This post provides a handy introduction for anyone new to self-publishing print books on the most cost-effective and efficient routes to paperback production. It also offers a succinct reminder for experienced self-publishers on how to avoid the most frequent pitfalls.
***UPDATE: Amazon's CreateSpace service has now been superseded by its new KDPPrint service. ALLi now recommends using KDPPrint and IngramSpark together to publish your paperback books. For a guide on migrating your CreateSpace books to KDPPrint, read this post by our Watchdog John Doppler.***
What are CreateSpace and IngramSpark?
ALLi's standard advice to all indie authors planning to self-publish print books is to use a combination of Amazon's CreateSpace service (the division of the massive etailer Amazon that enables you to self-publish paperbacks) and Ingram Spark (the division of global publishing giant Ingram set up specifically to serve self-publishers)
Why Use Both Together?
Though life would be simpler to pick just one and use it, there are good reasons not to:
- if you used only IS, Amazon would often list your book as out of stock
- if you used only CS, many booksellers would decline to do business with you
On a more positive note, each brings its own advantages at no extra cost to you:
- IS will make your book available to a wide range of offline distributors e.g. bricks-and-mortar bookstores and libraries
- CS will make your book available to order online for anyone who has access to an Amazon etail store – which is a very large part of the world
It's important to note that this doesn't guarantee the the offline distributors will stock your books, but it does at least make it possible for stores to order them through their usual supplier.
How to Use Both Together
This process is less complex than it sounds.
- Follow the instructions on the CS and IS websites to open an account with them
- Acquire your own ISBN, which will establish YOU as the publisher of record (or your chosen imprint, if you have one)
- Set up records for the book on each service using the SAME ISBN (this is crucial) and OPTING OUT OF THE EXPANDED DISTRIBUTION option on CS (these two actions avoid conflicts between the two services' databases
- Upload the same interior file to both services to suit your chosen book size (use a CS template or create your own to the specified dimensions)
- You will need to upload slightly different cover artwork to each (the services' websites give clear instructions on the artwork requirements)
- Approve the proof online using the free digital proof service offered by each service
- Order a physical proof if you wish to – if you've checked the digital proof thoroughly, you may feel this isn't necessary (I don't, personally, but more patient people do!)
1. Opting Out of Expanded Distribution Post-Publication
If you have previously published your book on CS and opted for the Expanded Distribution, the process is a little more complex. John Doppler, ALLi's Watchdog, advises:
If your book has ever been in Expanded Distribution with CreateSpace, that ISBN will be locked in their database. To free it for Ingram's use, you'll need to ask them for a “title transfer addendum”. That's the magic incantation that makes it immediately clear what you need.
2. Opting Out of Sale-or-Return & Other Pricing Issues
Both services allow you to set your own retail price for the books (within certain constraints that ensure production costs are covered). Because IS is selling to third parties, it also requires you to set a discount to those parties, to enable retailers and any wholesalers involved to earn their just desserts for taking your book to market. Setting the highest discount in the suggested range doesn't guarantee anyone will order your book, but it does make it more likely. After all, the retailer has to cover their business costs somehow. ALLi recommends you opt out of the “sale or return” option on IS, because bookstores are able to return unsold books for full credit – in which case, you'll be charged the full cost of the book. This is not an issue with CS because it doesn't offer sale or return terms to its customers.
3. How to Get Free Set-up & Revisions for IngramSpark Books
Whereas with CS, you are not charged for setting up a book or for uploading revised interior files (they deduct their costs from your sales only once you start selling books), IngramSpark normally charges set-up fees and revision fees. However, if you are a member of ALLi, you are eligible to use an exclusive code that removes those fees when you reach the payment page.
The annual fee for ALLi for author members is $99/£75. If you're publishing even just one print book a year via IS, and making a couple of revisions, you'll save the equivalent of your membership fee – and of course the more books you plan to publish, the more you'll save. This excellent deal will also motivate you to publish more print books.
To access the code, you need to log in to ALLi's membership website and visit the Discounts and Deals section, which also features many other money-saving offers exclusive to ALLi members – all great reasons to invest in ALLi membership in 2018 if you haven't already done so! (For more information about how to join ALLi, click here.)
A Note about Alternative Routes to Print via Ingram and Amazon
Ingram has a second subsidiary, Lightning Source, aimed at small independent presses, typically indie imprints serving more than one author. Some indie authors who were on the scene prior to the inception of IS signed up with LS and have stayed with it; others opted to move across to IS. Ingram allowed the authors to choose what suited them best.
Amazon also has a second route for the production of paperbacks, recently introduced as an option on its KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) service, which used to be exclusively for ebook publication. It's possible to migrate your print books from CS to KDP if you wish to, but received wisdom just now is that you have more control and better sales reports on CS, though we presume Amazon's long-term intention will be to merge the two.
OTHER HELPFUL POSTS ABOUT PRODUCING PRINT BOOKS
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive
(These older posts were correct at the time of writing but there may have been some minor changes to services since)
OVER TO YOU Do you have any top tips to add to this post? Feel free to join the conversation via the comments box!