How To Switch From Createspace to KDP Print Amazon Publishing

UPDATE: Amazon has made it official. Createspace is closing in a few weeks. The migration process is now more streamlined and those with big catalogs can port everything across in one go. More here.

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Createspace is rumored to be closing soon – meaning all users will be forced to transition to KDP Print (or use an alternative service). I decided to get ahead of the move to scout out any potential issues, and there are a few for you to watch out for – meaning, somewhat paradoxically, that you may wish to make the leap sooner rather than later.

I know, I know, it sounds like a big plate of hassle with little upside. But the process might be easier than you think, and could save you bigger problems in a few months. On top of that, this could be a good opportunity to update those old paperback files, clean up your metadata in line with current best practices (hellooooo 2012 keywords), and perhaps consider some distribution alternatives. Let’s get to it!

Createspace is Closing?

Ever since the launch of KDP Print, it has been rumored that Createspace is closing – after all, it doesn’t make sense to maintain a second, off-brand POD service, especially one where the architecture is creaking and security issues are multiplying.

I spoke to one of the senior Createspace people at NINC last year, and he explained that the two services have been slowly folding together at the back end for quite some time, and that they were now working out of the same building. What we’ve seen more recently is the gap between the two closing at the front end, with Createspace killing off extraneous services like copy-editing, and KDP Print replicating the last few features of Createspace it had been missing – things like author copies and Expanded Distribution.

Bar some minor kinks to be ironed out, and a couple of international issues, that process is pretty much complete. Outside of Amazon, nobody knows when Createspace will actually shut its doors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it happens over the next few months. Which means you are going to have to move soon anyway. But should you do it now, or wait? Is the process tricky? I decided to find out.

Switching to KDP Print

It’s mostly good news on this front. The process for transitioning existing Createspace titles to KDP Print is really simple – it basically involves a few clicks, inputting your ISBN number, and then reviewing the new files in the previewer.

KDP Print Dashboard screenshot 1

First, you click the “Create Paperback” button in your KDP Dashboard beside the desired title. Yes, this is the same process if you are making a KDP Print paperback from scratch – you will just skip a bunch of steps if you already have a Createspace edition of that title. However, you may wish to review your keywords and categories at this point.

The system will pull through the metadata attached to your ebook edition, rather than your Createspace edition. Which may be a good thing anyway, as it is probably more up-to-date/optimized, but give it a once over. You get more keywords and the like with KDP Print so make sure you are maximizing the opportunities here in line with current best practices.

Once your metadata has been reviewed you’ll get asked at the bottom of the page if this title was previously published by Createspace.

KDP Print screenshot 2

Assuming you select Yes, you will then be prompted to input the ISBN number for your Createspace edition – which will either be the free ISBN number that Createspace assigned you on publishing, or your own ISBN number if you went that route. The system will then pull through all the information about your paperback – trim size, paper type, cover finish, bleed settings, and then the interior and cover files also.

Warning: as soon as you input your ISBN number here, your Createspace edition will vanish from your Createspace interface, so make a note of anything you need before it disappears. Don’t worry about the customer side though. Your book will remain on sale during the transition, even if you are caught up in approvals for some reason (more on that in a moment).

You can make changes to the interior or cover files at this point, after you pull them through, and this may be a good time to update anything. Then you are asked to review the book in the previewer before saving and moving to the final page: pricing.

This part is quite different from Createspace in that you have a little more freedom when it comes to territorial pricing, and can set separate prices for Amazon US, UK, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, and Japan. The interface also handily displays the final selling price after local sales taxes are applied, as well as what your own royalty per sale will be, so you can tailor that as you desire and have it all neat on the customer side, if that’s important to you.

There is a big Publish button at the bottom, but you may wish to first order a proof if you have made significant changes to your files during the transition. One big advantage of KDP Print for “international” types like myself is that we can now get proof and author copies sent to us from Europe rather than America, greatly reducing both cost and shipping time, making it much more economical to sell by hand at cons or to bookstores.

One minor disadvantage is that proof copies now have a rather ungainly PROOF emblazoned upon them so can’t be reused, but this is where you order one of those, if needed. Author copies are ordered elsewhere (and don’t have that PROOF printed on them), but you’ll have to wait for approval first. Those author copy orders go via your regular Amazon shopping cart, so the shipping options and costs should be familiar to you.

Then when you hit the Publish button, your files will get sent for review. There is a human layer to the reviewing process and they seem to be reviewing things quite closely and finding some minor errors that Createspace missed.

For example, in a paperback I had on sale since 2012, KDP Print was unhappy that a small excerpt in the back restarted the pagination rather than continuing from the main text. A relatively easy fix, and the old edition stayed on sale throughout, so no real hassle – just something to watch out for.

The real problems come when you have a more serious issue, because support is now handled by KDP rather than Createspace. The support from Createspace was generally excellent, augmented by the availability of good phone support and well trained staff who understood issues on the spot, and who generally had the expertise/authority to resolve them.

The same cannot be said for KDP Print support. Questions seem to go into the general KDP customer support system, which is… uneven at the best of times, and fairly terrible for anything remotely complicated.

My issue seemed relatively straightforward, if a little odd. My bestselling paperback – Let’s Get Digital – went through the review process just fine. But when it went live on the customer side, I noticed something weird. Digital is now only purchasable by Amazon Prime subscribers.

Wut?

Digital is only orderable by prime members

Here’s where the wheels come off. I emailed KDP support about this in late July. They then replied on August 1 saying they were going to have to consult with the relevant team (because why would the person with expertise actually be answering the emails?), and get back to me on August 5. That never happened. I’ve sent five emails over the last ten days asking what the situation is with no response whatsoever.

So now I’m stuck. Welcome to KDP customer service.

Should you transition now?

Despite these hiccups, I think so, yes. The review process is relatively quick – it took less than 24 hours for each of my titles done at various times over the last few weeks. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if that changes considerably when hundreds of thousands of titles need to be reviewed simultaneously.

Support is abysmal, true, but I don’t see it getting any better when thousands and thousands of support requests flood the system, so you might want to get ahead of that rather inevitable clusterfudge.

What about other services?

Reedsy has a good breakdown here of Createspace/KDP Print v Ingram Spark v BookBaby v Blurb. I’d agree with them that services like BookBaby and Blurb are sub-optimal ways to do your paperbacks. (I’m not even including Lulu here who should be avoided for a whole bunch of reasons, not least their tawdry links with Author Solutions.)

I’d also agree that – ideally – you should probably use Createspace/KDP Print to reach Amazon customers and Ingram Spark for non-Amazon distribution, particularly if you are a wide author who sells a bit of print. If you are a KU author who sells little in print it might not be worth the hassle, and you can just use Amazon’s Expanded Distribution network if you wish to reach somewhat outside of Amazon.

Up until now, I’ve always used that Expanded Distribution network, and made a decent chunk from it, but it does have disadvantages. Aside from restricting you somewhat on price on Amazon itself, you are giving up a big portion of royalties (around 20%) to access the same Ingram network that you could access directly, but without the ability to offer the level of discounts (or returns) that will attract real orders from that network, so Ingram Spark is something I’m looking at longer term for that. And then of course there are some stores and institutions who despise Amazon so much they won’t even order Createspace books.

However, going via Ingram involves a bit of extra hassle: fresh files with my own ISBNs and slightly tweaked cover files, etc. A job for Captain Tomorrow.

But if that is something you are considering yourself, you may wish to opt out of the Expanded Distribution Network for KDP Print when transitioning your files from Createspace to reduce some messiness when you do get going at Ingram Spark. And if you want a proper guide to Ingram Spark, this post from ALLi is a good basic primer, with links to more detailed resources. Just keep in mind it has costs where KDP Print has none, and is not recommend for beginners at all as the process is quite convoluted.

Summary

  • Createspace is closing soon, possibly in the next few months
  • Transitioning to KDP Print is (largely) painless
  • Customer service is terrible – be warned
  • Perhaps do it now to avoid delays when everyone switches over
  • Use this opportunity to update any files and clean up metadata.

UPDATE: Some good info popping up on social media in response which I’ll copy here:

1. There are some issues with author copies where big orders (like 20 books or so) will get split into 4 or 5 separate packages which arrive at different times – a pain if you have to trudge 40 minutes away to the post office, like me.

2. Amazon have said privately that they are working on automating the migration process. So you could just do nothing and let that happen. However, given they have 2m titles to migrate, I’d personally want to avoid that and get ahead of it, given possible backlog with approvals and support, even if there are no issues with the migration process itself (and I suspect there will be with that many titles).

3. People generally seem to think this is happening soonish. Fall comes up a lot in rumors. No firm date I know of, but that sounds about right to me, if I had to guess.

4. Workflow-wise, especially for those of you with lots of titles. This will be a pain one way or the other, but if you can arrange the transition for when you are updating files that will be most efficient. But I recommend doing it like this: don’t update the file before the migration. Start the process, and then before you approve the interior and cover files that KDP Print pulls across from Createspace, insert your new updated files. Then submit for review. Your old CS file will stay on sale until it’s approved, which means you’ll have no downtime.

And I’ll just add this: my Prime-only issue (screenshot above) has now been resolved. It only affected that one title, so appears to be a one-off glitch.