IngramSpark vs CreateSpace: Battle of the Print on Demand Services

IngramSpark-vs-Createspace
As a self-publisher of ebooks, you might not be aware of the fact that we have the ability to also publish printed versions of our books as well.  Thanks to Print-on-Demand services like CreateSpace and IngramSparks, we can now sell printed version of our ebooks without having to hassle with the logistics.

However, with two top-notch services, which one is the best?  CreateSpace or IngramSparks?

Unlike my article Smashwords vs. Draft2Digital, you’ll find that there is no ultimate clear cut winner.  However, there will be times when one totally beats out the other and can save you LOTS of money.  Let’s find out when that applies to you and when you should choose one over the other.

In This Article You Will Learn:

  • Why you should think about using these services in the first place
  • IngramSpark vs Createspace pros and cons
  • Which platform gets my final vote and which one is right for you

When To Use These Services

If you want to get your self-published ebooks into print, you’ll need to use one of these services. Digital books are where the wealth of your income is going to come from; however, print books can still make up a small portion of your overall sales.

In fact, I’ve had two books of mine sell WAY better on print than as ebooks even though my ebook is half the price.  Let’s face it..there are still some people and some markets out there that will pay double just to hold and smell that book.

Michael Hyatt seems to think so as well as he just detailed why he will be putting ebooks back on the shelf.

If you’re looking to add a printed copy option to your existing Amazon eBook, or other digital books, then these services will make the process as painless as possible.

You’ll still need to create a correctly formatted print book and beautiful cover, but these services will help you the rest of the way.

One more added benefit:  Did you know that having both a Kindle option and a Printed option of your book helps with your Amazon rankings?  It turns out that the Amazon A9 search engine LOVES this and will favor those with options over those that are just print or just electronic.

Why?

Because the Amazon Algorithm is all about increase sales and books that offer both options have a higher chance of providing what the customer wants over a book that only offers one.

So, if you’re not offering a print version of your kindle book, then you really should give it a go.  But now, let’s figure out which service is best for you.

Ingram Spark vs CreateSpace: The Showdown

Both of these services are very similar, meaning they deliver essentially the same results. IngramSpark used to be the big name on the block. But, now it seems that CreateSpace is more heavily favored since they partnered with Amazon. Regardless, it’s important to weigh our options.

We obviously have different publishing needs and goals, so one platform might be better suited for your bestselling book!

Let’s look at the main differences between the two platforms:

  • Upfront Cost
  • Yearly Subscription
  • Changes to Book
  • Avg. B&W Costs
  • Avg. Colored Book Costs
  • Profit if Sold on Amazon**
  • Profit if Sold Elsewhere**
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN Included?
  • Setup Difficulty
  • Quality
  • Formats Accepted
 
CreateSpace
  • $0
  • $0
  • $0
  • $4.45
  • $21.85
  • $4.45
  • $1.45
  • NO
  • YES
  • Easy
  • Good
  • PDF
IngramSpark
  • $49
  • $12
  • $25
  • $4.86
  • $8.40
  • $4.20
  • $4.20
  • YES
  • NO
  • Difficult
  • Excellent
  • PDF

Price estimates are based upon a paperback, 6 x 9, cream, perfect bound, gloss finish, 300-page book.

Important Note: While Amazon owns Createspace and they tend to work together, understand that they are NOT Amazon.  It’s as if the left-hand doesn’t speak to the right-hand…just keep that in mind.

Pros and Cons of CreateSpace Publishing Service

CreateSpace is probably the most common choice for indie authors considering the fact that it’s owned by Amazon and pretty seamless to get the two to mesh up – meaning having your physical book and kindle book sales page be joined.  Simply create a CreateSpace project with the same title as your previously published Kindle eBook and they will link together automatically (usually within 48 hours).

It’s also much easier to use, and if you have a completed PDF file, you can complete the entire process in about 30 minutes.

If you run into a bump throughout the upload process, their support team truly does have your back. All you have to do is enter your phone number, and a representative will call you in seconds. Even if you still make an error when uploading your book (like most of us mortals do), you can upload a corrected file again free of charge.

However, Createspace isn’t without its drawbacks. Here are a couple of areas that it falters when compared to IngramSpark:

  • The quality isn’t as high
  • Their colored prints are EXTREMELY expensive
  • They don’t offer hardcover.
  • Their international shipping pales in comparison.

But, if you’re looking for the quickest and most painless option possible to get your physical book into the world as well as the cheapest (if you aren’t picture intensive or requiring a lot of color), then Createspace might be the perfect fit for you.

Who’s CreateSpace Best For?

  • Regular ebooks needing conversion to paper version
  • No need for lots of colored pages

Basically, this is better for us regular self-publishers.  Normally we don’t need lots of colored pictures or hardcovers.  We just need a printed version of our books.  Therefore, we can skip the extra costs of IngramSparks and get a decent book.

Pros and Cons of Ingram Spark Publishing Service

Ingram Spark is a great choice for a certain kind of publisher. If you have more patience, or are confident in your print layout skills, and need an extremely high-quality book, then Ingram Spark is a great fit.

If you have a more international reader base or want wider bookstore and library distribution, then Ingram Spark can cater to your needs as well and help improve your profitability with their lower external distribution costs. If you’re moving a lot of physical copies of your book, Ingram Spark also offers better discounts for high volumes of books.  Thus, earning you more cold hard cash.

If you’re moving a lot of physical copies of your book, Ingram Spark also offers better discounts for high volumes of books.  Thus, earning you more cold hard cash.

However, Ingram Spark isn’t the most user-friendly platform, has a very steep learning curve, and their support doesn’t do much to ease your strain. Just check out their 35-page guide on how to properly upload your book (woah).

But, if you’ve got the publishing chops, need a lot of print books, and demand a hardcover book, then Ingram Spark might be for you.

Who’s IngramSparks Good For?

  • Want a hardcover
  • Have lots of colored pictures inside – ends up being cheaper than CreateSpace’s picture intensive books
  • Want to focus on external sources other than Amazon

Although the costs are usually more, this is perfect for authors wanting to create children’s books and other picture intensive books as well.  I’m going to keep them in mind when I publish my kids book – not sure when that will happen but it’s on my list.

Who Reigns Supreme: IngramSpark vs Createspace

My personal choice is Createspace.

However, take this with a grain of salt. They’re the perfect for my publishing needs, but they still might not be the best for you. Since I’m not printing hardcover books, or books that require color images, the overall difference in quality is negligible.

Also, since I’m prone to mistakes, I love that I can correct or update a book without incurring any additional costs.

In my opinion, it’s no wonder Createspace is the most common choice for indie publishers. IngramSpark does have its high points but doesn’t cater as directly to my current publishing goals.

So, right now, I’ll use Createspace, but I’m definitely going to keep those pros and cons in mind so that one day, if I ever create a picture intensive book, I’ll know about the benefits of IngramSpark and be prepared to shift.

Cheers,

Dave-Signature

About Dave Chesson

When I am not fighting dragons or chasing the bogey man out of my kids closet, I like using my previous Online Optimization skills to help other authors with the 'technical' stuff and get the right authors to the top of Amazon and any other eBook service out there.

  • Great article Dave!

    Did you know you can actually use BOTH CreateSpace AND IngramSpark? I plan to use CreateSpace for distribution to Amazon Only, and use IngramSpark for distribution everywhere else except amazon. CreateSpace gets you higher margin through Amazon and cheaper author copies for giveaways and hand sales. As you said in the article, IngramSpark gives you major worldwide distribution. This does take more work upfront, and any corrections have to be made in both places, but for some publishers this may be worth it.

    Cheers!
    -Conrad

    • Awesome point…I totally never thought about that…I mean why not, right? I’ll have to test that out…but when I do, I’ll update the article to reflect that and credit you for the awesome pointer.

      • Patrick_Gerard

        Aaron Shepard is a blogger who pioneered that.

        You can get into some advanced decisions there. You ideally want to use the same ISBN both places (meaning you need to own it; otherwise your sales rankings will get diluted) and you need your coverprice the same at both places (since both require you not to have a lower cover price elsewhere).

        You can use both for distribution and set discounts differently for non-Amazon copies (as long as all other specs and price are the same). You might want to set non-Amazon discounts lower in soe cases. This drives traffic to Amazon and gets you higher profit elsewhere. Or you might want to set the non-Amazon discounts as high as possible under the rationale that fewer copies will sell through the other channels but a higher discount will make them reduce the price of your book, which Amazon will then price match.

        You can get into a number of interesting complexities there. For example: if you make the book returnable (which I really only recommend for college textbooks) but have CreateSpace handle Amazon copies then I believe you may have an interesting case where Amazon can’t return copies and has to count those as CreateSpace sales (CS trumps all other agreements with Amazon) but other retailers can return copies.

        In some cases, I think you might have a case where Amazon would pay you for a CreateSpace sale but source the book through Ingram, if the Ingram copy + CS royalty is less expensive than the CS printing + royalty, which MIGHT get you a double royalty for the sale. Amazon will pay your CS royalty since the book is live through CS (even though they’re sourcing from Ingram rather than printing) and Ingram would pay your royalty for their sale to Amazon. Probably a possibility with color books.

    • Kim Lambert

      Conrad – that statement about cheaper author copies is only true if you live in the U.S. And only print black and white interior books. I am in Australia, most of my non fic has color interior. I use both Createspace and Ingram. From Createspace, for a black and white interior, the raw book cost is slightly cheaper, for a color interior, the Ingram raw book cost is massively cheaper. And shipping…… Well, from Createspace, unless I order a huge quantity ( over 1000) the shipping cost per book can be as much as the print cost per book. Because Ingram have multiple POD print locations in different countries, including one in Australia, the shipping is way less. So I can get a copy of a 6×9 color interior 120 page paperback via Ingram inc shipping, for 60% less than I can on Createspace. So it’s a no brainer – if you are not in the U.S. And you want physical copies in your own possession, it only takes one order for the savings to pay for the setup fees.

  • Azul Terronez

    Hey Dave, great article once again. As always you provide a great comparison. I have heard that IngramSparks can be a pain in the butt and there are tons of fees, but definitely if you are looking to do hardcovers, the quality of books they produce are great. Though it is not well known, CreateSpace will do hard cover copies of books. They require a set up fee and a fairly large order of books before they will print. Thanks again buddy.
    Azul

    • Hey Azul, as always, you are the man. You’re right about Createspace and hardcover, but it is trully a painful process…I just re-read my material and realized that I wrote it in a way that portrays Hardcovers as a complete no…i’ll change that. And yes, IS is very cumbersome and painful.

    • Patrick_Gerard

      If you’re looking at a large quantity, I’d look at a Chinese offset printer like PrintNinja.

      It’s quite likely that CS’s hardcovers are just produced through Ingram and sold to you at an upcharge anyway. POD operations frequently use one another at an upcharge to cover gaps in their service offerings.

  • Nancy Straight

    Great article – again! Like Conrad Zero’s note below, I use both Createspace and IngramSpark but not based on distribution. I use full distribution with both, but Createspace does all of my paperbacks and IngramSpark does my hardbacks.

    • Nice. I like that plan. Thanks for the tip, Nancy!

    • THAT’S BRILLIANT! I never thought of that. I mean, why not, right? Wow. I’ll look into that and update to reflect that awesome sauce strategy. Nancy, if you have a website, let me know and I’ll credit you for that when I go to update the article.

      • Nancy Straight

        Wow! That’s really nice of you. My website is http://NancyStraight.com I’ve only routed one of my books through IngramSpark so far, the others are in process. For the record, their publishing process is more difficult, and the fees can get pricey, but having hardbacks was important for public libraries so I believe the frustration was/is worth the effort.

  • BlueIsTheColor

    I have an interesting dilemma and wanted to see if anyone has any insight. I am about to publish a 300+ page full color trade paperback. Obviously, I’m using IngramSpark and not CreateSpace (insanely expensive for color). The demand for my book is highly specialized and local so I don’t need the distribution prowess of Ingram (absolutely no need for distribution), but their color print pricing is cheaper than anything I can find. My question is can I perpetually order books directly from Ingram without ever enabling distribution (there is literally a button that says “enable”, haha)?

    I can make more profit per book if I purchase directly from Ingram and sell through Amazon (even with “Fulfilled by Amazon”). If Ingram distribution is enabled, Amazon can purchase my book and sell it themselves. This would then show multiple vendors on the Amazon product page (“Sold by Amazon” and “my company name – Fulfilled by Amazon”). The prices would most likely be the same, but I would get a smaller profit from the “Sold by Amazon” source. Let’s be honest, we all go for the “Sold by Amazon” before resorting to “3rd party resellers”.

    • Nancy Straight

      Hi BlueIsTheColor – IngramSpark will let you limit distribution, but wider distribution didn’t cost much more. One of the things IngramSpark does do is it lets you assign a “discount” to resellers. So if your book retail is $25, you can give a discount of up to 50% ($12.50) to those who wish to distribute to other platforms (ultimately making your title more appealing to them). I know this is contrary to what you are trying to accomplish, but if you wanted to drive people to purchase the book directly from your company, you could assign a very low discount (10%) to the distribution network, while you would be able to purchase it close to cost and sell it through your business. This would allow you to have multiple distributors on Amazon listing your book with a much higher price than your company could offer it for, resulting in more direct sales to you. Does that help?

      • BlueIsTheColor

        Thanks for the reply, Nancy. 30% is the minimum discount that can be applied through Ingram (at least at this part of the process for me) and I had already did exactly as you suggested. At this point, if Amazon were to pick it up and sell it for the same list price, I would be making the same amount either way. I’m basically hedging my chances. Maybe I will get more options for distribution once I enable it. Thanks again!

        • Patrick_Gerard

          Just watch out for “grudgingly” distributed books. A small discount may trigger retailers to claim your book takes 4-6 weeks to ship to customers.

    • Earl Henson

      BlueIsTheColor What happens if you don’t enable distribution and only let Amazon sell books that you send to Amazon for mailing [ separately from you mailing them to customers. Is this possible?] Have you solved this yet, how did it go?

  • Green Holiday Italy

    Great article! I was wondering if anyone has tried to print with IngramSpark without using their distribution option and sell on Amazon? I hear that Amazon delays listing books not printed on Createspace. I am thinking of doing POD with IngramSpark because, as Dave says in the article, it is the cheapest for full colour.

  • David Freeman

    Dude!!!!…..That generally covers all of your content, Dave. Gracias. I’ve never seen a comparison of the two POD options. Great summary. Finally, a solution to printing a hard cover copy. Sharing with my peeps.

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  • Kristin Eastman

    IngramSpark is more geared towards small publishers with experience. They also give a lot of education to authors on the importance of using professional help with editing, formatting and design so the author gets the best quality book and in turn sells more books.
    You should do a blog on the importance of owning your ISBN too which is something Createspace doesn’t tell you. IngramSpark wants the ISBN to belong to the author or publishers imprint. If you use the free one from Createspace it’s their imprint on your book.

  • Scott Allan

    Great comparison between the two. I’ve only used Createspace because it fits my needs but through coaching other authors, this question has come up as to which one is the best option. Thanks Dave!

    • Yeah, I decided to focus on this because I had heard of a couple of authors say that IngramSparks actually is better in certain situations….they were right.

  • I’ve published my three mystery/suspense novels on CreateSpace and Kindle within the past year and have been very pleased with the results. I used other professionals for the formatting and cover design but found the process of uploading fairly painless. I’ve now started getting them up on Ingram as well, primarily because I understand that’s what’s preferred or required by bookstores and libraries. The process is more annoying but looks doable. What’s really confounding me is the pricing. I listed two of the CreateSpace paperbacks at $11.99 and one at $13.99, and all three Kindle versions at $2.99 because I wanted to keep them as affordable as possible while making a nice royalty, but if I used these prices at Ingram, I’d make nothing at all according to what their site told me. Do I really have to keep the prices the same with both companies?

    The CreateSpace quality is excellent, BTW, and I’m not interested in hardcovers. What to do? Any advice would be appreciated. And I hope you’ll check me out on Amazon, especially if you’re interested in trading blurbs or reviews. Dave, thanks, and I’m glad I discovered this site.

  • Jon Galt

    I am a little bit confused here.. can I produce an ebook on amazon, then link it to a physical copy through Ingramspark? (in the same way that I would be able to through CS?).. I have heard you can / cannot.. and of the info I found on ‘you can’, amazon generally dislike it and show it as ‘shipping within 2-3 weeks’..

    • Yes you can. But understand that the shipping for IngramSpark takes longer than through Amazon’s CreateSpace. IngramSpark does not have as many printing stations as CS and therefore shipping will take longer….especially if someone from Australia buys the book – IS doesn’t have a print-on-demand station in Australia.

  • tpapa

    great piece. I learned alot. I just published a memoir “This Side of Freedom: Life after Clemency on createspace. I have no complaints as they are doing a good job getting my book done. However I am planning to publish a book with my paintings and will look into IngramSpark for this one. thanks

    • Thanks Tpapa and I think that’s a good plan. A book on your paintings will find IS to be much more profitable.

      • tpapa

        thanks, but I am not interested in making money

  • Olesya Kalinina

    Thank you!
    What do you think about Lulu.com?
    I’ve also heard people are using it instead of CS for cheaper color books, and I hope it may be more user-friendly (maybe)? Just in case you know. Thanks.

    • Hi Olesya! I have’t used Lulu yet. There are a lot of peeps who are big fans of it though, but when I did initial research between all companies, I found that D2D and CS would be the best two to pit against each other in this article.

  • Anette Christensen

    Hello! Great post! You write that Ingram Spark has lower external distribution costs. When I use the calculators for 125 books send to Turkey, Create Space charges 140$ but Ingram Spark 530$. So have I missed something?

    • The information in the table was in reference to US prices and structure. Otherwise, I’d have to do 500+ comparisons to bring in the ‘other’ markets.

    • Belinda Pollard

      Hi Anette, using Spark, trying sending them to Turkey from Europe, not USA, and the shipping might be lower. 🙂 Search “lightning source shipping calculator”, then for printing location choose Euros, not US dollars.
      Also, for physical bookstores, they need the ISBN to be able to order your book through Ingram. Some will do it, and some won’t, as they don’t want to be stuck with the book if the customer changes their mind.

  • Anette Christensen

    Can anyone explain me how Ingram Spark works. I am writing a press release and want to inform my readers where they can buy the book. Ingram Spark says they distribute to 195 countries and thousands of wholesellers and retailers.But how do I tell my readers exactly where they can purchase my book? And will a physical bookstore purchase a copy on request? (I am not interested in making my book refundable)

    • Ingram Spark is a Print on Demand service. So, to enjoy them, you need to set them up as your POD on Amazon and other services. So, if someone goes to Amazon, they’ll see your book listed there. If they click and buy it, then Amazon sends the info and money to that POD so that your book will be printed and shipped to the person who ordered it.

      • Resheda

        Say you already have a decent amount of printed copies, when someone buys your book on amazon does the POD notify you and can you ship the book from your location, this is as if you to ship a sign copy of the book ?

        • That’s a good question and in truth…I don’t know how to handle that. I’ve never been in that situation. I’ll do some research though.

          • Resheda

            Thank you and what is the process if you want others to pre-order your book?

    • Jenni Li

      Why don’t you either read their website or a Wiki article where all that is explained?

  • Jenni Li

    Hey, “writer,” might want to proof-read your own column.

  • Mark

    Thanks for the article. If a self-published POD book is listed on IngramSpark / LIghtning Source but not on CreateSpace, will Amazon carry it? For simplicity I am thinking of just going with Lightning Source, but would like it to be on Amazon. Or is CreateSpace the only way to get it on Amazon (unless you are already famous like a known celebrity) Thoughts?

  • Mark

    Thanks for the article. If a self-published POD book is listed on IngramSpark / LIghtning Source but not on CreateSpace, will Amazon carry it? For simplicity I am thinking of just going with Lightning Source, but would like it to be on Amazon. Or is CreateSpace the only way to get it on Amazon (unless you are already famous like a known celebrity) Thoughts?

  • Kimmy Paulino

    Thanks for the tips! It is only a consideration at the moment for https://wattaylor.com/. A lot of benefits listed on making the hard copy books available, especially if it is your first ISBN!

  • Kevin Obermeyer

    Do you have an opinion about blurb.com? I’ve seen mixed reviews about it. Sorry if you’ve already addressed that somewhere else I’ve missed.

    • I haven’t personally tried them. But my team and I are going to create a comic book about A Writer’s Life next quarter (and create full how to on comic book self publishing). Might try Blurb just for that experience and then write about that as well.

  • Jacqueline Britton

    So I have my ebook on amazon and just finished creating the paperback on Ingramspark (I chose ingram so retail stores can order through ingram). How do I link the ingram paperback to my ebook for consumers to purchase? Do I do this through KDP or an amazon sellers account? Do I have to pay a monthly sellers account fee to sell the paperback? Or alternate scenario, If I choose to also publish paperback on create space do I use the same ISBN number that I purchased through ingram. Thank you for your help!

  • Just to note, Ingram hasn’t required that annual subscription fee since at least 2015 (when I first published with them) 🙂

    I also use both. CreateSpace for Amazon, Ingram for everyone else so that I get comparable earnings for sales. I also have used Ingram for hardbacks, though decided to hold off on anymore just because of the added costs and no longer doing my covers myself.

  • I have only used Createspace so far. As I read that IS has lower cost for books, I tried the calculation for 100 8.5.x11 300 page color books at each site. CS doesn’t let me have glossy paper, but the print quality OK for what I am doing. CS, with shipping cost $2400 (with no other costs for anything as I do the complete setup myself) IS quotes $1142 for the printing and shipping. Then you have to add the other IS costs ($50 setup and ??) I plan to try IS for the color books and see how it works. Am worrying a little as CS and KDP are appearing to head towards merging under Amazon, which in my experience usually means the worst of each get joined in a new more expensive and more difficult system!

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