The Problem with Google Play if You’re an Author


It’s great that Google Play allows readers to buy directly from their store and read it on their android device.  As a consumer, it’s even better because Google Play steeply discounts books on their site.  My $3.99 book is only going to cost you $3.03.

Unfortunately, if you’re an author, it really sucks.  They say:

There is no cost for selling books on Google Play. You’ll receive the majority of the revenue from each sale, and your revenue share will always be based on the list price you provide.

Yet, I make $2.00 of that $3.99/$3.03 that my book is listed at.  No place else cuts into my royalties more than Google Play.  Even using Draft2Digital for distribution to Apple, Scribd, Kobo, ect, I make $2.57 of my $3.99 asking price.  Actually, I make $2.74 on Amazon, $2.59 on Nook, $2.57 on everything that Draft2Digital distributes, and approximately $3.00 if someone buys my book through the Smashwords website, which has happened exactly 11 times this year.

If you’re talking 10 ebooks, that $5.70 isn’t a big deal.  But I’ve sold 167 books on Google Play this month where I have made $2.00.  The difference is $95.10.  My sales on all sites are increasing, not decreasing.  Plus, Amazon offers price match, so what happens when they decide to discount my books to $3.03 to meet the Google Play price?  I go from making $2.74 a sale to $2.12 a sale.

It might sound like I’m whining, but it isn’t about whining, it’s about realizing what could happen.  I live off my royalties.  I don’t have a real job.  Writing books is all I do and some months every penny counts.  While the indie book publishing movement has been great for people like me (allowing me to skip traditional routes and start writing for a living without a contract that scares the snot out of me), it has some pitfalls: Google Play discounts my books by $0,96 thinking it will increase sales (and it doesn’t seem to work that way) and keeps it’s hosting fee of $1.00 leaving me with less money in my pocket.  The only solutions available to me are to suck it up and accept this $2.00 royalty or to increase the price of my book on Google Play (which completely negates their discounting in order to boost sales).

Now, here’s why I think the discounting doesn’t work.  The big three for me, in order, are Amazon.com, Apple, and B&N.  Behind this is Amazon UK, Kobo, Google Play, so it is the sixth largest retailer for my books.  I accounts for less than 5% of my total monthly sales.  As an author, I am aware of this cut in author’s royalties by discounted books, so while I buy books from Kindle, B&N, and even occasionally, Apple.  I never purchase the discounted books from Google Play.  I figure the author is like me and every penny counts, so I am willing to pay the regular list price on Amazon, B&N, or Apple.

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2 Comments

  1. Maria D.

     /  August 29, 2015

    I have an android phone – a Samsung Galaxy but so far have never used Google Play to buy a book or read a book – i always use my kindle app on the phone or my audible app….I actually do shop from Smashwords sometimes – didn’t know about the price diff so maybe I’ll start using that to buy more books it if helps the authors keep more of their $$$

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