Why BookBaby Built A Print-On-Demand Solution

man reading a print on demand book

The short answer to why we built our print-on-demand facility (right here in New Jersey) is because self-publishing authors asked us to.

BookBaby launched its print-on-demand (POD) program in 2015 in response to requests for assistance from our community of self-published authors. Every day, we heard about the significant issues and challenges that existed — and still exist — in the publishing marketplace, and we saw a clear gap that needed to be filled. Independent authors were not getting the service and opportunities they deserved.

I had countless conversations with authors pushing for BookBaby to get into the POD space. It was clear there was ample opportunity to do things differently — and better — and after much planning and partnering with the author community, we did just that. We launched the most robust and author-friendly print-on-demand program in the industry, bar none.

Print-on-Demand: Getting better all the time

We strive to improve every day, investing and developing robust technological and manufacturing enhancements to our book-printing operation and adding to the tools our authors use to run their writing careers. It all stems from understanding what our authors want and need, and recognizing the challenges inherent in the self-publishing landscape.

Long-term support for independent authors

Authors have questions at every stage of the publishing cycle: before they publish, during the production process, and for the life of their titles while they’re available in bookstores worldwide. When authors have questions, they need a knowledgeable professional to talk to, and that’s what you get at BookBaby. Above all, we’re a team of publishing experts who are happy to help you whenever you need it.

Getting your title to market

Before BookBaby launched its POD program, we routinely fielded phone calls from frustrated authors seeking help navigating the confusing processes they faced trying to get their books into online retail stores. Our distribution service is second to none, and part of that comes from listening to what our authors need. Not only do we love engaging with our authors, we listen and learn about the pain points that need attention and fixing. Then we fix them!

Technical assistance

Uploading files, fixing technical errors, getting confirmation that files were accepted, and navigating the user interfaces for the various retailers and distributors can be a challenging and time-consuming exercise — even for the professional publishers of the world. We hear things like “I’ve spent the last three weeks trying to get to market — I’m so frustrated! I’m ready to give up.”

Bottom line: this is not what authors should spend their precious time on. Those three weeks (and the time end energy expended) should go to promoting the book and building a platform and buzz. We work hard to eliminate that stress and wasted resources by delivering streamlined tech and services that authors can easily employ (and enjoy using).

Quality products

I remember when we first got into book-selling. A long-time publishing industry veteran told me that the main problem with self-published books — and a major reason they didn’t sell as much as they could — was the formatting looked odd, the paper stock was thick, and everyone could tell the book was self-published. Even if the content was excellent, the user experience was lacking.

That message really resonated with me and I remember thinking, “we can fix that!” The formatting issue was easy to resolve — we already had a stable of professional designers, and we became (and hired) experts at interior formatting and book design.

The paper stock and printing challenge was more difficult, but we started by setting rules for the quality of paper stocks that we’d use to make BookBaby’s books. We identified the publishing-grade papers that we wanted to use, mandated that was the standard we’d hold to, and we continue to meet those standards today.

We also employ a professional pre-press team that inspects every single file before it moves into production. When we find issues, we contact the author or publisher before printing. This way, authors and publishers don’t have to go through numerous proofing rounds — which adds weeks to production — to get the final printed books to meet everyone’s expectations.

In addition, we operate a modern and environmentally friendly book-printing factory in our New Jersey headquarters. We control quality and pride ourselves on on-time delivery.


If you are new to publishing, you might not know much about book returns and could be caught off-guard when you open up your statement and see a big bill due to your book distributor covering the cost of your returned books.

On average, the return rate — books returned to distributors by retailers — is around 20–30 percent. If the book is poorly formatted and of low quality, the rate could be far worse. Here’s some math to explain how this works.

Retail price of book$12.99
Retailer purchase price$5.85
Printing cost$2.34
Distributor fee$0.88
Author royalty$1.46

The author gets paid $1.46 for each book. For a sale of 300 books, the author nets $438.

Then, 100 books get returned.

Distributor return fee (billed to author)$3
Retailer purchase price (billed to author)$5.85
Total author pays distributor$8.85

The author now owes the book distributor $885 for those 100 returned books. (No, I’m not kidding. You don’t have to look further than the FAQ section of most book distributors to validate this information.) Authors and publishers can quickly find themselves seriously underwater in their book-selling adventures because returns are real, and they will come.

BookBaby does not operate this way.

BookBaby does not apply chargebacks to authors for returned books after the royalty has been paid to them. This is a game changer for authors.

When we planned our POD program, the returns issue was a point that required careful consideration. At the end of the day, we believed that if we could rival books produced by the Big 5, we could reduce the rate of return to a number we could support. And by owning the return expense, we felt that would motivate us to drive continuous improvements to our program.

And we were right.

Our mission is to help independent authors produce books that can win readers in the marketplace, not to penalize them for some returned books. We’ve got skin in the game, just like you do.

BookBaby Bookshop — the marketplace built for authors

The market is crowded, and it can be difficult for a new book to get attention, sales, and a viable royalty rate on book sales. New self-published authors often lament the challenges of not being on a level playing field compared to famous writers supported by the muscle of big publishers. We wanted to do something about that, so we built our own marketplace.

You know it as the BookBaby Bookshop, but we call it the most author-friendly bookstore on the Internet, and here’s why.

BookBaby Bookshop was built to empower authors and provide you with the necessary tools to win in the marketplace. Independent authors who sell their books on Bookshop earn 50 percent on printed book sales, 85 percent on eBook sales, and 75 percent on audiobook sales.

We are determined to make Bookshop the fairest destination for indie authors to sell their books — and lucrative royalty rates are just the beginning. When you sell on Bookshop, you can analyze metrics through in-depth analytics, collect buyer emails, create custom coupons, and customize your own digital storefront. It’s an essential tool that sets indie authors up for long-lasting success.

Book Publishing Plan guide

Related Posts
Print On Demand Made The Self-Publishing Revolution Possible
The Basics Of Print On Demand (and how POD changed publishing)
BookBaby Can Scan And Digitize Your Existing Book
When’s the best time to publish your book? Now!
Why Readers And Authors Love Audiobooks



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