Do you love vivid colors like I do?

I’ve compared author copies of my poetry chapbook, Fantastical for Real, and I’ve noticed something. Here, take a look…

Amazon KDP Left; IngramSpark Right

Do you see it, too?

The color quality of the book cover on the left is more vivid than the color quality of the book cover on the right (which, to my eye, is dull in comparison).

If you, or someone you love, plans to create a book cover file in Adobe Photoshop, here is some insight into what I did that created these two different outcomes in color print quality…

Amazon KDP (the cover on the left)

The book cover on the left of the photo (the vivid one) was saved as a Photoshop PDF using the High Quality Print Adobe PDF Preset, and then it was printed through Amazon KDP.  

When saving a Photoshop PDF, your computer should prompt you to choose which preset you’d like to use. (On my computer, the High Quality Print preset is the default.)  

After receiving my first author copy of this paperback, I noticed that I needed to make some changes. I made those changes and then realized that KDP tells us to save the PDF using a Press Quality PDF Preset (not using a High Quality Print Preset as I’d used previously).

Well, this was news to me, so I figured that using the Press Quality PDF Preset would lead to even better color print quality. So, after making my revisions, I saved my new cover file under the Adobe Photoshop Press Quality Preset, uploaded it to KDP, and ordered another author copy.

The result? Dull colors in comparison.

As noted above, I love vivid colors, so I decided to break KDP’s “rules” and saved my official KDP book cover under the Adobe Photoshop PDF High Quality Print Preset.

If you order Fantastical for Real through Amazon, and KDP prints it, you will receive a vivid color paperback like you see in the left of the photo; however, sometimes a person might order Fantastical for Real (even through Amazon) and end up receiving a copy printed by IngramSpark / Lightning Source (because I also published Fantastical for Real through IngramSpark)…

IngramSpark (the cover on the right)

The book cover on the right of the photo (the dull one) was saved as a Photoshop PDF using the Adobe Preset required by IngramSpark: PDF/X-1a:2001 (or PDF/X-3: 2002).

Based on my research, this preset changes the color mode from RGP color mode (the color scheme associated with electronic displays, such as LCD monitors and digital cameras) to CYMK color mode (the color scheme used by printers using digital printing methods; the color scheme used for printing color on paper).

IngramSpark is “the” book distributor used by bookstores and libraries, so I wanted to try it out. In the future, when I publish longer written works, I do not plan to solely publish through Amazon KDP because bookstores and libraries generally do not order books through Amazon because Amazon is a competitor (and for other reasons, like discounts).

However, if IngramSpark proves to be of little value/use to me as an “unknown” author-publisher, then I’ll stick with Amazon KDP and save myself a lot of time, energy, and money.

Anyway, I followed Ingram’s rules and saved my book cover file in Photoshop using that preset they required. After all, if I didn’t follow their rules, they would probably reject my book cover. (Based on my experience so far, books to be published through Ingram go through a much longer, and more in-depth, approval process than books published through KDP.) Also, Ingram charges a fee for each revision, so I wanted to get it right the first time.

I’m not happy with the dull color of Ingram’s print book. It’s alright, I guess, but I prefer the more vivid colors on the KDP book. But the only reason the KDP book is vivid is because I didn’t follow their rules, either. I’m pretty sure that the Press Quality Preset that KDP suggests does the same thing as the preset that Ingram requires—they both change the color mode from RGP to CYMK.

As I move forward with cover design, I’ll be doing further investigation into color mode and color print quality. I’m hoping to print a color photo/poetry book sometime in the next year. If all goes as planned, this book will have equal parts photography and poetry, and I want it to look fabulous. It’s a good thing I love to learn!

A Note on Ease of Use

Amazon KDP’s book cover design template was much easier for me to use than the book cover design template provided by IngramSpark.

Ingram’s template had the bar code in an odd location–in the middle of the back cover. Their system said that I would be able to move the bar code, but I couldn’t. Given how much less user-friendly their platform is, I didn’t want to spend time asking questions (their help desk was offline whenever I was working on my cover). This means that I chose to edit the back cover design that I’d put together for KDP (yes, I used my KDP cover design in Ingram) to accommodate the weirdly-placed bar code on Ingram’s template.

To accommodate the bar code’s odd location in the template, I shortened the lines that note who did the cover art and design. I did what I could live with, fully aware that I would not be happy with it if the bar code ended up in the sensible location in the end. See below (KDP on the left; Ingram on the right)…

Then, when I received my review copy, the bar code was *not* where Ingram’s template said it would be. Instead, it was in the same place as KDP’s bar code—the sensible location. This means that I had not only wasted my time, but I created a less-desirable back cover design for Ingram when I didn’t need to. (I much prefer the appearance of KDP’s back cover on the left.)

The reader won’t care about the minor edit that I made on the back cover of the IngramSpark paperback, of course, but the artist in me wants it to look as beautiful as the KDP cover does. After all, aesthetics are important.

So far, I have sold no copies of my paperback through IngramSpark. Unless a bookstore really wants to stock my book (*chuckles*), nobody will have the less-desirable back cover. And I’m stubborn–I refuse to pay a fee to upload a new (edited) cover because Ingram’s template was misleading in the first place.

Yes, I had to pay their upload fee prior to seeing what my cover officially looked like in their system. I’m still learning their system, so it might have been free for me to revert the cover to what I wanted when I was at the review stage, but I didn’t want to take the risk of losing another $25 to a revision fee. At the moment, I’m uncertain whether I would have been charged for a revision while still at the review stage.

If you’ve designed a book cover, or otherwise have experience with both Amazon KDP and IngramSpark in terms of cover files/printing, I’d love to hear your thoughts related to what I’ve shared here today. Feel free to share in the comments below!


Fantastical for Real