Amazon Murdered Createspace
Amazon announced that they are shuttering the doors on CreateSpace this week. Authors must move over to KDP print in a timely fashion to ensure no loss in deliverability.
Many independent authors are running around screaming like chickens with their heads cut off.
Should you be one of them?
Read the Writing on the Wall
I knew that CreateSpace was closing months ago, but apparently, a lot of authors missed the memo. Compared to the KDP dashboard, the CreateSpace website design has lagged behind significantly for a long time.
Earlier this year, Amazon told video creators to move from CreateSpace to another platform. This lateral move should have been enough to warn every author of the impending doom of CreateSpace, but if the recent barrage of freak out videos and articles mean anything, most people missed this.
Amazon launched KDP print earlier this year and began adding features over the past few months to streamline the process of transferring your books from one Amazon service to another.
Amazon shut down CreateSpace professional services before that as a sign of how the wind was blowing. Only a fool would have paid the exorbitant price CreateSpace was charging for an editor or a cover designer…but I guess one is born every minute.
CreateSpace Wasn't That Great
The main reason people liked CreateSpace was familiarity. But for a new author, it was the pits. Many of my followers uploaded their book to Kindle but after multiple tries with CreateSpace's complicated interface, gave up.
It took me several tries to get my first book onto CS and it was NOT easy. The platform required a lot of confusing gymnastics that deterred many independent authors from using the platform.
Right now, I'm pushing my UK sales on Amazon as hard as I can. I'm finding a lot of success across the pond and the majority of my sales are of paperback editions. Without a paperback edition, it's nearly impossible to do well in Britain. In my experience, the Brits like a physical book in their fists. Fail to provide one, and many will refuse to read your book
I can only speak to my own experience, so I don't know WHY the Kindle seems to have no penetrated the UK market, but I absolutely will adapt to ensure I maximize my author royalties in every market.
I use three browsers on my computer and the main reason is that the CreateSpace website won't load in Chrome for me. I have no idea why, but it's a real stinker. I have to keep Sarafi open if I want to see my book sales.
The book description page left a LOT to be desired. It was tiny and nearly impossible to test your book descriptions. Most authors would copy and paste their descirption from KDP anyways. Then when it looks terrible, it's far easier to edit your book description using AuthorCentral. There is no reason to have multiple places to submit descriptions for the same book.
And let's be honest. The CreateSpace form is abysmal.
Even worse is the old BISAC code. Often it doesn't relate to any categories on Amazon and your forced to pick a category that your book barely fits in to and then email CreateSpace support asking them to move your book.
A secret I rarely shared was that you could email support to get put into TWO categories. Since most authors didn't know about this trick, it offered me a little competitive advantage.
Even weirder was the additional information section lower on the page. While KDP allows you to select seven keywords, CreateSpace only gave you five. And you had to enter them on a list in a single line. You ended up with a mush that was longer than the box. This format also punished you for using a space after each comma. That would count as one of your keyword characters.
It was a mess.
Sure you could learn all the tricks and ways to learn about this interface but it was no dream.
In addition, I once uploaded a book to CreateSpace as a Word document. CreateSpace didn't have the font on file, so they replaced it with their own. It as the worst looking abomination of a book I've ever seen. I learned to always upload a PDF, as CreateSpace will turn editable files into a nightmare.
Why I will Miss CreateSpace
For all of its flaws, CreateSpace as made me a great deal of money over the years.
The challenges that kept many authors off the platform were my favorite feature. They limited the competition and gave me access to a larger share of the pie.
I admit it. I'm in business and I have no problems with a competitive advantage.
CreateSpace has WAY better reporting than KDP, is way more accurate AND pays faster.
CreateSpace pays you thirty days after the end of the month. That means you are never more than sixty days away from getting paid.
Also, Amazon has decided that they want to pay me less money AND later for the exact same book – printed on the exact same machine.
I received this email informing me that Amazon would pay me less for the exact same service.
It stinks, but it's the nature of the beast. Just a few weeks ago, Amazon announced they would be slashing how much money I make from bounties on audiobook sales.
In the past, I got a $50 bonus for each new Audible customer whose first purchase was one of my books.
Now I get paid $75, only if I link you to audible AND you buy my book right in that moment AND you're a new audible customer.
If I send you through my link to Serve No Master and you buy Breaking Orbit instead, I get nothing.
We can either spend our time complaining or our time adapting.
Benefits: Why Amazon SAYS They are Making the Move
Amazon is in business and they are always trying to balance maximum profit with keeping their content providers onboard.
Since Amazon controls more than eighty percent of the ebook market, you better believe that most changes will benefit them.
Right now I log into KDP, CreateSpace, and ACX to see my sales stats.
The numbers are almost always wrong inside KDP.
The numbers don't sort themselves out for about four days, so it's not worth trusting your sales data for that long.
I spend a ton of money on Amazon Ads every month, which I've discussed in detail in this post.
The reporting inside the AMS ads platform is horrible.
The data is sometimes a week out of date, doesn't cover every format and assumes that you keep 100% of the money from each sale.
Which is a lie. Amazon doesn't sell a single item on their platform without taking a cut.
They could easily integrate their platforms and give me real metrics based on my actual earnings.
Right now when a sale shows up in my ads dashboard, I know the book but not the format.
The only way to see what I've sold is to dig into the data and look the sales revenue generated by each individual keyword I have targetted..
Serve No Master is $9.99 for the ebook and $19.99 for the paperback.
I get a 70% royalty from ebook sales, but my royalty is only 28%.
When running an add that's a pretty big difference!
What's really complicated is that 2 ebook sales will show up as $19.98. So if I don't look closely, I will misinterpret the data.
Half the time my sales don't show correctly in the ads platform. It never includes audiobook or hardback sales.
The idea of an integrated dashboard is appealing as long as this is the first step in a journey to a unified dashboard for ALL my formats that actually works.
I know that Amazon has the technology in place because my Amazon UK dashboard is a dream come true.
It has all my data in one place and is very accurate.
I LOVE it.
Wider Access to Paperbacks
It's easier to transfer your ebook listing to your paperback listing.
When adding a paperback title to an ebook, all your existing data is automatically imported.
From your author name to your book description and categories.
It's now as easy as clicking a button put your paperback edition into TWO categories!
That will make life easier for many new authors.
Having a unified listing and showing your sales in a single place will help authors to better track their sales numbers.
I look forward to seeing more accurate date inside of my KDP tracking.
Secrets: Why Amazon is REALLY Making the Move
I work with Amazon and I accept that the richest man in the world got there by squeezing every drop of blood from every stone he encountered.
As much as a new change seems cool and a new dashboard is a treat, what I really care about is how many pennies slip through Amazon's grasp and into my hands.
The royalty rate for audiobooks has dropped precipitously since I started. Kindle Unlimited pays far less than it did a few years ago.
It's easy to get on the complaint train, but it's better to realize that business is evolution – adapt or die.
Interest Bearing Accounts
Createspace pays me after the end of the month + 30 days, however, KDP Print will pay me at month + 60 days.
Why does a big company like Amazon need to hold my earnings for that extra month?
Do they worry that there will be a massive influx of refunds sixty days after someone buys your book?
Of course not.
Large companies like the power of compound interest.
A few years ago mail-in rebates were all the rage.
Someone would buy a printer and get a form to fill out.
A few months later they would get back the $30.
Now that had the extra benefit for the company that consumers would make mistakes or get frustrated.
When that happened they got to keep the money.
Over. And. Over again.
It was magical but it was also super sleazy. People got pretty sick of it and that's why you don't see offers for mail-in rebates as much as you did fifteen years ago.
They may come back into vogue as people forget what a nightmare it is to get a company to admit that the letter you sent arrived.
The other advantage is leaving tens of millions of dollars in a bank account generates pure, raw, uncut profit.
It might not seem like much to earn a penny for every ten dollars they hold for that extra month.
It's just a profit of 1/1,000. That's so tiny you can't even see it with the human eye.
But as the numbers go up so too does the profit.
Holding on to one thousand dollars makes them a dollar. Holding on to a million generates a thousand.
Now you can see where it starts to get interesting. For every billion dollars they freeze, they make a cool million.
Now, these numbers are not real numbers, I'm just giving you an example.
Shrinking the Team
If you knew how few people work in the Kindle division, you would be shocked.
Ninety-nine percent of the work is handled by bots and algorithms.
Authors get kicked off the platform without a single touch from a human.
They can't find out what they did wrong and they have no one to reach out to when the ban is in error.
That's a scary place to be.
The more Amazon replaces humans with software, the wider the profit margins.
Why have two support teams, two website teams, etc?
Far better to have a single team..that barely exists.
The last time I sent in an inquiry to support, I was notified I would get a reply in nine business days.
Right at the end of the ninth day, I received an email informing me that for privacy reasons they couldn't answer my question about my own account.
This was the third in a series of automatically generated and completely meaningless emails.
It can be frustrating to deal with a machine, but there's nothing you can do about it.
I feel bad for the CreateSpace employees who spent this week packing up boxes.
Decrease Your Royalties
When you combine the two emails I received this week from Amazon, the message becomes clear.
- We are moving you to KDP Print, whether you want it or not
- KDP print pays lower royalties
I don't have the data yet on how much I'm about to bleed, but even a penny per book is a massive amount of money for Amazon.
They sell millions of books every month. (probably more.)
And now they are going to make even more money.
Hidden within the promise of a streamlined process is the knife headed toward your ribs.
A simple dashboard is a snowball and the lower royalties surprise is the rock buried deep inside.
There is a reason that Amazon sent two separate emails.
When it comes to shiving you, suddenly streamlining isn't that important.
I wait with bated breath to find out how much my royalties are doing to decrease…
Adapt or Die
It might sound like I'm complaining about Amazon messing with the playing field, but I'm not.
That is a waste of time.
One of the guys in my circle is watching his revenue plummet. He isn't able to adapt to the Amazon changes and there is a good chance his brand will disappear within the next year.
All I think about is my opportunity to expand my audience.
Whenever there is a shift in the market and things get tougher, it's the weak that get pushed out of business.
I've been through sweeps like this before and I always endure.
The majority of my income does not come from Amazon, it comes from my courses, training, and coaching.
If your business has a single point of failure, eventually that final strut will get pulled out and your business collapses.
I didn't build my business model that way and neither should you.