I've previously used Createspace to publish indie paperback editions of my titles, but CS has now been retired by Amazon so this month I tackled my first ever KDP paperbacks with two short story collections Mythic & Magical and Weird & Wonderful, which up to now have only been available as ebooks.
Each collection contains seven of my short stories, so they both come in at around 125 pages, plenty long enough for a paperback edition. Being the same length also meant I could use the same KDP cover template for both titles, which made the design a bit easier. I'm calling this series 'Ampersand Tales' because the collections are additional to my novels, as well as being for older readers who might have enjoyed my children's books as young readers when they were first published. Some of these short stories helped inspire my novels, and each carries an introduction setting it in the context of my writing career, making Ampersand Tales of interest to authors, too.
But back to the publishing process. You'll need to format your book for print in exactly the same way as you did for Createspace, starting with choosing a trim size (I usually go for the American YA standard of 5.25" x 8", even though standard paperbacks are slightly smaller than this in the UK - I figure they're not going to be sitting on many shelves in a UK bookshop, anyway). You then add your front and back matter, make sure your title page agrees exactly with the title you've entered for the book on the KDP, and upload your interior. For simplicity, I usually upload my Word document, which then gets converted into a pdf by amazon's software, but if you are fussy about formatting you can upload your own pdf. KDP then prints the interior on either cream or white paper (you can choose... for fiction, I follow the standard and use cream). The paper is of a good quality, which makes the books slightly heavier than mass market paperbacks of the same length. Here's a sample page from the interior of Mythic & Magical.
Next you need to tackle your paperback cover, and again the process is similar to the one at Createspace. The KDP also has a cover creator tool for simple covers, though I prefer to do mine at Canva. You can use any photo editing software you like, including Photoshop if you have that, but you must get the cover exactly the right size for your selected trim, which means downloading the correct-sized template from the KDP and doing a small bit of maths before you start... if you're a beginner, I wrote a post about paperback covers for this blog. Take extra care to keep all your text - including the spine text - out of the red areas on the template. The KDP seems quite fussy about this (more so than CS, I think, since despite my experience it took three attempts to get my spine text the correct size on the first title I uploaded).
|Remember you'll need smaller text for a narrow spine.|
There's an online previewer at the KDP so you can check the results, although you'll need to upload both your interior and cover files before you can activate this, which I found a bit annoying. At CS, I used to check the interior file before designing the cover, because sometimes I decided to change the number of pages after previewing my first attempt, and if you're between different cover templates (which are provided in multiples of 10 pages), that could mean redesigning your whole cover to match. Also, be warned that the KDP previewer does not include the final page that gets added for the barcode on printing, so your actual book will be at least one page longer than it looks in the preview - again, this might cause a problem with your cover if you are near the maximum pages on a template. But once you know all this, it's fine.
You are then invited to do your pricing (the KDP handles the maths), and then you can either send for a proof copy (which has a 'NOT FOR RESALE' band printed across the entire cover so isn't much good for proofing your cover), or send your files straight for publishing. At this point, they will undergo a final manual check at the KDP - which I seem to remember CS used to do earlier in the process, before publication. You might get an email from the KDP alerting you to something wrong at this stage, in which case it's back to the drawing board... but if you did everything properly, your book will be 'published' (i.e. made available for order), although at this stage it's unlikely any actual copies will be printed. You can then order an author copy at cost price to check that it looks exactly as you expected it to look from the online preview... this is what I'd call a proof, but I suppose the pre-publication one with the 'not for resale' band on the cover would be okay for a final proofread of the interior, or if you want to send out nicely-bound copies to your proofreaders, The Devil Wears Prada style... although, Harry Potter aside, even big publishers rarely do bound proofs these days. More likely, your editor will send a pdf by email for the final proofread, and the 'proofs' sent out to reviewers are free copies of the actual book hot off the press, no doubt accounting for the large number that turn up for sale 'as new' on Amazon, sometimes before the actual book is officially launched (explaining that ugly NOT FOR RESALE band, I suppose).
The one thing missing on the KDP is the 3D 'spin' tool we used to have at Createspace, which showed your uploaded cover from the back, side and front as your 'book' rotated virtually on the screen. At CS, I used this spin tool to check my spine text was in the correct place - it's not quite as easy to check the placement with the guidelines on the KDP previewer, so you might need to use a bigger screen to do your online previewing, or send for an actual copy before you are sure.
One final thing: do not be misled by the colours you see on a backlit screen, as usually these print darker. My first attempt at Mythic & Magical arrived a darker blue than expected, and I struggled to read the black text I'd used on the spine and back cover, so I decided to change all the text to white. I also wasn't entirely happy with the contrast of the unicorn, so I've lightened the background slightly. I'm still awaiting the new version (which I just hope does not print too pale now) but the beauty of print on demand is that you are not stuck with a thousand duff books under your bed if you make a mistake. You simply upload a new cover, and within a few days the new version is available for sale worldwide.
|Mythic & Magical - first attempt|
(black text a struggle to read in dim light)
The result? Two short story collections, now happily available in both ebook and paperback... and as a special treat for reading this far, the Kindle ebook of my science fiction collection Weird & Wonderful is FREE FOR FIVE DAYS.
(free until 24th May 2019)
(not free, sorry)
Katherine Roberts writes fantasy and historical fiction for young (and older) readers. Find out more about her books at www.katherineroberts.co.uk.