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Blog > Understanding Publishing – Posted on Feb 13, 2019

What is the Best Service for Print on Demand Books?

When it comes to determining how best to print your self-published book, there's no easy answer. Most indie authors will prefer the flexibility of print-on-demand solutions over the upfront cost of offset printing, but even then there are lots of other factors to consider: the type of book you’re printing, your budget, your plans for online distribution, which distributor(s) you'll actually go through, and the quality of the printers.

At Reedsy, we wanted to know how the major POD providers out there stack up along these lines. To find out once and for all, we printed a book using four of today's most popular services — and we're revealing the results in this post.

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What are the top print on demand services?

To ensure we got the real indie author experience, we printed a copy of Not the Faintest Trace — a novel by Reedsy author Wendy M. Wilson, formatted through the Reedsy Book Editor, and designed by Patrick Knowles — from the four print-on-demand companies. We then had each copy delivered to BookTuber Mandi Lynn so that she could give us her indie author input. View her honest feedback in the above video. (The video was filmed before Draft2Digital released their printing services, so they are not included in the review).

We also had each copy delivered to Reedsy HQ so that we could review the quality, look, and feel of each proof. Here's our review of each platform.

1. IngramSpark

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Ingram Book Group is currently the United States’ largest book distributor and wholesaler. IngramSpark is their publishing platform for indie publishers, offering distribution, production, and book assembly. They also offer a 50% discount on print and ebook title setup for Reedsy blog readers who use the promo code EXPERT (case sensitive). (For a full IngramSpark review, head here!)

User friendliness: Steep learning curve.

Pros of IngramSpark: The worldwide distribution that IngramSpark users access via Ingram is unparalleled by the other POD services. Read IngramSpark’s full list of partners here.

Cons of IngramSpark: Not the most user-friendly and it comes with a steeper learning curve. While the other POD services will flag any formatting issues and try to help you correct them, IngramSpark will simply flag issues and leave the corrections up to you — so you need to ensure your PDF and cover are perfectly formatted off the bat.

 

2. KDP Print: The Amazon Print on Demand Solution

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When we initially published this guide for print on demand books, CreateSpace and KDP Print still existed as two separate self-publishing entities. As of August 2018, they have merged into one self-publishing division of Amazon, and will henceforth only operate as KDP Print. Because both services did (and do) use the same printing facilities, our review of the quality of the print copy we ordered from CreateSpace still stands and applies to the quality of KDP Print books.

In addition to the printing facilities and delivery times remaining the same, here are other important aspects you can expect to remain unchanged:

  • ISBNs. Authors will still have the option to use their own ISBN, purchase discounted Bowker ISBNs, or obtain free ISBNs with KDP Print as the imprint.
  • Distribution and fees. Just as CreateSpace offered authors distribution to Amazon only (with a fee of 40%), and expanded distribution to stores other than Amazon (with a fee of 60%) — so will KDP Print. There is one key difference in regards to expanded distribution, which is outlined below.
  • Book cover and interior design tools. The same Word templates and Cover Creator tool that CreateSpace offered will still be available on KDP Print.

Now, here are some of the key differences you will find between the two services:

  • Expanded and international distribution. If you want to make your KDP Print book available for expanded distribution, you cannot also opt out of Amazon. Expanded distribution with KDP Print means that you must also list your book on Amazon. In regards to international distribution, authors will now be able to distribute to Japan.
  • Updating books. If you upload an updated version of your book, you won’t lose the old one (which can be frustrating if you’ve already garnered many reviews and sales).
  • Integrated sales dashboard. Publishing and accounting are combined for both kindle and print versions of your books.
  • Amazon advertising. While already available for ebooks, publishers will not also be able to purchase Amazon advertising for print books.
  • Local printing for Europe. Instead of printing and shipping from the US (as CreateSpace did), KDP Print will print books locally for European publishers.
  • Pre-release printing. CreateSpace allowed publishers to order proof copies of the book for pre-release purposes. KDP Print still allows this, however, it will come with a mark stating that the books aren’t for resale.
  • International distribution. Authors will now be able to distribute to Japan.

Read their guidelines and FAQ here. Now onto our review...

User friendliness: Easy. Little to no learning curve.

Pros of KDP Print: Since it’s owned by Amazon, KDP Print is a good choice for authors who want to have their physical book and Kindle book sales page joined.

Cons on KDP Print: KDP Print charges a hefty fee to distribute to stores other than Amazon, and they do not provide the option to print hardcovers.

Psst — want to find out if you're 100% ready to self-publish your book? Take our short quiz below to discover what steps you might've missed. 

3. BookBaby

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BookBaby is a self-publishing platform that offers lots of support to self-publishing authors, including POD, ebook, book editing services, design, marketing, and distribution services.

User friendliness: Easy, little to no learning curve.

Pros of BookBaby: If you want a user-friendly, handheld process, BookBaby could be the choice for you.

Cons of BookBaby: It’s expensive to distribute your book via BookBaby — and because you are actually accessing their distribution options via Ingram Book Group, you’re charged an extra middleman fee. (More on this later).

For a tutorial and extensive review of BookBaby, check out this post! 📖👶

4. Blurb

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Blurb stands out as a POD service by offering users the ability to create both standard print books and visual, image-based works — such as magazines or photo books. User friendliness: Moderately simple, small learning curve.

Pros of Blurb: If you’re producing a book that’s visually more demanding, Blurb’s printing software will offer you significantly more options. They also cover the charge of appearing in Ingram's catalogue.

Cons of Blurb: You cannot distribute trade books directly to Amazon, however you can do so through Ingram.

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5. D2D Print (Beta)

In October 2018, self-publishing service Draft2Digital announced the launch of their new print on demand service: D2D Print. They’ve been beta-testing the product since, and authors can join a waitlist to try it out here.


Overview of ISBN and printing options

What is the Best Service for Print on Demand Books?

Now that you have an idea of what these four popular print-on-demand companies offer, you’re a little closer to determining which one is best for your publishing needs. But there are still many other factors to consider — the main ones being distribution and revenue.


Which POD service will get you the best royalties?

How much profit you'll be able to retain from book sales will likely impact your choice of a POD company! This all depends on where you plan to distribute your book — and how much you manage to avoid pesky "middleman" fees.

Avoiding middleman fees that cut into your royalties

Let’s say you want to buy a book that costs $10. Now, let’s say that someone offers to buy that $10 book for you for a fee of $5. That extra $5 is a “middleman” fee  — and it would only make sense to pay it if buying the book on your own is not feasible.

In regards to POD — if your goal is to maximize your royalties, you’ll want to cut out as much of the “middleman” fees between the printer and the distributor as possible.

The two major categories of distribution are:

  1. Amazon, and
  2. Non-Amazon online retailers, such as Barnes & Noble.

There are two main players that handle distribution to those two categories: 1) KDP Print for Amazon, and 2) IngramSpark for other online and physical bookstores.

With this in mind, avoiding “middleman” fees means that...

If you want to distribute to Amazon, use KDP Print → KDP Print distributes directly to Amazon, which means that you don’t pay an Amazon fee when you distribute there — in other words, there’s no “middleman” fee. If you use IngramSpark or BookBaby distribute to Amazon, you will be charged the printer fee as well as Amazon’s fee. Blurb does not have a direct-to-Amazon option for trade books — instead, you would need to submit your book to Ingram, and then distribute to Amazon via their network. If you want to distribute to non-Amazon online stores, use IngramSpark → Most POD services go through Ingram Book Group to distribute to non-Amazon stores. Should you use a printer other than IngramSpark, this generally means that you’ll be charged an additional “middleman” fee to access Ingram’s aforementioned network of online (and physical) stores. Only Blurb covers the charge of appearing in the Ingram catalogue.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's take a look at the actual costs associated with each company, and the kinds of royalties you can expect from their distribution options.

Overview of costs and royalties

Each of the POD services we’re reviewing has a handy calculator that determines royalties based on your book’s specs and your desired list price. You can check them out here:

IngramSpark, KDP Print, BookBaby, Blurb and D2D Print

We used these calculators to gather the following data about each POD services’ printing costs and royalty potential.

What is the Best Service for Print on Demand Books?

A quick note about the above breakdown: the cost of each printer and the royalties they’ll generate depends on the specs of the book you’re publishing and the list price you choose. In order to provide you with an overview, the cost/royalty breakdown was based upon the following:

  • The specs of Not the Faintest Trace:
    • 5” x 8” (for IngramSpark, KDP Print, Blurb, and D2D Print) // 5.5” x 8.5” trim (for BookBaby)
    • 292 pages (for IngramSpark, KDP Print, Blurb, and D2D Print) // 282 pages (for BookBaby)
    • Paperback, gloss cover
    • Black and white ink and economy white paper
  • A list price of $13.50 (because this is the minimum price allowed on BookBaby’s royalty calculator).
  • Some royalty calculators allow you to choose your own wholesale discount. For the purposes of this chart, we're using 40% for distribution to online retailers and 55% for distribution to physical bookstores. (More information on wholesale discounts later).

You might be wondering, “But what if I want to see my book on the shelf of a brick-and-mortar bookstore?” We've got advice for that, too.


Which POD service will help your book land in stores?

For many writers, getting their books stocked in physical bookstores is a part of the publishing book dream. But this can be challenging for independent authors who don't have access to buyers — and this is where seeking out traditional publishers has a definite leg up.

That said, there are a few things that indie authors can do to make their books as easily orderable as possible for brick-and-mortar bookstores. Here are a few:

Distribute your print copies through IngramSpark

As the largest distributor and wholesaler in the US, Ingram will provide you with the greatest chance of accessing physical bookstores through their comprehensive distribution network. Furthermore, brick-and-mortar stores are not generally fans of Amazon, and won’t warm to the idea of selling books printed through CreateSpace or KDP Print.

Set up a 55% wholesale discount

Simply put, the wholesale discount refers to the percentage of a book's retail price that a retailer will receive from the sale of your book.

When combined with the list price, the wholesale discount lets retailers know what the publisher (as an indie author, that would be you) has decided their retailer fee will be. Naturally, the higher your wholesale discount, the greater your visibility on digital retailers — and the more likely you are to be stocked in brick-and-mortar stores.

  • Minimal Discount: 25% — other than Amazon and B&N, your title is less likely to appear in the majority of digital retailers.
  • Broad Discount: 36% — your title will be available in most online stores, including Amazon and B&N.
  • Comprehensive: 55%  — broad visibility on all digital retailers. Your title will be an option for both large and small physical bookstores alike.

Make your books returnable

Typically, traditional publishers allow bookstores to return copies of books that are overstocked or simply unwanted. In fact, most physical bookstores will not, as a rule, order a book that is not returnable. And if this the standard they apply to traditional publishers, you can be sure they will also apply it to independent or unknown authors, because they are taking a risk on your book.

However, while your titles likely won’t be visible to buyers without being returnable, doing so comes with risks for the author: let’s say you publish through IngramSpark, have your title stocked in stores, and then a bookseller wants to return a number of copies. IngramSpark will charge the publisher (in this case, the author):

The list price of the book - Wholesale discount + shipping and handling fees (which is $2 per book for US addresses and $20 per book for international addresses).

For example, if a $13.50 book with a 55% wholesale discount was returned, an author in the US would be expected to pay $6.95 to the bookseller. $13.50 - 55% + $2 = $8.08

Going back to our previous example, the royalty from selling books to physical stores via IngramSpark is $1.26. So: $1.26 - $8.08 (the return fee) would be a loss of $6.82 (times the amount of books being returned). This could add up quick!

So if a physical bookstore approaches you saying they’d like to stock a large portion of your book, take a step back and consider whether people will realistically buy that many copies and whether you’re prepared to handle the financial risk of mass returns.


The final verdict

Circling back to what we said at the start of this post, deciding which route to go for your print on demand books will depend on your goals. For some, this might mean that picking more than one POD service. Let’s review the main points to give you one final helpful nudge.

Planning to focus most of your sales efforts on Amazon? Go with KDP Print and opt out of their expanded distribution option to earn the highest royalty.

Planning to focus on sales outside of Amazon — and hoping to get stocked in physical bookstores? Go with IngramSpark for direct access to the largest variety of retailers and wholesale networks.

Want sales on both Amazon and non-Amazon stores? You got it: go with both IngramSpark and KDP Print! Variety is the spice of life, why not benefit from the royalty potential of both services? If you want to maximize the benefits of both of these printers, ensure that you do it this way: distribute to Amazon via KDP Print and opt out of their expanded distribution, then use IngramSpark to distribute everywhere else except for Amazon. If you use both to distribute everywhere without opting out, you’ll end up with doubles on each retailer — which you don’t want.

Does your book have many visual components that differ from a traditional novel format? Blurb’s specialized formatting tools and printers will be your friend. Blurb should be used by authors who are printing illustrated/highly visual books, or when you need to place bulk orders — as they offer good discounts for volume purchases.

Is support your #1 concern — above budgetary restrictions and earning the best royalty per sale? BookBaby’s support team is top notch, and they offer self-publishing services that authors who want the most streamlined experience as possible might enjoy. Most of all, don't let the overwhelming options deter you from printing your book on demand — especially since it can really pay dividends! Whichever POD service you choose, you'll get beautiful hard copies of your book that you can admire for years to come... and that might just lead you to publishing success.


Have you used any of the above companies for print on demand books? Tell us about your experiences in the comments below!

66 responses

Matt Beighton says:

14/08/2018 – 18:35

I've used Ingram for a couple of years now and have no idea where your annual fee for them comes from?

↪️ Gandalf-the-Geru replied:

15/08/2018 – 10:42

They are probably automatically taking it off your account without you noticing. It is $12 per year.

↪️ Matt Beighton replied:

15/08/2018 – 13:57

Nope, they definitely don't have one. I've phoned and checked. The lady thought Lightning Source (another branch of Ingram) may have, but Ingram Spark definitely don't have.

↪️ Gandalf-the-Geru replied:

16/08/2018 – 10:15

Thanks for the update, Matt. I've read this misinformation in two places. Mind you, they misinform in their own instructions too. In their set-up guide they state "IngramSpark does not offer barcodes. You must supply your own." I went to the trouble of buying one and then found out they DO supply barcodes if you don't add one.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

16/08/2018 – 10:32

Ah, that's interesting. Thanks for flagging it up, folks. We'll have a look into it again and make the edit :)

↪️ Bill Peschel replied:

30/09/2018 – 14:15

They used to charge. Now they don't (or, at least they dropped it awhile back).

↪️ Denise replied:

07/11/2019 – 23:29

I have the same question. I also use Ingram.

Michael Doane says:

14/08/2018 – 18:46

Great article. These charts are very helpful for authors who are looking to compare different platforms for self-publishing print copies of their books.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

05/09/2018 – 20:01

Thanks Michael! :)

Swami Tarakananda says:

14/08/2018 – 18:48

I would like to share my experience and frustration with working with IngramSpark. First, they have TERRIBLE customer service. Phone customer service is virtually non-existent, and email is slooowww, and often they have not grasped the import of my question. Their printing has been mediocre, with one page being light and the facing page dark, and as far as images go, it is a flip of the coin if they will get things right even after following their specs to the letter. It takes weeks to get your proof copy, and if there are problems such as the ones listed above, it can be a months to get the final product as you want it, with the slow costomer service and slow printing/shipping. And furthermore, the broad distribution has not yeilded sales. Yes, I know it is up to the author or publisher to do the marketing, but don't expect an automatic sales increase just for being listed with Ingram. It is true that Amazon is not the best place to have your books available to bookstores and libraries, but IngramSpark seems to be no better as far as sales, with a big headache thrown in for good measure. Take this into consideration as one person's experience before trying IngramSpark. Brother Simeon lightofthespiritpress.com

↪️ Jill R. replied:

06/03/2019 – 23:06

In my experience Ingram Spark/Lightning Source is a terrible company to work with and prints a horrible quality of book.

↪️ P Berman replied:

23/06/2019 – 17:09

Our former publisher used Lightning Source. The results were mixed and sometimes inconsistent. The black and white paper #50 is HORRIBLE. The books look like a bound photocopy and the show through makes it almost unreadable. Photos come out dark and blobby. They don't offer any better paper thickness or whiteness options for B/W. However, the color printing is better quality and the hardback covers are really nice. They REALLY need to offer upgrades to the paper stock for B/W printing and then they would be almost perfect.

↪️ Jerry Gomez replied:

19/06/2019 – 22:08

I've made several attempts to list my book with IS, but their form is more like an obstacle course. It will delete your info without warning and there is no way to save it!?!! Customer service has been helpful 50% of the time which means you are on your own the other 50%. I am uncertain if I will ever get their book listing process to ever work like Amazon's, and therefore I am looking at other options for a printer/distributor.

↪️ Christian Kelly replied:

30/08/2019 – 22:49

I am encontering the same issue with Ingram. Primarily the customer service issue. They are not suited very well for new authors. If this is your first rodeo, maybe don't use them because they are more trouble than they are worth.

Lexi Mize says:

14/08/2018 – 20:00

I went with TheBookPatch.com I epub'd to Draft2Digital, took their 6x9 PDF they provided for POD over the thebookpatch. I downloaded the cover template that matched my page count; made mine to fit; upload it and the ready-to-print PDF and presto-chango I had a physical book people could buy with a link. All as a free service. And the books are reasonably priced, but I could charge whatever I wanted (above a certain cost basis). Text grids do not match up, ink is matte. Soft cover turned out nice. http://thebp.site/144960

↪️ Reedsy replied:

05/09/2018 – 20:02

Hi Lexi, sounds like you had a pretty positive experience — glad to hear it! We'll look into covering them next time :)

↪️ Whatisgoingon replied:

07/03/2019 – 19:38

I just did a comparison for printing of my 6x9, 250 page novel. Printing on Amazon is $3.92 and the book patch calculated it as $7.75 for 1-49 copies. I would love to find a printer who can compete.

Patricia Horan says:

18/08/2018 – 19:59

Why is a barcode called an ISBN here? An ISBN is nothing more than a string of numbers. Very confusing to this professional.

↪️ Krisz Nadasi Writes KNW replied:

21/08/2018 – 12:20

Because it is called an ISBN. You have to put both the string of numbers AND the barcode on the book if you want the book in retail (and there are other rules too).

↪️ Victoria replied:

20/08/2019 – 01:52

A barcode is that little square box of lines that's found on everything you buy, most often as a machine-readable price tag. An ISBN is the record-keeping number of a BOOK, and it identifies that book/manuscript worldwide. The barcode they mean here is specifically the one that carries the ISBN. (dictionary:" international standard book number, a ten-digit number assigned to every book before publication, recording such details as language, provenance, and publisher.") A barcode can be anything, but an ISBN is this only, and can be coded into a barcode.

↪️ Denise replied:

07/11/2019 – 23:33

Excellent response.

Stephen Connor says:

22/08/2018 – 17:45

I sell paperbacks on Amazon through Ingram at 30%. There is no extra 'fee' to Amazon. My books show as 'in stock' and they sell. As an example, yesterday I uploaded a cover change to Ingram and today it is showing on Amazon (but third-party sellers still have the old cover up).

Michelle Lovi says:

28/08/2018 – 23:54

You can't "opt out" of Amazon distribution for print books published at IngramSpark. This is only available for IngramSpark ebooks. However, if you also publish using the same ISBN at CreateSpace/KDP Print, they will get preference to supply the book ordered on Amazon.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

05/09/2018 – 19:58

Hi Michelle, this is absolutely right, thank you for bringing it to our attention! We're amending the post to reflect the correct "opting in and out" information now.

Daniel says:

05/09/2018 – 18:29

Just a quick question; Which platform shall I use to print out my own book for myself? I mean, I'd like to get around 100 books for the wholesale price for my own use. I'm based in the UK.

↪️ Reedsy replied:

05/09/2018 – 18:30

I can personally recommend CPI in the UK: http://www.cpi-print.com/

↪️ Daniel replied:

05/09/2018 – 18:44

Thank you very much. Just sent them a quote.

↪️ Victoria replied:

20/08/2019 – 01:57

Lulu.xpress.com does beautiful printing on very good paper (in "standard" and even better on "premium" at very low cost, and is blissfully user-friendly to work with. Beware tho - plain "lulu.com" is totally different. If you just want books for yourself, or to sell to bookstores yourself, go to xpress.lulu.com, NOT lulu.com, that one is a nightmare.

Whatisgoingon says:

20/09/2018 – 17:50

I am wary of Amazon. My first novel went live in e-book and printed formats through KDP. On my Facebook page I had eight people who purchased the printed 6x9 tradebook through Amazon wanting me to sign it. I check with my stats and it says I have sold only five paperbacks. I email them with the discrepancy and they say, "No. our records are right." How do we know? They control everything in the process and we have to take their word for it. It would take nothing to add a bit of code that skims off a few books for their added profit. E-books are generally about 1 mb in size and cost close to nothing to host and send off. Amazon also has a eight dollar fee that they tack on that for electronically dispersing our funds. I see this all as a recipe for disaster.

↪️ Jill R. replied:

06/03/2019 – 23:59

Amazon is so netorious for writing the problem off. I despise working with them but have to at my job,

↪️ Victoria replied:

20/08/2019 – 02:04

I hate Amazon for so many reasons. They robe authors and publishers alike, and ge away with it as all the millionaires do. This is Trump's new "Great Amemrica." It's great for all greediest and richest few people, but not so great for decent people) What I hate most about Amazon is that when you go there with the plan to buy a new book, they immediately try to sell you a USED copy dirt cheap. This means they get that money, whatever it is, and the author gets NOTHING. This is an outrage, and unethical, but legal. It;s just WRONG to do that, when 99.5 % of any good authors never make any actual profit by writing.

LDianeWolfe says:

01/10/2018 – 13:45

Another option is Lightning Source (also Ingram) if you fall into the category of small publisher by publishing others' books. There is no set up fee, no revision fee, and the first year distribution is free.

AMartin123 says:

31/12/2018 – 22:33

..

Diane Frances Elliott says:

08/05/2019 – 12:28

I am both traditional and self published. I just received my first shipment of books from Ingram. They are exactly as we designed them an are beautiful.

↪️ Denise replied:

07/11/2019 – 23:37

I have been with Ingram Spark (I started when they were Lightning Source) and I haven't experienced any of thr issues I've read here. I'm very happy with Ingram Spark. I have actually won two book awards and the criteria includes design & print quality.

Diane Frances Elliott says:

08/05/2019 – 12:28

I'm new to this. Just published with Ingram and finding my way.

Tesia Blackburn says:

11/05/2019 – 15:24

I've had great experiences at Ingram. I've published two books with them and I'm very happy with the results. True, the learning curve is steep but the quality of the book is great. I opted to use a professional book designer after I did the rough first draft. The pro only cost me $100 and was well worth the effort. The book looks and feels great. I've had tons of compliments on both books. They sell on Amazon and through Ingram's distribution network and I get royalties every month. What more could I ask for? Check out the listing on Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/Tesia-Blackburn/e/B00FITAL3O

↪️ Theresa Norris replied:

08/06/2019 – 10:20

Can you share your book designer contact information? Your books look wonderful! I am beginning a new project and hope to imporve on my first! Thanks Theresa Davis Norris, Our Family, LULU PUBLISHING

↪️ Denise replied:

07/11/2019 – 23:38

I am also very pleased.

Joanne Koenig-Macko says:

14/05/2019 – 10:34

I published a 6x9 book with Book Baby last Fall and was very pleased. My ink is not glossy as was described here. The cover is amazing in gloss. For an extra fee, they got the book to all the major distributors and provide a website for your client to order from where you get a higher percentage back than anything sold on Amazon. The ISBN code was the least expensive. I have to wait 90 days to get paid from any books sold on Amazon published through Book Baby and no way of knowing what Amazon actually sold so that's confusing. I was lucky to have my own editor, a friend to format it, and my artist son design the cover which saved a me a fortune. If the book is not sent in the right way, it will be rejected. I had many illustrations/photos in it which caused a lot of problems at first to make sure they were formatted properly. Also found out that if I convert this to an e-book, it won't convert because too many photos in it would take too long to upload? The hardest part for me is getting the book to readers.. the marketing end. Once your clients buy from you or Amazon, it's figuring out how to get them to new readers.

Sarah Fletcher says:

30/06/2019 – 13:58

Thank you for a very helpful article. I'm putting together a short story collection. My main concern is that I also illustrate, so I have done cover illustrations for each story and wanted to include these cover pages throughout the book - that is, it would be more visual than your average short story collection. So based on the advice in your article, I should go with Blurb to get these images printed nicely. I have used Blurb before for poetry books, just for myself or for gifts so far. I have had a fair bit of trouble with their formatting rules both times - I follow the instructions as closely as possible, and still end up with blank pages at the start and end of the book, and their customer service doesn't seem to be able to guide me on how to avoid this. I want to have the book mainly available as an ebook, with print on demand hard copies available, but I also want to get a small batch of hard copies printed for myself to give as gifts to my Patreon patrons and friends and family. Based on the previous cost of getting single copies, I wouldn't be able to afford the number of copies I want in this small batch. Can anyone tell me more about the volume discount? I was hoping to change to a different print on demand company for this, but it sounds like Blurb might still be best given the number of images I have in my book. I was also kind of hoping to avoid using Amazon but it sounds like avoiding Amazon basically means avoiding the best options. Has anyone printed anything containing images using KDP Print/CreateSpace before? How did it turn out?

↪️ Elizabeth Beardslee replied:

03/10/2019 – 17:47

I just received my proof copy of a short photo book from Amazon KDP. After fighting with their poor formatting instructions for a few days, it was a perfection. Every page of the copy was "miscut" with uneven white margins (pages are black in background). In addition, every page had a cloud of white noise, almost like a footprint. Only the cover was as expected. I called Amazon to no avail as no one in customer service was in the least bit interested. The work that I have spent nearly a year perfecting will simply remain as a draft in Amazon KDP for eternity.

Chip Miller says:

13/07/2019 – 19:59

I have a heavily illustrated book on a Chinese martial art. I would like hardbook (a few copies for organization members) and widespread digital and paperback distribution. It seems that using Blurb to publish would be the best first step. Is it possible to take the book after it is published and then have KDF handle distribution and POD? Thanks for your help and insight. This blog was a splendid find.

Victoria S Wright says:

15/07/2019 – 19:12

What are "doublons?" Assuming this is a typo in the article??

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

16/07/2019 – 08:34

Haha, a typo indeed. Now corrected — thanks, Victoria.

Luci M. says:

27/07/2019 – 13:39

I am having an absolutely terrible experience with Blurb. I chose them originally because of their focus on books with illustrations/photos. The first book I had printed with them was great, so I submitted another book and a slightly revised edition of the first. The second book I did had ink-spotted pages in about 80% of the books I ordered, and a greyish tinge to the cover. But the second edition of the first book is a real nightmare. The margins range from 1/16-3/16 off and the rabbit on the cover (same file as first book with only a word added) has pink-tinged fur. Overall the books look extremely amateurish and unprofessional. Blurbs response to my concerns was to tell me problems with printing POD books cannot be changed due to the process. I knew that wasn't true; I've used other POD publishers willing to correct their errors in printing. Blurb did reprint my orders, and the book quality was even worse! Note, this second edition has the same layout and is very little changed from the first. Even the page count is the same. So I know they CAN print this book interior and cover correctly, but are so far refusing to do so, although they admit the problems are printing errors, not my errors.

zylstra says:

12/08/2019 – 04:19

Uh ... Lulu?

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

12/08/2019 – 09:09

A Lulu review is coming real soon!

Sylvia Saxon says:

18/08/2019 – 00:28

Thanks for this article. For years I used CreateSpace though Amazon. It was easy and seamless to publish through them. I bragged and voluntarily promoted them to anyone who would listen. THEN the changed the Kindle platform and Createspace went away. I HATE the new format. This is why I found this article. I would love to find a POD publisher that ISN"T KIndle.

Victoria says:

20/08/2019 – 01:34

I wonder why you do not mention Lulu.com? They do good printing and production, reasonable (but not cheap) distribution to Ingram and Amazon. But have a really screwed-up uploader/wizard which wasted a ton pf my time. I also tried BLURB and was horrified at the printing job they did. My proof copy had the first 8 pages of the PDF file simply missing! The book's first page was the 9th page of the file (I didn't even know that was possible to do to a PDF) and they added 8 blank pages at the back of the book. Crazy. Also, the cover was falling off, and there were globs of glue at the seams, and the paper they use is very thin and cheap. No way I will send a book of mine out into the world like that. I wrote to complain, they made me prove it by sending them scans and shots of all, and resend the file, still they would not refund any part of my cost. I would NEVER recommend Blurb to anyone! A printer must be RELIABLE above all else!

MD Muller says:

05/09/2019 – 14:36

Useful article. I am using KDP but am looking for alternatives, unfortunately, amazon have virtually cornered the market

Bee says:

09/09/2019 – 11:13

I want to self-publish, but don't want to risk the "returnable". Money's tight when you're trying to make money! Would the best route be to try to go through a traditional publishing house? I'm split between the two... Anyone ever have any issues with returned books?

Deezy says:

11/09/2019 – 20:25

I respect the author's opinion on this matter, but feel to add one topic not covered in this article - print quality, specifically with book covers. Amazon's prints are inferior to others I have used on this list, and some not on this list, such as Lulu.com. While their prices are low and their delivery time is great, their printed covers tend to curl up after one or two reads, and my customers view this as a sign of cheaply done print job. Just one person's opinion.

↪️ Denise replied:

07/11/2019 – 23:41

I've never had this issue with Ingram Spark. I highly recommend th em for books with mainly text and those with images.

Clay Clarkson says:

16/10/2019 – 22:25

What about retail price control on Amazon? With KDP, Amazon determines what price our book will sell. They are currently discounting one of our best selling titles by 30% off retail. That devalues our book. As I understand it, though, if I use AmazonAdvantage I can control the price of our books. So I'm considering using IngramSpark for all printing, and AmazonAdvantage for Amazon sales. Would that kind of strategy make sense, or am I missing something? I'm not sure what the net return comparisons between AA and KDP sales would be. Thanks for any input your might be able to provide.

Lauren says:

22/10/2019 – 22:50

I haven't seen this option addressed--what if we want to sell a non-fiction POD book and ebook from our website ONLY (unlike most people), so don't need/want Amazon, distribution, bookstores, etc.?? Can we opt out of all those things, and just have a company print and drop ship the book when ordered, and send out the ebook file when ordered, WITHOUT making them available or seen anywhere else? Preferably a seamless, integrated process (API) on our website so customers put in their payment and shipping info (probably on our website and not the printer's), then hit "Order," and it looks like we are handling everything but the order actually goes directly to the printer to fulfill without our involvement. Obviously the printer would need to take a cut for printing, shipping, and handling (maybe charge an account we set up there if we instead of they are collecting the customer's payment). And same if they handle the ebook sales for us. So they could take a cut of sales but maybe it would be less than if they were also handling distribution? Let me know if anyone has done this or if anyone has recommendations of companies in the U.S. that could do this at a decent price (with a quick author proof and with good customer services in case there are difficulties).

↪️ ken replied:

06/12/2019 – 05:53

Hi Lauren, Your idea is a great one - have you had any luck finding out if what you seek exists? If so, please share with me?!!! Ken

April D Brown says:

11/11/2019 – 04:50

I'm just so confused about where to start with KDP. I must be missing something in terms of publishing something that I want physically printed. All I see on the site is that they offer print on demand for publishers. Then you can click on the createspace link but your only option is to enter an email for a previous account. I can't get into my old one and I don't see a place to create a new one. I just want an easy to use self publish site that will print physical copies, and not screw me over financially. I also want it to be easy to purchase online. Any advice or direction is appreciated.

↪️ Ebony Love replied:

26/11/2019 – 19:05

KDP is connected to your Amazon account. If you have an Amazon account, you can just sign in to KDP with your Amazon credentials. If you do not have an Amazon account, then you can create one. Once you are logged in, THEN you can try to connect to your old CreateSpace account and import your books. Just go to kdp.com and look on the right side of the page. The difference that may be confusing is that CreateSpace, while owned by Amazon, was run as a separate company. KDP is integrated into the Amazon experience. If you have Amazon, you have KDP.

Shirley Whitney says:

12/11/2019 – 17:09

KDP has not been as helpful in resolving issues as Createspace was. Although you say that their software is the same, I have updated books previously accepted and printed by Createspace with the exact same formats and have had their screeners reply with changes needed to the formats. All of Amazon's POD has language limits. For instance, they will not do a new publish or even a re-publish of a book in Chinese. I have to carefully examine each book ordered and often find issues of either ink problems or skewed pages. I often wonder what customers who order directly from KDP get. When I send pics of misprints they do give me refunds and sometimes ask for the misprints to be returned. For that they email me a prepaid postal label. I do appreciate this article. We've been looking for other POD options, but the ones we have looked at come with reviews that make KDP look "normal". It makes me wonder if it is the technology that is inadequate or the people running it. Automation seems to have its limits!

alice han says:

20/12/2019 – 00:48

I love your suggestion after I read through your analysis to chose my final sale service and pod service. thank you very much ( that is to work with BookBabys Support Team , to use Amzon and Non-Amazon Stores , both KDP and IngramSpark for distribution but do not use Amazon expanded distribution definitely!)

alice han says:

20/12/2019 – 00:51

it is a clear well done analysis !

Lynn says:

26/12/2019 – 05:44

I'm confused on all of these if you actually have to give them money up front. I have published literary fiction with university presses, but i'm interesting in self publishing a wood fire cookbook memoir and another carnivore cookbook. i would have a lot of pictures in both. not sure the best company...

DIANA L. HOLMLUND says:

02/01/2020 – 00:59

Print-on-demand information shared is invaluable, in particular, the charts allowing comparison. The blog has done the "leg-work" which would have required days of research. Kudos are in order.

Loren Moss says:

17/02/2020 – 20:20

This is good information. I have worked as an editor for years and have worked in publishing houses as well as published directly using Createspace & Amazon which I think are just fine. Now I am editing professional industry reports that need to be perfect bound and drop shipped. They don't need to (and shouldn't) go through the traditional book distribution channel or be sold through public channels. I am trying to find a POD service where I can place (or have the client place) orders from 1-100 or so books at a time and have them drop shipped. There is no price per book, so no royalty. I guess what I am saying is I need print-on-demand rather than publish-on-demand. Any ideas? Thanks.

↪️ Martin Cavannagh replied:

18/02/2020 – 10:14

That's a bit complex. You can get a small private run from a local short-run printer, but you're unlikely to find services that will give you a decent per-unit price if you were to order 10 copies (or even 100). I read this from a few years ago, which might help: https://selfpublishingadvice.org/short-run-printers-vs-print-on-demand/

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