Is IngramSpark the right choice for YOU? Or should you stay with CreateSpace-only paperback distribution?
IngramSpark is a Print-on-Demand printer and distributor that you can use alongside CreateSpace (or KDP Print) to maximize your paperback distribution reach and royalties.
The same copy of your paperback sold by Barnes & Noble on their website can earn you twelve times more if you print and distribute with IngramSpark, when compared to CreateSpace Expanded Distribution.
Let’s use a 274-page paperback priced at $10.99 as an example to explain this difference.
You could earn $3.20 (29% of the $10.99 list price) per copy by distributing that paperback through IngramSpark, compared to a mere $0.26 (2% of the list price) you would earn using CreateSpace Expanded Distribution.
When used alongside CreateSpace (or KDP Print), IngramSpark will not affect your Amazon distribution at all.
Your CreateSpace-distributed paperback sales for the same book on Amazon.com would still earn you $2.46 (22% of the list price).
CreateSpace transtition to KDP
As of late 2018, Amazon is preparing to shut down CreateSpace and move all paperbacks published through the service to their KDP platform. When the transition is complete and CreateSpace is fully shut down, we will update this article to remove references to CreateSpace.
In the meantime, we recommend using KDP Print instead of CreateSpace to publish new paperbacks, unless you specifically need to order non-watermarked copies of your paperback prior to making it available to readers on Amazon (this is not possible with KDP, but IngramSpark can be used to replace CreateSpace for that purpose).
All references in this article to CreateSpace Expanded Distribution also apply to KDP Print Expanded Distribution. The financial details of the differences between CreateSpace and IngramSpark are also valid for KDP Print.
The larger royalties using IngramSpark as your distributor come with a catch, though. Depending on what choices you make, there are direct and indirect upfront costs, ranging from $49, $134, and up to $174 per book. To recoup these costs, you need to sell between 17 and 46 copies through IngramSpark. The actual number of sales you need to make to recoup those costs will be determined by the page count of your book and the list price that you set. More details are included in "Recouping IngramSpark-related costs" section.
What is your take on using IngramSpark at this point?
If that is something you are interested in and you see the benefits of a wide paperback distribution with good royalties, read on to dive deeper into all the details.
Amazon-exclusive print edition
What if you don’t care much about paperback sales you could make outside Amazon? Is there still any way that IngramSpark could be useful to you? You bet!
Even if you are focusing solely on Amazon print distribution, using IngramSpark also provides you with following benefits:
You can easily set up a paperback pre-order on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, and European Amazon Stores, without the complex process of using Amazon Advantage. Not only that, but you will also earn 30% more for each copy sold through pre-order on Amazon.com than you would by using Amazon Advantage to set up the pre-order, with CreateSpace-printed copies used to fulfill pre-orders. Details are included in the “Paperback pre-order with IngramSpark” section.
If you choose to keep using Ingram-printed copies to fulfill Amazon.com orders after the pre-order period is finished, you will continue to enjoy 30% more profit for each copy sold on Amazon.com. The only thing you need to do in order to set it up is to NOT select Amazon.com as one of your CreateSpace channels. With IngramSpark copy enabled for distribution and Amazon.com channel on CreateSpace disabled, Amazon will simply sell copies printed by IngramSpark. Details are included in the "IngramSpark for Amazon distribution" section.
With the upcoming shutdown of CreateSpace, the only option to order a paperback copy printed by Amazon is to use KDP Print. Unlike CreateSpace, where you could order as few or as many fully-fledged copies of your book as you wanted, without making the paperback available to readers, KDP does not allow you to do that. Adopting approach similar to the one used for Kindle eBooks, they consider any unpublished version of the book to be a draft. Hence, prior to publishing the book (or making the updated version available to readers), you can only order a proof copy, which has "Not For Resale" watermark on the cover and your regular barcode (based on your ISBN) replaced with a temporary barcode. Amazon also imposes a limit of 5 proof copies per order. So, if you need advanced copies of your book, whether for you book launch or reviewers, you can't achieve that with Amazon. The most straighforward CreateSpace replacement for ordering advanced copies of your paperback prior to publication is IngramSpark.
If your book is very short or extremely long, you won’t be able to print and distribute it with CreateSpace. CreateSpace allows for books between 24 and 828 pages (740 for cream paper) for most trim sizes. IngramSpark has a wider allowance between 18 and 1200 pages (1050 for cream paper). If you want to sell a book on Amazon with the page count outside the CreateSpace requirements, IngramSpark is your best option.
You can set up a hardback edition with IngramSpark, which will be sold on Amazon and listed right next to the paperback and eBook editions on your book’s product page. CreateSpace only allows for setting up paperback editions. If the hardcover is something that you would find useful in your marketing strategy, then IngramSpark is the easiest way to have it done with Print-on-Demand. Make sure to read "IngramSpark for Amazon distribution" section for details about how IngramSpark books and Amazon work together.
Full-color printing is much more affordable with IngramSpark than with CreateSpace. Mix that with flexible wholesale discount options described in detail in this article and you will actually find that having your book printed on demand in rich color can result in decent royalties. And just like the hardcover version, it will be listed right next to any B&W paperback version you might have distributed with CreateSpace or Ingram.
We think that you will find at least one of the items on this list useful for your distribution strategy. However, if you don’t and you consider IngramSpark to not be useful to you in any way, we would advise you to only read relevant information about ISBNs (1, 2, 3, 4) and barcodes and skip the rest of this article.
Major distribution channels for paperbacks
When it comes to print distribution, there are 2 categories of book sellers: Amazon and everyone else. "Everyone else" includes important retailers such as Barnes & Noble (US), Book Depository (worldwide), Waterstones (UK), Wordery (worldwide), Blackwell’s (UK), Booktopia (Australia), Fishpond (Australia and New Zealand) and Chapters/Indigo (Canada), as well as many smaller and specialized sellers, which will make your book available for sale on their websites and popular online marketplaces. To make it simple, let’s refer to all those retailers, along with schools and libraries, as non-Amazon channels.
CreateSpace is a good choice for distribution to Amazon.com (*) and Amazon's European websites (.co.uk, .de, .fr, .es, .it).
By using them for your Amazon distribution, your book will always be "In Stock" on Amazon websites and you will receive 60% of your list price, which is determined by you, for every copy sold, less printing fee, which depends on the page count. It is free to set up and update your paperback on CreateSpace and if you do not want to buy your own ISBN from Bowker (or your country ISBN agency, e.g., Nielsen in UK) and you do not mind "CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform" listed as "Publisher" on your book's Amazon product page, then you can also have a free ISBN assigned by them. If you decide to go with KDP Print in favor of CreateSpace and you choose to have their free ISBN assigned to your book, "Publisher: Independently published" will be listed on your product page instead.
But what about all those non-Amazon channels? You may already be aware of "Expanded Distribution" offered by CreateSpace. While it is one way of making your paperback available to a wider audience, it is by far the worst option when it comes to how much you will get paid for each copy sold to readers. This is where IngramSpark comes in.
To compare IngramSpark with CreateSpace Expanded Distribution, let's assume that your paperback has 274 pages, 6x9 trim size, black and white interior, is printed on white paper and you decided to set the list price at an affordable $9.99.
In this scenario, you get $1.86 in royalties for sales on Amazon.com and you are not able to use Expanded Distribution on CreateSpace. The reason for this is that distribution through Expanded Distribution would result in a $0.14 loss on each copy sold, as the print charge ($4.13) is more than 40% of the book’s list price ($3.99) you would “receive” for each copy sold. To calculate your actual royalty, CreateSpace needs to deduct their print charge from this $3.99. Understandably, CreateSpace won't allow you to set a price that will result in them having to charge you for the sale of your own book.
On top of that, CreateSpace will only allow you to set one list price for all distribution channels for a specific book – you can’t set a lower price for Amazon and a higher price for non-Amazon channels to counteract the lower royalty rate from the latter. This means that you either have to increase your list price for all channels (including Amazon.com), so that Expanded Distribution is not generating a loss or you need to do away with Expanded Distribution on CreateSpace altogether.
For the same 274-page paperback with a $9.99 list price, you will get exactly $1.50 (15% of the list price) for each copy sold through non-Amazon channels, if you use IngramSpark. That means that you can keep a low price for all your readers (including ones buying from Amazon) and sell your book through non-Amazon channels like Barnes & Noble.
But here comes the twist: you will earn this modest royalty only when you set the wholesale discount on IngramSpark to 40%, which is the “standard” discount at which retailers buy your books from a distributor and one used implicitly by CreateSpace. By changing the discount to 30% for US channels, which you can do with IngramSpark, your royalty automatically goes up to $2.5 (25% of the list price).
Yes, you read it correctly: by making one change in the book settings, without changing the list price, your royalty goes up by over 60%. That means that with those new settings, to achieve the same profit, you only need to make 60% of the sales you would need to make previously.
The next section explains how you can combine the wholesale discount settings with a slight price increase to make $3.20 profit on each copy sold through IngramSpark, as well as going into detail on how exactly wholesale discounts can make such a big difference to your bottom line.
Maximizing your royalties by changing wholesale discounts
This section contains a detailed explanation on how the list price and wholesale discount influence your earnings. You might want to skip it the first time through and go straight to “IngramSpark fees” and then “Acquiring your own ISBN”. Once you decide IngramSpark is the right choice for you, come back to this section for details on maximizing your royalties.
One thing that IngramSpark allows you to do, which CreateSpace doesn’t, is to set a wholesale discount rate. This rate will affect how much you earn, because it directly influences how much book retailers pay the distributor for each copy of your book.
We are still keeping with our example of a 274-page paperback with a $9.99 list price.
When you set the CreateSpace-default wholesale discount of 40%, the retailer pays the distributor $5.99 for each copy sold (60% of $9.99). From that amount, the printing cost is deducted. For our 274-page example, the printing cost charged by CreateSpace is $4.13 and IngramSpark charges $4.49 for the same. You receive the rest, which is $1.86 from CreateSpace (but only for Amazon.com sales) and $1.50 from IngramSpark (for all non-Amazon retailers).
But what if you changed the wholesale discount to the lowest possible for US channels, which is 30% with IngramSpark? In this case, the retailer pays the distributor (IngramSpark) $6.99 for each copy of your book. Because of this simple change, your royalty automatically goes up $1, because the printing cost is always the same, no matter what the list price is. That means that you get $2.50 for all non-Amazon sales through IngramSpark as opposed to the $0.14 you would theoretically lose from CreateSpace Expanded Distribution sales of the same copy.
To compare the actual royalties paid by each distributor, as opposed to theoretical, let's say you set a $10.99 list price, so that you can actually use Expanded Distribution, if you decided it was right for you.
With a $10.99 list price and the same 274-page paperback, this is how much you would earn:
- Amazon.com sales, through CreateSpace: $2.46*
- Non-Amazon sales, through CreateSpace Expanded Distribution: $0.26
- Non-Amazon sales, through IngramSpark, with the wholesale discount set to 30%: $3.20
So, for this example, by choosing to use IngramSpark and leveraging the option of a lower wholesale discount, you are earning $2.94 more per copy sold than you would with CreateSpace Expanded Distribution. To put things in perspective, this is over 12 times more money in your pocket for a single sale.
In other words, by increasing the list price by $1 and wisely choosing to use the wholesale discount on IngramSpark, you are increasing your earnings for copies sold on Barnes & Noble and other major US channels from a hypothetical $0.14 loss to a $3.20 profit. Or, by keeping the list price at $9.99, you turn a hypothetical $0.14 loss (and actual loss of distribution through non-Amazon channels) into a $2.50 profit. Whether the list price is $9.99 or $10.99, you still receive $1.86 or $2.46 respectively from CreateSpace for Amazon.com sales even if you don’t use IngramSpark at all.
One great thing about CreateSpace and KDP Print is that book setup and file changes are always free. So is getting an ISBN, if you don't mind CreateSpace being listed as the publisher on your Amazon product page as well as the fact that it can only be used with them.
IngramSpark is different. Its parent company, Ingram Content Group, is one of the world's largest book distributors. Historically, they have mainly worked with publishers, not indie authors, and their pricing is structured differently.
The most important thing is that they charge a one-time $49 fee for setting up a book in their system.
Secondly, they charge a $25 file revision fee. That means that if you decide to update your interior file after uploading it for the first time, they are going to charge you $25. If you decide to update your cover file, they will charge you another $25. Updates to metadata, pricing, availability and wholesale discount settings are free.
Periodically, IngramSpark uses book-related events, such as NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), book fairs or online-only events for authors, and waives the setup or file revision fees for a limited time. But, while considering the cost of using the distributor, you can’t rely on promotional offers that may or may not be available in the future, even though it's not likely you will need to pay the full fees listed above (if you are willing to wait a little for a new promotion). Another option to “avoid” IngramSpark fees is their on-going offer of a $49 refund of the setup fee, if you place an order of at least 50 “author copies” (for which you will pay printing and shipping costs, usually higher than those you would pay for the copies ordered from CreateSpace or KDP Print) within 60 days of setting your book up with them.
IngramSpark discount codes
SELFPUB code for free title set up is again active. There is no reliable information available about its expiration date. We confirmed this code works on May 24th, 2019 and then again in early July. We also discovered, on July 18th, that books set up with this code are not subject to a revision fee (though this may not be the case indefinitely).
IngramSpark waived revision fees for all books until the end of June, 2019 (no code required). NANO code is valid until March 31, 2019. Make sure to enter the code ALL UPPERCASE, otherwise, it won’t work. If you will need to update interior or cover files after submitting them for the first time, this code can also be used to waive revision fee. You will need to enter it again on “checkout” after $25 (or $50, if you are updating both files) fee is presented to you. SPARK5 code is valid for July 2018. SELFPUB code is valid through the end of June 2018. IngramSpark waived revision fees for all books until May 31st, 2018 (no code required). NANO17 code is valid through the end of March 2018. Unlike with earlier codes, you need to enter NANO17 code again on “checkout” when you see revision fee(s) listed. SPARK17 code is valid through the end of December 2017. INDIEFRINGE17 code is valid through the end of November 2017. Even though the company promotes these codes with a “waive set up fees” slogan, we have used them on several books and discovered that INDIEFRINGE17 code allowed for free file revision in mid-September 2017, while SPARK17 allowed for the same in mid-October 2017. They also used to charge a $12 yearly “market access fee”, but they do not charge it right now. Hopefully, they have dropped this $12 yearly fee altogether, but there is a possibility they will resume charging it at some point in the future. IngramSpark re-introduced their yearly $12 “market access fee” in mid-2017. Since they might waive it once again, and it is charged periodically instead of being a one-time fee, calculations in this article do not consider this fee. In our example, this small fee increases the number of books you need to sell to break-even using IngramSpark by 4 copies per year. Note that it is not charged for the first year of distribution.
Acquiring your own ISBN
In order to use IngramSpark, there is also the indirect cost of getting your own ISBN, which is not tied to any distributor.
Whether you print and distribute a single edition of the paperback through one, two or more Print-on-Demand providers, you need only 1 ISBN for that paperback.
You do not need to have a separate ISBN for each distributor. In fact, using multiple ISBNs for the same paperback edition might result in your book listing being duplicated on the Amazon website, because they might not realize that your CreateSpace-distributed copy is the same edition of the same book as your IngramSpark-distributed copy. Duplicated listings might also confuse your readers, because they won’t know what the difference is between the two versions and might end up not buying either of them. To summarize: only use one ISBN for your paperback, regardless of how many distributors you are going to use.
Bowker and other ISBN agencies might try cross-selling barcodes. They will try to convince you that you have to buy the barcode for your book, alongside your ISBN. That isn't the case. You don't need to buy the barcode in order to publish your paperback with either CreateSpace, KDP Print or IngramSpark. While your paperback does require the barcode for distribution, it can be obtained for free. CreateSpace and KDP will automatically generate a barcode with your ISBN and then superimpose it in the lower right-hand corner of your back cover during their file review process. IngramSpark provides barcodes as part of their cover templates and they can be placed anywhere on the back cover.
IngramSpark does not provide free ISBNs and hence you need to acquire one from your country’s ISBN agency.
In the US, Bowker sells single ISBNs for $125 and a bulk of 10 ISBNs at $295.
As of late October 2018, Bowker has temporarily disabled an option to buy ISBNs from their website. As of late November 2018, Bowker has restored their MyIdentifiers website and the option to buy ISBN numbers. However, we have discovered the access to website is blocked for visitors outside the US. If you are trying to publish your book while abroad, we can suggest a simple work-around for non-technical authors (contact us for details).
In the UK, Nielsen sells single ISBNs for £89 and a bulk of 10 ISBNs for £149. In Canada, Library and Archives Canada provides ISBNs free of charge. In Australia, Thorpe-Bowker sells single ISBNs for AU$44 and a bulk of 10 ISBNs for AU$88. Unlike ISBN registrars in other countries, Thorpe-Bowker adds one-time fee of AU$55 to the first ISBN purchase made by Australian authors.
You might find "cheap" ISBNs online sold by companies or individuals not authorized by International ISBN Agency as official ISBN agency for any country. Those re-sellers buy huge blocks of ISBNs from Bowker (or their country ISBN agency) for as little as $1.5 per ISBN. Then, they offer these ISBNs to independent authors for less than authors would spend by buying directly from Bowker. Those ISBNs have the original buyer's "publisher" or "imprint" name assigned to them and they remain under control of those who bought them originally, not the authors who bought them from such re-seller. Such ISBNs may also be offered by some service providers as part of their book publishing packages
While these ISBNs are not tied to any distributor (which differentiates them from the free ISBNs provided by distributors) and hence can be used as a part of the distribution strategy outlined in this article, they are not under the author's direct control and can't have their chosen "publisher" name assigned to them. These "re-sold" ISBNs might be an alternative choice for those authors who want to save anywhere between $50 and $100 on a single ISBN purchase, but you need to be aware that they are not "owned" by you.
The only way to fully "own" ISBNs and have full control over them is to buy them from the official ISBN agency of your country. If you are in the US and want to save some money while buying your own ISBNs, you can take advantage of the partnerships between Bowker and one of the three major US companies, which allow you to pay less for the exact same ISBN. Details are included in the next section.
Discounted ISBNs for US authors
This section is only relevant to US authors. If you are not in the US, make sure to read information about “cheap” ISBNs above and then skip this section and go straight to “Recouping IngramSpark-related costs” for information relevant to you.
US authors can purchase single ISBNs at a reduced price by taking advantage of the partnership between Bowker – the official US ISBN agency – and one of three major US companies: IngramSpark, CreateSpace and Amazon.
All of these discounted ISBNs are purchased directly on Bowker’s website and can be managed on MyIdentifiers.com. The rules governing their use are the same as if purchased at full price which means that you will truly own any ISBN you obtain in this way.
This will allow you to determine your own publisher (imprint) name and fully control your choice of print distributors, including CreateSpace and IngramSpark.
IngramSpark. While setting up a paperback with IngramSpark you will reach a step where you will be asked to provide your own ISBN and will also be presented with an option to either purchase an ISBN from Bowker at a reduced rate or assign a non-distributable SKU number to your book. When you choose the option to buy an ISBN, you will be redirected to Bowker’s website where you will be able to complete the purchase, paying only $85 instead of the regular $125 for a single ISBN.
CreateSpace. While setting up a paperback with CreateSpace you will reach a step where you will have to choose between a free CreateSpace-assigned ISBN, your own ISBN and a “Custom Universal ISBN” priced at $99. When you choose the last option, you will be redirected to Bowker’s website and you will only have to pay $99 instead of the regular $125 for a single ISBN. Owing to the fact that CreateSpace also offers free ISBNs and Libraries and Academic Institutions Expanded Distribution channel requires the use of a “CreateSpace-Assigned ISBN” (meaning the FREE option) authors often wonder how this $99 option is different to the Bowker-bought $125 ISBN. The answer is that apart from the reduced price, it is exactly the same. If you are wondering why CreateSpace uses such a fancy name for this discounted ISBN option, here is a bit of history. They used to offer a $10 ISBN called “Custom ISBN” which allowed authors to use their own imprint name, but those numbers were owned by CreateSpace and could not be used with other companies. Hence, the “Universal” part in the name of the $99 option indicated that it could be used with any distributor or printer (which CreateSpace refers to as “any publisher” on their website). They discontinued this $10 option as of June 22, 2016, presumably due to non-agreement with Bowker or an objection raised by the International ISBN Agency due to this unique, non-standard practice, but the “Universal” name of $99 ISBN remained.
Amazon (KDP). In early 2017, Amazon opened up a public beta of KDP Print, which uses KDP front-end interface to print paperbacks on demand using exactly the same technology and facilities that CreateSpace uses. As a paperback published this way also requires ISBN, they joined CreateSpace in offering free ISBNs, which can only be used with KDP, but they now also offer discounted ISBNs to authors through a partnership with Bowker. Unlike IngramSpark and CreateSpace ISBN options, you can use a special link that will allow you to purchase a single ISBN or even 2 ISBNs at $99 per number before setting up a paperback. You can use this link even if you do not plan on using KDP Print. We can provide you with an up-to-date, valid link for this discounted ISBN: simply contact us and we will send it your way.
Those discounted $85 and $99 ISBN options are a good choice if you are only going to publish up to 3 paperbacks in the near future, as that adds up to a total of $255 and $297 respectively for 3 numbers.
However, if you do plan to publish more than 3 paperbacks in the foreseeable future and do not mind paying more upfront for future savings, you will be better off by buying a pack of 10 ISBNs for $295 directly from Bowker or even 100 ISBNs for $575 if you are a really prolific writer. Those bulk ISBNs do not expire, so you can use them years from now.
Recouping IngramSpark-related costs
You can avoid paying IngramSpark title set up fee by using current discount code.
IngramSpark set up fees are always charged in US dollars and all calculations in this section focus on earnings from US-based sales. If your sales are made in the UK, other European countries or internationally, be aware that your earnings will vary based on book production costs in each market, available wholesale discount options and currency fluctuations. For simplicity, we used the cost of an ISBN relevant to US authors, so if you are in other country, convert the cost of acquiring an ISBN to US dollars to get a clearer picture of how quickly you can recoup IngramSpark-related costs.
A good way to decide whether the benefits of using IngramSpark outweigh the costs associated with it is to calculate how many copies of your paperback you need to sell through IngramSpark, compared to CreateSpace Expanded Distribution to recoup the related costs. (*) In other words, we are going to show you how many copies you need to sell in order for a difference in royalty between 2 distributors to cover the upfront costs you paid for the ISBN and setting up your IngramSpark book.
Coming back to our 274-page paperback example, let’s say you decided to set the list price at $10.99 and use a 30% discount on IngramSpark.
In this case, the earnings from IngramSpark ($3.20 per copy) exceed the CreateSpace Expanded Distribution earnings ($0.26) by $2.94.
So, to recover the IngramSpark $49 setup fee, you need to sell 17 copies through them to break even, because $49 divided by the $2.94 difference is almost 17. From this point onward, you make a profit of $2.94 per copy sold, compared to a CreateSpace-printed Expanded Distribution sale of the same copy. It sounds great, but this is only true if you were going to buy your own ISBN for a CreateSpace-distributed paperback anyway.
If you had planned to use a free CreateSpace-assigned ISBN to publish just one paperback, then your cost goes up by at least the $85 you need to spend on the discounted ISBN purchased through your IngramSpark account. To recoup the total cost of $134 for this ISBN ($85) and IngramSpark set up fee ($49), you need to sell 46 copies.
But there is a good chance you are a prolific writer and you plan to publish 4 or more books in the near future and you do not mind spending $295 upfront for a bulk of 10 ISBNs from Bowker. In this case, assuming that you will publish 10 books eventually, the cost of an ISBN for one book is only $29.50. When you add the $49 IngramSpark book set up fee to that, the total cost per book is $78.50, which means you need to sell 27 copies to break even.
To summarize: depending on your choices regarding ISBNs, you can recoup the costs of using IngramSpark by selling between 17 and 46 copies of your book. Keep in mind, that this is just an example to illustrate how many copies, more or less, you need to sell to make IngramSpark a viable option for you. The exact numbers for your book will differ, depending on the page count and list price you set for your book, as well as any potential future increases or decreases in printing fees.
In fact, since we wrote this article, IngramSpark has already changed its printing fees. The new rates took effect for all orders from June 5th 2017. For most books printed in the US, the printing charge is about 10% lower now. For our 274-page example this means almost $0.50 more being paid to you by IngramSpark for each copy sold. We have updated calculations in this article to reflect this positive change.
Starting April 1, 2019, IngramSpark increased printing charge for all books printed in the US, UK and Europe by 2%. This change affects both the retail distribution (described in this article) and direct orders by the author. As this results in $0.10 difference for our example ($4.59 instead of $4.49), the calculations in this article still use the previous print charge.
A good rule of thumb is this: by decreasing your page count and increasing the list price, the volume of sales needed to recoup your costs associated with IngramSpark gets lower. Each $1 added to the list price increases your royalty by $0.70. The opposite, of course, is also true: the higher the page count and the lower the list price, you will need to sell more copies to make IngramSpark a viable option for you.
The good news is that you are in control of both these values that affect your earnings. You might think that you have no control over the page count of your paperback, since your word count is what it is and can’t be changed. One thing which is easy to miss is that while word count is indeed an important factor affecting the length of a printed book, it is not the only thing in play. For example, you can choose to use 6”x9” trim size instead of 5”x8” trim size, which can make your book considerably shorter. And your print designer can adjust the font size, font family, leading and other values to make the text more compact, while still creating an interior layout that looks great and is enjoyable for readers. Seemingly small changes in print charges can make a significant impact on your total earnings, as all savings go directly towards your royalty and then add up with each copy sold.
Paperback pre-order with IngramSpark
If you have been planning your book launch for a while, you probably have come across an idea of collecting pre-orders for your book. This strategy allows you to capture reader’s excitement prior to book’s release and make a sale at the exact time they are interested in your book. It also allows you to gain better sales rank on retailers who count all copies sold during pre-order period towards sales rank on release date. If you are able to gather a good amount of pre-orders, this will land your book higher in category lists and even in store-wide bestseller lists, exposing your book to a wider audience.
Now, setting up eBook pre-order is easy: you simply upload it to Amazon, Smashwords or another distributor of your choice, select future release date and it’s done: your eBook can be pre-order on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, iBooks, and Kobo. The only thing to remember with eBook pre-order is to upload the final interior file at least 10 days prior to release date.
Doing the same with paperbacks is much harder if you want to use CreateSpace to fulfill your orders. You probably have come across a process of setting up pre-order on Amazon using Amazon Advantage program. The added benefit of the IngramSpark is that you can set up paperback pre-order on Amazon without the complexity of using Amazon Advantage to make it possible. And, unlike with Amazon Advantage, readers will be able to pre-order your book not only on Amazon but also on major retailers beyond Amazon in US, UK, other European countries, Australia and New Zealand: Barnes&Noble, Book Depository, Chapters/Indigo, Fishpond, Booktopia, Adlibris and several other sellers. And for pre-orders on Amazon.com, you will make 30% more per copy than you would with CreateSpace fulfilling these orders.
Okay, so how does the process look like? It is simple: simply start a new book project on IngramSpark by clicking “Add a New Title”, enter your metadata and upload book files. When you reach the screen where you will be asked to enter pricing and publishing dates, make sure to enter your intended, future release date in the “Publication Date” field and leave the “On Sale Date” field blank. Don’t forget to enter pricing and discount information for all markets where you want to make your book available for sale. As for best settings, we recommend to use “Returnable: No” and entering lowest possible “Wholesale Discount” allowed for each market, which is 30% for US, Canada and “Global Connect Program”, and 35% for the United Kingdom, European Union, and Australia.
Then you need to submit the book for Ingram’s acceptance. Once they send you an email asking you to approve your eProof, log in to your IngramSpark account, review digital proof and accept it while enabling distribution at the same time. That’s it: information about your upcoming book will be sent to Ingram’s retail partners (including Amazon) and your paperback will be available for pre-order within few days to a couple of weeks.
IngramSpark marketing services
Right after you accept proof copy and enable distribution, IngramSpark will try to cross-sell you “marketing” services.
They will ask you following question: “Do you want to promote your title?”. This is not required for a distribution through Ingram network and is a completely optional service. The asserted benefit of this offering is to help you sell more books. However, please note that this “promotion” is, in fact, listing (ad) in Ingram’s printed and digital catalogs that are sent to book retailers and libraries.
Using this option will not get your book in front of your readers and so, in our opinion, such promotion is unlikely to influence your sales in any way. We feel that the “value” (or lack of thereof) you get from such promotion is similar to value you get from book promotion on publishing service provider website and their social media accounts.
We advise that you opt out of such “promotion” and spend your marketing budget on paid ads and other activities that can actually bring you sales. If you feel differently and can see, or have actually experienced, tangible benefits from using any of Ingram’s marketing offerings, please share your experience with us.
Wait, but shouldn’t you order physical proof copy first to make sure your paperback is perfect? If you were releasing book immediately upon accepting it for distribution, then yes: you should order and review physical proof copy before making the book available for readers.
But with pre-orders, it is a little different. Why? With pre-order, release date away in the future, making the book available for distribution won’t result in the book being printed and delivered to your reader right away, so you have time to review physical proof copy and do any revisions necessary, while readers pre-order your book. Unlike with revisions done on regular, non-pre-order book, revisions during pre-order period won’t affect your book listing on retailers and readers’ ability to pre-order it.
As far as deadlines go, you only need to make sure that the final version of your book is uploaded and accepted on your IngramSpark account 10 days prior to release date because that’s when Ingram will start printing copies to allow retailers (including Amazon) to fulfill all orders on time. If you do any revision after accepting a digital proof for the first time, you will need to approve it again.
Paperback pre-order step-by-step:
Log in to your IngramSpark account
Click “Add a New Title” and fill in your book information
Enter your release date into “Publication Date” field and leave “On Sale Date” field blank
Upload your interior and cover files, submit files for IngramSpark approval
Accept eProof (digital proof) and enable distribution
Order your physical proof copy from IngramSpark and make sure to also order a copy from CreateSpace (or KDP Print) at the same time, so you can review both at the same time.
Review both proof copies and make any corrections necessary no later than 10 days prior to release date.
Don't forget about entering pricing information on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark and selecting Amazon.com* and Amazon Europe channels on CreateSpace. If you are using KDP Print instead, choose "All territories (worldwide rights)"* option, but be sure NOT to click "Publish" button, as that would make your paperback available on Amazon very shorthly.
[*] You can choose to select only Amazon Europe on CreateSpace to allow IngramSpark to continue to fulfill Amazon.com orders. If you are using KDP Print, you can choose "Individual teritories" option and then select "United Kingdom", "Germany", "France", "Italy" and "Spain" (you can also select "Japan"). This will result in 30% higher royalty per copy sold on Amazon.com than with CreateSpace or KDP Print. Details are included in the next section. To learn more about the differences between CreateSpace and KDP Print, read this.
Pre-order sales reporting
IngramSpark won't show you how many pre-orders were placed for your paperback on any given day. They show the sales, including pre-orders, with several days of delay. This fact is the only downside of using IngramSpark for pre-orders, as compared to Amazon Advantage process. The other method would provide you with almost real-time information about orders placed and hence allow you to better evaluate the effectiveness of your marketing activities than seeing the same sales information a couple of days later.
Okay, so now comes your day of glory: the release day. What should you do now? Go to your CreateSpace account and accept proof copy there or, if you have chosen to use KDP Print instead, click “Publish Your Paperback Book” button at the bottom of the last page of your paperback set up.
If you have chosen to use KDP Print, this is the time to upload paperback to KDP (as a paperback from KDP will become available for sale as soon as Amazon accepts it, so you can't upload it beforehand, as you can with CreateSpace).
CreateSpace copy will become available on Amazon.co.uk and European Amazon Stores within an hour or so. Amazon. Amazon.com will follow within few hours. From now on, all Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon Europe (.de, .fr, .es, .it) paperback orders will be fulfilled by CreateSpace.
In the next section, we show you good reasons to actually disable Amazon.com distribution through CreateSpace and opt to use IngramSpark to fulfill those orders instead, earning you 30% more per copy. And we also deal with popular, half-true myth that goes along the lines of: “Amazon is discriminating against other Print-on-Demand distributors and forces me to use CreateSpace instead”.
You can use the same process to set up pre-order for a hardcover edition.
IngramSpark for Amazon distribution
Okay, so you have just read 4000 words telling you how CreateSpace is best for Amazon distribution and how IngramSpark can help with the other retailers. But now, we are going to flip our argument on its head and tell you why you should consider NOT using CreateSpace (and KDP Print) for Amazon.com distribution. The reason is simple: money. Namely, if you choose NOT to use CreateSpace for Amazon.com distribution, you can earn 30% more for each copy sold there. The more you sell, the more you profit.
With our 274-page paperback listed at $10.99 price, you earn $2.46 on each Amazon.com sale if you use CreateSpace for that sale. But if Amazon can’t source copy from CreateSpace (because you disabled Amazon.com channel), they will order it from IngramSpark.
When you use 30% wholesale discount on IngramSpark, you earn $3.2 for each copy sold in ALL retail channels in the US, including Amazon. That’s $0.74 more per copy, or, put another way, 30% more than what CreateSpace pays. Earning $74 more for every 100 copies sold doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up and besides, you actually don’t need to do anything to earn that difference, other than to simply disable Amazon.com distribution on CreateSpace.com.
If you focus solely on Amazon.com sales, the difference between the two printers will allow you to recoup Ingram’s $49 set-up fee by selling 66 copies on Amazon. If you need to buy single ISBN, you will recoup the total of $134 in fees (including the indirect cost of one ISBN) by selling 181 copies.
Now, you might have noticed that in the examples in this section we only used Amazon.com for calculations. The reason is that lowest possible wholesale discount for the US (30%), and relatively low printing fees there, provide royalty benefits when using IngramSpark for Amazon.com, as compared to CreateSpace. With Amazon European stores, the difference is not as favorable.
Don’t believe us without prove? Here it is. If we use £9.99 and €9.99 list prices for the UK and the rest of the European Union respectively and apply the lowest possible wholesale discount for these markets, which is 35%, this is how IngramSpark royalties for Amazon sales compare with CreateSpace ones:
- Amazon.co.uk: £2.55 on CreateSpace; £2.87 on IngramSpark (£0.32 difference; 12.5% more with Ingram)
- Other European Amazon stores (.de, .fr, .es, .it): €2.11 on CreateSpace; €2.24 on IngramSpark (€0.13 difference; 6% more with Ingram)
As you can see, the difference when it comes to the UK and rest of Europe isn’t that significant. And, as of November 6th, 2018, distribution to Amazon in Europe through IngramSpark just isn’t a viable option.
So now we have finally come to the famous myth that many authors believe: Amazon promotes its own solutions (CreateSpace and KDP Print) by unfairly manipulating independently published books’ availability status on its own websites when the books are distributed through IngramSpark. Is it true? Yes and no.
In the past, the availability listed on product pages of the books distributed through Ingram’s network to Amazon varied. One common status in the past was “Usually dispatched within 1 to 3 weeks”, which could effectively discourage readers from ordering such book, even though other sellers on Amazon marketplace offered the same book with reasonable delivery times. But all that really matters is how things look like now.
As of November 6th, 2018, Amazon.co.uk and Amazon Europe (.de, .fr, .es, .it) list Ingram-distributed books, which do not have Amazon Europe channel on CreateSpace (or individual Amazon Europe websites when publishing paperback with KDP) enabled, with “Usually dispatched within 1 to 3 months” status.
as “Temporarily out of stock”
At the same time, Amazon.com lists Ingram-distributed books, which do not have Amazon.com channel on CreateSpace enabled, as “Available to ship in 1-2 days”
“Ships when available in 1-2 days” “May take an extra 1-2 days to ship”.
We are monitoring the availability of Ingram-distributed copies on Amazon and will update this article whenever there are any changes. If you would like to check how things look like for yourself, we can provide you with a link to books we are using to check this status: just let us know and we will send links your way.
Please note that these availability statuses, which are shown by default to readers who visit your book’s Amazon product page, apply only to copies sold by Amazon. When you use IngramSpark, your book will be sold on Amazon marketplace by other booksellers, regardless of availability status presented by Amazon for the copy it sells (or, pretends to sell, as it is the case with Amazon Europe currently).
These other offers are available by clicking on link like “10 New from £9.99”. If you place a link on your website that will lead readers directly to this page with offers from all sellers, readers will be able to order your book from one of the sellers listing it as “In Stock”.
It’s unfortunate that Amazon shows unfavorable availability status for a copy they are supposed to sell, instead of focusing on buyer's experience and presenting other, more available offers. If Amazon marketplace sellers, and even Amazon-owned, UK-based Book Depository, can ship book within 3 days, what would stop Amazon from doing the same? All of this suggests that Amazon tries to “force” authors to distribute through CreateSpace (or KDP Print), at least as far as the European market is concerned.
Fortunately for us, the biggest benefit of using IngramSpark for Amazon sales is with the US market anyway. And with “Available to ship in 1-2 days” availability, going this route is unlikely to affect your sales negatively.
When you select Amazon.com channel on CreateSpace or KDP, your book will automatically be available on Amazon.ca as well. CreateSpace introduced this option on October 7, 2015, and they don’t explicitly state that fact when you set up your book. The list price for Canadian Amazon is automatically calculated based on the list price you set for Amazon.com. All orders are shipped from the US and, unfortunately, all sales are reported as Amazon.com sales in USD, so you won’t actually know if you made any sales in Canada or not.
Unlike with European Amazon sites, in the absence of CreateSpace/KDP distribution, Amazon.ca website will NOT show unfavorable availability status of copy sold by Amazon. Instead, product page will show “In Stock” status of copy sold by one of the other sellers who source their copies from IngramSpark.
Based on what we have seen, the default seller, in this case, will be the Amazon-owned Book Depository CA. Your royalty for each copy will depend on where customer order is printed and your sales reports will attribute the sale to a specific market accordingly. Book Depository, and other UK-based retailers, ship to Canadian customers from the UK.
We think that having Amazon.com copies printed by IngramSpark is a great idea. Nevertheless, having CreateSpace copy at hand to enable Amazon.com channel whenever needed is an excellent backup strategy. And besides, you will still need CreateSpace to sell your book on European Amazon websites, which you most likely want to do.
If you want to focus your marketing efforts solely on Amazon, you can still do so with IngramSpark printing copies for Amazon.com as described in this section. Be aware, however, that unlike with CreateSpace “Standard Distribution”, your Ingram-distributed paperback will NOT be available exclusively on Amazon.
Ingram's channel selection works differently than that of CreateSpace. They don't allow you for choosing specific retailers you want to distribute to, one by one. Distribution through their network happens based on the market you enabled, not based on individual bookseller selection.
Available markets, where Ingram does printing and distribution using their own facilities are United States, Canada, United Kingdom, European Union and Australia. You can enable each market by simply entering a price and a chosen wholesale discount option for each market. Once that’s done, all retailers in that market will be able to see that your book is published, list it on their websites and buy it from Ingram when a customer orders it.
In marketplaces where Ingram has limited facilities or none, they partner with other printing companies to fulfill orders in these markets. They call this arrangement the “Global Connect Program” and it is presented on your account as another market. Once enabled, your book will also become available for printing by Ingram's partners in following countries: Brazil, China, Germany, India, Italy, Poland, Russia, South Korea, Spain.
With that said, nothing stops you from using IngramSpark and focusing your marketing efforts solely on Amazon. Simply having a book listed with different online retailers and marketplace sellers does not do any harm to your Amazon sales. Unlike with digital exclusivity (KDP Select), Amazon does not provide any additional* promotional tools for authors who opt for a limited print distribution, so by having the paperback on multiple retailers, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain, even if you don't promote these other retailers actively.
It's your choice
So there you have it. With all that information, you can decide what is the best path for you.
If the idea of using 2 print distributors sounds too complex, all those calculations make your eyes glaze or you just want to distribute your paperback exclusively through Amazon (and you don’t care about paperback pre-orders or extra 30% you could make on those Amazon.com sales), go ahead and use CreateSpace (or KDP Print) on its own. In that case, choose the ISBN option based on what “Publisher” name you want to show to your potential readers on Amazon product pages and consider the long-term implications of that choice.
On the other hand, if the idea of wide distribution and higher royalties from sales on major retailers (including Amazon.com) sounds good and you believe that using IngramSpark will benefit you long-term, then use it alongside CreateSpace or KDP Print for a balanced distribution solution.
We know it is a lot to think about. If you still have any questions or doubts about using IngramSpark alongside, or instead of, CreateSpace, feel free to contact us and we will be happy to clear things up for you.
KDP paperback versus CreateSpace paperback
As Amazon is preparing to shut down CreateSpace and consolidate eBook and paperback publishing under KDP platform, the CreateSpace features that were missing from KDP Print are now available.
When transition from CreateSpace to KDP is fully completed and publishing through CreateSpace is no longer an option, we will update this article to remove references to CreateSpace.
While KDP and CreateSpace paperbacks are printed in the same Amazon facilities and the financial aspects of Amazon.com and Amazon Europe distribution are the same with both, there are several crucial differences between the two. These differences affect such aspects as book's availability on Amazon's Canadian and Japanese sites, appearance of proof copies, ability to order author copies prior to publishing the book on Amazon (useful for Advanced Reader Copies), the shipping location of proof and author copies (especially important for authors in Europe), revising the book's content and cover without affecting 'live' version of the book, accurate reporting for European sales and ability to move your book between the two.
2019 update: subscribe
2018 updates: November 6th, April 17th, January 1st
2017 updates: December 1st, October 25th, August 9th, June 5th.
You can use IngramSpark alongside CreateSpace (or KDP Print) to maximize your Print-on-Demand distribution reach and profit from each sale. This article covers the reasoning behind that strategy and the financial details required to make an informed decision about your print distribution.
We explore how easy it is to set up paperback pre-orders on Amazon, Barnes&Noble, Book Depository and other online retailers in the US and worldwide. We also show you how IngramSpark can benefit your print distribution even if you choose to focus your marketing efforts solely on Amazon.
This always up-to-date, in-depth article includes current IngramSpark promotions available to all authors, which you can use to save on IngramSpark fees whenever possible. Check back prior to publishing your book to see up-to-date ways to save money.
We know that you are busy working on your book and you might not have the time to read 8000 words right away. To make sure you don’t miss any crucial time-saving and money-making advice while planning your book release, we have included links to crucial, actionable information under “Key Information” below, so you can know about essentials now, act on them and come for more later.
- Fully-owned $85 ISBN (US only)
- Barcode cross-selling warning
- Cheap, non-official ISBN warning
- Save $49 on IngramSpark set-up fee
- Hassle-free paperback pre-orders
- IngramSpark for Amazon distribution
- Consequences of using a free ISBN
- Impact of book design choices on your profit
- IngramSpark cross-selling warning
- Difference between KDP and CreateSpace
- Amazon-exclusive print edition
- Major distribution channels for paperbacks
- Maximizing your royalties by changing wholesale discounts
- IngramSpark fees
- Acquiring your own ISBN
- Discounted ISBNs for US authors
- Recouping IngramSpark-related costs
- Paperback pre-order with IngramSpark
- IngramSpark for Amazon distribution
- It's your choice
- CreateSpace paperback versus KDP paperback
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