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Kindle Direct Publishing Versus Ingramspark: What You Need to Know

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.

kindle-direct-publishing-versus-ingramspark-what-you-need-to-know

I’ve been seeing a number of questions in online author forums on social media about self-publishing a book on both IngramSpark (IS) and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) self-publishing platforms. I wonder why anyone would want to do that. Sounds like too much extra work to me. And, of course, as soon as I comment with that, I get the “IS does this, that, or the other thing that KDP doesn’t do, so I need both” responses.

Not to be stubborn, but I say to pick and stick with one or the other. Let me explain why, and why you might indeed want KDP over IS, or vice versa.

Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)

My bias is going to be evident here. Don’t worry, I’ll give a balanced perspective on IngramSpark when it’s their turn.

Free Self-Publishing on KDP

Do I need to say more?

Free Formatting Assistance on KDP With Kindle Create

I’ve talked about the Kindle Create (KC) tool before which, as of this original post date, is still in early access beta mode. That means it still has some kinks to work out, especially for hyphenation, widow/orphan, and chapter title line break controls for print books. But for Kindle eBooks, it's fantastic.

With KC, you can format your simple text-based Kindle eBook and print book interior pages with the same file. That means you format your manuscript once, not separately for Kindle eBook and for print. This also completely eliminates the cost of hiring someone to format it for you.

What the KC software tool does is take your raw Microsoft Word or Word compatible .doc or .docx file and almost automatically converts it into a production-ready file for eBook and print. What the software can’t automatically identify as chapter titles, etc., you just tell it what book part it should be tagged as. It can also create a Table of Contents which is helpful for nonfiction. You also select a theme so that your book has a uniform look all the way through. Having some basic familiarity with using word processing technology, such as Microsoft Word, is helpful. But for the most part, it will handle a lot of the formatting for you.

Do you realize how crazy good that is and will be? It could change the current state of self publishing which has authors scrambling and struggling to learn how to format for production and distribution.

Free KDP ISBN Number

If you don’t want to invest in your own ISBN numbers, KDP will provide one for you for free for your print book. There are pros and cons of using a provided ISBN. But unless Amazon goes away (it could, though unlikely in the near term), this is a non-issue for many authors.

However, if the ISBN number is a concern for you, you can provide your own when publishing on KDP.

Free Listing of Your Title on Amazon Through KDP

Your Kindle eBook and/or print book will be listed on Amazon, one of the world’s most powerful ecommerce platforms, for free. Even as of 2014, Amazon dominated 65% of online book sales ("Amazon Vs. Book Publishers, By the Numbers," Forbes.com).

Money-Saving Print On Demand Paperback Editions Through KDP

KDP’s print on demand (POD) perfect bound paperback printed books are good, serviceable quality that fit many self published authors’ budgets. Authors don’t have to buy boxes of books that will likely be stashed in their garages for years. In fact, they don’t even have to buy one copy.

Minimum Author Service Through KDP, Maximum Customer Service Through Amazon

On a few rare occasions, I’ve had to connect with KDP author support. I usually got the answer I needed via email, but it’s not hand holding for sure. Like other tech giants, KDP/Amazon offers mainly self service options. So don’t expect a lot of personalized support.

On the other side of the equation, Amazon handles all order fulfillment, customer service, and shipping. It's hands off for you.

"Bookstores Don't Like Dealing With Amazon."

So what? Some self published authors worry that if a reader customer wanders into a brick-and-mortar retail bookstore to get a copy of their book, that the store will refuse to handle the sale because Amazon does not offer non-Amazon book retailers favorable discount and return policies. But should you really worry about this?

Don’t be delusional or nostalgic thinking that your buyers are flocking to buy print books in bookstores. As of 2019, Amazon alone commands about 42% of all physical books sold (The Enormous Numbers Behind Amazon's Market Reach, Bloomberg.com).

Bookstores, particularly the big chain stores, are consolidating or closing. We used to have the likes of Borders, Kroch’s & Brentano’s, Crown Books, Books-A-Million, B. Dalton, and others in addition to Barnes & Noble. Now it’s pretty much only Barnes & Noble in my area.

There may be some stray independent stores that could serve a community. But even those are either not growing in number or are closing. A 2014 Forbes online article reported that there used to be 4,000 independent bookstores in the past 20 years, and that it's down to about 2,000. As well, less than 10% of books are sold through independent stores. And this was some years ago as of this writing. So one can imagine that this trend is only worsening.

Here’s what’s happening where I live and work in the metro Chicago area, currently the third largest city area in the United States. When you consider Chicago and all the suburbs, the population is currently around 9.5 million. The only major retail bookstore chain of note left is Barnes & Noble, along with a sprinkling of small, local independents here and there. At a radius of 50 miles of where I am in the suburbs—an area covering most of the northeast quadrant of Illinois—there are only 17 B&N stores, only three within a 10-mile radius of me. Also, within 10 miles of me is an independent with three stores, another super small independent, a lonely used book store which I can’t believe is still there, and a Half Price Books which is mainly used books. Let all that sink in. In an area as populous as mine, there are very, very few brick-and-mortar bookstores.

There’s only one explanation for why physical retail bookstores are dwindling. Less people are shopping there. And you're going to fret about it?

“What If They Can’t Find My KDP-Published Book on Barnes & Noble’s Website?”

Well, that might happen if you use KDP. But here’s my experience. I selected expanded distribution on KDP, and did nothing proactive to get my print books on BN.com. Yet most of my print editions are listed on the site. Hmm. Not sure if my more recent print titles will eventually appear there, but I honestly don’t care.

I've heard from other authors that Barnes & Noble offers discounts to teachers. So I can sympathize why those whose books are geared for education markets might be concerned about this. But you still have to wonder how many sales of your specific book that will drive. As well, the teachers have to know your book is there. That's another subject altogether.

Also, my Kindle eBooks are obviously not available on Barnes & Noble's Nook eBook store. Again, I don’t care. Why? As reported in a 2018 Forbes.com article, Amazon’s Kindle commands 84% of the eBook device market. In contrast, Barnes & Noble’s Nook is only a 2.1%. (As a side note, 13% of the eBook device market goes to Walmart’s Kobo device.) Again citing the earlier Bloomberg.com article, Amazon has 88.9% of the eBook market.

My Rant on Pros and Cons of Both KDP and IngramSpark

IngramSpark

When you work with IngramSpark (IS), you’re more of a publisher than an author. So you will be expected to provide some things that may be provided to you by other self publishing platforms. You’ll also need to know what you’re doing.

Ingram Is a Powerful Book Publishing Distribution System

I think it would be safe to say that Ingram is the premier retail book distribution group, particularly in the United States. That means they serve as the middle man between publishers and bookstores, facilitating inventory and shipping of books from publishers to bookstores. They offer discounts and advantages to bookstores that KDP/Amazon does not. So their IngramSpark self publishing platform has a wealth of resources and an industry leading reputation behind it.

But as I discussed earlier, the chances of your book being purchased in a brick-and-mortar retail bookstore are almost nil. So does this matter? The only place where this might an IS advantage is to get your book listed and sold on major book retailer websites such as Barnes & Noble.

IngramSpark Fees

IS is not free. As of this writing, the fee for print plus eBook is $79 per title (though there appears to be a special discounted combo rate of $49). That’s not too expensive. But if you ever have to revise your uploaded files, there is currently a $25 fee to do that per file. I know, for fact, that I can reupload files at any time and at no cost on KDP.

You will be expected to provide your ISBN numbers when you work with IS. This is an extra expense for you. You will need a separate ISBN for each format (print, eBook, etc.).

Hardcover and Saddle Stitched Editions Available Through IngramSpark

Offering hardcover and saddle stitch edition book binding production and printing is one of the primary reasons that self published authors would choose IS over KDP. Like KDP, IS offers POD printing of books, and you can buy author copies for your personal use.

You’ll Get Your Book on Amazon Anyway... and More

This is one of the reasons why I recommend sticking with just IS for authors who want hardcover or saddle stitch editions in addition to the more common eBook and perfect bound paperback editions. Your book (print and eBook) will be made available through Amazon anyway.

Also, if, in spite of the earlier discussion on Kindle dominance in the eBook arena, you absolutely feel that your eBook must be on a non-Amazon/Kindle eBook platform such as Nook or Kobo, IS can get you in those markets, too. KDP won’t.

But be aware that if you’ve already published your Kindle eBook on KDP in the past 12 months, the IS website currently states they will not be able to publish your eBook to Kindle. And if you have your book on Apple Books/iBooks, you’d have to remove those titles there prior to uploading to IS. Because IS can publish your eBook to Kindle and other eBook retailers and platforms, why do you want to mess around with using both KDP and IS? Let IS handle it! They know what they’re doing, and can do it all for you.

Some authors want to get their eBooks on KDP so they can take advantage of KDP Select benefits, such as Kindle Free eBook promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals, during the book launch period. That's only an issue if you're gunning for a Top 100 Free or other sales status on Amazon. Remember that any sales status may only be good for as little as one hour, and KDP Select requires exclusivity to KDP/Amazon while your title is enrolled in the program. With the 12-month not-on-KDP rule on IS, that means you'll have to continue to use both KDP and IS, or plan on having your eBook be off Amazon for a while to convert everything to IS. What a mess. Pick one and stick with it.

Ingram Is a Book Distributor, Not a Direct Seller

Unlike KDP/Amazon, Lulu, and BookBaby, Ingram does not have any ecommerce system for authors to sell their books direct to reader customers. Plus, everyone in the distribution chain has to get paid: Ingram, bookstores, etc. This can mean lower royalties paid to authors.

No Author Services on IngramSpark, But Provides Resources

Like KDP, IS does not offer any services such as editing or formatting (Lulu and BookBaby still do as of this post date). Nor does it offer any tools similar to Kindle Create. However, a variety of calculators, guides, and checklists are available for IS authors.

Which One Wins: KDP or IngramSpark?

Well, based on all the relevant and real factors, I would say that the primary deal breaker decision against KDP would be your need for a hardcover or saddle stitch edition of your book. But before you automatically sign on with IS, consider alternative popular and reputable platforms such as Lulu and BookBaby, which also offer hardcover editions, plus will handle direct sales to readers. More importantly, determine if you really need a hardcover edition. For many self published authors, a hardcover edition is overkill.

To help you evaluate which of these two leading self publishing platforms is for you, I've created a handy table for side-by-side comparison.

KDP versus IS: Side-by-Side Comparison

 KDPIngramSpark

Cost

Free

$29-$79 per title, depending on edition; $25 to reupload any files (2019)

ISBN number provided

Yes, but authors can provide their own

No

Free tools and resources

Free Kindle Create formatting tool, plus extensive online support documentation

Online guides, resources and checklists

Formatting assistance

Free Kindle Create tool

No

Book/eBook listing on Amazon

Yes

Yes

Book availability to bookstores and libraries

Yes, through Expanded Distribution

Yes

Hardcover editions

No

Yes

Saddle stitched editions

No

Yes

Paperback editions

Yes

Yes

eBook availability on Kindle

Yes

Yes

eBook on non-Amazon platforms (Nook, Kobo, etc.)

No

Yes

Handles sales direct to customers

Yes (via Amazon)

No

Royalties

Higher royalty potential due to direct sales to customers

Lower royalty potential due to sales through distribution channels

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2019 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 06, 2020:

Peggy, again, your support through sharing is so very much appreciated! I do hope that the authors who read get value out of it. Stay safe and well this week!

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on April 05, 2020:

I am sharing some of your articles with two people that I personally know who wish to publish books. You are probably helping countless others as well.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on October 23, 2019:

Heidi

All I can say is "I went with KDP, and see no reason to change"

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 03, 2019:

Bill, I can't imagine your to-read file. I know when I don't keep up, it piles up. But I thank you for stopping by to check in no matter what. Appreciate your support and hope you have a great start to September, too!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 03, 2019:

Oh well, Amelia. Just part of being a self published author, eh? :) Keep going and keep up posted on your book adventures!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on September 02, 2019:

I was gone for three days and I'm now hopelessly behind. I'll file this one away and read it when I have more time. Have a brilliant first week of September, Heidi!

Amelia Griggs from U.S. on September 01, 2019:

Hi again, updated info: I uploaded an updated interior file yesterday for one of my books on IngramSpark and I was charged the $25 update fee. Oh well. By next month I will create new book listing for book 3, so that’s when I will use the SELFPUB code for new book titles.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 01, 2019:

Hi Liz! It's surprising how many authors are unaware of IngramSpark, especially given that it's part of a mega book distribution system. Hope your author friends find the post help. Thank you so much for sharing and have a terrific weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 01, 2019:

Hi Doug! Glad you found it helpful. I would be curious to know about your experience using IS if you decide to move forward with that. They can provide a different level and type of service than KDP for sure. Thank you for chiming in and good luck with your future self publishing adventures!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 01, 2019:

Marie, I think for children's print books, traditional publishing is a great option, even though it's a tough road. Publishers know what they're doing in terms of production and distribution for that market. So it's good to have that help.

But I agree that offering it in Kindle eBook format is a cost effective option otherwise.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience! Have a wonderful Labor Day weekend (and hope the hurricane doesn't impact your area too much)!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 01, 2019:

Linda, a lot of people outside the publishing biz are unaware of Ingram and their IngramSpark division. They're pretty much invisible to reader customers, even though there a big part of the book selling process.

Thanks so much for chiming in and have a great non-holiday weekend where you are!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on September 01, 2019:

Amelia, thanks so much for sharing your experience... and the coupon code!

I think that many authors would also go completely with KDP if they offered hardcovers. Wonder if that will ever happen? It wouldn't surprise me if KDP finds a way.

This all really points to the importance of choosing a platform that aligns with your goals before going forward. I know you always do! :)

Appreciate your support here and everywhere else! Have a terrific Labor Day weekend!

Liz Westwood from UK on September 01, 2019:

I had not heard of IngramSpark before. I will mention your interesting article to two authors I am currently working with, as both have expressed an interest in kindle publication.

Doug West from Missouri on August 31, 2019:

Another great article. I have published dozens of books and always used KDP and Smashwords. I have been toying with the idea of publishing a book through IS. Your article helped give me some perspective.

Marie Flint from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 31, 2019:

Thank you, Heidi, for this informative discourse. I have one children's e-book on Kindle. I found the experience of aligning text with pictures a bit messy, but I managed.

As much as I love hard cover children's picture books, I think I'd prefer to use a traditional publisher to get my book into that form. In the meantime, Kindle is fine.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on August 30, 2019:

I've never heard of IngramSpark before. Your written comparison and the table are very useful. I hope you have a very enjoyable Labor Day weekend, Heidi.

Amelia Griggs from U.S. on August 30, 2019:

Hi Heidi! I love how you and connected in both Hubpages and the FB groups. Great informative article here!

As you know, I like to experiment and I decided to use Ingram spark for the sole reason of additionally offering hard cover versions of my children’s books. The hardcover version automatically got linked to my e-book and paperback versions, both of which I created via KDP. If Amazon offer hard cover formats, I’m sure I would not have bothered using Ingram Spark.

Now for my computer business books I only have the e-book and paperback version via KDP.

One thing about Ingram spark, there is a special coupon code that I used twice already and I’m about to use the third time this year, it’s SELFPUB and it totally waived the $50 book listing fee. I heard this coupon code will work this year fir 2019 and I’m crossing my fingers that it will continue to work next year too, just in case any of us need it. I see you noted $79 above but I’ve only seen $50 so far for the fee before the coupon. Also, they have been waving the $25 fee for second uploads. Yay!

As far as expanded distribution, I heard that was very good with IS and for my hard covers, they popped up automatically on Barnes & Noble and lots of other places. But then I wanted and needed my paperbacks to also pop up on B&N so I turned the exp distribution on via KDP for my paperbacks.

So many things to try and do and figure out with all this! It’s good we can learn from each other.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 30, 2019:

Flourish, you nailed it when you said "vanity option" for hardcover. Gosh, I can't believe people are still stuck on that in 2019.

Saddle stitched (pages stapled at center of book cover) is common with short children's books because they lay flat. So I can kind of sympathize with that. But for adult fiction or nonfiction, not so much.

Thanks so much for stopping by before the holiday weekend! Hope you have a relaxing Labor Day weekend!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 30, 2019:

Hi Pamela! You and me both! I can't tell you how many hours I used to spend in the bookstores. It was my happy place. But now, well, I can be happy with my books anywhere, thanks to Amazon. Thank you so much for reading and your kind comments. Have a great Labor Day weekend!

FlourishAnyway from USA on August 30, 2019:

It seems like a fairly straightforward choice except those who cannot live without the vanity option of a hardcover. I’m not exactly sure what saddle stitched is but I cannot imagine it’s worth discounting all the pluses.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on August 30, 2019:

Heidi, I think this information is great for any author. I buy almost all of my books on Kindle and Amazon. I use to love going to book stores but it is so easy to view titles and descriptions of books on Amazon and do a quick purchase. Your article is excellent.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 30, 2019:

You're welcome, Bill! Glad to share what I know. Hope you have a great holiday weekend, especially if you're traveling!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 30, 2019:

You're welcome, MG! Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on August 30, 2019:

Great info, Heidi. Thanks for sharing your expertise in this area. Have a great weekend.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on August 30, 2019:

Very interesting information. Thanks for widening my horizon

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on August 30, 2019:

Hi Mary! Thanks for checking it out. Glad you found it helpful. Have a lovely weekend!

Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on August 30, 2019:

Thank you for this very useful information. You have researched it extensively and added your own experience.