Friday, July 20, 2012

Self-Publishing On Google Play Books - Part 1

UPDATE: Google has revamped their system, making it more user friendly. Some of the points below may no longer apply to their system.

This is the first of two posts about Google Play Books. The second post is available now. I'm looking at this from the perspective of an author who wants to self-publish on the Google Play (Android) platform.

I'm doing this as a service to fellow writers and self-publishers out there. Of all the self-publishing platforms I've used, Google's is the most difficult to understand. My advice should help you in your quest to make your books available to the largest number of people on this side of the galaxy.

This first post will deal with the pros and cons of the platform. My next post (sometime next week) will tackle the near insurmountable task of getting books on the platform for sale.

The Pros of Google Play Books

There are a number of things I like about the platform. It is worldwide, which means you can sell in places like the United States, Japan, Italy, Australia, and more.  There are potentially 223 million to 253 million activated Android devices out there that give authors an opportunity to be read.

The Google Books Partner program also allows a couple of neat features not currently available from the likes of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords and KoboBooks self-publishing platforms. You can mark a book for sale on a future date and accept preorders. Books with discounted pricing are paid out by Google at the full list price you specify. (Though this also is a negative, more info in the Cons below.)

Another benefit is payout of royalties. Even under the $10 mark, it appears that Google will pay the royalties the first business day after the end of the month. This happened to me my first month of using the service. Compared to other self-publishing platforms that can take anywhere from 2-6 months, this is huge!

Other than that, everything else is pretty much status quo compared to other self-publishing platforms when it comes to the positive aspects of selling on Goole Play Books.

The Cons of Google Play Books

Unfortunately, there are a number of cons with the platform.

The first and foremost is the poor user interface (this has been vastly improved) for getting books on the service and up for sale. It's a convoluted mess, which is why I'll have a follow-up post to try and simplify how to go about doing it. Instead of a streamlined one to two page process, there all multiple pages and steps. Before you can make it available for sale, you must first enter it into the Preview Program. Then you upload the files, but they must have specific names to link up properly. If you want to skip that part, you can download a program that allows you to batch upload your book files and associate it with the entries you made on the site. Once it's live there, you have to activate it for sale on Google Books. It's tedious and confusing. Not something I would expect from Google.

Another drawback is that Google, at their discretion, can choose to discount your book. They will pay out the royalties based on your full list price, but a problem comes from this. Amazon and other retailers search the internet for items priced cheaper and match those prices. So if Google discounts your book 25%, so will Amazon, but Amazon only pays out on the sale price, not the full retail price.

You also do not have the ability to add a description, genre, or other metadata to your listing. Instead, Google gets this information from third party metadata providers. I don't really understand out this works, but be sure you have an ISBN on your book or you might find it is up for sale without a description or category associated with it. Why Google doesn't give control of these things is quite the enigma. I've recently been able to update the book description for my book my contacting Google. This and other metadata issues can be addressed by going to the Google Books Partner Program Help Page.

It is unclear as to what the royalty payment is, too. Though I couldn't find a specific number, I did find that the majority of the sale goes to the author.
I have yet to see a sale to verify this.


Unlike other self-publishing platforms, Google's probably isn't for everyone. I've only mentioned a few things above, but there are other things that make the service time consuming and confusing.

But that does not mean you should write off publishing with them. The best thing you can do is put your book up for sale wherever possible. The more points you have of discovery, the better your chances of selling books. Don't hold back anywhere!

That's where my second post comes in to play. I want to help you navigate the difficulty of publishing with Google. It simplifies the steps to the most important parts in a single page. Here is the link to it:

Now check this out. Here are my books currently published on Google Play:

Books by Desmond Shepherd