Last month B&N expanded its vanity press operation Nook Press with a new POD option where indie authors might possibly if they are lucky get their books into Barnes & Noble store.
The coverage ranged from bland in the trade press to dismissive in the indie blogosphere, but one commentator thought that this was a coup for B&N.
Thad McIlroy describes it as B&N finally having “made a competitive move that Amazon cannot match”. He justifies his claim with the argument that print still accounts for two-thirds of the market:
In my coverage of last fall’s NINC conference I noted some remarks from publishing expert Lou Aronica. Lou provided a forceful reminder that self-published authors can’t afford to ignore print: it still accounts for some two-thirds of book sales overall. The larger problem is getting retail access for print. Independent booksellers have always been more open to dealing with self-published authors than the chains. But trying to get into the 2,311 outlets operated by the 1,775 American Booksellers Association (ABA) members is a logistical impossibility. Barnes & Noble has fewer total outlets than the ABA, but a lot more floor space. And just one buying office. At least one report shows bookstore chains with two-and-a-half times the marketshare of independents. Further, getting self-published books into non-bookstore outlets like drug stores and supermarkets is just a dream. And so access to Barnes & Noble should be a big deal.
Do you see the flaw in his argument?
I didn’t see it until after Data Guy dropped his bomb at the RWA conference earlier this month. DG shared data on sales of romance novels in the US, and then in the comment section of his post he added a few additional details about thriller and SF&F sales.
To put it simply, the flaw in McIlroy’s argument is that he took industry-wide figures and assumed that they applied equally well to all of a single market, when in reality the industry stats reflect revenues generated in a variety of markets and genres, each with their own quirks.
Take romance, for example.
DG showed us that ebook sales accounted for 89% of US romance unit sales. I would say that is a market where authors could afford to ignore print sales, and the same is true for thriller/mystery/suspense.
When queried about the thriller genre, DG explained that his data showed that thriller ebooks accounted for 112 million sales in the US market in 2015, while print sales in this genre only added up 40 million units last year.
That’s 40 million out of around 152 million, or about 27% of the units sold. That is arguably a market which indie authors can ignore print if they want.
The same may be true for SF&F. Data Guy’s data showed that ebooks accounted for a little over half of unit sales in this genre. Print accounted for 54 million units, while ebooks totaled 73 million units.
Print SF&F titles accounted for around 43% of units sold in this genre.
While some might point to that and argue this is a market which indie authors can’t ignore, I would remind you that indie authors get into the print SF&F market through POD, which has relatively low profit margins when compared to ebooks.
In other words, it’s not worth as much to indie authors as you might think.
Really, the only reason I see for romance, thriller, and SF&F authors to be interested in B&N’s new POD program is for the ego boost.
The real money is in digital in general and the Kindle Store in particular, which is why I have dubbed Nook Press a vanity press operation.
There isn’t enough money in POD sales through Nook Press to count as a major market, not when digital accounts for such a huge share of certain genres, not when B&N has only 640 stores, not when B&N is converting more and more floor space to things like pasta and 3d printers, and not when all four of B&N’s new stores will be restaurants first and bookstores second.
Or did I overlook something?
The comments are open.
image by mikecogh