Self-Publishing Print Books: CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark

illustration-of-books-pvBy Cecilia Lewis

Last week, I discussed the pros and cons of offering print copies of your book. If you’re considering making your book available in print, there are two primary options: Amazon’s CreateSpace or Lightning Source’s IngramSpark. So, which service is best for you? Here are several factors to consider:

  1. Ease of use

Many authors prefer to use CreateSpace because it’s very user-friendly. CreateSpace is easy to use with hardly any learning curve. This is the ideal option for beginners looking to keep things simple. Ingram requires more work in setting up an account and learning to use their interface.

  1. Formatting

If you decide to go with IngramSpark, you’ll probably have to do more formatting, as you may have to use InDesign. However, the process of building the book is fairly similar in both—you plug in metadata and provide the interior and cover files.

  1. Upfront Costs

Ingram requires more money upfront than CreateSpace. There’s a $49 setup charge for print books and annual distribution fee of $12, though both fees can be waived under certain conditions. CreateSpace does not have any of these fees, which makes it the cheaper option upfront.

  1. ISBNs

CreateSpace provides ISBNs, while Ingram does not. It’s certainly tempting to consider CreateSpace the ideal option because of this, but remember that using one of their ISBNs establishes them as the publisher of the work, not you. This is certainly less than ideal for self-publishing authors. Ingram, in contrast, requires you to provide your own ISBN, which can be quite expensive but establishes you as the publisher. CreateSpace does allow you to use your own ISBN as well, which would make its costs exactly the same as using Ingram.

  1. Terms and conditions

One of the major disadvantages of CreateSpace is that their contract allows them to change the terms and conditions of the agreement however and whenever they like, and it is your responsibility to keep track of the changes—they will not inform you if the terms change. This is a dealbreaker for many self-publishing authors. As far as I am aware, Ingram doesn’t do this.

  1. Distribution

Some bookstores prefer not to work with Amazon for distribution, which is a definite disadvantage to using CreateSpace. With IngramSpark, your distribution is handled by the single biggest content provider in the world. Ingram has printing centers in the U.K. and Australia as well as the U.S., and will ship anywhere efficiently. CreateSpace’s distribution is lacking in comparison, as Amazon only prints in the U.S. and requires international shipping for the U.K. and Australia.

  1. One company vs. multiple

There are advantages and disadvantages to primarily using one company—Amazon—versus using several. Personally, I don’t think I’d advise having only one company handling printing, distribution, and sales. Using CreateSpace makes you entirely dependent on Amazon.

  1. Amazon royalty

Depending on the specifications of your book, CreateSpace’s royalty for in-Amazon sales is often better than that of sales through another distributor. So it often makes financial sense to use CreateSpace for Amazon sales, at the very least. Some authors use CreateSpace for Amazon sales but choose IngramSpark for other distributors.

  1. Page Limit

I’ve never experienced this myself, but I’ve heard that CreateSpace has more restrictive page limits than IngramSpark, which makes it an impossible option for anyone with an especially long book. It’s important to check out the page limits to see if yours exceeds the maximum.

  1. Print Quality

In my experience with both IngramSpark and Lightning Source, their print quality is first-rate. I’ve seen a book printed by Ingram with a large number of photographs and reproductions that were all very high quality. I don’t have as much experience with this element of CreateSpace, so I can’t offer a judgment one way or the other. However, it’s important to note that CreateSpace doesn’t have a hardback option, while Ingram does. Ingram seems to have more flexible print options in general.

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Personally, I’ve noticed that IngramSpark seems to be the preferred method among my clients. I’ve had several clients who chose to either use IngramSpark exclusively or to use CreateSpace for in-Amazon distribution and Ingram for everything else. However, as with everything in self-publishing, it’s ultimately up to the author to decide which option best suits their goals and needs. Hopefully this information will help you make the best-informed decision for you and your work.

Have you considered using CreateSpace or IngramSpark? What other factors have you considered? If you’ve worked with either, what was your experience? Let me know in the comments!

Many thanks to my clients Stephen and D. for providing some information about their experiences for this post!

Interested in professional editorial services for your self-published book? Check out my Services page for more information about working with me.

This post is part of my Self-publishing Series. Check out other posts in the series here, and follow the blog to see future posts!

Related Links:

-The Pros and Cons of Physical Copies

-When to Hire a Freelance Editor

-What to Include in Your Backmatter

-Ebook Formatting: Conversion Options

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