Self Publishing Means Holding the Hands of Billion Dollar Companies

Ryan Cipriani
8 min readJul 21, 2022


It is a heavy lift. Let’s make it a little easier.

Being a self-published author means taking on a lot of heavy lifting. You will find yourself becoming a ‘soft’ expert in a lot of things you do not necessarily associate with writing. Marketing. Public relations. Copy editing. Book ‘architecture.’ Honestly, I could go on with all the things I have had to learn about in order to put a book into the marketplace. When I self-published my first book, I had absolutely no idea how much went into the trim size of a novel. Or what information was coded in an ISBN number (by the way, there’s a lot).

Even six years later, I am still learning. Several months ago, I decided I wanted to try my hand at brick-and-mortar distribution. I wanted my books to appear on library shelves and in bookstores, not just on Amazon. So I spent a little time learning about how IngramSpark works and discovered to my excitement that the book files that already existed in Kindle Direct Publishing could be migrated to IngramSpark’s expanded distribution network!

This would begin a nearly six-month journey that I am still in the middle of. Let me take you on an adventure, wherein we little self-published authors have to hold the hands of billion-dollar corporations, just so a set of files can be emailed from one to another. No exaggeration. If you are considering self-publishing, this is the world you are entering into. Don’t be afraid- there are others who have gone before. And we’re ready to share our experiences.

To begin our journey, let’s start with some definitions. Or rather, let’s define what companies do, why they are useful, and how you can leverage them.

If you are not familiar with Amazon’s self-publishing arm, it is Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP, formerly known as CreateSpace. KDP is a fully functional self-publishing suite that allows a writer to take a manuscript and turn it into an e-book, paperback, and now hardcover. You will have to have a little know-how, though. Unless you are using their cover generator tool, you will need to be working with an artist that can properly format for KDP’s templates. This should not be too difficult as the templates are readily available for download and sharing, but be aware all the same. Also, KDP will provide you with a free Amazon ISBN number if you do not have one of your own, which is a nice feature- but it does limit that book to only ever selling through Amazon.

If you are unfamiliar, an ISBN is a book identifier number. All books being sold commercially have them. They are necessary. If you ever plan to broadly distribute, you should invest in universal ISBN numbers, via Bowker, rather than using Amazon’s free ones. Seriously: buy a pack of ISBN numbers.

This brings us to IngramSpark. Amazon is beginning to develop a network of expanded distribution that allows your book to be carried in bookstores and libraries. IngramSpark already has that network and is largely considered the gold standard of booksellers. In fact, if you go into most big box book chains and tell them you have distribution through IngramSpark, they will show you how to apply to have your book carried on their shelves. It’s seriously that easy. You just… have to do it yourself, and because you’re a little fish there’s a high chance your book gets rejected. A few times.

IngramSpark does have a book-building tool in its system. However, it is at a cost and they do not provide ISBN numbers. You must bring your own. Additionally, it is not nearly as user-friendly as KDP, and the interface is a bit clunky, I find.

So which should you use? Well, both. 67% of e-books are sold through Amazon, and 50% of print books in the United States are sold through Amazon. Those estimates are conservative and as of 2020, so adjust up. That also means that by only distributing on Amazon you’re missing a potential audience of one-third of digital sales, and half of print sales.

So yeah, use both. That’s also where the trouble comes in. Buckle up.

Okay, now that we’ve taken some time to discuss the players involved in this journey to legitimacy, let’s start getting into the conflict of all of this.

Disclaimer. None of this is to discourage you from going the self-publishing route. In fact, in many cases, I encourage it. If you have ever been told your idea is not marketable, or there is not an audience for it: self-publish and prove people wrong. The idea that authors should be trend chasers and write what major publishing houses believe is ‘marketable’ is lunacy. It stifles creativity. And it creates feedback loops of content, which is why so much of what is coming out of Hollywood these days seems tired and formulaic. Spoiler: it is.


When you publish a book in KDP, after it has gone live you have the option of migrating those files to IngramSpark. It should be as simple as requesting via email the files be transferred. You are told it can take upwards of 30 business days for the transfer to complete, but afterwards you will be able to take advantage of Ingram Spark’s expanded distribution. So what do you do when two months go by, and there is no action?

Naturally, you start following up and asking where the process is at. And that’s when you might find that IngramSpark is asking you to reach out to Amazon and request the file transfer be allowed. You see, Amazon does not always move on these requests when they come in. This could be simply a volume issue and requests slip through the cracks. I work for a major company, it’s an unfortunate truth of scale. Sometimes things get missed, and it is no individual’s fault.

However, the solution to this in most consumer industries is for the two companies to continue to hash it out until things are resolved. You assume, as the client, or customer, that the companies have more sway and wherewithal than you do. Not in this case apparently. You as an author now find yourself facilitating conversation between the largest independent publication and distribution company and the largest e-commerce platform in history.

But wait. It gets crazier.

If you are like me, you might get frustrated at this point and want to talk to an actual person. After all, it’s been almost four months in a process that should take, tops, six weeks. But you learn that IngramSpark only has phone operating hours from 10AM — 2PM on certain days of the week (no, seriously). Absent any other options, one late night you choose to engage with their live chat function.

Now, fortunately for my story, I was lucky enough to connect with a truly and sincerely helpful soul named Thato. He is one of IngramSpark’s customer service specialists, and he took a careful interest in my case. Thato taught me a few things that I am going to pass on here in just a moment, but the most important thing he said was this.

I had to go BACK to Amazon and tell them to respond to IngramSpark’s outreach. AGAIN.

Quick recap. Book is published on KDP. I request a migration to IngramSpark. Nothing happens. I ask IngramSpark what’s up, and they say reach out to KDP. KDP says they have released the files, go back to IngramSpark. I ask IngramSpark what’s up, and they say the case has to be escalated. Nothing happens. I connect with customer service via web chat, and they say I have to go back to KDP and request they respond to IngramSpark.

Tired yet? So am I.

KDP reached back out to assure me they had pushed the files to IngramSpark, and I now needed to return to IngramSpark and alert them that they had responded. Most of this process is literally me going from one company to the other to ask them to respond.

Let’s move on to the conclusion of this epic tale (is there one?!) as well as lay down a few time savers for you, dear readers and writers, so you can avoid this kind of mess in the future.

What final advice do I have? Let me share a few facts I learned from Thato, and a few opinions I think will save you time.

First, if you are a self-published, independent author, let me reiterate: this is a heavy lift. You will have to do the legwork. Even for companies billions of times bigger than you. So bring your patience. Second, do NOT do what I did and try and handle this all through email. Utilize IngramSpark’s chat and BE POLITE. No matter how frustrated you are. Make friends with the person helping you, and they may go the extra mile for you.

This is just a good principle in business and life. Be nice to people. They’re more likely to do nice things for you.

Yeah, so, try and talk directly to someone as soon as you feel something is amiss. But also, going back to the ‘be patient’ point- let the process play out. It is supposed to take a few weeks, so hang in there. Once you exceed the window, though, get someone directly in contact with you.

Third, and VERY IMPORTANT. Before you attempt this transfer, make sure your book has been in KDP’s expanded distribution for at least one week, and then delist it from KDP’s expanded distribution. Yes. The book must have, at some point been in KDP’s expanded distribution, and then removed BEFORE you can request IngramSpark pick it up.

Well, wait, if KDP has expanded distribution, then why am I using IngramSpark at all? The rest of this is opinion, backed up by some facts.

KDP’s expanded distribution network does not match the reach of IngramSpark. So in my opinion, you should be using both. Sell your books on Amazon through KDP, sell them everywhere else through IngramSpark. IngramSpark is how you get into Barnes & Noble, Target, Libraries, etc. Maybe that’s not your goal, but if it is, you need both services.

Why not avoid all this hassle and just build out a separate book in IngramSpark? Because it costs money, and you have to buy another ISBN for that printing, and if the files already exist for one system, why not just have them moved over? Again, this is opinion, but if you can save yourself time and money, you should. For better or worse, KDP’s system is much easier and more user-friendly, and FREE, so setting your book up there is a good place to start, before moving it over to IngramSpark.

If you have any additional questions about this, please reach out to me. I may be able to help, and I’d like to if I can. This is a complicated process. Let’s make it easier together. Good luck!

  • *Author Note: Midway through compiling this piece, I actually received notification that IngramSpark had completed my transfer and the book was available for wider distribution. Much thanks goes out to their customer service team for their tireless efforts in helping me complete this task.**

If you are interested in my creative work, and the book this whole adventure sprung from, check out my fantasy saga at



Ryan Cipriani

Fantasy Writer. Teacher of Writing Craft. Sort of a Doofus.