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Comparing and Calculating IngramSpark and Amazon CreateSpace Author Royalty

a few months ago
Amazon CreateSpace vs IngramSpark Book Royalty Carla King Self-Pub Boot Camp

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 everywhere else 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 their Member Order Calculator.

Amazon CreateSpace Member Order Calculator

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

Don't forget to file a resale certificate so when you purchase your own books you don't pay sales tax twice - once when you purchase your books and once when you resell them. Find out how in my post on BookWorks.

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

Argument for using CreateSpace to supply books 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.

Argument for using IngramSpark to supply books 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 is a consistent seller you'll probably won't be listed as out of stock. In addition, IngramSpark offers:

  • The convenience of a one-stop shop
  • 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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28comments
Ron B. Saunders - last year

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?

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    Ron B. Saunders - last year

    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?

    Reply
Victory - last year

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.

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    Greg Koorhan - 9 months ago

    They are referring to remittance – that is your bank’s routing number (so they know where to send your payment).

    Reply
Jono - last year

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.

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Jono - last year

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!

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Marylou Badeaux - 11 months ago

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).

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Mat - 11 months ago

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?

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    Carla King - last month

    No, it’s no problem to have one book with two ISBNs… that’s the way it has to be in your case!

    Reply
Michael - 10 months ago

Thank you Carla your information has been very helpful.

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Errin Stevens - 9 months ago

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?

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    Carla King - a few months ago

    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!

    Reply
Helen Nicol - a few months ago

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.

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    Carla King - a few months ago

    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.

    Reply
Anne Elizabeth Stevens - a few months ago

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.

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Carla King - a few months ago

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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steve gurklys - a few months ago

Hi Carla,
Great post – your equations made it very clear to me on difference with royalties for CreateSpace (CS) and IngramSpark. Can you address Amazon Advantage (AA) royalties? I compared the royalty for AA to CS and something doesn’t add up. Looks like CS takes a total of 55% (discount plus printing cost). AA stipulates that they take a 55% discount. Since AA does not factor in the cost of the printing (would need to provide printed books via your own publisher), why would anyone use AA?
Steve

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    Carla King - a few months ago

    Hi Steve,

    Amazon Advantage is a whole different animal. Like WalMart Marketplace, you sign up as a vendor and sell by sending product (books) to Amazon. I mentioned in this post about print preorders: https://selfpubbootcamp.com/pre-order-solution-print-books-amazon-ingramspark-amazon-advantage/

    As a publisher, you might use AA because you’ve printed 5000 books at a buck a book instead of at POD prices. So even at 55% discount, you’d be making more money.

    Make sense?

    Reply
Elizabeth Turner - a few months ago

Hello;
We have just launched 3 self-published books (a trilogy) through FriesenPress. While we have invested a small fortune in fees and are waiting to receive our initial book order, we are considering alternate printers in consideration of costs but don’t want to antagonize FriesenPress. What’s your take?

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    Carla King - a couple of months ago

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Friesen is a good printer. But if your contract is non-exclusive you are free to print, publish, and distribute any way you like. I can’t imagine there would be antagonization or repercussions. It’s like any other business. If you’d care to elaborate privately please use the Contact tab to email me directly.

    Reply
Loyd Smith - a few months ago

Hi Carla,

I am new to indie publishing and your post is timely and informative. Thank you. I am targeting my book to middle grade student, 8-12 year olds. So, I will be targeting school libraries and online sales. Not interested in brick-and-mortar. However, I do not understand the distribution costs outside of Ingram. IngramSpark boasts distribution partners mostly online but also print. How is the distributor costs breakdown?

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    Carla King - a couple of months ago

    I’m so glad to help, Loyd. You’ll get about 10% more if you upload your book directly to the online retailers. You’re paying IngramSpark about that for the convenience of one-stop distribution.

    Reply
Kirsten - last month

I have my book for sale through createspace with my own ISBN number that I purchased from Bowker. I am wondering if self-published authors generally have more success with their book sales if they sell through IngramSpark? Do their books tend to get lost in the sea of books for sale as this seems to be the case with Amazon? Thanks!

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    Carla King - last month

    Over a million books are released per year and if you have not cultivated fans who will give you five-star reviews on book launch week then your book will indeed be lost. Which is why it’s best to cultivate fans from the very beginning by beta publishing. Beta readers can also let you know if your book is good. Take their feedback to heart! This is all early marketing (market research, competitive analysis, beta publishing). If you haven’t done that, try a new platform that sells your book for $0 until it gets star ratings. For more, listen to my Author Friendly podcast episode with Colin Higbie of Scribl https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/the-author-friendly-podcast/id1411738274 Good luck, Kirsten!

    Reply
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