by Gini Graham Scott

Author of 150+ Plus Books

Including Self-Publishing Secrets: How to Write, Publish, and Market a Best-Seller or Use Your Book to Build Your Business

by Gini Graham Scott


            Unless you are using a book packager or hybrid publisher, the major options for self-publishers are CreateSpace and IngramSpark for print and Kindle and an IngramSpark e-book, plus there are a few other companies that involved in e-book distribution , most notably Smashwords and Draft2Digital.

So how do you decide what to do — use some of the platforms or all of them, and what are the major considerations to help you decide?  Here I’ll discuss the different options.

Deciding Where to Publish — CreateSpace, IngramSpark, or Other Platforms


Which platform should you choose?  Should you publish a print book on CreateSpace and an e-book through Kindle or publish through IngramSpark or IngramSpark’s e-book platform.  While you can publish the print and e-book separately, say by publishing a print book through CreateSpace and an e-book through IngramSpark, more generally, you’ll publish a print and e-book with the same publishing family — CreateSpace and Kindle or IngramSpark and its epub.  Plus other e-book options include Smashwords and Draft2Digital and publishing directly on some of the e-book platforms, such as Nook, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and iTunes.

My recommendations, which is what most independent publishers do, is to publish on all of the platforms, though use a Smashwords and Draft2Digital as intermediaries for publishing on the other e-book platforms.   Otherwise, you have to set up each of these separately, and sometimes, if you only have one or a small number of books, you may not be approved for that platform.  However, there are some good reasons for publishing on CreateSpace only, which I’ll explain.

To publish on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark, you need to leave unchecked the extended distribution options for libraries and bookstores on CreateSpace.   And to publish on both Kindle and IngramSpark’s e-book platform, you can’t participate in KDP Select, where you give Kindle an exclusive option for 90 days, which is renewed for an additional 90 days after each option period ends unless you opt out.  However, you can participate in KDP Select for the first 90 days and not renew, and then you can participate in other e-book platforms.  Deciding what to do is a marketing question to be discussed in a late discussion of marketing strategies.

Following are the basic benefits of choosing different platforms.

Why Publish on CreateSpace


CreateSpace is the easiest POD platform to publish on, and it is especially designed for new authors and independent publishers who only want to publish a paperback.   You can obtain a free ISBN, which is fine if you don’t care about bookstore or library sales, since it will identify CreateSpace as the publisher wherever that ISBN is used (such as on a sale through Amazon), although  you can still put your own publishing logo on the book.  Alternatively, you can get an ISBN for $99 from CreateSpace or bring your own ISBN from Bowker, and then you will be recognized as the publisher.

Another advantage of CreateSpace is that you can choose from 30 different templates, where you can select various style, type, and color options.  In most cases, you select a photo to fit a certain format, though some templates are type only, and a few offer you the option of uploading a completed front cover, front and back cover uploaded separately, or a complete cover.  Or you can submit a PDF with the cover completed according to the book’s specs, which based on the size and number of pages.

The cost of buying your own books is also less than publishing on IngramSpark — generally about $1.50 less per copy, so you can set a lower retail, too, if you think that will help to boost sales (though if you publish on both platforms, set the same retail price for both).

Another advantage of publishing on CreateSpace is the publishing process is faster — generally one day to get an approval if you have met all of the publishing requirements, versus two to three days with IngramSpark.

A big reason to publish only on CreateSpace is if you are mainly publishing your book to promote your business or sell copies at the back of the room at presentations and workshops.  In this case, you don’t care about bookstore or library sales.  Rather, you are most interested in keeping the cost as low as possible for book giveaways or your own retail sales.  Since the quality is about the same as if you publish through IngramSpark or an independent publisher, the cost savings is a good reason for choosing this option.  For example, say a small book through CreateSpace will cost $2.15 plus shipping, while the same small book published by IngramSpark will be about $3.60 plus shipping.   If you order 100 books, you are saving about $150 on a CreateSpace book.

The ease if preparing your manuscript is another benefit. Essentially all you need to publish on CreateSpace is a completed Word or PDF document set up in the size of the book you want to publish (ie: 6”x9,” 8”x10,” or “8 ½” x 11”)  with the appropriate margins based on the number of pages (ie: .75” if under 399 pages; 1” if 400 pages or more).  Additionally, you only need the text for your back cover copy,title and sub title, description, and a photo if required by the template, plus some information to set up your account, describe  your book in more detail, and choose 5 keywords.  Once you know what you are doing, it will take you about 2-3 hours to provide the needed information and submit your book.


Why Publish on IngramSpark — and Some Challenges to Using this Platform


The key reason for publishing with IngramSpark is that this will open up library and bookstore sales that are generally not available for CreateSpace books — largely because CreateSpace only offers a 25% discount on retail purchases and no returns.  By contrast, IngramSpark offers a standard 55% discount for wholesalers and large quantity sales and 40% for smaller retail orders.  Also, book reviewers and the media are more likely to take a book published and distributed through IngramSpark more seriously, so if your book might appeal to a broad audience, that’s another good reason you want an IngramSpark publication.  Then, too, you can publish a hardcover edition with IngramSpark, and many libraries and book stores prefer to buy hardbacks, whereas CreateSpace only publishes paperbacks.

On the downside, it is more expensive to publish a paperback on IngramSpark, though there are substantial savings if you are an Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) member, which costs about $129 a year. The basic expenses, which are waived for IBPA members, are the initial account set-up fee of $49, and the $25 set up fee and $25 market access fee for each book.  Plus when you buy an ISBN for each book from Bowker, that costs $125 for one or 10 for $295; though the IBPA member discount is about 15%.

Another potential difficulty is that IngramSpark is more particular about how you submit your book interior and cover.  You have to first obtain your ISBN with information about your book, usually from Bowker, though you can buy an ISBN from IngramSpark for about $85.  In addition, you have to have a 300 dpi PDF in which all of the fonts are embedded, and ideally all of the photos in the PDF meet that standard, although lower resolution photos can still be published.

The cover standards are even more exacting.  It has to meet certain design specs, although you can generate a template for formatting your cover based on the size of your book and the number of pages, and whether it is a paperback or hardback.  Then, you have to follow that template exactly, so your design fits within the parameters provided, and no text or images overlaps into a pink border area.  Otherwise, your design will be rejected, and you have to submit it again.  So unless you are a graphic designer, you may need to hire a book cover designer to create the cover for you — which can range from about $300-1500, depending on the type of cover you want and the cost of creating the cover from scratch.

Still, if you can overcome these hurdles do want your book in bookstores and libraries, and want to increase your chances of getting reviews, definitely seek to publish your book on IngramSpark, ideally in addition to publishing on CreateSpace.


Publishing an E-Book


Increasingly, some writers are only publishing e-books, and that can be an easier, faster way to go, although you are cutting out a large percentage of readers who still like a physical book.  In fact, according to the latest Publishers Weekly for September 25, 2017, e-book sales have leveled off, while print books are increasing again.  So I don’t recommend only publishing an e-book, though you can do it.

Kindle, like CreateSpace, makes publishing an e-book very easy. After setting up your account, you only need to have a Word file, which is preferred to a PDF, though if you publish on CreateSpace first, Kindle can convert your PDF proof into a Kindle document, though you get a caution that’s it’s better to upload  your Word doc original.

Then, you just need a front cover image of your book.  If you have already published your book in CreateSpace, you can use the front cover created there.  Otherwise, create a front cover using the same format you might use for the cover of a print book.  For example, a 6”x9” format is fine, and you can create it yourself or work with a book designer. Kindle will assign you an ISBN if you don’t have one.

If you publish an e-book with IngramSpark or on other e-book platforms, you need your interior and cover to be created in an epub format.  Plus you have to set up an ISBN for an e-book.  You can go to various services to create this epub file for you, or you can create these yourself using e-book creation software, such as Calibre, which you can download for free.  This conversion of a Word doc to an epub file will usually work, although there can be some glitches, which professionals who do e-book conversions will know about.  For instance, you can’t have a series of numbers that are broken up with headers; instead you have to turn the numbersinto bullet points for Calibre to read and convert the files.


A Recommended Order for Publishing Your Books


Given the way these different publishing platforms work, I would recommend the following order.

  1. Publish on CreateSpace.  This way you can easily design your cover using one of the templates, and that can help you in setting up your cover for Kindle.  It can also be a guide for setting up your cover in IngramSpark.  You can use all of the back cover text and descriptive information you write for CreateSpace for IngramSpark, too.
  2. Publish on Kindle.  You can take the original document prepared for your CreateSpace interior and use that on Kindle, or use the PDF created through CreateSpace.  Plus CreateSpace will generate the cover you need.  Now you just have to add some account information, details about pricing and distribution, and two extra keywords on Kindle, and you are done.
  3. Publish on IngramSpark as a hardcover or paperback, using the appropriate ISBN, which you have already set up in Bowker or purchase through IngramSpark.  Start with your original Word document and use it to create a PDF designed for printing.  Instead of saving Word as a PDF or printing it as a standard PDF, print it as a PDF/X-1a2001. To do so, when you print to Adobe, go to properties and select this.  This type of PDF will embed the fonts — or if you have special fonts that can’t be embedded, choose a more common font that can be.  Then, upload that PDF to IngramSpark.  For the cover, you or a book designer can use the design created in CreateSpace as a guide to create the cover in the IngramSpark template.  It’s easiest to do this in InDesign or create the cover in Photoshop and save the final image as a PDF.  The advantage of having the CreateSpace design is you already have a design which is a timesaver, and if you work with a book designer, it will cost you much less — perhaps $25-50 to set up the design in the template, rather than $300-1500 for designing your cover from scratch.
  4. Publish on IngramSpark as a hardcover and paperback book, using the appropriate ISBN from Bowker or obtain it from Ingram Spark.  For the interior, convert your Word document into an epub file through Calibre or other software — or hire someone who does these conversions.  You can use the front cover design created through CreateSpace as a guide to create your e-book cover.  If you have already created a 300 dpi front cover for a CreateSpace template, use that.  Otherwise, use PhotoShop or a graphics designer to create your final 300dpi cover.
  5. Publish on Draft2Digital, Smashwords, or other e-book platforms. With Draft2Digital you can use your original Word document.  Smashword has special requirements for the size of the type and spacing.   Then, upload the interior files.  For the coves, you can generally use the covers you have already created for these other programs, though you may need to make some adjustments for the size of the image.



Getting an ISBN


For each version of the book you publish — hardcover, paper, and e-book — you need a different ISBN, though you can use the same ISBN for a paperback published on CreateSpace and on IngramSpark, unless you opt for the free ISBN from CreateSpace.  Otherwise, follow the prompts for setting up your book, and when you are asked, indicate that you are using your own ISBN for your book.



Selling Your Book


With CreateSpace and Kindle, once you approve the final proof, your book immediately goes on sale; with Ingram-Spark you can schedule a publication date for the future.  A future pub date can be advantage if you want to do a special book launch.   If so, allow a month or two, or even three, to get all of your PR and marketing in place.


If you do publish on multiple platforms, be sure your price is the same for each version of the print book and for both e-book versions.


As for how do you turn your book into an audio book or a course — that’s what I’ll talk about next, and then how to go about marketing and promoting your book.


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GINI GRAHAM SCOTT, Ph.D., J.D., is a nationally known writer, consultant, speaker, and seminar leader, specializing in social trends, popular business, and self-help books. She has published over 50 books with major publishers, and has published over 100 books through her company Changemakers Publishing on multiple platforms, including print, e-books, audiobooks, and online courses.  She has worked with dozens of clients on writing and publishing memoirs, self-help, business books, and film scripts, and she has helped clients self-publish on both CreateSpace and IngramSpark.  Her websites include and