Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Uploading to Google Play

Not a lot of people are aware Google Play is open to indies. I wasn't sure they were until I decided to go looking. Why did I look? Because I buy most of my ebooks there. There's not a lot of SFR there, either.

I hope this step-by-step tutorial will remove some of the fear about selling in the Play Store. It's not as hard as you may have heard in places like Absolute Write and the Kindle boards. I'm going to share what I learned and hopefully some other SFR authors will join me. I'm writing this as I upload my next book to the Play store to make sure I get everything explained right.

My first two questions when I decided to do this were as follows:
Does Google Play do preorders? YES!
Does Google Play require an ISBN? NO!

You need a 100% clean epub. You may see people saying Play will never take a Calibre-produced epub, but that's not true. The trick is to make the epub from the Libre/Open Office file format .ODT. This gets rid of all the extraneous, unnecessary code in Word that causes so many problems with epub conversion. Calibre will also convert straight from .DOCX with no PDF in the middle, however I don't use Word so have no idea how clean the epub is.

Also, Libre and Open Office are free. I've been using them for years and will never go back to Word. Calibre is also free and I use it for producing ARC's and managing my non-B&N ebook purchases (I'm a Nook owner).

Make sure you've formatted your Table of Contents, however it is you do that. I use the Edit TOC function in Calibre and build it from the epub files. I then make sure all the chapter titles are what I want.

This one is VERY important! If you have links in your end matter, make absolutely positive they are formatted properly using your word processor's Insert URL command. Otherwise Google's validation system will kick it back out. Learned this one the hard way. Don't make my mistake. If it still won't go through (and it won't give you details about what's wrong) just remove the www so they're not links at all. Annoying, but it works.

Step One: Go here and set up your publisher account: Publisher registration page It's very important to use this link. You don't want to do it as an app developer because it doesn't work, and app developers have to pay a fee to get into the Play store. If you don't have a Gmail address you'll need to create one. I run my website through Google, so I'm able to use my domain name email since it runs in Gmail. The royalty rates are outlined in the Terms and Conditions. Google pays on List Price, not retail price like Amazon. More notes on pricing at the end and these notes are VERY important.

TIP FOR GMAIL USERS: If you're using a different account for publishing than your every day account, do yourself a favor and do all the Play stuff in a different browser. I do all my every day stuff in Chrome, and Firefox is logged into all of my RLS email/Google stuff.

Step Two: Ignore the template and spreadsheet suggestions in your Welcome email. It's going to be more trouble than it's worth, so don't bother. Unless you like wasting time, in which case go for it.

Step Three: Once you're logged in you'll see Home, Book Catalog, Analytics & Reports, Promotions, Payment Center, and Account Settings. All the work we're going to do is in the Book Catalog section.

Step Four: There's a blueish button that says "Add Book." Click this to start the process. Since I have a book for sale there already I see that book listed with the cover, my author name, the GG Key (Google's internal tracking number), and the book's status. If you have an ISBN that you own it'll show up here instead of the GGKey.

Step Five: If you have an ISBN of your own (NOT one via Smashwords or Draft2Digital), you can put it in. Otherwise hit the checkbox underneath. Don't change the template setting. Now we're ready to create the book.

Step Six: Time to upload. Click Next and hit Upload Content. Do this twice. Once for your cover image, once for your epub. It says you can do PDF, but I personally haven't tried that so I don't know if it works. Hit refresh and your file list will show up. DO NOT PROCEED until your files have processed and uploaded. If you've followed my formatting instructions above, or run your epub file through validation software and fixed any errors, you should be good to go.

Step Seven: Enter your title. Before copying in your description (back cover blurb) remove all formatting. I keep mine in Evernote and it's a simple matter of highlighting, right click to get the full edit menu, and remove formatting. If yours is in Word, copy it into Notepad! All that Word formatting gives the Google system fits. Same goes for your bio. Get rid of the link formatting too and do it like you would in a browser. Don't get fancy.

DO NOT PROCEED until your files have uploaded! Otherwise it won't save anything you did. I forgot this important step and kept going so I could write this out, and now I have to go back and do it all again. Once your files have uploaded, the Next button changes to Save. Don't go forward until you see the Save button.

Step Eight: Keep going and fill out your price information, pick your categories, and finish the process. The BISAC science fiction romance category is an option. I only do two categories, so I have no idea what the max is.

When you get to the BISAC options, type in romance and it'll give you a drop down of the list. I sell under Romance/Science Fiction, and Romance/Paranormal. Also on the Settings page is all the stuff for your book to be searchable in Google Books, which is different from the Play Store. It means Google can index however much of the book you've said it can preview, and it'll show up in searches. The more Google juice you can get, the better! The default preview setting is 20%, and that's the lowest it goes. Which I'm fine with. I like big samples.

Step Nine: Once everything is saved, which can take a couple minutes so be patient, then you can hit Publish. If you go past, say, the two minute mark and the Google circle is still spinning, go ahead and hit refresh. Then double check your description and bio formatting because you probably need to separate your paragraphs again.

You're done! Go back to your Book Catalog page and you should see the book. Once the book is uploaded, put together, and the listing is live in the store it'll say "Live on Google Play" under the book. To edit the book once it's live, click on it and it'll open all the details. Like for me, while I have it open, I need to update my bio and fix the URL issue that's driving me crazy. Tip: Use http:// in your bio links, don't try to copy in ones you've made in your word processor with links coded into text. They don't translate. No idea if it'll work with HTML coding in the Bio box. If someone wants to check and report back, feel free.

Downsides: No keywords. But the store is still growing as Google figures out how to sell books and compete with Amazon, so I'm hopeful it'll change. The analytics are also lousy at this point which is kind of surprising considering this is Google, the king of analytics. Just in the last couple years since I've been buying ebooks there the changes have been incredible, and all for the better. They're on the right track, just behind the curve in comparison to Amazon, Kobo, and iBooks.

Notes on pricing: The Play store uses a pricing scheme different from everyone else. They pay on list price, and they discount. When I was researching how to upload to Google Play I found a great blog article (for the old interface, hence why I'm writing this one) and a ton of helpful stuff in the comments. Including a price conversion list from author Ruth Harris. Here it is.

The price on the left is the price you want to sell at, and the price on the right is the price you need to give Google.

99 cents: no change
$1.49: no change
$1.99 = $2.40
$2.99 = $3.93
$3.99 = $4.99
$4.99 = $6.48
$5.99 = $7.78
$6.99 = $8.32

I sell at a price point of $4.99, so I tell Google $6.48. I have this price list clipped into my Evernote for easy reference.

Now, a note about sale prices. The consensus is DON'T. The Play Store reserves the right to change prices at will, like Amazon, but when you lower a price at Play for a sale and then put it back to your normal price, there's no guarantee it'll go back up and no way to contact them to get it changed. I did my first sale last month and decided not to include Play in the sale for this reason. I also don't have the sales to justify it. I went in the Play Store because I wanted to, not because I thought it was a viable market.

Is Google Play as easy KDP? Not by a longshot, But it's not impenetrable either. I personally find it easier than Smashwords, since I did my research first and found a bunch of tips and tricks.

Have I sold anything there? Just to my dad, because it's DRM free and my Nook version isn't. As a Google Play shopper (music, books, and an Android phone) it's important to me to have my books in my preferred bookstore. I go there because the prices are usually a little cheaper for traditionally published, but without stiffing the author on royalties like Amazon does.

I hope you'll work up the nerve to try it. If you can conquer the Smashwords Meatgrinder using Microsoft Word and having to follow the style guide, you can conquer the Play Store.

Rachel Leigh Smith writes romance for the hero lover. She lives in central Louisiana with her family and a half-crazed calico. When not writing, which isn’t often, she’s hanging with her family, doing counted cross-stitch, or yakking about life, the universe, and everything with her besties. Her debut novel, My Name Is A'yen, is available at AmazonB&NKoboGoogle PlayiBooks, and Smashwords.

She blogs sporadically at www.rachelleighsmith.com, can be found on Twitter @rachelleighgeek, and hangs out on Facebook. You can sign up for her newsletter here.


  1. Rachel,

    Thanks so much! I've heard this is complex, so all the help is appreciated.

    1. You're welcome! I didn't find it complex at all, once I'd done my research. If I had tried to do it without having read a tutorial first it would have taken me forever.

  2. I'm setting up my account today :) Not uploading books yet because I want to do that after my sale is over. Thanks for the article!

    Also, keywords. I heard on another FB group that people are basically putting keywords in a list into the blurb at the end and it's make a BIG difference on discoverability.

    1. I hadn't heard about that, Stephanie. I need to add my endorsement from Pippa to my blurb for A'yen.


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