CreateSpace vs. Ingram Spark: How They Stack Up

Comparing Apples to ApplesEver since Ingram Spark launched late last summer, we’ve been keenly interested in it for many reasons, among them: 1) Spark offers the first print-on-demand service for hardcover books with jackets; and 2) Spark provides writers with a friendlier path into bookstores than Amazon/CreateSpace. (Some bookstores won’t stock CreateSpace books because they believe Amazon is killing their business.)

I’ve just finished a project in which we published a book both on CreateSpace and Ingram Spark. Here’s what we learned:

• CreateSpace is faster to publish. Ingram Spark requires 3-5 days to produce a book once an order is placed. CreateSpace produced and shipped our book on the same day we placed the order–and that was a Saturday.

• Royalties are about equal–unless you plan to sell your book from your own site. Spark offers you a flat royalty of 45% of list price minus production costs for each book sold. Amazon offers you 40% less production costs. But if the buyer purchases the book through a link from your website to Amazon, you get 60%.

• CreateSpace gets books to market quicker. This was a surprise: after we approved our proof copy, Spark asked us to allow 6-8 weeks to get the book into their distribution channels. Yike–and we had already planned a series of bookstore signings. With Createspace, we were able to get the book up on Amazon in 48 hours.

• CreateSpace offers lower “author pricing.” For the exact same book, Spark charges our author $3.43, while CreateSpace charges $3.15.

• CreateSpace’s shipping costs are considerably lower. Whether you’re ordering a single proof copy or cartons of your books, shipping costs can be significant. Why Ingram Spark doesn’t understand this and choose less expensive shipping partners is a mystery. In our case, a single proof copy of our book shipped across country cost the following:

Ingram Spark:
Ground $46
2nd day $173

Standard $23
Expedited $51

• CreateSpace customer service is better. Their email turnaround time is a day or less–and you can get a live person on the phone if you’re desperate. With Spark, you must email your question, and turnaround time (for us) turned out to be 2-3 days.

• CreateSpace charges no service fee. Spark charges $49 setup fee and a $12 “POD market access fee”–whatever that is.

Ingram Spark is an important player in this new world of publishing–and I hope they succeed in offering writers more choices in how to publish their books. But Spark need to do a little tweaking of their offerings if they expect to co-exist with ultra-competitive Amazon.

169 thoughts on “CreateSpace vs. Ingram Spark: How They Stack Up”

    • I’m working on this, Leigh. In the meantime, I can report that Amazon’s transfer of print-on-demand services to KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), while relatively seamless for authors who have published books through Createspace, seems to have created some havoc behind the scenes. I’ve had a great deal of difficulty getting Amazon to properly list a hardcover book that was published through Ingram Spark on Oct 1 of this year (2018). The book cover was slow to materialize on the Amazon page, and the availability date still isn’t correct after after 40 days, despite the numerous “trouble tickets” that I and the author have both submitted to Amazon. I hope that things will settle down over the next few months, as systems become more streamlined.

  1. Hi Holly, I am considering stocking my book on ingram spark but as it is for middle grade and the price for similar books is approximately 6.99, I make hardly any money at all giving 55% discount.

    Do you know if 55% discount is also ‘the norm’ for cheaper retail priced books eg. childrens books?


    • “Academic” discounts from educational publishers are often set at 40%. Don’t know whether your book is truly academic…so I’m not sure this would apply. But remember that the discount you offer through Ingram Spark is going to be more generous than the discount that bookstores will see because Ingram is going to take its cut. So if you set your discount at 55%, the most generous discount bookstores will see will probably be around 40%. That’s not good news for any of us working in the self-publishing arena, and it’s why I often tell clients to forget about bookstore distribution entirely and plan on making Amazon your main distribution arm.

  2. Hi. I have been with createspace for some time and they are great. Never had a problem with quality of books, both cover and interior. But they lack many services, like offering pre-orders for paperbacks, hard covers and other binding options such as spiral. They also do not offer the ability to create audiobooks in Audible and other formats. Their colour books are pretty expensive as well. I am not sure why they don’t offer these? Can anyone explain.

  3. Hi Holly,

    Thank you so much for this comparison. And you’ve been busy, I see, answering a ton of questions :-). That said, I’ll try to keep mine brief.

    I’ve been pre-marketing my latest book (I’ve published two others under another name and ghostwritten four other books for different authors) while I finish up the final edit, with the intention of launching this book June 4, 2018 in time for Father’s Day. My plan was to go through IngramSpark this time, but after reading your post I think I’ve blown that opportunity. You mentioned that it can take up to eight weeks (I think that’s what you wrote) for IngramSpark to get the book into supply chains. That would put me well beyond June 4th.

    With that in mind, what would you suggest?

    I did want to do a hardcover launch this time and try to get my novel (a family saga centering around the early days of baseball) into airport bookstores and the big club stores like Costco. I think it would be a nice read for travelers. It’s my understanding that only IngramSpark can access those markets. Am I wrong?

    If so, then to meet my launch date, should I (could I) launch the trade paperback through Createspace and the eBook through Kindle, then launch my hardcover through Ingram later? Would this hurt my chances of getting into those markets? (I would have to limit my distribution with Amazon, I think, to do that.)

    Sorry. I suppose my question was not as brief as I’d hoped :-). And I’ve asked more than one.

    Thank you so much, Holly! Many Blessings!

    • Hi Noah,

      To produce a print-on-demand hardcover, you’ll have to go through Ingram Spark. Also, to make your book available in the Ingram database (the database from which most bookstores purchase), you’ll need to go through Ingram Spark.

      I’m not sure what you’re referring to regarding an 8 week wait. Generally, once you approve your final proof and press the “publish” button with them, your book will show up in their database and on Amazon in less than a week. (I may have said that they warn otherwise, but I’ve never had to wait longer than a week.)

      However, publishing through Ingram Spark doesn’t guarantee that your book will show up in any bookstore. And Costco and airport bookstores are entirely different channels of distribution–both of which are extremely difficult to crack if you’re a self-published author. So don’t hold your breath.

      You CAN publish your three formats at different times with different vendors (Kindle, Createspace and Ingram Spark), but in your case, there’s not much benefit in doing so–and it becomes a hassle monitoring your sales in three different places. I’d just publish all three formats simultaneously with Ingram Spark. Spend your time & energy promoting your book to bookstores.

  4. We have had a nightmare with Ingramspark too. Many issues uploading the title, had to escalate to management. We paid for premium colour and found that books were being printed in lower quality colour. Again we had to have a sing and dance over it. The title finally was right but then distribution wasn’t. Amazon is either not listing it, or they are– but it’s taking 2-5 months to ship. Even customers who have ordered from Waterstones are waiting 3-4wks. I’ve raised the issue many times with Ingram and they just say it’s not our problem we can’t control how it’s sold. I doubt we will use Ingram again.

    • Thanks for your comment, Louise. Paying for high quality color and not getting it is inexcusable.

      As for distribution problems, I know Waterstones is in Britain & Europe, and you’re in Canada, right? Is there Waterstones in Canada? I wonder whether this is affecting distribution–not that it SHOULD, mind you.

  5. Going through the history of this post has been fascinating and informative so thank you. I am a first-time author and, having become frustrated with the time delays in traditional publishing, I wanted to self-publish which obviously took me to the IS vs CS debate.

    Instinctively I would go for CS but my issue is that it is a narrative non-fiction book which will include about 5 central pages of photos. CS does not appear to offer this as an option – it only does B&W or colour (the latter would be produced at an alarming loss given I only want to charge £10 for the book – which is a huge frustration. IS does do this but, like everyone else, I am wary about limiting a) my profit margins and b) losing amazon as marketplace.

    I am pretty ignorant about this process and am very new to the game so would appreciate any assistance.

    Thanks a lot

    • I’m not sure I quite understand your situation, but let me take a crack at answering your general premise. If you want to publish a book with color photos in the interior, the problem is this: color interiors increase the cost of production significantly, which means that you’ll have to increase your book’s list (retail) price in proportion–making the book quite expensive for your readers. (We tried to publish a softcover book with color interior on Createspace, and they forced us to list the book at $25–way more than most people are willing to pay for most softcovers.) The problem is essentially the same if you choose to publish through Ingram Spark.

      This is a common conundrum. The best solution is to find a digital printer who will print a few hundred copies of your book. You’ll have to pay a fee to the printer for your small print run, but the cost per book will be far less than any print-on-demand (POD) option. And that will allow you to price your book more competitively. Then, in order to make your book available on Amazon, you can set up an account through the Amazon Advantage program. This will allow you to consign your book to Amazon–and it will appear on the Amazon site looking like every other book on that site. In this scenario, you have to work with Amazon–like any other goods consignor–to keep your book in stock in their warehouses.

      If you don’t want to store your print run in your garage and fulfill orders from Amazon yourself, there are distributors who will warehouse your book for a nominal fee, set up an account for you with Amazon, and fulfill orders on your behalf. One that I like: Ship Your Books.

  6. Hi Holly,

    I just stumbled onto your post. Fantastic, and very informative.

    I will be participating in “meet the author” nights, in different states. The “nights” are in conjunction with book fairs – organizations raising money.

    I used CreateSpace, and the book is available on Amazon, e-book and soft cover, and is part of their expanded distribution system.

    In addition to bringing X amount of books to sell with me, I’d like to tell the audience that they can also purchase the book through Amazon.

    Here is my question. Can I tell them that the book is also available through Barnes and Noble, and other brick & mortar outlets/on-line outlets, since you said (I think) that Amazon will distribute to those type of outlets through Ingram Spark?

    Can I tell them that, while the book might not be in stock when the go to the store, just give them the title and IBSN number, and the store will be happy to order it for them? This way, while they may have to wait (no instant gratification), Create Space will do a POD, and fullfill the order. This way, the brick & mortar outlets/on-line outlets do not need to carry inventory.

    • Hello Dick,
      If you published your print book ONLY through Createspace (which is an Amazon company) and you’ve checked Expanded Distribution in your book’s Createspace account, then yes, technically, your book can be ordered by any brick & mortar bookstore through Createspace Direct (a book distributor equivalent to Ingram Book Company, which is Ingram Spark’s book distributor).

      However, bookstores tend not to like Amazon because Amazon is killing their businesses. And so, they sometimes refuse to buy books from Createspace Direct.

      If you want to make sure that the bookstore channel is “clear” for your readers, I’d recommend you set up an account at Ingram Spark, too, and disable the Expanded Distribution feature on Createspace. That will cover all bases: Amazon online sales will be fulfilled by Createspace, and bookstores sales will be fulfilled by bookstores working through their favorite and most familiar distributor–Ingram.

  7. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “product” in “comment_content” *]
    Evening Holly and super appreciate you for responding so quickly. Some black and white images in my book have multiple faint striations, and sometimes there is just one white line going through an image on the right hand side. This happens mostly in images on the right hand side of the page. I’m wondering if it is a toner problem. Although, I have received and have seen excellent quality printing of my book, it just does not happen consistently and the poor quality happens far too often. So, this tells me that they can produce a quality product. There is no quality control after the PDF is printed which is a huuuuge problem. If there were, then i would not have received the defective books.
    Can you recommend another printing option? Do you think createspace can do better. I recently read that createspace sometimes uses ingramspark/lightning source to print books . . ..so idk. . . awaiting your words and insight.

    • It does sound like a toner problem, and if you’ve complained to no avail, all I can say is they don’t deserve your business. The problem with print-on-demand is that you NEVER know if the problem is fixed because each book is printed … on demand.

      Createspace is another option. I’ve had good luck with them generally, but of course they, too, are print-on-demand, and they don’t do hardcover books.

      A third option is to work with a digital printer. You’d have to pay for printing x number of books up front, but you’d have full control over quality. These days “x number” can be anywhere between 75 and 1,000. Once you have the books, you need NOT keep them in your garage (ugh–who wants to do that?). You can give them to a fulfillment house that will set up an Amazon page for you and warehouse your books, fulfilling Amazon orders as needed (just like a traditional publisher). For this option, I’ve used (with good results) Integrated Books International (IBI) out of Dulles, Virginia, for printing; and Ship Your Books out of Terre Haute, IN, for fulfillment.

      This option is also a good one for authors who are doing color books since color is so expensive in the print-on-demand world. By using your own digital printer and fulfillment, you can keep the per-book production cost MUCH lower.

  8. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “your blog” in “comment_content” *]
    Hi Holly again. I also want to add that I spent several months deciding whether or not I would go with Ingram Spark or Createspace. I decided on Ingram because of their distribution channel and also because I thought I would be getting good quality and consistent printing. I do not have an ebook version yet but I will probably use createspace for this. This inconsistent printing quality has been going on since December 2017. I really don’t want to go to another printer but if I have to I will. I am being a squeaky wheel with IS right now and also sent my most recent email about defective books to their corporate office.

    After reading a lot of these comments perhaps I should have gone with Createspace . . . idk, looking forward to your suggestion and words. So appreciate your blog.

    • Hi Michele,
      I wish I had something useful to tell you. The only thing I can say is that I’ve heard this kind of complaint about poor print quality from Ingram Spark before, though never quite so clearly. I don’t know whether the Fresno plant is the problem. What kind of printing problem is it?

  9. Hi Holly.

    So happy I came across this site. I hope you can help me I recently published my book with Ingram Spark and have had printing issues since the very beginning. I ordered a copy of 50 books recently and had to return 39. Just received the replacement books and all have the same printing errors. I’ve had to cancel a book signing because I have no books. My book is selling well and I have speaking engagements lined up and commitments for my book already. I continue to go through the complaint process with IS and my claims are accepted each time because the problem is so obvious. I suspect it may be their Fresno printer. I am in the Bay Area. Other customers have ordered the book and have gotten exceptional quality. I’m not sure what to do. I am still trying to work with IS but I suspect their Fresno printer is not producing books consistently. This is really hurting me. My book title is Working the Roots: Over 400 Years of Traditional African American Healing. It has taken me 22 years to complete, most information from primary research. . . Your advice is much appreciated. Please help.

  10. I am using IngramSpark now and am so disappointed. There are pages coming loose in the hardcovers I sent out to family, and one of the paperbacks received started on page 7. Page 7. Was missing title pages, copyright, dedication, chapter header. I filed a claim and it has taken ten days to get a response and the response was only “we need bigger pictures.” How big do the pictures need to be to show the above problems. Seriously disappointed about their quality control and slow response. My pre-orders will be going out this week and I have no faith that they are sending quality books.

    • Absolutely unacceptable. I’m really sorry to hear about your experience. I’ve heard this complaint only once before. It’s difficult to know how widespread it is… If you’ve had a problem like this, comment here. We’ll see if we can get a better idea of what’s happening.

  11. I should also add, that using a CS ISBN allows me to distribute through their extended distrubution network, whereas they don’t let me do that with my own ISBN.

  12. Thanks so much for your quick reply, Holly!

    My thinking was that Ingram charges a lot more than CS for quality colour printing. From what I have read online, their standard colour is not worth using for picture books. However, their premium colour is very expensive, which pushes my book price higher than I would like, from what has been recommended to me by Amy Collins.

    I thought a way around that might be to do the softcover only on CS and the hardcover on Ingram, but it sounds like that might not work from what you’re saying? Bookstores etc, like to have both options? Or is the problem with Ingram and distribution?

    • It’s true that Ingram’s premium color, while expensive, is best for children’s picture books. But everything is a trade off: use the premium color and you’ll have to charge quite a bit for the book. So…knowing what I know, I’d say you should go with your first idea: hardcover with Ingram Spark and softcover with Createspace. Good luck.

  13. Hi Holly,

    I have learned a lot from you just reading through your replies above; thank you!

    I have a picture book that I am publishing on CreateSpace, and I plan to do the hardcover version only on IngramSpark. So, two different ISBNs. Because I’m Canadian, I get free ISBNs from the government, so my question is – is it better to use a CS free ISBN so I can use their extended distribution channels for the soft cover book, or use my own ISBN, and only distribute on Amazon and CS? Given that I plan to POD and distribute the hardcover book through Ingram.

    I have a catalogue block that I bought for my own ISBN, but I thought a CS ISBN might be better to access their extended distribution. However, if the Ingram distribution is best, with the hardcover version, then that might not be useful or necessary.

    Thank you!

    • Hello Bryony,
      I’m not sure I quite understand the thinking behind your question, but let me say this: when you use your own ISBNs from the Canadian government, you won’t be limiting your distribution. In fact, you have better control over your content and its distribution when you use your own ISBNs.

      If getting your book into bookstores is one of the reasons you’re using Ingram Spark, then I’d recommend you publish both the softcover and hardcover through them. If you don’t care about bookstores, then you’ll probably want to publish the hardcover through Ingram Spark (since Createspace doesn’t offer hardcover POD) and the softcover through Createspace, which will give you a little better royalty structure. Each format needs its own ISBN number (as you noted), and you cannot choose to have distribution of the same format through two different distribution channels (i.e., Createspace AND Ingram Spark softcover).

  14. Hi Holly! Your site is very helpful, thank you. My issue is this: We use Ingram POD for our first title, a full color children’s book. Shortly after upload it was available on Amazon with Prime eligibility and on Barnes and Noble. Due to Ingram’s long turnaround time however, I did not receive my printed copy before the title became available online. Once received, however, the formatting was completely messed up (IS added extra pages resulting in art spreads on back to front pages instead of facing) despite the e-proof showing normal layout. Plus we had to change cover lamination. Long and short, we had to make a couple different uploads to IS to fix the various issues, which resulted in our title twice becoming “unavailable” or “out of stock” on Amazon. Since this has happened twice now, I’m wondering if Amazon will drop the title completely or will they make it available again now that the title is back up and running with IS? Have you known this to happen (Amazon dropping an IS Title entirely)? It’s disappointing because we had reached number one new release in at least one category of children’s books and now we have no badges.

    Finally, could you explain briefly how the importance of the publication date to Amazon sales and rankings? I.e., sales generated within first week and/or thereafter?
    Thank you!

    • Ugh. I’m sorry you had such a bad time with Ingram Spark. That problem with pagination should have shown up in your e-proof. I don’t know why it didn’t. I do think it’s important for every author to order a physical proof of his or her book before pressing the “publish” button–even if it delays the pleasure of finally launching the book into the world.

      As to your question about how Amazon will handle the situation, I don’t think you have to worry. Everything is automated, and when Ingram Spark sends new info to Amazon about the revised version, Amazon will pick up the data. I doubt that any human even sees that data–it’s all automatic.

      Publication dates are important because you want Amazon to see your book as a #1 bestseller in its category, if at all possible. (Amazon’s algorithms determine bestsellers HOURLY, so you may only have that glory for 60 minutes–but, hey! Claim it, take a screen grab of it, and use it in your marketing and on your website.) So the question is: when could you launch your book so that it gets excellent sales figures quickly with minimum competition? If you’re planning an event–a book signing or a workshop–where you know you can generate some sales, then I’d wait to launch until that day. Amazon’s algorithms look for books that sell multiple copies in a single day AND continue to generate a relatively steady stream of sales in the days following that first day.

      How many copies does Amazon like to see? That depends on the category in which you’re publishing. My personal experience is that Amazon starts paying attention when you sell 50 or more copies on that first day.

  15. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “..a” in “comment_content” *]
    I am going to try to help everyone out there. As much as possible since I work for a publisher. There is no way to make a POD and turn a profit. It isn’t possible. UNLESS – you make an extremely expensive cookbook, picturebook, or price your book at an astronomically high price. Believe me, Ingram has worked this out. They make their money off self published authors and it is – to put it bluntly – sick. (I have put anonymous on this post because we work with Ingram). I have tried to help friends self publish books and it really is disheartening. Every author wants to have their books in the bookstores. BUT – you can only set the discount once – you cannot divide up your books discount (i.e. set a discount for online retailers compared to brick and mortar stores). Hence, with the discount of 50% for brick and mortar stores, you cannot POD a book through Ingram without losing money on every book. Once you discount 50%, add the costs of publishing the book, and the junk fee of .50 cents Ingram charges, and Ingrams HUGE cost of shipping the book (always base this on one copy at a time in case one bookstore in Idaho orders it)…. you are losing money on every book. Every time. The only way to make POD money is discount your book 30% (or 20%) for online retailers, Amazon, etc. But it will go to no bookstores. Hence, no visibility. Also, you add in promotion to this 30% discount, ads, etc…. in case you want to advertise on Amazon…advertise with Ingram… advertise with Baker and Taylor… and your profit is gone. But, whomever reads this, if you are actually making money on a POD book with a 50% discount (to allow for bookstores)… please please for the sake of all the frustrated authors…tell the authors how you did it.

  16. Hey Holly! Thank you for the great information on here!
    I am self-publishing my first book and will offer it as a pre-order on amazon (as well as my website). I am considering using IS in the beginning because they have an easy way to accept preorders than CS. I am planning on using KDP for the ebook pre order, as well as offering the audio book for pre order on Audible.

    I have a question about Amazon ranking. Will all three formats (physical book, audiobook, and ebook) combine into 1 amazon ranking? And will that rank happen as the pre-orders come in, or as one big accumulative number during the actual release week?

    Lastly, I will likely sell several thousand copies (even though I’m self publishing-I have an existing fanbase) and I do have the funds to invest in a non print-on-demand model, so I could technically skip using IS or CS…but I can’t find any information online on how other authors have self published and offered a pre order without using IS or CS. Do you have any insights or recommendations on this?
    Thank you so much! Have a great Friday:)

    • Hello Jillian,

      It’s always risky to answer technical questions such as these because Amazon is always changing its policies, but I do believe that your ranking depends on sales of the physical book and the ebook. I’m not sure about whether they consider the audiobook in the mix at the moment (tho they should). If anyone else knows, I hope they’ll weigh in here and let us all know.

      Your pre-orders will be aggregated and all of them will “hit” on the day you publish–which is a good thing. If the numbers are strong enough, that first day of sales bumps you up in the ranking, though I’ve been told that Amazon also pays attention to sales in subsequent days post-launch. In my experience, sales of 50-75 on that first day gives you a nice boost (tho how much of a boost depends on what subject category you’re publishing in. I’ve had several authors hit #1 on the Amazon bestseller list in their categories this way. But remember that Amazon refreshes its ranking HOURLY, so success is fleeting.

      It’s difficult to arrange a pre-order of your print book on Amazon if you’re not going through the standard print-on-demand channels. That’s because you’re now approaching Amazon as a true publisher, and a very small one at that. The big publishers have relationships with Amazon and Ingram that allow for preorders, but I’m betting that you’d be hard-pressed to get them to pay attention to you. If you’re going to do a print run, fine: just do it in ADDITION TO your print-on-demand plans. Then you can have the best of both worlds.

  17. Dear Holly:

    Perhaps the most pertinent website I have found related to this part of the publishing process. My questions are similar to what has been addressed but with a little different slant.

    I published my book with CreateSpace and am extremely happy with the outcome, not only in the quality of the design and the printed copies, but also with the Amazon system. I don’t really want to mess with that. However, I have one pebble in the shoe: I want to do book signings with Barnes and Noble, and you guessed it, the book needs to be returnable.

    Though this is Barnes and Noble policy, a manager or two said it is possible to get around this if a manager wants to allow what are called “small scale signings.” This is where I bring my books that had previously printed. But I want the full thing also and need to pursue the returnable option.

    You wrote: “If you don’t much care about affiliating your book with Amazon, you can effect the same outcome simply by choosing Createspace’s Extended Distribution option which also puts the book into the Ingram distribution system.”

    My issue is that I still desire to retain the standard distribution with CreateSpace and not complicate that. But I have selected expanded distribution which gets me into the Ingram system. This is not enough to select “returnable”, correct? (which I need to do to have book signings). I don’t really want to mess with the clean process I have with CreateSpace, but I want to get into book and mortar stores.

    I’m in Barnes and Noble.com system because of my expanded distribution selection through CS. Does that mean I’m in their affiliate program? Also, is CJ the replacement for the affiliate program? Does being accepted allow me to stay with standard distribution at Amazon? And, does CJ allow for returnable options through Barnes and Noble stores?

    Though I want book signings, I am really hesitant to change what appears to be a beautiful system with CreateSpace/Amazon only connection. I have heard nightmare storied of people who have both CS and IS. Plus, I don’t understand the legalities and ownership conflict of interest when going to IS from CS. For example, the contract from the IS website says the following:

    “You expressly acknowledge and agree that LSI transfers no ownership or intellectual property interest or title in and to the LSI Site to You or anyone else….All text…. Are owned, controlled and licensed by LSI….Except as expressly provided herein, LSI does not grant any express or implied right to you or any other person under any intellectual or proprietary rights.”

    What does that mean? Bottom line is I want to go returnable without screwing up what I have.

    Thanks for any insight on this.



    • Hi Scott,

      I’ve read your comment several times, and I confess that I’m not sure I understand what your asking (CJ?).

      But let me say this: if you want to appeal to Barnes & Noble, you should publish through Ingram Spark–and you should choose 1) to discount the book at the maximum allowed (which is 54%) and 2) to make your book returnable.

      Since you’re already on Createspace, you’ll need to go into that account and DE-select the Expanded Distribution channel before you set up your Ingram Spark account. In essence, you’re telling Createspace that you don’t want them to distribute your book to bookstores through Ingram, and you’re telling Ingram Spark that they’re your distributor into bookstores. In previous years, you didn’t have to do this–but today you can only have one of those two great rivals–Amazon or Ingram–distributing to bookstores.

  18. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “site!” in “comment_content” *]
    Great site! I am the husband of an author who has been writing individual commissioned books for families and publishing them using blurb.com for years. She has recently completed her first 5×8 softcover trade book with broad audience potential, and we have been struggling with many of the strategic issues here, through the added prism of knowing the Blurb platform well. After googling for a few hours, with the best insights coming from here, I find myself thinking the following:


    1. We think this book belongs in elementary school libraries, targeted at 4th-6th graders.
    2. We want individuals to be able to buy the book online as easily as possible, and agree with you that most people will head for Amazon first.

    3. Blurb can distribute through both Amazon and Ingram, but it seems like we’re just losing more money with another middleman layer. Also, Blurb > Ingram > Amazon will lead to the “ships in 1-3 weeks” scenario.
    4. We don’t want to handle distribution/fulfillment ourselves.

    5. Upload the softcover trade book to Createspace for sale via Amazon, and do NOT turn on the extended distribution. Avoid KDP because it’s not ready for prime time.
    6. Upload the same softcover version to Ingram using the Createspace ISBN.
    7. Create a hardcover version of the book and upload to Ingram to have something available for schools.

    The questions I’m left with are:

    A. Do we want to still sell the books via Blurb directly outside these channels as well if the profit per book is better? (not sure this is possible, but wondering)

    B. Do we have any choices in the pricing strategies across the Createspace/Amazon and Ingram channels that might help us improve revenue per book and not just maximize sales by maxing all the discounts through the supply chain?

    Book website is in the URL if curious. Thanks in advance for any insights!

    • Hi Patrick,
      Your STRATEGY (outlined above) will work if that’s the way you want to go. But you may find that both Createspace and Ingram Spark require that you set your list price so high that it will cut into your sales. That’s because color is very expensive to produce in the print-on-demand world.

      Since you say that your wife has success with prior books, you may want to rethink your strategy: Find a digital printer and produce a small number of books. That’s gonna require an outlay of money to pay the printer, but it’s also going to bring the cost per book way down–and allow you to sell the book at a reasonable price. It will also increase the amount you’ll make on each sale when compared with the print-on-demand world.

      How do you get the book up on Amazon once you’ve printed x number of copies? You can consign it to Amazon through the Amazon Advantage program. They’ll create a page for the book that looks just like any other Amazon book page, and they’ll fulfill orders on your behalf. You warehouse the books yourself (what are garages for, anyway?) and resupply Amazon as they reorder copies from you.

      If that sounds like too much of a hassle, there are companies that will warehouse your books and resupply Amazon on your behalf for a small fee. One that I like quite a lot is Ship Your Books (www.shipyourbooks.com).

      • Holly- thanks! This is really helpful and a new angle we had not considered. Let’s say we took your approach, and decided to have Ship Your Books be the digital printer AND do the warehousing/restocking with Amazon. It appears we’ve solved half of the equation above.

        How do we then make the book available to school libraries that buy through a distributor like Ingram? It seems we will have purchased an ISBN along the way to get to the point you describe above, we will have figured out the digital printing, and the warehousing.

        Do we just sign up with Ingram/IngramSpark for their distribution services, or do you have to print with Ingram, too?

        Thanks again!

        • Getting a self-published book into school libraries is tough. Some libraries buy from Ingram, others from Baker & Taylor, and still others from Follett. I’d recommend you look talk with a book distribution specialist such as Amy Collins at New Shelves Books (www.newshelves.com).

  19. Hi Holly, this question is a bit different from the rest but I would appreciate your response since you are very knowledgeable. What would happen if I bought a cheaper ISBN# from a country outside of the US to print on books to sell in the US , UK etc? Seems like US ISBN’s are soooo expensive without any real reason ( that I saw).
    Thanks in advance!

    • I don’t think it’s a good idea for this reason: every ISBN number has encoded the country where the book was published. When you see an ISBN number that starts with “978,” you know that the book was published in the U.S. Have you looked at Createspace’s option for purchasing an ISBN number for $10? In a pinch, I think that would be a better solution for you.

  20. Holly: Your website is extraordinary helpful. I’d love your opinion on my situation if you have a moment. I published a book with HarperCollins and am now helping my boss (CEO of a VC firm) create a publishing company–same name as the firm with “Publishing” tacked on, but a separate business. He’s almost finished writing his book, and we plan to have many of the founders we work with follow suit, assuming it goes smoothly. Our goal with this first book, which is focused on business + entrepreneurship + athletics, is to produce a clean, professional-looking book (paperback + ebook format) and reach as wide of an audience as possible under our new label. I will do a ton of marketing, and we’re also looking into freelance editors, designers, etc. Right now, I’m leaning toward CreateSpace as our best avenue, but am not confident yet. Besides Ingram and BookBaby, I’ve also looked at white label publishers like Wordzworth, Lantia, and MyBestseller, and am frankly quite confused by all of the options. Thank you for your time and wisdom! -Becky

    • You’re right, Becky. There are a dizzying number of options. Personally, I’d recommend sticking with either Createspace or Ingram Spark for your print-on-demand books. They’ve built the easiest paths to publication.

      However, it sounds like you have some ambitious plans to start your own publishing imprint. If you have the financial means to cover print runs for your books, and if you know you’ll be able to sell a good number of each title (say, 500 or so), you should probably look into working with a digital printer and doing short print runs of your titles. Then consign the books to Amazon through the Amazon Advantage program. If you do this, your production costs per book will be lower, and you’ll capture more revenue in the end. (It’s more work on your part to set all this up, of course.) Good luck.

  21. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “cost-effective” in “comment_content” *]
    Am I understanding this correctly? Working with IS sounds less than favorable. Everything I’ve read so far says that if I want to sell to brick and mortar stores, I need IS. Mostly because IS will accept returns. But the cost of return almost seems like it’s not worth it.

    What if I offered a guarantee that I would buy back any unsold books? Would that be more cost-effective in the long run?

    • You’re right on all counts. Ingram Spark is the place you want to be if you want to sell into brick & mortar stores because they accept returns, but they and the bookstores they serve take quite a chunk of your revenue–so much so that you have to set your list price high and sell a lot of books to make the whole thing worth the effort.

      And about your idea to “buy back” any unsold books, the truth is that you already DO buy back unsold book when you tell IS that you want them to accept returns: when a bookstore orders your book from IS, IS prints enough copies to fill the order and ships them out. But when the bookstore decides they’ve over-ordered and returns copies, IS charges you for BOTH the cost of printing those returned copies and the return shipping cost. You can choose to have those books shipped to you (another cost for you to cover), but you’ll find that some have been thumbed through by bookstore patrons.

  22. Hi, Holly.

    I have self-published four books now on Amazon through createspace. In the process of publishing my 4th book last week, I discovered that amazon was asking for the ISBN from createspace, and once I gave it, it took the book off of createspace’s website. Now, even though I have all of my books on amazon, they no longer exist on createspace. What does this mean? Should I not have done that? Seems I can’t order my own copies for $4 anymore on createspace anymore because they aren’t in the database anymore. Your help is appreciated.

    • I’ve never heard of this happening before, Adam. I would suggest you call Createspace and ask them what’s up. Because if your book is no longer on Createspace, I don’t know how you’re going to track your sales or royalty payments. Let me know what you find.

  23. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “4you” in “author_email” *]
    Reading all these with interest. Here’s my dilemma. I have a colour book (approx. 170 pages). I want to go paperback and ebook. Unless I’ve done something completely wrong, I am finding the cost to print between IS and CS absolutely HUGE! Based on POD – CS – $21.00; IS – $9.00!!! If I use CS for the Amazon connection, it forces me to have a list of at least $22.99. If I only used IS, it would mean I could go below $20. But I worry about how Amazon would handle title from IS. Then there is the dilemma between KDP and Pronoun for eBook. Haven’t even started that comparison yet. I’ve even considered ebook only but I already have interest from potential customers wanting a physical copy because of the amount of never-before-seen pix (book subject is musician I worked with – I have cleared copyrights on pix)… Any guidance appreciated!

    • Hello Marylou,
      Don’t worry about how Amazon handles books published on Ingram Spark. They’re pretty good about it since so many books are distributed through Ingram. The only downside I’ve seen is that sometimes Ingram books take a day or two longer to ship (since they may run out of Ingram stock). They never run out of stock on Createspace books.

  24. This is very interesting. I have been constantly battling with IS and now am looking at Createspace, have given up with IS. I am really disappointed in them and they have been trying to charge me full price for some errors they have made. My book which is a full colour children’s book has come back with banded poor quality printing. The whole process has been long, complicated, drawn out and frustrating. The guys on the phone are lovely but don’t offer technical support, you have to wait for email support, which is basic and unhelpful at best. Meanwhile, hey, let’s charge you even more money. I have stopped my title with them now as I am not prepared to fork out another £38 before I have even get the title correct (after the set up fee I may add!)

    • What a shame, and a pain for you. Ingram Spark is supposed to offer state-of-the-art digital color, but this sounds awful. I’ve not encountered this problem. But I have indeed encountered the problem of tech support. IS used to be really good at answering the phone and helping writers, but recently they’ve fallen to the bottom of the barrel when it comes to customer support. They’ve got to fix that if they want to truly support writers.

  25. Has anyone dropped CS and moved only to IS for paperbacks? details: I have only just published my book – and an Amazon paperback that one customer received had a major print error on every page. I got such a run-around (call Createspace! No, it’s Amazon’s own printing. No, go to AuthorCentral. No…. blah blah). The conclusion was that action will be taken, by Amazon, only if at least one more book is received flawed. That’s not the type of customer service I can tolerate. I used Ingram for hardcover and paperback and Createspace for paperback (also have kindle and audible).

    • What kind of print error? A typo? A blotch of ink?

      I must say, this problem is becoming more common–and not just with Createspace. I recently received a copy of a hardcover book whose dust jacket was so poorly produced that the spine text has slipped to the front cover.

      The problem with complaining is that each book is produced “print-on-demand” which means that what you get today may not be what you get for an order printed tomorrow.

      Nonetheless, the production values of print-on-demand books, it seems to me, are slipping.

  26. Hi Holly,

    At Ingram, I made two versions of my illustrated paperback novel. One version has a colored interior, and the other’s interior is black-and-white. I figured I’d let customers decide if they wanted to buy the more expensive colored version, or the less expensive black-and-white version.

    For the colored version, I used Ingram’s cheapest color option. I was disappointed to learn that the cover for the colored version of my book is much flimsier than the cover for my black-and-white book. The flimsier cover is curling.

    I’ve looked for specs on Ingram’s cover cardstocks, but I haven’t had luck. Do you (or your readers) know the paper weights of the covers of the three Ingram color options? Has anyone else had flimsy, curling covers for their colored paperback books?

    Thanks Holly. By the way, I took your workshop at Stanford a few years ago, and it was fantastic. This is a belated thanks!

    • Ugh. That’s not good.

      When I saw this comment, I dug out a set of color booklets that Ingram Spark hands out at conferences–booklets designed to show the difference between their “standard” color interior and their “premium” color interior. (Standard color was created, Ingram Spark claims, to be 1/3 to 1/2 as expensive as premium color. That effort is laudable, but I’ve gotta say that it’s not something I’d choose for a beautiful children’s book or cookbook, both of which require great color.) Both booklets seem to have the same cover stock (which hasn’t curled). So I don’t know what to say about this, other than…it shouldn’t have happened. Covers that curl are very tacky, and you shouldn’t have to put up with it. I’d complain.

  27. Hi
    ” CreateSpace’s shipping costs are considerably lower” it all depends where you live, if you are in Europe, shipping costs are simply crazy and sometimes higher than the price of the book…
    Createspace pretends to print and ship from US, a bookstore wanted to buy my books from Martinique (few miles away from one of their US printing facility) and CS priced the shipping way higher than to France so the deal was impossible.
    Printing costs for color books are just crazy too, nothing to compare with Ingram….

  28. Hi Holly,

    My head is spinning trying to absorb all this information, but it’s very helpful. I’m in the process of publishing my first picture book, which is targeted to teachers and school counselors. I’m having 200 hardcovers printed by a local printer, 125 of which will be going to people who’ve preordered by way of my Kickstarter campaign. I’m seeing here that I probably should place it with both Ingram Spark and Create Space (hopefully the formatting requirements won’t be dramatically different).

    My question is whether you think it matters in which order I do that. Will it be logistically easier to, say, go to IS first and then CS? Thanks!

    • Hang on a minute…and let’s think this through. I assume that your picture book is full color throughout, yes? A book that’s full color is a different cat in the world of self-publishing. Such a book is not a candidate for print-on-demand technologies (which is what both Createspace and Ingram Spark specialize in) because it’s far more expensive for those vendors to produce color interiors than black/white interiors. If you go forward with either company, you’ll find that they’re going to charge you quite a lot for the production of each book, and that will require you to set the retail price high–probably higher than anyone would pay for your book. You may find that they require your book to be priced at $30 or $40 (depending on page count) per copy.

      A much better plan for books with color interiors is to do what you’ve already done: find a digital printer who’ll print a number of copies for you. Your cost per book will be quite a bit lower (perhaps $6 or $8 per copy, depending on page count and number of copies you decide to print), and then you can set a retail price that’s reasonable for the market–say $15. The way you’d get such a book onto Amazon is to consign it to Amazon through the “Amazon Advantage” program. That’s different from the CreateSpace print-on-demand program. You’ll have to fulfill orders from Amazon periodically, but that’s a lot better than trying to sell a $40 book either through CreateSpace or Ingram Spark.

      • Hi Holly,

        Thanks for your quick reply, which I didn’t realize I’d gotten until just now!

        I did print the 200 hardcovers through the local printer, as I’d said. I paid a little over $10 per copy, and they’re gorgeously done.

        I uploaded the paperback file to IngramSpark, and ordered one test copy. It came out perfectly fine, and cost under $5 (though the shipping for that one copy was $9). I’ve ordered 50 copies from them to hand-sell. The total with shipping was about $220, so very reasonable in my mind.

        My original plan had been to put the paperback on Ingram in case any school districts wanted to order them, then simply offer the book POD through Amazon. However my book designer is trying to convince me to just sell the books myself through my websites. Her argument is that either I do all the (promotion) work and earn a decent amount on each book, or I do all the work and give most of the money to Amazon. When she puts it that way… :-)

        Do you have thoughts on this? Thanks.

        • Hi Laurie,
          I disagree with your book designer. You should follow your original plan to offer the book through Ingram and Amazon. You’ll never be able to reach as many readers through your websites as you will through those two sites, and I assume that your main goal is to reach readers, not to retire to Hawaii on your royalties.

          It’s true that they’ll take ~55% of your revenue, but they’ll also give you much better visibility and they’ll handle all the order fulfillment and shipping (which is something that gets really tiresome if you’re doing it yourself).

          • Thanks, Holly. That reinforces my thinking, since this is my first book and I’m trying to build an audience beyond my current platform (even though it’s a successful one). I also don’t want to have to deal with the hassle of fulfillment.

  29. Hi Holly! What do you think of Ingam/Lightnings new price increases (I don’t know if they also apply to Spark, but I presume so). I’m absolutely gob smacked – and totally stunned, that they would stiff their client base so much (includes myself via various channels).

    A huge reduction in volume discounts (now only 1% on 199 books, etc).
    A new per book handling fee of $0.30 Per Order + $0.20 Per Unit (Maximum Fee $40)

    There are some price reductions for per page print costs, but with many of those it equates to little more than a couple of cents per ten pages – and in no way balance out the new handling fee and lack of volume discounting.

    I’m sure publishers will still use them for their distribution – but my guess is Ingrams drop shipping price increases are going to be a boon for other digital printers!

    So disappointing to see. LSI only just increase their pricing last year or the year before. I’m pretty sure these changes will make CS by far the best choice for most authors now.

    • I, too, am concerned about Ingram’s prices and have spoken to them about this issue. Two of the hidden costs that many self-published authors aren’t aware of:

      #1 – When you set up your book on Ingram Spark, you’re asked how much of a discount you’re willing to offer to bookstores to stock your book. Your choices are from 30% to 55% discount. Most authors choose 55% because they want to appear competitive to bookstore buyers who are used to that kind of discount from the big publishers. But here’s the kicker: even when you choose 55% discount, your book will not be offered to bookstores at that discounted price. Why? Because Ingram Book Company (the parent company of Ingram Spark) routinely takes 15% off the top. That means that the highest discount that a bookstore will see for your book will be 40%–and even that discount is often reduced because you’re a small publisher. I recently worked with a writer who set up her book with a 55% discount, and when we asked our local bookstore to check on the discount offered to them for this book, we found that Ingram was offering it at a 20% discount. Not what we had expected!

      #2 – When a bookstore purchases copies of your book for an event where you’ll be talking, they have to guess at the number of books they’ll sell. Let’s say they purchase 30 books from Ingram and sell 20 at the event. If they decide to return the 10 books to Ingram, they’re charged a 15% restocking fee. And at the same time, you’re charged both for the production of those 10 books and for the return of those books (assuming you’ve set up your account so that you accept returns–as most authors do, because bookstores won’t buy books that aren’t returnable). That can eat into your Ingram Spark profits quite a bit.

  30. Hi Holly

    I thought you could publish with both Createspace and Ingram Spark but have run into a snag. My soft cover book is on Createspace and the e-book is currently with KDP but I wanted to have it show up in other retailers, rather than Amazon only. I thought having the books registered with both CS and IS was the way to go.

    However when I went to set up the book on IS, it told me my ISBN was already in use – I presume because the book is already available through CS. This ISBN is an independent ISBN purchased through my country of residence which I thought was able to be used everywhere. I emailed IS to query why it wasn’t accepted and this was their reply –

    “An ISBN cannot be in use with two different distributors at the same time.”

    So it sounds like you can only be with CS or IS? Is that correct?

    As mentioned, what I’m trying to achieve is to get the books listed in places other than Amazon only. I’m not sure how other authors do this. Any help would be appreciated. Many thanks.

    • Hi Maria,
      It used to be that you could upload the same book with the same ISBN number to both Createspace and Ingram Spark, but recently I’ve run into the same glitch you have. When I drilled down with IS, they told me to go into Createspace and DE-SELECT the Expanded Distribution Channel (in Createspace, go to DISTRIBUTE>CHANNELS and de-select BOOKSTORES AND ONLINE RETAILERS and CREATESPACE DIRECT). This clears the way for IS to become your main distributor. (Your book will still show up on the Amazon page.) Try this solution first.

      However, since IS has said that your ISBN is “already in use,” de-selecting Createspace’s Expanded Distribution choices at this point may not be sufficient. I’m thinking you may have to work with Ingram Spark to transfer your ISBN from Createspace to Ingram Spark. I did this once: I had to sign some paperwork that Ingram Spark provided. (What a pain!)

      • Thank you Holly – sorry I only just saw your response now. I’ve decided to stay with Createspace for the time being after reading through all the other posts here. What I would like to know is how to get into the other retailers – I see authors with Barnes and Noble buttons and Nook etc on their websites, rather than only Amazon. Sorry if I’m being dense, I had thought going with Ingram Spark was the way to achieve that but now I’m not so sure. All I want to be able to do is offer readers alternative buying options outside of Amazon. Thank you if you can clarify!

        • If you publish through Ingram Spark, you can go around Amazon–into both Barnes & Noble bookstores (assuming they hear enough about your book to want to stock it) and Barnes & Noble/Nook online (where customers can buy either print books or ebooks). If you don’t much care about affiliating your book with Amazon, you can effect the same outcome simply by choosing Createspace’s Extended Distribution option which also puts the book into the Ingram distribution system. Either way, you should also consider joining the Barnes & Noble affiliate program and adding a button to your website that would take potential readers directly to the Barnes & Noble online store. The affiliate program pays you a commission on all sales placed through your website. (Google: Barnes & Noble Affiliate program).

  31. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “oy” in “comment_content” *]
    Dear Holly

    I’m enjoying your posts and finding them very informative and helpful, thank you. I have a question about hardbacks v paperbacks with Ingram Spark. I’m published in the US by Random House but am bringing out in the US some of my earlier backlist novels where the rights have now reverted to me. I like Amazon KDP for the ebooks but would like to publish print editions as well in the hope of getting a few library orders. Is a paperback edition good enough for American libraries or do you think I should publish them in hardback only despite the additional expense? They are quite old titles now, but still chugging along in ebook format and I’d like to try and get them into US libraries if I can. They are romantic comedy novels and were originally published in the US by Penguin and Harlequin. I’ve emailed the American Libraries Association but haven’t heard back from them yet and so would welcome your thoughts about this issue if you have time. Thank you in advance, Isabel Wolff.

    • Hello Elizabeth,
      There’s very little additional expense in the publishing process for a print-on-demand (POD) hardcover through Ingram Spark when compared to a softcover on either Createspace or Ingram Spark–so I’d recommend you go for the hardcover. Libraries do prefer hardcover because they last longer. The only downside is that you’ll probably have to price the hardcover a bit higher to cover Ingram’s POD production cost–but that small increase in price is probably worth it. Good luck on your project.

  32. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “great post” in “comment_content” *]
    Great posting. Want to ask for clarification if I can. I have seen it asked in several places here whether a book (can we say a paperback) is POD from Ingram Spark, will it appear in Amazon? Will it be offered alongside or with the Kindle version for the e-book through Amazon? There is no clear statement either way? Presuming from some of the comments that Amazon will list your LS POD paperback with your Kindle e-book, but it will read as not in stock (3-5 days)? Am I getting that right? That is the worst of it.

    Am publishing the print version through LS and the e-book through Kindle and Draft2Digital, and am just trying to get my head around the marketplace politics. Don’t want to be too disappointed by it all – or too disadvantaged, depending on your perspective.

    • Hi Tracie,
      I think the confusion comes because Amazon’s procedures have changed over the years. At the moment, this seems to be the Amazon plan: Amazon will list your paperback book for sale on the Amazon site, but they may not list it on the first page that potential buyers see. Instead, they may place a link beneath the Kindle version that says something like “other formats available.” Once the potential buyer clicks on that link, she’ll see the full page for the paperback version, and she can purchase it there. There may also be a delay of a few days before the book ships. This is just Amazon’s way of making life a bit more difficult for its biggest competitor in the POD world: Ingram.

  33. Word of caution about IngramSpark. Don’t do it.
    After working through the formatting issues with Smashwords with flying colors, I felt fairly competent to do the same with IngramSpark. Long story short, following countless phone calls to their “help” line, where I received conflicting instructions, (and don’t let them tell you they have a chat line “if it’s open.” It’s never open.), I quit them and went elsewhere. Several times a day I waited the half hour it took for the youthful helper to get around to me on the phone and received pat answers that didn’t work after all. I finally gave up after hours of working through their “instruction” only to discover that I could solve the embedded font problem if I purchased an expensive Adobe program.
    First of all, the first guy I talked to offered their expensive formatting service. Why so He said, “I think they have to retype your manuscript.” I knew better than that.
    Second, I can’t help but to compare Smashwords excellent step-by-step, entertaining and encouraging manual to guide through the formatting maze. IngramSpark, by comparison throws out a disorganized and discouraging worksheet, basically, that doesn’t help much. You end up calling again.
    Third, I was having trouble with embedding the fonts. After reformatting from scratch three times, the problem continued to crop up. I never got the manuscript ready, even with their “assistance.” Here’s my question: Why can’t IngramSpark just put the manuscript through whatever programs would take care of this problem? Smashwords does. They call it their meatgrinder. And it’s FREE. IngramSpark, for their $50, could offer the same sort of service and keep a lot of customers happy, instead of stringing them along and collecting fees.
    Starting with the first “helper” (the retyping guy), I told them that their operation felt like a money grabbing machine, not a publishing machine. Intermittently, as I lurched along with their glib “instructions,” I felt duped, right up to the end when I became sure that I was being conned. I promptly closed the account and asked for the $50 back.
    Here’s the deal. If you’re thinking of publishing through IngramSpark, keep looking.

  34. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “product” in “comment_content” *]
    I wish there were another source for hardcover books with distribution access but until CreateSpace offers hardcover printing I’m stuck with IS. They are a challenge to work with but if you know problems and limitations you can work around them.
    I noticed their new printing fees for June 2017 have not increased for premium color and interior. They will start charging a slightly higher setup fee ($4.99 vs $1.99).

    A new player, PrintNinja, may appeal to some authors looking for high-quality products. Their biggest drawbacks are 250 minimum order, a long turn around time for shipments, and minimal warehousing. At 250 copies they are competitive with IS and at 500 copies they blow them out of the water. Worth looking at.

  35. IngramSpark has a relationship with schools and libraries internationally. All a teacher or librarian has to do is look up a title in their “system”, click a button, and then book will be ordered and enroute to their facility (and the author will be paid for that).

    Does CreateSpace offer the same?

    If not, then it sucks to remain with IngramSpark. If so, then there’s no reason to remain with IngramSpark.

    • Createspace does have a direct distribution arm. It’s called Createspace Direct, and you enable it when you enable Expanded Distribution as you input your book’s data. But the problem is that most bookstores, schools and libraries are used to dealing with Ingram–and they’re used to buying multiple titles from Ingram at one time. They CAN buy from Createspace, but it takes extra effort to go beyond their standard procedures just to get your book.

    • Digital color reproduction has improved greatly in recent years. And Ingram has taken it a step further, offering a choice of standard and premium color reproduction. I’ve seen both, and in my opinion premium is well worth the extra cost. It’s state-of-the-art for print-on-demand books.

  36. Hi gang,
    This is my first book rodeo, so please don’t hook me.

    According to everything I have read about POD and self-publishing, the current best potential outcome is by using both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. IS seems to be good for giving your book the best chance of getting into non-Amazon outlets and CS is good for all things Amazon (book always shows as available, quicker processing/printing/shipping, lower author costs, good cust service, etc.) But what if you want your book in hardcover. CS does not do hardcover.

    So my plan is to release the hardcover thru IS and the paperback thru CS at the same time (with two different ISBNs that I purchased through Bowker). Does this make sense? What are the potential downsides?
    And what about e-book versions? I assume I go through KDP for kindle but would it be best to let IG handle the non-kindle e-book distribution?


    • Hi Jim,

      You’ve gone through the decision tree we all follow, and in my estimation you’ve made the right assumptions about hardcover and softcover: it’s best to do hardcover with Ingram Spark and softcover with CreateSpace (as irritating as it might be to have to track your sales on two different sites).

      As for the ebook decision, I’d recommend going through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP.com) instead of Ingram Spark because you can then choose to enroll in the Kindle Select program. This program allows you to access a number of interesting marketing programs (such as discounting your ebook, or giving it away free for a limited number of days to generate later sales) which are impossible unless you join.

      The cost of joining Kindle Select is that you give KDP.com EXCLUSIVE rights to market your book for 90 days. Some people dislike that because it gives Amazon too much power, but it seems worth it to me. Most people read ebooks either on a Kindle or on an IPad using the Kindle app–so when you give KDP exclusive rights you’ll still be reaching about 90% of the market. The only ebook reader that will not be able to deliver your book is the Barnes & Noble Nook–and that ereader is always on the verge of disappearing from the market.

  37. Why are the contract terms of Create Space not an issue with more authors? As I have posted below, they defy the very basics of any contract:

    1. Amendment; Notice of Changes.
    We reserve the right to change the terms and conditions contained in this Agreement, other Service-specific terms and conditions, or any policies or guidelines governing the Services, including without limitation, any of the information posted on the Products and Help sections of the Site or the Content Guidelines, Submission Requirements, Pricing pages, Site Terms and Privacy Notice pages, at any time and in our sole discretion. Any changes to the Site, including Service-specific terms and conditions, or policies and guidelines referenced in this Agreement, will be effective upon posting of such revisions on the Site and without notice to you. We will, however, post a notice of any changes to this Agreement on the Site for at least thirty (30) days after the changes are effective. You are responsible for regularly reviewing the Site for changes and notice of any changes. Changes to referenced policies and guidelines or any other information in any Products, Help, or other web pages may be posted without any other notice to you. YOUR CONTINUED USE OF THE SITE AND THE SERVICES FOLLOWING OUR POSTING OF ANY CHANGES TO THE AGREEMENT ON THE SITE WILL CONSTITUTE YOUR ACCEPTANCE OF SUCH CHANGES OR MODIFICATIONS. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO ANY CHANGES TO THIS AGREEMENT OR THE SITE, DO NOT CONTINUE TO USE THE SERVICES OR THE SITE.

  38. After having good results with Lightning Source for several years I switched my account over to Ingram Spark, and have been very unhappy with the service. They would not accept the pdf cover that I used for CreateSpace, although it was perfect. Then, I submitted it again on the template they sent me, but that got trashed by their server. Despite three phone calls to them, no one knew what was going on or what I should do next. Now, a week has elapsed and no one at IS is taking responsibility for getting my cover uploaded. With Lightning Source, CreateSpace, BookBaby and Smashwords I never had these problems. I would never use them again.

  39. I’d be grateful if anybody could tell me how they went on with the mechanics of actually getting their book into Ingram Spark’s publishing process? Assuming they have created and formatted the book in Word already.
    Which .pdf format did they choose?
    Was their book was returned for amendment prior to publication, what are the pitfalls to watch out for?
    I’m doing my research BEFORE I get started, having gone wrong with Amazon previously.
    Many thanks in advance.

    • Hello Debby,
      That’s a big question, but kudos to you for doing your homework before you begin.

      The process is relatively straightforward regardless of whether you choose CreateSpace or Ingram Spark. The goal is to get your book interior into a formatted PDF, and your cover into a JPG. They you create an account with either of these sites, give them info they request (how you’ll pay them, how they’ll pay you, how they’ll report your earnings to the IRS), and upload your PDF and JPG to the vendor of your choice.

      Ah, but the devil is in the details. As for which pdf format to use, if you’re working in Word, just choose the basic PDF. If you’re working in InDesign, choose PDF/X-1a:2001. Beyond that, there are hundreds of little decision points. Feel free to post more specific questions here.

  40. As a Canadian, I was dismayed to learn Createspace does not offer direct deposit for Canadian authors for royalties, so it creates another level of issues for us as we won’t get paid for perhaps months or even years as you apparently need over $100 in each separate currency to even get paid, and then they send you cheques in the sale currency??? So I could get Rupees??? Is that correct?
    As well I have read the international publishing, offering your book overseas is better through Ingram than Createspace. I have online presence overseas, so I hope to have my books available in print and ebook worldwide. It seems like for Canada or other countries that don’t have direct deposit with Createspace, we might be better off with Ingram from the start.
    Plus the option to arrive in bookstores and you local library…

    • Hi Kathy. I just stumbled on your comment and thought I’d share the solution I came to. TD Canada Trust bank in Canada is associated with TD Bank in the US. They offer free cross-border banking (i.e. transferring funds between the two with no fees), and you, as a Canadian, can open a TB Bank US account online very easily. So: open an account with TD Canada and an account with TD Bank US, get Createspace to direct deposit into the US account, and transfer the funds for free into your Canadian account, and voila!

      Hope this helps.

  41. I want to use IS because my hope is that they will advise me or even provide me with a way of advertising my novel on Ingram’s monthly (weekly?) newsletter sent to bookstores & libraries. However, despite repeated attempts, I can’t get IS to respond to my questions. There’s no phone number, and I’ve Emailed them twice without getting a reply. I don’t want to use a PoD that I can’t contact & get good service from.

    Have you, Holly, or anyone else had a similar experience? Is there some secret way to get their attention?

    • I’ve had the exact same experience. They used to have terrific customer service–you could call and get a cheery voice on the line, and you’d get your issue resolved in a day. Now it’s practically impossible to get anyone on the line.

  42. Hi Holly

    I plan to publish a print book that has my own ISBN number on it. If I also make a CreateSpace copy, do I need a separate ISBN for what is essentially the same edition, or do I put the same ISBN on both? As registered ISBN titles automatically appear of Amazon and elsewhere, will both the CreateSpace and my own print copy (with exactly the same covers) show up side-by-side on Amazon’s website ?

    • Hello Roger,
      If the two versions are exactly the same, you need only one ISBN number. But I’m not sure why you are going to publish your own print book and get it up on Amazon separate from the CreateSpace version. That doesn’t make sense.

    • Although if you also try to setup with IngramSpark, they will not take the same ISBN as what was used on CreateSpace. That was a kicker. And the support team was not very polite when I questioned them about it.

  43. I have a question. I want to create a journal book, but there are limited options for printing a pretty journal book on createspace. Do you recommend any other self-publishing companies that offer great quality printing at low prices?

    • I’m not sure what you mean by a journal book. Are you creating a book for writing in, perhaps interspersed with color photos or illustrations? If you’re just looking to create a few such books as gift, try MyPublisher.com.

    • Maribel, try Vervante. They are all set up for journals, and you can purchase samples. It was when I ordered the samples that my imagination sparked.

  44. Holly,

    I apologize if this is a duplicate of my last post, I cannot tell if that one went through or not.

    In any case, I was expressing my thanks on your assistance with the outlined topic. I am brand new to all of this and am trying to make my way through the process. I just recently purchased my ISBNs and registered with the LOC.

    The piece I don’t understand is if I get signed up with IS for PoD and then sign up with Createspace for KDP distribution, does that mean I am listed on the Amazon website and the purchase goes through IS? Or, do I need to sign up for the Amazon Kindle Direct Program directly (picking either the 70 or 30% amount)in addition to CreateSpace. All these different entities are confusing me?

    I apologize if this is an dumb question. Just trying to figure it all out and want to ensure I reach all the best places for distribution.

  45. Hello Holly,

    On Ingram, I’ve gotten as far as I can go without actually submitting the book files. I’ve copyrighted the material and paid for an ISBN through the Ingram process. After reading through this thread and doing some other research, I have to say that CreateSpace looks a little bit friendlier. Can I use the ISBN acquired through Ingram, not go any further with them, and finish up with CreateSpace?

    Also, does CreateSpace only market to Amazon, or are they like Ingram and go to bookstores, schools, libraries, etc.?


    • It’s sometimes hard to suss out what’s going on behind the scenes with Ingram Spark (IS), Amazon and CreateSpace (CS), but I see no reason why you can’t use the ISBN number you purchased through IS on the CS site. That’s because IS is an “official agent” of Bowker, the company that keeps tabs on all the ISBN numbers and the accompanying information about the books they represent in a massive database that booksellers and everyone else in the publishing industry use. When you purchase an ISBN number through IS, you’re actually purchasing it from Bowker. This gives you maximum flexibility, including the ability to name the publisher of the book (you, or some micropublishing company you create).

      However, it’s important to remember that the reverse procedure–using a number assigned by CS on the IS site–will not work. That’s because when you allow CreateSpace to assign one of their free ISBN numbers to your book, you’re not purchasing that ISBN number from Bowker. It has been purchased in bulk by CS, and you’re getting it free from them. The problem with the free CS ISBN numbers is that CreateSpace becomes the publisher of record when displayed on your Amazon page–something a lot of authors want to hide.

      As for your question about marketing, remember: none of these companies actually markets your book. They distribute your book. You market your own book.

      So let me rephrase your question: Does CS only distribute to Amazon, or are they like IS and distribute to bookstores, school, libraries, etc.? The answer is complex, but here’s what you need to know: CS is the print-on-demand arm of Amazon. Amazon will distribute to pretty much anybody–bookstores, schools, libraries–just like Ingram. The problem is that some bookstores won’t buy from Amazon because they think Amazon has ruined their business. That’s why most of the authors I work with make their books available through both CS and IS (which is perfectly acceptable to both companies).

      • You said, “I see no reason to have two ISBNs.” I am doing it that way, after reading a great deal of comments and advice from both authors & PoD publishers.

        CS is great for getting things on Amazon (including UK & Europe) and is cheapest if you want to buy books so you can distribute them yourself. However, if you want even a chance of seeing your book in bookstores and libraries, using CS is NOT the way to go. As you pointed out, bookstores (and for all I know distributors like Ingram) won’t work with CS because they understandably hate Amazon. Therefore I plan on using another PoD service like IS for bookstores and also libraries. Unfortunately, Amazon doesn’t like listing books created by other non-CS PoD companies (and sometimes certain regular publishers as well). They show their displeasure by occasionally putting the notice “Out of stock: expected shipping in 3 weeks” (or something similar) on your Amazon detail page.

        It is possible that I could use the same ISBN number purchased from Bowker and listing my pseudo-company as the publisher. OTOH, I take the chance of there being a problem if the non-CS PoD company (e.g., IS) tries to distribute it to Amazon. Since Amazon already has it and the ISBN would be the same, I’m not sure what would happen. I would guess it’s possible I’d risk getting the “out-of-stock” notice in my Amazon listing. Since buying 10 of them from Bowker (including 2 bar codes) is $300, at most I’m only wasting $30.

        As an aside, I want multiple ISBN numbers because I foresee eventually rereleasing my novel in mass-market paperback (the first edition is in trade paperback). While strictly speaking I don’t need an ISBN for Kindle, Nook (Barnes & Noble) or other eBook formats, having one is IMHO more professional-looking. I also may release another version with significant changes due to feedback on the first version. In that case. I would be required to use different ISBNs so everyone can tell one version from the other. You said, “I see no reason to have two ISBNs.” I am doing it that way, after reading a great deal of comments and advice from both authors & PoD publishers.

        [BTW, the “Post Comment” button doesn’t appear with the Chrome Browser.

        • You raise an interesting point, Edward. I, too, have noticed that Amazon has begun to treat IngramSpark-produced books different from CreateSpace books: specifically, the former books sometimes are listed as “out-of-stock” or available “in 3 to 5 days.” I’ve also noticed that hardcover versions created via IngramSpark are sometimes noted with just a small link on the Amazon page–NOT showing the price and availability prominently along with the softcover and ebook version–or through a link that says “Other formats available.” Grrrrrr…this makes me angry. These two behemoths should quit the infighting at the expense of the reader and writer IMHO.

          As for using two ISBN numbers for the exact same edition–one through CreateSpace and a second through Ingram Spark–I don’t know what the consequences would be though it sounds like it would be messy. The ISBN number is designed so that those buying understand exactly what they’re getting–the correct format (softcover, hardcover, ebook, etc), the correct edition (copyright 2012 or 2016), and so forth. If people like you start to use two ISBN numbers for the same edition, it may cause some unforeseen problems. But I understand completely why you’re going in that direction.

  46. Hi Holly,

    Thanks for all this wealth of information!

    I’ve been working for the last 4 year with Lighting Source (not IS) and all went really well until last year.

    I publish a yearly calendar with articles and my selling season is November to January. Last winter almost every single order sent outside the UK (where my account is registered) was late, and in some cases, lost.

    At the beginning they replaced the delayed orders. Then decided not to. It took me endless emails to my otherwise very friendly account representatives to find out they are using a company called Air Business for all non-trackable deliveries, and that “statistically there was nothing wrong with the number of lost and delayed orders for my book given that Xmas is the busiest time”.

    Replacement orders costed me a lot of money last year and I’m now looking for an alternative for my new edition. But it looks like CreateSpace is much more expensive compared to Lighting Source rather than Ingram Spark?

    Also, have you heard of anyone else having delivery issues with Ingram Spark?

    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge with us!


  47. I have a question. If you have purchased your own ISBN codes and named your own publishing company and you distribute through Createspace, will Ingram pick up your book and distribute to bookstores and libraries so you don’t have to get involved with Ingram Spark? Thanks.

    • If you choose CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution Channel (EDC), they claim that your book will be made available “to distributors such as Ingram and NACSCORP.” But that doesn’t mean your book will show up in bookstores. To be attractive to most bookstores, your book must be offered at a discounted price (somewhere between 30% and 55% less than your list price) and it needs to be returnable. With CreateSpace, you can specify a wholesale discount price for your book, but you can’t make it returnable.

        • Once you’ve logged into your CreateSpace account, click on the title you want to set discounts for. Then under the Distribute tab, click on Channels. Under the Createspace eStore channel, you’ll find a small link (easy to miss!) called Discount Codes. Click there.

          This works different from the Ingram Spark discount codes. Think of it more like a place where you can set up a discount coupon for a specific customer. You set up the discount amount (in dollars or % off) and then you’ll get a discount code which you give to the reseller you’re working with. They order the book through your Createspace eStore (you set one up, didn’t you?) using the code you gave them. The discount will be applied by Createspace when they check out.

        • To my knowledge, Createspace doesn’t allow you to set a wholesale discount for bookstores in general (as Ingram Spark does). On Createspace, you can create discount codes for specific bookstores, which you then give to the bookstores who want to order your books, but that’s a whole different ball of wax–and one that I’ve never seen an author use.

    • Much of what Ingram Spark and Amazon do happens behind the curtain, so it’s difficult to answer questions like this one. But I noticed recently that Ingram Spark has begun to require that if you want Ingram to distribute your book to bookstores, you must NOT select the Expanded Distribution channels in Createspace (which promise distribution into bookstores). It looks like you must give Ingram exclusive distribution to bookstores in order to play ball with them. This hasn’t always been the case, and I’ve not seen any official press release from either company on this — but one of my authors who was publishing through Createspace and wanted to add his book to Ingram Spark had to sign paperwork that he had de-selected Createspace’s Expanded Distribution option.

  48. There are two big differences between CreateSpace and IngramSpark. Here they are:

    1 – Ingram allows returns from bookstores (but it really costs you)
    2 – CreateSpace is friendlier and cheaper

    While getting into bookstores is important, the cost of such could really kill an indy writer and publisher. One such thing almost killed us. An author had a signing and the bookstore order 200 copies (happy dance for us). But when the dust settled, they returned 50 of them. Ingram then turned around and shipped them back to us (shipping cost $2/book for over $100! It would have been a lot less if we ordered the books). Then they charged us the wholesale value, not print cost, of the book. It took it from $3.65 to $9! Then they charged a $1060.00 fee called “Other” (still trying to find out what that is). So we sold 150 books and because of them the 50 books that returned killed all profit from the signing. Guess how much that cost our small company? Almost closes the doors and makes me wonder why we use Ingram.

    Think we’ll go back to CreateSpace and lick our wounds.

  49. Dear Holly,

    You’ll be happy to know this page ranks number one in Google for anyone seeking a direct comparison between CS and IS.

    CS seems superior, but I am wondering – who offers the better distribution?
    Amazon moves more books than anyone, but is IS’s reach wider? The ability to move books is more important than distribution, I suppose, but I wonder which one really gives us the best chance to reach the most readers.

  50. Just to clarify, Ingram Spark is not the first to offer hardback copies. Xlibris has been doing so since at least 2000 when I contracted with them for “Push Not the River.” That was before their prices skyrocketed, so I wouldn’t do it again.

  51. Thanks Holly for the handy information…

    I have a few doubts about the process and choosing IngramSpark or CreateSpace.

    1. Do both of them make my book available on various stores for ex Amazon.com and handles the order automatically?

    Exp: I mean I just need to sign up with amazon.com as a seller and link my amazon.com’s account with CreateSpace and any a single order placed by a buyer is taken care by CreateSpace. Everything goes automatic.


    I need to work on everything like I get an order from Amazon.com. Then I need to put that order details in CreateSpace and generate request/POD and set the buyer address for delivery.

    2. IS and CS are suggesting world wide distribution offer. But what does it actually mean?

    Exp: Is it like they have tie up with major book stores and CS and IS will represent our books to those stores? How that world wide distribution works? What are the benefits?


    It will work like I need to call various book chains and book their orders. Then I need to put those orders manually into CS and IS account and then they will distribute the orders to them.

    3. Another thing is the return of the books? What is the situation when a book store returns the books? How will they manage it? Will CS and IS send those books to my address and deduct the money from my account? I meaning the flow of return is confusing me.

    4. I am from India and want to sell my books globally, so what are the tax situations of which I need to take care about in selecting the POD services. I mean what taxes do I need to pay to other countries or to CS and IS as my company is registered in India?


    • Hello Pankaj,
      “Print-on-demand” books work far more simply than what you’ve assumed in your email here. Specifically, you upload the final files for your book to either CreateSpace or Ingram Spark. Within a few days, your book shows up for sale on Amazon. When someone orders your book through Amazon, one of the two companies prints one copy and ships your book off to that customer. You don’t have to do any of the distribution work. That’s the beauty of the process.

      As for your question about global distribution, if you opt in for “Expanded Distribution” through CreateSpace, your book will show up on all the Amazon sites around the world. If you now buy books from Amazon in India, then your book can be bought in India by others.

      Regarding taxes, US authors have to fill out tax forms so that the US government can properly tax the royalties that an author gets from the sale of his or her book. I don’t know how it’s handled for authors in India, but I expect that CreateSpace will walk you through any necessary procedures when you open an account online with them.

  52. Thanks for the article, Holly. Has anyone noticed a difference in printing quality between a CreateSpace and IngramSpark paperback? After going through seven proofs where the printing was fine, I released a book on CreateSpace and ordered 26 copies to sell personally. Fifteen of the books were of unacceptable/defective quality, where the text on the left-hand and right-hand sides didn’t match up, upper margins were reduced, and printing was slanted. Although CreateSpace has a good replacement/refund policy, the waste of paper, resources, and transportation fuel disturbs me greatly, and I want to choose an environmentally friendly option for my next title.

    • I’ve seen variances in quality from both CreateSpace and Ingram Spark, Tara, but I’ve never seen the kind of thing you describe. Let’s all hope that it doesn’t become the norm.

      The variances that I’ve seen include printing that’s too light (similar to when you run out of ink in your printer), and spine design that wraps to the back or front of the book. This latter problem can be mitigated by designing a spine that is the same color as the front and back of the book, and making sure that the type on the spine has ample space around it.

    • [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “oy” in “author_email” *]
      My company severed ties with CreateSpace a few years ago due to horrible defects. The covers were literally flaking off, so right out of the box, they looked horrible.

      We had continued to use Lightning Source, who I always thought was better anyway, but in the last 3 or so years, their quality has taken a nosedive. 10-20% of all my orders have to be replaced due to defects. I don’t think they have anyone checking quality anymore. I’ve received boxes with no packing so they’ve obviously just banged around in-transit, and my last shipment of books 10% had covers coming away from the spine because they weren’t glued properly. I’m actually recommending to my company that we find a new printer because I’m done with them.

      I keep seeing all these article about the CreatSpace vs. Lightning Source, but I personally wouldn’t reccomend either. Only problem is now I have to find a new company, and I’ve never used anyone else.

      • I’ve had a few problems with production from both companies, but nothing as severe as what you describe. Print-on-demand technologies (and their accompanying quality assurance teams in these two companies) are probably not as good as what you can get from a short-run printer, but they do offer one-off printing and distribution.

        If you’re ordering 25 or more books at a time, then maybe you should develop a relationship with a short-run printer. There are many of them these days because the business of printing has moved in that direction. Plus, with a short-run printer, you can better control paper and binding quality–and you have someone to yell at if a print run doesn’t go well. But you’ll have to consign those books to Amazon through the Amazon Advantage program in order to make them available on Amazon–which you don’t have to do using either Createspace or Ingram Spark/Lightningsource.

  53. I notice with Create Space’s expanded distribution they market to Ingram Spark anyway, and the book does not identify Amazon as the printer. So why would bookstores even know it was published at Create Space?

    • I’m not sure I understand your comment, Ron. CreateSpace’s expanded distribution makes a book available through Ingram (the distribution arm), not Ingram Spark (the print-on-demand part of the company).

      Just remember that if you get your ISBN number free through CreateSpace, then CreateSpace will be shown as the publisher of record on your Amazon page. And even if you buy your ISBN number from them for $10 and use your own micropublishing name, savvy bookstores will still know because the publisher’s name (still CreateSpace) is encoded in the ISBN number. The only way to make sure that bookstores won’t reject your book because it is an Amazon product is to purchase your own ISBN number from Bowker and register your own micropublishing name on Bowker’s MyIdentifiers site (www.myidentifiers.com). That’s the official way to become a publisher yourself.

  54. I’ve worked extensively with IngramSpark for the last two years and I’ve got a few notes of my own (as an Australian)

    1. The tracking methods they give you in the shipping confirmation emails don’t say it, but they’re usually the TOLL Group or Startrack. Try the consignment number on those company’s websites and you might have some luck.

    2. Any colour books ordered in Australia will be printed in the US and shipped to Australia, which is why the shipping time is longer. Because of this there can be more issues to do with transport and damage to stock. We’ve seen books take more than 8 weeks to arrive at a customer (the original estimate is 20 business days).

    3. The $12 market access fee is only waived for the first year, every year after that costs $12 (USD)

    4. The assistance offered by IngramSpark’s US team to us in Australia is not so great, but the Australian contacts are really helpful. You can find the links to these on their website. They can even send you out a sample pack for the colour books to show you the difference between the colour options.

    5. The books are generally live on Amazon within a week or two, and other online vendors are the same. The only thing about the six to eight week message is that not all details of the book may come up as live right away. For instance, I see book covers take substantially longer to display, which is terrible practice. If after the eight weeks is up your book cover isn’t showing, you can contact IngramSpark and they will repush your information to the vendors.

    6. I’m not sure if it’s the same for Createspace, but IngramSpark say that vendors can display your book however they like. That can include misrepresenting the RRP. We’ve loaded a book up for $29.99 Australian and on Booktopia it was listed at $35.

        • Hi Julie,
          I see no reason to have two ISBNs. An ISBN is the unique number that associates your book with your publishing company, not with the vendors who are printing books on your behalf.

          An ISBN number is to the book industry what a SKU number is to your local drugstore: it’s a number that helps identify in the marketplace each particular item for sale–in all its various forms. So you want to assign a separate ISBN to each edition of your book in each of its specific formats (hardcover, softcover, ebook, etc.). Booksellers and customers can then use your ISBNs to make sure that they get the version they want.

    • Ah, IngramSpark. They SAY that you can purchase an ISBN from Bowker/MyIdentifiers (the official issuer of ISBNs) through the IngramSpark site at a reduced rate, but I can’t figure out how. And they say that if you go to Bowker directly, you’ll have to pay $400 for a package of 10.

      Their second claim is definitely not true. A package of 10 ISBNs purchased from the Bowker/MyIdentifiers site costs $295, not $400.

      Here’s what I’d recommend. Just purchase your ISBNs directly from Bowker/MyIdentifiers at http://www.myidentifiers.com. You’ll need one for every version of your book that you plan to publish–hardcover, softcover, ebook, etc. If you order a package of 10 and don’t use them now, they remain yours for your next book. They never expire.

      As for typesetting the book, IngramSpark doesn’t do that. You can hire a book designer, or you can do it yourself using a template.

      If you want to try it yourself, check out the interior book templates from Joel Friedlander at http://www.bookdesigntemplates.com/. These are pre-formatted Word docs that require you to paste your text over the sample text in the doc. It’s a fussy process, but not impossible. And the designs are quite nice. Friedlander’s templates are not free–they start at $37 per book, but his staff offers very responsive tech support if you get in trouble. Personally I think it’s worth it for the tech support alone.

      There are other sites that offer templates for no cost. Check them out by googling “book interior templates.”

  55. Hi Holly,

    Yes. This is very helpful information and eases my concerns. Our book went up last Monday and by Wednesday it was sold out. That is when it was saying that the book delivery was going to be delayed. It is good to hear that shouldn’t be the case for long.

  56. Thanks Holly for being so helpful. In defense of Ingram Spark our start up fee was waived when we ordered some books. Do you know what the typical wait time is for those who opt to print on demand? Specifically, when a customer orders from Amazon or Barnes and Noble what is a reasonable delivery time? When it first went up on Amazon we had a great response but I am a little hesitate to market it heavily until the wait time decreases. Should I worry about this or just go for it?

    • Hi Julie,
      If you book has been set up on Ingram Spark, Amazon purchases a set quantity from Ingram Spark and stocks that amount on their shelves. Amazon then fulfills very quickly (within a day, usually) from that inventory. They’ve got algorithms set up so that when their stock runs low, a new order is placed with Ingram Spark for a certain number of copies before Amazon runs out completely. So you shouldn’t be seeing lags except at the very beginning of your publishing process, where it takes a while (in my experience, about 2 weeks) from the time you publish with Ingram Spark to the time the book appears on the Amazon site. I have less information about Barnes & Noble. Hope this is helpful.

  57. Hello,
    Would I need to pay the start up fee to Createspace if I have done all of that with Ingram Spark?
    So far none of our customers have received their books from amazon.com.

  58. Hello,

    We just published a book through Ingram Spark. We are up on amazon and barnes and noble but the delivery date keeps changing for the customer. Should be go through the whole process again and try Createspace? The books we ordered to sell on our own came quickly and are nice quality. Any suggestions?

    • Hi Julie,
      Do you mean that the delivery date on the Amazon page keeps changing? If so, that’s because Amazon is ordering copies from Ingram Spark as inventories decrease. If you want a faster, more consistent delivery date on the Amazon page, then yes, set up an account on CreateSpace and upload the same files. (I assume your book is softcover as CreateSpace doesn’t do hardcover.) You don’t need to take down the Ingram Spark files. Neither company raises a ruckus if you’re on the other…

  59. IngramSpark’s customer service is terrible. I’ve tried twice to reach them via email in order to make a change on my account and no one ever got back to me. I then called them two time over a period of a week. There first time I was on hold for 40 minutes before I gave up. And a week later I called and waited for 45 minutes before hanging up. They also play the worst music when you’re on hold. The music itself is probably designed to make people hang up.

    Prior to IngramSpark, I was with their parent company, Lightning Source, which was every bit as awful. My account rep was an absolute nightmare. She was cold in her manner and never went out of her way to help. I’m trying to reach them now so I can close my account. I’ve had it with them.




    • It depends. The best company for photography books is Blurb. Createspace and Ingram Spark can also do those kinds of books. (Ingram Spark can produce a hardcover, if that’s what you want). But you may have trouble finding a company to do a book with a page count as low as that.

    • No, I have heard nothing like this. In general, the quality of CreateSpace covers has been pretty good. The one thing you have to remember is to design a spine that allows for some “slippage” one way or the other as they’re not great at consistently centering the spine text on the spine.

    • Ingram Spark has improved a bit since I posted this piece. Specifically, they have improved their customer service (they answer the phone and are generally helpful), and I believe they’ve gotten rid of that $12 POD market access fee. They also seem to have figured out a way to ship proof copies for less.
      But they still assume they’re talking with publishers instead of authors. Their sales reports are particularly difficult for decipher. If you decide to use them, they will make you feel a bit clueless. Just remember: that’s their fault, not yours.

  61. Dear Holly,

    Thanks for increasing my knowledge. I am a newbie author. Wanted to know the following. To begin with, can you tell me your book which is published through Ingram so I could perhaps order one real book and see the production quality etc. Can it be ordered through Amazon?

    1. For the cover page I plan to use shutterstock image which I will pay and download? Is it okay to use it? Do I have to write inside my book that the image was downloaded from shutterstock?

    2. If I self-publish on Ingram I have to get my own ISBN number through Bowker, I understand that… then how do I put this on the back of my cover? Do I need to use a professional illustrator to do this or do I have to buy a software package to do this.

    3. I want my book to also have a QR code. How does one get that?

    4. Mine is a small book. Which is the best package/online tool to edit, correct the grammar and correct spellings etc. which I can use?

    5. If I decide to publish on Ingram, can I opt to publish hardcover with jacket cover and soft cover paperback. Is it very expensive? since I have typed the manuscript in word, is there some tutorial which will teach me how to do typesetting to book standards?

    thanks in anticipation of your reply.

    • Let me see if I can help.

      1. You don’t have to credit anyone for the Shutterstock image so long as you purchased it properly.
      2. When you use Bowker (www.myidentifiers.com) to get your ISBN number, you’ll see a place where you can download a barcode to put on the back of your book. You download it in eps or similar format, and place it just as you would place a photo onto your book jacket. It should go on the bottom right of the back cover. And by the way, when you download it, you’ll be asked whether you want to encode a price into the barcode. I recommend you don’t as you want to be able to discount your book at will. Just enter $0.00 when asked.
      3. QR codes are easy to generate. Just Google “QR code generator” and you’ll find several sites where you can create QR codes free. Once you’re created yours, you download it as a jpg file and place it or any marketing materials you want. The QR code will link to any website–your author site, your Amazon Author Central page, etc.
      4. The spellchecker and grammar checker included with Microsoft Word are generally useful. But no technology can replace the skilled eye of a human editor. I don’t believe anyone should publish without running their manuscript past a competent editor.
      5. With Ingram Spark, you can publish a hardcover with dust jacket, a softcover and an ebook, or any combination thereof. The upfront costs are very modest–just $49 per title. Ingram Spark make most of its money by taking a cut of whatever you earn when you sell a book.
      As for typesetting the interior, that’s tricky–and it’s where many authors trip up and reveal that they’re self-publishing. If you insist on doing it yourself, I’d recommend checking out the templates that are sold at http://www.thebookdesigner.com. They’re pre-formatted; all you have to do is paste in your manuscript.

  62. Hi there,
    I have tried CreateSpace for my book and had much grief with the US tax system (I’m Australian) and the shipping costs which are incredibly over priced. In fact, they charge multiple shipping costs for bulk orders. For this reason I have switched to IS.

    • Hi Jenny, I’m Australian also and the whole US tax, bank account thing has totally turned me off createspace also. What do you think of Ingram Spark?

  63. Thank you for your very informative blog. I am confused, however: how can you publish the same book on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark? Does amazon.com list both, or just the one, or did you get a different ISBN?

    • Good question. So long as you purchase your own ISBN number through Bowker’s MyIdentifiers services (http://www.myidentifiers.com/), you can publish on both platforms. You use the same ISBN number both places.

      I did ask representative of both companies at BookExpo last week if they cared when an author published on both platforms. Both reps said their companies didn’t care.

  64. Thank you for the enlightening information, Holly. At one point you state:

    CreateSpace offers lower “author pricing.” For the exact same book, Spark charges our author $3.43, while CreateSpace charges $3.15.

    Can you let us know what size book that is for? I’d be interested to see how this compares to books I’ve had printed locally, which are 6 x 9 about 100 pages, four-color covers with black & white inside pages.

  65. International author’s note: I have heard that Lightning Source has better distribution to Canadian bookstores (they’re more likely to order from LS than CS).
    When I did a quick check on prices, Createspace and Ingram Spark were basically equivalent for price and shipping to Canada.

    However, I know at least one professional author who is concerned about this clause in the Lightning Source contract: “The Operating Manual is subject to change from time to time by LSI, without
    Client’s consent…”

    Thanks for the blog.

  66. I’m in the process of a similar experiment. I used Createspace for my first 7 book releases. However, all the booksellers I have relationships with very reluctantly carry my books. I must order them, pay the shipping, and then get them to the bookseller. The reason for this is that their discount through Ingram (Createspace Expanded) is only 25%. The discount through Ingram (Spark) when I chose the standard 55% for the bookseller is 40% and they can include it in their other orders so they get free shipping.

    So, though Spark may cost me more to get books shipped, I won’t have to do that often because booksellers will fulfill their own stock. Also, I don’t have to be the fulfillment person and track all that inventory in my own bookkeeping. I did that for over 300 books last year and it was one big pain.

    All that said, the prep of a book for Ingram Spark is NOT as easy as the prep of a book for Createspace. Their interior design criteria is completely different and using the “save as PDF” function in Word does not work. IF I get more bookstore pickup from being direct with Ingram it will be worth it. If I don’t, I’ll run back to Createspace where it is much easier.

  67. Thanks for this informative article. We’re using both CS and IS for an upcoming book, and we’ve heard both good AND bad things about IS. Your blog has actually put numbers to this, and it’s really helpful.

    Out of curiosity, I’d like to know how you addressed the six- to eight-week distribution channel issue. It’s going to be a big problem for us, I think.

    Many thanks!

    • Annie,
      It turned out not to be 6 to 8 weeks. The book was available thru Ingram in less than 2 weeks. That they suggest the former, I think, has something to do with the fact that here used to working with traditional publishers. Authors tend to be much nimbler, and if Ingram Spark is to succeed, they’ll have to adjust to this faster pace.

  68. Hi Holly –

    Thank you for the helpful comparison. Just a note, as you’re probably aware Lightning Source also provides a POD hard cover with jacket option, and in fact that is the source for Ingram Spark printing (which is the parent company of LSI); they also use the same Publisher Compensation Calculator:


    One of the advantages to LSI however is that you have freedom in setting wholesale discounts:

    The LSI platform though is not as straightforward to use.

    • Thanks for the comment, Michael. To be clear, Lightning Source is indeed the back-end printer for Ingram Spark. But most self-publishers cannot get to Lightning Source directly. Ingram has set up the two companies so that self-publishers must go through Ingram Spark to use LS’s print-on-demand services for hardcover books with jackets.


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