KDP vs. IngramSpark: How to Choose the Best Print-on-Demand Option for Your Self-Published Book

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KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) vs. IngramSpark. What’s the difference and how do you choose the best print-on-demand option for your paperback book?

First, you’ll need to understand how print-on-demand works...

With print-on-demand, you can upload your book's interior and cover files, add the metadata, choose the categories and price, and once the files are approved, turn on distribution and have your book for sale with online retailers such as Amazon.com and BarensandNoble.com in a matter of days, sometimes even hours.

For those online sales, the print-on-demand distributor has a relationship with the online retailers, so they fill the web orders and pay you royalties on the net sales, which can be directly deposited to your bank account each month unless you opt to be paid by check. 

With a print-on-demand printer, you can buy wholesale copies at a low rate to have on hand for your own personal inventory. So if you want to sell copies at live events or on your website, you would first purchase your copies from the print-on-demand printer at the wholesale rate, and resell them at the retail rate at your own efforts, keeping the difference in profit.

Now that you understand how print-on-demand works, how do you choose which option is best for your self-published book?

I get asked this question a lot, and the answer always depends on what your goals are.

For example, if you simply want your book listed for sale on Amazon (where the majority of your online book sales likely will come from), and you want to be able to buy wholesale copies at a very low cost, then KDP is a great print-on-demand option.

While KDP is a popular option for the indie author whose focus is online sales through Amazon (KDP is owned by Amazon), it’s also the choice with the least number of distribution options, unless you have an ISBN issued by Amazon and you select their expanded distribution option. However, I always recommend authors own their ISBNs and purchase them from Bowker.

For the author who wants more options, such as having the book listed for sale with BarnesandNoble.com and available to over 40,000 retailers, then IngramSpark offers more distribution options, including a desirable book returnability program that most bookstores require.

Note: KDP does NOT have a book returnability program and bookstores are less likely to carry a book that's not returnable to the distributor.

IngramSpark is owned by Ingram Content Group, the world’s largest book distributor, and they have a buy-back program, so if your goal is to get large chain bookstores to carry your book (extremely hard to do in today’s competitive market), those large chain bookstores will want to know they can return the books if they don’t sell.

Having a buy-back plan in place and then offering retailers a 55% wholesale discount is necessary for the indie author who plans to pursue large chain bookstores, so IngramSpark would be the best bet in that case.

Now, that's not to say you can't sell your KDP published book through independent bookstores where YOU would supply the inventory yourself. I'm specifically talking about the large chain stores such as Books-a-Million and Barnes and Noble's brick and mortar locations that will want to order directly from the distributor. Some of the smaller bookstores will purchase inventory directly from the author.
One thing to note: just because your book is available to over 40,000 retailers through IngramSpark, that doesn’t mean those retailers will carry the book. It’s still up to the author to do the legwork, but it means those retailers have a relationship with Ingram and will buy the books directly from them because they can return the books as needed. Having your book distributed by Ingram is a good selling point for the indie author who plans to pursue large chain bookstores.

There are pros and cons to each option, so only you can decide which is best for your self-published book, but with KDP, your cost per wholesale copy is usually slightly lower than with IngramSpark.

Also, it’s free to list and make changes to your book on KDP, while IngramSpark has a $49 fee to publish plus a $25-50 fee each time you revise the book’s files.

Pro Tip: What if you've self-published your book through KDP but you want it available through BarnesandNoble.com as well? Use NookPress to publish to B&N.com, which is Barnes and Noble's print-on-demand equivalent to KDP for Amazon. 

If you decide to self-publish through a print-on-demand printer, just make sure your book is as professional as possible, meaning a high-quality cover and proper interior formatting and design. If you decide to outsouce some of these steps, we offer print-on-demand packages and a la carte design services at Transcendent Publishing for all your indie publishing needs.

Before you self-publish your first book, be sure to check out my free cheat sheet: 7 Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Self-Publishing. Publishing your book correctly from the start will save you valuable time and money down the road.