The author and publishing world has been abuzz with the recent news from Amazon that its CreateSpace print-on-demand business has now been folded into its Kindle Direct Publishing program that launched officially a few years ago. Whether or not this action will be a positive move for authors will inevitably be seen in time. But today, IngramSpark client support is blowing up more than usual with questions from authors asking us what it all means. The question we used to get most often was, "What's the difference between IngramSpark vs. CreateSpace?" Now it seems the question will be, "What's the difference between IngramSpark vs. KDP?" So, I will attempt to help clarify with as much information as I have.
First of all, I’m often asked to compare IngramSpark with the self-publishing services that Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing offers, and I’ll lay it out for you here. But before I do that, I want to make it clear that Ingram and Amazon enjoy a very collaborative relationship where people on both sides work tirelessly to improve the experience for our collective publisher and author content providers. The people who work on both sides are not adversarial, as is often assumed in online posts; nor is there any evidence that Amazon is intentionally targeting and depressing the availability of IngramSpark books on the Amazon site.
IngramSpark vs KDP—Print Book Publishing
On the face of it, there isn’t that much difference between the CreateSpace service and what KDP is offering on the print side. IngramSpark has continued improving and expanding its print-on-demand business by offering the widest choice of trim sizes, many in both hardcover and paperback bindings. Additionally, there are several different color options that virtually mirror traditional printing. Amazon KDP options are more limited as they're missing hardcover, some trim sizes, no landscape option, and offer only one version of color.
So what do you do if you want your beautiful book cover design on a jacket to complete the look? That’s where IngramSpark comes in. IngramSpark can print both case laminate or paper-over-board hardcovers as well as jacketed hardcovers with a Digital Cloth ™ cover on the book. This means your children’s book can have a glossy hardcover in a beautiful landscape trim size, or your new literary fiction novel can have a professional jacket. Hardcovers are not only practical for appearances but libraries prefer to buy hardcovers because of their durability.
Print Books and Ebooks Together—A One-Stop Solution
With IngramSpark, not only can you set up your hardcover and paperback versions of your book, but you can also set up your ebook at the same time and gain book distribution, including Amazon, Apple, Nook, and Kobo, along with an additional 40,000 retailers who order from Ingram.
With KDP for your print and ebooks, you will only get distribution to Amazon. So, if you’re looking for a one-stop solution for printing and book distribution for your print books and ebooks, IngramSpark may be the better choice for the broadest distribution that also includes Amazon.
Selling Your Book to Bookstores and Libraries
When bookstores, retailers, and libraries buy your book, they purchase it at a discounted price, depending on the wholesale discount you offer, so they can resell it and make a profit. They want to receive their standard trade discount when they buy from a wholesaler such as Ingram, therefore, you need to offer a wholesale discount of 55% off the list price that you set. With IngramSpark, you can choose one between 40% and 55% on the print version. If you offer less than a 55% wholesale discount, bookstores and retailers will receive a “short” trade discount and probably won’t purchase the book for stock.
In KDP, you don't get this flexibility since you would earn less on orders in their Expanded Distribution program (which includes Ingram). This means that with IngramSpark, you have the flexibility to set terms that are more attractive to booksellers. It also means that you have the potential to make more per book sale with IngramSpark.
Authors and publishers are often shocked to find out that their titles have global viability. So why limit your sales prospects to just the United States? IngramSpark has print facilities in the UK and Australia and distributes to Canada from the United States.
Ingram has also established relationships with print partners in Germany, Italy, Poland, India, China, Japan, Brazil, and South Korea. This is what we call our Global Connect Program. These relationships help IngramSpark publishers get their books into the wholesale channels in those countries. Amazon has distribution in the United States and to their European channels. So, the main difference between the two book distribution companies is that IngramSpark has a much broader global distribution.
Using IngramSpark and KDP Together
I would also be remiss if I did not note that you can use both IngramSpark and KDP at the same time if you own your ISBN. Note that if you are making your title available in both self-publishing systems, you can't choose KDP's Expanded Distribution because that makes the title available to Ingram and will cause a conflict with the ISBN when you upload into IngramSpark.
Once your title is available, IngramSpark will fulfill orders to places such as Barnes & Noble, independent bookstores, and libraries, and KDP will fulfill Amazon orders. Of course, if you're looking for a one-stop for all of your content, IngramSpark provides the broadest distribution from one self-publishing platform. This is a good choice if you only want to go to one platform to upload and update your content when there are changes to be made versus having to update in both IngramSpark and Amazon KDP.
If your book is already in KDP's Expanded Distribution and you would like to use IngramSpark, don’t fret! First you need to remove your book from KDP's Expanded Distribution program. Then you will need to set up an IngramSpark account, if you haven’t done so already. Last but not least, contact our customer service team and ask them to transfer your title from Expanded Distribution to your IngramSpark account. Filling out a form is required but once that is submitted, your title will appear in your IngramSpark account in a few weeks.
We recently reviewed Amazon availability messaging across all IngramSpark titles and found that 92% had good availability messaging on the Amazon site. The ones that didn’t were mostly newly set up titles or were in/out of revision cycles. Availability messaging tends to change over time as the book develops a sales history.
One of the best things a new author can do as soon as their book goes live is to order it through Amazon to help spur good availability messaging. The other thing is to make sure the title is finished before it is uploaded into any system that feeds data to Amazon to keep the title from rapidly moving in and out of revision cycles, which can negatively impact availability messaging. But know that IngramSpark continues to work collaboratively and closely with Amazon to improve availability messaging on their site.
Some differences between IngramSpark and KDP come down to hardcovers, print options, discounts, broad book distribution, and convenience. IngramSpark also does not require exclusivity or pricing guidelines as some parts of KDP offer, so that's something else to keep in mind as you evaluate which self-publishing company to choose. I hope this post has helped shed some light on IngramSpark vs KDP, but what's most important to your ultimate decision is what's right for you and your book.