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Last updated on Jun 06, 2024

BookBaby Review: Read This First

BookBaby is a one-stop-shop for almost any self-publishing service you could ask for. While unusually expensive and somewhat opaque, BookBaby’s packages are a popular option for authors who are time-poor (and cash-rich).

Pros: Cons:
  • Get your manuscript edited, designed, and distributed in one place.
  • Quick, guaranteed turnaround times for editing
  • Good online support via email and phone
  • Unusually high setup costs for print on demand
  • Little choice of editing and design professionals
  • The “Complete Self-Publishing Package” no longer offers Facebook ads

At Reedsy, with our network of over 2,700 publishing professionals who have guided thousands of authors through their book launch process, we are in a unique position to analyze BookBaby's offerings and compare the quality and value of publishing services in relation to industry standards.

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. 

Five fast facts about BookBaby:

  • Founded in 2011 and based outside of Philadelphia in Pennsauken, New Jersey 
  • President is James Foley
  • 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 
BookBaby's logo
BookBaby's logo

BookBaby offers several 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.

Complete Self-Publishing Package: Not quite complete

Priced at $2,190, BookBaby’s mid-level self-publishing option includes basic cover design, ebook conversion, 25 print books, two ISBNs, plus ebook and print on demand distribution. However, note that editing services are not included. 

In a change from previous years, the Complete package no longer offers assistance with Facebook ads — a feature now found in Bookbaby’s Deluxe package ($2,890).

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

This option comes with a few caveats. First: this is not precisely a Print-on-Demand option. It’s first and foremost an offset printing supplier that also offers print on demand services so long as the author first makes an order of 25+ books.

Second caveat: their $399 price tag is on top of your actual print order. For reference, 100 copies of a 300-page book will set you back $946. Add the setup fee and shipping, and your total comes to over $1,300 for this particular package.

So what does that $399 fetch you? BookBaby touts its extensive distribution network, including every major retailer in the world — but this is a lot of money to pay for that sort of access when competitors like KDP Print offer an on-demand service with little-to-no setup fee. 

Moreover, several authors have flagged a problem with BookBaby's distribution via Amazon (e.g., 1, 2, 3). In a nutshell, BookBaby listed their book for pre-order on Amazon well in advance of the intended launch date to give Amazon time to forecast demand and plan inventory. During this pre-order window, the authors spent a lot of money in ads campaigns and other marketing efforts to send their readers to the Amazon page to drive pre-sales. 

However, once the book was finally released, the customers didn’t receive their books until weeks or even months (!) later. Amazon listed the title as "Out of Stock" and after a while emailed them asking if they wanted to cancel their order due to the supply issue. Of course, this had a disastrous impact on the book launch and the author’s finances and morale.

BookBaby attributes this issue to Amazon not picking up inventory in time, stating they have no control over Amazon's inventory system. Regardless of who bears the responsibility, authors should be aware of this possibility, especially before paying such a hefty distribution fee. In this regard, they may want to consider alternative distribution options.

Ebook Distribution: Pay upfront, get more royalties later

Alternatively, if you don’t want to print any books, you can opt for Bookbaby's $299 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.

While authors can find distributors like Draft2Digital with little-to-no setup cost, they will keep 15% of net royalties. After BookBaby’s initial payment, all fees are paid to the author. If you’re playing the pure numbers game, BookBaby’s ebook distribution cost will “earn itself back” after your book has made its first $299. It's important to bear in mind, however, that this is a business model that doesn't give them much incentive to help you sell more books.

Editing: Flat rates for anonymous editors

Regarding their editorial offerings, BookBaby charges $7 per page for copy editing and $10 per page for line editing. Their website touts rapid turnaround times at these price points, promising a full line edit within 8-10 business days and a copy edit within just 6-8 days. They claim to work with "traditionally published authors in every genre, including many on the New York Times Best Sellers list," however, they don’t provide any specific examples or details about their editing team's professional backgrounds and experience. This lack of transparency surrounding their network of editors makes it difficult to assess their qualifications and expertise objectively.

To provide some context around BookBaby's pricing, a 300-page book would incur a cost of $2,100 for copy editing and $3,000 for a line edit through their services. These rates are somewhat higher than the average quotes provided by editors on the Reedsy marketplace for manuscripts of similar length.

Book Cover Design: Two basic options

BookBaby also offers two cover design options: ebook-only, priced at $399, and printed-and-ebook, priced at $599. Some of their cover examples include a single, central image with fairly standard text, while some others involve more complex imagery and text. Here are some examples: 

Some cover examples made by BookBaby's designers.
Screengrab: Bookbaby.com

The verdict: should you use BookBaby?

BookBaby’s platform's upload and order processes are quite streamlined and their printed books’ quality is very good, with perfectly aligned cover, text grid, and lovely creamy pages. 

BookBaby also offers prompt customer service, with representatives who are available to help you via email or phone (though it may not always be the same representative). 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, it cannot be denied that BookBaby’s pricing is exorbitant, especially when it comes to their POD services (and considering the issues you might encounter with that). Its ebook package isn’t particularly convincing either — $299 for ebook distribution sounds a bit ridiculous when you can format your ebook and publish it on Amazon for free.

So if you’re looking for a handful of high-quality proofs, and money is not a concern for you, BookBaby may be a viable path.

So what’s the bottom line?

BookBaby is a good option for authors who: 

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

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 much better deal elsewhere.

Reedsy rating: 2/5

2 responses

Lewis Kempfer says:

13/09/2019 – 02:47

I used BookBaby to self-publish my first book and have not had a good experience. While it’s true that you can actually reach someone at BookBaby, it’s rarely the same someone. I was assigned a rep who would supposedly shepherd my book through the entire publishing process but that turned out to be false. The printing quality is very good, although there has been a spine alignment issue—where part of the spine design shifts to either the front or the back cover. I used a professional cover designer who’s worked for Random House and knows his stuff. BookBaby could not fix the spine issue and suggested that the front and back covers and the spine all be the same color or pattern so the offset issue wouldn’t be noticeable. I’m now in a living hell due to BookBaby’s in-house printing. They do not do actual POD, at least not in any timely manner. I launched my book on September 9, 2019 and the morning of the launch my book showed the dreaded “temporarily unavailable” status on Amazon. I had followed BookBaby’s instructions and pushed HARD for sales during Amazon’s required 28-day pre-ordering period that determines if Amazon will stock copies of an author’s printed book. I invested in promotional materials, mailings, and Facebook ads to drive pre-sales. But despite my efforts, my book was still unavailable on launch day. Worse still, later on launch day the status changed to “out of stock—ships in 1 to 2 months.” Yes, MONTHS. I learned from BookBaby that my book oversold Amazon’s sales projections (a good thing I was told), yet the outcome was the same as a book with few pre-sales. Friends who pre-ordered told me they were receiving emails from Amazon asking if they wanted the cancel their order due to a two-month delay in shipping the book. I was horrified. BookBaby places all the blame on Amazon and its methodology for ordering books. But I see BookBaby as being the problem—they admit it takes them up to 10 business days to print books plus another 5 to 7 business days to get them shipped. I wouldn’t call that print on demand. So now I’m in the middle of my launch week scrambling to redirect buyers to BookBaby’s online bookstore because there is no other way to get my printed book into readers’ hands before the middle of November. This isn’t a one-time problem—it will continue to be a problem if my book sells more than the handful of copies Amazon will supposedly stock and there will always be the 1 to 2 month delay in shipping. I will be pulling my book from BookBaby and republishing with KDP, sacrificing quality for availability of product. I do NOT recommend anyone use BookBaby if he or she wants to put physical books in readers’ hands.

Matt says:

08/12/2019 – 04:17

A customer ordered 40 books and received ONE confirmation email. Bookbaby sent her THREE sets of 40 and charged her for 120 books ! They claim she ordered the other 80 books in 2 orders of 40 each from a second email and that their computers are NEVER wrong. They also advised me to purchase bulk copies to sell from home as the author when it is cheaper to buy them as a customer and then resell them. AVOID AVOID AVOID

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