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Why Indie Authors Should Use KDP Print & IngramSpark Together To Self-publish Paperback Books

Why Indie Authors Should Use KDP Print & IngramSpark Together to Self-publish Paperback Books

headshot of Debbie Young for financial management post

Debbie Young shares the official ALLi line on self-publishing paperbacks

When Amazon united its former CreateSpace print distribution service with its ebook publishing service under the KDP Print banner, enabling indie authors to manage both book formats in a single one-stop shop, it might have been hoping that we’d find it so convenient that we wouldn’t go elsewhere.

However, if you want to reach the most readers and thus make the most money, ALLi recommends publishing your paperbacks simultaneously on KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace) and IngramSpark. ALLi Author Advice Center Editor Debbie Young explains why.


KDP Print (KDPP) and IngramSpark (IS) both offer great print-on-demand services that are at the heart of most indie authors’ paperback sales operation. Both are valued Partner members of ALLi, and both have been significant enablers of the development of self-publishing in its current form.

Why Use Print-on-Demand?

Their print-on-demand services do just what that that term suggests: each book is printed only when it is 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.

Although print books typically yield a much smaller margin than ebooks (because production and distribution costs of ebooks are comparatively miniscule), using KDPP/IS enables you to satisfy readers who prefer print, and so grow your fanbase and income.

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.

The Unique Benefits of KDP Print

  • KDP Print is free at point of use for all indie authors, so you can save your budget for making your book the best it can be in before you publish it (professional editing, design, etc).
  • KDP only makes money out of your print books when someone buys your books, so theyhave 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). Ok, it’s a very crowded shop window, but hey, you’re in it.

The Unique Benefits of IngramSpark

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, which 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:

So Why Not Publish Exclusively through IS?

It’s tempting to think that a simpler route would be to publish solely with IS, because:

  • IS can also distribute to Amazon
  • Amazon also uses IS’s print services to fulfil some of its own book orders at busy times

Unfortunately, there’s an important hitch: Amazon often displays an “out-of-stock” notice against IS-only print books, with pessimistic timescales of weeks or even months.

This seems a little harsh when you understand the reality behind the scenes: that the delay is likely to be only as long as it takes them to ping the order across to IS for fulfillment.

As always, Amazon’s priority is to provide the best customer experience – customers as in readers, not as in authors, and they’d rather give a too-long lead-time that leaves the customer pleasantly surprised when the book turns up “early”, than risk upsetting them with an unsatisfactory delay.

The good news is that if you also upload your print book also to KDPP, Amazon will always list your book as in stock.

The Best of Both Worlds

Publishing your paperback simultaneously to both platforms is not as complex as it might sound.

Just set up a separate account on each store and upload pretty much the same metadata and files to each. Although the dashboards look quite different, and the terminology varies between them, there is copious help information available on both, and you’ll soon find your way round. (If you’re a member of ALLi, you can also put questions to our member forum for a quick answer from people who have “been there, done that”.

The two platforms also have slightly different requirements for cover artwork, but it shouldn’t take your designer many minutes to rustle up the second one  – it’s just a question of tweaking the original rather than reinventing it.

Why ALLi Members Gain an Extra Advantage

Join ALLi to get free access to have all your IngramSpark set-up and revision fees waived

One extra point worth noting is that 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.

However, indie authors who choose to pay for membership of ALLi will have these fees waived – so effectively IngramSpark is free to use for ALLi members, just like KDPP.

Thus ALLi membership saves you at least $49 for every title you publish via IngramSpark, even if each of your books is perfect and never needs a revision! With annual membership of ALLi costing just $99 a year (for author member status – see full membership details here), you don’t need me to do the math for you…

Essential Tips for a Smooth POD Experience

  • 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.

We have more posts in our archive (see list below) about using the two print book distribution platforms together, written when CreateSpace was still Amazon’s print platform, but the basic principles remain the same.

And if you haven’t yet moved your self-published paperbacks from CreateSpace to KDPP, read our Watchdog’s simple guide.

OVER TO YOU Do you have more advice to add about using the KDPP and IS together? Feel free to share your tips via the comments!

The best way to #selfpub paperbacks: use both #IngramSpark & #KDPPrint together - here's why and how (plus a bonus benefit for #ALLi members) - by @DebbieYoungBN Click To Tweet

From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive




Debbie Young

Debbie Young writes warm, funny feel-good fiction, including the Sophie Sayers Village Mysteries series, which begins with the bestselling "Best Murder in Show". As ALLi's Author Advice Center Manager, she also writes guidebooks for authors. Founder and director of the Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, she is a frequent speaker at other literary events. Find out more about Debbie's writing life on her author website

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  1. Hello,
    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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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?

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

    1. 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.

        1. 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…

          1. 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.

          2. 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.

              1. Hi everyone,

                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!

                – Konn

  9. 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…)

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