Monday, March 4, 2013

Some Companies Just Don't Like Money

One of the writers I know recently put his novel on Barnes & Noble's Pubit! self-publishing platform. He told me that the process was nowhere near as smooth or full-featured as Amazon's, but he had taken his book out of KDP Select and was now branching out. After getting through a few technical challenges, he finally uploaded his book and it went live.

About a week passed and there were no sales. Discouraging, but hey, it happens. Then Saturday I get an IM from him, and he tells me to go look at the book and read the review on B&N. I zip over there and see a one-star review, which is never good. Then I notice it says "Wrong Book". So I start to read...

It appears that at least the free sample of my friend's book was replaced by someone else's Erotica.

Really angered and annoyed by this, my friend goes looking for Pubit's help portal. Apparently all you can do is email Pubit directly - there is no specific support page, online form, chat feature, or other support tool. A polite but firm email was sent off, and fingers were crossed.

48 hours later, and nothing.

My friend, desperate to somehow make it known that this was not his error, goes to add a comment to the one-star review, as you can do on Amazon. No such luck with B&N. He then tries to post his own "review" just to let everyone know what's happened. Apparently B&N sequesters these in a "Your Review" section that only you can read. There's literally no way to alert a browser to the fact that this is Pubit's screw-up, not his.

My friend has now pretty much given up. Checking out the Pubit support forums, he sees that many authors are disheartened by the site's lack of author support, and many are taking their titles off and moving to other solutions. My friend has told me that if he doesn't hear from Pubit by tomorrow, he's taking down his book.

I think it's pretty clear that Barnes & Noble is in a fight for its life right now. Amazon is dominating the book market and with the closing of Borders last year, B&N can't help but feel the cold breath of Death blowing on its neck. If that's the case, and you KNOW ebooks are the Big Thing right now, why on earth would you go to apparently great lengths to ensure your self-publishing / ebook platform sucked rotten eggs? Why would you all but invite users to go somewhere else, frustrated with the way your company handles their relationship? Do you want to go out of business?

No company is perfect. Amazon has done some things to annoy authors and customers, and yes, I've had a few bumps in the road using KDP, but by and large they have had excellent customer and client service with me over the last few years. I've seen bad reviews on Amazon related to a technical issue, and I've seen the author or another reviewer comment on that review and help clarify matters. I've had support chat sessions with Amazon staff and received prompt help. They know the support is worth the price.

Yeah, building a full-featured service costs money. But I think in this current business climate, you gotta spend money to make money. If B&N can't do that, users are just going to go someplace else. I was originally going to publish my books through Kobo and Pubit, but now I think I'm going to stick with just Kobo, and rather than Pubit, go with a service like Gumroad.

Sorry Barnes & Noble. You lose...


Jim said...

B&N's snafus aren't limited to the self-pubbing end of things. My book was done through a traditional publisher. Released at the end of November last year, it was immediately available in hard copy via Amazon and on the Kindle within a couple weeks. I think it was maybe the end of January before B&N finally made it available on the NOOK.

nyriv said...

B&N is currently making a major effort to shed their digital publishing business. Oddly enough, the "future of book publishing" is depressing their bottom line about the same time they're seeing a rebound in actual physical books (they've benefited from Borders and numerous independents going out of business and are transitioning to a less risk market of college bookstores). At this point, they don't see much reason to improve that portion of the business as anyone who takes it over is going to want to rehaul it anyway. It's a shame... the Nook generally is considered one of the top dedicated readers, but they just can't get the content end right.

Jack Badelaire said...

Thanks for the comments guys! Yeah, as much as people on the KDP forums and so forth take potshots at Amazon constantly for "scamming" them or "stealing" their money, Amazon really does have their act together far more than B&N or Kobo. I put Operation Arrowhead on Kobo Sunday afternoon, and it is STILL "publishing" as of now (Tuesday afternoon). Amazon can get a new book up and available for sale in ~4-8 hours. While on Kobo it's taking over 48. I've seen people call Amazon "The Devil" over their file formats and DRM, but if it's The Devil, that's one super efficient, full-featured Devil.

SBJones said...

*Rolls eyes at B&N* The print version of my second novel had some other author's e-book tied to it. Different, titles, covers, author and publishers. I think I fired off about six emails to various support that I managed to dig up. Not one single reply. After about three months I just tossed my hands up with the whole thing.

My first book just fell out of Select a few days ago and I pushed them all through Smashwords. I can only hope that they get tied to the correct paperback versions. The force is weak with B&N.

Dan Eldredge said...

SBJones: I'm curious to hear about your success with Smashwords. I've about had it with B&N and am about ready to pull my work down from there permanently.