FastPencil compared to Smashwords & BookBaby

I was going to write a post comparing Smashwords (which is how I self-published) to BookBaby (which I have not used).  However, in my research, I came across this excellent post from last year that gives a much more in-depth comparison than I planned on doing.  Since it's silly to re-invent the wheel, I thought I'd link to this post and move on to another topic.  If you're interested in comparing the two self-publishing services, check out Giacomo Giammatteo's fantastic guest post (and resulting comment thread) on How to Successfully Self Publish.

A third self-publishing/distribution service, with certain similarities to Smashwords and BookBaby is FastPencil (which I have also not personally used).  So I wondered if FastPencil was different than Smashwords and BookBaby, and if so, how?

For starters, FastPencil is a self-publishing platform that targets not only authors, but publishers and enterprises as well.  From my perspective as an indie author, I'm most interested in the self-publishing component of FastPencil, but details for publishers and enterprise can be found on their web site.

For the self-publishing author, FastPencil offers four different publishing packages, ranging from the free DIY package to the $1,999 Gold package.  What services you receive from these suites can be found in the Publishing Packages table. FastPencil also offers a variety of 'a la carte' services (too many to list) but they can be found in this Publishing Services table. In addition, FastPencil also has three imprint options, which are described on their Author Page. FastPencil provides a variety of options, although all but the base services cost extra.

FastPencil takes 20% of the retail markup when you sell through the FastFastPencil Marketplace. By comparison, Smashwords takes 26% from books sold on their page and BookBaby doesn't sell directly on their site (as far as I can tell).  For books sold through their distribution network, FastPencil and their distributor take a 44% cut, while Smashwords averages about 40% and BookBaby ranges from 30%-50%  depending on the distributor; which brings us to our next topic:  distribution. FastPencil distributes ebooks to:
  • Apple iBookStore, Amazon Kindle Store, Barnes&Noble.com, Kobobooks.com, Powells.com, Ebookmall.com, Diesel-ebooks.com, Booksonboard.com, Lulu.com, Lybrary.com, and the FastPencil Marketplace.
FastPencil includes this disclaimer:  Outside of the Amazon Kindle Store for ebooks, it’s important to remember that FastPencil has limited control over which book retailers actually list your ISBN title, i.e. we place your title in catalogs, and it’s up to the retailers to fetch and list them for sale on their websites.

FastPencil's 20% 'internal sales' cut is less than Smashwords; their distributor sales cut is in the same ballpark as Smashwords and Bookbaby; and their distribution network is comparative, including all of the big players. To me, their website is a bit more overwhelming than Smashwords and Bookbaby, but that may be due to the variety of options and platforms. Sticking to the free self-publishing components would likely streamline the experience.

I'm interested in hearing from people that have published through FastPencil's free package (or used any of their fee services, for that matter). If you have, please let me know. How easy/hard is it to publish your book? How is the customer service? Please share!

Mirrors & Mist update:  I'm currently polishing chapter 17 of 18.  Once I've filled in the holes, I'll edit the chapter, then move on to number 18.  Here's another map (a zoom-out of last week's figure) from the Oxbow Mountain Kingdom setting (the City of Dwim-Halloe, which sits in a mountain pass):