Borders…Rethink your Stance in How You Deal With Self Publishers

So Borders filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.

Anybody surprised?  Anybody?  No?  Only Borders themselves?

It’s been a long time coming.  I knew it was gonna happen as soon as they announced their Bookbrewer program, which I commented on here.  Really bad business decision on their part.  Let’s assume that all self publishers are STUPID and see how much we can fleece them for!

I’ve got news for you Borders.  We aren’t stupid.  And while there are the ignorant among us, the rest of us are working on educating the rest so that they aren’t taken advantage of by programs like yours that expect us to PAY for services we get elsewhere for FREE.

Here’s the thing.  The book world is changing.  You’ve been a follower to date, not even joining the online sales arena until 2008.  And you’re completely ignoring the potentially enormous revenue stream that could be generated by eliminating the Bookbrewer program and following the examples of Amazon and Barnes & Noble by providing an actual FREE SERVICE to self-publishers to sell on your site.  Heck, even if you didn’t want to go the route of giving us a publishing platform, you could at least join forces with Smashwords to have an influx of massive amounts of new inventory that’s priced at points readers are actually willing to pay.  You will more than make up for the loss of revenue from axing Bookbrewer because, gasp, we would actually USE YOU.  Seriously…the money you’d make just by having Amanda Hocking alone on your site would probably be nearly enough to bring you out of the red.  The woman sold 450,000 ebooks last month.

So in case your head’s still stuck in the sand, here’s what we self-publishers get from your biggest competition:

  • Listing FOR FREE: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords
  • Reasonable royalty rates: At Amazon we get 35% of all titles below $2.99 and 70% of those above $2.99.  At Barnes and Noble we get 40% of titles below $2.99 or above $9.99 and 60% of the titles between those two prices.  We earn 60% royalties from all premium distribution points on Smashwords.
  • Payment on a monthly basis: Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  It’s quarterly on Smashwords.
  • The ability to track daily sales: Amazon and Barnes & Noble (though B&N’s reporting system is still a bit clunky)
  • The option to choose to use or NOT to use DRM. Amazon and Barnes & Noble.  No Smashwords books use DRM because DRM is evil and doesn’t actually work.

We are a powerful and growing group, and we have lots of friends.  You give us a shot, remember not to beta test a new system on us (ahem, you hear that Barnes & Noble?), make us happy, and we’ll pull you out of Chapter 11 by your bootstraps.

15 thoughts on “Borders…Rethink your Stance in How You Deal With Self Publishers

  1. As always, a great post. Ill listen, but its too late for them. Im lucky I discovered Smashwords or I would still be lurking on some second rate site waiting for someone to read my work.

  2. I would’ve loved to have been in those meetings to hear the logic on how a pay service was going to beat the competition when they’re all offering it for free. Without a business degree, it sounds like 2+2 logic. People like free and more importantly, people HATE to be taken advantage of.

  3. Very good, Kait! Borders needs to be reading this. I thought they were crazy for asking authors to pay for an ebook service, and I can’t believe they continued that. Couldn’t they see what was going on all around them? They may have been able to avoid Chapter 11 if they had used their actual brains like other retailers have.

  4. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath in sheer amazement. How can people running a huge business like Borders be that clueless? The smart thing, of course, would have been to follow emulate Barnes and Noble. The next smart thing would have been to let people pay for and download ebooks right in the store. I dare say avid readers would very quickly get in the habit of bringing their ereaders with them. I think that will happen eventually, if any book stores survive long enough to adopt it.

  5. Unbelievable Borders! Not only did they ignore self-publish, they ignored digital in general…as though digital would just go away. Sorry Borders (and others who wish digital would be just a fad and think we will go back to print when we regain our rational minds.) Digital is here to stay.

    Great blog, Kait!

  6. My question is about publishing to B&N directly versus doing it through SW. Is is because you can check your sales through B&N (although not very accurately), and the monthly payments instead of quarterly.

    I just think that if you have a book listed at $.99 you would only get $.40 by selling directly through B&N, but you would get $.60 from sells from B&N listed through SW. That could add up to a big increase.

    So, why is it that you list through B&N instead of SW for B&N?

    1. Control. You get the benefit of longer product description directly on BN (400 characters is NOT enough for a good book blurb in my mind), multiple keywords (which so far has been a crock, they haven’t gotten it fixed), and the ability to get stuff deal with (usually) much easier than having to go through a third party. When my first book went to BN through Smashwords, it was never categorized correctly (was listed just as ebook), so no one found me who wasn’t looking.

      1. I got an email from Smashwords saying they had changed they 400 character limit and urged all authors to change their descriptions.

        I’ve sold much better since I’ve gone directly through B & N, though.

          1. Actually, it probably wasn’t an email. I check their site updates pretty often and that’s probably where it was. But, yeah, that’s what they said. I can’t believe I still haven’t gone in and done that yet.

          2. The fact that they could not seem to get me properly categorized at the premium distributors, despite my having done what I was told to do. It seems they have gotten this problem fixed, but I see no point in pulling anything now that I’m established in the Pubit system.

  7. Re: Smashwords, yes, when I published Ravenmarked, I was able to do a longer book description. It’s fairly new, but it is now available.

    And oddly, I’ve done well in the Sony bookstore through Smashwords with “Silver Thaw.” I’m wondering if just the smaller e-bookstore gives new folks a better shot? I don’t know. I just know I’ve sold almost as many copies of “Silver Thaw” through Sony as through Kindle.

    Now if Smashwords could EVER get “Ravenmarked” into the Sony store, I’d be a happy camper…. My heavens, it takes them a long time!

    Great post, Kait!

  8. Kait,
    I may be way off on this, but isn’t Kobo Borders’ eReader device? And though Borders isn’t particularly kind to indies, indie books can be bought for their eReader with a 60% royalty to the author–only going through Smashwords’ distribution channel, of course. However, by then that 60% is significantly smaller.

    In response to another comment about B&N and their royalties. For books over 2.99 they’re now giving 65% royalty now if you go through their PubIt. A major reason I go directly through B&N instead of SW is it doesn’t take nearly as long to get a book active on B&N’s site that way. With SW it can take at least a month before your book appears on the B&N site.

    1. Borders opted not to specialize on a single ereader like Amazon did with Kindle and BN did with Nook. Kobo is only one of the e-readers that Borders chose to sell, and while Kobo is the distributor for ebooks through Borders it’s an outside deal, not actually part of Borders as a company.

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