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Watchdog: Ingram Spark Vs CreateSpace (KDPPrint) For Self-publishing Print Books

Watchdog: Ingram Spark vs CreateSpace (KDPPrint) for Self-publishing Print Books

ALLi Watchdog Giacomo Giammatteo provides an invaluable detailed analysis of the two biggest print service providers for indie authors, Ingram (via its two different subsets, Lightning Source – for publishers of many books – and Ingram Spark – for individual self-publishers) and Amazon's CreateSpace.

***UPDATE: Amazon's CreateSpace service has now been superseded by its new KDPPrint service. ALLi now recommends using KDPPrint and IngramSpark together to publish your paperback books. For a guide on migrating your CreateSpace books to KDPPrint, read this post by our Watchdog John Doppler.***

I have done a few posts on printing for the self-published author, but the more I play around with social media, the more confusion I see among indie authors. Most of the confusion stems from misinformation or old information regarding the two biggest players in the indie author printing game—CreateSpace and Ingram (either Spark or Lightning Source).

First, to clear up a simple thing that always bothers me—it’s Lightning Source, not Lightening Source. There is no ‘e’ in the name, just like there is no ‘e’ in the lightning that you see during a storm.

And to clear up a few other misconceptions—there are lots of options available to indie authors. In Choosing a Self-Publishing Service, Mick Rooney and I covered quite a few possibilities, and Mick’s site The Independent Publishing Magazine has plenty of articles on those options. But for this post, we’re only going to deal with two options—CreateSpace and Ingram Spark.

What To Compare

Determining what to compare is a major consideration for a blog post. If we go into detail on all the choices, it would require a book to do a proper justification. We don’t have time for a book, so I picked what seems to be the biggest concerns for most indie authors.

Features CreateSpace Ingram Spark
Cost Per Copy B&W 4.45 4.86
Cost of Setup $0 $49**
Discount 40/60%* 40/55%*
Distribution Amazon/Extended Worldwide
ISBN Yes Yes
Quality Very Good Excellent
Shipping Exc. US/Int’l okay Very Good US/Int’l excellent


For the above chart I used a sample of a 300-page B&W book. Paperback, 6×9, perfect bound, gloss finish, and cream paper.

Cost Per Copy

This is straightforward. CS costs 41c less than Spark.

Cost of Setup

This isn’t quite as straightforward. CS costs nothing. Spark costs $49…however, if you are a member of ALLi, that fee is only $37.50, and they also waive the $12 yearly fee.


This is one of the big factors in making a decision, and it is the one that confuses most indie authors. I’ll try to break it down to simple terms.

  • CreateSpace takes 40% when you sell on Amazon.
  • CreateSpace takes 60% for expanded distribution (other online stores, libraries and bookstores).
  • With Spark you can choose whether to allow 40% or 55% for distribution. (LS allows lower discounts, and I have reason to believe Spark will in the future.)

This is all very important.

Most of the authors I speak with know very little about discounts and how they work. They simply sign up with CS and go about business. But remember, you’re not just an author; you are now in business for yourself, and you should pay attention to the details, especially discounts.

Let’s Take a Little Page Time to Review the Basics

Your print book is sold either online or through bookstores. If you are selling online (Amazon, B&N, Books–A–Million, etc.) and you have no intentions of trying to be “stocked” in the brick-and-mortar stores, the following examples are for you. CS offers only one discount for “expanded distribution” (which means everything outside of Amazon, such as B&N, libraries, BAM, etc.). The discount is 60%.

Ingram offers 40% or 55% discount options (LS offers 30% and even 20%). Please note—neither one of these options will result in brick-and-mortar stores stocking your book. They will order it if a customer requests the title, but they won’t stock it. Here is the breakdown based on using Ingram’s 40% discount and CS’s 60% discount.

Let me show you what this looks like in terms of earnings for you based on each company’s price of a 300-page b&w book with their respective discounts at the different retailers. The table shows the CS discount to Amazon and expanded distribution. Ingram shows the options for 40%.

Based on retail price of $15 Profit if sold on Amazon Profit if sold anywhere else
CreateSpace 4.55 1.55
Ingram Spark 4.14 4.14

Spark shows only the 40% option for this chart so that we’re comparing apples to apples. If you don’t plan on active distribution into brick-and-mortar stores, you can keep your discount at Spark to 40%. That means with every book sold, no matter where it’s sold, you’ll earn $4.14. With CS you’ll only earn $4.55 on Amazon. All books sold at B&N (Barnes & Noble), or BAM (Books-A-Million), or any stores that happen to order from you, will earn you $1.55. That’s a big difference.

And if you’re thinking…but I want to get into bookstores, so I need the 55% discount…That’s fine. But then you’re not comparing apples to apples, because you’re not getting stocked in stores with CS, not without the stores getting a true industry-standard discount and the books being returnable, neither one of which CS does. If you have an account at LS, you can opt for the 30% discount and earn an additional $1.50 per book.


Keep in mind that when we talk about discounts, this is the amount you are discounting the book off the retail price. This is not the amount of discount the bookstore receives. As an example—a 55% discount with Ingram means the bookstores receive a 40% discount off the retail price. So if your book retails at $15, the bookstores would buy it from Ingram at $9. Ingram keeps 15% ($2.25). You would be credited $6.75 ($15–55%) for each sale, from which you would have to deduct the cost of printing the book (4.86), which leaves you a profit of $1.89.

I tell you this so you don’t misinform the bookstores and tell them to expect a 55% discount. They’ll understand, but it will make you look naive. The easiest way to inform them is to say that you offer the “industry-standard discount,” and that the books are available from Ingram and are returnable. Read more about returns in the post on my site.

Will Bookstores Stock My CreateSpace Books?

There is a long-standing myth about bookstores not stocking books from CS because they are owned by Amazon. I’m sure a few of the bookstores take a firm stand, but the real reason that most bookstores won’t stock CS books is purely economics.

CS charges the author 60% for expanded distribution, but the bookstores only receive about 25%. The breakdown looks like this.

On a $15 sale, CS takes $9 and you get $6. From that $6, you need to deduct the cost of the book, which is $4.45, leaving you a profit of $1.55. From this example, you would think that the bookstores get $9, but they don’t. They don’t even get close to that, and here’s the reason why.

CS uses Ingram for distribution. Ingram is the world’s biggest distributor of books, so for all channels except Amazon, CS books are distributed through Ingram.

Ingram gets approximately 15% of the cut, and CS takes about 15–20%. That leaves 25% for the bookstores. That’s not enough to make them even consider stocking the book, but they will order it if a customer asks.

The bottom line is that with all Ingram books, you can earn $4.14 per book, no matter where it’s sold. If you are with LS and opt for the 30% discount, you’ll earn $5.64 per book. The math is simple. Even if you pay the full amount for setup ($49 + $12), you would only need to sell 23 books through Ingram to break even. If you opt for the 30% discount (LS for now) you only need to sell 14 books to break even.


If you don’t plan on aggressively pursuing brick-and-mortar stores, don’t choose the 55% discount, and don’t make the books returnable.


CS offers several options for ISBNs. The free and $10 options are only good if you only want to distribute solely through CS; they can’t be used anywhere else. The $99 option can be used elsewhere, but not if you opt into expanded distribution. Here’s why.

As we already discussed, CS uses Ingram for distribution. So if you purchase the CS ISBN and opt for expanded distribution, when you go to publish with Ingram and use the same ISBN, it will show as already being in their system, as CS has it assigned.

There are two ways around this.

  • Buy the CS ISBN for $99 but do not opt into the expanded distribution.
  • Buy an ISBN from Ingram Spark (less money) and use that for both Ingram and CS.

Of course the other option is to use your own ISBN, which is my preferred choice.


CS has an edge on shipping in the US. It is fast, easy, and inexpensive. Ingram has an edge on shipping internationally. It is fast, easy, and far less expensive. The reason is simple. Ingram has printing facilities in the UK, AU, and partner agreements in Germany and other countries. I can ship a book to a customer in Australia almost as inexpensively as I can other parts of the US using Ingram. Ingram does charge a $1.50 surcharge per order for shipping though, and CS doesn’t.

A Good Option

What I do is use both CS and Ingram. I use CS for the advantages it offers:

  • Fast and good distribution to Amazon.
  • Fast and affordable shipping to US customers.
  • Shipping “review copies” to bloggers and/or for giveaways like on Goodreads.

And I use Ingram for the advantages it offers:

  • Distribution to all stores except Amazon.
  • Fast and affordable shipping to international customers.
  • Shipping high-quality copies as samples to bookstores, for autographed copies, etc.

Bottom Line

Each person has to look at their own situation and determine what strategy suits them best. For some, it might be CS only. For others Ingram only. For most, though, I think you’ll find the combination of using both CS and Ingram offers the best solutions for all of your needs.

If you want a more detailed breakdown of the pros and cons of each, check out the two-part post I did on my site.

If You Enjoyed This Post, Please Share.


The prices shown in the Infographic reflect the printing costs at the time I produced this chart. They have since changed by a few pennies. The prices in the main post are the correct ones.

Giacomo Giammatteo

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the "No Mistakes" Careers series.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.” His website is at

This Post Has 369 Comments
  1. The topic here is publishing and distribution. Your book was not published by CS, KDP or Ingram. Your experience is unfortunate, but is not related to the topic here.

  2. This is the right website for everyone who wants to understand this topic.

    You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not
    that I really would want to…HaHa). You definitely put
    a fresh spin on a topic that has been discussed for years.
    Great stuff, just excellent!

    1. My book has been on Amazon for about a year now and I’ve recently listed it with Ingram Spark as well. My experience with Ingram has been abysmal. Customer Service is slow to reply, talking on the phone to them is like having a conversation with wallpaper and most of their reps fail to get the point, so they revert to stock answers that have little to do with the issue. Trying to get a correction to the sub-title to my book has taken weeks to resolve, with most of the effort being done from my end. Communication between their departments is sadly lacking, requiring more effort on my part. Ingram could certainly take a page out of Create Space’s customer service manual. There is a marked difference between what Ingram advertises and promotes and what they deliver. As others have rightly observed, what they really are is a printer, with a self-service portal. This company needs to wake up. Their poor quality of service is an embarrassment to both their image and the authors they claim to help.

      1. I’ve been taking notes reading all this great info but have admit– I’m still clueless!

        Please explain the difference between KDP, CS, Amazon, vs Ingram Spark, Lighting Source.

        I have an e-book with Amazon..(I think KDP but now I’m confused..)

        I’m taking this book to a paperback (on morning sickness) shortly and want international

        availability (but don’t want the hassle of sending internationally and collecting payment

        with international currency) as well as US access. I will buy inventory to sell on my own web site..

      2. The topic here is publishing and distribution. Your book was not published by CS, KDP or Ingram. Your experience is unfortunate, but is not related to the topic here.

  3. This is probably a stupid question, but if Ingram supplies to Amazon, why not restrict all sales to Ingram?

    I can’t figure out why I would use CS & Ingram if Ingram does it all (notwithstanding the aforementioned advantages of CS noted above)

    1. The biggest reason is that Amazon doesn’t always play fair. I have seen numerous reports, and have experienced it myself where Amazon will show your IngramSpark book as “out of stock” even though it’s a print-on-demand book, and clearly isn’t out of stock. After a lot of complaints, they switched to listing the books as “available in 2-3 days.”

      For all the trouble you may have to put up with, I’d stick to using both.

    2. One of the main reasons, Marc, is that Amazon will sometimes list your book as “temporarily out of stock” or “Available in three days” if it’s not through CreateSpace. since they own CreateSpace, they want you to use it. But if that doesn’t bother you, and if you are only going to use one service, use IngramSpark.

  4. Hi, I’m still confused as to how I use IS and CS together. I’m not interested in getting into libraries or bookstores but I have family around the world who would like to buy my upcoming books. Do I select global distribution on IS (I know not to on CS) and then do my family still go to Amazon to purchase the books? How do they buy them (ensuring that IS will be the printer and distributer?

    What percentage do I set the books at then?

    How can I ensure family in South Africa, Germany and Oz can get my book?

    Thanks for any help available!

    1. If you use IngramSpark, people can go to any bookstore and request they order your book. They can also buy it at B & N online. Amazon will sell the CreateSpace version. IngramSpark will distribute to the rest.

  5. Does anyone using Ingram Spark doubt the accuracy of the sales numbers reported in their user portal? For example, on just one of my titles today, Amazon alone has 18 used copies for sale and 24 new. Problem is, according to my IS account only 12 copies have EVER been sold. How do I know that IS are crediting me with all sales? What are the safeguards for self-publishing authors using Ingram Spark, other than just trust and blind faith?

    1. Jules, it’s common practice for third-party sellers to put an ad up on Amazon claiming to have a used copy of a book for sale, or indeed a new one, often at an inflated price (sometimes hugely so), purely speculatively, without actually having a copy of it. All they do is if someone is daft enough to order from them, they order a copy themselves from Amazon’s main listing for the book, and forward it to their customer, and keep the difference. (On the plus side, you still make a sale, to them, at your standard rate!) Those are the guys to distrust, not Ingram, which is a huge and ethical business, with a long track record and great reputation. I hope that puts your mind at rest.

    2. My question is this: Amazon has pre-order available. However on IS and I ask this to them. they seem to have no clue as to how many books are pre-ordered? If that was the case, then how come those books can be printed by IS and shipped to fill the order for Amazon’s pre-order method to arrive on the actual date promised which is the sales date without knowing how many are pre-ordered? Amazon can’t send it a pre-order and it NOT get filled. How do publishers find out about the pre-orders to ensure their profits, otherwise this could be a loop hole and sales could fall through the crack.

  6. On a different note, I have been using Ingram for about 10 years until now. I wrote a politically sensitive book, The Fifth Seal and Ingram shut me down. Cant even log into my account. No shit. I don’t owe them money or anything else, they just shut me down. So if Ingram does this to me they can do it to you. That, my friends, is CENSORSHIP. In the past I would order books for my self via Amazon and pay what ever price they were asking. It was less money than ordering from Ingram. Seems Ingram doesn’t pay a royalty on publisher ordered books. And the shipping (Mexico) is way more than Amazon.

    1. Ingram’s website changed about a year ago, and the log-in process changed – are you sure you aren’t just trying to get into the account the old way? Have you approached Ingram about this to investigate? I have never heard of any other authors feeling they have been censored by Ingram and am sure here must be an alternative and more satisfactory explanation.

    2. Ingram’s website changed about a year ago, and the log-in process changed – are you sure you aren’t just trying to get into the account the old way? Have you approached Ingram about this to investigate? I have never heard of any other authors feeling they have been censored by Ingram and am sure there must be an alternative and more satisfactory explanation.

    3. I find it difficult to believe that IngramSpark censored your book. I’d write to them or call them, as something else is surely at work here, and I can almost guarantee you it’s not censorship. Ingram is the biggest book distributor in the world, and I’m sure there are books more sensitive than yours that they distribute. As to shipping, IngramSpark is typically far less expensive and faster if shipping internationally, and CreateSpace is less expensive and faster domestically. I’d check that too.

  7. Hi Giacomo,
    Thank you for all the precious information you give us. I have just joined ALLi. May I submit to your fine mind a very trivial question?
    Reading what follows, taken from Amazon, it seems to me that “selling on Amazon” is better than “CreateSpace”. For sure I am wrong. Could you please bring light on the point? Thank you for doing that

    Selling on Amazon + Fulfillment by Amazon

    Like Amazon Advantage, when you use Selling on Amazon, you can promote and sell your books direct on and use the Amazon fulfillment network to store, package, ship, and service your orders. Unlike Amazon Advantage, Selling on Amazon is like having your own small store on Your products are listed and appear on the website as sold by you. In other words, you are listed as the “seller of record” and receive payment and feedback for your orders, but without needing a merchant account.

    You pay a commission on the sale price of the item and other selling fees (the commission for selling a book is a flat $1.20 plus 15% of the item cost). If you include Fulfillment by Amazon, there are also storage, packing, and shipping fees. Fees vary by the size, weight, and price of the item. For example, a 2 lb book that was priced over $25 would cost $1.80 for fulfillment and about $0.05 per month to store (storage fees vary by size).

    You can choose to be a Pro Merchant for a $39.95 per month subscription fee or you can be an Individual Seller and pay $0.99 per item sold (with no monthly commitment). Learn more about Selling on Amazon.

  8. Hi there, thanks for addressing this issue. I would love for Amazon getting some competition and stop being the only player in town, this said, in some ways CS works well (like ordering copies)

    the biggest issue I have as a non-US resident is that payments are made from a US bank account to my european account and u lose 25 uds with every transfer. while CS takes pride in disitribtuing internationally

    I might be wrong about this.. but in case CS only deposits from the US, does Ingram serve non-UD residents better?

    1. Tom: I believe IngramSpark not only services better internationally from the finance side, their int’s distribution is better and their shipping. In fact, CreateSpace oten uses IngramSpark for their int’l distribution.

      1. Thanks Giacomo!, I just got an answer from Create Space and what they do is that books sold in the US are deposited FROM a US account, which means as non resident in the US you loose on the transfer, although book sold in Europe are deposited in Europe. where that will leave us with brexit and UK banks I don’t know. thanks for the Ingramspark suggestion.

        have a nice self-publishing day!

    2. Hi – I strong ditto on the “thank you’s” for this article. I am about to publish a volume of poems.
      I can get much better quality printing locally for my own use for book launch and other events and to give to my local independent bookstore. However, I do not want to hassle of shipping these to amazon when they happen to want one or two. Can I use create space and ingram sparks AND self print locally? It sounds like it is ok to use the same ISBN number if I choose to use both create space form amazon distribution and Ingram for their differing distribution strengths. Do I have that right? Do I need a different ISBN number for my own edition.? Would it be best to call it “deluxe edition” as paper will be better quality and I can sign it. Or should I just use the same one even though they will each look a little different? Thanks for your help!

      1. Yes, you can use the same ISBN for both CreateSpace and IngramSpark as long as the book is the same (same size, same print, same cover, etc.). As for shipping, you can ship directly from either company.

  9. My books are available through Create Space, KDP, and Audible but a local bookstore owner told me today that she would stock my books if they were printed by Ingram Spark but will not do business with Amazon due to the nonreturnable aspect and also because she is a brick & mortar business being squeezed by Amazon. Is it true that paperback copies of my books can be offered simultaneously by both Amazon and Ingram Spark? I own my own ISBNs and bar codes and created my own publishing company that is registered as a business in the state where I live.

  10. Thank you very much for this useful information. I hope you are feeling much better and recovering well. All the best,

  11. I’ve had nothing but trouble with IngramSpark’s printing quality. Here are the issues I’ve had:

    – Cover printing so far off that there was a white strip across the top and the bottom was cut off
    – Pages at the back of the book faded toward the bottom, as if their printer was running out of ink.
    – Black ink smudged on the pages
    – Three corner significantly bent on a single book (making it unsellable as new)

    I have had zero problems with CreateSpace’s quality control. There may be other downsides to CS, but in my experience, the actual physical product is much better than what you get from IS.

    1. That’s odd, Crystal. I’d write or call their customer service. I’ve had the opposite experience, with quality troubles from CreateSpace and none from IngramSpark. Anything can happen, though, so you may have simply been unfortunate. Call their customer support and see if you can get it resolved.

    2. I’m in the same boat as you, it’s been nearly a year of trying to sort out printing issues with IS! Make sure you’ve selected premium colour printing and not standard colour. I get those pesky white borders too on some print orders but not on others. Customer support has not solved the issue (they’re still investigating). Really not enjoying the experience with them. My CS proof on the other hand is absolutely perfect.

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  13. First off, thanks for this post – extremely helpful. The small press I was (am) with closes down on March 31st, at which time, all publishing rights return to me. I am strongly considering self-publishing over starting the submission process again. I already have an edited manuscript and from what I understand, I can use the cover I currently have. It’s also formatted & saved as a pdf, though I will need to make some changes, such as removing publisher info. I’m not completely sure how to convert it to e-book format, but I assume I’ll figure it out. From what I understand, it’s pretty easy.

    I’m guessing I will need a new isbn for both print & ebook. Currently, I am thinking either IngramSpark exclusively or a blend with CreateSpace would work best for me. I would like to pursue getting my books in brick & mortar stores, so Ingram is the better option for that since from what I understand, I can make the book returnable.

    I guess I’m mostly just curious if you have any advice when moving from a closed-down small press to self-publishing. Right now, I have only one book, but I am working on the sequel. Also, do you know if there’s a way to retain the 10 customer reviews I had on Amazon previously. My book is still listed on the site because a used copy has been posted for sale. However, if I am publishing a 2nd edition with a different isbn, is it possible to link those reviews or do I just lose them?

      1. Hi! First off, thanks for demystifying this! I’ve read both blogs. I set up my book with CS a few months ago with my own ISBN, not in Expanded Distribution so I could also eventually set it up in IS. Now I’m finally getting around to that. Same content, same trim size – but unfortunately, it looks like I’ll have to list at $14.95 with IS, when my book is currently listed at $8.99 with CS on Amazon.

        Here’s my question to anyone who may know this:
        I’ve seen the recommendation that I use the same ISBN for the same edition of the print book, regardless of the retailer.
        However, I do want to have the price printed in the barcode with IS, because I hear retailers prefer that.

        Can this create a problem to have different list prices by different retailers on the same ISBN?
        I bought 100 ISBNs, so what problems would it create to have different ISBNs assigned to CS and IS, even though the book is the same edition?

        1. I am also seeking an answer to the question of different retail prices between CS offering and IS offering.

          The calculator used on the IS site shows a substantial difference in publisher revenue between 40% and 55%.

    1. Contact Amazon, they may be able to link. I had a weird issue come up with CS where they posted my book for $149+ with just my name and title – there was a review that got connected to it somehow. Contacted and they combined to the original and deleted the $149 from listing, they weren’t sure how that happened. But it got resolved. But since I was connected to both ISBN’s they could. I imagine they’d have more information though.
      Good luck.

  14. First off I would like to say fantastic blog! I had a quick question in which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.
    I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your head before writing.
    I have had a hard time clearing my mind in getting my ideas out there.
    I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply just trying to figure
    out how to begin. Any recommendations or tips?
    Many thanks!

    1. Sorry for the late response. I have always used this–when you quit writing for the day, don’t quit at the end of a chapter or normal breaking point; instead, quit after a few sentences of a new chapter. That way, when you go to pick up the next day, you will have a logical starting point.

  15. Thanks, I appreciate the analysis, although I don’t see myself selling many paper books.

    You didn’t mention in the payback analysis that the payback on Amazon is one book, as long as it’s priced to return a penny of royalty.

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  17. thank you for helping to navigate these waters… are createspace and Ingram the only reliable players out there??? is this it? I’m discouraged by what i am reading about Ingrams customer service… is there anyway to just get a printer to print and ship to amazons distribution center and my home without having to endure these other nuances?

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  19. Good article. B&N has a form that you fill out asking what state your book ships from. I couldn’t find the origination for Ingramspark anywhere. I’m trying to find where CS ships from. Is it the same location as Ingramspark because CS uses them? I would assume it would be.

  20. Dear Giacomo,
    Your site is very informative …
    I have published 13 historical poetry books > 1000 verses…
    The first book published by iUniverse
    and the rest by Xlibris …They did good job for me ..
    and my last poetry collection “Gomidas~Komitas, My Musical Saint” of 372 pages is my recent book published in Yerevan, Armenia; having many paintings and photos …which many publishers asked for permission from the painters to publish … and that was impossible because many painter already passed away …

    My new Poetry historical Collection, “Churchill at Ararat”
    I contacted “create space” to do the cover and simple formatting …but their prices exceeds $ 800.
    Because my books are poems and very small group of people are interested to buy …
    I am not ready to pay this amount …
    What is your advice please?
    Xlibris… they do formatting and the cover and I like their work …and their price doesn’t exceed $500 for each book.
    Kind Regards,

    Sylva Portoian , M.D.

      1. Hello Giacomo, thank you for this helpful information and I hope you are on the mend. I’m a traditionally published non-fiction author going it alone for my debut novel. I’d like to ask two things: Could you recommend a sound interior formatting service (I have an editor and I hired a professional designer to do the cover.) Everything is done with the exception of the interior formatting for e-book and print. I have never been so frustrated trying to do this myself — the chapters begin on the wrong side and there are blank pages between the chapters; what a mess. I’m at the point where I guess I just have to hire someone to do that part as well, but the options are dizzying and I can’t tell who to trust.

        My second question: I am planning to use a dual distribution approach as well — Ingram Spark for print as I have contacts with several bookstores who are supportive, and Amazon for the majority of ebook marketing. However, Ingram says they will automatically distribute to Amazon regardless of what boxes I check. If that’s the case, do I still need both? Is there a reason not to use Ingram for everything (aside from their customer service, which I agree is terrible compared to CS?) Thank you, Kelly Merritt

  21. Hi,
    Thank you for clarifying a lot of this information that just sounds like mumbo jumbo to my non-math brain. I have used CS because it’s cheaper to set up, but recently I wrote my first children’s picture book and was advised by my illustrator to use IngramSpark. So, I did. I wish I knew then what I know now. I did offer the 55% discount and the refundable return but I haven’t had any luck getting into bookstores. I’m ready to give that up. Can I change my discount status on a book that’s already published?
    The other thing was I bought my two ISBN numbers from Bowker at $125/piece. With CS, they are free. It’s great to own my own ISBN but not if I’m not taking advantage of that benefit. How can I get the most benefit of having my own ISBN?
    And lastly, I had published my previous chapter books through CS and opted for the Expanded Distribution not realizing that I’m not really going to get it with the free ISBN from CS, correct?
    I really do want to train my brain to have more of a business mindset so I’m trying to understand this stuff.

    1. I just created my first children’s book and am literally spending forever debating between CS and Ingram Spark. Can you elaborate on why you chose Ingram and what you mean by “I wish I knew then what I know now” because I imagine it will help this newbie out! Feel free to email me if it’s easier. [email protected]

      1. Ashley: I didn’t choose just IngramSpark. I use both CreateSpace and IngramSpark for all of my books. I use IngramSpark because they get you into all of the book stores (if ordered) and because of the quality (which I feel is better) and because of the price (you will earn more money. How much more depends on which discount option you choose.) I use CreateSpace for their quick access to Amazon and their fast shipping in the US. I do, however, use IngramSpark for international shipping.

    2. Hi, wanda. Sorry for the slow response. i got sick last year and it has forced me to slow down. Yes, you can change your discount. Just go to the IngramSpark dashboard and select your title. Re: the ISBN, do not use CreateSpace’s free option. If you have an ISBN, use the same one for both CreateSpace and IngramSpark, assuming they’re the same product, i.e., both 6×9 paperbacks, etc. If they are different, you need different ISBNs. If you have more questions, feel free to email me.

  22. Having read this I believed it was extremely informative.

    I appreciate you taking the time and effort to put this
    article together. I once again find myself spending way too much
    time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

  23. We absolutely love your blog and find the majority of your
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  24. An excellent and detailed article, Giacomo. There are some questions in the feed you might want to address. I have read four articles on the comparisons between the two SP sites, IS and CS. This is by far the most detailed. Thanks for this. Will Share.

    1. Hi, David. I’m trying to get to the questions, but I’m slow about it. I had two strokes and two heart attacks last year and recovery has been long. If you have any questions that you feel should be answered first, let me know.

  25. I have to add another comment about Ingram Spark’s (terrible) customer service.

    They did a good job on the (hardcover) proof. The first crate of books was badly packed and I’m fairly sure I received less than the ordered amount. I neglected to count the books immediately after opening. (A warning to others)

    The second carton was shipped “economy” / USPS and was never received. They claimed it was my fault for using their economy service and that I was liable for the loss. I’m letting AMEX resolve this.

    The third order is still “in printing” after 12 days.

    The fourth order was “expedited” and shipped after three days. I’m hoping it arrives.

    Indies, beware!!!

    1. John: thanks for the insight. I find this odd, but it might be because of the specific facility you’re using. I use the one in Tennessee and I have never had trouble; in fact, their quality has consistently exceeded my expectations for both hardback and paperback.

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    1. Createaspace is a scam my book I selling a lot worldwide in the U.K. And on eBay I have not received my royalties I sold millions

      1. Are you telling the truth Keke that Createspace ripped you off Big Time?!!!

        Let me know, because, I have 13 books under createspace and for years now and having received not $5 dollars as of yet!!!

        [email protected]

  27. Crap wish I had read this before using the expanded distribution option on Createspace. Now Createspace has two of my books assigned to it. However if I used my own ISBN then did Expanded Distribution would it still be assigned by Createspace to Ingram Spark or is there some way I can take back control of the expanded distribution so I can use the same ISBN for Ingram as well?

  28. Don’t complain about the spelling of the word ‘lightning’ when you have weak grammar skills yourself.

    “I picked what seems to be the biggest concerns…”

    Should be…

    “I picked what seem to be the biggest concerns…”

    1. Dear Odd Job,

      “what” is 3rd person. The verb “seem” refers to “what”. Therefore “… what seems” is absolutely correct. It doesn’t matter that “concerns” is plural; still the verb “seems” refers to “what” and not to the noun “concerns”. It’s like saying “It seems that you are stupid and rude. Those are the major concerns.”

      1. I hate when someone writes in solely to correct your grammar. You’re writing a blog to help people and they have to find fault. Love your response. Bet odd job didn’t even catch it.

    2. Odd Job: Thanks for your comment. First, I have never claimed to possess great grammar skills, though that’s not the issue here. Complaining about people’s spelling of the word Lightning in Lightning Source, is quite different than using the proper grammar in every instance. with that said, I stand by the grammar. I agree with John’s explanation and feel that ‘seems’ is correct.

      1. I come from a famous town called Lightning Ridge – even some of the most educated of my friends will call it Lightening! Thanks for the great article Giacomo. I am about to start the process and you have saved me from hours of research!

  29. I publish via POD through Createspace and my titles are available on Amazon and worldwide through Ingram International.

    I don’t understand why ‘worldwide distribution’ is seen as a benefit of IngramSpark — as it is already available via Createspace. Am I missing something?

    Just trying to figure out if there is a real benefit to listing my books on IngramSpark. I like to keep things simple!

    1. Janita: If you read the article, you’ll see that CreateSpace charges a fee of 60% for expanded distribution, that means that if you price your book at $15.00, CreateSpace will take $9.00 of that, leaving you $6.00. In many cases, that’s as much if not more than your cost of printing the book. With IngramSpark, you set your discount to either 55%, 40%, 35%, etc. It can make a difference of several dollars per book. Also, many bookstores do not want to order from CreateSpace as it is owned by Amazon.

  30. I love Ingramspark for the fact that they charge bulk shopping to Australia and not per item like CS. That is a massive savings. The big downside to me is that customers can’t order direct from IS. With CS I can put a link to their site and customers buy direct. Better profit. With CS I have to order hard copy and then post it! Very annoying.

    1. G’day Jenny,
      Hope you see this note. I’m an old bloke who has written several “books” [Historical Action Fiction]. Very recently, with the help of a friend] a small publisher in the US has agreed to publish my first book. It’s a huge relief, after a decade of rejections from Lit Agents. The world of publishing is beyond my comprehension; stuff like POD, Create Space, Ingramspark etc. etc. I certainly recognise that I cannot solely depend on my small publisher, to do everything to get the book “out there” because of limited resources and I have to take ownership in its success. I could do with advice from a kindred spirit down under as I live in Adelaide. If I’m not being a pain, would you kindly email me? My address is below … Thanks and regards … Peter.

    2. Jenny: I agree that international shipping is far better with IngramSpark. As to shipping with CreateSpace, you can ship books directly from there to your customers. In the US it’s the quickest way to do it.

  31. Great article.

    There two more tricks to these two companies. I read that Ingram also uses Amazon as its distributor. So, not only is it better to not use CreateSpace’s expanded distribution, but its better to first submit your print book on Ingram as they will check Amazon when you do. If they find your book is not on CreateSpace/Amazon yet, they will submit to use Amazon as one of its channels. But if you posted your print book to CreateSpace first, they wont use Amazon to distribute. That might not be a loss anyway, as like you said, each of these players takes a cut of the Discount.

    Second, I think on eBooks, its very important to consider not using Ingram or anyone but Amazon, then go with their KDP Select exclusive 90 day eBook agreement. But then do print through both, as you describe, minus Amazon’s expanded distribution and using your own ISBN.

    I say its best not to use Ingram for eBook, as Amazon seems to have a very negative view of your dealings with Ingram if you try are selling print and eBook through them and pricing your items above their prices but using steep discounts. Ive heard stories where they catch you in KDP Select and using Ingram and they drop all your books. I realize print and eBook are separate groups but linked at Amazon. But I would guess you want to manage print sales globally through Ingram and not get blacklisted by Amazon, as they still are the 800 pound gorilla in the eBook digital space.

    Maybe someone has a different opinion they could share? thanks

    1. Lightning Source – Ingram’s operation to produce a stock of books – for publishers who want a print run of books – to keep in a warehouse (or your basement). As this article is mostly aimed at indie author/self publishers it focuses on CS (Create Space) and IngramSpark

      1. I really wish everyone would not use abbreviations for those of us who are brand new writers. Thank you for explaining LS. Now, what is ISBN? And what is an indie author?

        1. Barbara Shepherd, you are kidding us, aren’t you? You made me laugh so hard! 🙂 You have a great sense of humor, and almost convinced me that you really don’t know what ISBN is and what indie author is. Yes, because any stupid soul in the world would have the idea of “googling” what those things mean, if they haven’t figured them out yet. Yes, so even a brand new writer, which I assume is also a long-time reader, would know what an ISBN is.

          Edward Smith was very kind and patient in explaining what LS means. He didn’t need to, though, because the text/article mentions Lightning Source – and a good and attentive reader would grasp that the LS refers to Lightning Source. It’s just a matter of attention to what you are reading… and a little of brain function.

  32. Greetings from beautiful and very warm Palm Springs, California. I hope you are still responding to comments on this outstanding article. I just want to be absolutely certain I understand your advice. I have a two volume memoir, just back from my editor, and ready for Indie publishing. I wish to sell my printed books through because I expect that to be my number source and therefore plan to use CS to print my books (I have an independent book designer and cover designer) for that purpose and to enroll them on Amazon. I should NOT participate in the Expanded Distribution program. I also want global sales potential and the possibility of selling to libraries and brick & mortar stores plus Barnes & Noble, etc. other online book sellers so you suggest I also have printed books (using the same cover and design files I use for CS) done via IngramSpark for that purpose. I will purchase my own ISBN numbers. I am correct in that understanding?? Many thanks.

    1. Yes, as the article explains, use CreateSpace for distribution to Amazon and IngramSpark for all other distribution. I recommend using your own ISBN and use the same number for both distributors as long as it’s the same product.

      1. I’ve been using LS for everything since I published my first book a few years back; however, my local B&N store says they’d carry my book if I offered returns. Does it make sense to offer returns, AND do I have to “start from scratch” with Amazon (who’s already carrying the book through Amazon Advantage) if I wish to add CreateSpace into the mix? Any thoughts?

  33. Spent 2 months dealing with the cumbersome (under developed) Ingram Spark site, only to find out they have no idea if the book will make it to my address. I had to order twice, as the first time they forgot to print the book. The second time they printed it but forgot to get a tracking number, and the book hasnt arrived after 1 month. Their email support is null, their online chat almost robotic. Buyer beware! Luckily I was able to cancel my account and get a refund on the onetime setup fee for my title.

  34. Hi Giacomo,

    Thank you for sharing with us your knowledge and experience. Great info!

    I have a question. Thinking of publishing a book through CreateSpace. If it select my country “Canada”, do you have any idea how long it will take amazon to have book available in the States and beyond and vice versa?

    Does CreateSpace allow me to order books at author price, hundred copies for example, and ask them to ship to somewhere? In this case, there will be no royalty to author?

    Thank you.

    1. Hello Giacomo
      I have made orders for delivery to perhaps two hundred different addresses using Createspace. Naturally, there is no royalty on the author’s price.

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  36. Thank you so much Giacomo! This would have to be the most accurate comparison of both the major players I’ve read to date. A job well done for being informative and concise with your article.

    If you were to publish a how-to step-by-step on the entire process, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

    I made a few mistakes with my first book ‘Monique’ which I thankfully won’t repeat after reading this article for my second book Mr 303.

    A job well done.


  37. Dear Giacomo,
    I appreciate your article very much. It has been helpful and because of your advice I have uploaded my novel No Ivory Tower to both Ingram Spark and CreateSpace.
    I have one question: Is it true that we can not put books on pre-order status on CreateSpace?
    Stephen Davenport

  38. Wow, this is an amazingly straight foreword annylisis and comparison of both services. I really appreciate all the work you’ve done to present this in an easy to understand way. Thank you.

  39. Great article. Thanks for the info. I’m writing a short contemporary romance with the intention of self-publishing it. Love the charts you presented on the side by side comparisons!

  40. Giacomo, thanks for an extremely informative post.
    Because I am confident that I can sell at least a thousand copies of my novel (based on selling a little over 2,000 of the prequel) I am considering using a “regular” printer for an initial run of a thousand, and then, switching to a combo of LS and CS – unless sales seem good enough to print another thousand. My thinking is that even with the fulfillment cost, the lower per unit cost of printing a thousand over POD will help the bottom line.
    Am I thinking straight?
    Thanks again for you post

    1. Hi Stephen, yes it’s cheaper and if you have distribution worked out, that may well be the way to go. Are you selling through bookstores, or back of the room sales, or some other way? You can run POD side by side with some of these.

      1. Hello Orna, I’ve noticed you have an advanced experience in this topic.
        I’m a bit confused and it would be so heartwarming at this time to receive any advice.
        With my husband we are working in the design of a photography book and magazine, he is the artist and I’m the researcher and “manager”. But we are just beginners!

        I’ve been reading a lot during the last month to understand the best way to publish, and for a photo book, it works very different as for a text book right? different costs and edition issues, thus terribly changing the parameter at moment to select a service, and during research state, 90% of comments or articles are focus to text book and novels.

        I found this article very useful, because affirms something that I’ve been feeling about CS: is not a friendly tool for photo books, while IS seems to be even cheaper and more versatile with formatting. I’m located in UK and shipping also is an issue. We want to make a business with our products obviously and if the extended version on Amazon does not give us that much, IS seems to be better in that way, more even considering that for Book stores is more convenient.

        Now my main questions. As we are not interested in Kindle, but we also want to sell through Amazon channel, but no through CS (the format and design does not fit with CS printing) is the POD best option? or there is a way of printing by ourselves and send it to some Amazon depository for they can sell online our books? (maybe a very innocent question).

        On the other hand, IS also sells through Amazon, but just in Kindle version right? I mean no physical book for delivery. Thus if we want to sell online through IS how this can be done? or through which channel IS is connected to sell online, but physical books?

        Hope this can be understood! I’ve tried to find this answer so hard to understand sometimes!

        My best wishes to all!

    2. Hi Stephen. I’ve considered exactly the same, but found fulfillment costs and shipping ate up nearly all my profits. Can you tell me what you have found out and what you decided to do? Thanks much.

  41. Jim thank you for your great analysis. One question, if you are still listening… When you say use both CS and Ingram Spark, do you mean for the same book? Or do you mean use them alternately depending on your goals for a particular book? I have looked through the comments and could not find this question…

  42. GREAT information but I still have a few questions. My first book was printed through Thomson Shor and I sent them to Amazon through their Amazon Advantage program. Books were high quality and Thomson was a pleasure to work with.My second book will be going to press in the next few months and am considering all my options for that book (will also be doing an ebook for my first book).

    With Amazon Advantage (which no one even mentions here) I get a higher royalty per book although I do have to pay shipping costs. My book sales were back-of-room when I spoke and on Amazon. I am trying to figure out what to do with Book #2 (and #3 which will follow on its heels)? Do I keep Amazon Advantage in the mix?

    Also my printer (Thomson Shor) will do the ebook layout for me. I looked at Smashwords but holy heck it looks confusing. I also have photos in this book…not sure how that impacts layout.


  43. My question applies to both, Create Space and Ingram. What assurance does a self published author have that the accounting of books sold and distributed by either company is accurate? More specifically, how does a self published author monitor what books either company has actually sold, especially to bookstores in foreign countries?

  44. Giacomo,
    This was incredibly helpful. Thank you so much for taking the time. I also wanted to use CS for the “pros” you’ve listed. Unfortunately, I could not make it past their automated system. We (my layout professional and I) kept getting errors and could not find a solution. I gave up but opened accounts with Lulu and LS. Any thoughts on Lulu?

    Thanks again!

    Aaron McDonald

  45. Hello,
    Question? I own my own ISBNs and I understand that CS will be the printer and put the book on amazon as both as an ebook and as hard copy. But if I want to be on IS for everything else, does IS also print the same book themselves, or do they order it from CS? And if CS is affiliated with amazon, which is where people order books, what else would IS have to offer beyond that?

    Any help would be sincerely appreciated

    1. CS is the printer and use Amazon KDP for the ebook. IS does indeed print their own and can distribute your print and ebook everywhere else (they are an expensive option for ebook distribution) The Ingram catalogue is used by bookstores and other retail outlets beyond Amazon

      1. Would it be possible for you to write an article regarding how one self-publishes using both CS and IS? I am very confused about how one uses both services simultaneously for the same book. Or does such an article exist already? I am preparing to self publish my first book–a coloring book for adults. Thank you so much for this article and your help.

  46. Great post! I use CreateSpace for my softcovver and e-versions. CreateSpace goes through Ingram???? I thought they didn’t, and I thought that the reasons libraries were excluded from the expanded distribution.

    My current thoughts are to use IngramSpark to create a hardcover version; I still have ISBNs. I’d have to get the back cover redone, though, correct, that shows the bar code?

    Then libraries could order my book through Spark – and in hardcover, which they often prefer.

    Correct? (On another topic, any idea why CS won’t distribute to libraries when you have your own ISBN?)

  47. I’ve tried to use IngramSpark. I can’t get through the registration process. I sent three emails last week, no response. Tried again to register the book today, no luck. 45 minutes on hold, no answer. Warning: stay away

    1. Patricia, which country are you in? There are different numbers for different territories. We find them very responsive and helpful, but have had the odd hiccup when someone tried the wrong phone number for their country.

  48. Thanks for this very informative article! I’m considering plan B myself, and lean towards starting out on CS (without EDC), as you suggest, and then to expand to LS a little later. There are two questions I have difficulty finding a clear answer to though: 1. I read somewhere that you should start printing/distributing with LS and ony then move to CS, because LS rejects ISBNs already registered with Amazon. This was in a post from 2011, and I’m not sure if it (still) holds true. Do you have any further info on this? 2. I’m confused as to trim sizes: which ones are compatible with both CS and LS? THat is, I’d like to design my books (trade paperbacks) so that they can be printed and shipped by both companies without problem, but I haven’t been able to find a comparitive chart or other tool that might help me confirm which formats are indeed compatible. Any help will be much appreciated!

  49. Hello, I’ve got a magazine called the Ghastling which I set up over a year ago. Its been going well distributed by Createspace. But I’m about to embark on a Kickstarter campaign so that I can raise some money to keep going but as a uk based distributor, it does not print my author copies here but in the US with an estimated delivery time of two months – which is absurd! since my customers based in the uk can buy the mag and its printed and shipped from here (or whichever country they live!) within about 3 days. I am currently faced with a massive distribution dilemma when it comes to fulfilling my reward copies for my Kickstarter campaign… any hints? I am looking at doing a one off print run with lulu or lightening source. Any other suggestions to get around this time pressured situation? Thankful to have stumbled across this post!

  50. Wonderfully informative article!

    I was hoping someone could shed some light on the logistics of the two-pronged approach (using both CS and LS/IS). I have seen some chatter over the years that uploading a book to one company would cause the other to reject the book; citing “duplicate ISBNs”.

    I am in the process of publishing my third novel and wanted to add LS/IS as an avenue for sales (previously, I have used Createspace exclusively). I always use my own ISBNs, but I have read reports of that not helping alleviate the issue of trying to upload to both. Some say the trick is to go with LS/IS first, then Createspace, others say the opposite. Is there any credence to this?

    I understand not enabling Expanded Distribution with CS is a must, but is there a trick to the order of who to use first?

    Thanks for any advice!


    1. James, congrats on your sales! May I ask how you marketed your book and got it circulating so quickly?? I appreciate it. Have a great day. Pat

  51. Thanks for this valuable blog post. Since it’s a year since this was written, there are updates regarding Ingram. They now offer a 30% discount, which is a big. For UK, Europe, and Australia, the lowest is 35%, but elsewhere, you can do 30%. That’s money in our pockets.

    And regarding Ingram’s set-up fee, if you order 50+ copies of your book within 60 days of set-up, they’ll waive that fee. (This may be a ‘special,’ but they told me it’s almost always available.)

    Regarding the frustration and wait-time people may experience in dealing with LSI and Ingram, I too have gotten peeved. But I’m more sympathetic now to their workers, who field an onslaught of questions all day everyday, regarding every possible angle of self-publishing from the greenest newbie to the 20-book authors. They don’t always know the answer to our zillion issues. We the callers assume they know everything, but they’re learning the new self-publishing paradigm just as we are, plus they’re dealing with overwhelmed author-preneurs all day, many of whom aren’t even customers yet. Being kind and easy-going is the best way to get good service; they’re actually nice, interested in publishing, and want to help us, but they have a TOUGH job.

    Regarding Ingram/LSI quality—I think they do a pretty good job on the the books, but the quality control is less perfect. After several screwed-up copies came to my attention (each with different problems), I was finally told, by someone in the know over there, that the rate of imperfection is 3%, and that is the industry standard. So expect that 3 books out of every 100 may not measure up. So be it. Ingram/LSI will reconcile their mistakes if you let them know. (Now that we know, that’s the breaks.)

    Meanwhile, I have two questions, if anyone’s still out there reading this. One, if I use CS for POD through Amazon, will those books carry a CS imprint? Despite my own publishing company? (I personally don’t want any branding other than my own.)

    Two, now that I’m a couple of books into this indie thing, and do everything myself, including cover design and wrangling with templates, do the advantages of using both CS and Ingram justify having yet another thing to keep track of? With multiple books and ebooks, marketing, etc., etc., it seems that streamlining things is the only way to stay sane (if one was sane to begin with). Keeping as much as possible under one umbrella seems one way to do this. No?

    Answers, anyone?

    1. Hi Wendy

      Thank you so much for that thoughtful and informative update. We will have a new edition of our “Choosing a Self-Publishing Service” book coming out soon which will address the points you mention. And yes, great call about the psychology of dealing with the IS helpline! I’ve always found them very pleasant to deal with too.

      Re your question about imprints – to publish your book on CS using your own imprint, you need to use your own ISBN. When you buy your own ISBNs, you set the imprint – e.g. my own is Hawkesbury Press, and I also put a logo on the back cover to clarify this. However, any book printed by Amazon, no matter what imprint it’s under, will way in tiny print on the last page “Printed by Amazon” – which is technically correct, because you are the publisher, if using your own ISBN, but they are still printing it.

      The biggest advantage of using both IS and CS is that you will never get an “out of stock” message on Amazon, which you can do if printing only via IS. This can be very offputting to potential purchasers, especially when it adds a vague message such as “should be available in next 6-8 weeks”!! Make sure you use the same ISBN for both the CS and the IS edition, and don’t check the “extended distribution” box on CS, and your life should still be relatively simple! It is technically the same book, just issued through different print processes. Only if the books are different e.g. different covers, different page count, different content, do you need to make them separate editions with different ISBNs.

      This may all sound very complicated, but it gets easier once you’ve been through the process a few times, honest!

      Best wishes


      1. Thanks so much for your response, Debbie. No, it doesn’t sound too complicated, and yes, I do have my own ISBNs. Yes, too, my current book on Amazon states, “takes 1-4 weeks to ship.” (It has only recently posted that—too annoying for words.) It practically forces me to use CS—their whole point, I suppose.

        Ingram, btw, only puts “printed in the USA” on that last page of one’s book, and in tiny lettering. I guess the fine-tuning of the process goes on forever… Thanks for all you do.

    2. Just get a Universal ISBN from CS or one from Bowkers, so your company can publish or distribute anywhere, any time, worldwide. The Universal ISBN from CS is the same as getting it from Bowkers (you say who is publisher (imprint), you, your company or FBN); only difference is the CS comes at a discount of $26.00; the Universal ISBN from CS is $99, Bowker’s is $125, so use whichever one you plan to publish with first.

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  53. I know for fact that IngramSpark is by far the WORSE company that i have ever worked with in any area. As for the book business, I have published through B&N, CreateSpace, Amazon, Smashword and Apple, and Ingram is at the bottom, and then is B&N, but B&N Nooks don’t charge $50.

    In IngramSpark the staff and managers not only are not doing their job right, but they have extremely rude employees, from Linda who take the calls to Lindsay and Craig their managers are cold, insolent and careless. Never mind try to help. All they do is to overcharge $50 here $50 there, and have the MOST complex requirement for paperback and do not expect them to help you, no they only charge, for a very poor service that BTW they don’t even deliver. They are not even capable to unpublished a title.

    I have asked them for the past four months to remove one of my title and the hard cover is still on sale in Amazon, i have sent three emails and nobody even answer in three weeks. I call their phone never answer. It is the absolute disaster and a true discredit to the publishing industry.

  54. Is there any confusion caused by doing expanded distribution both through Ingram and CreateSpace? Is it preferable to do just Ingram for expanded, and CreateSpace for the Amazon Channels?

    If anyone has advice for this, much appreciated!

    1. Expanded distribution through Ingram, Createspace for the Amazon ecosystem. If you tick expanded in Createspace, you cannot use Ingram (CS use Ingram themselves for expanded distribution)

  55. The problem I have had, and continue to have, with CreateSpace is the horrific quality problems. I might order one book and it will be perfect. But the next one will be so completely horrible that only someone with no eyes and no ethics would charge money and send it on to a customer. I have no control over this and have no idea how many customers are getting good vs bad products. Since this is not a new problem and it is obvious to me that Create Space either does not care to or is not able to actually provide a reasonably reliable product, I have no choice but to consider dropping them. That’s to bad because I would prefer to use the combined CS and Spark model. I can’t ask my customers to pay money when I know that some of them will be buying crap despite my best efforts.

  56. Thanks for finally talkng about >What’s the Beest Print service ffor Indie Authors?

    | Self-Publishing Advice for Writers <Loved it!

  57. I first started POD with Lulu and for several years was happy with the results. I then kept seeing my books on Amazon from re-sellers at vastly inflated prices, so loaded them onto CreateSpace in order to stop this. I also started using Google AdWords. My sales doubled overnight. Amazon is where most people go to look for books and whatever their discount, you have to swallow it, factor it into your pricing, and wait for sales. I also use LS and so far, sales have been very slow. Also, their sales reports are IMPOSSIBLE to follow.

  58. Thank you for your great info. Here’s my situation: My book has been on Amazon for 2 years. I didn’t go with ED and am now working on also putting my book on IS. I own my own ISBN’s. Is there any harm with using a different ISBN with IS? I read somewhere where it’s advantageous to do this so I’ve already bought a new bar code that has the new ISBN number on it. The article mentioned that it will help keep the royalties separate?? Reading through your thread you mentioned going with the same ISBN. As mentioned I’ve paid for the new bar code and will be paying to have the book cover changed so I hope it’s okay to do this! Do you mind explaining any advantages and disadvantages to doing this. Thank you so much!! Gary

    Also.. I assume the publishing date remains the same?? Thanks again!

    1. You cannot assign two different ISBN’s to the same TITLE VERSION (format); also, once an ISBN has been assigned, it cannot be re-assigned. To take the same TITLE VERSION to IS or LS, you can update the version; include new chapters or alternate ending, or perhaps a commentary to the front end; then you can assign a new ISBN to that updated version.

      Both versions will get listed in the ISBN databases and the updated version must say it is updated or enhanced to distinguish it from the original version (same format).

  59. Hi I have read your posting we like it very much. It is very informative and nice posting. We are also work in color printing business at Las Vegas. Welcome you to visit our website…… Thanks for great information.

  60. In your “Let’s Take a Little Page Time to Review the Basics” paragraph, you state ” the following examples are for you.” There were no “following” examples. Didn’t you mean “preceding” examples instead?

  61. Great discussion folks!

    Giacomo, if I could ask a questions? I am rather new at self-publishing? If I want my book to go everywhere without limitations, should I simply buy my ISBN from Bowker’s. I want to be stocked on retail shelves and distributed through all the eBook providers. I don’t want my ISBN to create limitations.

    It appears that I can upload my manuscript to various self-publishing services (CS or Ingram) for printing and distribution.

    Can you clarify for a newbie?


    1. Hello Les, I’m afraid Jim is unwell at the moment but yes, ALLi advice is to purchase your own ISBN, which makes you the publisher of record for your book and able to distribute on all platforms.

      1. Thank you Orna, I guess Bowker is the place to purchase that huh? I see $125 for 1 ISBN. Is there a better price anywhere?

        Tell Jim I hope he feels better.


        1. Yes if you’re in the US, Bowker is the place to go. And if you intend to publish more than one book, you might be better to purchase ten. It’s not cheap, I know. (In France and other countries, ISBNs are issued free but in UK and US, it’s a business. Good luck with your book, let us know how it goes.

          1. Oops, sorry, one last question. Am I right in thinking that I will need an ISBN for print, a different ISBN for MOBI, and yet another for epub, etc… for the same version of my book? A different ISBN for the same book, yet different publication formats Orna.

            Or can I use the same ISBN for different publication formats … hope I am phrasing this correctly.


            1. One for print, one for ebook, one for audio should suffice. Though opinions differ on this and if you want to be ‘by the book’ as recommended by Bowker, you might do one for each format. Having said that, Bowker sells the ISBNs … so…

              1. Thank you Orna, that is helpful. So at least two (print and ebook), which makes buying a batch of 10 ISBN’s sensible if I plan to create any other works.

                I guess the key is for me to be the “inprint”, if I am saying that correctly. Which avoids royalties being permanently linked to say CS or even LS. In the long run, I pay for printing and distribution services? It seems that CS, if they are the original producer of the ISBN, will have an influence on cost due to their mark-up, no matter where I try to distribute the book.


        2. CS sells universal ISBN for $99, same as Bowker’s ISBN for $125, but $26 discount; only you have to do CS space first to purchase the discounted ISBN.

  62. The way I rate a vender is by what they do when things don’t go according to script. I went with Ingram Spark because their color results were the best I could find for POD. I knew from the stsrt that their “customer service” was poor, but since Create Space’s wasn’t any better, and color reproduction was key Ingram Spark won by default.
    The test book I ordered was fine, as was the second order of ten books. So I ordered 50 books and got TWO that were trimmed correctly. Did Ingram Spark say “how can we take care of this?” Nope, it was fill out the form and we’ll get back to you. Meanwhile I have orders to fill, an upcomming event in 10 days and had planned on visiting a distributor to show the book and hopefully make a deal.
    This afternoon I went to the bank to see about a loan so I can put the book on a real press, get better quality, a lower unit cost, and not have to double as Ingram Spark’s non-existant Quality Control unit.

  63. Use BOTH IngramSpark and CreateSpace – what an awesome solution.

    Do i need separate ISBNs for the the ebook and the print version or for the different distributers ?


    1. You need one ISBN for the ebook and another for the print book – but use the same ISBN for the print books at both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark, to avoid out-of-stock messages on the Amazon site.

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  66. @ Victor, that is a good question, I also want to know that. Who pays the shipment? The bookstore or Ingram? Or maybe we have to pay! Giacome are you sure that the author doesn’t have to pay for the shipment? Hope we can get answere for that!!!!

  67. Great article Giacomo.

    I’ve been using Lightining source so far and just recently used CS for my paperback as well. I must say that all claims of better quality on lightning source seem to be missing something. Specifically with my book – Dancing The Digital Tune – I noticed these issues with Lightning source which prompted me to go to CreateSpace. And CreateSpace doesn’t have these issues:

    Issues with Lightning Source:

    1. The title printed on the spine is not centered. It runs off the spine so appears cut off. Some books are ok, some are not. So its a consistency issue. CreateSpace is always right in the center. This is a big problem that sends a negative impression immediately.

    2. The printing is not uniform. Some pages have darker print, some light, some appear dark and smudged. Createspace is a little lighter but at least the printing is uniform throughout the book.

    3. The images (I used basic sketch diagrams to illustrate my point throughout the book) are printed much cleaner by CreateSpace. Lightning source is sometimes darker, sometimes a little smudged etc.

    4. The cover and back pages are printed much brighter and crisper by Createspace. You can visibly see that the color comes out better in the Createspace copy.

    5. I saw no difference in the page quality. Both seem to be the same weight but I’m not an expert here.

    6. I wrote to Lightning Spark a couple of times and they don’t respond. They take forever to pick up the call so I never get through.

    I’m deciding to go with CreateSpace for my paperback. I don’t expect to sell too many copies outside of Amazon.

    If you have any insights for me, I’ll sincerely appreciate it. I can post pictures of the 2 copies I received from both printers.


    Dancing The Digital Tune – The 5 Principles of Competing in a Digital World.

  68. Very nice article. My choice is CS for Black and White books and Spark for colored once.

    Anyone interested to publish a book and earn a royalty of 30% with INKSTALL Publishers (

    For more details please contact us at: [email protected]

  69. Thank you for the information but I am still not clear on two points:

    1. When you state the costs of a book does that include shipping costs? In other words is the net royalty you state really net – after shipping costs. I mean shipping to buyers.

    2. If I have CS without expanded distribution and CS – who ships to Canada? Does IS have printing facilities in Canada?


  70. Thanks so much for your wonderful post. I have 11 children’s picture books written and the illustration will be done over the summer by my partner.

    I had already decided to go with IS but now am considering CS. I’ve read all the comments, but I think I’m a little more confused (after all the comment questions).

    So would this be the correct plan of action for maximum royalty, online visibility & distribution?

    1- Buy by own ISBNs.
    2- Upload to CS using my own ISBN for paperback version. Opt out of Expanded distribution since that will be taken care of by IS.
    3- Check for errors and how it looks (since it’s an illustrated book).
    5. If happy with book, upload to IS. Use same ISBN for same paperback version. New ISBN for hardcover version (since IS only does this, CS doesn’t do hardcover). Select Expanded Distribution.
    6. Use KDP Kids for Amazon to upload ePub (gosh this is a lot of work!). Avoid KDP Select.
    7. Since I don’t like the royalties from IS for ebooks, I’m planning on individually uploading to iTunes, B&N, and Kobo.

    Am I correct? Or am I screwing up somewhere?


  71. Do you recommend distributing through Taylor & Baker as well as CS and IngramSpark? Taylor & Baker seem to focus more on academic institutions and library’s

  72. Although I’ve found the staff at IngramSpark to be very polite I think something is quite wrong with the way the company is run. I submitted a new title, got it set up in a week, which is fine. I then ordered a single proof copy on rush order (1 to 2 day turn around). It’s now 9 days since I received confirmation from IngramSpark that the order was being processed, and it has sat in ‘printing’ status ever since. I emailed and spoke to two staff earlier this week – they both told me this book had been printed and was being shipped that day. Nope, it’s now two days later and the status is still ‘printing’. I asked one to tell me honestly how long my next order of 300 copies would take to be shipped and delivered if I paid for rush service. She said at least two weeks. This is slower than any of their stated options, and also means paying for ‘rush’ is just a gullible tax (which I paid). As I said, the staff are very polite, no problem there, but there’s something wrong with a company offering a service level they clearly don’t deliver on.

  73. We just received our proof from CS for a children’s picture book. We found that the paper used was very very thin. You could see the contents of the next two pages. We called CS and they said that they use an industry standard 60lb paper. I was surprised to hear that the industry standard is so delicately thin, almost transparent. Can anyone describe or confirm this experience?

    I looked around the web and I learned that IS actually uses 50lb paper (I cannot imagine paper being any thinner, without it being tissue paper). Do you think that it was a printing defect? Should I order a replacement batch?

    Please share your recommendations. Perhaps use another self publishing option?


    1. I’d ask for a replacement or sample – it shouldn’t be as thin as you describe. I believe there’s an option to choose thicker/premium paper for a small extra charge. It may be worth it for a picture book if you’re using a lot of dense colour in illustrations that might show through more easily than normal print.

    2. I had a similar problem and found that CS has several “outside” printers they use during times of too many orders coming in. They sent me 150 books printed on thin paper and with some minor graphics problems. I called. They replaced the order–shipped overnight–and told me to dispose of the bad books. I’ve donated most to schools. Of the 4k books I’ve ordered since my THE TREASURE OF NAMAKAGON came out in 2012, CS has botched around 250 and replaced them w/ good copies almost immediately. Great customer service.

  74. This generally applies if you perform services of more than £73, 000 turnover; on a click here rolling annual basis.
    Additionally it is miserable when several stop working.

  75. Hello.

    Well done on a great post. I am considering publishing my paperback through IS and CS. The only issue I have is that I intend to put two pages of images at the end of the book. I am using cream paper, and the images are black and white. I do not need the colour option, but I’m wondering whether the paper is going to be thick enough to support these images (there’ll be a lot of black, and I wonder whether there’ll be too much bleed through to the other side of the page. I can’t get thicker sheets for these two sections… I’ll test this and see, but do you have any thoughts?

  76. Very informative post! This is just what I was looking for, as I have, at this point, two books on Amazon through CS, both in print (on CS and B&N) and ebook ( Amazon Kindle and Nook on B&N), but am considering moving them to LS (through Ingram Spark). I am also, about to finish my third book, but am considering Ingram Spark for it instead of CS, as I have so far been very unhappy with the experience with CS as far as the fact that, as you have clearly pointed out, I will never see my books in brick and mortar book stores such as B&N. It is sad but true, the numbers never lie, and clear to see that as long as CS does not allow the industry standard discount this is not going to change. In reading the posts above as well as what you’ve written, I can see the advantages of going with both CS, and then LS, (or Ingram Spark) for the expanded distribution. With that in mind, what would you advise as to my first two books, as far as either: 1: Removing them from CS completely and getting another ISBN through IS, 2: Leaving them on CS, but removing them from expanded distribution (which, I assume, would still mean getting another ISBN) and putting them on IS for expanded distribution so I can assign the industry standard discount, and hopefully get into the brick and mortar book stores like B&N. Also, with all of this in mind, what is your suggestion as for my third book? My husband, (who has read both of my first two books) and I both have a very good feeling about this next one, and I want the best possible opportunities for it. Thanks again, for your very informative post!

  77. Great post! Thanks for that, I’ve always been a bit confused as to the advantages of using both. One thing I would like to point out in regards to CS, is that when you order books from outside the country you will be charged C.O.D. for customs and delivery charges ON TOP of what you paid for the books and for their shipping costs. I just found that out the hard way. I ordered ten books to restock my supply, only to discover that C.O.D. cost half of what my books were worth. Something to think about. I’m not sure if Ingram does that, but it would be interesting to find out.

  78. Thanks for your intelligent analysis and supportive participation in this conversation, Giacomo. I learned today.

  79. Many thanks for this post. I am thinking of adding to my already existing operations in print, and this explained very clearly the differences between the major POD players. I am considering dropping the colour illustrations from one of my books and using another of my ISBNs to put out a less artsy edition on Createspace for (primarily) the US market.

  80. I’ve read your post (AWESOME!) and all the posts. I still have a question (or two…or three…) I wrote and self-published a book back in Nov. 2010. Formed my own publishing company (bought ISBNs, hired editors/copy editors/ layout people/ graphic artist, printer etc.). Been buying books 1,000 at a time and storing them in my garage. I’m at a point where I want to make some minor changes to the book (cover and a wee bit inside). Do I go back to my layout person to have the changes done and then provide Ingram and CS with the .pdfs they provide (I have a lot of side bars, etc in my book). Can you make minor changes without having to get a new ISBN? or does it have to be changed to a revised/second edition with a new ISBN? Does it matter which order I sign up for CS or IS? Also, I want to do an ebook ~ do they both do that and, if so, which would you recommend? THANK YOU!

    1. Patti: Congrats on the achievements. As to your file–yes, make the changes and then you will have to upload the new pdf. Make sure the pdf adheres to each of the company’s templates. Also, IngramSpark has a few special requirements that need to be addressed. If you use someone familiar with those companies they should have no problem.

      As to the ISBN, if the changes you’re making don’t make a big difference in the book, you don’t need a new ISBN.

      As to the order of signing up, it doesn’t matter, just make sure you “do not” opt into CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution program. So, use CreateSpace for Amazon and for Amazon Europe, but not the expanded program.

      as to your ebook, a lot depends on the price and your strategy. If you are going to be priced over $10, IngramSpark has some advantages, below $10, and there are better choices. CreateSpace doesn’t do eBooks but being owned by Amazon, they can smoothly transition you to setting up a Kindle title.

      Let me know if you need anything else.

  81. What neither company provides is an easy ecommerce solution for selling books on YOUR website and SEAMLESSLY* having the transaction, printing and delivery all taken care of while you get the transaction and customer information, plus money in the bank.

    If, for example, a Createspace purchase by the author costs $3.00 including delivery, the ecommerce option, including transaction costs, printing and US delivery to the customer, could cost $6.00 and work well for everyone.

    Sellers should be able to add a bit of code, similar to adding a PayPal or Amazon Payments selling button, and the rest should work beautifully.

    1. Mark: CreateSpace has a ‘store’ you can direct customers to, but you won’t get the customer information. You can also use services like Selz (a great one) to set up your own store on your site and gather customer names and emails. Also watch for a possible offering similar to this by IngramSpark, this year.

  82. I tried to set up an account with Ingram Spark, but couldn’t get past the payment information as the asked for a password on my PayPal account which I don’t have. I emailed asking for help but they didn’t reply. Your advice would be most appreciated.

  83. I had recently decided to go with Ingramspark – based largely on much of the info I’ve been reading on boards such as this (thank you!).

    One caveat about IS that I am learning the hard way is this: their customer support is horrible, especially when compared to CS.

    I’ve been experiencing an odd issue where I cannot do two critical things on IS: The first is to opt out of Amazon Kindle and Apple iBooks distribution for my eBook. I would prefer to go through these services on my own – but there is no way to hold back distribution to these two platforms via their web portal UI; The second is that for some odd reason, I’m unable to update the Title Metadata for my books on IS. This is annoying, as the metadata updates temporarily – but then reverts back to the old metadata after the title is “In Premedia.”

    Both of these issues would be excusable – especially given IS’ distribution and accessibility in the market. The problem is that their customer support is horrendous. I’m being totally ignored – and not receiving any support even after having reached out to them days ago (no less between the 24-48 hour window during which they say they will respond).

    This has left me with two copies of my book available for pre-sale on Amazon; and unable to update the metadata and files for my titles so that I can hit my pre-sale date, which is next week.

    All in all, IS has been a pretty poor experience. I’ve since set up my book at CS (though I’d prefer the quality of IS) to hedge against IS never responding to my critical help requests.

    1. Raffi, which country are you based in? It may be that you need a different number/email address. My own experience of IS support has been terrific, but I heard of someone the other day who had inadvertently been trying the wrong contact for their geographical territory (I think they were i Australasia and trying the UK number, so were only ever calling when the office would be shut overnight).

    2. Raffi: I’m curious about the customer support issue also. Did you try calling them? What was the result? Also, out of curiosity, why did you choose to use IS for ebooks? I think their ebook distribution offers some advantages for “Some” people, but not for all. What was your reason, if I might ask?

  84. Hi Giacomo,
    Thanks for the comment. Price makes the IS Premium out of the question.

    For a 216page 6×9 book the relative rates for ‘print-cost’ ex the USA are:
    IS standard 6.73
    IS premium 20.44
    CS colour-bleed 15.97

    Given your comments about the relative colour-quality of IS standard vs CS, using CS is only useful to get into the Amazon network.

    I will let you know how I get on with IS standard regarding quality.

    And… regarding IS print-location:
    print-usa and print-uk very similar
    print-australia c50% more expensive than usa or uk

    John McKinnon

    1. John: I’ve just heard from another author that they felt the CS was better than IS Standard, but not as good as Premium. You are probably better off getting samples and deciding yourself.

  85. Hi Giacomo,
    Like others, I appreciate your continuing advise.

    I have a graphics-heavy (travel-related) book. It seems that IS are likely to have better colour reproduction that CS…but… IS offers 2 x types of colour, ‘Standard’ and ‘Premium’. Using Premium has a significant cost disadvantage.

    In your view, is the reproduction quality of IS-Standard better than CS-colour?
    And, is it better to submit first to IS or to CS?

    John McKinnon

    1. John: I’m not an expert on color printing, but from the feedback I’ve gotten, here’s what I’ve learned.

      IS Standard is equal or better than CS color.
      IS Premium is far superior.

      Some people were satisfied with Standard and others wanted the Premium — cost be damned.

      You might ask for samples through Ingram’s customer service line. And let me know what you find out. I like to keep tabs.

  86. P.S. Also, Giacomo, do you go to print FIRST with IS or with CS and THEN to to the other? Which is first? Where do you start and how do you go to the second? Thank you!

    1. Joseph: Yes, you should be able to submit your book from overseas. ISBNs are licensed from various countries, but are for international use.

      As to the order of business, you can go with either one first. I suggest going with CreateSpace first, in case you have mistakes that show up. CreateSpace doesn’t charge for changes, but IngramSpark does. So work out any potential issues using CreateSpace and then go to IngramSpark.

      1. Thank you for the terrific and comprehensive info. I apologize because I suspect I am being a little dense, but trying to understand how you use both CS and IS? You recommended publishing first on CS. I assume i need to select NO extended distribution on CS so the book is available only through Amazon. And what ISBN option do I need to choose? And then I would set up the book also on IS with the same ISBN and that would be used for all the IS distribution channels?

        Finally, assuming I’ve selected a trim size that works for CS and IS, will my pdf for CS work for IS without any formatting or other changes required?

        Thanks in advance for your assistance. I am currently with a small, independent publisher and considering moving to self publishing, so trying to assess options.

  87. Giacomo,
    Thank you for your very informative article!
    A question for you:
    Does CS and IS accept publishers from overseas, from a European country, for instance? If we have an ISBN from another country (abroad) and are not a company registered in the U.S., can we publish with them?
    You had mentioned above that Raymond needs a ISBN from Nigeria (his home country), but I have been told that you can’t do business with them (the U.S. companies) if you are not a registered, sole proprietorship in the U.S.A. Are all indies sole proprietors?
    Thank you.

  88. Giacomo Giammatteo – I also extend my thanks for this great review. These are the two companies I am now looking at due to my dissatisfaction with my present self-publisher. My question is in regards to reports. I have discovered some inconsistencies with sales results with the company I’m presently with (under reporting and less than satisfactory accounting practices) and now that I’ve finished my 2nd book am sensitive to this area. Have you heard of sales reports complaints for either IngramSpark or CreateSpace?

    1. Al: If you search far and wide, you will find a post now and then that has questioned the reporting of sales. If memory serves me I remember two about CreateSpace, but I read those posts, and came away with no question. The person posting simply didn’t understand about delays in reporting sales at times. Amazon owns CreateSpace and there is no reason to doubt they will report all sales. The same goes for Ingram the largest distributor of books in the world. neither of those companies need a few extra sales from us.

  89. Please forgive this question if it seems obvious or simple – but did you mean that you used both services for the same book? Or both services at different times?

      1. Please clarify, in uploading to both CS and IS, which functions each would perform. Are you talking about distribution options? Specifically, which for CS and which for IS? Is there overlap?

  90. Ingram Spark is the best I’ve found for my nude art photo books. The Createspace quality is too low for a book of color photographs. Lulu does as good a job, but at a higher per-unit price.

    Note that if you change both cover and interior (for example, to tweak color) you will pay $50 (essentially a new setup charge). Because it only take a time or two to get my files correct, need quality, and printing in volume, IS is the way to go.

    1. Hi,

      For your photography books what paper option do you use? I have a book that has many high res photos and I am trying to figure out which option to use. Stardard 70 or premium with IS. have you used either of these options for your photo book?
      A response would be very helpful to me!

    2. Update: for my fine art nude photobooks, I now use Mixam. The reject rate is high, 20%-30% so I have to inspect every book. But they have 100# glossy paper and superb print quality that puts Ingram Spark to shame.

  91. Hello everyone, just wanted to let everyone know here that LULU has removed now the content protection from their ebooks and has a clear feature under each book that says now: PRINTABLE: YES. This means that anyone who buys your ebook can use instant printing and make as many copies of the book as they wish 🙂 No different from making a pdf file, and selling it on your OWN website, making at least 100% of revenue and not paying lulu…what for by the way? U better off promoting your book to your own website in pdf….right? what do you guys think?

  92. Hi Giacomo,
    I currently have my book with IngramSpark at 55% with my own ISBN number. If I go in and upload the same book in Createspace, how do switch to supplying Amazon with the Createspace book rather than the IngramSpark book? The answer to this would be HUGE for me. Thanks so much! Great post 🙂

    1. LG: you use the same ISBN for CreateSpace. Once it goes through their system, almost surely, Amazon will pick it up from CreateSpace and not from IngramSpark. You are, in effect, providing the same discount to Amazon because although CreateSpace lists the Amazon distribution as a 40% discount, that’s all Amazon receives from IngramSpark because they keep a percentage as the distributor. It should all be automatic and no problem.

  93. Hello Giacomo, this is just what I needed today–and I’ve read the post and replies, but didn’t see this question: My book, a YA novel, has potential with libraries both public and school. I published with CreateSpace–I’m a veteran with CS but have published nonfiction in the past, and used Quality Books as a book jobber. I always use my own isbn and quite dislike that CS doesn’t provide library distrib if I don’t use one of theirs. I’m hesitant to cancel my global distrib with CS and sign up with LS only to find they won’t do library distrib without my using theirs also. Will I end up with library distrib (and easy access to industry discount) if I go with LS as well?
    This is a great service you’re providing here–we did a “soft open” but I’m shipped review copies to School Library Journal and Library Journal tomorrow–and I need to know this pronto!
    Thanks so much,

    Janie McQueen

    1. Janie: If you have already signed up for CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution, you will likely have an ISBN issue, since CreateSpace uses Ingram to distribute. You have two options:

      1. Remove the book from CreateSpace Expanded Distribution and see if you can talk to them about being able to remove it from Ingram’s database, because it will be listed as an ISBN from them. You might have to pester the hell out of them to accomplish this.

      2. Use a new ISBN with Ingram.

      In either case, you won’t have the issue with Ingram, and they distribute to tens of thousands of libraries. feel free to email me if you have more questions: watchdog at giacomog dot com

      1. Thanks. I asked a similar question upthread and now I understand the situation of getting another ISBN after already publishing with CS. It truly was not clear – just saying that it registers with Ingram didn’t cover opting out of CE ED + having to pester CS to remove it from Ingram database. So anyway, you don’t have to answer the two questions upthread! I’m so grateful to you for this article, for the comparisons, and for answering all these questions! Mwah!!

      2. Getting a cheap ISBN from CS and later asking them to remove their listing from Ingram’s database, won’t solve the ISBN problem even if it is removed. Ingram might not catch the problem and let you list it directly with Ingram, but you won’t be able to change the “publisher” on record for that title and it will mess up your orders, as it will continue to list “CS” as the publisher and stores will place an order and will try ordering from CS, well now do you see the problem? Even if Ingram changes publisher in listing, the title version in all other ISBN databases will list the original CS ISBN.

        These database exist so buyer know who to order your title from.

        Once an ISBN has been assigned to any TITLE VERSION, that ISBN can never be re-assigned and no TITLE VERSION can ever have TWO SAME TITLE VERSIONS, can have two or more DIFFERENT ISBNs.

        You must create an updated version to solve the ISBN problem; simply create an “enhanced version” of your TITLE VERSION by adding chapters or alternate ending and getting a new ISBN for the updated version. I am not talking different version (soft cover print vs. ebook); I am talking same version type (org. Hard cover vs. updated Hard cover.)

        To assign a new ISBN to a same version type of your title, you must make the new updated version distinguishable from the original version.

        Or, avoid the problem in the first place, by getting an UNIVERSAL ISBN, either from CS for $99 or from Bowkers for $125; same thing, CS is discounted by $26.

        You can use your UNIVERSAL ISBN, anywhere, any time, worldwide.

        1. correction:

          Once an ISBN has been assigned to any TITLE VERSION, that ISBN can never be re-assigned and no TITLE VERSION can ever have two or more DIFFERENT ISBNs.

    2. Hi,
      CS does offer the Universal ISBN for $99, which is the same as going to Bowker’s and getting it for $125; the Universal ISBN can be assigned to your TITLE VERSION (one ISBN for each version: hard cover, soft cover, ebook, enhanced version of any type…) and used WORLDWIDE.

      So, if you normally purchase your own ISBN directly, you can do it the same as always by getting the UNIVERSAL ISBN via CS, and you’ll be getting a $26 discount over getting at Bowkers.

      The CS Universal ISBN is the same – you assign the publisher name and you can use it anywhere, worldwide for the assigned title version.

  94. Great post! I am a Self-Publishing Consultant and have plan to start offering distribution through Ingram Spark in my Self-Publishing Packages to my clients in 2015. This helps to bring even more clarity to it for me and I like the suggestion of utilizing both IS and CS. Thanks so much!!!

  95. I am the managing editor of a small press based in Seattle. We use Lightning Source exclusively and are happy with them. We also release everything at the trade rate. But beyond all of that, I want to comment on this article.

    The author of this article obviously has done his research. This is absolutely the most comprehensive piece I have ever seen done on the different options available. My kudos to the author. Giacomo lays out the facts in an easy-to-understand manner, his facts are solid, and anyone considering the self-publishing route should print this article and post it on the wall next to their computer.

    Sincerely yours,
    Robert Blevins

  96. Thanks for this great comparison!

    I have a question for you. Since it’s cheaper to do color with Ingram I was figuring to do my book with more color pics. However, I’m afraid of ” not in stock” notices showing up on Amazon that was mentioned in an earlier post. Is this a common problem?

  97. Thanks so much Gaicomo. I must confess that you are awesome and most kind. When I get the ISBN I can then publish with IS nd CS.

  98. […] Establish your Print-on-Demand (POD) and eBook accounts — This is a great time to set up your accounts with Amazon’s CreateSpace, Ingram’s IngramSpark, and Barnes & Noble’s NookPress. I know there are lots of other self-publishing platforms out there, but those are the three big ones. And in fact, I’ll probably only be publishing via CreateSpace and IngramSpark. I plan to use CreateSpace only for selling books via and IngramSpark for everything else. Here’s a great article that makes the case for why and how you should use those two services together. […]

  99. I need some clarification here. I only have one title. I want 200 copies printed and sent to my home.

    I do NOT want my book posted on Ingram, Amazon, etc.

    Will Lighting Source just print my books and send them to me? In other words, I want complete sole control over all distribution (as crazy as that might sound).

    Can someone help explain. Also, if Lightning source won’t do this, who can I go to. I have looked around and many places want to charge all these publishing packages and inflated prices. I already have my people who can do these “extra” things.

    Again, I just want my books printed and sent to me.


    1. Vince: Yes, you can use LS for this purpose. When you set up your titles, they will ask if you want to distribute or use “Publisher Direct” or possibly “Short Run” only. You want to choose the Publisher Direct (It might say short run). This way, you don’t even have to have them sent to your home.

      If someone places an order through you, or you want to ship ten books to a store or library, you simply fill out the shipping information at LS and they will ship for you, with no invoices or labels to indicate it is sold by Ingram, it is transparent. Their shipping is excellent, especially internationally, and they charge a 1.50 handling fee per “Order” not per book. So it is 1.50 for 1 or 100 books. plus shipping.

  100. Thanks giacomo, but pls let me be an “oliver twist” still. Okay am getting my own ISBN guess u already made dat clear enof.

    My problem now however is how to purchase the ISBN over there in the US. I tried checking out boker but there is a space in the form where am supposed to fill in my COMPANY NAME and am wondering – what! am just an author not some publishing firm? Pls hw am I supposed to deal past that hurdle? And am hoping boker is gonna accept my Nigerian bank MASTER CARD or do I just set up a paypal account?
    Thanks a million.

  101. Hello Gaicomo,
    I am still confused about the ISBN. Do you mean if one buys Ingram’s, it can be used for CS? I plan using CS for Amazon and IS for expanded distribution. So am thinking if I buy IS ISBN can I use it for both? If I choose however to buy my own in Nigeria can I use it to publish with IS and CS.
    Thanks, Raymond.

  102. Thank you for the great post. As a children’s book writer with over 300 titles (they’re short; 15-minute stories so kids can do their 15 minutes of reading a day) I was looking at combining several books together to make it worth the price of doing POD. Unfortunately, children’s paperbacks tend to be priced under $5 for the first to sixth grade market. From your post, it looks like it will be hard to make this pay anything, even if I only use black and white and try to keep the page numbers down. Do you have any suggestions?

    1. Caitlind, it depends on what your plans are for distribution. If you are trying to get them into bookstores through a distributor that will certainly make it difficult due to the discounts needed. Offset printing is always an option but that requires a good deal of upfront money and storage of the books. However, depending on the page count of your books, it can still work out. If you have a book of about 50 pages and it’s black and white, and you opt for the 30% discount with Ingram, you would earn about $1.00 per book after printing costs assuming the book was priced at $6.00.

  103. Edit: it seems that IngramSpark as of this month have added the option to offer a 30% discount (learned this via Wonder if Amazon will list such titles ok..

  104. Thanks for a great post. I have two questions, if I may:
    1. Giacomo, you say you have reason to believe that Ingram Spark will allow discounts below 40% in future – why do you think this?
    2. I have heard anecdotal accounts that, although using Lightning Source’s 20% discount option is in theory the best value route to get a book listed on Amazon, Amazon have a tendency to say such titles are ‘out of stock’ or not available for a week or two. Have you or readers of this blog come across this recently? (The 20% option seems to me the only compelling reason to use Lightning Source, if you can get an account, rather than their Ingram Spark branch.) thanks!

    1. Andrew: As to the 40%, it should be in effect by now. It was only a matter of time, as LS has always had that option. As to Amazon and the notorious ‘out of stock,’ that seems to be random. I’ve had it happen to one of mine, but all of my others, when I used both CS and LS, it doesn’t and won’t happen. If you use CS, and you use the same ISBN as the one you do with Ingram, the Ingram book will not go to Amazon. Amazon will use the CS option.

      1. Giacomo, Sorry, I posted a similar questions below to this one. Can you add the CS book AFTER you already have Ingram supplying your book to Amazon? Is this something in Amazon’s system where they will just default to the CS book for fulfillment off their site? If so, then I can just upload my Ingram files with my current ISBN (which I own) to CS? Thanks and Happy New Year!

      2. I beg to differ; once an ISBN is assigned to any TITLE VERSION, CS cannot assign it a different ISBN. If you do both CS and INGRAM, the author or publisher needs to purchase a UNIVERSAL ISBN, from either Bowkers for $125 or from CS for $99. If you go to CS first and get a free or cheap ISBN, that TITLE VERSION cannot be sold elsewhere, except through the CS partners included with the platform. It can’t later be sold via Ingram LS or Ingram Spark. A new TITLE VERSION with alternate ending or extra chapters or maybe a front end commentary would have to be created and assigned a new ISBN.

        For those who wish to start with CS, I recommend creating a CS version, and planning for an “enhanced” version later for wider publishing.

  105. Wow! This is an awesome post. I have written three books over the last year and am on the fourth currently. I decided to start publishing but don’t know a thing about wat alternative to choose so I’ve been digging online for clues, then I found ur write up. What a relief?

    I am a Nigerian residing in same, what payment options will best suite me to harness these services? I choose the option of using both ingram and CS. My problem now however is dat I don’t know hw to go about that. Pls do enlighten me.


  106. Great article -thanks. You mention in “Shipping” that “Ingram does charge a $1.50 surcharge per order for shipping though, and CS doesn’t.”

    Does this apply to every sale? Doesn’t this need to be factored into your overall analysis?


    1. Hi, Karen. The shipping charge only applies if you are ordering a book to be shipped to you or someone else. Ingram pays for all shipping to online stores or brick-and-mortar stores. And if you order one book or 100, the charge is still 1.50 for the handling. I did figure this into the ‘shipping’ comparisons as that is where it applies.

  107. Thank you for this post. It is the most insightful and helpful one that I have found on the subject. I was going to use Createspace solely but now I’m think that using both is the way forward. I’m based in the UK and B&M stores will not order from CreateSpace. Nielsen provides bookstores and libraries with information about books as long as you buy the ISBN’s – however there is little point if authors will be using CS only. The benefits for me at least, is that if I use IS, my book will then be able to be ordered by B&M stores. Though the likelyhood of them stocking it is slimmer than a sheet of cellophane, for the price it still seems worthwhile. $49 is about £27 so it’s really reasonable. Added to that, I always planned on buying my own ISBN’s anyway so it seems a no brainer to used both.

  108. Here’s what I plan to do:
    – buy my own ISBN
    – make a paperback copy with CreateSpace
    – later, possibly much much later, do a hardback edition with Ingram Spark

    So, the question:
    – do I need “expanded distribution” to sell through
    – if I choose expanded distribution, can I turn it off when I decide to print through Ingram Spark?

    Thank you so much for all this great information! Just when I think I have it figured out, I come up with another question. 🙂

    1. E.S. If you enter into CS’s expanded distribution, you will get into Barnes and Noble, but you’ll make less money than you would if you used Ingram. Look at the numbers in the post; it is a significant difference. Also, if you opt into expanded distribution, since CS uses ingram for that, the ISBN will be identified as a duplicate by Ingram if you decide to do paperbacks with them later. If you do only hardbacks with them, it’s no problem, since a hardback requires a new ISBN.

      1. I published my memoir using Ingram Spark. My local Barnes & Noble bookstore agreed to do an Author Event for me (booksigning) and they ordered 20 copies from IngramSpark. When I returned about a month later to look for my memoir on their shelves, they said the majority of the copies had been sold. I asked if they were going to order a few to stock on their shelves and they told me that since IngramSpark is Print On Demand, they would not order any to stock in their store, only if a customer specifically requests a copy. This does not make sense to me…

        1. So offline bookstore orders via Ingram only work if the service used is Ingram’s Print to Publisher or Print to Warehouse? So much for 39,000 outlets via Print on Demand if that is how most of the offline book stores think.

          Anyone with some experience with orders for offline bookstores?

      2. You can opt out of CS expanded distribution any time. What if you want to do a softcover at Ingram after the fact? Okay to buy another ISBN and do two softcovers, one from CS and one from Ingram? Or is that not done?

        1. Once CS assigns an ISBN to your TITLE VERSION, say your HARD COVER VERSION, and you go to print it later with anyone else, you MUST ORDER THE $99 UNIVERSAL ISBN to be able to print or offer that same VERSION OF YOUR TITLES (HARD COVER) anywhere else. If you go with the cheap ISBN’s you can only use that ISBN on CS and what you are doing is therefore limiting that version to being published on CS forever, since: Once an ISBN has been assigned to your TITLE VERSION, it can only ever have that ISBN.

          You would have to make signification updates and additions to YOUR TITLES to offer as the same VERSION (HARD COVER) with an alternate ISBN – the STORY TEXT in the NEW HARD COVER VERSION, would have to be Distinguishable from the CS HARD COVER VERSION; you might try having someone write a commentary on your book and adding that to the front of the book to create an alternate “same version type” (such as HARD COVER) rather than update your story text.

          So, when you get the cheap SINGLE PLATFORM ISBN’s, you are LIMITED THAT VERSION TO THAT PLATFORM ONLY FOR THAT VERSION PRINT LIFE. You cannot later, change that VERSION’s ISBN; once any TITLE’S VERSION is assigned an ISBN and is listed in ISBN databases, that is it – for the print life of that VERSION.

          In other words, IF YOU ONLY PLAN TO PUBLISH VIA CS OR KINDLE, then it is safe to get the free or $10 ISBN’s.

          If you plan to, or want to the option to, later publish your TITLE VERSION elsewhere, get the $99 UNIVERSAL ISBN, as that is the same as going to BOWKER and getting it, except is discounted via CS or KINDLE, by about $26. It cost $125 from BOWKER.

          Your UNIVERSAL ISBN can be used anywhere, worldwide. You name the “publisher” of record (your name or a fictitious business name, or your company name) and that publisher name goes on record in all ISBN databases; the main one being Bowker’s (also lists ebooks, audio books and videos.)

          This is the same for any product needing an ISBN, be it books, ebooks, audio books or videos.

          The database helps book sellers figure out who to order your book from, should they wish to place an order for their store.

          It seems at first a great thing to get an ISBN free or for only $10, but it does limit distribution of THAT VERSION of your Title to the platform that provided the cheap ISBN; but hey, when you are starting out, this is a needed and popular service.

          An alternate idea, is to publish an abbreviated version on CS, so later you can publish an enhanced or extended version, with more chapters or alternate ending to get a new ISBN so you can later publish the title as that new version elsewhere.

          This applies only to each VERSION, not to each title; remember, each version of your title must be assigned an ISBN, one to your HARD COVER, one for your EBOOK, one for you SOFT COVER TRADE…

          So, plan according to what options you want later. if you go for the $10 ISBN for your SOFT COVER VERSION, you can still offer your other versions, EBOOK or HARD COVER anywhere with a new $99 or $125 ISBN; or by enhancing the same version (SOFT COVER TRADE) to make it DIFFERENT from the original (SOFT COVER TRADE) version.

          THINK VERSIONS, NOT TITLES; each VERSION can only ever get ONE ISBN assigned to it. ISBN cannot be re-assigned to new versions or other titles; Two different ISBN’s cannot be assigned to the same VERSION of any TITLE.

  109. Avis, being in the US, I haven’t dealt with Nielsen, but I assume they are similar to Bowker. (perhaps someone here can chime in and help) I would think they want your publisher details. You use the ISBN wherever you wish after that, according to the terms. So you can use it for CS and Ingram for print.

    1. Yes, once YOU directly purchase an ISBN for your FIRST VERSION OF YOUR TITLE, you use that ISBN anywhere that version is sold, worldwide.

  110. Thanks for the article. I am currently filling in Nielsen isbn application form. As you have suggested, I am going to use CreateSpace for Amazon distribution and use Ingram sparks for global distribution.

    On the isbn application form it asks if I be using a distributor and asks for the address and email. Do I need to put the Ingram Sparks address and email on the form? or do I just use my publisher contact details and pass the orders on to Ingram Sparks.

    Kind regards


    1. I am wondering about Ingram’s “global” distribution. First their “Print on Demand” might not be the 39,000 outlets, as they list a little over a dozen “UK partners” on the PRINT ON DEMAND page and I checked a few of the listed partner links so far and one was a German Language retailer/ distributor, but I could not find any English language books on their website.

      I wonder, how are global sales via Ingram LS and which service with LS is preferred, Print on Demand, Print to Publisher or Print to Warehouse?

  111. Sandra, if your books have a lot of images or illustrations, you probably want to look closely at Ingram. I would suggest choosing their premium printing which is a higher quality. You can write to them and ask for a sample: tell them what you are looking to do and ask to see a sample.

  112. Thank you so much for the article. Writing I love. Understanding the world of publishing is a mine field to me.
    I have been stung badly by a well known publishing company and for a while now l have sold
    my children’s books through ‘print on demand’
    The information you have provided has made me think again. I will be looking into changing my strategy by using one or both of the companies.
    My books are writen for children, one to 12 plus. Most are illustrated. My latest work is a trilogy of books. The reaction from the editors and proof readers has been amazing, they feel the books are too good to be printed and sold in the old way. Which company would you recomend, if I have to choose just one?
    Thank you once again for your enlightening article, youve helped me enormously.
    S B Knott

  113. Hi, Jodie. I have heard a few people say that, although I have to say with all of my books (10 now) I much prefer the quality of LS. I just checked a few of mine and I still like LS better. CS’s cream paper (to me) is far too dark, and quite often their ink is too light. I have had to send 3 of the ten books back to production, but in their defense they did fix it with no fuss. I have never had to send a book back to production with LS. On my two nonfiction books I used white paper and I also liked the quality better from LS. (much brighter)

    Another item to note, I have had to send two of my ten books back to CS because the messed up the covers. (not my designer’s fault, and freely admitted by CS) They also have a difficult time printing on the spine if you have a short book like a novella or a short nonfiction. In two of mine, CS said they couldn’t print on the spine (90 pages) but LS had no problem, and it looked great.

    I’m not dogging CS, but I think they have a ways to go to catch up to Ingram. However, if CS is working for you, that’s great. That’s what this self-publishing business is all about–finding what works for you and sticking with it. And giving CS their due, they are fast, courteous, efficient, and with fantastic customer service.

    I still use CS for Amazon and for shipping one-off copies to readers in the US, but I use LS for all else.

  114. Great post, Giacomo! I agree with everything except the quality of the printed books. Lightning Source / IngramSpark uses a lower-weight, cheaper paper, and in all the books I’ve received from both, the CreateSpace book interiors are a higher quality. They use a thicker paper. In the books I receive from IngramSpark, the print shows through to the other side, to the extent that it’s really distracting and feels like a cheap production. In a telephone call to IngramSpark about this, they agreed and said they’ve had a lot of similar complaints, but have no plans to upgrade the quality of their paper at this time. CreateSpace uses 60 lb. paper and Lightning Source / IngramSpark uses 50 lb. paper. I sent them both to compare but haven’t heard back from them yet.

    1. It is frustrating. I just received my proof from Ingram that is supposedly printed on 50lb paper, but I have various weights of paper here, and what Ingram Sparks calls 50lb is the same weight that Staples calls 24lb. Not sure how they can get away with calling it 50lb when it isn’t close to that weight. The printing shows through to the other side. Very disappointing. Still trying to figure out what to do as the publisher is set on using Ingram.

      CreateSpace paper is noticeably better- I did not get the bleed through like this at all. (Of course Createspace has its own challenges… never ask them to design your book- their design judgement is marginal at best and not worth what you are paying them for. But if you deliver a PDF to CreateSpace with the design already done, their product does seem to be better.) I’d like to see if Ingram Sparks has any better option than what they dubiously call 50lb paper.

      1. CS designed my cover. I suggested a change. They did it and I am now 100% satisfied with cover. Their customer service was always good. I thought their professional edit was excellent. My book is a non-fiction. Now it is up to me to market it. Any suggestions?

        1. George, there is no shortage of marketing suggestions and advice on this blog – just put appropriate keywords into the search box (marketing, promotion, etc) and you’ll find a wealth of posts to help you.

  115. Hi Giacomo, Secret Pen Name, here.
    Maybe someone can theoretically clear this weirdness up for me: I submitted a book through a local small press that does great editing, formatting, artwork, adverts, etc, uses there own ISBN (listing them as publisher), pays a high % royal by going through Createspace exp dist, not offset, (which is fine by me).
    Anyway, the book is everywhere online, but McNally Robinson, a Canadian Bookstore, lists the publisher as Lightning Source, inc. WTF? A printer/dist as pub? A obvious mistake, or closer to the truth when they order wholesale through Ingram? Can/Should someone easily correct this? My Pub? Createspace? Ingram? LS? McNally R? Who-cares?
    Why might this have happened? Anybody else had this? Any thoughts?

    1. When you opt into CS expanded distribution, they actually use Ingram to distribute the books. That is likely where the mixup came, although I have never seen LS listed as the publisher.

      1. I figured it was the Ingram connection. Just my luck. It’s no big thing. Just thought I’d share it.

        1. Interesting, since indie authors can distribute directly with Ingram via Ingram Spark (less than 20 titles recommended by Ingram) or Ingram Lightening Source (recommended for med or large publishers, though anyone size can sign up). I don’t really know the difference yet; I think another poster here mentioned the difference.

  116. CS now has a printing facility in the UK. I was surprised when a friend in England ordered my paperback from Amazon and had it in less than a week. I believe for PROOF copies, those still ship from CS in the States for some reason. But otherwise folks ordering off should get pretty quick service and cheaper shipping at least.

  117. David, I’m glad you found the comparison helpful. I have (somewhere in my files) several emails from authors who used Ingram for illustrated children’s books. I’ll look for them. If you send me an email, I’ll get back to you: [email protected]

    Also, as to the cost of file sizes with Amazon. Look into Vook for distributing books like that. They offer a wholesale model for Amazon, and it will not only bypass the downloading fees, it will pay a few percentage points more than Amazon pays, plus allow you to use free days, and be non-exclusive.

    1. Hi there. I have also noticed that the CS binding does fall apart very easily for my picture books. It’s very disappointing. Any information you have on the illustrated books from Ingram would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

      1. I used to produce a paperback version of a 32 page colour illustrated children’s book without difficulty, and having purchased my own ISBN via Bowker, used them to distribute the book globally. However, since Lulu only distribute (via Ingram) hardcover versions of 6″x9″ books, I am in the process of using Lightning Source here in Melbourne, Australia to create and distribute the hardcover version. It is a *total* pain, but am persisting since they are the only company in this country capable of producing a marginally cost-effective product. Premium paper *must* be selected since their standard paper is too thin and the illustrations show through to the other side, plus the colour, unless using only pastel shades, is faded and unsuitable. The interior and cover must be converted to CMYK, and the allowed cover variation for both size and placement of images is 2mm, which has caused enormous problems for me as I naively centered my image and title etc. Re-uploads cost quite a bit, and proof copies more than twice the price of the finished product. My advice, therefore, is to test run your book via Lulu since they do not charge for re-uploads (their files are in RGB) and do not charge extra for proof copies. Also, make sure your cover design doesn’t rely on near perfect centering. LS processes are tedious and bureaucratic, and here, help is very limited, whereas Lulu is a breeze to deal with, give lots of discounts throughout the year, and good technical support. They don’t have partnerships with library suppliers here though, which is another reason for needing Lightning Source, as they do. The quality of the product is about the same, and very good, but will vary from country to country since printers are relative to location.

    2. Giacomo, your blog is so informative! Question: I self published my memoir Deaf Daughter in Amazon a year ago using their free ISBN #, expanded distribution. I want to sell my book at Barnes & Noble, so do I go through CS to get a $99 ISBN? Do I need to modify the original book in some way to qualify?

  118. Great post Giacomo, thanks for a excellent article; you have made the pros and cons of CS v Ingram very clear.

    I have used CS to publish PODs for two books. One is around 500 pages and the second around 350. The quality for both has been excellent, although I should prefer to see thicker card used for the covers but unfortunately CS doesn’t offer this option. I’ve found also that the print is not exactly square on the pages.

    Like other commenters, I have noticed that full-price orders from Amazon UK or one of the European branches are printed in Europe, but for proof or author copies at the royalty-free price, CS insist on printing in the US. This is irritating since it adds to shipping costs, and in the case of ten copies of one of my books I bought at net price recently, there were custom charges for delivery to Italy where I live plus admin charges from UPS for collecting the duty – and IVA (VAT) on the admin charges! (I have not, by contrast, had to pay duty elsewhere in the world – UK, HK or Thailand – and I was probably just unlucky in Italy where such charges are often levied on a whim).

    Unfortunately, the story isn’t quite as positive for full-colour illustrated children’s books. I have helped my wife publish three of her titles as PODs through CS and while the print quality is very good, the binding and cover quality do not compare with that we’ve experienced from a regular printer. The books are 8.5”x 8.5” and either 30 or 40 pages. They look good but the binding is such that they will fall apart quite quickly – kids books are meant to be read and reread many times so they need to be durable and the CS versions simply are not. By contrast, print runs from a printing company in Hong Kong, printed in China, have been top quality, but of course there are all the usual problems of storage of a thousand or more books, shipping and underwriting the cost of the print run.
    It’s great to have the titles available on Amazon as PODs – we’ve also reformatted the kids books as ebooks and that has worked very well – but I should like to see Amazon pay attention to binding.

    There is one other point about illustrated kids books which is that the file sizes are large – a 30-40 page book is about 4.5 Mb and Amazon charge 15c/Mb for downloads, that cost being paid by the author not the purchaser, so your profit is less. That cost only applies if you choose the 70% profit option; for the 35% option, there is no download charge. Clearly if you were putting out a large fully illustrated POD book, there would be a crossover point where the 35% profit option would have to be taken or you would make nothing.

    Finally I should like to ask whether anyone out there has experience of PODs of illustrated children’s books from Ingram?

    Thanks again, Giacomo.

  119. Are you saying to use BOTH for printing only one book, so you can have freedom to do what seems best with it as time goes by? Or are you saying it varies from title to title, and you need to be familiar with both, to use one or the other from time to time? Thanks!

    1. Katharine: Yes, my suggestion–assuming you are going to sell your print book at B&N, perhaps libraries, and independent stores–is to use CS for Amazon and use Ingram for all other channels. The way to do that is to print with CS but do not opt into their expanded distribution. And use Ingram for all else. Make sure you have your own ISBN, or you buy one from Ingram (slightly less expensive) or use CS’s $99 option. But again–DO NOT opt into CS expanded distribution if you want to use Ingram as well.

      1. I was only familiar with CS when I self-published a novel this past summer. So I already have a CS ISBN and their expanded distribution. So if I opted out of CS expanded distribution and published again with Ingram, what do I need to do about an ISBN for Ingram? Is is kosher to have the book printed two ways under two ISBN? Also, is there any point in doing an e-book with Ingram when I have it posted with Smashwords, which does the same distribution?

      2. So, when you state to print with CS (and not use expanded distribution) and use Ingram for all other distribution, where does Ingram get the books? It seems you are saying print only at CS. From what you wrote I thought I would have to print at both CS and Ingram to do the combo distribution. Can you clarify? This is so helpful, I want to get it right.

  120. We have lots of feedback from people who state that the customs duties on books printed in the US and shipped to Canada make printing in the US a questionable practice for Canadian indie authors.

      1. Great article! I am really struggling as a Canadian author. I have my book ready to go and I don’t know who to use to easily have my book available to both Canadians and the rest of the world. Is Ingram the company I should be working with?

        Are there any other players out there?

    1. Fair enough: I have now read it. So far I’ve sold paperbacks off the website (ours) and Amazon. In our locality (Oxford UK) such indie bookstores as there are, are reluctant to get involved with indie authors. Our problem is most likely location: Oxford is stuffed full of authors, many very well known – Philip Pullman for one example, and everyone down the street may be writing a book. It’s a centre of culture, where independent arts projects struggle.
      Having said that, one bookstore operates on an ordering basis – they will order anything, they say.

      So, I suppose using Createspace or IngramSpark would mean they had a known supplier to order from, rather than us, even if we’re ‘using’ Gardners.

      Given that I’ve already published paperbacks, (and sold them directly via website/Amazon, etc ), so the books exist, What would you now advise?

  121. Is there a good reason for indies using either of Createspace or Ingram Spark? Gradually I have seen more and more people referring to these. But both are big organisations: part of being Indie I have felt was avoiding playing into the hands of any of the big organisations. (Okay I admit I sell on Amazon as well as our website)

    Will admit have not read the post yet, but would really like to know whether it is better to use one of these, and why people do? (Not just ‘it’s easy’ something more than that). If there is a good reason, I will battle through the arguments/info above.

    1. And maybe because their printer is in the UK and not France, and they have to get the books from somewhere close to meet the Amazon ‘Premium’ (Prime) commitment.

  122. Great post, Jim. I find that being in France at the moment, I can order copies of my CS-printed books and because I’m in the French version of Amazon Prime, they’re all available with free, next-day delivery (well, actually, it’s about 3 days). The books come from a printer in the UK, so it’s a bizarre situation whereby if I order from the site I pay for delivery (because I’m not in Amazon UK Prime), but if I order from they come for free … even though they’re then printed and delivered from the UK anyway!

  123. Thanks for sharing this. I’ve been wondering about the pros and cons of Createspace and Ingram Spark, and wondered if using both would offer a useful method of selling books, especially if one plans to approach bookstores in the long run.

  124. VM, the fact that your royalty is only $1 everywhere else is where Spark can help. I guess it depends on how many books you sell, but if you look at the examples I cited, you will likely make $3 – $4 more per book using Ingram than you do CS on all sales outside of Amazon. For some people that might not be enough, but it means you only have to sell couple of dozen books at most to cover Spark’s cost. Shipping depends on where you ship from and to, as I mentioned in the post. Shipping in the US to US sites, CS is less expensive. Shipping internationally, Ingram should be less expensive almost everywhere. If you use both companies, you get the best of both worlds.

    1. Hi!Just found your post. I know it’s a bit old, but it still seems relevant. I was wondering how to use both CS and IS… I asked IS if I could publish with them everywhere except Amazon and they said I couldn’t. So, I’d love your feedback on this! Thank you.

  125. I’m learning a lot here! Never heard of “spark” before. I did use LS a few years ago. Set up my own imprint to do it and of course bought my own ISBN. I did it mostly because I thought I’d get a better looking product. I thought it would be more likely to get into stores. I wanted to making it easier for people in the UK, Australia and Europe to buy my book.

    Based on my experience — most books were sold in the US over Amazon, and LS expenses added up, I decided to try Createspace with my latest. The quality is frankly just as good as with LS. Last time I kept the price as low as I could and wound up with a $1 royalty. This time my royalty with Amazon is $4 and $1 everywhere else. As for international, it looks like Amazon is somehow managing to distribute it — at least in the UK without outrageous shipping costs. Spark sounds like a lower cost version of LS for indies. That’s a good thing. I’d like to see Amazon get some competition. But frankly, given that no matter what you do selling to brick and mortar stores is an uphill battle, and you’ll sell most of your paperbacks through Amazon in any case, you really can’t beat “free.” My shipping costs on CS are also MUCH lower than they were for LS.The best chance of getting into a brick & mortar store is to sell on consignment at local shops, so that’s important. These days with indie publishing so competitive there are lots of expenses. I’ll have to look more into Spark, but I remember with LS everything had a cost — uploading changes to the interior, changing the price, etc. etc. Even if the cost is lower with Spark than LS, CS has really improved what it can offer, and I’d rather spend my very limited book “budget” on elsewhere — formatting help, publicity, etc.

  126. Michelle: Ingram is the parent company for both LS (Lightning Source) and Spark. They recommend LS for small publishers who have 10-20 titles, and they suggest Spark for most independent authors with fewer titles. Both have the same quality and offer the same distribution.

    1. Such great advice on these posts. Thank you. Regarding CS vs. IS: we’re talking two different functions: 1. quality of the printed paperback (there seems to be controversy here). Are you saying get proof copies from each?
      2) distribution option (CS for selling on Amazon, IS for everywhere else).
      Am I getting it finally?

  127. Wow, great post, Jim. I shared it with another author too. Simple question: what is the difference between Ingram and LS? I thought LS was their ebook division. Am I wrong?

    I need to go back and read your post here because I’m not sure I understood when I should choose 40% over 55%. Maybe I missed something. So I’ll reread this. I sell at both places, but opted out of Amazon’s expanded distribution. Now I understand why! Yay! Thank you for this.

  128. As always a terrific and enlightening (hope I got the “lightening” part of that word spelled right) post from Jim G. Thanks much for sharing it with us.

  129. Great post! I love the way you organized the information. So easy to read and understand. Currently I’m only with Createspace, but I’m considering adding Ingram based on your recommendation.

  130. Great post, Giacomo! Like you I use a combination of CS (for Amazon – but not their extended distribution) and LS for everything else. And I use my own ISBN – the same one for all instances.

    An additional benefit of this approach is that by going with CS for your Amazon channel you don’t come up with ‘Out of stock’ notices there, which can happen if using LS or Ingram Spark.

    It may be of use to add that I’ve found that I can use the same interior file for both CS and LS. However the cover spec is slightly different – so your illustrator needs to prep separate files for that using the LS templates. I assume the same may be the case with Ingram Spark.

    And the point about getting books into stores is so true – most won’t stock it unless someone orders. The only exception to this is if you are actively marketing to them and offering to do events.

    But even in this case, here in the UK, Waterstones has of late been keen to buy direct from me rather than order via the wholesalers, Gardners, who buy from Ingram and take their cut along the way. As a result – I’ve supplied Waterstones from my LS POD short runs for the last couple of events – and in these instances we have both made more money. This said, I gather that Ingram is now offering Waterstones a direct ordering – so that may change back.

    The main thing, as you say, is to discount according to whether you really think you will be actively marketing to bookshops.

    1. That’s great that Waterstones has been dealing with you. I find most of the stores in the US are extremely reluctant to deal with indies. On of the biggest mystery stores in the country is in my hometown and I can’t get them to even try one of my books.

      1. Shelf-space is important to retailers, and I think a lot still consider PODs inferior products. I have found a few independent booksellers willing to sell on consignment if you make the deal sweet enough, but even then you’re book may not be anywhere where anyone will actually see it. The people I’ve seen succeed at getting into stores, are not only good writers, they are GREAT salespeople.

      2. Do you need two different ISBN for different covers of the same 7 x 10 book? Do you need different ISBN if one is 6.14 x 9.21 in an 11 sized font versus a 7 x 10 book with the same font and they have different cover pictures (maybe the back and front are reversed). Does it change if one cover is matte and one is gloss? What would you consider a paperback versus soft cover dimensions? Of course, for long books, CS max. for pages is 828 versus (white paper)-IS is greater than 1000 depending on the dimensions of the book. Say if you have a book that is 1000 pages at a font on your computer at 12; you have to put it into at 7 x 10 at CS with a font at 11 but can use a lower dimensions at IS with the same font. One one hand someone is saying that a paperback needs its own ISBN number versus a soft cover and on the other hand it doesn’t depending on what you consider a paperback. I can see just avoiding any hassles down the road and simple using a different ISBN for IS and CS.

        Or do yo simply follow your countries suggestions.

    2. I have never heard of Ingram. Createspace wanted to charge me more than my retail price. I’m investigating Chinese printers.

      1. George, I had the same problem with CreateSpace. The book has color photos, and locally I can get only the pages I specify printed in color, and the rest B&W, and they collate and bind them. But CreateSpace is all or none for color. The printing cost didn’t seem too bad, but having to allow for the discounts, the “minimum retail price” was 2 – 3 times a reasonable and competitive price for the book.

        A second disappointment was that the quality of the color printing from CreateSpace was not up to that of the local printer, in both type of paper and ink application to the paper. The CS ink soaked into the more absorbent paper; the local printer’s proof has a much smoother paper, and the ink appears to adhere to its surface, resulting in a much better looking product. Dan Poynter’s advice for color printing is to go to Hong Kong/China, as you’re doing, and I’m planning to download his paper on how to do that. But given the differences I’ve noticed between the types of paper and the ink application in my 2 color proofs (CreateSpace versus the local printer), it appears I need to learn more about both paper and methods of printing, so I’ll know what to ask for.

        Giacomo, your article is exceedingly helpful! In the recesses of my memory the Ingram name is familiar, but I knew none of what you have told us about them. Thank you very much!

        Do you have a post or advice on the color printing dilemma posed by its higher cost? Can you recommend a good source for learning about the papers and printing methods that should be used for a high-quality result when printing in color?

        Thank you so much for your great information, and have a great new year!

        1. Deanna,
          you can get a quote from Printninja. It is an American company that handles all the details with its Chinese printers. Shipping is spendy though.

    3. Regarding ISBNs, my understanding is that one is needed for each publishing of a book. The ISBN for a Kindle (Amazon) e-book can not be the same as an e-book formatted under the banner of Barnes & Noble (Nook). Unless, of course, someone such as CreateSpace or Ingram distribute the identical e-book to both sellers. An Apple IBook would also need a different ISBN. A book sold directly from an autghor’s website, in say a MOBI or E-Pub format would need its own ISBN number. By the same token, a book published by CreateSpace must have its own ISBN, and surely a book published by Ingram Spark requires another, different ISBN number. Please enlighten me if I am wrong about this, and I certainly could be wrong. You talk about having both an Ingram-published book and also a CreateSpace-published book. Am I mistaken when I suggest they need different ISBN number?

      Great article, btw. Terrific.

      1. Hi Temple, ALLi’s advice is to have an ISBN for each format, one for digital, one for paperback, hardback, audio etc. This allows an institution like a library or bookstore, to access the edition they want, in the format they want, which is the point of the ISBN. Where it is subsequently distributed (Apple, Nook wherever) is irrelevant.

    4. Hi,

      What do you mean you use your own ISBN. The same one in all instances? Are you saying you can use one ISBN for all of your titles? Sorry I’m still in the dark about a lot of stuff here.

      My biggest concern is the cost Not only of setting up a title on LS, but also of the ISBN. It would be awesome if you could use one ISBN for everything (though I don’t see how that is possible).

      I have a number of books up, but only a handful of them shift any copies from month to month. I am interested in looking into ways of them getting more exposure, but not if it’s going to cost me $100+ per book.

      Thanks for your time.

      1. Hi,

        How many ISBN’s you need, depends upon how many FORMATS OR TYPE VERSIONS you will be disseminating your STORY TEXT in.

        You must purchase an ISBN for each VERSION of each TITLE, i.e.:
        1) one ISBN for your HARD COVER PRINT VERSION of TITLE “ABC”,
        2) one ISBN for you SOFT COVER PRINT VERSION of TITLE “ABC”,
        3) one ISBN for your PAPER BACK (TRADE SIZE) PRINT VERSION of your TITLE “ABC” and
        4) one ISBN for your EBOOK VERSION of TITLE “ABC”,
        5) any new updated versions, such as “enhanded ebook,” or updated version of any print version

        You need a new ISBN for each VERSION (TYPE) of end product your TITLE is produced as.

        You can purchase a 10 or 100 bulk ISBNs for a discount off a single ISBN. is the US ISBN and main Agency.

        If you are Canadian, ISBNs can be obtained for FREE from any Author Association or maybe even a Canadian Library.

        Empire and the Great Jones Little Press offers ISBN’s to indie authors for $15, and they are listed as the Publisher Parent in ISBN databases. They also will sell your book on their website.

        Any purchaser of an ISBN should add their title to Bowker’s ( Publisher database (free).

        When you obtain any ISBN via another party, that party will do the database listing and be listed.

        Many self publishing authors get ISBNs from the publisher platforms like Amazon Kindle, Createspace or Bookbaby or Smashwords, ect. for around $10, but the platform will likely be listed in all databases as the “publisher”, which is strange because each platform is really more a distributor; look to platform terms and agreements for such FAQs.

        Indie authors who wish to obtain direct ISBN’s and act as “publisher” can publish one version, then use sales $ to buy the next ISBN to add more versions.

        1. When you obtain any ISBN via another party, that party will do the database listing and be listed AS PUBLISHER or PUBLISHER PARENT.

          1. concerning platforms: “not strange”; I just meant, it is too bad the platforms can’t simply be listed in ISBN databases as distributor rather than publisher.

            Also, actually Amazon has added a real PUBLISHING ARM, called KINDLE SCOUT, where authors post their title and allow free reads to Amazon’s members who vote on which titles get published. For titles never before published.

        2. Hello Giacomo-

          Thank you so much for this thorough article. I will need to read it again and will definitely bookmark this page for easy return and reference!

          I have a children’s book that I self-published through CS a couple of years ago. I am happy with the KDP aspect and do not wish to change that. But I feel that I can do better through Ingram for POD copies. I buy the books myself, do readings and then sell from my own inventory. The brick-and-mortar stores in my town have told me that they won’t consider my book because of CS. But they will let me do readings and bring the books myself. One store told me that they would consider stocking my book if the POD is done through IS.

          I have two questions:

          **If I close my CS account on the POD versions of my book (one BW and one color), can I then set up an account with IS and get their help to sell through Amazon? Or will IS still “see” my book on Amazon and not go there?

          **I paid CS the $10 fee to “own” my ISBNs, but do I understand you correctly that those are pretty much useless if I switch over to IS? Not a huge loss, but important to know.

          Thank you very much for this platform for discussion and learning.


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