May 27, 2014
CreateSpace VS Ingram Spark
Print Book Distribution
I’ve seen a lot of comparisons between CreateSpace (CS) and Ingram (either Lightning Source or Spark). In almost every instance I walk away thinking that it wasn’t a fair comparison. And almost every discussion I’ve seen tends to be the same. The one common ground is that many people seem to have quite a bit of misinformation.
I hope I can provide a little objectiveness and help people decide which company they should choose for their print needs. Please note, this is not meant to be a comprehensive report on the self-publishing print options; this is a comparison of CS and Spark only. I didn’t even include Lightning Source because almost all new self-published authors are being steered to Spark for their print needs.
|Cost per copy B&W||4.55||4.80|
|Cost per copy color||21.85||8.40|
|Cost of setup||$0||$49**|
|Customer Service||Excellent, instant chat online||Good, but slow|
|Ease of setup||Very easy||Learning process|
|Shipping||Excellent US/Okay int’l||Very good US/excellent int’l|
*Discounts are figured using both options with Ingram Spark. CS has only one option for expanded distribution. CS discount for Amazon is 40%, and for expanded distribution is 60%. Spark discount is your choice—40% or 55%. [Note: This can make a huge difference.]
**Spark will refund the set-up fee if you purchase 50 books within the first two months.
Calculations are for one book, to three locations, and standard shipping was figured in each case. In addition, I listed expedited and time estimated for delivery. All currency is local: US dollars, UK pounds, AU dollars.
|US (#days)||UK (#days)||AU (#days)|
|CS–Standard||3.59 (13)||£3.05 (40–45)||8.54 (40–50)|
|CS–Expedited||11.18 (5–7)||£5.00 (15)||14.53 (21)|
|Spark–Standard||5.30 (10)||£2.14 (10)||8.83 (10)|
|Spark–Expedited||9.23 (5–7)||£5.25 (3)||11.51 (3)|
As you can see from the chart, while CS is great for US shipping, it falls apart in the international arena. Their US shipping is even better than what they cite online, as I have found that deliveries usually arrive before their estimates. International is another story.
I did numerous giveaways on Goodreads, and I usually opened them to international readers. Three times I had to ship to AU. The first time I used CS and had to spend almost $30 to make sure it arrived within 2 weeks! Afterward I used Ingram and paid ⅓ the price and it still arrived in fewer than 10 days.
Ingram has worldwide distribution with printing facilities in many countries, so you can ship almost anywhere at reasonable prices, and, expect delivery in a reasonable time frame. The cost to ship to Queensland, AU, for example, (for me, from TX) is $19 and that includes the price of the book. If you intend to distribute internationally, this is a huge advantage.
Most of the authors I speak with know very little about discounts and how they work. They simply sign up with CS, and go about business. But remember, you’re not just an author; you are now in business for yourself, and you should pay attention to all the details, especially discounts. So, let’s take a little page time to review the basics.
Keep in mind that when we talk about discounts, this is the amount you are discounting the book off the retail price. This is not the amount of discount the bookstore receives. As an example, a 55% discount with Ingram means the bookstores would get a 40% discount off the retail price. So if your book retails at $15, they would buy it from Ingram at $9. Ingram keeps 15% ($2.25). You would be credited $6.75 ($15–55%) for each sale, from which you would have to deduct the cost of printing the book (4.80), which leaves you a profit of $1.95. [See tables below]
I tell you this so you don’t go telling the bookstores to expect a 55% discount. They’ll understand, but it will make you look naive. The easiest way to tell them is that you offer the “industry-standard discount,” and that the books are returnable. (If in fact they are.)
With CreateSpace the only option for expanded distribution is to offer a 60% discount. Of that, I believe the stores receive about 25%, so the breakdown looks like this. [Since I’m not positive of the split between CS and the bookstores, I am showing the portion which goes to them and to the author. Part of what CS keeps goes to the bookstores.]
On a $15 sale, CS takes $9 and you get $6. From that you need to deduct the cost of the book, which is $4.55, leaving you a profit of $1.45. From this example, you would think that the bookstores get $9, but they don’t. They don’t even get close to that. CS passes on about 45% of the discount to Ingram (who they use for distribution) and then Ingram takes their cut. The result is that the stores receive about 25% as a discount. That’s not enough to make them even consider stocking the book, but they will order it if a customer asks. Here’s how it breaks down:
CreateSpace (showing expanded distribution discount)
|Retail Price for B&W Book||$15.00|
|CS (60% discount)||–9.00|
|Cost of book||–4.55|
|Royalty to author||1.45|
Ingram Spark (showing 40% discount)
|Retail Price for B&W Book||$15.00|
|Spark (40% discount)||–6.00|
|Cost of book||–4.80|
|Royalty to author||4.20|
Let me show you what this looks like in terms of earnings for you based on each company’s price of a 300-page b&w book with their respective discounts at the different retailers. The table shows the CS discount to Amazon and expanded distribution. Ingram shows the options for 40%.
|Based on retail price of $15||Profit if sold on Amazon||Profit if sold anywhere else|
Spark shows only the 40% option for this chart so that we’re comparing apples to apples. If you don’t plan on active distribution into brick-and-mortar stores, you can keep your discount at Spark to 40%. That means with every book sold, no matter where it’s sold, you’ll earn $4.20. With CS you’ll only earn $4.45 on Amazon. All books sold at B&N (Barnes & Noble), or BAM (Books-A-Million), or any stores that happen to order from you, will earn you $1.45. That’s a big difference.
And if you’re thinking…but I want to get into bookstores, so I need the 55% discount…That’s fine. But then you’re not comparing apples to apples, because you’re not getting stocked in stores with CS, not without the stores getting a true industry-standard discount and the books being returnable, neither one of which CS does.
Part Two of This Post Will Be Published Next Week
We’ll be weighting all the other factors in more detail.
- Ease of use
- Customer service
- Cost per copy details
- ISBNs, Product selection
- Time to publish
And then we’ll wrap it up with a summary of pros and cons.
In the meantime, sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss future posts. If you sign up now, you can also download my novella, Finding Family, for free. The links for Kindle and ePub are below.
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He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.”