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Watchdog: Review Of Bookbaby

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.

If you enjoyed this post, please share.

Giacomo Giammatteo

Giacomo Giammatteo is the author of gritty crime dramas about murder, mystery, and family. He also writes non-fiction books including the "No Mistakes" Careers series.
He lives in Texas where he and his wife have an animal sanctuary with 45 loving “friends.” His website is at www.giacomogiammatteo.com.

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This Post Has 17 Comments
  1. I am having a problem with their printing of my children’s picture books. They did a beautiful job with the design but they are getting waves when binding the book and traces of glue on opening pages!
    This is very upsetting because they should examine the books prior to shipping to me and the customers!
    I also think that they do not pay all of the royalties. They are also very expensive. you pay $20 for a book and only get $1.20 in royalties seem unrealistic! Help!!!
    Can you recommend a better company and one who has quality production in assembling the books
    sometimes they do a beautiful job but are inconsistent.
    Thank you

  2. BOOK BABY DOES NOT PAY ROYALTIES! i released my book around the Christmas holidays and sold it to quite a few friends and family members. I saw no royalties! So I called them and they demanded that I tell THEM the sales order number and sales date before they would pay me!!! That is THEIR job not mine to keep track of sales. Then just recently my sales rank on Amazon jumped over million and this was right after I did a,radio interview and they claimed I had no sales. In addition I have launched massive Facebook ad campaigns and gained over 1,000 link clicks and they say no sales have happened. They appear to be lying cheating thieves!!!

    1. I am a recent author of a first book and have questioned how authors are able to verify book sales, and, therefore, royalties. It appears that it is a business that depends on the publisher’s honesty with no real way to challenge there results. An author should have the right to figures from those retailers selling the books such as Amazon, as an honesty check!

  3. I used BookBaby to print my first book last year and I saved a lot of time and aggravation by doing my own editing, book cover design and formatting.
    The book was rejected several times when I tried to upload it but that was because the pictures in it had a shadow affect around each one which did something to the program. When that was corrected, everything went smoothly and the books came out gorgeous! Quality was very good. The hardest part was trying to get a hold of anyone there. Although you’re assigned a helper, try getting a hold of them when you have a question. Also, I know I sold a lot more books through Amazon and there’s no way to see their accounting to know if it’s correct. I sold more on my own to my clients direct and they do run specials from time to time where they give you extra copies during some promos. Just wrote my 2nd book and debating if I go back.

  4. On the surface Bookbaby looks good. Great website, good offers. I took them up on their Complete Publishing Package (book formatting, cover design, distribution etc.).

    My experience has not been positive. Frustrating and disappointing best characterize how I have felt throughout most it. There are many reasons, but I’ll say the three big ones:

    1. Sloppy work. Whether it was book/ebook formatting or cover design or getting the Amazon page set up — endless mistakes. You need to have an amazing eye for detail yourself so that you catch all the mistakes that are made. Some of the mistakes are very obvious, the kind that anybody who double-checks their own work would spot, but many of them are small and subtle so you have to look very closely at everything you receive.

    2. Inefficient processes that slows everything down. I was given an initial estimate of six weeks and it turned into 3.5 months. (Even today, as I write this, I’m waiting on a response to an email I sent 10 days ago. Despite two follow up email prompts, I’ve not received a response to a number of the issues I raised in it.)

    Another example, the cover design process is particularly laborious and took a very long time. The first reason is the “3 business day” turn around time. Add a weekend in (which often happens), and it’s 5 days. (My designer almost always waited the maximum time before returning a proof.) The second reason is you cannot communicate freely with the designer. The designer communicates to you through a third-party service rep (if you hear from the designer at all). The third reason is that the designer can only send you one proof at a time. So let’s say there are a few different ideas or options that could be done, they can only show you one at a time. Then you reject or modify that option, then wait 3-5 more days for something to come back, then comment on that, wait 3-5 days for something to come back (repeat ad nauseam).

    To make things worse, my designer had a habit of making changes I did not ask for and not making some of the changes I did ask for, which then extended the design process even further.

    This might not be a problem if you’re not fussed about good design or communicating freely with your designer (which is what good co-creation requires), but if you do care, Bookbaby’s design process is unbelievably inefficient.

    3. Experience with staff is inconsistent – hot and cold. Some of the service representatives that I contacted were good, no question: prompt and efficient in their replies. But another of Bookbaby’s quirks is that you you never know who you’re going to get — they do not assign one service rep to your case — it’s a crapshot who will respond to you. And they are not all of equal caliber.

    The ‘technicians’ who did the actual work on my book…well I can’t speak positively because of #1 above (sloppy work). At times it felt like I was working with amateurs not professionals. So many mistakes. Even today I have a number of items I need to send them about my Amazon page, where text was just thrown up, with no regard for proper paragraph spacing and, in places, not even punctuation between sentences. Can’t wait to wait 10 days for that to be fixed. 😐
    ˙
    I could go on and list more issues that I have with there work. I will Spare you the details.

    Recommendation: look elsewhere

    1. Thank you. This is very helpful. Your detailed review and the one directly below confirm my suspicions based on my initial contacts with this company. You just saved me a ton of time with your one review. Thank you

  5. I suggest you look at Bookbaby again in early 2019.
    They are looking like a typical Author scam setup
    $1,000 for 50 normal colour books, $78 for one book +$31 to ship to Switzerland where I live!

  6. I had published an e-book through Bookbaby. I just so happen to glance at my project detail page and noticed that my billing information was incorrect. It went from being correct one minute, then months later, incorrect The name was correct but the street address, City, and State were incorrect. I questioned Bookbaby about this since they do have excess to my account and they claimed they don’t know how that happened. I began to wonder if my royalties were going to that address.

  7. Used BookBaby. No real input after the sale. Changes are costly. Doesn’t seem like they have a working relationship with retail partners, such as; Barnes and Noble or Books A Million to fix issues. Their job is “to make sure that the files meet standards for print and distribution”, when we questioned why standard copyright language was not in the book. Would not recommend for first time Authors.

  8. THIS MAY BE A DUPLICATE (COMPUTER ACTING UP)

    Bonita Evans
    1 review
    Star 1
    Star 2
    Star 3
    Star 4
    Star 5
    Published 13 minutes ago
    Updated 1 seconds ago
    Been There, Done That by Bonita Evans Ph.D.
    Been There, Done That, A Review
    by Dr. Bonita Evans, Ph.D.

    BookBaby did a fantastic job on my book. As a Professor, world traveler and Educated at college level by the British, I expected those working on my book to be as professional as I am. Well, BookBaby met all my demands, and produced an excellent book. This was not an easy task because the book has comments in Swahili, French, German and Arabic. This meant, that they had to pay close attention to any insights I had to provide. Well, they did an excellent job. It took me two years to get this book to a publishable state because many publishers tried to make corrections to languages used, which they did not understand and ruined the manuscript. Additionally, it was very difficult to make some publishers understand that an autobiography cannot skip any events, because they lead to the next, and without cohesive rhythm, it is very difficult to maintain continuity. If you think you can remove a portion of the manuscript–particularly in an autobiography, and still make sense,you are off track and should be writing fiction. Worse yet, it becomes even more impossible when the author has a four-year degree in Professional Writing under the British system. However, BookBaby excelled in all these tasks. I am also grateful to them for improving the cover, by changing to glossy as opposed to mat, which enhanced the cover’s overall attraction.
    Prior to coming to Book Baby, I had WASTED nearly two years working with self publishers who were not nearly as adept as they are at Book Baby. Save yourself two years of frustration, Go to Book Baby first.

    Dr. Bonita D. Evans, Ph.D.

    1. Perhaps you received special treatment and excellent service because of your background and the title behind your name. Many less distinguished people report less than stellar service.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    1. 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.

  11. 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.

    1. 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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