Holding Onto Your Independence: The Problem With Amazon’s KDP Merger

4 min read

This past week we learned that Amazon’s CreateSpace (CS) and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) are merging. For many in the self-publishing realm, this comes as no surprise. Amazon has made several changes to CS over the past year, leading many to the conclusion that the self-publishing platform’s days were numbered. For many current CS authors, this will result in little more than time dedicated to switching files over from one platform to the other, and then the depressing attempt at selling on Amazon can continue.

But maybe this is a good time to evaluate why so many self-published authors feel that selling on Amazon is mandatory? Or why they feel the need to relinquish control over their sales in order to work directly with Amazon? Or, at the very least, maybe it’s a good time to reflect on how self-publishing has changed over the last few years and explore the landscape to see what new opportunities are available.

It’s no secret that publishing is rapidly evolving with the onset of print-on-demand technology. Unlike most, Lulu continues to move forward while others seem to be disappearing. The above merger is another example in the long string of publishing companies trying to take over this corner of the industry and lock authors into their platform, which ultimately infringes on the author’s creative control and profitability.

Recently, I spoke at a literary conference and many of the attendees were voicing concerns about Amazon’s recent changes. This is something we see at a lot of conferences. When you get to be as large and diverse as Amazon, it can be a struggle to really hear and adequately respond to user feedback. And because of Amazon’s massive size and reach, changes can be made with little to no consideration to the end user. A disconnect between the company and the user is inevitable and leads to confusion, especially for Amazon’s authors, who use Amazon’s services differently than any other user.

Here are a few of the most common complaints related to the merger to be aware of:

  • No option to publish “private sale” books on KDP
  • KDP unable to upload fully formatted PDF covers and align them correctly
  • Customer support offered online only
  • Higher print cost and varying print quality with KDP
  • New ISBN required for projects moved to KDP
  • KDP’s royalty payments will be delayed 60 days, as opposed to 30 days with CS

The good news is, there’s a better way! There are solutions available today that allow you to sell directly to your readers across multiple channels. Think about that for a minute – selling directly to your readers through your social media accounts or author website. No more sketchy “used” copies of your new book lurking around the internet when people search for your book to buy it, no more hoping that someone doesn’t outbid you on the “Buy Now” button under your latest title, no more worrying that the new readers you worked so hard to win over will get to your Amazon page to buy your book but see a vacuum they really, really need and buy that instead.

With the introduction of eCommerce platforms and print-on-demand technology, you no longer have to play by the rules of your distributor. You can distribute yourself and completely automate the selling process, saving you time, space and money. While Amazon is striving to consolidate independent publishing under their banner, Lulu is among the few self-publishers who empower creators and help them realize the profits they deserve from their work.

At Lulu, we not only provide multiple ways to sell your book, but also multiple places. Projects published on Lulu can be sold through our bookstore, Amazon, Ingram, Barnes & Noble and many others. Or, if you utilize our xPress App for Shopify, you can cut out all the middlemen (or women) and sell directly to your readers (or even sell across ALL of these channels). We continually strive to provide more options, not less.

In addition, selling directly to your readers from your website is one of the best ways to retain more revenue and build your author brand. People come to your site because they like your content and are interested in learning more. Why send them away to someone else?

While Amazon has been hard at work finding better ways to get you to publish their way, everyone here at Lulu has been working hard to develop ways for you to publish your way.

At a certain point, Amazon’s massive consolidation of authors–through their reach and the appeal of Prime benefits–gets us to a place where they aren’t actually offering independent publishing anymore. What they’re offering is dependent publishing – forcing the author to rely solely on Amazon for distribution. With the shift to KDP and the renewed emphasis on profits and selling on Amazon alone, we’re seeing a shift away from true independent publishing. Amazon, through KDP, is simply a traditional publisher with none of the benefits of traditional publishing.

If you just want to get your books on Amazon, KDP might be the right method for you. But if you’re interested in having more control over how, when and where you publish, as well as increasing your overall sales and profits, do yourself a favor and research the other options that are available to you.

  • Lulu.com – Our original platform offering global distribution for print and ebooks. That includes Amazon, Ingram, and Barnes & Noble.
  • Lulu xPress – A taste of our upcoming design updates, Lulu xPress allows you to upload a file and order printed copies using our new book creation process.
  • Shopify® eCommerce App – Using the newest and best eCommerce technology, Lulu is able to offer a way to create and sell your books from your own website with ease.

29 thoughts on “Holding Onto Your Independence: The Problem With Amazon’s KDP Merger

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  1. I put my trust in amazon kindle they let me down too many times i dont want to go into further discussion about them but i never going to publish directly with amazon again everthing was fine when i had my books on createspace and now since i moved my books to kdp because of the merge they mess up my kdp account the books i have created for 6 years with createspace. Kindle screwed up my account already. I hoping and praying that lulu continues to be supportive of their authors and be better than amazon book publishing i pray that other authors keep your book publishing options open and make sure your books are available globally in other book retailers as well dont solely depend on amazon they probably one day might not be the so called giant.

  2. Thanks. I have works on Createspace+KDP and I want to spread them to Lulu.com. They are already on Amazon, and is it possible to place them on Lulu Marketplace?

    1. Hi Michael,

      From my experience using KDP, the file you upload to their book builder should work in Lulu’s system. There may be some specifications that need to be reviewed and updated, but all in all it shouldn’t require a great deal of changing to the file.

      That said, my experience is limited in KDP’s file specs, so there may be more to it than I’m seeing. You can always create a project on Lulu for free and test upload a file to see what it looks like.

  3. I started using CreateSpace simply for the ease of use and convenience, and similarly with iBooks and KDP for some experimental eBooks. I also started publishing some books for others on CS. Appearing on Amazon with the big publishers is nice for the ego, but really it is not a market where obscure poetry books are ever brought to the forefront. It was useful for ordering Author Copies on demand so myself and my fellow poets could get books delivered to distribute locally, at readings, poetry gigs, friends, family, local bookshops etc.
    However being in Australia I found out much to my surprise that unlike CreateSpace, KDP does not have its own ordering system, instead you are required to order through Amazon, and Amazon no longer ships to Australia. They have set up a local, miniature version of Amazon here, but it does not distribute KDP selections.
    So, to continue getting books for local distribution, I have to either use a shipping forwarder, or set up with a new company.
    The author copies I was getting from CS for a paperback under 100pp were usually US$2.15 and roughly about the same amount per book for shipping. An order of 20 books would cost about US$90 – about AU$130. Usually totalling between $6 – $7 Australian per book.
    That leaves a very simple question. Can Lulu print and post my books at a similar price?

    1. HI C S,

      It’s unfortunate that KDP doesn’t offer printing in Australia. Lulu does have a printer in country, so we can absolutely get books created for you. If you’re ordering them direct, our Lulu xPress option is the best price per book. I created a book using our calculator (https://xpress.lulu.com/pricing) with these specs:
      6″ x 9″
      100 page
      Black & White on White
      Softback
      Gloss cover
      The price per book worked out to 2.65 USD and for an order of 20 books, you’d have a total of 76.69 USD with Mail shipping (trackable). You can use that calculator page I linked above to test various binding, color, size, and quantity options to get pricing as well.

  4. Misleading article, yes. I’ve been around the block with you. I get royalties from sales at Kindle every month. Neither I, nor my customers, were ever attracted by the lower quality of your work. I’ve moved to a high quality company for art publications and will stay with Amazon for the mass marketing of my print books. You charge too much for too little return.

    1. Hi Sandra,

      Thanks for your feedback and for taking the time to read our article. While I’m sorry to hear working with Lulu didn’t meet your needs, I encourage you to give us another try. But if you’re happy with your current set up and it works for your customers, that might be the best route for you.

      Wishing you success in your self-publishing!

  5. Thanks for all this information! It is always good to be able to hear both sides of a debate. It will help one make better informed decisions.

  6. I have been using CreateSpace for over 3 years now and loved it. I published a few hundred multilingual puzzle books there (word searches, scrambles, quizzes) and only 1 digital book via KDP. Now that they are shoving everyone onto KDP, I am being forced to leave because KDP only supports a very limited number of languages, which is the focus of my books. There are others in this situation who have to leave because their books are in unsupported languages.

    I have started moving my books over to Lulu as second editions, and am heartbroken to find that not only will my Amazon royalties will be greatly reduced but that in order just to get on Amazon, I am required to order a proof for every book I want on Global Distribution. Just those two things there are part of reason that hold people back from using Lulu because as someone else has said, at the end, the bottom line is about the money. I don’t mean that in a greedy way. I’m trying to print books that will help people learn languages, but if the cost of doing it exceeds the money I make from it, then I can no longer afford to do it.

    1. Hi Erik,

      I know our proof requirement can be a hinderance. With the understanding that you have a large number of books that need to be in distribution, I’m going to email you and bring in someone from our team to see if we can do anything to support you better.

      That said, you might consider trying even more direct retail. It sounds like you have an established customer base already, so you may be interested in using our eCommerce application. That allows you to sell direct without any revenue split. Here’s a link to learn more – https://xpress.lulu.com/integrations

  7. If I’m understanding this correctly, isn’t it about to be one of the biggest destructions of literature ever? If Amazon pulls every book whose author doesn’t switch to KDP, that’s probably going to end up being a majority of the books that have been published on Createspace, whether because their authors aren’t paying enough attention or because they just don’t want to do it. This is the first I’ve heard about this, but it should be a way bigger deal. It should be a major national news story.

    1. Never mind. I did misunderstand it, so please disregard that last comment. I checked Amazon’s FAQ about this and it sounds like that won’t be an issue after all. Books that aren’t manually moved will be moved automatically in a few weeks and will remain available for sale the whole time.

  8. All of my books have been published through Create Space. Amazon is very low in royalty. I had one person, maybe more in Japan who borrowed my book and all I received was a penny. Talk about royalty. I am actually through with Amazon. I could see why they became so rich. I would too if I paid authors cheap royalty. They get the most and they are not even a publishing company. They make it look as though they are. I am now on Lulu and I hope nothing happens here to destroy my hope.

  9. Hmm. I seem to be the only one who gets what Lulu is saying here 110% – and agrees with every word. Getting off Amazon and out of their greedy clutches is the best thing anyone can do – book sellers and merchandise sellers alike.

    I commend the author of this article for having the guts to speak the cold, hard truth of the behemoth that amazon has become. You aren’t independent if you’re in their clutches. I’ve done it all on amazon – books, goods, buyer, even affiliate and their greed and arrogance has gone beyond the pale. I’ve weaned myself off of there entirely and finally feel free of a tyrant.

    All that said, I do wish every author success, whichever route you choose, but I’d step back a bit and give more serious thought to what this article is telling you. I think it nailed every point made.

  10. Very misleading and self-serving article. I’ve been with CS for many years now, and have minor quibbles, but nothing too upsetting. You write “Amazon has made several changes to CS over the past year,” I don’t know what you refer to, I’ve not noticed anything, at least nothing that hindered me. Also you write:

    Higher print cost and varying print quality with KDP
    Untrue. KDP uses the same printers as CS and same paper stock. Please give concrete evidence to this claim.

    New ISBN required for projects moved to KDP
    False. All 20 of my books have moved over with no need for new ISBNs. Again, what evidence?

    You wrote “what they’re offering is dependent publishing – forcing the author to rely solely on Amazon for distribution.” WTF? Total lie. My books are published on Amz, B&N, Kobo, Draft2Digital, BookRix etc etc. They do not require sole anything.

    You write:
    Amazon, through KDP, is simply a traditional publisher with none of the benefits of traditional publishing.. Again, untrue. Trad pub can offer authors nothing these days except a token advance (which must be earned out), some pr (unless you are a biggie, likely token pr), and a shot getting in a bookstore. Whoopie! I went trads for years, and it is a dying beast. Yea pr is up to you (mostly) at CS but it is these days with trads too. Plus authors get a HUGE return with CS vs trads on sales.

    Yes the pay will be 60 vs 30 days but so? Very very free authors depend on book sales for income, so what’s 60 vs 30? Your snipe at Mr Mirsky for rightly pointing out the ‘attendant problems’ of a place like Lulu, giving the vibe of a vanity publisher, was unwarranted. He’s right, it smells of selling out of the trunk of your car. With CS/KDP we are all right there with the others.

    All in all, this article comes off as a whiny plea to leave CS without giving me any reasons to move to Lulu–which, let us be honest, a vast amount of people have never heard of, so why should I move over? If anything, you gave me more justification to stay where I am with CS/KDP.

    1. The proof of higher printing costs is emails sent from KDP to authors. I received several emails for titles they said would have a higher cost of printing when switching and that my prices needed to be increased. It’s ridiculous, to say the least.

    2. Hi Archivest,

      First, thanks for taking the time to read our emails and follow our blog!

      You bring up a lot of points and request a lot of evidence. So, let’s dive in!

      Beginning with the numerous changes at CreateSpace over the previous year – well, one big one is that their services ended. Another being that their online bookstore closed, ending their 80/20 revenue split. Earlier this year CS removed their DVD media production service. Culminating in the most recent: CS is gone. Those are definitely major changes.

      Print variance has always been a complaint for all print-on-demand. If you’ve used Lulu to print any of your books and purchased a distributed version from Amazon, it’s easy to spot the differences in quality – paperweight, ink coverage, glue. If KDP is using the same printers as CS (which we understand to be the case) you can rely on the same mediocre quality. But there have been specific reports of inconsistency from existing CS customers using KDP, as evidenced by this article.

      As for our note about needing new ISBNs for projects moved from CS to KDP, we pulled that information from the CS forums under the thread “Re: Createspace/KDP move – I am concerned!!!!”. In that thread, user LPCBooks states the following:

      Third, KDP Print requires a new ISBN for any title we are moving over from CreateSpace.

      “The title registered to this ISBN does not match your title. Please verify your title and ISBN. To publish using a CreateSpace provided ISBN return to paperback details and use the CreateSpace republishing option.”

      The ISBN associated with the title works just fine with CreateSpace, Ingram, and Bowker. Obviously, we’re not going to issue a new ISBN for a print book that’s selling on Amazon and in stores just to accommodate KDP Print.

      As others have already said, the roll out of this migration is far from ready.

      Monopolization of the industry may not matter to you, but we care a great deal about Amazon pushing out smaller companies. Amazon is the definition of dependent publishing. Amazon wants everyone to use their service and buy from them. “Expanded Distribution”…we’ll see how that pans out, but based on Amazon’s comments this option offers bookstore cataloging and some additional Amazon sites (like .ca). If Amazon is offering true distribution, through channels outside of their own, we’re not aware of it.

      We’ll skip right over the traditional publisher comment, as you managed to answer that one for yourself: they do exactly what a traditional publisher does with none of the benefits traditional publishers offer.

      That should offer some responses to your major points, though we are sure this won’t dissuade you from using Amazon. That’s fine. If you want to toss your book into the sea of other books (and lamps and iPhone cases and sneakers) on Amazon, that’s cool with us. We want you to do whatever is right for your book. If earning less revenue and poor print quality are worth simply being “right there with the others” then we support you.

      All the best in your publishing endeavors!

        1. Hi thearchivest,
          Your two most recent comments were sent to moderation because they included links our spam blocker sees as “dangerous.”
          We welcome a polite and honest discussion. We don’t welcome harassment and spam. If Amazon is getting you the results you’re looking for, we encourage you to keep using them and wish you the best.

  11. I’m appalled, but not surprised, that this merger is happening. I’ve just got to the point where I’ve been thinking I’d put my printed books on Amazon, mainly because I made some Sale or Return arrangements which were either not honoured or not adhered to in some other way, which has led to some copies of my novel being offered by other people on Amazon. I looked at CreateSpace initially when publishing my novel Floodtide, but decided I couldn’t make the numbers work. I therefore had my print version published by a short run printer, and have been very pleased with the results – and I can make the numbers work even when the bookshops get a bit greedy about their cut. I have made an account at Lulu, but haven’t had much time to do more, because I’m now launching a new book. But now, I’m wondering if I’ll be able to upload my books to Amazon at all, and what it really all means. Since this is the first I’ve actually heard of it, I have no background understanding of what the merger will mean for me, and as I’m new to Lulu I’ve no idea whether or not I’ll be able to sell my print books through the site or just e-books. Can someone please clue me in? I find the information sketchy if not intentionally obfuscated.

  12. Please give us a direct paypal payment to buy fron Lulu without regustering. That will really help.
    I am reluctant to send potential buyers to Lulu, since half of them are not able to finalize the transaction.

    1. Hi Mois,

      I doubled checked with our support team, your customers should be able to order from our shop as a guest with Paypal. If you have specific cases, please do reach out to our support team and they’ll be happy to assist you.

  13. The problem everyone else has is authors and publishers (of which I am one) will look at the bottom line. Our monthly cheque from amazon is thousands of times bigger than our monthly cheque from lulu and we’ve been with you for years. I doubt the general public have heard of lulu. Just as they’ve never heard of kobo.

    Yes, we’re all at the whim of Mr Bezos now but it still seems a far better way of doing business than being in thrall to two or three distributors here in the UK and Waterstones. I’m sure it’s the same elsewhere.

    Amazon has a worldwide monopoly as far as self/small publishers are concerned. Good luck breaking that up!

  14. Stuart W. Mirsky, When you said, “Also would be buyers using amazon will have the sense of being in a neutral arena whereas a personal website or the Lulu sales site give off the aroma of the self-publisher with all its attendant problems,” what are some of the “attendant problems” for the buyer/author?

  15. “People come to your site because they like your content and are interested in learning more. Why send them away to someone else?”

    Perhaps because more people go to Amazon these days than any other site when looking for books and because amazon offers such a broad array of books the would-be buyer may not readily distinguish between self-published works (sometimes not up to editorial snuff) and the commercially published variety. Also would be buyers using amazon will have the sense of being in a neutral arena whereas a personal website or the Lulu sales site give off the aroma of the self-publisher with all its attendant problems.

    What would really be better is if Lulu could create a selling platform that has the same neutral ambience of a site like amazon. It could be done by, for instance, forming a consortium of publishers (starting with the smaller ones) and collaborating in the creation of an on-line site that has the right look (learning from how Amazon developed its own very robust book selling site). Fulfillment could be left to each individual publisher via the uniform website so that the front end would look like a bookseller but the work of maintaining an inventory, packaging and shipping could all be done independently as long as all participating publishers adhere to certain shared common standards. Lulu could even take the lead in coordinating this kind of arrangement and providing tech support to participants lacking the digital infrastructure to manage such operations and exact a small fee from each participating publisher.

    The net effect, if done right, could be increased visibility and credibility for Lulu, increased book sales and increased revenue from new sources (e.g., the fee to maintain and operate and coordinate the shared book selling website).

    Why focus only on enabling self-publishers to print/publish their books? Why not also expand to serve them in the area of actual sales?

    1. Hi Stuart,

      That particular quote you referenced is directed at the indie authors that actually take the time to market themselves and their books, but direct their readers to Amazon. Your comments speak primarily to the concept of new reader acquisition and discovery. While we don’t disagree with your utopian (versus utilitarian) idea of another sales arena comprised of several small publishers, it’s not feasible for us to take up that charge from a technical resources and financial standpoint. Our goal is to educate and assist our authors as best as possible to build and maintain a loyal and sustainable reader-base. As for the “attendant problems” that were alluded to, that very stigma is proliferated by comments such as these. A stigma which was introduced by traditional publishing many years ago and only serves their invested interests.

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