If you want to reach more readers and make more money, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) recommends that you publish your POD print books on both KDP Print (Amazon’s print-on-demand service) and IngramSpark (Ingram’s print-on-demand service developed specifically for indie authors), simultaneously. This article explains how and why. Our thanks to Debbie Young and Sarah Holroyd of Sleeping Cat Books for major contributions to this post.
Post updated 18th January 2023
Both Amazon and IngramSpark are valued partner members of ALLi, and both have been significant enablers of digital print publishing for authors. In a world where print-on-demand makes so much sense for so many reasons, it's not surprising that these two services are at the heart of most indie authors' print sales operations.
What is Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-demand services do just what that term suggests: each book is printed only when ordered. This just-in-time distribution system saves the author from:
- keeping expensive inventory
- storing stock against future orders
- fulfilling orders as they come in
When a reader orders a copy of your book from the sales outlets serviced by either of them (for KDP Print, Amazon's stores worldwide, and for IngramSpark bricks-and-mortar bookstores and libraries), they fund the production, bill the customer, take their cut for production and distribution, then pay you the rest.
Both platforms fulfil print orders in pretty much the same way, so why is ALLi recommending you use both? Isn't that a needless duplication of effort?
Actually, no, because each offers unique benefits – and you want the best of both worlds.
Why Bother with Print Books Anyway?
The majority of indie authors make most of their money from ebooks and a growing amount from audio, the ratio depending on the genre. Print generally has a much narrower potential for profit than ebooks per unit, because the cost and effort of physical production and fulfilment is much higher for a print book than for a digital file.
To make the most of the intellectual property of your book, though, it makes sense to publish it in as many formats as possible, including print. Using print-on-demand publishing processes through KDP Print (KDPP) and IngramSpark (IS) provides a relatively cheap and easy way to produce a print book and deliver it to readers who choose that format. Neither requires you to invest in stockholding or warehousing, which means it’s also more affordable and flexible. If you find an error after selling your first few copies, or if you want to update your backmatter each time you bring out a new book, you can, without having to scrap any existing stock.
What Print Options do KDP Print and IngramSpark offer?
Both KDPP and IS offer multiple standard and nonstandard trim sizes, a choice of glossy and matte cover options, and a variety of formats including paperback, hardcover and large print.
The paperback options are similar from each provider, with a choice of cream or white paper for each book. Cream is the trade convention for fiction and white for non-fiction. IS has recently introduced an option for a “groundwood” paper, a stock that more closely resembles that of trade paperbacks, but it’s down to the individual author to decide which they prefer: it’s pretty subjective, and most readers are unlikely to notice the difference.
For hardcover, IS offers the additional options of hardcover books (digital clothbound with a dustcover, casebound where the cover image is printed on the hardcover, or casebound dustcover where the image is printed on the hardcover and covered with a dustcover). KDPP now offers a hardback service too. As to large-print books, popular with libraries, either paperback or hardback may be used.
Although the end products are effectively the same—with just a few differences in spine thickness and cover color saturation—how IngramSpark and KDP fulfil book orders varies, and each service offers different benefits and drawbacks.
The Benefits of KDP Print
Publishing your book via KDPP will ensure that your book is listed on Amazon’s storefront in all the territories it serves with print, and for a larger royalty per book than offered by for other POD services. It’s important to be aware that the list of these territories is not the same as the list of territories in which IS sells e-books, and that the royalty structure is very different.
The Amazon territories that currently sell KDPP books are: .co.uk, .com, .de, .fr, .es, .it, .ca, and .com.au (ie UK, US, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Canada and Australia).
As a print-on-demand supplier, KDPP does not require you to pay up-front for stock. It simply subtracts the print cost and its cut of the profit from the list price and passes the balance on to you as your royalty.
- “KDP Print is free at point of use for all indie authors. You pay only when you sell, so you can save your budget for making your book the best it can be in before you publish it (professional editing, design, etc).
- As KDPP only makes money out of your print books when someone buys your books, they have a vested interest in helping you make more sales.
- Your books will be automatically included on Amazon's storefront in all the territories it serves with print (not as long as the list of territories served by its ebooks, but it's growing slowly).”
KDP Print Payments
When you set up a new book, your dashboard will show you how much it will cost to print each copy on demand. The cost of printing consists of a fixed price per book plus a price per page multiplied by the number of pages. The fixed cost per book depends on the number of pages (it’s higher for books with 24-108 pages than for 110-828 pages, presumably because less profit is generated from the per-page cost for the lower number of pages). Click here for more details of how KDPP calculates the printing cost of your book.
To calculate your royalty, multiply the royalty rate by the list price and subtract the print price. The standard royalty rate for KDPP is 60%, whereas for expanded distribution it’s 40%.
For standard distribution, (60% X list price) – print costs = royalty
eg for a $15 book of costing $4.85 to print, (60% x $15) – $4.85 = $4.15.
More details of how KDPP calculates your royalty, click here.
NB there is no distribution fee – that’s paid for by the customer either as an added cost on their bill or indirectly via their membership of Amazon Prime.
Thus publishing your print books via KDPP allows you to reach the majority of readers who buy print books online via Amazon.
A Note about KDP Print’s Expanded Distribution Service
If you tick the “Expanded Distribution” box on your KDPP dashboard, Amazon will also make your paperbacks available to other outlets, ie bookstores, other online retailers, libraries and academic institutions, but within the UK and US markets only, and at a lower royalty rate. However, these other parties tend to prefer not to buy from Amazon but to order through their usual suppliers, which you can reach more efficiently and cost-effectively when you publish in parallel with IngramSpark.
Interestingly, Amazon itself is one of Ingram’s biggest customers. If you tick Expanded Distribution in KDP, the reader’s purchase is likely to be fulfilled by Ingram. Amazon also uses Ingram publishing services to produce paperbacks for many of Amazon’s publishing imprints. As a self-publishing author, you have the option to go direct to IngramSpark instead.
It’s up to Amazon which printer they source any given order through. They’ll most often use KDP, since they own it. But when KDP is backed up (as often happens around major holidays), Amazon can source through IngramSpark or Lightning Source, Ingram’s other POD provider, instead in order to maintain customer expectations for delivery times. Whichever printer produces that order is the platform where you’ll see that sale reported, and from which you’ll receive publisher compensation.
If you choose to use Ingram for your ebook distribution too, when setting up your ebook on IS, opt into all other sales channels except Amazon. This is not possible for print with IS, where the selection is by geographic markets, not individual retailers.
NB ALLi recommends, where possible, that authors upload ebooks directly to ebook retailers, rather than using an aggregator.
The Benefits of IngramSpark
IngramSpark is part of Ingram Content Group, which has a distribution network that reaches beyond the internet into physical bookstores, academic institutions and libraries. These outlets are unlikely to order stock from Amazon because most bookstores see Amazon as competition and the trade discounts Amazon offers to them are not commercially viable. They prefer to place their business with the same distributors and wholesalers from whom they order trade-published books.
Like KDP Print, IngramSpark provides a print-on-demand service, but unlike KDP it does not supply directly to the end-user, ie the reader. Instead, it sends its catalogue to the book distributors and wholesalers from whom retailers, libraries and academic institutions order books. If you publish your book with IS, a bookseller or library’s purchasing department can now order it. Most such buyers prefer to order their books direct from wholesalers or distributors with a single invoice and delivery for their daily order, than to incur further administration for less reward by dealing directly with publishers or authors. While different territories have different preferred distributors eg Gardners is more widely used than Ingram in the UK, books in the Ingram catalog are available to buyers worldwide.
It doesn’t mean they WILL order it, only that they can. It falls to the indie author – just as it does to the trade publisher – to generate the bookseller/library’s desire to stock your book.
Another difference from the KDPP system is that the IngramSpark dashboard asks you to specify whether you will accept returns. This is because the bookstore ecosystem allows booksellers to return a certain quantity of its orders unsold to its distributor for full credit – a system designed by the publishing trade to encourage booksellers to take a punt on new titles rather than playing it safe with old favourites more likely to sell. There is an argument that agreeing to returns (which means you pay for the returned book and the cost of shipping, but in most cases you don’t actually get the physical book back yourself – they’re generally pulped) will increase the chance of making a sale, but it also means you carry all the risk. Supposing a great piece of publicity encourages hundreds of bookstores to order thousands of your books – and they then don’t sell. Although rare, such incidents have caused small publishing houses to go bankrupt. Only offer returns if you are comfortable with the risk.
Another difference is that whereas it is free to upload a book to KDP Print’s dashboard, with IngramSpark, you must pay a set-up fee (currently £$49 per book), and each time you upload a revised cover or content a revision fee (currently $25 per revision). This is to protect the integrity of its catalog and to guard against abuse. The good news is that ALLi’s Author and Authorpreneur members are entitled to five fee waivers per calendar month, accessed via a members-only code. (A small number of other organisations also have a free code available to members only.)
Some authors feel that IngramSpark’s dashboard is less user-friendly than KDP Print’s but that its customer service desk is more responsive and personal. But they have done major updates to their dashboard in 2022. YMMV.
“When you publish a paperback with IngramSpark, it goes into their master distribution network that reaches out beyond the internet to bricks-and-mortar bookstores and libraries. These are unlikely to order stock from Amazon, because:
- most bookstores see them as competition
- terms are not as favourable
- it creates too much paperwork to be worthwhile (they prefer to consolidate all their orders with one or two regular distributors or wholesalers)
Other reasons to use IS's services include:
A more flexible range of print choices including better quality paper, the option to produce hardbacks and large print and a personalization service.“
Just as with KDP Print, when you publish your print books via IngramSpark you pay nothing up front, with your royalty automatically calculated by IS on a similar system of a percentage of the list price less production costs – but, unlike for KDP Print, you also must specify a trade discount, set by you with maximum and minimum range specified by IS, that you are prepared to offer to those other parties involved in return for stocking your book in their store. The percentage discount varies between territories and will be shared between the distributor (and wholesaler if there is one) and the bookseller.
Accommodating the trade discount can substantially reduce your slice of the royalty, which IngramSpark correctly calls “publisher compensation” (royalties, strictly speaking, are payments for rights licensing), compared to what you might earn for the same book when printed by KDPP and sold to an Amazon customer.
Why is a trade discount required on IngramSpark but not KDP Print? When you sell your print books through a bookstore, not only do you have to cover the print production costs, you’re introducing a third party distributor, possibly a wholesaler too, as well as the additional middleman between you and the reader, ie the bookseller. Clearly distributors and wholesalers need to be compensated in their efforts in providing a sales and distribution service to the bookstores.
In addition, Ingram charges 20% discount as its distribution fee.
To the author, the trade discounts are part of their cost of sale, just as if you were selling books in your own store you’d have additional costs to cover.
So how do you decide which discount to offer? Most booksellers will expect 35–45% from your recommended retail price, and even more for books for which they promise to provide extra sales support, for example 60% for books sold in high-volume outlets such as airport bookstores. However most indie published books sold in physical bookstores are “special orders” ie ordered at a customer’s request rather than stocked on the shelves on spec, and the bookseller is likely to be happy to accept a lower discount for the sake of a guaranteed sale.
If you are planning to market heavily to bookstores and drive demand for your books, it makes sense to offer the maximum discount for each territory on the IngramSpark dashboard and allow returns. (The maximum and minimum thresholds vary by territory.)
If, however, actively marketing to bookstores is not part of your strategy, and your focus is on online sales, then it makes more sense offer the lowest discount and not allowing returns. Readers who prefer to buy via physical books may still place “special orders”, but at no real risk to you.
If your strategy varies by territory, eg you are focusing on bookstores only in the US, you can specify different discounts and returns policy by territory.
Note that “returns” does not necessarily mean the unsold books are returned to you. In the US, there is a tickbox to choose between “yes – deliver” or “yes – destroy”; in other territories the only option is “yes – destroy”. “Destroy” doesn’t mean the whole book is destroyed: to reduce shipping costs, a distributor will sometimes ask for proof that the bookstore has made a book unsaleable, eg by returning the cover only, to save carriage costs.
One final note about IngramSpark payments is that unlike KDP who uses a 60-day payment term, IngramSpark's is 90-days.
Why Not ONLY IngramSpark?
So if IngramSpark distributes to Amazon, why not save yourself some trouble and publish only via IngramSpark? There are two reasons ALLi recommends you use both together.
Firstly, it’s a simple case of profitability. Although the print costs are pretty similar across the two services, if you sell an IngramSpark book to a reader via the Amazon storefront, IngramSpark’s compulsory trade discount will be deducted, which reduces your royalty.
Secondly, and more nebulous, is consistency of supply. While for fast-selling books printed by IngramSpark, it might keep a steady stock in its warehouse for non-stop fulfilment, for books that are ordered less often, it sometimes displays an “out-of-stock”, warning the purchaser that the book might not be delivered for weeks or even months. In reality, the delay is likely to be only as long as it takes Amazon to send the order across to IngramSpark for fulfillment, but this pessimistic estimate may deter customers from ordering.
Amazon’s priority here is to provide the best customer experience—and the reader, not the indie author, is their customer. They’d rather the customer waiting for an out-of-stock order is pleasantly surprised when the book turns up “early” than risk upsetting them with an unsatisfactory delay. However, if you also upload your print book to KDP, Amazon will always list it as in stock, even though it may still source it from IngramSpark.
Adam Croft and John Doppler of ALLi Watchdog, discuss the issues around the Amazon delays in this candid interview.
Top Tips on Using KDP Print and IngramSpark together
Both platforms require you to sign their publishing agreements before proceeding. Unlike contracts with trade publishers, these are non-negotiable. If you want to publish with them, you need to sign. When IS updated its agreement in 2020, there was some concern that it seemed to require indie authors to pledge to publish ebooks as well as print with them, which deterred some from signing. However, it does not oblige you publish ebooks with them (in any case, ALLi does not recommend using IS for ebooks as there are other more appropriate and lucrative platforms, and also because it advocates going direct to ebook distributors such as KDP, Apple and Kobo wherever possible.)
Both platforms require the same elements to set up a book (interior file, cover file, metadata) but the dashboards are configured in different ways. Take your time to familiarise yourself with them all, and take comfort from the fact that it gets easier with each new book you set up.
Both KDPP and IS have copious online resources for frequently asked questions, so if you are stuck at any point search their help materials before resorting to their helpline or email service. There are also many clickable links on different items as you work through the dashboard to help you understand the terminology and to complete each field appropriately.
As stated earlier, you must use the same ISBN on both platforms, and wherever else you might choose to print the book, eg if you commission a small private print run, to avoid confusing the algorithms. If you are new to ISBNs, download ALLi’s Ultimate Guide to ISBNs to understand how they work. Members can access their complimentary copy by logging into allianceindependentauthors.org and navigating to PUBLICATIONS > SHORT GUIDES.
Which Comes First?
It doesn’t actually matter whether you publish first with IS or KDPP. Provided you use the same ISBN for both, your submission, provided it meets all their publication quality criteria, should be accepted on both platforms without a hitch.
However, there are occasionally hiccups where one of the platforms will reject an ISBN as “already in use”. The most common cause of this is when an author ticks the Extended Distribution box on KDPP, which will disqualify it from being published by IS. Also common is inadvertently uploading the wrong ISBN, typically the one you’ve already used to set up the ebook edition. So if this happens to you, check that you have done neither of those things before proceeding.
Publishing print books on both platforms includes your book going through a review process, once you’ve checked it yourself. The review process tends to go through much faster on KDPP, but on both platforms it is slower than the approvals process for publishing ebooks. This often takes new authors by surprise, so allow plenty of time between uploading and your publication date, so that you’re not caught out.
Both platforms ask you to input your publication date, but only IS currently allows you to offer pre-orders for print. To take advantage of this, you need to plan well ahead, as it can take a few weeks for new book information to filter through from the IS database to distributors’ and retailers’ catalogs. This is because IS broadcasts its new data once a week, and it’s down to those further down the chain how often they update their databases. Neither you nor IS have any control over those data sets.
On the plus side, if you are able to upload a pre-order in plenty of time to IS, it will appear on the Amazon retail store. This is the only way currently to put a pre-order for a print book on Amazon.
Both IS and KDPP allow you to proof your book online and to upload changes until you get it looking exactly how you like it. IS won’t charge you for uploading new versions until you’ve hit the publish button.
Both platforms also encourage the author to order a physical proof copy before publishing. Allow a couple of weeks for printing and shipping to be on the safe side, and consider that if your proof requires some amendments, you’ll need to loop round the system again, adding more weeks to your timescale. It’s up to you to decide whether an online proof is enough.
Proof copies from KDPP – unlike author copies – will have “proof – not for sale” printed across the cover, so will not be suitable, obviously for adding into your stock for hand-selling.
Both companies will also allow you to buy author copies for your own distribution at cost price plus shipping and handling. Delivery times will depend on how busy their presses are, so allow lots of time if ordering copies for your launch or other event. With IS you may choose to pay extra for expedited printing and speedier shipping, which of course will put your unit cost up. As with proof copies it is worth building in as much time as possible to your publishing schedule so that you are not caught out, especially at the busiest times of year. The presses tend to run 24/7, and often run at full capacity, so if you want priority service, don’t be surprised if you have to pay for it.
Parting Advice: Bookstore Distribution
When you sell your print books through a bookstore, not only do you have to cover the print production costs, you’re introducing an additional middleman – an intermediary with more substantial overheads than an online store: rent, staff, taxes, heating, lighting, advertising, etc.
Clearly these overheads have to be paid for, and that’s why bookstores expect to receive a substantial discount on books they buy to sell on. Most booksellers will expect 35–45% from your recommended retail price, and even more for books for which they promise to provide extra sales support, for example 60% for books sold in high-volume outlets such as airport bookstores.
To many new indie authors, the need to factor in this extra level of costs comes as a shock, although it makes perfect sense.
Although IS will distribute to bookstores it’s difficult for indies to offer competitive terms and price, because of the higher unit cost of print-on-demand. Although bookstores might place one-off orders for customers, indies usually find that publicizing to bookshops is highly time-consuming for less financial reward, compared to selling direct to readers online.
Remember, the discount you set on your IngramSpark dashboard is not the same amount that the bookstore will receive. That discount has to be divided between all the parties in the distribution chain, including 20% to IngramSpark for its distribution service, and to any other distributor and wholesalers who are instrumental in getting your book from the printing press to the retail outlet, as mentioned in the previous section.
A Note re ISBNS
If you choose, as ALLi recommends, to publish your print book via both IngramSpark and KDP Print, you will need to buy your own ISBN. This is because you must use the same ISBN on both platforms, otherwise you will end up with two separate product pages on the Amazon storefront, one for the IS edition and the other for the KDPP edition, as Amazon builds sales pages by ISBN. Remember, an ISBN is a unique product identifier, and if the product is the same, it doesn’t matter where you publish it, you should use the same ISBN, eg if you also do a private print run for hand selling with another printer. This is worth doing in any case, because whoever owns a book’s ISBN is deemed its publisher, and it looks more professional if you or your chosen imprint are the publisher rather than KDPP or IS. Besides, in the bigger picture of your publishing business, the cost of an ISBN is only a very small part.
Summary on ISBNs
“Use your own ISBN on both platforms – if you start off by using a free KDPP one, you won't be able to use it on IS, because it belongs to Amazon, not to you. (For more advice about buying and using ISBNs, click here.)
Use the same ISBN for the same book on both platforms, otherwise it confuses the system and throws up error messages. It doesn't matter that the platforms are different – what matters is that you are creating the same product. Equally, if you were having a short run printed at a local printers, you'd use the same ISBN there too.
Choose carefully where to order your author copies, for the sake of time and cost. You can order one or more proof copies from either service before you publish (but only the KDPP proof will be marked clearly as such on the cover so won't be resaleable). Speed and cost of delivery depends on where you live, as author copies may or may not be printed in your home country.”
IngramSpark Offer for ALLi Members
One extra point worth noting is that as mentioned above, IS, unlike KDPP, does charge a set-up fee up-front plus a fee for keeping the file in its database. In addition, if you discover a typo in your proof and want to upload a corrected file, you'll be charged a revision fee.
ALLi’s Author and Authorpreneur members are entitled to five fee waivers per calendar month, accessed via a members-only code. (A small number of other organizations also have a free code available to members only.)
To find out more about using short run services, ALLi members Jane Davis and Adam Croft have described their experience for ALLi.
Your Book in Bookstores: ALLi’s Guide to Print Distribution for Authors – by Debbie Young
Order the ebook here. ALLi members can download for free by logging into the membership site and navigating to PUBLICATIONS > GUIDEBOOKS
Order the print edition here: insert universal book link for print editions. Or order from your local bookstore quoting ISBN 978-1913588656
Using ISBNs: A Short Guide for Indie Authors
Order the ebook here. ALLi members can download for free by logging into the membership site and navigating to PUBLICATIONS > SHORT GUIDES or available to non-members for purchase here
A local bookstore has a separate section for local authors, but require that all books be available through Ingram with at least 40% discount and returnable. My books were already set up on KDP expanded distribution, so I removed them from that program and tried to set them up on Ingram Spark. I got the “ISBN In Use” error.
My next step was to request a title transfer for my books (they’re all published under my own imprint, Moon Lit. Publishing). After the 30 days that IS warned me it could take for the transfer, I was still getting the ISBN In Use message. I finally resolved that problem by sending a request to KDP support to complete the transfer. It only took a couple days after that.
The good news is, IS did not charge me the $49 setup fee, since the interior and cover files transferred directly from KDP.
I learned from a Barnes & Noble manager, who did checking high up the chain, that it does not consider carying books that are Print On Demand; marketing events are limited in the POD category to seasonal multiple local author events. This policy seems to me likely to be widespread among most chains. The cost of returns is a significant deterrent anyway, unless marketinh campaigns are VERY well funded and professionally designed. My novel, Ancient of Genes recently got several awards and its TV/Film package (called a bible) also got Finalist in the Page Turner award (British, not the bigger US/Canada competition). But my agent and a consultant advised avoiding big marketing spends (I had proposed $50k). Instead, both advised a $10k promo for my website and other serious SEO and Landing Page. This includes capitalizing on selling the audiobook myself (use ACX, Findawayy, etc. but emphasize trusted audiobook venues w better margins such as Ebay’s partners. I’m going to do this and save the $40k that’d probably go to pay for tragic B&N & other physical store chain returns. What do y’all think?
Just a quick comment about the quality of colour printing by Ingrams: terrible! If your book requires top quality colour work, Ingrams is not the way to go. I am a professional designer/illustrator and thus have certain quality expectations. I will explain: One of my book series is for papercrafters: cut -n- make books based on my craft designs and illustrations. The crafts to cut and make IS the end product. I ordered copies from both Amazon KDP and Ingrams. I was so shocked at the difference in quality that I removed all titles in that series from Ingrams. Even the ‘best’ quality option was over saturated and individual colours ill- defined. I do not even remember when last I saw such cheap-looking printing.
It is a great pity. I do not understand how they manage such crappy printing in this day and age of fabulous POD printers. I also compared their printing to my two studio printers – one is a fancy one and the other a cheapo just for things like letters, forms etc. Even that one was better than the printing in the Ingrams book. I took it up with them and got a lame answer that they have some other system than Amazon. Yip.
The Amazon book had astounding quality. As they all have because I have ordered the whole series. I know not many authors would need sterling colour printing, but I thought to just mention that. I am now starting to publish my own children’s books and hope their quality is adequate for those .
As self-published authors, we have always gone with both Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark. Amazon is great in the US and Canadian markets, but Ingram Spark has better global reach and also better reach into brick-and-mortar stores, schools, and libraries. However, the high printing and shipping costs of Ingram Spark, which continue to increase, really make it hard to justify sometimes.
Thanks Debbie and Sarah.
Great article and very helpful.
My question is in regard to ‘expanded distribution’. I’ve published an ebook using 2 different distributors but found my book was duplicated (i.e. it appeared twice) on a particular online retailer website at different prices. I want to avoid this happening for my next book as it confuses readers and customers.
If I click on ‘expanded distribution’ on both KDPP and IS could this duplication issue happen again?
Is it best to use IS for the print book and KDPP for the ebook, or should I load my print and ebook on both IS and KDPP?
Many thanks for your help.
Dear Sir/ Madam,
Could you please inform me of KDPs email address or the url where I can ask specific questions, as I can’t find their email address for answers to my needs on their site nor anywhere to write to them, I live in Australia. I already have published a book with another publisher but have cancelled that but want to transfer it to KDP but need to find out requirements, then after that to Ingram Spark if you could also give me their email address that would be much appreciated, thankyou,
Ingram is extremely unreliable and slow, it took us 3 -6 months for them to set up a new account on lightning source because you can ONLY communicate with them by email, then we have been trying to publish a book with INGRAM SPARK Barnes and NOBLE and IS only have email communication which makes it extremely difficult and slow to communicate with anyone correctly. I keep getting different answers that make NO Sense. SO for anyone be careful if you publish with IS< they are extremely slow and NOT RELIABLE at all, It is very frustrating for an independent published in these times, they are causing us to lose more revenue by holding our ISBN hostage!!
I can’t seem to find any advice anywhere about ebooks. If I’m publishing paperback versions on both platforms should I also do ebooks through both? Or just one?
What do you think about the idea to have draft2digital distribute books to both KDP and IS? It seems, that, for a price, it would simplify the entire process?
Yes, we have members who use aggregators like Draft2Digital to distribute to both (and other ebook outlets). Other authors prefer the control of dealing direct. It’s a personal choice
I’m a first-time self-published non-fiction author who had one book with a traditional publisher and will have another one with a poetry publisher in a few months. With 3 weeks to go before launch, on my self-published book, I don’t think I have the time or mental energy to do both the KDP and IS for my paperback (I already paid a formatter to do the epub and pdf) so I was going to do expanded distribution and hope the bookstores don’t hate Amazon enough that they won’t stock my book. I purchased my own ISBN’s for both the ebook and the paperback. My question: Will I potentially lose a lot of book sales to bookstores and libraries going expanded distribution for my paperback versus kdp non-expanded distribution and IS? (and I also don’t want to be bothered with the time and expense of returned books, etc that IS seems to have. Thanks.
Thanks for the great information! I have several books that I published/printed for other people with Lightning Source before IngramSpark was available. I would like to set up Amazon KDP accounts for each of the authors and transfer their books to KDP so they can be in charge of them rather than having to go through me. But I am a little unsure of how to make this a smooth transition. Is there any advantage to using the author’s ISBN numbers on Amazon rather than using a KDP ISBN if I plan to remove them from my LS account?
Also, I have several of my own books published through LS that I want to move to Amazon KDP because I like having more control over marketing, key words, categories, etc. On the Amazon KDP site regarding extended distribution it states, “Your book’s ISBN must not have been submitted for distribution through another service.” So does that mean, for instance, if I publish my book on Barnes and Nobel with a free B&N ISBN, I could still be enrolled in Amazon’s extended distribution? If that’s the case, it’s my understanding that KDP, with extended distribution, puts the book in its IngramSpark account, so it would be included in the Ingram database. Unless I’m missing something, if I am willing to do the extra work to have my book listed with different ISBNs, is there any advantage to having my books both in Amazon and LS or IngramSpark?
Thanks so much for helping us navigate this complicated self-publishing world!
I recently learned that if you own the ISBNs and upload your titles to Lightning Source or Ingram Spark first, you will not be able to use the same ISBNs at KDP extended distribution. However, you can put a new ISBN number on your titles and put them into KDP extended distribution. You have to turn the original one off where you registered the ISBN, and where it currently is live like at LSI and KDP (non extended). Then create a new title at KDP with the new ISBN. Finally, request to KDP support that the old title and new title are linked resulting in one new title.
I will be an Indie author soon. If I use IngramSpark for my paperback. Is there an option not to accept returns? Potentially the author could end up owing money to IS for big return order.
yes that is an option
So which platform do you upload to first? KDP or Ingram Spark? I noticed IS now has the option to opt out of Amazon distribution. And I understand you do NOT want to click expanded distribution on KDP as well. I was planning on putting my book on KDP first, but not sure if that is correct or if I should put on IS first? I have seen comments supporting both. It’s very confusing. Anyone?
I am just getting started with Amazon paperback and IS paperback and hardback. Will my hardback show in the same listing as my Amazon paperback or will it be separate? Is there something I need to do to connect them?
Thanks for this great article which is very helpful. I am still getting my books formatted and looking where to go to get my books published and looking on Trustpilot it looks like Ingramspark are not a good service any more and there are many bad reviews.
Is there any update to the advice in this article regarding using Ingramspark?
I understand that IS is very unusable for the average person, hence the poor reviews on Trustpilot. However I am working with a professional indie editing, layout, and design team. They always and only use IS. I plan to use KDP on my own–much more user-friendly.
I published my hardcover and two softcover books(one in Spanish) with CreateSpace. I am using their isbn numbers.
The hardcovers no longer are being produced by KDP, so essentially they do not exist.
KDP said that I can purchase new ISBN numbers and switch to someone else. Can I do this for the hardcover without causing any problems because the hardback cannot be ordered(and never could be) from Amazon?
Also, when people ask about their ISBN numbers being released, are those from people who purchased their own ISBN’s or the ones that CreateSpace owns.
Thanks for your article.
Based on excellent advice such as yours, I always set up my print books to be available on both KDP (formerly Create Space) and Ingram Spark. This worked fine for years, with the bulk of my sales on Amazon, but also occasional sales on Barnes & Noble and other websites. I priced the books the same on both distribution channels.
As you know, Amazon prohibits their authors from selling a book elsewhere at a price less than the list price on Amazon. This past summer I received an email from Amazon saying that Walmart was selling one of my books on its website for less than the Amazon list price, and that, therefore, I needed to lower my list price on Amazon or they could stop selling my book.
I was not about to let that happen. Obviously I had no way of controlling Walmart’s discounting of my titles, so I had to stop distribution through Walmart. Ingram Spark does not let one pick and choose specific distribution outlets–either they distribute the book to all outlets or they don’t. So in order to preserve my income stream from Amazon, I was forced to stop distribution with Ingram altogether. Now I can’t sell any books through Barnes & Noble or anywhere else.
This situation negates any benefit of setting up with Ingram. Has anybody found a solution to this problem? Am I missing something?
Hi I just saw this morning that someone had the same problem as you and they simply not increased their wholesale discount on IS which forced Walmart to increase their retail price.
Brenda, sounds like you’re saying you can *decrease* the wholesale discount on IS from the going rate of 55% to whatever % makes the price come out the same as Amazon. If this is correct, this might be a very cool workaround.
Hi Debbie, thank you for your article. As is the case with good articles, more questions arise.
I have a Children’s Book on both platforms:
Ingram Spark has it as Saddle Stitch, ISBN ****01, released in a few days.
KDP has it as Perfect Bound, ISBN ****02, already live.
I was told by someone at IS, that if the print format was different, the ISBN’s had to be different.
I am willing to change IS to Perfect Bound. If I do, it appears that you recommend that I set the ISBN’s to be the same. Here are my questions:
1. If I keep as is (IS Saddle Stitch and KDP Perfect Bound with 2 different ISBNs), what will it look like on Amazon when as user navigates to my book?
2. If I change both to the same format and the same ISBN, what will it look like on Amazon when as user navigates to my book?
3. Is there something else I should be asking, but I don’t know to ask? It is all very confusing, and I have no idea how the moving parts work together, and how these two competing entities impact one another.
4. If I keep both print formats (saddle stitch and perfect bound), will both show on Amazon and the user can choose?
5. If I set everything to the same print format (perfect bound) and the same ISBN, when a user buys from Amazon, which will they get? I assume the KDP.
6. When B&N orders 100, will they see options from both KDP and IS?
In the end, I like Saddle Stitch better, but KDP does not offer for a 32 page picture book at 7.5 by 9.25. I also like IS quality over KDP, but I like KDP price over IS.
Seeking the best of both worlds, and lost a bit in the confusion.
I have a book on both KDP and IngramSpark. They have different ISBN numbers. (They are my own, issued by my government.) Is this a problem?
Do I also need to put my eBook on both platforms or is this just for print?
It’s been about a year since you published Why Indie Authors Should Use KDP Print & IngramSpark Together
Is your perspective or advice different today? Any updates to your insights?
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Hi Alan, the advice in this article is still timely.
How can you do both simultaneously when KDP requires exclusivity?
I do wish the name wasn’t so confusing!
KDP is the broader self-publishing platform at Amazon; it does not require exclusivity.
KDP Select is an optional program under KDP that does require exclusivity.
You can sign up for KDP without enrolling in KDP Select, and many authors who “go wide” to distribute through other platforms do exactly that.
Thank you for this article. I have a hard book children’s picture book I want to publish. This is my first book. So my main concern is that IS can fulfill POD’s on Amazon. From what I’m gathering IS does this. But when/how does the “out of stock” affect a POD from IS?
That’s a common problem with books fulfilled by Ingram and sold on Amazon, and it’s precisely why it’s a good idea to distribute through both concurrently.
If you’re distributing your book through both platforms, and it’s a format KDP can produce, that listing will take priority over the Ingram listing.
If the format is unavailable through KDP, such as POD hardcover options, the Ingram listing will be shown, and that’s where you’re likely to encounter the inflated shipping delays that Amazon quotes.
I’m about to go through and split KDP and Ingram, but wasn’t sure what to do with the KDP Select. How does their exclusivity agreement work? Is it temporary or is it permanent? Would you recommend enrolling in the KDP Select Program?
**I will be doing KDP for e-book and print exclusively on amazon while using Ingram for Hardcover, Paperback, and e-book.
At this point, I am totally confused. I wrote a kids Christmas book (first book) and have learned a lot, but now have other questions! My book is on Kindle, paperback and hardcover (hardcover only with IS) on Amazon. I believe the Amazon book has a n ISBN given by Amazon but not 100% sure as I hired someone else to format it and get it on there for me. Anyway, now I want my paperback to be available on both Amazon and IS but totally confused as to how to do this. I currently only have hardcover available through IS. How can I add my paperback to IS that is already for sale on Amazon? Thank you in advance!
Hi Deborah, in many cases it’s not possible to reverse engineer this process, you may well need to unpublish, then republish with your own ISBNs. We’d need to know more details. If you’re an ALLi member, please send an email and we’ll investigate for you.
Thank you for your article, I learned a lot!
It sounds like ALLI membership has loads of benefits.
I have a few questions….
Is the ALLI membership subscription paid annually or is it monthly?
Do ALLI members still get a passcode for publishing for free using Ingram Spark in 2019?
I’m disappointed that CreateSpace is no longer and merged with KDP. CreateSpace was more of a Ma and Pa POD outfit, whereas dealing with Amazon and its foreign techs, who are difficult to understand and not well schooled on publishing, can be frustrating. Also, I’m disappointed that KDP only offers 55# paper. I’ve published several 8.5 X 11 books that contain hundreds of images, and they don’t print well on 55# paper.
Here’s a situation to which I cannot find an answer.
I thought I had done all the research and made an informed decision to use CreateSpace to publish my first two novels. I now realize all the mistakes I made and am relaunching. I would like to use a combination of KDP Print and IS for a number of reasons, however, I took the free ISBN from CreateSpace. It doesn’t appear that there is any way for me to expand this to IS without taking down the books from Amazon and completely re-publish, losing the current sales history and reviews. And then there is the problem of having two ISBNs for the same work that, from what I had read, will confuse Amazon and cause issues.
So, unless I am missing something, I have to either suck it up and completely start over, or leave things as they are and go with Amazon’s expanded distribution on those two books and do a combination of KDP Print and IS going forward.
I have been looking into Ingram and was particularly unsure about their ‘returns’ feature.
They recommend that self-publishers allow returns, as it will increase the chance of wholesale purchases.
Ingram also explains that bookstores may purchase a number of books and then return them if they aren’t selling – and that this purchase must then be paid by the self-publisher.
To me that sounds incredibly risky. Do you have any thoughts about this returns feature?
Same question here too, anyone has any advice?
Same feelings. IS explained the 2 “returns” choices: return and destroy, or return and send back to me. Return and destroy means the retailer returns to IS (retailer pays shipping both ways), IS destroys copies, and I (writer-publisher) refund wholesale price to retailer. Send back to me means that I pay shipping back to me of returned copies. Of course, I do not want to facilitate any returns, but am thinking that the shipping cost paid by retailer will deter them from over-ordering, or returning unsold copies? Currently I have returns disabled, but only one store stocks my book and they sell out, so has not been an issue…
I’m a little confused on exactly what happens in the system and for the end user when a book is listed on both KDP and IS. Are there two different URLs? The meta data is probably a little different for each one too. What does the customer see when searching in Amazon? One listing for IS that says available in 1-2 weeks and one for KDP that says “in stock”?
My first POD book is going live on IS probably Monday in paperback and casebound, and paperback on KDP. I have gotten all my questions answered except this last one!
Amazon will not send proof copies or author copies to Australia. I’m told that I have to purchase a copy at retail price from their Global Store. IS print their copies in Australia and send them out fairly quickly. I am still using both though.
One question, POD soft cover and POD hard cover with a wrap around are distributed by both?
Amazon don’t do hard cover books
Thank you for the great advice! Do you recommend Bookbaby, Smashword, or D2D distributionservices for Indi authors? Thank you!
Nice way of thinking and thank you for your valuable Information
Would you turn off expanded distribution on KDP, since IngramSpark is essentially expanded distribution?
Yes, that’s essential
I can’t figure out how to undo the Expanded Distribution option on the KDP Right & Pricing page. I know that to use the same ISBN for KDP & IS, you have to go with the Standard Distribution. I don’t remember checking “Expanded”, but for some reason that is how the book is listed, and of course KDP keeps giving me an error message.
Thank you for the advice!
Great article, and excellent detail on the process nitty gritty from Karen Myers, thanks Karen!
In your “Essential Tips,” you didn’t mention whether it matters on which platform one first uploads the book file.
I’ve read somewhere on the blog or the ALLI FB page that doing it one way or the other makes a difference on how smoothly the process goes — but I can never remember which one should come first.
And did the recommended order change with the move from CreateSpace to KDP Print? So confusing!
Because of the expense of the Ingram setup, if you have NOT used a discount coupon, it makes more sense to design/test on Amazon KDP, since revisions are free, and then move to Ingram once you’re happy on Amazon KDP.
You will still need to proof on KDP to be sure your cover (and color matching) is reasonably compatible and the spine is properly placed in comparison.
If you are using the ALLi discounts for Ingram (strongly recommended), this is less of an issue.
Typo. s.b., “you will still need to proof on INGRAM…”
What I had heard was that one system (or the other one) would somehow be able to “see” the other listing and refuse to accept the ISBN number.
That didn’t make much sense to me, if the book hadn’t been published yet, but I’m sure I read it more than one place — and I thought one of the places was in an ALLI article or FB forum post.
If that’s just an internet wive’s tale, though, that makes me happy. One less thing to bother about remembering…
Yes, I keep seeing this crucial step in comments on blogs but never in the blog article itself. Sometime I think the author-helper blogs just want clicks and are withholding some crucial information, or they just don’t go the extra mile with their advice. I am at that point of publishing two books, between IS and KDP, but cannot find a straight answer, and do not want two listings of one book because I didn’t list it with IS first.
I think you just need to upload to Amazon first and turn off expanded distribution. I published with Amazon and had expanded distribution turned on for a number of years, and when I went to publish with IS, it said the ISBN was already in use. I’d already turned off the expanded distribution, so I had to contact IS, who gave me a form to fill out, saying that I release the ISBN (or words to that effect), and once Amazon released it, I could publish on IS. It took Amazon almost two months over Christmas, but everything is fine now. I hope this helps.
Thank you so much. I’ve been struggling with the ISBN issue for a couple of weeks now.
I’m in the exact same situation and was curious Susan, did you have to contact Amazon to release your ISBN? Or did you only have to turn off distribution and fill out the IngramSpark form and wait a couple of months?
Thank you, thank you! Me too. I just went into Amazon and unchecked expanded distribution and am waiting for a reply to my email asking to release the ISBNs.
Beware of the book cover differences when using both Amazon KDP and Ingram.
1) The spine widths are different because the paper comes from different sources and has different thicknesses, so you must make a minor change in the cover design so that each one gets its own cover file. (Same interior file, different cover file). Use their own templates when doing the layout, rather than one cover template for both.
This caution applies to every printing manufacturer you use.
2) Tolerances for POD are much looser than for offset (bulk, short-run) printing. The margins you get in the templates may seem small, but on thin books the spine is especially vulnerable to being jammed up against the left or right-hand edges in a visible and exasperating manner. The paper stock is thinner for Ingram, so the spines are narrower and more prone to this. Design the text for your spine to fit the narrower Ingram requirement and allow for extra space inside the “safety margin” so that if/when it does shift, the effect is less noticeable.
For offset printing, they’ll check that they have everything positioned perfectly before proceeding. For POD printing, it’s more like a copier machine and the paper can be lined up a little too tight or loose against one edge. Since they only print one at a time…
3) Both Ingram & Amazon KDP seem to be getting slower in their responsiveness for author copies, proof copies, and general availability. You may need to allow more time than you’re used to, to receive and view a proof before releasing the publication.
(and, yes, I AM checking out offset & fulfillment options for some print-centric projects…)