How to Turn Your Kindle Ebook Into a Print Book
Have you seen alerts on your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard and emails from them suggesting that you create a paperback print version of your Kindle eBook through KDP? Honestly, that’s a great idea. I always encourage authors to do both print and eBook editions to help expand their reading audience. And if you can do it all in one place, terrific! And now that's a reality in 2018, since Amazon has merged Createspace (which they owned) into KDP.
I can understand why Amazon might want to start steering their Kindle eBook authors to create print books. It could expand sales to buyers who don’t have Kindle devices or the Kindle mobile app. And through programs such as Kindle Matchbook, it could encourage easy add-on sales to buyers who want both print and electronic editions, with minimal investment for Amazon. As well, since print books offered through KDP are print on demand (POD), warehouse costs should not be a major concern.
Before this, if you wanted to create a POD print version of your eBook on Amazon, you would have to do that separately through Amazon’s Createspace self-publishing platform, which could be challenging. But the good news was that you could create your print book first and use Createspace’s 1-click conversion to create the Kindle eBook.
Sadly, the reverse process of creating your print book from your Kindle eBook on KDP is not yet a 1-click process, even after the merger and as of this writing. In fact, it’s pretty difficult going the opposite way, especially for those eBook-only authors who are unfamiliar with how to create a print book. And I do have to warn you that these functions through KDP are still evolving and there will, no doubt, be a lot of kinks that need to be worked out.
I’ve published several books on both Createspace and KDP, usually using Createspace with the Kindle 1-click conversion. However, I did have a few eBook-only titles. So I thought I’d experiment with the KDP print book creation process. Here’s what I found...
Getting Started: Book Details
Note: As the transition of Createspace into the KDP system is still in process, and probably will be for a while, these procedures could change over time. So see the KDP documentation for current procedures.
To start, you click the Create a Paperback button next to your eBook title on KDP. That will bring you to your Print Book Details Page. This is not too much different than what you would do for a Kindle eBook on KDP. As well, most of your existing eBook's primary book details (title, subtitle, description, keywords, publication date, etc.) are prefilled with the details from your Kindle book. You can change them if you wish.
However, the one new decision that you have to make for your print book is whether to use the Amazon-provided ISBN number for the print edition or provide your own. There are advantages to both options. The Amazon provided ISBN is free, making it an attractive choice for many authors.
But for authors who feel they might want to produce and publish their print book through another platform or on their own in the future, providing an ISBN helps retain the book’s presence in R.R. Bowker’s Books in Print database. Otherwise, they have to decommission the book through Amazon and start all over. The downside to providing an ISBN is the cost and administration of it. See R.R. Bowker’s website (www.bowker.com) for details.
Note that the Amazon ASIN number for the original Kindle book does not change when adding a print edition. If you provided an ISBN for your Kindle book, that also should remain the same. A separate ISBN is needed for print editions.
There is also a question in Book Details asking if this is the first time you have published this book. This might be a bit confusing. You’ve already published it as a Kindle eBook right? What they mean is have you published it on Createspace or any other self-publishing platform for print. If you have published it through Createspace, you need to provide the existing ISBN and imprint name you used. I understand that they’re trying to avoid any confusion between an existing book and the new one.
Formatting Your Manuscript Interior Pages for Printing through KDP
This is where it starts getting challenging. Formatting text for Kindle is easy compared to what you’ll be doing for print. It’s easier because the text in your eBook document is constantly being reformatted (also known as "rendered") to fit the device it’s being read on. So, essentially, you’re just creating a stream of text and letting the device do the formatting work.
But when you prepare a manuscript for print, you are creating a static document where you don’t want anything to move or change as it goes through the printing process. As well, there is a myriad of printing and publishing standards for how a print book should look so that it doesn’t look like an amateurish self-published mess.
To begin, there are four decisions you need to make for your book in your KDP Book Details tab.
- Interior Printing and Paper Type. You have a choice of cream or white paper for black & white printing, and white (a special paper stock) for color printing. Be aware that color printing is very expensive! It will increase the cost of any author copies you order and could impact your royalties since printing cost is a factor in royalty calculation.
- Trim Size. Trim size is the final physical size of the print book. The suggested sizes are those common in the traditional publishing industry. Go with one of them! Books that are not sized to one of these standards may not be acceptable for sale in retail channels such as bookstores.
- Bleed. Bleeding print means that the printed ink goes all the way to the edge of the page. Bleeding is common in publications such as children’s picture books, art books, and other visually oriented works. For primarily text-based manuscripts, no bleed is most common and is cheaper. As well, formatting your book’s interior page layout for bleeding edges is difficult, and is best left to graphic design pros until or unless you have a great deal of book layout design skill.
- Paperback Cover Finish. Probably the easiest decision you’ll make. Do you want a glossy, shiny varnish look, or a soft, dull matte finish? Base your decision on your subject, market, and personal preference. For example, shiny books might be good for upbeat, motivational works, whereas matte finishes could be appropriate for books offering comfort or thoughtful reflection.
Templates and Tools for Formatting Interior Pages
KDP offers some help for creating a print book, emphasis on the word “some.” As noted earlier, the conversion from eBook to print is not a 1-click process yet. The solutions they offer, other than a Microsoft Word Add-In, require you to create a brand new document... not simply alter a copy of your Kindle eBook document. Essentially, it’s like publishing on the former Createspace, but just doing it in KDP.
Like Createspace, KDP offers downloadable Microsoft Word document templates, specifically for your book’s trim size, in which you can enter your manuscript’s text.
Blank Template. This is a downloadable Microsoft Word document into which text can be entered. The major problem is that the document is that it has a host of awkward Styles (see MS Word documentation for more on Styles) that you’ll probably want to change.
Template with Sample Copy. So that you can get a better idea of what goes where when formatting your book manuscript, you can use the Microsoft Word document template with sample text. I’ve found that this document is better than using the blank template. But you still need to have a working knowledge of Word to use it.
What I also found when using either Word template is that when I cut and pasted text from my Kindle eBook Word document into the template, all the styles, margins, etc. got messed up in the new template, requiring a lot of reformatting. Darn Word!
Microsoft Word Kindle Add-In. There’s a little tutorial video on KDP about how the Microsoft Word Kindle Add-In works. Looks pretty useful since you can take a copy of your Kindle eBook Word document, and simply select text and click to format it using the Add-In menu.
However, after I downloaded and installed the Kindle Add-In, I got a warning that the Add-In was preventing me from opening Word, suggesting that I disable the Add-In. What? Disabling now and uninstalling immediately! Maybe I’ll try it again when this program is out of beta mode.
Formatting the Interior On Your Own
So what I’ve found is that I’m better off setting up my own document using the specs that they indicate under "Paperback Manuscript Formatting Basics (Beta)."
Though not noted in these instructions, here are some standard traditional publishing best practices that can help make your book look more professional and less “self-published” when printed:
- Fully justified body text. Visually more appealing and can aid reader’s reading rhythm.
- Standard, easily readable serif fonts and font size. A standard font such as Times New Roman for body text in a font size that's readable without a magnifying glass. I find that 11 or 12 point size is good for Times New Roman, but that may vary depending on the font.
- Drop cap or not? Though suggested in the documentation, if you're writing nonfiction, drop caps—where the first letter is a big capital letter—are optional. Even for fiction these days, they're somewhat awkward. So if you don't want a drop cap, ignore that instruction.
- Use MS Word Styles, especially for nonfiction. I've found using Microsoft Word Styles functions can give the book a uniform look throughout. Too much to explain here about that! See Word's documentation. And if you're publishing nonfiction and plan to include a Table of Contents (TOC), Styles are a godsend! Chapter titles and subheadings using Styles can be automatically identified by Word's Table of Contents function. No more entering page numbers by hand! Plus, if you make changes, you can click "Update" in the TOC to update the page numbers.
- Headers with the author’s name on top of one page (typically left page) and book title (usually without subtitle) on the opposite, facing page. Headers should not appear on title pages or first pages of chapters.
- Footers usually consist of the page number. Page numbering should not appear on the title or half-title pages. Front matter usually uses lower case Roman numerals, and standard Arabic numerals are used for the body of the book.
- Mirror Margins and the Gutter. The paperback books that you create via KDP are perfect bound. That means that the long, inside edges are glued to the spine of the book. This reduces the margin at the gutter, the place where the pages are glued to the spine. So space needs to be added to the gutter to allow for the glued edge. It’s tough to read type that’s stuck near or even in the glue at the gutter.
- Images. Watch for text jumping around awkwardly or unpredictably when wrapping text around images.
Headers, footers, and page numbers are particularly frustrating since if you change the settings for one of them, it could change something else before or after that change if not perfectly set up. Aargh! Trust me, I’ve spent more hours than I care to remember getting page numbers and headers right in my own and clients' print books.
While I always recommend that authors learn Microsoft Word, if you have no experience working with it, this is not the time to start learning it! If your Microsoft Word experience is zero, you will reduce your frustration and get a better result by hiring a virtual assistant who’s a wiz at using Word OR by ordering Interior Formatting services from Createspace (but then why not just publish on Createspace and contact Amazon to connect the two editions?).
Preparing Your Interior Page Manuscript for Uploading to KDP
One thing I noticed that is different in KDP’s print book creation function is that they suggest creating a PDF of your manuscript for uploading. Actually, that’s a good idea and I can see why they suggest it for print books. Also, when I tried to upload my Word document to KDP as my print book manuscript file, it failed. Then when I did it with a PDF, no problems.
The KDP print book creation function uses a book cover layout tool similar to the one that was in Createspace (actually, it’s probably the exact same thing!). I had some trouble with it in KDP. I finally got it to work, sort of. But I still had difficulty uploading my photo for the back cover. Hmm... don’t remember experiencing that in Createspace.
So you might have to go with downloading another template for the cover and formatting your cover in some other program than KDP’s Cover Creator. Specs for your book cover are currently found in KDP support documentation for "Create Your Own Paperback Cover (Beta)."
If all you have is Word, that could be quite a project. As with formatting the interior, you may need to get help from a book cover designer to get this in print-ready form. Createspace does offer these book cover design services, or you could hire your own designer through sites such as Fiverr. Then you would merely upload the completed cover design file during the setup process.
Note that when creating your book cover design, you will have to know whether your book will have a spine, and what size that spine will be. There are instructions on how to calculate spine measurements in the KDP documentation mentioned earlier.
Also, be aware that books need to have a certain number of pages to get printing on the spine! Don’t try to force it by dropping in spine printing in your book cover design if the system tells you it’s not allowed. Your rebel spine printing could show up on the front or back cover because the machines can’t handle it with a skinny, low page count book. Oops!
As with both KDP for eBooks and the former Createspace, an online previewing tool is available so you can see what your final creation will look like. Especially if this is your first experience creating a print book, ordering a physical proof copy (there's a cost for it) is highly recommended before approving your book for sale on Amazon.
Is Creating a Print Book Through KDP Worth Doing?
Whew! Did you get all that? Quite a project, eh? Creating print books is a much more involved self-publishing process than for eBooks. But if it makes sense to create a print edition for your book’s market, then it’s worth considering.
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
Questions & Answers
I'm in the process of having illustrations done for my children's picture book. I have no choice but to insert color illustrations. I think they should've had the bugs worked out before they decided to incorporate the CreateSpace print over to the KDP side of the house. There won't be that many pages. Why should it be costly?
Do black and white and color photos increase printing costs? I'm in the process of publishing a paperback, and I uploaded 25 photos with the text, but my printing cost would be $25, so my minimum sale price would be $49. No one will buy a $49 paperback. Do you know of any strategies to reduce printing cost to get to a lower retail price?
Photos and graphics can increase printing costs, especially if they're in color. I've observed that color can be up to three times or more expensive than black and white photos. So, yes, if you can go with black and white photos, you will save you money.
I think the big question is, are photos necessary to the subject and genre of your book? If the photos are just "window dressing" (e.g., you talk about computers and use a stock photo of someone using a computer), seriously consider whether they're really necessary.
Also, choose a standard trim size (the height and width measurement) for your book. In self publishing platforms such as Createspace, you are given a choice of standard sizes. If you go with a custom size, that will also increase your cost dramatically.
I'd be curious to know what platform you're using for your print book. If it's KDP or Createspace, it's unusual to see a $25 printing cost. I'm guessing that might have been for color photos, an extremely long book, or it's a custom trim size. Maybe all of the above? It's difficult for me to figure why that might be the case except for these possible reasons.
In your article, you talked about using styles in Word, but is there one, in particular, that is best and easiest to utilize?
I agree that Word can be a challenging program when it comes to formatting books! I wish I could say there was a better and easier program than Word. There may be other book formatting programs or plug-ins for Word that could help, but I haven't used them. It would be just another program to buy, learn and keep updated.
Almost all of my clients (except one in the past couple of years) use Word. Also, both Createspace and KDP accept Word documents. So it's easier when all of us use the same program.
I always recommend that writers and authors develope Microsoft Word skills. If you experiment with some dedicated book formatting software, I'd love to hear about your experience.
© 2018 Heidi Thorne