How to Use Createspace and Ingram Spark Together

The author Karen Myers

US novelist Karen Myers (Photo by Joe Padula)

In a useful follow-up to Jim Giammatteo’s invaluable Watchdog piece recommending that indie authors use both CreateSpace and Lightning Source simultaneously for effective distribution of print books, US novelist Karen Myers kindly volunteered to provide a personal case study of how this system works for her.

The following observations reflect my personal understanding of the differences between the two services, based on my own and others’ observations. They do not include private information received from any of the vendors involved.


Ingram is the largest worldwide distributor of print books. When a bookstore orders a book, it probably comes from Ingram (perhaps through an intermediary).

Graphic showing comparisonIngram offers two services for publishers: Lightning Source International (LSI) and IngramSpark.  The former is for “real” publishers and was all they offered until a couple of years ago. Its contracts are daunting, its interface is a bit clumsy, and its communications are a bit slow and sometimes cryptic (especially to indie publishers who aren’t familiar with publishing industry terms).  Indie publishers and others lamented, and Ingram offered a new service, Spark, with a friendlier front end and slightly more restricted discounting terms.  They stopped letting most indies into LSI once Spark was launched (I got into LSI just in time). Both systems, I understand, use the same back ends and services — the only difference seems to be that there are fewer discount terms on Spark, and the front end/customer service is easier for the newbie. Ingram will charge you for returns, an area that terrorizes new indie publishers because they don’t know what to expect. (These days, it seems to be pretty harmless, now that bookstores have adopted just-in-time ordering practices instead of ordering in bulk and returning leftovers.)


CreateSpace (CS) is owned by Amazon and intended for indie publishers. It’s very user friendly, with good customer service. It had a fee per book, just like Ingram, but then dropped that altogether. It lets you use a CS ISBN if you don’t have one of your own. (Ingram requires you to have your own ISBNs, like a “real” publisher). In fact, it requires a CS ISBN for the Library portion of its expanded distribution service, presumably due to its relationship with Baker & Taylor.

There are two basic levels of CS distribution: Amazon-related, and expanded. The Amazon-related is closely tied to the KDP program, so linking your ebook and your CS POD book is very easy. CS also offers a webstore, for what that’s worth (I’ve never sold a book there).

Diagram of the CreateSpace  distribution choices

Text about expanded distribution
The first Expanded service compares directly to Ingram.

Buying a print book from Amazon

Here’s how it works under the covers, as far as I and others can tell…

When Amazon receives an order for your POD book, and finds you only available via Ingram, the buyer can receive a “there will be a delay” message from Amazon. I believe this reflects Amazon’s unwillingness to preorder from Ingram and store in its own warehouses. I’m not sure if this is because Amazon considers Ingram to be competition to CreateSpace (which it owns) or because Ingram sees Amazon as competition or just because there is currently no contractual arrangement between Amazon and Ingram allowing it to stockpile titles.

When Amazon receives an order for your POD book, and finds you available via CreateSpace, the service is immediate. I believe Amazon automatically preorders stock from CS so that it will be available for sale, invisibly to you, and you are not charged if it sits there forever or is returned.

So why not only use CreateSpace – free ISBN, no charge for books, ease of ordering at Amazon?  Because there’s a whole wide world out there that isn’t Amazon.

Buying a print book anywhere else

CS is NOT a worldwide distributor (other than for Amazon). When you use the CS expanded services, what happens is that CS uses Ingram to distribute the print book (like many other small vendors). It registers your book in the Ingram database, as “Publisher=CreateSpace” (EVEN IF YOU USE YOUR OWN ISBN, NOT ONE PROVIDED BY CS).  This means when a bookstore (including online bookstores) looks for your print book, they search the Ingram database, find it under “Publisher=CreateSpace”, and if they are sensitive about Amazon as a competitor they may refuse to carry it.  For example, at Barnes&Noble, where my ebooks are sold, my print books appeared as “available from third parties” (when I only used CS).  Some bookstores think of Amazon as competition, and others associate CS with “indies” and scorn indies as presumed low quality.

If you use Ingram directly, you will pay an annual fee for the book, and it’s not as friendly as CreateSpace, and you will need an ISBN. But your books appear to bookstores as “Publisher=YourPublisherName” and no one can tell that you’re an indie publisher (there are thousands of publisher imprints). That means that your print books now appear at online retailers, matching your ebooks, and bookstores are willing to carry them.

Except for the ISBN, the Ingram costs are trivial. Here’s my thinking on why you need your own ISBNs anyway, though lots of indies just go for the short-term savings instead.

The current best practice recommendation is to use CreateSpace for Amazon (not the expanded services) and Ingram (LSI or Spark) for everywhere else.

Distributing via Ingram if you are already distributing via CreateSpace

If you are already on CS and want to go to Ingram, you must FIRST remove your book from CS expanded services (so that it is removed from the Ingram database). This will take a week or two and won’t disturb any of your Amazon customers (and you probably don’t have many other customers for your “Publisher=CreateSpace” entry). You will need to check that it’s been removed by going to Ingram and trying to enter your book with that ISBN – you’ll get an “already there” error if it hasn’t been removed yet. You may have to nag CS customer service until that’s done. The update cycles between the vendors take a while. Be persistent.

Do NOT load your book to Ingram with a different ISBN to avoid this process – having the same edition of your book with different ISBNs will cause problems for you. If you used a CS ISBN, consider it to be retired after the book is removed from the Ingram database – you can only use your own ISBN there. This means you should recreate your Amazon CS edition with your own ISBN, too, after this is done, so that your book has the same ISBN regardless of the retailer.

You can use the same PDF book interior file at both CreateSpace and Ingram, but you will probably need to adjust the PDF cover file because the paper stock used is not identical, and thus the paper thickness is not identical, making the width of the spine different for each service.

POD Quality

The level of quality for the two services’ POD products seems to be very similar, now that CS offers matte as well as glossy covers. Ingram offers more formats (for LSI, maybe not Spark) than CS, but since you will want the same formats for both services, that doesn’t matter. Both POD vendors are of reasonable quality these days, but not quite as good as bulk printing, and errors can happen (tilted covers, defects).  There is anecdotal discussion of third party services doing the actual printing for CS that sometimes have quality control issues, but in my experience the problem rate is very low.

You can tell the difference between POD books printed by Ingram and CS if you look closely (paper thickness, color) – therefore I recommend that you put all the books in a series in both places, rather than have some in one place, and some in another. A customer who orders them all will tend to do so via the same retail channel and should therefore get perfectly matched sets. If you are going to be delayed placing all of your books with both POD vendors, do them series by series.

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106 Responses to How to Use Createspace and Ingram Spark Together

  1. Trish October 21, 2016 at 5:52 pm #

    Someone noted that you need a separate ISBN number for MOBI and EPUB e-book versions. I know that Amazon uses MOBI. I believe that B&N uses EPUB. Is that right? I also want to make my e-book versions available through Kobo and elsewhere. Does anyone know what format the other e-book publishers (specifically, 24Symbols, iBooks, PageFoundry, Scribd, and Tolino) use?

  2. Savas October 3, 2016 at 3:16 pm #

    Hi Karen, i just wanted to say that you are a great help to all of us in the self publishing world, my manuscript will be finished in two weeks and i am like most going to go down the self-publish route, i want to use BOTH CS & IS because i like that with IS you can get your book in stores and you can order hardback copies ( which i like) and with CS your online distribution is great because its an amazon company!

    This is my understanding on how to do it, please correct me if i am wrong, i will go to CS first, upload my manuscript get the free ISBN and click on the option not to have external services – i will then go onto IS do the same – using the same ISBN and is that it???

    or do i have to purchase another ISBN??

    also with IS i heard that there is an an option to NOT make there paper version available through amazon?? is this true? and if so what would i need to do??

  3. Nancy O'Donohue September 30, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    Thanks for an excellent article. I looked through all the comments, and have been through the CS community discussions and have not come across this issue: I’ve already published with CS. Tried to then additionally go to IngramSpark for the same book, for bookstore distribution, and got my ISBN rejected as already being in use with CS. I found out I had to eliminate CS Expanded Distribution and did so but IS still rejected me. Called their customer support on this issue and so far have gotten three different answers, but the last rep said I have to sign a “Transfer Addendum” with IS that they send to CS to remove the book. When IS receives it, they forward to CS to release the title. I don’t understand why I have to sign a contract; I’ve already eliminated Expanded Distribution with CS. Am I really being given the right info by the IS rep? I’ve been researching how to work with both IS and CS and this is the first I’ve heard of a Transfer Addendum contract. Thank you.

  4. Cherrye Vasquez September 20, 2016 at 8:05 pm #


    I published my books through Tate. At times I’d do a book signing at Barnes and Noble and they ordered my books through Tate for the signing.

    I uploaded one of my books that Tate produced for me to CreateSpsce, and a couple years later a Barnes and Noble manager was going to have me back in the store, but she could not order my book. I researched by contacting Tate and they told me it was because that particular book was listed with CS. I had to retire it with CS in order to get back into Barnes an Noble. That book is still listed as retired with CS, but just recently LSI contacted CS asking for its ISBN. CS contacted me asking my permission.

    I didn’t know what to think or how to respond. I am not sure if that is a good thing, or not.

    Would you let me know your thoughts, please.
    I own all rights to my books even though Tate Publishing & Entetprises produced them.

  5. Aly Drummond September 19, 2016 at 9:18 pm #

    Thank you for this clear and detailed information – and your thorough attention to the comments.

    I’ve just stepped into the publishing world and have found the plethora of POD options rather daunting.

    This is invaluable. Thank you, Karen!

  6. D.C. September 12, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    The article states: “Do NOT load your book to Ingram with a different ISBN to avoid this process – having the same edition of your book with different ISBNs will cause problems for you.”
    What problems would this cause? Wouldn’t it make sense to have a Createspace ISBN for orders placed through Amazon (since they seem to have quicker processing times), and then a separate Ingram ISBN for brick-and-mortar bookstores to use for their orders (since they’ll want to be able to return unsold copies)?


    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

      Many booksellers have multiple distributor feeds. Amazon, for example, gets feeds from both CS and Ingram. Whenever the book is available thru CS and Ingram both, it uses the one from CS to fulfill. So the same ISBN, which is always the right thing to do when you have multiple printers results in the proper behavior from Amazon.

      Doesn’t matter where your product was made — those are just manufacturers. You could have 5 different printers supplying different locations in the world, all with the same ISBN.

      • D.C. September 20, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

        So I take it that if I want to make my paperback available to brick and mortar bookstores, the best bet is to get a new ISBN and make it available on Ingram, but then refrain from putting the version with the new ISBN on Amazon (leaving only my Createspace ISBN version available on Amazon). In other words, the Createspace version would be available on Amazon (for regular Amazon consumers), while the Ingram version would be available exclusively on Ingram (so that bookstores could buy returnable copies). Two separate and distinct channels for different types of purchasers. Does that sound logical?
        Many thanks for your guidance.

  7. Sarah September 2, 2016 at 2:23 am #

    ISBN Converter

  8. MJ LaCroix July 12, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    I’m in the process of finalizing my children’s picture book on I/S. I have purchased my own ISBNs from Bowker. I get it that different versions need different ISBN’s (Paperback, Ebook, and Hardcover). Does that still apply even if the trim size is different? My trim size at I/S is 8×8, but that is not an option at C/S, it’s 8.5 x 8.5?

    Also, I’m assuming I should use same List price for both I/S and C/S, even though my royalty is less from I/S and I get more with C/S?

    I’m grateful for any input on this.

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

      Yes, it matters. The ISBN describes a physical product unambiguously for a customer. On the one hand, it doesn’t matter if three different printers supply you with three identical trim size units. On the other hand, it does matter if the customer wants the 8.5 x 8.5 and gets the 8 x 8 instead.

      If I sell a red shirt in sive 12 in my catalogue, I can switch around my manufacturers, but if one of them produce a version with longer sleeves, I need to give it a different SKU number and sell it as a separate garment.

      Same principle. An SKU (Stock Keeping Unit –look at the bar code on any product) is the general term, and the ISBN is a version of an SKU.

  9. Carmel July 2, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    Great article. I learned though that you need to call CreateSpace to have them remove your ISBN from their Ingram account, so you can add it to IngramSpark. I was going to wait and see if they would take care of it after I de-selected Expanded Distribution, but then I read that you do need to call CS to get it rolling, so I did.

  10. Melinda Martin June 7, 2016 at 8:45 pm #

    Great info! Sharing this over in my Self Publishing Support Group on FB where I know many will benefit from it!


  11. Jane May 25, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

    I tried to do this and here’s the reply I got from IS:

    “In regards to Amazon, we do not currently offer any exclusions for print books. We only offer to remove your ebooks from the Amazon platform if you choose to do so.”

    It took 24 hours to get this response. Then when I asked a follow-up question (what happens, then, when someone orders via Amazon and it is listed with both CS and IS), I never got a response. Can’t find a phone #.

    Makes me suspicious.

    • Jane May 25, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

      Correction – it took me 2-3 days to get an email response from IS. CS always responds within 24 hours, often much sooner.

      • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

        See above. Amazon always fulfills a customer via CreateSpace before Ingram, if the CS option exists. No surprise — they own CS, after all.

  12. mark taylor March 24, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    Thank you so much for this info. I have just managed to get Foyles in London to stock my book, and they had a problem through Ingram… I’m hoping that will be sorted very soon. I’ll definitely get my own ISBN as soon as possible and use both services.

    Re: ‘The Awakening of Adam Capello’

  13. Maureen C. Berry March 23, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    Hi Karen! Best. Info. Ever. Thanks much.

  14. Joy Dent March 22, 2016 at 6:16 pm #

    Hi, Are you saying I can have my book with both Create Space and IngramSpark? As long as the book is not enrolled in Create space’s expanded distribution?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:17 pm #

      That’s right. You could have 5 printers producing the books all over the world (like factories), as long as they were all the same — content, trim size, etc. Booksellers locate it by looking in a database like Ingram. (You could list your garage as the warehouse that Ingram contacts to send your book orders from.)

      CreateSpace lists its books on Ingram like everyone else, when you select the expanded distribution. Ingram only lets an ISBN appear once in its database, so if CS gets there instead of your imprint, that’s all they’ll allow.

      But Amazon looks for your book on CS if it exists and fulfills from there, since they own CS.

    • Jason Sherman October 1, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

      I’d like to know the same thing as I have finished my book and cover, and am looking to potentially distribute through both channels. Anyone know the answer to this one?

  15. Nicole March 8, 2016 at 11:06 pm #

    So, I’m still a bit confused. Can you use CS and IS at the same time?? Cause I like that CS is so Amazon friendly with the international services, but IS seems to be beneficial solely for the fact that bookstores can purchase your books for their stores. I’m still a bit confused.


    Does IS allow pre-order links? What kind of international reach does IS have? A lot of my readers are international going from UK,AU, to India and such.

    • B.L. French August 13, 2016 at 5:11 pm #

      I’ve been listed with both CS and Ingram for a few years. I’ve decided to remove my titles from Ingram. Yes – I do get some sales from Barnes & Noble… But I get far more sales from “independent on-line booksellers”.
      This creates a big problem…. These “independents” buy my books at a wholesale price and then market them on Amazon and other sites at way lower prices than retail. Which means I make significantly less money on a book.
      In my mind this is scammy… they advertise a price $10 less than my retail price, and only get it printed when they get an order. So they make more $ than me from a sale and take no risk.
      So long to Ingram. Their business plan does not mate with mine.

      • Stephen September 9, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

        Your comment is very interesting. I am brand new to the publishing world so I am trying to learn as much as I can before I self-publish. Can you elaborate on what you suggest is best? Am I correct in thinking you only sell on amazon? Do you still buy your own ISBNs?

      • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:23 pm #

        Nicole —

        1) Yes. Use CS without expanded distribution, and Amazon will always fulfill from there if it can. Use Ingram with the same ISBN for worldwide distribution.

        2) Ingram does support pre-order links (haven’t used them yet there). Look for FAQs there.

        3) Ingram is worldwide. Not all books are printed locally, because they may not have a printer (e.g., every South American country), but they are printed as near as possible by one of their global partners and then distributed. That definitely includes UK and Australia — not sure about where the nearest to India is. When given a choice, choose every available region when Ingram runs through its list for you. (As an indie, you are likely to have worldwide rights for your titles, but that’s not true for many traditional publishers who are Ingram’s primary customers.)

      • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:28 pm #

        B L French, once you make your books for sale, many bookstores/booksellers might buy them.

        Let’s say your price is $12.00, and you’ve set up a discount so that the book retailer could sell it at the suggested retail price and still make $2.00 profit. When he orders it (whenever he orders it), you will get paid your part based on the discount rate you set. Call that $3.00

        If he decides to sell it to his customers at $11.00, he will forego $1 of his own profit, but it has no impact on your profit. You will still get $3.

        When your print book sells anywhere, you only make wholesale rates, and they are not impacted by retail rates, whether they use your suggested price or a discounted (or inflated) one.

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:21 pm #

      1) Yes. Use CS without expanded distribution, and Amazon will always fulfill from there if it can. Use Ingram with the same ISBN for worldwide distribution.

      2) Ingram does support pre-order links (haven’t used them yet there). Look for FAQs there.

      3) Ingram is worldwide. Not all books are printed locally, because they may not have a printer (e.g., every South American country), but they are printed as near as possible by one of their global partners and then distributed. That definitely includes UK and Australia — not sure about where the nearest to India is. When given a choice, choose every available region when Ingram runs through its list for you. (As an indie, you are likely to have worldwide rights for your titles, but that’s not true for many traditional publishers who are Ingram’s primary customers.)

  16. Jodi O. Brown February 26, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

    Very helpful information! Thank you so much. You answered the exact questions facing me right now, concerning use of both CS and Ingram Spark for publishing. I was given the advice to buy my own ISBNs up front, and now I can see the wisdom! Thanks again.

  17. Debra Wedel February 24, 2016 at 5:27 am #

    Thank you for the informative article! Would the same advice apply for a Canadian author?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:30 pm #

      Certainly. ISBNs are a worldwide identifier, and no two are the same. Picture Ingram searching through its database and finding the ISBN. If Createspace put it there — bing, you have a problem.

  18. Amy Maroney February 9, 2016 at 7:55 pm #

    Hi Karen,
    Thanks so much for this timely article. This is exactly the advice I am seeking. My cover designer just asked which POD service I’m going with for my first novel, which will be published in May under my own imprint. I had initially decided to just go with Createspace but now after reading your article I believe I will use both Createspace and Ingram Spark with the same ISBN. It’s also very helpful to see what other authors are saying about print quality and trim size/paper color.

  19. Lidia LoPinto February 2, 2016 at 7:08 pm #

    I see no reason to cave in to an orchestrated effort to price fix and make things difficult for authors. I signed up with Create space and my book is on Ingram. If bookstores whant to boycott Create Space they’ll face lawyers. This kind of convoluted way of boycotting you, is un american, and it is tryint to form a monopoly and this article simply promotes this effort by Ingram to be a monopoly by saying, hey, you can publish with CS but we are going to discriminate you even though you are on our database? This is disgustting, and manipulative, and shameful. Now I have to go pay Ingram more money to reupload my book to their system because otherwise, they say will simply won’t distribute?

    I think a lawsuit is in order here. According to the FTC this kind of boycott, meant to keep authors out of a market by discrimination, and forcing them to buy at higher prices is illegal. Also, it’s the kind of thing I expect from mobsters, not publishers. Shame on you.

    • Michelle Campbell-Scott April 27, 2016 at 4:15 am #

      It isn’t a boycott. It’s simply difficult for bookstores to work with CreateSpace because CreateSpace don’t accept returns. My daughter worked in a bookstore and she said this was the big problem, it wasn’t that CreateSpace is Amazon-owned.

      Ingram Spark opens up the world for us – not just the world of Amazon!

  20. Matty Dalrymple February 2, 2016 at 3:32 am #

    Excellent article–thank you! Re: print quality … the paper of IngramSpark-printed books is so much thinner than the paper of CreateSpace-printed ones that for a 300 page book I need to get a different cover file for Ingram because the reduced thickness means the cover “wraps around” further and the text on the back cover and some of the front cover design elements are too close to the edge.

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:32 pm #

      Thicker/thinner, rougher/smoother — which you prefer is all a matter of taste.

      But it is certainly the case that Ingram and CreateSpace use different paper suppliers, and consequently you must use DIFFERENT COVER FILES for each of them (as you might for any other job printer you might use) to accommodate the different thicknesses of the sheets and thus the thickness of the spine.

      You can use the same INTERIOR FILE, bit you must create a separate cover file.

  21. Jennifer January 3, 2016 at 6:33 pm #

    Great article. Thank you!

    Just to verify, for IngramSpark a person would purchase/use their own ISBM. And, that same ISBM could/should be used for CS?

    • Valerie Ipson May 17, 2016 at 11:29 pm #


  22. Pam December 20, 2015 at 7:27 pm #

    Thank you, Karen. This is exactly the advice I needed this morning. I greatly appreciate you sharing it with all of us via the Internet.

  23. Margot December 3, 2015 at 3:27 am #

    Hi Orna
    Stumbled upon your blog via Google. Have signed up. Very timely. I published my book on CS but distribution is limited to America and Europe for print copies. Therefore IngramSpark seems a better option for me. (I live in Australia). I am publishing a new edition, edited, new title, new isbn, new cover. I plan to remove the current version entirely and list with KDP select for the new e-version.
    From what you say, I need to list my print book with Spark to ensure worldwide distribution.
    Does that mean I do not list the print version on Amazon? Or is it possible to list on Amazon but not list with CS?

    Really appreciate your help as I try to increase my understanding of how all this indie publishing works.


  24. Deanna Beech November 11, 2015 at 9:13 pm #

    Awesome. Was trying to figure out exactly the stuff you covered. Thanks!

  25. David Mohrmann October 29, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you Karen, and others, for all the info. If anyone can answer this, please do: My idea, from advice given, is to 1) get my own isbn from Bowker, 2) use it with CS (not expanded) and IS. My question is this: Would it be best to do CS first, get a sample copy of my book as a “Prototype”, then go through the process with IS? I ask because I have heard that, being a newbie, working with IS may be an ordeal that I will be better prepared for if I first navigate CS. Also, that way, should I want to make changes to the book (exterior or interior design) I have the CS copy to work from. . .a kind of sample copy. Is there anything wrong with that logic?

    • Valerie Ipson May 17, 2016 at 11:31 pm #

      I think this your plan makes sense.

      • Valerie Ipson May 17, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

        I mean *I think your plan makes sense.*

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:34 pm #

      David, that’s the right approach, primarily because CS doesn’t charge a revision fee, and Ingram does. So work all the bugs out with CS before doing Ingram.

  26. Daniel October 20, 2015 at 12:37 am #


    I wondered if anyone had any experience in using either of them to produce a children’s picture book’?

    A second question, is that I have an eBook already on Amazon, iBooks and my website. But I have nothing with CS. If I start with LS for the print copy, would I use a different ISBN to these, and would I have to ‘retire’ the eBook from any of the platforms?

    Any help to a confused new self-publisher humbly welcomed.


    • Shannon L. Brown November 4, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

      Daniel, You always need a different ISBN for e-book and print. Each format needs a different ISBN.

    • Alan Sullivan March 19, 2016 at 3:11 pm #

      Hi Daniel. I’m new to this but one thing I do know is that you need different ISBN’s for paperback, e-book and any hardcover book – because this differentiates each of them as different products – and with different price-points.

      All the best Alan

    • Judy Hudson April 8, 2016 at 10:10 pm #

      I don’t know about kids books, but I have seen a printer called Blurb recommended for books with lots of images. Coffee table and photography books are mentioned.

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:40 pm #

      Daniel, each book-format you produce is a unique product. If you already have ebooks on Amazon and iBooks, then you have (or should have) an ISBN for the MOBI format and an ISBN for the EPUB format.

      When you decide to produce a print version, it gets its own ISBN. You can have as many separate products per title as you want (audio streaming, audio CDs, large type, etc.), just as you can sell sweaters of a particular type in different sizes and colors, as long as each has its unique identifying number (SKU for general items, ISBNs for books).

      You never retire or reuse an ISBN. If you put out a new print edition as a second edition (one that has non-trivial additions), then you will have two ISBNs for that print book: one for the 1st edition, and one for the 2nd. New buyers will purchase the latest edition, of course.

      You can (and should) remove the old edition from sale, to reduce confusion, but as far as Ingram is concerned, it’s a separate product.

  27. Vincent October 3, 2015 at 6:43 pm #

    Hi, I’d love your insight on this idea. I would like to POD copies to send to luminaries in my field, in the hopes of a referral to a traditional publisher or literary agent. If this is not forthcoming in 6 months, then I’d like to self-publish as you describe (combo of CS and Ingram). So I would not want to make it available online right away. In your opinion, which company would be best to do 75 POD books as ‘advance reader copies’, not final version, and not tie my hands should a traditional publisher care to pick it up? Any thoughts on getting one / multiple Bowkers ISBNs? You’ve helped a lot of ppl with this information!

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:44 pm #

      Why not create them as normal on Ingram, list them as Not Yet Available, buy a box, and mail them directly yourself on request. Alternatively, do a short print run from a jobbing printer that specializes in books, and mail them directly on request.

      You would use the same ISBN either way (Ingram would be functioning solely as a printer, not a distributor in that case — that’s more expensive as a POD than a short-run printer would be, so if your volume is high enough to justify it, the short-run printer might be a better deal, if you can reach a minimum count.

  28. Bryan September 21, 2015 at 2:31 am #

    The only issue I can see is that if you want to use the 5.06 x 7.81 trim size in cream, you can do this for CS (non expanded) but not for Ingram. For Ingram you’d have to go with white paper. The choices are either to dump expanded completely and stick to the above trim, to use another trim size for both; or to go with white paper for both. UK bookshops and larger print companies in the UK use the above trim in cream — which is better, I think — and this means that there may be some kerfuffle later on.

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:47 pm #

      A matter of taste. It is prudent to pick formats that exist on both Ingram and CS. If you currently have a format in use on CS that is NOT on Ingram, my recommendation would be to clean the problem up by retiring that ISBN and picking a new common format for a new ISBN.

  29. Lourdes Welhaven September 11, 2015 at 1:43 pm #

    So…if one has already made the “mistake” of using a free ISBN through Createspace but wants expanded distribution through Ingram. Couldn’t you just do the same book at a different ****trim size*** for Ingram Spark?

    In this way, you get to keep your sales data and reviews on Amazon so you don’t mess that up…but now can add Ingram etc… at the different trim size and isbn.

    Is this a valid “fix” for the “mistake?”

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:52 pm #

      Amazon lumps all the reviews for a TITLE together, regardless of its format. If you used a trim size on CS that is NOT available from Ingram, then you have to make a choice.

      1) Issue a new edition from CS with a different physical format (requires a new ISBN), ask Amazon to merge the reviews from the old edition with the new one. (They’re likely to do that for you). The old edition never goes away, it just withers and becomes meaningless, like a used copy.

      Then go to Ingram, using that same new ISBN for the identical format (watch out for spine width), to get it into the worldwide distribution.

      2) OR, you could assume your customers are retailer-faithful. You could use your new ISBN only for Ingram in a nearly the same but not identical format. Your Amazon buyers who buy online will get books that match each other, and your Rest-of-World buyers will get books that match each other.

      I wouldn’t take this choice — if you go to the trouble of setting up the new Ingram format, why not match it on CS and discontinue the old one?

  30. Barbara Haxby September 7, 2015 at 7:51 pm #

    How do you price your books between the two companies. I recently published my 130 page book [in color] on Amazon and was surprised when Create space said that my minimum charge was just under $17.00. I had to put my book over 19 dollars and will barely make any royalty.

    To make the same royalty, the book published at Ingram would be about $11.00 – 12.00. I was surprised at the difference although I was required to pay the set up fee for Ingram. It seems much more reasonable to purchase any books for myself from Ingram.

    How have you priced your book between the two companies. thanks Barbara

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 8:58 pm #

      Same ISBN means same format, and same suggested retail price. It’s a balancing act.

      I haven’t tackled color printing, so I can only compare ordinary fiction. You decide what you want to receive per unit vs what’s normal for a book of your genre at that size. Then you look to set discount rates at Ingram that accomplish that. 55% is what the trade publishers use.

      If you use CS’s expanded distribution, they set those rates behind the curtain for you, and you never see them. They use wholesale discounts more like 40%, which encourages fewer retailers to buy their books (except for Amazon who is locked in) because it gives them less room to make their own profits.

      For me, I set 1st-book-in-series around $19.99 if it’s long. I’m aiming at about $4.00 profit on average for ebooks and print, but I get more from some vendors, and less from others. I get the most if I can sell directly, by talking to local stores and supplying directly, but of course that’s hard to do.

  31. Tim Gray September 4, 2015 at 6:35 pm #

    This confuses me. If you’re prepared to do PoD through Ingram, what reason is there to also use CreateSpace? Your Ingram book will be available through Amazon (and anyone else that wants to order it). It just seems like more work.

    I should say that I’ve used Lightning Source for a while and not fully explored Spark, so maybe there are relevant limitations in there.

    Oh, re Amazon not keeping Ingram books in stock: basically there’s no need. I’m pretty sure I was once told that Ingram prints books overnight for Amazon and delivers them the next day.

    • Orna Ross September 5, 2015 at 11:01 am #

      Hi Tim, there are good reasons to use both, as explored in previous posts here on the blog, particularly if you want to reach into bookstores, many of which will not accept a Createspace ISBN. MOre here:

    • Debbie Young September 6, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

      Tim, a key reason for going with both CS and IS/LS is that if you only publish through IS or LS, your book’s page on CS will sometimes read “Out of stock”, referring to their stocks of IS/LS books, which can be offputting to potential buyers. Putting it up on CS also (importantly without ticking the Expanded Distribution box) prevents the out of stock message from coming up.

  32. Ricky August 23, 2015 at 10:41 pm #

    What about ebook/kindle/ibook versions? do you set that up just once? which source do you choose?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:00 pm #

      The Ingram vs CS discussion is about Print formats, not digital formats.

      However, if you use Ingram also for ebook distribution, similar issues apply: same ISBN should be used as for Amazon direct (or anyone else), and a different ISBN for MOBI vs EPUB.

  33. Jayme August 4, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    Thank you for the your commentary. I have am a “newbie” to publishing and I want to make sure I have all the information before I start POD. I have a picture book series and plan on using both IS and CS. I want to see how the first book goes before printing the second, third, etc.. of the series. How long do you suggest that I wait? I know you suggested not waiting to long in between. I also plan to print first with IS first but not sure how long to wait until I print with CS? What do you suggest?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:01 pm #

      No guidance on delays between releases, sorry — I’m exploring that myself. Sooner is always better.

      Can’t speak to special issues for color printing, but since CS doesn’t charge a revision fee and Ingram does, most people get it “right” on CS first before going to Ingram.

  34. Lori August 2, 2015 at 1:44 pm #

    Thank you for all of this information! I’m brand new at this but all I need are the illustrations which I will probably have in a few weeks. From what I gather, it would work best to go with IS first and then CS after so I can have the widest distribution without having to remove my book from CS in order to get into IS?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

      See my reply to Jayme immediately above.

      If you haven’t done expanded distribution for CS, then don’t. Go to Ingram for that once your edition is clean on CS.

  35. Gary July 27, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

    Any harm in going with 2 different ISBN’s for the same book – one for Amazon (not expanded) and one for IS? I own my own ISBN’s. Thank you!! Gary

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:05 pm #

      Two ISBNs for the exact same item confuses the market and is not recommended. Your suppliers (CS and Ingram) produce identical products (within the limits of slightly different paper and color treatments for covers).

      If I contracted with two short-run printers to produce 500 books each, all the same, why would I use a different ISBN? They’re just manufacturers. Same is true for the POD manufacturers CS and Ingram.

      Ingram is the only distributor in the picture (CS distributes through Ingram except for Amazon, where Amazon goes to CS directly).

  36. Daniel July 4, 2015 at 9:22 pm #

    Thanks for this information. It is really helpful. I have a question. My book is on Create Space and I never signed up for any of the 3 expanded distribution channels. Can I use the free Create Space ISBN number I was given with Ingram Spark?

    • Debbie Young July 5, 2015 at 10:45 pm #

      Afraid not, Daniel – the free CreateSpace ISBN is the property of CreateSpace. Your best bet will be to buy your own ISBNs and use the same one for the paperback on both outlets.

  37. Kevin Conner June 27, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

    My experiences with LSI are fare less amicable. They falsified information. They did not protect me against sales fraud, which I discovered was happening to me through a Barnes and Noble Rep. They produce books whose covers deteriorate after a matter of weeks in open air.

    • Kevin Conner June 27, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

      fare*far Couldn’t seem to edit my typo.

  38. Ava Greene June 24, 2015 at 3:53 am #

    Really great, Karen.

    You said you got into LSI “just in time” before indies were sent over to Ingram Spark. Was the flexible percentage discount the reason you preferred to stay with LSI? (Ingram Spark now has a calculator on their site that allows you to play with discount percentages, so I took that to mean there was flexibility with them also…)

    I used LSI for my first print book, but am about to release two more. Almost went with Bookbaby, but now thinking LSI or IS after all. Should I stay with LSI for my next 10+ books?

    Also, do you think there’s any reason to offer that 55% discount? Takes such a huge bite out of royalties… Do bookstores a) care that much, and b) even buy indie books through Ingram? Would love your response to this stuff! And thanks for putting your experience out there!

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:09 pm #

      Several philosophy questions here…

      Yes, I stayed with LSI to have more control over discount rates. Now that LSI has updated it’s website, the user-friendliness is much improved, so I don’t plan to shift to Spark.

      My philosophy is to look as much as possible like a big traditional press to bookstores, and that means the same discount rates.

      I don’t expect to make as much from print editions as ebooks, unless I can sell them directly (local stores, author sales), where I make much more that I do for ebooks. It averages out.

  39. Amy Keeley June 17, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    This is really great information, extremely useful, but I’m confused. I thought only the free CreateSpace ISBN listed the publisher as CreateSpace. On the ISBN purchasing form, they say that if you purchase the $10 or $99 ISBN that your imprint will be listed as the publisher. I assumed it was the same if you bought your own ISBN outside of CreateSpace.

    Where can I find more information about this?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:48 pm #

      I believe (but am not certain) that the owner of an ISBN can list other “publisher” names than their own.

      If you already have such an ISBN, or know someone who does, look it up (or the title/author) on That will give you much of the information stored in the Bowker record.

      For all I know, since I wrote this article it may be possible to have the ISBN appear as a CS ISBN with your publisher name. It would still be a CS ISBN, though, and you couldn’t change the content on Bowker as you could if it were your own ISBN.

      The reason I think this is possible is that I own ALL my ISBNs, but some distributors (CS in my article above, AuthorsRepublic, and others) claim the publisher name by the time the product reaches a retailer. I still control all the ISBN info at Bowker, but some sort of override gets introduced somewhere in the distribution process.

      There’s nothing I can do about that, but it’s only seems to be a significant issue for print.

  40. Teresa de Grosbois June 2, 2015 at 6:26 pm #

    GREAT article Karen. Have reposted it to my blog here for my students on

  41. DiDi Hendley May 29, 2015 at 11:15 pm #

    Thanks–I followed someone else’s advise that you HAD to have two different ISBNs-one for CS and one for IS. If I filled in the info at Bowker, but never made the 2nd ISBN “available,” can I still use that ISBN for another book? I believe the idea for using 2 ISBNs was to “track sales” but that seems silly–reports from each should do that–right?

    I’m also confused about some other things. If anyone can respond, I’d appreciate it. Do you have to create a business in your state that corresponds with the “imprint” name for IS? This might also involve a retail license and filing quarterly taxes for sales.

    I’ve battled for the last few days trying to understand the IS account setup and the “legal name” vs “contact name” and how it relates to the W9 form. The last call finally explained that the account information “Business or Legal Name” is where the IMPRINT name goes (why not call it that?) and the “Contact Name” will appear as the “Legal Name” under the W-9. (Again…why not call it that?) I use my pen name as my contact name…I don’t want to be addressed by my legal name. Apparently that’s not an option.

    Also, I can comment on the remark about CS farming-out print jobs. I had two different orders come back from outside sources, and the coverstock and paper was not the same (inferior-in my opinion). They looked so cheap, I complained. The first order was resent at no cost, and the other I had to live with. I understand that you can request the site you want to print your books–as I have requested Charleston, SC (since it’s close to me, too.) This is the site that produced my proof, so I know the quality I’ll get and the book looks like I expect it to.

    Thanks for this post.

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:53 pm #

      If you have an ISBN that was declared for one format but you have never used it, try editing the Bowker record and changing the format. If that works, fine. If not, ask Bowker customer service.

      I can’t speak to the best approach for business setup (not sure I have it right myself) but in general I recommend creating a business entity of some kind for your Press, whether it’s an LLC or whatever. Don’t forget the DBA filing (“Doing Business As”…). And a separate bank account is a good idea, too, even if you’re always adding money to it from elsewhere while the business runs in the red.

      Once you get large enough to be profitable (if not before) have a small business accountant advise you about proper business setup. You can always move your entity from one sort of thing to another.

  42. Michael May 22, 2015 at 3:00 am #

    Thanks Karen!

    This was extremely informative and served to clear up the great mystery all small publishers face when beginning.

    Much appreciated

  43. CH April 23, 2015 at 4:55 am #

    Thanks for the article. Would you recommend distributing through ingramspark, CS and, Baker & Taylor. Or does Ingramspark and CS distribute through Baker & Taylor for you?

    • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:54 pm #

      It’s my understanding that B&T gets feeds from Ingram (not from CS: CS goes to Ingram).

      I could be wrong — anyone else know for sure?

  44. Lorna April 21, 2015 at 11:08 pm #

    Really useful post, thank you. I had printed my book initially and it was selling in bookshops here in Ireland but when I started getting some PR in the UK, I decided to do Create Space and Ingram Sparks – it’s early days as it was only last month but it will be interesting to see how it goes.
    I’ve heard of bookshops refusing to stock books printed with Create Space so I guess Ingram Sparks is the answer there.

  45. Joni Hahn April 21, 2015 at 8:26 pm #

    Thanks so much for this article! I’ve put this off because I couldn’t get a straight answer from IS or CS on this issue. I appreciate you sharing the information.

  46. Shelley Schanfield April 7, 2015 at 3:29 pm #

    Hi, Karen, thanks for the very useful post!

    I am still a bit confused about ISBNs. Would you kindly clarify:

    1) if I have an ISBN from Bowker that I assign to a paperback, then Create Space and Ingram would use the same ISBN?

    2) I can avoid the whole issue of removing a Create Space ISBN from Ingram simply by not signing up for the expanded distribution in the first place, yes?

    Gratefully yours,


    • Karen Myers April 8, 2015 at 4:16 am #

      Hi, Shelley,

      That’s right. If you’re just starting, then you use one ISBN for your print edition, and put it up on two POD print services (Ingram and Createspace). Think of them as manufacturers. As long as you don’t use the expanded distribution for CS, there’s no conflict in the channels.

      You could have three or four more printers (for short runs, for foreign countries, etc.) and as long as the edition is the same, you can use the same ISBN. Think of it from the customer’s perspective — if they can’t tell the difference between the book they buy that originated in a short run printer’s factory and the POD printed by Createspace that they buy from Amazon, then the ISBN can be the same.

      If CS didn’t use Ingram to do its distribution for the expanded distribution channel, each of these channels would be completely discrete.

      If you were a big publisher and used Ingram to warehouse your books, no one cares who makes the physical books in that warehouse: various short run printers, Ingram POD, whatever. Same physical object (from the customer’s perspective) with the same contents, so it gets the same ISBN.

      • Karen Myers April 8, 2015 at 4:26 am #

        Now, if you change the cover for Xmas to make a Xmas-themed edition, you would need a new ISBN, because the customer would need to distinguish between the version with the normal cover and the version with the Xmas cover.

        But if you simply update the cover altogether, and the old cover is no longer available, then I think you can retain the same ISBN (customer can’t buy the other version). It hasn’t come up for me, so I think I would ask what Bowker (ISBN agent in the USA) advises.

        I do know that if you make trivial changes, such as fixing typos, you are not required to use a new ISBN, because that doesn’t really count as a new edition. Same for blurb updated on the cover, price changes on the cover, and so forth.

      • David Mohrmann October 29, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

        You say that for short runs, in foreign countries, it would be best to use printers other than IS or CS. My novel, given its subject, will sell a lot in Guatemala. Is there some particular printer I should know about to supply my book to bookstores there?

        • Karen Myers September 12, 2016 at 9:57 pm #

          Well, very possibly so. But how would I know, from Pennsylvania? 🙂

          Gotta do some research, I’m afraid…

  47. Karen Inglis April 4, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

    Great post, Karen – so good that so many indies now have this clear in their heads. Another point about using IS or LS is that it’s quick and easy to order short runs for events and similar – and you can even have them sent to third party addresses…. They have great calculators on the front of their websites that you can use to see the costs for this right away. I once had a request for 23 copies of Eeek! The Runaway Alien for a children’s party 100s of miles away. I put the order in with LS on the Wednesday and she received them on the Friday! That was lucky but the norm would only be a day or two more in my experience…

  48. Caroline April 3, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

    OMG. I’m kinda hoping this is why everyone was ignoring my questions on the ALLI facebook group on this exact issue – because your advice was imminent.

    Thank you!

    I have a CS ISBN book – but I want to reduce my print unit costs by going with Ingram and I want to take advantage of Createspace’s relaxed rules on gutters for longer books. So I need to create a 2nd edition – it’ll have less pages than the 1st so even cheaper to print – and get my own ISBNs.

    It seems terrifying, but I’ve applied for 10 ISBNs, my cover/interiors are ready to go, so when I get the ISBNs, I reckon my next job is to get the second edition on CS and discontinue the first.

    Thank you – I feel as if it’s all achieveable!


    • Orna Ross April 4, 2015 at 10:32 am #

      It is, indeed, totally achievable, Caroline — with help from generous indie authors sharing their real-life experience, as Karen does here (Thanks so much, Karen). Good luck with the adjustments and don’t forget to tell the other Karen (Lotter) about the 2nd edition when it’s out, so we can feature it in Member’s Showcase.

  49. Roz Morris @Roz_Morris April 3, 2015 at 11:37 am #

    Really useful piece. Thanks, Karen!

  50. Jay Artale April 2, 2015 at 9:37 pm #

    Thanks Karen, I’ve been looking at my options for getting my 2 ebooks into print and this was just the article I needed. Thanks Jay

  51. Karen Myers April 2, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    My pleasure, Anne. I struggled with it originally when I couldn’t find articles like this.

  52. Anne Stormont April 2, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

    Thanks so much, Karen and ALLi for this really helpful and clearly explained guide.


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