We’re in the wild west days of ebook publishing as the entire book publishing industry goes through its biggest transition since the invention of the printing press in the 15th century.

In a nutshell, as Seth Godin has described it, the publishing industry was built on the notion of scarcity – limited bookshelf space in bookstores led publishers to limit the number of books published.  But with the advent of Amazon.com and other online bookstores, now digital shelf space is unlimited and every author from the best known to the most obscure can have unlimited digital ‘shelf space.’   What is scarce now is attention: in other words, will anyone know about your book, find it, and buy it / read it?

And with the arrival of the Kindle, the iPad, the Nook, etc., the moment of the ebook has arrived.  Now not only is shelf space unlimited, but the price of entry for selling an ebook is tiny; no printing costs, no shipping and handling; almost pure profit.  Thus we have the Amanda Hocking phenomena:   a young author self-publishing her novels sells over 900,000 ebooks in less than one year (apparently then netting her a traditional publishing deal, by the way.)

Ebook publishing has amazing attractions for authors.  For a very low entry price, any author can epublish; and if they have a large enough following, they can receive huge revenue with almost no publishing  costs.

But how DOES an author transform their beloved manuscript into an Amazon/iPad/etc. ebook for sale? For one, you can’t just simply upload a word document or a PDF of your book and know that it will be in the right format for publication.  For another, each online ebook vendor has its own set of complicated and time consuming rules and processes for submission, listings, and payments.

Enter bookbaby. This new company is associated with CDBaby, which in the 1990’s pioneered a new model for an online music store and has grown into a mammothly successful venture permitting musicians to sell their own CDs and mp3s. And given CDBaby’s success and track record for integrity with its artists, bookbaby comes of very good pedigree and deserves careful attention.  Their introductory offer has a $99 fee per ebook for:

  • Basic ebook conversion:  They will convert your e-book into a format suitable for e-publishing (although if your e-book has more than 3 images, or any charts, audio, or video, there will be extra costs.)

Note:  You cannot just publish a word document or PDF and www.bookbaby.com is addressing one of the important technical needs for an ebook author.

  • Ebook distribution: They will distribute your ebook on all the major online book sites (Amazon, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, eReader, etc.)

Note: Each online store has its own process and requirements for publishing ebooks.  bookbaby is taking the work of addressing each vendor out of the hands of the author and providing a turnkey solution.

  • Financial management: bookbaby will collect revenue from sales at each online distributor and pay the author directly, 100%, without taking any commission.

They also offer add-ons, for extra fees:

  • Cover Design
  • ISBN numbers
  • Supplementary Formatting

Very interestingly, they also dangle the possibility that they might create an online retail store at www.bookbaby.com, and if they do, their authors will be listed there.  If this comes to pass in a big enough fashion, it will become a highly valuable additional piece of digital ‘shelf space’ for authors.

So – should an author go with bookbaby.com rather than going directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, et al?   As a simple turnkey solution with a low price point, bookbaby will be attractive to many authors and may be a great choice.

But here’s a note of caution.  I am currently preparing with one of my clients for the publication of his first book and we have decided to sell directly and exclusively on Amazon (the largest online bookseller in the world.)  For us, bookbaby would not be a good choice.

Why not?  First, because we’re publishing both a paperback book and a Kindle ebook version.

Second, there is a key feature of Amazon that we will be able to customize endlessly and that is Amazon’s Author Central author page. It is, I feel, a huge plus for any author trying to build a business around their written works – in other words, for any author trying to garner that scarce attention.  In addition to including information about the book or ebook being offered, the author page can be augmented by biography, photos, videos, blog feeds,  a calendar of events (live or virtual), blog feeds, and a bibliography of other books sold on Amazon.

Note: The bookbaby Terms of Service make it clear that bookbaby has exclusive control over your relationship with online bookstores for any title you distribute through them.  Thus, you would not be able to shape your Amazon author page or other online store’s listings to your specifications.

As an author in the new publishing paradigm, the quest for attention, the scarce commodity of this moment, is paramount. Try to make each step in the publishing process optimize this attention building/ tribe building project.

  One Response to “Is bookbaby.com the right choice for your ebook?”

  1. Hey Anne,

    Thanks for the generous coverage of BookBaby. We’re very proud of this new CD Baby brand and hope to be able to open the same kinds of doors for authors as we’ve done in the past for musicians.

    Just had a few comments. First, in regards to helping writers who want to sell paperback editions, we do plan on launching a print-on-demand service sometime within the next three months. I don’t have a specific date yet, but things are coming together quickly and the quality of the POD books is pretty impressive.

    Second, anyone can sign up an Author Central account with Amazon, even if another company like BookBaby is distributing your work to Amazon/Kindle. Details here: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?topicID=200620850

    We just recommend that they use the same email on their Author Central account as we have on file because Amazon may contact us to verify the author’s identity.

    Lastly, to clarify one thing in our Terms of Service, while we are non-exclusive, we DO ask that you NOT have two different distributors delivering the same book content to the same retailer. So while you may use BookBaby to get your eBook into any or all of our individual eBook retail partner’s stores, we just don’t want to get a phone call from Apple saying “Hey, what’s the deal? Suzie Q’s new book HOW TO BE A BETTER SUZIE Q is in our iBookstore twice! Once from you guys and once from distributor X. Who do we pay?”

    So that language is in the ToS to avoid this kind of accounting confusion. But you’re more than welcome to use BookBaby for some of the retailers, use another distributor for others, or even continue managing your Amazon account yourself.

    Hope that helps clarify a few things. Again, thanks for mentioning BookBaby on your blog, and if you have any questions, lemme know.

    Chris Robley
    BookBaby Marketing Coordinator


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