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Which Is Better: KDP Print Or IngramSpark? Both, Says ALLi

Which is better: KDP Print or IngramSpark? Both, says ALLi

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

indie authors should use both KDP and Ingram spark logo

Ingram fees are free to 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”

 

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 www.authordebbieyoung.com.

This Post Has 43 Comments
  1. Hi,

    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?
    Thanks

  2. 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.

  3. Hi Debby,

    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?

    Thanks

    1. 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.

  4. 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.

    1. Hi Cece,
      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.

  5. Hi,
    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?

    1. Hi Aline,
      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.

  6. Hello,
    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.

    Thanks!
    Joe

  7. 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!
    Deborah

    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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

    1. 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…

  12. 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!

  13. 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.

      1. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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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