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Old 10-28-2012, 10:55 PM   #1
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BookBaby experiences?

There has been discussion here in the past about BookBaby - in particular versus something like Smashwords - but that aside, are there authors here that have had experience with BookBaby and would be happy to share?

Yes, they have an upfront fee (starting at $99) and a $19 per year annual fee, but for someone outside the U.S. they do provide an alternative to Smashwords that doesn't require a U.S. account (I have an email in to them about the requirement for a U.S. tax identification number, since I don't see how they can really avoid that one), and that doesn't require you to strip your carefully constructed epub down to a pulp in order to submit it to a grinder.

At this point I am only studying the available alternatives, hence this post. If anyone knows of other such alternatives worth looking at, I'd be happy to hear about them.
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Old 10-29-2012, 06:38 AM   #2
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I have been using Bookbaby for more than a year and have been very pleased with the service. Not sure about the tax position yet, as I am letting sales accumulate (you set a level at which the money is forwarded to you, as with Amazon). Given Amazon's deviousness over VAT I wouldn't take their tax policy as gospel.

Bookbaby will pay via Paypal, which is what makes them accessible to authors outside the US. Reports on sales are not as immediate as they are on Amazon, because they themselves are subject to reporting delays from iTunes etc, but detailed figures are available to download via a personal control panel.

The range of outlets they distribute to is expanding all the time and you automatically get included in any new ones at no extra charge. On the other hand, you can opt out of individual outlets (for example, I like to do the Kindle version myself). Increasingly they are distributing to outlets outside the US.

The best thing is the quality of the service, which is great - quick, responsive and friendly. Conversions are good, but then they should be as they are all minor variations on epub - and they are happy to chase problems with individual outlets. It pays to check each store yourself, however, as some have special quirks - for example, Kobo use the book blurb in the metadata rather than the one you supply with the cover image.

Generally a good experience. Let me know if there are any specific questions.

Last edited by MartinC; 10-30-2012 at 05:27 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 10-29-2012, 08:25 AM   #3
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[...]Generally a good experience. Let me know if there are any specific questions.
Thank you very much for your post. I, too, was thinking that I may do the Amazon stuff myself (partly because I thought I would use CreateSpace for POD, and partly because I like the idea of not putting all my eggs in one basket), and for that I will need a U.S. ITIN or whatever they call it. (Although I see BookBaby offer print services now too.)

I'd seen BookBaby's advertising blurb some time ago, and it rather put me off them, it seemed ... less than open (I really dislike "advertorials"). But then another company in Australia that I'd contacted cited BookBaby as their "partner", so I thought I'd take a closer look.
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Old 10-29-2012, 08:32 AM   #4
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I know very little about Bookbay as of yet and have been with Smashwords since 2010. Is there any reason I should consider switching to them?
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Old 10-30-2012, 05:25 AM   #5
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I know very little about Bookbay as of yet and have been with Smashwords since 2010. Is there any reason I should consider switching to them?
I don't know much about Smashwords, I'm afraid. I was attracted to Bookbaby because they offered a straightforward business arrangement without any social networking distractions. I understand they also have a good record in the music industry. But if you're happy with Smashwords, then no, why change?

On the business of doing the Amazon version of a book oneself... I do this partly because it allows for corrections and improvements, so the Kindle edition can be used as a pilot for the epub. With Bookbaby there's a charge for changes.

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Old 10-30-2012, 08:30 AM   #6
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On the business of doing the Amazon version of a book oneself... I do this partly because it allows for corrections and improvements, so the Kindle edition can be used as a pilot for the epub. With Bookbaby there's a charge for changes.
I do Amazon myself also. Its a major chunk of my market, so I make sure I custom build the mobi for it.
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Old 10-30-2012, 09:43 AM   #7
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I know very little about Bookbay as of yet and have been with Smashwords since 2010. Is there any reason I should consider switching to them?
Smashwords would probably be my first (non-Amazon) choice if they supported upload of epub. They may even be what I come back to - eventually - after studying the alternatives. But if you've already got all your methods in place to deal with the meatgrinder then I see no good reason for you to move elsewhere. The paid services, I think, are primarily there for people that want to offload the need to deal with conversions and/or want a bit of hand-holding through the proces ... and, I guess, for the occasional odd-bod like myself that would like to avoid deconstructing their manuscript just to make Smashwords happy.
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Old 10-30-2012, 04:45 PM   #8
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Yes, they have an upfront fee (starting at $99) and a $19 per year annual fee.
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With Bookbaby there's a charge for changes.
Looks to me like a new take on the old vanity selfpub scam. Do they provide any kind of support for those fees, like free editing, professional cover services, or advertising?
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Old 10-30-2012, 08:00 PM   #9
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H. Graham - it's not a scam - the change fees are because it's a lot of work for us to do a takedown and redelivery to all partners when we have such a broad network (including Amazon, which some others don't do) and when we accept all formats (instead of relying on a "meatgrinder" for word docs). As far as support, BookBaby has not only email support, but we're one of the rare Internet companies who answer the phone. We do cover design (they did my book and my son's, and we're both happy!) and have lots of other services as well - check us out! Cheers.

Brian Felsen
President, BookBaby
[Promotional link deleted - MODERATOR]

Last edited by Dr. Drib; 10-30-2012 at 10:16 PM.
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Old 10-30-2012, 10:08 PM   #10
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H. Graham - it's not a scam - the change fees are because it's a lot of work for us to do a takedown and redelivery to all partners when we have such a broad network (including Amazon, which some others don't do) and when we accept all formats (instead of relying on a "meatgrinder" for word docs). As far as support, BookBaby has not only email support, but we're one of the rare Internet companies who answer the phone. We do cover design (they did my book and my son's, and we're both happy!) and have lots of other services as well - check us out! Cheers.

Brian Felsen
President, BookBaby
[Promotional link deleted - MODERATOR]
Thanks for your post! If I understand correctly, cover design and "lots of other services" are extra and not included? Is that correct?

Last edited by Dr. Drib; 10-30-2012 at 10:17 PM.
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Old 10-30-2012, 10:38 PM   #11
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teh603, I've seen plenty of scam-sites around in my research, but I don't see BookBaby as fitting into this basket. If you consider the time you can save by outsourcing many of these details (both in learning what is required and then execution) then the fees seem realistic. Of course I've been learning what is required in order to try and verify which sites are offering value for money, so I'm still losing time ... you can't win them all. Not everyone is keen to go through everything necessary to fit the requirements of each and every end distributor, so - of course - there will be companies looking to fill this niche, isn't capitalism grand .

VydorScope, they offer various packages, with one including cover design starting at $149 and going up from there. They also have HostBaby to make web-site sites easier (at least that's what they say). Through their "partner" FirstEditing.com they also offer editing services. Each of these services are extra. They appear to be serious in trying to offer one-place that an author can go to, to get their production work done. Of course, the more you want the more you pay. The $149 with cover package is a "Text-focused design with simple graphic and background color" cover (but can incorporate a "customer supplied photograph"), you have to go up to the $279 package for "Images that provide a glimpse into the story or subject matter". None of these prices strike me as outlandish (I've seen sites wanting several thousands of dollars for not much more). As you well know, these are all things you _can_ do for yourself, but they all take time.

I'm not associated with BookBaby, I don't even use them (yet), I just started this thread because I was hoping for confirmation that they deliver what what they say they will. (It's one thing seeing the testimonials in their advertising blurb, it's another to get independent feedback.)

ETA: They're not as fast at responding to email as I might like, I'm still waiting for answers to my questions about tax etc., but I'm guessing my email would have landed at their site on Sunday - I got to remind myself that America is behind the times.

Last edited by gmw; 10-30-2012 at 10:46 PM. Reason: About email responses.
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Old 10-31-2012, 07:26 PM   #12
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H. Graham - it's not a scam - the change fees are because it's a lot of work for us to do a takedown and redelivery to all partners when we have such a broad network (including Amazon, which some others don't do) and when we accept all formats (instead of relying on a "meatgrinder" for word docs). As far as support, BookBaby has not only email support, but we're one of the rare Internet companies who answer the phone. We do cover design (they did my book and my son's, and we're both happy!) and have lots of other services as well - check us out! Cheers.

Brian Felsen
President, BookBaby
[Promotional link deleted - MODERATOR]
Why would you need to do a "takedown" for those authors who provide fully formatted copy for each of the target distributors? Many self publishers have or develop skill sets that allow professional end results. It isn't hard to do.

You have not responded to the matter of US tax requirements for non US contributors. Can you clarify that?
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Old 11-02-2012, 10:12 PM   #13
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It took five days, but I did get a response to my email query from BookBaby.

To the tax issue: They describe themselves as the "titular seller", and say that the author is selling their books on consignment which means that the royalties are not subject to additional withholding by the bookstores. They tell me that they do not need an ITIN (from the foreign author) because they do not withhold or report earnings to any government agency. Their email also told me that I should consult an local tax professional.

Now I don't have a problem with any of that, it makes perfect sense to me ... with the not so minor exception that no one else (that I've found) is following the same rule. In particular, both Smashwords and Amazon need foreign authors to have a U.S. tax number, and I really can't see what makes BookBaby any different. It is quite strange. I guess I'll see what my accountant has to say.

Last edited by gmw; 11-03-2012 at 04:35 AM. Reason: clarification
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Old 11-03-2012, 04:50 AM   #14
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Further to my previous post: I am wondering if the Smashwords ITIN requirement (for non-U.S. authors) only applies to sales from within Smashwords - as opposed to sales from other outlets accessed from Smashwords. (They talk about it applying to "Smashwords earnings".)

If that is the case then perhaps their position really is consistent with BookBaby, and that would be reassuring.
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Old 11-03-2012, 06:55 AM   #15
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Now I don't have a problem with any of that, it makes perfect sense to me ... with the not so minor exception that no one else (that I've found) is following the same rule. In particular, both Smashwords and Amazon need foreign authors to have a U.S. tax number, and I really can't see what makes BookBaby any different. It is quite strange. I guess I'll see what my accountant has to say.
I'd be interested to hear. There are some differences in the way Amazon and BookBaby handle sales. For example, BookBaby appears in Kobo, etc. as the "publisher" of the book; Amazon doesn't. Amazon exists (I believe) as a separate entity in each geographical area, and it's only the .com outfit that retains local tax; BookBaby is a single company that distributes worldwide. Don't know if things like this make any difference.

BookBaby are not new to this - does anyone know how their music distribution worked?

Amazon do have a bit of a reputation for hanging on to other people's money (see threads about VAT in Europe). If a significant number of non-US authors don't bother to get a US tax number, Amazon may be banking 30% of royalties for up to a year before passing it on to the IRS. Good move accounting-wise.

Last edited by MartinC; 11-03-2012 at 11:18 AM.
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