June 10, 2016 by Petrea
Ingram Spark Global Print on Demand Agreement: my questions sort of answered.
Ingram Spark is a division of Ingram Content Group, a subsidiary of Ingram Industries. Ingram Spark offers independent publishers like me an opportunity to get my books into bookstores globally, something Amazon can’t do. Many authors use both Ingram Spark and Amazon’s CreateSpace for print on demand, to cover all their bases. Without their service, many bookstores would not carry books from independent publishers.
I had questions about the Ingram Spark Global Print on Demand Agreement. Although I find contracts to be dull, I read the CreateSpace contract and its meaning was clear. Ingram Spark’s contract, on the other hand, is every bit as dull as that of CreateSpace, and ten times as opaque. My online searches didn’t yield much: the agreement itself and several articles about why I needed to make my books available via both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark. This answered a question I didn’t have. What I wanted was clarification on the contract wording.
I don’t like calling big companies.
After 30 minutes on hold (my Google searches had promised worse), I got Bob on the phone. (I’ve changed his initial to protect his job.) Jokingly, I said to Bob, “I hope you’ve got a minute because I’ve got some questions.”
“Nine minutes,” he snapped.
“I’ve got nine minutes.”
Seriously. He is restricted to nine minutes per call. No wonder he was snappy.
I mentioned that I had waited for 30 minutes to speak to him, so I hoped he would be generous. He didn’t have much of a sense of humor, but OK, that’s not what I was calling about anyway.
If you’ve had experience with this contract, I’d love to hear about it in the comments. In case this can be of use to you, here are the clarifications I requested, along with Bob’s answers:
Page 3, item E., Returns:
“If Client (that’s me) has designated any title as returnable in the LIGHTNING SOURCE systems, it will not be considered returnable for purposes of Direct Distribution, EBM or GCP and no returns will be accepted by LIGHTNING SOURCE.”
At Lightning Source/Ingram Spark, you can choose what type of returns you’ll accept, and what you choose affects how much you make on each sale. If you agree to allow IS to destroy returned books, you’ll make more than if you require IS to return the books to you (you pay for the books as well as postage). I understood that, but wasn’t sure what was meant by “Direct Distribution” in this case. It turns out they mean that if I buy copies of my own books, they’re not returnable. Well, that was easy.
Page 5, item D., EBM Print Fees and item D., Publisher Compensation:
“Client agrees to pay the print fees as outlined in Print to Order/Channel Distribution Orders on the Pricing Schedule.”
It sounds like that means I pay some sort of extra fee when someone decides to get my book on an EBM machine. But it’s not extra. When a customer uses an EBM, he or she selects a book’s ISBN and prints the book, paying the retail price. EBM and Ingram Spark each get a percentage of a wholesale discount before I’m paid for the book. Seems reasonable.
Page 7, at the top (we’re under E., Assignment, from the previous page):
“…LIGHTNING SOURCE may assign or otherwise transfer this Agreement or any of its rights and obligations hereunder or any portion thereof to its parent, subsidiaries, affiliates or successors without Client’s consent or approval.”
Successors? Does this mean LS/IS could be sold to Exxon Mobil (ugh), or Disney (that could work) or (heaven forbid) Nestle, and I wouldn’t have a say in the matter?
Bob assured me I would be notified if such a thing were to happen, but I don’t see that in the contract. The saving grace is that back on page 2, under B., Termination, it says “Either party may terminate this Agreement by giving the other party forty-five (45) days (sic) written notice…” So I have that, if I don’t want some nasty corporation to wield my Titles.
Speaking of Titles, in the contract language, the capitalized word means individual books printed. It doesn’t mean the title of your book, which can’t be copyrighted anyway, and it doesn’t mean your book’s contents. You retain all rights to your intellectual property. In the Ingram Spark Global Print on Demand Agreement, the word “Title” refers to the object itself. I had to get that clarified, too.
Page 9 (apparently the even numbered pages are all clear to me), item 4:
“Any amount referred to in this agreement which is relevant in determining a payment to be made by one of the parties to the other is, unless indicated otherwise, a reference to that amount expressed on a tax exclusive basis.”
I asked Bob to just, please, give that to me in English. He said it meant that if there was a tax applicable for a particular transaction, then it would be added. For instance, if I order books, Ingram charges sales tax unless I have an exemption.
All that gook, language, wordage, verbiage, etc. for such a simple concept. Why didn’t they just say so?
I don’t have a beef with Ingram Spark, or their terms. But could they have created a more cryptic contract? (Don’t answer that, they certainly could have.) It does seem that Ingram Spark was created by Lightning Source because someone told them they have to compete in the POD business, even though they don’t really want to, nor do they care about small publishers.
I haven’t looked into Ingram Spark’s Digital Services (ebook) Agreement yet. I came across one comment on one blog (wish I could remember where) that said it’s egregious, but one comment isn’t verification. I’ll have to research it if I want to use their ebook services. If.
Bob answered each of my questions quickly and succinctly. At 8 minutes and 22 seconds I could hear him begin to sweat, hoping I didn’t have another one.