Erin Wright of Wide for the Win explains why indy authors should go direct to Barnes & Noble (not through an aggregator): to take advantage of B&N's extensive category options and to be eligible for in-house promotions.
Erin also discusses the mechanics of moving an audiobook from an aggregator like Findaway Voices to ACX, since loading direct to ACX will greatly improve your audiobooks "find-ability" on Amazon and Audible, and will enable you to set your own price.
[00:00:00] Erin: If you're ready for some unsolicited advice, I will do a little mini consultation with you. Where you were talking about which storefront you go direct to you and which ones do you use a distributor for? My best suggestion to you actually is to go direct to Barnes and Noble.
[00:00:19] Right now you use Draft2Digital for them, is that correct?
[00:00:22] Matty: Yes. And Ingram for the print.
[00:00:27] Erin: Okay, perfect. Yeah, the print, whatever. It doesn't honestly matter. But their eBooks, I don't know if you're on TikTok or not, but there for a while, there was a trend on TikTok, say, blah, blah, blah, without saying the words, blah, blah, blah.
[00:00:43] And, if I were ever to join TikTok as an author instead of just somebody who likes to watch cat videos, I would put up a TikTok that says, say you make no money on Barnes and Noble without saying you make no money on Barnes and Noble. I'll go first. I use a distributor to get to Barnes and Noble.
[00:01:02] You cannot make money on Barnes and Noble if you go through a distributor. The way that they have their system set up, they have some really amazing categories. When some poor schmuck at Draft2Digital or Smashwords or any of the distributors program in that distribution system in the computer, it all has to be automated, right? You cannot have some poor person sitting there and manually directing and routing things based on which storefront and all that good, fun stuff. It all has to be programmed in. So there's some poor schmuck at Draft2Digital who was handed a list of 12, 15 storefronts that Draft2Digital will get you to.
[00:01:46] All of those storefronts have their own categorization system. A lot of them will run off something like a BISAC, which is what Draft2Digital uses, but not all of them. So if anybody who ever wants to go check out Kobo, they definitely do not have BISAC categories for their books. Kobo categories are terrible and they're well aware of this. I have talked to them at many an author conference of like, are you guys ever going to fix your categories? Because right now my books are in Romance on Kobo, which is thrilling beyond words, let me tell you. I think I might even be down into Contemporary Romance, which is quite the spread going on there.
[00:02:30] Each storefront has their own set of categories, and some poor schmuck has to program the website of Draft2Digital to equal all of these different categories. And some of them equal quite easily, but some of them are very obscure and there's not going to be a great way to write programming to have it go from Draft2Digital to this other storefront, to this specific category in this other storefront.
[00:02:58] So what ends up happening quite often with distributors is that you end up in the more general categories. You'll end up in Contemporary Romance. You'll end up in General Romance. You'll end up in Western Romance. That is usually a category available, except for on Kobo. Thank you, Kobo. But you have those very general categories and Draft2Digital can easily make an equation to say, okay, when the author picks this category, they should equal this category on these storefronts.
[00:03:25] Barnes and Noble, to the heart and soul of it, is a bookseller, more so than any other storefront. They do not sell TVs. They do not sell cool wristwatches. They do not sell you phones. They sell you books, period. And you can see that DNA in their system, very, very obvious because they have got some categories that are crazy. Where over the years of selling books to American readers, they're only in America, they have come up with some really specific categories that do not exist anywhere else.
[00:04:08] So, you'll have categories like, Lust in the Dust. Legit, that's a category on Barnes and Noble. Love and War? is another one. I mean, there's some really interesting categories that you do not have anywhere else. And they do that because they are booksellers at their heart and soul. That's what they do, and so they've developed over the years, this really intense categorization system.
[00:04:37] Because they are not a technology company, God bless Barnes and Noble tech people, they are not going to win when it comes to search optimization versus say, Google Play. Google, Apple, their search engines are going to be a lot more robust. Barnes and Noble, their search engines are not so robust. If you find the book you're looking for by using a search, you should feel very lucky. And so, readers, quite often, instead of going up to the search bar and looking for the next book that they're going to read, we'll just go back to the category that they found their last favorite book in and go find all the other books that are in that category.
[00:05:19] So the categories on Barnes and Noble are really well used by the readers. And unlike all the other storefronts, the categories on the backend of Barnes and Noble exactly match the categories on the front end of Barnes and Noble. Unlike Amazon, where you have to keyword into some things and you have to request other ones and you have to do this and then it depends on which storefront, you're in, where you're at around the world, all the different storefronts show you different categories depending on blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Barnes and Noble is a hundred percent match.
[00:05:52] So you have to go direct to get into these really kind of obscure, fun categories, because the distribution companies could never program to get you into those. That just could not work because what would you do for all the other storefronts? So you have to use Barnes and Noble direct to get into these really cool categories. And these really cool categories are used heavily by their readers. So that's reason number one, that you really should go direct Barnes and Noble.
[00:06:20] And number two is that, and this is true of all distributors, Barnes and Noble does not do in-house promotions unless you are direct. It isn't that Mark Leslie Lefebvre or whoever at Draft2Digital could bat his eyes at Juliet Barnes and Noble and be like, but no, really, please, include our books in an in-house promotion. They will not put your book into an in-house promotion unless it's direct. And the two best ways to get traction on Barnes and Noble is through their categories and through their in-house promotions. And those are the two things that you cannot access unless you go direct.
[00:06:59] Matty: I think in my conversation with Orna <Ross> about distribution, and this is kind of tied in with the promotion, is that Barnes and Noble has this enormous email list of people who just love books. And they're doing much more direct outreach in that sense than, I won't say the Amazon necessarily, but that's their wheelhouse, like you're saying. They're selling books and they have this list of people who love books, and they keep in touch with them and know how to do that successfully.
[00:07:26] Erin: Very much so. And the cool thing about Barnes and Noble is their in-house promotions are all free. So unlike Amazon, where you have to pay to get any sort of visibility, with Barnes and Noble, you just need to go direct and you get loads more visibility because you're in all the right categories and you get loads more visibility from in-house promotions, which really move the dial at Barnes and Noble. And you will make significantly more if you go direct to Barnes and Noble.
[00:07:53] Matty: You know how Kobo has Kobo Writing Life, does Barnes and Noble have a site that authors go to?
[00:07:59] Erin: Yeah, it's https://press.barnesandnoble.com/. In case anybody else is listening to this, Barnes and Noble does not work with all countries around the world. So there are a lot of people who can't go direct to Barnes and Noble because they don't live in the right country. But they work with most major English-speaking countries around the world. So for the longest time, you couldn't go direct to Barnes and Noble unless you lived in the US and the UK. So at this point, if you live in a major English-speaking country, you almost guaranteed can go direct to Barnes and Noble.
[00:08:34] So there is a list that you will find there, but there's 16 countries on it. So that's one of the downsides, I feel like going direct to Barnes and Nobles that you just can't if you live in certain countries. But the most part, most authors will be able to go direct.
[00:08:50] Matty: Very cool. I'm going to do it.
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[00:08:53] Erin: Yeah. So what you want to do, I'm just going to walk you through it because this is the number one question I get, as soon as I talk somebody into going direct, because this is something I talk to with a lot of people in consultations. I'm like, let's talk about Barnes and Noble. Because just as an FYI, Barnes and Noble is my second storefront, my top wide storefront, I make more Barnes and Noble than I do Apple, kobo, Google Play, and it's good money. So for me, I'm like, go direct! It's definitely worth it.
[00:09:25] If you choose to do it, you will want to set up your account in Barnes and Noble, publish your books direct on Barnes and Noble, and you will now have two listings. You'll have your direct listing to Barnes and Noble, and you'll have your distributor listing to Barnes and Noble. You're going to watch those two listings and compare between them. And let's say you have 14 reviews on the distributor version. You're going to wait to all 14 reviews populate on the new version and then delist from the distributor. So they are okay with having two different versions on the storefront at the same time. This is what they tell you to do.
[00:10:04] Kobo is exactly the opposite. So please don't be like, oh, this is how I transfer for all book for all storefronts. This is not that. This is Barnes and Noble only. You have both versions up. Wait for the reviews to automatically populate both of them. If you get to the end of two weeks and you have 12 reviews on the new book, but of the 14, two of them didn't transfer over for whatever reason, and that's happens sometimes, you will want to email Barnes and Noble and say, here's the URL for the distributor version. Here's the URL for the direct version. I have two reviews that are missing. Can you help me transfer them over? They will move any remaining ones over manually at that point. And then you go to the distributor, and you delist.
[00:10:49] Matty: Okay, that's great. It's especially good information because I had one of these, aha, I'm such an idiot moment when I was talking to Orna Ross during one of our conversations when we're talking about audio. And she was saying, in the same way that for eBooks, a common approach is to go direct to Amazon on KDP and then cover everybody else through if one or more aggregators, in the same way, of course you would do it with audio. You go direct to ACX to get to Amazon and Audible, and then you go through a distributor like Findaway for everything else.
[00:11:21] I was like, oh my God, because I had just put up one or two audiobooks on Findaway and had just clicked everything in terms of distribution. And I've been spending freaking months trying to get Findaway and ACX to agree that my audiobook has been delisted on Findaway so I can put it up direct on ACX. And bless Findaway's heart, I especially want to give a call out to Findaway, because there was nothing in it for them to help me get my books direct to ACX. But they were calling ACX themselves and saying, would you take that down? So I'm still in the middle of that, but that's very helpful to know, to be walked through the steps that would be needed to go direct to Barnes and Noble. Hopefully it will be a less painful experience.
[00:12:08] Erin: Yes. Honestly, with Barnes and Noble, if you're going to run into problems with going direct to Barnes and Noble, it's almost always during the setup process of your account. If you can get through the setup process and you now have a live dashboard that you can upload to, you're going to have very few problems. Sometimes if you live in the wrong country, or if you have a different business, I there's been a couple of times where the setup portion has been difficult to get onto Barnes and Noble. But once you got through that, it's actually one of my favorite dashboards to work with, because I'm actually a beta tester for Barnes and Noble. And so I helped in my own little way, I gave them feedback on their dashboard. And so their dashboard is really slick. It's really great to use.
[00:12:54] Matty: That's a pleasant surprise because I was not expecting to hear that Barnes and Noble was going to have a slick user interface.
[00:13:00] Erin: Five years ago, I would have been making jokes, because I absolutely did, about how terrible the Barnes and Noble interface was. That they used squirrels to chisel into stone tablets, and they would just not feed the squirrels any nuts or something, and then they would all wander off into never never land. Who even knew what was going to happen? Their interfaces used to be terrible. And I would complain a lot because I hated it. And that's probably why they made me a beta tester because she won't shut up. Let's just have her give us information. Sure. Okay. So they completely revamped it and now it is my top storefront to work with in terms of uploading to them.
[00:13:41] Amazing sales reporting that no other storefront offers, really in depth where you can compare sales within series and across series and things that no other storefront does. It's just really, really cool. They've done some massive work on that part of it. So, God bless Barnes and Noble.
[00:13:58] But, yeah, I'm glad to hear that you're going direct to ACX because when, back to TikTok, how do you say you're not making any money on Audible without saying you're not making any money on Audible? I'll go first. Are you Findaway Voices to get to Audible? Amazon to the depths of its core as a company viewpoint on the world is I hate everybody else. I never going to work with any of you. And authors who don't work upload directly to me, screw you. That is just their operating philosophy.
[00:14:33] So I've had authors, good friends of mine, who use Findaway Voices to get to ACX, found out that after months, their books still weren't even listed on ACX. Or if they did get onto to ACX, you had to know the name of the book and the name of the author to find it. It was otherwise not find-able because ACX would just bury it. And then, they would move it directly to ACX and their sales shot up. You just cannot make money on Audible if you don't go direct to them. And that's very much by design. They do not play well with others. So moving direct is a really good idea.
[00:15:13] Matty: The first books that I did in my series, I did as a royalty share. So I'm still within that seven-year period where it's exclusive to Amazon and Audible and Apple. I think that actually next year 2022 is when my first book will become available, that I can do something with it, and so I've been kind of pushing a more strategic look at my audiobook approach to the bottom of the list until I can start sending listeners to one platform and have them get everything. Because I know I've had people say, well, I like to use whatever, and I looked at Chirp or whatever, and I only saw two of your books there. And so, yeah, that's one of those ones that I'm dreading when it comes to the top of the list, because I think it's going to be just a huge admin thrash, but I think we'll pay back eventually.
[00:16:06] Erin: So here's the thing. ACX gets you to iTunes. Findaway Voices gets you to iTunes. You are going to end up with duplicates on iTunes. There is a form that I can email you the link for that you fill out <click here for the form> and Findaway Voices uses it to tell ACX to suppress their version and not send it to iTunes. You want to do that. You want to choose the Findaway Voices version on Apple, rather than the Amazon version on Apple, because first off, you'll make more money, which is always, always a bonus. And second of all you will actually be able to set your own pricing. If it goes through, ACX it doesn't let you set your pricing. So it's just going to be whatever it is that they want it to be.
[00:16:54] So if you go through Findaway Voices, you'll make more money, and you get to set your own pricing. So that is the one to choose, and you want to suppress the one from Amazon. So you just fill out this form and then about a month later, check back on iTunes. Is the ACX version gone, yes or no? If it's not, then you reach out to Findaway Voices again, because as you found out, Findaway Voices will fight on your behalf. But Amazon and Audible, ACX, they're just pains in the butts to work with. And so you really do have to kind of babysit this. Okay, is it off yet? How about now? And just keep sending reminder emails. I really want to get this down and you're talking to Findaway Voices that whole time, and they are going to go to ACX and get them to suppress the version coming from Apple.
Click here for Barnes & Noble Press, the author platform for B&N.
Note: When initially setting up a B&N Press account, if you are a Sole Proprietorship LLC and want to use your EIN for the account rather than your SSN, you need do select Other (rather than Sole Proprietorship LLC) in order to be able to enter an EIN. I've submitted a request to B&N Press to make this more intuitive.
Click here for the form to provide to Findaway Voices to enable them to request ACX to remove duplicate audiobook listings from Apple.
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Matty Dalrymple is the author of the Ann Kinnear Suspense Novels and is the principal at William Kingsfield Publishers.