July 2014 – Barnes & Noble

28 July 2014

From Author Earnings:

In February, we took a snapshot of 5,000 genre e-books on the Nook store to compare with our Amazon reports. It’s been nearly half a year, so we thought it was time to go back for another look.

The first chart is a simple count of the number of titles on the major genre bestseller lists, broken out by publisher. For each of the four sets of charts, the current snapshot is followed by what we saw back in February:

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Not much change in the count of titles on the lists. But look at estimated daily unit sales by publisher:

a2

This effectively captures the average ranking of the ebooks on these bestseller lists. Note the increase for indies and the decrease for nearly every other publisher.

Knowing the sale price, we can estimate daily gross earnings by publisher:

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Again, note the changes. Finally, knowing industry royalty rates, we get daily author earnings by publisher:

a4

One thing of note with the last three sets of charts is that Hachette titles have suffered on the Nook store over the past five months. It’s possible the ongoing negotiations between Amazon and Hachette are impacting their sales on other digital retail outlets. More striking, though, is the market share gained by indie authors. If you scrolled through Nook’s genre bestseller lists, and tallied each book and how it was published, you would find that over half are now self-published.

While Nook’s e-book market share is much smaller than Amazon’s overall, it is just as indie-friendly as the Kindle store. And the daily royalty share going to indies is nearly twice as large as the share going to Penguin Random House authors. In fact, indies seem to be on their way to overtaking the Big 5 combined, just as they have on Amazon.

Link to the rest at Author Earnings

PG finds the speculation of Hugh and Data Guy that the decline in sales of Hachette’s titles in the Nook Store is a result of the decline of those titles on Amazon interesting.

Because of the Nook Store’s terrible design, some owners of Nook ereaders have discovered that it’s easier to locate new books on Amazon, then go buy those books at the Nook Store.

If correct, this speculation speaks to the scope of Amazon’s power. If Amazon can make sales go up or down on the Nook Store, what use is it for publishers to pay money for prime exposure on the Nook website? That would be yet one more reason for talented employees still working at Nook to actively seek other employment.

However, PG suggests an alternate possibility:  Hachette is spending so much time, money and energy promoting its anti-Amazon message that it has failed to spend time, money and energy promoting . . . books.

This would be a typical screw-up for a poorly-managed company – taking its eye off the ball during a crisis and sliding down the tubes financially.

Hachette marketing and PR people are expending so much effort feeding talking points to Colbert and drafting letters for Preston, Patterson et al that, by the time Happy Hour rolls around, nobody has the time or energy to schmooze with The New York Times book review editors or tweet about a new release.

If you’re a tradpub author considering whether to send a book to Hachette or another publisher, might you not wonder how much time and effort Hachette will devote to your book when its principal business seems to be bashing Amazon and sales of Hachette titles are tanking all over the place?

Or if you’re an author who only has Hachette as a tradpub option, might you not feel that now is a good time to see what this self-publishing stuff is all about?

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Author Earnings, Big Publishing, PG's Thoughts (such as they are), Self-Publishing, Video

51 Comments to “July 2014 – Barnes & Noble”

  1. If you’re a tradpub author considering whether to send a book to Hachette or another publisher, might you not wonder how much time and effort Hachette will devote to your book when its principal business seems to be bashing Amazon and sales of Hachette titles are tanking all over the place?

    Very good point, PG. Though sadly there’s still a large group of “aspiring authors” out there who would happily take a contract with Hachette, as idiotic as Hachette is looking right now, just because then they’d be “real writers.”

    Now off to read the actual article!

    p.s., I lol’d hard at the video, which you posted right as I was posting. See? Sometimes making a point with a visual is FUN.

  2. Okay, that video is inspiring.

    For sale: Deck chairs, cheap. Slightly waterlogged. Call 555-HELP.

    • An interesting historical tidbit… the sinking ship in question (the Oceanos) was old and had been in bad repair for quite some time. When it became clear that the ship was going down overnight, the captain and crew abandoned ship without raising the alarm to the passengers, asleep in their cabins.

      When it became clear to the passengers what was happening, they found the bridge empty. One of the on-board entertainers, Moss Hills, took charge of the situation, radioed for help from other nearby ships and eventually for helicopters from the nearby South African Navy. Everyone eventually made it off safely either by boat or helicopter. Apparently, Hills (and a few other entertainers he deputized on the spot) was one of the last few to leave the ship, hoisted to safety by a hovering helicopter.

      I leave any comparisons to New York publishing’s existing state of repair, the effective abandonment of writer’s official representatives in the Author’s Guild, and the heroic actions of certain indie “entertainers” as an exercise to the reader.

  3. I think you’ve hit it squarely on the head, PG. Hachette’s titles are still findable on Amazon, they just take longer to deliver (for non-eBooks). This definitely looks like they’ve pulled their marketing staff to work at Zon bashing.

    Huh! So their marketing might actually have been helping sales? Who knew?

    Still, they’ll blame the lower sales on evil old Amazon…

  4. PG wrote: “If you’re a tradpub author considering whether to send a book to Hachette ”

    Well, kind of a moot point for a lot of traditionally published writers, me included–because Hachette only accepts agented submissions.

    I’m an award-winning author in 2 genres, with over a dozen romance novels traditionally published, my 11th traditionally published fantasy novel due out this November, and several more books under contract (at DAW Books, distributed by Random Penguin)… And Hachette’s sf/f imprints have previously declined even to look at my work, because I don’t have an agent.

    So unless you start off by choosing to donate 15% of your income to an agent in exchange for little-or-no work and expertise, just so you can get a submission onto someone’s desk at Hachette… that house is not a potential market.

    For that reason, I crossed it off my list of possible markets 7 years ago. That decision was reaffirmed lately when I saw it emphasized in the Hachette Livre report to stockholders that the company only acquires from agents, not from authors–the people who actually WRITE the books.

    What possible interest could I have in dealing with a corporation that wants to intrude so heavily on how I run my own business? One that insists I am not entitled to choose how I spend my own earnings or what professional services I spend them on? One whose position is that I am so incapable of running my own full-time business that they will ONLY deal with an intermediary, never with ME–and that THEY will choose what SORT of intermediary I am required to have.

    • This is a great point. And it’s crazy that we never question this system, that we just accept it as necessary.

      • Well, everybody knows all good books get an agent and then get published.

        It is known, Khaleesi.

      • I questioned it from the moment I learned how it works. It’s just that for a long time, it was the only way it worked. Thank goodness it changed.

        I still remember explaining how the book business worked to my Marketing VP in telecom at my Day Job. He was baffled that I couldn’t just do a business case for my book and submit that, “or even just take pre-order signatures, like a petition. Do a focus group. Something.” When I told him that even if I did those things, they’d be ignored, he said, “How does this business stay in business?”

        Which… was about my feeling on the matter. :,

        • Lol. I have said the phrase “How does this business stay in business” at more than one place I have worked. It’s become a running joke among my friends and family members as well because, really, we all have at least a couple of businesses we wonder that about.

          Trad pub runs on vanity and desperation. The vanity and desperation of its authors. Every now and then they have a huge success that makes it all worth it (I suppose), but they have to churn through a ton of authors, causing them all kinds of grief in the process, just to brag about the successes. And now they’ve been operating that way for so long that they’re scared to change.

        • M.C.A., thanks for all your efforts in trying to turn the SFWA into something worth bothering with.

          Your story about discovering the illogical way publishing once worked resonates with me.

          Back when I was in college, by sheer coincidence, I ended up at the house of Science Fiction luminary Jack Vance. He was one of my top 2 or 3 favorite writers (and, I found out, also my college lab partner’s father). When I told Jack Vance that I, too, wanted to be a writer one day, he smiled. Then he patiently explained how the publishing industry worked, and described how little money he earned on sales of his books. My jaw dropped. I mean, this was Jack Frigging Vance, my writing hero, whose yellow-spined DAW books at the time filled linear feet of bookshelf in every big bookstore I walked into.

          “That makes no f***ing sense at all,” I said. “It’s idiotic.”
          “It’s just how it is,” he said. “That’s why my son is studying engineering with you, instead.”

          Fast forward twenty years, and indie publishing takes off. I grin, drink a toast to Jack Vance’s memory, and start writing. I only wish he’d lived to see this.

          It’s a glorious time to be a writer.

          • Suburbanbanshee

            God bless Jack Vance. It’s only been a couple years since he passed. I only met him once, but he was a giant.

        • I didn’t know how publishing worked until a few years ago. I’ve looked at lots of businesses, but never had a reason to look at publishing.

          So I figured I had made some fundamental error when it didn’t make sense. I was wrong. That was indeed how it worked.

    • Wasn’t one of the bullet points in the powerpoint presentation the equivalent of “Only work with authors with agents”?

    • It’s kind of a power game. They want the authors to understand they’re too unimportant to deal with them directly.

      Their insistence on the worst of the old ways simply means they’re standing closest to the approaching asteroid’s CEP…

      • No, I don’t think so. You have to look at it from a corporate/management perspective. They probably think that agents are easier to deal with than authors. Publishers and agents have carefully nurtured this viewpoint until it became a major part of the industry.

        And now, the center cannot hold.

      • I think it’s a bit worse than that. They figured out a way where authors pay to filter themselves so publishers don’t have to do it.

    • Laura, I’ve been reading your never-ending stories of heartbreak in tradpub, and they never cease to astound me.

      What a blessing that there is now a better way for those of us with professionalism.

    • I remember the twist in my gut a couple of years ago when a writer friend blogged that she’d been taken on by a New York agent. While she wrote about opening up a bottle of champagne set aside for this great day, I wondered if I should just give up.

      Now, I have two books published – and I can watch my brand-new, self-published one, sell every day.

      Unfortunately my friend is still unpublished.

      Am I ever glad she didn’t offer to refer me to her agent …

      • That must be really scary for authors who have been taken on but haven’t had their books come out yet. The industry is changing so fast that it could be completely different by the time their book even makes it to the market. I kind of feel bad for your friend. Does she realize what’s happening in the self-publishing world?

        • Just realized I said “publisher” instead of “agent” – that’s why I hire a proof reader for my own books!

          You know it’s one of those conversations I find it hard to have with the people I’ve “left behind” – it’s like we talk different languages. They honestly don’t understand why I would self-publish and are convinced I’ll have 1,000 unsold books in my basement. They ask things like “How will you reach international markets?” – turns out almost none of my sales are domestic; the majority are in the UK.

          This particular friend warned me against self-publishing a while ago as she thought agents and editors wouldn’t like it, and might refuse to take me on in the future.

          I’m not sure if that’s true or not – as things stand I don’t want to be taken on (or “taken in” as the case may be).

          And I agree, I think these are scary times for many people.

  5. I did notice a boom at Barnes the last couple of months, but I couldn’t attribute the extra sales to any promos or new releases at my end. Now I wonder if it’s readers “abandoning” Amazon or using them to find other things at Barnes.

    Sales at Amazon are down for me, but until now I assumed it was the summer slump, yet sales at Google and Barnes are WAY up. I love the AE charts. They seem to show that what I’ve been seeing is industry wide and not just me.

  6. one more reason for talented employees still working at Nook to actively seek other employment.

    Indeed. And I’ll add another–short-sighted upper management that can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag even after viewing an instructional video on “How to Escape a Wet Paper Bag” multiple times. I just published my latest book on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I did this on a Sunday morning. Amazon had it approved and up for sale in six hours. After two DAYS I finally contacted B&N support to find out what was wrong, and was informed they do not have anyone working on ebook approval during the weekend. And they can take up to 72 hours to approve even then.

    (headdesk. headdesk)

    B&N, this is why Amazon is eating your lunch, drinking your milkshake, and chatting up your love interest. To win at life, you *have to show up.*

    • Ye gads, that’s getting as bad as Kobo!

    • That’s weird they would say that. I uploaded my last book on a Saturday morning on Nook and it was live on their site getting sales by late afternoon (this was at the end of May). It does seem like it’s hit and miss with each book release, though. Sometimes it takes a full day or two before they publish my work.

  7. My sales on Barnes and Noble have been pretty consistent, but I do sell more on Amazon except for one title that blew up over at B&N for no reason at all. I have a few other friends this happened to, but unless I have a promo, I don’t get into the bestsellers list on B&N.

  8. Maybe we could organize a liquid lunch for the NYC trad pubs that included a sing-along of “Nearer, My God, to Thee”. I’d pay money for that.

  9. PG wrote: “Because of the Nook Store’s terrible design, some owners of Nook ereaders have discovered that it’s easier to locate new books on Amazon, then go buy those books at the Nook Store.”

    That was me.

    I like Amazon plenty, but since I want to encourage a competitive and varied book marketplace, I bought a Nook back in 2011. Because I figured B&N was going to get its head in the game ANY DAY NOW, improve its website, improve its ebook programs, etc., etc. It had decades of experiene in the book business, so surely it wasn’t just going to keep rolling around on the floor with its jugular exposed through sheer inertia and incompetence, right?

    (sigh)

    Well, by 2013, the website was no better–and maybe even worse. Two years after purchasing my Nook, I was doing all my ebook shopping on Amazon, then reluctantly making my purchases on BN (where the price was also not-infrequently higher). There were also things I wanted to read that were available via Kindle but not via Nook. The last straw came when I accidentally clicked on the wrong “buy” button for a Nook book, between two almost-identical titles. Within 5 minutes, I realized my mistake and tried to return it–and discovered that Nook didn’t accept returns. It had a one-click BUY system… and DIDN’T ALLOW RETURNS. Not even in the extremely narrow window of my attempted return–less than an hour after purchase.

    It by then struck me as IDIOTIC to remain a Nook customer.

    I bought an iPad a month or two later and became a steady buyer of Kindle books. I’ve never again purchased a Nook book.

    All because the overall customer experience was in every way so inferior.

    I mean… come ON, B&N!

    • I, too, wish B&N would get itself together. I would like to buy a Nook, but I’m afraid that five minutes after the transaction I will read about how B&N is going under. They need to give authors some kind of sign that they’re not just giving up. Everything I’ve seen says that they’re either giving up or complacent with their current status in the book world.

    • Yep. I have a Nook and also use a Kindle app on my tablet. There are far more reviews on Amazon, so sometimes, I research on Amazon, then buy on my Nook.

  10. Actually, if you consider that fabled “literary community” we’re supposed to care so much about, compare the reader reviews of any given book between Amazon and BN.com. Then take a glance at Powells.com, which is supposedly a wonderful independent bookstore that… doesn’t care about reader reviews at all.

    Even if B&N were improved 500%, it would be too late. The horse has already left the barn.

  11. Hachette ebook sales dropping at Nook?
    Very interesting…

    Could very well be lack of promotion; there’s only so many hours in the day and spending them Amazon-bashing is bound to have an impact.

    Other possibilities:
    – maybe the books themselves are underwhelming so that even a big exodus from Amazon isn’t enough to prop up sales.

    – maybe the whole anti-Amazon campaign has hurt Hachette’s image market-wide by reminding readers of their anti-competitive trends. This might even impact the specific authors behind the ADS campaign… (awww!! How sad!)

    – maybe the fact that Hachette books at Nook appear to be Agency priced, across the board, has them at a competitive disadvantage compared to indies and tradpubs both.

    Maybe all four effects combined?

    Bad for the authors, but it really couldn’t happen to a more deserving publisher.

    • It’s probably about pricing more than anything else. I see people complaining about pricing even in indie book reviews (mostly for serials). Hachette doesn’t seem to understand that most Americans really are price-sensitive. Having your authors call them entitled doesn’t help your case when you’re trying to get them to buy more books.

    • I don’t have a whole lot of Grand Central books and almost no Little Brown books, but I find that I buy a lot of books from Orbit, Hachette’s SF imprint, because they publish a lot of authors whose work I like (at least one of those authors has since gone indie).

      Coincidentally, three of this year’s five nominees for the best novel Hugo are Orbit books (the remaining two are Baen and Tor respectively). BTW, Hachette/Orbit was the only publisher to refuse adding full versions of the nominated works to the Hugo voters packet, which strikes me as rather short-sighted.

      However, at least with regard to Orbit, all of their recent releases were in trade paperback, i.e. a rather pricey format. I’m not even sure if they still do mass market paperbacks at all, though Grand Central does. So price might well be a factor.

  12. Indie books are up, Hachette books are down. Simon & Schuster is up. I wonder why. One big hit book, or some other reason?

    • Simon & Schuster had three titles in the Top-5 the day this data was collected: Sandra Brown’s Chill Factor, Mary Higgins Clark’s Before I Say Goodbye, and Jodi Picoult’s Plain Truth

      It’s notable that all three top-selling Simon & Shuster titles were priced at $1.99.

      Remove those three $1.99-priced titles from consideration, and S & S’s market share on that day drops from 13% of unit sales to 8%, their share of gross dollars drops from 11% to 9%, and their share of author earnings drops from 8% to 6%.

      As an interesting aside, the #1 Barnes & Noble eBook at the time was an Indie: Barbara Freethy’s Don’t Say A Word, priced at $0.99.

      ETA:

      Removing that #1 title from consideration only reduces the Indie share of unit sales from 35% to 33%, the Indie share of gross $ sales from 20% to 19%, and leaves the Indie share of author earnings unchanged.

      This was a fairly small dataset, too, at 5,000 books. The net effect a few top-selling titles might have on a larger data set, like the 120,000-book Amazon one we recently pulled, would be far smaller.

      • Hey, Freethy got her rights reverted!!! That used to be a Signet line novel years ago. Now, she’s reissued it indie? Great for her.

  13. “However, PG suggests an alternate possibility: Hachette is spending so much time, money and energy promoting its anti-Amazon message that it has failed to spend time, money and energy promoting . . . books.”

    And they did it at a time their market share was under serious attack.

  14. I didn’t know the story of the sinking of the Oceanos, so I googled it. And, wow! Such bravery of the artists and cruise director in saving the passengers after the captain and crew abandoned them.

    http://www.oceanossinking.com/MYSTORYOFTHESINKING.htm

    • Thanks for the link.

      My first impression (Note that I work as a tech translator for the shipping industry in my dayjob, so I know a thing or two about ships) upon seeing the video was, “My, what an ancient bucket!”

      Turns out I was right, for the ship eventually known as Oceanos was built in 1952, i.e. it was 39 years old when it sank. There were also serious safety issues due to lack of maintenance that should have put the vessel out of service. Plus, the crew was incompetent and abandoned the passengers – a situation sadly echoed by the more recent Costa Concordia and MV Sewol disasters. In the end it was the bravery and experience of the entertainment staff and the cruise director (i.e. non-nautical staff) that saved the passengers.

    • You know what really stood out for me in that video? The sheer amount of noise that old bucket made as she went under. Puts me strangely in mind of Big Publishing.

      Mind, I don’t think the whole industry is heading for tea with Davy Jones, but I predict many spectacular fails (and oh, so much more noise) before it rights itself.

  15. Hasn’t there been a fair amount of paper book discounting at B&N of Hatchette titles lately? Could more people be buying paper books as part of the buy 2 get 1 free & such instead of ebooks that might account for a drop in the ebook rankings/sales?

  16. All I have to say is that publishers THINK people know them, and the public is aware of them in a sort of general sense.

    However, the other day, people in my office were discussing the Amazon/Hachette feud: “So, there’s some publisher–Hachet or something–who is fighting with Amazon about their books being on their site or something? I don’t get it.”

    This was someone who reads quite a bit, too.

  17. This is interesting and, if correct, a little disheartening.
    I’ve seen a remarkable increase in sales at B&N and was hoping for some sort of breakthrough. I certainly hope the larger indie share of the revenues is not just a Hachette flash in the pan.

  18. The problem with this chart is that it calls self-published authors “indies,” which lumps them in with writers who have actually been published by traditional INDEPENDENT presses. (Hey, self-pubbers, if you’re really not ashamed of being self-published, why the smokescreen? You are NOT “indie.” Why not embrace and own the self-published label?) Indie simply means an actual, paying press that is not a division of a larger press. The good ones work their butts off for their authors and are willing to make a significant investment of THEIR money in YOUR book (if it is good enough to be accepted by them, that is). They really don’t deserve to have their publishing category commandeered.

    • You’re kidding right? This is what you get worked up over?

      We use both: indie authors and self-pubbed. I use both, pretty interchangeably to describe the folks in the SP crowd.

      We aren’t calling ourselves indie presses. We call ourselves indie authors. There’s a difference. We’re independent–moreso than the ones you describe, since no press has a contract with us.

      Maybe it’s YOUR version of indie authors that needs a new name. They aren’t as independent as WE are.

  19. Indie simply means an actual, paying press that is not a division of a larger press.

    “Indie simply means?” Seriously? My friend, you have come to the wrong place to school indie authors. Indie simply means whatever it means to whoever is calling themselves “indie.”

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