Beware Kindle Create

There’s a field on the KDP pricing screen that tells you how much Amazon is going to charge to “deliver” your ebook. The cost is based on the size of the file, and it’s deducted from your royalty. I wasn’t in the habit of paying attention to that field because you can’t change it and because the charge is usually minimal—often less than ten cents. Plus, you don’t see it until you upload your file. So if I’m setting up a pre-order without having uploaded the contents of my book yet, which is typical, the field will be empty. Later, when I upload my file, I tend to gloss over the pricing section because I’ve already set my price.

Then one day, I was trying to price a book at 99 cents for a sale, and Amazon wouldn’t let me. Why? Because the delivery charge for that book was so high that at 99 cents, my profit was negative. Between the delivery charge and Amazon’s normal cut, they were taking 100% of 99 cents. What the hell?

I started looking around and saw this was a problem with a lot of my books. Delivery charges were upwards of 30 cents. Below is a screenshot from KDP of one of my box sets. It’s about 120,000 words, so it’s twice the size of most of my books, but it’s not an encyclopedia. As you can see, Amazon was taking almost a full dollar for delivering a 6.5 MB file.

I’d been using Kindle Create to format my mobi’s. Kindle Create has an option to insert an image at the start of each chapter—automatically cropped for optimal display on various devices—and I’d been taking advantage of that option, making my mobi’s fancy. I also use scene separator images and have high-res copies of covers for other books in my backmatter. All those images were making a bloated file.

I quickly pulled the chapter start images out of the books I’d formatted using Kindle Create and re-uploaded the docs. It was a shame to not have such pretty books, but I’m not giving away a third of my profit in delivery charges.

Then I did some more research, and you know what I discovered ? It wasn’t the images that were making my files so big. It was Kindle Create itself. Here’s the same book formatted with Kindle Create but without chapter start images. Still 2.22 MB and $0.33 for delivery.

Now here’s the same book WITH all the original images but uploaded in .docx format. Exact same book as the one in the first screenshot but 1.1 MB compared to 6.5 MB and $0.17 compared to $0.98. It’s cheaper to include the images in a Word version than exclude them in a Kindle Create version. No doubt, I could cut the delivery cost down even further by using lower resolution images or eliminating them altogether, but that’s a box set priced at $5.99 so I don’t mind spending a little more (not a dollar more!) to deliver a nice product.

I’d been using Kindle Create because I’d naively assumed it would produce a product optimized for Amazon, but the sad truth is that Amazon has no incentive to make streamlined files because any bloat they cause generates profit—for them! Luckily, there’s no need to use Kindle Create. I can do all the formatting I need to right in Word. It actually saves a step and reduces the number of versions I need to keep around.

So please, if you’re using Kindle Create, check your delivery costs, and if you’re not sure how to make a mobi without Kindle Create, here’s a blog post I wrote before I mistakenly switched over to Kindle Create. Simple eBook Formatting Using Word. How much should you be paying for delivery? A 65K doc without a lot of images should cost less than $0.10 to deliver. FYI, if e-tailers other than Amazon are charging us for delivery, they’re being less transparent about it, but that doesn’t meant it’s not happening.

Now I have to go reformat everything I’ve published in the last two years so I can include images without giving away my royalties.