CreateSpace Or IngramSpark? POD Pros & Cons + Cost Comparison

I hear a lot of chatter (often uninformed or misinformed) about POD (print on demand) services being offered to self-publishing/independent authors by a growing number of service providers.





Ultimately, the author contemplating self-/indie publishing wants to know:

  • Which one is best?
  • Which one is the best fit for me?
  • Which one will give me the best ROI (return on investment); i.e., make me the most money?

This blog provides a quick overview in response to these questions.

Why am I an authority? I have been a POD publishing consultant since 2007, back when Lightning Source (a division of Ingram Book Company) was the go-to outfit for savvy indie authors. (Even the Big Five in New York use Lightning Source when they need a quick turnaround for printing a hot seller.)

I later formed Wigeon Publishing and continued to use LSI because it offered the best pricing, options, and ROI. Even when Amazon’s CreateSpace (formerly On Demand Publishing) muscled into this arena, I continued to recommend Lightning Source to the authors I worked with (due to the quality of printing and lower pricing) over any other service.

However, things have changed, Lightning Source-parent Ingram created IngramSpark (reduced the set-up fee but increased the printing cost) to go head-to-head with CreateSpace. After a close examination of the options, I have been recommending CreateSpace as the first and best choice for self-published/independent authors using POD, followed by IngramSpark as the second option. In some cases, using a combination of both services offers a broader range of trim sizes, formats, and distribution options for authors.

I know some authors want it simple: a one-stop-shop. That’s fine. But just remember, there is no free lunch, the hyperbole notwithstanding. I do NOT recommend any of the other publishing services (except one, see below under Bottom Line), primarily because they offer abysmal ROI and hidden costs, and they use hard-sell tactics to convince naïve authors to purchase expensive packages while making unrealistic promises with regard to distribution, marketing, and so-called “royalties.” Horror stories abound.

Below I detail the pros & cons of CreateSpace and IngramSpark, and I compare the costs involved and the financial return (publisher compensation) for the  self-pub author.

Note: The prices quoted below are subject to change in 2017, but the relative differences between CS and IS are likely to remain about the same. The figures cited below do not include handling or shipping fees, or sales tax. Printer layouts require the page count to be a multiple of 2; remember to include pages for title, copyright, acknowledgments, dedication, author profile, etc.



  • You can be the publisher, or you can designate CS as the publisher (not recommended).
  • Author can provide own ISBN and imprint (recommended).
  • No set-up fee, if author supplies interior and cover layouts (2 PDF files).
  • No annual fee.
  • Author may buy copies of book for the cost of printing.
  • Sell directly to Amazon (40 percent discount), eliminating the distributor/middleman; (i.e., you make more money).
  • Expanded distribution (beyond Amazon) through Lightning Source.
  • Reasonable shipping costs — CreateSpace shipping costs are markedly lower than IngramSpark
  • Excellent customer service.
  • Pays author/publisher 60 days after sale (IngramSpark pays after 90 days).


  • Format limited to paperback books; does not offer hardback options.
  • Book must have at least 128 pages to have title printed on the spine.
  • Expanded distribution through Lightning Source/Ingram, resulting in price discounted by 60% (standard industry wholesale discount is 55%), making margins thin, at best; i.e., if your retail price is not high enough to generate even a tiny profit, CS will not let you use this option.
  • Does not allow returns (one of the reasons bookstores refuse to stock books printed/published through CreateSpace).
  • No discounts for bulk purchases.
  • Charges sales tax whether author/publisher has a resale certificate or not.

Fixed Charges (base price, no quantity discounts)

  • Paperback book (6×9), 110-828 pages   $0.85 per book, plus $0.012 per page
    Total, 250-page book               $3.85

Sales revenue (it is NOT a royalty if you are the publisher):

  • Trade paperback, $14.95 retail price
    You get:
    eStore – $8.11
    Amazon – $5.12
    Expanded Distribution – $2.13

Optional services:

  • editing — $0.012/word (75,000 words = $900)
  • cover design
    • support          $  99 (to make file meet submission requirements)
    • custom           $399
    • premier          $599
  • interior design
    • support          $149 (to make file meet submission requirements)
    • simple            $199
    • custom          $349
  • Kindle file conversion
    • basic              $  79
    • complex         $139
    • kids’ book      $149

(Note: prices as of January 2016; Price Calculator.)


ingramspark_logo2xIngramSpark (Lightning Source lite)

 With IngramSpark, you are the publisher. You own all the rights, you keep 100% of the profit. IngramSpark (spinoff of Lightning Source) is owned by Ingram Book Company, the powerhouse book wholesaler/distributor, and the book is immediately available to retailers worldwide. (Lightning Source also offers offset printing for large orders, which can reduce printing costs.) Compared to CreateSpace, IngramSpark offers much less hand-holding and customer service has longer response times.


  • You are the publisher (IS is a book printing service, not a book publisher).
  • Offers two hardback options: case laminate and cloth with dust jacket.
  • Will print title on the spine of books with as few as 80 pages.
  • Wide range of trim sizes and format options.
  • Author may buy copies of book for the cost of printing.
  • Distribution through industry powerhouse Ingram to retailers and libraries.
  • Discounts for bulk purchases.
  • Does not charge sales tax if author/publisher has a resale certificate.
  • Author may include book in Ingram catalog ($60 fee).
  • Allows returns (one of the requirements of bookstores to stock a book), but will assess a hefty penalty/fee for returned books. The author/publisher has the option of accepting returns and have the book destroyed, in which case the return fee will not be assessed, but the author/publisher still pays for the cost of printing the book.


  • Set-up fees (and revision fees).
  • Annual fee.
  • Author must provide print-ready cover and interior layouts (PDF files).
  • Author must provide ISBN.
  • Does not offer editing or design services, although it does have “Friends” that it will refer authors to upon request.
  • Distribution through Ingram, inserting a middleman that takes an additional 15% off the top (standard industry discount of 55%; you can choose a smaller discount, but bookstores are unlikely to stock it because it reduces the profit margin).
  • Shipping costs are markedly higher than CreateSpace.
  • Customer service lackluster at best, and can be frustrating.
  • Pays author/publisher 90 days after sale (CreateSpace pays after 60 days).

 Fees and printing charges:

  • Setup:             $49 (for each edition, softcover/hardcover;
    revisions $25 per interior or cover file)
  • Annual:         $12

 Fixed Charges (base price, quantity discounts available)

  • Paperback book (6×9)             $0.99 per book, plus ~$0.0144/page
    Total, 250 pages                       $4.60 per book (discount for large orders)
  • Casebound  (6×9)                     $6.60 per book, plus ~$0.0122 per page
    Total, 250 pages                       $9.65 per book (discount for bulk purchases)
  • Cloth bound w/dust jacket (6×9) $8.31 per book, plus ~$0.0115 per page
    Total, 250 pages                       $11.19 per book (discount for large orders)

Sales revenue (publisher compensation) = 100% of net receipts (55% wholesale discount to distributor):

  • Trade paperback (6×9), $14.95 retail price
    You get:                             $2.13
  • Casebound (6×9), $24.95 retail price
    You get:                             $1.58
  • Cloth cover w/dust jacket (6×9), $28.95 retail price
    You get:                             $1.84

IngramSpark periodically has a special offer: free setup w/order of 50 or more books.

Optional services:     Ebook conversion        contact for pricing

(Note: prices as of February 2016; Publisher Compensation Calculator quotes a slightly lower printing cost than the published Products & Services Pricing.)

ROI comparison, Create Space versus IngramSpark

This comparison assumes the project is DIY (do it yourself) for a 250-page trade paperback book, trim size 6×9, retail price: $14.95:

Books sold by Amazon (likely to be 90% or more of your retail sales)

Setup Fee      Annual Fee    Cost/Bk         You get (profit)

Create Space     $00                $00              $3.85              $5.12
IngramSpark     $49               $12               $4.60              $2.13 (minus % of fees)

Books sold on the open market (bookstores)

Setup Fee      Annual Fee    Cost/Bk         You get (profit)

Create Space    $0.00             $0.00            $3.85             $2.13
IngramSpark     $49                $12                $4.60             $2.13  (minus % of fees)

Advantages of CreateSpace

  • Distribution directly to Amazon at 40% off list price.
  • No set-up fee (if you provide your own interior and cover layouts).
  • No annual fee.
  • Printing and shipping costs lower than IngramSpark.
  • Significantly higher sales revenue for books sold through Amazon.
  • Customer service markedly better than IngramSpark.

Advantages of IngramSpark

  • Distribution through Ingram; opens market to virtually all bookstores and libraries.
  • Printing quality may be better than Amazon (subjective judgment).
  • Offers hardcover books (CS does not).
  • Offers more trim (physical size) options than CS.
  • Direct access to Espresso Book Machine (being installed by Barnes & Noble).

Bottom Line

For the newbie book publisher, begin with CreateSpace and use the Extended Distribution option. If you want a hardback edition or better broad-market distribution, add IngramSpark. You can use both of them simultaneously, same ISBN for paperback, separate ISBN for hardback. I do not recommend any other POD publishing service, other than Mill City Press.

Additional Resources

To learn more, or for a cost estimate on preparing/managing your book for publication, contact:

Larry Edwards

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Veterans: You Were Making History…We Thank You

Excerpts from a speech at the dedication of the 20th Maine Monuments at Gettysburg, October 3, 1889.

Emerging Civil War

veterans day 2016

Emerging Civil War extends a sincere “thank you” to military veterans for their service.

You have or are currently defending freedom and justice. You keep America safe. We honor your commitment to keeping the Stars and Stripes flying. Thank you!

“A quarter of a century ago…you were doing what you deemed your duty. Today you come with modest main, with care more for truth than for praise, to retrace and record the simple facts…

“You were making history. The world has recorded for you more than you have written. The centuries to come will share and recognize…with growing gratitude…

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Violent Loss Resources Newsletter, November 2016

Reblogging this important newsletter related to violent loss . . .

Survivors of Violent Loss

Topic of the Month
Long-Term Consequences

It ain’t over when it’s over!

Survivor families look forward to getting their lives back to normal when sentencing has taken place or the case is on hold or solved in different way.  When time becomes more of their own design and not controlled by steps in the justice process many realize their normal world has changed.   They  may experience: continued involvement with  criminal justice, health problems that demand notice, intense imagery  that seems to come from nowhere,  angry outbursts surprise them, increased fear of crime and safety issues for themselves,  family  and friends, relationship changes,  career changes, loss of faith, social isolation, family dysfunction and more.  The time to pay attention to the emotional toll is now front and center.

Bravoharrier-1. It’s a topic that needs to be discussed more, because the conventional attitude has always been “get over it.” But mental…

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Violent Loss Resources Newsletter, October 1, 2016

Reblogging this important newsletter related to violent loss . . .

Survivors of Violent Loss

Violent Loss Resources Newsletter, October 1, 2016

  • Topic of the Month:  Victim Impact, Justice & Unsolved Cases
  • Question of the Month: What mistake do you want to help others avoid?
  • News:  Hotline/Chatline crime victim centered and trauma informed
  •  Resource of the Month: Crime Stoppers
  • Inspiration: Kaila Quote

Topic of the Month:
Victim Impact, Justice & Unsolved Cases

One thing we are certain of … anyone who has lost a loved-one, and then goes through  a criminal trial, whether it is a death-penalty case or not, knows that, in the end, there are no winners, no closure, no “happy endings.” What was done can never be undone … (Valeria)


Today, judges  are compelled by law to give co-victims an opportunity to address the court. All states guarantee the right for those who have been most affected by a crime to present a written or oral statement in…

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Book Review: Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife Offers Hope and Inspiration

wounded_warriorIn Wounded Warrior, Wounded Wife: Not Just Surviving But Thriving, by Barbara K. McNally, you will meet wives and partners who drew upon their inner resiliencies and prevailed when faced with daunting challenges. Each of these military spouses shares an intimate tale of reuniting, recovering, and rebuilding with her catastrophically wounded warrior.

This is not only a good read, it is a hard read. These stories punched me in the gut and left me reaching for the Kleenex. But don’t let that scare you off.

This collection of intimate, personal stories unmasks the untold story of the aftermath of war on the home front. It examines in heartrending detail the seemingly insurmountable challenges families may face when their loved ones return from the war zone bearing deep emotional as well as physical scars.

Barbara McNally has given a tremendous gift not only to those who have served or continue to serve in the military, but to society at large. Everyone should read this unapologetic book to fully comprehend the true toll of war that continues long after the battles have ended—and to see how these resilient wives and partners ultimately offer hope and inspiration to us all.

Full disclosure: I’m one of the editors of this book, and I worked with Barbara over the past few years to bring it to fruition. One of the reasons I agreed to work with her is because this is such an important issue. I derive no financial benefit from book sales.

The book is available in hardback, paperback and as an ebook.

Barbara also is the author of the poignant memoir Unbridled.

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UK Vanity Publishers Austin Macauley & Pegasus in Horrible Bait-And-Switch

Rebloggng comments of David Gaughran.

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Book Review: “Eden” Fresh Spin on “Intelligent Design.”

eden-martin-roy-hill“If this is Paradise, how bad could Hell be?”

Summary: In Eden: A Sci-Fi Novella by Martin Roy Hill, an American army patrol is sent to investigate ancient ruins in Iraq. When an enemy mortar shell blasts an opening into a hidden burial chamber, Captain Adam Cadman and his soldiers take refuge deep in the ruins.  What they find hidden inside threatens to destroy every belief about the beginnings of mankind — as well as modern civilization as we know it.

I enjoyed this and recommend it highly. Well written, imaginative, gives one pause for thought — and puts a fresh spin on so-called “intelligent design.”


Martin Roy Hill website:

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