The Barnes & Noble Paradox

When I first started publishing, I was thrilled at the opportunities. The ability to control so much of the production of a book and then get an actual fair cut of royalties was such a breath of fresh air the traditional publishers couldn’t breathe into my lungs. And having Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble inviting me, with open arms (cue Journey) to take advantage of their services was an incredible opportunity. And all went so well. Sales started soaring and people were really enjoying my work.

But then one of those publishers did something strange that caused the climb to some semblance of success to derail. That publisher? Barnes & Noble.

And just what did they do? Outside of making some very poor decisions with what could have possibly been one of the best pieces of ereader hardware available (the Nook Color), they took every independent author and segregated them into a category called “Pubit”. Pubit happens to be the publishing portals independent authors use to publish their works and makes it very clear, to anyone shopping on Barnes & Nobel that the authors found within that section are not “traditionally published”.

Why is this bad? I, for one, am proud of my independent author status. It’s a badge of honor I wear. But many readers have been burned by reading bad independent authors. Yes, there are some “indie” authors out there who don’t thoroughly vet their books, so the published work winds up with formatting, grammar, and plot issues. Some have poorly designed and executed covers. Some books are just bad.

But this can happen in the traditional world as well. I’ve read plenty of traditionally published books that were just stink bombs dropped on the planet rife with errors and such. Thing is, however, those badly produced traditionally published books don’t wind up in some book store slum that a good portion of readers ignore.

Amazon hasn’t done this. In fact, Amazon has fully embraced the independent author. Why? Because Amazon, unlike Barnes & Noble, know how to turn a profit and do it efficiently. Amazon knows there are enough diamonds in the pile of coal to make it all worth while. Barnes & Nobel? Not so much.

But…and there’s always a big “but”…what can we do about it? If we boycott and pull our books we stand to lose nothing. Why? Because B&N is already making nothing off of books that can’t be sold because they can’t be found.

You see how this paradox works?

Before the mass segregation, my books were selling as well on Barnes & Noble as they were on Amazon and readers were really enjoying the work. Now? Well, suffice it to say sales on B&N are a joke. Why? Because no one can find my books there. Search for Zombies on Amazon and one of my books will be in the top 50 (out of thousands). Search for the same string on B&N and my books won’t even appear. In fact, to find my books on B&N you have to search my full name.

Here’s the biggest issue — there’s nothing we can do. We can’t boycott and Barnes & Noble won’t listen to the independent author. I did have one other independent author tell me it was only a matter of time before the whole paradigm changes. That author was alluding to the idea that traditional publishers are going to fail. I’m not so sure the traditional landscape will crumble completely, but it will change drastically. That change, however, will not force Barnes & Noble to change their ways.

Honestly, I’m not sure what to do. I want to make my work available to everyone. In turn, I would like those publishers to respect me as an artist and a business. I would love to hear everyone’s thoughts on the shenanigans going on at B&N.