How to Add a Description to a Book on Google Play

First, for anyone who is trying to solve this problem, here is the solution (at least for now):

Add or edit summary of Partner Program book

The basic issue is that Google typically gets its book summaries from third-party meta-data providers.  If you’re self-publishing, those third parties probably don’t know your book exists.  If you go through the help materials, you won’t find a solution to your problem.  Only once you attempt to contact Google directly for help do they walk you through a questionnaire that eventually leads you to the precious web form that I’ve linked to above.

If you would like to appreciate the value of a good — or even moderately competent — user experience designer, attempt to publish a book on Google Play.  It’s like a parody of bad UI.  Please, Google, you gotta do something.

For those who want to know the background here, read on.  For everyone else, I hope you found this post helpful.  The rest is just my tale of woe.


In going through the painfully obtuse process of making Upload available on Google Play, I encountered a problem that had me baffled: how to add a summary/description/blurb to display alongside the book.  This concept of a brief introduction to your book is ubiquitous on bookseller websites.  Even on Google Play, most books have a short paragraph explaining the book, to entice the buyer into reading customer reviews, skimming the preview, possibly even buying the book.

Knowing this, I expected at some point during the not-at-all-straightforward process of getting a book onto Google Play to be presented with an opportunity to enter a summary for Upload.  I was not.  Nor did I come across any little note, friendly or otherwise, mentioning that Google prefers to fetch this information from someone other than the publisher.  When my book finally popped out the other end of the black-box process — an event which I feel warrants an email to the publisher, since it takes days and may result in pricing other than what the publisher intended — I discovered that it in fact did not have a summary, where other books on Google Play did.

Where had I gone wrong?  What step or piece of crucial information had I missed?  Other people are making it work — why can’t I?

So I sunk another 30 minutes or so into trying to find a solution.  Only to discover that you have to endeavor to register a complaint before they tell you how it works?  Maybe I missed something along the way, but I’ve gone back and forth over those pages and come up with nothing.  I guess the engineer-driven business model at Google has its downsides.  And that’s coming from someone who’s been coding for money for the past twenty years.

All part of the joy of self-publishing.  Of course, I imagine I’m lucky to be arriving at this game now, and not four years ago.

7 thoughts on “How to Add a Description to a Book on Google Play”

  1. But wait, there’s more. Just got an email from Google Books, with this loveliness:

    “Thank you for providing additional book information. We have updated our
    system to reflect this change, and should display it on the Google Books
    site within a few weeks. We appreciate your patience during this process.”

    Weeks?!?? I’m hoping they’re just being really super conservative.

    1. I can’t say for sure how long it took for the description to show up, but it’s there now. It took somewhere between one and two weeks.

  2. What first name and last name go in the boxes on the add description page? Google really hasn’t done a good job explaining much of anything in their ebook program section.

    1. Good question. In my case, there was no ambiguity — I’m the author, the publisher, and the Partner Program account holder. I would guess that they’re looking for the first and last name of the Partner Program account holder, but you might want to email to confirm that. That was the email address on the response I received.

  3. This was great, thanks. I’ve uploaded all the descriptions for my books, thanks to this post. I have a question for you, were you able to add/change the categories or the genres? I’ve been trying to find info on that, to add more categories to my books but so far i’ve got nothing…


  4. Hi Kim — glad you found this useful. If memory serves, the category/genre info is picked up automatically from an industry-standard database, based on ISBN. I’ll do some digging and post here if it turns out there’s a way to update this info yourself.

  5. I am happy to report that Google finally revamped their Google Play Books web interface, and you can now edit your own book description with ease — no research required.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *