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IngramSpark – Where Books Are Born: An Interview with Ben Hughes

EPISODE 231I

Welcome to season one of 2021! We’ll now produce ten episodes every quarter, plus the monthly Encouraging Words episode. With the extra time, we’re able to make some improvements to the show — including a full transcript for each episode. Enjoy!

Today’s guest is Ben Hughes, Business Development Manager at IngramSpark. Ben has a long history in publishing, both in traditional publishing and in working with independent/self-published authors. In our interview, he explains what IngramSpark does as a company, how they work with authors around the world, and what you can expect from them in the future.

Ben kindly agreed to take questions from the audience, so leave your question in the comments section below the YouTube version of the show. https://youtu.be/CzMt8-YIRFw

The transcript timecode begins at the start of the interview, so you’ll need to add about 8 minutes (8:03) to the time to jump to that spot in the full episode.

TRANSCRIPT

[00:00:02.160] – Kitty

Today’s guest is Ben Hughes. Ben is the business development manager for IngramSpark in the U.K. In this role, he oversees all lines of business as they relate to IngramSpark, including the customer service team, and has been in this post since January 2020.As the needs of authors develop in an ever changing publishing landscape, Ingram Spark is adapting to ensure that its author platform is second to none in terms of service, author, education, distribution options and customer satisfaction. Ben leads on these areas of focus for the U.K. business while also working closely with the parent organization in the United States and the other global office in Australia. With experience across physical and digital bookselling and publishing, Ben has worked for the lightning source, part of the Ingram business, and prior to that spent five years at Penguin Random House in various sales and operational roles.

[00:00:55.800] – Kitty

Welcome, Ben.

[00:00:56.740] – Ben

Thank you very much, Kitty. Thank you for having me. It’s fun to see you. So it’s been maybe well, by the time this goes live, almost a year you and I met in person in the last week of the Old World. I know it feels like a long time ago, and in some ways it is, but in others it’s not really. And obviously, a lot’s changed since then. But, yeah, you came to see us in sunny Milton Keynes in the UK where we’re based. And yeah, it’s great to great to see you again. It was so fun.

[00:01:27.330] – Kitty

I have to say that was one of the best parts of my trip. I mean, here I had never been to had I ever been to England before, maybe for my husband’s a twin and his twin brother went to England, happened to be on their birthday, and we went to meet them for a weekend. But this at most was my second trip to England. And the most exciting part for me was going to the IngramSpark’s facility.

[00:01:51.120] – Ben

I actually remember how excited you were and I think it was quite infectious. It was quite a small group. So we have these days where people can come, just for your listeners for context- we invite people to come and see where we print the books and what we do and how it works. We do these days maybe what we try to do one a month, but depending on what time of year it is, obviously we get less uptake the closer we are to Christmas. There are certain times of day where people are too busy. And yeah, that day it was quite a small group.I can’t remember quite why, but it was nice in a way that it was a small group because it meant that we got to spend more time talking to each individual and it felt a little bit more personal, which is good.

[00:02:28.770] – Kitty

Yeah, yeah. It was actually because there was going to be a ginormous group that you guys had planned for because of Mark Dawson’s event. But the corporation, the corporate part of your company, the parent company, had said, no, we can’t do large events because covid had started becoming an issue. But three of us didn’t get the email and we showed up and you guys were like, well, three people. That’s OK.

[00:02:51.780] – Ben

I know. And it feels it feels kind of surreal now to think that, you know, we even did that even at three people. I haven’t been to the office where we were since March last year. So now it feels kind of surreal. But hopefully we can get back to a point in time where we can invite people again because it’s a fun part of what we do. And for any author, seeing a book go through the production process and end up on these little conveyor belts, it’s quite fun. So that’s a good part of the job. And we hopefully we can get back to that soon.

[00:03:25.140] – Kitty

Yes. And I just have to tell everybody, whenever this is an option for you, you have to go, because one of the women that I met, her name is Ulfa, and she and I are now fast friends, but she and I started jumping up and down on the production floor and she was like, we’re seeing where books are born. And we were both so ridiculously nerdy. Excited.

[00:03:46.530] – Ben

Yeah, it is . For any book lover, it’s a great thing to do. And yeah, you know we have some lunch. We have a nice time. We can have a chat. So yeah. I’m glad you had a good time. It’s good.

[00:04:00.540] – Kitty

It was awesome. So let’s talk about some of the things that I learned about IngramSparks, so there’s a huge company called Ingram and then IngramSpark was created, I think , after authors started trying to ask Lightning Source if they can individually publish. Right. Because I remember I got an account at Lightning Source kind of near the end of that.

[00:04:21.390] – Ben

That’s right. So you’re right. Ingram Content Group, Ingram is a is an enormous American family-owned company. Still a family owned company based in Nashville and Tennessee, started off as a barge company going down the Mississippi River. Still, does that today. There are lots of different offshoots of the Ingram family name. And yeah, in the book business, Lightning Source is our kind of bigger main organization, which has catered for traditional publishers in a sense, and looks after some of the biggest publishers you’ll have heard of , all of the big trade publishers, all of the biggest academic publishers, as well as some smaller independents as well. And you’re right, there were limited author options at the time, and when I say author options, something that is perhaps more tailored, maybe a little bit more competitively priced, etc, and something that also understands the needs of an author as an individual over a business like a big publisher. So, yeah, at the time, I think it was around eight years ago now, my old boss, Robin Cutler, who is now retired after twenty- five years in the industry, she left her post at Amazon and came and set up IngramSpark within the Ingram family.And we’ve been looking after authors ever since.

[00:05:43.280] – Kitty

And I have to say that my experience has been that you look after authors very well and it’s actually even in your bio, you know, that one of the things that you try to do is have the best author platform out there. So do you want to talk a little bit about when first of all, I’m not sure how many people don’t know that much about print on demand publishing. So some of the audience is going to have already done it. Lots, but let’s just kind of talk about what that is.

[00:06:17.990] – Ben

So quickly just kind of whistle stop tour of what sort of print on demand is. It is kind of, the clue is in the name. We don’t kind of print books and keep them on shelves in thousands, hundreds and thousands. What we do is we can print one or ten or one hundred or five or nine, you know, and quite often that means that, you know, an author or a publisher can be far more flexible with their approach and also have more control over their inventory.They can spend less money up front on physical stock that they have to keep somewhere and invest money into and maybe spend that money or that time on something else, like editing or jacket design or marketing, for example.

[00:07:03.170] 

So Ingram and as an offshoot of that, IngramSpark is one of the kind of market leaders when it comes to print on demand and for the sake of acronyms, which Ingram is built on acronyms, we refer to it as POD. So if I say Pod 100 hundred times in this podcast, you know, I’m referring to a print on demand and so linked to the POD system of printing books, we also have a global distribution network. So not only can you print your book in the quantity that suits you, you also have access to every single retail channel you can think of.

[00:07:41.780] 

And that’s globally, not just in the UK, not just in the US, not just in Australia, where we have our main kind of organizational buildings, but also far beyond that. We have print partners all across the globe, China, Russia, most of mainland Europe. So really we’re seeing, it’s a kind of, advent really for potential for where authors can sell their books. And, you know, in the last five, six, seven years, you know, we’ve had authors go from selling one copy to their friends or family to selling thousands of copies a year worldwide just by kind of learning how the distribution network works, educating themselves more on how to market a book.And we help with all of that stuff as well.

[00:08:28.640] 

So POD in its essence is, the book doesn’t exist until somebody orders it to. Somebody hits by and then we receive that order through the metadata feeds that we manage and we print the book. And a paperback book will take us maybe two to three days to print before it’s out the door. A hardback book might take slightly longer to be more of a manual process, but still the best working week we can have a hardback book out the door on the way to the end customer.

[00:08:57.110] 

So it’s a really it’s an amazing process. It frees up a lot of time and capital for authors and publishers. And really one thing that I tried to say is it gives back a lot of that control to an author to do what they want to do, when they want to do it.

[00:09:11.690] – Kitty

Yeah. And I have to say that one of the things that I was not to say surprised, but I’d never been in a printing facility like that before. I used to work in the magazine world for a short while and went to a totally different kind of a printer, a something press. I just lost the word. Yeah, yeah.The other kind of printer,

[00:09:32.330] – Ben

Like an offset printing .

[00:09:33.680] – Kitty

Offset, that’s what I was trying to say. Yeah. Yeah. And so this is quite different and quite the same.And one of the things that was really a joy to me as an author, knowing that, you know, this is where my books are going to come from for for certain distribution channels, is that the quality of just even one book or one hardcover book? We watch some people actually do physical, like it’s not just machines, some of it’s physical people who are making sure that everything is perfect and looks beautiful.

[00:10:04.670] – Ben

Yeah, and that’s a good point to make. So for a long time correctly, there has been a bit of a perception problem around print on demand books. Certainly in the UK, I would say less so in the US, but in the UK I would say definitely. I’ve spent my career so far working in trade publishing mostly, and so I’m kind of used to a certain level of quality when it comes to the finished product. And I think even I held this perception for a long time was that POD was maybe the kind of hallmark of a lesser quality. It’s what people do when they’re looking to save money. And that can be true. But for some people, it’s not true and we cater for kind of both ends of the scale. So if you think about a trade publisher, when they start to put books to POD, it means they’re not selling as much. And that’s an opportunity for them to save money on that book. They can maybe bring some of the finishes down, they can change the paper type, they can maybe take off some of the fancy, you know, printing foil or some glitter. They can start to remove those things that the sales demand declines, but that’s only one part of it. Lots of people use POD as their primary source of printing, and we cater to that end as well. So to that point, we’ve invested literally millions of dollars in bringing our printing equipment up to the standard of what you would see in any kind of traditional offset printer, clay or CPI for any UK listeners will be familiar with those printers, to the point that now, you know, I can say as impartially as possible you could hold a POD book in one hand and a traditional offset book in the other, and you would have to be a pretty keen maybe production expert to be able to tell the difference. Certainly from a customer point of view, the difference between those two things has come almost down to nothing over the years. And that’s a that’s a really big deal.

[00:11:59.570] – Kitty

Yeah, you guys have a kind of a display room that you showed us all the different kinds of things that you can do, which is amazing. Like I think of things in terms of novels and non-fiction books.But you have like I should let you describe it because it’s quite a lot of different things you can print, you can print workbooks and like things for like a conference book and.

[00:12:22.570] – Ben

Exactly. And that’s kind of a testament to my earlier point, you know, and as in that, we’ve invested in developing our technology so that once upon a time we could only really do one kind of thing, maybe a black and white paperback book. But now we have people uploading a large square format, kind of coffee table photography books. We have people doing cookery books through IngramSpark and Lightning Source.

[00:12:50.980] 

We have lots of children’s authors, you know, high color density content, square format, hardback. So, yeah, the paper quality as well has come on leaps and bounds. We now use a trade paper that is used widely by most of the trade publishers in the U.K. So on that point, you would not be able to tell the difference. We made no secret of what we can’t do as well, and I think that’s important to say. So whilst there’s lots you can do in IngramSpark, you know, unfortunately, we’re not a point just yet where we can add unlimited finish types so we can’t do things like spot UV and embossing and things like that.

[00:13:28.120] 

We can’t necessarily add lots of nice foils or glitter or ribbons or end papers or things like that. We may do in future. If the demand is there for what we’re doing, then we will certainly look at it. But, you know, in terms of where we were probably even five years ago, the the product range on offer now would would suit most authors and publishers to do what they need to do, I would say.

[00:13:52.030] – Kitty

Yeah, you have a and I would have put it right next to me if I had thought that I would bring it up.But do you have on your display area a hardcover novel that has a dust jacket where the hardback portion also has the cover on it.

[00:14:11.670] – Ben

Yeah.

[00:14:12.040] – Kitty

Plus the dust jacket. And when I looked at that, like I was like looking at all the edges in the inside, in the spine. And I was like, oh, my gosh, I am so in love with this. I’m totally going to do my books in hardback just so I can have this really beautiful looking copy of the book as well.

[00:14:25.490] – Ben

Oh, yes. Well, that’s quite a new thing that we’ve launched maybe a year ago we launched that. So, yeah, you’re right. Having the jacket image printed directly onto the hardboard behind the dust jacket as well. And for any book nerds or geeks, you know, that’s great. And we know the hardback is something a bit special. And we encourage authors to certainly think about doing a hardback. We have people that sometimes do them just as a special, you know, maybe as a prize or give away.

[00:14:52.600] 

But obviously, when when authors start to hit a certain level of sales, you know, hardback book attracts a higher price point. So we we try to encourage people to think of it sort of economically as well. An author can make more money by publishing in hardback as well. And in a kind of modern world, you know, having multiple formats on offer is a good thing. If you can kind of incorporate it into your business and make it work, it can be a great thing to have more than one format.

[00:15:18.940] – Kitty

Yeah

[00:15:19.240] – Ben

People like to have a choice. And I’m certainly a hardback lover. I can see by your bookcase you are, too. So, yeah, absolutely. People. And we’re doing more hardbacks now than ever as well. It’s certainly an area of our business that’s improving. And like you mentioned, a lot of that process is still quite manual. It’s why it takes a little bit longer. But we’re looking to automate more of our process to make it quicker and in turn, make it cheaper as well. So that’s something definitely coming down the line. Definitely.

[00:15:47.810] – Kitty

Yeah, very nice. Now, we’ve talked a lot about all the different options and things that we can do in a couple of times, we’ve kind of briefly mentioned distribution and marketing. One of the things that I love and originally signed up to be on your newsletter list, even before I was technically a customer having my books printed there, you guys have the most amazing author education.Like, there’s so many videos. I sometimes am like I’m not even sure where to tell my clients to start because there’s so much information. So let’s talk a little bit about what you’re trying to do with that.

[00:16:24.190] – Ben

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s you know, I think we mentioned it briefly earlier when you introduced my bio. That’s a big part of what we’re doing. And, you know, even though IngramSpark exists within this big company and it’s a big corporation and we deal with lots of organizations who have you know, they’ve been publishing books for years, they know what they’re doing, they’re very professional. We also have a large portion of our customer base that are really starting in the beginning.

[00:16:53.080] 

And they haven’t got the kind of practical skills to make a success of their book. And when I say that, I define that in as much as you’re selling books, you’re writing the book for the with the intention of selling copies. What success looks like is neither here nor there. It could be 10 copies. It could be ten thousand copies. But what we’re trying to do with our education is, you know, help authors get a clearer understanding of how the publishing landscape works, what things are important, what you need to consider, what you what you can’t take shortcuts with.

[00:17:31.300] 

And that’s, you know, there are becoming fewer and fewer things you can take shortcuts with because people expect a certain level of quality. So with the education, that’s something that’s evolved over time. It used to be that we publish blog posts and they would be long and quite informative about how distribution networks work, what to think about when your typesetting or editorial advice or what to think about when it comes to formatting, et cetera. And so over time, we’ve made them more digital, we’ve made them more interactive.

[00:18:05.800] 

But really what we’re doing is listening to the needs and the changing needs of our authors. And obviously now is a really important time for people, I think, to not only understand but embrace the opportunities of selling online. And that can be a big and quite daunting prospect. So we’re we’re updating our best practice guidance. And all of this is done within IngramSpark. You don’t really get this across the business because, again, we’re thinking about authors who who really needs this help is the people that are kind of doing it themselves.

[00:18:39.070] 

And we want to make the best kind of DIY platform we can. We want to empower our authors to be able to do as much of it themselves, but also know that we have experts here that can help people that have been through this before. And quite often a lot of our guidance comes from other authors. And I find that to be probably the most valuable because it’s not sort of tied up in jargon, it’s practical, it’s based on experience.

[00:19:09.310] 

So it’s something that we’re looking at every day. We look at how can we make our advice, our guidance, our online education, our videos as engaging and as informative, as accessible and as relevant as possible. It’s something I’m really passionate about and something that I would encourage, you know, as much feedback for as possible. What do you want to see if you’re looking at our website, if you’ve got something in mind that you’re struggling with and you can’t find an answer for it, then tell us. And we can try and incorporate that into future, whatever it may be, a video or a blog post. So it’s something that’s quite exciting. And I get quite excited about talking about it, too.

[00:19:47.350] – Kitty

Yeah, yeah. And, you know, that is one of the things that gets talked about, as you know a lot and all the little groups on and I shouldn’t say little group. Some of them have thousands and tens of thousands of people. But like the groups on Facebook, where independent authors are getting together, sharing information, asking each other questions, it becomes clear relatively quickly which companies are easier, in which companies are more difficult to work with. When you come to a problem and you need somebody to help you because you’ve exhausted all of your ideas on how to solve the problem, tell us a little bit about Ingram Sparks and customer service.

[00:20:23.770] – Ben

Oh, it’s one of the kind of cornerstones, really, of our offer. You know, when when you’re thinking about whether or not to upload your book with IngramSpark and thinking about the pros and cons, if nothing else, one of the big pros that I always try and celebrate is the fact that we have a dedicated client service team, and you’re right to say that there are some organizations where you know client service exists to a certain point, but certainly not in the traditional sense of being able to email somebody or speak to somebody on the phone.

[00:20:55.490] 

And we’re still very much, you know, sort of dedicated to doing that for our authors. We have a UK based team, an Australian based team and the US based team. We also have hours services as well for people that have, you know, emergencies that can’t wait, which happens more than you’d think. And these are people who are,you know, they have the most in-depth knowledge about how the platform works. If you have a question about, you know, why can I not run a certain report, how long will it take my book to be printed and then shipped all of these practical questions that matter.

[00:21:33.450] 

Because eventually they’re all tied into when an author is going to get paid or when you know and this is important, we shouldn’t sort of shy away from that fact. So I love our CS client service team sorry, acronym alert. We call them CSR customer service related client service relations. They’re amazing. They do all of the hard work and it’s not really hard, but it’s the volume. We have so many customers and they rely on our client service team to help them through so many different things.

[00:22:06.240] 

And I wish we could have more of our client service team because they make you know, they make my life easier. They make our authors lives easier. And yeah, I’d say that’s a massive part of what we do is creating that customer satisfaction through our client service teams who do an incredible job.

[00:22:25.020] – Kitty

Yeah. Wow, excellent. I am excited. I think that Ingram is going to be a big part of my 2021 game plan just because I don’t think that I even when I thought that I knew everything that I needed to know about Ingram, then I would learn some more stuff. I’m like, this is an amazing company.

[00:22:44.280] – Ben

If it reassures you, it’s what I still feel that way. And I work for Ingram. You know, it’s a big organization and some of these things are complex as well. You know, we could spend probably the whole episode talking about pricing and discounts and different strategies for different regions. And some of these things do take time to understand and I don’t want to sort of sugarcoat that by any means. Some of these things. You need to sit down.You need to understand them. You need to talk to somebody who kind of has experience and knows what they’re doing. And even now, you know, I am still learning about how some of these things work. So certainly don’t feel alone in that. And that’s kind of what my whole point is. You know, if you have a question and you’re not sure, you don’t have to kind of stay feeling that way, we can more often than not help you get an answer or solution, which is good.

[00:23:33.990] – Kitty

That’s awesome. I love it.I always I’ve always been one of those people who I was probably partially raised this way and partially it’s my personality, but I find a company that gives me good customer service and I’m there. I’m there for the long haul until they really, really.Yeah. I mean, they would have to be so bad for me to leave them because I tend to be like this is the place where I can get the help that I need.So yeah.

[00:23:59.170] – Ben

Yeah. And it goes back to our kind of original sort of mission statement that we’re catering for authors. And so by definition, that individual is probably going to have more questions. They’re going to need more time to get used to things and we understand that inherently. So that’s kind of how we get to the basis of most of the decisions we make. What does it mean for the customer? Is it easy, is it going to be hard? Is it going to take time? So, yeah, we very much have that in our minds all the time.

[00:24:27.480] – Kitty

That’s nice. You know, you say mission statement and it kind of brings me back around to something we were talking about before we started recording. Everything having to do with my podcast and the classes that I teach and the coaching that I do is that I absolutely 100 percent believe that any of us could write a book that changes the world. It might change the world by helping somebody who’s had a horrific day at work to just escape from that. I had a friend who was a pediatric nurse and and I was like, oh, well, I just write romances.It’s like nothing compared to what you do. And she’s like, “no, when I have a baby who dies at work, the one thing I want to do when I get home is come home and be someplace else. And so if you can write a book that makes me, you know, someplace where there are happy endings”

[00:25:15.600] 

I’m like, oh, and it’s like totally fit a puzzle into life for me. Like, yeah, I have a very important purpose in life. And now I want to make sure every writer understands this is a wonderful, wonderful service that we offer.

[00:25:32.160] 

It’s great that we can make a living at it or be working our way towards making a living at it. But it’s just an important piece of life. And you and I were talking beforehand that with covid and the lockdown’s on and off all over the world, that people have been reading more. And because of print on demand technology, they’ve been able to continue to get access to books and have them mailed or whatever.

[00:25:56.490] – Ben

Yeah, it’s been a it’s been an incredible time. And I agree with all of what you just said. You know, as a book lover, there’s a there’s an incredibly important part of being a part of an author’s journey, even if it’s just, you know, catering for the print, you know, we just print the book, but we try to understand all the stories as much as we can. And I think you make a good point as well around authors who are doing this maybe as a side project with the intention of making it their full time life.

[00:26:28.890] 

And, you know, we love to hear those stories. And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do, is make this platform and make our work, you know, help, help with that. So, yeah, obviously, when the first covid lockdown hit in the UK and everything I say, by the way, is UK, mostly because that’s the kind of business that I represent. But more often than not, the the same things are true for our US and Australian companies, too, but yeah, we saw a really significant rise in the amount of people opening accounts with us, which is free to do, the amount of people uploading content, uploading their title.

[00:27:09.400] 

And the only thing I can think is that people maybe had the headspace or the time in their lives or just the motivation to finally get round to that project that they’ve always thought of, which is incredible thing to see and to be a part of and something that we hope continues, obviously not against the backdrop of some pretty terrible circumstances. But if it takes something like a global pandemic to give thousands of new authors that impetus to say, you know what, what better time to write a book or to start that book project than now, then you know that that is a positive thing, I think.

[00:27:54.730] 

And we saw a lot of that. It was really encouraging. And it’s certainly something that I felt helped me stay motivated with the amount of people starting their projects last year. And that continued from March, every single month,we had a record month of people creating an account, uploading that book, hitting and go basically on the distribution and getting that book out there. And, you know, I’d like to be able to spend more time following the kind of journeys of those books, see where they end up, see how many they sold. And there’s too many, I can’t do it, but it’s great. It’s a really encouraging thing. And I think you’re right. Part of our education is also to share some of those stories, know some of those experiences the authors have when they’re finding it really tough, some of the barriers that they come up against and try and maybe create an author community of people that can share advice. And there are lots of forums for that that we actively support and take part in as well.

[00:28:51.070] 

So, yeah, obviously it’s not been easy for lots of people and we’re very mindful of that. Yeah. And I hope in a small way, if you’re trying to find a way through these hard times by writing a book and you want to do it yourself, then we have some tools and some guidance. And I don’t want this to sound like a kind of sales pitch in any way, because it’s not it’s genuinely just to say that, you know, give us a shout, ask us for some. We offer advice. You don’t have to sign anything. There’s no obligation. We just want to hear what authors are up to and be part of that conversation. 

[00:29:27.250] – Kitty

Yeah, exactly. Because sometimes people can get stopped by any of the steps, not even necessarily the stuff that’s right in front of them. I don’t know if I should write a book because I have no idea how I would sell it or how I would market it. Yeah, my thought is go to its ingrampark.com. Right. Is the website?

[00:29:45.100] – Ben

Yep. ingramspark.com. Yeah.

[00:29:47.770] – Kitty

There are so many tutorial videos and I think it will give you a lot more sense of peace and the belief that you can learn how to do this if this is what you want to do and you haven’t done it yet.

[00:29:59.750] – Ben

Yeah.And I think as well I know I said a minute or two ago that there are complex parts of what we do and there are. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s relatively straightforward. If you have a book, you’ve already done the hard bit. Yeah, genuinely. You’ve already done the hard bit. Everything else we can help with, getting distribution sorted, pricing discounts, all of that stuff is nowhere near as hard as writing that book. So if you’ve done that, you can do this.One hundred percent.Do not feel put off by not having all of the answers around how the kind of mechanics work of selling a book, because we’re here to help with that.

[00:30:36.820] – Kitty

I love it.That’s so encouraging.

[00:30:39.730] – Ben

Yeah.

[00:30:40.150] – Kitty

Now, you used to be able to see and then I moved my computers, but I’ve got my go publisher self sticker that I picked up when I met Robyn Cutler at Romance Writers of America 2018. Maybe it was in Denver. Do you guys still have the podcast going?

[00:30:57.190] – Ben

We do. So that was Robin’s kind of baby. And for any listeners, I think I said it at the beginning, but for anyone who’s familiar with Robin, she has recently retired in November of last year. So she’s no longer with IngramSpark. We have a new director whose name is Paige Allen. And if you go on to the IngramSpark Instagram, there is a introductory video with Paige, which is great, it’s really good fun. She’s such a lovely person and has a great background.

[00:31:23.770] 

And so, yes, in short, the podcast still exists. We’re still recording new episodes. We’ll probably decide on a new shape this year about how it looks, how we how we publish certain episodes, because one thing that we’re keen to do for a long time, it was only ever our US colleagues that took part in the podcast. There were UK authors or not just US authors interviewed, but since I took over in January for the UK business last year, I’ve been recording podcasts with more UK based sort of authors and really speaking about more maybe relevant material, more relevant issues to a UK audience. And so one thing that we are looking to do is make sure that our episodes are as kind of relevant as possible for as broad an audience as possible. That’s quite hard to do. And part of me thinks you should maybe just focus on one message for one audience. But then I do think we’ve got a great opportunity to speak about a range of different topics, to suit as many different people as possible. So, yeah, the podcast is available anywhere that you listen to a podcast, Spotify, Apple, etc., it’s all there, all the episodes. You can listen to them all. And they’re great. You know, they’re informative. They’re quite conversational just like this. But they often deal with a very specific topic per episode. So if you scroll through the list of episodes and you have a question about distribution or metadata or, I don’t know, jacket design, you’ll be able to find an episode that speaks about just that topic, which is good.

[00:33:00.860] – Kitty

That’s awesome. Oh, that’s really great. Yeah, I wasn’t sure if after she retired if it was going to continue or not, so I thought I should ask.

[00:33:08.060] – Ben

Yeah, we’ll continue it. We’ll continue in her honor. Yeah, I know she loved doing it and she was very good at it as well. And I imagine she’ll probably start her own Robin Cutler podcast at some point. So do keep an eye out for that. But yeah, we’ll certainly keep that going.

[00:33:22.850] – Kitty

Yeah. And I have to say, as someone who was originally US based and then this is my fourth country that I’ve lived in, now in Sweden, I am finding more and more that there are a lot of people who like me move around because of other reasons in their life. For me, it’s my husband’s job. We move around for that. But then you start realizing there’s a ton of people who are also from another country,they’re used to how they used to do things and now they don’t know how to do things here. So I love the idea that even if, like, I’m just making up numbers here. But even if you found that 80 percent of your listening audience was somewhere in North America, if 20 percent of your episodes still spoke to somebody in Europe or Australia or something else, then to me, I’m like, that would be awesome.I would I would be listening to all of them.

[00:34:12.140] – Ben

Yeah. And, you know, you know, broadly speaking, the the issues for authors are the same in the US as they are in the UK or Sweden or Australia. Broadly speaking, they are. It’s about how do I sell more books, how do I improve my availability, how to how do I improve my discoverability? How do I get to grips with pricing? So we know that really, regardless of where you live, the things that are important to you are probably going to correlate somewhere. But we’re also conscious of making it sound, maybe we quite like the idea of having different accents on it.

[00:34:50.510] – Kitty

Yeah.

[00:34:52.700] – Ben

So, yeah, it’s not always an American delivering the intro. It’s not always an English person. It could be an Australian. And so really just to try and demonstrate that we’re a global business.Yeah. And that’s really the intention of making it a little bit more varied in its subject matter and also the hosts as well. Just to make it sound a bit more varied, because we’re a global organisation, we have people all over the place and they’re all great. You know, they all have something interesting to say or something interesting to share. And I think the podcast, a good forum for that to take place.

[00:35:26.870] – Kitty

Yeah, well, just as one podcast listener, I love that idea. And now I’m going to be like listening more often, going this is when they start changing it up. I want to hear all the different accents.

[00:35:36.440] – Ben

Yeah, you hear it. You’ll hear it, because all of a sudden you go from Justin Bilo, smooth US delivery to my kind of northern unprofessional twang.I said, oh, I suppose

[00:35:48.650] – Kitty

You’ve got to remember when you live someplace else, like I listen to your voice, I’m like, Oh, that’s so cool.He has an English accent, like, I don’t know anything about a Northern twang. I wouldn’t know what that was.

[00:35:59.330] – Ben

Let’s keep it like that then that works for me. Yeah, that’s right.

[00:36:03.890] – Kitty

Oh, well, listen, I know that you have other things that you have to do and and I’m always trying to put a ton of information in so that people can can get the most amount of actionable items that they can do right now.So as far as what could people do directly after getting off this podcast? Like, I can think of a couple of things. Go to the website, see what’s there.

[00:36:28.640] – Ben

Yeah. One hundred percent, I would agree. Go to the website, if you’re an existing customer, customer author, if you have an account with us, if you’re already selling your book through us, I’d say now is a great time in January of a new year to do a refresh or to do a revisit perhaps of your metadata. Make sure it’s all up to date relevant. Is there anything that you need to change, you know, have a look at that and take it seriously as well, because these things kind of matter and good metadata sells books.

[00:37:01.650] 

So I would say if you’re an existing author, have a look at that. And if you’re someone new who’s who’s maybe interested in learning more about Ingrams Spark, then, yeah, go to the website and have a look around. We have all sorts on there and it’s really handy. You can you can figure out how much your book might cost to print.

[00:37:20.310] 

We have a calculator that’s really easy to use. Like we discussed,you can have a look at some of our videos that kind of explain a bit about what we do and how it works. There are lots of videos on there, that are from actual authors sharing their experience around their publishing. So I’d say that’s probably as good a place as any to start. And then also have a look around on some of the different sort of individual forums for authors as well to see what people are saying, because there are more options out there, of course.

[00:37:51.780] 

And, you know, I’m always keen that we, you know, we have to do right not only by our own authors, but we also need to be competitive in the markets as well. And we need to offer maybe something that another provider doesn’t. So I’d say, do your research, see what other or platforms offer, weigh up the pros and cons. And if you have questions and you’re not sure, then just get in touch is the thing I would say.Don’t let the kind of the questions or the unknowing be the reason for you to not do something, because we’re you know, we’re absolutely happy to share as much as we know really to help you get started.And that’s what I’d recommend.

[00:38:31.380] – Kitty

That’s awesome.And that’s just, again, one of the reasons why I love Ingram Spark. I love the way that you’re just right down there in the trenches with us. So, yeah, good. Yeah. Now there’s a couple other places where people can find Ingrams Spark online. Can you tell us.

[00:38:45.930] – Ben

Yeah. So the website is good. The website is pretty comprehensive. Lots on there and I’d recommend going there probably as a first point of call just to get, you’re going to get the clearest sense from the website about things like pricing, distribution, how it works, how to get started, all the videos that we’ve spoken about. But then we have a very lively Twitter and Instagram account as well. Also Facebook. So we’re across all platforms. And obviously we’ve discussed the podcast on Spotify as well,if you’re interested in listening there. Instagram’s great. We put a lot of time and effort into updating all of these channels. There’s lots of new videos, a lot of our kind of new product announcements we’ll share on social media. So take a look at Twitter and Instagram for those kind of things and Facebook. But they’re also a really good place to hear from our authors directly. You know, we kind of use those social media channels as a forum to kind of share a lot of our author experiences.

[00:39:46.650] 

And so if you have a question, no doubt it will have been asked before by another author, probably, and it will probably be answered in one of our places. So have a dig around and watch some of the videos. I’d say they’re really fun, I think I hope and informative. So that’s what I’d recommend is having having a root around what we’ve got on offer. So Facebook, Instagram, Twitter for the kind of fun stuff. Yeah.

[00:40:13.320] 

And then the website to really get into the detail and to learn more about how it’s going to actually suit you. And then you can start build in some scenarios around print and shipping calculators when you’re when you’re starting to get a little bit more serious about what you want to achieve, I’d say jump over to the website and start reading there as well and then get in touch. Yeah, I’d also say to maybe play around with creating an account and see what that user experience is like.

[00:40:41.070] 

Once you’ve created an account, there’s no obligation for you to really do anything. You can just sort of see how that feels. See what it looks like. See what kind of things are on offer for you within your account. Some of the reporting, some of the tools we have a book editing tool, which is quite new. So I recommend you sort of learning by doing really just get into the detail and see how it suits you. And I would hope that we would cover most of the needs that an author would have.

[00:41:11.200] – Kitty

Awesome. OK. OK. And so for people who are listening only it’s I n g r a.m. spark. spark.

[00:41:20.980] – Ben

Yeah, that’s correct. You think that I for a moment now, I forgot how to spell, but that’s correct. Yeah, ingramspark.com.

[00:41:28.390] – Kitty

Yeah. Yeah. There’s, there’s another gram that has like an extra H and a and stuff and I’d just want to make sure. Yeah. It’s not that one.

[00:41:36.160] – Ben

It’s not that one.It’s nice and simple. Yeah.

[00:41:40.130] – Kitty

And it awesome. And then you and I were talking about like where can people post some questions. So if they have questions from listening to this episode and they’re like, Ben, but what about whatever. So we thought that why don’t we just keep the questions underneath the YouTube video.

[00:41:54.640] – Ben

Yep, fine. So if you have anything that we haven’t covered here, if you think of something after listening, whatever it is, then just post it in the comments and I’ll be happy to do either a follow up. I don’t know. We could do another session like this. I could write something or you could get in touch with me directly. I’m happy to help you to answer follow up questions because there always are follow up questions.

[00:42:17.080] – Kitty

Yeah,

[00:42:17.740] – Ben

That’s good. I’m one of those people that says I have no questions and then thinks of something five minutes later. So if you’re like that, then feel free to sort of get in touch afterwards. And we’re happy to follow up.

[00:42:29.950] – Kitty

Sweet, awesome.Thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show. This has been wonderful.

[00:42:35.860] – Ben

You’re welcome. Well, thank you for having me. It’s great to speak to you. And it’s fun as well.

About the author, Kitty

Kitty Bucholtz writes superhero urban fantasy and romantic comedy, often with an inspirational element woven in. After earning her M.A. in Creative Writing, she formed Daydreamer Entertainment and began self-publishing. Founder of the WRITE NOW! Workshop and the new WRITE NOW! Workshop Podcast, she loves to teach in person and online. Learn more at https://www.writenowworkshop.com.

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