Exclusive content with Barnes and Noble

Canadian here, anytime I cross the border I like to shop thr Barnes & Noble. In my recent visit, I noticed that several new releases have stickers with “exclusive” content only avilable to Barnes & Noble. How recent is this trend an how exclusive is this content, do you think? Anyone have any idea how such things are negotiated? I was just really intrigued by it.

2 Likes

Interesting. My guess is that B&N has a curation team, and they solicit only from the Big Five publishers.

Like other big distributors, they do exclusive deals where they can. Just as Amazon does, e.g. with their Kindle Select / KU program. One of B&N’s early fights with Amazon was when Amazon started to do exclusive deals with publishers, locking B&N out.

B&N doesn’t do exclusives just with the Big 5 - they also do them with movie studios (e.g. the Star Wars franchise), and small publishers, and maybe a few marquee authors directly.

Often what they do is create a special edition consisting of a non-exclusive book or movie, plus some exclusive extra content. They focus a lot on YA titles. For example, they had an exclusive edition of Allegiant with some extra content that the author agreed to license exclusively to them. Cassandra Clare and John Green are other YA authors who have done exclusives with B&N. It works well for YA, because YA buyers still prefer bookstores and physical books to ebooks.

But their ‘exclusive content’ footprint is tiny compared to Amazon’s. Amazon has been especially successful at persuading independent authors and small publishers to become dependent on them. Their goal is for most indies to simply be unaware of other distribution possibilities, e.g. foreign, where Amazon isn’t as dominant as in the US. Indie writers find the rest of the market fragmented and difficult to engage with, so they are usually okay with giving up what might be 30-40% of revenue for some smaller perk of being in KU.

Indie authors earn far more from KU than all wide channels combined. KU by itself is as big as the non-Amazon ebook market, and KU authors get a massive visibility / rank boost that impacts their sales on the rest of Amazon, which is by far the most important market. Wide is a perfectly acceptable strategy, but joining KU is the smart decision for many, many indie authors.

1 Like

Won’t argue the averages or totals. For the totals, everyone knows about Amazon’s near-monopsony. But I suspect that the averages are skewed by the fact that many independent authors don’t try anything else, so they never know. Or they ‘go wide’ but go through an aggregator that takes a cut and limits control.

When you look at certain specific authors who wish to access specific market segments, the picture can be different.

For example (and to stay close to @AbbyBabble 's topic), if you’re self-publishing YA or younger, you could be limiting yourself on Amazon, because Amazon’s reach into bookstores is low. Barnes & Nobles has their own self-pub program (exclusive and non-exclusive), which can include their physical bookstores. Jenna Moreci is a you-tuber and self-pubbed author who did well getting her books into all the B&N shops.

Another example: if you are sensitive to sales certain regional markets, then you could see lower revenues by limiting yourself to Amazon, because it doesn’t have access to many markets.

Here’s a an ALLi article, for example, that compares Amazon vs. Apple reach and pricing into non-US markets. Apple’s service and commission is simply better than Amazon’s in every area except mid-priced US market ebooks. Of course, as you say, Amazon is the BIGGEST, so the fact that it’s commissions and flexibility are poor compared to Apple’s doesn’t matter to most authors who mainly care about the US market.

The big down-side of going wide without an aggregator is that you have to know about all those special markets like B&N self-pub, and when and how to use them, and that’s a lot of work.

2 Likes

Huh. I’ve never heard of a self-published author making it into Barnes and Nobles on a national level. I just googled this and is it ‘Nook Press’ you’re talking about? I’ve never heard of it. When I googled it it turns out that Nook Press is outsourced to Author Solutions, which is one of the most notorious bad actors in vanity publishing.

"Barnes and Noble operates a self-publishing program called Nook Press. The second generation platform launched in early 2013 and focuses on getting indie authors to submit their books for inclusion into the Nook bookstore. It is my belief that Nook Press is bad for authors and solely exists to financially gouge them at every opportunity.

Last year, the former General Manager of Nook Press and VP of Content Acquisitions Theresa Horner wanted to devise a way for the self-publishing platform to make some serious money. She opened up a dialog with Author Solutions and deal was struck in October. One month later she was fired from Barnes and Noble.

The Author Solutions deal finally allowed Barnes and Noble to make a lot of money from their cadre of self-published authors . . .

. . . Many aspiring authors are unaware that it is not Barnes and Noble that is conducting these services, but instead everything is outsourced to Author Solutions. Whenever an author is sent over to the 3rd party company, B&N earns a hefty commission."

Anyway, I’m sure that wide works for some people. But the vast majority of self published authors making a career out of this that I know are in KU, and I would recommend all new authors to try KU first for the visibility boost it gives on the world’s largest book seller. Most of the authors I know doing well wide have built up an audience over many years.

1 Like

That’s not current.

Yeah, ASI is a sordid vanity press that belonged to Penguin Random House at the time. B&N initially outsourced ‘value-add’ services like cover design to them. They later fired the woman who made the deal with ASI, then quietly dumped ASI when litigation started being bad press. Not defending B&N - they knew ASI were slimy when they made a deal with them, and tried to hide the connection.

However, even then, the main e-bookstore and in-store business had nothing to do with ASI.

Now, B&N recommends disclosed partners like 99designs for cover design, and Reedsy for editing services.

Their self-pub business, called Barnes & Noble Press (not Nook Press - that’s gone), is just a typical ebookstore with a simple pricing model - 65% goes to the author. The part that’s done well for some indie authors is fulfillment in B&N stores (via PoD), and for big sellers, B&N will sometimes put the book on shelves in the physical stores. But I have no idea about it - only that a few indie authors have done okay by it.

The reality of B&N as a platform for indie authors is that it is tiny compared to Amazon, and at serious risk of going out of business any time.

2 Likes

Weird that they would whipsaw from ‘exploit indie authors as a cash grab’ to ‘legitimate self publishing option’, but I suppose B&N has been a case study of corporate mismanagement for a decade. It looks interesting. I suppose if I was wide I would be tempted to upload directly as opposed to through an aggregator.

Anyway, interesting. I wonder how B&N handles returns, as the entire bookstore model is built around the ability to return unsold books to publishers for credit. Do they ship back to the self publisher author?