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 6x9, 280-page paperback book: $5.93 profit. When I plugged these same numbers into CreateSpace's Book Royalty Calculator, I got $4.78, which is $1.15 less royalty than IngramSpark.

Let's take a look.

INGRAMSPARK ROYALTY CALCULATOR

Here's what IngramSpark's publisher compensation calculator looks like and the results for my 6x9, 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 also applies to B&N, iBooks, Kobo, GooglePlay, and other online retailers.)

If I was marketing to bookstores I would need to set the discount to 53% and enable book returns.

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

$14.99 - $4.50 (30%) - $4.56 = $5.93

IngramSpark Royalty Publisher Compensation Calculator

Click to calculate your royalty at IngramSpark.

CREATESPACE ROYALTY CALCULATOR

As you see 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.)

Amazon CreateSpace Sales Channel Share Percentage
Amazon CreateSpace Sales Channel Percentage Chart

So, based on the 40% of list price, here are the results for the same 6x9, 280-page paperback book.

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

$14.99 - $6 (40%) - $4.21 = $4.78

Amazon CreateSpace royalty calculator

Click to calculate your royalty at CreateSpace. (Choose ROYALTIES tab.)

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.

Amazon CreateSpace Member Order Calculator

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

despite the difference...

Despite the fact that I want to make $1.15 more per book with IngramSpark distribution to Amazon I know I need to go one-on-one with Amazon to keep in their good graces. 

If the book doesn't sell, Amazon is likely to list it as out of stock. If it's a hot seller, they'll probably keep listing it as in stock. 

But I don't want to take that chance. So I go direct with Amazon and use IngramSpark to reach all the other retailers.

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 $4.56 for IngramSpark and $4.21 for CreateSpace

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 keep your print book in stock in Amazon so you don't lose customers (who want instant gratification) 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 money selling each book. If your book sells, you'll probably be okay. In addition, IngramSpark offers:

  • Enables pre-orders on Amazon (CreateSpace, strangely, does not).
  • 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.

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

  1. 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. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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).

  6. 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?

  7. 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. That’s right. A 55% discount plus returns program opt-in is only necessary for bookstore distribution

      Online retailers only need 30%.

      You probably wish you could get all that money back!

  8. I am about to figure out how to publish my book. I have many people waiting to buy a copy. Should I print the these books first then think of another mode to distribute it wider? It’s a true story of my life and loss. It contains many emotional events with an undertone of the contact I have with healing energy and the afterlife. As it is personal to me I don’t want to make a big mistake with publishing. Macaulay sent me a contract but that looked an absolute rip off and would be an insult to my daughter’s memory.

    1. Hi Helen,

      First of all, congratulations on having written a book with a built-in audience. I wish you much success with it!

      Macaulay may or may not be a good solution for you. I googled “Writer Beware Macaulay” (Writer Beware is a watchdog site) and found this http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2016/12/questions-for-vanity-publisher-austin.html – they are a small press but they also provide hybrid services which require you to invest in your book to offset editing, design, packaging…

      Hybrid presses manage the project for you, hiring out or using their own interior and cover designers, not to mention editing and then, when the proof copy comes back, a professional proofreader, then distributing it to the stores.

      Better solutions for you might be Gatekeeper Press or BookBaby.

      Check with all of these companies to find out how much they would charge you for your own books.

      I hope that helps, Helen, and that you’ll get back to me and let me know what option you choose.

  9. Hi, I’m getting ready to step into the self-publishing world. A question. In determining royalties I need to tell createspace and ingramspark the number of pages in my book. Createspace’s customer support tells me that 1 piece of paper equals 1 page. Ingramspark’s customer support tells me that one piece of paper with printing on two sides equals 2 pages. Just checking in to see if you have any insight into this. I’d like to configure costs properly before starting. Many thanks for your support.

  10. Hi Anne,

    I can understand why you’re confused. Printers charge by the page but they calculate the print cost by asking you the number of pages in your book. So a 200-page book uses 100 sheets of paper.

    Don’t worry. The calculators I’ve linked to in the post will give you apples-to-apples comparison.

    I’d never even thought about it before you brought it up!

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