My Advice to Those Thinking of Using Barnes & Noble Press for a Print Book – Don’t


What you feel like after using B&N Press for print

Recently, I got the bright idea to publish a paperback version of my newest release, Mare's Nest, with Barnes & Noble Press. In the end, I think "ordeal" is the best word I can think of to describe just how unpleasant and frustrating it was trying to publish a paperback with Barnes & Noble Press. Frankly, it felt like a beat-down. The experience left me feeling like I'd been beaten like a rented mule. That is what I've attempted to convey with the comical (and incidentally completely fake) image at left that I've used to illustrate this post.

In the past, I've always published the paperback versions of my books with Create Space. Consequently,  my paperbacks do not appear on the Barnes & Noble website. That's understandable, of course. Create Space is owned by Amazon, the biggest competitor of Barnes & Noble. Why would Barnes & Noble wish to support its competitor by selling paperbacks produced by Create Space? Spoiler Alert: They wouldn't.

When I learned that Barnes & Noble had launched this past January, a new self-publishing platform where authors can publish both print and digital books, I jumped at the opportunity to try it out. I have been uploading my electronic books directly to the Nook platform for years, and my electronic books have sold quite well at B&N.

It seemed a no-brainer to take advantage of the opportunity to get my paperback versions into the industry-leading brick and mortar bookstore chain as well. But, I quickly discovered that publishing a paperback with Barnes & Noble Press is far easier said than done.

Cover files issues

One glaring drawback to Barnes & Noble Press that I discovered immediately is that they do not provide a PDF template that you can upload to your photo editing and manipulation software to produce a print ready one-piece book cover.

I don't claim to be an expert when it comes to making book covers, but over the years I've learned a good bit about how to go about it. I routinely create one piece covers for paperbacks and hardcover dust jackets that pass muster with both Create Space and Ingram Spark. But creating a one-piece cover that's acceptable to Barnes & Noble Press is infinitely harder. In my opinion, it may even be damn near impossible for anyone to do other than professional digital designers. The biggest reason for that, in my opinion, is because Barnes & Noble Press provide you a cheesy Word template to use instead of the PDF form that seems fairly industry-standard everywhere else.

I made three attempts to upload a one-piece cover. Fail, fail, and fail. Check and checkmate. I gave up. I reverted to the other option offered. I uploaded a front and back cover and allowed Barnes & Noble Press to provide the spine and then integrate the three pieces into a print-ready cover. My first attempt using that option seemed to work since the next rejection from them focused on my interior files.

b-&-n-press cover requirements

Interior files issues

I've been self-publishing for a while now, and able to competently format a paperback book in Word. Once I've done that, I use the Word function to save the file as a print-ready PDF which is what I upload to Create Space and Ingram Sparks. I've never had a problem having my interior files rejected by either of those printing companies. Not so with Barnes & Noble. Even after doing it exactly the same way as I've done it many times before for the other POD printers, my interior files were rejected by B&N Press.

I don't recall the technical language used in the rejection note, but basically what it said was that the colors used in the print-ready PDF were too dark. That the note said would result in the printer applying too much ink when printing the book, and it would likely cause the ink to smear.

After searching the web without success in the attempt to learn how to lighten the color black in Word, which was, of course, the only color used in my interior files, I tried changing the print color to gray in hopes that would solve the problem. I submitted the files again.

Yep - more cover issues

The next rejection note received said that my cover files had words that extended beyond the bleed lines and might be cut off. So, back to correcting the cover files drawing board. I meticulously followed the measurements provided by B&N and then resubmitted the separate front and back covers again.

Interior files rejected - again

The next rejection note received again advised me that my interior cover files colors were too dark for acceptable printing. By this point, it had become obvious to me that PDF files produced with Word were never going to be acceptable. In fairness, in the instructions, Barnes & Noble Press had recommended that PDF files be created using Adobe Acrobat. But I didn't have that available. I have the reader, but not the creation software. Why was this an issue? The Word produced PDF has always worked fine with every other printer I've used. That not only includes Create Space and Ingram Spark but Lulu and another short run private press too. What could be so different about the "innovative" print process at Barnes & Noble Press?

It was at this point that I waved the white flag of surrender. I was not about to buy Adobe Acrobat simply to publish a paperback with Barnes & Noble Press. I deleted the paperback version project and settled for uploading my electronic version.

Well-played Barnes & Noble Press, I thought. Well-played. You prevented me from learning your successful book files creation secrets. Reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings character Boromir meme, "One does not simply publish a paperback book with Barnes & Noble Press.

Time passes - wounds healed

It took weeks of wound licking for me to get over my big fail at Barnes & Noble Press. But, finally another brainstorm. Since it appeared I had finally managed to get the cover files accepted, albeit after somewhere around a dozen attempts, maybe there was a way to get past the Barnes & Noble interior files gatekeepers. I recalled reading somewhere about the Reedsey Book Editor where you could get book interior files formatted both as electronic books and print ready PDF files. I headed over to Reedsey and uploaded my book to the editor. A few minutes later I had a beautiful print-ready book interior PDF file. It was back to Barnes & Noble Press for another attempt. I uploaded the Reedsey produced interior files and the same cover files that had finally been accepted the previous time.

I wish I could tell you that the files were immediately accepted and that my Barnes & Noble Press version paperback is now available at Barnes & Noble. Unfortunately, I can't. Going on four days after I uploaded the files, my paperback still shows as "Publishing" on my projects dashboard. That's the status that is assigned until the book is actually published, or gets rejected. While I remain hopeful, I'm not out of the woods yet on this, my final attempt to publish with Barnes & Noble Press.

The takeaway

If you are a mere mortal independent author and self-publisher, my advice is to avoid Barnes & Noble Press in its current form like the bubonic plague. In fact, you would most likely find contracting a case of the bubonic plague a mild inconvenience in comparison to the trials and tribulations of attempting to upload print book files to Barnes & Noble Press. I don't think I can say it any plainer than that.

The website claims the new Barnes & Noble Press platform is innovative and easy to use. Not true. Trust me. If it is so innovative, why are print book files that are perfectly acceptable to every other print on demand (POD) publisher rejected by Barnes & Noble press? I have to believe that the problems I encountered were not entirely of my own making. Honestly, I feel some of the rejections I received were capricious. I suspect that once my files had been rejected numerous times, the re-submissions weren't even looked at seriously. I think they were just rejected out of hand. Who could blame the person doing that? I mean they look at the computer screen and see a dozen rejections. How could they have any confidence I finally got it right?

What to do instead

What I have done in the past, and will do in the future is this. I'll publish my print books through Create Space without the wide distribution so that it gets my book into the Amazon eco-system. Then I'll print it through Ingram-Spark to make it available everywhere else. That's what I recommend others do as well unless Barnes & Noble Press corrects some of the platforms more egregious shortcomings.

My advice to Barnes & Noble Press

If you want to compete with the other POD publishers, you've got to up your game. Provide a simple to use custom one-piece cover PDF template that self-publishers can use to build a cover from like all the other POD publishers do. Fix the problem that causes rejection of PDF interior files produced with Microsoft Word. News flash. Hardly anyone outside large corporations owns Adobe Acrobat DC. No boot-strapping self-publisher is going to buy an expensive piece of software that they don't need to produce acceptable book files for anyone but Barnes & Noble Press. Make the print side of your publishing platform at least marginally user-friendly. The rejection notes I received seemed like they were aimed at a printing expert who understood all the jargon and nuances of the book printing industry. Your notes outlining required corrections were far too technical and not helpful at all.

Over to you

Have you ever attempted to publish a print book with Barnes & Noble Press? If so, were you more successful than I've described? Or like me, did the experience feel pretty much like you were a Hobbit on a quest you felt totally unprepared for to Mount Doom in the land of Mordor? Please let me and other interested readers know with a comment below.

Next time, I'll share my advice to those who may be considering self-publishing a print book through Lulu. And, I'll let you know whether Barnes & Noble Press has accepted my book files or not.

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