From David Gaughran:
On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.
The Kindle Store is officially broken.
This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.
Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.
I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.
Repeated assurances were given that the entire leadership team at Amazon was taking the scammer problem very seriously indeed. But it was also stressed that the problem wasn’t quite as bad as I was making out, and that this stuff never hits the charts and remains largely invisible to customers.
I explained in detail how none of those contentions were true, that readers are leaving angry reviews under these books, which regularly hit the charts, and further that KDP has singularly failed to act on 18 months-worth of complaints.
. . . .
Developments since then have made a mockery of the claim that this stuff doesn’t hit the charts as a book titled Dragonsoul by some unknown writer called Kayl Karadjian hit #1 in the store yesterday. The paid store, not free. Paid.
Authors immediately expressed skepticism – and for good reason. I don’t want to give a playbook on how to spot clickfarmed books, but this was a particularly obvious case. Dragonsoul had very few reviews. It had been out for 9 months with little or no sales history. There was no promo footprint either – it didn’t have ads on BookBub or elsewhere.
There was no Facebook campaign, the author only has 57 likes on his Facebook Page. In fact, the author seemed to have no platform at all – just a few dozen followers on Twitter, and no other discernible internet presence aside from a blog with 9 subscribers and a Patreon with no patrons.
Earlier yesterday, before its great leap forwards, Dragonsoul was languishing at #385,841 in the Kindle Store – meaning Kayl Karadjian was selling roughly one copy every fortnight or so.
And then he suddenly appeared at #1.
. . . .
As I explained in my post last month, unscrupulous authors and publishers are now adopting scammer tactics, and it’s pretty obvious this guy used a clickfarm to artificially borrow his book. Those fake borrows are equivalent to a sale for ranking purposes. A few thousand of them at the same time can be enough to put you at the top of the charts.
. . . .
Another author – who has been engaging in various shady tactics for years with impunity – has gatecrashed the Top 10 four times in the last six weeks using clickfarms. His books tend to immediately slink back to around 100,000 in the charts and don’t have Also Boughts weeks after publishing (meaning that he didn’t manage to rustle up 50 genuine sales yet – borrows don’t count towards Also Boughts).
On the same day that this clickfarmed book hit #1 on Amazon, KDP announced yet another drop in rates for Kindle Unlimited authors – and rates have been steadily dropping for some time now.
They are lower again in markets outside the US – countries like Australia, Germany, the UK, and Canada.
. . . .
Could these phenomena be linked? A huge uptick in scamming and a drop in KU payouts? Gee, I wonder.
. . . .
There is one thing puzzling to me, though. The secret sauce of Amazon’s success was always the store. While Amazon’s competitors raced to build flashier devices, Amazon’s genius was in understanding that if they had the #1 buyer experience and the #1 recommendation engine they would trounce the competition.
Amazon has spent millions and millions of dollars and man-hours in building the most trusted recommendations in the world. The charts themselves are massively popular discovery tools for readers – as any author will tell you who has appeared in the charts and enjoyed the sales spike that this visibility brings.
The sales rank that powers those charts feeds into the recommendation engine tons of ways, so that if you can engineer a sales spike, Amazon’s system will start selling your book for you.
But now Amazon is recommending scammer crap – undercutting the years and years of work it did building up customer trust.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Lucy for the tip.