Books A Million DIY Self Publishing Review

Just saw how Books A Million is "opening up" for self-publishing - here's my review.

Books A Million DIY Self Publishing Review

In short: Vanity Publishing still lives.

Why I can't/won't use them:
  • Their interface won't allow epubs to be uploaded, and has to be done by chapter.
  • PDF's aren't readily accepted (while they are everywhere else.)
  • Their prices are not competitive with Lulu.com or CreateSpace.

But you can't say I didn't try.

Their claim to fame is using the Espresso Book Machine, which (if you've done your homework) shoots them in the foot - since the EBM is free to upload your books and will accept anything Lulu gives you back as a review copy (including the covers.)

How my uploads failed

Even though they worked everywhere else, DIY BAM wouldn't take them.

I signed up (at least that's free) and went through the paces.

First, you have to enter the meta-data by hand. Some distributors will glean this from the book itself, if you've embedded it in the creation process. Google Play/Books is the best at this.

If you want to have an epub, you have to edit it there. You can import text, but only a chapter at a time. If you upload a PDF, you can't sell epubs there, as they don't back-covert it. No, you can't upload a .doc or .odt file like you can on Lulu or Smashwords, and several others.

Next the upload. I tried to publish a book I've been selling for years. Using the Lulu proof (which is accepted by Espresso Book Machine) but hit this reject:


That was the same reject for a PDF (which has to include the cover art) that they'll sell for you as an ebook.

Yes it was exactly 6x9, and yes it meets Espresso standards - so what the hell?

Meaning the only way I could have a book would be to punt back to uploading my book a chapter at a time.

Continuing on brought more surprises

Most of the rest is adding more meta data. Their BISAC is limited to top-level categories, much like Lulu.

Pricing is kinda funny, but if you've published on Lulu, this isn't so different:


Ebooks are 80% royalty, which is higher than most ebook distributors (Lulu is 90% - ahem). Print books have a lot of overhead, so author's royalties aren't as good as ebooks. You're getting about 32% in the example above, while traditional publishers get about 25% or less (once any advance is paid back.)

The big surprise you could have seen on the signs coming in - but I didn't think they were serious:

Lulu gives me the same distribution for the price of an approved proof (which is just over what it costs them to produce and ship it to you. So I'd save about $270 - and guess what? It isn't time-limited to three years, but stays up there forever.

And no, I don't have to pay $59 just to get my own book printed.

If you show up at an Espresso Book Machine, and you can get it printed for small fees. (Michigan State charges about $10 to set up, then
  • Black and white 40-99 pages - $8.00 flat rate
  • Black and white 100+ pages - $9.00 for the first 100 pages, plus $0.02 per page for each additional page 101-800


I think BAM is modelling their system on IngramSpark's set up - but that's "only" $49 "set-up fees" per book, and $12 per year to keep it in distribution.

Oh, come on. What BAM and Ingram call "affordable" is just another way to admit you just got taken for a sucker.

Go to a college book store and  you can self-publish a single copy of your book for under 25 bucks. That's affordable vanity publishing.

And using Lulu it will cost you maybe that much (probably not, if your editing is good) and you'll have it available everywhere - forever.

Summary - shop around for DIY self-publishing.

I've been using Lulu for years, back when CreateSpace had set-up fees - Lulu has always been free. Lulu also has a marketplace, CreateSpace doesn't. I get some sales directly from Lulu every month - which is nice - and I don't have to pay to have my book listed there.

You can get print books there, as well as epubs and PDF's. Even sell your own books directly with a personal storefront.

Meanwhile, you can actually submit your Lulu proofs to Espresso Book Machine network and get about 25% royalties - and have people order them through Books-a-Million. (You could even sign up through Commission Junction to become a Books-a-Million affiliate and earn extra book income, like iTunes does.)

Of course, if you use Sellfy, or Payhip, or Ganxy, or Gumroad to sell on your own site, you get around 90% royalties on ebooks - and send them direct to Lulu to get about 80% royalties on print books. Sending people somewhere else to get your ebook, or somewhere besides Lulu for your print book is really just leaving money on the table.

Is the Books-a-Million DIY publishing scene good for indie authors?

IMHO - No.

My advice is to wait for their backend to mature, and their prices to come down.

Meanwhile, create your books on Lulu and sell them everywhere - especially on your own site.

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