THE BEST PLACE TO PUBLISH A PRINT-ON-DEMAND BOOK
For 10 years, I have heartily recommended CreateSpace for self-publishing a paperback book.
But now if you visit CreateSpace, you will be directed elsewhere.
So what is the best place for print-on-demand now?
The two major options are Amazon KDP and Ingram Spark. There are a couple of other options, such as Lulu and BookBaby.
Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is Amazon’s original self-publishing service.
Although it used to be exclusively for Kindle eBooks, it has recently expanded to offer paperbacks.
It has also evolved so that it either matches or surpasses CreateSpace in the most significant ways.
CreateSpace didn’t disappear. Rather, CreateSpace simply merged with KDP.
KDP’s paperbacks print on the same facilities used by CreateSpace.
You get the same quality with KDP as you could expect from CreateSpace.
Since KDP is Amazon’s company, KDP is the natural feed for Amazon sales, and most indie authors sell the vast majority of their books on Amazon.
KDP lets you self-publish for FREE. (But I do recommend investing in one printed proof before publishing.) KDP’s main competitor, Ingram Spark, charges a setup fee.
KDP is also the most convenient option. When you finish self-publishing your paperback, you can self-publish a Kindle eBook edition with the same publishing service.
The distribution is slightly better with KDP than it was with CreateSpace (now that KDP added Canada distribution and Expanded Distribution, and is expanding to other countries like Australia, Japan, and Mexico—actually, I already sold a book in Japan).
KDP offers a free ISBN option.
You can now advertise paperbacks on Amazon by publishing with KDP.
As with CreateSpace, the free Expanded Distribution channel will get your book into the Ingram catalog, and if you use the free ISBN option you may get into Baker & Taylor.
The royalties are the same (except for sales in Europe for books under 100 pages).
Authors based in Europe can now have proofs printed from the UK or continental Europe instead of in the states.
If an author was looking forward to using CreateSpace, in principle KDP should seem just as compelling.
For most authors, I recommend checking out KDP’s print option first.
Ingram Spark and KDP are the two main print-on-demand companies.
Ingram has been a major distributor in the publishing business for decades and the Ingram catalog is famous in the publishing industry.
Ingram does charge a setup fee, and you may spend more ordering proofs or author copies (depending).
Some successful illustrated children’s authors who self-publish sell hardcovers well. For a print-on-demand hardcover, I recommend Ingram Spark.
(If you just want hardcover author copies and don’t need to sell them print-on-demand, another option is Nook Express. Note that Barnes & Noble’s Nook Express doesn’t currently offer print-on-demand with distribution; it’s currently for ordering author copies. However, Nook Express has been growing and expanding recently, so perhaps this will change in the future.)
A few indie authors who thoroughly research how to format their books with stores in mind, how to prepare an effective PR kit, and how to approach bookstores in person effectively may find it beneficial to self-publish with Ingram Spark. Most indie authors struggle with bookstore sales unless they sell author copies in person to local stores, in which case you could have these printed at KDP. But if you’re among the few who can get bookstores (and other types of stores that sell books, which can be valuable) to order directly from Ingram’s catalog, you might be able to set a discount to help with this (they could order from Ingram through KDP’s Expanded Distribution, too, but there you can’t control the discount).
Authors who aren’t based in the US and who expect significant sales in certain countries through Ingram’s distribution channels might benefit from Ingram Spark.
These are a few examples where Ingram Spark’s print-on-demand option makes sense compared to KDP.
Though I will say, in general, Ingram seems attractive with its potential distribution. But getting into the catalog is the easy part. Getting stores to order through those distribution channels is the hard part. Even KDP will get you into the Ingram catalog through the Expanded Distribution option. And if you’re worried about KDP’s imprint name showing as Independently Published, simply buying your own ISBN from Bowker (in the US at least) will solve that problem (and let you create your own imprint name).
BookBaby is an interesting option for both print-on-demand paperbacks and for eBooks.
BookBaby has a big advantage for authors who are already planning to invest a significant amount of money on a variety of publishing services, such as formatting or editing.
Among eBook aggregators and distributors, BookBaby also stands out in terms of its Kindle offering (with a KDP Select option).
I generally encourage new self-published authors to try to learn formatting on their own and to keep their overall publishing costs to a minimum. You have no way of knowing whether you will sell enough copies to recover your costs, and many new books don’t sell particularly well, so it makes sense not to risk too much when starting out.
Also, if you wind up publishing several books, and most successful indie authors do, think of how much you could save in the long run by learning how to do some of the work, like formatting, on your own.
However, if you do need to hire professional services, BookBaby offers a variety of paid services in addition to what appear to be competitive distribution options.
BookBaby also posts a satisfaction guarantee on their website.
I featured an inspirational story on author Cheryl Holt on my blog last year. Cheryl is one example of a top author using BookBaby. (But of course, there are no guarantees that you will have success, regardless of how you choose to publish. My example just shows that it can be done.)
Another print-on-demand option which has been around for years is Lulu. You might find Lulu to be more expensive for a typical paperback, but you might also discover some publishing options at Lulu that are hard to find elsewhere. For example, suppose you wish to order author copies with spiral binding.
If you were among the few authors who could have benefited by directing customers to the CreateSpace eStore, Lulu or BookBaby’s BookShop may be of interest to you (but you may have to use BookBaby for all of your distribution channels, and you may need a minimum investment to publish with BookBaby).
Write Happy, Be Happy
Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides