Maximize Your Print-on-Demand (POD) Book Distribution

When it comes to print-on-demand (POD) book distribution, two paths exist for most self-published authors: going direct to Amazon through CreateSpace or using Ingram's POD distribution (either through Lightning Source or IngramSpark). While both have their pros and cons, taking advantage of the best parts of each one can increase your royalties significantly.

How the "Trade Discount" Factors into Book Royalties

Before calculating your book royalties from POD distribution, you have to first determine what the trade discount will be and how it affects your royalties. The trade discount is the percentage of the retail price paid to the distributor and retailer for selling your book.

Ingram's POD platform allows for a trade discount anywhere between 20 percent to 55 percent of the retail price, although anything less than 55 percent makes it unlikely that your book will even have a chance of getting carried by brick-and-mortar retailers. CreateSpace's POD platform gives Amazon a 40 percent trade discount and gives all other retailers a 60 percent trade discount. Read our trade discount page to learn more.

Book Royalties from POD Distribution

Assume you have a 200-page 6x9 paperback with a black-and-white interior and a glossy cover that retails for $14.99. Taking print costs into account, the profit breakdown for this book would look something like this:


POD Distribution Platform

Print Cost*

Royalty from Amazon**

Royalty from Other Retailers***





(55% trade discount)




*The cost to print each book is deducted from the retail price (in addition to the trade discount) to determine overall profit.
**Does not account for individual publisher printing markups or royalty splits with the author.
***"Other Retailers" include Barnes & Noble (in-store and online) and other online and offline retailers.

The only way to maximize your royalties is to distribute through both the CreateSpace and Ingram platforms.

The Advantages of POD Distribution through Ingram

If you set a viable trade discount, you'll make more in royalties through Ingram's POD platform for sales everywhere other than on Amazon. Some believe that Ingram's print quality is better than CreateSpace's, thus justifying the extra $0.61 per copy (in the above example).

Also, CreateSpace's "expanded distribution" is actually the Ingram distribution platform, but with a 5 percent upcharge and without the option of a returns program. Books that aren’t "returnable" by a retailer have an almost zero chance of seeing a bookstore shelf.

With Ingram, you have a shot at getting into brick-and-mortar stores by enrolling in a returns program and taking advantage of a 55 percent wholesale discount option. Since CreateSpace doesn't offer a returns program, it's highly unlikely you could convince a bookstore to carry a book distributed exclusively through CreateSpace.

The Advantages of POD Distribution through CreateSpace

You can make significantly higher royalties from Amazon sales through the CreateSpace platform than you would using just Ingram. This is the most important advantage. A second advantage is title availability. Books listed on CreateSpace never have availability issues. Some POD books distributed by Ingram on Amazon go through periods of being listed as "out of stock" on Amazon, despite the fact that the books are in theory always available since they're POD.

Since Amazon is the go-to buying option for so many readers, you'll want to make sure your book is always available. Distributing through CreateSpace specifically for Amazon sales makes this possible, with the added benefit of lower printing costs and higher royalties.

Maximizing Your POD Distribution Options with CreateSpace and Ingram

To get the best royalties and make your book as widely available as possible, you'll want your POD book distributed through both the CreateSpace and Ingram platforms. But this is where things get a little complicated. You'll need separate cover files, each with the appropriate spine width—and with differences in paper thickness. Each company has its own specifications.

You may need to make other adjustments to your files, too, if your specs aren't available on CreateSpace. Ingram offers more printing options, including hardcover, which can affect what you're able to put through CreateSpace. You'll also need to go through the title setup and proofing process for each platform.

Once you start selling books, you'll have to manage sales reports from both CreateSpace and Ingram, and working through two different platforms simultaneously can be a hassle.

How Mill City Press Helps

We know how important it is to maximize your book royalties, which is why we offer a unique service among self-publishing companies: print-on-demand distribution through both Ingram and CreateSpace. We take care of any necessary file adjustments to make sure they're compatible with both platforms, set your title up on both sites, and compile sales reports from both companies, so you only need to log in to one place to view them.

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