Comparing and Calculating IngramSpark and Amazon CreateSpace Author Royalty

It can be tough to choose how to distribute your books and, to make it even more complicated, you can use combinations of services to maximize your marketing and profits. Lots of self-publishers sell their book directly to Amazon using CreateSpace and distribute elsewhere with IngramSpark because they think that they make more money on Amazon by doing that. A quick test showed me that isn’t true.

How to calculate royalty

There is a formula for calculating royalty, and here it is:

List Price – Discount – Print Cost = Publisher Compensation / Royalty

I used IngramSpark’s Publisher Compensation Calculator to determine the cost of a 6×9, 280-page paperback book: $5.44 profit. When I plugged these same numbers into CreateSpace’s Book Royalty Calculator, I got $4.78, which is 66 cents less.

Let’s take a look.

IngramSpark royalty calculator

Here’s what IngramSpark’s publisher compensation calculator looks like and the results for my 6×9, 280-page paperback book. I’m applying the 30% discount (to distribute to online retailers) because I want to see how much it will cost to distribute to Amazon in particular. (But this applies to B&N, iBooks, Kobo, GooglePlay, and other online retailers.) If I was marketing to bookstores I’d have to set the discount to 53% and enable book returns.

(List Price – 30% IngramSpark Discount – Print Cost = Publisher Compensation)

$14.99 – $4.50 (30%) – $5.05 = $5.44

IngramSpark Publisher Compensation Calculator
Click to calculate your royalty.

CreateSpace royalty calculator

As you see from in the table below, Amazon takes 40% of the list price. (They may discount your book, selling it for below that price, but you will always get the 40% of list price.)

A little more about the table: Don’t use Expanded Distribution–40% discount doesn’t work for bookstores, who require 53% and a returns program, and you only need to give the online retailers 30%. The CreateSpace store might look attractive to you, since you get 80% of list price, but nobody really shops there. You’re better off selling on your own website with an ecommerce widget from a service like Gumroad.

CreateSpace Sales Channel Percentage Chart

So, based on the 40% of list price, here are the results for the same 6×9, 280-page paperback book.

(List Price – 40% CreateSpace Discount – Print Cost = Publisher Compensation)

$14.99 – $6 (40%) – $4.21 = $4.78

CreateSpace Royalty Calculator compared with IngramSpark
Click to calculate your royalty at CreateSpace. (Choose ROYALTIES tab.)

CreateSpace’s calculator does not specify the print cost, but you can do backwards math or go to their Member Order calculator to find it.

Instead of doing the backwards math to find the print cost, which is not provided in the Print Options calculator, above, you can use the Member Order Calculator.

CreateSpace Member Book Price
Click to calculate how much you’d pay at CreateSpace. (Choose BUY COPIES tab.)

CreateSpace Royalty Calculator

Of course, I want to make $5.44 per book instead of $4.78 and, if my book is a hot seller,  Amazon is unlikely to list it as out of stock. But if it languishes, it may make sense to move it to CreateSpace to keep it in stock and take advantage of their large customer base.

Final Comparison

Again, here’s the formula.

  1. List price is $14.99, which is the same on both platforms, minus
  2. Discount, which is 30% for IngramSpark and 40% for CreateSpace, minus
  3. Print cost, which is $5.05 for IngramSpark and $4.21 for CreateSpace

Discounts

CreateSpace requires a higher discount (or commission) for sales to the Amazon store and a lower print cost. IngramSpark offers a lower discount and is more expensive to print, and comes out 66 cents ahead.

How to make the most money in the Amazon store

This post is about making the most money in the Amazon store and my findings point to IngramSpark (66 cents more per book!) and against using CreateSpace for maximizing profits on per-book sales.

Bookstore sales

Authors can use IngramSpark to distribute paperbacks to Amazon (which this post is all about), but also all the rest of the online retailers, including Barnes & Noble and IndieReader. But if I want bricks-and-mortar sales I would need to set the discount to 53% and enable book returns. CreateSpace’s Expanded Distribution offers 40%. No good for bookstores!

Why use CreateSpace to distribute to Amazon?

The disadvantage of using IngramSpark to distribute to Amazon is that, if your book isn’t just flying off the (virtual) shelves, Amazon might mark your book as Temporarily Out of Stock or Ships in n Days status. So, understandably, you may want to use CreateSpace to reach Amazon in order to keep your book active in the highest-volume bookstore on the planet.

Why use IngramSpark to distribute to Amazon?

As we’ve seen in this post, the advantages of using IngramSpark to distribute to Amazon is financial. Who doesn’t want to make more profit from selling their products? But IngramSpark also offers these benefits.

  • Enables pre-orders on Amazon (CreateSpace, strangely, does not)
  • Higher print quality
  • Option to turn on 53% discount and returns program if you want to sell to bookstores

Which will you choose?

I welcome your thoughts and questions on this topic. Want more vendor comparisons and self-publishing tips? Sign up for my email news and get my Consumer’s Guide to Self-Publishing Tools and Services and weekly updates direct to your inbox.

31 thoughts on “Comparing and Calculating IngramSpark and Amazon CreateSpace Author Royalty”

  1. Hi Carla,

    Nice pricing layout. Thanks for sharing. I do have a question about the discount. IngramSpark’s applied discount is a wholesale discount for sales to retailers. However, my understanding is that retailers generally won’t order wholesale from Createspace so it doesn’t seem like this is an apples to apples comparison. And if we’re comparing a 30% wholesale discount applied to both IS and CS, would’t the dollar amounts be identical since the retail price at both is $14.99? It appears that there are different discounts being applied. Why?

    Could you elaborate? I seem to be missing something in the scenarios.

    Thanks

    1. Hi Dana,

      Thank you. I’ve updated the post to address your questions. This post is on how to make the most money selling your book in the Amazon store. Is it via CreateSpace or IngramSpark? My test showed IngramSpark the winner by 66 cents when I set my IngramSpark discount to 30%.

      IngramSpark’s discount is 30% (or you can set it to 53% if you want to market to bookstores) and, with CreateSpace, you’re stuck with 40%.

      I also updated the post to mention that you should never use CreateSpace to distribute to other retailers because it’s a set 40% discount. Again, bricks-and-mortar bookstores won’t buy it unless the discount is 53% and returns are enabled, and CreateSpace doesn’t offer that. And 40% is more than you need for online retailers. So it doesn’t work for either!

      So use IngramSpark if you’re going to market to bookstores. Usually, for self-publishers, bookstores aren’t a very profitable sales channel, so I’d recommend setting the 30% and being happy to sell to the online retailers.

      I hope my updates to the blog post addressed all these. Thanks for your questions. They were helpful!

      Carla

      1. It’s true, bookstores aren’t going to stock indie titles at a 40% discount from CreateSpace OR IngramSpark, but they often will special-order them through expanded distribution at that rate if a customer requests the book. The reality is that unless you have some particularly hot title supported by a big sales push, they’re unlikely to stock you anyway. But at least they’ll have access to them, on either platform. (Assuming they’re not refusing to do any business at all with CreateSpace, anyway, and I don’t know many bookstores that will refuse to sell a customer the book they want just because of their beef with Amazon.)

        I’m not saying IngramSpark isn’t worth doing — I just don’t think it’s a big game changer unless you’re willing to accept returns and a higher discount — with all the risk that entails — AND you are supporting your new release with targeted advertising in some way that appeals to local bookstores, so they can really expect your stuff to sell for them. That’s not the case with a lot of indie books financed by individual authors, other than perhaps at local stores, which can usually be handled through consignment.

        Since paperback sales are ancillary to my much more respectable ebook sales on Amazon, I’d rather keep it all in (more or less) the same company for now, and save the additional set-up, production, and product management time and expense required. Maybe it’s short-sighted, but there is an opportunity cost to having to manage all the different distribution streams when I could be writing another book.

        If I’m missing something here, please feel free to explain where I’ve gone wrong.

        1. I’m a bit confused by your comment about accepting returns through IngramSpark. What returns? POD is a no-returns way of doing business. I dealt with returns on a regular basis when I published a magazine. They’re merely a pain when you have along sales experience history. Give the competition selling books, I can’t imagine many author-publishers wanting to do print runs and accept the cost of returns.

  2. This is an interesting comparison. Thanks for sharing it. It answers an important question about print book options, but only if it addresses an “either-or” scenario. What about going with both InrgamSpark and CreateSpace for print books? Since it’s print-on-demand, you can order copies from both in any amount, which may be useful because I understand many brick-and-mortar bookstores hate Amazon so much that they will not accept books printed by CreatSpace (and they can tell the difference, even when the words “Amazon” or “CreateSpace” are not printed anywhere in the book). And by keeping Amazon, you apparently get a much wider distribution and more marketing options. Correct me if these assumptions are off-base; I’m very new to all this and admittedly don’t know as much about it as I’d like to.

    Thanks again,
    ~David

    1. Thanks much, David,

      Bookstores won’t order from CreateSpace Expanded Distribution because they offer the 53% discount and returns program they require. And yes, they don’t like Amazon, either.

      CreateSpace distributes to the Amazon store. I advise against turning on Expanded Distribution because IngramSpark is so much better.

      And bookstores are probably going to be your smallest market, so unless you want to give up a lot of profit, I’d use IngramSpark to set the 30% required by those channels.

      You can go with both… Amazon (without Expanded Distribution) and IngramSpark. But as I explained in the post, you get more money with IngramSpark, though if your sales are lagging your customers may get that Out of Stock message.

      I hope that makes sense!

      Best,
      Carla

  3. Carla, thanks for this informative analysis. I’m currently making this very decision for my first novel. How does sales volume work into this? I’d be happy to earn a smaller royalty if Amazon (with their sales and promo tools) would generate higher volume. I’ve read some experienced authors use both — Amazon for US online distribution and IS for international and other retailers. As well, IS apparently prints a higher quality book, so use them for your own sales and signing copies. They will also produce a hard cover version, if you have the need. Any thoughts on how on how these other points factor into decision making?

    1. Wow, fabulous feedback, Carla. Thank you. I’ll be sure to follow up on your suggestions. I was not aware of your freebie consulting. Fifteen minutes with you must be like gold. Will I find how that works on your site?

    2. Hi Ron,

      Congrats on your first novel!

      With POD, higher sales volume does not bring down the per-book price. So plug in the numbers to IngramSpark and CreateSpace calculators and see where you’ll make more money.

      The Amazon sales and promo tools you’re talking about are associated with Amazon KDP Select, an exclusive program that traps your ebook with Amazon for 90 days at a time. You can’t even sell it from your own website.

      You can distribute your print book with IngramSpark and your ebook with Smashwords (which offers coupon codes, which I love for discounts and freebies to my followers), and with Pronoun for the Amazon Kindle connection. Pronoun doesn’t take any additional royalty and has a deal with Amazon to allow you to offer your book for free, without the KDP Select 90 day lock-in.

      So your distribution strategy might look like this:

      IngramSpark for hardback
      IngramSpark for paperback (and if Amazon returns out of stock messages, use CreateSpace)
      Smashwords for ebook except Amazon
      Pronoun for Amazon Kindle ebook

      If you’re on my email news list you’ll have the Consumer’s Guide to Self-Publishing Tools & Services, which will explain these tools and many more.
      http://bit.ly/2mDAv7w

      I know it’s overwhelming. Look it over and take advantage of my free 15-minute consult 🙂

      Best,
      Carla

  4. I visited the Ingram Spark website and it seemed to be oriented to large publishers. I was stumped when it asked for an ABA Routing number? What’s that? I am not a member of the American Booksellers Association. I’m going back to CreateSpace. At least they understand how to deal with one lonely author.

    1. That’s interesting. I do not remember a field to enter an ABA Routing Number but I suspect that if you’re an ABA member you may get additional benefits. I will check on that. It’s true that CreateSpace is super easy but you do not reach anybody but Amazon as the extended distribution program is not attractive to other booksellers.

  5. Hi Carla

    Thank you for this brilliant blog post.

    My situation is that I have my book printing with Createspace. I have the book (same ISBN) ready on IS and would like to swap, but have a couple of doubts that prevent me doing so:
    1. I am concerned that the book may not appear on Amazon for a while.
    2. I am concerned that my existing reviews may be lost.

    Can you explain what would be the actual process to follow? What to do, order of doing…
    If there is a time when the book isn’t available how long would this be for?

    The ebook version locked into the 90 day thing with Amazon and is fine to stay as is.

    – Jono.

    1. Hi Jono,

      You have an ideal situation with print – keep it with Amazon via CreateSpace and use IngramSpark to distribute everywhere else. No need to swap. When you start distribution on IngramSpark their system detects that you are already on Amazon with CreateSpace, so they will ignore that sales channel.

      Re your ebook, I’d urge you to remove it from KDP Select as soon as the 90 days are up (they auto-renew so make sure to catch it before it does), and use Pronoun to distribute it to Amazon and Smashwords to distribute it everywhere else.

      Reason is that Pronoun has direct and no-cost distribution to Amazon and you still get free days as you would with KDP Select. And Smashwords has great distribution to all the other stores.

      And make sure to revisit/re-evaluate your metadata by doing some good competitive analysis using Amazon Advanced Search, so you make sure your keywords, categories, desc, bio, are attracting the right readers.

      I hope that helps!

      Best,
      Carla

      1. Unless you set the 30% discount on Ingram, Amazon may take the copies from Ingram because of higher discount than Createspace. (Usually they will automatically discount the price on the product page and the ‘list price’ will be crossed/strikethrough)

        I wonder I we can ask Ingram to block distribution of particular book to Amazon and leave it for other retailers only.

          1. If you want to sell your book on Amazon through CreateSpace, must you approve your file on CreateSpace before your IngramSpark pub date or on-sale date? I understand that CreateSpace makes your book available on Amazon within days, but IngramSpark takes four weeks, or six to eight weeks if you’re a new author. How can you have your CreateSpace and IngramSpark on-sale dates be about the same? Thank you.

          2. Hi Mary Beth,

            Yes, this is the difference between uploading a book directly to an online retailer (Amazon) vs using a distribution service (IngramSpark). As soon as you approve your CreateSpace file your book is up in the CreateSpace store in minutes, and in the Amazon store in a day. When you approve IngramSpark files and enable distribution, then IngramSpark immediately sends out a metadata feed to all the stores, like B&N. How quickly they pick it up varies. It should be a matter of days or even a week or two. It’s impossible to tell because all the stores have their own process. I haven’t heard it takes 4 to 8 weeks though.

            You could wait to hit the Publish button on CreateSpace until you enable IngramSpark distribution and see that your book is available in other stores like B&N, if you really wanted to.

            I hope that helps!

            Carla

  6. Hi Carla, thank you for the quick and detailed reply.

    Following your advice I have just enabled distribution on IS, and on KDP confirmed that auto renew is not checked.

    I’ve also done the sums for my print book, and it definitely appears that I would also get more per Amazon sale with IS (than with CS)…

    Would you be able to expand upon why I should not now disable the CS book? My assumption is that if I were to disable it, then IS would determine that I am not currently offering the book through CS, and they (IS) in this case would then distribute to the Amazon channel, and I would get more per sale.

    I don’t understand why I wouldn’t do this if the returns are better! (other than the not showing up as available/in stock thing, perhaps you are one step ahead of me and are not confident that I would show up as in stock on Amazon? – fine if that is the reasoning, I would just like to understand the rationale!)

    The only (other) things that would stop me putting the CS print book on standby are:
    – concern about time being missing from catalogue.
    – losing existing reviews.

    Are these valid concerns? Am I missing something else here!?

    Thank for your help, apologies for lots of questions!

    1. They are valid. Let me explain. You need the direct Amazon relationship because if you go with IS and you’re not selling really well on Amazon they’ll put the “out of stock” or “available in 2-3 days” message on it, and customers want instant gratification. Your reviews will stay, but the above concerns outweigh the fact that you may get a few pennies more with IS. My recommendation? Leave your book on Amazon with CreateSpace and distribute everywhere else with IS.

  7. Ingramspark eliminating the bulk discount has really put a crimp into the indie publishing companies. It seems like they’re targeting the 1-10 copy market rather than 100-1000 copies. If you know of a digital print company that can beat Ingramspark in color and/or b&w in quantity, please let me know!

  8. I am facing a similar quandry and all comments are welcome. In my case, it’s a colour-photograph heavy book (about 170 pages) and the difference in cost between IS and CS is DRAMATIC (according to my calculations about $9 IS to $21 CS!!!!) While, on surface, that would seem to make the decision easy, I am very concerned about the comment that Amazon would mark the book as “out of stock” if it isn’t “flying” out the door (whatever that means). Although I could go JUST ebook, I’ve already had several people ask for a physical book when it comes out (due to subject matter).

  9. Hi Carla –
    Useful, thank you. I’m already using CS for my series (no expanded distribution), with their free ISBNs. If I wanted to set up with IS, I know I’d need new (paid-for) ISBNs; but then I’d have one book with two ISBNs. Is that a problem, do you think?

  10. There are many. Just google for printing companies, send them your book specs, and get quotes. You can print as few as 300 with offset presses, too. Canada subsidizes their printing companies so try there, first.

  11. I am published exclusively on the IngramSpark platform with two books and am about to put out a third… and I thought the 55% discount, which I have on all versions (ebook, paper and hc) was de rigeur. I’m sorry if you made this explanation obvious and I didn’t discern, but are you recommending a standard 30 percent discount for all versions of a book offered on the IS platform?

    1. I am recommending 30%. Unless you are specifically marketing to bookstores, who require 55% and returns. Most self-published authors make their money in the online stores, which only require 30% discount.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *