There are a couple ways to self-publish your novel in paperback. I just tried a new option from Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) platform. Until recently, you could only publish a Kindle edition through KDP.
For my Awakening supernatural thriller series, I used a different Amazon company, CreateSpace, for the print editions. Because I was short on time, rather than try the do-it-yourself options, I paid CreateSpace to format the manuscript and create a paperback cover. The explanations on CreateSpace for how to do those tasks myself struck me as too daunting and technical.
KDP seemed like a simpler and clearer process, so I decided to try it.
I chose a very short book I published a few weeks ago for Kindle, How The Virgin Mary Influenced The United States Supreme Court: Catholics, Contraceptives, and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Inc., about how Catholic views of women influence our legal system. Based the length—only 6,700 words (28 printed pages)—I figured formatting for print should not take too much time.
Here’s my view on using KDP to publish a paperback, feature-by-feature:
Verdict: Thumbs Up
It was easy to create the cover once I got the hang of using the features. I uploaded the JPEG file I already had for the e-book. KDP automatically created several paperback options with a spine and back cover based on the front cover design and colors.
I choose the option that made the front cover an exact match for the e-book cover and extended the background across the spine and the back cover.
By clicking on the text boxes KDP provided, I pasted in my author biography and book description from a Word file onto the back cover. My title and author name were automatically included on the spine, minus the subtitle because the text is too long.
Overall, an easy process.
Verdict: A Qualified Thumbs Up
I’d been hoping that KDP would magically convert my e-book file (a MOBI file I created in Vellum) into a paperback, but no such luck. Instead, I needed to upload a Word file.
Uploading was easy. Formatting the Word file before uploading was more challenging.
KDP provides templates for whatever paperback size you want to use, but the template I downloaded included only the correct margin and sizing. I chose a font in Word that I thought would look good (Book Antiqua 12 pt.).
I struggled with page numbering. After consulting a lot of Help screens and experimenting, I learned how to break the manuscript into sections, which in theory allows different pagination for each, but I never could get it exactly how I wanted it. I settled for small Roman numerals that start with page 2 on the copyright page (I’d wanted them to start on page 2 of the Preface) and ordinary numbers from Chapter 1 on.
After the page number challenge, I opted not to try to create headers with the title on the left-hand pages and my name on the right, though I would have liked to do that.
Now that I’ve done formatting once, I suspect I’ll have an easier time in the future. But when I was doing it, I concluded I’d rather pay someone else to deal with it.
Book Description For Amazon
Verdict: Thumbs Up
The book description from the Kindle version appeared in that section for the paperback automatically, so that was easy.
Verdict: Not Enough Data
Because this book is very short, I wanted to keep the price low so readers would not be disappointed or expect a full-length book. The lowest price I could choose that ended in .99 was $3.99. That resulted in a royalty under $.30.
I suspect I couldn’t go lower because there’s a basic set up cost Amazon wants to recover before its worth allowing an author to publish. Because this was an experiment, I was okay with this price structure.
Based on my experience with CreateSpace, the numbers should work out better for a longer book. I plan to try it for my standalone supernatural suspense novel, When Darkness Falls, which is over 80,000 words. I’ll update this post once I do that.
Verdict: Thumbs Up (plus a gold star)
With CreateSpace, I always request a print copy to proof before approving the final version. I do that because I like seeing how the cover and page layout look on paper. I also find it helpful to proof the book on paper one last time.
KDP Publishing does not offer print proofs. I assume that’s part of what keeps the upfront cost to the author at zero. The only way to do a last check of the book is via the online preview function. That was pretty easy to use, and I was able to eyeball the entire book to make sure it looked OK.
It made me a little nervous to hit publish without actually holding the paperback in my hands. But I was happily surprised that the paperback looks great.
Verdict: Thumbs Down
Every year I share a table under the Chicago Writers Association tent at the Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago. I also have live book events for new releases in my Awakening series.
Through CreateSpace, I’m able to buy print copies of my books at cost and sell them for whatever price I choose at live events. (The shipping charges add to my cost, so I don’t earn a lot, but it is generally $1-$3 a book.) CreateSpace also usually sends a small number of free copies to the author.
KDP publishing does not offer author copies or the ability to buy at cost for authors. The only way to get copies of the book is to order them off Amazon. The author does still get the royalty for that, so you’re getting the book at the cost. But it means paying more money initially.
For that reason, I doubt I’ll use KDP for books that I envision selling at events.
On the other hand, this feature matters not at all for the other reasons authors make paperbacks available. Those include (1) offering a paperback for readers who don’t have ereaders; (2) highlighting the lower Kindle price through comparison to the paperback price; and (3) validation (many readers feel better trying out a new author whose books are also offered in print).
To that last point, though, oddly, Amazon so far has not automatically linked the paperback and Kindle versions, which I would have thought it would do given that I published them from the same platform. If that doesn’t happen soon, I’ll email KDP Help and ask them to do it.
Unlike CreateSpace, KDP does not offer distribution to non-Amazon sites. So my small book on the Supreme Court will not be available through Barnes and Noble’s website, though the books in The Awakening series are.
I’ve heard the country distribution is more limited on KDP than CreateSpace, though the KDP help screen says KDP distributes to Japan and CreateSpace does not, so that may work both ways.
The proportion of paperbacks I sell compared to ebook and audiobook editions is small, and I mainly publish them for the three reasons listed above, not as a money generator. For those reasons, the distribution doesn’t matter that much to me.
If you are focused on selling paperbacks, you may want to look further into the distribution question.
In summary, I had a good experience with KDP for creating a paperback. I give it a Thumbs Down solely for the lack of author copies, a neutral/not enough data rating on pricing and distribution, and a Thumbs Up for cover, manuscript formatting, book description, and print quality.
I hope that’s helpful. If you’ve tried KDP or another platform for your paperbacks, please share you experience in the Comments.