IngramSpark vs. KDP: Which Publishing Company is Best for You?

Last week, we talked about the dangers of vanity presses. This week, I want to discuss a couple of legitimate self-publishing companies.

There are many options, and I’m sure more crop up by the day. But KDP and Ingramspark seem to be the front runners. As they’re the two I have experience with, those are the two I’ll be going over.

That doesn’t mean they’re the only options, and it doesn’t mean they’re who you have to choose. There is no one size fits all option here. Everyone has different needs, different desires for their books. What’s best for one author may not be right for another.

All I can do is put my experiences out there for you so you have a little more information to make your choice.

Formats

Both offer ebook and paperback options.

Ingramspark also offers hardback. They even have a few different cover types: cloth with a dust jacket, case laminate, or case laminate with a dust jacket.

If you’ve never heard of it, case laminate means that an image is printed directly onto the binding of the book. You can have that with or without the dust jacket. If you get the dust jacket, it means that you can have a second piece of art on the case of the book (hidden beneath the dust jacket) or have the same cover so that readers can remove the dust jacket, leave it at home for safe keeping, and still show off that pretty cover art while reading on the go. Either way, this requires an additional file, in a different size, something that may incur extra charges with your cover designer.

Print quality

The books that Ingramspark produces are beautiful. They feel good in your hands, and they look stunning.

This isn’t to say that KDP doesn’t print good books, they do. Just not as good as Ingramspark.

Print speed

I can’t be sure, and of course time of year affects this (the time leading up to the holidays is always a longer print time), but it seems as though KDP is quicker.

Shipping of Author Copies

KDP charges normal Amazon shipping rates to send copies of your book to you. Ingramspark… *sigh* They have a basic, uninsured, no guarantee, “it’s not our responsibility” shipping option that starts at around $5. But if you want any kind of insurance or tracking at all, shipping (even for a single proof copy) is going to cost you about $20 or more.

Wholesale Distribution

Ingram is one of the biggest wholesale distributors in the world. They’re trusted by bookstores across the globe. Publishing with them does not guarantee that your book will end up in stores (you still have to approach them about carrying your book), but it gives you a chance.

KDP has an expanded distribution option, but what’s the point in taking the hit to royalties? They’re an Amazon subsidiary. Bookstores aren’t exactly likely to buy from their competitor.

Direct to Consumer Distribution

KDP (as part of Amazon) obviously has this. And with Prime shipping, readers could get your book quickly.

Ingramspark does not ship directly to consumers or handle sales directly. They print the books and ship them when a retailer like Amazon or Barnes and Noble places an order.

Tech support

KDP wins this, hands down. Ingramspark used to have passable tech support, but since last year (something I’ll cover more under the next category), they’ve taken a nose dive.

When I uploaded A Heart of Salt & Silver last November, I had nothing but problems, and getting anyone to actually address them was like pulling teeth.

KDP, however, is timely with their responses and makes uploading, fixing problems, or adjusting book listings very simple.

Ease of use

KDP wins this one, as well.

Early last year, it would have been a tie. But last summer, while the whole world was shut down and everyone that could work from home was doing so, Ingramspark did a major overhaul to their entire system in an attempt to make it more “user friendly.” But all it accomplished was breaking their system.

There were bugs.

A lot of them.

And since most people (especially tech people) were working from home on limited hours, the whole “fixing them” process dragged on and on. Meanwhile, tech support for authors was minimal and… rough. Long wait times to receive an email (7-10 days), long queue times for the online chat support (hour+), long wait times on hold (hours).

That is, until they did away with the phone option for support, making everyone use the email or chat, making wait times even longer. And the hours for the chat are highly inconsistent, not always lining up with the hours posted online.

I’ve had several issues with them since their “user friendly” update, several of which dragged out for weeks.

I’ll be uploading Allmother Rising to their site soon for that magnificent hardcover option, so we’ll see how much has been fixed.

Sales dashboard

KDP reports sales quickly and in an easy to read bar graph that shows how many copies sold each day.

Ingramspark can take up to 90 days to “gather” sales data, then reports it in a rather lackluster format. On the dashboard, it says how many of each book you’ve sold, but with no dates (which complicates the process of honing ads since you can’t get an accurate picture of their performance).

Even their monthly statements for royalties lack dates, showing only which book and which format sold. And you’ll get multiple statements. One for Apple ebooks, one for Amazon US, one for Amazon UK, one for the print distribution in the US and one for print in the UK. So the data is a bit… all over the place.

Royalties

This one really depends, honestly.

KDP offers a 70% royalty option (less print cost), but if you go with their expanded distribution (why?) you’re only eligible for 35% after the cost to print the book.

Ingramspark does 60% (I think) of the profit. But since bookstores demand a discount (a hefty 55% is preferred, but you can lower it to 30 or 35% depending on the market), you’re getting 60% of what’s left after that massive discount and the print cost.

Start-up Cost

KDP is completely free. There are no up-front costs or fees. They make their money off their portion of the profit when a book sells.

Ingramspark charges $49 for a thing they call “Title Setup,” which is basically the fee they charge to list your book in their massive wholesale distribution channels. It irritates me that it’s a thing. But as discussed above, their distribution channels are very widely used, so they can get away with it.

You have to pay that for each print format, but you can pair your ebook with one of them for no additional charge. If you’re only releasing an ebook, you still have to pay the $49.

You can revise and resubmit your files as many times as you need until you’re happy with them and hit approve. However, if you wish to do any additional revisions after approving all the files, there’s a $25 fee. Per revision.

So if you want to change the cover and have an ebook, paperback, and hardback version of the book, that means $75 to fix all three covers, even if the ebook is linked to one of the print formats.

The good thing is that they frequently release discount codes to waive these fees in their Facebook group, release some for Nanowrimo, and often provide these codes at writing conventions. (20booksto50k on Facebook has a convention coming up with a code associated)

Advertising

Ingramspark has an option to promote your book by listing it in their catalog. I think it’s under $100, but I’m not sure. I’ve never done it, so I have no idea how effective it might be.

KDP is part of Amazon, and we’ve all seen the sponsored product ads when looking for books on Amazon. They have their own marketing thing, linked to- but separate from- KDP. Many authors have found success with Amazon ads. I’m not one of them. I’ve tried a few, but since I’m still learning about ads, I haven’t gotten an Amazon ad to actually be profitable yet.

As with any type of advertising, there are a lot of metrics and a lot of things to experiment with, a lot of demographic research and keyword research to be done. Ads need honed in, and of course, it’s easier to turn a profit advertising a series than it is advertising a standalone.

(You can afford to lose a bit of money advertising book one with a higher cost per click, so long as your series hooks readers and pulls them to book two and three and ten. Standalones… you can’t afford to lose on book one because it’s only one book. This is another problem for me, as I usually write standalones.)

Kindle Unlimited

Obviously, this is a strictly Amazon thing, thus only KDP has it. If you upload your ebook ONLY to KDP and enroll in KDP select or kindle select (I forget the name, it’s a little check box during the upload process), that puts your book into the Kindle Unlimited program. People who pay monthly can read as many KU books as they want, and the authors get paid per page read.

If you don’t have many books in the program or don’t get a lot of reads, it might not add up to anything. But there are several full-time authors in the 20booksto50k group on Facebook who attribute half their earnings to KU.

That doesn’t guarantee that you’ll go full-time or be a best-seller, but the vast majority of ebooks are read on Kindles or in the Kindle app. And KU is a massive market.


Now, as I said above, there is no one size fits all publishing solution. Authors have different skill sets, resources, and needs. So, it’s natural that not every author will choose the same publishing path.

You can use either of these publishers. You can use neither.

If you purchase your own ISBN, you can use both.

I do. My ebooks are slowly being moved to KDP to take advantage of the higher royalty and the Kindle Unlimited program. My paperbacks are split between the two, and of course, I will always have hardbacks. Which is only available through Ingramspark.

The blessing (and curse) of being an indie author is that you can pick and choose whatever methodology you want. Don’t be afraid to play around with this to see which one you like best.

This is a process, not an instant, get it right the first time, always be satisfied with the first thing you try type of dream/hobby/career.

Mistakes happen. Things don’t always work.

But as long as you keep trying, you’ll find what works for you.


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