Today I’m going to talk about my experiences publishing paperback books through KDP Select’s new paperback platform, versus my experience with Createspace.
First of all, let’s talk about the platforms.
For a long time, Createspace was the only game in town when it came to independent on-demand publishing. This made it possible for self-published authors and small presses to print paperbacks at a cost effective rate. There was an option to create an ebook as well, but it was generally acknowledged that said ebook was substandard, so most persons going for ebook distribution did so through other platforms such as KDP Select (previously only focused on ebooks) or Barnes & Noble’s ebook publishing platform. Createspace was an Amazon subsidiary, but it wasn’t Amazon as such, so the finances were somewhat separate. Therefore many bookstores, libraries, etc, would still purchase Createspace books if they had gained enough popularity.
Recently, Barnes & Noble came up with a print publishing platform. It did not guarantee access to brick and mortar stores, the major dream of most indie published authors, but did provide competition to Createspace. I wanted to mention this to provide a timeline for the diversification of the print on demand book model, but we’re not going to talk about Barnes & Noble’s publication models here. I have dabbled but I am no expert and so we’ll save that for a separate post when I have time to do more research. This is about my experiences with different mediums.
So, back to Amazon’s companies.
At some point recently Amazon decided to roll out a new option that seems to be geared primarily towards indie authors with ebooks but no print book. This is the print on demand option for KDP Select. Anyone who has taken a stab at indie publishing knows that creating a print on demand book creates one additional cost that can sometimes be prohibitive – the wraparound cover. A wraparound print cover, which needs to be of sufficient size and quality to print clearly and attractively on a print book, is much more expensive than an ebook cover. It sometimes costs as much as twice as much to get a custom cover design for a wraparound versus and ebook. Understandably, for many indiepubbed authors this is not worth it.
Createspace requires that this wraparound cover be uploaded with the book. It has some truly terrible mock-up covers that you can use to make your own wraparound if you are desperate, and also a custom cover design option – meaning you can design your covers through Createspace. I have never used the custom option, so I can’t speak to its efficacy. I have, previously, paid for my wraparound cover through Design for Writers, specifically in this case for the cover of Mother of Creation. You can see it in its native Createspace habitat here. (link)
In contrast, KDP Select’s new platform allows for a much more seamless cover design if all you have is the front cover, which is all you typically do have when you have published an ebook. You can plug this front cover graphic into their cover generator and then use the software to tweak the colors, etc, of the back to create something functional. While you still won’t have as nice of a cover as one designed specifically for you, it is at least a usable prospect. Pictured below, my book (almost a novella) Child of Brii side by side with Mother of Creation. You can see the quality contrast somewhat in these photos. Forgive that Mother of Creation is dusty, this is my proof copy and so it’s a little dog-eared.
The biggest difference is in the back covers, as might be expected. KDP Select wants an author photo and bio on the back of the book – this is more typical for nonfiction books, I think, than fiction. I am not really happy about that, but it at least breaks up the monotony of the all-black cover. With a little more tweaking, however, their design software could be pretty great.
So, KDP Select offers easy ebook conversion, saving money on your print book, though the quality is not as high necessarily. Createspace also holds an advantage in print on demand in that it offers flexible ordering options. An author can order books for the cost of printing and distribution only, and sell them at price at events. In contrast, KDP Select only allows you to order books at price, just as anyone else would.
I got around this last restriction by doing some price tweaking. I took the price of Child of Brii down as far as I could (minimum price is $5.36) and ordered several copies. Then I raised the price back so that I would get a decent royalty, to $7.99, which is the price on Amazon. The advantage of this method over Createspace, despite having to lower the price on your book, is that Amazon offers free shipping on orders over $25 from their distribution center and so this order qualified. I might actually have ended up paying more through Createspace with shipping. That said, my books ordered direct from Amazon were shipped much less carefully than the books I typically get from Createspace. Which I was lucky and didn’t get any damaged copies, that could have easily been the case with the packaging.
All in all it seems that with a few simple changes (allowing authors to order books at cost, for example) KDP Select will be a better platform. I say this only because, while Createspace offers better royalties for direct purchases, most of my sales of print books come through Amazon anyway, or are hand-sold. That said, the versatility of sales options through Createspace for a larger author (someone who has sold over a thousand copies) may outweigh that minor convenience. Being able to find your way into a brick and mortar store is a huge advantage in terms of sales.
Anyway, I will probably stick with Createspace in the future for full-length books, though I may do a few novellas or short stories through the KDP Select platform if the opportunity arises in the future.
Hope this has been helpful to all you indie authors and publishers!
For those who missed the announcement last week, Child of Brii is now available as a print book!