. When you grow up surrounded by animals it's hard to suddenly not have any around you. When I left England in 2006, I left the home I shared with my mum and the last of our family pets, a bearded collie named Bruni.  Although I was over five thousand miles away, I still found myself saving the crusts from my toast for him every morning, only to remember he was not here with me in America. I missed him and longed for the positive energy that pets bring into our lives every day. But our apartment wasn't dog friendly and my husband and I both worked full time, so we couldn't get a dog of our own. In those first two years abroad I was writing in my spare time while working a full time job. But then came the day when my husband and I decided I would quit my job and focus solely on writing, which also happily meant being able to get a furry friend to keep me company while I was at home.

Murphy was the first dog that was fully my responsibility. The first few months were a little harder than I was expecting. But then something magic clicked and we were inseparable, as we still are today. When Murphy was between three and eight months old she used to sleep around my neck while I wrote - I would call her my "puppy scarf". At that time we lived in Montreal and it was bitterly cold, so we were both grateful for each others' warmth on those snowy mornings. Until, that is, she got so big that it was too much strain on my neck and then she would curl up in my lap - a little grudgingly - as she is right now.

I call Murphy my writing buddy because she is always with me while I write, and because she keeps me grounded in the real world. She forces me to get out of the house a few times a day for fresh ocean-scented walks, which always seem to spawn more writing ideas. She encourages me to take regular breaks to play with her, also very helpful. Otherwise, I fear I would become too reclusive, and stay in the worlds I create in my head for far longer than is healthy.

As well as inspiring a few fun poems of her own, Murphy has always been an inspiration for my paintings. When I'm not painting seascapes or trying to capture interesting light falling on streets or through tree branches, I paint portraits of her.

Here are a few pictures of my girl, Murphy:


More soon,


***Free ebook for 3 days only!***

To celebrate the release of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins we’re giving away a free ebook copy of Lucy's first adventure, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters, which was awarded a Kirkus Star and named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2014! 

 If you’re in the USA get your free copy here, if you’re in the UK get your free copy here.


Happy reading!


Just released! Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins

The second fantastic tale in our Lucy Lick-Me-Not series, Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins, is finally here! It's a cozy, wintertime tale with our brave girl, Lucy, a flurry of festive characters and a creature crisis for Lucy to solve in her usual good-spirited way. A fun read for any time of year, but it will be even more fun to read as we near the winter holidays.

We have also released a second edition of Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Day Eaters in our new larger series size, 8 x 10.  Both books are available to order through libraries, bookstores and online retailersHere is a link to buy Lucy Lick-Me-Not and the Greedy Gubbins from

There are also a couple of new coloring pages on the Lucy Lick-Me-Not 'fun stuff page, including the beautiful picture below.

Happy reading!

Lucy and Gubbins

Artwork by Bret Burkmar.

More soon,


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