ingramspark vs kdp

IngramSpark vs KDP: What are the key differences?

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Self-publishing authors have several options when it comes to getting their book out into the world. There are two key players that I’ll be focusing on: IngramSpark vs KDP. 

Which is better, IngramSpark or Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)? 

Should I use the two self-publishing platforms together? 

There certainly are pros and cons to each platform. This makes the answers to these two common questions varied from author to author. 

As a self-published author of multiple low-content books, I have experience using IngramSpark and KDP together.

collage of 6 low content books created using Amazon KDP

Personally, I prefer using Amazon KDP on its own. The KDP interface is a lot more user-friendly. In addition, the features offered through the KDP platform have been ideal in helping me achieve the goals I have set for each of my books. 

In this IngramSpark vs KDP article, I’ll cover the basics of each platform and highlight some of the key differences. This way, you’ll be able to decide when you might benefit from choosing one platform over the other, OR when it’s a smart strategy to use both together.

Ultimately, you have to make the decision that’s right for you and your goals.

What are IngramSpark and KDP?

IngramSpark is a print-on-demand (POD) service from Ingram, a major book distributor. KDP is Amazon’s POD service. Both players handle POD for ebooks and print books.

They are both POD publishing platforms for independent authors. This means that books are printed when ordered instead of in advance.

POD helps to keep up-front printing costs low since you are self-publishing. POD services also save the author from keeping expensive inventory on-hand. As self-published authors, being mindful of costs is very important.

The purpose of these self-publishing platforms is to provide printing and distribution services. Outside of that, the independent author is responsible for everything else. For example, the author is responsible for editing and proofreading the manuscript, book formatting, cover design, and marketing and promotion strategies.

What are the key differences between IngramSpark vs KDP?

IngramSpark vs KDP – Layout / User interface

IngramSpark: This platform is not as user-friendly as Amazon KDP, but it is doable and “figure-out-able.”

KDP: As mentioned above, I’ve found Amazon KDP’s platform to be user-friendly and easy to navigate. There are a multitude of tutorials, articles, and videos to answer your questions along the way. Plus, their customer service is relatively quick to respond to as well.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Title set up and book upload costs

IngramSpark: IngramSpark charges for title set up and upload fees: $25 for ebooks, $49 for print books, or $49 for both print and ebook files at the same time. Plus, $25 for any additional revisions once uploaded.

*UPDATE: As of May 2023, IngramSpark announced they will no longer charge the title set up fee. Additionally, according to the IngramSpark user guide, you can upload as many revisions as you need at no cost until the eproof is approved. However once you approve the eproof, any revisions submitted after are subject to the $25 revision fee.

KDP: Amazon KDP is free to use, set up, and upload; there are no upfront costs. And there are no fees for revisions.

TIP: If you’re going to use BOTH platforms to self-publish, it’s recommended that you upload to Amazon KDP first. This way you can work out any revisions or edits without any additional “revision” fees. Then, you can upload to IngramSpark.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Discoverability algorithm

IngramSpark: According to some industry experts, it seems at times, IngramSpark books can be penalized on Amazon for having longer delivery times or showing that the book is out of stock.

KDP: Amazon seems to reward books published via KDP. KDP printed books will be available in just a couple of days, while IngramSpark books have been noted to take a few weeks.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Available Formats – Print Paperback, Hardcover, and Ebooks

IngramSpark: You can choose between paperback, hardback, and ebook. And you can select ebook distribution through multiple channels including Amazon, Apple, Nook, and Kobo. However, there is little incentive to distribute ebooks through IngramSpark.

The IngramSpark advantage to Amazon is their hardcover book options. You can choose between three different cover finishes (matte, gloss or digital cloth). They also offer a dust jacket option.

KDP: Amazon KDP has paperback, hardcover, and ebook availability. Unlike IngramSpark, KDP only offers the case laminate format for their hardcovers. This means the hardcover book will not have a dust jacket and the art is printed directly on the cover. 

Amazon KDP only allows you to sell the Kindle version of your ebook, for obvious reasons. Additionally, Amazon supports and encourages authors to set up digital and print titles simultaneously through KDP. By doing this, it will cross-populate information which makes it easier for the self-published author to create both formats.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Print Options – variety of paper, sizes, and formats

IngramSpark: IngramSpark offers 30 different sizes available in paperback and 14 available in hardback. Within these trim sizes, you can further customize by ink, paper stock, binding type, dust jackets, and more. IngramSpark also offers a standard or premium color printing option.

KDP: Amazon KDP has 16 common sizes available in paperback and 5 available hardback trim sizes. You also have the option of cream or white paper, or black-and-white versus color printing – standard or premium color. And that’s about the extent of customization from KDP.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Returns

IngramSpark: IngramSpark does allow authors to choose whether their books can be returned or not. The image below shows the 3 return options you’ll select from when setting up your initial title setup. It is possible to change your return selection at any time.

Screenshot from IngramSpark website listing 3 choices for "What Options Does IngramSpark Offer for Book Returns?"

KDP:  Returns are not available through Amazon KDP.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Royalties

The wholesale discount you choose impacts your compensation (aka your royalties).

IngramSpark: On IngramSpark, you can set your royalty rate between 65-70% depending on the market. It’s important to note that IngramSpark has a higher royalty rate for print books than compared to Amazon KDP. This is important for authors looking to get their books into bookstores. To effectively sell to bookstores, you should offer between a 50-55% discount. If you are purely looking for online sales, then set the discount lower, closer to 30% (the lowest discount available) and then you can retain more of the profit.

To help estimate how much you’ll earn through IngramSpark, take advantage of their Publisher Compensation Calculator.

IngramSpark’s royalty rate on ebooks is 40%.

KDP: The KDP royalty rate for print is 60%.

Amazon KDP offers a Printing Costs and Royalty Calculator (beta version). Keep in mind the calculator does not include KDP Expanded Distribution estimates.

The Amazon KDP royalty rate for ebooks offers two options: 35% or 70%, depending on how you price your book.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Proof Copies

IngramSpark: IngramSpark does not offer proof copies.

KDP: Amazon KDP gives you the option to order up to 5 proof copies. These are copies that are available only before publishing. They are stamped with a watermark because they are not available for resale.

IngramSpark vs KDP –Author Copies

IngramSpark: IngramSpark allows authors to buy author copies before publication. They have a two-step approval process where you first approve the book for printing; and then approve the book for distribution. So, in order to get the author copy, you must first approve your book for printing (but not distribution).

These author copies do not have a watermark. They are copies purchased by the author for only the printing cost. Upon review of the author copy, if you have any additional revisions or edits, IngramSpark will charge you additional fees.

KDP: Amazon KDP allows you to request author copies at printing and shipping cost. KDP also allows you to purchase author copies once published.

NOTE: Printing costs are relatively similar for both distribution channels, but industry experts have noted that KDP seems to be consistently less expensive than IngramSpark.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Distribution (and Worldwide Distribution)

IngramSpark:  IngramSpark is better for bookstores and libraries. Period. One main reason for this is because Ingram is a trusted, major book distributor.

Additionally, IngramSpark allows authors to make your book returnable which is a requirement for most bookstores.

KDP: Amazon KDP is better for online sales for obvious reasons. Amazon is an online powerhouse. Also, with Amazon KDP you do not have the option to make your book returnable and many bookstores will not purchase books that are not returnable.

*Special note about KDPs Expanded Distribution Service for Print – Amazon offers KDP Expanded Distribution for print books. With this program, you can make your book available for purchase by other book retailers, distributors, and bookstores. However, it doesn’t guarantee that your book will be picked up. When you opt for KDP Expanded Distribution, your royalty rate changes to 40%.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Barcode Options

IngramSpark: IngramSpark provides cover templates for you in InDesign and PDF formats which allows you to embed your own barcode and move it anywhere on the cover. Additionally, you can take this barcode and use it on KDP.

KDP: KDP automatically uploads a free barcode to your book when you publish it. But, you don’t get to choose where it goes on the cover. If you want the option of placing the barcode wherever your heart desires on your book, you can obtain a barcode from a paid or free barcode generator site first. Then create your cover design and add the barcode to the cover before uploading the file to KDP.

IngramSpark vs KDP – ISBN

You can use the same ISBN across all platforms as long as the book is identical. This means the same trim size, same cover, etc. If you have an ebook, a paperback, and a hardback, then you need three different ISBNs.

IngramSpark: IngramSpark provides you with a free ISBN. If you want the freedom and flexibility to distribute and sell your book anywhere, you should purchase your own ISBN. In fact, IngramSpark also recommends to purchase your own ISBN rather than use their free one.

Again, it’s important to note that on IngramSpark, if you have three versions of your book – ebook, paperback, and hardback; then you will need to supply three separate ISBNs.

KDP: Amazon KDP also offers the free ISBN option during the title setup. If you want the flexibility to sell your book anywhere and write your name as the publisher, I would recommend purchasing your own ISBN.

On KDP, you do not need an ISBN to publish an ebook.

Note: If you are making your title available in IngramSpark and Amazon KDP, you cannot choose KDP’s Expanded Distribution. Amazon’s Expanded Distribution program makes the title available to Ingram and will cause a conflict with the ISBN when you upload into IngramSpark.

Since you cannot opt out of Amazon KDP distribution through IngramSpark, you need to use the same ISBN for both companies. By doing this, IngramSpark sends your book’s data to Amazon, and it gets refused (which is a good thing) because the ISBN already exists in Amazon KDP’s system. It shows that Amazon KDP is distributing your book directly through their Amazon network.

Can I use IngramSpark if my book is already part of Amazon KDP’s Expanded Distribution?

Yes. First, you’ll need to set up an IngramSpark account. Second, remove your book from Amazon’s Expanded Distribution option. Third, you’ll submit a Title Transfer request through IngramSpark’s website. IngramSpark will notify you once the transfer is complete. This typically takes about 30 days.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Final Recommendations

As I mentioned in the beginning, I personally prefer to use Amazon KDP as my go-to self-publishing platform. Additionally, KDP is the platform that I focus on in my Click to Publish course, where I have helped over 75 dietitians achieve their self-publishing goals. 

However, depending on your self-publishing goals, publishing on both platforms may be the right path for you. Choosing to publish on both platforms is the recommended pathway by many industry experts after all. Amazon KDP is an online powerhouse and IngramSpark rules when it comes to distribution in stores and libraries.

Good luck with self-publishing your book!

*This blog post was published on 2/16/22, and was updated on 11/27/23

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5 thoughts on “IngramSpark vs KDP: What are the key differences?”

  1. Great article and very useful information, except for one detail. IngramSpark does offer proof copies before you place your book for distribution. They’re regular copies, as opposed to DKP, which now puts an ugly, gray “Not for resale” notice on the proof cover. You can order one from IS, once your files have been approved, before putting the book for distribution. In fact, they recommend it. 🙂

  2. Hi Liz,
    Great article on KDP vs. IS. I have the eBook version of my novel on KDP now and finishing the final touches for the paperback there too, and plan to follow your recommendation for listing at IS right after KDP goes live on it.
    One question on eBooks, what is the best tool for converting the manuscript to an eBook format as an ePub file, that I can upload to IS. KDP Create doesn’t provide that. Any recommendations?
    Thank you.

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