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Indie Authors to Finally See their Books on B&N Shelves

28 June 2016

From GoodEreader:

About three years ago, then-VP, Digital Content and GM of Barnes and Noble’s Nook Press division Theresa Horner sat down with GoodEReader at the Frankfurt Book Fair to discuss the state of the company, namely its self-publishing option and its ebook self-publishing platform. She posed the question as to what it would take to effectively compete with Amazon. Our response–which was not at all tongue in cheek–was for the retailer to stop banning indie authors’ books from brick-and-mortar stores. If Nook Press had developed a viable print-on-demand option and then told authors there was even a possibility of seeing their titles in their local bookstore on the condition that they pulled their books from Amazon’s exclusive KDP Select program, authors would have jumped at the chance.

Unfortunately, that didn’t come to pass and Theresa Horner is no longer with the company. The concept of opening the doors–and the shelves–to great self-published titles fell by the wayside.

. . . .

Now, the retailer has some (hopefully) exciting news that will come out today. In an earnings call to investors only a matter of days ago, the company outlined several key proposals for the coming year, which included Barnes and Noble table-side service restaurants and a plan to cut losses of the Nook division down to $30M to $40M in the coming year. But tucked in there was a tiny mention of a plan to reshape the Nook Press print-on-demand model, with further details to come out on the 28th.

. . . .

UPDATE: Barnes and Noble just issued a press release on its Nook Press print-on-demand service. As we predicted, it finally puts in motion the possibility of authors seeing their books on stores shelves. Opponents’ concerns over a general drop in quality of books in the stores are unfounded, as all submitted titles will be vetted for approval and have to meet the company’s outlined standards. Authors will also be required to be “eligible Nook Press authors,” meaning their titles must be available as ebooks on BN.com and not included in Amazon’s KDP Select category.

There’s another catch, though: it’s not just about quality, it’s about prior sales. The opportunity is limited to titles “whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

PG says if BN had done this five or six years ago, the book world might look different today.

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Bookstores, Self-Publishing

65 Comments to “Indie Authors to Finally See their Books on B&N Shelves”

  1. Well, I’m sure this will drive oodles and scads of indies to B&N.

    Let’s see here: pbooks, ebooks? (mobi only?), pbook printing and distribution costs, Nook Press only, unsold returns?, royalty rates, prompt payments (with reserve holdbacks?).

    Yeah, gonna be a real gold mine for indies. Better line up now and get your number slip.

    • I don’t see a ‘Nook Press only” assertion. When I read this, I see “if you’re publishing your ebooks wide already…”

      If it’s a new distribution option, rather than a replacement option–that is, if I can continue to publish through Createspace and ALSO use this, it looks like not a terrible idea.

  2. 1) My titles that would qualify for their program are all erotic romance. But let’s face it, those titles wouldn’t get by the vetting process. 😆

    2) Funny how this comes out after I’ve announced to my readers that I’m pulling out of B&N. Late payments to vendors is not a sign of a healthy company.

  3. But apparently it’s US-only, so that shuts out a large fraction–if not a majority–of indie writers on the planet.

    Every time B&N make a positive step, they screw it up.

    • Well, they have to start somewhere. Plus, launching something globally requires a LOT of legal effort. Honestly, it makes sense to test a market before deciding to invest that time and effort globally.

      • Or, B&n doesn’t really give a damn and this is just a token effort.

        I think option B is more likely.

        • A logical section in a bookstore most amenable to indie books is a “Local Authors” section. Those are the authors most available for events, and for US-based stores, they are going to be US-base authors. B&N might be responding to that.

          • @MKS, agreed. It’s also the case where a brick and mortar sales opportunity is most likely to work for both B&N and the authors — readers will exhibit at least a small preference for local authors, so a section of the bookstore focused on local indie authors could do well. I did a program where we started with local artists for on-premise exposure, then elevated those that did the best regionally, and those in each region that did the best went national. That worked well. Maybe they’re thinking about something similar.

  4. I wonder if those “ebook sales of a single title” are B&N ebook sales specifically.

    • Yes, and the title must have already been distributed through Nook Press.

      So hardly any authors are going to qualify,

      • So just noise to look like they’re ‘doing something’ when they really don’t want to so the requirement are made to disable rather than enable.

        B&N == SNAFU

      • I think a ot of authors are currently distributed through Nook Press and currently have a title that’s sold more than 500 copies. It’s not that high a threshold and a lot of indie/self published authors are wide.

      • Felix J. Torres

        Any word on how much shelf space per store for how long?
        It’s B&M, after all. It might take a year to qualify for an inch and two weeks to be rotated out…

        It’s the details that matter.

  5. It’s interesting but B&N these days has a remarkable knack for screwing things up, so I’ll hold off judgement.

  6. 1,000 ebook sales at B&N, right? 😀 I have a couple of boxed sets that would qualify. Let’s see them put those on the shelves, heh.

  7. As PG said: it’s 5 years late.

    Probably has more to do with their 20% pbook market share and the presence of Indie titles on Amazon Books shelves.

    Back when Indies weren’t half the unit sales of ebooks and B&N commanded a third of pbook sales it would have bought them a lot of attention and goodwill. Now, though?

    Dunno; they only want already-successful Indies and many of those are doing fine without B&N. Not sure if spine-out placement at the restaurants is going to be all that enticing to somebody already selling 1000 copies per title…

  8. I know one indie author who has her books in B&N already. That’s Bella Forrest. Quite a few of them carry her books and Createspace is listed as the publisher. They obviously looked the other way.

  9. Sold 1,000 copies to qualify, is that via the B&N website?

    Ah, B&N. You funny. If I’m lucky, maybe mine will sell that many there in 5 years. Meanwhile, they sell quadruple that or more over on Amazon each year.

    B&N does *list* some of my paperbacks.

    • How would B&N be able to verify sales on a site other than their own? I don’t forsee them running a crawler on Amazon daily to create a way to track author sales. Unless they have a secret project to actively recruit authors away from Amazon.

      • I doubt they would go by other sites, but they must have a sense of what sales rank on Amazon means in terms of sales.

      • I was making a joke. 😉

        In um, less than 8 years, I have yet to even break 700 sales total at B&N.

        Though I am selling over 200/under 300 copies per year there now, after switching to D2D.

  10. Would love to participate but, oh look! I STILL can’t sign up for Nook Press because I’m Canadian.

    • That’s not necessarily a bad thing, Adam.

    • It’s really not. I signed up before they switched it, and could NEVER get an ebook to actually publish there.

      Used Smashwords, they were listed. Switched to D2D, they were listed. But through B&N itself? Hah. Not only did it not work at all, no one ever responded to my emails asking for help.

  11. “Sir or Madam, please stop crowding the lifeboats, if you’ll come over here — we’ve rearranged the deckchairs for you to wait for the next lifeboat to become available …

  12. The strategy is viable as most of the paper books in the future might be POD. Considering that many readers still prefer paper, B&N could have offered the alternative of paper versus digital. It may not be too late to implement the POD strategy, but finding the brains, the focused implementation, and even money don’t seem to be B&N’s DNA.

  13. So, picture book 1 of your series making the 1000/yr sales bar. What about books 2, 3, 4…? That’ll be real appealing.

    • It might drag books 2, 3, 4 up to that level though by having it in stores. The follow up question is, would book 2, 3, 4 get a fast track approval then, or have to wait months?

  14. They still have a lot of ACTUAL STORES.

    That’s their advantage over Amazon right now.

    It won’t last – and I don’t see how reserving some of their dwindling shelf space for indies is going to endear them to the publishing companies.

    So they have an extremely limited window to make it work, and their track record on USING those windows isn’t good, but the idea might be. Might.

    I don’t qualify, but I’ll keep my ears and eyes opening to see how it works for those who do qualify. Indies share information, generally (unless they fear losing their advantage, because of limited space, in which case they go back to acting like traditionally-published authors who live in the same fear, and don’t share freely information that might lose them their advantage).

    There’s something right about the idea – but it may already be way too late.

    • Sure B&N still has stores, Alicia. As long as you’re in a major metropolitan area. When I lived in Houston, I was five minutes from one, 15 minutes to the next closest two.

      Accessing a b&m B&N from where I live right now?

      1 hour to Toledo
      1.5 hours to Columbus
      2 hours to Detroit
      3 hours to Cleveland
      3 hours to Cincinnati

      Those times are one way and assuming no construction on the freeways. I’d rather see B&N beef up their online presence for those of us in rural areas.

  15. Felix J. Torres

    Another way to look at it:

    B&N to Indies: “If you are successful enough on your own, you don’t need a tradpub contract to get onto our shelves.”

    Hmmm…

  16. This is interesting. According to B&N, no ISBN is necessary.

    https://print.nookpress.com/publishing-help/general

  17. Ever notice the wording used when speaking of a book being sold in a B&M store?

    Lots of articles describe it as, “authors seeing their book at XYZ.” I think that’s a big part of it all. Some place great value in actually standing in front of the shelves and seeing the book.

    I suspect we discount the value many authors place on the emotional reward. It may even trump dollars for some.

  18. IIRC, Nook Press’ print division is operated by Author Solutions (or at least, shared an office address with Author Solutions). So, I won’t be changing from Createspace to Nook Press Print any time soon, B&N bookshelves or not.

    Not that I qualify. With only about 0.08% of my total sales, my Nook eBook sales haven’t yet reached that 1,000 book threshold.

  19. I love The Passive Voice, but I swear I’m starting to hate to read the comments on ANY article. It’s like all the curmudgeons of the world gathered here to complain about everything and anything.

    Yes, B&N has issues–but they do something innovative for once and it’s all wah, wah, wah, woe is me.

    • It is a very interesting idea but some skepticism towards Nook Press is more than warranted, given the shady history: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/barnes-nobles-dirty-little-secret-author-solutions-and-nook-press/

      • Nook Press is run by Author Solutions? That isn’t going to end well. It seems likely then that the whole thing is just hype for the shareholders meeting. I guess it has replaced their annual statements that “this year we’re going big internationally!” (So said in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, although 2015 was a little different, “whoops”)

        • To clarify: Nook Press Author Services are provided by Author Solutions. The Nook Press e-book platform is run internally, it’s some of the add-on services etc. that are outsourced. I don’t know what about that has changed with this announcement, if anything.

    • ^^This. Let’s give them half a chance to make this work. The Nook Press people are treated like second class citizens inside BN. They don’t even have BN email addresses. They’re doing what they can in an impossible culture. This is a positive step in the right direction.

    • Perhaps you don’t understand the history behind our skepticism? B&N is famous for “innovation” that they promptly drop the ball on. They’ve never been friendly to indies, even as they watched Amazon eat their lunch. So now, if I make enough sales, I’m supposed to fall all over their stingy invitation to maybe, possibly, hopefully be on a physical shelf? No thanks.

  20. I wonder if this development might spur CreateSpace to offer hardback PODs. I’d like that!

  21. “…whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.”

    That sentence is too ambiguous. Does it mean that you have to have made your 1,000th sale in the past year, the clock having begun ticking when you made your first sale say, 4 years ago? Or does it mean that you have to have sold at least 1,000 units just in the past year? It seems to me it could be interpreted either way.

  22. I think the real business model would be for a bookstore to simply charge indie authors to provide shelf space and take a cut of the sales. (The Digital Reader mentioned a bookstore I think in Florida that was doing something like that.) Say X dollars a month plus 25% of retail price and if you sell over a certain amount of books the monthly charge is waved.

    This isn’t that different from big publishers buying prominent space, but it might actually be even more profitable for bookstores because they might be able to charge more per self slot. Indie authors would mainly be doing it as a lost leader, liking the idea of having some print books in “real” bookstores, so yes, there would be a vanity aspect to it. But some clever and nimble indie authors might be able to make it profitable.

    There are so many indie authors more than willing to pay bucks for “discovery” and finding most of it doesn’t work. I think there are probably many that would be willing to pay a monthly fee to get some real shelf space. (And maybe other promotion in the shop, like book signings, etc.)

    A bookstore then could easily calculate how much it needed to rent the shelves for to cover their basic overhead and any sales would be a bonus. Obviously, some mainstream books would also need to be stocked to lure in shoppers. Such an enterprise could quickly be developed into a chain because I’m willing to bet there are thousands of self-publishers that would leap at the chance to take advantage of something like that.

  23. Does this mean B&N has ditched Author Solutions as (secret, undisclosed) service provider for Nook Press Author Services?

  24. And they still want to gate-keep: “…all submitted titles will be vetted for approval and have to meet the company’s outlined standards.”

    It’s too little, too late.

    I think I sold one copy through B&N after getting into them with D2D, in a whole year. I pulled that book from D2D, put it into KU and made more on page reads than on the few wide sales. *shrugs*

  25. Guess what, BN? I vetted you first (beat you to it!) and the answer is No, you don’t meet my company’s standards. You may re-submit in twelve months for our re-vetting process. If, during that time, you have sold 1000 copies of any indie’s books, your application will lie face-up on our desk.

  26. Of all the recent B&N news, this item is the best (and the least laughable). They might mess it up, but at least something is happening. Attitudes are still shifting, and there’s a lot of room for everyone to improve. I’m optimistic.

  27. I’m not really sure what’s new here.

    Back in 2014 and 2015, I had no difficulty at all getting my Lightning-Source-printed indie hardcovers and paperbacks onto the shelves at several Barnes & Noble stores. When they sold out, B&N just ordered more copies through Ingram. The same as titles from any other publisher.

    B&N held book-signings for me — no problems or roadblocks at all. The fact that I was indie-published never even came up. When I mentioned it, the B&N store managers and CRMs seemed more impressed than anything else, and had lots of questions about how indie publishing works.

    I even got a little gratis front-table placement from enthusiastic store managers. That helped move some additional copies. 😉

    I was invited to submit my titles to the B&N Small Press department to be considered for nationwide distribution. (Thankfully, they ended up not accepting them, a fact for which I’m eternally grateful. I dodged a money-losing bullet there, which is a long story).

    So when it comes to this announcement, I’m still scratching my head, trying to figure out what’s actually new here.

    Maybe the in-house POD option is.

    Because I’m living proof that everything else mentioned — getting books onto B&N store shelves, submitting to B&N for national distribution, holding B&N book signings and author events — has been possible for indies — even midlisters — since at least 2014.

  28. Whoop, just got an update to the Nook app on my iPhone, with new features for offering free books and previews; support for embedded video and audio clips; “Serial Reads” font size control; Evening Theme (easier on the eyes at night); and “find more related books in product details page.”

    So those are nice. Still doesn’t use the iPhone’s text-to-speech yet like Kindle and Overdrive does. If I remember correctly it’s easier to put an ebook up for free on B&N than Amazon. Feel free to correct me if im wrong.

    This update is a good sign.

  29. Michael Kozlowski

    What is going on? Positive comments from a news article from Good e-Reader on PassiveVoice? What about all the angry people with pitchforks?

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