Google Play Books Algorithms
Something I figured out about how to get more visibility on this store.
There’s been some buzz about recent changes to the Google Play Books store, which is one of the smaller stores for independent authors by market share percentage—though that may change soon.
As I’m redoing these books, I’ve been focused on finding the narrative that the algorithms tell. Algorithms are really just about how a company prioritizes visibility.
What I found for Google Play Books is that the company is very data-centric (which we already know) and that the bookstore is not any different. It’s set up to collect data on both books and users/readers, and that data is fed to several other divisions of Google (this has been confirmed by reps).
It’s not that this is different from Amazon, necessarily—it’s that it appears to be a higher priority for Google than for Amazon.
Amazon is a store that, first and foremost, is focused on recommending the thing the user is most likely to buy next. In order to do this, it puts “best-selling” front and center in its store.
Google is a store that, first and foremost, is focused on collecting data and categorizing books in the best way possible. In order to do this, it puts “classification” front and center in its store.
This is, of course, just my take… but when I talk to authors, I can see it in their sales data:
“I had a Bookbub but there was zero tail at Google Play Books”
“I’m doing decently everywhere else, but Google Play Books is my worst store”
“Google Play Books is my best store and my books took off there for some reason” (yes, this is also a cause and effect of a focus on categorization, because at other stores these books would drop due to churn of the bestseller lists)
My take on this is a simple one: Google Play Books does not distribute as much visibility to bestsellers in its store as other retailers might. The core of its algorithms prioritize trying to sort and categorize data, not trying to sell you a popular or bestselling book (they do try to sell you some popular books, but it’s more an effect than a cause).
And the reason it matters is because you need to do things differently at Google Play Books to get more sales.
Why Does Google Play Books Matter in the Larger Picture?
What’s most interesting is that Google Play Books is investing heavily in their bookstore right now.
They’ve brought in auto-narrated audiobooks (which require non-exclusivity… the book cannot be in Kindle Unlimited)
They are doubling down on series features (see the series subscription screenshot below)
They are even working on cleaning up their categories (I think, anyway).
When a company of its magnitude starts to invest in a product that affects my industry, I’m interested in how it will shake things up.
(Screenshot from the Google Play Books store)
It’s probably not a secret that I think its dangerous for independent authors to remain so Amazon-focused. My belief is that both Google and Apple are investing more in their bookstores because of audiobooks. Why audiobooks? Because you can listen on devices—phones, in-home, in-car.
Who owns the biggest market share globally in the device arena again?
My hot take: If you are an author, ignore the wide retailers at your peril.
Streaming Today: A Brand New Workshop on Google Play Books
Some of you know that the Go Wide, Grow Wide Kickstarter campaign has launched! As part of that campaign, I’m hosting six weekly workshops, one per each book in the campaign.
Our first workshop for this campaign is on Google Play Books! I'll be explaining how the algorithms for this store work, looking at a few books in the store, and answering questions. This is brand new material and Google Play Books is a really fascinating store, especially when compared to Amazon.
I'll be explaining the new algorithm graphic on the workshop, too! Please join!
And please make sure you get the recording when it comes out, so you can watch again later. There will not be a replay on the workshop. But you can get the recording later; all you have to do is back the campaign this week:
This is Google Play Books week and I’m excited to share more about this retailer with you!