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Interesting Indie Author Stats from Nook

10 April 2013

From a Nook press release announcing its upgraded publishing platform yesterday:

NOOK Press builds on the success of PubIt!™, Barnes & Noble’s original self-publishing platform.  In just two and a half years since its launch, PubIt! has propelled many writers to become national bestselling authors, and the program continues to achieve incredible growth:

  • PubIt! continues to attract 20% more independent authors every quarter.
  • Titles from self-published authors continue to increase by 24% each quarter in the NOOK Store™.
  • Customer demand for great independent content continues to dramatically increase as 30% of NOOK customers purchase self-published content each month, representing 25% of NOOK Book™ sales every month.

Link to the rest at Barnes & Noble Press Releases

It’s kind of cool that Barnes & Noble is touting its indie author cred in the press release. It could generate even more indie love if its physical bookstores would cuddle up with indies, but that’s not part of the corporate strategy.

As Passive Guy has previously mentioned, quite a few indie authors he’s been hearing from have reported a significant decline in Nook sales over the past several months.

While the old Pubit platform was certainly not perfect, PG doesn’t think changing it addresses Nook’s biggest problem and he wasn’t aware of a groundswell of author requests for an upgrade.

The more significant problem is that the Nook store isn’t a very good place for readers to discover indie books and authors or, for that matter, any books or authors they don’t already know about. It’s amazing that 30% of Nook customers are able to find an indie book to purchase every month.

If PG were running Nook, he would have put tech resources and money into a substantial upgrade of the Nook store, an action that, if properly executed, would have generated more Nook ebook sales, helped alleviate the migration of Nook customers to Amazon and increased Nook royalties to indie authors and traditional publishers alike.

PG would also have bumped Nook ebook royalties up so they’re at parity with KDP royalties to indie authors and done something to seriously respond to KDP Select. As authors see a decline in Nook royalties, they become much more interested in KDP Select experiments.

That would be putting the horse before the cart.

Some have suggested this latest announcement is designed to attract attention from prospective purchasers of Nook, which Barnes & Noble plans to sell off. PG is most definitely not a prospective purchaser nor is he advising any prospective purchaser, but he can’t imagine a hedge fund getting goose bumps over an upgraded indie publishing platform.

If, as the press release implies, Nook’s strategy is to compete with Amazon for indie authors, taking steps that will increase indie sales and royalties will work much better than an improved publishing platform.

A typical indie author uses a publishing platform every few months to publish something new. Most authors check online royalties much more frequently than that.

Nook, Passive Guy

36 Comments to “Interesting Indie Author Stats from Nook”

  1. “It’s amazing that 30% of Nook customers are able to find an indie book to purchase every month.”

    As a Nook user who loves to read indie books, I’ll tell you how I find them. I go to Amazon, discover the exciting new book I want, then type the title into the BN search bar.

    I wish I were making this up.

  2. The biggest obstacle for B&N is data. Amazon is leading the way in customer and purchase analytics. Their recommendation engine, while not perfect, is the standard against which others are compared.

    If B&N invested in some enterprise-level data management platform, then they’d have a shot at competing with Amazon in terms of being able to recommend indie authors (read: affordable titles) to interested readers. But that’s a major outlay of time and funds, and I don’t know that B&N has the wind for it.

  3. You can’t join this system if you are not a US resident. Which excludes all Canadian writers, UK writers, Australian writers, European writers, etc. Which is crazy.

  4. My interesting indie author stats from April at BN–

    14 books sold.

  5. If B&N wanted to make a bold stride with indie authors, it would put Espresso POD machines in the biggest B&N stores and test-market print on demand. I think they could make a ton of money by using it for midlist and indie authors, making up for stocking mostly the bestsellers. Amazon can’t place our books in Barnes & Noble, but B&N can. $150k per store isn’t cheap, which is why I suggest they start with some of the major markets.

    With the proper publicity, I think they could get significant sales.

  6. I’ve only ever had a nook, and all I ever felt like I saw were self-pubbed books. Maybe it’s my browsing style.

    I’m apparently the only person who hates kindle’s online store.

    • I tend to mostly buy books I already know I want. While I might browse in bookstores and libraries, I mostly don’t use online retailers for book discovery. I discover books by hearing about them from intelligent others. (For instance, I may not read book review blog, but I’ll read blogs by people who talk about classic books, and they might review a current book once in a while.)

      So the discovery interface of the retailer doesn’t really matter much to me, as long as it doesn’t frustrate me by hiding books I’m actually looking for by title or author name. (This is, unfortunately, something all retailers, even Amazon, seem to do remarkably often to those of us who like lesser-known books. I have to do four or five searches on a book if the author has an ordinary name, before it finally coughs up the right book.)

      Even so, I use a Kindle because I like it, and because I also buy socks and cat toys at Amazon. (And their interface has sometimes caused me to sample books I was not looking for, but I don’t know that I’ve ever bought any that way. I have bought cat toys that way.)

  7. That is a great idea, Meryl!

  8. The royalty isn’t a big deal for me. I make the same amount per purchase on Nook and Kindle because of the Kindle delivery fee. But I can see how the number itself would be a big selling point, and I’d make a little bit more per sale at Nook if they had the same royalty, so I am for it. Don’t mistake me!

    As for upgrading the online store … if Nook is split off, what happens to the store? Right now BN.com services print and eBooks. If Nook split off would they have their own store? Would only prints be sold? Would they collaborate despite being separate companies? If so, where would funding and control of the store lie? Does B&N sell many print copies via their story anymore?

    I think all those questions would need firm answers before anyone invested in the store. Honestly, online shopping should’ve been invested in more heavily years ago. The problem is now. The inexorable march toward Nook Media leaves a lot of questions.

  9. I had 25-40% of my sales coming from Nook until this month started. I’ve sold nearly nothing. The calendar flipped and my sales plummeted. No idea why.

  10. Weird… my sales at B&N have picked up over the past six months…

  11. My B&N sales started picking up in November for some reason–for a year prior they had been dribbling in, less than 10 a month. Now it’s 100 or more. I have no idea why.

  12. One thing I noticed from the new terms of agreement yesterday was that you agree to let people browse 100% of your book if they’re doing so from a B&N wireless area. I thought this was neat, because it essentially replicates the effect of picking a physical book off the shelf and paging through it.

    Of course this could be used as a way to read entire books without paying for them — someone could settle down at the coffee station and just start reading, and reading and reading — but it does indicate some thought about linking ebooks to physical stores.

    Is this something that is already true at B&N stores? I don’t go to book stores any more so I can’t say.

  13. I sell a fair number of books through B&N, but I have to go through Smashwords because B&N does not allow non-US authors to sign up. This new Nook Press is the same. I was hopeful that B&N was stepping up, but if they restrict to US only, they won’t get fully into the business.

  14. I personally do not understand the ‘I can’t find or what can you recommend’ scenario. I surf B&N all the time from either an email reference or otherwise or just looking around and can find all kinds of titles to read.
    I just do not see where the problem is!!

  15. I’m late to the party, but I’ve pretty much given up on B&N’s offerings. I rolled my big earners into KDP, and made over 300% more there in the first two weeks over what I’d made in Pubit…in the previous six months.

    Everyone’s mileage will vary, of course, but for me? B&N seems to be trying to impress me by shooting itself in the foot and showing me how much it can bleed.

  16. Yesterday, an indie group I belong to exploded with cries about the contract for Nook Press, linking to this blog article. http://hollylisle.com/writers-barnes-noble-nook-press-contract-terms-are-insanely-bad/?awt_l=OWewc&awt_m=JROVpwIIUE_XgP

    I wondered if you could please address the points made here? When I looked through the terms, I didn’t see any difference to PubIt, but this makes me wonder.

    Many of my indie friends are not going to switch to Nook Press because of this. Are these concerns legitimate, or is this standard contract terms for using an online retailer?

    • I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that people are getting their knickers in a twist over nothing. If you read the terms, the Publisher (you) set the list price. The royalties are calculated via the list price. The retail price, if changed by B&N, does not affect the list price. They still have to pay your royalty based on how you priced your book.

      Seems to me that B&N is saying “If we want to put your book on sale for less than you want it sold, we’re still paying you the same royalty for each copy sold.” I may be wrong, so I’ll let PG say what’s what here.

      • “The royalties are calculated via the list price.”

        Meryl, I haven’t read the post Christie linked, so not sure what the discussion is there, *but* even if your interpretation is correct (and I’ve assumed it is) I believe Amazon’s terms allow them to price match. When they price match don’t they pay based on sales price, not list price. Since Amazon is where most indie authors do the most volume B&N dropping the price might not hurt profit from there (it should actually help since the volume at B&N should increase), but it could hurt at Amazon since the amount earned per book would be less than normal. Additional volume in both places would have to be high enough to make up for that. If volume at Amazon stayed flat or only increased slightly, the author would almost surely come out behind.

        • Good point. I am now utterly confused and will let other, more knowledgeable people, weigh in. I have few sales on B&N, so I’m about ready to pull my book from there if the terms are bad.

          • That’s exactly why I asked the question, Meryl. Thanks to everyone for chiming in. I don’t give heed to fear mongering, and I have decided to go with the Nook Press until I see a good reason to remove my books from their store.

            I tried to point out to those in my group that are upset about the change that Amazon changes prices based on price matching and whatever they choose as well from what I have seen, so I don’t see what the big deal is.

            My sales are far greater on Amazon than B&N, but as I see it the terms are pretty good for all retailers I have chosen to use to distribute my books.

            I hope there aren’t any sneaky clauses in the terms meant to scam unsuspecting authors that don’t know the difference, but I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt until I learn otherwise.

            Thanks everyone!

    • I need to sit down and read the whole thing, but being the Wholesale fish in a Agency pond could… Hm. Well, since Amazon does list the “former list price” even when price matching, B&N probably can’t play the “spiral-down-the-drain-with-royalties” game.

      However, they can, should they choose to be idiots, play the “can we get you and him to fight?” game.

      How? Simple. B&N has a sale — probably not much of one, just 25-35 cents off something, not eating their margin too much. (Or they might offer a larger one to get people visiting, as a loss-leader!)

      Amazon’s spiders see that sale price (more likely with a long term discount), or someone reports, “this book is cheaper elsewhere” (for faster results), and Amazon price-matches automatically. In this case, the author’s royalties are affected.

      Amazon is not always very good at fixing errors like this, and they certainly aren’t likely to be paying money based on this mistake. (For one thing, their system is very likely not set up for this, and it would take expensive Human Attention to figure out how much is really owed, cut the check, etc. And Amazon loves to automate things.)

      (If B&N didn’t have “list price,” then they could drop to Amazon’s new price for purposes of calculating royalties, to totally screw over the author. Not sure how they missed that one.)

      Author is left angry at Amazon! Author is also, if Author has sense, peeved at B&N. Author will probably drop one or the other, so this crap doesn’t happen again.

      Question is… is B&N fool enough to think that most such annoyed authors will drop Amazon? Or is B&N not aware that exercising its discount rights on indie authors is potentially slitting its throat to spite its ears?

      I haven’t been impressed with B&N’s online store yet, however much I like the local physical store, so I’m peering through my fingers while the scary music plays, waiting for the spurt of arterial blood.

  17. Jeez. I really do not understand all the freaking out people are doing about this.

    Why would NookPress try to scam a bunch of authors who could leave them at the drop of a hat? This isn’t a contract that locks you in. This isn’t traditional publishing.

    And as far as I can tell, it’s really not all that much different than anyone else’s contract.

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