New Distribution Channel: BookBaby

There is a new entry in the ebook conversion and distribution game. The company behind CD Baby has now introduced a service called BookBaby.

Their announcement:

There’s a new addition to the CD Baby family: BookBaby! Just as CD Baby has
helped to level the playing field for DIY musicians over the past decade,
BookBaby now throws open the doors to the electronic publishing and
distribution world for independent authors. And we’re celebrating the birth
of BookBaby in a big way.

And the fine print:

$99 (regularly $149) (plus $19 annual fee after first year) PER EBOOK sign-up. Conversion will list only up to 30 chapter headings. This price is if you supply the final ebook file or use their conversion service.

$75 to add more chapter headings above the 30 included in the sign-up fee.

$99 to add up to 15 images to your book.

There are other possible fees that might apply, but the ones above caught my eye.

The fee per ebook and then the annual fee to keep the ebooks in the program bothers me, although they do offer custom quotes for 5 books or more. The only upside to the service is that they claim not to take any royalty on the back-end. It appears that all the costs are on the front-end.

I think it would depend on if the author wanted to put up the big money up front, or list for free into the same markets with Smashwords and have the royalty taken on the back end. I can see the right decision would be different between listing novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories. For shorter work the price would be too high.

Does Bookbaby have limitations on description length and category placement in the online retailers like Smashwords has? This would depend on their distribution feed system, I’m sure.

Has Bookbaby negotiated with the retailers to allow the authors to set their price so that the Amazon robot doesn’t destroy income if it finds a lower price elsewhere?

Do they have real-time sales reports? Or is it only quarterly? Or some other length of time?

Right now they have Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iPad and Sony Reader store as the only distribution channels. I really don’t see the benefit of using them for Amazon or Barnes & Noble, as you can get into both of them for free (no ebook listing fee) and still have full royalties. Plus, you have a lot of control with catalog placement, description, pricing, tagging, and other perks by going direct.

So, is their distribution to the iPad and Sony Reader store worth the sign-up fee per book? I’m not sure. That would depend on the questions up above (and a lot more).

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New Distribution Channel: BookBaby

10 thoughts on “New Distribution Channel: BookBaby”

  1. Hey JA,

    Thanks for blogging about BookBaby!

    I wanted to take a minute to answer a few of your questions.

    We have a 100%-royalty program, which means authors keep ALL their net earnings. BookBaby takes no cut out of sales. For this reason, we charge an initial signup fee per-eBook which includes a free basic EPUB conversion and digital delivery, not just to our existing partners (iBookstore, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony’s ReaderStore), but to all future partners (Kobo and some other big players on the horizon).

    This provides authors with the convenience of:

    * managing one account instead of individual accounts for each retailer
    * uploading their eBook only once
    * tracking sales, viewing sales reports, and managing payments from one place
    * knowing that when new retailers come on the scene, we’ll take care of the delivery for them

    So yes, authors pay the submission fee upfront (plus a $19 annual fee), but we offer convenience and a proven digital distribution system. Plus, we pay authors weekly, AND we keep our hands out of their earnings.

    As for limitations on description length, all of our partners allow description lengths of up to 4000 characters EXCEPT for Apple’s iBookstore. They limit the length to 200 characters. To accommodate both lengths, authors can provide us with a short description (for iBookstore) and a long description (for all of the other retailers). Also, since Amazon allows authors to choose two “browse categories” per book, we deliver our eBooks with the genre and sub-genre selection which authors designate during our signup process.

    Regarding Amazon pricing, BookBaby authors will remain in the 70% Royalty Option (if their eBooks are priced between $2.99-$9.99) as long as they do not discount their eBook more than 20% below the “lowest suggested retail price or equivalent price for any physical edition of the Digital Book.” For authors who are not selling hardback versions, this is not a concern.

    Each of our retail partners reports sales according to different schedules, but to give you two examples:

    * Amazon pays a full month’s earnings up to 60 days from the end of that month.
    * Apple’s iBookstore reports and pays up to 45 days from the end of the month in which the sale occurred.

    Our sales reports work like this, in a nutshell: as soon as we receive the reports from our partner companies, we post the sales details in the authors’ accounts and pay them the following Monday.

    I hope this answers your questions, but if you or any of your readers have further inquiries, please feel free to email

    We’re really excited about this launch, the services we can offer independent authors, and hope to partner with writers to help move their careers forward.

    -Chris Robley at BookBaby

    • Thank you for the comment. I appreciate you coming over. Interesting that you pay on a weekly basis. Yours is the first service that I’ve seen to pay that often. Also good that you have the iBookstore shorter description separate from those that allow longer descriptions. A very good idea.

      The one question that you haven’t answered is if you have contracts with the retailers to stay with the Agency Model. As in: the indie authors set the price and the retailers respect it and don’t discount it. The reason this is so important, even though so many of us hate the agency model, is described in this post.

      Again, thank you for the comment.

  2. Hi guys. Well it’s nice to see an independent review of bookbaby but alas there
    are still many unanswered questions. I guess I’ve lost heart with similar services
    Such as Lulu etc., for one just gets lost in the crowd. It’s one thing to have a digital
    Release be it CDs or books but without marketing it just sits in the list with many
    Many others and little to no sales. Sure the publishing world has changed but it’s
    Also sId that self publishing is the worst path a new author can take!

    It’s hard to know how to publish, let alone who with. If only places like bookbaby had
    A means by which a title could really be promoted and not just listed, then I’d think
    Seriously about publishing my masterpiece: Anaesthetic Dream!

    Estelle Asmodelle

    • The best marketing you can do is write the next story. Start filling up your ‘digital bookshelf’. The more you have offered, the more chances you have of finding eyeballs. And one story will bring readers to your other stories. Read the blog sereis from Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch (links are in the sidebar) for more information. Basically backlist is one of the major keys to success. Don’t put all your writing success in one basket, so to speak (that applies to sales channels, as well).

      By the way, when considering sales channels, always go direct if at all possible. Your control, cost outlay, and royalty percentages will always be better. Which is why even though Bookbaby offers 4 distribution channels, only two of them are of any real benefit to Indies.

      I disagree that self-publishing, starting with ebooks, is the worst path a new author can take. Evidence is mounting that that is no longer true (even though it once was true). Indie publishing is now called the ‘new slush pile’. More and more deals are being made from publishers cherry-picking the top indie sellers and offering them deals. Also consider the time issue. Time = money. J.A. Konrath just did an excellent blog post called “The Numbers Game”. Read up on it for some interesting math.

      As for traditional marketing methods, I hate to tell you this, but even if you go traditional you will doing pretty much all of it all by yourself unless you are one of the privileged few. All while receiving no extra royalty points to help pay for it. While at the same time giving up control of various rights on your work, no control over cover, title, price or presentation. Or a host of other key points that make or break your book. But you, the author, will be the one to suffer for those decisions you had no control over. And then you get dropped… all over things you had no control over.

      Both sides have their frustrations, but don’t think going traditional is a beautiful yellow brick road leading you to success. It isn’t. The grass is not always greener on the other side.

  3. Services like Bookbaby are exciting to me, and I suppose, many like me. A major hurdle for writers like me (older guys without much tech savvy) is the manuscript conversion process. I understand MS Word, I do not understand HTML, Epub, etc. And guess what, I don’t want to. I want to write. But I’ve found that the retailers such as B&N Pubit aren’t much help. Sure it’s free, if you can figure out why your file isn’t uploading, then why it isn’t converting, and then, when it is converted, why it looks so wierd, and then, how to fix it by somehow interpolating what you see in the epub file back to what is in your .doc file. No one has yet provided useful manuscript guidelines for preparing your .doc up-front so that it will convert to an epub file. Seems like folks who run the converters ought to have some idea of how the input document should look and be able to communicate that to their potential customers. I haven’t seen it yet, not even from Bookbaby. What we need is two conversions: first conversion is from what we all use to produce our edited manuscript in word to a .doc file that eliminates headers and footers, page numbers, symbols, formats proper paragraphs, etc. Then, that file can be uploaded to the converter to be converted to the epub standard. Oh well, this technology is still an infant.
    So–I like the idea of having a service that will do the conversions, handle the uploads, and get the book listed with all the major players–and leave me to get on with my next novel.
    Cover art is another big benefit. Some writers are creative in that way, but I am not. Getting the digital cover produced is something I value and am willing to pay extra to get a good job.
    Thanks JA, for the opportunity to vent.

    • No problem about venting. It’s something a lot of us find a bit frustrating. But, this industry is young. There will be shakeups on formats, and in fact, there already have been. There are also a lot of new services and programs popping up, which should mean things will get a bit easier on than front in the future.

      As for cover art, I agree. If one doesn’t have the talent or experience, it’s best to pay to have it done. There are a lot of reasonably priced people out there who are very good at it. It just takes a bit of research to find them.

  4. What if you have your stuff on smashwords and on Bookbaby? will it end up canceling each other out? just curious as to if I should put it all on bookbaby or branch out as well…

    • You will need to contact Bookbaby to see if all books coming though them are eligible for all of the new country distribution list. The announcement I saw was for the Smashwords distribution channel only.

      By the way, according to Apple rules, a book can be distributed to them through only ONE method. You cannot have Bookbaby and Smashwords doing it at the same time. That’s a great way to cause a lot of grief for yourself (all books pulled, possibly banned, major migraine headaches to get sorted out). If you want to use Bookbaby to get into the Apple iBookstore, then opt out of that channel at Smashwords. If you want to use Smashwords, then opt out at Bookbaby. You cannot use both for the iBookstore.

      Good luck to you!

  5. Hi, a previous post said that bookbaby charges an additional fee for more than 30 chaper headings. Can bookbaby confirm that this is true? If so, where can we find all of the “fine print” pricing before deciding to publish with them?

    • It’s been a while since I perused their site, LuAnn, so I’m not sure where to start looking now. You might want to see if the page listing their prices has been updated. If not, then you might want to send them an email.

      For me? I’ll keep going direct when possible, and Smashwords for the rest. Formatting is easy once you do it once, so I don’t see spending unneeded money to get into the same sales channels.


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