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 today: IngramSpark (IS) and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). If you are wondering what the key differences are between IngramSpark vs KDP, then you are in the right place.

In this article, I’ll cover the basics of each and highlight some of the key differences. You’ll be able to decide when you might benefit from choosing one of these platforms over the other, or when it’s a smart strategy to use both simultaneously. Ultimately, you have to make the decision that’s right for you.

What are IngramSpark and KDP?

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

They are both print-on-demand (POD) publishing platforms for independent authors. Print-on-demand means that books are printed when ordered instead of in advance.

This helps to keep up-front printing costs low since you are self-publishing. Print-on-demand services also saves 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 services 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

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: The Amazon/KDP platform is user-friendly and easy to navigate. There are a multitude of tutorials, articles, and videos to consume in order to answer your questions along the way. Plus, their customer service is relatively quick to respond as well.

ingramspark vs kdp

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.

There used to be some free promotional codes available online, however, many industry experts have noted that in 2021 IngramSpark seemed to do away with those (or at least made them more difficult to find them).

KDP: Amazon/KDP is free to use, set up, and upload; there are no upfront costs. And there are no fees for revisions. If you’re going to use both platforms to self-publish, it’s recommended that you upload to KDP first, so that you can work out any revisions/edits for not additional fees. Then, you can upload to IngramSpark.

ingramspark vs kdp

IngramSpark vs KDP – Discoverability algorithm

IngramSpark: According to some industry experts, it seems like, 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

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 is their ability to distribute hardcover books to Amazon (although Amazon currently has hardback options available in beta)

KDP: Amazon/KDP has paperback and ebook availability. (Hardback is in beta phase.) And 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

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 (with hardbacks in the beta phase). You also have the option of cream or white paper, or black-and-white versus color printing. And that’s about the extent of customization from KDP.

ingramspark vs kdp

IngramSpark vs KDP – Returns

IngramSpark: IngramSpark gives you the option to make your books returnable.

KDP:  Returns are not available through Amazon/KDP.

ingramspark vs 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.

IngramSpark’s royalty rate on ebooks is 40%.

KDP: The KDP royalty rate for print is 60% (meaning that their standard KDP distribution discount is 40%). There is no flexibility here to increase your margins.

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

ingramspark vs kdp

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

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 revision/edits, IngramSpark will charge you additional fees.

KDP: Amazon/KDP allows you to request author copies at printing cost + shipping. 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

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/KDP offers their Expanded Distribution Services for print books, however, it’s not that desirable of an offer. With this program, you can opt to distribute your book through some bookstores, however, your royalty rate drops to 40% by doing so (because their wholesale discount is bumped up to 60%). And many bookstores to not like to order from Amazon, because well, they are Amazon aka direct competition.

ingramspark vs kdp

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, then it’s recommended to get one from IngramSpark and then upload it to KDP.

ingramspark vs kdp

IngramSpark vs KDP – ISBN

You can use the same ISBN across all platforms as long as the book is identical meaning 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, but I recommend staying away from this option because their free ISBN will only be good for their platform. If you want the freedom and flexibility to distribute and sell your book anywhere, you should purchase your own ISBN. 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: Again, Amazon/KDP also offers you a free ISBN, but I recommend staying clear of this option if you want the flexibility to sell anywhere. You should purchase your own ISBN. By doing so, this also allows you to write your name as the publisher.

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

Note: If you are making your title available in both self-publishing systems (IngramSpark and Amazon/KDP, you cannot choose KDP’s Expanded Distribution because that 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, and it shows that Amazon KDP is distributing your book directly through their Amazon network.

IngramSpark vs KDP – Final Recommendations

Self-publish on both platforms.


Well, why limit your book’s potential reach? And plus, it’s recommended by industry experts.

Amazon/KDP is an online powerhouse and IngramSpark rules when it comes to distribution in stores and libraries.

Cover all your bases and self-publish on both platforms. This will ensure that your digital book and paperback/hardcover book have access to wider distribution around the world. Secure your own ISBN, and you are free to do as you please.

Bonus Tip: Start out on Amazon so that you can test out and perfect your book’s formatting and adjust as needed, without any additional revision fees. Then upload to IngramSpark. In the end, you can have to decide what works best for your book and your goals.

Good luck with self-publishing your book! If you are looking for professional assistance with editing or proofreading your manuscript, or book formatting, be sure to check out my services page for more information. Send me an email to tell me about your project and we can discuss how we can work together. I’d love to help get you one step closer to becoming a self-published author!

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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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