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Full-Service Book Manufacturer BookBaby Roots for Independent Writers to Succeed


by Donna Covannon

BookBaby is where writers become authors. The Pennsauken, New Jersey-based book publishing and manufacturing company is an advocate for the underdogs and believes in empowering independent writers and artists by guiding them through the self-publishing process.

“I refer to BookBaby as a professional self-publishing company,” Jim Foley, president of BookBaby, says. “To my knowledge, we are the only complete platform that offers every format available —

eBooks, audiobooks, all of the print options like softcover or hardcover books, all the trim sizes, paper stocks, you name it, and we do it all in-house.”

When writers choose to work withBookBaby, they can expect to have a partner every step of the way. From editing to graphic design, marketing, and distribution, BookBaby serves as a full-service, one-stop destination for up-and-coming authors. And the services it provides are not just limited to one genre; BookBaby provides services to authors for an array of different genres, ranging from children’s books to cookbooks, self-help guides, biographies, and much more.

“We want authors to believe in their book and believe it’s going to sell, and we want to help those people put out a book that rivals anything coming out of the Big Five,” Foley says. “We do, and it’s super cool. We’re in there in the weeds with our authors trying to figure out how to best get readers for them, whether it be through TikTok or other social media platforms.”.

How BookBaby was born

To better understand BookBaby and its mission, you first have to look at its sister company, Disc Makers, which shares the 150,000-sq.-ft. facility with BookBaby. In fact, BookBaby was birthed out of love for helping independent musicians.

Foley explains that BookBaby came to be thanks to its sister company. Disc Makers, which was founded by Ivin Ballen in 1946, has a similar mission of helping independent musicians, filmmakers and small businesses. It manufactures CDs, DVDs, and Blu-rays, and also offers creative, distribution, and fulfilment services to its customers.

In 2008, Disc Makers purchased online independent music distributor, CD Baby, to stay relevant as digital music was on the rise.

Foley explains that while they were not on the publishing side of things yet, at the time CD Baby was one of the biggest aggregators of independent musical artists to Apple. As technologies advanced, he says Apple wanted that same momentum for publishing.

“Around the same time the Kindle came out, and then the iPad came out … prior to its release, Apple said to us, ‘You know, we’re going to do this book thing and we would like you to aggregate content for us from independent authors and make eBooks for us just like you do,’” he says. “And we said, ‘Okay, we can do that.’ And that was the birth of BookBaby in 2011.”

Since its founding in 2011, BookBaby has helped thousands of authors realize their potential and has expanded its services to what customers see today The company even built its own online bookstore.

“We listen to our authors and their challenges,” Foley says. “That’s what we do, just like we did in the music business. They told us that Amazon might not be the best place for independent authors to sell books, so we built an online bookstore. And because we know how to run an e-commerce business, we said, ‘We’re going to build the best indie bookstore on the internet for our authors, and we did that, and we have a fair-trade statement.”

Business is boomin', baby!

In 2022, BookBaby’s online store sales were up 85%. To keep up with the robust demand for orders, it installed two new Xeikon SX30000 digital printing presses to expand its full-color printing capacity.

The Xeikon SX30000s are single-pass, duplex, roll-fed digital presses that use dry toner technology. They’re capable of running 428 letter pages/min. and 2,545 B2 sheets/hr. per press.

Foley says that before the Xeikon installation, the production floor housed two Komori sheetfed offset presses that were nearing the end of their lives. BookBaby was looking to expand into roll-fed printing, so after research and testing, it ultimately opted for the Xeikon dry toner-based presses over roll-fed production inkjet printing presses.

“We wanted to show a case could be made that you could go cheaper and faster with the inkjet devices [available] out there, but they don’t serve our market,” he says. “For instance, say a famous model has a cookbook with us, and she’s on the cover. She can’t have a digital line going through her nose ... with inkjet, those kinds of problems are there, and they’re not solved yet.”

The Xeikon presses were installed in November. Foley says since then it’s been a great partnership with Xeikon, and that Xeikon’s team trained the BookBaby staff on the equipment quickly and efficiently. He adds that Xeikon has been very responsive and there have been no issues with the equipment.

“It’s sort of funny, when we got to know the people at Xeikon, we saw how our evolutions were kind of parallel,” Foley says. “They’re breaking into the book space and we’re 10 years into breaking into the book space. It is a great partnership and we’re really impressed with their people and their commitment to helping our clients get their books out into the world.”

As for why BookBaby’s business has grown, Foley attributes it to word of mouth from happy customers. It’s just people sharing their positive experience with others. They say, ‘I’m this person, and I did this book with BookBaby, and I couldn’t be happier.’

“We know from our history that if an independent author has a good story they believe in, and if they can get the same level playing field as a publisher in the marketplace, their book will sell. We know how to get their books sold,” he concludes.