Saturday, April 30, 2011

Devil In The Details: Smashwords V. BookBaby

After my first go round with BookBaby I got a lot of comments and discussions, so here we are back again looking more closely.

For those of you who didn't read the first article, BookBaby is a new option on the market for self publishers. Basically, they're a one stop location to get your book into the hands of a decent number of stores.  Smashwords does this as well.  For BookBaby you pay up front.  For Smashwords you pay a percentage of each sale.

After my first overview, I had come to the conclusion that BookBaby was a legitimate way for an author who sells enough books (defined as enough to cover the cost of your set up fee) to make money.  And, while that conclusion is still true, a deeper look at the numbers shows that any author who takes this route has to sell A LOT of books at one store.

With BookBaby you get 100% of your royalties.  With Smashwords they take 10%  (or 15% if you are selling on their site).  With BookBaby you pay $99.00 (on sale now, usually $149.00) for them to take your .doc and turn it into an ebook.  Smashwords does it for free, and then gets paid based on what you sell.  With that sort of model, if you sell enough books, you'll do better on BookBaby then you will on Smashwords.  Which is where I left it last time.  Unfortunately that's more truthy than true.
 
Let's get deeper into the numbers (These numbers represent how much of the cover price of your novel you get to keep):

On the iBookstore:
BookBaby: 70%
Smashwords: 60%

Barnes and Noble:
BookBaby: 50%
Smashwords: 60%

Sony Ebookstore:
BookBaby: 50%
Smashwords: 60%

It's not that BookBaby is secretly keeping some of the cash.  It just hasn't managed to negotiate as good a deal with it's distributors as Smashwords has.  So, as it was pointed out to me, and I'll now point out to you, you've got to sell a lot of books, on the iBookstore, to make more money with BookBaby than you would with Smashwords.  Is it possible?  Sure.  Is it likely?  No, not really.

One other advantage in BookBaby's court, they will upload to Amazon for you.  Smashwords currently has the options listed, but apparently that option doesn't actually do anything.  If you do Amazon with BookBaby, you get exactly the same deal you would if you went straight to Amazon.  And while uploading to Amazon is nice, if you have the skills to upload your document to BookBaby, you've got the skills to upload it on Amazon for yourself and save $99.00. 

Now, let me add a little more shine to Smashwords.  A: Smashwords has it's own sales platform as well as distribution channels.  B:  Free coupons.  You can do them on Smashwords and they are great for publicity and getting copies of your book to reviewers.  C: Smashwords distributes to Diesel and Kobo on top of everywhere BookBaby does except Amazon. 

So, until BookBaby manages to negotiate some better royalty rates with it's non-iBookstore distributors, I'd suggest sticking with Smashwords.

15 comments:

  1. Thank you, this helped a lot.

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  2. Isn't it true that even if you go with BookBaby you decide what websites you want them to upload to, so if you want to upload to ibooks or Amazon directly you can with the ebook they created for you?

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    1. I think that is true, though I haven't gone back to double check. But, even if that is true, you're still (unless they've renegotiated their royalty levels) having to sell a ton of books on just the iBookstore to make more than you would on Smashwords.

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  3. Good to note, however, that BookBaby now uploads to Kobo, Baker & Taylor, Gardners (UK) and Copia. And they have very good customer service support as well as options for print and author websites. As a BookBaby author, I have access to their blog with lots of marketing and promotion tips. I don't know how comparable Smashwords is for post-pub pluses, but one of the key reasons my co-author and I chose BB was the ease that we could talk to a person. Smashwords seemed to be more DIY with little support. On the other hand, the ROI comments so ring true.

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    1. One wonders why an author with an opinion would reply anonymously. Seems like this would be the perfect place to at least tacitly promote your name and/or book.

      Unless you were affiliated with BookBaby, of course.

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  4. BookBaby also enables authors to publish on Amazon as part of the package.

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  5. Bookbaby-- intolerable staff. One girl was rude and impatient. Another fairly ignorant on the competition and why they were better-- ok, no problem. Manager was defensive and hostile, blaming me. Owner brash, arrogant, and again, blaming me.
    No room for a company that mistreats people on the phone, then to protect themselves from complaints, backstabs the potential customer to the owner. And then the owner listens and accepts the gossip. Unbelievable. All ten staff at Createspace were polite, and patient with questions, even friendly. I believe things start at the top. Not a happy group there. Not a nice owner. Bad vibe. Stay away! Plus, the percent they get for you is less than smashwords or going on your own. And their claim to hold your hand is a joke. Only four phone reps. All unhappy, pressed, rude, especially the owner. Stay away! On top of this, they have all these add-on fees for extra photos, illustrations, that add up. Good idea but badly executed. Worst customer service ever, and they blame the customer for their own impatience and rudeness for our questions where Createspace was almost happy to answer. The owner was insulting. You had 30 questions in 2 weeks-- we're not for you. Really? I did my research and glad I asked questions. They're not a scam as some say. The reporting from the other companies takes three months. They're just a nasty group, from top down.

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  6. Thank you for this! We are evaluating both Smashwords and BookBaby now. One of the advantages not yet mentioned is that BB has a partner they will connect you with for editing and proofing services at a considerable discount. Another is that they will also provide ebook cover design. That is helping tip the scales. But I did not know the royalty info. Very helpful!!

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  7. Please keep in mind that you can do both. There's nothing stopping you from picking and choosing the vendors for either SM and BB.

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  8. Hi, I am new with BookBaby since July. I am still waiting on July sales from Amazon. Is this normal? A little more than 60 days and no stats yet. Perturbed... Is it more like 90 days out?

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  9. I spoke to book baby today and the girl in the book print department was very rude!

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  10. As a writer, I was shocked to read the following:
    "...as good a deal with it's distributors..."
    "...Smashwords has it's own sales platform as well as..."
    "...better royalty rates with it's non-iBookstore distributors,..."

    Seriously??? Possessive 'its'(as in: its distributors, its own sales platform) has NO apostrophe. Looks like the blog could use some proofing as well!

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  11. Beware that Bookbaby does not provide authors yearend 1099 tax forms. This is a problem, since the IRS expects this information to be reported.

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  12. I have a book with Smahwords. All seemed to go well until people tried to buy the book. A first time buyer must "register" with SW to buy a book. The process is difficult and SW does not lead the buyer through process. People give up. Consequently, I have sold only 4 books. Over 45 have looked at it. I am going to drop SW and go with KDP or with BookBaby. Marvin Knittel, Author of One Hand Clapping" An Amputee Tells His Story.

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