Strange Magic at B&N

Things have been very strange in the land ‘o Barnes and Noble this year, particularly on the indie side. It all started with an update to the dashboard in December of last year, presumably to accommodate the additional variables for distribution in the UK. As per the norm with these publishing portals, none of the changes were documented and there was no call to action from authors to verify that books were published well.

Plus there were weirdisms in this update. For example, when publishing a book, there is always the option of defining the territories where the book can be sold. This metadata mirrors traditional publishing – traditional publishers don’t always buy world rights. Rights are sold on the basis of territory, language, medium and format. So, a publisher might buy US English print mass market rights, or Commonwealth English rights (which would include print and audio, for example) or German hard cover print rights. As a result of this, when rights revert to an author, that author might not have all rights revert at the same time. So, it makes sense for the portal to allow authors to select territories for the English language edition they’re uploading for distribution. Some portals have a very comprehensive list of territories, but B&N did not. They offered US and World with nothing in between. The thing was that in December, when they actually began to distribute outside of the US, all of this data was automatically reset to US. Authors had to verify again that they had the right to sell the work in question outside the US, i.e. in the UK. While this seems like a prudent and cautious step, B&N didn’t mention this to any of us. Checking your rights options is not something that people ever do once it’s been set and the book has been published.

Secondly, there was metadata lost in the December change. Keywords for search engines were deleted, for example, and the indication of whether the book existed in print was lost (along with the page count of the print edition), etc. etc. There were lots of bits and bytes dropped in December, again with no notice, documentation or call to action.

Thirdly, they changed the conversion engine. If a book was updated or published in December, chances were very good that something messed up in that conversion. I was updating my editions then, substituting lovely formatted editions from professional formatters for my very rudimentary formatted editions. They all looked great in the files from the formatters. They looked great in the Nook preview. They even looked great when I downloaded a copy. Unfortunately, a lot of people who bought one of them got a book of blank pages. Finally, the engine was updated and I got my files republished in January, but there are lots of reviews on B&N for unhappy readers who got the blank editions. (Incredibly, B&N shows no desire to remove these reviews, which are a/ referring to a previous edition of the book and reflect an error which has been fixed, and b/ could be detrimental to sales. There’s a reason why some authors believe B&N wants to go out of business.)

Then came NookPress in March. In the migration of titles from the old portal PubIt to NookPress, more strange things have happened. Rankings have obviously changed and also-buys seem to have lost connections. My sales on B&N have plummeted since March, to the point that the portal might not be worth my trouble. Again, there is no documentation and there are no calls to action. There are also no replies to queries made through the dashboard. My books are no longer listed in the Nook UK store. They were in December. I had very low sales through Nook UK in first quarter, which is odd because I sell well in the UK through all other portals, so didn’t notice they had dropped to nil.

I talked to a B&N person at BEA who checked on this – here’s my last B&N weirdism for today (although there are lots more). Evidently the books are available for sale there, but Nook UK’s own search engine doesn’t find them. (Now we know the Secret of the Disappearing Sales.) I have to wonder if this is a result of the conversion from PubIt to NookPress, because the only title I have that returns as a search result is one that was published after the conversion, and published through NookPress. It also is the only one that’s selling at a volume I’d expect, so its ranking, temperature and also-buys must be correct. (This isn’t absolute, though. I have a second title published after the transition, also through Nookpress, which is completely invisible. I also republished everything through NookPress, which made exactly no difference but chewed through a day of my time.)

The B&N person sent me all the direct links and I spent this past weekend updating my sites with direct buy links for Nook UK – that’s the only way you’ll find my books there. The bizarre thing is that even if you follow in one of the links, you still won’t find the others – they’re not in a secret room where all is revealed once you find your way in. They’re just hidden. This isn’t good for sales, and I’m not getting an answer, which tells me that I’m not special – there are lots of authors with this issue. Again, you’d think that someone would notice that sales had gone away and wonder why.

There is btw an additional issue with my Dragonfire titles on Nook UK which is still being sorted out. It’s possible that the metadata from NAL is incorrect, or the glitch might be at B&N’s end. When I have direct buy links for those titles, I’ll add them to my site, too.

They do have another weird glitch that they say is being fixed – under the books of mine that do appear on Nook UK, there’s a strange line that they are “digitized from the 1920 edition” or the 1910 edition or similar. I’ve no idea what’s up with that. B&N admits they’re looking into that, so I’m not special there, either.

When I learn more, or hear of a solution, I’ll let you know. The adventure continues!

5 thoughts on “Strange Magic at B&N

  1. You want strange magic in B & N? I purchased the NOOK copy of a very old Mary Roberts Rinehart book called The Window at the White Cat. What I GOT was something called Natural Pain Management. And all B & N can tell me is to archive the file and they should have it fixed in a month or so. When you can’t even get the book that you purchased now that’s some really strange magic. I wonder if I purchased Natural Pain Management if I’d get The Window at the White Cat?

    • Well, it’s been two weeks since my last contact, Gina, and that’s where it all stands. I wish they’d get it together.

      Oh, DJ, that’s CRAZY!

  2. Sorry to say this doesn’t surprise me. B&N is so busy trying to be or beat Amazon that they forgot who essentially they are. ie a book store.
    They’ve also abandoned their book club forums without letting the moderators tell the members, yeah that’s a great way to do business. Me, personally when they stopped paying me I started talking :)
    They should not treat their customers that way. I did tell my publishing contacts so they’d not abandon me as well.
    Hmmm Deb I hope you get results from them

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