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:
- a more flexible range of print choices including better quality paper
- the option to produce hardbacks
- its new personalization service
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
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
OTHER POSTS ABOUT USING THE FORMER CREATESPACE & INGRAMSPARK TOGETHER
From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive