Trying Amazon’s New Print Book Options

Amazon.comLate last year, Amazon began offering authors the option of publishing both their eBooks and paperbacks through Amazon. Previously, authors wanting to publish paperbacks had to use CreateSpace, an Amazon-owned company that required a separate login and tax information. Today, we’ll look at how that process works, so you can decide if it’s something you want to try.

While I’m always a bit leery of new things, I was really excited about the idea of seeing both paperback and eBook sales on the same dashboard. I decided to give Amazon’s paperback publishing a try with one of my recent titles, Prophecy of Light-Foretold. Here, I’ll give you the breakdown of the process.

First Impressions. If you’ve ever used CreateSpace to produce a print book, the look and feel of the Amazon interface will be both familiar and jarring. It’s familiar because you’ve heard the terms before (trim size, paper type, bleed). However, Amazon’s input screens look different. Amazon has designed the paperback information input screens to look exactly like the three-screen process Amazon uses for eBooks. For paperback, the three screens are (1) Paperback Details, (2) Paperback Content, and (3) Paperback Rights & Pricing.KDPPrintingScreen1

Once your brain gets over the differences in look from CreateSpace, it’s a fairly easy process. What is awesome is, if you’ve already created the eBook, Amazon just imports all relevant data for the paperback. You don’t have to re-type the book’s name, your author name, description, or key words. All that stuff is automatically imported into the Paperback Details section. At the moment, Amazon asks if the book has already been published on CreateSpace. This is because they can bring your CreateSpace book over to Amazon publishing. I did not do this, so I don’t know if this works well or not.

Nitty Gritty. After you finish the Paperback Details screen, you go to the Paperback Content section. This is the nitty gritty of your book. This part requires the most time and is the bulk of what will be published. You can get an Amazon-assigned ISBN or provide your own ISBN. Then you pick your book options, including the trim size (5×8, 6×9, etc.), paper color, book content file, cover, and other properties. This differs from CreateSpace, because that company asks these questions over several screens. Having it all on one screen means everything needs to be finished before moving forward. If you’re not familiar with the publishing terminology (such as trim size or bleed), there’s a link describing what they mean. Having used CreateSpace to publish print books before, I found the explanations sufficient. If you’ve never created a print book before, it’s possible the explanations aren’t super clear. They are fairly short. On this screen, you also upload your book file. If you are used to formatting yourself, Amazon has templates you can download (click the help links for this section). They appear to be the same templates CreateSpace uses. I compared the one I downloaded from Amazon to the one I had previously downloaded from CreateSpace and could find no differences.KDPPrintingScreen2

Like CreateSpace, Amazon Publishing has a cover creator that allows you to create a cover online. This one is better than the CreateSpace cover creator, because it allows you to upload your eBook front only. The cover creator will make the back using a solid color you pick (presumably one that goes with your front). If you are doing the cover yourself for CreateSpace, you have to upload a cover image that is both front and back. The Amazon one is nice because you upload the front and create the back online, copying and pasting your description text onto the back of the book. The only part of this that was a bit confusing was the author photo. Amazon automatically includes a spot for the author image on the back of the book. I did not want an image, and I couldn’t figure out how to get rid of it on the template. As it turns out, if you don’t upload an author image, nothing will appear there. However, I didn’t realize this until after I’d closed the cover creator and saw the image icon was gone because I hadn’t uploaded one.

The Paperback Content screen also gives you the chance to digitally preview your paperback, and confirms your book dimensions.KDPPrintingScreen3

Where It Falls Apart. The final screen, after you’ve gotten your cover and interior files loaded, is called Paperback Rights and Pricing. It contains three items: (1) Territories, (2) Pricing & Royalty, and (3) Terms and Conditions. In terms of territories, Amazon publishing only sells its books via Amazon sites. There is no expanded distribution, so your paperbacks won’t be available to libraries, Barnes & Noble online, or other online retailers. In terms of profit, it’s essentially same as CreateSpace. My recollection is you have to use a price calculator to figure out your profit on CreateSpace. For Amazon’s publishing unit, they give authors 60 percent of list price, minus publishing. This equates to what you’d get at CreateSpace.

The last thing on the screen is the button to publish your book. However, before publishing, I wanted to order a proof copy. I looked and looked but found no place to order my hard-copy proof of the book. No matter how much I looked, I couldn’t find the link. I emailed Amazon to find out if I was just missing the button. I’ve overlooked the obvious before, so wanted to make sure I hadn’t had a major brain fart in this arena. But the response confirmed that Amazon doesn’t offer a paperback proof, or discounted author copies. That’s when I abandoned the process. I occasionally attend conferences and festivals where I sell my books in person. I need to be able to have copies I pay $3 to $4 for, so I can sell at other places. Paying full-price for my own books via Amazon is just not going to work for me.

Verdict: If you want all your print and eBook Amazon sales visible on the same interface and you’re comfortable without having a paper proof copy, and don’t mind paying full price for print copies of your book, try Amazon’s publishing arm. If those drawbacks make you balk, then go with CreateSpace. I will say Amazon did a great job at making the process and screens really similar to the way it is for your eBook. Even though the process was fairly streamlined, if you’ve used CreateSpace before, I think you have a real sense of what the choices are (cream vs. white paper, bleed, etc). My only stumbling block was not being able to get print copies, either as proof versions or author copies. The Amazon representative who told me Amazon did not offer paper copies said that was coming in the future, but did not say how far in the future that would be. When Amazon brings this feature, I’ll definitely try using their service.

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

41 thoughts on “Trying Amazon’s New Print Book Options”

    1. For the moment, I’m sticking with CreateSpace, too. I wish they’d just integrated CreateSpace sales reporting into the Amazon dashboard. I know this year, they did a combined 1099 for Amazon and Createspace.

  1. You did a beautiful job explaining this.
    Thank you for taking the time to break this down in an easy way for all us to understand.
    I had heard of this, but had not tried it out yet.

    Thanks again,
    Rosie

  2. Yeah, the no proof or author copy is a deal-breaker for me, too. I often order 5 to 10 copies of my books; if I had to pay full price, that’d get pretty darn expensive! Thanks for the good research, RJ.

  3. Thanks for sharing that. I’ve been curious. And yeah, the same issues that stopped you would have stopped me, too. I suppose someone who plans to use BOTH Amazon and Lightning Source might find it useful, though. (I’ve yet to feel the need for that.)

    1. Oh, I hadn’t thought about combining Amazon sales with another distributor. That makes sense, in terms of getting author copies, but it still doesn’t resolve the proof issue. I think for that first time of use, most people want to see the paper proof. Oddly enough, I’ve almost never had a proof that looked different from the digital proof. But I did once have a font issue for Book Club questions and that ended up requiring a change. So, it’s always nice to have that proof.

      1. Yes, I have sometimes gotten weird digital boxes showing up on my running heads that didn’t appear in the digital proof. Or at least if they did I didn’t notice them. Paper is always a good final check for anything. Another thing I’d like to see is a way to make changes or corrections to the paper version without having the old one go off sale during the approval process as it does at CS. I wonder if that’s any different in this new version?

  4. Thanks for sharing. I’ve heard very much the same from others who have tried it. To me it’s baffling (and disappointing) that Amazon would launch such an incomplete service. They have to know, through experience with Createspace, that things like expanded distribution and proofs/discounted author copies are critical offerings.

    I’m also left wondering why Amazon is doing this when they already own Createspace, unless they intend to consolidate it all under KDP. If that’s the case, I think they’ve botched the transition.

    1. If they plan to consolidate it all, that would be great. I really like the idea of seeing all the sales in one spot. But if they consolidate, they should keep all the features of CreateSpace that make it great. Those include the proofs and the expanded distribution.

      I hope they get the kinks worked out for their own publishing service, as they’re on the right track with streamlining the service so ebooks and paperbacks can all be done from the same dashboard. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details.

  5. Thanks for sharing. I’ll definitely be keeping my eye on this process, and assume eventually Amazon will do away with CreateSpace entirely and force everyone to do paperbacks this way. However, I also won’t be using this process until they allow proof and author copies.

  6. One thing I am curious about, is whether this service lets you set up a pre-sale, like you can for ebooks? That would be a vast improvement over CreateSpace, if they fix the other gaps.

    1. I didn’t get far enough into the process to find that out. I didn’t see anything about it in the FAQs either. But that would be a great edition, the ability to do pre-orders in paperbacks.

    1. Yeah, the lack of proofs is disappointing. As soon as we hear that they’re allowing proofs and author copies, we’ll post an update to the article.

  7. Just as an FYI, CreateSpace does offer a template where you can upload your e-book cover. I believe it’s on the very last page of the offered templates. I use it all the time.

    1. Oh, wow! You’re absolutely right. I’ve never seen that one before. I guess I got into a pattern of using one template awhile back and didn’t realize they’d added new ones. So, I stand corrected. Thanks for letting me know.

  8. Nicely explained.

    I suspect that this is just a test rollout for the service (hence the lack of proofs and author copies) and that in a year or less, we’ll see CreateSpace shut down, and Amazon’s organic service will incorporate everything that CS currently does.

    1. Well, if their ultimate service incorporates all that CreateSpace does while being under the Amazon KDP dashboard, then I’m all for it. I think the option to do everything in one spot is something indie authors want, so they’re definitely on the right track.

  9. Thanks, RJ. You nailed the pros and cons of using Amazon’s service. CreateSpace wins. Now, if CS just sticks around. I’ve heard rumors of its demise as well…

    Pinned & shared.

    1. CreateSpace will still be used for Amazon POD for “publishers” (https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amazon-Print-on-Demand-Guide/b?ie=UTF8&node=9534081031).

      I think the main aim here is to get more indie authors into print who are currently unaware of, or unwilling to set up a new account with, CreateSpace.

      We may well see a POD Select option down the road where indies can declare their intent not to use Ingram, StreetLib and other POD services in return for some token benefit.

  10. Thanks, RJ. I think I’ll stick with CreateSpace until everything settles down. Getting my own cheap copies is a deal breaker for me, because I do a lot of sales at craft fairs, etc. and make good money on those books.

  11. Thank you so much for this, RJ, I’ve been meaning to trial it for a while now; was just waiting for the time to become available to me. I’m with you, in relation to proof copies and author pricing.

    Good article, and thanks again.

  12. Thanks, RJ, for stepping out on to the ice so the rest of us don’t have to fall in. I agree with sticking with Createspace because of the possibility of ordering a proof, although once a book has gone live it’s easier to order from the Amazon page. This is particularly true outside the USA. I’m in the UK, where we pressed the ‘publish’ button on Createspace for The Bride’s Trunk on a Saturday morning, it was live in a few hours, we ordered a copy on Saturday afternoon and had it in our hands on Sunday, thanks to Amazon Prime. We had ordered a Createspace proof, which took 10 days or so with (expensive) priority shipping from the USA, because they don’t use local printers for proofs. As minor corrections were needed, we just went live and ordered the second proof from Amazon.

    Of course, we will be forced to use the Amazon process if they close down Createspace – surely that must be the game plan, or why would they bother to set up Amazon paperbacks?

    Incidentally, because of the ‘Chinese walls’ between Amazon and the bookstore distributors, we have followed what seems to be the accepted wisdom and used both Createspace and Ingramspark for the paperback. The latter (in theory) gets you into bookstores, although probably not until you have become world-famous. More importantly, you can order your own stock to sell to local bookstores, friends etc. The best quantity discount kicks in at 250 copies, which is a substantial investment, but you do get a reasonable discount at 100 copies, which as a 50+ order also gives you the refund on your setup charges.

  13. This was sounding good from Amazon, until we got to proof copy, RJ. And then, it seems, you have to buy the proof at full Amazon price! That got me rethinking, but then again, only one book, so maybe… But then the killer – no author price books. You have to buy your own book at full rate!

    I don’t sell that many paperbacks, but a few at events and some at the launch. So this is the big No for me. There is though the tax advantage for those like myself outside the US (in England) as we wouldn’t have to fill in the tedious tax document twice, once on KDP and then again on CreateSpace. But I’ve done it, so it no longer matters.

    I cannot understand why Amazon have two print portals unless they, at some time, intend getting rid of CreateSpace where I now print my paperbacks. If so, they need to make the two similar, so it’s no loss when CreateSpace goes.

    Thank you for the informative article.

    Derek Smith

  14. There is at least one benefit for authors outside of the US or UK to Amazon paperbacks over CreateSpace. Amazon makes monthly ETF payments for whatever your balance is, even pennies. For authors in Canada and some other countries, payment from CreateSpace happens only when they owe you $100 or equivalent.

    Thanks for the review RJ. I had experimented by parked my first try when I hit a bump with the cover. I will now go back and try again

  15. Thanks so much for your detailed experiment and explanation. I, too, find no paper copies and no author discount to be deal-breakers.

    Question: did you try uploading an ebook that had not already been formatted for paperback publishing (e.g., on CreateSpace) directly? I have heard that just does not work well for most ebooks, but I haven’t heard what happens with this service if one tries it. I already formatted my ebooks to be published on CreateSpace, but it took DAYS of MANY HOURS to get it all right/done because the formatting requirements for ebooks vs. paperbacks are so vastly different.

    I don’t see how anyone could just upload an ebook that was formatted as an ebook (i.e., no blank pages or more than 3 double-spaces between chapters) and have it print all right as a paperback. Does this new interface for KDP “fix” and adjust for those differences automatically, then?

    Any experiences with that, anyone?

    Thanks!

    Sally

  16. Hi RJ,

    Thank you for the fine article. I haven’t tried publishing from KDP to Amazon Books yet. Because I create mostly puzzle books, I use CreateSpace, extensively. A Question: When creating a print book using KDP did it generate a page numbered table of contents for it? Or just list the headings in order? Are the pages in the book numbered?

    If you have never used CreateSpace to upload a manuscript to KDP, here is what works fairly quickly for me: Using CreateSpace, I upload a manuscript to KDP. Then I go into KDP to finish up the details, description key words and pricing, and replace the KDP manuscript upload. The CreateSpace table of contents comes through without html links but still page numbered, and headings intact. So I create a copy of my createspace manuscript and quickly reformat it manually for KDP: changing the table of contents into html links and removing the page numbers, making sure the font format is set to Auto. It comes out looking nice in KDP.

  17. Thanks, RJ, for going through the process for us. I got the email and researched this new feature and couldn’t really figure out what the advantage was since I was already with Createspace. When I saw the No Proofs, I counted it out too. Having everything in one place is convenient but Createspace is actually awesome. Thanks again.

  18. No-one here has mentioned the other benefit of CreateSpace not in KDP Print – discounting.

    CreateSpace lets us issue discount coupons (by dollar or percentage) which we can hand out to re-sellers, for example, who can then sell our books on their sites (eBay for example) and order from CreateSpace at the reduced rate we have allocated.

  19. Hi, RJ. Thanks for laying this out so simply and going out on a limb to test Amazon’s latest author offering.

    While I completely agree with you and everyone else on the points of distribution and proof copies, I think your article should have stated at the top (and not at the end) that Amazon is running the print side of things in beta right now. Also, the company makes that pretty clear from the first page of that section of the dashboard. If I’m not mistaken, I believe when Amazon launched this feature they said at that time also that it’s in beta.

    I’m not Amazon’s mascot by any means, and I have no illusions about the fact that it’s a business first and foremost. However, I think it would have been more balanced reporting to start the article with the fact that Amazon print is still in beta.

    Thanks again, though, for the experiment and the clear descriptions.

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