What Is the Difference Between IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing?

1106 Design

March 25, 2019

Updated February 23, 2021

The manuscript is edited, the pages are designed and typeset. The cover looks beautiful, and the author’s website is coming along. The work is almost done, and now the indie author is faced with a big decision: Where do I distribute my book? This one question, of course, leads to many more:

  • What is the difference between IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)?
  • What will they do for me? 
  • How do I get my book uploaded to these platforms?
  • Can I publish my paperback, hardcover, and eBook to the same platform?

In short, the author is asking, “Where do I publish my book?”

Publishing Your Book

Beyond editing and formatting a manuscript, publishing is the act of making a book widely available to readers. Arranging the distribution yourself is the core activity of self-publishing. Many authors hand distribution over to the self-publishing company that edited and formatted the book, often losing control of their book’s distribution and forfeiting royalties in the process.

Many indie authors don’t realize that they can set up and manage accounts themselves with one or both of the main print-on-demand platforms: IngramSpark and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). (Print-on-demand means that the book is printed as customers order them.) These two companies are the gateways to selling your print book on popular online retailer websites. Both provide a way for bookstores and libraries to order your print book. Amazon distributes only Kindle eBooks, while IngramSpark has the added benefit of making ePub eBooks available on several eBook retail websites such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Google Books. 

“But (XYZ company) said I can self-publish through them!” you might say. True; they will deal with IngramSpark and/or KDP themselves, saving you the trouble. Alternatively (or, additionally), they may sell your book on their website. This service may come at a cost: reduced compensation (royalties) for the author, possible hidden costs, and lack of control over the future of your book.  Most companies that promise print-on-demand are acting as a middle person between the author and either IngramSpark or KDP (or both).

But I digress. What is the difference between IngramSpark and KDP? They both publish books to retail websites and make them available to bookstores. The difference lies in book (trim) size, paper choices, availability of hardcovers, distribution, and publisher compensation.

Print Books

Trim size, covers, binding and paper choices

IngramSpark publishes both hardcover and paperback formats. The finish on the book cover can be matte, gloss or “digital cloth” with an optional dust jacket. They offer three binding options (one option for paperbacks and two for hardcover), along with a full array of trim sizes to fit your needs. They also print in color and have both a standard and premium option. For more information on trim sizes, covers, binding, paper and color printing at IngramSpark, click here.

KDP offers many options for ink, paper, trim sizes and binding, including color printing. Note however that hardcover books are not available on KDP (though we have heard they are beta-testing this option). As of February 2021, if you want to sell a hardcover edition of your book on Amazon, you need to do that via IngramSpark.

Distribution

Being listed with a distributor does not guarantee that anyone will buy your book. While both IngramSpark and KDP distribute to thousands of libraries, along with online and brick-and-mortar retailers, in most cases distribution does not happen automatically. Retailers and libraries need to know they can order your book (or indeed, that your book even exists in the first place!). In addition, it is the author’s job to promote the book to readers so that readers will look for it online or request it at their bookstores and libraries.

IngramSpark sends out a catalogue of books distributed through them, but it’s up to you to publicize your book. Once libraries and retailers know about your book, they can order it through the IngramSpark catalogue.

There are two types of distribution: standard distribution and expanded distribution. Another term you need to know is wholesale discount. This is the discount offered to retailers to carry your book. The higher the discount, the more appealing your book is to retailers.

Differentiating between standard and expanded distribution only really matters for print titles uploaded to KDP. Standard distribution means the book is available for sale on Amazon websites worldwide. The wholesale discount for KDP standard distribution is 40%.

Through KDP Expanded Distribution, your book will be available to other online retailers, as well as bookstores, libraries and academic institutions. However, the wholesale discount for expanded distribution is 60%.  See this page on the KDP website for more details. 

With IngramSpark, there is no differentiation between standard and expanded distribution; your paperback and/or hardcover book is available for ordering by retailers and libraries around the world, something that is available on KDP through expanded distribution only. Visit this page on the IngramSpark website for more information. Instead of tying distribution to a specific wholesale discount like KDP, authors can select different wholesale discounts, which may make a book more or less appealing to retailers. Usually, authors select a 55% wholesale discount, which is more attractive to bookstores and libraries. Anything lower will block interest from these retailers. Some authors decide to focus on online sales only by selecting a 40% wholesale discount at IngramSpark. For more on wholesale discounts at IngramSpark, read this article.

KDP charges the author more for expanded distribution than IngramSpark because KDP runs its expanded distribution through IngramSpark and charges an additional amount. There are specific requirements for trim size, paper choice and ink color for expanded distribution. In addition, your ISBN must never have been distributed through another company (i.e., IngramSpark); additionally, if you have in the past used a “free” ISBN through a self-publishing company, you may not distribute that book using that ISBN through either KDP or IngramSpark.

What is an author to do? At a 40% wholesale discount, KDP is the better choice for standard distribution to all Amazon sites worldwide. Because KDP charges a 60% wholesale discount for their expanded distribution, IngramSpark is the better choice for that at 55%. See our recommendations at the end of this article.

Publisher compensation (royalties)

The wholesale discount you choose impacts your publisher compensation, also known as royalties or simply, “what you get paid.”

Publisher compensation equals the retail price less the wholesale discount less the cost to print and any other handling fees. Thus, the higher the wholesale discount, the less you earn.

To find out your exact publisher compensation via IngramSpark based on various retail book prices, visit IngramSpark’s publisher compensation calculator.

Since KDP is owned by Amazon, it only makes sense that the wholesale discount for “standard distribution” to Amazon is only 40%. Authors who use KDP for distribution to Amazon will earn a higher publisher compensation than if they use IngramSpark for distribution to Amazon. In fact, for hardcover books, this is exactly what you will need to do. But, because you can choose only one wholesale discount (40-55%), you could end up earning less.

However, because KDP’s wholesale discount is 60% for expanded distribution, KDP’s publisher compensation for expanded distribution is lower than IngramSpark’s. Click here to learn more about publisher compensation on KDP

Title set-up fees

As of February 2021, title set-up fees on IngramSpark are $25 for eBooks, $49 for print books, and $49 for both print and eBooks together. See this page for an explanation of what is included in title set-up fees. Note that 1106 Design offers free title set-up for IngramSpark, meaning that this fee is waived for our customers. Also, we will assist you in setting up your account and uploading your files. IngramSpark does not provide services to authors to prepare books for publishing.

It is free to open an account on KDP and to upload your prepared print and eBook files (yes, 1106 Design will help you with that, too!). As an aside, you’ll notice on their website, KDP says it’s “free to self-publish”; that’s because they do not charge a title set-up fee. KDP does not offer services to authors to prepare books for publishing; they used to offer these services through CreateSpace, but CreateSpace closed a couple of years ago.

eBooks

Through IngramSpark, you can distribute your eBook, in the ePub format, to many eBook retailers, including Walmart (Kobo), Apple, and Barnes & Noble. You can sell your Kindle format eBook to Amazon via IngramSpark as well. For a full list of eBook retailers supported by IngramSpark, visit this page.

Note that there are some restrictions on selling eBooks via IngramSpark. For example, if you have previously published your eBook on Apple, you will need to remove the book from Apple prior to uploading it to IngramSpark. Similarly, if you have published ANY eBooks to Amazon for the Kindle in the 12 months previous to when you want to publish your current eBook, you cannot use IngramSpark to make your eBook available on Amazon Kindle. 

KDP distributes eBooks to Kindle only, albeit on Amazon websites worldwide. 

The benefit of using KDP for your Kindle book rather than IngramSpark is higher publisher compensation and a more streamlined process. The benefit of uploading your Kindle book to IngramSpark is to manage all your eBooks on one platform, both ePub and Kindle.

Our Recommendation

So, what’s the difference between KDP and IngramSpark? Which should you choose?

As we have been hinting at throughout this article, we recommend using both!

We recommend that authors self-publish paperback books through KDP for standard distribution only. Your paperback will be available on Amazon and you will receive the highest possible publisher compensation for Amazon sales. Upload your eBook to Kindle on KDP as well.

Then, we recommend self-publishing through IngramSpark for expanded distribution of paperbacks and ePub eBooks. Using both companies in this way affords authors the widest distribution at the lowest cost and the best publisher compensation.

Note that if you use KDP for expanded distribution, IngramSpark cannot accept your book—at all (it’s complicated). So, it’s either KDP for standard distribution to Amazon and IngramSpark for robust expanded distribution to other retailers and libraries—or it’s KDP all the way with limited expanded distribution at a higher cost to you.

As a provider of publisher services, 1106 Design prepares books for publication. We offer authors expert book design (covers and interiors), editing, typesetting, eBook formatting, book marketing training and plans, and much more. We will prepare your files to meet IngramSpark’s and KDP’s exacting specifications (provided we did the design work as well—let’s be fair!) and upload them for you. We are pleased to be listed on the IngramSpark website as a Full-Service Self-Publishing Expert.

Our signature “hand-holding” means we’ll guide you through the maze of information and help you make decisions that are in your best interests.

And, with 1106 Design, you’ll receive the highest possible publisher’s compensation, because we don’t insert ourselves into your revenue stream as a middle person. We help you set up your accounts with KDP and IngramSpark under your own name with ISBNs owned by you, ensuring that every penny of publisher compensation goes directly to you.

If you need to prepare your book for publishing, look no further than 1106 Design. Message us today and tell us about your book.

If you’re looking for CreateSpace, it has merged with www.KDP.com.

CreateSpace has been replaced by the Amazon service Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). KDP is used to set up both paperbacks and ebooks on Amazon. Click here to go to the KDP page on Amazon. KDP does not offer services to authors other than linking the books to Amazon to sell and providing sales reports.

All existing CreateSpace titles have been migrated to Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). Use your Amazon account username and password to log into your KDP account. Click here to go to the KDP page on Amazon. If you did not create an account on KDP, go back to CreateSpace and reclaim your account by entering the email address you use to access your CreateSpace account, then go from there. Your published book on Amazon is not impacted by the closure of CreateSpace’s self-publishing services division.

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