Barnes and Noble is rather an unknown entity to me. I’m English, living in London, and we don’t have Barnes and Noble. It operates only within the US – you can’t even buy a Nook over here – so its a brand I’d never heard of before publishing my book, and even after publishing I kind of assumed I’d get more sales through Sony, or the Apple store.
Boy, was I wrong!
All this time I’ve been complaining that my sales were dropping, quietly, in the background, sales at B&N were increasing. Slowly but surely B&N has sold more of my books than Amazon has, despite holding a much smaller market share than Amazon. Not only do I sell more books on B&N than I do on Amazon, I sell more books on B&N than I EVER did on Amazon! To top it all off, I have 2 (yes, TWO) 5 star reviews on B&N right now, real reviews, from real people who really enjoyed my writing.
Right now my sales rank on Amazon is around the 90,000 mark, out of 2.5 million available at B&N. That’s huge! That puts me in the top 4% of all books sold on Nook, and I’m an unknown author with only a single book, who has the audacity to ask for money for his work (many on B&N don’t, and I STILL sell more than them!).
This is epic – for me at least – and all from a company I’d never heard of a year ago.
But why is it happening? Why have my sales suddenly jumped at B&N at the same time they slid at Amazon?
I think I know the answer: Kindle Select. People can now borrow books for free on Kindle. Why pay for a book whose writer you’ve never heard of, then you can borrow another writer’s book for nothing? This explains why sales have dipped on Amazon, but not why they have risen on B&N. That is, until you look at the fine print on the Kindle Select contract:
“When you include a Digital Book in KDP Select, you give us the exclusive right to sell and distribute your Digital Book in digital format while your book is in KDP Select. During this period of exclusivity, you cannot sell or distribute, or give anyone else the right to sell or distribute, your Digital Book (or a book that is substantially similar), in digital format in any territory where you have rights.”
That is taken direct from the Kindle Select Ts&Cs. Read it again. Really understand what it is saying.
If you sign up for Kindle Select you are not allowed to sell your ebook anywhere else.
Wow. Is that even legal? I’m pretty sure it isn’t fair, but is it actually legal? Can a company with the kind of market muscle of Amazon force indie authors to sell books exclusively on their site? We all know Amazon is the market leader at this point, and indie authors are clearly keen to give their work the best chance it can have, so the allure of being able to give your book away for free for 5 days, as well as have people borrow it, is pretty strong. But is this going to damage the market? Is this aimed at driving indie writers towards Amazon and away from all the other book sellers? Publishing houses – and well known indie authors like J A Konrath – can afford to resist, but can indie authors?
This has me kinda worried, but at the same time it has me quite excited. I resisted the temptation to put SWOD on Kindle Select, reasoning at first that every other indie author would immediately do the same. I reasoned that those 5 days of free books would be worth more when they weren’t competing against all the other free indie books, but now I see that resistance actually helped me in ways I didn’t realise. It has helped B&N – Amazon’s main competitor – to become the better place for an indie author to do business. Sure, there are more indie authors on Amazon, and as a reader you can borrow them too, but from a seller point of view B&N is the place to be.
Maybe I’m selling better on B&N because there is less competition from similar works there? It sounds like it makes sense, but then I think about my 2 5 star reviews (and compare them to my reviews on Amazon) and I wonder if the reading crowd at B&N are just different?
This indie publishing lark is pretty tough. There is no black and white rule, no way of knowing if you got it right, only that you know you got it wrong. But maybe, just maybe, in one little corner of the world, I’ve started to get it worked out.