CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark – My Experience

CreateSpace (Amazon’s self-publishing platform) and IngramSpark (Ingram’s/Lightning Source’s self-publishing platform) are probably the most popular sites to self-publish print-on-demand (POD) books, and they both have their pros and cons. I decided to utilize both sites for my novel, Grigory’s Gadget, for several reasons:

  • Publishing through CreateSpace:
    • Title set up is free, unlike through IngramSpark
    • Your royalties will be higher per book sold on Amazon
    • The cost to order copies of your own book is less than through IngramSpark
    • It’s very user friendly
  • Publishing through IngramSpark:
    • Books are distributed through Ingram, which is what brick-and-mortar stores use to order books
    • Books are returnable, which means brick-and-mortar stores are much more likely to stock your book

Those are the pros of each website that I knew going in. Now that I’ve submitted my book through both sites, received physical proofs, and am preparing to officially publish (Grigory’s Gadget will be on sale in just over a week – on March 12!), here is my experience:

  • Title Set Up
    • CreateSpace
      • As I said above, title set up is free
      • The process is very straightforward and user-friendly
    • IngramSpark
      • Title set up is $49, but this fee is waived if you order 50+ copies of your book within 60 days of set up
      • The process is still very straightforward; basically, it just doesn’t look as flashy as CreateSpace
  • Proofing my book
    • CreateSpace
      • Once I uploaded my files, I was able to digitally review them almost immediately, via a very cool online proof page that even shows my book in a 3D view
      • I was able to order my proof less than 24 hours after submitting my files, and the book was printed and shipped only a few hours later (impressive!)
      • I received my proof 5 days (which included a weekend) after ordering
      • LESSON I LEARNED: Do NOT OK your proof until you’re ready for your book to be officially on-sale. I had my book on pre-sale with a set publishing date. CreateSpace doesn’t care what you say your publishing date is – if you finish submitting your book, it will put it on sale. If you have a set publication date, just let the book sit there until a couple days prior to that date.
    • IngramSpark
      • Once I uploaded my files, it took less than 24 hours for them to be approved and for a PDF proof file to be generated
      • At that time, I was also able to order my physical proof
      • I received my proof 7 days (including a weekend) after ordering.

Now for the side-by-side comparison of my proofs! For both CreateSpace and IngramSpark I used a 5×8 trim size, matte cover, and cream paper. In the following images, CreateSpace is on the left and IngramSpark is on the right.

2016-02-04 20.30.18

Front Cover: The covers are almost indistinguishable (in the photo above, the CreateSpace book looks a bit darker only because of the way the light hit it; the darkness levels on both are actually about identical). The main difference I noticed is that the CreateSpace cover feels a bit smoother, while the IngramSpark cover feels slightly more rubbery. The CreateSpace cover also shows fingerprints more prominently, as can be seen in the next photo:

2016-02-04 20.30.53

Back Cover: I will admit I leave fingerprints pretty readily on everything, but they definitely don’t hide on the CreateSpace cover! Another obvious difference for the back cover is that CreateSpace reserves that specific bottom-right corner for its bar code, while IngramSpark lets you float the bar code pretty much wherever you want. It’s also smaller. Not a big deal, but something a cover artist would obviously have to consider.

Another note: the IngramSpark back cover doesn’t appear to have been trimmed properly – you can see the thin white line at the bottom. I called IngramSpark’s customer service to request a new proof to confirm it was just a printing error (and one that wouldn’t repeat). I was on hold for an hour (!) but once I got ahold of a representative, she was very helpful and ordered a second proof for me (I didn’t have to pay for the second proof). The second proof looked fine. I’ve since ordered 50 copies of my book from IngramSpark, and have found one other copy (so far) with a similar printing error. I’ll be contacting them again once I take a complete tally of the quality of all 50 books. I’m a little disappointed here: IngramSpark is supposed to be the higher-quality and more professional POD site.

Map Image: I have a map image for my book, as shown above. There’s a pretty clear difference between CreateSpace and IngramSpark here: IngramSpark’s image has a much crisper, higher-contrast image. That said, it’s not like the CreateSpace image is awful. It’s just not as good 😉

2016-02-04 20.33.15

Interior: The first thing I noticed was actually something I did NOT notice: a notable difference in the paper colors. I’ve read a lot of complaints that CreateSpace’s paper is super yellow, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Maybe they’ve changed paper recently? A big difference between the two books is the text. The IngramSpark text is sharper and darker, but it’s also a little glossy (you can actually see that in the photo). So I guess, it’s easier to read unless you’re reading under harsh light? The other difference I noticed is that the IngramSpark paper is very smooth vs. the CreateSpace paper which has more texture to it.

Overall: The IngramSpark book is definitely the higher-quality book, with the exception of the cover printing issues. That being said, the CreateSpace book is definitely not bad. You really can’t tell the difference between them unless you’re doing a side-by-side comparison like this.

  • Preorder Process
    • CreateSpace
      • Short answer: there isn’t a preorder option. And DO NOT approve the proof of your book until you’re ready for it to be on sale!
      • Long answer: there’s KIND OF a preorder option. I’m not sure why Amazon hasn’t consolidated this convoluted process, but here’s the gist of it: When you’re ready to start a preorder for your book, you need to make an account with Amazon Advantage. This is one of their vendor sites (different than Amazon Marketplace; I don’t know what the exact differences are because I’ve only used Advantage). Then you set up your book there with all of its information, set the publication date, and put it on preorder. Once your order is processed, Amazon will request copies to stock in its warehouse(s) (the amount varies, presumably based on some algorithm or other). You don’t need to send them anything – for every order, you just say the product isn’t ready yet. Once the publication date draws near, you need to contact Advantage and let them know that CreateSpace will be fulfilling all of the orders. It’s convoluted and dumb, and I would think a company like Amazon would have streamlined it by now. Oh well.
    • IngramSpark
      • During the title set up, you enter the publication date. Once you approve your files, IngramSpark puts your book on preorder until that publication date. Easy peasy.
    • Note on publishing through both CreateSpace and IngramSpark
      • First off, DO NOT enable Expanded Distribution on CreateSpace if you’re using both. For the Expanded Distribution, CreateSpace sources through Lightning Source anyway, so just let IngramSpark take care of that side of distribution
      • Second, make sure to watch your book listings on Amazon when you start your preorder and/or publish your book, since both CreateSpace and IngramSpark distribute to Amazon. If the books have the same ISBN, they should play nice and not create redundant pages. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, though, but all you need to do is contact Amazon and they will fix it for you 🙂

Moving forward, I think I will definitely use CreateSpace again in the future. I’m not quite as sold on IngramSpark, due to the increase costs and the cover issues. To be fair, though, I haven’t yet ordered 50 copies from CreateSpace – they may have the same inconsistency issues.

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4 thoughts on “CreateSpace vs. IngramSpark – My Experience

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been toying with switching over to Ingram Spark. Among other things, CS expanded distribution pays hardly enough to make it worthwhile. CreateSpace does have consistency issues, though their customer service is excellent, so it’s never an issue if you find the stuff I’ve found — bent covers, trims off center, weird characters in the running heads, and a book that began in the middle of the book. Thankfully, these are pretty rare. Did you use matte or glossy on your cover? I use matte and I’ve never noticed finger prints on my covers. (Though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not there!)

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    1. Glad you found it helpful! I’m preparing to put in a bulk order of my book through CreateSpace, so I’ll see what the quality consistency is like compared to IngramSpark at that point. I used matte covers for my book. I really do leave fingerprints on everything, though, so it might just be me!

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  2. Hi E.A.

    So no need for separate ISBN’s? Why is the back cover different – Ingram’s layout requirements for the bar code or something? Also, on Amazon sales, how do you make sure you are using CreateSpace POD vs. Ingram (or are you?)

    Thanks,
    Eric

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    1. Right! As long as it’s the same format (paperback vs ebook), you can use the same ISBN through any and all printers.

      For the back cover, yes the layouts are different between CreateSpace and IngramSpark. CreateSpace gives you a designated spot for the barcode, while IngramSpark lets you float the box pretty much wherever you want.

      As for Amazon sales, if you set your books up the same way (same ISBN) in CreateSpace and IngramSpark, the CreateSpace POD will trump the IngramSpark POD. My understanding is that the system will go through the path of least resistance; since CreateSpace is an Amazon company, Amazon will go to them first. One thing to watch for is if the different books wind up creating different pages. This is easy to fix if you set up your Amazon Author Central account. There’s a page where you can merge books that were accidentally listed as separate books (it’s also handy to do this with your paperback and ebook, so they show up on the same page; sometimes this happens automatically, but not always). Hope that helps!

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