Print Tales – Six Lessons Learned on E-Book to Print Conversion

Uploading two PDF files to IngramSpark didn’t sound too daunting.

I took on the challenge, converting my e-book version of Little River to print, because I encountered a significant number of readers who asked for a physical book.  SALT Media Productions, my publisher, and I worked out an amended contract to speed up the print release, if I took on the work.  I selected IngramSpark as the print and distribution point.

IngramSpark offers more trim size options for your book than I thought possible.  I settled on a 5×8 inch size after taking a ruler to the books on my shelf.  That means your text file needs another edit for the new margins, headers, page numbers and page size.  The page breaks tend to appear in places you didn’t see them in your original version. So, fix, fix, fix.

The File Creation Guide pulled from the website was a bit intimidating.  I was trying to upload a document to a printer, not navigate the Mars Rover around a rock pile.

courtesy of astronomy

courtesy of astronomy

The guide warned against using Microsoft Word’s PDF export via print functions and provided a workaround running the document through Adobe Acrobat.  Word poses a few problems, with graphic conversion and the way the fonts are displayed (embedded) in the final PDF.

Since I didn’t have the full version of Adobe Acrobat, I needed a program to convert the text document to an acceptable PDF.  I have Apple’s Pages and that program includes an Export to PDF function, so ta-da.  The file did convert and save as a new PDF document and when opening in Adobe Reader, the fonts were properly imbedded.

I uploaded the newly created PDF file into the IngramSpark web interface and got a rejection from the system immediately.  The PDF text file I uploaded was not in compliance with International Color Convention (ICC).  A Convention for colors?  WTF?  Was I going to be tried for war crimes for a convention violation?

courtesy of

courtesy of

Turns out that a black and white text isn’t simply black and white.  Apple uses a spot color process which doesn’t translate into the IngramSpark print system.


So, while I let that percolate in my print lesioned brain, I went to work on the cover. I figured since my publisher already had the e-book cover together, this would be a piece of cake.  (note to self – buy more antacid)  Ingram provides a cover template generator based on the trim size you select and the number of pages in your PDF text file.  I knew that in addition to the cover, I needed content for the spine and back cover too.

The template, at first looks like a map encoded by the Illuminati to conceal the holy grail.  Trim lines, safety zone, bleed lines, spine folds – I only wanted a book cover.  But each line is a guide for what is visible, in the correct place, and what is allowed to bleed off the edge of the cover.  It’s actually pretty cool, once you get your head wrapped around it.

courtesy of

courtesy of

The e-book cover went on the right side, some text and a photo on the back, and my name, title and publisher’s logo on the spine.  Copy and paste, snip, resize and save as a PDF.

Boom – rejected.  Cover images too low resolution, fonts not embedded, transparency layers visible and I’d somehow altered the template.  I tinkered with the cover and got a rejection notice from the system saying the cover was too close to the trim edge, and the template was altered.

Stuck – Double stuck.


Some of my best ideas come in the shower (and the shower hides your tears).  Every problem I encountered was my fault because I used the wrong tool.  I attempted a half dozen different workarounds and came up short because I didn’t follow the File Creation Guide to the letter.

IngramSpark doesn’t list a phone number for help, so I reached out on Facebook and sent a message .  I wish I knew who the Facebook contact was at IngramSpark, because they were responsive and would check on the file.

Secondly, I decided that I needed Adobe Acrobat and Adobe InDesign to make this work.  I downloaded trial versions of both programs and converted the text file into a PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 version.  Who knew there were different versions of a PDF?  IngramSpark did, they said so in their guide.

With InDesign, I was able to create a better cover, re-scan the original art work, embed new fonts, and get all the graphics to the proper resolution.  InDesign let me adjust the cover content so it all fell within the trim size borders, without inadvertently changing the cover template.

Unstuck.  Files uploaded, submitted and validated by IngramSpark.

I learned a few things on the way:

  • Use the right tool for the job.  In this case, the the Adobe suite of products was the best solution for the job.  I may invest in these tools as a result of my experience in this project.
  • Trim size impacts your page count and the print cost.  The more pages, the higher the cost.  Simple concept, but one you really need to think about.
  • If your not comfortable using Adobe Acrobat, or at least willing to learn, go somewhere else.  The frustration potential is an 8.5, but Adobe has online tutorial videos to take the sting out of trying something away from your comfort zone.
  • Don’t settle.  Your book, for better or worse, will be a reflection of you.  So don’t settle for a plain brown wrapper, or a “floating head” cover you see on a metric-crap-ton of books released.  Be different, be you.
  • Do your homework.  While IngramSpark was a good fit for me and my distribution needs, it might not be for everyone.  Find the printer/distributor best suited to your  book project.
  • If solving puzzles renders you into a quivering mass of printer toner and sorrow, be ready to have someone design your book cover.  There are hundreds of talented graphic artists who specialize in this sort of thing and if you’re not into the time and resource commitment, do yourself a favor and contact that work out to someone else.

In the end, my project was a respectable, professional looking, printed version of Little River, available through a respected global distribution network.  The issues I encountered in the conversion of e-book to print were a challenge, but they were my shortcomings, not IngramSpark.  I needed to step-up my game to achieve my marketing and business goals.  IngramSpark forced me to create a solid book package, one which didn’t sacrifice quality in the process.

I’d love to hear any stories from others who have experienced the trial by print ordeal and if you happen to pick up a copy of Little River, let me know how it looks.



  1. THANK YOU! I’ve been beating my head against a wall about these same errors for weeks now. Createspace sure makes this about a thousand times easier!

    But, I learned something today and that’s always a win!

    1. Hi there Jen, I’ve heard the same thing from a few author friends about their preference for Createspace. My unfamiliarity with the software and technical processes were a bit frustrating. I did stick through to the end with Ingram Spark and I think a subsequent book will go a bit more smoothly. Like you, I learned in the process and that is alway a plus. I did like the final product and bookstores don’t have any complaints about the quality. I wish you luck in whatever direction you choose.

  2. Naomi Bennett · · Reply

    Thanks for your learning curve. This post is a year old, do you have any additional comments on IngramSpark in one year. I’m writing now. Did one epub in iBooks. Tackling now CreateSpace for a kindle release but wanting hardcopy with Lightning Source. Looks like I’m going to need someone to do the cover for me and that I will have to learn InDesign to make this work.

    1. I’ve been pleased with IngramSpark’s responsiveness on royalty payments and they have made some improvements to the user interface since my initial post. I know when I go back again to upload a new novel, It will take me a bit to catch up and the toughest part, for me, was the cover upload. InDesign is expense and complicated. There are flocks of cover artists out there who can make a snappy cover for you AND give you digital file for upload. I have an author friend who swears by CreateSpace and I thought she was able to order hardcopy from them as well.

  3. Hi James,

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m in the midst of an Ingram Spark project and have suffered through many of the same issues. After a few revisions, I’m happy with the state of my text file but still worried about the cover. My cover artist/formatter followed the file creation guide to a T (used InDesign and everything), but we still get errors when submitting the doc. I elected to pay the 10 bucks to let Ingram Spark fix the issues, but the “fixed” cover they provide in the eproof is pretty ugly (it looks pixelated, with layers bleeding through each other and what look like graph lines embedded in the image). I’ve sent a few messages to the Ingram Spark help desk, but no response yet (maybe I should try facebook, too). I know there’s a statement on the eproof saying that it ought to be used to assess placement only, not quality, but it worries me that the image they provide looks so poor in comparison to our original file. Did you have any issues regarding the quality of the eproof vs. what you eventually saw in print?

    1. Hi Ryan,
      Interesting issues here with the e proof. The first few times I uploaded my cover the Ingram Spark “program” gave me warning messages, such as the image was less than 300 dpi, or my content exceeded the bleed lines. Once, the spine publisher’s logo appeared pixilated. I uploaded a replacement with a higher resolution and the image looked much better.

      If your layers are bleeding through, that may (I say may, because I’m not expert here) have to do with the way the cover was assembled. I remember using a setting within InDesign or Adobe to “flatten layers.”

      When all said and done, in my case the final e proof was pretty close to the actual printed product.

      A couple of options: reload (again) using images with a higher resolution and flatten layers. Save as a PDF/x-3:2002. Secondly, you could order a single copy printed and examine it. The down side is ounce uploaded, you may have to pay for a new uploaded replacement.

      May I forward your issue to the guy I found though Facebook? Don’t know if he can help, but it’s another tool for you.

      Good luck! J

      1. Hi James,

        Thank you for your response! I actually heard back from IngramSpark last night (I went through Facebook as you did, and their marketing team forwarded my query to customer service). The rep suggested that some of the issues were limitations of the eproof, and would not be present on the print version (he also offered me a free print copy to review!). So, hopefully all is resolved.

        Can’t wait to finally see my book in print 🙂

      2. Glad to hear you have a resolution. It is exciting to open that first box and see the result of all your hard work. Congrats Ryan and best of luck.

  4. Thanks for your post on this topic. As a graphic designer, I am familiar with adobe software, but I’ve still been a little apprehensive about attempting this new venture, uploading books for print and ebook with IngramSpark. I think they’re the way to go, but It’s been hard taking that leap with so many people being rejected. You are encouraging!

    1. Sandra, if you’re a graphic design kind of person, you’ll be fine. My learning curve was a bit steeper, without that background. Best of luck to you!

  5. I’m a designer and have been converting books for authors to meet Lightning Source’s standards. I actually like how specific they are in their instructions, because I can be pretty sure a client’s file won’t be rejected and have to be done over. They have checklists and even videos that give me reasonable certainty everything’s going to be okay.

    I wish their new e-book standards were as clear. I outputted an EPUB from InDesign, using what I knew about keeping graphics anchored and having one continuous text flow from beginning to end, and making sure the fonts were embedded so they’d keep their appearance, and it was rejected for reasons only a robot could understand.

    1. Unknown rejection is a frustrating thing.

      I get it. I really do. Software burps and rejection are right up there with rubbing my eyes with broken glass. I hope you untangle the mess and get your e-book approved and out.

      1. Well, as far as I know now, here’s where it stands.
        There was a long list of “errors” and “problems,” none of them in what I would call English. One thing was clear: it didn’t like the word “November” in the publication date field. I took out the month, and I queried the author on rights. With the 2015 date and “worldwide” in those two slots, I ran it through the online validator, which said it was perfect. I was still skeptical, but the client asked for the file and submitted it, and it went in without a murmur.
        I haven’t heard anything back from IngramSpark since then, and I hope I am through with this one.
        In the course of attacking this problem, I’ve also obtained Sigil, an EPUB editor, which I hope will help me through more rough patches, which I see as inevitable.
        But so far, so good. Thumbs up.

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