Indypub: BookBaby?

Some good questions came up from Paul Hanson:  basically, why don’t I use BookBaby (or something similar, I suppose)?

  1. I’m DIY in this area.  I like formatting, editing, messing around with cover art, and general book design things.
  2. The expense would kill me (in particular).

Bookbaby charges:

  • $99 to start plus $19/year.
  • Free basic ebook formatting (I’m not sure what this covers–bullet points? special characters? images?)
  • $19 for ISBN registration.
  • $149 for basic cover design.
  • Fees for changing anything, fees for advanced formatting ($150 an HOUR?!?), fees for anything more than basic.

In exchange, they don’t take any of the cut from your book–the retailers still get their cut, though.

My expenses:

  • Time (including learning how to use new programs, etc.).
  • Approximately $1/cover image.

I have, er, I think 37 ebooks up, mostly short stories.

Bookbaby: $3663 to sign up the books, $703 to register them, $5513 to get covers, and no changes whatsoever for $0, or $9879.  And in a year, I’ll have to pay another $703 to keep those books up on BookBaby.

I don’t have my cover expenses for the year put together yet, but I’m pretty sure it’s around $50, certainly less than $100.  I’ve made numerous changes to ebooks, too, as I learn more about what I want inside them and what mistakes I’m making.  I’m planning to go through the lot again soon to make some updates.

I’m not making enough money to cover $9879 (plus extra for changes, and then another $703 a year), but I can cover $100.

Now, let’s say that I’m not DIY inclined, and my time is worth more than the expense of going through BookBaby.  I like that they don’t take percentages; however, I don’t like that they charge you money every year.  If I wanted to go that way, I’d look for a place that charged me everything up front, gave me 100% control over the files if I ever left them, and didn’t charge me fees on a yearly basis.

Now, to go against that, I do use Smashwords, which does take a cut for distributing books to other sites, and charges you no money up front.  Why do I do that?

  • With my biggest sources of ebook sales (Amazon and B&N), I go directly through them, at a cost of time + overhead + ~$1 cover art per ebook.
  • Smashwords, with all its distribution, does not equal the sales of either of those sites for me, but I like having 1) a wide reach with minimum effort (they go to more retailers than BookBaby does, by the way) and 2) a wide variety of ebook formats available for someone who needs something other than Kindle or epub.
  • If I identify a major source of sales through Smashwords, I will research that source to see if it’s worth the time to go directly through them; if it is, I will switch over to them directly.

In short, I’m letting Smashwords have  a small bite out of my pie ($.10 on a $.99 ebook [plus $.30 to the retailer, like Apple] through the Premium catalogue; incidentally, their cut is $.43 on $.99 for non-affliate SW sales, and $.47 on affiliate SW sales, plus $.07 standard affiliate profit) to cover all my bases and do market research for me.  It may not be as profitable to do this if my business scales up significantly; if so, I’ll adjust.  At this point, the money vs. time spent is worth it for me.

A side note: I feel that Kobo will be a significant source of sales, if they get off their bums.  Right now, it’s like pulling teeth to get books onto their site, either with or without using Smashwords as a distribution partner (I talked to them about signing up with them directly at one point…a lot of hoop jumping would have been required. But they aren’t getting SW books posted, either; the ones I have up are due to being a pain with their customer service over about two weeks).  However, they may be opening up easier indie channels in 2012.  I hope so.







Fiction: The Cliff House


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  1. TL Smiles

    Good blog. I’ve been going through this myself, an reached the same conclusions. It’s a lot of detail work, but if you’re like me, I’d rather take the time to do it myself and have the control.

    • De

      Oh, yes. When something goes wrong, I’d like the option to be able to fix it, instead of going through customer service.

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