Saturday, 25 April 2015

IngramSpark vs. Createspace

To: Indpendent Authors:
Re: Createspace vs. IngramSpark:

A couple of weeks ago someone posted a link on Facebook to IngramSpark with free set-ups (I can't find it now - sorry), so I did some research into Createspace vs. IngramSpark.

Everything I found said do both.

Createspace distributes primarily to Amazon, but their expanded distribution isn't utilized by most bookstores because they don't give them a big enough discount.

IngramSpark gives the industry-standard 55% discount to retailers, plus the option to return books, which makes ordering our books attractive (I just did a signing at a Barnes and Noble, and had to bring all my own books because they won't order through Createspace). They also have printers in Europe and Australia, which makes international ordering cost-effective.

There is almost no money to be made for us on IngramSpark because of the discount to retailers. But it's the one way I've found to get into traditional brick and mortar retailers worldwide.

The account set-up on IngramSpark is fairly straightforward. It's when you try to set up your ISBNs that things get interesting.
     A. Your ISBN may NOT be Createspace-generated. You have to have purchased it yourself from Bowker.
     B. If you enabled expanded distribution on Createspace, IngramSpark will give you an error message that your ISBN is currently in use by another book.

To deal with this, go into Createspace and disable your expanded distribution. Then send an e-mail to IngramSpark with the ISBNs of all the books you want to transfer over to them. THIS WILL NOT AFFECT YOUR AMAZON DISTRIBUTION. It will, however, take some time. Createspace will eventually send you an e-mail saying they've done as you asked and released those ISBNs, and they'll tell you to call IngramSpark to proceed. I've gotten through to IngramSpark customer service in five minutes, and I also once waited an hour on hold, but when I finally spoke to someone, they were always helpful. Once they have your ISBNs, they will take care of transferring everything (cover, interior file) from Createspace, and there will be NO SET-UP FEE. A couple of days later your titles will show as available on your IngramSpark dashboard.

If you never enabled expanded distribution (I hadn't on one of my books), you'll need to go through the whole process of uploading the file directly to IngramSpark. They're fussier than Createspace about embedded fonts (I found a tutorial about how to do that) and graphics (manually went through to do that, too), but a couple of tries later it was up. I had to pay the set-up fee of $49 for that book, and I think in the future I'll go the backdoor route of enabling expanded distribution in Createspace, then asking to transfer it, and letting IngramSpark take care of the rest for free.

I did order a paperback copy of each of my books from IngramSpark to compare quality. Everything about it was more expensive than Createspace is (from the book to the shipping), and frankly, the quality is definitely less. The Createspace covers are more vibrant, and the paper quality is better.

One of the options IngramSpark offers is a $60 featured placement in their catalog that goes out to retailers and libraries. I've done that for book one in my series, which will apparently take two months to happen. I'll update this post when/if that produces results.

So, although there are a lot of reasons Createspace is superior to IngramSpark, (quality of experience, quality of product) I will keep uploading my books to IngramSpark for the bookstore distribution options, and for international printing and shipping.


  1. Thanks for sharing this information!

  2. Just now came across this post. I've wondered about the quality of IngramSparks vs. CreateSpace, and I never thought about using both. But it's a great idea! Thanks so much for the post! I'm going to share with my writers group.

  3. Dear April, Thank you for sharing your research -- it is a clear straight-forward step-by-step instruction that could be applied by any self-publishing author.
    Sharing is caring and you were generous with your time to benefit all of us.
    Keep in touch. Olga Gladky Verro, Author-Memoirist.

  4. Thanks for this post April, I'm trying to figure this out for myself right now and am following your advice. Just wondering, if you transfer your ISBN to LSI, do you then only receive the lower (much lower!) compensation per book for all of your print books sold on Amazon? Or do you still get Createspace royalties? Not sure what the language of the email Createspace sent me - "cancel the Createspace listing for (my book)" - means. I'm just wondering if it's worth it if you forfeit most of the profit. Thanks for your thoughts and advice.

    1. Hi Brian,

      If you have disabled your EXPANDED distribution on Createspace (as opposed to removing the whole book), your regular distribution to Amazon will still be in place, and they will still get your books exclusively from Createspace. Since that's where most of my paperback sales come from anyway, and I can still order my paperbacks for signings through Createspace, I don't notice a difference.

      And yes, the per-book royalty through IngramSpark is hardly awe-inspiring. It is, however, very similar to what a traditionally published author makes on every one of their sales. And for me, the ability to publish internationally without huge shipping fees, and allow customers to order my books through bookstores overrides the tiny royalty.Those are sales I wouldn't be getting through Amazon anyway, so I see it as an expansion, rather than a loss.

      Good luck with your books!

    2. Thanks so much for your reply, April! One more point that might help your other readers as well - do you find it a plus to make your books returnable, or do you end up having to pay IngramSpark back much for returned books? This may have more to do with how well known you are as an author. I am just starting out and wonder what this would mean for me, that perhaps it's a risk I don't need to be taking yet. Thanks

    3. Brian, those are problems I don't have yet. I enabled the returnable feature to make it as attractive as possible for bookstores to stock my books. Anything I make on paperbook sales is so minimal through IngramSpark, it truly is just about discoverability.

    4. Good point, it probably really is most important to focus on getting the books out there - just expanding your reach as much as possible. Thanks so much for the information!

    5. April...thanks so much for posting this. I've just finished ordering proof copies of my first book: Is Anybody There? Memoir of a "Functional Alcoholic" from CreateSpace. Since you were a bouncer, thought you'd appreciate the title. I've read elsewhere, as you noted, that for International Booksellers plus brick n mortar stores like B n N...Ingram Spark is the way to go. I purchased a separate ISBN with Bowker, using the free one provided for by CS. Question...will Ingram still be able to get copy of my book from CS? or because I am using my own purchased ISBN will I have to upload again as I did with CS?
      Thanks much. Your info is great and right on.

    6. Hi George,
      Congratulations on your book publication! I can't say for certain, but I'd guess that you will have to upload your book, with its Bowker ISBN, directly to IngramSpark, as the CS version has a CS-generated ISBN.
      Good luck with everything.

    7. Thanks April...enjoy the rest of your summer. Peace. George

  5. Hi April, what did you think of the $60 advert in their catalog?
    And thanks for the tip of transferring over existing books from CS.
    You can also usually find a 20-25% off coupon if you search.

    1. Hi Thomas, I haven't seen an appreciable difference in sales. I think most, if not all of my IngramSpark sales are from readers asking for it in bookstores.

  6. Hi April, I set up a title with IS using my own bowker ISBN. Then I started to set up the title in CS. CS would not allow me to finish uploading it saying that the ISBN was already in use. I have no idea how to proceed. I hadn't even selected the distribution yet so there was no conflict with expanded distribution. Any ideas? -Ann

    1. Hi Annaleise,
      I'm not sure - I didn't go in that direction. The bowker ISBN you used in IS is for print only, right? And that's the one you're using for CS? CS has great customer service - they'll call you right back if you set that up in "contact us." I'm sorry - that's so frustrating. Will you let me know what happens?

  7. Hello:

    Thank you for your very informative post. If I understand things correctly, you recommend in this order:
    1) Purchase ISBNs from Bowker
    2) Upload to CS
    3) When ready for IngramSpark, upload to them but also contact CS to release my ISBN.

    I plan to publish my first book later this year.

    1. Hi Tom,
      Congratulations on publishing your first book. Yes, that's the order I've had the most success with. When I've uploaded directly to Ingram Spark it ALWAYS gets kicked back for formatting, though I've done everything impeccably. When they transfer from CS, it takes a week or two, but they do the heavy lifting themselves. I only go through IngramSpark for paperbacks - my e-books are distributed through KDP and Smashwords. Good luck, and I'm happy to answer any specific questions you may have as you go forward.

  8. Great post, thanks April! We publish books for a number of (mostly business) clients and we've always used CreateSpace, but I'm looking at Ingram now for their expanded distribution/return features. Thanks for the tip on what order to proceed. I hadn't considered both.

    Why did you choose Smashwords over Ingram for the eBook?
    How would you change this plan?
    For paperbacks:
    - Publish to Amazon via CreateSpace
    - Order wholesale via CreateSpace
    - Use Ingram for all other retail distribution features.
    For eBooks:
    - Use Kindle for Kindle book
    - Use Ingram (or Smashwords?) for iBooks, Kobo, etc.

    P.S. We've been having a number of quality issues with CreateSpace lately. A box of 100 books may include 40+ that have bad cut lines and must be returned. It's happened to 3 of our orders on 3 different books this year. CS is good about the returns, but always check all your copies and leave yourself time for reprints as needed. I was hoping to hear Ingram was better at quality than CS. #nuts

    1. Hi Nicole,
      Depending on your client and their needs I'd go with:

      Createspace for Amazon and wholesale orders (I have made the request that all my print books are done in the San Bernardino facility because of quality, and because I'm in CA - CS has always honored that request. Just look at the back of the shoddy-order books for the print facility name, then make the request that your books NEVER get printed in that facility - they've been great about it with me).
      IngramSpark for all other retail distribution.

      For eBooks:
      KDP for Amazon
      Then either upload directly to iBooks, Kobo, etc, (formatting can be a pain for each platform, but it can be learned), or publish through D2D or Smashwords.
      I go through Smashwords because it's very easy to make a book free through them (which I've done for the first book in my series). For future series, where it might be possible to actually sell enough in the first week to make a list, I'll be uploading directly to each platform. Reason - iBooks, in particular, reports their sales weekly for direct uploads, but only quarterly for Smashwords and D2D. That hasn't been an issue for this first series, but I hope to change that eventually. My reason for not using Ingram for eBook distribution is just personal, and not based in anything I can back up - I find the IngramSpark reps to be a bit disdainful of independent authors and our formatting questions. I'm not feeling particularly generous with my eBook dollars as a result.

      I hope this helps.

    2. Thanks so much, April, for the informative article!

      BTW, D2D reports Apple sales daily, not quarterly. They're about a day behind real-time, but it's close enough for me and I don't have to deal with the hassle of going through Apple directly (plus, I don't have a Mac to upload).

    3. Thanks so much, April, for the informative article!

      BTW, D2D reports Apple sales daily, not quarterly. They're about a day behind real-time, but it's close enough for me and I don't have to deal with the hassle of going through Apple directly (plus, I don't have a Mac to upload).

  9. So glad I came upon this blog! (I found you by Googling "CreateSpace Ingram royalties pricing.) I've published my three mystery/suspense novels on Amazon CreateSpace and Kindle and have been very pleased with them. Now confronting Ingram for the reasons you mention, but dismayed at the low royalties. Your post is very helpful, and I'm printing it out for future reference. Unfortunately, I guess I'll have to raise my Amazon prices to be consistent with Ingram, right? BTW I hope you an your readers will check me out on Amazon.

  10. April, can you elaborate a bit on the point you made earlier on avoiding the $49 IngramSpark setup fee? Here's how I understand the steps as you describe: 1) I set up my CS book (with a Bowker-purchased ISBN) with expanded distribution, 2) I can then set up IS with that same ISBN, NOT upload any files to IS, and 3) then disable the ED channels on CS. Via emails to CS and IS, I can then get IS to use the files uploaded to CS. Sorry if this sounds harsh, but it seems very dubious that IS wouldn't charge me the $49 fee. I also was thought that IS was more stringent on their file requirements, so why would they simply use those approved by CS?