A Dirty Little Secret About Book Discounts

Cash register

Most of the writers using self-publishing techniques to reach readers know something about discounting books. They know that if you want to make your book attractive to bookstores, you must 1) offer your book to bookstores at a discount of 30% and 55%; and 2) make sure your book is returnable, because bookstores won’t buy books that aren’t returnable.

To date, the only print-on-demand (POD) vendor who’ll allow you do both those things is Ingram Spark (IS). In fact, that’s the main reason Ingram Spark has become so popular: it’s the way into bookstores.

Or so we all think.

But let me tell you a story about a book that a pair of savvy business writers published through Ingram Spark this past spring. We knew we wanted the book in bookstores, so we decided to offer the book at 40% discount. We assumed the discount would be passed down the line to bookstores.

Not so. When we went to our local indie bookstore and looked up the book in the Ingram catalog, the discount offered was not 40%–but 5%.

When I asked Ingram Spark about this at BookExpo last month, I was told that IS books were distributed by Ingram Book Company, a separate entity that took 10% and 15% before offering the book to bookstores. By the time it got to our little bookstore (which doesn’t have much clout in the distribution chain), the discount had dwindled to 5%.

What does that mean for writers? It means that you might as well not try to get your self-published book into bookstores because you’ll never be able to offer it at a discount that’s competitive. You might as well spend all your efforts finding your readers through Amazon.

Personally, I’m very surprised that Ingram has allowed this situation to exist, and that they’ve not been more transparent about how discounts are allotted. (Here’s Ingram Spark’s official statement on why you should discount your book.) As the premier distributor of books to bookstores in this country, Ingram has a vested interest in helping independent authors sell their books into bookstores. Ingram Spark already takes 45% of your revenue for its POD services, plus an additional fee for printing your book. Does Ingram Book Company really need an extra 10% to 15% for distributing it?


91 thoughts on “A Dirty Little Secret About Book Discounts”

  1. Holly, thank you for the informative, and for me, very timely article. I am in the process of placing a hard cover book on either KDP or IS. I’m not sure if this question falls within the boundaries of your article or not, but I find it very strange.

    I have been using the calculator on IS for estimating royalties at different book prices and at different discounts. The results are very confusing.
    For a hard cover 11″x8″ landscape color book/pg. 180/ 55% discount/ cost of book $23.53.
    list price at $45…..$3.73 royalty
    list price at $40…. $5.93 ”
    list price at $30….$10.33 ”
    I would have thought that the royalties would have gone up with the increased price of the book seeing that the discount and the cost of the book has remained the same. This is my first time using Ingramspark’s calculator and perhaps there is something that I am missing?
    Again, a fine article,

    • Hello Ray,
      The royalty rates you’re seeing on the IngramSpark royalty calculator are negative numbers. That is to say, your list price–even at $45–is too low for a book of this size and quality. At the $45 list price, you lose $3.73 for every book sold. You’ll have to set the list price at somewhere north of $54 to get even $.23 in royalty, I’m sorry to say.

      That’s why most authors who are publishing hardcover books with color interiors end up working with short-run digital printers. They order small numbers of their books, figure out a way to warehouse them (sometimes in their garages), and then consign them only to Amazon through Amazon Seller Central. When you do that, you’ll find that your per-book cost is lower than Ingram Spark or any other print-on-demand vendor, and you don’t have to discount your books to bookstores.

      • Thank you for explaining the royalty mechanism at IS. It now makes sense. As you say, if you factor in the necessary data the selling price soars into the high fifties or sixties. A price beyond the market.

        Your alternative suggestion has sent me scurrying to look into short run options. Another minefield to tip toe through.

        Thank you for being a helping hand in the wilderness.

  2. Thanks for this.

    Am i thinking about this wrong?

    Suppose I put my print book in Zon for 14.99. After printing I get $4. I markup IS to retail 21.99 to get the same $4. But then Barnes and Noble price matches Amazon. BN bought my book for ~17.50 so they lose money. They have to hope other people want to support BN out of the kindness of their heart, or sell a lot of caramel vanilla lattes in the store.

    Also i feel like the fight is between BN and IS for a slice of the pie. Why does IS need to take 25% when BN only takes 20%

    • Hmmmm…this doesn’t quite make sense to me. You can’t offer the book at two different list prices in the marketplace at the same time–Amazon for $14.99 and IS for $21.99. Am I understanding you correctly?

      • It appears you can. You put a $21.99 barcode and price on Ingram as they require that they match. Amazon doesn’t care. You can use the same cover and ISBN on Amazon and set the price to whatever you want.

  3. Thanks so much for this. When I published my first novel in November, 2020, my best recollection is that IS said I could set the wholesale discount from 40% to 55%. As a publishing innocent, I thought this meant that my local bookshop would get the discount I set (I chose 50%), because nowhere in any of the setup materials did IS admit that Ingram would get any additional monies beyond the printing costs (already substantial). Imagine my surprise when they told me they wouldn’t be ordering my book because the discount was insufficient and that they didn’t, in fact, get the 50% discount I’d set. I contacted IS, which eventually admitted that Ingram gets a cut of the discount and the bookshop did indeed get a much lower discount. Even when I went in last night to increase the discount (and decrease my royalties) to 55%, I saw nothing on the site that said, “By the way, the brick-and-mortar retailer isn’t the only one who will benefit from that 55% discount you just set–Ingram will also get a cut.” Which means I’m now making less than $2/copy sold, and why? Because I’m paying IS for printing and Ingram Content for distributing (as if they’re doing much). I wouldn’t like it even if they’d been transparent about it, but it certainly appears that they’ve gone out of their way to hide this information and mislead the publisher.

    • To their credit, Ingram Spark has made an effort to be more transparent about this issue. But being transparent isn’t the same as making it easier for self-published authors to compete with traditional publishers for booksellers’ attention. So far as I know, there’s no way that a self-published author can offer a discount as attractive as a traditional pubisher. I wish it weren’t so.

  4. It turns out that Ingram Spark is in bed with Amazon (just like the rest of the world, it seems). I learned this since all our books (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0996592962/ for example) are not available directly through IS since I declined to do business with them, but when I contacted a library–which purchases through IS–they said our book was available. How ’bout them apples?!

  5. Thank for sharing this Holly! I was curious what was happening in the revenue / royalty breakdown for my new self-published book neuroscience-informed, joyful creativity, and stumbled across this thread. It feels like a better business bureau complaint or even a lawsuit waiting to happen. To convince authors that the trade rate of 55% is best for increasing the chance of retailer purchase and not telling that this is not the discount actually offered is deceptive marketing. Curious if you have heard of any rumblings around responses to IS more collectively. Thanks for what you do!

  6. Thanks for your “dirty little secret” post. I’ve learned that IS keeps half of the 40% discount that I designated. Do they always keep half, or does the proportion change with a larger discount? How much would I need to increase the discount in order for college bookstores to get a 25% or 30% discount? (I’m not concerned about non-college retailers.)

    • Hi Jo,
      The amount of your chosen discount that Ingram Spark passes on to the bookstore depends on negotiations between Ingram and the bookstore or bookstore chain. Larger bookstore chains that do more business with Ingram receive larger discounts. So far as I know, there’s no way that an author can affect that negotiation.

    • And now they have caught on to self-publishers short discounting and have increased the minimum discount to 40%. Just to rub salt into wounds. Some people I know had priced their children’s books around the prior 30% minimum and have now been forced to change their cover prices upwards to keep their small profit margins positive.

  7. Thanks for your posts, Holly. That’s all pretty shocking, given Ingram’s selling proposition. Why would you even be in that business, given the ill-will you’re bound to generate?

    I learned about this problem today, talking to a bookseller in the UK. There seems to be a printer named Clay’s that has some kind of semi-POD business that works with Gardner, the main UK book distributor, that I think might be a workaround there, but I haven’t seen any prices yet. Have you heard of anything like that in the US or is IngramSpark really the only alternative?

    • Hi Ben,
      So far as I know, IngramSpark is the only alternative in the US for authors who want to be in bookstores. The only alternative is to find your readers directly through KDP/Amazon.

  8. I have just been through this same process. I have a self-published book, printed via IS that needs to be stocked in local indie bookstores. The bookstores want the book. They’re selling many copies. They’ve ordered over and over. Yet Ingram seems to be changing their discount, lowering the discount received by the bookstore. Or, I mean, increasing the amount that Ingram takes off the top. I have not adjusted or changed anything on my end, yet the bookstore is now telling me their discount is less than before. Why would Ingram do this? Don’t they want us to keep using this service? Or are they just semi-fraudulent ****s and thus don’t care?

    • The truth is: there’s no competitor to Ingram Spark for self-published authors who want to be in bookstores. And for that reason, Ingram can take whatever wholesale cut they choose. This is why I’ve stopped recommending that self-published authors even try to place their books in bookstores. There are certain exceptions to that recommendation, but in general, Ingram is fairly forcing self-published authors into the arms of Amazon/KDP where they can sell to readers direct. Not good for authors. Not good for bookstores. And in the long run, probably not good for Ingram’s own business model.

  9. Hi, Holly!

    Many thanks for the article. I’m just starting up my own indie-pub company to reissue my own books and expand slowly to other authors.

    I do have an insight on the discount from the bookstore owner-side, though. My wife and I owned and operated a comic book store back in the mid-80s. We had two distributors we picked up our weekly shipments.

    Pete Prellwitz
    Lofty Publishing, LLC

    Discounts were similar, but they also explained the discounts to us. It was simple, the more you comics you bought, the bigger the discount. As a new store, we started at a 45% discount. As sales grew, the discount did as well, to over 50% off cover price. (The difference is that comics were not returnable.)

    The 80s were also the advent of the indie comic book publishers. Their cover prices were higher, so each book cost us more, but the discount was the same because it was based on TOTAL volume of product we ordered.

    There are numerous differences between the business of bookstores and comic book stores, but I thought I’d add this information for whatever help it might be.

    • Thanks, Pete, for the additional info. Sounds right to me: the more a bookstore sells, the better the discount it’s offered from Ingram.

      Ingram revamped its entire Ingram Spark website in the past month (March 2021), and the new help pages are much more transparent about how discounts work. Specifically, Ingram Spark now clearly states that the wholesale discount that you set is NOT the same as the trade discount offered to bookstores (over which you have no control).

  10. Hi Holly,

    Thank you so much for this post. I saw a similar question to mine, but as it was posted a couple years ago, I wanted to ask in case something has changed. I have to print my book through Ingram as the trim size I need isn’t available via Kindle, and I’d also like to offer a hardcover version. I was told by someone at Ingram Spark that with a whole discount lower than 53%, Amazon might list my title as out of stock. Do you know if this is true? I’d like to offer a 30% discount so I can keep the retail price as low as possible.

    Also, do you know if a book that’s printed via Ingram and sold on Amazon will automatically be listed on Amazon websites in other countries? And if so, will the price need to be adjusted for those countries?

    Many thanks for this post and all your help!!!

    • Hi Jennifer,
      I’d be surprised if Amazon didn’t list your book with 30% wholesale discount. I think you’re fine with that discount. You can always try it, and if it IS listed as out of stock, you can change your wholesale discount.

      And to answer your second question, yes, your book will automatically be listed on Amazon websites in other countries so long as you’ve told Ingram Spark that you have worldwide rights to publish the book.

  11. Thanks for the info.

    My goal is to make my book available in Latin America, where Amazon 12 USD shipping costs make books to expensive, do you think it is a good idea to publish it in Ingram then it will be available in bookdepository which has free worldwide shipping?, I’ll set a Wholesell discount 30% and share in my networks the bookdepository link so people can buy from Latin America with free delivery?

    I mean:

    – Printing cost of my book is 10 usd,
    – list price could be 20 usd
    – Whole sell discount = 30%
    – Publisher compensation = 5 usd

    I think price in bookdepository will be 23 usd or so, but 4 weeks delay free shipping, which is a lot of money in LA for a book but thats my idea to make the book reachable in many LA countries.

    Your advises?

    • Hi Camilo,
      Book distribution is such an octopus of a topic. I’m never sure of the unintended consequences of a particular distribution plan. But having said that, I think you’re idea to sell through Book Depository to mitigate shipping costs for Latin American readers is worth a try.

      Sounds like you already know this, but it’ll be up to you to drive readers to Book Depository. Just having your book sitting in their online bookstore won’t translate into many sales.

  12. I discovered this post trying to figure out what was happening with my books. The ones in IngramSpark are set to a 55% discount–the maximum. But when I signed up for iPage to see what it looked like on the wholesale side, they are listed with a 35% discount! That means IngramSpark is skimming 20% off the top! I just looked at the “IngramSpark Pricing and Services Guide” and find zero mention of this additional fee. There is no warning when you set the discount in their system either. They are telling me “We are going to sell this to wholesalers with a 55% discount” but then turning around and saying “Hi wholesaler, you can buy this with a 35% discount.” How is this not fraud?

    (And that blog post you linked only reinforces things by talking about giving booksellers a 55% discount when they know full well the bookseller doesn’t get that discount.)

    • I dug into this a while back at Book Expo with Robin Cutler, who was then Ingram Spark’s director. She did point out that the contract covered this additional fee (it was buried deep in their contract), and she also seemed to be concerned herself about this issue. In fact, she pulled me over to speak with a VP of Ingram Book Group about this issue. He seemed uninterested, and clearly nothing has happened since, except that Robin has left Ingram Spark.

      One other note: in talking with several smaller bookstores, I learned that they often don’t get the full 55% discount on the books they buy. That deep discount, apparently, is reserved for the big bookstores.

      I came away from all of this thinking that the deck is stacked against indie publishers who go with Ingram Spark. As a consequence, I often tell authors to forget about bookstore sales and concentrate on selling through Amazon, which is probably not — in the end — what Ingram would want.

  13. Hi – I have a question. I have a book on KDP using a KDP ISBN, if I now publish that same book with my own ISBN thru LSI (or IS) then the same book will be on Amazon twice under two ISBNs, right? Should I unpublish the KDP book and republish it on KDP with my own ISBN? This way there’s one listing on Amazon and my book gets into Ingram’s catalogue. Do I understand this correctly?

    • Hi Cheryl,
      You’ll have to unpublish the KDP book, and republish it with your own new ISBN on both KDP and Ingram Spark. And when you do that, you’ll want to upload your files to KDP first AND be sure to NOT to choose “expanded distribution.” Then upload to Ingram Spark. When you do this, you’ll be using KDP first to service and distribute orders that come through Amazon; and you’ll be using Ingram Spark to service and distribute all other orders (such as those through bookstores, etc.).

  14. I discovered yesterday, that my book available on Amazon through KDP, is available all over the place. It is in Bargain Book Stores one of Amazons other stores, on their amazon and eBay pages.
    I sent a strongly worded letter to Bargain book Stores requesting that they remove my book as I have not given permission for it to be sold elsewhere and I have had no vendor agreement.

    Bargain Book Stores got back to me today – surprisingly quickly – and said they had bought the book from, guess who? Yes, right first time, the Ingram Book company. And Ingram Book Company claim they got the selling/distribution rights from the publisher.
    This is Bargain Book Stores reply, “Your book was purchased from Ingram Book Company, a distribution for your publisher or the agency you self-published with.”

    I have no idea how they got this. Is it Amazon? I certainly have had nothing to do with any permissions. I am totally gutted.

    I have filled in several copy right infringement forms, one for Ingram and one for KDP.

    Has anyone else had their book stolen? Does anyone have any ideas?

    • Hi Roz,
      Could it be that you enabled “expanded distribution” on KDP? If so, then Amazon distributes your book to other retailers. And if so, then you should be seeing royalties (40%, not 60%) from KDP on the sale of your book through Bargain Book Stores.

    • We’re moving in the direction of having self-published books distributed like traditionally published books–including through bookstores. IMHO it does not seem equitable to have quality self-published books handicapped by a policy such as this one.

    • While very challenging for us self-published authors, Indie bookstores do carry self-pub books. Presently my book (memoir) is in 33 stores in 12 different states. But it isn’t easy!

  15. I can’t thank you enough for this information, I scoured the web and this was the only article I found about it! I have posted it probably 20 times in various FB book publishing groups. Any updates to this article?

  16. If you don’t care about being in bookstores, but you want to sell to school and public libraries, how important is it to offer a discount?

    • The problem is finding a distributor who is used by schools and public libraries. I personally don’t know of any that don’t ALSO distribute to bookstores, and so you’re stuck with offering a discount. You could go to libraries and schools directly (that is, contact them directly and offer your book without discounting it), but that plan is not scalable.

  17. This was a discouraging, but helpful thread. Thanks to all who contributed. Do you know if you can still sell to libraries if you lower your discount on Ingram?

    • I wish I had a good answer for those who want to sell into schools and public libraries. The best way to get into libraries may be through Overdrive, which is the company that supports ebook distribution into libraries. I’d be interested in hearing if others have found ways into these outlets.

  18. Hi Everyone,
    So I recently published my first children’s book with IngramSpark. I signed up for distribution and it is showing up on the Barnes and Noble site and on Amazon. When I ran out of my own personal POD inventory that I sold via my personal site, I directed customers to Amazon and Barnes. Wanting to compare sales and see how many were sold at each retailer I mentioned, I pulled the reports that Ingram provides. To my surprise, after reviewing the reports and chatting with a rep, they don’t release that information as it is proprietary. I just want to know how many book orders of mine that Barnes & Noble had to fulfill…the same for Amazon. I would like to make sure the reporting is correct as well. I am not sure why this info is top secret. Is this common with POD publishers?
    I just want to pull real numbers.

    • Hi Candace,
      I don’t have an explanation for why Ingram Spark keeps information about your sales by channel from you. I suspect it has something to do with too much paperwork on their part, but personally, it bothers me quite a lot that there is no attempt to offer authors some way to audit their sales in a meaningful way. We are just asked to take the company’s word for sales.

      • How does it work then for payment for any POD books ordered on Amazon?
        Don’t they provide a statement with how many books sold and somehow pay the author?

        My book was published in 2006 from a small publisher who used Ingram to distribute, who then offered it on Amazon.
        Only recently I noticed, it is only for sale by third parties, the normal buy now option is gone.

        The publisher I used seems to be out of business and Ingram said they can’t help me get it back for sale on Amazon.

        Two questions:
        1) What it the best way to re-release my 2006 book?
        2) What is the best way to publish my new book?


        • Hi Heidi,
          Don’t confuse the self-publishing process with small traditional publisher processes. They’re very different. If your book was published by a small publisher (who’s now out of business), you’ll need to figure out whether that publisher or you own the copyright. (What does it say on your copyright page? In your contract? is the small publisher now owned by another publisher?) If you own the copyright and the publisher is nowhere to be found, you can probably use self-publishing processes to re-release the book. Just be sure you own the rights.

  19. I also found this out the hard way. A retailer who was interested in my book, but thwarted by the discount I had set, kept mentioning my low discount. I finally asked them to show me what they were seeing in the catalog. That is when I realized what you’ve mentioned and that the wording that IngramSpark used is extremely veiled. Thank you for taking the time to share the less pleasant parts of self-publishing.

  20. Hi Holly,
    Not sure if this thread is still live. But I found it very helpful.
    I have a hardback children’s book that I made returnable but can only offer a 40% discount.
    Once i enable distribution i really just want amazon to pick it up so I can use social media to push to drive people there to buy the book. Not looking so much to get it in store.

    So does my discount still have to be 55% for amazon to even consider it through Ingram Spark? No trying to set up my own amazon store as of now.

    Thank you!

    • Jamie, I also published a hardback children’s book through IngramSpark. As I have understood it in my conversations with customer service, each retailer decides independently whether or not to list your book in their online shop and it does not inherently have to do with the discount you have set. They would not give me a specific number where online retailers stop listing your book. I think that is to dissuade you from doing it because they would also make less money through your sales. (Perhaps I’m painting them more mischievous than their intent, but they lack transparency so it makes it seem that way.) I think there are multiple factors that play in, discount being just one of them. I will say, I know you can set the discount below what Ingram calls the “trade discount” and still be listed in the major online retailers.
      I have recently set my discount to the lowest possible and made my books not returnable and my book is still listed on Amazon as of now. I did this because I have had some issues with Ingram and at this time I am also not concerned with major brick and mortar retailers. Just one of my issues I explained in the post below. I can tell you more about my experience if you are interested.


      • Amazon is a different cat. They’ll list your book regardless of your discount, so long as they can make some money on it. It’s the bookstores who care about the 40% – 55% discounts (or rather who DON’T care about your book if you don’t offer these discounts).

  21. Hi Holly,
    Not sure if this thread is still live. But I found it very helpful.
    I have a hardback childrens book that I made returnable but can only offer a 40% discount. Really i am looking for is one I enable distribution for amazon to pick it up so I can use social media to push to drive people there.

    So does my discount still have to be 55% for amazon to even consider it through ingram spark? No trying to set up my own amazon store as of now.

    Thank you!

  22. Hi Holly, Regarding the problem of selling paper through bookstores, has anyone tried enlisting a “real” publisher to represent paper to bookstores, while retaining oneself as the publisher of the digital edition?

    It would seem that if that could be done, then the real publisher can limit the risk associated with returns and discounts — which are high risks to an author/publisher — and the author/publisher can handle the online sales.

    • Hi Lincoln,
      Plenty of authors would love to do this, but traditional publishers know full well that the economics of producing and distributing print books through bookstores are much more brutal than the economics of producing digital books and selling them either via Amazon or another online site–and so very few traditional publishers will willingly take on the task of publishing a print copy of your book while giving you the digital rights.

      • THANK YOU!! This information has been so helpful! Do you know if you list your book for the lowest discount, on Ingram, will it show up on the Book Depository?

  23. Thank you all for enlightening me to the very issues that has me upset. I will immediately change my discount back to the 30% from the 35%. No since in putting icing on “their” cake when I need to feed myself. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. I got it, my book, my price. Have a blessed day everybody and thank you so much for taking the time to post your comments. I have to say this, I am very pleased with my hardback book, I am not pleased with the discount to the bookstores.

  24. Your advice to David about ISBNs is incorrect. You said-
    “To answer your second & third questions, you can’t offer the same paperback through two channels (IS and Createspace) using the same ISBN… Every format of every title is supposed to have its own ISBN and its own distributor (either Ingram or Createspace Direct for your print books).”

    That is not the case. If an author buys their own ISBNs from anywhere but CreateSpace (now Amazon KDP), they are listed as the Publisher and can use that ISBN with as many distributors as they want. If they buy an ISBN through Create Space, they can only use it on Amazon, because Create Space is listed as the Publisher and owner of the ISBN.

    • Thanks for your input, Ben. Here’s what I know. If you have a book on Ingram Spark (which distributes to bookstores via Ingram Book Company), KDP Publishing (formerly Createspace) will not allow you to enable Expanded Distribution on their site. Specifically, the KDP message is: “To be eligible [for Expanded Distribution], your book must have an ISBN that hasn’t been submitted for distribution to another service.”

      • I know it’s been a while, but this is the best discussion on the internet on these issues! Thanks for your generosity with your knowledge.
        My question is, would there be any harm in disabling expanded distribution? I have a softcover and ebook on Amazon doing pretty well and want to release a hardcover and softcover through Ingram purely to get books into schools and libraries and bookstores. My understanding is that many institutions and small stores will not buy through Amazon on principle and I don’t want the book associated with it for them.

      • Note that there’s a twist – if you first register the ISBN (that you own) with KDP and enable expanded distribution, Ingram will count the ISBN as ‘used’. That is, you cannot disable KDP’s expanded distribution and publish via Ingram instead. Apparently KDP uses Ingram to distribute. Queries to Ingram about this end up in a circle in which Ingram says, “Those are KDP’s rules.” and I say “I’m no longer distributing via KDP, and why would Ingram be bound by their rules anyway?” and Ingram says “The ISBN is already in our system, so you can’t use it.” Frustrating.

        If you publish with Ingram _first_, you can then reuse the ISBN with KDP (though not with expanded distribution). This is useful in publishing e.g., a paperback with Ingram (for bookstores and most retailers) and with Amazon (via KDP). You then make more money on the Amazon sales, and they’re a bit portion of the total.

        • Sorry it took me so long to approve your comment, but I wanted to doublecheck with Ingram Spark about this. In fact, they say that if you’ve published with KDP first, you’re not dead in the water. You can remove your book from KDP’s Expanded Distribution and then call Ingran Spark’s customer service team and ask for paperwork that allows you to give them (Ingram Spark) control over your Expanded Distribution. I’ve actually done this. It does work, but it’s a real pain. Better to upload your files to Ingram Spark FIRST, and then upload to KDP if you want to use both platforms. And thanks for the heads up on this tricky little issue.

          • Hi Holly,

            Now that you can set a launch date on Amazon/KDP print versions, you can upload to Amazon (not selecting Expanded Distribution) and to Ingram before your planned launch date. Amazon’s date system is based on GMT so their version will load to the Amazon websites a few hours before the book activates in the Ingram system. What you don’t want to happen is for a book to go ‘live’ on Ingram before Amazon as the Ingram version and metadata will populate on Amazon’s websites before the version that was loaded into Amazon’s publishing system.

  25. Hi Holly,

    Follow-up to my previous communication with you (thanks for answering all of my questions). My book is published and I’ve gone a few rounds with IngramSpark (my hardcover). It seemed they weren’t passing along 40% of my wholesale discount to retailers,, even though I offered the 55% to IngramSpark. No retailers were discounting it except Amazon and their resellers. So I put the question of “double-dipping” (IngramSpark taking 15% and Ingram Book Company taking 15%, leaving only 25% to retailers) to IngramSpark Tier 2 customer service (management) and this was the manager’s response:

    “IngramSpark doesn’t take any percentage of the wholesale discount. We only keep the print cost. If, for example, the wholesale discount is 55%, Ingram Book Company will keep 15% of that and 40% will go to the retailer. This is the same practice no matter who the publisher is. I’ve attached a screenshot of your book on ipage, the platform bookstores use to order through Ingram. The discount is listed as REG (regular) at 40%.”

    She did provide me a screenshot of my book listed in their online distribution catalogue and it was offered at “discount REG – returnable” as she said. As for IngramSpark’s service, it’s so far INFERIOR to Createspace’s service that I’ve been going out of my mind. And they have A LOT of fees. It’s costly, for sure, but since my book (novel) deals with baseball and has some key endorsements, I needed a hardcover to give in gratitude. To me it was important. (I wrote it under a pen name.)

    Thanks again for the great site! Hope this helps a bit.

    David Anthony

  26. Hi Holly,

    You really do have a great site here. Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge.

    I’m about to publish my third book, but my first in hardback and my first with Ingram Spark. To make just $1.95 royalty per book at a 55% wholesale discount I have to price my hardback at $27.99. That seems high, but then most brick-and-mortar stores seem to discount the retail selling price by 20-30% it seems, at least on new releases. That’s not a lot of money in royalty but it may serve a purpose in the long run, helping to build readership. I’m not very good with social media, I’m afraid, so I’d have to spend that 55% discount on marketing anyway (perhaps). I realize I still need a low-cost marketing campaign of some sort.

    Still, I like CreateSpace’s/Amazon’s royalty better on trade paperbacks and ebooks.

    So my questions are:

    1. Do you think Ingram Spark would even push my hardcover book if I only offer my trade paperback and ebook versions through Amazon?

    2. Could I publish trade paperbacks for the same book through both company’s with different ISBNs?

    3. Is that advisable?

    4. Do you know if Amazon would allow me to link up the hardcover Ingram Spark edition to the same Amazon book page as the Amazon trade paperback and Kindle ebook?

    Thanks again, Holly. Sorry if these questions seem foolish. Even after having already published two books, this process of self-publishing still confounds me.

    • Hi David,
      First, let’s clear up one point: Ingram Spark (IS) will not push your hardcover book regardless of what you do. They’re job is simply to make your book available to the marketplace through the Ingram database (which is the database bookstores use to order books). That’s different from actually marketing your book to bookstores. You can indeed offer your paperback and ebook versions through Createspace and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) at the same time. No problem.

      To answer your second & third questions, you can’t offer the same paperback through two channels (IS and Createspace) using the same ISBN. But I’ve never tried doing so by using two different ISBNs. It’s certainly not the way the system is designed, and for that reason, I suspect you’d get tripped up somewhere. Every format of every title is supposed to have its own ISBN and its own distributor (either Ingram or Createspace Direct for your print books).

      And to answer your fourth question: once you upload your hardcover files to Ingram Spark, you will see the hardcover edition appear on the Amazon page with your Createspace paperback edition and your KDP ebook format. Sometimes the IS hardcover edition first appears on its own page…but if you wait a few days, Amazon automatically combines all formats into one page.

      Good luck. No foolish questions here. We’re all part of this Wild West of new publishing options.

  27. I’m extremely new to this world of self publishing, so excuse my green questions.
    What is the bottom line? I’m quite confused about what the wholesale discount should be.
    E.g. can I make it 35% or am I screwed in some way by not making it 55%?
    Also, in theory, I’m ok with a returned book in the US but what about the rest of the world? Canada, UK, etc.?
    Createspace has changed some of their offerings. Has this changed anyone’s opinion of dealing with them vs. Ingramspark?
    Thank you,
    And of course, please point me to links if these questions have been answered elsewhere.

    • There are no green questions. We’re all trying to cope with an ever-changing scenarios in today’s new publishing landscape.

      My bottom line: to compete with traditional publishers in a bookstore, you should set your discount at 55%–and even then you may find that the net discount to bookstores is small. That’s because both Ingram Spark and Ingram Book Company reduce the discount you offer to bookstores. (This gives them a cut of your revenue.)

      As for returns, you should make your book returnable if you want to sell it into bookstores. Once you get into the Ingram Spark site, you can set it returnable for the US and not for international countries–which is what I recommend. It’s particularly expensive to take returns from other countries.

  28. Hi! If I am only planning to sell on Amazon (but I need hardcover, so am going through Ingramspark), should I just set the discount at 0%? Does Amazon care what the discount is?

    Thank you for your time!

    • Hi Aimee,
      Ingram Spark will not let you set the discount to 0%. The minimum discount you can set for a print book through Ingram Spark is 30%. Given your situation, I’d say, set it for the minimum discount (which will be even lower once the book is offered to bookstores) and plan to sell your book through Amazon. You’ll have no problem with Amazon.

  29. Hi Holly and all,

    I know this is an old thread, but I’ve found it very helpful and was wondering if anyone could fill in one last piece of the puzzle for me.

    When publishing through IngramSpark, if I choose to set my wholesale discount to the minimum 35% and focus on selling through Amazon, will it affect my book’s level of visibility on the Amazon site? Do Amazon place more importance on books which offer a higher wholesale discount?

    Ultimately, I’m wondering, if I don’t plan to have my book stocked in brick & mortar bookstores, is there any benefit to offering a high wholesale discount?

    • Hi Tommy,
      To my knowledge, Amazon doesn’t handle your book any differently depending on the discount you set on Ingram Spark. However, I have noticed that when you publish on Ingram Spark instead of Amazon’s own Createspace, there are some times when your book shows a slightly slower delivery time on the Amazon page (“ships in 1-2 days”). That’s probably caused by Amazon being out of stock on an Ingram Spark book and taking a day to reorder and ship stock from Ingram.

  30. Holly, maybe you should explain in exactly what way your little bookstore “doesn’t have much clout in the distribution chain.” Either they have an Ingram Book Company account, or they don’t. It sounds like they don’t and are buying Ingram books through a third party, and that that’s where the extra discount is disappearing.

    If you set a 40% discount at IngramSpark, Ingram Book Company should take 15%, and the next business down the line should get 25%. If you want that next business to get 40%, you need to set 55% at IngramSpark. That’s not news — I’ve been writing about this mistake among indy publishers for over a decade. (See my book “POD for Profit.”)

    • Thanks, Aaron, for the comment. I’ve followed your work through your books, and I know you’ve studied this stuff extensively. All I can tell you is what the bookstore saw on their end when we checked on purchasing through Ingram–and it wasn’t 25%. It was 5%.

      But even if it were 25%, the point is that self-published books rarely make it through the distribution chain competitive priced, from the point of view of bookstores.

  31. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “0”. Reason: Human SPAM filter found “oy” in “comment_content” *]
    I agree that bookstore sales are the least profitable sales. However, if you want to have bookstores even consider carrying your book, then you have to set the discount to 55% (not 40%). The solution is to use a combination of CreateSpace AND IngramSpark. Set your book up on CreateSpace FIRST, okay it for distribution when you have seen a satisfactory printed proof, and DO NOT, under any circumstances select Expanded Distribution, which does get you into the Ingram catalog, but offering only a 20% discount, which no self-respecting bookstore would consider (let alone 5%! Really?).

    With that combination you maximize your royalties from online sales, locking in Amazon with CreateSpace. After all, Amazon owns CreateSpace. Your royalties from Amazon will be about 30%. At least they were for two client books I ran through their calculators. With IngramSpark, for one of those books, the royalty would be about the same because she sets a pretty high price on her books given her specialized market. But on the other, it is about 10%. However, that client does way better on Amazon because her book was set up in CreateSpace first.

  32. This also happened to me. My most expensive book to buy – the hardcover – reaps me the lowest commission AND is not offering enough to bookstores for them to buy it. I had the discount at 40% and I’m considering lowering it since bookstores just won’t make enough to carry it. I ended up consigning paperbacks to my local bookstore (they wanted the paperback and not the hardcover – go figure), which pays very little to me. After my cost to set up at the store and for a display, it is likely I’ll be in the red even after several sales.

    Do you know if online retailers (Amazon & BN) will still sell my hardcover through their sites if the hardcover discount is lower than 40%?

    • Is your question: will Amazon and B&N still sell your book through their ONLINE sites if the hardcover discount is lower than 40%? If so, I believe that both will sell the book online so long as they can make some kind of profit on it.

  33. Hi Holly,

    ALWAYS LOVE what you share with us all. I have a quick question. Did you set a 55% discount at Ingram Spark? OR 40%? Because I had the same exact issue. I mistakenly thought that by giving a 40% discount, I was setting it for bookstores. But no…. 55% is to Ingram and other wholesaler and then THEY sell it to bookstores at a 40% discount.

    In addition a LOT of independent bookstores do not hit Ingram’s new “threshold” of ordering and so they are not eligible for the full discount. They only get 20- 30% because they don’t do enough business with Ingram and Ingram penalizes them with a short discount.

    • Hi Amy,
      In this case, we set the discount for 40%.

      And you’re right: if a bookstore isn’t top tier, it doesn’t get the kind of discount that the big bookstores get. So it looks like it’s practically impossible to offer a 55% discount to bookstores no matter what a self-published author does.

  34. It gets worse, Holly.

    I went out on a sales junket this spring, to see if I could sell to book stores on the Mainland. I live on Kaui`i where we only have one book store, so I’d removed the discount and focused entirely on internet sales. On the Mainland, I figured I could sell my books directly to stores—they wouldn’t have to order through Ingram Spark or pay shipping, and I’d make more money. What I found out—something that makes sense for book stores but sucks for self-pubbers—is that any sizable book store doing serious buying every week is not going to buy books from some author who comes a-knockin’. No reflection on the writer or the book(s), it’s just not how they roll. If they’re interested, they’ll order through their formal acquisition system along with the rest of their weekly orders (always at the 40% discount, and returnable). They’re not going to set up a whole new accounting process for little you and your memoir, (plus they’d want to reorder it from Ingram, not from you out on your remote island). However, offering them the (55%) discount means a massive profit cut for the author. So hefty it’s truly not worth doing….(if income matters to you). Your sales trip alone will cost way more than you’ll ever get back.

    But then I managed to get a book-signing at a Barnes & Noble, scheduled for 6 months down the road. And they won’t allow me to ferry in the books myself, they’ll only pre-order them through Ingram (so they get all the money at the signing, and can send back the books we don’t sell). So I had to choose: either offer the discount to EVERYBODY or lose a book-signing at Barnes & Noble. Okay, okay, I re-instated the discount (which btw takes 30 days to go into effect) and agreed to B & N’s terms, knowing I’ll take a loss across the boards for at least several months (if not forever), in order to do this book-signing. (I’m inclined to believe any author would do the same.)

    But I also found out: when you offer the discount (yes, it has to be 55%—Ingram taking !5%, leaving the book stores the other 40%), that discount goes to ALL wholesalers. And Amazon and other on-line booksellers are wholesalers. So when you offer the 55%, you also lose from every single internet sale! That was what really stopped me in my tracks—WOW, is the system rigged against authors! And it wasn’t until even later, when I got home and was about to publish my next book, that I learned Ingram Spark also takes 40% of its EBOOK sales!!! (And I’d thought I was streamlining things by having more formats under one umbrella.)

    So, yeah, Ingram Spark is raking it in.

    I’m still relatively new at this, but what I’m doing for this third book (EXPEDITION COSTA RICA, out this week) is launching it at the minimum discount (30%) for the first month while I offer it to my email list. Then, after they have time to order, I’ll change the discount to 55% in time for my B & N signing in September (in Boulder). I’m going with discounting my books for a little while to see if the book store route may have something to offer that I’m not aware of yet. (I’m not brilliantly optimistic.) If not, it’s back to the internet and little local shops that are delighted to buy books directly from authors.

    Sorry this is so long, but I hope the info is helpful to someone. Only took me 5 years to figure it out.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience, Wendy. And you’re right that when you work with Ingram Spark you add at least one middleman–Ingram Book Company–who’s going to take a extra chunk of your profit. When you compare that to selling your books direct to readers on Amazon, it makes Amazon the better deal. (However, when you get into the Extended Distribution Channel of Amazon, you begin to see Amazon taking a larger chunk of your profit.

      I think the takeaway here is this: while it’s ego-gratifying to see our books on bookstore display racks, it is both difficult and costly for self-publishers to sell books through bookstores. Wish it weren’t so, but there it is.

  35. I’ve been struggling with both the returnable issue and the discount issue. I’m led to believe that bookstores won’t stock unreturnable books, which is understandable, but those same bookstores will order them for a customer upon request. But if the 55% wholesale discount-the rate Ingram recommends-is whittled down to 5% for some bookstores, what’s the benefit to the indie author? I’d be interested in your opinion on what discount percentage indies should consider.

    • It’s true that bookstores are highly resistant to stocking books that are unreturnable, and it’s true that bookstores will order them for a customer on request–but who do you know still orders a book through a bookstore? When a bookstore is out of stock, most of us just go home and order the book on Amazon.

      As to what discount to offer, I’d say that the whole question has to be reframed because NO discount is going to make your book competitive enough for a bookstore to order absent some other compelling reason (such as: you’re a local author whom everybody is talking about, or you just made the New York Times bestseller list). The better question to ask is: why do I want to be in bookstores in the first place? How can I get my book noticed by readers without having to go through the traditional path (reviews in newspapers, books in bookstores). And the answer, though still difficult, has to do with using social media to drive readers either to your website or to Amazon directly. And by social media, I mean not only Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, but also Goodreads, Bookbub, and other book-centric marketing sites.

      We all need to realize that the traditional publishing business–like so many other businesses–has been disintermediated by new technologies, and self-published authors are creating new ways to get books into the hands of readers. Right now, these new paths are inefficient and bumpy to maneuver, but sooner or later the kinks will get worked out.


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