So, a new player on the self-publish ebook market is up. Lets take a moment to see how BookBaby works.
The basic lay out is fairly similar to Smashwords, you upload a document, they turn it into an .epub, and send it off to the Apple Store, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Reader (Sony store.)
Now, here's the difference, you pay BookBaby $99.00 (on sale right now, usually $149.00) upfront. Then each additional year you pay them $19. And you've got to pay them $19 for an ISBN (unless you already own one). Then you get 100% of your sales (minus Amazon's, B&N, Apple's, or Reader's cut). With Smashwords you pay 0 upfront, have no upkeep fees, and get a free ISBN. You keep 85% of your sales (once again, minus the seller's cut). So, using some really simple math here, if you make one dollar per sale, you've got to sell one hundred and eighteen books before you break even on BookBaby. But once you've sold those 118 books, all your income is profit.
Meanwhile, if you make $1.00 per book, and Smashwords takes their fifteen cents, you have to sell six hundred and sixty books before you've paid Smashwords $99 in royalties. Then you have to sell and additional 127 copies in each additional year to even the $19 maintenance fee. And another 127 to cover the cost of the ISBN.
So, here goes. You sell one hundred books for a dollar a piece. On Bookbaby, you've made one dollar. On Smashwords, you've made 85. For the next hundred books on BookBaby, you're at 101 dollars, on Smashwords you're at 170. For the next hundred you get to 201 and 255. Next hundred 301 and 340, and on and on, the number gets closer and closer until BookBaby pulls ahead.
So, the question is, what's the value of money in your hands versus potential money? It's entirely possible that you'll sell those kinds of numbers if you've written a good book and put the work into promoting it. (And, of course the more you sell your book for, the fewer books you have to sell to break even.) If you've already got a half decent following, this may be a great way to go. At the same time, especially if you're just breaking into the ebook market, you might want to go with Smashwords first. At least that way you aren't paying for distribution out of hand.
BookBaby also charges you to add images, charts, graphs, and more than thirty interactive chapters to your table of contents. Things like that feel nickle and dimey to me. (All are free on Smashwords.) But the prices aren't outrageous, and if you're banging your head against a wall trying to get the Smashwords Meatgrinder to work, spending an extra $100 for picture formatting might not seem like a big deal.
This is another calculation you need to do, which is worth more, your time or your money? It took me three hours to get my Word .doc all set for the Meatgrinder. With BookBaby I would have skipped most of that (You do have to do some of your own format fixing for BookBaby, and if your copy is really messed up, they do charge you to get in into shape.) and just sent them $99, and they would have done it. Depending on what you'd normally make in an hour, you may save money by sending your manuscript off to BookBaby.
Unlike Smashwords they offer ebook cover design for $99 or $199 depending on how fancy you want to get. The covers on the gallery looked fine, and that's a decent, but not fantastic, price for the offerings. Or you can upload your own for free.
All in all, I'd say BookBaby looks like a valuable new option on the ebookery front.