Note: I know a lot of people who use Ingram Spark and love them for self-publishing. However, when they introduced Ingram Spark many years ago, it was explained that it was a poor man’s cousin to Lightning Source. This is my experience.

Normally if you go three years with unpaid bills someone contacts you. Especially, if like me, you paid the bills on time and didn’t have any unpaid bills. I expect the common courtesy of a company to tell me. Not to fuck up it’s internal accounting process and then four to five years later send a nasty gram and bar you from using their services again. In the experiences I dealt with a few months ago with Lightning Source, I can unequivocally say that they are not focused on the small publisher, they don’t have good customer service, and none of their departments talk to each other.

This is a trend I’d been noticing. About five years ago they moved us from our own personal reps to centralized reps, where you never spoke with the same person twice. At that time I noticed that their quality of customer service was going downhill fast. Since CreateSpace has it’s expanded distribution, and I’ve never sold big in stores anyway, I was already moving to that model.

Let’s start at the beginning. I have been a Lightning Source customer since 2007. That alone should tell you something. I had longevity with them. According to my records, I’d paid all my bills on time with them. I had no problems. I did, however, need to change the name on my account, and I had written them numerous times to get the form to do so. The form needed to be notarized. Life happened. The form never got changed. And yeah, the phone number on the account wasn’t valid. The email, however, was and I had been getting emails at that account all along.

In May I get a notice. I owed them $125 and if I didn’t pay it immediately they were going to shut off my account. Turns out they did that anyway, without telling me.

About six years ago, they moved all their clients from check payments to credit cards on file. The best as I can tell, even though I wrote checks to cover those bills because I had invoices in hand, either they didn’t apply them properly or not at all (they cashed them. that much I do know), and never told me. Again, according to my records I paid every invoice due.

They say they have been taking my publisher compensation, which isn’t true, because I had been getting paid every single month they owed me money. Never once was I contacted about these bills.

What I’m told is that they were “taking” my publisher compensation, but then paying me anyway, thus the bills never got paid, and apparently randomly they decided that since I only had a small handful of books with them and sales had slowed (due to personal issues, a refocus, and the fact that I haven’t really marketed my books for the last couple of years) they were finally going to go after it.

I explained the business name needed to be changed. Fine. I could pay the bill, send in the form, they’d reactivate the account under the new name. But then the “credit rep” decided since the business name had changed they would close down the account, not tell me, and not allow me to reactivate it.

I paid the outstanding amount. Given what I’ve dealt with, and still am dealing with, it was easier to write a check then try to find five year old records and match up checks with invoices, especially since Lightning Source refused to provide proof that the invoices were owed and what they were for.  Throughout the entire arrangement they treated me as if I had done something wrong. They told me I could open up a new account with Spark, that I was barred from using Lightning Source. Given that publishers were told ten years ago that Spark was a “lesser” account, no way. I was not going to go that route.

Yes, I could have fought. I also have far more important things, like taking care of a bedridden mother to spend my energy on.

Really? You bar a 10-year long customer with a good payment history marred only by your own company’s fuck up from signing up back up with the account she had to begin with? Really?

At this point, I think unless you do a lot of bookstore business Lightning Source is an expensive way to get your paperbacks out there. Their set up fees, requirements, and sheer lack of customer service make them an odious company to do business with and they have shown time and time again that they do not value small publishers nor self-publishers.

People ask me all the time how to get a print copy of my book. My answer? CreateSpace. Don’t deal with Lightning Source. They’re more headaches than they’re worth.