If you're like most authors, you're confused about how to distribute your print book. I'll get straight to the point. I like a combination of Amazon CreateSpace and IngramSpark to get your book into the online retailers. This post explains why.
Is Your book ready to print?
Your book is ready to print once you've got it tested with the market, edited, and designed. It's time to send out Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) or to distribute the books to stores that will sell them for you.
What is Amazon CreateSpace?
CreateSpace is Amazon's tool for getting your print book into the Amazon store. Your book will be printed on-demand (POD).
They print in black and white (and creme) and full color, but the paper quality for color isn't really good enough for heavily illustrated books. So use IngramSpark or another vendor for full-color books.
THE ONLY THING CREATESPACE DOES...
That's the only thing CreateSpace does. It gets your print book into the Amazon store. Nowhere else.
Yes They have an Expanded Distribution Program.
No. Don't use it.
You can't set the discount to 30% for online retailers or the 53% discount that bricks-and-mortar bookstores require. CreateSpace sets the discount at 40%. (I don't know why.) Plus, you can't join the Returns program that bookstores require. Use IngramSpark for that.
So just use CreateSpace to get your print book into the Amazon store or to print test copies of your book quickly and cheaply.
What is IngramSpark?
IngramSpark is owned by Ingram, the largest book distribution company in the world. They distribute to online retailers and bricks-and-mortar bookstores. IngramSpark is a POD printing service and distribution company.
IngramSpark allows you to set a 30% discount on your print book that the online retailers require. If you want to sell to bricks-and-mortar bookstores you can set the discount to 53% and join their Returns program.
IngramSpark prints hardback books and offers a wide array of standard book sizes.
You can distribute to Amazon using IngramSpark, but I'm going to recommend that you don't.
Go Direct with Amazon CreateSpace
Why go direct with Amazon CreateSpace?
Always in stock
When you go direct with Amazon CreateSpace your book will always show that it's in stock. If you distribute to Amazon using IngramSpark or another vendor your book may occasionally show an out-of-stock message on Amazon. That is a really good reason to go direct with Amazon CreateSpace.
Easy to use
The Amazon CreateSpace interface is easier to use than IngramSpark and they have better customer service. They also have looser tolerances and do a lot of hand-correcting to files that aren't quite right. So if you're a beginner, it's just easier to go with CreateSpace first.
Printing ARCs and testing your design
As long as you don't fill in a Publication Date in CreateSpace, your book will remain private and you can print one to five copies for your own use. This is a very good step to take. You need to make sure your book looks great.
You can print up to five copies of your book while it's private. So if you need more books to send out as Advanced Reading Copies (ARCs) for reviewers, you'll probably want to print ARCs at IngramSpark, which has no such limit.
Leave the rest to IngramSpark
So publish and distribute your book using both CreateSpace and IngramSpark. You'll enjoy a direct relationship with Amazon, which is always good, and you'll get very wide distribution to online retailers and bookstores with IngramSpark.
I always suggest that authors create a hardback version of their book, at least for launch, because friends and family will want them. IngramSpark can do that, and you can offer these to bookstores at a 53% discount with returns program while enjoying a larger percentage of royalties with the 30% discount for distribution to the online retailers for your paperback.
How to distribute and aggregate print books and ebooks
So that's an introduction to using a combination of Amazon CreateSpace and IngramSpark to distribute your print book. But what about ebooks?
See my post Book Aggregators & Distributors: How Your Book Gets to Your Readers for complete information and a recommended path with a list of aggregators and distributors I trust with your print and ebooks.
That post will show you how your book gets into the mailbox (virtual or physical) of your readers.
I have a free self-publishing toolkit for you
Need more self-publishing advice? I've put together a free toolkit with a Consumer's Guide to Writing & Publishing Tools & Services that includes reviews of CreateSpace, IngramSpark, Amazon KDP, Smashwords, B&N Nook, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, and all the other brand names you've heard of and many that you haven't!
I want to help you self-publish well, doing it right the first time and preventing false starts and mistakes that could set you back months. Let's get your book into the hands of your readers as soon as possible!
For a limited time, I'm offering a self-publishing toolkit that includes my Consumer's Guide along with a metadata cheat sheet and book launch checklist, plus a mini-email course on self-publishing.
I look forward to seeing you in the inbox.