Ingram charges all on-demand publishers an annual storage fee for every book title they publish and distribute through Ingram. All publishers pass this cost to their authors. Some publishers like Outskirts Press are up-front about this fee by referencing it in their contract and stating the amount of the annual fee on their website. Other publishers are more subtle (subversive?), either calling it something else, or paying substantially lower royalties to off-set the cost, or requiring their authors to sell a certain number of books each month to avoid contract termination.
The problem with paying lower royalties to off-set the storage fee is that this model requires successful authors to subsidize unsuccessful ones. Think about it: if the publisher is making the storage fees only from the authors who sell a lot of books, those successful authors are compensating for the authors who are selling very few (in other words, paying more than they should). Not a very fair scenario, especially for the successful authors, who should be rewarded, not punished. For this reason, Outskirts Press is always up-front about its fees, and charges all authors the annual storage fee equally. We would prefer to pay 100% author royalties to our authors, which rewards the authors who are selling well, rather than punishing them by asking them to subsidize others. And since we want ALL our authors to sell a lot of books and be successful, this works out best.
If you look around at other publishers, the most common descriptions for this fee are maintenance fee, storage fee, hosting fee, or distribution fee, although keep in mind that some publishers don’t tell you about this fee until after they have published your book.
Interestingly, even though the fee all publishers pay Ingram is relatively consistent, the fees the publishers charge their authors are all over the board. For example, many POD publishers charge anywhere from $25-$49 for “maintenance fees” or “storage fees” or “hosting fees.” However, other publishers charge $99 – $199 a year for “distribution fees” even though it is the exact same thing as the “storage fee.” Still other publishers don’t charge a storage fee at all and instead pay substantially lower royalties (anywhere from 20% – 50%, instead of the 100% you earn with Outskirts Press) and charge substantially higher author copy prices. In other words, they’re getting the storage fee from you somewhere else.
For accounting efficiencies, Outskirts Press bills our authors their annual fee in January, regardless of when their book is published. In other words, we bill at the start of the first full calendar year of publication. Other publishers may do it differently.
The only exception to this is for books that are published at the end of the calendar year. In those cases, since the book is published so close to the annual fee due date, we cover that cost as a courtesy for those authors.
If your annual storage fee is not added to your author’s center account in January, it means your publication date earned the exception. Typically, only books published in the last 30 days of the year qualify for the exception. Otherwise, if the storage fee was added to your account, that fee is due on or before January 31. You can pay securely and conveniently online with a credit card.
The fee is assessed for each hardcopy format of a published title. Since each format is distributed separately via Ingram, each format is charged its own digital fee. So, for instance, if you have one paperback format, the fee will be $25/year. If you have one paperback and one hardback of the same book, the fee will be $50. If you have two different paperbacks, the fee will be $50, and so forth.
WHAT DOES THIS FEE PAY FOR?
This fee covers wholesale digital distribution and on-demand printing, which is what allows your book to be listed on major online retail sites like Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as being accessible via iPage (Ingram’s Ordering Database), and Ingram Book Wholesalers. It is also what allows your book to be printed on-demand when requested by you through your author’s center.