Last updated on Feb 07, 2023
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).
- Get your manuscript edited, designed, and distributed in one place.
- Quick, guaranteed turnaround times for editing
- Good online support
- Unusually high setup costs for print on demand
- The “Complete Self-Publishing Package” no longer offers Facebook ads
- Little choice of editing and design professionals
- Incredibly expensive
For this review, the team at Reedsy has analyzed BookBaby's offerings with an aim to provide transparency and context. As a network of over 1,500 professional editors and book designers, we've helped thousands of self-published authors take their book to market. This puts us in a unique position to 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. Over the past couple of 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 2023.
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 ✍
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 $1,790, 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.
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 severe drawback for authors printing in bulk.
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 ($2,290).
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Print Distribution: Good quality, priced impractically
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 $861. Add the setup fee and shipping, and your total comes to $1,260 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.
Ebook Distribution: Pay upfront, get more royalties later
Alternatively, if you don’t want to print any books, you can opt for Bookbaby's $338 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 10% 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 $3,380. 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
Now let’s talk about individual services. For copy editing, BookBaby charges $7/page, while line editing is $10/page. 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. These turnaround times are very competitive, and BookBaby claims that their network of editors “work with traditionally published authors in every genre, including many on the New York Times Best Sellers list.”
Putting BookBaby’s rates into perspective, a copy edit for a 300-page book would cost $2,100, and a line edit for the same book would come to $3,000 — slightly higher than average quotes from editors on Reedsy.
Book Cover Design: Two basic options
BookBaby also touts its cover design services, which come in two modes: “Basic” ($399) and “Deluxe” ($549). 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 complex imagery and text. You can see the difference between the Basic and Deluxe options in the images below and make a judgment for yourself.
The verdict: should you use BookBaby?
BookBaby’s platform's upload and order processes are quite streamlined. For those curious as to how the final product might look, watch the video below, 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 lovely creamy pages.
BookBaby also offers prompt 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, it cannot be denied that BookBaby’s pricing is 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 — $338 for ebook distribution sounds a bit ridiculous when you can format your ebook and publish it on Amazon for free.
Their print option also has very few use cases. 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 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: 3/5
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.
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