Review of Using BookBaby for Self-Publishing: Happy Overall but Feel the Editing Lacked

Writing a book was one of my life-long goals, and I was thrilled to have done so this year, when I published Get After It: Seven Inspirational Stories to Find Your Inner Strength When It Matters Most. I was even more excited to see it hit Amazon in eBook format on August 11th and then in paperback on August 24th. Publishing a book was important for my legacy, as I believe that once we die, we are soon forgotten unless we have things by which future generations can remember us. As long as the internet exists, digital copies of my eBook will be available, and that is something that makes me extremely proud.

To publish my book, I used a company called BookBaby, which I discovered through CDBaby, my distribution company for my solo music project, Truth Assassin. I received an email one day that said “Are you also a writer? Check out BookBaby for your publishing needs.” I was a writer, and I needed a company to help publish and distribute my book.

I went to the BookBaby independent author’s conference in November 2017, writing up my notes and lessons learned, and considering using the company for its publishing services. After the conference, I got in touch with Patrick, a sales representative for BookBaby and we stayed in contact as I was completing my book. Patrick did a great job of keeping me in the loop on costs and timelines, and he was very responsive to my questions, even recognizing my phone number when I would call him.

The costs of the services seemed reasonable. They’d work out to something around $3,000 for everything: copy editing, eBook conversion, cover design, paperback layout, ISBN acquisition, and more. Considering I had done some of research to compare, BookBaby’s prices seemed in line with many other services.

The first step in the publishing process was getting my manuscript professionally edited. This was an interesting thing for me considering I’m a writer by trade and learned how to write in the Career Analyst Program, the CIA’s training course for intelligence analysts. Because I had rebranded myself as a strategic communicator, I also learned how to write in more styles, including journalism, storytelling, and senior leader messaging. All of that combined led me to believe that I was a good writer, not some dope with no experience.

My network of pre-readers also included writers and editors, so I knew I would have good support from them, too. Despite my confidence, I checked myself by submitting the first three chapters of my book to an independent developmental editor I found via Service Scope, an online platform for people to offer services. I found an editor that had a Master of Arts degree in writing and had more than 4,000 five-star reviews on the site.

I wanted the developmental edit to be the outside perspective on my storytelling. What stories worked? What didn’t work? Are they structured appropriately? $385 later, I found out. I had some great stories, most followed a sound storyline, but there was work to be done. I took the lessons from the first three chapters and applied them to the last five.

After that, I submitted my manuscript to six people I knew who were willing to give the book a pre-read. One of the editors was a former journalist and fantastic writer, so I knew I was in good hands. There was some general consensus around a few parts, and I accepted most of the edits and changes people suggested because they made a lot of sense.

Back to BookBaby. I had my manuscript ready to go and submitted it for the final, professional edit which would cost me about $1,500. I chose a copy edit, which included line editing, but also comments on structure, story flow, and more, and about seven days later, I received my edited version back from the BookBaby editing team. I was quite disappointed. There was not a single comment on flow or structure, it seemed to be purely a line edit to ensure I used the right format for numerals and the like. The overall comment on the edit read more like a review than a summary of editorial suggestions. I just didn’t think my book was that “perfect.” I figured I had to have something.

I called Patrick and BookBaby and told him of my dilemma, explaining that I was looking for more out of the edit and that I was frustrated that I felt like I paid for a service I didn’t receive. Patrick listened to me thoroughly and agreed to investigate the situation, and I very much appreciated him doing so. A day or two later I received word from Patrick that he had contacted the editing department, which said that “they stand by their edits and didn’t think any restructuring, deletions, etc. were necessary.”

“If that’s the case,” I told him, “then I think I paid for something I didn’t get” and requested some money back or a discount of some kind, and again, Patrick was agreeable and offered me a $250 discount on the rest of my purchase. Kudos to Patrick for being great in the process and supportive of my concerns.

The rest of the process was superb. For another $1,500, I’d receive a “complex” book cover design, which just means that my cover would have more than one picture in the design, the eBook conversion, print-on-demand service, and everything else that comes with a professional and thorough book publishing.

When I received the book cover, I was blown away. I was absolutely thrilled with it considering I had no initial thoughts on the design and my only guidance was to use two of three pictures which I had submitted, including one of me skydiving, one of me playing with my band, and another from my time in the military. My only specific instruction was to make the cover inspiring and energetic. The cover I received, which combined the band and skydiving pictures, was fantastic. Having worked closely with graphic designers for the last four years, and doing some work in Photoshop and InDesign myself, I could tell that it was really well done. The pictures were seamlessly graded together, the color palette was perfect, and I loved the format. My only edits were to change the font of the title and move the title and subtitle around a bit.

I proofread the manuscript a few more times and found a few final things that needed to be changed. The BookBaby staff was quick to make the edits and quite responsive to my inquiries. After a few weeks making the last edits and finalizing the cover, it was time to hit go. I was ready, but every time a dialog box popped up on my computer screen that said, “Are you sure you’re ready to submit everything?” I hesitated. I’d look at everything again. Yes, for the 480th (or so) time, it was fine. I hit go and BookBaby started the distribution process.

A few days later, I found the eBook on Amazon and everything that went along with it. The description of the book I provided to BookBaby was on Amazon word for word, as was the long description and the author bio, all of which I had written using some best practices I found from various blogs and websites. As the eBook was posted, I received another email from BookBaby telling me that my print copies were in the works and that I’d be receiving them soon. About a week later, I received a notification from BookBaby and UPS that my two packages containing 50 books were on the way.

When they arrived, I held a Facebook Live video to show the unveiling and drive interest in my book. The books were beautiful, crisp, and clean. And there it was: Get After It: Seven Inspirational Stories to Find Your Inner Strength When It Matters Most.

Overall, I had a positive experience working with BookBaby. I will strongly consider using a different editing service while using BookBaby for the distribution and publishing services. If you’re interested in publishing a book, consider BookBaby and ask for Patrick.

My book is on sale for $0.99 (eBook) and $11.99 (paperback) for about two more weeks before the Amazon pre-sale is over. Be sure to get your copy now!


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6 thoughts on “Review of Using BookBaby for Self-Publishing: Happy Overall but Feel the Editing Lacked

  1. This is an interesting post, though a wee bit condescending.

    Writing is an interesting pursuit. You need both talent at story telling and technical skill to write well. To be great, you need a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’. You need a particular voice, a manner of ordering words in a unique way, superb observation skills, and a great deal of patience to research.

    Natural story tellers without skill are, of course, common. Yet, there have been a great deal of “dopes” who have written engrossing, compelling stories which have changed the world. 🙂

    *Says the uneducated “dope” who has made a career from writing.

    1. Sarah, thank you for writing. I’m wondering what part of the post you thought was condescending? I didn’t mean to be that way, just provide an honest, albeit critical, review of a service for which I paid a lot of money.

  2. If I could write the title of this article it would be “Not happy overall, everything lacking.

    On the surface Bookbaby looks good. Great website, good offers. I took them up on their Complete Publishing Package (book formatting, cover design, distribution etc.).

    My experience has not been positive. Frustrating and disappointing best characterize how I have felt throughout most it. There are many reasons, but I’ll say the three big ones:

    1. Sloppy work. Whether it was book/ebook formatting or cover design or getting the Amazon page set up — endless mistakes. You have to have an amazing eye for detail yourself to catch all the mistakes they make.

    2. Inefficient processes that slows everything down. I was given an initial estimate of six weeks and it turned into 3.5 months. (I’ll spare you the details of why it is so inefficient.)

    3. Experience with staff is inconsistent – hot and cold.Some of the service representatives that I contacted were good, no question: prompt and efficient in their replies. But another of Bookbaby’s quirks is that you you never know who you’re going to get — they do not assign one service rep to your case — it’s a crapshot who will respond to you. And they are not all of equal caliber.

    1. Leon,

      Thanks for the comment on this. I’m sorry you had such a difficult time with the process. I think I caught a number of things that they missed, but that’s probably because I’m a professionally trained writer, having worked in intelligence analysis, diplomacy, and strategic communications for more than 10 years. I agree with what you’re suggesting, which is that I would have missed many of them if I wasn’t so thorough.

      Regarding your second point, my timeline was dragged out as well, but that was partly because I was making some last minute changes to the manuscript and a few other things.

      Finally, I know what you mean about the inconsistency with the staff. I really liked the sales person I talked to (Patrick), but I don’t think the other service reps were as good as him.

      Again, I’m sorry to hear you didn’t have a good experience. I’m hoping with my next book that I’m able to use the good reviews I received from BlueInk and Foreward/Clarion to be able to get a small publisher who is willing to help produce my book and market it.

      C’est la vie. 🙂

  3. Thanks for your story of your story and bookbaby. I’m in the process of trying to get a book printed through them and will let you know I gave up trying to attempt a cover and am glad you were satisfied with that.

    1. I’m glad to hear you let them take over. Graphic design is really difficult for amateurs… I’ve got some Photoshop experience, but nowhere close to any skill level to design something. It was definitely worth the $450. Is it incredible? No. Do I like it? Yeah. And I’m a “good enough” guy…so it did the job.

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