KDP PRINT VS. CREATESPACE PAPERBACKS
I have published dozens of paperbacks with CreateSpace over the years, and have recently published some books (under pen names) with KDP’s new print-on-demand option.
While in many respects the two services are comparable (and both are Amazon companies), there are quite a few little differences.
DIGITAL PREVIEWS AND PRINTED PROOFS
There are several differences relating to printed proofs:
- With KDP print, you don’t have to go through the manual file review process before you can order a printed proof. If you know what you’re doing, this saves 12 to 24 hours, but if you have a big mistake in your PDF files, CreateSpace’s manual file review would help to flag the issue before you waste time and money on a printed proof. However, both offer digital proofing tools to help catch mistakes before you order a printed proof.
- KDP’s version of an interior reviewer is comparable to CreateSpace, but it appears to be friendlier for more web browsers. Also, whereas CreateSpace first offers an interior reviewer before file review and then a digital proofer after the file review, KDP print consolidates this into a single digital preview tool (accessible prior to file review).
- A cool thing about previewing at KDP is that you can preview how your cover looks (back, spine, and front) before going through the file review process. With CreateSpace, you must first go through file review (12 to 24 hours, usually) before seeing the option for the digital proofer.
- For authors residing in Europe, the most notable difference is that you can have a printed proof shipped from the UK, Germany, France, Spain, or Italy instead of the US if you use KDP print, whereas CreateSpace sends all author proofs from the United States.
- The KDP printed proof has a not-for-resale watermark on the cover, whereas the CreateSpace proof simply indicates that it is a proof copy on the last page inside the book.
- A funny thing about KDP is that you must first request the option to purchase a printed proof, then wait for an email to come that will take you to Amazon to order your proof. (Unfortunately, you can’t use Prime to get free shipping.) With CreateSpace, you just click to purchase a proof, without having to wait around for an email to come.
- KDP print is much more finicky about the spine text, ensuring that it’s at least 0.0625″ from the spine edges. CreateSpace occasionally lets this slide if you’re close, and if you violate this, CreateSpace will often adjust your cover for you. KDP print will almost always make you revise your cover on your own until it meets this requirement to the letter. If you have a book just over 100 pages, you’ll have to really shrink your spine text down to meet this requirement. For a book under 100 pages, it’s a non-issue as spine text isn’t allowed, and for a book with a much larger page count, you should have plenty of space for your spine text. It’s just for books with 100 to 150 pages where this can be tricky.
CATEGORIES AND KEYWORDS
KDP print has an advantage in terms of categories and keywords:
- KDP print lets you enter keywords in up to 7 different fields, without imposing a strict limit on the character count (though I would avoid going over 50 characters, including spaces). CreateSpace only lets you enter 5 keywords (or phrases), and each one is restricted to 25 characters (including spaces).
- KDP print lets you choose two Amazon browse categories, from the same category list that you see when you publish a Kindle eBook. If you publish both paperback and Kindle editions at KDP, this makes it easy to choose the same categories for both editions of your book. CreateSpace only lets you choose a single BISAC category, and the list doesn’t correspond as well with the actual categories that you see at Amazon (though even KDP’s categories don’t match that perfectly). If you contact CreateSpace, you can request to add your book to a second category, but that’s inconvenient, takes time, and may be completely undone if you republish your book (requiring another request later).
CreateSpace offers better expanded distribution, but very few self-published books see a significant benefit from this.
- The main advantage is that CreateSpace automatically distributes to Amazon Canada and pays the same royalty for Canadian sales as for US sales. That’s great if your book happens to sell many copies in Canada, but for many books that sell mainly at Amazon.com (the US site), this is a minor detail.
- CreateSpace’s expanded distribution includes online bookstores, including Barnes & Noble (online, not physical stores), the Book Depository, and many other websites. Again, this sounds great, as authors are hoping to sell books worldwide, but the reality is that most self-published books sell primarily through Amazon.
- It’s very unlikely for your self-published book to get stocked by any national bookstore chain simply from the expanded distribution option. You can pretty much count on it NOT happening. Your best bet is to sell a few author copies to local stores that you approach in person with a well-researched press release kit, but expanded distribution really doesn’t affect this.
- KDP print includes distribution to Amazon Japan (you get to set a royalty specifically for Japan, in addition to European countries), but otherwise CreateSpace offers much wider distribution through expanded distribution channels.
KDP print may improve their expanded distribution options in the future. (But will they add online bookstore distribution? Amazon really doesn’t want you selling your title on BN.com or Book Depository, right?) It would be nice to see them add Amazon Canada, Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and India. They have these options available for Kindle, and they already have Japan available for paperbacks, so we can hope…
This is interesting.
According to the KDP help pages, the option to use AMS to advertise KDP books is limited to ebooks. I also contacted KDP support to inquire about this option and was told the same thing.
BUT… If you proceed to run a Sponsored Product ad, you can find your KDP paperback books at the end of the list, and it will let you set up and submit an AMS ad for your paperback book. (However, a product display ad specifically states that it is only for ebooks right where you see this option from AMS.)
Most authors sell more Kindle ebooks than paperbacks, in which case it would make more sense to advertise the Kindle edition. In that case, it doesn’t matter whether you use KDP or CreateSpace for the paperback edition.
However, for the author who sells more paperbacks than ebooks (or for a book that wouldn’t be a good fit for Kindle, like an adult coloring book or a puzzle book), if you would like to advertise your book with AMS, you must use KDP’s print option (not CreateSpace). An alternative is to use Amazon Advantage (but then you would lose the major benefit of print-on-demand).
Ideally, you would perfect your book before you publish and never make any changes. But in practice, there can be a number of reasons to make changes:
- Adjust your price.
- Revise your description.
- Change keywords or categories.
- Update your cover.
- Correct typos.
- Keep the material current in a dynamic marketplace.
With CreateSpace, any changes to your interior file or cover file require going through the file review process, which basically unpublishes your book for 12 to 24 hours (at least: if you run into problems with that and have to go through the process multiple times, your book could be unavailable for sale for days).
At KDP, it works much like it does when you republish a Kindle ebook: You go through file review when you click the yellow Publish Your Paperback Book button. If you pass the file review, the new files simply override the old ones.
What I like about CreateSpace is that you can revise your list price, description, categories, and keywords without republishing your book, whereas any changes at KDP require republishing. (However, the best place to revise your description is through Author Central, but be sure to copy/paste the updated HTML version of your Author Central description into KDP. That way, if you ever republish your KDP book, the description won’t revert back to the original KDP description.)
In my experience, the Look Inside usually becomes available almost instantly with KDP print, whereas this often takes days at CreateSpace. It can vary considerably at CreateSpace: I’ve rarely seen it same day (or nearly so), and have occasionally seen it take well over a week.
If you’re launching your book with a strong marketing push, that Look Inside can be a valuable sales tool. I want it to be available as soon as possible. KDP print has the advantage here.
LINKING PRINT AND KINDLE EDITIONS
If you set it up properly from your KDP bookshelf, you will already have your paperback and ebook editions linked together on your bookshelf so that KDP “knows” that the two editions go together. Linking should be quick and easy at KDP.
If you publish the paperback with CreateSpace and the ebook with KDP, you must wait up to 72 hours for the two editions to automatically link together. Supposedly, if the title, subtitle, and author fields match exactly in spelling and punctuation, they will link automatically, but it does take time. Recently, I’ve had a problem with the editions not linking at all, and having to contact KDP support after 72 hours to request the link (perhaps my problem has occurred when I use my own imprint name and ISBN with CreateSpace).
If you take the free ISBN option, then:
- CreateSpace paperbacks will show “CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform” under the publisher name at Amazon.
- KDP print paperbacks will show “Independently Published” under the publisher name at Amazon.
Maybe many customers won’t notice the name in the publishing field, but CreateSpace has a little advantage here. There are millions of self-published authors. If you count their family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances, you will find several million customers who support self-published books. How do you find a self-published book to read? One way is to include the word “CreateSpace” (without the quotes) along with other keywords in a search at Amazon. There are customers who do this (I’ve discovered a number of books myself with this very method, even when I’m really shopping for a Kindle ebook, since I can find the Kindle edition from the paperback product page).
KDP print’s “Independently Published” sounds much more vague.
On the other hand, if you get your own ISBN, you can use your own imprint name, and then it makes no difference whether you use CreateSpace or KDP print. Either way, it will list your imprint name at Amazon. US authors can purchase ISBN’s from Bowker (at MyIdentifiers) for example. The cost is reasonable if you buy in bulk, but expensive if you just need one ISBN. (Don’t waste any ISBN’s on ebooks. Amazon gives you a free ASIN, and if you publish ebook editions elsewhere, an aggregator like Smashwords will offer a free ISBN for ebook stores that require one. Also, don’t use free ISBN’s anywhere other than where they are intended to be used.)
QUALITY AND PRICE
These are identical.
If you have a small sample size, you may experience statistical anomalies, making one service seeming much better or worse than the other. I’ve ordered thousands of author copies from CreateSpace over the years (often over a thousand copies per year), so I’m very experienced with what to expect in terms of quality and typical variations at CreateSpace. I haven’t ordered nearly as many copies from KDP print, but so far the quality is comparable.
List prices and royalties are the same (except that CreateSpace distributes to Canada and pays US royalties for Canadian sales).
KDP wins in terms of convenience.
After you publish one edition (paperback or Kindle), when you add the second edition to the same title on your bookshelf (instead of adding a brand new book), it automatically populates the title, author name, description, keywords, and categories.
You also see the royalties for both editions on your KDP reporting pages, instead of monitoring paperback and ebook royalties from two different websites (with two different accounts).
Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of workbooks and self-publishing guides.