Thursday 9 August 2018

Sink or Swim? Create Space Vs KDP Select

There's speculation going around author circles that Create Space (CS) might be winding down. Have you heard it? What would it mean to you if your favourite print-on-demand (POD) service went out of business? Would you move over to Amazon's KDP Print (KDPP) as Amazon encourages you to do each time you print a Kindle book? Or do you feel honour-bound to stick it out and, watching the bow of the CS ship tip under the weight of the rising water, only scramble to the hull at the last seconds of the last minute when the end is inevitable?

Jump now or wait until there's no choice? 

I asked myself the same question.

I jumped.

And I have to say I'm really happy I did. In a moment I'll tell you why I don't think you should wait, I share with you the pros and cons I found and why I wouldn't go back even if I could (the move is apparently irreversible; there's no going back).

So, before that, I must give a quick shout-out to the Sell More Books Show, where twice recently this matter was brought to my attention. The show is my favourite author news podcast. Presenters Jim Kukral and Bryan Cohen - the most up-to-date duo in the author world -  discuss 5 top-tips and 5 top news stories each week. (As a 'by the way', the next top show I listen to for news is likely The Creative Penn by author Joanna Penn, who, if you don't know her, usually does a news item or two in her awesome weekly podcast).

Back to the matter in hand. Running round the park and listening to Episode 220 (other recent episodes on CS/KDPP are 223 and 226), I  listened to Jim and Bryan ponder on whether the Amazon-run company was winding down on the back of yet another Create Space service being discontinued and discuss if they should move from CS to KDPP before it came to the crunch. After all, both companies apparently use the same printing press, the same staff, the same materials that go into the print books. With many of the author services no longer available was there so much difference between the two?

Well, yes, there is. But not necessarily what you're thinking. I've swayed the other way.

Jim and Bryan said they thought it might be a good idea to start moving over, especially if you have a lot of books. They both said they would start that day. Jim even opened KDPP and talked the listeners through how to transfer from CS to KDPP. It sounded simply enough. I decided there and then, even if I only had one paperback (The Popish Midwife), I might as well start finding out how to use the latter. After all, I hadn't used any but the POD service. I hadn't used the CD service nor the printing of larger numbers of copies for book signings. 

It was as simply as it sounded, and within a lickerty-split it was all done and I clicked the publish button. Did I worry about it? A little. I had heard from some that Amazon 'did' Kindle brilliantly, but to go with Create Space for print copies. It made me a little nervous that I might be cutting out too soon. Perhaps I should stay with the company that best did the job they were created for. A frisson of concern whenever I saw in the Kindle community boards the guy's 'signature' saying KDPP: good for ebooks, terrible for print. However, after the transfer was made I quickly saw some pros for moving over.

First thing I noticed was the pleasure of seeing some little grey blips appear in the KDP Reports - my paperback sales right next to the Kindle sales.

Paperback sales show up next to ebook sales

As well, the paperback sales totals were added to the monthly totals at the bottom of the page. Brilliant! I no longer had to add up totals on two different sites - ebook and KU reads on one and paperback on the other - I could see them all on one page! Bonus!

Royalties for ebook and paperback sales in one place.

The next thing I noticed was one of the biggest and most important things for anyone using AMZ ads - the paperback showed up in the drop-down list of books you can advertise!  Anyone who's been using the ads knows that if your paperback's listed on CS, you can't advertise it through the AMZ ads for some reason. But suddenly, what had been denied was now available to me - I could advertise not only my Kindle, but my paperback, not one ad to cover both.

Why is this so important?

The paperback now appears on the
drop-down book choices
  1. For starters, when you advertise the paperback with a 'Sponsored Ad', you can specifically use more paperback titles within your genre as relevant keywords.
  2. I found book title keywords that are paperback-specific are more effective at selling paperbacks. This might seem obvious, but actually seeing it in action was great. I presume it not only makes the ad more relevant to paperback readers since it will more likely appear on the pages of paperback books but also takes the reader to their preferred paperback version rather than the ebook.
  3. I believe that often, when you create new AMZ ads for the ebook, the new one kinda cancels out the old one. Unless the old one really got going, the ad seems to favour the new one. However, since both are now listed through Amazon, because the paperback is a separate listing from the ebook, when you advertise the paperback it seems to be treated like a totally different product and doesn't supersede the Kindle ads. I haven't advertised long enough to be sure, but I believe the initial findings show that that gives you two products instea of a single title, either of which might be purchased by the reader, in effect doubling your impressions and increasing your sales. Certainly, both my paperback and Kindle sales have increased since I've been able to advertise The Popish Midwife as two individual products.
One downside (but not really a downside as you're still one ahead by being able to have an extra ad for the title) is that you can only create Sponsored ads (the keyword ones) but not the Product Display ads, probably because they are mostly shown on Kindles and Kindle Aps on mobile phones. The product display option isn't available.

The other downside might be that you haven't got the option to do the bulk-buy thing to send to book-readings/signings or to clients in advance. Joanna Penn said on one of her recent episodes that she sells paperbacks to Amazon through CS (though maybe she might change over to KDPP  if she knew the advantages of advertising the paperback) but also uses Ingram Sparks for all other outlets, and also for discount books and bulk sales. I'm still in the process of setting this up, so make your own enquiries to double-check this. Some podcast interviews interviewing Ingram Sparks staff members I've heard have, however, seemed to have confirmed it.

So that's about it. To sum up, my paperback sales have gone up (more than double), mostly I think, due to being able to advertise them separately, and I believe it's also helped my ebook sales. Also, I can now see all my royalty information for each title on one page on the Kindle Reports website. Very useful. Just being able to advertise the print book is great, having had that version sit and take only pot-luck views before. Now I can actually send readers to the version they prefer, using keywords more related to paperbacks, making it more likely they will be interested in the paperback than the kindle, so marketing is more focused to the reader likely to buy it!

The advantages, in my view, outweigh the couple of disadvantages for me, because I don't use the other services. If you do, you might want to think whether you would miss the above advantages of CS. But, though we don't know if the rumours are true, it might be best to prepare for that change find other outlets (eg Ingram Sparks) to provide the services not (yet?) available in KDPP. Perhaps there are some books more suited to one than the other. These might be the best to consider for moving over and trialling the sister-company for yourself. Personally, I'm loving the move and the increased sales. Worth thinking about, even for loyal CS fans and I won't be going back.

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