(PDF files consist of an interior file and your cover file.) IngramSpark does not offer any editorial, design, and production services; you have to come prepared with your files ready to go. Visit this post for background on how to self-publish. If that’s not a possibility for you, then you’ll have to find a formal distributor who can help you, and that’s a difficult challenge for the first-time author. A key difference between IngramSpark and CreateSpace:   CreateSpace offers a   range of paid services to help you prepare printer-ready PDF files. I recommend that authors use CreateSpace to distribute their print books strictly to Amazon (do not choose their “extended” distribution), then use IngramSpark to distribute to the universe outside of Amazon (bricks-and-mortar bookstores, including Barnes & Noble, and more). The end result of using either CreateSpace and/or IngramSpark is that your print book will be available to be ordered by nearly any retailer, as a print edition, and available for sale through their online storefronts if they have one   (such as barnesandnoble.com). Working directly with online retailers usually means better profits, more control, and more access to marketing/promotion tools (but not always). Bottom line: There’s no one right way to go about it, since it depends on your time and resources, your books, and your marketing strategy. This will maximize your reach and your profits from each sale. Today, the most important thing any author needs to know about distribution is that   more than half of all book sales (regardless of format) take place online. IBPA has some recommendations of who to approach. These files are   required to make a   print edition of your book available and on sale through retailers. Print-on-demand printing means that your book isn’t printed   until someone orders and pays for it; when an order comes through, one copy will be printed and shipped to the customer. Photo credit: The City of Toronto   / CC BY
Note from Jane:   This post is part of a 101 series on self-publishing. If not, it’s probably best to go with print on demand. As far as reaching other retailers with your print edition, it’s far better to use IngramSpark’s print-on-demand service. Working with ebook distribution services usually means giving up a percentage of your profits to the distributor, in exchange for the centralized administration and management of all your titles. There’s nothing to stop you from ordering 50 or 100 copies at a time if you want to sell books   to local or regional stores on consignment. Also think it through: If you did invest in printing 500 or 1,000 copies, do you already have customers or accounts that you know would purchase those copies? This will reduce your profit and also risk returns, but these are the industry standard terms required if you want bookstores to   place an order. You do   not have to hire an expensive self-publishing service to get your book distributed through Amazon and   other online retailers; you can secure distribution on your own   at little or no cost for both your ebook edition or print book edition. Parting advice
A self-published author can quickly get their print and ebook distributed to the most important online retailers by using just a couple services, all of which have no or very low upfront costs. Would you rather deal with each online retailer directly, or would you rather reach them through an ebook distribution service? Both services allow you to purchase copies at unit cost plus shipping. You could even choose to use two ebook distributors. This access is also largely without upfront costs, making it straightforward for any author to begin selling their book at Amazon, the No. Print-on-demand distribution
Assuming you’ll go the print-on-demand route, then you have two key distributors to consider:

IngramSpark, a division of Ingram, the largest book wholesaler/distributor in the US; distribution fees cost about $60 per title
CreateSpace, a division of Amazon; no upfront fees

Again, as with the ebook distribution decision, you don’t have to be exclusive with either. It does require buying your own ISBN numbers from Bowker—you cannot use a CreateSpace-provided ISBN with any book you want to distribute via IngramSpark. Or you could choose to distribute directly to Amazon, Apple, Kobo, and Nook (by using their do-it-yourself portals), then use Smashwords to capture the rest of the market (such as Scribd and libraries). You can also change your   mind   at any time (although not without some administration hassle and sales downtime). How to distribute when you have a print run
If you do invest in a print run and are comfortable fulfilling orders from your home or office, then you’ll need to sign up with Amazon Advantage to distribute and sell your print book through Amazon. If books are printed only when they’re ordered, that reduces your risk, but it also means that you’re probably not going to see your books sitting on bricks-and-mortar retail shelves nationwide   (or even regionally)—that’s the drawback. You can use both and benefit from both. Distribution used to be   the biggest challenge that self-published authors faced in selling their work—at least   before online retail   came to dominate bookselling. Today, the most   critical distribution is within the reach of each individual author at no cost. Don’t be fooled   by expensive self-publishing packages that claim to distribute your book to thousands of outlets. You must also pay for shipping your books to Amazon. 1 retailer of books in both print and digital format. Do you have speaking or event opportunities where you could sell them? For example, you might sign up with Pronoun (because they offer the best royalties   on Amazon ebook sales), but then add in Smashwords to get the library market that Pronoun doesn’t cover. Print book distribution
Print book distribution   is fairly straightforward if you’re making use of print-on-demand technology to print your books, rather than investing in a print run (where you produce hundreds or thousands of books at a time). It costs $99/year and they require a 55% discount off the retail price. If you really, really want to encourage bookstores to order and stock your print-on-demand book:   Make sure you use IngramSpark, and set the discount at 55%, and make the books returnable. First-time self-published authors rarely have a sufficient marketing and sales plan in place (or a sufficient track record) that would justify bookstores ordering and stocking books on their shelves. The good news is that you don’t have to choose between working directly with online retailers and using ebook distributors, since it’s rare for any distributor to demand exclusivity. Some ebook distributors can also reach outlets you can’t on your own, such as the library market, and may offer you helpful tools to optimize book sales and marketing. However, don’t assume that if you do a print run, that means you can get distribution into physical retail stores. Self-published authors have the same access to online retail distribution as the major publishers. Here’s how. For example, you could choose to work directly with Amazon KDP to sell your ebooks on   Amazon, then use an ebook distributor such as Draft2Digital or Smashwords to reach other retailers. Ebook distribution
Once you have ebook files ready to go (EPUB and/or MOBI files), you have a choice to make. You can always order print-on-demand copies at a reasonable unit cost if you want 50 or 100 copies on hand to sell at events. My book,   Publishing 101, costs about $3.60 per unit if I want a copy, plus shipping.

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