Recently, I wrote about using CreateSpace to print Advance Reader Copy (ARC) books to share with potential reviewers before publication date. But as popular as CreateSpace is for printing and distributing POD books on Amazon, it is not the best choice for printing ARCs—unless you can live with their limitations. The better solution is IngramSpark.
IngramSpark addresses the two key weaknesses of CreateSpace:
- Printing limits: none. Print as many copies as you need*.
- ISBN: not required. You can use an IngramSpark ID number for your ARCs.
NOTE: This article addresses the unique differences between CreateSpace and IngramSpark. For more background on the role and need for ARCs, and why they should be part of your marketing plan, please read this post. There is also helpful information there about timing and timelines.
1. No printing limits
The point of ARCs is to get a copy of the book into the hands of media, influencers, and potential reviewers. The CreateSpace limit of 5 copies per order makes any meaningful effort of this sort cumbersome and time consuming, not to mention more expensive due to the additional shipping costs. While the number needed is a function of the size of your database, I would think a more realistic goal is at least 20 copies.
Clearly, a noteworthy book from a distinguished author will generate more interest. Just keep in mind that not everyone on your list is going to respond, or respond in a timely manner. Take comfort in the fact that this is some of the most cost effective marketing you can do.
2. No ISBN required
Of course you will need an ISBN to sell your book in a store. But you do not need an ISBN to print a book if you plan to giveaway copies (or for that matter sell outside of a store). This is precisely why this is such a significant point of differentiation between IngramSpark and CreateSpace when it comes to ARCs.
(Printing a book without an ISBN will not prevent its resale, but it does make it more difficult. Add to this the intentional labeling of the book as a draft and only the thriftiest consumer will be willing to buy it, assuming it is even offered for sale.)
The first time you set up your book on IngramSpark you have the choice to enter an ISBN or use a free Ingram-provided ID number.
Preparing your cover and interior files before submitting to IngramSpark
Your book does not have to be perfect—which reduces the burden of lengthy reviews—and you need to communicate it is not final. Make sure the cover has wording such as:
- Advance Reading Copy, or
- Uncorrected Proof, or
- Not For Sale
Inside the book you can add the same language, or take it a step further like I do. I add this phrase to the header of every page of the book before uploading the PDF:
ADVANCE READING COPY – NOT FINAL – NOT FOR SALE
The top two images in the photo collage shown here are from book covers and the lower one is the header of an interior page of an ARC.
Unlike the CreateSpace policy of printing the word Proof on the last page of the book, IngramSpark ARCs are indistinguishable from the final, approved book. (Personally, I prefer this approach because any extra copies are saleable, assuming there are no errors. Few people are willing to pay retail for a book stamped PROOF.)
IngramSpark ARC timing and timelines
Like CreateSpace—or any printer for that matter—you need to account for proofing and shipping times. Here’s a brief summary of the key steps unique to IngramSpark. (See my CreateSpace article for more details about approximate time requirements).
- Add the book to your IngramSpark account. In the final step—number 5—you will have the option of using an ISBN or assigning a “non-distributable SKU” to the book. Assign the free SKU.
- Complete the process as you would for any book. When you receive your book, the barcode on the back looks like this:
- When you are done ordering ARCs, call IngramSpark and ask them to change the SKU to the correct ISBN. Yes, you need to call.
What is your experience printing ARCs? Add your thoughts to the comments below.
Pre-order and ARCs go hand-in-hand
We work with self-publishers to help them set up and coordinate book distribution, pre-order and ARC production, as well as manage development and distribution of book metadata. It’s takes a lot of coordination. Contact us to learn more.
*CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark printing limits: The most ARCs you can order from CreateSpace in a single order is 5. To get more, you need to re-order. Each time you do this you pay shipping and wait several days.
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