Of the two giants in the indie author print-on-demand scene, KDP vs IngramSpark, which is better? Here’s everything you need to know.
As an indie author, you’ve surely heard of Kindle Direct Publishing. It’s the name given to Amazon’s book publishing portal and the direct means for self-published indie authors to get their title on the megastore. Its nearest competitor is IngramSpark, which provides an alternative portal to print-on-demand sales. You can even sell your IngramSpark books on Amazon.
You’ll come across the IngramSpark vs KDP debate frequently in your travels online. Indeed, both print-on-demand supplies come up frequently in our library of free indie author guides.
We work with both services every day as we help indie authors self-publish. Below you will find a breakdown of the pros and cons of KDP vs IngramSpark. This includes a winner for each category so you can help tailor your strategy to what best suits your book and goals.
As always, we’re happy to help indie authors realise their dreams, so if you need help optimising your keywords or categories, converting your book between print or digital or indeed getting a world-class finish to your book, simply book in your free call.
IngramSpark vs KDP guide for self-published indie authors
As we look at the pros and cons of KDP vs IngramSpark, we’ve broken the services up into eight key categories. At the end, we also provide you with our advice on which approach to take.
1. Title set up and book upload costs
KDP: Perhaps Amazon’s biggest advantage is that KDP is free to use. There are no charges to upload your book or revise it, no matter how many books you have. This means that you can test your content and layout very easily and make updates to your book as you wish. For example, you may want to place an ad for the second book in your series in your first book once the sequel is out.
IngramSpark: Unfortunately, IngramSpark does charge for you to set-up a book in their system and upload it. Then it charges again for revisions. The title set up is US$49, and then each revision is US$25. Previously there were a run of free IngramSpark voucher codes available to get around this cost, but Ingram has recently tightened up on these. It now only offers a 50% discount unless you belong to an author or publisher association.
Winner: KDP gets a clear victory here. If you want to keep an ear out for free IngramSpark codes, we share them to our newsletter subscribers whenever they become available.
2. Discoverability algorithm
KDP: Amazon clearly rewards books published via KDP in its search algorithm. This is not publicly acknowledged by Amazon and could potentially be a point for a future class action if it was proved to be true, but it’s consistently seen by indie authors. A KDP printed book will show as being available in two days as well, where IngramSpark titles can often take weeks.
IngramSpark: As mentioned, Ingram books get penalised on Amazon through delivery times. IngramSpark printed books will sometimes show as much as a four to six wait for shipping. Ridiculously, Amazon will also sometimes list a printed book from IngramSpark as being out of stock. Which is an impossibility given it’s a print-on-demand service. The KDP vs IngramSpark debate is a bit ugly in this regard.
Winner: KDP gets the nod here, but it’s not IngramSpark’s fault. Is Amazon being a bit anti-consumer / monopoly with this behaviour?
Self-publishing digital and print books
3. KDP: Amazon supports authors setting up digital and print titles simultaneously through KDP. As such, it will cross-populate information between titles. This makes it much easier to set up your title in both formats and is handy in upselling people to print from a Kindle digital book deal. If you need help converting your print book to a quality eBook, we can help.
IngramSpark: There is little incentive to distribute eBooks through IngramSpak. Most authors use Draft2Digital or PublishDrive. Either way you will always have your Amazon platform to manage as well. One aspect that has been to IngramSpark’s advantage in recent years is its ability to distribute hardcover books to Amazon. Although as of May 2021, Amazon now has a hardback option in beta.
Winner: As IngramSpark’s user experience as an all-in-one book portal solution isn’t as good, we have to give the nod to KDP again here. Although early signs are that Amazon’s hardcover printing costs won’t be competitive.
4. Royalty rate
KDP: When comparing KDP vs IngramSpark, it’s Amazon’s print-on-demand service with the lower royalty rate The KDP royalty for print is set at 60%. There is no option to vary this to increase your margins.
IngramSpark: IngramSpark then has the higher royalty rate. On Ingram you can set your royalty to 65-70% depending on the market, so you get a higher nett profit per book.
Winner: All self-published authors want a higher royalty rate, so IngramSpark is victorious.
5. Distribution into stores
KDP: Expanded distribution is an option with KDP, but it’s a poor offering. You can opt to distribute some titles to bookstores through Amazon’s expanded distribution service, but it decreases the royalty rate immediately to 40%. And many stores do not like to order from Amazon as they are their direct competition.
IngramSpark: By contrast, IngramSpark has wide distribution options. Indeed, IngramSpark shines with wholesale distribution. You can vary your royalty and return rates per territory, too. And its network of providers is immense. Of course, this doesn’t mean your book will be ordered by stores, but if they want to stock it, they will almost certainly be able to get it in through one of IngramSpark’s distributors.
Winner: We’ll give IngramSpark the nod here, but with caveat of volume being a consideration. Amazon’s volume of traffic is such it may overcome its distribution weaknesses.
6. Barcode options
KDP: Amazon automatically uploads a barcode to your book when you publish it. This means there is no need for self-published indie authors to purchase one. Note, if you use KDP’s automatic barcode, then you don’t get to choose where it goes on the cover. It goes in a set place each time. If you want to control where your barcode appears, you need to get one from IngramSpark and upload it to KDP.
IngramSpark: IngramSpark provides cover templates in both Indesign and PDF formats allowing you to embed the price in your barcode, and move it to a suitable spot on your cover. You can even take this barcode and use it on KDP.
Winner: This one is effectively a draw, although the flexibility in where you position your barcode makes IngramSpark more appealing.
KDP: Amazon provides a free ISBN for each print title you upload to the service. However, we don’t recommend this approach unless you only ever intend to sell your book on Amazon. If you want the flexibility to sell anywhere, you should supply your own ISBN. Old Mate Media organises an ISBN for authors who take up our book creation services.
IngramSpark: IngramSpark provides a free ISBN for any US author that uploads a print title to their system. Well “free” in that you have to pay US$49 to set up the book in the first place. Again though, there’s a caveat. We don’t recommend this option should you wish to also upload your book on KDP directly. You cannot use an IngramSpark ISBN in a book uploaded to KDP. As mentioned above, get your own ISBN if you want freedom of distribution.
Winner: Ideally, you want to be able to link a single ISBN to all versions of your book, so in this KDP vs IngramSpark battle both are losers in a way. While both provide ISBNs for free, they then limit how the book can be distributed.
8. Variety of sizes and formats
KDP: Amazon has 16 common sizes available, with only one small landscape option. These are available in paperback, with a limited trial currently underway for hardbacks. You have the option of cream or white paper, but that’s effectively all the customisation you get. Amazon publishes all eBooks through its own kf8 files (previously mobi). This format is particularly unwieldly for children’s picture books as conversion from interactive ePub 3 formats is frequently broken.
IngramSpark: Alternatively, IngramSpark has 30 different sizes in paperback and 14 available in hardback. Ingram also only offers one landscape offering, but it’s bigger, which is great news for authors who want to make a children’s picture book. Within that there many options for customisation, such as paper stock, binding type, dust jackets and so forth.
Winner: There’s a lot more choice with IngramSpark, giving it greater flexibility with a wider range of genres.
KDP vs IngramSpark Verdict – What do we recommend?
After all that, it may feel like a cop out to say this, but you should print on both IngramSpark and KDP. Why limit yourself? Why limit your book? As long as you provide your own ISBN, there’s nothing stopping you from publishing through both these print-on-demand services.
Our model always encourages authors to consider a wider distribution offering and have books available on both platforms, and in print and digital forms, using their own ISBN. When we design books for our authors, there’s very little difference in cost to the author. The internal set up is the same, with only the cover generally requiring adjustments.
Indeed, we don’t charge any additional cost to create both IngramSpark and KDP covers for our authors.
However, given IngramSpark’s reluctance in 2021 to share as many free title setup codes, we’ve started to recommend to our authors that they start on Amazon. Here you can test and perfect your book, adjusting your title as required. You can then upload to Ingram once their teething issues are sorted out. This cuts down on potential revision costs. The two platforms both provide benefits to indie authors if you know how to use them to best suit your needs. Remember, you can always book in a call to chat through your plans with us. We're here to help.