For the past nine months or so, I’ve been conducting an experiment. Instead of letting Smashwords handle distribution of my new ebooks to Barnes & Noble, I’ve been uploading them directly to B&N by using PubIt, their dedicated ebook publishing system. The royalty is slightly higher by going directly through B&N (65 percent on ebooks priced at $2.99 and higher, compared to 60 percent when you go through Smashwords). Plus I thought I might get paid faster if I cut out the middleman and uploaded my books directly to B&N.
It’s free to use PubIt, with a couple of caveats. Right now, it’s only for publishers in the United States – which I suspect may change shortly, now that B&N is selling Nooks in the UK. Also, even though it’s free to use PubIt, B&N requires you to register on their main site and use that login information for your PubIt account – and registering on the main site requires you to give them a credit card number. I already had a B&N account since I have a Nook; the reason they want a credit card on file is so that they can charge you when you download a book to your Nook, the same way Amazon charges you when you download a book to your Kindle. It’s unfortunate that B&N didn’t think about the message this sends to PubIt authors. But rest assured that B&N has never charged me anything for my PubIt activity.
The process of uploading a book to PubIt is straightforward enough; if you can publish your work successfully at Amazon and Smashwords, you will be able to navigate PubIt’s process with no trouble. B&N asks for the same information that the other guys do, and their cover requirements are substantially the same. PubIt has one nice additional feature: a dedicated place for excerpts from up to five reviews of your book. They require a name and URL for each excerpt. I’ve given them Goodreads reviews without a problem. (I haven’t tried it, but I expect it would go badly for you if you attempted to link to a review published at Amazon.)
PubIt doesn’t bother to e-mail you when your book goes live. You’ll have to check B&N in a couple of days (the FAQ says to give it 24 to 72 hours).
All that said, PubIt is starting to have a feeling of benign neglect about it. I could swear that the book images on the landing page haven’t changed in the past six months. The last post on their Facebook page was in October. In addition, nearly every time I’ve tried to upload a new book or change a listing over the past few months, I’ve received an error message saying they’re having “technical difficulties” and to please try again later. Uploading a new book always seems to work, despite the error message, but if I make a change to an existing listing, it’s a crapshoot whether it will take. I uploaded new descriptions for two of my books Sunday night, and got the “technical difficulties” for both uploads, but the new descriptions are live as I write this on Wednesday. Yet when I tried to make several changes to the metadata on another of my books a few months ago, the only change that took was the lower price.
In addition, while PubIt claims to offer its authors marketing support, it’s pretty thin on the ground. B&N has nothing even remotely like KDP Select. They rolled out a program called Nook First earlier this year, in which B&N actively promotes a new ebook in exchange for a thirty-day period of exclusivity, but information about applying for the program is scarce to nonexistent.
Maybe B&N is concentrating its efforts right now on getting the Nook program up and running in the UK. Maybe once that’s done, they will pay more attention to PubIt. Fingers crossed.