Reasons Why Barnes & Noble Might Be Getting Mixed Reviews

Recently, I read this headline in the NY Times: “Small Bookstores Gain as Barnes & Noble has Mixed Results.” I was happy for small bookstores, but the news didn’t exactly surprise me; it made me wonder if my experience with B&N might be one reason why they’re getting mixed results.

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Back in the summer of 2012, I noticed that my $17.99 book was selling online for $142. After inquiring how to correct that, I received a clipped, one sentence email response saying, “B&N has no control over 3rd party marketplace sellers.”That left me scratching my head, because my book, “Sugar Hill Where the Sun Rose Over Harlem” was selling in B&N stores at the correct price of $17.99. It was frustrating that my friends (and presumably the public) couldn’t order online, but more puzzling was the employee’s lack of interest in correcting the situation, since my Amazon sales were going well.

I’m a small press author and I know many indie authors who just skip doing business with Barnes & Noble because the process is so difficult. Unlike Amazon, getting started with B&N had been about as easy as requesting a private audience with the president. It took months, but I finally heard from a buyer, who ordered my books and made herself available for questions. Ultimately, she also corrected the online price.

But then it happened again. I was scheduled to have an October event in one of the NYC B&N bookstores, but a month before the date, the manager emailed me in a panic when she noticed the online price was $127. I suggested she just, like, you know, fix it. She didn’t know how. Really?!  Again I contacted the buyer who changed the price.

The bad news for B&N is that in the weeks preceding my event, I noticed an uptick in sales on Amazon. Online sales that should have gone to B&N, likely went to their competitor.

The number of books I sell with these giant companies is not going to make a big difference to them, but I’m one of thousands. More to the point is that if B&N was more user friendly to authors and had a less convoluted way of doing business, their bottom line might not be mixed.

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