Bookbaby Ends Free eBook Distribution

BookBaby-logo[1]Initially launched as a paid ebook distributor, for the past year Bookbaby has offered a free distribution option in the likes of Smashwords - but no more. Following a year to the day after the launch of that free option, Bookbaby raised its prices today.

First caught by Joel Friedlander, aka The Book Designer, Bookbaby's new pricing schedule statrts at $299. Ths Calif.-based distributor is dropping both of their lower service plans, including both the free plan and the $99 plan (each also charged a commission), and raising the price of their $249 plan.

Bookbaby's distribution service now costs $299 (on sale for $199 until the end of January). That is a rather steep fee when compared to commission based services like Smashwords or Draft2Digital, or even other fee-based services like eBookPartnership, which charges $50 a year.

1190378350_ce5df0839f[1]But it is not a sign that free distribution is at an end. That is how the Alli blog titled their post when they covered this story yesterday, and it could not be further from the truth.

Besides the fact that all of the ebook distributors charge in some way, I think it would be wrong to conclude that today's news shows that the commission model doesn't work. Bookbaby has found after offering it for a year that the model doesn't work for them, but it still seems to work for Smashwords.

Just about the only conclusion I would draw from today's news is that Bookbaby looked at their customer base and decided to focus on the most valuable and higher paying customers.

image by pixeljones

About Nate Hoffelder (11579 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

9 Comments on Bookbaby Ends Free eBook Distribution

  1. Good for them. I had a quick look at their redesigned website; everything looks much more professional. And their $299/ $199 package looks like a good deal. Everything an author needs.

    They’re offering lots of additional services, so they’ve done their research, and are repositioning themselves. They’ve included author websites: “sell your book directly to readers.” And promotions.

    I tend to be a DIY kind of self-publisher, but I can see myself using their service for clients.

    My theory is that they’re positioning themselves to pick up authors from major publishers who’ve bolted. An author who’s waiting for the rights in his backlist to revert to him wouldn’t blink at $299.

    Nor would authors who’ve done well out of self-publishing and can’t be bothered to upload their books to all the different ebook retailers. All that messing around takes time which could be spent writing.

    All in all, very nice — they’ve done a great job of collecting all the “pain points” in self-publishing, and creating an offer to deal with them.

  2. I have mixed feelings about BookBaby’s new plan. Fortunately, I bought some packages back when they were cheaper ($99) and they’ve been upgraded. Lucky me. So I’ll be using them for new books until my packages run out. Since they appear to also be working on a plan for competing with CreateSpace for print distribution, it might get interesting.

    The one thing I still don’t like is BookBaby’s inflexibility as regards the ‘dashboard’ controls. No possibility to run short-term promotions, change blurbs/descriptions or author bios without paying an extra fee.

    • I’m with you on that one. $50 to change a price or try a different cover? Usury! No promotional opportunities?

      The $299 (on sale for $249 until April 30!) version suggests some marketing is part of the package, but I haven’t seen anything that leads me to think I should not keep putting new titles on Smashwords. The international distribution partners are virtually identical now. I just can’t see any benefits. And I’m saying so, when I present workshops on e-publishing.

  3. It’s too expensive. And only a newbie with no experience would fall for this. No experienced writer who has built a career would recommend adding $300 as an expense to each short story, novella, or novel to publish.

    Self-publishers who have been in the game for the long haul would not support this. So Bookbaby must be looking for a clientele that’s easy to take advantage of, and who will defend this nonsense.

    Go direct to the majors or use Smashwords or Draft2Digital. And I dare Bookbaby to tell me how writers could make more than $300 from the non-major markets to cover the costs.

    You can hire an ebook formatter for less than $100 per manuscript. For short stories I pay about $15. For novels about $50.

    And most writers will need to be publishing quite a few books a year for several years before they make an average of $300 books per title to cover this cost.

    Bookbaby is targeting people who just don’t know better. A little research reading the blogs of experienced writers, and you know this is wrong.

    I’ve already commented on their own site. I loved Bookbaby b/c I used CDBaby, but I’m now going to have to diversify. No more one stop distribution for me.

  4. Janet Barnett-Seagle // 17 February, 2015 at 11:10 pm // Reply

    I was not a fan of BookBaby. I took my titles over to First Edition Design Publishing and received a lot more for my money. Cover art was much better and my files seem to be constructed better. I wasn’t nickled and dimed for every little change. BookBaby wanted to charge me for their errors – not a happy camper. I didn’t mind paying a bit more (very little) to end up with a professional product and dealing with professional people that cared about me and my books. Not people that wanted to keep selling me stuff that I didn’t need or ask for.

    • Thanks for the tip, Janet. I will check them out. I’ve already decided not to use BB for print because I did a little price comparison, and their shipping costs to Europe are horrendous. CreateSpace is much more reasonable but it’s nice to have an alternative. I already have my trade pbs with CS but I also want to to mmpbs for my series.

      • Thank you Janet and Sharon,
        I’ve been researching BB for eBook and Print distribution (I’m bringing my own files) and spent an hour on the phone with their print division last night and was told they don’t have a schedule of shipping fees so that I could see what my readers would be charged. Sounds like Sharon was given shipping (or was that because you are in Europe so put that into the quote system?)
        Being charged for changes when the errors are theirs would definitely annoy me! Even if they no longer charge for eBook changes, the print changes are $50 a pop so…
        Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts,
        Darcy.

        • But do they charge for changes to the metadata? I haven’t looked into this recently, but it’s definitely wearying, not being able to update book descriptions, author bios, etc. via a dashboard like at the other aggregators. And to do price promotions.

          Joel Friedlander posted an interview with Steven Spatz, the president of BB on his blog – it’s worth watching. You’ll know exactly who they are aiming at with their new business model (hint: it’s not really us and it’s not Joel either).

          http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2015/02/steven-spatz/

          I’m still researching the print because they sent out an email that shipping is free when you order over 50 books – I want to know if that’s also for international shipping (I doubt it). I’ll be checking into that.

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