It can be tough to choose how to distribute your print books and, to make it even more complicated, you can use combinations of services to maximize your marketing and profits. Lots of authors sell their print book directly to readers who shop in the Amazon store using Amazon KDP Print. They distribute everywhere else with IngramSpark because they think that they make more money on Amazon by doing that. But IngramSpark allows you to set a 30% discount whereas Amazon's discount is set at 40%. So you earn 70% royalty with IngramSpark but only 60% royalty with Amazon. There are other reasons to go direct to Amazon (such as your book always being in stock), but royalty rate isn't it. Here's the math.
- How To Calculate Royalty
- IngramSpark Royalty Calculator
- Amazon's Royalty Calculator
- Final Compensation Comparison
- Why Use Amazon KDP Print?
- Why Use IngramSpark to get to Amazon
HOW TO CALCULATE ROYALTY
There is a formula for calculating royalty, and here it is:
List Price - Discount - Print Cost = Publisher Compensation / Royalty
Use IngramSpark's Publisher Compensation Calculator to determine the cost of your book. I compared a 6x9, 280-page paperback priced at $14.95 on both platforms.
It's important to note a difference in discounting. IngramSpark offers 30%-55% discounting, but Amazon offers only a 40% discount. Amazon is not a distributor -- well, they are, but you shouldn't use their distributor -- you'll use them to get your book into the Amazon store.
On IngramSpark with a 30% discount you'd make $5.80 profit. With Amazon at their 40% discount your profit would be $4.79.
If you want to compare apples to apples, with IngramSpark at a 40% discount you'd make less than Amazon at $4.30 per book. But there's no reason to set a 40% discount.
Here's how you can do the math for your book.
INGRAMSPARK ROYALTY CALCULATOR
Here's what IngramSpark's publisher compensation calculator looks like and the results for my 6x9, 280-page paperback book.
Apply the 30% discount required to distribute to the online retailers. If you want to market to bookstores you'll need to set the discount to 53% and enable book returns, but I remember that 99% of your print book sales will happen online. Here's the math:
(List Price - 30% IngramSpark Discount - Print Cost = Publisher Compensation)
$14.99 - $4.50 (30%) - $4.67 = $5.80
AMAZON'S ROYALTY CALCULATOR
Amazon takes 40% of the list price. They may discount your book, selling it for below that price, but you will always be paid 60% of list price.
Here are the results for the same 6x9, 280-page paperback book:
(List Price - 40% Amazon Discount - Print Cost = Publisher Compensation)
$14.99 - $6 (40%) - $4.21 = $4.79
To estimate your book, go to the Royalty Calculation page (shown above). Then download their KDP Royalty Calculator Excel file and plug in the numbers.
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 to do this in my post on BookWorks. This is just one of the tasks you need to do when setting up an author-publisher business. Learn how to set up in my online course, Set Up Your Publishing Business.
Final Compensation Comparison
Here's the final price comparison.
- List price is $14.99, which is the same on both platforms, minus
- Discount, which is 30% for IngramSpark and 40% for Amazon, minus
- Print cost, which is $4.67 for IngramSpark and $4.21 for Amazon
- Compensation, which is $5.82 for IngramSpark and $4.79 for Amazon
Why use Amazon KDP Print?
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 if you don't use Amazon KDP. So, understandably, you may want to use them so you don't lose customers (who want instant gratification) in the highest-volume bookstore on the planet.
Going direct with Amazon also gives you control. You can experiment with metadata, keywords, categories, and you can take advantage of Amazon's marketing features.
Why use IngramSpark to get 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 on each book? If your book is a consistent seller you'll probably won't be listed as out of stock. Distributing using IngramSpark offers other perks, too:
The other services
It's difficult to directly compare other services as they don't provide calculators. But here's the best I could come up with for the same 6x9 paperback priced at $14.99.
Lulu - Create a Book - $6.85 print (mfg) price minus a 20% distribution fee.
BookBaby - Help Page - simply states you get 10-30% royalties - there is no way to calculate royalties until you create an account. On their BookShop store page they give an example for a $9.99 book ($1.39) and a $19.99 book ($2.07).
There are many other distribution options but for print I think the Amazon + IngramSpark combination is the best. What about you? I welcome your thoughts and questions on this topic.
Understand print and ebook distribution before you publish
You have a lot of choices when it comes to book distribution. You can upload your book into each of the online stores, one by one, or use a service to handle it for you. Some of the book distribution services also help you create your book but, as you learned in the Make Your Book course, they don't all give you professional results. So after you've made your book, how do you get it into stores?
This course will show you how to reach the stores where your readers shop. Specifically, you'll learn:
- The difference between book distribution, ebook aggregation, and direct sales.
- Why you should upload your book directly to Amazon.
- The reasons IngramSpark is a great service for print distribution, including hardbacks.
- The advantages of using ebook distributors like Smashwords, Draft2Digital, StreetLib, and PublishDrive.
- Reasons you might want to upload your book directly to online retailer's stores like Amazon, B&N Press, Apple iBooks, Kobo Writing Life, and Google Play.
- About vanity press distribution services and how to resist their tempting marketing campaigns.
- How to get traditional style distribution with hybrid publishers, book packagers, and book producers.
- Why you should constantly experiment with book distribution.
You'll also find links to worksheets, audio, and video by me and other experts who have valuable advice and examples. The self-publishing community is wise and generous. Welcome to the community of experts!
Get your free self-pub toolkit and don't miss another blog post
You'll get my Consumer's Guide for Authors, Editors, and Publishers, a metadata cheatsheet, and a book launch checklist to make your own in your writing, marketing, and publishing journey.
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?
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?
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.
They are referring to remittance – that is your bank’s routing number (so they know where to send your payment).
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.
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!
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).
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?
No, it’s no problem to have one book with two ISBNs… that’s the way it has to be in your case!
Thank you Carla your information has been very helpful.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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!
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!
The Amazon calculation is wrong. Just check the Amazon royalties page — it should be somewhere around $1 for a book $15 with global distribution and 40% royalties.