digital publishing warIf you’re an author, get ready for a very nasty battle ahead. Barnes & Noble’s decision to remove all Amazon published books marks something akin to a declaration of war.

Following hard on the heels of Amazon’s demand for exclusivity with their KDP Select program, it is now becoming clear that self publishing is being used as a tool in a commercial war.

For authors this makes for grim reading as the whole essence of being self published is in being independent. Having to decide on one distribution platform, and therefore one online retailer forebodes badly.

Barnes & Noble announced this week that they would not be selling any titles that had been published by Amazon’s publishing wing — both indie published through their KDP (Kindle Digital Publishing) and CreateSpace platforms, as well as their new publishing imprints. Source

In reading this decision by B&N, it would appear that even ebooks published independently on Smashwords and then distributed to B&N, will be withdrawn from sale if they are also available on Amazon in either Kindle, or paperback format published by Createspace. So where does that leave the authors?

While there are alternatives to Amazon and B&N, the market share of the other online retailers is so small, it is a folly to think that these could supply any worthwhile volume of sales. So as a self publisher or small press, it comes down to a choice of devils. Logically, Amazon, as there is no doubt that they deliver the greatest volume of sales.

While this is a ‘no brainer’, the danger that lies ahead is that it leaves one totally open to changes in Amazon’s publishing terms and conditions, which can and are updated regularly. There is no notification of these changes and unless you visit the page regularly, you won’t know that the rules have changed.

Then, if you do happen to dislike these possible changes in the future, what are the rules regarding moving your book to another retailer? Current KDP Select rules would indicate a period of at least 90 days. But who knows? The only thing that is for sure, is that self publishing authors are about to lose their independence and freedom of choice.

Self publishing has been around for a while now, but ebook publishing is still in its infancy. However, this little infant is turning mega bucks of profit for the likes of Amazon and B&N.  This being the case, I expect it is going to get very dirty from here on in.

Self Publishing – Now It’s War!
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45 thoughts on “Self Publishing – Now It’s War!

  • 06/02/2012 at 3:15 pm

    I tried to buy a book from B&N the other day. (A dead-tree book, even!)

    After fifteen minutes of dealing with their website, I realised why I’ve never sold a single book through them. Amazon is so far ahead on basic usability that I was astounded to see the state of B&Ns online store.

    I’m not exactly going to cry into my soup at not being allowed to play in their sandpit.

    As far as being at the mercy of anyone: I’m not. If I want to use their storefront, then yes, I am; but that only applies to the privilege of using their storefront. It would take me an afternoon to set up my own if I decided I could accept their terms any more, and for the most part, I trust Amazon to be smart enough as a company not to slaughter such a large cash cow as indie publishers.

    Also, I am done killing my metaphors now.

    • 06/02/2012 at 4:33 pm

      It’s a pity Cecilia. I was awfully disappointed that you stopped killing your metaphors so suddenly. I was thoroughly enjoying them. :)

      B&N are also as thick as a brick in not allowing non-US authors to publish directly with them. A real dead dingo idea. Not that I will throw my teddy from the cot about it, but It would have been nice to at least have a choice. Oh well, it will have to be the devil for me rather than the deep blue sea!

  • 06/02/2012 at 3:16 pm

    Not just the self-published among our ranks like your good self Derek, Even those of us who publish via small press are affected. My own publisher has already been told that any future publications which appear on Amazon will be ignored by B&N.

    I strongly suspect that even works produced by the ‘big six’ publishing houses will also suffer the same fate.

    • 06/02/2012 at 4:36 pm

      I think this will affect small press publishers very badly Jack. It only needs Apple to going in the ‘exclusive’ club and we’ll end up with the Big 3 replacing the Big 6! What progress. :(

      • 06/02/2012 at 4:42 pm

        Still an easy choice for me. B&N, who? Apple? Only if I only want to reach Apple users and jump through hoops for the privilege. No, Amazon all the way.

        Other than that, I wouldn’t be sorry to see the Big 6 suffer some more, though it makes competing with them in the e-book market all the better due to their absurd pricing models.

  • 06/02/2012 at 3:21 pm

    Say goodbye to B&N of they do shut out all stock (incl. the big 6) where present on Amazon.
    Even the Big 6 can do the maths to figure out that Amazon is a sure thing. So if they don’t stock B&N any-more, B&N truly bites the bullet (a question of time anyway for reasons alluded to by Cecilia) and all B&N customers head to Amazon. The Big 6 still sell the same numbers.

    In any case, I couldn’t care less. Going exclusive with Amazon on the KDP select program increased my sale massively. I would never consider going back to Smashwords, B&N etc. All they ever did was waste my time.

  • 06/02/2012 at 5:52 pm

    A sad situation because I’d really like to see Barnes & Noble succeed as a company. But they aren’t maximizing their potential with their online bookstore and with self-published books, so they are driving their company into a wall.

    Trying to do battle with Amazon is short-sighted. What they need to do is work on improving their online bookstore in a way that will maximize sales, including the sales of Amazon books, from which they could still make money.

    • 06/02/2012 at 7:40 pm

      I agree with you Debra. B&N’s online store is far from pretty. I have my books there, but boy, they couldn’t have made my book pages more unattractive if they’d tried. I get the feeling B&N do not want any self published books. Well, except those few that are published directly through them. But really, who would bother?

  • 06/02/2012 at 6:30 pm

    That is crazy on B&N’s part. Most indie authors I know have more sales on Amazon than B&N, but they still felt B&N was worth it and so they didn’t go with Select. Is this how B&N rewards them? By forcing them to choose? Amazon never forced anyone to choose. They didn’t say you have to pull your books from B&N in order to sell on Amazon. It was only necessary if you chose to go with Select, and even then, it was only for 90 day contracts.

  • 06/02/2012 at 6:47 pm

    Jeesh, talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face. Very shortsighted move from Barnes & Noble.

    • 06/02/2012 at 7:42 pm

      Too true Niki. Looks like B&N want to help Amazon on their way to totally monopolising the publishing market. Oh well, hopefully B&N will be happy when all they are selling are puzzle books! lol

  • 06/02/2012 at 7:58 pm

    Great post, Derek. I can understand both sides, but quite honestly, Amazon out sells B&N 10 to 1. I know of a few Indie author friends who were selling like crazy on Amazon, very little on B&N, then sent them a letter telling them. They didn’t get much of a response, sales did pick up somewhat because B&N did a little advertising, but the numbers dipped back down when they failed to continue advertising.

    I have an indie listed for $0.99 by all the retailers, but Amazon listed it for $0.89 and it was doing quite well.

    But here’s another question. I’m also traditionally published in hard cover. The two places that advertise for pre-ordering are Amazon and B&N. B&N discounted the pre-order price, while Amazon didn’t. It would seem B&N only considers what others are doing to them and not the other way around. The other interesting thing is B&N could advertise the same prices Amazon is, but they’ve chosen to boycott instead. Very interesting indeed.

    Now, my next question is can I repost today’s post on my blog making sure to give you credit as well as advertise your URL? I tried leaving you a message under the ‘contact me’ but it kept saying I was plugging in the wrong secret code. LOL

  • 06/02/2012 at 8:39 pm

    Great article Derek, and I agree with most of it but I like to think more positive. Perhaps, the war between Amazon and Barnes will inclrease sales at the smaller houses once the public is more aware of the problems building. That’s wishful thinking I’m sure, but it’s the only option I care to consider in the matter. If Amazon or Barnes gets the monopoly then soon they will be dictators setting the rules, prices, and contents of the books we sell to them now.

    Whole thing is scary to think about.. but as John Wayne use to say, “A hero is somebody who is scared to death, but starts getting ready to fight anyway.”

    Keep up the great writing..
    Chas Wells
    Whispering Pines Suspense Series and Indy Writer/Publisher

    • 06/02/2012 at 8:55 pm

      It is quite worrisome Charles.

      In a matter of just a few years we could see the monopoly of the Big 6 replaced my the monopoly of the Big 2. Hardly progress.

  • 06/02/2012 at 8:44 pm

    Greed, Satan’s favorite sin. Let’s just ban together, boycott Amazon and the like and create our own venue. With PayPal available to everyone, it should be easy, huh?

  • 06/02/2012 at 8:50 pm

    I live in hope Kathy. I had hoped that Smashwords would be the avenue to achieve this aim. But alas…….

  • 06/02/2012 at 9:12 pm

    have faith in Smashwords.. those people have been known to pull off some crazy stunts in the markets.. you never know which direction this could send them but I plan to follow if possible. I refused to go with KDP select at Amazon because of Smashwords… and don’t forget Lulu.. they may not be a major player in the game, but I would not rule them out. I’d rather sell a little to a lot than to sell it all to the devil in one handbasket.

    Chas Wells

  • 06/02/2012 at 9:21 pm

    I would like to have faith Charles. But Smashwords have been focused on being a distributor and not a retailer. If that focus could be changed (or be forced to change) things may become different.

    I know in my exchanges with Mark Coker that the key to retailing ebooks is ease of purchase. The ‘one click’ purchase is the power Kindle and Nook have. If Smashwords could find a simpler way to purchase and load ebooks onto a range of devices, then things might just change for the better.

  • 06/02/2012 at 9:25 pm

    I don’t see this as anything but a death wish on the part of Barnes & Noble. I published my first two books on Smashwords simultaneously. In that period, I’ve made over $100.00 on Smashwords, just a little over $10.00 on B & N. Now that my third novel is out on Smashwords, I’ve been contemplating whether to bother listing it with B & N. I’m tilting very heavily to taking the first two off B & N as soon as they pay me, opening the B & N channel on Smashwords and letting the chips fall where they may.

    In addition, my first novel is now on Amazon as well as SW. My second one will follow in another month, and the third one a couple of months after that. My first loyalty is to Smashwords, but I accept the reality that throwing away income by ignoring Amazon is just stupid. Ignoring B & N? Why go to the trouble of an extra prep and upload when B & N’s future is uncertain, and the presence of my books there is also uncertain? Doesn’t look as if ignoring them is going to hurt at all.

  • 06/02/2012 at 10:09 pm

    Hi Derek,

    Great article but a little discouraging. I’m already having a hard time selling my book, if sites start requiring exclusivity, it doesn’t leave us much room to move. Last Nov when my novel was finished, I tried to upload to B&N just to be told that they don’t take Canadian authors. With Smashwords, I had high hopes but the only thing that’s happened so far is that tons of people have downloaded the sample pages, and not one has actually bought it. I feel like a tiny drop of water in an ocean. :(

  • 06/02/2012 at 10:27 pm

    You’re not alone Wendy, I assure you.

    When you self publish, your chances of ‘hitting it big’ are remote. Don’t let one or two outlier success stories fool you. It’s a hard slog and we would all like more sales.

    To be perfectly honest, if your not writing ‘easy on the brain’ romance or erotica and pricing your books at 99c or free, it’s an even tougher road. In my genres of sci-fi farces and general fiction it takes a lot of effort and promotion to generate sales.

    But don’t be discouraged though. Publishing your book is for the long term and not overnight success. We are in a transition period and there are a lot of scammers, spammers and plagiarists around who need weeding out. Just keep writing, getting better at it and you just never know. If this book doesn’t sell well, write a better second one.

    But for sure. Don’t give away your day job just yet. :)

  • 06/02/2012 at 11:21 pm

    Great post, Derek.

    B&N are not alone in boycotting Amazon because of Kindle Select. I’ve read that some indie bookstores are taking Amazon published books off their shelves. I’m hunting for the link to an article I read and can’t find it, sorry.

    This is bad news for us as authors regarding a lack of choice, but worse it’s bad news for reader choice too and it’s the reader that keeps B&N in business.

    I wish companies would keep the reader front and centre. I wish B&N would use their energy to make the reader experience of purchasing be better than Amazon – a challenge I know – but is it impossible? And I wish Apple would stop stop their self protection policies.

  • 06/02/2012 at 11:38 pm

    We must NOT focus on this. Be aware of it, of course, but why do you write? Why do I pour out my soul as well? For the love of it, and when you love it THIS much, you find the ways to get out there, just like Derek is!

    Good day, fellow visionaries. We are UNSTOPPABLE. Period.

  • 06/02/2012 at 11:40 pm


    Being the new kid on the block-I am certainly surprised by this news! I was concerned because I can’t seem to get a reply from B&N- I have problem with pubit-they have my book listed for less $’s than Amazon and I never gave permission! Was trying to get it removed as they do not reply!

    Thanks for this info…


    Is US systematically doing away with free enterprise?!

    • 07/02/2012 at 11:24 am

      You raised an issue that is a nasty trap for many authors Nora.

      When you agree to sell a book with an online retailer, most have within their T&Cs that they have the option to discount your book. With some, they maintain your agreed royalty, while others may cut it proportionally.

      This is ok, except that Amazon’s ‘Price Matching Feature’ will often find these discounted prices and lower your price on Amazon. From experience, I can tell you that once they do this, it can take a long time for Amazon to return to your agreed price.

      This happened to one of my own books that is listed at $2.99 on Amazon. Another retailer discounted the same book to $0.99 during a short sales promotion and Amazon automatically cut my price to $0.99.

      But this was now months ago, and as yet Amazon have not returned the book to the agreed price. Even though the sales promotion that triggered the reduction finished months ago.

  • 07/02/2012 at 12:31 am

    The original source ASSUMES it applies to KDP Select books etc. based on the tenor of the Barnes and Noble source. I think it rather presumptive and early to say that this includes any book ever sold on Amazon. That doesn’t even make sense.

    I’m not sure where all of the chips will fall, but if Barnes and Noble thinks that they can woo others onto their side by saying “No, go exclusive with US…” unless they are going to physical copies in a store (which they are not), they can’t win that brute force of sales muscle with their online stores.

    I think this is a great deal of bluster and Barnes and Noble was talking about the Amazon imprints, and when asked for clarification, they haven’t given it. They probably don’t even know for sure themselves what this will mean, and might be leaving room to retract a few months down the line..

    • 07/02/2012 at 1:44 am

      Listen to Elizabeth. This is from the article you linked to:

      “She did not confirm whether this decision was limited to only Amazon’s imprints from their publishing wing, or also included any book published through KDP and CreateSpace as well. From the tenor of her answer, however, this decision is made for any book or ebook published through Amazon, indie published as well because of Amazon’s latest marketing ploy concerning publishing exclusively through Amazon’s KDP Select to gain a share of a monthly pool.

      Ms. Brown did, however, repeat that this only affected the physical bookstores.”

      So not only did the source NOT confirm that this impacts KDP and Createspace, she explicitly said that it only impacts physical bookstores. But somehow the journalist (and I use that term loosely) concluded from the “tenor” of the conversation that he source was lying.

      Barnes and Noble has announced nothing of the sort implied there, and there isn’t a shred of evidence to support it. Sure, MAYBE they will at some point. Probably not, though.

  • 07/02/2012 at 12:40 am

    Great post, but I’m curious where the information comes from. I read that B&N wouldn’t allow Amazon books in their brick and mortar stores – including the ones coming out through their new imprints, but not that they would cut off ebooks through places like smashwords if they were also on Amazon. What’s the source of this info? If it is true, Barnes and Noble are nailing their own coffin.

  • 07/02/2012 at 1:30 am

    I shouldn’t have to ask what it comes down to. The competition and the dollar bill go hand and hand. Authors and Writers who just purely enjoy writing get served; it makes no sense to divide the art. I don’t think these people have the best intentions and latch themselves to the economy, once again by offering cheap labor at the retail store. It is connected. I like competition and everything but their are starving artists out there too, who don’t want to work at Barnes and Nobles their whole lives. wow

  • 07/02/2012 at 3:41 am

    Why worry as a retailer sets itself on fire in protest to a changing world?

    Goodbye, BN. We hardly knew you. This is the latest clown dance in a surreal parade of awful decisions. No loss at all.

  • 07/02/2012 at 3:47 am

    Thank you Derek for yet another interesting article. I published via Xlibris who stated that B&N would be a primary outlet. Amazon has been selling it also so I am going to write to Xlibris and ask for a comment from them. As a new author, I am pleased to read the comments of the others. Oh….I guess that because it is published in the USA (Xlibris has offices in the UK), I was not subject to the ‘foreign authors’ block.

  • 07/02/2012 at 4:09 am

    Hi Derek,

    I think if you do a little more research on the topic, you’ll find that the source article you cite is full of misinformation. There is ZERO evidence that any ebooks are involved. Smashwords and KDP have nothing to do with the recent decision by BN, which is simply not to carry print versions of Amazon Publishing Imprints (Thomas & Mercer, Montlake, etc) in their brick and mortar stores. In fact, you will still be able to buy ppb copies on This salvo is about print in BN b&m stores for those imprints only.

    There has been no announcement at all regarding the removal or refusal of any ebooks.

  • 07/02/2012 at 4:21 am

    Further to my earlier comment, I have just checked and both Amazon and BN are selling MR ALEXANDER. I’ll monitor the situation and only act if/when BN stops selling it.

  • 07/02/2012 at 8:58 am

    A reputable publisher will not charge you for publishing, or publicity or anything up front. If they believe your book is good enough to publish and sell and make money on, they should be offering you money. Hope this kind of review will serve an inspiration to us.

  • 07/02/2012 at 9:49 am

    I’m watching this whole mess with a lot of fascination as my first book is still in the works. But watching as this war works hard to limit my future options is a little scary. I can’t even imagine how this will end.

  • 07/02/2012 at 12:04 pm

    What an interesting discussion. As a UK author publishing through a company dealing with a large US distribution/POD operation, my print books have worldwide exposure. They are also published through Amazon KDP, and other e-book retailers in a variety of e-book formats for flexibility and reader choice.
    The more recent comments lead me to hope that it is not as black as it was at first perceived.

    For me, getting the printed word out there is the important thing. I can’t understand how B&N banning Amazon imprints – especially in the on-line store – makes economic sense. After all B&N are a retailer and the reader is the customer. Right?
    I have probably missed the point completely. If so, enlightned me!

    • 07/02/2012 at 4:54 pm

      There is one point your comment got me thinking about Rosalie.

      It is that B&N are indeed a retailer and they are not at all into publishing on any grand scale. So why have B&N got all upset all of a sudden about Amazon as a publisher?

      The two have always been competitive retailers, but this tantrum by B&N just doesn’t seem logical.

      And no, I don’t think you missed the point at all. Rather, the contrary.

  • 07/02/2012 at 5:13 pm

    I recently checked Smashwords. Sure they have masses of new outlets most are in either former Eastern block countries or the Far East. I have an Australian friend who uses them. I am not sure if Amazon cover the far east, though.

  • 07/02/2012 at 5:40 pm

    Edward G Talnot – that starts to make sense now. I think it’s a case of ‘Send three and fourpence we’re going to a dance’ i.e confused communications.

    The only thing that would stack up (!) would be that B&N refused to stock physical Amazon imprints in their bricks and mortar store (and probably online too).

    Some of us know how finicky it can be to get an epub listed by B&N – I’m guessing that they have massive pressure on internal tech resources; if theit site user experience is poor (as OPs say) and their sales are weak, then I guess they are hurting $-wise.

    With their bricks and mortar business under pressure too, then they may have issues about making a big investment to address their online business. As I see it, it’s ‘adapt or die’. No two ways about it – they have a ‘stuck in the middle’ business strategy. If you’r in a hole… etcetera.


  • 09/02/2012 at 3:58 am

    This really dissuades me, as I was considering self publishing over the summer. I love the idea of being able to pick and choose where my works will be available when self publishing, but this nonsense is really killing my sense of freedom…

    • 09/02/2012 at 10:58 am

      Don’t be dissuaded. Self-publishing is a great experience if done right (which means through Amazon) and with the right decisions and effort, you will not only have a great time, you will feel like you accomplished something with your book.

  • 13/02/2012 at 11:28 pm

    As one who makes half her income from B&N and the other half from Amazon here are my thoughts:

    Your source quotes her source as saying:

    “… if customers wish to buy Amazon titles from us, we will make them available only online at”

    From other articles I have read Barnes and Noble’s “Big announcement” is a poke at Amazon’s KDP Select. Which requires Exclusive Publishing with Amazon — thus you couldn’t have that title published as an ebook at B&N anyways. B&N is removing the hard copy from the physical store in retaliation.

    My theory is they made the statement because it sounded harsh and would bring a big reaction because Amazon is fighting so hard (and succeeding) to monopolize.

    I also believe that people are reacting much too quickly and outlandishly to nothing yet set in stone… For one, most of what Jesse Coffey (the source you refer to) took as fact is hearsay! For two B&N has been doing what Amazon has requested and countering with legitimate tactics.

    PS. Here’s a good source for anyone that panicked when they saw this like I did.

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