Publish it with PubIt?

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.
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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.
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Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

32 thoughts on “Publish it with PubIt?”

  1. Hi Lynne,
    I uploaded B&N first and later Smashwords. You are right about the feel of no one being there. They never noticed the books on my sales page were one in the same( B&N and the other Smashwords). After instructing them to remove one, I was told it was impossible. Now they have one free, and one at my set price. I just threw my hands up in the air and went to bang my head on the closest wall. The only positive is Amazon matched the free and it has been running for 5 days and can’t be fixed for a few more. Better than KDP Select LOL.

    1. B&N said they couldn’t remove your PubIt book from sale? I’d be banging my head on the wall, too. But I bet you’re getting lots of downloads! 🙂

      I know some authors have had trouble with various distributors when they tried to take down a book so they could enroll it in KDP Select, but I thought that was mostly an issue with Smashwords’ channel distribution catching up.

  2. The timing couldn’t be better for this post! I’m in the midst of formatting my new novel, and have been researching the direct upload idea to B&N using PubIt. Very helpful info, thank you! Hopefully B&N will invest more in making a direct upload to PubIt a more beneficial option. I think I’ll stick with Smashwords distribution for now. New developments are always being announced, though, so hopefully we’ll see some changes this year!

    1. Glad to help, Christine! Yup, keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂 I’ll stick with PubIt for the final two books in my current series. Then I’ll see how things are going.

  3. I’ve done both Pubit and KDP, and KDP is far superior. Amazon, despite the many complaints about it being a monolith, is far more responsive to my questions, and my sales have been much better. With KDP I feel in control of my books, whereas with Pubit, they’re just there. Sales have been flat and unlike the KDP 5-day promotions which always stimulate sales of books not being offered free, there’s little I can do to get a buzz for my books on Pubit. I’ve never tried Smashwords, but just might give it a look in 2013.

  4. I uploaded my newer books to Pubit and had no problems with it. Then I took my older books off Smashwords distribution, waited a few weeks and uploaded them to Pubit. The Smashwords versions are still on instead of the newer versions I uploaded directly. Will they ever switch them? I tried to find an email address for Pubit questions and came up empty.

  5. I’ve had the same experience as you, and also the same issue as Greta with the duplicate Smashwords version. I hadn’t thought about the difference in royalties, so thanks for bringing that up. The reason I tried is that with PubIt, I have control over how the format turns out, whereas Smashwords meatgrinder can be a little off, especially with graphics. But since I can’t get rid of the duplicate versions, there isn’t much point!

    1. No kidding, Krista. Just fyi, I saw on the Smashwords blog today that they’re starting to test their epub uploading system. That may solve at least part of your problem.

  6. I tried over and over to open an account with B&N and for weeks it was “in process.” I e-mailed, I called, and each time I was assured they would get back to me. In the meantime I sold over 120,000 copies of my first novel on Amazon and Smashwords without ever getting it listed on B&N, so I guess I didn’t really need them anyway.

  7. Thanks, Lynne! I’ve found that in formatting directly for PubIt, you need a “section break” after chapters instead of a simple “page break” if you want chapters to start on a new page.

  8. B&N kind of confuses me. I like to go directly rather than through Smashwords when I can (lots of distribution errors with Smashwords and it takes months to get things corrected).

    I don’t understand why they are the only one of the biggies who restricts to US publishers. And now they don’t seem to be on top of that group anyway. I had high hopes for them, but I’m not sure they are in the market they way they need to be.

    Thanks for the information.

  9. You’re welcome, P.A. Speaking of national differences, Kobo’s Writing Life, which is based in Canada, will let anybody use their service — but you have to provide your own ISBN. Canadians can get one free from their government. But US citizens have to buy theirs from Bowker, and the cost is pretty substantial. On the other hand, Smashwords will give you a free ISBN and upload to Kobo for you.

  10. Thanks for the info. I have one with Smashwords and Amazon, and the other purely with KDP select. I don’t think I will try anywhere else just yet. Happy New Year.

  11. That’s a shame that B&N doesn’t let UK citizens self-publish on their platform. Thank you for this information. I know there’s a lot of legal hurdles and what-have-you for a US-based company to pay out royalties to international folks, but they are still severely limiting themselves. No wonder B&N is getting eaten alive by Amazon.

    1. Paul, to be fair, B&N has other costs Amazon doesn’t have — for example, brick-and-mortar stores in the US (full disclosure: my daughter works for one of their stores, which is how I ended up with a Nook 😉 ). But I agree with you that B&N is losing an opportunity by refusing to allow non-US citizens to use PubIt. Whether the expense and hassle of dealing with foreign corporate and tax regulations outweigh the revenue they would receive — and whether they even weighed those considerations — is anybody’s guess.

  12. Thanks for this Lynne. I might have considered this option when it eventually becomes available in the UK as I’m always looking out for new possibilities. However, like those who have commented above, I’ll stick with Smashwords for now.

  13. I took 4 of mine to PubIt when Smashwords could not get them loaded to B&N for over 6 weeks. At the end of the 72 hours they were visible and as soon as I corrected my entries to Worldwide they went onto the UK site as well. I’m enjoying GREAT sales via PubIt and am seriously considering putting future books there as well. They did have some system issues, but they responded to my email and let me know that they were indeed having some issues, and it wasn’t just “me”. All in all, I didn’t have any more issues there than I do when I go via Smashwords (and, by the way, I adored Smashwords–they’ve just got some issues they don’t seem to be able to fix quickly enough to avoid losing sales). Royalties are 40% for the under $2.99 books where my series falls and I love that we get paid faster than quarterly! What’s not to like? Of course, I haven’t tried to make any real “changes” to mine–hopefully I won’t have to any time soon!

  14. I also publish on BN and through Smashwords. Yes, I know how you feel about books getting stuck in limbo and not being able to do anything with it. I had a book I was trying to unpublish, and it got stuck- this is the same book I was trying to do KDP Select with (oh, you’ll get the gory details in my blog post) safe to say, it too BN almost 15 DAYS to get the book unpublished. Which of course screwed things up for me and KDP Select.

    Although I have my grumbles about their site and some of their practices, I actually make MORE on BN than Amazon as far as actual sales goes. I’d guess almost 50-60% better. So I grumble, and happily accept the bank transfer of royalties each month. Each publishing outlet has their good and bad points, and if you want to be in the game, you have to roll with it.

    Excellent post- very informative for those yet to experience Pubit.

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