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Blog > Understanding Publishing – Posted on July 23, 2019

BookBaby Review: Read This First (Plus Promo Codes!)

If you’re planning to self-publish a book, you probably already know all the biggest names in the game: KDP, IngramSpark, Lulu, and BookBaby. You can read about the pros and cons of each of these companies in the posts linked above, but this review will focus exclusively on the latter. We’ll first cover what BookBaby is and how to use it, then lead into the relative merits — and potential stumbling blocks — of using it to self-publish your book.

What is BookBaby?

BookBaby is a platform for self-publishing authors that includes editing, design, and marketing services, as well as distribution packages for both ebooks and print books. Over the past couple years, it’s become one of the most high-profile print-on-demand (POD) companies for authors, and continues to be a popular choice in 2020.

Five fast facts about BookBaby:

  • Founded in 2011 in Portland, Oregon ☔
  • President and CEO is Steven Spatz, who’s written two books on publishing 📖
  • Approximately 8,000 users in 2018 (though not all have actually published a book) 👪
  • Distributes through Amazon, Kobo, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, and other major retailers in over 170 countries 🌎
  • Hosts an annual Independent Authors Conference in Philadelphia, with workshops and panels from industry experts ✍

Packages and services

BookBaby offers a number of packages and individual services for self-publishing authors. We’ll break down the main ones for you here, but you can check out the full list on their website.

“The Complete Self-Publishing Package” — $1,699

BookBaby’s most popular package, according to the site. The Complete Self-Publishing Package includes cover design and formatting, ebook conversion, 25 print books, an ISBN number, worldwide distribution, a professional Facebook ad campaign, and a listing in the BookBaby online store (which allows you to sell directly to readers).

Note that editing services are not included, however — nor any kind of discount if you wish to print more than 25 books, which is a serious drawback for authors printing in bulk.

Printed Book Distribution — $299 + cost of bulk printing order

Already have your manuscript and cover prepared? Then you’ll want to go with the printed book distribution package, which uses BookBaby’s POD service. This allows you to choose from various aesthetic options, order high-quality print copies, and sell your book all over the world.

But keep in mind that the $299 charge is on top of your actual print order. For reference, 100 copies of a 300-page book will set you back $861 (and that’s without shipping!). Add the POD fee and your total comes to $1,160 for this particular package.

So what does that $299 fetch you? The answer is distribution: again, BookBaby has an extensive distribution network including every major retailer in the world. That said, you can get more bang for your buck from other POD services — like IngramSpark, which cuts out the middleman that makes other platforms' fee so high. Basically, if you want to sell a large quantity of books, make sure you know your options.

Ebook Conversion and Distribution — $249

Alternatively, if you don’t want to print any books, you can opt for the ebook conversion and distribution package instead. Though BookBaby plays up its file conversion service and quality checks by “conversion specialists,” you’re mainly paying for the distribution once again: as with the print package, your ebook will be sold in 60+ stores in over 170 countries.

Copy and Line Editing — $7-10 per page

Now let’s talk individual services. For copy editing, BookBaby charges $7/page, while line editing is $10/page. Putting that in perspective, a copy edit for a 300-page book would be $2,100, and a line edit would be $3,000 — slightly higher than the average Reedsy estimates. Their site does promise rapid turnaround times at these prices: 8-10 business days for a full line edit, and just 6-8 days for a line edit. However, keep in mind that speed doesn’t necessarily beget quality, especially when it comes to editing.

Book Cover Design — $399-549

BookBaby also touts its cover design services, which come in two modes: “Basic” and “Deluxe.” The Basic design package costs $399 and includes, well, a basic cover design — a single, central image with fairly standard text. The Deluxe package, on the other hand, involves more sophisticated imagery and text for the higher price of $549. You can see the difference between the Basic and Deluxe options in the images below.

Basic on the left, Deluxe on the right.

Other resources

BookBaby provides a handful of free resources for self-publishing authors, such as formatting templates and brief guides to self-publishing, book design, marketing, and Amazon keyword optimization. The BookBaby team also frequently posts case studies and helpful tips on their blog. However, it’s clear that BookBaby’s primary goal is not to educate authors on independent publishing, but to promote its paid services.

How to use BookBaby

Since it’s best known for its POD service, this tutorial will cover how to place a print order and distribute through BookBaby. We've also included screenshots to guide you through the process — to enlarge, simply click on the image file.

1. Set your project details

You can organize any project from the price quoter, which shows cost changes in real-time. For this example, we’ll be ordering 100 print copies of a 200-page book and selecting the “pick-up” shipping option for free. Once you’ve set your details, click on the green “Next” button to proceed.

bookbaby project details

2. Select trim size, cover style, and paper stock

The next few stages in the price quoter tool will determine what your book will look like. First you’ll decide whether your trim size — the size of the pages — should be Pocket, Digest, or US Trade (which basically means small, medium, or large). Note that the printing cost remains the same regardless of trim size, so get whichever one you want!

Next, you’ll choose a soft cover or a hard cover, and whether you want a glossy or matte finish for your book. In this case, choosing a hard cover does increase the printing cost, as does the matte finish — i.e. a glossy soft cover is your cheapest option here.

Finally, you’ll set the paper stock. The opaque and gloss paper options do marginally increase the cost, but if your book has lots of images, it could be worth the investment. However, in our experience, the natural paper prints fine for text-based books.

bookbaby trim size and cover

3. Choose distribution channels

Now comes the moment of truth: choosing the distribution channels for your print book. As mentioned, the premier distribution package costs $299 (which brings the total cost to $869, as you can see). There’s also a $99 option — however, this only allows your book to be sold in the BookBaby online store. If you want to actually move copies, you’ll need to distribute through Amazon and other retailers.

bookbaby distribution

4. Save your project

As your screen will say, the most important thing to do next is to save your project. Simply enter a name for it and click “Save Project.”

bookbaby save project

5. Upload your files

After you have your final quote in the pricing tool, you'll be taken to this page, where you can upload your cover and manuscript as PDFs. The upload process is extremely simple — there are templates to use for both files if they aren’t formatted already, and it takes only seconds to process. Additionally, if there’s a discrepancy between the page count you specified and the actual number of pages in your file, BookBaby will let you know and adjust the cost accordingly (as it did here).

bookbaby upload

6. Review the proofs

After placing your ISBN barcode (which is included with the main distribution package), you’ll review the proofs of your manuscript and cover. These proofs will help you avoid text overlap with the margins. If you’ve used the templates provided, you should be all set! Then you just need to sign an intellectual property rights statement that your content is indeed yours, and the upload process is finished.

bookbaby review proofs

7. Fill out distribution information

Now you get to set your price and fill out your author and book information. All this info is critical, as every store on the BookBaby distribution list will use it to sell your book. Their royalty calculator tells you how to price your book, letting you know if the price is too low:

bookbaby information

However, there’s little guidance as to the rest of your distribution information. To that end, we’d recommend checking out the following resources:

8. Place your order

Once you’ve signed the distribution agreement, you’ll finally be ready to check out. Before you place your order, you’ll quickly review your product information, distribution, and shipping options one last time. You’ll then select a payment method and apply any promo codes (we’ve included some at the end of this article!). And there you have it — BookBaby will start prepping your order right away.

The verdict: should you use BookBaby?

As you can probably tell, the platform's upload and POD order process is quite streamlined. For those curious as to how the final product might look, watch this video, which directly compares printed-on-demand books from BookBaby, Blurb, and CreateSpace. Though there’s no guarantee your book will look like hers, Mandi Lynn’s BookBaby copy has a perfectly aligned cover, text grid, and creamy pages.

BookBaby also offers excellent customer service, with representatives who are always available to help you via email or phone. If support is your top priority — especially if you’re a first-time author who finds the self-publishing process confusing or overwhelming — then this could be the platform for you.

However, we can’t deny that BookBaby’s pricing is pretty exorbitant. If you use its POD service to print and distribute copies of a standard 200-page book, it will cost you $500 minimum, and likely much more.

Its ebook package isn’t particularly convincing either — $249 for ebook distribution sounds a bit ridiculous when you can format your ebook and publish it on Amazon for free. “The Complete Self-Publishing Package” is a decent deal for what it provides, but remember that you only get 25 print copies, and no discount on larger orders.

Of course, the fewer POD copies you order, the less it will cost — and if you simply need copies to sell or give away yourself, there’s no need for a distribution package. So if you’re looking for a handful of high-quality proofs, BookBaby may be a viable path. And obviously, if money is not a concern for you, then have at it.

So what’s the bottom line?

BookBaby is a good option for authors who: 

  • Want a simple interface and a bit of hand-holding through the process;
  • Don’t mind paying a high price for bulk orders + distribution; and/or
  • Only want to print a small quantity of books.

BookBaby is not a good option for authors who:

  • Want to self-publish and distribute an ebook;
  • Plan to print and distribute more than 25 books; and/or
  • Require additional services such as editing, typesetting, marketing, etc. — you can find a better deal elsewhere.

BookBaby promo codes

BookBaby might be tough on your wallet, but if you’re sold on their POD service, you’re in luck! Here are two promo codes you can use to save on bulk orders, PLUS a coupon for free shipping. However you choose to publish, we hope the final product looks fantastic. 💯

  1. Enter the code SAVE100 at checkout to save $100 on 100+ book.
  2. Enter the code PUBLISH100 at checkout to save $500 on 500+ books.
  3. Finally, enter the code FREESHIPBB for free shipping on 25+ books.