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Monday, March 4, 2019


This week's question is what surprised me about my internship.

To be honest, there hasn't been much. I don't know if it's because I was already neck deep in running my own press, or because I had nerded out enough and done enough research that I saw most of the work coming a mile away.

However, I will say that I learned something that has been imperative to my growth as a potential publisher. When I started Dark Ink I was taking over something that was already established. I bought out a press that was failing but had already established its structure and overall business practices. The previous owner relied strictly on Amazon as a "distributor" and that's what we stuck with when we rebranded as Dark Ink. We discovered almost immediately that Amazon is NOT friendly to independent authors or independent presses. In fact, they do their level best to throw up roadblocks that make it very difficult to do high volume business. In order to combat that problem, we started using IngramSpark which was designed specifically for indie publishers. They function as a print on demand warehouse so that indie publishers can make their books available to stores like Barnes and Noble-- essentially expanded distribution that functions better than Amazon's limited distribution options.

One thing that happens to be very important to stores like B&N and even a lot of small indie stores, is the ability to 1) order at wholesale prices and 2) return unsold copies. Neither of those options is available through Amazon because they are too busy trying to scrape the very last penny out of the soul of every indie publisher who uses the service. Once we started using Ingram, we saw an uptick in orders and distribution but we were still moving fewer than 100 units per month of any given book at any one time (except for Dee Michel's Friends of Dorothy which flies out of the warehouse faster than it can be printed).

When I started working with Andrew distribution was the first thing I asked him about. He had mentioned a company called IPG which functions as his "warehouse". However, they do far more than that. They also handle a good deal of the marketing including printing and sending out ARCs, soliciting reviews, and pushing sales. That pushes the selling volume into the 10,000s and puts authors in a much stronger marketing position.

I was surprised to learn that this option existed because I assumed that all marketing in the indie world fell to the publisher and the author. What IPG does bridges the gap between indie and traditional publishing in a creative way. It makes me hopeful that there are options for indies that will actually allow them to gain a greater foothold in the market, allowing them to play on the same field as the traditional houses.

A surprise that makes everyone smile.

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