Barnes and Noble announced last week that it will start selling self-published book in its 640 brick and mortar stores. This is good news for any of us self-published authors looking for alternatives for selling our books to the larger market beyond the behemoth that is Amazon, who has only one physical bookstore in downtown Seattle.
I have to be honest, though. Despite the good news, my initial reaction was not one of joy, but one of surprise. My initial thoughts? Well, they went something like this:
“What? Is that for real? Barnes and Noble hasn’t sold self-published titles in its stores before? Are you sh*$%ing me? No wonder they’re getting crushed by Amazon.”
Those were my initial thoughts. How could B&N not carry self published titles in their stores? This seems to be terrible foresight and planning by the once dominant book company. Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising, after all the company’s shares plummeted nearly 70% between this time last year and the end of 2015, but it was still surprising to me.
Self publishing has carried a massive portion of the market over the last two years. It was reported that indie and/or self published titles captured nearly of 40% of Kindle ebook sales in the latter half of 2015. Self published authors have been slowly taking over. How was B&N missing this time and again?
Yes, these statistics are specific to ebook sales. The print book market is still far and away dominated by titles that are published by authors traditionally published. To me, however, this just points to a major opportunity for B&N, not a problem. Clearly there is a market both for a book company that supports self published authors (much like Amazon used to when it first lunged onto the publishing scene), as well as for readers that may love self published titles but haven’t gone away from physical copies of books.
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Too late is better than never, though. Despite my initial (and sustained) surprise, I am pleased that B&N is doing this. I would love to have another major book company in the mix for indie and self published authors. I was just telling my wife the other day how I still miss walking into a Barnes & Noble store with no plan. I used to grab about 20 books for potential purchase. Then I would find one of those comfy couches and begin flipping through them all in hopes of narrowing my purchase list down to 3-5 books. I loved that experience. Now I don’t even have the slightest clue where the closest B&N is located.
Anyone that self publishes should hope that B&N disrupts the status quo, even it’s only by a little bit.
While this is good news in the larger picture of self publishing, don’t get too excited just yet. The new program is for only for NOOK Press authors “whose eBook sales [of a single title] have reached 1,000 units in the past year.” By default, this will restrict the large majority of self published authors. But who knows? Maybe in the coming months they’ll create a list of self published titles being carried that B&N employee selected. Maybe they will soon be creating market opportunities for self published authors where there once were none.
The B&N program isn’t going to change the indie book world just yet, but for myself, all I can say is, “‘Bout damn time Barnes & Noble.”
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