Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.
Kindle Direct Publishing Introduces Hardcover Print Editions
In 2021, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) self-publishing platform introduced the ability to print your self-published books, on-demand, in hardcover. Other major self-publishing platforms such as IngramSpark, Lulu, and BookBaby already offered hardcover print editions, and Amazon refuses to be left behind. Not being able to get hardcover editions was the reason why many authors self-published on both KDP and one of these other platforms.
But is it easy to use? Here's what authors should know.
I added a hardcover edition to one of my titles as an experiment. Converting my paperback edition into hardcover was very easy. Overall, I was pleased with the process and the print quality, but I probably won’t do many more.
Reformatting for Hardcover
I had to reformat the book cover. Thankfully, the KDP Hardcover Cover Creator tool offered the same art elements and layouts that I had used for the paperback and Kindle eBook edition I did in 2014. Though it looks slightly different than the paperback and eBook covers, the hardcover looks similar enough to look like it’s the same book title as these other formats.
I would suggest that you make hardcover, paperback, and Kindle eBook editions look identical or very similar. If you have used KDP Cover Creator tools to create your previously published paperback and Kindle eBook editions, there is the possibility that layouts and artwork from them may no longer be available on KDP. If this is the case, you may wish to redesign your cover for all three so they match.
I really don’t remember doing much, if any, reformatting of the interior pages. That was easy! But be aware that some reformatting may be required, depending on your particular manuscript. See KDP’s support documentation for layout requirements.
Hardcover Finish and Construction
You have a choice between gloss or matte finish hardcover. I did my proof in matte. While I liked the finish overall, I didn't think it was appropriate for my subject matter. So I switched to gloss for the final, and it turned out great. From a print quality standpoint, both finishes are good. So choose the one that fits your book's aesthetic.
Your full-color hardcover artwork is printed right onto the cover at no extra charge.
Dust jackets are not yet available for KDP hardcover printing as of this original post date. But since that's a very expensive printing option, it's not a budget-friendly choice for self-publishing.
Hardcover Interior Paper Choices
White and cream papers are available for black and white hardcover printing. Color interior printing on white paper is also available but will be more expensive, meaning you’ll make lower royalties unless you charge higher prices.
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Do Higher Priced Hardcovers Mean More Sales and Royalty Revenues?
KDP offers authors 60% royalty on hardcover and paperback book sales. You’re probably thinking, “Wow, I’ll make a lot of money with my more expensive hardcover!” Not so fast. That’s 60% royalty before printing costs are deducted. Hardcover printing is much more expensive than perfect bound paperbacks.
Printing costs are always subject to change. KDP has a Printing Cost & Royalty Calculator available in the KDP support documentation. It’s still in beta mode as of the original post date. But it is a great tool! There’s also a downloadable Excel version, too. But I’d be more inclined to use the online calculator since it’s likely to be continuously updated with current printing costs.
Also be aware that KDP requires a minimum list price for your book which depends on the printing cost. They will not let you produce and sell a print book, paperback or hardcover, at a loss.
Here’s the cost breakdown for my book with current pricing.
- $21.95 list price
- $7.20 printing cost
- $5.97 estimated net royalty
- $14.95 list price
- $2.55 printing cost
- $6.42 estimated net royalty
You can see that the hardcover costs are almost three times that of paperback. Yet, the royalty for paperback is roughly 8 percent higher than for hardcover, even with a lower price point.
Are KDP Hardcover Editions Worth It?
While I always encourage authors to offer multiple formats of their books to reach a wider audience of readers, I don't know how much difference there would be between print options of hardcover and paperback. It really depends on the market. For example, for books that will receive a lot of wear and tear, such as children's books, hardcover might be preferred. But in some markets, the higher hardcover price point may turn off some readers. Carefully consider your market before investing your time in creating hardcovers.
For me, the addition of hardcover has been a non-starter so far. I haven't done any marketing or announcements for it. So this has been a good test of whether the hardcover option would resonate with a typical buyer not prompted by my marketing efforts. Want to guess how many hardcover sales I've made to date? Two. And one of them was to me because, in the early going, author copies weren't available, and I had to buy the book at retail to get my final copy. Now, discounted author hardcover copies are available.
I probably won't offer hardcover editions of my other existing titles, simply because I don't think my audience would be willing to pay the higher cost. Though the process is pretty easy to convert an existing title into hardcover, I don't even want to waste any more of my time on them.
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.
© 2021 Heidi Thorne