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Watchdog: Review of Bookbaby

As part of our regular monthly self-publishing Watchdog series, our official ALLi Watchdog Giacomo Giammatteo turns the spotlight on Bookbaby and investigates what this well-known service provider’s recent changes mean to indie authors wishing to use its distribution services.

Bookbaby logoWe covered a lot of aggregators in the “Choosing a Self-Publishing Service” book, released earlier this year, and we documented the pros and cons of each service. Bookbaby was one of the providers, and we included details of their paid and free services.

During the past few months, Bookbaby has been busy. They have added several new channels and beefed up their services. I spent about an hour on the phone with Steven Spatz, Bookbaby’s newly appointed president. We discussed where Bookbaby is headed, and I also took time to check out the new features of the site and communicated with some existing customers via email. I’ve included results below.

The list chart below outlines Bookbaby’s services. In this post, we’re only going to cover ebook distribution, but I wanted you to know what other options they had:

  • ebook publishing and conversion
  • ebook distribution
  • bookshop
  • ebook cover design
  • BookPromo
  • custom-printed books
  • website hosting for authors
  • editing services
  • book scanning services
  • ebook press releases

And just so everyone knows—I use Bookbaby as one of my distributors. I use their free service.

Factors For Consideration

  • Cost
  • Ease of upload•
  • Conversion quality
  • Conversion costs
  • Sales reporting
  • Payments
  • Channels
  • Royalties
  • Change costs
  • Speed of changes
  • Pre-orders
  • Customer service
  • ISBNs

Cost

Bookbaby offers several levels of service: free, and two levels of paid service. Everything I discuss here will be part of the free offering. For the paid services you can check the website and see the differences.

Ease of Upload

I have only tested this with a validated epub, but assuming you have that, Bookbaby is very easy to use. It took me less than ten minutes to upload a book.

Conversion Quality and Cost

As I said, I don’t use the conversion offering, but with Bookbaby it does cost money. If you don’t have mobi and epub files ready, you’ll have to pay for conversion. Bookbaby offers a $99 program that includes conversion and provides a few other benefits as well.

Sales Reporting

Sales reporting is straightforward and easy to use.

Payments

Payments are made monthly through direct deposit, PayPal, or check.

Channels

Bookbaby has great reach and will get your books into the following channels:

  • Amazon
  • B&N
  • Apple
  • Kobo
  • Copia
  • Gardners
  • Baker & Taylor
  • E–Sentral
  • Scribd
  • Flipkart
  • Oyster
  • Ciando eBooks

Royalties

For the free option, you get 60% on all of the retailers, except the following:

  • B&N pays 42.5% from 99c – 9.99.
  • Baker & Taylor = 51%.
  • Gardners = 51%.
  • Kobo = 60% in US, CA, UK, AUS. For all other territories – 38%.

Change Costs

eBook Content Changes

For spelling and/or minor grammar fixes for your previously submitted eBook, please contact us with the changes you would like to make. You may make multiple changes in a single set of corrections. Includes reconversion and redelivery to all eBook Retailers.

$50: 1–10 changes

$75: 11–25 changes

$100: 26–50 changes

$150 per hour: 51+ changes

Pricing and Metadata Changes

For changes to your eBook’s long and short descriptions, pricing, author bio, genre, and/or keywords, please contact us with the changes you would like to make. Includes redelivery to all retail partners.

Free: $25 every change

Standard: 1 free change

($25 each subsequent)

Premium: 1 free change/year

($25 each subsequent)

Speed of Changes

Bookbaby seems to be behind in the speed of processing changes. I’m saying this not from personal experience, but from talking to a half a dozen people who related their experience to me. If you have a different example, please let me know.

Pre-Orders

Bookbaby does not offer pre-orders at this time.

Customer Service

I have had mixed results with customer service. If you opt for the paid model and are eligible for phone support, it’s great. If you are restricted to email support it seems to be hit and miss.

ISBNs

Bookbaby will sell you an ISBN for $19.

Extras

Bookbaby has put together several unique offerings for authors and they provide them free. A few are worth taking a closer look.

Bookshop

This is a chance to sell your book direct to customers. You can check out the details here.

BookPromo™

BookPromo™ is a free bundle of promotional services that help BookBaby authors spread the word about their new books. The BookPromo™ bundle includes guaranteed book reviews, promotion opportunities, discounts on PR and book trailers and much more.

What’s Included

  • ebook discovery placements with Goodreads and Noise Trade
  • guaranteed book reviews with Readers’ Favorite and Story Cartel
  • promotion through PR Newswire, Author Marketing Club, and WriterCube
  • discounts for PR and book trailers
  • exclusive guide: Ultimate Social Media Marketing for Authors

I’ve tried several of these services and have been pleased with the results. During my discussion with Steven Spatz he talked at length about the Bookbaby philosophy and how they are working toward helping authors achieve their goals. To that end, Bookbaby is working on quite a few new options that will help. Keep an eye open for new developments.

Bottom Line

I think Bookbaby offers a lot to authors. They have a few unique channels and they have a couple of interesting and useful extra services that are free. My biggest problem with them is that they charge for changes.

I’ll admit this is a pet peeve of mine, and some of you might not mind it. But once you have ten books or more for sale, and you decide you want to make a change to your back matter. Or you want to add links to a new book in each of your past books. Or if you simply want to change prices, you’ll face quite a few charges. When that happens, you will mind.

My Suggestion

At this point, I would find it difficult to recommend Bookbaby as your primary distributor, mostly because of the cost of making changes. Both Smashwords and Draft2Digital offer changes for free. In addition, both Smashwords and Draft2Digital have better deals at B&N.

I would, however, recommend signing up for Bookbaby to gain access to a few channels not available at either of those other distributors: Copia, Gardners, Baker & Taylor, and Ciando. In addition, you will be able to take advantage of the BookPromo offering from Bookbaby. That alone makes it worthwhile.

Based on my talk with Steve, I believe Bookbaby will be making changes to benefit authors, and I’m looking forward to what they have to offer.

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6 Responses to Watchdog: Review of Bookbaby

  1. Anthony StClair October 27, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    There are definitely lots of changes BookBaby is going to have to make in order to be a more viable distributor for indies. I’m glad I’ve put up a title to give them a whirl, but unless they get rid of some of their fees I won’t offer any other titles through them.

    $25 to change the book’s description? Ridiculous. If it was a paid service where they analyzed the current description and rewrote it for the author, I’d be happy to pay for that. But not for the privilege of copying-and-pasting my own work.

    Same with the other fees. $25 to upload new ready-to-deploy files? Not cool.

    If they’re going to play along with KDP and Kobo and such, they’re going to have to raise their game and drop fees like this.

  2. Marianne Sciucco September 13, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    I placed my book with Bookbaby. Not happy. The charges for price changes are ridiculous; no one else charges. Sales reports are way behind. My most recent sales shown are from March. I have no idea how my sales are going. I dropped the price for Kobo for a sales promo and now Kindle won’t let me change my sales price back to 2.99 because the Kobo is at .99. I contacted Bookbaby and they want $25 to change the Kobo price. I asked how to get out of Bookbaby and the rep on the phone happily emailed me the instructions. I followed them and never got a response. At uPublushU I met a BB rep and told him about my issues. He advised me to stick with Kindle.

    • giacomo Giammatteo September 14, 2014 at 9:09 pm #

      Marianne: I understand your frustration. It’s why I mention in the article that I can’t at this time recommend BB as the primary distributor. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth considering for other things. Example: you could use Smashwords or Draft2Digital (both free) to access major markets. Both of them respond quickly and in most cases price changes are reflected the same day. Kobo has been erratic of late, but with the two I mentioned it’s pretty fast. You could still use Bookbaby, though, for their unique channels like Ciando, Copia, eSentral, etc. And there are some other strategic promotional opportunities you can take advantage of, which I’ll cover in a future post.

      As to the free comment, Bookbaby isn’t the only one who charges for changes; in fact, most of the distributors charge for changes. Smashwords and D2D seem to be the exceptions.

      But BB also deserves some leeway. Steven Spatz, the new president, has only been on board in this role since August. He has inherited policies that he did not implement. Let’s give him a chance to change things.

  3. Samantha Warren September 12, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Thanks for this detailed look into Bookbaby. They’ve been on my radar since I saw that at the Philly Writer’s Conference a couple years ago. Back then, I was extremely disappointed that the self-publishing “class” they taught was mostly a push to sell their services rather than to actually educate people on self-publishing. The extra channels and the book promo might make me check into them a bit more, though.

    • Giacomo Giammatteo September 12, 2014 at 5:49 pm #

      Hi, Samantha. I think we’ll see more improvements to Bookbaby in the short term. Steve Spatz, the new president, seems geared toward helping authors achieve better sales through improved distribution and marketing services. I’m still not fond of the paid services for any distributor unless you’re getting a lot in return, but Bookbaby’s free service is worth looking into.

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