What Is Booktango?
Booktango is the ebook service offering of Author Solutions, parent company to iUniverse, xlibris, and AuthorHouse (among others). They note that their service provides authors with DIY ingenuity along with other publishing tools to produce a professional ebook.
Authors will create an account with Booktango, design a book cover using their interface (or provide your own), upload your manuscript (where they will process the document and notify you of any formatting errors for you to correct), and then they will submit your converted book for publication to major retailers. Booktango distributes to Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Kobo, Sony, OverDrive, Amazon, Google, Scribd, and BooksOnBoard. The best part? It’s FREE. Yes, it’s free. But wait! There is a bit of fine print . . .
What Does Free Really Mean?
Booktango actually offers a few different service levels. Their FREE service includes manuscript upload, do-it-yourself formatting and layout, a do-it-yourself cover editor, ISBN assignment (may list Booktango or AuthorSolutions as the publisher), and distribution to online retailers. The free service does not include the addition of images, help with formatting, or a copy of your ebook. (This last element may be critical if you want a file that you can later use elsewhere!)
The next option you can choose would be their $49 Timesaver package. This option includes everything listed in their free service, with the addition of formatting and correction services, meaning that they will adjust any of the errors flagged in the upload phase of the project. You can opt to get a free basic cover set up for you. Your work can contain up to 10 images, and they will provide you with a promotional code allowing you to download your ebook. (They do not specific whether this will be an ePub file or a Kindle file, but further inquiry revealed that you can choose only one file type.)
The final option is the Defender Package, for $189. This is a significant jump in price, and the only difference we were able to detect in the package listings was the addition of Copyright service. This means they will work with the U.S. Copyright office to register your work. Since it only costs $35 to copyright your book yourself online, and the process is very simple, this particular package may be an unnecessary additional cost.
Pricing and Royalties
This is where it is important to pay attention to the fine print. Booktango tells you that they pay 100% of net on books sold through its own store, but they charge a 30% transaction fee. This means that what you are actually making on books sold through their store is 70% of the list price.
They pay 90% of the net payment when sold through other retail outlets (Booktango takes a 10% commission). Retailer fees and discounts vary between distributors. Booktango currently notes the following: “Transaction fees differ by retailer and currently range from 20%-65%. Some vendors also charge an additional fee per sale of $0.25 per book.”
This means that you may make as little as 30% of list (that would be 60% from the retailer plus 10% to Booktango). For example, if your book is priced at $4.99, and the retailer charges $2.99, your net sale would be $2.00. Your royalty is 90% of net, so you would make $1.80. Based on their current pricing, you can get better royalty rates with other aggregators, such as Smashwords and Bookbaby.
It may also be important to note that currently, Booktango’s default book price is $4.99. You must make a special request in order to change this price to anything else. Hopefully, this is one of many elements they are working to correct.
Booktango pays quarterly once you have reached a minimum threshold of $75. Payments are made by check or direct deposit. They note that it takes about two months after the quarter closes in order to receive payment.
This service has only recently launched, and Booktango appears to be refining as they go. The sales member we talked to told us that they would have to get back to us to answer some of our questions, and their FAQs section notes that some items (such as making adjustments to your book after you’ve approved your file) are not yet possible. Some of the items we flag for importance would be the following:
- Authors can only submit Word files at present, ruling out PDF and InDesign/Quark submissions. In addition, this would rule out the option to supply your own pre-designed ePub or Kindle file.
- The free service does not include the inclusion of images, but even the paid service is currently limited to only 10. When we asked whether we could include more, they noted that they would have to check on this and contact us at a later time.
- Currently, there is no way to correct the file once it is available for sale. That means for the free service, if you’re unable to preview your own actual ebook prior to buying it, you won’t be able to fix any errors without possibly paying an additional fee or starting over. It was not clear to us what would happen in this case. Booktango does offer a corrections option for $19, providing the book is not already for sale.
- Authors don’t get a copy of their actual ebook with the free service. This is almost a deal breaker! However, even in the paid service, authors are only given a voucher to purchase a single copy of their book. This means that you will have to choose between receiving your ePub version or your Kindle version; you will not receive both.
- Both in the free and paid service, Booktango is clearly taking the lowest-common-denominator approach to book design. Because they are submitting files to so many retailers, the best format option is to reduce the number of special design elements. For instance, if your book contains drop caps or raised caps (something we consider to be a non-specialized embellishment), they will flag these as errors to be removed. This leads us to believe that custom formatting is not really an option. You can also go to their Booktango storefront and review some of the free preview listings for books. In many cases, the preview content didn’t include paragraph breaks, and we saw snippet of code still in the text. This made us wonder what the actual books looked like!
While their free service may be a good option for those with very simple books, their royalty rates, pricing schemes, and design limitations make this one of our lower recommendations when it comes to choosing an aggregator. We fully expect that, as time passes, Booktango will increase its offerings to be more competitive in this market, but until that time, you might want to examine other ebook aggregators—or consider having your ebook designed by professionals and submitting directly to retailers on your own, which typically yields greater control over all aspects of the process, a more professional result, and a higher return in royalties.