Does B&N Manipulate its Rankings?
A bold question, but it isn’t the first I’ve heard of this happening. Several erotica and romance authors on KBoards have complained that their ranking on the Nook bestseller list does not reflect their actual sales. The most recent victim is Maya Cross. Maya reported on KBoards that her new release LOCKOUT was sitting at #5 in the Nook store. Her first book, LOCKED, soon began to shoot up the lists. But when it hit #126, it stopped. It didn’t go any higher. Even though it was selling very well.
This was only mildly suspicious until she woke up the next morning to find the former #5 bestseller, LOCKOUT, sitting at #126. LOCKED, meanwhile, had dropped to #127. The two books sat side by side, pinned, selling more than the ranking would indicate. And poor Maya watched as her sales gradually diminished due to the lower visibility.
I should point out here that many indie authors are expert at reading sales numbers from sales rank. We’ve shared enough data and collected our own as we move through the lists, so that even as the numbers required to hit certain rankings grows over time with the growth of e-books in general, you can tell when something is amiss. At this point, it was cause for alarm. But then a pattern emerged.
It turns out that two other authors have experienced the same thing and with the same number! Gail McHugh saw her book rise to #126 and go no higher. It appears that any flagged book, whether due to racy cover or racy content, is given a hard ceiling. Couple this with allegations that erotica books have been deleted from NOOK UK with no explanation and no recourse. Folks, this ain’t right.
It’s not right for three reasons.
First, it’s bad for the customer. Is it a wonder that B&N is flailing when it refuses to serve the needs and tastes of its customers? Readers coming to their storefront should know what’s selling the best, as that’s a reflection of what they might want to check out. Otherwise, why have a bestseller list at all?
Second, it’s bad for the authors, who are unfairly discriminated against. With the press of a button, Maya saw her earnings diminish. This should infuriate anyone with a pulse. It’s disgusting behavior. If a customer wants to see what’s selling best in their favorite genre, like mystery or science fiction, those lists are a click away. Nobody should manipulate the overall bestseller list and harm authors just to suit the tastes of what someone in an office wishes their list looked like.
Which leads to the third party this hurts, and that’s Barnes and Noble. Bookstores excel when they match good books with happy readers. This is an attempt to halt that process. It is immoral, abhorrent, and it should stop. I hope it does so before Barnes and Noble drives itself out of business. That won’t be good for anyone. Not that their business decisions seem driven by such logic.
Edited to add: Selena Kitt, Cassia Leo, and Liliana Hart have all seen their books pinned at the magic number of 126. If you want to support these authors, check out their books. And why shouldn’t you? They must rock if they sell so well. Buy them on Amazon, Kobo, or the iBookstore, as their rankings should reflect your purchase appropriately:
Anyone else affected by this? What do you all think of this practice?