Publishing a paperback with Amazon KDP

Posted by Paul Samael on Wednesday, June 30, 2021 Under: Self-publishing

At long last I have got around to doing a paperback version of my novel using Amazon KDP (formerly CreateSpace).  I’m not expecting to sell many copies, but if anyone prefers to read it in hard copy - well, now you can (and the price is reasonable - £5.30 in the UK, $6.40 in the US).  I may also attempt to persuade some local bookshops to stock it and will probably release a few copies “into the wild” via some nearby street libraries.  But the main point of this post is to provide a review of Amazon’s KDP service for paperbacks:


Overall, I found KDP fairly straightforward to use to create the paperback (much as I did with its ebook creation service). The basic process is as follows (NB this assumes you have created an account with KDP - if not, see my earlier review from 2018, when I put the ebook version of the novel up on Amazon):
  • Create your interior:  Use a word processor to create the interior of your book (I used Microsoft Word), then convert that to PDF for upload to KDP.  The key thing here is to get the page size right, format your margins correctly and be aware of which pages which will appear on the right or left hand side of your book (this may be important if, for example, you want new chapters, sections or parts of your book to start on the right hand page).
  • Create your cover:  I did this using Apple Pages, then exported the file to PDF.  As with the interior, it is critical to get the dimensions correct - but you can't finalise this until you've done your interior, because the number of pages and choice of paper (white or cream - see below) affects the spine width, which in turn affects the horizontal dimensions of your cover (Amazon guidance tells you how to calculate this).  Unlike your interior, where the PDF will be a document in portrait orientation showing 1 page at a time, the cover is a single page in landscape - with the blurb/back cover in the left, spine in the middle and the front cover on the right, as in the image below.  So if you’ve already got a cover for your ebook, the bad news is that you (or your cover designer) will need to reformat it so that you also have a spine and a back cover.  See also my comments on matte vs glossy covers below - because you may want to rethink your cover visuals, especially if they use photographic images (but maybe order some proofs first before embarking on a wholesale re-design).

  • Upload: You then need to upload your interior and cover to KDP, provide the content details (author, blurb etc - in my case these were identical to the ebook version which I’d already created) and set pricing and territories. As I’m not interested in royalties, I priced it more or less as low as it would let me go, which has resulted in a price of £5.30 in the UK and $6.40 in the US, not including delivery charges.
  • Check proofs:  Having uploaded, you can preview how it will look, but I strongly recommend that you order proofs of your book before you publish so you can check the physical item - it’s amazing what you notice when it’s in hard copy.  Amazon is super-efficient about getting these proof copies out - they only took a day or so to arrive and they were not terribly expensive, only costing me about £5.95 including delivery (they come with a “Not for resale” watermark across the cover but otherwise they look like your published book).   If there are mistakes, you just replace your interior or cover with a revised PDF.
  • Publish:  Once you’re happy with the book, you click “Publish” and hopefully it will shortly appear on Amazon.  I say “hopefully” because it initially goes into what they call “review” which seems to be a check for any problems, including on the copyright side.  Mine suffered a short delay because (it seems) they had an outdated allegation of copyright infringement against it (it was probably from me, dating from before the book was on Amazon and someone had tried to pirate it).  Anyway, happily that seems to have been cleared up to Amazon’s satisfaction and the book is now available.
Amazon has also produced detailed and helpful guidance.  For a handy guide to creating your book cover in Apple Pages or Photoshop, see (includes a free template, which I found very useful).

Other points to consider
  • Don’t worry about Expanded Distribution when choosing your book size:  your first decision is to decide what trim size you want the book to be.  I managed to waste a lot of time over this, because I initially chose 12.85  x 19.84 cm (and produced the book in that size), only to change my mind to 12.7 x 20.32 cm (which involved lots of reformatting).  Why?  Well, I wanted to use cream paper (see below) but realised that if I used the first size, then I couldn’t take advantage of Amazon’s Expanded Distribution (where they distribute to retailers and libraries on your behalf).  However, when I came to set the price of my novel, it became apparent that opting for Expanded Distribution massively inflates your cover price - to a point where most people would regard it as pretty exorbitant.  And anyway, word has it that very few retailers will buy from Amazon anyway (see end of this article).  So the messing around with sizes was a complete waste of time so far as I was concerned (as was Expanded Distribution).
  • The cover: matte vs glossy?  One area where Amazon KDP could improve is on the quality of their cover printing (I thought the interior printing was fine).  The cover of my novel uses what I think is a reasonably vibrant and striking image - at least, that’s how it looks on screen.  On Amazon’s covers, alas, it ended up looking pretty lacklustre.  At first I wondered if this was because the finish was matte, so I then ordered another test copy with a glossy cover - which lifted it a bit, but was still disappointing.  What’s more, the glossy finish tends to make your novel look more like it’s non-fiction and is out of keeping with the competition.  So I ended up reverting to matte and tweaking the cover design a bit to compensate for the shortcomings of the photo reproduction.  It’s possible I was just unlucky with the photo I was using and others would work better.  But if I were starting from scratch, I would not use a photographic image and would create the cover in very flat, simple colours, which I suspect would come out better.  
  • The paper: cream vs white?  I got proofs done in both cream and white.  For fiction, I’d say that cream is the clear winner - it looks and feels a lot classier than the white (it’s slightly heavier/thicker) and is also easier on the eye (owing to slightly less contrast between the black type and the paper colour).  It costs more, unfortunately, but I decided it was worth it.  If you go for cream paper, then if using certain sizes, you can’t opt into Expanded Distribution - but for reasons explained above, I concluded that (for me at least) it wasn’t worth it.
In case it's any help, these are the page size and margin settings I used for my interior in Word:

In : Self-publishing 

Tags: paperback "amazon kdp" "cover design" 
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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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