Should you self-publish with Amazon KDP or IngramSpark Publishing?
It’s a great question, and one we get a lot from authors who’ve done their research on self-publishing. However, like most things in life, the answer isn’t cut and dry. There are a lot of factors to consider and, of course, pros and cons for each platform.
In over a decade of helping authors self-publish without looking self-published, we’ve come up with a formula that uses both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark Publishing for distribution. This formula was derived from trial and error (and sometimes, trial again!), to come up with the best way to utilize each platform for what it does best, and avoid the pitfalls of each as well. In summary, we’ve learned a few things along the way and we want to share them with you here.
The Pros of Amazon KDP
The user experience is fairly easy
When it comes to actually using their platform, Amazon KDP is quite user-friendly. Once you log-in, the backend is pretty straightforward for setting up your book. With the exception of a few questions that might require a little research on your end, you can set up your book in less than an hour, assuming you have all of the final details and files ready to go.
The customer support is quick to respond
If you do have questions about anything, KDP’s customer support is easily accessible. You can request a call back, which usually only takes a few minutes, or use the email or chat functions, both with reliably quick turnaround times. That said, I’ve found the representatives don’t always know very much about a given topic, so you might need to call a couple of times to get an answer you’re comfortable with. For basic setup though, this shouldn’t be a problem.
Most buyers buy from Amazon
Since Amazon has established itself as a dominant player in the industry, most people buy their books there. They’ve made it easy by having almost every title available, and if a user has Amazon Prime, they get free shipping on your book. There are a lot of reasons most people still shop on Amazon, so it’s likely that you’re reaching the majority of the market even if you choose to publish exclusively.
The quality is decent
With print-on-demand publishing, there are always going to be quality issues such as inconsistencies in publishing. That’s because they print a new book each time one is ordered, instead of printing a large batch at once. However, we’ve found very little issue with this, and if there are inconsistencies, they’re usually negligible.
The Cons of Amazon KDP
Your book won’t likely be in libraries or bookstores
It’s true that publishing with Amazon KDP doesn’t give your book as good of a chance for libraries or bookstores to include it in their inventory, since most of these institutional buyers order from Igram’s catalog. However, it’s very difficult for a self-published book to land on these shelves anyway. The only book stores your book will end up in are those that you’ve reached out to directly and made your “pitch.” And these stores will likely be willing to order your book from whichever source you prefer.
If you print a hardcover, you can’t do a dust jacket
Until 2022, you couldn’t print a hardcover on KDP at all. They only offered paperback and ebook formats. However, they’ve recently launched a hardcover option, but it’s more limited than IngramSpark since you cannot create a dust jacket or a cloth cover.
The Pros of IngramSpark
You’ll have wider distribution
Since IngramSpark is an aggregator, not a retailer, they push your book to all of the retailers, including Amazon. So your book will be accessible in more places than if you just publish with KDP. (See the caveat below.)
The only way to get your books into libraries and bookstores
If you do have connections for getting bookstores and/or libraries to buy your book, you’ll want to make it available on IngramSpark. Ingram, which is IngramSpark’s parent company, is the owner of the book catalog from which most bookstores and libraries purchase their inventory. When you publish your book on IngramSpark, it puts your book automatically in the catalog, which makes it available for bookstores and libraries to buy.
The only way to sell on Bookshop.org
Bookshop.org is making a big splash in the online book buying industry. They entered the market to give Amazon some competition, while giving back to local bookstores. They allow you to shop for any book in their system, and to choose which bookshop you’d like to donate 10% of the proceeds to. If you’d like your book to be included in their catalog, you’ll have to publish with IngramSpark and then work with Bookshop to get it added.
The quality is good
IngramSpark offers 50lb or 70lb paper options and the books print at a slightly higher quality than KDP, but not enough for most readers to tell without a side-by-side comparison.
If you print a hardcover, you can do a dust jacket
If you’re printing a hardcover format, IngramSpark allows you to create a dust jacket which gives your book an added layer of professionalism. Most people wouldn’t expect a dust jacket from a self-published book, so it’s a great way to stand out from the crowd.
The Cons of IngramSpark
It doesn’t play nice with Amazon
One of the reasons many authors choose IngramSpark is that it is an aggregator that will include your book on Amazon for distribution, so it should be a win-win, right?
Unfortunately, we’ve found (almost every single time) that Amazon punishes books that come from IngramSpark. They do this in one or more of the following ways:
- They’ll list your book as out of stock
- They’ll increase the price
- They’ll take forever to ship your book (like three weeks or more)
We know it sounds like heresy, but you’ll find it outlined in IngramSpark’s own FAQs. It’s a sad reality that Amazon holds all the power, and they’re not afraid to use it.
It’s more expensive to print your book
Compared to Amazon KDP, IngramSpark’s print costs are higher on average. Not only does it cost a bit more to print your book (usually $1-$2 more), but they also have handling fees which Amazon does not. Additionally, the shipping costs on average tend to be higher on IngramSpark.
As a self-published author, you’re already sharing your book proceeds with the platform you choose, so these added costs cut into your royalties even more.
Terrible customer service
IngramSpark has terrible customer service. Enough said. You might think that’s not important, but if you’re doing this yourself, you’ll inevitably have questions. Whether it’s on set up when you’re trying to hit a deadline, or later, when you discover an issue with Amazon, or a problem with your earnings, you’ll wish you could contact someone right away. Unfortunately, Ingram doesn’t offer phone support. They require you to email their support team, and they’ve been known to take a week to reply. Talk about frustrating.
The user experience isn’t as easy to use
Uploading your book on IngramSpark isn’t necessarily difficult, but in comparison to KDP I find it much less user-friendly. They have a lot of dropdown boxes with unnecessary information; it’s confusing to figure out how to order a book; and the payment process at the end of set-up is rather odd.
Our Conclusion: Why Not Use Both?
Overall, I’d argue that KDP is the easiest to use, has the best customer support, and the most reliable experience for readers (they get fast, free shipping). However, as I mentioned above, we use a combination of the two for all of our authors. We use KDP to publish the paperback and ebook formats. We use IngramSpark to publish a second ebook (with a new ISBN), which makes your ebook available on nearly every e-reader available, and easily accessible for libraries and bookstores should you require this. If you opt to offer a hardcover as well, we use IngramSpark for that, since it offers a dust jacket and higher quality printing.