Part One of A Five-Part Week Series: “Which Distributor“. A Guest Post by Giacomo Giammatteo.
All this week on the Alliance blog, we are featuring personal experience and opinion pieces from our members, on the various ebook and pbook distribution options open to indies — and what to expect from which.
Today, Alliance member Giacomo Giammatteo gives us his thoughts on Bookbaby and Smashwords, concluding that there are strong positives to going with each. Here’s his in-depth, and extremely useful, camparison of two top players.
Until recently there was only one sensible option to distribute your ebook outside of Amazon, and that was through Smashwords. I didn’t worry about any of it until my 90-day exclusivity with Amazon was about to end. All I knew was that I wanted to get into all the major channels, get the best return in terms of dollars, and do it with the least amount of frustration. It didn’t take long to determine the choices were still limited, but the “sensible” options included a new player, Bookbaby.
- First Impressions. Bookbaby’s site was clean, attractive and organized. It gave me a warm, friendly feeling as soon as I landed. Smashwords had a nice site but, to me at least, it seemed a little cluttered by comparison.
- Ease of Use. With Bookbaby, everything I needed to know, everything I had questions about, from pricing to distribution channels, was one click away. Not so with Smashwords. I had to do a little searching to find what I needed. It was there, but not as obvious or easy to access.
- Customer Service. It isn’t fair to rate customer service before I sign up, but service is important to me, and I loved the fact that Bookbaby had telephone support. If Smashwords had phone support, I couldn’t find it. I must add that I emailed Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, and he got back to me right away and provided straight answers to all my questions. How many CEOs do you know who do that? I was impressed.
Distribution and Fees
All of the above is important, but I wanted to get to the real meat—channels and costs. The tables below should answer those questions for you.
|Baker & Taylor||✓||✓|
|Barnes & Noble||✓||✓|
|Diesel eBook Store||x||✓|
In the chart below, I list Amazon and B&N but I don’t know why anyone would want to list at Amazon through either Bookbaby or Smashwords; it’s better to go direct with them instead.
For some reason, B&N only pays 50% to Bookbaby. For Smashwords, I took the 60% figure off the ‘Channel reports’ section on their website.
|Baker & Taylor Blio||60%||60%|
|Baker & Taylor Axis||X||45%|
|Barnes & Noble||50%||60%|
|Diesel eBook Store||X||60%|
|Yearly fee after year 1||$19||$0|
|Changes made after publishing||*See below||$0|
Here is the fee structure for changes at Bookbaby:
- Up to 10 changes in your eBook – $50
- 11 to 25 changes in your eBook – $75
- 26 to 50 changes in your eBook – $100
- Bookbaby allows one update per calendar year.
- Smashwords allows unlimited changes.
For the sake of sanity, and because there are too many possible scenarios to consider, I restricted my calculations to one scenario—that I would publish to Amazon and B&N on my own, and go through either Smashwords or Bookbaby for the rest. The top four sellers of ebooks are: Amazon, B&N, Apple, and Kobo. That left Apple and Kobo as the only two to consider. I assumed combined sales at Apple and Kobo of 100, 200, and 500 books, and rounded earnings to an even 60% & 70%.
|Books sold||Earnings @$2.99 BB||Earnings @$2.99 SW||Earnings @$4.99 BB||Earnings @$4.99 SW||Earnings @$6.99 BB||Earnings @$6.99 SW|
- At the $2.99 price point, an author would have to sell 333 books to break even if they paid the $99 fee to Bookbaby. If you ran that number out to two years, you’d have to sell 400 books over a two year period to break even.
- At the $4.99 price point, the break-even points shift to 200 sales in year one or 240 in two years.
- At the $6.99 price point, the break even drops to 143 sales in year one and 171 over two years.
Another point to consider—if you don’t sign on directly with B&N you’ll have to recalculate, as Smashwords offers 60% from B&N sales versus 50% from Bookbaby.
Financially, the decision on which route to go with will vary depending on your price point and your projected sales, but decisions are seldom strictly financial ones. Other factors come into play. Here are a few to consider:
- Ease of use. although at first blush Bookbaby seems to win the prize here, with a clean, organized presentation, the more I played with Smashwords, I realized it was easy to use as well.
- Customer service. I loved that Bookbaby had phone support, but I was also very impressed that Mark Coker responded personally to answer my questions. If his staff responds to emails the same way, I’d have no problem.
- Accounting system. I haven’t signed up, but from what I can see on the surface, I’d have to give an edge to Bookbaby on this. Bookbaby also pays weekly; Smashwords quarterly.
Each person’s circumstances will be different. Before you decide, think of how each factor might affect you.
If you have to make changes after uploading, there will be steep charges you’ll incur at Bookbaby, while Smashwords is free. Look hard at that chart. It doesn’t take long to add up 11 commas that need replacing, and that will cost you $75.
Be honest about how many books you think you’ll sell, then look at the charts and determine what makes sense. I would advise against making a decision based on how many you’d like to sell. Be realistic. Remember, this is how many you’ll sell outside of Amazon. Most authors won’t hit the break-even point.
Opinions expressed in the "Which Distributor?" series are not necessarily those of the Alliance.