e-Book Distribution with BookBaby’s Brian Felsen (video)

by Joel Friedlander on June 16, 2011 · 30 comments

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Ed: There’s a discount code for purchases at BookBaby at the end of this article. Wouldn’t want you to miss it.

The world of books has been in flux for some time, and now the move to e-books is pushing the changes in reading, publishing, writing and distribution at an even faster pace.

The last couple of years has seen the amazing debut of Kindle, iPad, Smashwords, Nook, Pubit!, tablet computing, iPhone, Android and almost all the other pillars of the current e-book universe.

Many e-book retailers, converters and publishers have sprung up in recent months, a bit like mushrooms after a heavy rain. There are many companies thriving in this new environment, although others will fall away.

The biggest impact for self-publishers has been the opening of Kindle to all indie authors, where we can simply upload a file and be on sale in the world’s largest online bookstore on an equal footing with the e-books from all other publishers.

Mark Coker’s Smashwords has been the best friend for writers who want to get into the e-book business for the astonishing cost of absolutely nothing. All writers should be grateful to Mark, and his success has been tremendous. Smashwords will publish 75,000 books this year.

New Player on the Block

Into this space marches BookBaby, an offshoot of CDBaby, the largest online distributor of independent music. When I found out that BookBaby was coming into the market specifically to distribute e-books by indie authors, I was quite interested.

The growth of e-books as a business is going to see a lot more firms come into this arena, and the sheer volume of self-published books will draw a lot of them to working with indie authors.

I wanted to get the real story on BookBaby and their unusual pricing model, so I sat down a few days ago with Brian Felsen, the president of BookBaby to ask him about how the service works, and a lot of other questions.

Here’s my interview with Brian. I know you’re going to find it interesting. Let me know what you think in the comments.

If you have trouble seeing the video, please reload or refresh the page.

In This Video Interview

  • How the iPad was the catalyst for Brian’s move from music and audio books into e-book distribution
  • CDBaby distributes over 3,500,000 songs by over 250,000 to more than 60 partners, paying out almost $200,000,000 in royalties to its artists
  • HostBaby provides web hosting for almost 14,000 musicians and will soon host authors as well
  • What discounts authors can expect from the major retail partners through BookBaby
  • How BookBaby deals with e-book conversion, formatting and metadata
  • What you get for your $99 per book fee
  • Which retailer sells the most for BookBaby authors
  • Preferred way BookBaby likes to receive your content
  • What kinds of books may run into extra formatting costs
  • Blockbuster announcement about BookBaby expansion plans


“Everything that we do will be non-predatory and will be a benefit for independent authors.”

“If you have a story you want to tell the world, we want to help you get it out there to the world, make it easy to get on all the major platforms.”

Links and Resources

BookBaby website
Discount Coupon Code: Brian has generously extended a discount throughout the rest of the year to readers of TheBookDesigner. Just use the coupon code when you go to checkout and you’ll receive a 10% discount.

Coupon code: JFBOOKMAN

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    { 22 comments… read them below or add one }

    Mary Doyle September 18, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    I recently checked with Bookbaby and didn’t see that they offered POD. Is that going to change? Anyone know?


    Joel Friedlander September 18, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    Mary, if you check under the “Services” menu option you’ll see “Book Printing.” This is a digital book printing service but BookBaby does not offer print on demand distribution at the moment.


    Steve Bareham April 29, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Excellent service by BookBaby. I looked into a dozen converters before accidently stumbling across BookBaby; best trip I ever had! The staff are great and very helpful. Prices are great, too, and the quality of visual output is also first rate. Not a bad word to say…BookBaby has made the eBook experience very smooth and painless. Now, if they could just figure out a way to help me sell a hundred thousand books, the 5-star rating would go to 10.


    Johanna van Zanten April 28, 2012 at 12:04 am

    Hi Joel,
    Time has passed since the post and I would like to give some feedback. I have used Bookbaby recently as the publishing vehicle of my first book, a short story collection. The cover was great, although I provided the photo and the first proof was on my screen within two days, and the second cover design proof came our days later, so all within a week or so. The proof of the ms was sent to me and I saved it to read on my iPad as a epub doc, within seven days; the manuscript got on the pages correctly and looking good, as far as I can tell as an amateur.I approved it on April 25.
    Now the wait is to see it on the retailers’s lists that inludes Amazon, IBook store, Barnes &Noble, Sony, Kobo, Baker & Tyler and 2 UK retailers
    delivered by Bookbaby to them on April 25th.
    I hope this information helps. I sure hope that the bad feedback about good up front services and nothing afterwards were a temporary situation.



    Rochelle Riley-Wilson March 4, 2012 at 5:48 am

    Bless you Brian Felson! You are a saint!


    Anya February 16, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I came here because I am searching for user reviews before I sign up with BookBaby.
    I just found a highly disturbing post here where someone claims they have not been getting paid on sales they KNOW they have made.

    Not sure what to make of it at this point. Off to find more user reviews, I guess.


    Lisa Ard January 4, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    Really glad I listened in, particularly to hear that BookBaby will soon offer print on demand. My debut children’s book through Puddletown Publishing utilized BookBaby for cover design. I am very happy with it. The binding and printing is okay – looks a little cheap (through Lightning Source) so if BookBaby can improve on that, terrific. Check out Fright Flight, Dream Seekers Book One for a shot of the BookBaby cover @ http://www.dreamseekeradventures.com.


    The Truth About Pepper Spray November 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

    We are so excited about our pending ebook conversion that it can handle all the different versions, do billing and such, and free us up to product more while they pay us. What a great service, thanks for the coupon code also! Keep up the great articles!


    Andreas Christensen October 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    I’m currently in the process of finishing my first book, Exodus, which will be out by december, and having browsed through page after page of discussions on the internet about how and where to publish, and more specifically the discussions on Bookbaby, there is one advantage of Bookbaby that I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere. For those of us who are not American, the royalty payments from Amazon is paid out by check, an archaic method in my opinion. It’s a method nobody uses anymore. So, since the payments for my amazon sales will go through Bookbaby, who pays via PayPal, that’s reason enough for me to use them for my publishing. For me, that alone is worth the $99.


    Will Gibson September 28, 2011 at 11:20 am

    Joel, I had only recently decided on using Bookbaby for my ebook and was checking reviews on the company today when I found your interview with Brian. I have participated in the KDP community forum for some time and wanted to avoid the sales reporting and customer service problems that authors seem to have experienced there and also didn’t want to put all my eggs in Amazon’s basket.

    My main reason for choosing Bookbaby, though, is the advantage of having what appears to be a superior accounting system for their authors. I feel that this may be a potentially large problem moving forward for self publishers (tracking and verifying sales). And being paid weekly as opposed to after sixty days with Amazon and only quarterly with Smashwords is a huge advantage.

    I very much appreciate your presentation of this informative interview and wasn’t surprised finding you at the forefront of this self publishing news. I, too, look forward to hearing of their print on demand plans as I am disappointed with CreateSpace’s cover and binding quality but didn’t want to switch to Lightning Source for only that reason at this time.

    Thanks for your work in helping educate self publishers to produce a better product.


    Joel Friedlander September 28, 2011 at 11:31 am

    Thanks Will. I hope some of the authors who are working with BookBaby (like Austin, above) will report back so others can see what real experiences they are having.


    Catherine DePino September 15, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    Joel, this interview covered all aspects of publishing with Book Baby. I’ve been thinking of publishing my prayer books for teenagers with this company as I have now received back the electronic rights from the publisher. Your thorough interview has convinced me that it’s a great way to publish. I’ll consult your blog again soon. I hope you schedule more interviews as you are great at asking all the questions writers have about this exciting new medium. Thanks for all the work you did in preparing this interview. Bravo!


    Austin Briggs August 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm

    I’ve signed up with them; here’s my experience so far.

    Main piece of advice: be triple sure that you’re submitting the very final version of your book. Even though Amazon permits easy changes, BookBaby has a very strict policy on this and removes most of the flexibility from you.

    I’ve burnt myself a little (my mistake), and now I may have to re-launch my book with a new ISBN, lose some excellent reviews, and drop my sales history for the sake of one change.

    Their customer service is fast and friendly, and even sympathetic, but stays within the limits. It was Amazon and I who were inventing options trying to circumnavigate BookBaby’s limits. I’ve just offered them another option, will see how it goes.

    Overall, they deliver exactly what they promise, as long as you play exactly by the rules. In that sense, they’re good. I look forward to them developing into something amazing; I want to succeed together with them! :)


    Robert Zeichick June 24, 2011 at 5:10 pm


    Very informative and encouraging interview with Brian. Certainly BookBaby seems like a perfect source to get involved in this marketplace, especially if they can deliver “real quality” on the POD side of things. I am going to take advantage of the 10% JFBookman discount as well.

    Many thanks. Keep it up.


    Bethe June 17, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Joel, this was a very helpful and exciting interview. I’m on the brink of printing my first novel and e-conversion — this was terrific.

    Also thank you for your excellent your website and keeping me posted on new developments.


    Joel Friedlander June 17, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    My pleasure, Bethe, glad you enjoyed it.


    Craig June 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm

    2 words – I’m SOLD!


    Gold June 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm

    You said . . . Smashwords will publish 75,000 books this year…
    What does that mean? 75,000 Book will be sold or 75,000 book may be sold and the ones not sold will be remainders?


    Michael Mulligan June 16, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    Thanks for helping me understand how independent writers can tap into new resources. This is a new world for me and I loved this interview. Keep up the good work. Thanks.


    Margo Gallagher June 16, 2011 at 1:16 pm

    Thanks Joel! Really enjoyed (and appreciate) the very informative interview with Brian.


    Jim Crigler June 16, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Great interview. I used BookBaby for most[*] of the e-book formats for “Unthinkable”. Professional service: prompt, courteous, efficient. (One of the retailers has been a bit of a pain, but that is not BookBaby’s fault.)

    I was told by BookBaby that they are expanding into the Kobo bookstore. Is this still true, and is there a timeline for it?

    I’m looking forward to seeing what BookBaby does with POD. If it happens in time, it may be the route I take for my next novel.

    Also of note: A la carte services for cover, conversion, etc. This is something that came up in the famous conversation among Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler and Dean Wesley Smith.

    [*] I did the .mobi conversion for Kindle myself using Calibre. Initially, I had no e-book plans beyond the Kindle, but when I saw BookBaby was in most of the additional markets I had become interested in, I went with them. I avoided Smashwords because they demanded Microsoft Word .doc as the input format.


    Joel Friedlander June 16, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Jim, that’s great feedback. Perhaps Brian will weigh in with info about the Kobo situation, otherrwise I’ll try to find out.

    I’ve talked to Mark Coker about Smashwords requirement of Word files and I understand why he’s set up that way. You can’t argue with the success he’s had or the amazing loyalty his authors show towards the company, but it does seem that at some point it might become a limiting factor to their continued growth.


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