How Much Does It Cost to Produce a Print-on-Demand Book Using IngramSpark?

  • Seven ways IngramSpark differs from Amazon
  • Understanding “probable” costs
  • Volume printing and 2021 pricing schedule

How Much Does It Cost to Produce a Print-on-Demand Book Using IngramSpark

How Much Does It Cost to Produce a Print-on-Demand Book Using IngramSpark?

IngramSpark is a subsidiary of Ingram Content Group’s Lightning Source, a print-on-demand (POD) printer, book wholesaler, and eBook distributor. IngramSpark POD serves the self-publishing marketplace and is the primary alternative to Amazon's KDP Print (formerly CreateSpace).

Although IngramSpark is also an eBook aggregator, this article is about the cost of printing paperback and hardcover books using IngramSpark.

Here's how IngramSpark differs from Amazon KDP Print

It isn’t as easy to use as KDP, but it does offer benefits and capabilities that KDP  Print lacks:

  1. The ability to offer your print book for pre-order
  2. Hardcover printing with dust jackets
  3. The ability to print advance reader copies (ARCs) in volume—see below for more on this topic
  4. More trim sizes—notably, the horizontal 11″ wide by 8.5″ high trim size, frequently used for children's books
  5. The ability to control wholesale settings—critical if you plan to market to bookstores, libraries, and/or institutions such as schools
  6. The ability to print books without an ISBN

Understanding additional costs

If you read our article about the cost of using Amazon KDP for POD printing, you know that you can produce a print book for free by using the free Amazon ISBN, forgoing a printed proof, and relying on your skills with MS Word to design the book.

The MS Word option is not available when using IngramSpark, so let’s walk through each of the areas that may have an impact on your budget. And you need to understand the “cost” of using IngramSpark's free ISBN, just as you do with Amazon's.

ISBN Assignment

IngramSpark has three options, similar to Amazon KDP:

  1. Buy one or more ISBNs from (aka Bowker, the only US source for ISBNs). The cost is $125 for 1 or $295 for 10, or buy in greater volume for even lower prices.
  2. Buy the ISBN when you set up your title on IngramSpark. Interestingly, Ingram’s price for a single ISBN is $85 compared to Amazon's price of $99. Both companies have a special arrangement with Bowker to offer single numbers at a discounted rate, and $85 is the lowest price we’ve ever seen charged for a single ISBN. Some scammers sell ISBNs for much less but you won’t be listed as the publisher. This is actually against Bowker's terms of service.
  3. Speaking of being listed as the publisher, IngramSpark will also provide a “free” ISBN. Unlike Amazon, Ingram allows you to use an imprint name that shows as the “publisher.” This may be helpful in terms of branding, but you do not own or control this ISBN. If you use this option, you are required to use IngramSpark as your printer. If you print elsewhere, like Amazon, you need a different ISBN. Book reviews are tied to the ISBN, so be careful.

Sometimes you don't want to use an ISBN

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.

In the meantime, books with this number cannot be sold in online retail stores such as Amazon. You can always buy an ISBN later if you change your mind.

PDF submission only

IngramSpark accepts only PDF files in the PDF/X-1a:2001 or PDF/X-3:2002 format. They do not accept MS Word uploads.

Automated file checks

Here is where you might get hit with extra work or extra charges. Both Amazon's and IngramSpark's services put your book through an automated file review process and both tell you if they find problems. Amazon 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 our experience.

IngramSpark also gives warning messages, but no visual. In some cases you can simply acknowledge the warning and continue, and in other cases you might have to first fix your file.

For example, a common warning message is that your images are low resolution. There is also a warning message if your images have too high a resolution. (Click image to enlarge it.)

Printing proofs

This is optional but highly recommended. The cost for a proof is comparable to Amazon's, however Ingram charges a handling fee of $1.99 per order and the printing charge depends on how fast you want it printed—for example, a 1-, 2- or 5-day printing turnaround for a 6″x9″ black and white paperback. (Note: due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has increased demand for IngramSpark services, some printing lead times have been as long as 30 days.)

It is worth noting that with IngramSpark you can order as many proofs as you like, and the proofs are not marked with a “Not for Resale” band around the book like they are with Amazon.

Fur War by AuthorImprints client David Bainbridge

Two more things:

  1. There is no limit to the number of proofs you can order from IngramSpark. Amazon limits a proof order to five copies and they need to go to the same address (see our article here).
  2. “Proofs” can actually be finished books. So, if you order 100 copies and use only 50 as advance reading copies (ARCs) to solicit advance reviews, you can sell or otherwise use those leftover books.

Revised file charges

Let's say you uploaded your book and you want to make one or more changes. Unfortunately, you may be hit with a revised file charge of $25 depending how long after you uploaded your initial files. It doesn't matter if you are replacing the cover file, interior file, or both files.

We suggest downloading a PDF and proofing the digital file.

Once you are satisfied, order the printed proof. Again, AuthorImprints recommends always ordering a printed proof.

Case study example

One of our projects required a single hardcover book that was to be given as a gift. There were two reasons why we used IngramSpark instead of Amazon:

  1. The author did not want an ISBN assigned, even if the ISBN was free. An option unavailable from Amazon KDP. Our client wanted one book and had no intention of selling it.
  2. He wanted a hardcover with dust jacket. Again, Amazon KDP Print does not print hardcover books with dust jackets.

He used Word to design and layout the book and then saved the Word file as a PDF. The images were low resolution, so we received the error message noted above. Otherwise, the file processed without problems.

The total cost to process the book was $0. He paid only for the cost of printing and shipping.

Volume printing

IngramSpark has a volume printing schedule. You can order as few as 100 books to get a discount whereas Amazon no longer has a discount threshold. See the resources section for a link to the current pricing schedule.

AuthorImprints manages IngramSpark accounts on behalf of authors

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 contact us if you have questions or wish to discuss our help with your book publishing project.


6 thoughts on “How Much Does It Cost to Produce a Print-on-Demand Book Using IngramSpark?”

  1. i have a 54000 word fiction murder mystery written. it is currently being edited my cover design will be submitted with the manuscript. can you give me a quote to print the books etc.
    i am not wanting a ebook but if cost is prohibitive i may have to resort to that.

  2. is there a mandatory word count and/or pagr count to self publish print on demand books?

  3. I am interested in finding a publisher that will work with me and producing a children’s book that is personalized to each customers names. The basic book would be the same for every copy but only the names would be changed. Other words if Customer wanted the story told with the name Henry as the main character, I would be able to produce a book that use the name Henry as the main character if my next customer wanted a book with the name Mary as the main character I could produce a book with that name as the main character. Each one of these books would be a one off with the individual name changed for each one. Are you able to do that kind of custom printing or can you point me to a company that is able to do that.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *