IMPORTANT: Barnes and Noble appears to be manipulating its best seller lists

I've posted about this on Facebook, but I wanted to write something slightly more coherent and complete. This is a very important issue for both romance readers and writers, so please, share this post with your friends. Shout it from the roof tops. Barnes and Noble aren't replying to my emails, so we need to make a lot of noise for this to get heard.

For those that don't want to read the whole thing, the situation in a nutshell:

Barnes and Noble appear to be manipulating their Nook bestseller list. They seem to have issue with either self published books or books containing erotic content, or both, and they don't want them being too visible on their site. From what we can gather, there seems to be an artificial wall in their rankings, somewhere around #125, and any books they deem unworthy cannot rank higher, no matter how many copies they sell. My two titles are both currently affected by this, as are Cassia Leo's USA today best selling Shattered Hearts books, and several other works.

To give you the long form and explain how I know this:

My second book, Lockout, was doing astoundingly well on B&N. It was #5 in the whole store yesterday, right up between Dan Brown and James Patterson. I was over the moon.

But something weird was happening with the first book in my series, Locked. It rose when book two launched, but once it hit #126 in the overall store, it stuck in place. It kept selling more books, but wouldn't move. Not even a single ranking place. And it held that position for 48 hours. Now, it's almost impossible for a book to not shift even a few places in a given day. Most books change rank every hour, so obviously this wasn't normal. It felt like it had been pinned in place.

Then, this morning, the same thing happened to Lockout. It went from #5 in the whole Nook store, to #126, in the blink of an eye. This makes no sense. It's all but totally impossible for book sales to plummet that dramatically of their own accord.

I know that this might seem like me just complaining because I'm not doing as well as I'd like, but it's not. Look at this. Locked and Lockout are currently sitting at exactly #126 and #127 in the B&N store. You can see it here:

What do you think the chances of that happening are? Two books by the same author next to one another in the rankings, out of hundreds of thousands of titles. And it's been like that all morning. Add in the fact that Locked has been at #126 for the last two days (I have screenshots, emails and sales figures to show this), and it's pretty clear that this isn't an accurate reflection of the book's sales.

If you look at the charts there, you can also see Cassia Leo's books are just behind mine. I have screenshots of these charts from all last night and this morning, and in every one, our books hold position while everything else shifts around them. I also have word from a much bigger name in the romance community, Liliana Hart, that the same thing happened to her last week. She had a sale, her title rose to #126, then just stopped.

Now, they have yet to actually comment on this, so we have no concrete idea what is going on, but if all this is true, then it's blatant censorship. Their 'best seller' charts aren't best seller charts at all, it's just a list of pre-approved books. The romance community is one of the most voracious in the world, and they're hiding the books you want to read from you. This is worth making some noise over. They're hurting you and your ability to find books, and they're hurting authors you love and their ability to make a living. My sales have plummeted since this happened.

There seems to be no rhyme or reason behind the policy. Cassia's books are much less steamy than mine, and other erotic titles continue to sit in the top 100. I don't know exactly what they're trying to achieve, but the whole thing is inconsistent and grossly unfair. This isn't just about my books, or Cassia's books, it's about B&N thinking they know what their readers want better than readers themselves.

So I'd love it if you helped get the word out about this. Comment on this post so your GR friends see it, share it around your social networks, and let B&N know what you think about this policy. I'm not sure it will do much good, but it's worth making our voices heard nonetheless. Maybe we can get them to at least fill us in on their policy so we can understand what is happening.

EDIT 5/27/13: Just to update this for people only reading now, it is no longer true that my two books are side by side on the Nook store. B&N's blockade has done its job and has killed the sales on my first book by destroying the visibility. It will only be a matter of time before the second starts to fall.

But now that we know what we're looking for, you can now see other books up against the wall. Currently there's Tangled by Emma Chase, Selling Scarlet by Ella James, and then my book, Lockout. Tangled is a great example. It's getting crazy good reviews everywhere, is inside the top 10 on Amazon, but suspiciously won't budge from #126 on the B&N store. The exact rank we've all been complaining about. Doesn't that seem odd?
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Published on May 23, 2013 23:42 Tags: censorship, important, nook, urgent
Comments Showing 1-50 of 93 (93 new)    post a comment »

message 1: by Eden (new)

Eden Summers I'm sorry this has happened to you. I hope you get some answers. They shouldn't be able to do this.

message 2: by Christel (new)

Christel I can't believe it! That's not fair, they aren't playing nice! It's a shame :'(

message 3: by Maya (new)

Maya Cross Ms. wrote: "I think that it's a serious discrimination against books. Adults know what they want to read, or what they need. Period. And I don't think books or their authors should be "discriminated" this way...."

I got a canned reply yesterday about 'rankings being related to other book sales, not overall sales', but that's clearly not relevant. I'm waiting to hear back from them a second time now, but it's out of business hours there.

The other thing is it's so incredibly hypocritical. Nook has Fifty Shades of Grey on their front page. It's literally the first thing you see when you open the site. But apparently other erotic books are somehow different.

message 4: by Suzanne (new)

Suzanne Stokes Maya, I've just downloaded your books, can't wait to read them!!!! I will not be told what to read.

message 5: by Colette (last edited May 24, 2013 04:31AM) (new)

Colette So sorry and disappointed to read this. I own a nook and have been very loyal to Barnes and Nobles. This makes me question why I would want to align myself with them.

message 6: by Portia (new)

Portia Costa Barnes and Noble are angels compared to NOOK UK! They've deleted almost all my erotic romance novels from their catalogue. :(

They do have your second book listed, but not your first.

message 7: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Cox I'm sorry to hear about this. Let's spread the word and get answers from B&N.

message 8: by PAULA (new)

PAULA That's why I recommend to ebooks on Amazon.

message 9: by Merranda (new)

Merranda M. I am so sorry to hear this! Makes me glad that I have stayed with Amazon eBooks!!

message 10: by Laura (new)

Laura Kaye Wow! This is crazy! :( Will share!

message 11: by Debbie (new)

Debbie Barnes and Noble Has been dishonest in so many different ways I am so sorry that you are being treated in such a unfair manner. When I had purchased my nook I was told incorrect information and contacted them them and I received one return message since Nov. 2012 They said they would I would receive a call within 48 hours to correct the issue and never heard from them I called and messaged they do not seem to care about the people that keep there business going I wish I had never dealt with them. I wanted a reader (kindle) so bad and I live in a area you couldn't get one but threw the mail Walmart only carried the nook so that's what I got. They truly are disappointing and I cant afford another. Sorry I get upset when I hear more bad things about Barnes and Noble! I hope more people scream from the roof tops about whats going on with you that is wrong on so many levels I don't think they realize in the end they need us readers and writers! Good Luck sorry for my rant!

message 12: by Amanda (mandy) (new)

Amanda (mandy) Ugh, this is frustrating. I've always been a huge supporter of theirs but it seems like they are caving to pressure from a smaller faction of fans who don't want to see those books pop up. Really disappointing

message 13: by Erin (new)

Erin Dixon I like B&N but this is ridiculous. We don't need a company telling us what to read. If they want to make sure younger readers aren't getting in over their heads, require warnings about content(most authors do this anyway). And for those that don't like erotica research the author before buying!

message 14: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Rose In simple terms, "This Sucks!"
I'm sure that people can READ the posted content warnings.

message 15: by Patti (new)

Patti P This is awful and I am glad that I have never let "best seller" lists and other such things judge what I read. I know that there are many people that depend on those lists to help them discover new authors and books and for that they should be an unbiased resource. Unfortunately in the world we live in no one lets that happen. The best we can do is try to support each other and tell these businesses that think they can manipulate us to kiss our lovely dollars goodbye. I do not shop at b&n and have not for a long time. I will search out other booksellers to purchase my books.

message 16: by M.G. (new)

M.G. Morgan Yeah, B&N has been practicing nasty little habits like this for a while. I'm really sorry to hear you're going through this, Maya. Last summer several of my books were on the verge of hitting the top 100 over there until they were slapped with a thousand rankings, knocking them back to 1121. They climbed back to just outside the top 100 and then were slapped with five thousand ranking points knocking them back to 5106. It destroyed my visibility and it didn't seem to matter after that how many copies of these books that I sold, they weren't able to move past the 5k mark.

It's so disheartening to see things like this happen. It's not fair on the author or the reader. It feels like we're all being treated like children, getting slapped on the wrist when we write/read something "they" deem inappropriate.

message 17: by Patti (new)

Patti P This seems really stupid. Do they not get they are losing sales? We are the ones who purchase the books!!! If we can't find them we don't buy them. I guess they don't mind giving the business away.

message 18: by Erin (new)

Erin Dixon I know from blogging with another author that B&N has had some computer problems as of late. When her books, police procedurals, got slapped with weird rankings, she did get ahold of them and that is what they told her. But, this seems to be a lot more insidious than glitches in the computer programming. Don't they realize that they are shooting themselves in the foot by doing this? They are already in a precarious position financially with the brick and mortar stores which means they really should be courting all authors who are making good money for them no matter the genre.

message 19: by Gabrielle (new)

Gabrielle Bisset I found something very similar when my Blood & Dreams Sons of Navarus Box Set began climbing at B&N in the first week of this month. I was continually selling, but I could never get past that mark right around 120. Interesting.

message 20: by ~ Becs ~ (new)

~ Becs ~ I'm really apppalled to hear about this Maya - I hope they explain their bizarre policies. I hate to think that a bookseller can be so judgemental about books in this way - they should, always, allow the readers to have their say with their hard-earned dollar!

message 21: by MsRomanticReads (new)

MsRomanticReads Ugh! 50S has been on their front page forever.

message 22: by C.D. (new)

C.D. Reiss I'm getting some of my datahead friends to chime in. I'll let you know how it goes.

But please don't take out the torches and pitchforks until we have more information.

message 23: by Kayla (new)

Kayla Beck Wow, I hate to hear about this. My fingers are crossed that it resolves quickly and to your satisfaction!

message 24: by Kit (new)

Kit This stinks. Boo BN

message 25: by Jenny (new)

Jenny Crazy stuff, but I can believe it! It makes you wonder,though, if they are the only ones who do this...

message 26: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Charlesworth I shared on facebook for you.....keep your chin up.

message 27: by Elspeth (new)

Elspeth This makes me happy that I don't shop from them anymore.

message 28: by Jules (new)

Jules This practice is awful. I also hate how it's almost impossible to get a normal search result when shopping with Kindle software. I type in an author's name and get 30 pages of garbage I don't want and one result from the author I'm trying to find. That treats the customer as though she is a blind sheep willing to select whatever is placed before her.

message 29: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Thanks so much for bringing attention to this, Maya! It's sickening that Barnes & Noble doesn't trust their customers to make informed choices about the books they purchase. It shows a complete lack of faith in their customers. I have emailed them and I will update you all when/if I receive a response.

message 30: by C.D. (new)

C.D. Reiss Hugh Howey just posted on this

message 31: by Karen (new)

Karen That is horrible and I am so glad I have a Kindle and dont' buy many books from Barnes and Noble anymore. I don't care if you dont' like what the book is about but if people are buying them the author deserves the credit for that.

message 32: by Kelly (new)

Kelly I really hate this is happening to you guys. You're right about it being a double standard when the are advertising 50 Shades on the front page in a bundle. It makes me ashamed to have a Nook. (Mine was a gift.) It is also more difficult to find romance books on Nook. Amazon has so many that I would like to read but can't because they aren't available. As a retailer I don't got to B&N at all. Just for my Nook. It is the readers choice what to read and what not to read. They have no right to censor authors.

message 33: by Elizabeth (Liz) (new)

Elizabeth (Liz) BN tends to have conservative and elitist leanings, and, unfortunately, this doesn't surprise me in the least. I am SO sorry this is happening to all of you affected!!

message 34: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Mimi, that's what I thought when it happened to Relentless last month, which is why I didn't put a content warning on Pieces of You this time around. I figure, if you've read Relentless, you know what you're getting yourself into with Pieces of You. Unfortunately, leaving the warning out of the description didn't stop B&N from blocking Pieces of You, so I don't think that's it.

message 35: by Tasha (new)

Tasha Turner I'd like to see # of books sold in last hour, last day, last month, ever instead of bestseller list. That would hopefully take away the sellers ability to pull stupid stunts like this and as a reader and future author I'd love to have those numbers readily available... May they stop being stupid and let the lists reflect reality.

message 36: by C.D. (last edited May 24, 2013 02:59PM) (new)

C.D. Reiss Passive Voice just picked this up.

message 37: by Daydream Books (last edited May 24, 2013 03:07PM) (new)

Daydream Books This is a digusting way to operate.

message 38: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Scott Thanks so much for posting about this. I've been looking for other authors that have experienced this on B & N as I've had the same thing happen to me. I released The Billionaire's Obsession (an erotic romance) about a month ago to B & N. I was selling well over a thousand copies a day and sitting at #6 on their list. A day or two later I was having my best day ever...and suddenly...I dropped to #126 and stayed there. The exact same thing happened to the second book in the series, except that one landed at #127 as I guess they needed the #126 number for the first book. They have not answered any of the numerous emails I've sent, nor will their supposed live help (which I think is actually computer generated) address the ranking issue at all. I've lost all respect for B & N and I would not doubt they are desperate enough to also skim sales numbers. If they fix their list, how do I trust that they are reporting and paying accurate sales numbers?

The Billionaire's Obsession made the USA Today Bestseller List because of Amazon and ITunes and has remained on the list because of those two vendors.

I'm not sure if B & N is dumping indies because they don't want them on the list or because they are selling those spots to publishers and need to dump them to make space, but the whole situation is disheartening. Do they think this doesn't have a negative impact on them? They complain about losses every quarter, but they aren't looking at the big picture. I was a very good B & N customer. But I'll never buy another product or book from them now, nor will any of my friends because of this dishonest behavior.

So...are they manipulating their list? Oh, heck yeah. I guarantee it. I'm so glad authors are talking about the issue. I just wish it didn't happen at all!

message 39: by Lacey (new)

Lacey Reah This what upset me when Boarders went out of business. I've known this about B&N for years. a few years ago, I met a women who had a best selling book about witchcraft and it was banned from B&N due to an uprising of conservative groups. I actually stopped shopping at B&N when this happened. I'll support you if you wan't to petition. Someone has to represent our side and the side of freedom of speech. Should we sign a petition, start a campaign? What's the plan?

message 40: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Yes, J.S., I see your boxed set sitting right there along with us. I have a bad feeling that they are censoring titles from independent authors that customers have complained about. It's odd because Relentless was in the top 20 at B&N for over a week. Once I raised the price and it started to slide down the rankings, B&N contacted ME to see if they could feature it in their romance newsletter. It seems I went from the good list to the naughty list within the last two months without any idea how I got there.

message 41: by Eli (new)

Eli Gaffke Are they just putting the rankings all together, brick & mortar/online?

Maybe they realized that this genre of books has been done a million times over and that all your books are the same story with the names changed. And that you should move on from written porn, that creates unrealistic expectations of men.

message 42: by Jessie (new)

Jessie Verona Eli wrote: "Maybe they realized that this genre of books has been done a million times over and that all your books are the same story ..."

Wow. Just wow. That's your comment to obvious discrimination against these authors? That they deserve it?

I suppose spy thrillers, murder mysteries, coming of age etc are genres just chocked full of completely unrelated plots that have never been done before?

message 43: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Jessie: This person created a Goodreads account just to comment. This is an obvious troll. Do not indulge them.

message 44: by Jessie (new)

Jessie Verona Cassia wrote: "Jessie: This person created a Goodreads account just to comment. This is an obvious troll. Do not indulge them."

You're right. Couldn't help myself for a moment. Sounded a little too much like the "well she deserved it if she was going to go out dressed in such a short skirt" argument. I will never understand some people.

message 45: by Maya (new)

Maya Cross To everyone who comment; thank you!

A little update. B&N are being totally non communicative. I also had my distributor, Draft2Digital, trying to find out answers, but they are also being ignored. Clearly this is a case of 'sweep it under the rug and maybe everyone will forget about it,' which obviously makes my blood boil. If there is a policy like this in place, we deserve some clarity and consistency, so at least acknowledge its existence.

Since Hugh posted this, other authors have come out citing exactly the same thing (including a couple that posted here); an invisible wall at the number #125. One of those that replied on Hugh's wall was Blake Crouch who writes dark thrillers/horror. So this isn't confined to just sexy books, although those seem to get the majority of the attention.

I also had a discussion with another author, who I'll leave nameless for now, who think this impacted her newest book hitting the New York Times Bestseller list. That's another important factor to consider. I'm not sure how places like the Times work out those lists, but if sales rank is used to calculate them, then this can potentially be an even bigger thorn in indie writers' sides.

I'm not done hassling them yet. There are other blog posts by other authors coming, and I will continue to send emails and call people until they acknowledge something is up.

Thank you all for your support so far.

message 46: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Maya, this may affect Pieces of You hitting the NYT list in the coming week. I can attest to that considering I know exactly how many books I sold when Relentless was allowed to hit the top 20 on B&N and how many I'm selling now that Pieces of You is not being allowed past #125. I'm hoping my Amazon and iTunes sales are enough, but I'm not going to count on it. This is pretty devastating.

message 47: by Michelle (new)

Michelle Witte A few cogent points:

1) You might want to hold off throwing B&N under the bus, as Amazon has recently been accused of the exact same thing:

2) This won't affect NYT status because the Times doesn't track every book sold in the U.S. They use a system similar to Nielsen in which they go by sales from a select number of bookstores as a sample to gauge sales. (I know this because I was approved as a NYT reporting store when I owned an indie several years ago.) Thus, this issue won't have an impact on other rankings.

3) The books are still being sold. The major effect this has on writers is with discoverability, especially for those self-published or from tiny publishers. I acknowledge that it is a problem—if it's true (innocent before proven guilty and all that). Reader feedback can be effective in changing corporate policy, but it's probably best to hold off on the pitchforks and torches until there's more than just anecdotal evidence.

If someone does a somewhat more scientific poll of a variety of writers in the affected genres and comes back with more than circumstantial evidence, then get vocal with B&N—just leave the pitchforks and torches behind, and confront them with reason and evidence. So much more effective in the longrun. And better for everyone's blood pressure.

message 48: by J.S. (new)

J.S. Scott Cassia...I so hope what happened with B & N doesn't hurt your chances with NYT. You have been ranking so well on Amazon. Obviously the rankings will affect the numbers for B & N, and it definitely will be a factor for the lists for that reason. But I'll be cheering for you to make it. : ) I so feel everyone's pain that is going through this now. I was devastated when it happened to me.

message 49: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Michelle:

I appreciate your post, but, as an author who has had two books affected by this, this is not anecdotal evidence to me. I see the numbers in my B&N sales reports. My book Relentless and Maya's book LOCKOUT were both in the B&N top 20, so we are both aware of the number of book sales it takes to get there. I will gladly provide my sales reports to anyone who requires proof.

And, yes, B&N is included in the bookstores that reports sales for the NYT list. Not sure what kind of argument you were trying to make there.

Discoverability is a huge factor for indie authors because most of us don't have huge marketing budgets and we can't get our books placed on the front table in bookstores. We rely on the accuracy of those bestsellers list for customers to find us.

message 50: by Cassia (new)

Cassia Leo Thank you, J.S. I hope this doesn't affect my chances, but from what I've heard, it's very difficult to make the list without B&N.

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