Friday, February 14, 2014

Smashwords Vs BookBaby


I had always planned to distribute with Smashwords and Kindle Direct. When I learned BookBaby released a free account option in the beginning of 2014, I had to reevaluate my options. A standard account with BookBaby was previously $99 setup fee, and turned me away immediately. With a free account, you may upload your ePub and they will distribute to the major retailers. Conversion to ePub from other formats are not included with the free account from BookBaby, you need a Standard, or Premium account.

Since I already have a ready ePub file, the conversion feature is not that important to me. I have found many articles comparing the two services, many leaning towards Smashwords because of the $99 fee. With the new free option, I couldn’t find a comprehensive and fair comparison, so I had to do it myself.

Here are some of the basic features: [This is comparing BookBaby Free Account]

Free Account
Free Account
Convert to ePub, Mobi, HTML, PDF from .doc
No conversion for free account. 
$99 Account will convert
$19 ISBN
No additional services such as cover, or formatting. A list of providers available.
Additional services offered for a charge. Print, editing, web hosting and cover design offered.
Retail Store
No Retail Store
Coupon Manager
No Promo – free marketing guide available for download.
Book Promo – reviews, placement in newsletters & discounts for PR
Changes can be made at anytime, Including price, edits and descriptions. Unlimited changes allowed
  • Up to 10 changes in your eBook - $50
  • 11 to 25 changes in your eBook - $75
  • 26 to 50 changes in your eBook - $100
$25 Fee for changing in metadata [price/description]
Pre Order Option
No Pre Order
No Amazon – Use KDP
Sends to Amazon
Pays Quarterly
Pays Weekly [Mondays]
%10 commission to SW after retailer pays
Typically %60 royalties and %85 from Smashwords store
%15 commission to BB after retailer pays [Typically %30 retained from retailers]
Checks or PayPal payments
Check, PayPal or Direct Deposit payments

Note: If you supply your own ePub file to Smashwords, sampling or reading on the Smashwords store is not available if you do not load a doc after you upload the ePub.

What initially turned me off about Smashwords was the crazy formatting guide. It seems so complicated. After writing my manuscript in Scrivener, I cannot figure out how to get it into an acceptable word document. The formatting guide is not actually a huge list of rules and requirements, It is step-by-step instructions on how to format and construct the document. Amazon, Bookbaby and other distributors have similar or the same requirements. Smashwords was just nice enough to explain them in more depth and offering a free eBook on it. Once I realized that, the book wasn’t as daunting.

BookBaby may have a cleaner site and looks easier to use. Smashwords can seem complicated at first, but instructions to do anything can be found in the FAQ or their blog. They offer tons of resources as well. Mark Coker published The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success and Book Marketing Guide, both available for free and VERY helpful.

BookBaby claims to only make %15 commission and you get %85 profit. They really mean they take %15 after the retailer takes their cut [For example, Apple takes %30]. Smashwords explains this in detail, and I appreciate the honesty. BookBaby wasn’t being dishonest, but lead me [and probably others] that I would earn %85 total, no other fees or deductions. I also read that there way a $29 management fee charged yearly by BookBaby, but couldn't find out if that was still true for the free account.

The pre-order option with Smashwords was a big deal to me. I planned to upload the book next week, available for March 21st. I am a little disappointed BookBaby didn't have that feature, but who knows, maybe soon.

I would suggest going through Amazon directly using KDP. The account is free and you get %70 royalties. You do not need a ISBN number and they accept most major formats, such as ePub, .doc, .mobi and PDF. If you don't feel like going through different outlets and want a one stop shot, BookBaby is a good option. This is if you don't mind the extra %15. Kindle is the largest supplier of eBooks, so its not a good idea to eliminate the option all together.

In conclusion, Smashwords is a better option for me. Every author is different. With Bookbaby’s paid account, they convert the files, convert graphics and offer more hand-holding. This may be a good option for many. I personally just need the book shipped off. 

BookBaby does have some notable features such as the BookPromo and BookShop that are worth checking out. They also offer codes for banners and graphics to add to your blogs or websites. 

More details on how it goes in a week or so!!

[Update 2/25/14] I do want to comment on the customer service. I emailed BookBaby to ask a question. They responded a WEEK later. By then, I already uploaded my book on Smashwords. I emailed Smashwords and received an answer in a few hours. Today, I had an question why my book didn't ship to Apple yet and they responded within minutes with a reason. I sent sent a few emails back and forth and received answers immediately. 


  1. Thanks for this post, Alyne; great info. Smashwords would have been the king of all aggregators if Amazon would have agreed to Coker's retail deal.

  2. Great analysis. I'm preparing to make my own decision, and I assume you still feel the same as you did when you originally wrote this???

  3. I do. Smashwords has added daily sales which was my only complaint with them. I am happy with my experience with them so far! I go through Apple direct now [which you will need Apple computer to get the software needed].

  4. Hi Alyne,
    Another author making the decision, here, thanking you for the post. I do wonder what your thoughts would be now that Bookbaby has instituted a $199 setup fee but no more 15% commission - they now give authors 100% - and, according to their customer service last night, there is no longer any cost to uploading a changed ePub file (though I was on hold for seven minutes while he found this out so I'm not sure how solid that was - he was from the new POD side of the business. I'm doing my own conversion etc. so I don't need hand holding there but I detest accounting etc and wonder if it wouldn't be worth having everything in one place for a one-time fee.

    1. $199 does look more appealing if you are not paying the %15 commission anymore. You are still paying the retailers fee. You would need to determine if you would sell enough that the %10 you are saving is more than $199. I actually have moved to distributing through Apple, Kobo and Amazon seperate and Smashwords for nook and the rest. It is a pain to have so many different vendors but I find it worth it in the end. I did this because updating and publsihing was quicker. It would take two weeks for my books to show on apple from SW but when I went direct it was a matter of hours. I have heard they have improved their shipping times and also now offer daily sales, which was one thing that bothered me.

    2. Thanks Alyne, that's helpful to know. I've decided I'm not experienced enough to go with Bookbaby for POD because it's such a new services - if there are problems I won't know if it's normal or my fault or theirs and there are no user forums of experienced users I could turn to. I can't go direct with Apple (the cost of an apple computer and is waaay more than $199 lol!) but I'll likely end up doing Amazon direct and SW or D2D for the rest.
      Again, thanks for the post and replies :)

    3. That's a good idea. I wouldn't go and buy an Apple just to distribute through them either. I was already a Mac user so the decision was easy for me. Smashwords is a good choice. Go through Kindle Direct Publishing for Amazon because they are huge in the ebook market. It's not wise to eliminate them. You could use CreateSpace (Amazon) for POD. I find them easy to use.