29 September 2019

KDP Paperback Decisions

Warning. Today's offering may give you a headache. It covers number of pages, font and font size, cost of printing, cost per page, book size, pricing and royalties to be received when you convert an e-book to a KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) paperback, or even just going straight to KDP paperback.
Naturally, if you can get your manuscript printed by a traditional publisher, then good for you and your book. That option just might keep you from eating Advil by the handful like M & M's. Professional publishing will handle all your book formatting, printing and distribution work. You may have to handle your own publicity, but then, unless you are with one of the big houses, we are getting there anyway. And, with an advance (assuming you get one) plus with traditional distribution, you may get paid more money. I've heard more money is generally a good thing for writers.

If you don't go traditional, then you will have to figure out a way to publish your book on your own. Create Space used to be one option for your manuscript to get printed in paperback form, however Create Space doesn't exist anymore. Amazon gobbled it up. KDP took the software it wanted and developed its own method of getting the job done. So, assuming you are going the KDP paperback route, allow me to make you aware of some of the decisions you will have to make.

Size Matters

Bigger is not necessarily better. There is a balancing act to consider. The number of pages in your book is determined by the number of words in your manuscript, the font used, the size of the font, the size of the book itself and how much fluff you put in  it. As examples, we will use the six e-books I've converted so far. Each paperback is in Garamond font with a 13 size. It is easy to read and is an accepted font. Change the font type or size and you will have more or less pages. All my books are 5.5" x 8.5", which is an acceptable size. Change the book size and you will have more or less pages.

Why does the number of pages matter? Because when KDP starts calculating their share versus your share of the profits, they deduct a base amount for printing, plus a small amount for each page in your book, plus their royalty. So, in my 162 page paperback with a selling price of $8.99, the total printing cost is $2.80, my royalty is $2.60 if Amazon sells it and $.80 if another distributor sells it. My 210 page paperback at the same selling price of $8.99 has a total printing cost of $3.35, the royalty is $2.02 with an expanded royalty of $.23 if sold by another distributor.


You can set your own price, however KDP will tell you the minimum price you can set on your book. When you run the figures on their calculator for this minimum price, you may find your royalty is no more than a penny and your expanded royalty is in the hole, meaning no other distributor will sell your book. But then, you are going to set a high enough price to make a decent royalty, yet not so high that no one will buy your book. Right? The KDP calculator lets you enter your figures and in return, it provides you with what the costs and royalties will be.


Every book has what I call fluff in it. Usually, fluff is not reading material, but it is necessary to the book. Examples are the Table of Contents, the copyright page, the Bibliography, the About the Author page, a list of other books by the author and however many blank pages are needed to get certain pages to fall on the right side of the book. You may or may not also have an introduction, pages of quotes from reviewers, an acknowledgement page, etc.

My books have six unnumbered pages in the front, followed by the numbered pages with story on them. Since 9 is my brand and all my books (save one) have 9 in the title, each book has 9 stories in it. Now, because some of my stories have a smaller word count in them, which makes for a smaller book, I will then throw in a 10th story in that series and call it a free Bonus Story. Also, to advertise another of my paperbacks, at the end of most of these books, I will add up to five pages of a story from a different book. Naturally, these five pages end on a cliff-hanger with an inducement for the reader to buy that next book in order to finish the story. You should know though that all these pages up the cost of printing.

Author Copies

Remember that $2.80 printing cost and that $3.35 printing cost? That is roughly my price to obtain author copies. Interestingly enough, when I do order author copies, I can get up to 999 at a time. Why draw the line at 999? I have no idea. Maybe because Amazon is switching away from Fedex and UPS to their own delivery system called Amazon Prime (I've seen their trucks) and therefore they are afraid of hurting their deliverymen's backs? Personally, I wouldn't know what to do with that many copies of my books.
NOTE: Author copies do not qualify for Amazon Prime free shipping.


I won't go into covers except to say that KDP's free Cover Creator software does have some nice generic designs where the author adds his own title and back cover blurbs. But, for my purposes, I use the art work my buddy does.

Let us know if you try KDP paperbacks and how well that process works for you.


  1. A piece full of interesting and useful info. Thanks.

  2. Lots of good info, R.T. It just gets more complicated all the time.

  3. I'm right there with you, R. T. After a horrendous experience with a small publisher in 2010, I have self-pubbed 14 novels with Create Space and KDP. I actually find the process slightly smoother with KDP and the costs haven't changed. Even though I still order a physical proof copy to check before publishing, the online viewer gives me a preview of possible issues to double-check.

    Like you, I publish my novels (and one story collection) in 5.5 by 8.5. I use Georgia 11 point font. I price all my books at $15 and my author cost runs from about $4.70 to $5.15, depending on page count.

    I have an excellent cover designer (my largest expense, actually, and worth every penny), but my upcoming book will be my last in paper because my sales don't support his cost.

    I DO find the KDP financial reports easier to navigate, but maybe I'm finally learning how to do it.

    Promotion is vital, and I haven't found anything that works effectively in the long term. But as I move more toward short stories, which I may simply publish online, that might become less important. I'm still getting a few writing workshops, although fewer than before.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience and details of that experience. I've bookmarked this one for future reference!

  5. My first five books were published by Zebra Books (Kensington). I made 8% royalty. Payment was sporadic. I had no control over anything. Arbitrary editing. Changed whatever they felt like, including the titles. Cut large portions out of my non-fiction book because it was too long. The covers were bad (the promo on the backs of the books were horrendous). On the back of one of my books, they called it "Bay City Blues." There are no bays around New Orleans. They controlled the price and the books went out of print quickly, although two of them sold well enough to go into second printings. As for promotion, they printed the books, opened their back door and tossed them out.

    I control my art now. I write the books, create the covers, edit (with editor friends) – yes we miss a few typos. We control the prices and change them when we feel like it. We do the layout (5.5x8.5 and some 6x9). We can change the cover if it doesn't work once printed. We control what's on the back of the covers. I use Times New Roman 12 or 13 points for the interior. The royalties are always higher than the 8% and we get paid and the end of every month. We chage $14.95 for the trade paperbacks and receive between $5 and $6 royalty (depending on the page count of the Book). ANDTHE BOOKS NEVER GO OUT OF PRINT.

    Here's a tip. CreateSpace proofs had the word 'proof' on the back page. As you know, with Amazon KDP, they put a bar across the cover with "Not for Resale" stamped multiple times. What I do is view the proof online, approve it and order two copies. When they come, it's the final product. If the book needs a change, I change it and republish. I don't want a book with a marred cover and the process moves faster.

    Big problem, of course, are bookstores. They are married to the big publishers and will not carry Amazon KDP books because they cannot return the books. They will order a book for a customer. This is why I no longer shop at bookstores and send everyone to amazon.com to purchase books.

  6. Amazon chose 999 author copies because of RT's 9 brand.

    RT, can you tell if the previews in the back of the book draw in customers?

  7. Thanks everyone for your input. It is helpful.

    Leigh, it's too early in the game to tell if adding a preview (TEASER) to the back of the book has any positive result. Actually, I have no way to track the success of these previews of other books, however, since some of the traditional publishing houses do it for big name authors, I then assume there may be some success to the practice. I do know that I have bought some books after reading an excerpt from that book at the back of another book.

  8. Thanks for an info-packed article, R.T.! They don’t teach you this stuff in school.

  9. Thanks for all this valuable information. I work with traditional publishers but they are mostly not the large ones where writers get generous advances. I think it's never easy for writers whether we self-publish or go the traditional route.


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