7 Things You Didn’t Know About Publishing on Google Play

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If you and Amazon were dating, then 2015 might be the year to seek counseling. Several bestselling authors have reported significant sales drops from a combination of the Kindle Unlimited program, traditional publishing dropping its prices, and an overwhelming number of books available. The changes are great for Amazon customers, but they may make it harder for you to sell your books. It’s high time that you reconsidered your exclusivity and tried dating other retailers.

While it’s a good idea to publish on all available platforms, it’s up for debate which retailer is a solid number two to Amazon. Barnes & Noble’s Nook Press was top contender for most of the last few years, but a withdrawal of resources by the parent company has caused sales drops and frustrated readers. Apple has been hit or miss for authors, and its uploading process has been notoriously slow and tedious. Through public interviews and sponsorships, Kobo has made some waves, particularly for international sales, but it’s not a clear number two for most. The one platform authors tend to talk about the least may be the one with the highest ceiling. The Google Play Store is a growing marketplace with many potential readers and you should consider taking it out on a date.

You might assume that if you have a book on Smashwords or Draft2Digital that you’re already on the Google Play platform. In reality, one of the only ways to sell your books there is to upload them direct. Here are 7 more things you might not know about this up-and-coming platform:

1. The Play Store Is Very Popular

Image from http://www.androidpit.com/how-to-install-the-play-store

According to an October report from App Annie, users downloaded 60 percent more apps from the Google Play Store than the iOS App Store in the third quarter of 2014. The victory was partly attributed to the growth of the store in developing and emerging markets like India, Brazil, and Indonesia. The numbers aren’t surprising because the platform surpassed the App Store in total number of apps in 2013.

Apple seems to get most of the attention, but the iOS is actually less popular than Google’s Android operating system. In September 2013, comScore said that 52 percent of U.S. smartphone customers were Android users, including 55 percent of Midwesterners. With the growth of reading on smartphones and tablets, there may be an underserved market of readers on Android devices.

2. You Can Post Your Book For Free

Image from http://9to5google.com/2013/04/09/redesigned-google-play-store-for-android-is-confirmed/

Trying to get your book to go permafree on Amazon is not always a cut and dry process. You put your book up for free on Kobo, Apple, Smashwords and the other platforms and wait. It can take weeks for Smashwords and Apple to process your document and several more weeks waiting for Amazon to price match. With Google Play, there’s no waiting game.

Google Play allows you to post your books for free without waiting. The platform sports fast uploads as well, often rivaling Amazon for the speed with which it posts books. Since Google Play gets free books up so quickly, you can start pushing readers to the other books in your series without delay. Amazon also likes to match Google Play prices quickly, so you might end up with that Amazon permafree book that much faster if you publish to Google Play first.

3. It Has Permafree Benefits

Image from https://play.google.com/intl/en_us/about/books/index.html

While making the first book in your series free has been a tried and true sales method, some authors have seen an extremely low sell-through rate on Amazon. Many bargain hunting readers have stockpiled these free books without any intention of ever paying for a second installment. Their Kindles are stuffed; unlike your wallet.

While the evidence is completely anecdotal, some authors on the KBoards forum have cited a much better sell-through rate on Google Play. At the very least, it’s worth testing your series on there if you haven’t had much luck using the first book free tactic on Amazon.

When a permafree takes off on Google Play, it can really make a major impression. Author Stella Wilkinson posted the first part of her series as a free book on the platform. It took off like gangbusters, and now has over 6,000 reviews on Google Play. Her Amazon version of the same book has closer to 100 reviews. Wilkinson has said that her number of sell-throughs has been similarly lopsided toward Google as well.

4. There’s Less Competition

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While Google Play may have more apps than the App Store, it has much fewer books than Amazon. Google was the last major retailer to open up to self-published authors, so fewer indies have yet to take the plunge. Additionally, its user interface for publishers leaves much to be desired, causing some authors to wash their hands of the platform before giving it a true shot.

That being said, less competition is less competition. With fewer reading choices available, getting a foothold on the Google Play store could give you a major revenue boost.

5. It Takes Patience

Image from https://quenchnot.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/i-do-mind-waiting/

The system for publishing books to Google Play is hardly intuitive. Authors who are used to the simple interface that Amazon provides will not be impressed. Even after reading a massive walkthrough on KBoards or pouring over the Google Play help section, many authors have been left scratching their heads. Just getting your books uploaded to Google will try your patience.

From there, Google has an unorthodox pricing structure in which they discount books by approximately 24 percent. Authors who’ve priced their books at standard prices of $3.99 on Google and Amazon have been met with a rude awakening in instances where Google has dropped its price and Amazon matches the discount. Authors have taken to adding 24 percent to their prices to get the proper prices following the mandatory discount.

Google Play is also lacking when it comes to reporting on sales. While the platform does pay more quickly than Amazon, it’s prone to three-day delays of sales, as well as semi-regular outages. When it comes to checking stats, Google Play is somewhere between Amazon and traditional publishing’s nonsensical quarterly reports.

What all of this means is that you’ll need patience to get your books up, to price your books correctly, and to track your books’ sales on the Google Play platform.

6. Keywords Matter

Image from http://blog.boostability.com/how-to-place-your-keywords-like-a-boss-and-improve-onsite-content-rankings/

It’s difficult to know what changes on your Amazon page will yield results. Google Play is surprisingly transparent about what works. After all, the store is part of Google, which is a search engine built on keywords. The liberal application of keywords on book descriptions has been the secret to sales success for many Google Play authors.

Google Play doesn’t have a keyword box for authors to add a certain number of terms. As a result, some individuals have taken to putting large blocks of keywords directly into the description of their work. The most successful book sellers tend to have at least 20 popular search terms in a comma-separated list following their synopsis. They’ve even experimented with keywords in the title as well. While the jury is still out on direct results from keywords on Amazon, this tactic seems to yield strong results on the Google Play platform.

7. For Some Authors It’s #1 or #2

Image from http://www.droid-life.com/2012/09/24/google-play-books-turns-the-page-with-update-adds-dictionary-notes-and-more/

The most surprising thing about Google Play is that it’s the number one or number two sales channel for some authors. These successful scribes have combined strong covers and descriptions, permafree series starters, uploading patience, and keyword stuffing to pull in four- to five-figure months from Google. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll have similar results, there’s only one way to find out if it’s a strong potential partner for you.

Every Rose Has Its Thorns

If you decide to brave the challenges of Google Play, then you’ll need a few hours to understand its inner workings. Much like a successful relationship, it’ll take time to determine if there’s a long-term future in store. Once you’ve gotten used to the flaws of Google Play, you may find yourself ready for the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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  • α geek

    One more thing you didn’t know: It’s impossible.

    Google Play Books shut down access to new publishers (authors) in early 2015 and has shown no sign they ever intend to open it back up again.