Home » Amazon, Ebooks » KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts

KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts

15 April 2016

From David Gaughran:

Last month, Amazon was caught up in a crisis at least partly of its own making when bungled attempts to deal with a growing Kindle Unlimited scammer problem resulted in the sanctioning of innocent authors.

Amazon has since apologized, and has also pledged to beef up its response to the KU scamming mess – but questions very much remain about whether Amazon is taking the problem seriously enough. A quick check shows that some of the main scammers are still operating, under the very same author names and book titles that were reported to Amazon in late February and early March. Which is very disappointing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with Phoenix Sullivan about the problem and she told me about something else she was witnessing – scammers taking over the free charts in the Kindle Store.

. . . .

Here’s Phoenix Sullivan with more:

. . . .

Over the Easter weekend, I was watching a carefully orchestrated promotional campaign of Steel Magnolia Press titles. By design, we’re back down to just the original founders of the micropress—Jennifer Blake and myself, with a couple of pen names and about 75 titles between us. Our catalog is currently exclusive to Amazon, meaning we’re all-in in Select and KU. Our promotions are planned to optimize visibility via a mix of Free and Countdown Deals and keep our back and front list afloat for a few weeks, then rinse and repeat.

For our Easter weekend promotion, we had 12 books sharing an ad budget of about $1300. Of that, $365 was allocated to our anchor ad—a BookBub placement for a free box of 3 of Jennifer’s backlist romances. Things were trundling along as expected on Saturday, and the anchor title hit #2 on the freebie list late afternoon. So far, so good.

But a curious thing was happening further up the Top 100 Free list. Two other free books of ours seemed to be garnering enough downloads for ranks that would put them in the Top 100, but they were sitting just outside that visibility. In fact, during the early evening, one of those titles lost a rank. Yes, a single rank, but at #107 with a good history of increasing downloads behind it, that was very telling movement.

Additionally, we had another book in the Top 100 that seemed stalled in the #70s despite increasing downloads that day.

A peek at the full Top 100 Free list revealed why. There were 22 books across 7 author names on the list that didn’t belong. Yet there they were, hanging together as a block, solid from #6 to #27. I saw books of two friends that a couple of hours before had been in the Top 20—and most importantly, on Page 1—shoved back to the #30s and Page 2.

. . . .

The majority of [the titles that suddenly appeared] were children’s picture books and cookbooks, with few to no reviews, keyword-stuffed titles (some with one or two misspelled words in the title), and blurbs that made it clear no English-speaking editor had touched them.

I’d seen this before periodically. A handful of freebies appearing high on the list out of nowhere, usually gone in 24-36 hours, most likely the result of click-farmed downloads.

. . . .

I went to sleep in the wee hours of Sunday morning—after firing off a letter to KDP Support—with our BB-backed freebie firmly ensconced at #2, only to wake up a few hours later to a front page of the Free list completely taken over, from #1 to #22, by those 22 books that didn’t belong.

Take a moment to absorb that. Our title was contemporary romance with a BookBub list of 2.2 million subscribers. That was the only promo site we bought for it, and it garnered about 25K downloads on the US site that day. The book ahead of Jennifer’s was a cozy mystery off a list of 3.3 million subscribers. Both were books by recognizable authors with a solid number of reviews. Yet 22 other books that day managed more than 25K downloads each. Plus the #1 book had zero reviews during the time it was at #1 and no author recognition factor.

That it happened over a weekend, especially a holiday weekend, was likely not a coincidence. Amazon Support is short-staffed on regular weekends, and they move slower to catch and correct.

. . . .

When those gamers steal visibility, they are stealing profits from others, pure and simple. The two books of ours in the Top 100 Free were impacted by the loss of visibility by being knocked back from Page 1 to Page 2 and from Page 5 to Page 7. The two books that hit just outside the list suffered even more from not getting deserved visibility. Not in some abstract, esoteric sense or bragging rights sense, but quantifiable dollars. Ethical authors and publishers are the ones having to pour more and more of our profits into the system to stay ahead of the scammers in terms of visibility.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Dale for the tip.

Here are links to David Gaughran’s books and Phoenix Sullivan’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Amazon, Ebooks

77 Comments to “KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts”

  1. I’m actually surprised that there’s not more commenting going on over there. I just put up a long blog post after reading David’s article with an actual scammer book on Amazon as an example so people could see and understand.

    I probably should go back and cloak the details…nah…

    It burns me that this is still going on, but the reality is that only a nuclear option (like Google Play suspending new accounts) is going to give them the space they need to put a new system in place. A new system that has a lot more safeguards on it too.

    • The problem as I see it isn’t a lack of safeguards, but the way the incentives are structured.

      • Yup.

        Drop the ‘free’ part and they’ll stop playing — heck, make it cost the buyer a nickle and most if not all of that gaming would go away.

        But at ‘free’ then anybody can play, and if Amazon tries to set something to stop it, we’ll again be hearing writers whining that they got caught in the same web because Amazon made their net too fine.

        And let’s not forget that if all it takes is an email saying ‘e/book x is a scam’, then anyone could do the same to every book they didn’t want others to be able to see/buy. (I myself don’t like the idea of the trad-pub or agent I’d just laughed at for a poor offer/contract having all their friends/staff calling/emailing Amazon to get my e/books pulled — never mind that 25K botnet out there.)

        • Free is an excellent marketing tool. Unfortunately, its effectiveness on Amazon has been dulled by KU scammers. Blaming free books for this sort of scamming makes as much sense as blaming the second amendment for mass shootings in gun-free zones. (oh, wait…)

          • Or blaming women for being sexually assaulted. (oh, wait…)

            • Yep. Like the mayor of Cologne’s victim-blaming comments after the New Year’s gang rapes, which was met with a deafening silence from all but a very small number of feminists.

      • How would you structure the incentives in order to not have scammers?

        KU 1.0 didn’t work. 2.0 is worse.

        Application for inclusion in KU is an option and would certainly rule out a lot of scammers, but the cost to bear that would be too high.

        Making it cost to publish wouldn’t work. Those guys invest in click farms and cooperatives and buying 10 KU accounts to click themselves, so they won’t be deterred by a $40 book fee.

        • Stop paying authors from a pot and instead pay a fixed rate, tiered for book length. Create a separate ranking system for KU, perhaps even a separate storefront. Sales rank counts sales and only sales, borrow rank counts borrows.

          There will always be some scammers, just like there will always be pirates. But KU is a system that’s just begging to be gamed, and with the way the program is structured, the gaming hurts non KU authors as well.

          • This 100%. As a reader, I hate having Amazon’s search results dominated by KU scammers. As an author, I hate having the Kindle bestseller lists dominated by KU scammers. Create a separate KU store so readers looking for quality books and authors writing quality books will have some hope of finding each other again.

          • Interestingly enough, I’ve seen ZERO impact on my sales rank due to KU reads. This despite the fact that Amazon claims KU reads DO impact rank. When I get KU reads but no sales, my rank falls as if I have nothing at all going on with the title. So I’m wondering– do KU reads affect rank at some fraction of a sale?

            And I’m with Shelly– browsing Amazon categories for new reads is extremely frustrating and disappointing. Page after page of erotica in pretty much any category I’m interesting in reading. Not my thing.

            • That is interesting. Perhaps it was something they rolled back with KU 2.0, because I definitely saw my rankings fall when KU 1.0 was introduced.

            • Your rank is affected when the book is borrowed, not when the book is read. So if a customer borrows it today, your rank will be affected today even if the customer doesn’t start reading it for another week — or never. The ONLY way to tell when you’ve had a borrow is when your rank improves with no corresponding sale.

          • I’m not sure how paying authors a fixed price and setting up a separate KU list does anything for Amazon.

            Amazon is using a borrow model that appears to be aimed at matching revenue and costs. This assures it can keep going regardless of the number of books borrowed. What comes in is what goes out.

            They still don’t call me to confide, and haven’t revealed how revenue compares to payments. So, I can’t say if the model is now self-sustaining.

        • “How would you structure the incentives in order to not have scammers?”

          Let’s see… hmm… we could, I don’t know, make readers pay for the books they read?

          Ebook subscription services are broken by design, because they completely remove the price mechanism between readers and writers.

          • And this 100%. Trouble is, Amazon doesn’t care. KU subscribers spend 25% more in the store overall, so Amazon is happy to turn their bookstore into a KU junkyard in order to earn 25% more profit on toasters and shampoo.

            We have met the loss-leader and it is us.

            • God Bless common sense, for there is nothing special about books.

            • But if they turn KU into a junkyard, they’ll lose those high- value customers. It seems like basic common sense that they’d want to take action.

              • I think we heard something similar about the Tsumani of low quality KDP books a few years back. Consumers seem to figure it out.

                • The difference is these books are not targeted to real consumers. The sophisticated black hat publishers make the majority of their money from a closed system. Many of them aren’t even chasing real readers except as a by-product. But they are sharing monies and taking visibility from non-scam books. Crap normally falls in a healthy ecosystem. Keeping that crap artificially elevated is a burden on readers who have to sift at the top now instead of simply ignoring the dredge on the bottom. Consumers will turn to discovering books outside of Amazon and Amazon ads will lose money.

                • Sure. But remember all the people telling us how poor the editing was on high-ranked KDP books? How bad the covers were? How readers would assemble into droves and leave Amazon?

                  If history is a guide, authors are terrible at predicting what will drive consumers from Amazon. They are worse at predicting what will drive authors from Amazon.

                • The tsunami of crap in KDP does not disincentivize writers from publishing under KDP. When a reader finds an author’s book, the author is paid the price they set themselves. Books and authors that do not appeal to readers, the crap, do not earn money.

                  The tsumani of crap in KU disincentivizes writers from participating in KU. Authors are paid in direct proportion to their number of pages “read” as a fraction of the total pages “read” across all KU titles. More crap equals less pay for writers for the same number of their own pages read. A duped KU reader doesn’t even have to read a book for it to count as every page read, just click on one link to the back of the book. The scammers do not rely on duped KU readers. The vast majority of their pages “read”, according to their own how to blog posts, come from scammer co-operatives and click farms.

                  If authors leave KU, there will be less good material in KU and that reduces the incentive for readers to subscribe to KU. The authors most likely to leave KU are the mid-listers. For them the benefit of being in a crap infused KU rather than wide with multiple vendors are minimal.

                  Established bestselling big names can have page reads competitive with scammers’ page “reads” and therefore have a financial incentive to remain with KU. The question thus becomes exactly the same as for big traditional publishing — can KU thrive on bestsellers alone?

                • Agree with all that. However, I have yet to see any of the disincentives highlighted over the years actually drive a material number of authors from Amazon.

                  Disincentives exist side-by-side with incentives. For the last six years, observation shows the incentives have outweighed the disincentives each time some issue has risen that authors don’t like.

                  Each time an issue comes up. people tell us the quality of the Amazon collection will deteriorate to the point where comsumers will leave. The remedy offered is for Amazon to do what authors want. Amazon doesn’t, the collection doesn’t deteriorate, and life goes on.

                  Why? Because of the huge supply of authors and books all competing with each other.

          • I agree there is no KU price mechanism between readers and writers. The mechanism is between Amazon and consumers. Suppliers don’t matter in that system.

            But we shouldn’t forget that the KDP contract reserves retail price setting to Amazon alone. At any time, Amazon can abandon their practice of using author provided list price as retail. Then the price mechanism is between Amazon and consumers, and suppliers don’t matter.

            In all cases, consumers buy from Amazon, not book suppliers.

        • @ Ann, I agree. If their scams are making them 100s of thousands of dollars, then $40 is not a deterrent for scammers. It would be for honest authors.

  2. As has been pointed out elsewhere, what these scammers is doing is already prohibited by Amazon’s policies and terms of service. All Amazon needs to do is enforce them.
    Some people are suggesting that their failure calls Amazon’s commitment to authors into question. This may or may not be true.
    OTOH, I don’t think anyone seriously questions Amazon’s commitment to their CUSTOMERS. Amazon needs to recognize that these scammers are hurting the CUSTOMER experience. Once they truly understand that, then there may be a solution.

    • I don’t think it’s a matter of commitment to authors so much as just not having enough physical bodies to do the policing. Hence the “Auto-policing” that results in all those complaints from legitimate authors.

      But yeah, hammering on the point that such affects the customer experience will garner more attention.

      • Technology.

        I’d have any book that’s earning over $100k flagged and looked at. Then start banning accounts.

        Then work your way down by increments of $10K dollars.

        Certainly by stopping even ONE scammer at the $100K range would pay someone (or a group of people) to manually check those flagged books.

        It can be done, IF Amazon wanted it done.
        It could also be done RIGHT if someone with half a brain were implementing a solution.

        • Bingo. They don’t have to stop all the scammers, just the ones making money. And T.O.Diana points out how it pays for itself to catch them.

          As a reader, I too am tired of the clutter.

        • Certainly by stopping even ONE scammer at the $100K range would pay someone (or a group of people) to manually check those flagged books.

          That doesn’t save Amazon anything. They would have to pay an incremental cost for the person, and it isn’t recouped by closing an account.

          The complaint is that one set of authors wants more money for themselves, and feel cheated by another set of authors. If Amazon removed a scammer, the same amount of money is redistributed between the two sets of authors, but Amazon doesn’t save anything.

  3. “Return it to the paid listings where it will appear even higher in Search now thanks to the free downloads.”

    One tiny quibble: Free rankings are reportedly separate from paid rankings.

    That’s based on seeing several authors complaining that they did free days and had awesome ranks on the free lists for those days, only to see a drastic drop in ranking once their books were returned to paid status, with others replying “Well, you had no paid sales during those free days. Of course your paid rankings dropped!”

    • You missed that part…the KU clicks work even when a book is free. It’s one of the actual benefits of having a Free run Bookbub…because KU borrowers still borrow even when a book is free.

      Each borrow still counts during free runs. I was amazed at how many I got during my last Bookbub free run. Gobsmacked. I returned to the paid listings well above what I would have normally.

  4. I am so glad I stopped relying on free as a marketing tool.

    • I’ve actually found that free works great, if it’s for a limited time only. Took down my perma-frees about eight months ago in favor of a free-pulsing strategy, and the former perma-frees are nowhere near as sticky as the virgin-frees. I’m in the process right now of measuring the correlation between free downloads and paid sales, and I can definitely say that there is a positive correlation.

      • My permafree gives me about 2 to 3 sales on each of Book 2 and 3 each month. Not much. I gave up on that trilogy.

        I think the $0.99 promo approach for a series works better. Honestly, I don’t even do that anymore. Also bought’s for similar authors is where most of my sales are coming from these days. Open-ended series’ are big too.

        • I have one permafree book. Every month or two I think about taking it out of permafree, because it only gets 2-3 downloads a day. But the work involved in getting it into permafree in the first place is not something I want to repeat.

          • About a year ago I took my main permafree down, making it $0.99. It got a few sales but quickly sunk way down in the rankings. So I put it back by emailing Amazon that I wanted to (it took just days). It’s never picked up again in ‘sales’, mainly because of all the upvoted 1-star reviews.

            Oh well – I have some new books that are making me more money than ever before and they don’t need to be discounted to sell. That’s the level of consistency you want – books that sell themselves with no prodding, no money spent after they’re published. I believe you need to keep putting books out there no matter what so you can achieve that.

          • I set two books free every month, and haven’t had too much trouble getting Amazon to price-match. You have to email customer service, though, which is a bit of a hassle. Usually, they go free in a couple of days.

            • NOOK is the bigger pain, to me. My books are direct with them, all except for the one permafree, which I had to go through Smashwords in order to get free. If I wanted to make one of my other books free there I’d first have to unpublish it with B&N and republish it through Smashwords or D2D.

              • Yeah, I left Nook Press several months ago and went all in with D2D. No problem changing prices, and my books are selling much better than they were going direct.

  5. Seems to me that Amazon could do a quick check (by a human) of each title entering KU just to verify it’s not a scam title.

    • Some sort of check is done (maybe not all the time) because there’ve been authors complain about uploading a book and it not being approved for various reasons. Often it’s because the content is freely available on the web, so maybe it’s just an automated check.

      • Part of the problem with human checkers is that they probably aren’t very smart and don’t really care, which means they need to be told specifically what to look for.

        One would think that Amazon would want to foster relationships with author representatives like Gaughran that have demonstrated an interest in making the marketplace better for all authors who aren’t running a scam. However, I suspect they think they can do this with software alone. Unfortunately, until their AI can read email and understand what it means conceptually, they will always be two steps behind the scammers instead of the one step they could be.

    • Human checking every KDP Select title, even just the new ones, at Amazon would be expensive. However, it might go a little better if they did something more intelligent like having a human check a small subset of books with long titles, famous author names in the titles and strange author names like “The Martian”, for instance. Then, they might have something. They might also want to look for the words “click to the end” or similar at the beginning of the book. Then, what they need to do is not ban these books, but snarl the originating account in an infinite loop of automated customer service emails.

      The problem Amazon has is that they think they need to go fully automated when they only really need to have automation tools that can make one person capable of doing the work of many by helping them to sort through an enormous volume of data.

    • Seems to me that the author community could point Amazon at the problem by reporting the s***** ebooks.

      This is a fixable problem which merits a call to action, not complaints.

      • Authors have been told to report by the PR folk. Those of us who do report track the books we’ve reported only to see the books that are obviously only there to scam the system persist and persist and persist.

        To be fair, there HAVE been some successes. For instance, some of the “study guides” now seem to be carrying warnings with fairly similar and sophisticated verbiage in their blurbs that they aren’t the real bestsellers they’re pretending to be. One publisher’s scam books were pulled from the All-Star lists. The books David and I talked about in our post today are down, though whether by Amazon’s hand or the the authors’ hands, who knows.

        And then there are the books that are taken down, have slight changes made to them, and then reappear for sale either under a new name or new ASIN.

        One step forward, two back.

        It’s whack-a-mole on steroids.

      • Authors shouldn’t have to check Amazon’s store. That’s Amazon’s job, and they are failing miserably at it. Making authors share a pot of money with scammers is an Amazon fail too. Amazon should be eating the cost of their mistakes, not authors, who already work their butts off for Amazon’s meager payment of less than half a penny a page.

      • Call to action? What action?

        I wouldn’t expect Amazon to pay much attention to individual complaints from suppliers about other suppliers. If they see a problem affecting consumers, I do suspect they absorb the information provided, and then use it in building system fixes that can be run by computers.

      • Oh god, I spent hours one day just reporting books. What should I have been doing instead? WRITING, Amazon should do its job and police the KU crap on its own.

  6. Okay, I’m confused. What do these scammers get out of zooming up the free list?

    Aren’t the free lists independent of the paid lists both in and out of KU?

    And so they zoom up on the free list and get thousands of downloads or not–what are cookbooks doing in my romances?!–and then drop off and…what?

    People like their “crap” so much they go on to purchase their other books for real money?

    But if they’re crap nobody is going to go to book 2.

    I’m confused on the point of this scam.

    • As Ann explained above :
      “You missed that part…the KU clicks work even when a book is free. It’s one of the actual benefits of having a Free run Bookbub…because KU borrowers still borrow even when a book is free.
      Each borrow still counts during free runs. I was amazed at how many I got during my last Bookbub free run. Gobsmacked. I returned to the paid listings well above what I would have normally.”
      So they go back to the paid rankings with a better ranking, thanks to the KU borrows. And if the book includes one way or the other to bring the reader to the end of the book (another scam method), then they also get paid by KU for a full read.

      • I think I see my misunderstanding. Can someone confirm this?

        In KU, authors get paid based on KENP read.

        However, KENP read has zero effect on rankings.

        Instead, rankings are based on simple borrows.

        With non-KU books, the paid and free rankings are separate, i.e., a download for free does not count toward the book’s paid ranking.

        With KU books, Ann is suggesting that all KU borrows, regardless of price, count toward the paid ranking.

        Do free downloads by non-KU subscribers also count? If not, this means the scammers would have to all purchase tons of KU subscriptions to move the dial.

        So the scammers do their thing to get visibility and then have scams inside the book to get people to click through so they get paid based on KENP read and whatever non-KU purchases they may snag.

        Is that the scam?

        If that’s the case, it seems to me the fix for paid rankings is easy. Only allow paid sales and instances of 100% KENP read to affect paid rankings. Or paid sales and simple KENP read.

        For free book rankings, let them be based on downloads and KU borrows but pay zero dollars on KENP read on free books. Why should anyone get paid for a book they’re giving away for free, inside or outside of KU?

        • “If that’s the case, it seems to me the fix for paid rankings is easy. Only allow paid sales and instances of 100% KENP read to affect paid rankings. Or paid sales and simple KENP read. ”

          Not so easy, since scammers have found a way to get “false-true” 100% KU read, for which they can get paid 12$ for thousands-pages “books” full of BS.

          Free downloads by non-KU subscribers do NOT count for paid-sales ranking.

          For the rest you are right, and your last para is actually a good suggestion (from the POV of a guy whose books are wide).

  7. Reblogged the article to do my small bit for the greater good. Congratulations on a great expose. Let’s just hope the outrage gathers momentum and makes Amazon sit up and take notice.

  8. Will re-read this when I get home. Still spotty internet in montana. A month ago I actually downloaded one of these scam books based on a friend’s rec. The only time I made the mistake of not sampling the book. The description on thr Amazon page says 234 pages. It is to laugh! The first 40+ pages were attributions then there were 300 pages of a list of numbers like 1001 1002 and so on. At last I reached an incomprehensible section of prose. I immediately called Amazon and complained. The book remains. Unchanged. Still scamming.

  9. Or rather a srction of incomprehensible prose…

  10. Some of the suggestions here are ‘interesting’, some not so much.

    A couple things that people seem to be ignoring is if Amazon throws ‘warm bodies’ at this problem, the extra money to pay them will have to come from somewhere — would writers mind their 35/70% being cut down to 25/50%? If Amazon just throws bots looking for certain things there’s a good chance some ‘real’ writers will get a false(they claim) positive and get blocked/banned as well.

    When demanding ‘Something must be done!’ one should always think first of what those new rules might do if used against you yourself by ‘the enemy/spammer’.

    • Amazon created the problem. It’s up to them to fix it.
      Why should it come out of the legitimate author pool?

      By they way, the bonus $ is separate from the KDP fund.

      Honestly, if Amazon doesn’t fix this problem, then readers will eventually go elsewhere. Once my subscription with KU is over, I’m not signing up again.

      I’m unhappy as a customer AND an author (my books are wide, anyway).

      • “Amazon created the problem. It’s up to them to fix it.”

        Yes, Amazon created the problem by letting ‘anybody’ offer an ebook on their site.

        They need to weed out the ‘bad’ ones.

        How about they only accept ebooks from reliable people — say like traditional publishers? That work good for you?

        So if Amazon sees this as a ‘problem’ big enough that they need to hammer it, they have only so many choices …

        The reason they can offer 35/70% is because so much of it is automated and no warm bodies are needed from ‘signing in, loading, selling, getting paid’ on the Amazon side. So if you want warm bodies policing things they won’t be offering what they were.

        And we’ve seen the yelling and hair pulling here when they adjust their bots and ‘I was getting away with this one little thing’ turns into ‘they broke everything!’

        I find it funny how many swear at KU when they don’t use it, and how many swear by it when they do.

        I still think the simplest ‘fix’ would be for Amazon to stop offering ‘free’. Make it a nickle and those scammers won’t be able to afford to play their games. Surely readers ‘just looking’ at new (to them) stories with think they’re worth the risk of twenty for a dollar.

        • I find it funny how many swear at KU when they don’t use it, and how many swear by it when they do.

          Sounds like those of us who are against KU are increasingly putting our money where our mouth is. That’s a change from the old days, where the people who hated it still kept their books in out of fear of what would happen if they pulled out.

          • No, but listening to the ones not using it be upset that they think those in it are stealing their ratings gets old after a while.

            I myself would like to try it, but I’m not going to pull my stories off the sites that helped get me this far. Though I can understand Amazon’s stance on it:

            ‘If you wish the privilege of using KU, then allow us the privilege of being the only place offering it.’

            But we don’t hear those same people that whine about not being about to use KU and go ‘wide’ at the same time whining about how they can’t sell their story to more than one publisher at a time.

            It’s that double standard that I find amusing — the ‘they went and gave us an inch so we want the rest of the mile too!’ gang.

            • Rankings, not ratings. And the KU borrows do skew the rankings such that non-KU authors are at a disadvantage (though I wouldn’t go so far as to use the word “steal”).

              Also, for the record, I do think that publishers should allow simultaneous submissions, especially those who take longer than six weeks to respond. I’ve blogged about it too.

      • Amazon created the problem. It’s up to them to fix it.
        Why should it come out of the legitimate author pool?

        It isn’t a legitimate author pool. It’s the KU pool. Amazon has no obligatin to change it. It sets up a system and invites people to use it.

        Honestly, if Amazon doesn’t fix this problem, then readers will eventually go elsewhere.

        So let them go. That will foster competition.

  11. One thing a number of people here aren’t taking into account is that these “books”… aren’t. Books, that is. The “books” are pages of garbage that aren’t even intended to be read, only a means to get paid for KENP pages. When you see the issue described as a scam, it literally is.

    You can’t compare the issue to indie vs. trad, because both indies and trad publishers are producing real books to be read by real readers. This is nothing but pure gaming, a way for the scammer to make money without providing a product in exchange. It’s like paying a contractor a down payment to do a job, then the contractor just disappears.

    Look at the lists, particularly the New Releases lists. Dozens and dozens, page after page after PAGE of scam books. This is what a reader is faced with when browsing for something to read. Unlike a bad legitimate book, click farms keep these non-books at the tops of the lists– they don’t fall down the lists into oblivion the way they would in an untainted, honest system. On the flip side, real books by real writers are having a harder and harder time obtaining visibility, with the difficulty of breaking through the ceiling of scam books. Read the full text of David’s post to see how this works. And read Ann Christie’s step-by-step explanation:

    My question is, how long will it be before the scam books choke out the real ones? When KU is nothing but a Sargasso Sea of scam books? Because like others on this thread, I’ll be pulling my books out of KU at the end of this term if I don’t see some positive movement on the issue. The way things are now, the benefits of KU have pretty much evaporated.

    • Ann Christy’s post was the explanation I was looking for. Thanks!

      But now I’m a bit torqued. I bust my chops trying to write the best story I can, and Amazon is paying these jerks for literal trash.

    • With a 25 member Click Coop that requires 2 KU accounts per member, a minimal scammer will make 600 bucks for each book. With an easily managed 25 books, that total is now $15,000. For a few days time and minimal work. Outlay can be as low as $20 for their two KU accounts plus $125 for new covers.

      Doing this once a week (since Click Coops likely work on a schedule or max), the scammer has earned $60,000 in that month. ~Ann Christy link

      I’m running the numbers and they’re not making sense.

      Scammer: 25 books

      Click Farm: 25 people with 2 KU accounts each = 50 KU scam clickers

      Each book: 3,000 pages of garbage

      Here’s the math.

      3,000 pages x $0.00411 = $12.33 per book.

      50 KU scam reads x $12.33 = $616.50.

      25 books x $616.50 = $15,412.50

      And Ann is assuming the scammer does this once per week, so $15,412.50 x 4 = $61,650.

      However, if all 25 people in that click farm do that each week, we’re talking $1,541,250 per month.

      How many scam groups are there?

      I understand the KDP Select Global Fund for March is going to be $14.9 million.

      Suddenly Ann’s numbers don’t make much sense. You’d only need 10 such groups to use up the whole fund.

      What am I missing?

      • Hi John – I made an easy example there, but that’s for a dedicated scammer group. The ones I can find on YouTube and through a lot of GoogleFu appear smaller and smarter now, meaning they are spreading it out a little more.

        The biggest month of KU Page reads was insane and it grew very quickly.

        Since I’m not going to infiltrate one of those groups or anything like that, I won’t be able to get concrete numbers, but I did search a lot of books and use some of the text to do searches. I’m finding less books now that appear the same, like 10.

        And if they’re trying to avoid the shut down, they’re likely doing it less often, like once every two weeks and focusing the scam on the weekends when the KDP support is less manned. (Which matched Phoenix’s example well.)

        Also, keep in mind that click farms in foreign countries produce less money per page read (KU has pro-rated their page per read money). So those are no longer as desirable for the scammers. The US Scammers are smaller and smarter now, the foreign ones make less per page.

        • It makes you wonder how much of the total fund they take. Here are some more calcs.

          The number of scam reads you’d need to earn $10,000 for the given book sizes below.

          One book
          3,000 pages
          811 scam reads
          25 people with 33 KU accounts each, paying $322/month for KU sub

          1,000 pages
          2,433 scam reads
          25 people with 98 KU accounts each, paying $968/month

          500 pages
          4,866 scam reads
          25 people with 195 KU accounts each, paying $1,937/month

          Ten books with similar garbage
          3,000 page books
          81 scam reads
          25 people with 4 KU accounts each, paying $33/month

          1,000 page books
          243 scam reads
          25 people with 10 KU accounts each, paying $97/month

          500 page books
          487 scam reads
          25 people with 20 KU accounts each, paying $194/month

          Ten books and only 10 people
          3,000 page books
          81 scam reads
          10 people with 9 KU accounts each, paying $81/month

          1,000 page books
          243 scam reads
          10 people with 25 KU accounts each, paying $242/month

          500 page books
          487 scam reads
          10 people with 49 KU accounts each, paying $484/month

          If you have a group of 10 doing it only once a month for each member, that group would be making $100,000 per month. Makes you really wonder how much of the pot is going to these folks.

    • There’s someting in Ann’s post on her blog which is a point I wasn’t aware of :
      “So, a KU borrow on a device that didn’t sync until after the book was read and the reader flipped back to the front to check out what else you’d written? Yeah, no pages read.”

      This makes it even worse for legitimate authors in KU (even if it probably does not happen so often)

  12. The 5 titles I put in Select/KU were just freed, and I don’t think I’ll bother putting in others in the future.

    They all earned page reads/”extra” money during the 90 days, but to be honest, Select/KU seems like to much potential trouble to bother messing with anymore.

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