IngramSpark, the sister POD service of Ingram’s Lightning Source aimed at the self-publishing marketplace, has emerged this past year as a serious alternative to Amazon’s CreateSpace. It isn’t as easy to use as CreateSpace, nor is it free, but it does offer a number of benefits and capabilities that CreateSpace lacks, notably the ability to print hardcover books and low-cost color printing.
The costs to use IngramSpark can be divided into two categories: a refundable title setup fee and what I call probable costs. Setup fees: Ingram charges $49 to setup a print-only, or print and eBook title. However, the $49 per-title fee is refunded if you place an initial order of 50 or more copies within 60 days of title setup. (See this IngramSpark Cost and Revenue page for more details.)
Understanding additional, or probable costs
If you read my article about the cost of using CreateSpace for POD printing, you know that you can produce a print book for free by using the free CreateSpace ISBN, forgoing a printed proof, and relying on your skills with MS Word to design the book. The ISBN and MS Word options are not available when using IngramSpark so let’s walk through each of the areas that may have an impact on your budget.
If you have an ISBN this is not an issue. But if you don’t, you will need to buy one because Ingram does not provide a free ISBN. In this case you have two choices:
- Buy one or more ISBNs from MyIdentifiers.com (aka Bowker, the only U.S. source for ISBNs). The cost is $125 for 1 or $295 for 10, or buy in greater volume for even lower prices.
- Or buy the ISBN when you setup your title on IngramSpark. I was surprised to see that Ingram’s price for a single ISBN is $85 compared to the CreateSpace “Custom Universal ISBN” for $99. Both companies have a special arrangement with Bowker to offer single numbers at a discounted rate and $85 is the lowest price I’ve ever seen charged for a single ISBN. (Some scammers sell ISBNs for much less but you won’t be listed as the publisher).
Note: If you do not plan to sell your book in retail stores IngramSpark will assign their own internal stock tracking number. This free option enables you to buy books that you might sell direct to the public at events, or via your website, or give away. You can always buy an ISBN later if you change your mind.
This is optional but highly recommended. The cost for a proof is comparable to CreateSpace however Ingram charges a handling fee of $1.50 per order and the printing charge depends on how fast you want it printed: they offer 1, 2 and 5 day printing turnaround times.
I wouldn’t over-think this step of the process but I do think it is worth noting that with IngramSpark you can order as many proofs as you like and the proofs are not marked with a big “Proof” on the back page like they are with CreateSpace. CreateSpace also limits a proof order to 5 copies and they need to go to the same address.
Automated file checks
Here is where you might get hit with extra work, or extra charges. Both services put your book through an automated file review process and both tell you if they find problems. CreateSpace will show you the book and point out specific problems on specific pages. You can choose to ignore some of these and still print your book. It seems more forgiving in my experience and they will even do some corrections for you–for “free”–in the longer, second step review.
IngramSpark also gives warning messages (but no visual). You have two choices: stop and fix them or proceed and pay a fee to Ingram to fix the errors. This might be as little as $10 but it could be more.
PDF submission only
IngramSpark accepts only PDF files in the PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 format. They do not support MS Word uploads.
Revised file charges
They charge $25 to replace previously uploaded files with revised files.
Volume Printing: Where IngramSpark Shines
Here is the good news: IngramSpark has a much more aggressive volume printing schedule. You can order as few as 100 books to get a discount where with CreateSpace the first threshold is 1,000 books. Ingram is also more generous with its discounts. For example CreateSpace gives you 20% off an order of 1,000 books while IngramSpark’s discount is 35% for the same number (even as high as 45% for IBPA members).
As you can see there are lots of variables and considerations. We specialize in helping you navigate these options and can also manage the entire process on your behalf. Please let us know if you have questions or wish to discuss our help with your book publishing project.