This is extremely long and probably only of interest to indie authors, but it does impact readers who shop Amazon, so I’m putting it here for anyone.
Not many readers (who aren’t also authors) know any details about this, though readers sure are noticing the impacts of the scams. I see threads or posts all over the place about the difficulty readers are having with simply browsing on Amazon to find their next good read.
Discoverability is an author’s word when it comes to books…it’s the holy grail of the indie. If you say it in the tones of a voice-over in a serious movie, you can almost hear the slight echo: What is the secret of the grail (discoverability)?
Now, it is also a reader problem. The scammers have made finding books too difficult. Readers are going back to older methods for finding books or even worse, simply writing off any new author out of hand unless the recommendation comes from an actual person on Goodreads or forum or the like.
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So, let’s say a reader checks out a book from KU, reads to page 100, decides they don’t like the book and returns it. The author gets paid for the 100 pages read. If it’s a page turner that the reader reads through to the end, the authors get paid for all 500 pages of wonderful and quality prose.
The pay per page is a small number and varies by a few thousandths of a penny each month, but it seems to be settling in at around $00.0045 per page. That equates to about $1.575 for a 350 page book.
One thing we were all assured by Amazon…many times…in writing…was that Amazon knew how much a reader was reading in each book and they would pay us for those pages.
Scammers being scammers, they realized Amazon was lying very early on. Amazon couldn’t tell what pages were read. They only knew the last place you were at in the book. And that’s what they were paying authors, the last place that the reader synced in the book.
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.
But likewise, a reader who clicked a link on Page 1 offering them the opportunity to win a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and a $100 Amazon Gift Card….which then sent them to the back of a 3000 page book? Yep, you guessed it. They got paid for 3000 unread pages. (And no, there was no winner for those contests that anyone knows off.)
Keep in mind, Amazon clearly knew this was happening, because the page limit for books in KU changed very recently (and abruptly) DOWN to 3000. There were 10,000 page books in KU doing this before that change. Even at $00.0041 per page (which is our lowest payout yet), that’s a big payout.
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Here’s the Scam:
1) Scammer acquires via advertisement (or sometimes actually writes) a bad book or part of it. Enough so that they can get past a quick look at the first few pages.
2) Scammer then puts 3000 pages of synonmizer garbage after that first portion.
3) Scammer creates 25 versions of that book with different nonsense after the first few pages to get past the automated checks.
4) Scammer creates a new KDP Account using a fresh EIN.
5) Scammer uploads each of the 25 versions under 25 author names, enters them into KDP Select and as soon as the books go live, they immediately use their 5 Days “free promo” allowed by being in select. This puts the book into KU and also makes it free to buy.
6) Scammer then either lets the KU Click-Farm or their Click Cooperative know that they’re books are live and gives the links.
7a) If Click-Farm (which might actually just be one guy sitting around in his underwear with 25 KU accounts), then the farmer clicks on every one of those newly published books, borrows each one, clicks to the *back* of the book. Rinse and repeat for every KU account the farmer has.
7b) If Click Cooperative, then the Scammer loads all his day’s book links into the cooperative’s page, and each person in the cooperative does what the Farmer did, but usually only with 2 or 3 KU accounts. (Each person in the cooperative does it for everyone else, possibly on a schedule).
8) Scammer has now made several thousand dollars.
Note: If Scammer is smart…and they are getting smarter…they will parse out those clicks over a three day period so that there is no possibility of an alert. Since the book is on the Free list, those savvy customers who report scam books aren’t likely to look. They look at the paid lists.
9) Scammer will often then hire a “free click farm” for a few bucks in some foreign country to have their farmers click the Buy For Free button to push up the rank of the book in the free ranks. This will get visibility for the book, enticing real KU browsers to click the scam book. (This works because with steady KU downloads and lots of free downloads, Amazon’s algorithms put the book into the recommendation engine.)
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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.
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In essence, this is an unbeatable system of scam-age that KU fosters simply by it’s nature. And Amazon’s automated systems are so automated that there’s not a darn thing they can do to stop it *under their current system.*
Ah, their current system! What can they do? Scammers gonna’ scam, right? Well, up till now that’s been their attitude. Only us little guys are really harmed since we’re barely visible anyway. But the scammers have now started stepping on much more dainty and well-paid toes and hopefully, things will get action.
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Amazon has been ignoring all us mid-listers and prawns because, after all, we’re mid-listers and prawns. Our purpose is to make sure we put our books in so they can boast they have fourteen bagillion books in KU and then be happy with what we get. Now that it’s bigger names (the kind that have actual contacts in KDP Customer service), Amazon just might listen.