If you want to reach more readers and make more money, the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) recommends that you use both KDP Print and IngramSpark together. Debbie Young, ALLi’s UK Ambassador and author of Winning Shelf Space: Get Your Self-Published Books Into Bookstores explain why and how to use this strategy.
KDP Print (KDPP) and IngramSpark (IS) both offer great print-on-demand services. When it comes to choosing the best service to create and distribute your print book, there are good reasons for not choosing between them but using a combination of both.
Both Amazon and Ingram are valued partner members of ALLi, and both have been significant enablers of the development of digital self-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’ paperback sales operation
Why Use Print-on-Demand?
Print-on-demand services do just what 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.
KDP Print or IngramSpark? The Unique Benefits of KDPP
- 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). Ok, it’s a very crowded shop window, but hey, you’re in it.
KDP Print or IngramSpark? The Unique Benefits of IS
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
- a personalization service
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 print books that are distributed only by Ingram, 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 and in this case, the customers is the reader, not the author. 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. There may also be competitive forces at play.
The good news is that there is a way to have the best of both worlds and use both KDP Print and IngramSpark together.
KDP Print or IngramSpark? The Best of Both Worlds
Publishing your print book 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.
Ingram Spark Offer for ALLi Members
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 an average $99 a year (less if you are as yet unpublished – 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![bctt tweet=”The best way to #selfpublish print: use both #IngramSpark & #KDPPrint together – here’s why and how (plus a bonus benefit for #ALLi members) – by @DebbieYoungBN” username=”indieauthoralli”