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Are you a self-published author looking for more information about what print-on-demand (POD) service you should use? You’ve come to the right place! POD is an important option for indie authors, who don’t have the budget (or the estimating know-how) to pay for offset printing. Instead, your books will be printed as customers order them, so you don’t have to worry about upfront costs or throwing away any excess.
Two of the biggest print-on-demand services are KDP and IngramSpark.
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing
You may have heard of CreateSpace, but CreateSpace has been merged with Amazon’s digital publishing platform, KDP, so now you can publish both print and digital books from the same platform.
Printing with KDP is free and user-friendly. You can pay for your own ISBN or get a free ISBN, which is required for print books (the free ISBN can only be used on KDP and is registered with KDP as the publisher). Of course, Amazon does still take a cut in the form of royalties. You’ll get 60% royalties on the sales of your print books, minus printing costs (which vary depending on length of the book and whether it’s color or black and white). You can also sell your print-on-demand book through their expanded distribution list (for 40% royalties, minus printing costs). All print books are paperback.
Amazon has a lot of help topics if you get stuck and great user support.
An added benefit of uploading your print book to KDP is that your ebook (which you definitely should have) is associated with your print book, so any reviews you receive will show on both listings, and users can toggle between the formats depending on whether they want the ebook or the print book.
To create your print-on-demand book with IngramSpark, you have to pay an upfront fee of $49. This fee also includes ebook distribution (they distribute ebooks to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo, and several other smaller ebook vendors). The retailers IngramSpark distribute to also take a cut of the royalties, but you can set what that amount is. At maximum, you cannot receive more than 75% royalties (referred to as a 25% “wholesale discount”), and choosing this will mean that your book will only be distributed to Amazon and Barnes & Noble. You can get your book in a lot more stores by choosing a 64% royalty (or a 36% “wholesale discount”), and you can get it to all their distribution partners by choosing a 45% royalty (or a 55% “wholesale discount”). IngramSpark has a larger global distribution list than KDP.
You cannot get a free ISBN from IngramSpark, though they do offer discounts on ISBNs. But if you’re getting your own ISBN and plan to publish more than one book, you can buy them in bulk for less from Bowker directly.
On IngramSparks, you can also choose to distribute your book as a paperback or a hardback. They also gives you additional trim and printing options that KDP doesn’t.
What Should You Choose for Print-on-Demand?
If you’re only interested in selling your book on Amazon, you obviously want to go with KDP, since you don’t have to pay a fee, you get a free ISBN, and the setup is much simpler. If you’re just starting out, then KDP is also a good choice, since you’ll have to sell 17 to 46 copies of your book to recoup the costs of distributing through IngramSpark. And if all this sounds overwhelming, you can also just start with KDP to ease into the process.
If you’re selling your book on multiple retailers, IngramSpark is a good one-stop site to get your book onto as many retailers (and make as many sales) as possible. If you’re already distributing your ebook with IngramSpark, it’s also a good idea to use them to distribute your print books, so you can bundle that upfront fee (it is $25 to distribute an ebook). And if you already have a reader base, it won’t be hard to recoup that setup cost. If you want to get your book into the most stores, though, you would need to choose the 45% royalties, which is much lower than Amazon’s default 60% royalties.
You could also use both distributors. Set up your book on KDP and turn off expanded distribution; this way you can get the 60% royalties on Amazon. Then you set up IngramSpark with royalties set to 45% to get it into as many other retailers as possible, and turn off the Amazon distribution. You can also set it up in KDP first, and then add it to IngramSpark later, once you’ve made some sales. But keep in mind that if you go this route, you will need to buy your own ISBN for your book.
There are other print-on-demand distributors out there, such as Blurb (good for design-heavy books but with limited distribution options) and Draft2Digital. Draft2Digital is currently beta testing their new POD service, but they promise no recurring fees and distribution to Amazon and Ingram.
What print -on-demand services do you use? We’d love to hear in the comments below!
I encourage my new authors to use KDP unless they have a strong launch team and large promotion budget. KDP is certainly much, much easier! If you want to get into libraries it is normally more successful to useOverDrive and focus on ebook sales to libraries.
Good information! I already do POD through KDP, but nice to see the options clearly presented. Cheers!