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Book Baby - Worth it?

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Ok, so after years of writing, I now have several novels about ready to publish. I'm looking into the whole setting up a website thing, getting ISBN numbers, and all that. Then along came Book Baby, which promises to help indie authors get published, helping out with everything from formatting to marketing. Curious, I went and priced out a book or two with them. The tab topped $1200, which to me seems a little steep.

So, is Book Baby worth the cost or not?
 

Lynea

Sage
There are alot of 'publishers' that want a big payment up front, and these are probably not what you want to sign on with. If you truly want to be an indie author then no one can stop you from doing that, but I'd say it's at least worth shopping around a bit. Look at some legit publishers and see how they do things. They don't ask for money up front.
 

Chasejxyz

Inkling
So there are two kinds of publishing, which other people are acting as if they're the same.

TRADE PUBLISHERS are Penguin, Harper Collins, etc. They do all the hard work of getting the manuscript you wrote into a product onto a shelf. You do not pay them anything, all the money moves to you. But they also are gatekeepers, theoretically as a quality filter, but sometimes also because racism/etc. But they won't publish crap or things they think won't sell because they are taking all the financial risks.

SELF PUBLISHING has no quality filters*, but you are doing all the hard work. If you're taking this seriously, you are going to pay for an outside expert to copyedit your work and make a nice cover for you. You have to buy an ISBN if you want any hope of this being carried in Real Stores (and by that I mean not Amazon) and you're doing all the marketing yourself. Just paying for an editor is going to cost you a few thousand dollars, since that is skilled labor and it's going to take them a while to go through your manuscript.

Book Baby is for self publishing, so of course you are going to pay them money. They are not trade publishing, nor are they pretending to be, which is what people are getting confused on. But any of these services that have you paying have little reason to do a lot of work to sell your book, since they already made most of their profit when you bought those services. They also sure as hell are link stuffing in the footer to min-max their SEO lol.

If you have Scrivener, exporting your project into an eBook file takes only a few clicks. It is also free to upload a file onto various digital storefronts. Unless you're a grampa who doesn't know a PDF from a PSP, you do not need to pay someone to do that for you. The printed distribution thing they're mentioning I'm 99% sure is referencing the book being LISTED on these site's online marketplaces, and since this is a print-on-demand business, you are never actually going to see your book on the shelf of Barnes and Noble. If it ever gets popular enough for that, Real Trade Publishers will reach out to you to buy your book and give it the quality treatment it deserves.

So the question is...what is your end goal for publishing? Do you want a physical copy that you can hold in your hands? Do you want to be a NYT best seller? Do you want this to be accessible to as many people as possible? Everyone has different goals, budgets, and that's okay! But you need to pick a path that best aligns with your goals, and that might be Book Baby, but you haven't said what you want to do, so I can't really give you good advice on this lol.

Sources: current job is marketing at an online book retailer, past work has been in libraries and print-on-demand press shops

*But stuff like Amazon Kindle still has terms of service, so you probably can't publish "Jews are the root of all evil" but your error-laden 1,000,000 word fantasy novel is fine. How much they actually follow these rules, though, is up to debate, mostly due to a matter of scale
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Thank you for the feedback.

I put in for an estimate with Book Baby because of the large number of emailed adds from them. Some of the costs they put forth - like for ISBN numbers and covers seemed reasonable. Other items left me scratching my head - formatting and promotion and whatnot. The total cost verses the expected number of sales...seemed off.

Currently, I am investigating cover options, and thinking of advertising on Facebook. Most of the rest will likely be through Amazon.
 
The number itself isn't that unusual for self-publishing. I think my cost comes to about $1500 per book (note, I don't use Book Baby). The main thing is that it depends on what you get in return for that money.

Just to go over some of the costs:
- formatting: free. Just use Draft2Digital. They do a good enough job of formatting the book, and you don't have to pay your formatter each time you make a spelling correction. Tools like Vellum do it fine as well. There's no need to pay for formatting when you're starting out.
- ISBN: you don't need one if you want to use the free one Amazon provides. If you don't then it depends on your country of residence. If it's the US then get 10 from Bowker for $295, so $30 per ISBN (If you expect you're going to be prolific, then get 100 for $500).
- cover: you can go wild here. Cost very much depends on how much you want to depend on stock photos and the quality of your designer. You can get pre-made covers for $25-$100, but then you're stuck with the premade. For more custom, you will end up somewhere $250-$500. I pay $400 for mine, which includes both ebook and paperback (usually the paperback one is $50 extra, give or take).
-editing: this is the big one and it very much depends on what you want / need in terms of editing. I've used a proof reader, who charged $1.50 per page (or about $275 for a 45k manuscript). For more extensive editing, I come in around $1000 - $1200 for a 75k word novel.

Now, this is what I pay for publishing stuff by outsourcing the different parts myself. So, as said, the $1200 is a reasonable amount. However, just paying that figure doesn't mean you get $1200 worth of stuff. For instance, a quick look on their website showed me that you only pay $99 for an author proof copy. That is a pretty big red-flag for me. If you publish yourself, then you can get proof copies (from either Amazon, Draft2Digital or Ingram, which are the three big print on demand places I think) for the cost price + shipping. Which comes around $2 - $4 per book (+shipping).

Same with the rest. What do they deliver when they say they do marketing? Is it just listing in the Ingram catalogue? That's free if you publish a book through pretty much any POD service. A link on their website? A facebook post? All that stuff is free and none of it will help you sell any books. If they get you a bookbub deal, a certain amount of facebook ads or something like that then it's worth the money. But I doubt they specify what marketing they do. Which means it's not worth it.

If you want help self-publishing then I've heard good things about Reedsy. They are a platform which helps authors find editors, marketers, designers etc. And they aparently vouch for the quality of those people they work with. They seem pretty transparent about what you get. Which is what you need. If you want help then go for a service that is completely open about what exactly you get for each $ you spend.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
- formatting: free. Just use Draft2Digital. They do a good enough job of formatting the book, and you don't have to pay your formatter each time you make a spelling correction. Tools like Vellum do it fine as well. There's no need to pay for formatting when you're starting out.
- ISBN: you don't need one if you want to use the free one Amazon provides. If you don't then it depends on your country of residence. If it's the US then get 10 from Bowker for $295, so $30 per ISBN (If you expect you're going to be prolific, then get 100 for $500).
- cover: you can go wild here. Cost very much depends on how much you want to depend on stock photos and the quality of your designer. You can get pre-made covers for $25-$100, but then you're stuck with the premade. For more custom, you will end up somewhere $250-$500. I pay $400 for mine, which includes both ebook and paperback (usually the paperback one is $50 extra, give or take).
-editing: this is the big one and it very much depends on what you want / need in terms of editing. I've used a proof reader, who charged $1.50 per page (or about $275 for a 45k manuscript). For more extensive editing, I come in around $1000 - $1200 for a 75k word novel.

Thanks for the info on Draft2Digital. I will probably make use of their services.

I was already going to get the ten-pack of ISBN numbers from Bowser as I'm looking at publishing nine novels over the next couple years. Might go for another ten pack if I sell some of the novella length works - I've seen increasing numbers of 80 - 120 page stories on Amazon,

Covers, I've noticed that costs are all over the place. I've contacted a number of outfits that do the premade ones, so I'll see what happens. Trying for something 'striking but simple' of the 'tattered banner' or 'cracked crown' variety.

Editing...at this point I think I'll take my chances and go without. From what I can tell, grammar wise, my work is at least as good as most of the Indie stuff I've read.
 
As good as other indie stuff... Do you want to blend in or stand out? This might sound flip, but it's not. Much depends on your goal. I had this exact same attitude at one point, and in hindsight, I regret following through on it, even though my money situation was such it was hard to avoid when life went splat.

Here's another point about that. A lot of really bad indie stuff out there is making money, and a lot of it is where those writers hit the "golden age" of indie and built their audience, and they somehow get away with crappy edits. Part of this is how seriously you want to be taken. I had a freakish incident where a messy MS got published and the cleaned-up one disappeared into the aether and that was super ugly, heh heh. But anyhow, at the minimum, I'd recommend Grammarly AND Pro Writing Aid AND Word's doc check, heh heh. This gives you three full passes. This might sound sick, but I now do this Before I send it to an editor, because I have an editor who works cheaper for cleaner projects than messy ones. If I ever skip an editor again, I will also narrate the audiobook before publication, because it helps me find eevn more things I want to change.

I've paid big money for an editor, I've gone cheap on an editor, and I've tried getting away with self-edit. And part of the trouble is that it's a lot more than just grammar. A full-blown pricey edit digs into a lot more, and with a credible and experienced editor, is arguably worth it.

EDIT: The true joy comes when your doc checkers disagree, Muwahahahahahahahahhahaha.

Thanks for the info on Draft2Digital. I will probably make use of their services.

I was already going to get the ten-pack of ISBN numbers from Bowser as I'm looking at publishing nine novels over the next couple years. Might go for another ten pack if I sell some of the novella length works - I've seen increasing numbers of 80 - 120 page stories on Amazon,

Covers, I've noticed that costs are all over the place. I've contacted a number of outfits that do the premade ones, so I'll see what happens. Trying for something 'striking but simple' of the 'tattered banner' or 'cracked crown' variety.

Editing...at this point I think I'll take my chances and go without. From what I can tell, grammar wise, my work is at least as good as most of the Indie stuff I've read.
 
I get the urge to do Bookbaby, but from what I've ever seen I consider them a rip-off. Opinions will vary, of course, heh heh. The way I figure it, every dollar saved is a dollar for promotion, but at the same time, appearances count. A lot.

Formatting: Vellum for digital. D2D I've never used for formatting, but I like vellum's options and setup.

Print formatting: I've never used Vellum for this, but it can handle it. Me? I'm a nutjob who wants my print to look Pro, so I use InDesign. I can imagine an automated AI that works to my standards, but I've never seen it. Ladders, orphans, widows...you need micro controls to handle all of that. When Whispers of Ghosts, for instance, ran over Amazon's paperback length limit on my first pass, and I didn't want to change font sizes and other things from the standard I'd used in books 1 & 2, but using the fine-tuning available in InDesign, I was able to shift some controls and get it down to Amazon standards and I doubt anyone will ever notice the tiny changes in print.

Cover: Damonza can put out some real nice covers with their stable of graphic artists, and I'm sure there are others. Again, cover depends on your goals. and expectations.
 
It's difficult to say anything specific about it since it's hard to judge someone's skill level from the outside, and (as the Dutch saying goes), you can't look into someone's wallet. What's easy to afford for one person is too much for another.

As for quality, there's so many books published each day that I do feel you need to at least match a minimum quality bar in terms of prose before enough people will consider you. After that it depends on an aweful lot of different factors. A few I can think of:
- quality of the story: the better the story, the worse the prose can be
- How much long-levity do you want to give to your work: plenty of romance novels with very average prose and copy-paste plot sells really well. However, it's forgotten the moment the next one comes out. At the other end of the spectrum, Lord of the Rings is still being read 70 years after it was first published. One is not specifically better than the other one, but it's a factor
- How much do you hope to sell. If it's your first novel and you just want to get it out there for bragging rights and to get your family christmas presents then that's very different than if you hope to sell a lot.
- Do you have a build in audience? the bigger your audience, the worse your story can be (think 50 shades of grey...)

I personally think we're our worst critics. It's very hard to judge the quality of your own work. So, if I was to go without an editor I would get a few beta-readers to read it. Not people who want to please me (read, family and close friends), but people who know the genre and can point out what they do and don't like.

There are still plenty of indie authors starting out today who don't use editors. But they often write pretty good prose and most use beta-readers in some form.

As for tools like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid, a warning I've heard is that you should be careful it doesn't change your voice into bland corporate speak. I haven't used them, so I'm not sure how far that goes. But for some people it took away all stylistic aspects of the writing and made it bland and boring to read.
 
Grammarly and PWA going for corporate voice? That's possible, a great deal depends on the writer and how squishy they are and how they use them. I use them purely for errors, not suggesting how I write. I have my voice(s) and I know what I'm doing with them, even when they drive grammar checkers batty.

That said, a lot of bad writing is passed off as "my voice", heh heh.

I don't find most beta readers useful. I have one, plus a great editor, but that great editor, she is expensive, LOL. And she is more like a flag raiser than someone who makes real suggestions. She doesn't bother trying to write like me, or rewrite anything, she just points out areas I need to look at. or, she asks a question that makes me realize I'm not making things clear. Nobody I've found comes close to her insights... Plus she's correcting my damned commas, heh heh. But, I can't afford her full treatment for every book yet.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I have used both Grammarly and ProWritingAid in the past, still have subscriptions to both (I think). I stopped using them for two reasons:

1 - I disagreed with a large percentage of their recommendations. Much of this had to do with their 'politically correct' tone and their complete aversion to certain words I considered necessary. They were good at spotting excessive adverbs and passive voice, but I worked through those issues. I can say that I spot 'distracting grammar bugs' even in works that supposedly underwent professional edits. One that sticks in mind was where most of a page repeated itself.

2 - The vast bulk of their recommendations are matched by MS Words editor. Get it fixed right in Word, and the things flagged in Grammarly and ProWritingAid are mostly the things I disagree with them on anyhow.

As to quality...I believe my work stands out. Distinct characters with voices of their own, definitely better world building than much of the Indie stuff. My style is less flamboyant than other Indie authors. What I lack is reliable Beta readers (thinking of doing that professionally myself).

Currently, I'm making final arrangements on a cover. Been spending a lot of time on maps, using plain old MS Paint.
 
I run stuff through them for catching weird shit my brain somehow misses, heh heh. Politically correct, I've no idea, but i am curious about that. I don't pay attention to much the programs have to say except a refined set of my interests. I avoid MS Word as much as possible, I hate MS. Never liked the company or their products.

I offset any political correctness with my absolute disregard and by having an old-school editor who is... well, let's just say she is a freedom of speech gal, heh heh.

I should also add, I like PWA just for the pure fun of statistical analysis... I find such things fascinating, even when worthless.
 
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