An Open Letter To Barnes & Noble

Dear Barnes and Noble,

When you announced plans for Pubit!, indie authors everywhere rejoiced.  You were going to be another venue, a direct competitor to Amazon, and a means for those of us who chose Nook over Kindle to get ebooks that aren’t victims of price inflation by New York.  It took you a while to get on your feet, but you opened your doors about a year go.  I signed up immediately.

There were expected hiccups.  Incorrect product descriptions.  Some funky inability so find stuff initially.  But you listened and tried to adapt.  Kudos.  The adaptation came with more hiccups.  Suddenly keywords we entered to find our books no longer worked.  We emailed you.  We talked about it on the Pubit Help Boards.  We were told “We’re working on it.  Be patient.”  Estimations that it would be fixed were pushed back to December.  Then January.  Then you stopped responding to us at all.

You rolled out more changes to the site.  Smoother interface (thumbs up).  A customers who bought also bought feature (thumbs up).  Better linkage of paperback and e versions (thumbs up).  You made a lot of good decisions.

But you’ve made an equal number of bad ones.

  • Keyword searches for pubit books still do not work, after a YEAR. (at least for every single Pubit author I know–and I know many)  This is unpardonable, as it is vital that authors are FINDABLE via searches for readers who may not be aware of them.  That is, after all, the entire POINT of having us enter keywords.
  • Category searches do not bring up all books in that category.  This does not seem to be a bias against Pubit books or books in the BN catalog via Smashwords, as I see enough lousy covers to indicate self pubbed work (which is no to say all self pubbed work has lousy covers, but usually that’s a hallmark) in there, so what precisely is your criteria?  And how is anyone expected to find new authors if you don’t show them everyone?
  • You’ve removed the Free Nookbooks listing.  Yes, we can do a search by price, but this STILL does not display all available books, even when winnowing down to specific categories.  I looked for my free title.  It’s not there.  I looked for my friends’ free titles.  They aren’t there either.  It’s not like you actually have a ranking attached to these on some kind of Best Seller List (like the Kindle Top 100 Free where you only see the TOP 100), so again, what is your criteria?
  • We’re coming up on yet ANOTHER holiday season and you STILL haven’t implemented a way to gift people Nookbooks.  Get with the program!

I hope you’re listening Barnes and Noble because if you want to be a true competitor in the ebook market, it isn’t JUST about creating an ereader that can go neck and neck with the Kindle (and I am a very happy Nook owner).  You have to create a competitive marketplace, where authors stand just as much of a chance at being found and being made visible as they do at Amazon.  You benefit from that as much as we authors do.  The more we sell, the more you make.  And that is a win win situation for both of us.

Fix your search engines. 

Show category rankings on individual book pages. 

In essence, look at what Amazon is doing and emulate it because they did it right the first time.

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16 comments

    1. I’ve sold far and away more books on Pubit, but that’s largely because of the platform I’ve built and people going to look for me directly THERE for their Nooks (Smashwords is less well known). They definitely still have issues they desperately need to work out.

  1. I’m the opposite. I’ve sold very few books on Nook, like maybe 20 since Nov. A few more than that on iTunes. I’ve sold thousands with Amazon. The way they link my book with other titles has helped me move up in their rankings. (I’m self published and a Nook owner myself.) Whatever Amazon is doing, they’re doing it right.

  2. I’ve had decent months with Pubit and I, too, am happy they’re around, but I still sell more on BN through Smashwords. This shouldn’t be. I’ve gotten into the habit of correcting my categories and keywords weekly. Glimpse continues to be listed as a graphic novel. I really hope someone does read your letter and finally fix things – we’re all missing out at the moment.

  3. B & N can’t even get their in-store business model functioning properly. I can’t see them being a serious player in the indie/e-book market. It’s like they stopped trying when Borders went down.

  4. Oddly, I sell better on B&N than Amazon lately. Still, my sales with B&N have dropped to half of what they were when the category/keyword fiasco happened back in April. I wish they would fix things soon.

    I know a lot of readers look on Amazon to find the books they want, THEN do a precise title search on B&N because, while they love their Nooks, they say the search engine is totally useless.

  5. I recently self-published on Amazon, and was interested in publishing on Pubit too. People love their Nooks! However my research indicates that some authors have wondered if their book sales are reported accurately—while others have reported long delays in getting paid, even though their account indicates that sales were made (and they had trouble getting adequate answers from B&N support too; if any response at all!). I’ve come to the conclusion that Barnes & Noble has serious “health” problems, including cash flow issues. Another red flag: they recently were unable to negotiate a lease renewal at a very prosperous mall in my hometown. So I’ll wait before joining Pubit, to see if B&N is around in several months. Thanks Kait, for writing this post. It’s helped to confirm my decision that I should avoid getting involved with B&N for the time being. Best wishes to you, other Pubit authors, and to Barnes and Noble too: a lot of readers love browsing in your stores and reading on your Nooks.

    1. I still prefer the Nook to Kindle because I’m not limited to shopping at just one venue. My Nook reads EPUB, which is the industry standard and is the format sold…almost everywhere BUT Amazon. My issue is not with their reader but with the store.

  6. Good post, hope they listen as it’s the key to their future. Next, we need to start pushing Smashwords to pick up the pace. I’ve been pending for the premium catalog for three weeks and I don’t think I’ve been distributed to B&N or anyplace else.

    M

  7. It’s over one year since this post, and keyword searches are still not working on B&N. My search on the issue led me here. Am I being too cynical if I suspect it’s intentional? Does B&N not want to pollute search results with books not likely to sell as much as from regular publishers? It’s simply outrageous that this does not work.

  8. And now we are into April 2013 and still no results. I tried to talk to a rep using their chat feature and he told me I needed to email Pubit (now Nook Press). I emailed them and received an email response telling me that I had to email another department. What really funny is that they actually gave me the exact same email address to send my inquiry to. I don’t think they are really interested in Indie publishers and are discriminating. Very frustrated…

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