Digital Book World recently reported Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch's plan to help make the nook profitable. The device is not currently performing as well as B&N had hoped—although the company reportedly sold twice the number of devices this black Friday versus last.
Lynch is quoted as saying that the "key" to Nook business is to continue to grow digital content sales and that a bright spot was the growth in self-published content sales.
There is a major problem with this plan, however—the lack of support B&N currently offers self-published authors.
What Amazon Is Doing Right
As David Gaughran explained on his blog (in what is possibly the best piece on self publishing I've read in a LONG time), "For most writers, anonymity is the biggest hurdle they face." Amazon seems to understand that.
The company has received a lot of negative press in the past—but it's undeniable that when it comes to self-published authors, Amazon is one of the best options out there. They actively court authors who are going it alone. From their Kindle Publishing Direct (KPD) program to their "top 100" book lists (including the Hot New Releases that David mentions), Amazon helps authors promote themselves and get their books seen by readers.
In fact, one of the authors I work with is currently experiencing this very phenomenon. Priceless, Shannon Meyer's most recently published book, is climbing the charts over at Amazon. It's currently #1 in the Occult Horror top 100 list and is rapidly ascending Amazon's top 100 paid content list.
These promotional tools allow Amazon to offer authors more when it comes to e-book sales—both in terms of volume and margins—than B&N. Further, the competition between the two is increasing Amazon's advantage, with Amazon requiring exclusivity deals that require authors to choose between the two and B&N refusing to stock print copies of any books published by Amazon (through one of its imprints) that it can't also offer digitally.
The Problem with the Nook eBook Plan
Self-published authors understand that they're fighting an uphill battle—after all, most sell less than 100 books—but that doesn't stop them from wanting to break the mold and become a best-selling author. Others have done it. Why can't they?
Unfortunately, Barnes & Noble offers limited support to help those authors accomplish their dream. It seems they're stuck in their old business model—they see themselves as a customer when it comes to self-pubbed authors, instead of the other way around. Rather than actively courting authors, as Amazon has, they've taken a very passive stance on the entire self-publishing community.
In Gaughran's post he details exactly how that's affected him. Even though he was dead set against KDP Select initially, dismal sales numbers from other outlets eventually convinced him to give it a try, after his research showed that using KDP Select would be the best way to maximize his sales overall. The problems with B&N, as he notes, is that they do NOTHING to help an author promote his or her book. Unless a reader goes to the site looking for their book, chances are they'll never be exposed to it.
I'll end with a quote from his post that practically predicted Lynch's recent comments—yet explains why this may be too little, too late:
"Quite frankly, the deficiencies at the other retailers (in terms of search, lists, categories etc.) make it incredibly difficult for self-publishers to gain traction (either by accident or design). I expect that to change, but it will likely take some time. Until then, I’m going to maximize my sales on Amazon." - David Gaughran