My Horrible Experience with Barnes & Noble Press
This all started when I wanted to make changes to two books I had created on Barnes & Noble Press. I had an upcoming book signing event scheduled for mid-October, so I needed to get copies of my books ordered. But, I wanted to change the cover quality from matte to glossy. Simple right? Nope. I would click "Edit Book" in the dashboard, and receive the error, "Sorry, something went wrong. Please refresh the browser and try again." So I submitted a tech support request.
Support responded, "Your Print book is currently processing." It wasn't. They said, "The error was corrected. In most cases, print submissions take three to five business days to become available to order proof copy or to put on sale for purchase by BN.com customers." But it was already approved. I had already received proof copies in the mail. I just needed to edit the book.
I wrote back to inform them that the book had already passed approval, and also, if I clicked the book and then selected “Edit Book Size & Type,” it told me, “You are not able to make edits to the book size and type after your book has been submitted for approval.” But it had already been approved, and a copy had been received! I wanted to make a change, but I didn't want to put it up for sale. I asked again, "How can I make any changes before I make it live for sale?"
So I submitted a new support ticket.
I asked again why my books, with a status of "Ready to order," would give me the error that I couldn't make edits until after the book was submitted for approval.
I was told by support, "We recommend trying anew." So, I did that. I deleted the books, and tried anew by re-adding them. Except for one problem: I couldn't use the old ISBN numbers previously assigned to the books. It said, "The ISBNs are already in use."
I submitted another support ticket. I asked if there was anything I could do to re-assign the ISBNs.
I got the helpful information from support that, "Once an ISBN has been used on it cannot be used again on another book. We will see if we will be able to reinstate the books that were deleted so you can use the ISBN." So, their advice of "trying anew" basically means you burn ISBNs, which are $300 for a 10-pack. Not exactly cheap. They told me to "try anew." So I did. But apparently this wouldn't actually work without adding *new* ISBNs. Not exactly information that should be withheld.
At this point, I was feeling frustrated. I tweeted at @BN_care, and they replied with a request for me to DM them my case information. I did so, and they said they would send my info to the "NOOK Press Support Team."
I wrote back with the ISBNs I'd like to re-use. I heard nothing back. I DM'ed @BN_care on Twitter and said my issue was still unresolved. They said someone *had* emailed me back, and to just email them instead. I said I never got a response, and they responded there was no indicator of my email. I resent the email from a different account, and they confirmed they now saw it, and will let them know I replied.
I was told, "Once you save your ISBN and delete the ISBN it cannot be used if you create a new project. We are going to reinstate the ISBN on your behalf and contact you with an update." And then, later that day, "We have reinstated isbns. Please note, if an ISBN is saved on a Barnes & Noble Press print book it should not be deleted. If you need to make corrections the book should be edited instead." Gee, thanks. That's exactly what I tried to begin with, but never stopped getting the "Sorry, something went wrong" error! But the ISBNs were "reinstated." Good, right? Nope. You see, they brought the old books back from the dead with the old ISBNs... BUT I STILL COULDN'T EDIT THEM. I'd still get the error! So now I had old books in the dashboard that I couldn't update, and new books I couldn't submit for approval because I couldn't use the previous ISBNs. I responded to support with exactly what was happening, including a detailed "reminder" report of everything that had happened thus far.
I got a response back that I couldn't even believe. They sent step-by-step instructions on how to edit my book. Yep, the very thing that doesn't work, they told me to do. The thing I asked about two weeks prior that's broken, they told me to do and asked, "What is stopping your from editing the books?" I wrote back and told them that the error was continuing, and also told them I had tried this on three different browsers (Chrome and Safari for Mac, and Chrome for Windows 10).
I got this response: "Thank you for contacting Barnes & Noble Press Publisher Support. We apologize for the delay and will work to resolve your issue as soon as possible. We're working with the necessary teams to investigate and address this issue and hope to have a resolution for you soon." I asked if this would be fixed in hours, days, or weeks. The response: "I do not have an estimated timeframe."
But I couldn’t wait any longer. So I bit the bullet, and bought new ISBNs for the new books I had created. I deleted the previous books with the old ISBNs from My Projects. I emailed tech support to NOT CHANGE ANYTHING on my account, for example, do not add back the old books, or delete the ones currently in review. And I asked if there was any way to fast-track the approvals for the new books in my account with the new ISBNs, as at this point I had lost 17 days waiting for this issue to be fixed (which it never was) and cost me $300 to fix myself.
I DM'ed @BN_care again, hoping for any kind of help. I was getting desperate. Their response? "BN Press Support is available Mon-Fri, and monitor BNPressSupport@bn.com during that time. However, response times do vary. We appreciate your patience as you wait for a response from them." Ugh.
Support wrote back and said they were able to fix the error, and the ISBNs would now be editable. But I had already deleted these books, and in hopes of getting copies in time for my event, bought the new ISBNs. It was now that support noted that there were ink saturation issues with my cover... something not discussed in documentation *anywhere* on the website. But I fixed the issue, and uploaded new files the same day.
Books were approved! And I could order copies now! So I did, I ordered 100 copies of the Standard Hardcover version, and 50 of the Color Collector's edition. Hooray! My worries are over, right? Oh no. Not by a long-shot.
I received a receipt for the books that said they would ship on October 10. I had paid an extreme $123.50 + $228.50 for rush shipping on both orders, as the event was creeping up fast. But I was stuck.
With no rhyme or reason, I got an email that said my order for the Standard Hardcovers had been cancelled. To find out why, they said to email firstname.lastname@example.org. So I did. The response? "Unfortunately, we are unable to assist you via email. Please call us to resolve your issue." So I did, that very night. Phone support was very helpful, I thought, as they reassured me, "Don't worry, I see your order, everything seems fine." I felt relieved. But, man, I was mistaken.
I had this nagging feeling that something wasn't right. Why would I get an email like that, if everything was fine? So decided to call support, that morning. The phone tech said, "Our system is undergoing maintenance. Call back later."
I called back a couple hours later. After 30 minutes on the phone, the support agent finally said that yes, the order had been cancelled. The reason given? A person could only order 49 books at a time. But it mentioned that *nowhere* on the site, let me move the item count up to 999 books if I so chose, and it certainly took my money! The tech’s recommendation? Put in two new orders for 49 books each. Now, at this point, my money hadn't been returned to me from the cancelled order of 100 books. But I rolled the dice, and placed the two orders, as instructed.
I got an email from support that said my books were now available for sale on the Barnes & Noble site. Even though I never requested this, and never clicked the box to sell my books on the dashboard. I just ignored this. I had enough to deal with, and at this point, just wanted my books to ship.
I received confirmation receipts for my two orders of 49 books each, with ship dates of October 15th. I breathed a sigh of relief. I'd get my books in time.
Out of nowhere, I received an email that says that the order for 100 books was not cancelled because of the item quantities. They said, "The book block is too ink dense, which is causing wrinkles in solid black pages. Upgrading the paper from 50# to 70 might help in this instance. Please let us know if you would like to upgrade the book to 70. Please note upgrading the book to 70 will change the price of your order."
Great. Just great. I asked, "When I called yesterday customer service said the reason it was cancelled was because I could only order up to 49 at a time! Now I’m just finding this out? They told me to place two new orders of 49 copies each! If I upgrade the paper quality, will I also need to update the cover for sizing? And lastly, WILL I GET THESE BY Oct 21st??? That’s when I need them by!!!"
The response? "We apologize you were misinformed." At least they owned up to this. "You can order as many as 999 book in one Barnes & Noble Press order. Your order was sent to the printing floor today and the books could not be printed because the book block is too ink dense, which is causing wrinkles in solid black pages." No idea why this is, seeing as I ordered a 1-copy sample last month that printed just fine. But, whatever. They added, "You do not need to change the cover size if you are changing the paper quality. For most orders, it will take about week for your book to print. The shipping method you choose in addition to the printing time will determine the total time in which you can expect a book to arrive. If you choose to upgrade the shipping I will check to see if there is anything we can do to get the books to arrive by 10/21/18. Please note I cannot guarantee that books will arrive." Except for the fact that I had already picked the fastest shipping!
I called phone support. I spoke to a tech for 45 minutes. I begged for assistance, begged for a supervisor. Finally she said she would email the Press division and escalate this. When I asked when I would hear back, she said, "24-48 hours." I said this was unacceptable, as my book signing event was now 9 days away, and waiting two more days for a response was crazy. She gave me a phone number to try calling. So I did. It was to a book publisher. They had no clue why I was calling them.
So today I wrote back to support with a detailed update. I mentioned each of my orders, and what was going on. I mentioned the order for 100, and said yes I'll upgrade the paper quality, and asked what the price increase would be (that would have been nice to have been included in the last email!). I asked if I would still get 100, and if there was anything that could be done to get them here quicker. I mentioned the two orders for 49 copies each, and would they be cancelled if I was getting the one order for 100? And I mentioned the order for 50 Color editions, which said they would ship on the 10th, but I haven't heard a peep about since.
So here I am. It's been a grand total of 22 days of trying to get support, I'm nine days away from my book signing event, I have no clue if I'm actually going to have books there to sign, and no one has written me back. Thanks, Barnes & Noble, for one of the most stressful processes I've ever had to endure.
I tweeted this article to @BN_care. On the 13th, they DM’ed that they would send it to the “NOOK Press Team,” even though this isn’t a NOOK issue, “stressing the urgency to get the matter resolved.” But no one would be available until Monday. I asked why no one in the books division would just call me. There has to be someone who oversees the Press division support team, right?
We’re now at 25 days without resolution.
Since I still hadn’t heard anything, first thing in the morning, I emailed a reminder that this is my situation:
ORDER #1: - Hardcover Standard, 100 copies - This was canceled because of ink density, even though on the phone I was told it was because I could only order 49 at a time. I replied that I would like to switch to 70# to get the books, and asked what would be the cost increase. And I asked, would I definitely get 100 copies still? It is set to expedited shipping, so could they please ensure they come as fast as possible?
ORDER #2 - Hardcover Standard, 49 copies - I placed this order when support told me I could only order 49 at a time, the same files as the order above. I asked, if I'm going to receive the other order, can I go ahead and cancel this one?
ORDER #3 - Hardcover Standard, 49 copies - And I placed this order also to get myself more copies. Same files as order above, same request for cancellation.
ORDER #4 - Hardcover Color - 50 - Was supposed to ship on the 10th, and I haven't heard anything about if it's on the way. I asked for a status check.
I also DM’ed @BN_care begging for help. They said they were working on it, in a roundabout, non-comital kind of way.
Support wrote back with the pricing increase information, and asking for clarification of how many copies I wanted of the Standard Hardback. I thought it was pretty damn clear from the update I sent above, but I answered again that I wanted 100 copies.
They wrote back that they cancelled all of my orders that weren’t the 100 Standard Hardbacks. Except for one problem: THEY ALSO CANCELLED MY ORDER FOR 50 COLOR VERSIONS, WHICH WERE SUPPOSED TO SHIP OUT FIVE DAYS AGO. I had never asked them to cancel this. In fact, I had asked several times to check on the status of where the books were, since I still had no clue if they had shipped! But somehow, “what is the status” got interpreted as “cancel order.” I replied with clarification that they weren’t to cancel that order!
They respond, again, with the fact that they canceled the other orders because of ink density. Yes, I’m aware. That’s not what I asked. And then they say the lamest thing: “Our office hours are Monday - Friday 9am - 5:30pm EST. If I do not receive an update by 5:30 I will contact you with any information that I have tomorrow.” Why is this lame? Because they dropped the email on me at 5:24 pm., leaving me six minutes to respond. But I did! I got it in under the wire! Though, I’ll admit it: I lost my cool. The caps lock key was pressed. Here was my response:
WHAT IS HAPPENING?!?!? WHY CAN'T SOMEONE JUST CALL ME IF THERE IS CONFUSION?!?!?!?! WHY HAS THIS BEEN GOING ON FOR 25 DAYS!??!?!?!?!?
MY NUMBER IS [REDACTED] IF THERE ARE QUESTIONS
I NEED 100 OF ISBN #XXX, WHICH IS ORDER #YYY
AND I NEED 50 OF ISBN #AAA WHICH IS ORDER #BBB, WHICH WAS SUPPOSED TO SHIP OUT 5 DAYS AGO!!!!
I NEED THEM ALL BY THIS FRIDAY!!!!!
You guessed it. Haven’t heard back. So the request I put in before the weekend, on Friday, to upgrade the paper quality and ship ‘em out, was met with more confused questions at the end of the day, plus cancelling an order that I was supposed to receive days ago.
What. The. Hell.
I DM’ed @BN_care, “At this point I'm begging you, absolutely begging you, to get me some help. I've been working on this every day for 25 days. I'm stressed beyond belief and no one is giving me a straight answer. Today things got WORSE instead of better, as they cancelled an order I was supposed to receive five days ago. Please, I'm begging you: WHO CAN HELP ME GET THIS RESOLVED?!!?!? IS THERE A HUMAN I CAN SPEAK TO ON THE PHONE?????”
I woke up to an email from support saying, “We understand that you would like to speak to someone. Please provide your phone number and best time to call.” Even though I included my phone number in pretty much every email. But I wrote back with my number, and the support tech that’s been emailing me for the last 26 days actually called me.
It was horrible. She insisted she always responded diligently… I asked why she always seemed to email me right before the day was over. No answer was given. She said she was working on processing my orders… I asked why she cancelled the order that was supposed to ship out six days ago. No answer was given. She said, “At this time, I cannot give you the answer you’re looking for,” when I asked why they couldn’t just print and overnight my books today. The call was devoid of compassion, had no apologies, and had an undertone that they had done everything right.
I said all of this was unacceptable, and asked for a supervisor.
I actually got one on the phone, a manager. After 26 days of asking.
I asked, “Are you aware of the situation and what’s been going on?” Her response: “I’ve been told by the support agent you’re demanding we ship your order out today.” I was livid. I heatedly said, “I’m not being demanding! I’ve been trying to get this done for 26 days! I’m begging you, with every ounce of humility I can muster, to read a write-up on my website that explains exactly what has been happening." She said she would, and then she’d call me back.
But then she said something I couldn’t believe: “I have a busy day with lots of meetings. So I may not be able to get back to you for a while.”
This was perhaps the cruelest thing I could have heard. I have spent countless hours on this. Every day it’s brought me misery and suffering. And after all of that, I was told that I was the lowest priority, because of her “busy day.” I stressed passionately that I wasn’t asking for support for no reason, but because I had a signing event coming up and I tried to order these books a month ago. People were expecting these books.
She said she understood, and she would call me back.
I got a call around 1:30, and it was actually my first somewhat positive experience. The manager I had spoken to earlier said that she had read this whole write-up, and apologized for what had happened. She said she saw, “Places where there can be improvements made” in the service. She said she was working on getting my books printed, but they wouldn’t be done until the 24th (that means printed, not shipped). Which would be far too late, I’d have missed my event.
I stressed again how I needed them by the 21st, otherwise there was no point. I reminded her about the cast and crew who were expecting to see the product, and the thousands of dollars in book sales I would be out (plus the $300 I spent for a workaround of the ISBN issue). I asked again why my order of 50 color versions had been cancelled, and when she said she thought it was because I had deleted them in the dashboard, I had to point out that the tech support agent had done it accidentally, and that I had never, ever requested a cancellation (and it was certainly not that I had deleted the books, as she had thought). I asked if those were at least going to ship. She took down the order number of those books, and said she’d look into it.
Next, I spent a few minutes begging, pleading, and asking why a customer who waited almost a month couldn’t hear the words, “We’re printing your books now and will overnight them to you tomorrow.” She said that the printing department, when she sent them an email, had an out-of-office reply set. I told her how that can’t possibly be the stopping point, that there had to be a way to speak to someone. Why couldn’t we conference call the printer? Why couldn’t she, or someone, escalate my books to be processed immediately? After all, it wasn’t like I hadn’t submitted them 26 days ago. I wouldn’t exactly call that “cutting the line.”
Am I optimistic, at this point? It’s hard to say. The manager certainly showed signs of empathy, and she said she understood my predicament (and I believe her). But since she’s the only person working on this for me, I guess it’s now 100% in her hands. She can either be my hero, or… not.
Guess we’ll find out.
I hadn’t heard anything by noon, so I sent an email to the manager. She replied a couple hours later than she hasn’t given up hope, and that she asked that the 50 color editions be reinstated, with whatever needs to be done to get them out ASAP.
I got a call from the manager asking if I could receive Saturday deliveries. I told her yes, absolutely. She wasn’t sure what was going to be sent, the 50 color editions, the 100 hardbacks, or both, but that she was still working hard on everything.
Fingers crossed… could this have a happy ending? I’m cautiously letting myself have a tinge of optimism… I hope that’s not a mistake!