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What’s Amazon Cooking Up Next for Indie Authors?

Amazon.com is continuing to evolve. Some of the changes currently underway, like its big push into India and its new app for children’s stories, may not affect you much as an indie writer and publisher. (Or, if you’re in a specific niche, maybe they will.) But if you are one of the many authors who… [Read More]

What Amazon has in store for indie authors by BookWorks.com

What Amazon has in store for indie authors by BookWorks.comAmazon.com is continuing to evolve. Some of the changes currently underway, like its big push into India and its new app for children's stories, may not affect you much as an indie writer and publisher. (Or, if you’re in a specific niche, maybe they will.) But if you are one of the many authors who use CreateSpace to print your books and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to develop your eBooks, another Amazon development may affect the way you bring your books to the world.

It is called KDP Print. It is now in experimental development, and it may change the way authors use CreateSpace and Kindle. It seems intended to help writers create print and eBooks at the same time, or produce print books from eBooks.

I say “it seems” because Amazon has released little information about KDP Print.

Beta Development

Much of what we know comes from a few writers who, checking into their Kindle Direct Publishing bookshelf, found this notice: “You can now publish paperback versions of your books with KDP Print (beta). Learn more about the beta.” Only a few Kindle authors so far have received this message; most have not.

The messages suggest that the new system is still undergoing beta testing. Amazon has not gone public in announcing it, and seems to be offering it only to scattered users for testing. When I tried to reach it, I got the message, “This page is unavailable.”

When I called support at CreateSpace to ask about KDP Print, I was told it was intended to help authors who want to publish easily in eBook and print formats at the same time, and that CreateSpace was expected to continue operation as it has. But I was also told the new program was still very much in development.

The selection of tester authors at this point seems almost random (though it's likely that Amazon is employing its well-developed and somewhat mysterious algorithms to select the target subjects). On September 29, for example, a writer named Michelle posted on the CreateSpace forum, “I logged into my KDP account this morning and noticed KDP has a Beta program for POD [print on demand], and that you can migrate your CS titles over. Could this mean that CS and KDP will eventually merge?” She quickly drew a crowd of responders, all saying they had seen nothing similar.

What Amazon has in store for indie authors by BookWorks.com

Amazon's Separate Paths

Until now, Amazon has developed CreateSpace and Kindle Direct Publishing as separate units.

When in 2005 Amazon’s executives decided to start printing as well as selling books, it bought two companies, Booksurge, an early provider of on-demand books, and CustomFlix Labs, which produced on-demand DVDs. They were merged and renamed CreateSpace. That new division of Amazon established a system and user interface—dashboard and related pages—vast numbers of indie authors have used ever since.

Amazon’s launch into eBooks started with the 2004 directive from CEO Jeff Bezos to beat the competition in creating an e-reader. In 2007, soon after the Kindle reader went up for sale and the Kindle Book Store began stocking books, Kindle Direct Publishing was launched to allow authors to convert their manuscripts into eBooks.

Since then, the two services have had only a limited connection with each other. Authors who develop a print book through CreateSpace do encounter a page near the end of the process suggesting they convert the book into Kindle format and make it available in the Kindle store.

What Amazon has in store for indie authors by BookWorks.com

Linkage Ahead?

Now, Amazon appears ready to link Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace closer together, possibly merging them. That may mean letting authors use both the print and eBook service in a single dashboard user interface. However it evolves, the new unified system is being called Kindle Print.

A notice from Amazon shared by one KDP user says, “We're excited to offer the opportunity to publish paperbacks in addition to Kindle eBooks. We'll be adding even more print-related features in the future, like proof copies, author (wholesale) copies, and expanded distribution to bookstores and non-Amazon websites. Publishing a paperback can help you reach new readers. KDP prints your book on demand and subtracts your printing costs from your royalties, so you don't have to pay any costs upfront or carry any inventory.”

It then cites several benefits of using the new KDP print on demand, most of which are similar to CreateSpace. One difference seems to be in the details of the royalty payments, which refer to payment for “up to 60% royalties on the list price you set, minus printing costs.” CreateSpace also offers its own store, where the comparable royalty is 80%.

The process for using the new system seems to be similar to CreateSpace too, with a big exception that only PDF files, and not Word documents (which CreateSpace allows), would be accepted for processing into print books.

What Amazon has in store for indie authors by BookWorks.com

Reports on the Boards

There are also reports on the boards that CreateSpace may be absorbed within KDP. One commenter on Goodreads suggested that, “You've probably noticed that the CS UI [user interface—its dashboard] is ancient. That tells me that Amazon isn't really investing in CS. Once KDP Print gets out of beta, I bet you'll see a push by Amazon to get people to move from CS to KDP Print.”

That’s one speculation. Here’s another from the same board: “CreateSpace is not the same as KDP and likely, one will not replace the other. CreateSpace and KDP are both owned by Amazon, but they are separate services. More likely, KDP will be a bare bones printing option since at the moment, they are limited.”

On October 11, the GoodEReader website said, “the consensus seems to be that Amazon may be shifting its print arm to this model rather than CreateSpace.” And it noted, “Until more authors are brought in to test KDP Print’s process and more information is shared with the publishing industry, the full scope of the program—as well as its merits and flaws—won’t be known.”

The website, The Digital Reader described the plan as, a “combined interface where publishers can manage both their eBooks in the Kindle Store and their POD books in CreateSpace.”

On the KDP user board, writer James McKinney, who had entered and explored the new system but said he never had used CreateSpace, said “It's actually really streamlined, pretty much a simple WYSIWYG wizard type of thing, and it makes fantastic looking books straight from your already published eBook—the only thing I've found that I DON'T LIKE about it is the lack of a page-numbering system.”

Plenty of writers will be interested and involved in whatever publishing options Amazon next releases.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.


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13 thoughts on “What’s Amazon Cooking Up Next for Indie Authors?”

  1. I was actually telling a friend of mine and she immediately countered with she heard how low quality the KDP print books were. I don’t doubt that at the beginning it will be but over time it will get better. Some won’t want to give up the level of control CS gives them and I am reluctant to do so as well until I can see that it’s comparable or better than CS but I don’t completely trust that there won’t be some string attached to this new feature when it does open up.
    Amazon opening up distro like Smashwords and D2D? Things are getting interestin’, for sure

  2. The quality of eBook production through Amazon/Kindle varies on a number of factors. One is whether you use the production system at KDP (the Kindle production operation) as opposed to sending it through the chute at CreateSpace. But the larger difference between low and high quality eBooks seems to be the formatting quality of the file that’s input. A little extra care with those files can make a big difference.

  3. I published two months ago my first ebook heavily illustrated with posters and photos. Following KDP guidelines and to minimize the delivery costs, I inserted all images with a resolution of 72px. However, to produce a good-looking print book, CS advocates to use 320px images, hence for cases like mine, two different ebook versions are a must to satisfy the reader.

  4. Randy Stapilus says:

    The more illustrations, the trickier eBook production can be. Two versions may be a useful way to try.

  5. J treon says:

    one issue with the new system is that there are no discounts for the creators such as in Createspace. while in the new KDPPrint you can overall price your POD books lower, if you want books for a signing you buy at retail so will have to sell at retail. This effectively kills all in-person events and donations to events, people, and organizations as well as making giveaways much more expensive.

  6. Randy Stapilus says:

    Keep an eye on this as it evolves. CS may stay in place, at least for a good while, which may ease the problem.

  7. Val Waldeck says:

    I’ve tried both. Most of my POD books are on CreateSpace (great service) and digital books on KDP. Just published two new print books via Kindle Print (without affecting my CS account). It is necessary to do two complete manuscripts – one formatted for kindle and the other properly formatted with page numbers, etc., for the print edition so both look great. Had no hassles and was able to produce the cover using the front kindle cover on a KDP Print cover template and adding info to the back cover of the template. Not sure which way to go for future books and watching the discussion with interest.

    1. Randy Stapilus says:

      Your approach has been a lot like mine, and up to this point has worked pretty well. Nothing stands still forever, of course, especially in this business, so we’ll be watching closely what Amazon does next.

  8. Daniel Ruth says:

    One thing I noticed when I published my book is that the paperback royalty is 60%. That sounds good, however the cost of the printing is taken out of your royalty. I was scratching my head at the numbers before I read the fine print. I had assumed the print cost would be taken from the price of the book and the 60% royalty would be taken from the net profit. Is this normal? It seems a rather low method of getting around the “awesome 60%”. Note that this is all theoretical since all my sales are in the e-books.

  9. Randy Stapilus says:

    That basic approach is normal among print on demand providers: The cost of printing (and shipping) comes first.

  10. Ane Mulligan says:

    I’m NOT happy that I cannot get author copies. I didn’t know that going into KDP Print. I wouldn’t have done it. IF I can get author copies, I’ll be a happy camper.

  11. Linda Stanley Dalton says:

    I have published my paperback version of an ebook title on KDP. The process was a bit overwhelming as their “help” was not exactly helpful to me. Once I figured it out, it worked fine, and it allowed me to use my .docx Word document without converting it over to PDF. I had to reformat for the page numbering but that wasn’t really difficult. KDP urges you to use a 320 DPI image; mine wasn’t, but it looks great–crisp and clear. I have no complaints about the quality. I don’t, however, like that there are no proof copies or discounted author purchases available. However, I’ve read about so many authors getting their 5 copies in CS and then making uploading again to get more so they could make a full profit on the books, selling them themselves. Not that I think anything is wrong with that, but maybe that’s why Amazon isn’t doing it with KDP? Just a thought–don’t kill the messenger. Anyway, it will be what it will be. I hope that what I can actually make per book will increase over time. I think they will merge eventually.

    1. We appreciate you sharing your insights, Linda. Your supposition may very well be correct, though it can be hard at times to fathom Amazon’s many policies, much less keep up with all the changes. Thank you for your comment, it’s always great to hear from indie authors about their actual experiences self-publishing and is helpful to their peers. If you’re not already a member, we invite you to join our community :).

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