Until recently, if you wanted to publish a hardcover edition of your book, Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) was not an option. That's all changed, since the beta release of the KDP hardcover option. Here's how it works and how to make it easy on yourself.
Start with paperback
Yes, we'll get to the hardcover momentarily. But I want to urge you to build your paperback edition first. Once you've done that, both the ebook and the hardcover become ... well, easy‑peasy!
If you've read my book, Read 'Em & Reap, you already know the science behind my preference for printed books. And I'm not alone.
According to the Association of American Publishers 2019 figures, printed books generated 74.7% of all book sales revenue. More than three-quarters of print books sold were paperbacks. And sales of ebooks actually declined 4.9%.
Putting those figures together, your best bet for a successful book launch and ongoing sales is to start with the paperback. One 2021 book trends report stated that although audio books are growing, "there’s still big money in old-fashioned [print] publishing!"
As we'll see, you can in fact follow up with both your ebook and hardcover with just a few hours more work — if you've started with a properly formatted PDF print file.
Making your hardcover easy, Step 1
In the screenshots, you'll see that I've already set up our KDP account and published several of our books and ebooks. This tutorial assumes you have your KDP account and at least one paperback published that you want to sell in hardcover.
When you log into your KDP account, you'll see your ebook listed like this (notice I've already published mine as both a paperback and ebook) —
You'll want to skip over the "Create a New Title" section and take advantage of the "+ Create Hardcover" button that's right under your "Live" paperback.
When you click that button, you'll be taken to the first of three setup pages, "Harcover Details" where you'll find that the information is pre-populated, since you're just producing a hardcover edition of the same book. Here, the language (English), title, subtitle, series and edition number (none), author (me), contributors (none), fully formatted description, copyright ownership, and the keywords and categories I'd chosen for my book all carried over from the paperback —
Step 2: Content
When you get to the bottom of the page and click the "Save and Continue" button, you'll be on to the second setup page, "Harcover Content" where you'll need to make a few modifications —
The main exception to pre-populated information is the ISBN. You do have to assign a distinct ISBN for each format of your book. As we've covered in more detail elsewhere, you want to own your ISBNs, so that, for example, your book can be sold across multiple platforms and be carried in bookstores and even libraries.
The optional Publication Date might apply if you are planning a separate "launch" campaign for your hardcover and want to specify a date a few weeks after you get it set up and approved by Amazon (see below).
Next, you'll find the "Print Options" section with the same ones selected as your paperback. I'm not sure there would ever be a good reason to change these, but you could if you desire —
The next three sections of this page are the real meat and potatoes, where you upload the files for printing your hardcover book and check them for quality and compliance with KDP's printing specs —
Step 2a: Manuscript
Fortunately, the same "Manuscript" PDF file that you used for your paperback will work for your hardcover, with one important adjustment.
You'll need to replace the ISBN from the paperback with the new one for the hardcover on the copyright page (and anywhere else in the document you might have shown it). If you have Adobe Acrobat Pro or another PDF editing tool, you can do it right in the PDF file. Or, you may need to go back to the editable files in Word or InDesign, for example, make the change there, and export to a new PDF.
Just remember to "Save As" and give the hardcover manuscript PDF a distinct filename.
Then click the "Upload hardcover manuscript" button in KDP, select the hardcover manuscript PDF file you just saved, and when the upload is completed you'll see this in the "Manuscript" section —
While the KDP software is "processing" your manuscript file, you can move to the next section ...
Step 2b: Book Cover
Once again, since you've already published your paperback book, you can use that cover file as the basis for the hardcover file. While adjusting the cover print file is not quite as simple as the manuscript, KDP has a nifty tool for generating templates for both that make it as easy as possible.
You or your cover designer should have used this tool already for making your paperback cover file. You start it this time by choosing hardcover, then entering the same information you did above under "Print Options."
One addition is the poorly labeled "Page-turn direction" (which really means reading direction, i.e., left to right for U.S. books in English).
The other is the straightforward "Page count," the total number of pages in your manuscript file. With the information on interior type and paper type, this enables calculating the width or thickness of your book's spine.
Click "Calculate dimensions" and you'll get the precise layout information you need to convert your paperback cover file to hardcover —
This is NOT your template, just a visual explanation of the pieces of a hardcover design. Click the "Download Template" button (lower left) to get your template. Here's mine for the Read 'Em & Reap hardcover —
Now, open your paperback cover file in whatever image editing software you use for high quality, print resolution output. Once again, "Save As" and give it a new filename for the hardcover.
Then import the KDP Template image, lay it over the cover image, and adjust the template's transparency until you can see the cover image beneath it well enough to work on it.
At this point, you should easily see that you'll need to cut the cover image into three segments to fit in the "safe areas" for the back cover, spine, and front cover. Here's what that looked like for mine —
As with the manuscript file, you'll also need to obtain and place a high quality image of a barcode for your hardcover's ISBN. I've used Bar Code Graphics for all our own and clients' books since 2005. Their online tool makes it simple to enter your 13-digit ISBN and produce a properly sized and formatted Bookland EAN barcode that complies with wholesale and retail book trade specifications. For $10, they'll email you a .EPS image file of your barcode to add in the space marked in yellow on the template. With everyting else about KDP being free, this is one place where I recommend spending just a little for quality and convenience.
Once you've made these adjustments, export the finished hardcover image to a high quality print PDF file. Here's an image comparing the dimensions of my paperback and hardcover print files —
Then, upload the hardcover PDF print file —
Step 2c: Book Preview
The last section of the Content page involves previewing your files for any machine detectable errors that will affect printing or approval for sale on Amazon. Any time you upload a new manuscript or cover file for your book (e.g., after making any corrections you, or the machine, may find in the prereview process), you'll see the warning message requiring you to preview and approve the current files —
When you click the "Launch Previewer" button, KDP begins analyzing many aspects of the files you've uploaded. This graphic will give you an idea of why the center message warns it will take "a few minutes" as the other messages appear on the screen — thankfully only one at a time! The entire process usually takes around 15 minutes, so follow the AI's sense of humor and advice and go "make a sandwich" while you wait for it to finally generate your "Print Preview" —
When the Print Preview screen opens, you should see a message in the left sidebar that no issues were found. Almost every aspect of the manuscript and cover have already been through this process for your paperback, after all. You'll want to take a few minutes to scroll through the preview pages, but there really shouldn't be any problems —
When you're ready, click the "Approved" button and you'll go back to the bottom of the Content page to a new "Summary" section, where you'll see the physical book specs summary and the printing costs (which will also be your "Print Proof" and "Author Copy" price) on Amazon.com and the other countries where hardcovers are available —
Stop and order a print proof
We'll go through Step 3, so you'll have the entire process in one place. But when you get to this point, I strongly urge you to "Save as Draft" and go back to your "Bookshelf" to order a print proof. If you have a team working on the project, order up to five proof copies. Click the elipsis (...) to the far right of your book in the Hardcover section and follow the instructions for placing your order —
No amount of proofreading and review on screen can match the opportunity to examine the look and feel of your printed book in your hands.
Step 3: Hardcover Rights & Pricing
Once again, the rights and pricing page should look familiar and most of the entries will be the same as for your paperback —
The main difference here will be your pricing. Since the hardcover costs more to print (mine costs $2.58 ea. for author copies in paperback; $7.23 ea. in hardcover) and has a greater perceived value, as well, you'll likely want to price the hardcover several dollars more than the paperback.
Notice that KDP prompts you one more time to order printed proofs. If you haven't done so yet, please do. Few things frustrate more than finding out you missed an easily correctable error in your book AFTER it's gone live and been purchased by someone you know will catch it.
Here's mine for the hardcover edition of Read 'Em & Reap, showing the binding and the "Not for Resale" watermark band around the cover —
Once you've done all you can with quality assurance, just click the "Publish Your Hardcover Book" button and ... wait a bit longer —
Don't worry, it generally takes closer to 24 hours than 72.
Okay, I know I broke it down into a lot of individual pieces. But that's to help you breeze through with no gaps and make it all as simple as possible.
Hardcover books! Easy-peasy, right?
What about the ebook?
Ha! You were paying attention! Well, while you're waiting for Amazon to review and approve your hardcover edition, you can whip up your ebook, too.
Since our work is focused on nonfiction books, often with images, tables, and such inside, we recommend making your ebook as a "Print Replica" (KDP's term). That means you create the ebook directly from the same PDF file you used for the paperback and the hardcover.
Don't forget to make that small adjustment of changing the ISBN and using "Save As" to give the ebook PDF its own filename.
From there it's just as easy, because KDP provides you with a free software app called Kindle Create. Download it here.
Perhaps I'll cover the rest in detail in another post, but for now I'll just point you to the KDP Help Tutorial and show the Table of Contents that shows just how many bells and whistles you can add to your ebook, building it on top of the PDF.
I haven't used any of them beyond building the ebook table of contents and preserving hyperlinks (especially helpful if you have references in your book). If that's what you do, you can have your ebook file ready to upload in an afternoon. Just note that using Kindle Create, your working file will have a .kcb format, but you'll generate a file in their .kpf format to upload the "manuscript" part to KDP.
You'll also need an image file of your front cover in JPEG format.
With those files ready, the set up and uploading process is nearly identical to the paperback and hardcover ones you've already been through. Most of the steps above will easily translate to the ebook.
Love to hear from you in the comments with any questions, or success stories!