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Google Is Now Accepting Indie Authors into Play Books (Sometimes, And Only If You Ask Nice)

When Google closed its publisher portal two and a half years ago in response to massive ebook piracy, they said the move was temporary so they could "improve our content management capabilities and our user experience". Google has never fully reopened the portal to new signups (existing users continued to have access) but reports are coming in that the portal has briefly reopened on a couple occasions, and that Google is accepting indie authors on a case by case basis.

There’s an ongoing discussion on KBoards about Pronoun shutting down. After hashing out the causes of the shutdown, the thread soon turned to finding replacements so authors could get their books into retailers.

Google Play Books was an especially hot topic given that only a few distributors could place a book there (PublishDrive, Ebook Partnership, StreetLib, to name a few). I was very surprised to read this comment on Google’s publisher portal:

I can’t give you specifics, but they have opened it at least twice this year. Both times it’s been talked about here. And IIRC, it’s been for short periods of time, as in hours, not days or longer.

I have yet to confirm that Google has had periods of open enrollment, but there are numerous reports that Google is letting authors sign up for a waiting list, and then granting them access to Play Books after a brief background check. For example:

For those who used Pronoun for Google Play, I highly recommend contacting Google Books and telling them the situation. I contacted them yesterday morning, received an email slightly less than 24 hours later with a link to fill out the Interest Form.

So, I filled out the form this morning with the hope that I’d get put on their "waiting list" and then get an invitation in a few months. Well I just got the invitation, less than 12 hours after filling out the form!

It may be a little extra work to get an account there, but it’s clearly worth it to try.

That is just one of several similar reports I have found, so apparently this portal is not as closed as it would appear.

Google had a massive piracy problem at one time (it was about as huge as Kindle Unlimited’s ongoing issue with scammers). It looks like Google’s solution is to vet each applicant and only accept the ones that demonstrate their legitimacy.

Approving users one by one is a lot of work, but it seems there is no other option. Neither Google nor Amazon have found algorithmic solutions to their respective piracy and scammer problems, which means they may have no other choice but to have a real person deal with the problem.

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Steven Spatz November 9, 2017 um 5:20 pm

Hey Nate – Just a quick remark – BookBaby also distributes to Google Play, plus 50+ more stores worldwide. Our authors have enjoyed tremendous sales this year through Google – it’s in our top 3 outlets for 2017.

Nate Hoffelder November 9, 2017 um 5:41 pm

What’s BookBaby?

Allen F November 10, 2017 um 12:35 pm

Vanity press it appears …

Nate Hoffelder November 10, 2017 um 1:04 pm

I was kidding, Allen.

BookBaby has been around for years. They’re not as bad as that post makes them look. In fact, they just held their first conference last weekend.

Top 5 Publishing News Stories 11/6-11/10 – Publishing Trendsetter November 10, 2017 um 1:01 pm

[…] The Google Play store will now allow some indie authors to sell on their platform.  […]

Caitlyn Lynch November 13, 2017 um 12:56 am

Google have also selectively opened to pre-vetted applicants. For example, at the Romance Writers Australia conference this year, a special code was offered to RWAus members in order for them to bypass the vetting procedure.
That code unfortunately expired at the end of September, a few weeks before Pronoun screwed us all over. I’m hoping they might still honour it, though.
That said, advising Google of any professional organisations like RWA or RWAus of which you are a member, is probably likely to help you pass their vetting process that much more quickly.

Nate Hoffelder November 13, 2017 um 8:40 am

Thanks, Caitlyn! » Google Play öffnet erneut die Türen für Indie-Autoren, vorsichtig, Schritt für Schritt November 14, 2017 um 3:46 am

[…] Wartelisten und händische Betreuung setzt. Oder, wie Nate Hoffelder von The Digital Reader schreibt: „they may have no other choice but to have a real person deal with the […]

Heath Shedlake January 8, 2018 um 3:01 pm

Hi Nate,
Informative article. As self-published authors we all know what a hard slog it can be getting the word 'out there'. I became interested in Google Play after I was turned down for a BookBub promotion for the umpteenth time. I noticed that they had an option for promoting on Google Play, so I checked it out and filled out their form on a whim. I couldn’t believe it when i got an invitation to join their programme. So I say to others to give it a go. You have nothing to lose!

Tiyana October 4, 2019 um 7:37 pm

Hi Heath,

Just curious: how long did it take for them to accept you in their Partners program?

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