Too little, too late

I can’t think of a time in my life when I didn’t make up stories. When I learned how to write, I started putting my stories down on paper. When my cousin Clarice discovered I loved writing, she told me about her father. Uncle Herb had been a playwright but, raising a family during the Depression, he had given it up to make sure there was a roof over their head and food on the table. Uncle Jack had been a newspaper man like his father before him. Others in the family he written for enjoyment. It was Clarice’s first step toward encouraging me to follow my dream to be a writer.

For years, I dreamed of seeing my books in bookstores, of being able to sign my books at author events and of making my cousin proud. What I didn’t realize was that between those first few days of encouragement from Clarice to when I finally got serious about writing — yes, Sarah has very pointy boots — the publishing industry would change dramatically. Now, I can hold my books in print. Yes, there is a little thrill of excitement when a new proof copy comes in and I finally pull the button to put the print book on sale. But the reality is that the vast majority of my sales — just as the vast majority of my purchases — are e-books.

 

I have long accepted that my books would never grace the shelves of Barnes and Noble. After all, their feud with Amazon is well-known. B&N had made it clear it won’t stock books published by Amazon or made available through Createspace. So when I saw news that B&N was finally going to stock indie print books, I sat up and took notice. Could the bookseller finally be admitting that the indie market was large enough to take it seriously? If so, what did I have to do to get my books into its 640 stores?

The initial press release filled me with hope. Nook Press, B&N’s alternative to KDP, was going to offer a print side. Better yet, it would allow for hardcover as well as soft cover print books. Cool. I kept reading and that is when I started realizing there was a big “if” to it all.

Through the new print platform, eligible* NOOK Press authors have the opportunity to sell their print books at Barnes & Noble stores across the country on a local, regional or national level, and online at BN.com. Authors can also qualify** for the opportunity to participate at in-store events including booksignings and discussions, where they will be able to sell their print books and meet fans.

Oops. I’m not out of the first paragraph of the press release and there are already two asterisks that tell me the fine print is going to be anything but warm and welcoming.

The rest of the release talks about how wonderful the Nook Press platform is and what an opportunity this presents to those who take part. But those damned asterisks to look at.

Let’s look at what you have to do to be eligible. “Opportunity available for those print book authors whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.” Okay, does that mean you have to sell 1,000 units of a title before that title is eligible for the print program? (That is my take) Or is it if you sell 1,000 units of any title and all your titles can be eligible for the print program? I doubt the latter, figure the former.

I also have a sneaky suspicion that those 1,000 units of sales have to be on the Nook platform. So that is a big hurdle right there. I know there are some authors who have had success on the Nook platform selling e-books. But from personal experience, as well as talking with other authors I know, those who have sold 1,000 units of a single title in a year on B&N are few and far between. The reason I left B&N in the first place was because I was making very few sales there. My Amazon sales ran more than 10 to 1 and, with the start of KDP Select and then KU, well, there was no reason to go anywhere else. Not when I compared the numbers.

But, maybe it is time to reconsider if I can get my books onto BN shelves. So, I tried to keep an open mind and kept reading down to the second asterisk. Again, it leaves more questions than it gives answers. An author can qualify for in-store events if they sell fewer e-books (single title) in a one year period than is required to be eligible to be placed on the shelves. Does this mean the author or store will order print versions of the book and have them on hand to sell at these events? If so, what sort of hit will the author take for returns? Does the author have to buy the books outright or what?

All in all, it is something that looks good on the surface but that really isn’t doing anything to help win the average indie author over to BN. First of all, unless I keep my prices und9er $2.99, my royalties will be less from BN than they are from Amazon. With Amazon, I get 70% for my books, all priced between $2.99 to $4.99. With BN, I would receive only 65%. That isn’t much per unit but when you consider I would be giving up my Kindle Unlimited reads, which make up at least 1/3 of my income each month and is always in a minimum of the 3 digit range, it turns into a very big hit.

More importantly, I don’t see a guarantee that my print book would be stocked — or for long — in stores if I did have the magic 1,000 units sold in a year.

Oh, one more little thing I guess BN thought we would miss. To be eligible for this, it means your book has been out as an e-book for months, or years, before it will make it onto the shelves. Remember, you have to have sold 1,000 units in a year before it is eligible. We don’t know what the steps are from there (Full disclosure. I did a quick search of their site and didn’t find more information. It might be there but it shows another of my complaints with BN. Their sites are not well designed.) So, by the time the print comes out the initial push for the book is done and the author is on to writing another book and pushing it.

Timing, they say, is everything and in this instance BN is badly out of sync.

It will be interesting to see how this falls out over the next few months. I wish those taking part luck but I will not be moving away from KDP Select and KU anytime soon. Not on something that I have so many questions about. It really is, in my mind, too little, too late. And that is too bad.

 

 

 

21 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

21 responses to “Too little, too late

  1. Laura M

    This will be interesting to monitor.

  2. BN isn’t doing well across the board. This weekend we were looking to escape the heat (a/c broke, no prospects for fixing it in the foreseeable future), and with the library closed on Sunday, we decided to go to the local BN. We checked their website to verify the address (it’s been a while since we’ve been there) and were on our way.

    We arrived at the strip mall to find the storefront now rented to a new tenant. I wasn’t even sure just which storefront it had been in, or whether the space had been rented entire or subdivided for smaller tenants. If you didn’t know there used to be a BN there, you’d never guess.

    We ended up at the mall, sitting on a hard bench instead of nice comfy seats, and talking about the death of paper books and the bricks and mortar bookstore. (Our own business is proof of it — we used to be primarily a bookseller, but these days we have almost no events we take books to, and our book stock mostly sits clogging up half the storage unit).

  3. Martin L. Shoemaker

    “It might be there but it shows another of my complaints with BN. Their sites are well designed.”

    I think you mean AREN’T well designed.

  4. I’m kind of wary of B&N, frankly. If any local outlets are kind and accommodating to indy authors, it’s due to the whim or marketing savvy of the individual local manager. I did an author event in Lockhart a couple of years ago — and at the very last minute, I had to supply copies of my books to them on a consignment basis – which was a bit of an annoyance at the time.
    Last year, at another event in a different small town – again, the local B&N handled my books, and obligingly ordered a good many copies of just about all of them through Ingram. And at the end of the year, the return fees for the unsold copies wiped out a good portion of the profits from that event.
    Borders and Hastings were so much easier for indies to work with. Sigh.

    • B&N is so capricious with print that the difference between managers’ efforts doesn’t surprise me. I wrote the only history of the main river up here, and B&N won’t stock it, even though they stock other books from the same academic press, “because the print run was too small.” If that is their baseline (minimum of 3000 print copies of a title available from the publisher for all distribution outlets), than I can see why they’d start by insisting on a minimum of 1000 e-books sold per annum.

  5. I have to admit that last year, after finding out that they were in bed with Author Solutions – I decided that I wanted nothing whatsoever to do with them.

    Actually, I stopped shopping there at all many years ago when they wanted me to pay for their affinity card. Right…

  6. adventuresfantastic

    In the town where I live (west Texas), there is one B&N at the mall and there are (soon to be were) two Hastings. I didn’t expect Hastings to close before the B&N. I know we’ve had area authors do events at B&N (one from Albuquerque) plus some celebrities such as the governor or Mike Leach. I don’t recall Hastings doing anything of the sort, but I may not have been paying attention. I’ve despised Hastings for years because of the way I was treated multiple times at one and have only started going back to them in the last year or so. I hope the local B&N is more open to local authors than the average B&N. From what I’ve seen, they might be.

  7. Are there even a thousand working Nooks left out there?

  8. I feel your pain. I too always hoped for the day when I would see my books in bookstores, but even though I sell well as an ebook author, I know now that it will never come to pass.

    As for B&N, I have at times debated writing their board and asking to be put in charge of the ebooks division, because obviously the people running it don’t have a clue. Yes, B&N will never have the market share that Amazon has, it’s too late for that, and that ship has sailed why B&N wasn’t even at the docks.

    But B&N should have a way larger share of the market than they do have. They have faithful customers and they do own a large share of certain demographics. I have a pen name that sells better on B&N than on Amazon, and has for years now. So I know the B&N demographic fairly well. And I have seen how B&N has repeatedly failed to capitalize on it. It is really quite the shame.

  9. Soooo, Basically B&N wants to have a POD Porn section, since that’s the only stuff that sells those kinds of numbers on Nook….