I’ve written and presented many times on the value of using print on demand (POD) as a means to get broad book distribution in bringing your book to the global marketplace while reducing your overall financial risk. This is especially a good path as a new author with a first book where the demand is unknown.
While I’ll stick to my guns by saying that it’s not the best idea to invest in large amounts of inventory at the beginning of your publishing venture, if you’ve already done it and want Ingram distribution, don’t worry.
I often suggest that authors use inventory they may have printed before switching to Ingram distribution for their own direct sales from their author website, giveaways, and author events, but I also recommend they get broader book distribution by setting up the book through a POD/distribution program like IngramSpark. This will ensure you gain global wholesale distribution (meaning book distribution beyond what you personally sell), which is important to the success of your book without having to invest anything more than a nominal setup fee. With this approach, your book is listed in the Ingram catalog where a retailer (whether physical or online) or a library can find and order your book to sell themselves. In the case of print books, the book is manufactured via print on demand when one of these sellers orders a copy, and then you are paid for that sale.
Self-publishers aren't the only ones who utilize POD. Many major traditional publishers that supply inventory to Ingram also set their book up for POD distribution so that if there is a time when inventory isn’t available, POD can be used to fill the gap so that they don't miss out on demand of a title. So this is more common than you might think, and utilized by much more than self-publishers alone.
With IngramSpark, print on demand is tied directly to Ingram’s global network to make for a seamless and inexpensive way to distribute your book. With no inventory on hand, books are manufactured or distributed as retailers place orders. The publisher is paid for the sale minus the cost of printing (POD only) so there’s no up-front inventory costs, and no books sitting in boxes in the garage waiting to be sold.
Things to Consider Before Creating Your Book
What I often hear when I talk to first-time authors who have printed their book is that they had an idea of their finished book in mind but failed to fully considering the store that would sell it or the reader who would buy it. Authors will sometimes opt for non-standard trim sizes and premium color printing and will pay thousands of dollars to realize this vision. More often than not, these beautiful books languish in stacked-up boxes in their garage because they don't fit in with other books in their genre, aren't typical for bookstore shelves, or have a production value that pushes the price point too high for the general consumer, limiting its accessibility.
My advice is to tell your story, but be sensible about the formatting of your book—keep it standard. While you want your book to stand out from others, you don't want it to seem like an anomaly in its category. There's a reason you don't see too many oddly formatted books when you shop in a physical bookstore. It's because the publishing industry understand what readers want and what they expect to receive. No need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to formatting. Your story and book marketing are where your unique approach should truly shine. Picking a standard trim size will save you money and also ensure that your options remain open through the lifetime of your book.