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.
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.Barnes 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.”
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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