Pub Rants

A Little Tutorial On The Google Partners Program

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STATUS: Time for sleep.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SELF-ESTEEM by The Offspring

I want to talk about the Google Partners Program as this is not even remotely related to the Google Settlement issue but a lot of people are just plain clueless about it.

So let’s start with defining it. The Google Partners Program is an agreement that Google makes with Publishers to allow book content to be available, previewed, and searched on Google Books.

Since I’m assuming you know nothing, here’s the link to the Google Books Site.

Everyone following along? Great. Then let’s move on. Not every publisher has decided to participate in the Partners program. If a publisher is not participating, then Google Books will only show the cover, give a brief overview, and maybe the inclusion of reviews that can be found freely on the web.

In fact, under the overview, you’ll see the words “no preview available.”

Disney-Hyperion does not currently participate so for an example of the above, if you plug in I’D TELL YOU I LOVE YOU BUT THEN I’D HAVE TO KILL YOU into the Google Books search field, then this page is what you’ll see.

Easy peasy.

Okay, now some publishers are participating in the Partners Program. If that is the case, then under the title overview you’ll see the words “limited preview.” Click on Ford’s HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET as an example.

Still with me?

Okay, and here’s why I’m doing a tutorial on this subject, some publishers are participating in the Partners program but they are doing so with the ad links turned on.

Simon & Schuster currently participates in the program with the ad links. Click on Kelly Parra’s GRAFFITI GIRL. Look on the left side bar. Do you see the little section that is titled Sponsored Links? See the click through link right below that? That’s an ad link.

If you were to click on that, your click would generate income that Google would have to pay to S&S and S&S would then have to split with Kelly Parra. On the S&S statements, there is a separate line that clearly details the monies generated from these click-thru ads.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

S&S is participating and reporting. Some publishers, however, are doing the Partners Program with Google, with the ad links turned on, and are receiving income from Google but none of this income is reported on statements and therefore not being shared with the authors.

Ah, there’s the kicker.

In fact, just two weeks ago, I called a publisher because I could clearly see on Google Books that my author’s title was included in the program with the ads turned on. Did I see that income on the statement? Nope. I called.

What did the publisher say in return? “Oh. We did it is a short experiment for 3 months to see how it worked and that should have been taking down by now. Thanks for bringing it to our attention.”


I’m now forcing them to remove the ad links if they aren’t going to report and to track down the monies and pay the author—even though in general, the amounts are currently negligible. I’m talking around a dollar.

Let’s just call it the principle of the thing. What is negligible today might be real money tomorrow.

I could call because I know how the program works and knew to ask. But if you didn’t know, you wouldn’t even know to ask. Well, now you know. The Google Settlement and the Google Partners Program are two wholly different and separate things.

So have you looked up your titles on Google Books yet? Are the sponsored links turned on? Are you seeing those monies on your royalty statements?

You know what to do.


26 Responses

  1. Laura said:

    Glad you pointed this out Kristin. I’m recommending to Ninc members (organization of professional novelists) that they read your blog today and check this out.

  2. Diana said:

    It’s not the money, it’s the principle of the situation. They shouldn’t be holding onto money that should be going to their authors.

    But, what an accounting nightmare. If the amount your clients are getting are only a dollar or two, it can’t be worth it to the publishers. Maybe, I’m missing something, but it seems to me that it would be cheaper to the publishers to just not do the sponsored links.

    And since the sponsored links aren’t to bookstores or other places selling the books, then directing visitors away from the bookstores doesn’t seem like a very smart thing to do, either.

  3. Christina said:

    Thanks for being mama cat for us writer kittens. 🙂 It seems like these publishers are always looking out for a way to take advantage. You rock!

  4. Stephanie said:

    And this is why (good)agents are worth their weight in gold. The amount of money might be small now but who knows what it could be 5-10 years from now.

    As a writer, it’s good to know someone’s in your corner and looking out for your interests.

  5. Kelly Bryson said:

    This post put the final nail in my “DIY” mentality coffin. I really DO need an agent (once I get the MS polished, that is!) Thanks for the info, Kristin.

  6. L & M Hewitt said:

    Thank you so much for being vigilant, this was an excellent blog post. I think you’re right to look at the big picture.

    Advertising like this is an interesting way to supplement an author’s income. I just hope authors & their agents start poking the publishers about this one.

  7. Joseph L. Selby said:

    I had no idea Google split its revenues from those links with the publisher. You’re right that it doesn’t add up to a lot (right now), but you’re also right that it’s a principle that should not be thought of lightly. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

  8. kim said:

    I’m in Canada, which must make a difference. I clicked on all three links, and all of them said “no preview available”–and on Graffiti Girl, there are no sponsored links.

  9. Rissa Watkins said:

    Good post.

    You are right, who know how much those ad dollars can add up to be. Heck several online content sites make big bucks from ad placement.

    Your clients are blessed to have you watching their backs.

  10. Mark Wise said:

    Holy ****! You like The Offspring? You are now officially “The Coolest Agent Out There”. I hope I can get you to be my agent when my novel is finished for that reason alone (if not for many others).

    Thanks for letting us know about the Google Partners Program. I did not consider how that affects us as writers before.

  11. Robin M said:

    What lucky clients you have, Kristin. You continually amaze me with your broad knowledge of the industry and your willingness to share info about the nuts and bolts of being an agent in today’s changing publishing climate. Thanks!

  12. Ellen Hopkins said:

    “Only a dollar” can add up. I mean, we get $1-2 royalties per book, and that does add up. Depending on what happens with Google Books in the future. But hey, does that mean I have to give my agent fifteen cents for every dollar I earn here?

  13. Anonymous said:

    Did anyone else notice that for a limited preview they showed 279 pages out of 290 for the book? Does the author get paid for that as well? I could see a few chapters posted, at the high end, but not around 96% of the novel.

  14. bananabrain said:

    Something to be aware of with Google Books preview is that there are websites that you can copy a book to from the limited preview and have the whole thing free for yourself online. That’s illegal, of course, but as an author thinking about being on it, it’s probably good to be aware that people could read your book without buying it (and getting you the royalties)…

  15. spinney said:

    Wow! You have all the bases covered. Of course I ran to see my own google books listing… and I was safely at “no preview available.” But lately when I read your posts, I can’t help but hear the Beastie Boys in the background. “You gotta fight… for the right(s)…”