Distribution is how your work gets to market and the wider your distribution network, the more potential readers you reach. There is not a perfect one-size-fits-all solution out there at the moment but the combined benefits of KDP, CreateSpace, IngramSpark and Payhip come pretty close. We have been working in the self-publishing industry for years and have seen the options available to authors develop and improve. What we have today compared to 5 years ago is astonishing. Distribution reach that was previously reserved for large trade publishers with huge catalogues of books is now obtainable for an author who has only written one title from their armchair.
In this post we are going to run through the major Print-On-Demand and eBook distribution options for self-publishing authors outlining the pros and cons of each. Unfortunately there isn’t a perfect one size fits all solution and if you have both a physical book and an eBook we would recommend considering all of the below options.
What is it? KDP stands for Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP is Amazon’s own Kindle publishing platform for self-publishing authors. It enables authors to publish Kindle editions direct to Amazon’s websites all over the world.
How does it work? Once you log in (which you can do with your existing credentials if you have an Amazon account) you have a dashboard where you can provide title and pricing information and upload your Kindle (.mobi) and cover file. Once you have filled in your details and uploaded your files, your Kindle edition becomes available across all of Amazon’s websites (that you select – you can limit by territory if you wish) in around 12 hours if your file passes their quality control test. We provide a 100% file acceptance gaurantee for all of our eBook conversions and will manage the the title set-up and file uploading for you so you can be confident the title will be published as you intend. Find out more about our eBook conversion services here.
What does it cost? KDP does not have any set up fees.
How much do you get? KDP offer two royalties: either 70% or 35% of the RRP. Obviously, we would recommend you choose the 70% option. However, this does come with a few conditions, the main one being that you have to price your book between £1.99 and £9.99. eBooks are also subject to taxes and there is a file download fee (currently £0.10/$0.15 per MB – so keep an eye on the size of your file). For the latest Kindle pricing restrictions, file download fees and taxes click here.
What promotional tools do you get? KDP offer a special service called KDP Select. This is basically where authors can grant Amazon exclusivity for an eBook (i.e. ensure Amazon are the only retailer selling the book) and include that eBook in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (meaning Prime customers can read it for free) in exchange for a promotional toolkit. If you are interested in making your I_AM Self-Publishing title available exclusively to Amazon, you will need to remove your ePub file from sale at Ingram Spark and PayHip. The best feature of KDP Select toolkit is the ability to run countdown deals. These are time-limited price promotions e.g. only £0.99 for this weekend only. You set the price, the timeframe and a little countdown timer magically appears on your Kindle page to show how much longer the deal is on for. See the picture to the right.
Here’s a link to Amazon’s current Kindle Countdown Deals.
KDP Pros and Cons
What’s good about it?
- It’s quick – once uploaded, Kindle editions are normally available to buy within 12 hours.
- You can set up a pre-order facility if you want to create a bit of buzz before publication.
- It runs a spell check on your document to double check everything prior to upload.
- Count down price deals via KDP Select.
What’s not so good about it?
- It only gets your eBook available on Amazon sites, not any of the other global eBook retailers.
How we use KDP
We help authors to set up their own KDP account (if they already have an Amazon account, they can use the same username and password to log in). We then help authors complete all the account set up, which involves providing address and banking details. Once this is sorted out, we fill in the information about the title, subject, price, metadata, author etc. and upload the Kindle file that the conversion team have made and tested which we guarantee will be approved.
Create Space Basics
What is it? Create Space is Amazon’s paperback printing and distribution arm for self-published authors. It enables authors to upload book files and have that book available for sale on all Amazon sites all over the world e.g. www.amazon.com, www.amazon.co.uk, www.amazon.de etc.
How does the process it work? Amazon has set up a very clever system by which an author can upload formatted book files (cover spread and interior text files). Once uploaded the files are assessed by Create Space to make sure they pass all the file tests and will print out properly (we guarantee file approval for all print files that we prepare). Once the files are approved from a technical standpoint, the author can order a proof copy of their paperback. This is a really good idea as it is important to see and hold a proper copy of your book before paying customers start buying it. Then once the physical proof copy is approved, Create Space will start selling the book throughout the Amazon network.
What does it cost? Free to set up (although be careful not to accidentally click any of the add-on options). POD print costs vary depending on the options you chose and the length of your book but for a standard sized paperback (5x8in) with a colour cover and b&w interior that is over 110 pages the current costs are £0.70 plus £0.01 per page, so a 200 page book would be £2.70 per unit to print. For current pricing please visit CreateSpace’s
How much do you get? All books that are sold through retailers are done so at a discount, so that the Amazon can take their piece of the pie. This makes it worth their while stocking and selling your book. The lowest discount you can set on Create Space is 40% i.e. if your book is £10, Create Space will give you £6 for every copy sold. Remember your print costs will be deducted from this too so using the above example of a 200 page paperback a further £2.70 will be deducted leaving you with a royalty of £3.30 per book sold.
Luckily you don’t need to run all the numbers yourself as CreateSpace have created a very handy calculator tool on their website which you can access by clicking here. You just need to fill out the areas I’ve outlined in red below and then hit Calculate. Play around with different RRPs to see what your returnwill be a varying pricepoints. If you deselect the checkbox that says ‘Yes, suggest GBP price based on the U.S. price’ you can independently price the UK edition in GBP.
Create Space Pros and Cons
What’s good about it?
- Amazon is the biggest retailer in the publishing industry. In reality, most authors will see most of their sales through Amazon channels, so it’s an important one to get right.
- It’s very quick to set up – once you approve the book it normally goes live within a matter of days.
- The print quality is really good. Both black and white and colour books print very well via Create Space.
What’s not so good about it?
- Create Space only distributes to Amazon websites. Other retailers and physical stores will not be able to access or order your book. (Note Create Space do have an Expanded Distribution option, but we do not recommend this as the publisher of your book will be recorded everywhere as ‘Create Space’ regardless of us registering your ISBN. Physical bookshops and online retailers alike are very reluctant to order in books with the publisher ‘Create Space’ in our experience.)
- Create Space is based in the US. Authors ordering copies for themselves based anywhere else in the world will have to order from the US, which can be expensive and slow.
- You cannot set up pre-orders i.e. customers are not able to order the book prior to publication.
How we use Create Space
After our typesetters have finished with the interior book file, and our cover designers have finalised the cover artwork, we set up a Create Space account for the author and upload the cover and interior PDF files. When it comes to approving the proof, we help authors check that everything is as it should be, and if any changes are needed (e.g. someone important was omitted from the acknowledgements page) then we can make those tweaks for the author. Once the paperback proof is approved and the book is selling, the author can log in and check their sales at any time. They will also receive monthly sales statements and will get paid directly.
Ingram Spark Basics
What is it? Ingram is one of the largest book and eBook distribution companies in the world. They reach thousands of retailers and libraries every single day. IngramSpark is the part of the company set up for self-publishing authors who want to have their physical books available to buy at multiple online retailers such as Waterstones and Barnes & Noble and would like bricks and mortar/high street book stores and libraries to be able to order their book. They also offer a huge eBook distribution service that reaches retailers such as iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Sainsbury’s and many more. Their full distribution reach across eBook and print is in excess of 39,000 retailers and libraries worldwide.
How does it work? You log in to a dashboard where you can upload formatted files (cover spread and interior PDF for print books and cover image and ePub file for eBooks). These files are checked for technical errors and then approved by IngramSpark (any files we have formatted for you come with our file upload guarantee). At this stage you can order one physical proof copy of your paperback/hardback. This is a really good idea as it is important to see and hold a proper copy of your book before paying customers start buying it. Once you approve your proof you can tick a box to have your book and eBook sent out to the whole Ingram network
What does it cost? £29 if you want to publish a paperback or a paperback AND and eBook or just £15 if you are only publishing an eBook. However, they regularly run offers and deals. For example, they offer discounts to all members of the Alliance of Independent Authors. POD print costs are slightly higher than CreateSpace with a 200 page 5x8in paperback costing you £2.97 (compared to £2.70)
How much do you get? All print books that are sold through retailers are done so at a discount, so that the retailer can take his piece of the pie. This makes it worth his while stocking and selling your book. The lowest retailer discount you can set on IngramSpark is 35% i.e. if your book is £10, Ingram Spark will give you £6.50 for every copy sold. Remember that your POD print cost needs to come off that too – using the 200 page book above as an example again you would receive a royalty of £3.53 per copy.
For all eBooks, IngramSpark give 45% of the RRP to the author.
Like Amazon, Ingram have also provided handy calculators on their website to help you calculate your book cost and potential returns. which you can access here. If you are not sure which trim size to select we use 5x8in for a standard trade paperback size. If you are unsure of how many pages your book will be (if you are planning to print at 5x8in) a good estimation trick is to multiply your final word count by 0.003 e.g. 80,000 words will be roughly 240 pages (80,000 x 0.003 = 240).
Ingram Spark Pros and Cons
What’s good about it?
- Ingram’s distribution network is enormous – over 39,000 retailers and libraries are supplied by Ingram. Having your title on their catalogue makes it available to buy at a lot of places all over the world.
- The print quality is good.
What’s not so good about it?
- Once you have approved a title for distribution, it takes 15 business days to go live on retailer websites.
How we use Ingram Spark (print)
After our typesetters have finished with the interior book file, and our cover designers have finalised the cover artwork, we set up an Ingram Spark account for the author and upload the files. When it comes to approving the proof, we help authors check that everything is as it should be, and if any changes are needed (e.g. someone important was omitted from the acknowledgements page) then we can make those tweaks for the author. Once the paperback proof is approved and the book is selling, the author can log in and check their sales at any time. The will also receive monthly sales statements and will get paid directly by Ingram Spark.
How we use Ingram Spark (eBooks)
Once our conversion team have converted a book/manuscript to an eBook and the author has approved these files, we either set up a new Ingram Spark account for the author, or add the eBook to their existing account. The Ingram team will check the files for any technical glitches then approve them. The eBook is then sold throughout their network. As above, the author can log in to see sales figures and will get paid directly.
What is it? It’s an eBook retail website that allows authors to sell their work directly to their readers, and receive all email addresses of everyone who has bought the eBook.
How does it work? You set up an account, upload your eBook files and cover file, give Payhip your blurb, eBook category and pricing information and they create a product page just for your book. Below is an example of what one of our Payhip product pages looks like: https://payhip.com/b/HlfO
What does it cost? There are no set up fees.
How much do you get? Payhip take a 5% transaction fee, passing the remaining 95% on to the author.
What promotional tools do you get? Our favourite thing about Payhip is it allows you to create coupon codes. You can decide how much of a discount you want to give, how many times the coupon can be used and what date the coupon expires. For example, if you wanted to give your eBook out to 20 bloggers in a secure way, you can just send them a link to your Payhip page and a voucher code for them to type in at the checkout to get the book completely free. Then when they download your eBook, you will receive an email notification telling you the email address of the person who has just downloaded your eBook. This is great for follow-up as you will be able to send messages to bloggers such as ‘I see you downloaded my book a few weeks ago, and I just wondered whether you have had a chance to look through it yet.’
You can also create social media discounts. You can set this up on your eBook page e.g. ‘25% off this eBook if you share this link on social media.’ Then as soon as the customer shares that link, the discount is added and they can buy your eBook at a cheaper price. This can be a really useful tool for spreading the word.
Payhip Pros and Cons
What’s good about it?
- You can capture email addresses – for me, this is incredible! You have a direct contact with your readers to promote future titles to.
- It’s quick – once uploaded, eBooks are normally available to buy straight away.
- They only take 5%.
- You can use it to create voucher codes – ideal for sending eBook copies to reviewers.
- You can use it to create social media discounts.
What’s not so good about it?
- Not that many readers have heard of it (yet!), so you will have to direct readers/reviewers/bloggers etc. to this site. It is growing and you should support it as a situation where you were getting a 95% return and contact information for every reader that buys your book would be amazing! If anyone asks you where they can get your eBook.
How we use Payhip
We set up Payhip accounts for authors, upload their eBook files, the blurb and price information and then show authors how they can create voucher codes and run social discounts. All authors need to do is to add their PayPal details so that they get paid directly for sales.
All four options have their merits and if you have a paperback and an eBook they are all worth using to provide a really solid network from which your book can be bought. This gives your potential readers the freedom to purchase from whatever channel that they like. I would love to see Payhip getting a bit more popular because they offer such a great deal for you, the self-publishing authors, but that being said you can’t bypass the larger retailers – particularly the KDP. For the time being, if you want to sell in serious quantities then you really can’t afford to not set yourself a place at the big boys’ tables. If you are still not sure on what is best for your project and you would like some advice on distribution as well as the other important areas of self-publishing please book yourself in for a FREE consultation with us below. We look forward to discussing your project!