Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Writing Wibbles: Is B&N Flirting with Vanity Publishing? Yes. (UPDATED)

We—that is, those of us at Green Envy Press—are making the push into print this year. This came about a year after what I had planned, but we’ll have some very nice-looking books indeed. Since most of our eBook income is from Amazon, using Amazon’s CreateSpace service was the first and obvious choice. But being an indie author is about anything but the obvious choice, so we started poking around. I remembered hearing that B&N’s Nook Press had set up a print on demand (PoD) service, and I thought, “hey, that’s a no-brainer… maybe people can order books in the store for pickup.”

Well… no. In their own words:


Well, crud. Seems like they’re missing out on a really good opportunity to skewer Amazon here. Amazon can’t say “hey, order this book and have it shipped for free to your nearest brick-and-mortar for pickup… and while you’re there, check out the thousands of titles” etc. And while Amazon can’t, B&N simply won’t.

Okay, maybe there’s some stuff happening behind the scenes, something beyond the usual hidebound “we ain’t never done that way before” you see in lots of old-guard businesses. Maybe their suppliers (aka big publishers) are leaning on them to stifle competition, they way they tried (and failed) with Amazon. Or maybe they consider it too big of an expense or something… who knows? If they wanted to limit this to “serious” authors, they could easily require an ISBN.

But I got an email from B&N recently that, in combination with the above, got my alarm bells ringing. I guess it wasn’t enough to have a PoD service that they won’t help you sell, now they have author services as well:


Now those prices are in line with what I’ve seen from freelancers, but the whole thing smacks of a vanity publishing setup, especially if you scroll down to see their “packages.”

I emailed B&N to ask them about these issues; their auto-responder said “we’ll get back to you in 24 to 48 hours,” and that was a week ago Tuesday. If they do respond, I’ll update this post.

UPDATE: OMG. B&N still hasn’t responded, but Katherine Hajer pointed me to an article at Nate Hoffelder’s Ink, Bits, & Pixels. It’s worse. Much worse. They’re using the well-known scam factory Author Solutions, and trying to hide it. No wonder they ignored my request for info.

Other reading at:
David Gaughran’s Let’s Get Digital
The Passive Voice

So… thanks, but no thanks. We’ll stick with CreateSpace for now to test the waters, and maybe move to Lightning Source or another printer later if the sales warrant it.

Everything from here on out is speculation and opinion from yours truly, so adjust your filters accordingly:

Amazon may not have created indie publishing, but (like Apple with computers) they made it work for a lot of people. And yes, CreateSpace offers author services, but they also provide you with a marketplace to sell your books. I guess the point is, Amazon is trying to make money with indies, while B&N and vanity presses try to make money from indies. One treats you as a partner (however junior), and the other as an income source. I hasten to point out that there are plenty companies with a similar outlook to Amazon’s (Smashwords being one of the most obvious), but there’s one company that most of us think of first, at least in the Western Hemisphere.

Too bad, B&N. You coulda been a contender. Your brick and mortar stores give you an advantage that Amazon (or even Apple, who isn’t likely to start selling fiction in their stores any time soon) can’t easily match. You just needed the will to buck the system, instead of crawling into bed with the scummiest of scammers. You could have built a solid business with indies, but instead you treat us as marks to suck dry.

4 comments:

  1. I heard about that over on Passive Voice Blog. Makes me want to support B&N even less if they are being that skeevy about using Author Solutions. They should know better to hide it because now that the cat is out of the bag, it's going to make them look even worse.

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  2. Good luck with thee printed books - hope they do well for you all.

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  3. Remember when everyone felt an obligation to shop at B&N to balance out evil Amazon?

    Yeah, I can hardly recall those days either.

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  4. Patricia, I have to wonder what upside they see in all this. I can't imagine they could believe nobody would find out what they were doing, nor would there be a massive blowback when it came out.

    Thanks, Helen! Always a good idea to do a little research first, eh?

    Nathaniel, welcome to the free-range insane asylum! Personally, after what B&N did to indie bookstores, I didn't have a lot of sympathy for them when Amazon started crimping them. I chuckle to remember publishers thinking Amazon was going to save them from B&N…

    ReplyDelete

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