KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) vs. IngramSpark

Pixabay book-148200_640 (002)Last month, I wrote a refresher post comparing Smashwords and Draft2Digital. This month, I think it’s probably time for a refresher post comparing KDP Print and IngramSpark.

First up, KDP Print

Owned by Amazon, KDP Print is possibly the most popular U.S. site for distributing self-published paperback books.

Pros:

  1. Publishing through KDP Print is free.
  2. The publication process is outlined in several easy-to-follow steps.
  3. KDP Print has a free online cover-creator. If one of their many templates doesn’t meet your needs, they also provide free downloadable cover templates you can use to build your own cover.
  4. Paper choices are either cream or white, and paperback cover finishes are either matte or glossy.
  5. KDP Print also provides free downloadable templates to ensure your manuscript is properly formatted for printing. (Note:  This template also works for IngramSpark.)
  6. KDP Print offers the option of using your own purchased ISBN or using a free one they provide.
  7. KDP Print offers free Expanded Distribution. Expanded Distribution means your book will be available not only on Amazon, but in widely known book distribution catalogues such as Ingram. It will also be available in other online stores such as Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million.
  8. KDP Print will provide a free barcode that they add to your cover once you upload it.
  9. KDP Print allows you to order books, including a proof copy, for the cost of printing and shipping.
  10. You can make changes to your cover or interior and re-upload the new editions for free at any time.

Cons:

  1. KDP Print does not allow bookstores to return unsold books. This has historically been one of the markers that sets self-published and small-press books apart from books published through bigger houses. Stores are reluctant to stock books that cannot be returned if they don’t sell.
  2. KDP Print Expanded Distribution does get your book listed in Ingram, but with a wholesale discount of only 25 percent, most brick-and-mortar stores will not be interested. A standard wholesale discount is widely considered to be 55 percent.
  3. KDP Print only allows for the publishing and printing of paperbacks; it does not provide resources for publishing or printing hardback books.

KDP Print royalties and payments:

KDP Print pays electronically sixty days after a book sells. Royalties are complicated, but the general explanation is that the author receives 60 percent net of retail after printing costs are deducted if the book is sold through Amazon U.S. If the book is sold through Expanded Distribution, the author receives 40 percent net of retail after printing costs are deducted.

Next up, IngramSpark

IngramSpark is a subsidiary of Ingram Content Group Inc.; yes, that’s the same Ingram that, according to their website, provides “books, music, and media content to over 38,000 retailers, libraries, schools and distribution partners in 195 countries.” Ironically, if you choose KDP Print Expanded Distribution, what they do is list the book in Ingram.

  1. Books printed through IngramSpark will be listed in catalogues such as Ingram and NACSCORP and will be available for order through all major retailers.
  2. Upload directions are easy to follow (I walk you through using IngramSpark here).
  3. Like KDP Print, IngramSpark paper choices are either cream or white, and paperback cover finishes are either matte or glossy. But unlike KDP Print, IngramSpark also offers the option to print hardback books. These covers may be matte, glossy, or fabric-covered.
  4. IngramSpark provides a free cover template.
  5. IngramSpark will provide a free barcode. It comes attached to their free cover template and must be added to the back cover before uploading the cover file to IngramSpark.
  6. Unlike KDP Print, IngramSpark gives the author/publisher the option of accepting returns or having unsold books destroyed.
  7. Unlike KDP Print, IngramSpark allows the publisher to set the wholesale discount.

IngramSpark cons:

  1. Publishing through IngramSpark is not free. At the time of this post, the price for uploading both your cover and interior on IngramSpark is $49.00 (That’s an improvement – it used to be $49 for each).
  2. They do not provide author/publisher copies at a reduced cost.
  3. There is a $25.00 charge to change either your cover or interior with IngramSpark.
  4. They do not provide a free ISBN. Authors in the U.S. must purchase their own ISBNs from Bowker, which is quite expensive.

IngramSpark royalties and payments:

  1. Payment is via Paypal and is made ninety days after the initial report date.
  2. It is very difficult to get a “royalty rate,” because IngramSpark allows the publisher to set the wholesale discount. A standard wholesale discount of 55 percent may mean a lower profit margin, but also makes it more likely bookstores will be willing to stock the book. That being said, they do offer a calculator so an author can see his/her costs and what to expect as far as royalties go. This will differ for each author depending on how much of a discount that author sets, so while we know that through KDP Print it’s 60%, there’s no “set” percentage to quote for I/S.

Using KDP Print in conjunction with IngramSpark:

Some authors choose to purchase their own ISBN(s) and use both KDP Print and IngramSpark for distribution. Because initial publication on KDP Print is free — as are revisions — some authors feel it’s better to begin with KDP Print until the author is familiar enough and experienced enough to have quality products without having to pay for each revision needed.

They simply upload the cover and interior on KDP Print, check a proof copy, and make revisions as needed. Once the manuscript is in perfect order and no further revisions are needed, they then publish on KDP Print without choosing Expanded Distribution (Expanded Distribution can’t be selected if you want to also use IngramSpark), and also publish through IngramSpark.

In this way, the book is available on KDP Print for Amazon stores as well as on IngramSpark for inclusion in Ingram, Baker and Taylor, and NACSCORP and a better chance of being sold in brick-and-mortar stores. Leaving the book on KDP Print has the added benefit of lower printing costs for author copies should the author need print copies for book signings, etc.

[Note: Updated 3-9-2019 – thanks to reader comments notifying us of some changes]

Author: Melinda Clayton

Melinda Clayton is the author of the Cedar Hollow series, as well as a self-publishing guide. Clayton has published numerous articles and short stories in various print and online magazines. She has an Ed.D. in Special Education Administration and is a licensed psychotherapist in the states of Florida and Colorado. Lear more about Melinda at her Amazon author page

39 thoughts on “KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) vs. IngramSpark”

  1. This article has a few misspeaks about IngramSpark. First, IngramSpark is NOT $98 to upload! It’s $49 for the set up fee for a print or print + ebook. And you can frequently find coupons to get that cost waived. And that price has been the same for years now.

    Second, yes, you can buy author copies at cost. It’s how I buy hardbacks for my direct sales. And you can get proof copies as well – it is after the digital proofing stage, but other than that it is not significantly different from Amazon – Amazon doesn’t give you proof copies free. You pay in both cases. I always buy physical proofs from IngramSpark before making the books available there.

    Third, payment is typically made via direct deposits to your account, same as Amazon. They do offer PayPal as an option, but direct deposit is the default.

    And they do have a free, easy to use calculator to see what your royalty rate will be, including being able to see how the wholesale discount affects it: https://myaccount.ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/PubCompCalculator

  2. I’m already very comfortable with KDP, but even if I wasn’t, I think the cost of IngramSpark would keep me away. I don’t always update my back matter every time I publish a new book, but with 35 titles out now, paying for those changes would run into serious money. I’ll stick with KDP.

  3. Thank you for this comparison. I recently did my own and decided to go with IngramSpark for several reasons. I think you may have a typo regarding the cost. It’s a $49 setup fee for print+ebook, not $98. (See https://www.ingramspark.com/features.) Also, it’s worth noting that Ingram periodically runs promos. They sent out the promo code NANO, which gave free setup from November 15, 2018 through March 31, 2019. I’ve used this for three books.

  4. Excellent summary, Melinda. As I live in Australia, I print with both KDP and IngramSpark. KDP for proofing, although the print quality is not exactly the same, and Ingram for consumption here in Australia. The reason is that I save a whopping amount on shipping as Ingram has a print facility right here in Melbourne. To give you some idea, it costs $4.90 for 1 to approx 24 paperbacks. With KDP, the shipping costs more than the print, just for one single book. Another big plus is that Australians can’t buy my paperbacks in Australia because of an issue between Amazon and the government’s GST.

  5. Hi all – for some reason I’m unable to see comments once I’m here (although I have gotten notifications for comments). I’ll try to respond to everyone.

    Dale and Sherelle – mea culpa! You’re exactly right – it’s $49 for both files (cover and interior) and not for each. Dale, you’re very charitable, but it wasn’t a typo, just a moment of fog. 🙂 It’s true that once an account is set up, I/S periodically sends out coupons. Some writers’ groups and organizations also offer discounts. For example, I’m a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, and one of the benefits they offer is free set-up at I/S. Depending on how many books one publishes a year, the membership fee for IBPA may be cheaper than what one would pay in set-up fees over the course of a year at I/S.

    Sherelle, I should have been more clear when discussing royalties. As you mentioned, they do offer a calculator so an author can see his/her costs and what to expect as far as royalties go. This will differ for each author depending on how much of a discount that author sets, so while we know that through KDP Print it’s 60%, there’s no “set” percentage to quote for I/S.

    Sherelle, I was excited to see your post because for the nearly six years I’ve been with I/S, (I opened an account sometime in 2013 shortly after they were made separate from Lightning Source), one of my biggest gripes has been the inability to order author copies. My initial experience with I/S was that the only proof was an e-proof. When was this feature added, do you know? I did some research this morning and happily found this: https://help.ingramspark.com/hc/en-us/articles/360024057331-Hardcopy-Proof-or-Printed-Proof

    During that search, I also learned that as of June 2018, an author can “personalize” a book with a specific message to be sent to a specific person. https://www.ingramspark.com/blog/personalize-your-ingramspark-book-orders New to me, and very interesting!

    Dale and Sherelle, thanks for setting the record straight and adding more information.

    AC, thanks for sharing that information. I’d heard authors mention using I/S to avoid the huge shipping costs, but didn’t know any details about it.

    1. I’m not sure when it was added, but I’ve been able to order proofs since I printed my first book with them in 2015, and it’s always been at just the printing cost + shipping (which is the same pricing scheme as CreateSpace and KDP Print for author copies). 🙂

  6. Thank you for the update, Melinda! I recently tried to do the KDP+IngramSpark route. One problem I found with IngramSpark is that they don’t play nice with PDFs created in Microsoft Word (especially for Mac OS). So, the same interior PDF I used for KDP was mangled by IngramSpark, and IngramSpark doesn’t offer technical assistance if you come to them with a PDF created by Word. It’s great incentive for me to learn how to use InDesign, which they much prefer. And a good thing that I had one of the NaNoWriMo codes so I didn’t have to spend for an order I had to bail on.

      1. That’s how I saved it. IngramSpark’s system still mangled the file. It wasn’t the fonts but the placement of the text on the page. Something tells me it’s a Mac issue.

  7. Just a heads up all. For the last few months, authors who upload to IngramSpark FIRST and then try to upload the files to KDP are told that their book is ineligible for KDP because the ISBN is listed elsewhere. This is a change since KDP took over for CreateSpace. Now, one HAS to upload to KDP first or they will find their ISBN blocked.

    1. Just out of curiosity, why would you upload to both anyway? If you set up IngramSpark to send to Amazon (I forget the name of that setting), then your files will be sent over there anyway, so you don’t have to do it manually. That’s how I’m doing it, anyway. Is there any advantage to doing them separately?

        1. Ah, okay, thanks. I just discovered another reason you might want to do that. If you want to change prices, you can do it fairly quickly with KDP (changes may take a day at most to show up). With Ingram, though, you can’t. They only send price changes once per month, on the first day of the month. It can take up to 2 weeks for retailers to put those changes into effect. You also need to make the change one week prior to the end of the month to ensure it gets sent. (I’m not sure why that is the case, but that’s what their support person told me.) So if you want to drop a price on an ebook to run a promotion, you have to plan ahead: (1) Make the change a week prior to the end of the month; (2) Don’t run the promo until the second half of the following month. Doable, but a bit annoying.

          1. Then again . . . don’t listen to what I just said. That’s what support told me, but the edit screen for prices says that ebook prices are sent out weekly, so maybe it’s not as bad as all that. I’m going to attempt a price change for one of my books and see what happens. Stay tuned…

      1. Amazon also has a history of listing a book as “out of stock” when it’s listed on I/S but not KDP, with a longer delay for the arrival date. Customers can still order the book, but might be told that because it’s out of stock, the delivery date will be at a later than expected date. Technically, this is correct because Amazon is having to place the order with I/S, which probably takes longer than sending the order to their own distributor.

  8. Hi, Melinda.
    Great article: I’ve been publishing on both for a while and worked out a formula that seems to benefit me. I publish the books on both, and release them at the same time. I use KDP exclusively for Amazon, and IS for everywhere else: on other websites and especially, I make certain that the IS version is available for books stores.

    I also accept the returns, which makes it easier for Indie bookstores to order and sell the book. If they don;t sell out, I make arrangements for the books to be sent to me, instead of stripped or destroyed.

  9. Melinda — great article and thanks for all the updates. Question: do I need separate ISBNs for both the KDP and IngramSpark versions if I go that route? Or does one ISBN cover both?

    1. Public librarians typically order from Ingram iPage or Baker and Taylor (which gets a lot of its books from Ingram.) I think it’
      s more familiar, therefore, for librarians to order indie books directly from Ingram, not Extended Amazon. Librarians typically order more than one copy. Note that 50% of library patrons who read and like an author will purchase (buy!) another book by the same author. I’m an indie author and publisher and a former librarian.

    2. You can use the same ISBN for both, provided you’re using your own ISBN and you set them both up the same (i.e. same trim, cover, etc). They are considered the same book, just multiple printers 🙂

  10. Thanks for the post. I used Ingram Sparks for print copies of my last book and the quality is better than KDP, the colours sharper and the interior neater. Having said that, I don’t know if people other than those who know about design would notice if they didn’t have the two in front of them to compare. In addition, in the UK when you purchase your ISBNs you are beholden to a 17th century law relating to the legal deposit of books, which means you need to provide the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries with six copies of your book. (Insult to injury–you have to pay for those print copies and then the postage and packaging if you don’t live near the Agency for the Legal Deposit Libraries offices.)

    1. Six copies! In the U.S. when/if you register the copyright you’re required to send two copies – I thought two was silly, but at least it isn’t six.

      Regarding the difference in quality between KDP and I/S, I haven’t been able to notice any difference at all with mine, so maybe I’m lucky!

  11. Wow six is wild! With the US, it’s two of your best editions as Melinda said with the copyright. You also have to send another best edition if you register for a PCN for your book. It does suck, though, since for me that means paying for and sending hardbacks, since those are considered the best edition, only for them to not actually shelve it LOL

    My IS and CreateSpace books had very subtle differences most of the time, but like yours they were only really noticeable if you had them side by side. The only time I had a really noticeable difference in quality was when I had a heavily black cover – IS had a really hard time with printing it while oddly CreateSpace was able to do it much easier.

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