The general concept of Google Play is a good one. Lots of people have android tablets and Google Play offers ebooks on their platform so that readers do not have to install Kindle, Nook, or any other reading app.
Everyone seems to be ignoring what they actually do to authors. Amazon is still the big, bad monster, but in reality, I feel Google Play is screwing authors over way more than Amazon ever thought about doing.
I have to explain the process of listing a book and my royalty rate to make this understandable. Bear with me, it’s boring.
- I list a book on Google Play at my going ebook rate of $3.99.
- Google Play automatically discounts this ebook from $3.99 to $3.01 (or worse, they sometimes drop it to $2.89 ensuring that all these numbers are significantly lower).
- Google Play takes roughly 35% for hosting my ebook of that $3.01.
- That leaves me with roughly $2.00 for each ebook sold.
- Sorta – Google Play also charges taxes. So, I, the author, have a decision to make. Do I include tax in my ebook price or do I let Google stick the reader with it? I pay the VAT taxes on all my sales in the UK and EU on Amazon, iBooks, and Nook, so it only seems fair to include that in Google Play as well. However, Google Play also takes out taxes on US books if you check that box, it’s an all or nothing deal.
- Meaning of the $2.00 I’m making on Google Play, they are taking taxes out of it and I actually only get $1.76 per ebook (on average – VAT is different in each country and I have no clue what the US taxes are, but they do negatively impact my earned royalties).
- Then people start telling Amazon it’s cheaper on Google Play and Amazon lowers my ebook price on their site as part of their price match program. Now, not only am I making crappy royalties on Google Play, but on Amazon, Amazon UK, and any other Amazon country-specific retailer (yes, Amazon does adjust the amount I earn based on the new price, I’m still making 70% in most cases, but it isn’t 70% of $3.99, it’s 70% of whatever weird number Google Play has discounted my ebooks to).
To combat the problem, I was originally marking my books at $4.99 on Google Play and it was discounting them to $3.94… I could live with that. Then it went even lower and they started discounting them to $3.50 and my favorite; $2.99 (WTF Google?!). Then the Pound dropped and the problem only increased. I made a whopping $1.51 on ebooks sold in the UK on Google Play for the month of June (which was more than $0.30 lower than Amazon UK and iBook sales affected by the dropping of the Pound).
So, when I was changing all my UK prices, I changed all my Google Play prices to $5.20. Google Play instantly discounted them to $4.00. I’ll make roughly 60% of that or a little less with the taxes/VAT being paid by me, but I can live with that. They are my smallest retailer, but their impact on Amazon has created a problem since Amazon is my largest.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure how the price change will affect other countries. I may have raised the prices in places like South Africa and the Philippines so high, that I will lose those sales. Technically, I can change each price for each country, but on Google Play, you practically have to be a programmer or someone with super special skills to do it.
I understand that the discount is meant to entice customers away from other reading platforms. When you look at it that way, the reader wins and wins big, because not only do they get a discount on Google Play, but eventually that discount makes its way to Amazon and Kindle readers see it too. Unfortunately, this hurts authors like me, who make enough to not need a desk job, but not so much that decreased royalty rates go unnoticed every month.