Which Should Come First—Kindle or Paperback?


Unless you have a book where Kindle formatting is impractical, you should make both Kindle and paperback editions of your book.

Benefits of the Kindle Edition

  • You can make the Kindle edition much more affordable. If your price is $2.99 or higher, you can still draw a high royalty (70% minus delivery costs).
  • Many customers only read e-books.
  • It’s much cheaper for you to send out review copies.
  • There is no extra charge for color.

One reason not to create an e-book is if you have a book where this is impractical, such as a workbook where the reader needs to write down answers.

You should also consider publishing your e-book with Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. The only reason not to do so if you feel that the benefits of enrolling in KDP Select outweigh the benefits of having your e-book available with several e-book retailers.

Benefits of the Paperback Edition

  • Some customers prefer to read print books.
  • Amazon will show your Kindle edition as a percentage off compared to the paperback edition (once the two editions are linked together).
  • Kindle’s new MatchBook program encourages the sale of both editions.
  • It’s convenient to edit your writing with the printed proof.
  • You get to experience the incredible joy of holding your baby in your hands.
  • Local bookstores and other retailers might be willing to stock your book. If nothing else, your friends and family will believe you really are an author.

Which Should You Publish First?

Once you decide to make both Kindle and paperback editions, you must decide which edition to publish first.

Most authors simply publish each edition as soon as it’s ready. Some authors prefer to format e-books and have the Kindle edition ready first; others love the art of formatting pages and have the paperback edition ready first.

That’s not necessarily the best course. Suppose you had both editions prepared, but neither was published yet. What’s the best thing to do? Should you release them simultaneously? Or is there a reason to publish one edition first?

Some authors who plan this—rather than simply first publish whatever happens to be ready first—choose to arrange preorders for the paperback edition using Amazon Advantage. They use preorders as part of their strategy for building buzz for the book’s release, and to help foster a strong sales rank and prospects for early reviews when the book is released. They then release the Kindle edition when the paperback goes live.

Once you have both Kindle and paperback editions available, you can have them linked. This creates an interesting possibility that was recently mentioned in the CreateSpace community forum: If your Kindle edition is available for sale now and linked to a paperback edition that’s on preorder, any reviews left by Kindle customers should, theoretically, show on your paperback’s product page, since the reviews are linked together. (Paperback customers can’t review the paperback edition until it goes live.)

There are two good reasons not to release both editions simultaneously:

  1. You gain visibility by having a book in the Last 30 Days and Last 90 Days categories on Amazon. This is based on your publication date. (Tip: Don’t enter any publication date at CreateSpace. That way, your book’s publication date will be the day you click Approve Proof. This maximizes your book’s visibility with the new release search filters.) Release one book 90 days prior to the other and you get 180 days of new release visibility out of one book.
  2. You have the opportunity to create double-buzz. Build buzz for one edition. Then a month after its debut, you have two months to build buzz for the other edition if it’s going live 90 days after the first.

You could release the Kindle edition first. At the same time, setup preorders for the paperback edition. Arrange the paperback edition to go live 90 days after the release of the Kindle edition. Make the publication date of the paperback edition when it goes live, so you get a total of 180 days visibility in the Last 90 Days category.

If you’re one of those authors who can publish two books per year, you can use this method to always have a book listed under Last 90 Days.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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10 comments on “Which Should Come First—Kindle or Paperback?

  1. With setting up the Kindle edition first, it’s also quicker. The paperback tends to take a little longer to process and days longer to get on Amazon. The Kindle edition being out first could also net you a few ‘I found a typo’ messages, which is more difficult to fix on the paperback system.

  2. I just published The Wizard, The Girl and The Unicorn’s Horn by paperback first with createspace…They offer to send it to kdp for you, the problem with this is, the formatting is a little different for the kindle. You really should change your contents page to be linkable for the kindle and make sure your chapter heading fall on a new page by using a page break. These are the two major differences that I run into. I do a paperback manuscript then save it again with changes but to a different file name. I normally just put the word,”kindle” in the save. That way, you won’t mix them up when uploading to kindle.

    • It’s definitely best to create two separate files, one for the paperback and one for the Kindle, as the formatting is significantly different. CreateSpace’s offer to send the files to KDP isn’t recommended, as PDF’s rarely format well for Kindle. It’s bizarre that Amazon does this, as it seems that it would lead to more poorly formatted e-books. They must hope to promote the notion that it’s easy, hoping that once they get started, authors will feel compelled to finish, hopefully taking time to learn about e-book formatting. Or perhaps they hope to encourage authors to invest in CreateSpace’s e-book conversion service. Good luck with your books. 🙂 (An advantage of not releasing the three books all at the same time would be to maximize your visibility in the new release categories.)

  3. I have to say the way I was introduced to all this, Kindle or eBook is first then the paperback, which makes sense seeing it’s more expensive so Kindle and the borrow option introduces everything! It almost sounds like the egg came before the chicken but we need the chicken to lay the egg… 🙂

  4. I’d never considered this before, but you make an excellent point! I like the idea of releasing one version before the other … although like you said, it’s up to the individual author to figure out what works best for them. Now to figure out what works best for me, lol.

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