If you are about to self-publish your book but are unsure about which platform to use, have a read through this list of things I’ve learnt over the last year or so. I initially published my book on Amazon CreateSpace (now renamed as Kindle Direct Publishing) as that’s all I was familiar with at the time back in Dec 2017, but have since found many other platforms which are also similar. For the sake of this post, I am concentrating on KDP vs IngramSpark as I was looking into, and since have, published my book through IngramSpark.
One of the best points between the two is that Ingram supplies many bookshops across the world. I’m in the UK and am trying to get my book in to the local Christian and indie bookshops. No one (or very few) bookshops will touch Amazon/CreateSpace, but through Ingram I potentially can get my foot in the door.
While KDP is completely free, there are a few things to note about using IngramSpark alongside it. Let’s have a look at a few key differences to be aware of:
1. UPFRONT COSTS
Ingramspark has an upfront cost, whereas KDP is free — but the pros of using IngramSpark outweigh the cons of any costs, in my opinion.
Prices as of 21st Oct 2019 are — eBook: $25 (£19.23), Print: $49 (£37.69)
See the full costing here: http://www.ingramspark.com/features
Along with a title set up fee (above), there is also a cost to making revisions after you have submitted your book for distribution. Any changes to cover design or manuscript will incur a $25 fee on IngramSpark, whereas KDP is totally free. So the major con is the cost of using IngramSpark over KDP, but some of the main pros to consider include:
- Opportunity to get into brick-and-mortar bookshops
- The ability to create hardbacks, which Amazon doesn’t have.
- They also have UK distribution so you can order your own book at an Author discount with fair postage prices, this will like pass onto retailer who may buy your book on wholesale.
Since CreateSpace became merged with KDP, they also now have UK distribution for ordering your own books too, which they didn’t have before (it was all US based).
2. ISBN NUMBERS
KDP offers you a free ISBN for your book, but with the limitation that it’s only applicable to Amazon. On top of that, the KDP assigned ISBN lists them as the publisher, which is typically what you want to avoid when self-publishing and aiming to get into bookshops as many retailers don’t look favourably upon “CreateSpace publishers” listed on the ISBN. IngramSpark offers a placeholder “ISBN” which you can use while sorting out your cover files and manuscript in their author portal, but you can’t go to print with it and will require a real ISBN number to publish your book.
On pro of the KDP platform is that you can publish eBooks without being required to buy a new ISBN as Amazon will assign it a number using its own internal system. IngramSpark will require a separate ISBN for print and eBook.
Many sites sell ISBN’s at a high cost — often around £80+ (around $100 USD). I’ve found a couple of websites that sell them a lot cheaper and which are still compatible with KDP and IngramSpark (I contacted them to make sure, though double-check their FAQ pages in case anything changes). Be aware that getting the ISBN could take up to 2–3 business days, so don’t leave it until the last moment!
Here’s a couple of cheaper ISBN providers you can buy from:
One thing to note is that if you buy one of these cheaper ISBN’s, they will have a fixed publisher name on it as the company who provides the ISBN number, whereas the full price ISBNs will let you specify the publisher name.
3. YOU’LL NEED A DIFFERENT ISBN PER BOOK VERSION/TYPE
On an ISBN-related note, this is worth being aware of especially as both KDP and IngramSpark offer multiple book formats which you can create (eg: eBook, paperback, hardback).
I updated my first book to publish a revised version to add a few new appendices, additional content and possibly a cover update. Under ISBN rules, this constitutes as a different version and so requires a new/different ISBN.
As I’d only published it on CreateSpace originally (as it was called then), what I did was to publish my revision on IngramSpark and also republish it on KDP as a new edition and use the same (new) ISBN across both platforms. Though this way is more costly than purely using Amazon, the pros of being with Ingram outweighs the con of the cost, as I was aiming at trying to get into my local bookshops, which Ingram could help with more than Amazon/KDP extended distribution.
For more info on whether you need a new ISBN if you are revising your book see: Publication Formats, Reprints, Editions, etc. — https://www.isbn.org/faqs_formats_reprints_editions
For any of my future books, I plan to publish on IngramSpark first with an ISBN number I buy, and then use it on both Ingram and Amazon to save any trouble with multiple ISBN’s or same edition clashes with the free KDP issued ISBN.
4. YOU CAN BE LISTED AS THE PUBLISHER NAME WITH YOUR OWN ISBN
With Amazon, the publisher is listed as “CreateSpace” (it may be KDP now, I’m not entirely sure) and to many bookshops and distributors, this is a red flag and has the connotations of being a poorly-written self-published indie book which they rarely want to touch (regardless of whether the content is amazing). IngramSpark has no other choice but to use your own ISBN number, as they don’t provide any.
When you buy an ISBN (the expensive ones anyway) you get to list your own publisher name if you are self-publishing, and so “blend in” with other “real” publisher on distribution lists. The cheaper ISBNs may use their own publishing name, but it will still be less obvious than the CreateSpace/KDP connection.
5. THERE ARE SOME ISSUES WITH EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION ON KDP WHEN ALSO USING INGRAMSPARK
Amazon KDP “Expanded Distribution” crosses over to Ingram automatically. This is fine if you only use Amazon, but if you are using both, you can’t have Expanded Distribution and sell individually on IngramSpark. Personally, I use IngramSpark as my “expanded distribution” to try and get into bookshops and keep Amazon purely on Amazon; that way the royalties will also be slightly better.
6. INGRAMSPARK HAS A RETURNS POLICY WHICH IS AN INCENTIVE FOR BOOKSHOPS TO TAKE YOUR STOCK.
If you are in the US you can have any returns bought via Ingram sent directly to you if you cover the postage — or you can have them destroyed. As I’m in the UK, destroying is my only option. But either way, having a proper returns route is an incentive for retailers who often buy in bulk but may not sell everything.
7. INGRAM OFFERS A DISTRIBUTOR DISCOUNT
IngramSpark offers “Wholesale Discount”. Basically this means that you can set the cost price retailers buy at in order to stock it, and the level Ingram offers is more in-line with traditional publishers (usually 30% or 55%, the latter being the retailer preference).
I ended up setting my wholesale discount at 50% on IngramSpark, so bookshops can buy it at less of a cost, and then focused on using Amazon to be my primary online sales channel until I get my own website shop up and running.
8. AUTHOR DISCOUNTS
Until recently before KDP and CreateSpace merged, IngramSpark was the only one to offer UK-based printing for author discount copies of your book. But now, both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark can print and post to the UK without incurring hefty overseas postage from America. I think Amazon is typically cheaper with the author discount, but not by much.
9. INGRAMSPARK SEEMS THE BEST ROUTE FOR GETTING INTO THE PHYSICAL BOOKSHOPS
…But unless you have a high cost book, the trade off will be less royalties. So I’m basically using IngramSpark for “expanded distribution”, and relying on Amazon for any decent royalties to make up for the loss from Ingram.
BONUS: IMPORTANT DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN ISBNS AND BARCODES
Buying an ISBN isn’t the same as getting a barcode (though that will depend on where you buy the ISBN from). If you get a cheaper ISBN you may have the number, but not the barcode image. So in order to get a barcode image to put on your book cover, you’ll need to generate one.
Here is a good website to do that (I’ve tested with my own book and a few others to see if they scan properly with apps like Amazon): http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/
ADDITIONAL INFO & OTHER RESOURCES
Some comparisons and tips from IngramSparks official blog: http://www.ingramspark.com/blog/ingramspark-vs-createspace
IngramSpark Promo Codes:
Check out the official IngramSpark blog for any codes and discounts they have: http://www.ingramspark.com/blog/ingramspark-promo-codes-available-now
Other discount codes can be found here: https://www.dealslands.co.uk/stores/ingramspark-voucher-code
Cover Design Official Templates:
Both KDP and IngramSpark have template generators which will be the exact size for your book and paper width:
- IngramSpark: https://ingramspark.com/Portal/Tools/CoverTemplateGenerator
- KDP: https://www.createspace.com/Help/Book/Artwork.do
A free resource for book cover promo designs. Just add your cover image in Photoshop and the template will do the rest: https://covervault.com
This will create the actual barcode image you need from your ISBN number: http://www.creativindiecovers.com/free-online-isbn-barcode-generator/
Free graphic design and logo creator: https://www.canva.com
To see an example, I use CoverVault to create most of my promotional graphics, which you can see an example below:
You can view and order my books from Amazon here: 40 Days with the Fathers.
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