CreateSpace is entirely in charge of books that get sold to Amazon customers, whereas IngramSpark handles book printing and distribution for all other booksellers, such as the wonderful, independent booksellers that enthusiastically hand-sell my books to folks who faithfully shop in their stores. (I will explain more about why I do this further down in this post.)
It’s important to me that booksellers get fair, industry-standard discounts on my book.
I understand that the industry standard discount booksellers might expect from a small publisher is 40% off the retail price of a book. When my first book was published, it was easy for me to personally handle distributing my books to local booksellers and to offer them that standard discount.
Now that my second book is out and my books are in greater demand (and they are in more bookstores), it isn’t as easy for me to handle processing all of those orders. Not to mention, most booksellers would rather order books directly from the distributor rather than doing business with several authors and small presses.
A 40% discount with IngramSpark is not a 40% discount for the bookseller!
You can imagine my dismay when I learned today from one of my local bookstores that they prefer not to order my books from Ingram because they only get 20% discount from them as opposed to the industry-standard 40%.
I was baffled, because in my IngramSpark settings, I clearly have my book discount at 40%. Sure, it does say that 55% is the recommended discount, but they don’t explain why.
Anyway, long story short, I contacted IngramSpark’s customer service and they explained to me that unless a book is discounted at 55% in their system, the bookseller is going to get less than the industry standard because Ingram is going to get their cut for distribution regardless of what discount the bookseller gets. In other words, if my book has a 40% discount in IngramSpark’s system, Ingram distribution takes a 20% cut and the bookseller gets a 20% “short discount.” If I up my discount to 55%, however, Ingram reduces it’s cut to 15% so the bookseller can get the full 40% industry standard discount.
After speaking with an independent publisher friend, I learned that book distributors usually take 15% and the bookseller gets a 40% discount, which means 55% of the retail price is tied up in wholesale and distribution.
Why bother with IngramSpark? Doesn’t CreateSpace have Expanded Distribution?
CreateSpace does offer Expanded Distribution, but for me, the royalties are still better at IngramSpark for non-Amazon booksellers–even with a 55% discount in the IngramSpark system.
Let’s look at the numbers for a 275 page novel priced at $14.00:
Print Charge (per book, does not include shipping) – $4.48
Royalty based on short discount (40% discount – 20% for distribution; 20% bookseller discount) – $3.92
Royalty based on industry standard discount (55% discount – 15% for distribution; 40% bookseller discount) – $1.82
Print Charge (per book, does not include shipping) – $4.16
Royalty (per book sold via Amazon.com) – $4.24
Royalty (Expanded Distribution) – $1.44
A few observations:
CreateSpace is great when it comes to books that get sold to Amazon customers, but since I want my books sold by all kinds of bookstores and not just Amazon, it’s important to me to find the best situation for general distribution.
CreateSpace does not allow an independent author-publisher to set their own expanded distribution discount. Looking at the numbers, it appears they are doing the industry standard 55% discount and they are taking a few cents for the service. (From what I understand, even CreateSpace ultimately uses Ingram to distribute their books.)
An author can short discount their books through IngramSpark. That will certainly help them maximize their royalties per book. The disadvantage, of course, is that booksellers are unlikely to carry their books if they can’t sell them for a reasonable profit, and a 20% discount is hardly enough for a bookseller to make a decent profit on the book–especially when they have to figure in shipping, too. If an author’s book is short discounted through IngramSpark, booksellers will likely only purchase the book for special order customers, but not keep it stocked on their shelves.
On the other hand, if the book is offered at an industry standard discount to booksellers, those stores might be more likely to carry the books. (There is also the issue of whether or not a book is marked as returnable, but for many independent booksellers, that’s not important anyway. Bookstores like Barnes & Noble, however, won’t order your books from Ingram–regardless of the discount–if they aren’t marked as returnable. I’ll explain that in another post, though.)
Now that I understand how the numbers are broken down in the IngramSpark system, I don’t mind setting my discount to 55%. Books are a huge industry, and the author is just one part of that industry. Booksellers are on the front lines. If they aren’t getting the discounts they need to make a profit, what incentive do they have to carry a book? The same is true of a distributor. Maintaining those catalogs and handling the process of billing and shipping to the booksellers who order books is a business that is also worthy of compensation.
Some might argue that IngramSpark is already making money off of printing the books, so why are they charging a distributor’s fee on top of it? I understand that concern, but it’s important to remember that printing is one business and distributing is another. The fact is, IngramSpark is making it easy for authors to publish high quality books and make them available to booksellers around the world through their already established Ingram Content Group book distribution system. The fact that they both have the same name doesn’t change the fact that they are doing the job of two different industries and so they will be expecting compensation as such.
What are your thoughts on making your books available for expanded distribution? Are you just using CreateSpace? Or are you also using IngramSpark? What do you think about bookseller discounts and what’s your plan for trying to maximize the customer base for your books?