Kindle Direct Publishing paperback option is (nearly) unusable, stick with Createspace for print on demand

Recently I decided to change titles of my book; doing so with the Kindle version was easy, but you can’t change titles on Createspace (because it’s linked with an ISBN number) so I thought I’d try moving the print version to KDP instead.

I’ve tried KDP’s paperback option several times but have always given up in frustration… nevertheless I tried again and was disappointed (to say the least).

The main problem is that my PDFs are way too big – I’ve always had this issue saving from MS Word to PDF and getting large file sizes. But even when the files uploaded, and the mandatory previewer tool kicked in, it got everything wrong. (I usually skip Createspace’s previewer tool because it’s buggy and I know my files are right… but in KPD you can’t skip this stage or approve files until the previewer tool says you’re good).

My interior is 459 pages. I usually use to make exact templates – Createspace’s templates are averaged to the nearest closest page and will usually be off by a few pages.

For cream pages, my spine width should be 1.148″ … but when I uploaded my files, the previewer says spine should be .547″ – so of course nothing fits. It won’t let me approve the file with all the problems.



I thought maybe my files were just too large, so I go help from book formatter Hynek Palatin. I had to install PDFCreator, then I had to set up a special print setting for my book size (5×8.25).

“Open the Devices and Printers control panel. Click on the PDFCreator icon (just once).

Then click “Print server properties” at the top and define a new form.”

That worked, and now I have a PDF of 2mb instead of 50mb (every other time I tried to shrink the PDF size, I’d end up with crappy looking text or fonts). This file looks good, so I upload again – this time it says my spine should be 1.034″… so that’s close, but still doesn’t fit the cover I made. 

Just to make sure, I checked KDP’s spine width calculations, they say for white paper to multiply by 0.002252. My template from Bookow was for cream, for some reason KDP will only give me the white paper option… so that makes sense, I just need to make my spine smaller (Createspace will usually offer to do this for you if it’s pretty close already).

With the new cover at the right spine width, everything looks good (yeah!) Unfortunately, there are still 28 more errors.
I can’t approve the file until the previewer says it’s OK, but I’m also not going to waste any more time trying to make the previewer happy. I understand the reason for being picky, but this also means most non-designers won’t survive this process – even if they have more patience that I have.

And besides, now that I’ve started a paperback file on KDP, it’s linked to the original title and won’t let me change it; I also can’t delete the project I’ve started so it will be frozen, half-finished, forever on my account, while I go back to Createspace because it actually works.

Createspace: Started a new project with new title. Uploaded the original cover I made and chose cream pages so it fits. Chose “bleed ends after the page” because I have illustrative graphics on chapter pages. Skipped previewer. 2 minutes later, files are uploaded and waiting for approval.

EDIT, I have heard that some authors who switched their books from Createspace to KDP’s paperback option saw an increase in sales. I was actually able to switch one book over earlier, but I haven’t noticed a bump – about 5 paperback sales a month. Worth testing out for you, possibly, but I don’t think stressing about your paperback is worth it, since you should focus on improving/testing things with your ebook first – a lot of authors launch with an ebook, to get the bugs out and catch extra typos, and only make a print book later once you’ve smoothed out the wrinkles and figured out why your ebooks aren’t selling – in my case, this book is a year old and I just changed the cover (again) and the title

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors build profitable publishing platforms. Find me
  • I totally get it. I didn’t have any problems with transitioning over from Createspace, but I had other issues that made me go back to Createspace. First, they don’t offer print in Canada (which Createspace does), and I couldn’t buy discounted author copies. I might just check it out again at some point, but for now, it still has too many bugs.

    • I just heard they’re starting to offer discounted author prices now, which is nice. I might try again later too.

      • That’s good to know. I figured they’d be headed that way eventually.

  • Cory Reynolds

    Thanks for saving us some (or a lot) of time. The new cover looks great!

  • Gregory Attaway

    I never used Createspace. I did spend a day or two trying to sort through all of the KDP Paperback issues, but I resolved them, and what I learned will make the next one much smoother. I’m interested in the discounted author price you mentioned. My concern is being able to order advance copies without it messing up my reported release date.

  • Ernesto

    My experiences with both CreateSpace and KDP have been pretty bad. However, KDP is by far worse. For a print book, there aren’t many formats. Paperback, hardback, and large print being the main ones on the Amazon homepage. The people at KDP can’t their books in the large print format category (with CreateSpace you check a box to do so) and when I asked about it they started talking about trim sizes, clearly not even knowing what a large print book is.

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