Google Play: An Experiment

Nope, nope, nope.

That’s my reaction after 24 hours in the Google Play partner queue. My overall impression: of every eBook publishing platform I’ve utilized, this one is the most confusing to use and has way too much control over pricing. But, you’ll want facts, and (disclaimer) it’s only my experience–others may have had a positive experience. If so, I’d love to hear about it, because maybe I just did everything wrong.

Let’s start with setting up your account. Like most publishers (Nook Press, KDP), GP requires you to set up a profile for payment, etc.  Okay, but you also have to declare your rights and give them permission to pay international royalties via the currency exchange rates. NO OTHER PUBLISHER requires you to take this extra step, at least not that I’ve seen. It may be different outside the US, but all my royalties are automatically converted to USD at payout by the publisher. What makes this even crazier is that if you don’t select that conversion option, you have to enter each currency you want to sell in, along with a list of corresponding countries, on your pricing page. If you select the conversion option, you can just list “WORLD” as where you’ll sell and use local currency (USD for me) for your pricing. There are lists explaining this. LISTS. Welcome to confusion city.

Now let’s talk about the content loader. It’s relatively easy to upload your files (sweet!) but if you uploaded the wrong cover file (oops, my bad), and you upload a new one, you won’t see the new one right away, and it won’t show up in the “pending content” area, either. You just have to pray and hope that the “save in progress” actually worked. Oh, and it’ll take hours for the updated content to show up–not only on the sales page…but on the UPLOAD PAGE, too.  Unlike the upload pages on KDP and Nook and Kobo and Smashwords, where you can tell the corrected file is in place immediately, I couldn’t see it on GP. So, hey, you need to be sure that file is the one you want, or you’ll be stuck waiting for it to refresh (up to four hours later) to see if the content loader picked it up. Again, this might have just been me, so if you saw something different, give me a holler.

Okay, so that’s not the greatest process in the world. But it got worse. First, it’s not all that easy to get into the partner page to begin with. I had to do a Google search to find the instruction booklet (yes, all 12 pages of it) to find the partner link. Once I had it, I bookmarked it to make sure I could get there again. And any publisher requiring a 12 page document to explain how to enter the data in their publishing tool? Maybe that points to a design flaw rather than the technical ability of your average user.

Perhaps the worst thing of it all is how Google Play plays fast and loose with your pricing. They say in the agreement (I made sure I read it) that they could make adjustments to your price based on the list price. Okay…Amazon price matches if there’s a lower price elsewhere, but I don’t know of a retailer that just randomly changes your price on a whim. When my book went live on Google Play, it was immediately priced down from $2.99 to $2.51. Not a few days in–immediately. I have a pricing strategy that works for my business and I hope my publishers will partner with me. For all the flack Amazon gets, I haven’t heard many stories about KDP-published authors having their prices changed out of thin air (EXCEPT when one of your other providers takes a bit to update a sales price back to list after you’ve changed it…then those Amazon bots are super-quick to price match). So when I saw how serious Google Play was about controlling my book’s pricing, I deleted it from their sites.

At the end of the day, if Google Play wants to win over Indies, they need to take a good look at the publishing sites of their major competitors. Say what you will about KDP, (and Kobo and B&N) but these other sites are pretty easy to use (or at least to figure out), fast to update, and don’t screw around with your pricing right off the bat.

So I know this was a kind of ranty post, but I had a pretty disappointing experience. Are there any Indies out there who’ve had some success with them? If so, what did you do to make it work?