How to Turn Your Kindle Ebook Into a Print Book
Have you seen alerts on your Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) dashboard 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.
I can understand why Amazon might want to steer 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.
In 2017, Amazon introduced Kindle Create, a tool that transforms a simple unformatted Microsoft Word document into an eBook. In 2019, Kindle Create introduced the beta version of the tool which includes print book preparation. This is a major development that allows authors to create a Kindle eBook and print edition with simple formatting at the same time with the same file!
But if your book has more complex formatting, converting it from eBook to print can be quite a project.
Getting Started: Book Details
Note: These procedures could change over time. So see the KDP documentation for current procedures.
To start, you click the Create 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.
ISBN and ASIN Number Issues
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.
Your Print Book Details
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.
Formatting Your Manuscript Interior Pages with Kindle Create
Note: The Kindle Create tool feature for creating print books is in early access beta mode as of this writing. So changes will likely occur over time. For now, details on the feature are available in KDP support documentation.
Of course, I was anxious to try the Kindle Create tool for converting my eBook into a print book ASAP! I was pretty pleased with the results, with some exceptions as I discuss in the following video.
My Review of Kindle Create for Print (Beta)
Formatting the Interior On Your Own with Microsoft Word
If you're using the Kindle Create tool to automatically format your eBook and print book, you can skip the following instructions... unless you're just curious.
But if you have lots of special formatting for your book, you'll need to format it on your own.
I’ve found that I’m better off setting up my own document using the specs that KDP requires, instead of using the Word templates provided. I struggled with undoing a lot of the formatting in the templates just to make them work. See the KDP documentation for specifications on margins and more for paperback books.
Though not noted in these instructions on KDP, 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 or freelancer who’s a wiz at using Word.
Book Cover Design
The KDP print book creation function uses a book cover layout tool similar to the one that was in the former Createspace (actually, it’s probably the exact same thing!). I've used the free Cover Creator tool for almost all of my book covers and have been satisfied with the results.
If you're wanting something more elaborate than what the free Cover Creator tool offers, you'll have to download a template for the cover. Specs for your book cover are currently found in KDP support documentation.
As with formatting the interior, you may need to get help from a book cover designer to get this in print-ready form. 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!
Preparing Your Interior Page Manuscript for Uploading to KDP
If you're using the Kindle Create tool, you will be creating a .kpf (Kindle Publishing File) that will be uploaded for both the eBook and print editions. Yes, the same file is used for both.
But if you are formatting your book on your own, creating a PDF of your manuscript and book cover for uploading is suggested. Actually, that’s a good idea since what prints will be a more faithful rendering of your formatted pages.
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. The Previewer in the Kindle Create tool is excellent for both eBooks and print.
Especially if this is your first experience creating a print book, ordering a physical proof copy is highly recommended before approving your book for sale on Amazon, even though there's a cost for the proof copy and shipping.
Is Creating a Print Book Through KDP Worth Doing?
Now that KDP, with the Kindle Create tool, offers such an easy way to create a print edition—and for free!—why not create one?
However, if your book involves difficult and special formatting, the decision is tougher since it's much more of an investment of time, effort, and probably money. In this case, carefully evaluate whether your readers really need or want either a print edition and/or that special formatting. Oftentimes, they don't.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
How does the quality of a printed ebook from Amazon look like compared to those you would find in a bookshop?
Print books are done through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) are similar to other trade paperback books. I've been satisfied with the quality. All of my print books have been done through KDP (or the former Createspace which is now under the KDP umbrella).
If you want to check out the quality, order a print book on Amazon that indicates it was published through Amazon Digital Services LLC in the book's Product Details. If you publish through KDP, order a physical proof of your book before approving for sale on Amazon. That way you can check any quality issues that need to be addressed.
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.
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?
Indeed, the move of Createspace over to KDP is a big change, and I do hope that any issues with that transition will be worked out quickly and in authors' favor!
Even after the change to KDP, it will still be expensive to print a book with color illustrations. Color can be up to 3 times the price of black and white printing. The reason for that is due to the additional ink and paper costs required (it takes four inks for full color as opposed to black only, plus some papers cannot withstand the full-color printing process).
And if you're looking at the eBook side of the equation, it could be more expensive for that, too, since extensive illustration image files bulk up the e-files and file size fees. That cuts into your royalties for the eBook edition.
So I guess the best thing to do is to look carefully at the illustration and layout issues of your book before you launch into the book production process on KDP. I would suggest contacting the KDP support folks with any concerns or questions you have. But be aware that during this transition, it could take a while for them to get back to you.
If you have additional or more specific questions, send them over.
My novel was published as an eBook in 2018 by a traditional publisher and is already available as such on Amazon. I hired a seasoned self-publisher to format a print version but I'm guessing the rules for getting it up and running are different if Amazon didn't publish your eBook -- any idea how this might work?
Well, you have quite a complex situation that will require the help of an attorney. First, if your book was published by a traditional publisher, they may own the copyrights to the book. That could prevent you from publishing it in any form. It really depends on the terms of your book deal contract with them.
You could be completely prohibited from re-publishing this novel, or any part of it, forever. I had a traditionally published author friend who was prohibited from using any part of the book in any form, at any time. The terms of that author's contract also held the first option on anything published after that book.
You are in some tricky legal territory. Do not self publish the print or any other format edition anywhere until you get legal advice.
That's probably not what you wanted to hear, but it's what you needed to hear.
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