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Spamazon?

17 April 2012

From CNN Money:

Perhaps it should be called Spamazon.

Until recently, if you had typed “Steve Jobs Isaac” into the online retailer’s search box, the first choice that popped up wasn’t the best selling book by Walter Isaacson, but instead one with the same name and a similarly sounding author, Isaac Worthington. The book appears to be selling, even though Amazon’s one reviewer gives the book a single star and calls it a “poorly produced pamphlet.” Presumably, Worthington’s book is based on exclusive interviews with Jeve Stobs.

There are a number of books on Amazon with similar titles to much more popular ones. Fifty Shades of Grey, the steamy romance novel that has created buzz around the world, is the No. 1 selling book on Amazon. Also available on Amazon: Thirty-Five Shades of Grey. Both books are written by authors with two first initials – E. L. James and J. D. Lyte – and both are the first in a trilogy about a young girl who falls for an older, successful man with a taste for domineering sex. The publisher of the bestseller Fifty says the book is “a tale that will obsess you, possess you, and stay with you forever.” The author and publisher of Thirty-Five, which came out in early April, apparently believe that description fits their book as well, word-for-word. Also selling on Amazon is I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon. Neither is the book you are likely looking for.

. . . .

It’s perhaps more shocking that Amazon not only sells the books, it’s also helping their authors create them. All of the apparent copycat books that Fortune found on Amazon were made through CreateSpace, which is a division of Amazon. Authors can use CreateSpace’s system to design and self-publish their own books. The books then go on sale on Amazon and other sites. Amazon splits the proceeds with authors. It’s a different relationship than most publishers have with their authors, but there is no way for consumers to know that. On Amazon and other sites, CreateSpace is listed as the publisher of the books.

“It’s the book equivalent of spam,” says lawyer Eric Rayman, a former attorney for Simon & Schuster. “Amazon should be taking steps to stop this. It’s bad for consumers and it’s bad for the book business.”

. . . .

Karen Peebles, who is the author of I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, says she has self-published around 10,000 books though CreateSpace, not all of which are in her own name. “I am a single mother who home schools her children,” says Peebles, who says she sells “thousands and thousands” of books a month. “Self-publishing is a great way for me to make income. I receive a pretty nice royalty every month.”

Peebles says CreateSpace has guidelines, but they are minimal. Not only has Amazon never rejected one of her books, Peebles says she’s never even been questioned by the online retailer, not even about the one with a nearly identical title to the international bestseller by the late Swedish author Stieg Larsson. Peebles says her book, which she has sold “hundreds, maybe thousands” came out before Larsson’s. It didn’t. Larsson’s book was first published in 2004, and released in the U.S. in 2008. Peebles’ book has a 2008 copyright, but it wasn’t released by Amazon until mid-2010, well after the Larsson book had become popular in the U.S. Says a reviewer who gives Peebles’ book one star on Amazon, “Perhaps I will enjoy the author’s next book, ‘I am the Girl who Played with Fire.'”

Link to the rest at CNN Money and thanks to Dan for the tip.

PG’s experience is that whenever he’s reported a book as spam, Amazon zaps it pretty quickly.

Amazon’s Feedback box is, perhaps, too far down a book’s product page, but it’s definitely present.

Dan, who provided the tip, doubts the recent flurry of Amazon hit pieces is coincidental and who is PG to question a good conspiracy theory?

Amazon, Spam

47 Comments to “Spamazon?”

  1. I am not surprised by this at all.

    It’s one of those unfortunate things that makes a person hesitant about -genuinely- self publishing. And by genuine I mean come up with your own original ideas and actually write it from first chapter to last. There’s even a rash of fanfiction writers who have simply taken the names and settings the characters are in, barely change them and claim it all to be “original”. They take these “original” works then put them up for sale on Amazon.

    -Then- they go and make up about a half dozen accounts and leave “reviews” on them and give them a full five stars. Amazon’s lack (or unwillingness) to clamp down on these so called self-publishers makes copyrights pretty damn pointless.

  2. Of course it’s a hit piece.

    “It’s a different relationship than most publishers have with their authors, but there is no way for consumers to know that. On Amazon and other sites, CreateSpace is listed as the publisher of the books.”

    Amazon isn’t the publisher. CreateSpace isn’t the publisher. People like the writer of this article don’t know what is self-publishing actually is. What they would like to see is Amazon become as bloated, slow, and ridiculously rule-ridden as traditional publishing. As despicable as these spam-book writers are, I’d rather weed them out one by one, slapping them down when they pop up, then go with the alternative. Which would be, Amazon being forced to read every single self-published title. Can you imagine how long that queue would be?

    • Jaye, you know I’m no Amazon-hater – and I’m also very suspicious of the timing of all these separate stories (and indeed, PaidContent have reported that one of the recent hit pieces was fed to the Salon by a publishing exec) – but I think there is actually something to this one. I have explained in more detail in my comment below, but, in short, Amazon need better systems in place on this. They don’t need to check every book, but they should notice when someone has 100,000 books on Amazon.

      • I’m not saying this kind of stuff isn’t a problem. It is. My objection is to the subtext of the article that “Amazon is evil because it allows people to do evil things!” Then comes the follow-up, “We have to protect people.” Then the cure is always worse than the disease.

        I saw what happened to your book and I was appalled. But not at Amazon. Anytime someone establishes a system, the idiots and the evil come out to play.

        One thing Amazon can do and might do is establish limits on accounts. One account can publish a certain number of titles and anything after that requires a new contract with Amazon. They have tiers for their Amazon Sellers, one for occasional sellers, another for businesses. So I know it wouldn’t be difficult for them to do the same with publishers. It wouldn’t penalize honest publishers either.

        • I agree, Jaye.

          And, as I said, once notified of *my* issue, the speed they handled it with was very impressive.

          I think Amazon should work harder on this though, if nothing else, it gives less material for these kinds of articles.

          The worst of them all was that Salon piece – trying to spin Amazon’s charitable donations into some nefarious attempt to buy silence.

        • Apparently Amazon is guilty of spam where Hotmail is not.

          I mean, obviously Amazon wants to be involved in the illegal sale of copyrighted works, and obviously they want to become known as the home of millions of crappy documents posing as books. That darned evil Spamazon.

  3. I was a victim of a curiously old-school form of piracy a few weeks ago. Someone had scraped one of my e-books, and turned it into a paperback, and was selling it on Amazon US and Amazon UK via Amazon Marketplace (and charging around $20 for it too with a really crappy cover – I don’t even want to know what the inside was like).

    It also had my name and my title – not a letter changed.

    I only found found out about it when Amazon linked this fake print edition to my Kindle version. The result of this was to make the book look genuine. It had my 74 reviews, it had my author bio and picture, and it came up in searches for my name.

    I notified Author Central straight away and they de-linked the editions pretty fast and referred my to their copyright agent with instructions on what to email them (some form of declaration that I was the copyright holder, and this was an unauthorized edition etc.).

    In fairness to Amazon, they made the book unavailable within the space of 2 or 3 hours – which is impressive.

    However, this “publisher” had over 100,000 books on Amazon. Some were wiki-scraped spam, others were directly pirated books like mine.

    I also informed Amazon of this. The Author Central rep was stunned. He couldn’t believe it. I told him this stuff goes on all the time and Amazon need better systems to take care of it. He wouldn’t comment much on the subject though.

    I also asked the Legal Department to take a closer look at this guy. They didn’t respond to that part of my letter, or a follow-up.

    I didn’t expect them to respond to me about the matter, but I did expect them to do something about it.

    Nothing appears to have been done in over a fortnight.

    You can see this guy’s UK storefront here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aag/main?ie=UTF8&isAmazonFulfilled=&marketplaceID=A1F83G8C2ARO7P&isCBA=&asin=&seller=A1X5KNIAE5R8G5

    He has added 4,000 more titles in the last two weeks. That’s nearly 300 a day.

    Amazon get an A+ from me for their handling of my personal situation. The book was down quicker than I could have reasonably expected.

    However, they need to take a serious look at their systems here. I don’t expect them to vet every book. That’s not realistic.

    But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect them to have some system in place which *notices* that someone has published 100,000 books (and is publishing at a rate of 285 books a day).

    I also expect them to do something about the matter when notified. There are books there which are clear copyright violations – which I told Amazon about.

    Someone might claim that these books are not visible, but some of these unauthorized paperbacks have been linked to the genuine editions, but their publishers and authors (it’s trad pubbed books too) haven’t noticed.

    Amazon really needs to get a handle on this issue.

  4. Great post. BTW could you also say the same thing about KDP Select on the ebook front?

  5. For the record, one of the books mentioned in the piece, “I Am The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” is currently residing on Barnes & Noble, as well. That took me ten seconds to check, but I presume the writer didn’t care enough to bother.

    • That doesn’t fit in with the narrative, obviously.

      On that note, it’s interesting to note how little coverage that Google’s bait-and-switch on indie bookstores got – providing them with a platform just long enough to siphon off customers, and then yanking it away.

      Needless to say, if Amazon had pulled that maneuver, they would have been slaughtered for it.

    • I looked at a couple of her titles. She has three books about tomatoes. Each one is 13 pages long and 11kb. The “Look Inside” is exactly the same for each “book”.
      http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=karen+peebles+pruning+tomatoes&rh=n%3A133140011%2Ck%3Akaren+peebles+pruning+tomatoes&ajr=0

      I thought we weren’t allowed to have duplicate copies of our books up at Amazon? What’s to stop me from publishing another ‘version’ of one of my books, this time using different genre and keywords and bypassing the limit set by Amazon for a single title? I could change the title to No Good Deeds (one letter different), re-color the cover, and slap it up on Amazon. If I do that enough times, I can cover every genre and keyword I can think of and have a lot more visibility. At least my book has some content, unlike the pamphlet sized ‘book’ Karen Peebles throws up there.

  6. I know that every week, there are people coming to the KDP forum to complain Amazon has ‘unfairly’ terminated their KDP accounts.

    Lots of angry whining, and 99% of the time, it turns out that they were publishing ‘freely available content’, undifferentiated PD, or resale stuff.

    The last guy also published through CreateSpace, and his account there was terminated too. He was publishing lists of Amazon products as ‘gift ideas’ – using his Amazon affiliate links, of course.

    He simply couldn’t understand why Amazon shut down his multiple KDP accounts and wasn’t going to pay him.

    • The worst thing (or maybe the best thing, I don’t know) is that these people have a cycle:

      1. Find a loop hole.
      2. Exploit it.
      3. Get cut off by Amazon (or Google or whoever).
      4. Then make a bazillion bucks selling a “system” to suckers which tells them how to exploit the already closed loophole.

      This has been around for decades, and is very very common on the web.

  7. This isn’t exactly new. Perhaps in books, but bottom-feeders releasing cheap rip-offs of new movies has been commonplace in the movie business for decades. Even outside of Hollywood, when I used to watch a lot of Hong Kong movies on VCD I’d often find several bad movies using the same English title as a popular movie that I was looking for.

    And at least with Amazon you can easily return the book if you discover it’s not the one you thought you were buying. That’s not so easy with some back-street Chinese VCD store.

  8. Amazon is not a book store, it’s a subset of the internet. Start looking at Amazon as the World Wide Web.

    Yeah, if you look for stuff you don’t like there, you’ll find it. There is a ton of spam and junk and malicious content out there. That’s just the nature of the world. If you’re going to have everything, that’s going to include the 99 percent crap.

    The question is whether this crap has any relevance AT ALL to the user experience. Just like Google, Amazon wants people to have a good user experience — it’s their stock in trade. If they don’t, the user goes elsewhere. You stop using a resource which can’t deliver the goods.

    I would like you to note that even though the web is made up of mostly spam and junk, the user only sees a small fraction of it — because that’s Google’s job, to get us to what we want, regardless of what else is out there.

    I would also like to reiterate that the goal of both Google and Amazon is to deliver to you EXACTLY what you’re looking for — so if you’re looking for spam, you will most certainly find it.

    Spam is not our problem — spam is the problem of those delivering it. Amazon sees itself as the Google of retail. They’re full of smart people.

    They can handle the spam. If they can’t, it’s too bad for them.

    • I don’t expect Amazon to catch every case. But the guy I highlighted above has over 100,000 such titles – many of them pirated.

      Since I informed Amazon two weeks ago he has added another 4,000 titles.

      He’s uploading one every five minutes.

      That’s not good for Amazon, authors, publishers, or readers.

      These books are visible too, as they are being linked to genuine versions.

      • The thing about dealing with spam is that it’s a moving target. It’s like viruses. It’s going to erupt now and then as crooks find weaknesses… and those they attack have to adjust.

        But the fact is, just because they’re brazen doesn’t mean they are a threat to anybody BUT Amazon. Someone buys their books? Amazon issues a refund on complaint.

        It doesn’t become a crisis just because we can see them.

        Sure Amazon needs to get a system in place. But, as I said, they are full of smart people. This sort of thing doesn’t happen instantly. (And when they do implement any major changes, you can bet your sweet bazoot that suddenly indie authors will be screaming about how evil Amazon is for making uploads a little harder, or forcing them to go through an authentication process.)

        Again, it’s Amazon’s problem. They’re smart. If they don’t figure it out, we go elsewhere.

        • But if a reader buys a book with David’s name on it and it’s a crappy rip-off of his book, and it’s linked to all of his real books, you don’t think that’s going to hurt him?

          I agree that most times, these kinds of books just sink into the bottom layer of ooze on Amazon, rarely to be seen by anybody, but it isn’t always like that.

    • Excellent points, Camille. I never see spam books on Amazon unless I expressly search for one I read about somewhere.

  9. THE SCENE: VINGOTTI’S RESTAURANT (BACKROOM)
    THE PLAYERS: THE DONS OF THE BIG SIX
    THE PLAY: CONTRACTING A HIT ON AMAZON

    B.A. (“BRAND AMPLIFIED”) PENGY: This anti-Amazon campaign is getting us nowhere. I thought you said we could use it to put the squeeze on Bezos.

    SHYSTER ERIC “RAINMAN” RAYMAN: It ain’t my fault, Pengy. Dat Bezos, he’d got the feds on his side. They’re tearin’ up my joint, mussing up my accountants somethun fierce and everything. I ain’t got time to put the squeeze on.

    SARGENT’S EXCERCISE BIKE: Besides, the public likes buying cheaply at a well-run website. They don’t like paying your high prices.

    [SARGENT GIVES THE BIKE THE EVIL EYE, JUST LIKE IN THE OLD COUNTRY.]

    “MAC THE KNIFE” SARGENT: Dat’s enuff outta youse. Youse got me in enuff hot water alreadys, so stifle it! The public likes what we tell ‘em to like, see? Who cares what dey don’t like?

    SHYSTER ERIC “RAINMAN” RAYMAN: That’s it! Instead of telling the public what they like, we start telling the public what they don’t like!

    [THE DONS TURN AND STARE AT RAYMAN]

    SHYSTER ERIC “RAINMAN” RAYMAN: We simply convince the public that Amazon’s exactly like something they don’t like. We just gotta find something EVERYBODY hates.

    B.A. (“BRAND AMPLIFIED”) PENGY: Like what, for example?

    SHYSTER ERIC “RAINMAN” RAYMAN: I’ve got it! SPAM! Everybody hates spam!

    “MAC THE KNIFE” SARGENT: Yeah, I really hate spam. You know, when you’re at a restaurant with the boys and you think that’s meat on your plate but it really turns out to be Spam–

    [THE OTHER DONS ALL GIVE SARGENT THE EVIL EYE, JUST LIKE IN THE OLD COUNTRY.]

    B.A. (“BRAND AMPLIFIED”) PENGY: Everybody hates spam. Amazon is spam. Ergo, everybody hates Amazon. By George, I think you’ve hit on something!

    SARGENT’S EXCERCISE BIKE: Like who’d swallow that whopper?

    SHYSTER ERIC “RAINMAN” RAYMAN: I’ve got a few contacts over at CNN. I think I can find a patsy in the media to peddle this story.

    “MACK THE KNIFE” SARGENT [GLANCING AT BIKE]: Ixnay on the Eddlepay!

    B.A. (“BRAND AMPLIFIED”) PENGY: Sounds good. And if CNN doesn’t bite, make them an offer they can’t refuse.

  10. This situation is the same that happens with eBay. Amazon probably won’t change its system because it is too hard to solve–how do you know if a good is counterfeit or not? With ebooks it might be a tad easier to find copying, but how does Amazon know whether the copy is authorized or not or whether it is sufficiently different or transformative to be non-infringing or fair use? It’s easier to just wait until someone complains and then correct the problem then.

    • Unless I’m much mistaken, this article isn’t about piracy, it’s about spam books. I don’t see anything there claiming that these books are pirate copies of real books, merely that they’re confusing readers looking for those books.

      They could certainly add an automated check to flag potential pirate books and web-scraping, but that won’t have any effect on people selling books that are perfectly legal. We could probably also forget having our new books appear for sale within a few hours if Amazon have to feed them through yet another process before they’re available for sale… and good luck if you upload your book to another site first and a pirate then uploads it to Amazon before you do.

      • The guy I linked to (with 100,000 books) is both pirating books, and scraping Wikipedia etc. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s quite common.

        I’m not advocating an automatic check. What I’m suggesting is that Amazon should have systems in place where they (a) notice that someone has published 100,000 books (b) take a closer look if they notice something like that and (c) do something about it when it’s clearly serving no-one’s interest to let this guy continue.

      • Agreed, Edward.

      • Confusing people looking for authentic goods is part of trademark infringement and unfair competition.

        Is Thirty-Five Shades of Grey a sequel (prequel?) to Fifty Shades? Of some customers might only remember they are looking for that popular Shades of Grey novel, but can’t remember how many shade there were.

        Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson or Isaac Worthington, which was it?

        The same with I am the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Twilight New Moon.

        Maybe this is a case of buyer beware, but there’s something that doesn’t feel right about it.

        • If you’ve actually registered a relevant trademark. Hence, for example, the various ‘War of the Worlds’ cheapie movies released at the same time as the Spielberg version used titles which didn’t violate any trademarks.

          Yeah, it’s a cheap tactic and one I wouldn’t use myself, but it’s usually legal.

          • It is my understanding you can’t copyright a book title. I would assume you can’t trademark one either. Movies might be a different animal, but I wouldn’t expect them to be.

            I could easily write a book and title it “Lord of the Rings” and it would be legal, as long as my story isn’t the same one.

            I’m sure PG will correct me if I’m off on that, but that’s what I’ve been told. And why you’ll validly see multiple books using the same title sometimes.

            • You may be right. I remember there was some kind of rights issue that the ‘War of the Worlds’ movies were working around, but I don’t remember the details.

  11. I’m confident that Amazon is already looking for a way to address this issue, but it’s not an easy problem to fix unless you want to pay people for the man hours necessary to search this kind of thing out, which isn’t efficient.

    It reminds me of the MMORPG I play where there are Terms of Service that everyone agrees to abide by. But there are no “game police” going around looking for people breaking the rules. The game relies on other players taking the time to send in reports about people who break the rules. They investigate reports and act on them as necessary. As a system it works pretty well because the game company makes it easy to report problems.

    Amazon could use something similar. Perhaps giving a small incentive to anyone who reports any problems they come across while browsing.

  12. There might be a niche here for somebody to set up a company that specifically looks for scraped or pirated books. Not to mention plagiarism where somebody just does enough to claim the book is original.

    Pirates and plagiarists were one of the things publishers were supposed to protect authors from, not sure how well that worked for low-profile stuff. So self-pubbers need somebody to look out for them. Of course, if the plagiarist decides to duke it out in court it could get very expensive for the actual author.

    On a related note: I was pretty much gobsmacked when ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ was actually described as fan-fiction of twilight, just rewritten to avoid breaching copyright. I have no problem with fan-fiction (though I honestly don’t understand the urge to write in somebody else’s universe, why would you want to do that? It really does not compute for me) so long as the writer of the fan-fiction does not make money from somebody else’s hard work. I’m surprised that Meyer’s publisher haven’t sued by now. It’s right there in black and white in report after report about the novel.

    • I haven’t read it, but if it’s different enough from the original (such as some fanfic is), and no longer has the same names to confuse people, it may not actually be an issue.

      I mean, Dominant Male and Submissive Barely Legal Female are stock characters. Unless there’s actual sparkling going on, I don’t think “rewritten to avoid copyright” is necessarily going to be worth pursuing as a derivative work.

      As for why people write fanfic? Because something about those characters (or that world), and the author’s plot, strikes a key and wants to be written. Or because one’s friends (or oneself) just adore erotica about a given pairing (canon or non-canon) in a given work. Or because you want to see if you can keep a character sounding “in character,” while placing them in situations of your own making. Or because you think the author jumped the shark and broke character first. Or because you want to id-surf and don’t want to spend the set-up on original characters and original setting. Or you want to see how badly you can twist the setting and make people go “Woah.” Or you want to do any kind of “what if” with a setting that has captured your imagination.

      Some people take what they learn in fanfic, about characterization, plot, dialogue, and beta-readers/critique, and use it in original fiction — to good effect. A certain Hugo-nominated author has committed fanfic; so has a Hugo-and-Nebula-winning one.

      Meanwhile, some people are happy being fish in a gray and murky pool, with a fan-base who praise them for their work, and have no desire to do anything else.

      Some people do both.

      Some people wind up in a liminal area; I have written fanfic for a tabletop RPG line I’m the Line Editor for, and I’ve written fanfic of my own original duology.

      • I’m not being snobby about fan-fic, I just don’t understand the impulse, because it never crossed my mind to write fan-fic. I didn’t even know it existed until some time around 2009. I had heard of slash-fic, which made me grin, but that was all.

        And it’s always confused me. Influenced by another writing, riffing on their ideas, even playing in a similar sand-box, all that makes sense to me. But I can’t get my head around writing somebody else’s characters in somebody else’s world.

        Like I said it’s not a snobbery thing, it’s a how-do-you-know-what-the-writer-actually-intended thing. I don’t know if you understand this, I’m not sure I do, but I don’t get the mechanics of it.

        My nephew wrote some Naruta fan-fic years ago, and I didn’t get it then. I still don’t get it now.

        Oh dear god…I was trying to think of my next, very careful line, and remembered something. I once wrote a Dr Who story for a class assignment back in Secondary school. Okay, I get it now, I get the impulse. And I am not equating fan-fic to kiddie writing either, I just remember WHY I wrote that story. Sorry, don’t mind me, just an idiot having a revelation.

        ETA: Thanks for not ripping me a new one :)

        • “…it’s a how-do-you-know-what-the-writer-actually-intended thing.”

          What the author actually intended is irrelevant to fan fiction. Fan fiction is based on the world that is created in the fan’s head. The reader, not writer.

          It’s very closely related to what’s going on when a kid watches a TV show, and then goes outside and “plays” the show over again with his or her friends. After a while the game is barely based on the show they just watched — that’s just a source of new wrinkles in an old game that the kids have been playing, perhaps starting with other shows long before.

          I did a series on “Mary Sue” (a particular motif of fan fiction) on my blog last year. I think I talked about the playing aspect in the second installment. Here’s where it starts if you’re interested:

          http://daringnovelist.blogspot.com/2011/03/mary-sue-bane-of-fanfic-or-literary.html

          • Yeah I realise now. No worries. It’s always bothered me that I didn’t get it, and now I do. Glad I commented, gave my brain a chance to supply me with the requisite information :)

            I’ll take a look at the link, thanks for posting it. I do know what a mary sue is though :)

    • Ideas are not copyrightable. IMHO, as long as they weren’t using Twilight to promote the work, so what? It’s an archetype. Highly popular books create genres. Sometimes they are rip-offs, and sometimes they are just books which were written before the famous one, but shelved for being ahead of their time — and then brought back out when the subject or theme is suddenly fashionable.

      The author who titles a book “Twilight New Moon” on the other hand, is clearly trying to steal Meyers’ thunder. Even then…. Titles are not copyrightable either. It’s just the way the world is and always has been.

      • But if someone like me, who has zero interest in Twilight and not a great deal of interest in erotic fiction either — I’m not trying to derail this thread again, honest, nothing wrong with erotica — knows the “this was originally Twilight fan-fic” story, then isn’t that using Twilight to sell the book.

        I can imagine that, if you were a fan of Twilight, which has now ended as a book series (I think) then you might go out and buy ‘Fifty Shades of grey’ specifically because it was originally based off Twilight.

        And of course you can’t copyright ideas, but there is a difference between “This is the New Twilight” marketing speak, or “If you liked Twilight, you’ll love this”. This is “Based on Twilight with the names and locations changed to protect the author from charges of copyright infringement”.

        Yeah, ‘Twilight New Moon’ is far more reprehensible. It all reminds me of that German woman a few years back who literally plagiarised people, was feted by the arty types, and then when she got called on it said something along the lines of, “Nothing’s Original”.

        It’s a slippery slope I see extending away into the distance.

        • I think here the difference is, the author and the publisher have not talked about the genesis of the book or in any way used that connection to promote it. Some of her fans know (and let me be clear–this is my understanding based on seeing articles about this book on every romance blog I read, not because I knew anything about it till it exploded on the pop culture scene 6 weeks ago) that bc they read the original explicitly Twilight-oriented work. So it’s a badly kept secret…but she can’t control what her fans say about her, and she’s not talking about that angle at all, so it’s not being used to promote the work. And I would think that for every person who is intersted by a twilight connection, another would be turned off.

          As to why people write (and enjoy) fanfic–what camille said a bit above. It’s about the world the author created in the mind of the fans. If you (as a reader) have put so much imagination and energy into thinking about the world and the characters, at some point they begin to feel like they’re yours. It’s the classic idea of taking a piece of art and finding your own meaning in it…in this case just extremely interactively. And sometimes you don’t want to give up on the world even if the story is over, so you make up your own stories in the world with the same or different chracters.

          I’ve never been into fanfic online, but in one case I had to rewrite the end of a series because I felt like the author violated every rule and standard set up by the previous books. I had to have a proper ending to the story, because I need that closure, but the author’s end was too FUBAR to give me any satisfaction. It was actually the most useful writing exercise I have ever given myself. It taught me how to write a novel, and that I could do it. Having the characters and world laid out let me focus more on the mechanics of how to pace a book, how to choose a point of view for a particular scene, how to balance dialogue and description, action and emotion. So I can see how it’s a great learnign tool for young writers who may not have the confidence or the experience to go through learning all those things at the same time they are having to create characters who seem like real people and figure out all the internal logic of a world.

          • Oh right so it’s her fans blowing her cover then. Pesky fans.

            I think my, now resolved, problem with understanding fan-fic is that I’ve been reading like a writer since my early teens. If an idea or a character or a setting grabbed me then I’d add it into whatever story I was writing at the time, it would become part of the world I was creating as a riff on the original idea.

            But I understand the impulse now, which is the thing that always confused me about it. No worries, all sorted :)

  13. The article does get it wrong. CreateSpace isn’t a publisher, it is a printer and distributor. Period. Thus, they have no incentive to do a lot of content checking. It would ruin their business model.

    But Amazon should (maybe does now) have simple checks in place. It would be easy for their software to send off an alert to check on a publisher who is uploading more than, say 10-20 titles in one day. A new publisher or real publisher may have reason to upload that many at times, but not every day. It would easy for someone at Amazon with that job already to check on those alerts. A quick look would easily tell in most cases whether it warranted further investigation.

    Another area that Amazon needs to have more checks, and is more doable, is the linking of titles to an author. Clearly Amazon’s software is set that if two books have the same title and author, they must be linked. But when anyone can put up a book using the same title and author through KDP, it would seem they need more of a check than that when linking books. Not sure what would be the easiest to use for that, but as it stands now, it is too easy to get a fake book linked with a valid author. Probably it should have a process of when that happens, shoot an automated email to the account that already had that up asking if that is there book or not. That would allow the authors and publishers to do most of the initial legwork on identifying them, and Amazon would only have to deal with them when they said, “NO, that is not my book. Kill it.”

    • Amazon have said that they look on authors as customers so yeah, they should do that. Hopefully, being a tech savvy company, they are sorting something out along those lines.

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