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KDP or CreateSpace: Which Should You Use to Publish Your Paperback?

‘Are you going to do a paperback version of What Happens in New York?’ asked my friend.

‘Yep,’ I said, not realising how much work was involved.

Three years—and many Sundays lost—later, I don’t regret my decision to release my books in paperback format. Nothing makes finishing your book feel more real than holding a physical copy in your hands. After months—maybe even years—of hard work, you’ve done it! You’ve finally done it.

Ah, success. It smells like a lifetime supply of soya vanilla lattes.

But let’s rewind for a minute.

When you choose to self-publish, you not only have to choose whether it’s you or someone else who typesets your book, but also how you’re going to print those books of yours. Will you use KDP or CreateSpace? Or perhaps Lulu or IngramSpark?

Some of my friends use Lulu, but I found them too expensive for what I needed. I couldn’t get away with charging £10 for a paperback copy. There was no way that would sell.

That being said, if you want something fancier than a basic paperback, Lulu may be worth checking out as both KDP and CreateSpace only offer your basic paperbacks in different sizes and paper types.

IngramSpark is another expensive option, but it does offer better distribution options than KDP or CreateSpace. It’s less flexible when it comes to making changes to your books, though, so you have to be prepared to play the long game and invest in your books if you use IngramSpark.

Since neither Lulu nor IngramSpark were financially viable for me in 2016, I used CreateSpace to publish What Happens in New York and What Happens in London.

Shortly after What Happens in London was published in 2017, KDP started doing paperbacks, too.

So when I created a print version of Productivity for Writers, I figured it was the perfect opportunity to find out more about KDP’s recently added paperback feature.

Here’s what I discovered.

Uploading

The process of uploading your book is fairly similar.

KDP’s paperback upload screen is a bit like a cross between the Kindle upload screen and the CreateSpace upload screen. It’s somewhat less complicated, and it’s also more flexible.

Left is the CreateSpace upload page, right is the KDP upload page. Once your paperback is published, you cannot change details like title, subtitle, author etc.

 

There are certain things you can’t change on CreateSpace once you’ve created your book that you can on KDP, such as your book’s title or the name of your series. While you probably shouldn’t be changing these things, if you want to experiment, it’s a lot easier to do in KDP.

ISBNs

Both automatically generate ISBNs for you.

I have heard that booksellers can tell when a book has been published via CreateSpace and this puts some of them off, but I’m not sure how true this is. Some say Amazon won’t let them sell it because it’s done through CreateSpace, but again, I don’t have any solid proof of this.

Since both are owned by Amazon, I’m assuming the same is true for books printed via KDP.

You can purchase your own ISBNs if you wish to, although that can get expensive, so if you’re not sure if you’re in it for the long haul, start with the free ones—you can always switch later.

Ordering proofs

Both offer virtual proofs, as well as the chance to order printed proofs.

Virtual proofs are particularly useful with CreateSpace since their proofs are printed in the US.

You have the option to download a PDF version of your book (although IMO if you’ve typeset it correctly it won’t look that different so there’s little point in doing this), or to view a 3D proof of your books.

The 3D proofs are cool and definitely help you to see your book as a more tangible object, but they don’t go very big regardless of your screen size, so it’s difficult to see how smaller details look.

If you’re not in the US, ordering physical proofs (and later author copies) gets expensive fast. There are some instances where shipping can cost more than the book itself.

On the left is a copy printed by CreateSpace, and on the right a proof copy printed by KDP.

To order print proofs of What Happens in New York and What Happens in London, I temporarily made the books live then ordered them from Amazon before taking them offline until the actual publication date (since you can’t do preorders on CreateSpace or KDP).

I therefore don’t know if the ‘proof copy’ band across the top is just a KDP thing or not (if you know please let me know in the comments!)

This band did annoy me as it makes it hard to read certain parts of the text on the cover and blurb.

Shipping

CreateSpace shipping is expensive if you’re not in the US. It also takes a really long time—at least a fortnight.

KDP shipping works like an Amazon order, meaning if you have Amazon Prime you don’t pay for shipping.

KDP generates the number of author copies you want—which takes a few minutes—then adds those books to your basket. They arrive like any other Amazon order.

My Productivity for Writers proof was printed in Poland. My copies of What Happens in New York and What Happens in London were both printed in the UK, which I found odd given that if I’d wanted proof copies they would’ve had to come from the US.

The bulk orders that I purchased of What Happens in New York for the book launch were printed in Seattle. Unless you looked at the back page where it says ‘Printed in…’ you wouldn’t know, though.

Print quality

Because they’re mostly printed in the same places, the print quality is about the same.

You have the option to choose between matte and gloss covers. Most authors I’ve spoken to prefer the gloss covers as they’re pretty (who doesn’t love shiny things?), and because they’re less likely to curl. The covers on matte books are somewhat lighter and therefore less prone to curling up.

On the left is a gloss cover with a slight curl, and on the right is a matte cover that's curling. The book on the right is only a couple of months old.

On the left is a gloss cover with a slight curl, and on the right is a matte cover that’s curling. The book on the right is only a couple of months old.

KDP also allows you to change the size of books once you’ve set them up, whereas with CreateSpace you can only change the size of your book by contacting them or starting again.

CreateSpace copies can also be hit and miss—as I discovered with What Happens in New York—so keep an eye out.

On the left copy there’s a white line where the cover didn’t quite line up during printing. These were both done in different batches by CreateSpace.

You could also say something if you spot a fault, but I’m not sure how they’d respond.

KDP or CreateSpace?

The main difference between the two is shipping costs.

KDP has a nicer interface and is a bit more intuitive, but Amazon didn’t automatically link my paperback and ebook copies of Productivity for Writers, yet it did with What Happens in New York despite my creating the paperback in CreateSpace. There doesn’t appear to be much logic to the system.

The main downside to KDP is that you don’t get the expanded distribution that you do with CreateSpace, which means your books don’t get added to schools or libraries. I have had a couple of sales this way, but not enough to get excited about.

There are rumours that the reason Amazon has brought in KDP paperbacks is because it wants to get rid of CreateSpace, though, so expanded distribution may change in the future.

KDP paperbacks get my vote for the easier to use interface, and faster and cheaper shipping.

Over to You

Do you prefer to use KDP or CreateSpace for printing your paperbacks? What was the deciding factor for you?

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ABOUT
Kristina Adams

Kristina Adams is an author of fiction and nonfiction, writing and productivity blogger, and occasional poet. She has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Derby and an MA in Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University. When she's not writing she's reading, baking, or finding other ways to destroy the kitchen.

Her latest book, Productivity for Writers, is out now.

7 Comments

  • 12th June, 2018 at 18:29

    Great comparison on both, I’m glad I’m still sticking with CS 😂 thanks for taking the time to put all this on paper for all those of us who are still wondering haha

    REPLY
  • […] Adams presents KDP or CreateSpace: Which Should You Use to Publish Your Paperback? posted at The Writer’s Cookbook, saying, “There are lots of sites out there that help authors […]

    REPLY
  • 24th June, 2018 at 09:56

    I live in Europe (Spain). CS’s shipping cost are very expensive here and KDP is the cheapest option.
    CS interface is so older and ir never has updated
    And… Does anyone sell through the CS’s extended distribution in USA? For European authors it isn’t important.

    REPLY
  • 24th June, 2018 at 20:19

    Good review and I like you included shipping cost as a factor. I live in Australia and the shipping is the prime reason I use IngramSpark. They have printing facilities in Melbourne which bring shipping right down. I’m a member of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) and their partnership with IngramSpark means I get free uploads and corrections – worth the membership fee!

    REPLY
    • 25th June, 2018 at 15:41

      Thanks Alison, and also thanks for the info on IngramSpark. I don’t have any experience with it as the cost has always put me off. I didn’t know about their partnership with ALLi – that definitely sounds like it’s worth the membership fee just for that…

      REPLY
  • […] is a company similar to CreateSpace, only not owned by Amazon. They, like Lulu and others, help you bring your ebook/paperback […]

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