Should Authors Give Up Selling Books through Google?

writers question-mark-2123967_1920When it comes to the online world, Google is a major player, with its search engine and web browser kings of the market. So, it would seem like Google would be a good place to sell eBooks. On the surface, that makes sense. But, recently, the only major self-publishing distributor that allowed authors easy, commission-based access to Google’s platform — Draft2Digital — stopped offering that service.  As this was one of the only services to help authors get published on Google, some are asking whether Google Play is worth the trouble.

The simple answer, unfortunately, is the same as that dreaded Facebook relationship status: it’s complicated. Why is it complicated? For one, because Google isn’t exactly open to all new authors. Several years ago, after some issues, Google Publishing closed the program to anyone who wasn’t already signed up. While Google now accepts new authors, it’s not automatic. Per their site:

“We’re currently accepting a limited number of new publishers to the Google Play Books Partner Program. You may express interest in joining the program through our online interest form.”

The other reason it’s complicated is because selling books via Google also depends on your overall strategy. If you’re committed to being in the Kindle Unlimited program, you have to be exclusive to Amazon, so it’s not really a concern for you. If your strategy is wide sales, then you have to ask how important Google is to that strategy. If you’re committed to selling as many places as possible, then being on Google is something you’ll want.

Getting a Google Publishing Account

If you don’t already have a Google Play Books Partner account (the official title of their publishing arm), it makes self-publishing via Google Play quite difficult. One way to publish on Google without such an account is through a distributor. However, as just noted, D2D, a major distributor, doesn’t do that anymore. Smashwords, also a major distributor, doesn’t distribute Google Play, either. When looking for other distributors to Google Play, I found only PublishDrive, which allows you to publish one book for free, but after that requires you to pay a monthly subscription fee for their service. While this model may work well for some, the more typical model (particularly if you are not sure how well books will sell) is where the distributor takes a cut of every book sold, but doesn’t require you to pay anything up front. That way, you only pay if you sell books.

If you already have a Google publishing account, don’t give that up. Definitely keep it, and use it when you want to publish on Google. If you don’t have an account, should you try to set one up? Again, if you’re not Amazon exclusive, then yes, try to get one. I’m not clear on how often they accept new authors, but it’s certainly worth asking for an account. You want to have as many channels as possible, if you’re selling wide. Yes, most people sell most of their books through Amazon. But there are readers who like Google and get their books there, and you don’t want to turn your nose up at them. If Google doesn’t let you open a publishing account, I wouldn’t recommend paying a monthly fee to publish there, unless you’re certain you’ll be selling a lot.

Massive Improvements If You’re on Google

If you have a Google publishing account and haven’t used it in a while, I will say this: Google has made some massive improvements. It used to be that you would price your book, and if Google felt that price was too high, they’d lower it without notifying you. This meant you had to consult an elaborate chart to figure out what high price to set for your book, so Google would automatically discount it to the actual lower price you wanted to sell your book for. If you didn’t know this, and set your price at $2.99, for example, Google would discount your book to $2.09, and then Amazon — the king of price matching — would drop your book’s price, too. It irritated a lot of authors. Thankfully, Google changed that last year, making the price you enter the price they sell the book for. This has made Google much easier for authors who publish their books there.

Google also got a lot better about simple things. For example, previously, it was very difficult to find a direct link to your book. Now, when you click on a book you’ve published via the Google dashboard, it tells you the book is live and provides a link so you can see it.

Google still isn’t great when it comes to tracking sales. While Kindle Direct Publishing offers a daily graph to see sales and D2D also provides daily sales tracking on their site, if you want to see your Google sales, you have to download a spreadsheet each time. There is nothing online that shows you current sales for the month. If you’re selling a lot of books on Google, having to do a daily download could feel burdensome. If you’re selling just a few, and only check sales every few weeks, it’s not a huge deal.

So, what are your thoughts on selling at the Google Play store?

Author: RJ Crayton

RJ Crayton is a former journalist turned novelist. By day, she writes thrillers with a touch of romance. By night, she practices the art of ninja mom. To learn more about her or her books, visit her website or her Author Central page.

21 thoughts on “Should Authors Give Up Selling Books through Google?”

  1. Another distributor sending books to Google is Streetlib, which i have used and works well for many platforms.

    1. Thanks for the update, Raul! I had been looking for other vendors and been very disappointed I couldn’t find them. I checked out Streetlib, and they appear to offer Google Play distribution with no upfront fees.

    1. Their interface is not impressive, but they are a retailer that sales books. If you have a wide strategy, it’s worth it to include them. Like you, I hope they improve some of their user interfaces for sales tracking. However, I like that you can set up special temporary pricing, which Amazon only allows if you’re in their Select program. So, each site has pros and cons. Amazon’s big pro being it’s where most of the bok buying happens.

  2. One thing Google offers that I don’t think is available elsewhere is the ability to offer a PDF copy of the book formatted exactly like a print book instead of like a manuscript as Smashword’s PDFs are. Some people like PDFs. Also, there are people who don’t normally read ebooks at all but would like to read particular books that are unavailable (or too expensive) in print. I upload the actual PDF files used for printing my books to Google, and for those that don’t have print editions I format files just as if they were to be printed. Admittedly I haven’t sold many, but that’s because few of the people who don’t want mobi or epub format are aware that this option exists. If more authors offered it, the word would get around, and there’s a potential for increasing a book’s audience.

    1. Yes, Google does offer that PDF benefit. I’m not sure how many people use that, but if that’s the thing they like, then it’s a market you can appeal to through Google.

      1. It’s probably not used much because the people who would like it don’t know about it. Someone asked me just last week how he could get my books in PDF form — he didn’t know anything at all about ebooks and thought they were sold only at Amazon. He didn’t want to experiment with new software, but was used to using PDFs at work. I wish there were a way to reach these people, but of course they don’t look at ads for ebooks.

  3. Glad to hear they changed the insane pricing policy. In the past I was also a little worried they were making plagiarism easier, but I don’t even remember what generated that concern originally.

    1. Yes, most people are very happy about the pricing policy. It’s made everything easier. Though, for those who aren’t aware and loaded a book a while ago, it’s important to go in and change the price, otherwise, it’s likely your books are priced too high. I had some that were $5.18 (which converted to $3.99 after the auto discount) and the books looked odd at that price and didn’t spell (especially when a google search would turn them up at other vendors at the lower price).

      1. It’s worth noting though that Google is still discounting prices in the UK and Europe, so you still have to set higher prices in those territories to stop Amazon from price matching – and be sure to check the ‘include tax’ option for those territories too or you’ll still get some odd looking prices.

  4. I don’t use Google for anything any more, for privacy and security reasons, but I wonder how effective others find it? Does it result in sales?

    1. I think it has the same chance of getting sales as any other sales channel. I’ve had some books do well on Apple but no other channel, so it really depends. Unfortunately, the only way to know when you’re selling wide is to try a channel. However, most people get the most sales on Amazon. Occasionally, people sell better elsewhere, but that’s rare, from my understanding.

  5. I love selling on Google Play. I can reach markets that I can’t through Amazon.

    1. That’s excellent, Jean. I’m glad you’re selling so well on Google Play. May we all have success if we’re able to get on Google Play!

  6. The global reach of Google is impressive; I have sold books in Indonesia and the Philippines, among other places. But as you say, the sales tracking interface is ridiculous. I mean, this is freakin’ Google! You would expect them to outdo everyone except maybe Amazon. but no! I fear it means they are not invested in ebook sales.

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