They came for a friend of mine first, and I didn’t have anything to say. Then they came for me. Then I did want to say something, but it was too late.
My self-published books now lay dead – or were they?
None of which I’m about to say can easily substantiated.
That’s probably because self-publishing on Google Play never really took off. So there are few self-publishing authors affected, and as their sales have been piddly, those authors could care less if a minor player ditched them.
Google Play Books is dying/dead because for all they may know about search engines, they know squat about hosting ecommerce. I’ve been supporting them for years because, well, they’re Google – and any book there will show up in their rankings.
That’s probably also why the pirates liked them. Pirates would be able to simply come back once they were dumped off GooglePlay, often within hours. They were pirating original works of other authors with the same cover and description. Google had a convenient bulk upload which made this turnaround extremely fast. So Google shut down their site to all new authors, as of May 15, 2015.
And apparently, they are gradually getting rid of their remaining self-publishing authors.
This is very hard to find data on. It’s happened to me and a friend of mine, but apparently not enough to cause any outcry on forums. Searches bring up more about app developers, and no one has complained about not being able to publish their books on Google anymore.
Google has also had the worst royalty set up (52% flat rate) and also auto-discount your book/ebook by 20%. Meaning that if you put up the same title with the same price on Amazon, both would shortly be 20% lower. Which means 20% less royalties on both platforms.
If you haven’t guessed, Google cancelled my account last week. Which explains the sour grapes. No real explanation or recourse, just “you violated our terms of agreement.” This week, they sent me a jovial auto-responder broadcast saying”you’ve just received another payment! Check you Google account to find out how much it is!” Of course, my account is shut down, so I’ll have to wait until that last payment shows up in my account, and guesstimate what my actual book sales were.
The 217 books I had there are now gone. That took a few more days to scour clean. Today I searched and somehow my books I just recently published through Lulu have appeared there with the Lulu description. Like Living Sensical. You can buy this as an ebook. But look at the price – instead of $2.99, it’s $2.51 – meaning that Amazon will price-match that. Thanks for the lower royalties, Google.
Google Turned My Books Into Zombies
How did my new books wind up on Google? The hint was that Lulu description (which reads like a pile of unfolded laundry, right out of the dryer and dumped in a basket.)
It looks like Google is now simply going to get their books from distributors. Like they do with Shopping. Lulu won’t distribute public domain or PLR books outside their own garden, so that makes it safer for Google. They’ll just get their books from regular publishers or aggregators and play it safe. Their experiment in self-publishing then looks to be over. Contracting with aggregators is much safer.
The Zombie part is that now you are going to have to set your price higher on Lulu in order to keep Google from taking your price down on Amazon.
Thanks Google. Thanks Lulu.
My official opinion is now for authors to pull their works from Google while they still can. This is based on how they treated me – and how they will screw your royalties if you give them half a chance. So pull them now, so you can still have an account. Only leave original works up there. You may yet survive.
Further thanks are still in order, however. I will now have to start removing all traces of Google Play from my earlier posts anywhere. And all my Google Play buy now buttons on my book landing pages.
Factually, I’ll go further and update my “How to Publish on Google Play” with a short addendum right in the beginning (so it’s visible in Amazon’s “Look Inside”) to tell people not to submit anything to Google Play, but buy my other books on self-publishing instead – from Amazon.
Lulu Plays Sharecropping Vampire
This is what I concluded, that Google is getting my latest ebooks from Lulu, who sucks their own bit of blood out in passing. The problem is more than royalty deep.
On paper, Lulu takes only 10% of what it gets for distributing your work elsewhere.
Actually, these other distributors are taking out their pound of flesh through “distribution fees.” See this chart, for a $3.99 ebook:
Per Smashword’s survey, $3.99 is where authors could have the highest income, $2.99 is where they have the best unit-sales.
Now, with Amazon’s cold-blooded price-matching we have to adjust things. In order to not let Google suck your Amazon royalties down, you tell Lulu to set your price at $3.99 and Amazon (you publish direct there) at $2.99 – so $3.19 would be their price. Just 20 cents different. You’ll make about $2.00 in royalties after Amazon subtracts the broadband charge (still cheaper than Lulu’s .99 each.)
Note: I don’t recommend Smashwords over Lulu as 1) they also only give you 80% of what they get from their outlets – meaning you lose even more, and 2) you have to create a special edition just for them. I already change the links inside the book for Amazon and non-Amazon. I don’t need a third version.
Best Survival Strategies from Blood-sucking Sharecropping
After all this time, I’m still amazed by how much I’m leaving on the table. Let the self-publisher beware.
You have to realize that all these book distributors are just letting you sit there as a sharecropper, farming on the land they own. You have to be prepared to be ditched at any time. (You do have your own email list and your own site, don’t you?!?)
What I recommend at this point:
Publish to Amazon and iTunes directly to control your sales best. Both have various programs to give you pre-sales and promotions. (No, that doesn’t include KDP Direct or their worse-yet KDP Unlimited, which are both financial fiasco’s.)
You want to be able to update your meta-data each month to keep them fresh in both the distributors and Google’s eyes. Direct to Amazon and iTunes means you don’t lose out to all those fees above.
You do let Lulu publish for you to Kobo and Nook – since whatever sales you do get from these are nice, but not much worth your time.
Right now, you don’t have a choice with Google Play.
So your price is always at least a dollar higher on Lulu to make up for the lousy sales and royalties these areas give you. That keeps Amazon honest.
Your iTunes price should be competitive within iTunes – and as least the same as Amazon, probably.
Is Public Domain the Victim Here?
Not hardly. Since it’s actually harder work to get income from these. That friend of mine who suffered at the cruel teeth of Google Play, found that the best way to publish public domain is at .99 on Amazon, and skip everywhere else. But he is a trained writer and his descriptions and covers can make you shudder as you pull out your virtual wallet to buy that version first. You’re still competing with a commodity. The .99 price cuts everyone else out but the freebies. And those publishers simply don’t care to make nice covers and titles. That’s why you get the sales there.
My own option is to channel existing demand by creating special reports out of chapter-excerpts which then point to collections of these books, which can be priced at $4.99 or better.
No, you don’t ever, ever publish those collections on Lulu. Why bother? Google will just undercut your price, or they’ll be too high to buy. The special reports you publish on Lulu then send them to your own landing page, where they can buy from you direct.
What you can publish where is on this chart:
Notes: * Has to be “translated”, “illustrated,” or “annotated” ** Won’t distribute anywhere else. *** Only gives you 20% and you have to publish directly here – not worth your time for the piddly sales.
Another Stalker Lurks – PayPal
Micropayments suck your royalties on everywhere except your own site – and they take a sizable piece out there.
Paypal charges 2.99% plus a .30 fee. You can opt for 5% and a .05 fee, but you can only do one or the other, not both.
If you sell your books on your own site, you get this:
Pay Pal – 3%
Actual % at 2.99+.30
Pay Pal – 5%
Actual % at 5%+.05
These two models swap out at about $14.
But that’s if you’re selling direct from your site. This is the reason for the 10% fee which Lulu and the rest charge. (I have no clue why they are sucking those other exorbitant fees out of you.)
This came up on trying to pay my VA a .97 payment as a test – and only .63 went through. Similarly, a $50 payment wasn’t just 3% cost.
Ganxy and Sellfy both take 10% off after you pay the Paypal fee – only Gumroad does the activity for you, and charges a flat 5%+.50 per transaction.(Much less blood-sucking involved.)
Plantation Owners Make the Best Vampires/Zombies.
When you self-publish to Amazon and the rest, you are committing digital sharecropping. They can (and will) shut you down at any moment. This is an old MLM tactic, as you don’t really own your downline.
The trick is to have your customers on your own mailing list. With any MLM opportunity, you can simply take your downline somewhere else – and this gives you instantly high payouts wherever you wind up. That pyramid scene again.
Self-publishing doesn’t scale that well, but scale it does.
The way to make your books into bestsellers on Amazon is to get early, high numbers of reviews and sales that last more than just the first few days. Then Amazon will start marketing your books for you. To do this strategy, you have to have a decent-sized list with both pre-reviewers and regular folks. You price your book low for the first few days or a week and let your list in on it. Then you raise the price right after that.
Amazon can forces you to profit from your own site is when you want to offer multi-media bundles – such as audio, plus your book collection, plus book trailers, plus infographics. Again, bundles are in the $4.99 range and up for just the book collections on Amazon (original books, anyway.)
So you can let your insider reviewers in at $.99, your regular list in at $2.99 and then everyone else at $4.99 – all over the span of a few days or a week.
The general strategy is to keep Amazon buyers going to Amazon, but opting in to your email subscription. For all other platforms, you send them to your own book landing page so they can buy your book there – or go to one of the other distributors. (Frankly, I’d actually only send them to iTunes or Amazon, everywhere else you make much less than you would selling direct. Might as well build up your own sales locally.
Now, your hardback is similar, but your royalties here will be far greater.
And that is the difference between renting as a sharecropper and being owned by them.
Right now over 50% of my Lulu monthly income is from hardcopy books. I can only see increasing these, due to that difference in royalties. While my PD ebooks which sell well everywhere else have a hard time getting on to Kindle, my hardcopy versions do not have that problem with Amazon.
My own site (even Lulu’s bookstore) are fairly unknown, I can put links inside these hardcopy books which can get email subscribers and possible book sales just from the “Look Inside” feature. The viewer doesn’t even have to buy from Amazon to click over to my site. (The trick is to upload a PDF with hard-wired linked in it as the preview – which is under testing as I tell you this.)
Audiobooks vs. Spoken Word Albums
Amazon owns Audible, and gave them an exclusive platform for audiobook sales there. They also have an exclusive contract with iTunes, which expires in a couple of years or so. Meanwhile, another test I’m gearing up for is creating “spoken word albums” via CDBaby with the podcasts I’m creating. I hope to use the same audiobook I’d earlier created and pitch these as a discounted CD so that it’s obviously promotion for the audiobook. It should sit right up there with the Kindle version, the trade paperback, the hardcover, and the audiobook. This gives the reader even more options. to have a set of CD’s up there which they can buy through Amazon – or as digital downloads direct from CDBaby, or – wait for it – my own site.
Again, I can offer discounts to members inside my own site. Amazon can’t see these and so can’t lower their prices to match. But chiefly, I’d give the value that they can’t. Bundles with these other media materials, and the option to buy dust-jacketed, limited-edition hardbacks – all at a steep discount for members.
There’s a lot to be said for having a sensible approach to this.
While I’m just getting this site started, you’re welcome to join me here. Big plans are afoot, most of which has to do with enabling you to access books, podcasts, courses, and even video webinars to get the data you need to improve your life markedly. Of course, my work has to go one title at a time. I do hope to have our first collection-bundle available within three or four weeks.
Yes, I’ll set up discounts for everyone, especially if they leave a review on Amazon.
The point is to stay focused on what you are actually here for. For me, it’s serving humanity by giving them a site they can visit which will unlock the secrets of the universe. Oddly, these secrets have been hidden in plain sight. The trick is that we’ve all been trained not to look, and where to not look. Fortunately, this is all easy to fix. It only takes a personal decision. And then be responsible for that decision and all the ones that follow.