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Barnes and Noble Opens Its Shelves to Indies

Giant bookseller Barnes and Noble announced in June that it is launching a book print on demand division. This expansion will open new opportunities for indie authors to get their books on the shelves of those 640 big brick and mortar stores—but only for those whose eBook title has sold 1,000 copies in the last… [Read More]

Barnes and Noble opens its shelves to indie authors by BookWorks.com

Giant bookseller Barnes and Noble announced in June that it is launching a book print on demand division. This expansion will open new opportunities for indie authors to get their books on the shelves of those 640 big brick and mortar stores—but only for those whose eBook title has sold 1,000 copies in the last year.

Reaching those shelves still won’t be easy for everyone, but B&N’s new initiative will benefit indie authors who have sold enough eBook copies to demonstrate an established sales track record.

Barnes and Noble opens its shelves to indie authors by BookWorks.comGetting Into Barnes and Noble

A generation ago local B&N store buyers often personally stocked books from local authors. More recently, buying has been typically routed through the central office in New York, (even if a purchase was supported by staff at a local store) and the process is more complex. (The company does have a web page to direct authors through the process.) Barnes and Noble did not do this arbitrarily. As the number of self-publishers has exploded in recent years, so has the number of authors seeking shelf space. Available shelf space, at the same time, has not expanded, and stocking decisions became more difficult.

Some of the authors I've worked with have managed to get their books into local B&N stores, but the process is complex and can take months. It must adhere to a variety of requirements, often including shipping through wholesale companies such as Ingram and Baker & Taylor, and the acceptance of returns. Returns—which allow stores to send back copies of books which have not sold—are a normal part of operations for many book stores, but they can create financial burdens for a small publisher. A large company like Barnes & Noble could, for example, order hundreds of books, return them, and the publisher would be stuck with the costs of printing and shipping.

Nook Press Launches Print on Demand

The new Barnes and Noble approach, which may take some months to put in place, may ease some of these issues. Because stores would place orders directly with Nook Press, publishers would be outside the sales and distribution loop, and presumably not responsible for returns.

In late June one of its divisions, Nook Press (the same name as the B&N reader device), launched a print on demand operation linked to its eBook operation. The first step is to create an eBook which would be available in the Nook reader format, at the BN.com online store. This is not hard to do. The simplest way is by using the file conversion software at the Smashwords site to create a Nook eBook; Smashwords then will deliver it to BN.com.nook_press_logo-0 resizeBarnes and Noble plans to select books available as Nook eBooks, and convert them into print versions. The print on demand books can be sold through Barnes & Noble physical stores: “Through the new print platform, eligible NOOK Press authors have the opportunity to sell their print books at Barnes and Noble stores across the country on a local, regional or national level, and online at BN.com,” the company said in a statement. (Note, eligibility also precludes titles listed on Amazon's KDP Select).

A 6x9 paperback book in the 250-300 page range might print at Nook at a cost to the author of about $6, compared with about $4.40 by the Amazon-aligned CreateSpace. Printing costs at IngramSpark would fall somewhere in between. Of course, you can use more than one print on demand company to handle your book so the Nook print on demand service could be used mainly to fulfill orders from Barnes and Noble stores.

Here's What You'll Need to Do

The Nook printing program does come with requirements.

Barnes and Noble said, “To have their print books considered for in-store placement on a local, regional or national level, eligible Nook Press authors can submit their print books for review by Barnes & Noble’s Small Press Department and one of the company’s corporate category buyers. To participate at in-store events, top-selling Nook Press authors are eligible for an event review from a Barnes & Noble store manager.” Barnes and Noble opens its shelves to indie authors by BookWorks.com

This step is intended to ensure that these indie books adhere to high standards, to counter questions about whether the quality of books in the stores might decline.

The second step involves sales: On-the-shelf stocking opportunity in stores is “available for those print book authors whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.” In response to an inquiry from BookWorks, Barnes and Noble said the 1,000 or 500 qualifier numbers refer only to paid sales of Nook format, eBooks. It does not include sales of Kindle, Kobo or other eBooks.

Not all indie authors will be able to jump through these hoops, of course. But those who do will begin to change the makeup of titles available on Barnes and Noble shelves, giving them a much more independent complexion.

Readers & Writers: I look forward to your feedback, comments and critiques, and please use BookWorks as your resource to learn more about preparing, publishing and promoting self-published books. My blogs appear every other week.


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4 thoughts on “Barnes and Noble Opens Its Shelves to Indies”

  1. Profile photo of Elle  Mott Elle Mott says:

    Wow. That’s great news. Inch by inch we’re getting into mainstream places. I can understand their need for authors to have prior sales—it shows both credibility and accountability on the part of the writer and assurance for a good outcome in the risk they take on us. I’ll pass your info on to my writers group that meets in person tomorrow (citing you.) Thanks for sharing.

    1. Randy Stapilus says:

      Thanks for the comments. Be aware that a number of important details still haven’t been released, and we won’t know exactly how it all will work until it’s in place. Will the quality control staff let in more or fewer books? Don’t know yet. But it’s worth watching and it may have its place. And it is an indicator that Barnes & Noble is recognizing the importance of the indie sector.

  2. David Bishop says:

    There are good elements here, but largely it looks like a B&N corporate strategy to counteract Amazon’s KDP Select and encourage indies to move their ebooks from KDP Select (exclusivity) to include Nook. So, the key question becomes: Is the possible prospect of having one’s books in B&N brick and mortar stores worth giving up the benefits that come with KDP Select? If this were not so, B&N would require proof that the author’s ebooks are good sellers and well rated by readers, but not care whether they were published with Createspace (Amazon) or any other publishing arm. Also, to get this done the print books must be published through Nook Press at a higher per book cost than through Createspace. So is higher cost per book, plus loss of KDP Select benefits a price the author wishes to pay to possibly get their print editions in B&N stores after a sufficient period of time selling ebook editions through B&N Nook?

    1. Randy Stapilus says:

      To the question: Usually not. I think the conditions in which the author clear benefits from taking part in this are going to be very specific. Mainly, this will apply to a book already selling strongly over a period of time. Since the KDP Select enrollment period is limited, I don’t see that as a huge obstacle in itself. Mainly, there would need to be some very specific major benefit to getting a book – one that’s already selling well outside B&N – sold inside the stores. And i don’t think that’s going to be a key factor in a lot of cases.

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