Ask The Editor

April 13, 2009

Where to get a better deal than the Google Settlement? From Google.

Several writers I know have responded privately to my posts about the Authors Guild’s settlement with Google saying that they will stay in because they believe that the future of the book is electronic. And they want their books to be part of that future.

They’ve been misled into believing that those are their only choices: take the deal or have your work erased from cyberspace.


You can make a better deal. Google has one that’s ready-made for you, outside the settlement.

First, opt out of the settlement. Then, if you want to make your book accessible via Google, on the web, join the Google Books Partner Program.

Your books will appear where they would have appeared if you opted in to the settlement. But this way, you keep all your rights. And you can even add a “buy this book” button to the display page of your book if you offer the book for sale at your own site.

Remember: Google wants to scan your books. Just because the class action attorneys gave Google all sorts of extra rights (taken from you), doesn’t mean you have to roll over and play dead. Turn down the bad deal. Take the better one offered by the Google Books Partner Program.

“The Google Books Partner Program is a free marketing program that enables publishers and authors to promote their books online, through Google Book Search. By submitting a digital or physical copy of your book to be displayed online, you’ll make it discoverable to Google users from around the world.”

And yes, you can earn income from this –  Google shares the majority of its ad revenue with you –  and it’s probably more than you would get through the settlement. That’s because, in the Partner Program,  you deal directly with Google,  instead of with the Books Registry being set up to administer payments from future revenues via the settlement.

Use this form to sign up. You’ll need to mail a copy of your book for scanning but you can cancel your account at any time.

Here are some of the benefits of the Google Books Partner Program vs the Google Books Settlement:

  1. You send your book to Google and request that Google scan and display the book but, unlike opting in to the settlement, you can withdraw from your relationship with Google at any time.
  2. You get the majority of the revenue from ads appearing on the same page as your book. Contrast that with the settlement where, although you get 63% of the profit, that may be less than you believe. Some experts, including literary agent Lynn Chu, speculate that as much as half the revenues will be used for administrative costs of the registry before you see your share.
  3. You can include a “buy this book” link as long as it links back to your site, not that of a third party, for purchase. So,  if a preview hooks a reader’s interest, you get to sell the physical copies of your book.
  4. In the Google Books Partner Program, you don’t give up any of the rights, written into copyright law, that you now have.
  5. Unlike the settlement, you are not locked in for the life of the copyright.
  6. If something goes sour with Google, you aren’t forced into binding arbitration. You retain all your rights to sue in court.

– Anita Bartholomew


  1. A couple of additions:

    Personally, I’d recommend being careful about joining the Google Partner Program, which I believe also opts you INTO the Settlement. At least, that’s how I read the fine print in the Settlement.

    The Settlement’s provisions for Google-as-Publisher do not apply to out-of-print books per se, as many people are claiming. They apply to books that _Google_ (not the publisher or author) declares to be “not commercially available.” The Settlement says print-on-demand books can be declared “not commercially available,” but the criteria for this are not defined in the Settlement. In other words, the publisher can actively sell a POD book, the publisher and author can be happy with its sales volume–and Google can take over the book anyway.

    I’ve read the blogs of some authors of out-of-print books who see the Settlement announcement, and say “All you have to do is fill out this form and get free money for that book that isn’t selling any more anyway!” Actually, no. The Settlement makes _no_ guarantees as to what copyright holders will earn. Even the $60/copyright violation is an upper limit; the actual amount to be awarded will be based on the number of claims. Meanwhile, copyright holders will have to _pay_ to maintain the Registry/database for the Settlement. The amount they will have to pay is not disclosed anywhere at this point. Meaning that copyright holders who do not opt out may end up actually losing money.

    Comment by Frances Grimble — April 14, 2009 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

  2. Frances, the Partners Program is separate and does NOT opt you into the settlement. It has entirely different terms and conditions.

    As for the “not commercially available” language in the settlement, you are correct. A book can be technically in-print and yet Google can call it “not commercially available” and treat it as such. The settlement agreement has a vague explanation of what sorts of searches Google will do to make its determination but, clearly, it’s Google’s determination.

    There was something in “17.12 Effect of Right to Exclude” that made me wonder if Google had given itself some wiggle room on display, even with books deemed by it to be commercially available.

    I believe, however, that $60 is a minimum. I recall seeing that Google has wiggle room on when to pay that piddling sum though. It might take 5 years.

    And yes, the 63/37 percent split is on profit. It doesn’t take into account the costs of the Book Registry, which come off the top before an author sees any money.

    – Anita Bartholomew

    Comment by editorialconsultant — April 14, 2009 @ 5:27 pm | Reply

  3. Anita,

    You are correct about the $60 cash settlement. It is a minimum. Depending on the number of claims, the cash settlement may go up to $300 for books.

    Your readers might find useful my 10-page annotated summary of the proposed Google Book Settlement Agreement. The annotations are references to the relevant provisions in the Settlement Agreement. The summary is available at

    The annotated summary tracks my complimentary teleseminar, “What the Google Book Settlement Means for Authors and Publishers”. During the teleseminar, I did discuss the interplay between the Google Partner Program and the Google Settlement.

    You can find more details about the annotated summary and the teleseminar replay at

    – Joy Butler, Attorney and Author of The Permission Seeker’s Guide Through the Legal Jungle

    Comment by Joy R. Butler — April 20, 2009 @ 3:12 pm | Reply

  4. […] they are entitled to under copyright law. For future use, it’s at best, a worse deal than authors can get on their own from Google. At worst, who knows? Most experts say that the terms aren’t clear. “… bringing […]

    Pingback by Authors Guild ’s latest misleading statement on the Google settlement « Ask The Editor — April 30, 2009 @ 5:59 pm | Reply

  5. […] from Google search, is not to opt-out. AB RESPONSE: False. As I’ve written ad nauseum, just sign up for the Google Books Partner Program and you will be in Google search — but you won’t be locked into the settlement […]

    Pingback by Authors Guild sends authors another misleading letter about Google settlement « Ask The Editor — August 11, 2009 @ 11:23 am | Reply

  6. The problem with joining the Partner Program is, in the fine print Google reserves the right to change the terms of the Partner Program at any time without notifying you. I suspect its terms will at some point be changed to correspond with those of the Settlement.

    However, I don’t think you can lose by opting out of the Settlement–which for version 2.0, must be done before January 28, 2010. It’s been set up as pretty much a one-way street: You can always opt in, the deadlines are for opt-outs. If enough people opt out, more favorable terms may be negotiated in the Settlement, and you can opt in later if you like those terms.

    Comment by FrancesGrimble — January 11, 2010 @ 11:27 pm | Reply

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