Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press Bewares

NookPressAuthorSolutionsNook Press – Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform – launched a selection of author services last October including editing, cover design, and (limited) print-on-demand.

Immediate speculation surrounded who exactly was providing these services, with many – including Nate Hoffelder, Passive Guy, and myself – speculating it could be Author Solutions. However, there was no proof.

Until now.

A source at Penguin Random House has provided me with a document which shows that Author Solutions is secretly operating Nook Press Author Services. The following screenshot is taken from the agreement between Barnes & Noble and writers using the service.

NookPressAuthorServicesBloomingtonopt

You will see that the postal address highlighted above for physical submission of manuscripts is “Nook Press Author Services, 1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, Indiana.”

Author Solutions, Bloomington, Indiana. Image courtesy of Wikimedia, uploaded by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0

Author Solutions, Bloomington, IN. Image from Wikimedia, by Vmenkov, CC BY-SA 3.0

There’s something else located at that address: Author Solutions US headquarters in Bloomington, Indiana (pictured right).

Barnes & Noble has never disclosed that Author Solutions is providing these services, either in the press release announcing same, the communications to Nook Press users, or on the site itself.

Indeed, Barnes & Noble refused to respond to three separate requests last November for information on same from Nate Hoffelder of The Digital Reader (now renamed Inks, Bits & Pixels).

Also, Barnes & Noble fails to disclose Author Solutions’ involvement to authors purchasing these services. The Nook Press Author Services site goes into great detail about these services but never once mentions that Author Solutions is fulfilling them. In fact, the way the FAQs on the site are worded makes it sound like Barnes & Noble/Nook Press carries out the work itself – which is extremely misleading.

Finally, authors who use Nook Press Author Services are not informed that their personal details are shared with Author Solutions, along with explicit permission to use those personal details to upsell Author Solutions’ infamous marketing packages.

Theresa Horner – the General Manager of Nook Press and VP of Content Acquisitions – led the negotiations with Author Solutions, which concluded in October last year. When making the announcement, Horner explained to Publishers Weekly that Barnes & Noble plans to further expand the services offered by Nook Press to its users.

As with the press release, the communications with Nook Press authors, and the on-site information, Horner didn’t disclose that fulfillment would be outsourced to Author Solutions.

Horner’s employment with Barnes & Noble ended right after the deal with Author Solutions was concluded, but the contract between Nook Press Author Services and its users confirms her statement that Barnes & Noble plans to expand the range of services. There are clauses relating to all sorts of other services not currently offered, such as distribution of print titles and royalties relating to same, and it’s clear that Author Solutions will be fulfilling those services too.

It’s not hard to figure out why Barnes & Noble has gone to such great lengths to hide its partnership with Author Solutions – following the exact playbook when Lulu struck a deal with Author Solutions in March 2013.

Author Solutions has a terrible reputation in the writing community for the deceptive methods it uses to ensnare authors, its sub-standard and over-priced services, and its high-pressure sales tactics aimed at selling completely ineffective (and ridiculously expensive) marketing packages – and nothing has changed under Penguin Random House’s ownership.

All of this has led to a class action which has been running since 2013. Author Solutions, and its corporate parent, has attempted to get the class action dismissed on numerous occasions, but the case is still ongoing and the plaintiffs filed for class certification last week.

You might why Barnes & Noble didn’t run a mile from such a disreputable company facing a significant class action, but don’t worry, Barnes & Noble’s lawyers are on it:

ClassActionWaiver

It’s a pity such diligence didn’t extend itself to protecting the position of Nook Press users and finding a reputable service provider.

Barnes & Noble has now sold out to the worst possible company. In case it’s not clear what Author Solutions is aiming at with a deal like this, let me quote from the papers filed in the class action. Here’s further proof of the deal (AS = Author Solutions).

MotionToCertify1

And here’s the part which makes explicit Author Solutions’ aims with such deals. Partnerships like this are all about “lead generation”:

MotionToCertify2

Those statements are based on depositions of key Author Solutions executives, taken during the discovery process which concluded in January. The depositions specifically referred to above are those of Keith Ogorek, Senior Vice President of Marketing, and Don Seitz, Senior Vice President of Worldwide Sales. Both report directly to Penguin Random House’s company man, Author Solutions CEO Andrew Phillips.

I’ll be talking more about what those depositions revealed over the next few weeks, but if you would like to read the (lengthy) documents yourself, the Plaintiff’s Memorandum of Law in Support of their Motion for Class Certification is here (PDF) and the deposition excerpts are here (PDF).

And that’s not all.

As mentioned above, the agreement that users of Nook Press Author Services have to sign makes explicit provision for sharing of personal data with Author Solutions for the purposes of upselling further services. Which means Nook Press users can look forward to being bombarded with phone calls and emails to buy useless YouTube advertising packages and worthless Hollywood pitching services.

InformationSharing

If you think you are safe because you have never used Nook Press Author Services, and don’t plan to, I’m afraid that’s not the case. I’m not a lawyer, but under my reading of the terms of the Nook Press Privacy Policy, Barnes & Noble already has the right to share the personal information of all Nook Press users with third party suppliers like Author Solutions.

NookPressPrivacy

We have come to expect this kind of shady behavior from Author Solutions, but Barnes & Noble should be ashamed of themselves.

A line in the sand needs to be drawn. Partnering with Author Solutions is not acceptable. Hiding that partnership from users of Nook Press Author Services is not acceptable. Sharing Nook Press users’ personal information with Author Solutions is not acceptable. And that message needs to go out very clearly to Barnes & Noble.

Meanwhile, avoid Nook Press Author Services like the plague.

98 Replies to “Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press”

  1. The screenshot you’ve included above of the Nook Press Author Services agreement says that users can opt out of receiving communications from Nook employees, contractors, etc, “in accordance with our privacy policy”.

    Unfortunately, I can’t see anything in the privacy policy about how to opt out of those communications. The only thing I can see that is close to relevant is in section 7, where it says, “For NOOK Press collaborator emails: You may choose to opt out of receiving NOOK Press collaborator emails by contacting NOOK Press Customer Service at nookpress@nook.com.”

    Am I missing something?

    1. This is the general B&N privacy policy. It’s the same blanket policy that covers Nook Press: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/help/cds2.asp?PID=25560

      I’ve gone through it and I can’t spot where authors can opt out of receiving partner/supplier communications.

      The only thing I did spot was this:

      “If you have any questions about this Privacy Policy, please contact us at privacy@barnesandnoble.com or call customer service at 1-800-THE-BOOK [1-800-843-2665].”

      AFAIK the collaborator thing refers to something totally different. And there is a separate privacy policy for non-US types: http://www.nook.com/services/cms/doc/nookpress/gb/en_gb/legal/nook-privacy.html

      1. I think you’re right about the collaborator thing being different. The non-US privacy policy doesn’t appear to have anything more useful. I guess the only way to opt out is to contact customer service.

  2. Great work, David. This is very troubling news. Clearly ASI considers lawsuits a threat to their business model — so much so that they’re prohibiting authors who sign deals with them from ever suing them. Talk about smelly business practices.

    1. Well, I suspect that it was Barnes & Noble lawyers who drew up this contract, Author Solutions (or even Nook Media Author Services) aren’t a party to this contract – the contract is between B&N and the author. B&N must have a separate contract with Author Solutions governing the outsourcing. It probably contains things like provisions for payment to B&N for each writer delivered to Author Solutions, and a royalty payment for each crappy service purchased – that’s the way partner agreements usually work.

      I should also mention that it’s my understanding that clauses like Class Action waivers are becoming more common, and the presence of such a clause isn’t necessarily a sign of nefarious intentions. But I think it’s quite revealing that Barnes & Noble was careful enough to make sure such a clause was inserted, but didn’t show any such care towards protecting the interest of its own Nook Press authors.

  3. I’ve had my e-books available for Nook since the beginning. It was once my best market. But sales came to a screeching halt about 2 years ago. I switched everything to Smashwords about the time it change to Nook Press.

    Thanks for letting us know that Author Solutions has their grubby hands in the mix. I don’t think I can close my Nook Press account — but none of my e-books are for sale through that venue.

  4. One-time prom queen wearing her tiara while she turns tricks at a truck stop restroom.

    Be ashamed, Barnes & Noble. Be very ashamed.

  5. Re-Posted through my Facebook page and also Twitter. I noticed a big drop off in sales a few years ago also when I had my romances uploaded directly through Nook. I took them off and offer them exclusively through Smashwords to the B&N channel. Actually, right now B&N is my biggest seller through Smashwords.

    1. B&N via Smashwords was my biggest market, then Apple blew their doors off starting this year. I hear Apple has taken the #2 vendor spot from B&N. Looks like they are losing ground – more now that that we know about AS? Maybe so.

  6. Well, I already had zero intention of using Nook Press Author Services, but this definitely helps seal the deal. Shame on B&N! I’ve tweeted this article, and thank you for raising awareness on this.

  7. Reblogged this on David VanDyke's Author Blog and commented:
    For anyone that knows the sordid history of Author Solutions, this is all vomit-worthy stuff. That B&N would voluntarily associate itself with such an ethically bankrupt company is terribly disappointing, though seemingly par for the course, as B&N has a current reputation as one of the most badly managed companies of its size in the U.S.

  8. I pulled off the other platforms to go direct with NOOKPress a while back – in the clearly mistaken view that this would be a good idea – I am now debating whether to go through Smashwords or D2D instead. This is so disappointing in many ways.
    It will be interesting to see what happens with the potential spin off or sale of NOOK – will this enhance its value to other publishers, or take it down a notch?
    Thanks as ever Dave, for your advocacy of authors.

    1. I’m very tempted to pull all my books from B&N now. I doubt if going through SW or D2D will solve the problem and since I have no idea what the agreements between SW or D2D are, I’ll avoid all three. Barnes & Noble should be ashamed. I had checked out their print versions, for the hard cover books but was not thrilled with the set up. Thanks for bringing this out into the open.

    2. Is this a desperate attempt to make Nook profitable? Or is it an attempt to make Nook sound better to a prospective buyer? It’s interesting to consider, but whichever is right one thing is clear: B&N has zero respect for authors.

      Re pulling stuff from Nook Press, I answered that in more detail below, but the short answer is that I don’t think that would be particularly effective, and it probably won’t prevent the sharing of your data (which may have already happened, or could happen in the future even if you yanked everything down immediately).

      I think there are better ways to put pressure on B&N, but I’m open to suggestions.

  9. Not surprising in the least. Nook is pretty much unprofitable, and AS is nothing but profit, considering it’s attitude toward making money from authors instead of readers.

  10. Pingback: Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press | The Passive Voice | A Lawyer's Thoughts on Authors, Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing
  11. Definitely appreciate your generous contribution of your time and talents to the Indie community and building a little integrity into the process. It’s shocking that people believe that these kinds of business models will have anything but a wholly detrimental effect on the product. We are all grateful for your vigilance.

  12. It makes chilling reading. To date I am published through a traditional house, so this nightmare is of no immediate concern, but should I enter the world of self-publishing, articles like this make me wary of the pitfalls that lie on wait for a naïve chap like me. I am always envious of your Mailchimp thing on here because I have signally failed to get one onto my Blog, partly inspired by your very excellent books

  13. There are a few people asking about withdrawing books from B&N/Nook Press both here and elsewhere. Here’s what I think:

    *If the aim is to protest this partnership and/or the sharing of data with Author Solutions, I think there are better ways to do that – ones which don’t impact your ability to make a living.

    *If the aim is to prevent the sharing of your information, it might well be too late.

    I don’t think that’s a particularly effective method of protest anyway. I think registering your displeasure with Barnes & Noble/Nook Press is a much better idea, and will have a much greater effect (and won’t dent your sales).

    I’ll catch up with the rest of the comments in a bit!

    1. I’ve been considering dropping Nook Press and getting into B&N through Smashwords for a while now anyway. My sales have dropped so much at B&N that I’d rather bundle the income with other Smashwords sales anyway. However, I realize I’m already in their system, and it won’t help shield me from AS inquiries. Darn them!

  14. Great work as always David. It’s a damned shame. I am/was a big fan of B&N for decades. I spent many hours in their establishments in an enjoyably leisurely manner. Sorry to see them aligned with the likes of AS.

  15. I pulled my books off Nook Press a few months ago for an entirely different reason: their “Manuscript Editor” interface was driving me nuts. They were my smallest sales channel anyway, so I’m content to distribute there via Smashwords. I meant to close my Nook Press account altogether, but I simply could not find a place to do so! The nearest thing I could find was a paragraph encouraging people not to close their accounts, since they would not be allowed to set up a new one in the future with the same tax ID.

    Anyhow, this latest news makes me glad I’d already decided to stay away.

  16. Are you sure you’re not an investigative journalist? Keep up the good work in behalf of self-published authors. When the dust settles on AS, someone should give you an award for your public service.

    1. I appreciate the sentiment, but if anyone should get an award it’s Victoria Strauss. She has been campaigning on this issue for way, way longer than I have – and all sorts of related scams too. She has endured personal threats, legal threats, trolls, sockpuppets, one star reviews on her books, she has been sued more than once, and she keeps going.

      I haven’t had to endure a fraction of what she has had to deal with, to be honest.

  17. Oddly, I’m not surprised. I had my permafree direct to Nook Press last year, but let D2D take it over once I really decided to go wide. Shame, B&N was actually pretty good for me in February, but before that, it was a dead zone.
    When I first heard about the new publishing services B&N was offering, it had smacked of AS type stuff and I knew I wouldn’t be using them anyway. But there will be a lot of authors and would-be authors that might get sucked in, especially if they publish directly to Nook Press. 🙁

  18. Reblogged this on Savvy Writers & e-Books online and commented:
    Notorious AUTHOR SOLUTIONS increased future revenue by closing a deal with … You won’t believe it: Barnes & Noble!
    David Gauthran explains the most frightening point for authors who sell their books through Barnes & Noble :
    “If you think you are safe because you have never used Nook Press Author Services, and don’t plan to, I’m afraid that’s not the case. I’m not a lawyer, but under my reading of the terms of the Nook Press Privacy Policy, Barnes & Noble already has the right to share the personal information of all Nook Press users with third party suppliers like Author Solutions.”

    Read the whole story (peppered with documents for proof) at David’s blog, including responses of writers – and after do share it, re-blog it, and spread the word so that all authors get informed and be warned about this new scam. Many authors already pulled their books from B&N…

    A BIG thanks to David Gaughran, who works hard, investigates and cautions everyone in the writing community.

  19. David: Thanks again for fighting the good fight and sharing these critical findings with the rest of us. This is disappointing in so many ways.

  20. It is one thing to try and deal with the pirates and scammers who are targeting authors without foxes in the hen house.. Unfortunately it was ever thus… with the millions of authors now self-publishing the accumulative factor annually of just 1 dollar per author they suck in is in the millions and millions.. I won’t touch any of them with a barge pole and so pleased we decided 11 years ago to do it all ourselves..

  21. Great sleuthing, David, but more than that, the amount of time you put in to uncover the deception and sleaze and then write it up here…well, thank you doesn’t seem sufficient. Sharing this on FB and will re log as well.

  22. Reblogged this on The Monster's Ink and commented:
    *nods* Interesting development. I encourage my fellow self-publishers to avoid Nook Press Author Services, and along the same lines, to avoid using Nook Press altogether. Smashwords can distribute ebooks to B&N. I think that’s what I’ll be doing with my ebooks going forward. Nook Press doesn’t need any more of my time.

  23. I was wondering why do you think all of these companies are signing up with AS? Is it the perceived idea that their is a gap in their services or the idea of another revenue stream or both? It is odd to me that they all use AS and yet at the same distance themselves from AS by rebranding their service.

    I just can’t figure out what the rush to have this service is not just for Barnes and Noble, but Penguin, Writer’s Digest, Hay House, Reader’s Digest, Harlequin, etc…. The list is mind-boggling. I’ve never known an industry to throw itself into a single basket like this or maybe I’m naive? I get the benefit to AS – multiple revenue sources from (previously) reputable companies, but the dilution of its service as it adds on more and more companies seems like it would not pass a cost analysis – given the potential for litigation. Even with the non-litigation clause, there could be a federal investigation meaning penalties and conditions. It is like the publishing industry has to keep finding new ways to put them in the cross-hairs of controversy and defending the bottom line while spinning a conman’s ethics.

    The job you do so well is to keep shouting out and letting new and recently returning authors about this quicksand service. Thank you.

  24. Reblogged this on madgeniusclub and commented:
    This is your Mad Genius PSA for the day: Barnes & Noble’s self publishing platform isn’t nearly as clean as they would like it to appear.

  25. Pingback: B&N’s Nook Press in Bed with the Author Solutions Devil?
  26. Someone is surprised that the World’s Worst Bookstore is involved in shenanigans like this? This is the company, after all, that finances itself on credits for book returns (which are all charged against YOUR royalty by your publisher!). This is also the company that ate all the other good bookstores. Ever tried to get the “community relations specialist” at your local B&N to talk to you about you coming in there and signing books? Even when your book is selling well?

    The truth is BARNES & NOBLE SUCKS! So of course scumsuckers of a feather, flock together.

  27. A number of worrying issues here for indies and once again David has done an excellent sleuthing job to expose it. I would caution everyone getting too worked up about B&N and decide carefully what you think or want to get out of Nook Press as there are two arms to the business. For me it’s about sales of eBooks and another channel of market exposure that I can simply load up my completed ePub and cover to directly, under my business control, to what is the online self publishing portal side of Nook Press, a storefront like any other. If they stop selling I pull the titles. Your privacy rights and non-sharing as far as I can see are guaranteed with that. I don’t need Smashwords to do the same thing, good as they are, and why damage potential sales? Author services are part of the separate Nook Press Platform, you don’t have to have it – you only need to look at the charges to become wary about who is providing them and what privacy you give away. There are lots of reputable and professional indie publishing services at sensible prices to do that work if you need it. Sadly, David’s exposure is part of the wider trend of being ripped off by so called reputable organisations more easily in a digital age. Like when the scammers phone your landline to sell employment protection, fix your PC or steal your bank money – caveat emptor. As David suggests, my take is think of your sales and don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. There are other ways to protest.

  28. I just removed my very first book from Nook Press. It’s not like I was really selling there anyway. I may go through D2D at a later date. I haven’t decided yet. The thought that they may have already passed on my information is chilling.

  29. Thanks David for the warning. I tweeted this + Facebook. Authorhouse keeps calling me, sending mails to “make appointment” by phone. I answered several times they can send me a mail and anyway I don’t need anything. Maybe the people there cannot read, only talk?

  30. Pingback: Monday Must-Reads [03.09.15]
  31. So I’m guessing we can use one or the other still? Nook or pubit? Or is it all the same thing now?

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