Scammers Break The Kindle Store

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.

Amazon asked me to compile more information for them – and I did that with a report submitted on Wednesday.

Clickfarming Your Way To The Top

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.

To say this was a dramatic increase in this book’s fortunes would be an understatement. Amazon has another chart called Movers and Shakers, which tracks the books which have made the biggest leaps up the charts in the last 24 hours (a tool which could be easily used to spot scammers, but I digress).

Check this out:

An increase of 38,584,000%! How does that not set off alarm bells in Seattle?

Aside from emailing Amazon directly, I began including them in all the tweets yesterday. Please feel free to retweet these as Amazon are yet to respond or take any action:

Authors, however, have been quicker to react – asking the writer in question how he did it. This was his lame response:

So how did he really do it?

How Clickfarms Work

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.

For those who don’t know what a clickfarm is, read this or this, but the basics are as follows. Clickfarms can do a number of things for those with flexible morals. Depending on what the author is trying to achieve, they can download free books, or borrow KU books, and/or page through borrowed books to generate reads – which will then be paid out of the communal KU pot. These services are easy to find, they are all over Google and Fiverr. They are especially popular in shady internet marketing circles and places like Warrior Forum.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59
  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109
  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

Other companies will guarantee 300 to 500 sales over a certain period, or 15,000 free downloads, and appearance on Amazon’s Movers & Shakers list, or a guaranteed sales rank of 1,000 or better in the US Kindle Store. Anyone who has had a BookBub in the last few months will probably have been spammed afterwards by one of these shady sites looking for business.

These services are cheap – cheaper than genuine promo services. And they have been repeatedly reported to Amazon without any action taken.

A Growing Problem

Kayl Karadjian isn’t the first author to do this. This book hit #1 last Sunday. Amazon did nothing about it. In fact, that title is still at 1,682 in the charts at the time of writing, hoovering up borrows, sucking down money from the communal author pot, and stealing visibility from genuine, hard-working authors – despite the irate reviews from readers.

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.

And guess what? The scamming is even worse over there because it takes less fake borrows to hit the top of the charts. One day I looked at the Canadian Top 40 and one “author” had 14 books in the charts. Fourteen! Those exact same books were all over the Australian Top 20, and in a bloc together at the back of the UK Top 100, and at around #200 in the US Kindle Store also.

Could these phenomena be linked? A huge uptick in scamming and a drop in KU payouts? Gee, I wonder.

(Any time this topic comes up, people reflexively defend Amazon and claim that scammers don’t get paid so the money isn’t coming from our pot. This is demonstrably false. As I’ve shown again and again, the scammers don’t get taken down. Some have even received All Star bonuses in the past! I’ve been tracking scammers for 18 months, and some of the same names have been operating without interruption all that time. Let’s dispense with that canard once and for all.)

Amazon claims to be taking the problem seriously, but it isn’t even acting on reports of these assholes breaking in to the very top of the US Kindle Store, so that claim is hard to swallow.

And it’s even harder to believe when you understand how long Amazon has been aware of this problem.

Amazon’s Response… Or Lack Thereof

This is from a blog post I wrote 16 months ago, which gets to the heart of the problem – namely KU is based on a page read compensation system which is wide open to abuse (something we warned about when it launched, to no avail):

This is from an email I sent to an Amazon executive in October 2016 – who requested more information about the issue and promised to do something about it.

This is an email I sent to a different Amazon staffer who also requested more information about the scammers and their tactics. This was a year ago and I didn’t even get the courtesy of a reply…

I could quote these endlessly because I have been in communication with various people across different departments at both KDP and Amazon for 18 months now. And I’m not the only one.

Many other authors have submitted detailed reports to Amazon about this scamming – which went into overdrive with the launch of Kindle Unlimited (particularly the page read compensation model that forms the backbone of KU2).

Amazon has been sent spreadsheets containing dozens and dozens of ASINs of scammer books. Amazon has been given names of scammy “publishers” with 200+ titles each. And Amazon has been given an exact breakdown of who is using clickfarms and the services they are using.

And Amazon has done nothing.

Rewarding The Scammers

Actually, that’s not true. Amazon has done something. Remember I said that scammers have been given All Star Bonuses from the KU pot? Since I first wrote about that Amazon has made a change. The list of people who received All Stars is no longer publicly viewable. Well, great. The one shred of transparency and accountability in Kindle Unlimited is now gone.

Even worse, not only has Amazon failed to act, it is actively rewarding the scammers. Sounds incredible, right? But it’s happening.

You know that author I mentioned above who used clickfarms to hit the Top 10 on four separate occasions since the start of June? He recently bagged a much coveted spot in one of Amazon’s genre newsletters – a high visibility promo that will put good money into his pocket.

Another writer who regularly uses clickfarms to top the free charts currently has three bloody titles in one of Amazon’s hand-picked, on-site monthly promos.

The worst part of all that is that Amazon regularly removes books by rule-abiding, genuine authors for minor, accidental (and often non-existent) infractions. For example, an author I know had his new release removed from sale because it contained three goddamn typos. Without warning, removed from sale. And Amazon leaves up the scammers. It’s unbearable.

An Even More Serious Problem

Here’s my biggest fear: these guys are dumbasses – I mean it!

What kind of dumbass uses a clickfarm to go to #1 in the store in the space of an hour? What kind of dumbass puts 10 of their books in the Australian Top 20 at the same time? What kind of dumbass puts 20 of their 8-page weight loss books at the top of the free charts simultaneously?

Giant, big dumbasses, that’s who.

The smart ones won’t be so greedy. I know exactly how to do it where it would be barely detectable. And if I can figure out, you can be damn sure that the smarter scammers have already figured it out.

How widespread is this problem? Nobody knows, but I would bet anything that there are thousands and thousands of titles by scammers/authors using scammy tactics. It is absolutely rampant and Amazon is doing nothing – not even acting on reports anymore.

I keep wanting to believe that Amazon will take this problem seriously. And I keep hoping in vain.

Eroding Trust

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.

It genuinely baffles me. If this stuff was just happening down at 400,000 in the rankings, I could understand why Amazon would turn a blind eye. I wouldn’t agree with that approach, but at least I could understand it.

Ignoring the scammers gatecrashing the very top of the charts is just dumb. And it’s hugely disrespectful to every hard-working author, and every reader who has spent their hard-earned money on a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Readers: are you happy that your subscription fee is going to scammers instead of genuine authors? Please let Amazon know how you feel about this because real authors are getting paid less and less because of this scamming.

 

If you are curious why your favorite authors are leaving Kindle Unlimited, from talking to lots of them, I can tell you this is a huge factor. Feel free to share your feelings about this with Amazon. Maybe they will listen to you – because they are not listening to us.

Sorry guys, the Kindle Store is broken.

UPDATE:

About David Gaughran

David is Irish and lives in Dublin, where it rains every day and conversation is a sport. He writes historical adventures and has helped thousands of authors to self-publish through his workshops, books, and this here blog.
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276 Responses to Scammers Break The Kindle Store

  1. BB says:

    Well-written, well-researched post, as usual. Now I’m even angrier.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. authorcpatt says:

    fight the good fight! Thank you for following this for us!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. A.J. Goode says:

    David, thanks for taking the time to pull together all this information so you can keep authors and Amazon informed. It’s so discouraging to see this kind of scamming take place so blatantly, only to realize again and again that Amazon isn’t doing anything to solve the problem.

    In my category, there is an author with about 140 books, all of which rotate the same handful of short stories in a different order. They are all highly ranked with few or no reviews, and each one is unpublished and subsequently re-published approximately every 90 days. Amazon has been made aware of the problem repeatedly, but nothing has been done.

    They just don’t care.

    I know that I’ve been a KU subscriber for a long time; I don’t have a lot of money, and KU is an affordable way for someone like me to read as many books as I can. And say what you will, but there are SOME good books in KU. I definitely get more than my money’s worth every month. But maybe it’s time to stop giving my money to Amazon just so they can hand it over to the scammers.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but you’ve really given me a lot to think about. Thanks for that.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Wow. This is very bad for Kindle authors and readers, even worse for Kindle Unlimited authors and readers. I really appreciate your staying with this issue so carefully and persistently.

    More generally, outside Kindle, I wonder how widespread is the fraud among Amazon’s product reviews and sales rankings. I presume that for the subtler scammers, “trusted reviewers” could be created out of whole cloth and built up over time. I’d think that selling Amazon-scamming services would be way more remunerative than pretending to be the widow of the late Nigerian Finance Minister and so forth.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. mlbanner says:

    Thanks David for continuing to be the most vocal about this issue! Perhaps if enough authors speak up, Amazon will deal with the adverse scrutiny. Just doesn’t make sense that a company that has done such an amazing job with their algos, can’t seem to deal with such an obvious problem.

    Other than the obvious of seeing a book with few to no also boughts leap to a top 100 spot, how are you able to track this stuff so well? Please share some of your thoughts on this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • As I said in the post, I don’t want to go into granular detail on that as that could give the scammers a playbook on how to not be spotted, but the obvious first steps are outlined in the post. How many reviews does the book have? Where has it been promoted? What is the sales velocity? What is causing it? What trail of breadcrumbs has it left on the internet? How often is it being searched for? The profile of a genuinely bestselling book and a rarely-selling book will be very different. And these are just the first basic steps.

      Amazon obviously has internal tools which could spot this stuff way quicker. And see which books are linked to which. Titles using the same clickfarms will appear in each other’s also boughts, and on the Author Page in the “Customers Also Bought Books By” – honestly, starting with one scammy title, I can build out a list of hundreds in an hour or so.

      Amazon could do it much quicker. It just has to want to do it. We’re falling at that first hurdle for 18 months now. Amazon has never sought to engage me in any meaningful way about this issue – or anyone else working on it. Just PR blandishments.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Myra Çakan says:

        last year I’ve spend hours on the phone with KDP in Capetown. These people did good job, after they’ve learned about the book scammers. But there’s another department and the people who work there are totally cluesless and ignorant of what’s happening. And now it seems like they’ve giving up.
        There’s so much wrong on so many levels. Especially when it comes to counting the pages read by the customers. The numbers are down by 40% by now, compared to last year, many writers told me so. Same salesrank about the same page count. Countless book scammers are still around, same books, same names as last February. They get rewarded with the All Star Bonus month after month. (talking about amazon.de)

        Liked by 1 person

      • Susan Stec says:

        I’ve been working a single case like this hard with a lot of help from the community since December. We did get the person’s page taken down, and KU privlages taken away, but she’s up again under set a New Mexico pub company with sub-pubs to upload to KDP. We were able to get PayPal accounts closed that she was taking in money through family and friends, and she’s been reported to the IRS. Lawsuit as well. And on July 10th two of her jerked out of KU books appeared in boxset. It’s a vicious circle.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Kristin says:

    Thanks for your efforts. It’s infuriating.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Kristin says:

    Thanks for your efforts. It’s infuriating.

    Like

  8. dernhelm6 says:

    Reblogged this on Indie Lifer and commented:
    A must-read post for anyone in the publishing industry who deals with Amazon. We must put pressure on Amazon to put a stop to this.

    Like

  9. mesmithcity says:

    The only hope is for readers to take action.

    Writers: well, there are an awful lot of us and I think we’re seen as replaceable. But readers…if the readers decide to abandon the system, the Zon will notice that.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Bella Roccaforte says:

    We watch out payout dwindle. It’s incredibly frustrating. Here’s another btw: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=1702562783379835&set=a.1385293111773472.1073741827.100008783895949&type=3&theater

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Holly.Evans says:

    Reblogged this on Holly Evans and commented:
    This needs to be spread far and wide. The only way we can make any headway on this is to be as loud as possible. Share everywhere you can, report the books in question, contact Amazon. Tell everyone.

    Like

  12. MW says:

    Every indie should share this, urge others to share it, tweet it, etc. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Reblogged this on Sharon E. Cathcart and commented:
    I have said from its inception that KDP-S was a pig in a poke, demanding that authors place all of their eggs in one basket on the off-chance that narrowing their discoverability would pay off. Nothing since then has happened to change my mind. On the other hand, many things have happened to cement that my original impression was correct — like this.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. Kira Morgana says:

    Being a tiny author in a huge genre pool (Fantasy) I rarely make it into the 100,000 section, let alone into the 100 chart. Having seen the problems that scammers of all sorts were causing, and the amount of pain it was causing my writer friends who have bigger fan bases and more success, I flatly refused to put my books into KU.
    I’d pull out of KDP completely if I thought I could get more sales elsewhere, but despite being in other e-reader sites through Smashwords, Kindle is my biggest seller and working through KDP gives me the control over my books I need.

    I just wish that amazon would sort the scammers out properly!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Kira Morgana says:

    Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
    To Everyone who bothers to read my blog – please read this article and pass the news on…

    Like

  16. MishaBurnett says:

    What, exactly, do you expect Amazon to do? As I understand it, these click farms use Amazon accounts to transact legitimate business–downloading e-books. Yes, there are multiple Amazon accounts registered to the same individual or organization, but I don’t believe that is against either the law or Amazon’s terms of service.

    I’m not arguing that what click farms are doing is not wrong. But I would like to know what you think doing something would look like. Should Amazon put a limit on the number of accounts that can be registered to a single mailing address? I work for a university that has over a thousand students and a couple of hundred faculty and staff that all have the same mailing address.

    Should they pull any novel that has too large a jump in sales ranking? How large is too large? And what about someone who has a jump in sales rank through what you might consider a legitimate promotion, like being featured in a high profile blog?

    How do you discriminate between downloads (and reviews) that are earned and those that are bought? Whenever Amazon takes action against scammers authors cry that their reviews and sales ranks are being unjustly deleted. I’ve noticed that the same people who agitate for Amazon to do something also tend to complain when Amazon actually does something.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Misha,

      I’ve written numerous posts on this issue outlining exactly what Amazon could do. I’ve written even more in direct reports to them, outlining exactly what they can do.

      The problem is not the means to solve the problem – it’s the will.

      Amazon could take any number of steps to combat the problem. It’s not the first company to deal with these issues. This isn’t uncharted territory.

      Liked by 4 people

    • I’ll give you one simple example.

      The most obvious scammers often operate like this: they have, say, twenty books worth of content, and maybe five pen names with four titles each. They then stuff that content into all 20 titles so they can hit the 2,000 page max limit for Kindle Unlimited.

      They they use various “Click Here” inducements to get readers to skip all that content and go right to the back. Instant 2,000 KU reads for their account because the system is that dumb (test it yourself if you like). They also hire clickfarms to skip to the end of the books after borrowing, giving them instant 2,000 KU reads.

      That is just one aspect of the scam.

      Amazon already has rules in place against all of these things and the means to detect these behaviours. It just doesn’t act (I believe out of a mistaken faith that the market will eventually sort it).

      You seem to be assuming that this problem is somehow unsolveable. Not sure what you are basing that on except a series of weird strawman questions.

      Obviously any hypothetical system to determine which books are using clickfarms wouldn’t rest on one crude metric like increase in sales rank. A number of factors (including but not limited to those outlined in my post above) could act as a series of red flags.

      If a book has no reviews, no also boughts, no sales history, and is from a no-name author with no previous success, no platform, and no evidence that he used any legit promo service, you can be pretty damn sure he used nefarious means to pad his downloads or borrows. It certainly merits a closer look.

      What would be another hypothetical red flag? A book which has achieved a stellar rank almost exclusively through borrows.

      Another? A book which doesn’t follow a typical sales curve.

      You really are showing a lack of imagination here and forgetting just how much data Amazon has at its fingertips.

      Liked by 1 person

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Yeah, I remember that issue about books having links to the end–as I recall when Amazon took action against it you wrote a post about how bad it was for them to remove books that had a table of contents in the back.

        But I think you’re missing my point. My question was about how to prevent click farming. The data is being downloaded. Sales ranking is determined by downloads–not books that are downloaded by people who enjoy the book or even read it at all. Even if Amazon were to change its system only to count those pages that are displayed on a screen rather than the last page displayed there is no way to tell if someone is actually reading the book or just paging through it.

        I don’t doubt that the sales data can reveal all sorts of behaviors, and I understand why you think that some of these behaviors are dishonest. But in order for Amazon to limit downloads to legitimate customers they would need some discriminant function to determine legitimacy. And that is a very fuzzy-edged boundary.

        Like

      • I think the first bit of internet fraud happened about ten seconds after the internet was invented. I was working for Google back in 2005 when click spam was a big issue for AdWords. We dedicated a lot of resources to detecting it and eliminating it – we didn’t throw our hands up and declare it unsolveable. We had engineering teams dedicated to weeding it out. We had customer service teams to handle complaints about any we didn’t. We had fraud teams making sure that scammers and fraudsters weren’t able to open new accounts one they were caught. I was interfacing with all of those teams.

        Fast forward 12 years and Amazon is not matching best practices from 2005. Scammers are identified in the system and their accounts are shut down and it looks like they are simply able to open another account on the same email address. I see books that were supposedly taken down at the start of 2016 back up on the same ASINs. The same ASINs! It’s the lightest of light touch regulation. The security is ridiculously bare bones and the sanctions are laughable – leading to a situation now where it’s open season.

        These services aren’t hiding because they don’t have to. When ebay was dealing with similarish problems a few years back, it made sure to engage in a few very high-profile law suits and used that to deter others. I simply don’t see Amazon engaging with the same level of commitment. Not yet at least. Maybe the embarrassment of one of these books hitting #1 in the store will actually prod them into action.

        Anyway, that’s the overall picture. Talking specifically about clickfarms, as I said above, I don’t want to give an exact blow-by-blow about how I can spot these books. Doing that would just enable the scammers to switch tactics. But it’s not that difficult to spot these books. I’ve explained to Amazon exactly how to do it.

        Regarding sales rank, it’s determined by sales and borrows, not by reads. Reads is what decides KU payout, it has no influence on rank. The rank bump from a borrow happens the moment the book is borrowed and no further rank bump is bestowed based on how much is read.

        So Amazon could do a few things. First, it could institute a proper page counting system to determine if pages have actually been read or skipped. One might even argue this should be a prerequisite of basing an entire author compensation model on pages read. That would immediately undercut the viaibility of the page read scam.

        Second, it could aggressively pursue these clickfarm services.

        Third, it could sanction the authors who are egregiously breaching the terms and conditions in numerous ways (outlined in great detail in the blog posts I linked to).

        Fourth, it could follow the breadcrumbs. As I said above, the “Also Boughts” and “Customers Also Bought Books By…” show the links between these books and is clearly indicative of these scammers using the same clickfarms. Once you have identified one obvious scammer (which itself is trivial to do), all you have to do is follow the connections and you can uncover dozens relatively quickly (which is also trivial to do). It doesn’t even need to be a high tech solution. One person sitting at an internal workstation could punch a hole in this entire thing in the space of a couple of days.

        I could go on, but you get the idea. They have many tools here – they are just choosing not to use them.

        As I said, the problem is the will not the means.

        Liked by 2 people

    • EH Jones says:

      On its face, it may seem like the scammers are not violating any laws or terms of use, as they are paying for the accounts they’re using to borrow the books. But they are if you go look deeper at the TOS for Kindle Unlimited customers, as well as for sellers. What they’re doing constitutes fraud. The courts have already ruled on similar-but-not-quite-the-same cases regarding review aggregators such as Yelp or Amazon’s own review system. But aside from the legality, Amazon covers this in their TOS.

      Kindle Unlimited TOS says this:
      Restrictions
      We reserve the right to accept or refuse membership in our discretion. You may not transfer or assign your membership or any Kindle Unlimited benefits. We may take reasonable actions necessary to prevent fraud, including placing restrictions on the number of titles that can be accessed from the program at any one time.

      Kindle Unlimited customers, and sellers (the authors) are also explicitly told in the terms of use that they are also constrained by the terms of use for both sellers and customers of Amazon proper. The Sellers TOS says this:
      Misuse of sales rank:
      The best seller rank feature allows buyers to evaluate the popularity of a product. Any attempt to manipulate sales rank is prohibited. You may not solicit or knowingly accept fake or fraudulent orders, including placing orders for your own products. You may not provide compensation to buyers for purchasing your products or provide claim codes to buyers for the purpose of inflating sales rank. In addition, you may not make claims regarding a product’s best seller rank in the product detail page information, including the title and description.

      So, yeah, the scammers and the authors who are employing them are in clear violation of the TOS. As for what Amazon can do? They remove reviews from author’s books if the reviewer happens to be on the author’s FB friends list, and yet with overwhelming circumstantial evidence of gaming the ranking system, they do nothing?

      Like

  17. Jackie Weger says:

    Thank you, David. Another round of click farming books undermining legitimate indie authors who follow the rules. It is depressing beyond measure. I think it is going to take legitimate commercial promoters to start speaking up, too. Those of us who buy slots with promoters see we cannot overtake the scam books that snag the best seller slots on Amazon. I’m a savvy promoter, as are many of my colleagues who are top tier authors. We just cannot compete with the click farm books especially when those farm books hit the market on our release days, which has happened to two of us in July. I am not going to chance losing my KDP account by engaging in kinky promotion, but I suspect some indie authors will pop for those services, make a $mint and move on. Tweeted and shared. One wonders: Who is listening?

    Like

  18. Ester Shifren says:

    Maybe also get some TV and radio coverage. They’re always looking for new stories and this one could be a very good one. It’s absolutely disgusting what they get away with!

    Like

  19. Thanks David, so well researched and outlined. My comment published before I finished. I will spread it all over as well. Amazon has grown too big for its boots now and cares for nothing but the bottom line!

    Like

  20. Rachel Leigh Smith says:

    The last time I had promo going on my series with a permafree first, scammers kept me off the front page of both my romance genre free lists. On one of them, eight of the top 20 were scam books. Between the two lists, almost 50 of them were scam books. Not a single one of them had any reviews, and I have a 4.2 average. This was the middle of the week, too. Had it been a weekend, I might not have made it on the list at all.

    I refuse to put anything into KU, so at least I can’t get click-farmed for borrows and have my account flagged. There are multiple PNR authors that’s happened to.

    The new buy button auctioning system is also leading to rampant abuse of paperback sales. To the point where RWA is now involved and gathering evidence to present to Amazon’s legal department. We have so many indie published members who are seeing screwy stuff going on with their paperbacks.

    I’ve been an opponent of Amazon for over a decade now. Stopped shopping there a long time ago because I didn’t like the way they behaved back before they’d taken over the world. The bigger they get, and the more people choose convenience over the right thing, the worse this problem will get.

    I also totally agree with you that we as authors don’t matter. We’re suppliers. Amazon treats suppliers worse than Walmart ever did. Yet the same people who rail at Walmart for things they don’t even do anymore will spend hundreds of dollars at a time with a company that treats its employees and suppliers like shit. They’re being sued in California for labor law violations, and I hope the court fines them out the wazoo for it.

    They don’t just treat authors this way. They treat everyone on the supply side this way, along with a significant portion of their employees.

    Like

    • The Buy Button auctioning system is deplorable. I have had my paperbacks sourced through Lightning Source for years and now readers cannot even get Prime for my books as paperbacks except a few. Delivery is one to four weeks out from sellers I haven’t even heard of. Grrr!!!

      Like

    • Kate Rigby says:

      What’s going on with paperbacks?

      Like

    • Lelana Croft says:

      What is this think that is going on with paperbacks? This is the first I’ve heard of it.

      Like

    • Rachel Leigh Smith says:

      In the flood of comments, I just now saw the question about paperbacks. The Publisher’s Weekly article is decent, https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/73542-new-amazon-buy-button-program-draws-ire-of-publishers-authors.html

      Read the article first so you know how the system is supposed to work. The specifics I’m referring to in regards to abusing it (POD paperbacks, with evidence of this happening via watching sales numbers in Createspace or IngramSpark dashboard) go like this. Seller wins the auction to have their copy show up first under the Buy button. It’s almost always third-party sellers, instead of the publishing house or even Amazon. Small presses are the ones most angry about it, because it means less dollars for them. Their anger is valid. Amazon’s warehousing polices have already put multiple small presses out of the paper book business.

      Third-party seller will list ONE copy available, even if it’s a POD book. Which is a stupid thing to list. Third-party seller should then have to buy it from CS or IS, and for an indie author that sale is immediately visible on the sales dashboard. Indie authors I know have ordered their own books, or had a family member order it, and NO sale has happened on their dashboard to go with it. Which means the seller is lying about having a new copy.

      RWA is gathering evidence from members to prove sellers aren’t actually selling new copies.

      Amazon or the small press still shows up as the seller on these paper books, but they’re often buried on page three or four if you click the More Buying Options. Which most people don’t. These sellers are stealing money from us, and selling books that aren’t new. Which is supposed to get their selling account revoked. Again, Amazon doesn’t care.

      Like

      • Phoenix Sullivan says:

        For paperbacks selling well, the buy button auction is deplorable. However, for authors selling only a print book or two at a time, before (generic) you go crying foul about 3rd-party sellers and Amazon not paying (generic) you and/or not selling new because a sale doesn’t show up on the dashboard, be sure you first understand how POD at Amazon works.

        First, if someone orders a copy of your book, Amazon will often print an additional copy to warehouse. If you tend to sell a few copies each month, they’ll print even more. And then they pay you for ALL those copies right then.

        That means, the NEXT order that comes through, Amazon will go to the warehouse and send them the already printed and already paid for copy. That order will NOT show up as a sale.

        Amazon often stocks additional copies of titles for Christmas, so authors will sometimes see a a multi-copy order come through in November with royalties being paid for all the books in the next scheduled payment. So if those copies don’t sell, and then Aunt Flo orders a copy in May for Mother’s Day, that won’t register as a sale because she’s getting a copy that was printed and paid for in December. But authors, not understanding the warehousing system, will often believe Amazon cheated them out of royalties and rank for that copy.

        So it’s inter-related with the buy button auctioning, but it’s very important all authors first understand how POD warehousing operates before assuming they’re being scammed out of royalties.

        Liked by 1 person

  21. L sebourn says:

    As a reader what can we do to help? How do I contact Amazon to let them know I do NOT like this happening. If they lose my favorite authors I will move my buying power to Goodreads or Nook or wherever. And not only books. I purchase grocery items, gifts, etc that can be taken some where else. I will continue to share on Facebook.

    Liked by 2 people

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  23. Anthea Sharp says:

    Thanks for trying to do something about this issue! I wonder if changing the headline to something that more obviously puts the blame on Amazon would help? “Amazon allows fake books to dominate Kindle store” – that puts the blame and focus where it belongs. Yes, the scammers suck, but Amazon is presenting manipulated data as “facts” and thus legitimate customers are being duped. That’s the drum to beat, in my opinion. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Becca says:

    Reblogged this on The Active Voice and commented:
    Very much worth reading …

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Smonster says:

    If Amazon fixed the per-page payout to a set amount, then it would become entirely their problem to worry about scammers, because it would cost them, not us from our pot. Or… I don’t know… maybe if their software actually counted pages read? A person can dream, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Great post! This may not be a popular opinion.

    Here’s the problem: Kindle Unlimited.

    Teaching readers to expect things for “free” as part of the all you can read great price of $9.95 a month proves genius for driving out and/or hobbling the competition (B&N, Scribd, Kobo, even iBooks etc…) and creating a voracious appetite for free content among readers.

    There’s this unconscious need/addiction to belong. “Oh, I’m part of Kindle Unlimited. I pay less $10 a month for all my books. I’m so cool. I save money and read whatever I want for FREE.” That’s the concept and it obviously works at a perhaps even a subconscious level. There’s a whole generation of kids who think nothing of binge-watching /reading content for free regardless if ti’s illegal or not. Amazon has just legally tapped into that phenomenon. Free is good.

    The fact remains Kindle Unlimited has never been a great service for authors (except those that make bank in KU and justify it incessantly to the rest of us) because it so effectively conquers and divides authors and teaches the masses that “free on KU” is “awesome”.

    Note the distinction “free on KU” because, as well all know, Amazon still penalizes the Free Book lists. Free tabs are effectively hidden, first free in series is not always associated with the series, oh and last but not least, the penalty against books and authors that are not a part of Kindle Unlimited whose ranks suffer intentionally. (I’ve tested this. It’s true.)

    The simple fact is this: Amazon likes the control that KU gives them over authors and readers alike. That should never be underestimated or forgotten.

    David, your post outlines just how much Amazon has failed to address the problem of scammers and now appears to be rewarding them further by allowing them to make best sellers lists and make bank from the pool funds of KU.

    It is further proof that Amazon DOES NOT care about the integrity of their program, their readership, or their authors. Their mission continues: destroy the competition at online retailers like B&N and Kobo who continue to struggle, encourage voracious readers to pay $9.95 a month, stay and click on Amazon, and remain beholden to the concept of free content from KU.

    Meanwhile, Amazon’s authors are trained to believe that compensation at fractions of a penny per page is completely normal . Even William Shakespeare would be offended. We should have complained a long time ago. Instead, there was infighting and justification given to the program.

    I, for one, have had enough. I am going to change my entire marketing program focusing on the other online retailer platforms and away from Amazon and emphasize my website shop more. David is right. Now is the time to let Amazon know what you think. Maybe, if enough authors galvanize together and say, “enough”, Amazon will finally listen and make some needed changes.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. Shah Wharton says:

    Reblogged this on Saran Torchre's Sizzling Romance and commented:
    I feel this must be reblogged and shared everywhere for the benefit of all authors and readers. #amreading #amwriting

    Like

    • Shah Wharton says:

      Pants! Reblogged on the wrong blog (should have been on shahwharton.com) so I shared it everywhere else I can think of in groups and on all SM. I wouldn’t have a clue about any of this without people like you David. Many thanks. X

      Like

  28. rockyfort says:

    Reblogged this on Ice Cream Castles in the Air and commented:
    I’m not at the level of publication, yet, but if I were, I’d be mighty upset about this! Cmon #Amazon, do something!

    Like

  29. Thanks for sharing this article. As a fairly new writer I am still finding my way around with all of this.

    Like

  30. Chris Naish says:

    Pretty unbelievable that Amazon just sit back and let this happen David.

    Just as an example of how difficult it is to get to the top of the free store, I had over 100 people involved in a recent book I put together, most were promoting it. Many of the names are well known and have fair size followings. On top of this we did a “Thunderclap” that could potentially reach 750,000 people along with a package from Books Butterfly (the most expensive one), Buck Books, and mails to thousands of people who had signed up to get notification when the book was free.

    We got around 15,500 downloads on the first day free and hit #6 in the free store. Yeah… I can’t see the guy getting that much attention just out of the blue. It’s immensely difficult to get up there.

    Like

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  32. Chris Naish says:

    It’s pretty unbelievable that Amazon aren’t taking any action on this!

    Just to give people an idea of how hard it is to get into the top 10 free store, I just recently put out a book with over 100 people in it. most of them were promoting the book when it was free, and many of them have sizable followings.

    On top of this we had a Buck Books promotion, a “pure pearl” books butterfly promotion, a “Thunderclap” going out to a potential 770,000 people on Facebook and Twitter. (Nicely hash-tagged for extra traffic), various other smaller promo sites, and thousands of people on a mailing list signed up especially to get notification when the book was free.

    We got just under 15,000 free downloads on the first free day and managed to hit #6 free store. I seriously doubt this new, lone author could muster better visibility.

    Even that scam gig “1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209” seems to be talking BS, 1000 KU borrows would never get you top 5, unless that’s just a part of the service?

    Like

    • Phoenix Sullivan says:

      1000 KU borrows would count as 1000 sales in the rankings, which would put a book right around the #100 paid rank mark. The claim is for Top 5 ranking *in any category*. #100 overall probably wouldn’t be enough for Top 5 in mystery or romance, but it would come awfully close, and would likely be enough for other categories.

      Like

  33. Eric Thomson says:

    Reblogged this on Eric Thomson's Sci-Fi Worlds and commented:
    For those of you who wondered why I pulled all of my books out of Kindle Unlimited earlier this year, and didn’t put the latest Siobhan Dunmoore in Kindle Unlimited when it came out on April 30, author David Gaughran gives the best summation of Amazon’s broken system that I’ve seen.

    Like

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  35. Bob DeBaun says:

    Please take action against the click farm scammers. It costs money from legitimate authors who we support and follow.

    Bob DeBaun

    One of Amazons top kindle customers.

    Like

  36. Rosie A. says:

    Hi, David. I applaud your bravery in putting this author’s name out there. Sir, I’m here to let you know that there’s an author I’ve been keeping my eye on since February of 2016 when his pamphlet of a book blasted him to #1 in YA scifi. No platform. POORLY written and so much so that his reviews scream of hatred. Every single book he’s released since then, 25 titles so far, are ALL…kid you effing not…ALL within the top 15 of metaphysical fantasy or scifi (YA category). I have gone through his entire backlist and there’s only one book sitting at 98. The man is a terrible writer. The reviews that are actually honest are in line with the reality, while the others are glowing and make no sense at all. Every single book? Hundreds of reviews? No platform? NOW he does have a platform after scamming his way to the top. I’m so flipping convinced I’d put my life savings on it. Also, there is a rater/reviewer on Goodreads going around giving hundreds of books one stars. I was one of those right, so naturally I went and looked at the reviewer’s page. The only books she gave higher ratings to were this particular author’s books! I mean, come on! It couldn’t be more obvious to me. If you want his name I’d gladly give it to you in private. I just want wicked deeds brought to light because I call bullshit on all these so-called asshole authors ruining it for the rest of us who actually do things ethically.

    Liked by 1 person

  37. cinisajoy says:

    Hi David. Google put this in my articles on their main page. Very timely article. I will be turning this into a thread over on Mobileread. I wrote a post over there last week about how the free charts mean absolutely nothing. Let me know if you want it.
    Same name everywhere.

    Like

  38. olganm says:

    I am sure plenty of people have done that individually, but perhaps a concerted campaign of e-mailing Jeff Bezos (jeff@amazon.com) personally…

    Like

  39. Thank you for trying to shame Amazon into doing something about this criminal behaviour. We authors appreciate the effort you have put into it. It is completely disheartening and depressing.

    Like

  40. Thanks for the thorough write-up, David!

    No idea why Amazon doesn’t instigate a couple of simple things to help out with this stuff, such as a lower cap on how many pages can be counted for each book (there are still people stuffing thousands of pages of bonus books into their short KU titles) and a cap on how many books can be borrowed by each account each month. Is a real person actually going to read more than 100 books a month? Yet, these click farm subscription accounts must be wracking up hundreds or thousands of books “read” each month. Why wouldn’t Amazon have something in place to flag those accounts? They’d care a lot more if they paid a set amount and didn’t have this “pool” crap going on where they pay X amount no matter what.

    Liked by 2 people

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  42. Jean Gill says:

    Awful! You mention the flippant response of one author you cite but you highlight another book (and author) that I’ve come across in facebook groups and I’m wondering whether he is aware of what has happened. Sometimes authors can be victims of these services without understanding what’s going on. Perhaps you could consider that side of the scamming too?

    Like

    • You really think these authors are innocent of any wrongdoing and they just happen to have been randomly chosen and placed at #1 in the store? I’m fully aware of the phenomenon you describe. This is very different.

      You can assume that I’m being careful and not necessarily posting all the information at my disposal.

      Like

      • Jean Gill says:

        I’m really surprised. so that’s why I’m asking the question. As you say, authors get mailed with offers – I’m wondering whether you’ve pilloried one of the authors who took up such an offer rather than hitting the ‘service’ provider. I just wonder if all authors are street-wise enough to realise what is being offered. I can think of a few email offers that have come my way that I look at and think, ‘How exactly will they do that?’ But does every author?
        There are review packages, launch packages, guaranteed to get X result… I do wonder whether some authors just lose their way through naivete. But I am very glad you raised the issue and are fighting – just querying whether you’ve hit the right people, and whether they’ve had a chance to give their point of view.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been researching this exact issue for 18 months now, and more generally have been on the scam beat for about five years. I’ve been studying and writing about store recommendation engines and sales rank and algorithms for six years. I’ve been in the digital marketing field for thirteen years and working in tech for even longer.

        I don’t say this to do any gauche kind of willy-waving, but just to illustrate that I’m not coming at this cold. Honestly, at this stage my instincts are well honed and I can spot these guys almost right away. I don’t stop there though, I’m very thorough with my research and I can only think of one instance in the last couple of years where my initial assessment (one unshared publicly, I might add) was incorrect. I have to be this careful, or I could get sued and get my ass handed to me.

        Honestly, does this look like the behavior of someone who is caught up in events he doesn’t understand, or who is some innocent, unknowing victim? Really? https://twitter.com/TalesofAshkar/status/886050015382319106

        What about this? https://www.facebook.com/kayl.karadjian/posts/10209320146267037?comment_id=10209515722716326&reply_comment_id=10209516325531396&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D

        Leaps of this kind are exceptional – unprecedented in fact, until last Sunday. Are you saying if you woke up tomorrow and were #1 in the store you wouldn’t have any suspicions of how that transpired?

        Liked by 4 people

      • Jean Gill says:

        Thank you for both your replies, David. You linked to comments by an author who I’ve never come across and who seems impervious to the idea that such methods might be bad. I’m not referring to him in my query. I’ve read all the comments in reply to your article and bravo for opening this can of worms. It’s malpractice. Amazon CLEARLY needs to act and shouldn’t need to be nagged! KU is even less attractive to me now. I get depressed at gaming the system being considered THE route to success so the more it’s not, the better.

        For the record, yes I’ve had a book reach #1 in its category (for weeks!) without me having a clue how it got there 🙂 A butterfly flapped its wings somewhere! I have more practical theories but I’ll never know. Usually #1 comes after promos and using promo sites but that’s off at a tangent.

        Thank you also for saying publicly what I believe too – behaving as if other writers are competitors does less for your success as a writer (and person) than collaboration. Good to have met you. Off to look at your books now…

        Liked by 1 person

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  44. They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works.

    As a freelancing ghostwriter, please don’t lump me in with paid reviewers and clickfarms, etc! I write genuine books which I think will be enjoyable; it’s just not my name that then appears on them.

    Like

    • Not lumping you in at all, just like how regular promo sites like BookBub won’t be offended by a mention in this post, or non-paid-for reviewers. There’s nothing pejorative in my mention of ghostwriters or in my general disposition towards them. Merely outlining the full suite of services provided to show how these clickfarms can actually be a one stop shop for someone to scam the store who doesn’t even have content.

      Like

  45. jjtoner says:

    I received an email yesterday from one of these outfits (I suspect). They offered massive increases in sales and revenue based on Kindle Unlimited and Facebook. It’s obviously big business! I hope your efforts on our behalf bear some fruit soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Sara says:

    I’d rather write than fuss about con artists making a pile of money out of scamming Amazon. It’s Amazon’s problem. But since I have several books underway which I want in print and on Kindle, I will NOT add them to Kindle Unlimited, just because of this.
    I did see the advantage to the KU idea in the beginning, but if the book isn’t read, you don’t get paid, so my response after a while was NOTHING OF MINE WILL GO INTO KINDLE UNLIMITED FROM NOW ON, PERIOD. The carelessness displayed by Amazon in monitoring its own product is bad enough. I see no point in whining. Just avoid it.
    Thanks for the heads up on this, David.

    Like

  47. So if every author in KU did this, wouldn’t it break the KU program? Maybe we’re looking at this the wrong way. If we all use a click farm, maybe this terrible program would die a quick death. What’s that saying, ‘If you can’t beat them join them?’ Yes, I like playing by the rules, but lately I’m a little sick of the Zon and their power. Yes, I want to make it into the top 100 by getting there the correct way, but when the playing field isn’t level and the man behind the curtain keeps blowing you off, then maybe it’s time to think outside the box.

    Like

    • Lelana Croft says:

      I guess the question is, are YOU willing to risk YOUR account? Are you willing to put your neck out there and do something that might hurt your earnings, or getting banned for life from every publishing again? I know I can’t. Even though I “get” your sentiment and to some level agree that if there is “enough” of a flood of scammers then maybe something will actually be done.

      Like

  48. Nya Rawlyns says:

    Reblogged this on Love's Last Refuge and commented:
    Yes, Amazon is broken and they don’t seem to care. The solution is to make noise, contact them, complain. My experience is that Amazon chooses to PUNISH the person trying to make a case against the spammers and cheaters.
    Amazon… it’s dead, Jim.

    Liked by 2 people

  49. Thank you for your research on this issue. I had no idea this was happening.

    Like

  50. Nancy Foster says:

    This is appaulling and disgusting. Even if the book was good (I cannot say because I haven’t read it), it’s an insult to those of us that are working hard to gain recognition the good old way. I too could hire some ghost writers from the Phillipinnes and for 10 dollars hack a crappy draft of the flair of the week genre, fart it out with these services and profit easy cash but I don’t do it.

    HOWEVER! I would comment that very, very few indie authors even the mid tier ones with a modest following have ever qualified for a Bookbub deal. Getting the minimum 50 legit reviews is a huge glass ceiling that is hard to break. Otherwise it’s a huge eye opening article. I didn’t know this.

    Like

  51. martinelewisauthor says:

    A while back, at the beginning of the year, a guy had fallen victim of a clickfarm type of scam. I cannot remember his name right now but he posted on one of the forums I follow on Facebook. When he saw his pages read suddenly go up, he sent an email to Amazon telling them something was wrong, that he hadn’t done any publicity and all of the sudden, he went from 0 page read to 20,000 in a day. The trend persisted and emailed Amazon again and again, asking them what was happening, asking them for their help.
    What did Amazon do?
    They removed his books and called him a scammer.
    On the forums, when he was writing about this, he was pretty upset. He showered us the emails he sent Amazon, and Amazon did what Amazon would do: punished the honest, reward the scammers.
    So typical…

    Like

  52. Just rescued a bunch of comments from the spam filter – apologies, I guess the topic at hand made things go a bit wacky…

    Like

  53. Reblogged this on merethewalther and commented:
    Amazon having more scammer issues? What a surprise. -_-

    Like

  54. sam says:

    I’m an indie game developer (used to be an indie author too) and I can say with 100% certainty that Amazon’s Store is garbage compared to Google Play in terms of conferring discoverability based on merit. Now that Google is in the ebook market, I wonder how long it will take for people to realize that Google is way better at organizing information and using AI to surface ebooks they want than Amazon? Amazon is stuck in the 90’s with their store as best I can tell. Rather than keep up with better software companies and their virtual storefronts, they’re onto the next shiny thing. I’m not surprised they’re not fixing it. The software underneath is probably incredibly outdated and convoluted and the cost (not to mention the risk!) of updating it to try to thwart spammers is not justified. Better to concentrate on the next money maker rather than putting energy into a market they already have a near monopoly on. I hope Google (or someone) breaks that monopoly someday, but until they see the cracks in the wall, you can’t expect them to fix it because it’s “fair” or even because it is abstractly better for the customer. As long as the spammers aren’t costing them real money, no biggie. Note that I have dealt with Amazon as a partner on several occasions (that’s what you authors are) and I can tell you they aren’t super good with their partners. Bezos DOES care about his customers and as long as he can keep them happy, all us partners have no choice but to go along with it because we want to sell things to those customers. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get angry. I’m angry. I’d love to see authors leave Kindle Unlimited (which is anti-competitive) and get on Google Play, iTunes, etc. I hope Google in particular can capitalize on their superior engineering by making their ebook store as great and powerful as their app store. If you’re on there, maybe you can rise with them.

    Like

    • Lelana Croft says:

      People hate Gplay because they will go in and change the prices of the books without notifying the authors. That’s not cool. Has happened to several friends of mine (I’m not in Gplay). Plus, they don’t exactly make it easy to get in when they won’t let authors apply for years at a time.

      Like

    • Exactly what Lelana said: Google Play might offer a good opportunity for visibility, but as long as they play games with the pricing, they will not host any of my books on their platform. They need to see authors as partners and not just content providers before I’m wiling to work with them.
      (My books are now on iTunes, Kobo, B&N (for what *that* is worth), as well as Tolino. And Apple has been horrible to get on. None will go into KU anymore.)

      Like

      • Kate Rigby says:

        I’ve hardly ever sold a book on Google Play. I’ve rarely sold on Kobo. Barnes & Noble and iTunes a bit better with a paid promotion but most of my trickle of sales come via Amazon. I only have short stories in KU.

        Like

  55. Tess Oliver says:

    Shared on FB. Thanks so much for always being on top of this, David. It is greatly appreciated. It is all so discouraging. For a brief moment it seemed they had gotten control of things but the scammers are obviously tenacious.

    Like

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  57. Reblogged this on and commented:
    This is why I’ll never put my books in Kindle Unlimited (KU). It’s a shame that scammers and fakes can get away with stuff like this while honest authors struggle to do it right.

    Like

  58. mjgraham1949 says:

    Reblogged this on MJ Graham and commented:
    For authors who follow this blog, this is an important issue.

    Like

  59. Reblogged this on Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures and commented:
    Sigh. More evidence of how clickfarms (and those who them) win.

    Like

  60. mjgraham1949 says:

    Found this on a marketing FB site I belong to. Reblogged on mjgraham.blog and fB. Thanks for the information.

    Like

  61. Heather says:

    Reblogged this on CyberWitch Press and commented:
    Worth a read for any reader or writer.

    Like

  62. Diana Drakulich says:

    Hi David – Your point that genuine authors might be convinced that some form of click farming etc might be a necessity to get VISIBILITY is an important one.

    From the research I have done so far the practice has many levels, is subtle and very endemic. Take for example the major trad publishers. How did they get on the best sellers lists before the E BOOK?
    Buy 100,000 copies of their own books then resell later.
    Send ARCs out to their fleet of paid reviewers, newspapers etc for guaranteed rave reviews.
    Pay bookstore chains for special visibility shelf space.
    etc. All very expensive and labor intensive.

    Now with the E Book under the table scamming is so EASY. Buy your own books and get money back for buying AIR! The paid reviewers are still there. And the trad publishers don’t have to worry about shelf visibility anymore. It’s almost an irresistible temptation.

    If you look at E Books sales the game is even more subtle. For example look at the Top 100 Scifi books. One book series has ranked in the Top 10 Paid for YEARS. Book 1 of the series has 12,000 4.5 star reviews. WOWZA.

    But if you drill down – 10,000 of those reviews are `VERIFIED PURCHASE’.
    The 2,000 Organic Reviews are WAY less appreciative with 1-3 star reviews alot more common. But the pub just keeps dribbling out more 5 star Verified Reviews to keep the rating/visibility up. This is often the case.

    Alot of books are coming out on publishing day with 50-500 4.5-5 star reviews. From both trad publishers and Indies alike.

    The problem is we are competing with 5 million books. How are you gonna get the visibility? Especially when you’re up against major publishers (and scammers). I think this may be why Amazon refuses to address this problem. By taking action Amazon could be sued by major publishers and they’ve already been there, done that.

    If you have any ideas how Indies can get market visibility I would be very interested.

    Liked by 2 people

  63. Thanks for this post. I thought the problem was being resolved months ago, so it’s disheartening (although important) to realize that it’s gotten worse. I’m not quite sure if Amazon is apathetic, incompetent, or something else…But it’s clear that I won’t be posting any books on KU in the near future. Please, keep us posted, and thanks David.

    Like

  64. Jill says:

    Reblogged this on The Perfect Plot. A must read post for any author or reader who uses Amazon.

    Like

  65. Dionne says:

    Thanks for fighting the good fight on behalf of everyone. I know this situation is now on most author’s radars – especially since this weekend, so I hope Amazon finally does something about it. But I fear the only way they’ll listen is if they lose money somehow. It would be good if readers left KU in droves. I just wish someone else had the money to start a kindle-type store that people would be happy to leave Amazon for. But I guess I’m dreaming lol.

    Like

  66. Kevin says:

    David, a great post as usual. 🙂

    One word of caution for folks: I checked the book out myself (was curious, after seeing what David wrote), and I am seeing a bunch of one-star unverified reviews that are marking it as a “scam” book.

    Be careful. Not only does such a review violate the Amazon TOS (you cannot review a book you have not actually read, nor can you post reviews unrelated to the content of the book), which means Amazon could opt to remove those authors’ Amazon accounts entirely…

    But the reviews themselves are libel, absent hard evidence of fraud committed by the author. (No, using a click-farm to raise ranking is not criminal fraud.) If that author wants, he could sue each and every one of those one-star reviewers and pocket a nice five figure settlement from each of them.

    Play it safe. Do what David suggests: raise the signal, spread the word, and report the books. DON’T break the law or the Amazon TOS in the process, though. Be careful. It would really add insult to injury if this guy went home with $200,000 in settlement fees from other authors who, in their outrage, posted libelous reviews.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I also don’t think using reviews for this purpose is prudent.

      By all means make your point to Amazon forcefully, but do so respectfully, and leave the review system for readers. If you are a reader who has purchased or borrowed this title because you saw it in the charts then feel free to share your thoughts, but I would suggest keeping your complaints pointed at Amazon here.

      Liked by 2 people

  67. MThomas says:

    Reblogged this on M Thomas Apple and commented:
    How clickfarming has proved the Kindle Store is broken…

    Like

  68. thexenton says:

    I get what you’re saying, but at the same time it does take a certain level of ingenuity to get ahead. Remember, even on Amazon indie authors are competing with major publishing houses like random house, scholastic, penguin, and we are overshadowed by these guys. So we must think outside the box. Our job as writers is to simply get the book in the hands of the readers. That’s it!! Nothing more, nothing less. So if this guy found a loophole to do exactly that, I don’t see the problem other than why didn’t I think of it first lol.

    And if Amazon isn’t considering this a big deal them obviously to them it’s okay. The name of the game is “Bestselling” not best written, not best looking. If this guys found a way to do so, and people are reading his book, then kudos to him

    Like

    • There is no ingenuity involved in using a clickfarm.

      Oh, and as for this “Our job as writers is to simply get the book in the hands of the readers…” – these clickfarms aren’t readers.

      Here’s the thing. Even if we leave aside the ethics – which is a pretty bold statement – it’s still a dumb thing to do. If you look at the Also Boughts of these clickfarmed books, they are often totally screwed, because the scammer isn’t targeting real readers, the right readers, the target audience for their book. The Also Boughts are often filled with other scammer books, regardless of genre.

      This means that when you do have that sales spike (which you have bought from a clickfarm, most likely), when Amazon’s system starts recommending your book it will do it to the wrong readers.

      Another reason why these people are dumbasses.

      Rolling back the ethics into the discussion, you are advocating stealing from your peers. KU is a communal pot. It’s a fixed amount each month. These guys are breaking the rules and gaining an unfair advantage and parlaying that into increased payouts from everyone’s communal fund.

      Not cool dude, not even close.

      Liked by 2 people

      • thexenton says:

        So how are we supposed to compete with the big publishers???

        Liked by 1 person

      • Are you kidding? We are taking over, and we are doing it without cheating. We have grabbed a third of the US ebook market in the space of six years against billion dollar companies working from our kitchen tables.

        We did it with great books, low pricing, and smart marketing. While publishers were figuring out the internet, we were teaching each other how the Amazon algorithms worked and optimizing our promotions and segmenting email lists and cracking the code of Facebook ads.

        We have been running rings around them for years. The only publishers doing anything halfway decent in the ebook space are the small handful who are smart enough to copy us.

        Liked by 4 people

      • thexenton says:

        And indie peers?? Lol dude we compete with eachother everyday. It all comes down to who gets the most exposure, which leads to sales, which in turn leads to more money. It all about who willing to do something other wont.

        Like

      • The very fact that you view it as competition shows that you are looking at it all wrong. My peers in my genre aren’t competitors, they are potential partners. We can pool audiences and double our reach in any number of smart, creative ways.

        We will, at least. You’ll keep looking for shortcuts and screwing up. Good luck.

        Liked by 8 people

      • Kevin says:

        Well said, David.

        We writers do best when we cooperate with one another. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

  69. rchazzchute says:

    Reblogged this on C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m and commented:
    David’s reportage is always excellent and the concerns he raises are infuriating. ~ Chazz

    Like

  70. Pingback: Is the Kindle store broken? | Camestros Felapton

  71. Pingback: The Story of a Self-Published Scammer … A Must Read for Every Author – vlcookeauthor

  72. Reblogged this on David VanDyke's Author Blog and commented:
    Don’t fall for scams.

    Like

  73. MPMcDonald says:

    One way Amazon could fix it is to get rid of the pot and just set an amount per page read and leave it there. Make it .0045 or something if they want to be cheap. It’s about what they’re paying anyway and they have enough data to figure out a ballpark figure. Then, when scammers like this strike, they have skin in the game. Right now the pot is set and they don’t care if it gets split amongst 100 authors or 10,000. It’s the same amount regardless. We, the authors, are the ones bearing the brunt of the scammers and it’s demeaning to have to fight over what amounts to table scraps to Amazon.

    Like

    • Right from the very start of KU I argued that the pot was a horrible idea because it changed the natural dynamic between self-publishers from one of cooperation to one where we are pitted against each other to compete from a fixed, communal pot. I always said that the ramifications of that decision would take a while to filter down.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kevin says:

        Except remember that the pot is NOT fixed. This is something many authors forget, because Amazon designed KU to look like a zero sum game.

        It is not.

        Amazon adds whatever sum they want to the KU payout each month. How much they add has NOTHING AT ALL to do with how many KU subscribers there are, and EVERYTHING TO DO with controlling the payout amount.

        Lots of authors leaving KU (like we saw last Fall)? The payout goes up to draw people back.

        Most people still staying? Or *enough* staying that the program remains healthy? KU payout goes down.

        KU isn’t a zero sum game. It’s much nastier than that. 😉 KU pays out as *little as Amazon thinks they can get away with*.

        Liked by 2 people

  74. L.M. Nelson says:

    Reblogged this on lmnelsonscorner and commented:
    Authors: please take note of this. There are Amazon scammers out there hurting hard-working authors like you.

    Like

  75. L.M. Nelson says:

    Thank you for this informative information and for taking the time to get to the wire with facts.

    Like

  76. Jim says:

    This is appalling. So are fake reviews generated by review services on Amazon. They are so easy to spot, yet despite reporting to Amazon, they are never removed. I’ve pointed out instances where a reviewer is posting four or five five star book reviews *every day*. It’s impossible to read that many books. I even offered the name of the review service the reviewers were part of. Crickets from Amazon.
    Yet if there’s the hint of a social media relationship between are reviewer and an author *not* buying reviews, Amazon deletes those reviews instantly.
    Frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

  77. kathyswizards says:

    I hate to be cynical, but could Amazon’s inaction on this issue help sell their paid ads? A legitimate author used to be able to release a book and get some decent sales for a while, helping visibility and maybe creating some momentum. Now, a book released is instantly buried under the avalanche of spam books, never to see the light of day. The ONLY (?) way of gaining visibility now is to buy an Amazon ad.

    This might be one possible explanation.

    Like

    • Plenty of people are making that argument. While I don’t fully buy it myself, it’s getting harder to summarily dismiss, I must admit. There are still plenty of pathways to visibility, but it is getting tougher out there. Some of that is for structural reasons – the amount of titles is increasing, the amount of authors is increasing, the savviness is increasing, but meanwhile the opportunities for visibility aren’t growing at the same pace – but this kind of crap doesn’t help. How many of those precious visibility spots are taken up by scammers and cheaters? Lots, is my guess. And as you rightly point out, Amazon is profiting hugely from one of the solutions to that problem.

      Like

  78. Pingback: Scammers Break The Kindle Store – M Thomas Apple

  79. dlkeur says:

    HONEST OPINION: How are using clickfarms any more or less unethical than other ways that ‘legitimate, hard-working authors’ game everything they can to gain advantage? So, you’re saying it’s okay to get all your followers and friends to get their followers and friends x 100 to review your book, borrow your book, upvote you in ‘contests’, negatively review and downvote competitors, game Amazon to manipulate it into offering the first title of a series permafree, etc., etc., etc.?! I disagree. ‘Legitimate, hard-working authors’, my foot. You’re all gaming the system, and all that happened is that somebody beat you at your own game by building a better way to game-the-system.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Susan Stec says:

      No, it’s JUST as deplorable. You can’t justify either one. Both are breaking TOS, and both should be reported. When your page comes down, and you no longer can use KU, and you even have to got through Pronoun under another company name just to get on an Amazon page, you may decide doing it the hard way the better way. You support honestly, with intergerty and only the authors you actually read and love. Those putting up 5 review just because are making names for themselves too. You purchase marketing through reputable sources that do not scam the system. Karma, baby, it’s a bitch.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t be ridiculous. If I pay out for facebook ads, gather a mailing list and notify them of my new releases, post on Twitter and pay for promotions I want people to read my book. Just having people sitting in a battery farm with hundreds of kindles hooked up to a machine that keep flicking through the pages, then taking a bit chunk of the KU pot, is hardly the same thing.

      These people don’t even care to write a proper book half the time and they don’t care if people are reading it. They are not writers; they are scammers.

      Liked by 1 person

    • This is a classic example of a straw man.

      “So, you’re saying it’s okay to get all your followers and friends to get their followers and friends x 100 to review your book, borrow your book, upvote you in ‘contests’, negatively review and downvote competitors, game Amazon to manipulate it into offering the first title of a series permafree, etc., etc., etc.?!:

      No one is saying that. Point to one place I have said that here among the half a million words of publishing and marketing advice I’ve written on this blog. Point me to one instance of anybody advocating these behaviours.

      The only thing there that people actually advocate is making the first book in a series free – which is permitted by Amazon.

      “You’re all gaming the system, and all that happened is that somebody beat you at your own game by building a better way to game-the-system.”

      Demonstrably false on both counts. The first is obvious, the second is explained in the comments above. Using a clickfarm is dumb short-termism that will actually harm the long-term health of your book – aside from any ethical concerns and any possible sanctions from Amazon.

      Liked by 3 people

    • MishaBurnett says:

      That’s the impression that I get as well. It’s a matter of degree. Above Chris Naish says:

      “Just to give people an idea of how hard it is to get into the top 10 free store, I just recently put out a book with over 100 people in it. most of them were promoting the book when it was free, and many of them have sizable followings.

      On top of this we had a Buck Books promotion, a “pure pearl” books butterfly promotion, a “Thunderclap” going out to a potential 770,000 people on Facebook and Twitter. (Nicely hash-tagged for extra traffic), various other smaller promo sites, and thousands of people on a mailing list signed up especially to get notification when the book was free.

      We got just under 15,000 free downloads on the first free day and managed to hit #6 free store. I seriously doubt this new, lone author could muster better visibility.”

      That’s not gaming the system?

      Look, I understand that everyone draws the line in a different place. I, personally, won’t swap promotional posts and I don’t swap reviews and I won’t download a book–even a free one–just to “help out a fellow author”. I’ve realized that being a self-published author is a full time sales job with some writing included, and I don’t like sales jobs, so I’ve pretty much given up on writing for a living.

      But from where I sit, there isn’t a hell of a lot of difference between getting a hundred bloggers to all promote the same book on the same day–either for pay, or with the assumption that you’ll do the same for their next launch–and a click farm.
      .

      Liked by 2 people

      • Chris Nais says:

        Well, all of the people who promoted were actually involved in contributing to the book and have read it. All were very happy with the book and were happy to help get the word out.

        I don’t see that as gaming the system any more than for example Russell Brunson or Ryan Holiday promoting their books through affiliates, or by appearing on podcasts.

        Were Tim Ferriss and Geoff Goins gaming the system when they appeared on loads of podcasts (many of their friends podcasts and websites I might add) to promote their latest books? Not at all! It’s insane not to try to get your work into people’s hands if you believe in it.

        Websites, podcasts etc are the shop windows of self publishers who don’t want to spend years trying to get “real” publishing deals. If you don’t get out there and do something yourself in this game it’s highly unlikely you’ll get far, and even then you need a good final product if you’re going to make more than a few hundred dollars over the long term imho. (Click/page reading scams aside.)

        Like

      • MishaBurnett says:

        Chris Nais–

        I agree, if I am not willing to do what is necessary to sell books I need to get out of the book selling game. And I did. Believe me, it was very frustrating when I realized that what other people did to promote their books made it impossible for me to compete for readers unless I used those same methods.

        Just as I am sure that now you are feeling frustrated to realize that what other people are doing to promote their books makes it impossible for you to compete for readers unless you adopt their methods.

        One person’s “scam” is another person’s “shrewd business practice.”

        Like

    • The only ‘gaming’ I do, according to your definition is to have a permafree book. I fail to see how that is manipulation when all you have to do is email KDP and ask them to price match your book that is free on other platforms. It’s hardly ‘gaming the system’. ARC copies are common because traditionally published books have them. I only ever did that with my latest release and then to a grand total of 11 people. Not all left reviews and that’s fine.

      Like

      • Chris Naish says:

        Misha, I can’t understand how it could be looked at as a “scam” on any level to be honest.

        When publishing companies make deals with stores to get certain books promoted front and centre in a shop window is that a scam?

        When two high street businesses promote each other so that both enjoy more custom, is that a scam?

        I can understand why people become jaded by online business as there are a lot of bad eggs out there, but it’s just smart business sense to go out and put yourself in front of as many potential customers as you can. This applies whether you are a builder, author or Richard Branson.

        I imagine your books are good Misha, but to say it is impossible to compete is just stinkin’ thinkin’, you just have to get out there and learn what works. Mix with people like yourself who are taking action and can share their knowledge. The alternative is quitting.

        I’m not saying this is you, but one of the worst things any author can do is hang around in those forums where everyone spends their time moaning about those who get off their ass and take action when simply putting a book on Amazon doesn’t work.

        I don’t say this to be rude Misha, but in all honest, if I took a paperback off my bookshelf and threw it out my front door onto the street, more people would read that than if I just put a book up on Kindle and then never marketed it.

        No, I don’t consider the click farms marketing by the way! haha

        Like

  80. I only have one question. WHY do authors continue participating in Kindle Unlimited? Doing so prevents them from publishing their books on Kobo, iTunes, B&N, Overdrive, etc. Lost sales in exchange for what, getting scammed out of KU income? Getting fewer and fewer cents per reader? Why?

    Why not leave KU, make your books available in more places, let readers know where to find you and why. (You can even leave you books up on Kindle, for those readers trapped in the Amazon environment.)

    Amazon is bad for business, bad for consumers, bad for authors, bad for publishers, and ultimately bad for readers because its practices will reduce the amount of reading material available to them.

    Everything Amazon does is only good for Amazon and the sooner people realize how high the cost is for the few cents they save on their purchases and go elsewhere, the better off we’ll all be.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Quite simply, there is a visibility cost to not being in KU. Borrows are treated as sales for ranking purposes and many authors find that their books can slip off the radar if they leave KU. No one likes exclusivity. No one likes pulling their books down from other retailers. People do it with gritted teeth and I don’t judge anyone for being in KU (or not being able to stomach exclusivity). People have to do what they have to do.

      Like

    • V. says:

      Because it takes at least 6 months to gain traction at the other stores while they lose money on Amazon for leaving KU. For the authors that figured out how to earn a good income from KU, it’s very difficult to cut the cord and go cold turkey, especially with bills to pay. Amazon certainly knew that when they created Select in the first place. it’s like a drug.

      Like

    • Kevin says:

      I’ll use myself as an example. I’m all in at KU. First off – as a full time SF writer, fully half my income each month comes from pages read. When I was wide, about this time last year, less than 5% of my income was from places other than Amazon. (That was way down; five years ago half my sales were from other retailers!)

      Fact is, in space opera right now 81 of the top 100 ebooks are in KU. KU adds enormous visibility to your book; those borrows mean more rank, which means more sales. It’s almost impossible to break the top hundred in a major sub-genre without being in KU today. (People do it, but only via Bookbub or massive promotional expense.)

      KU today is as large as all the non-Amazon retailers combined. Also, KU is growing, while Apple and B&N are in sharp decline in terms of market share.

      Basically the battle between retailer is over. Amazon won. They have 85% of English language ebook sales globally. The mean “wide” book makes only about 62% what the mean KU book does. Some rare folks manage to do well wide despite all these problems; I suspect most would do even better in KU, however.

      Like

  81. Wintersong says:

    Reblogged this on Winter Tashlin dot Com and commented:
    I was unaware of this way that scammers are gaming the Kindle Store, and especially Kindle Unlimited, but I certainly have become aware of how utterly worthless product reviews on Amazon have become.

    So many items (including books) are filled with barely-disguised paid reviews, sometimes dozens with as few as one or two words changed. I no longer feel safe buying a product on Amazon based on a rating or reviews without extensive research, and I NEVER buy or even borrow (through KU) a book without checking it against Goodreads, where sometimes the ratings are wildly different, even with a high number of reviews and ratings on both sites.

    The marketplaces of the internet rely heavily on a certain level of trust, particularly when we can’t see and handle a product in person before committing to it, and if that trust is betrayed, those markets will implode.

    Like

  82. acflory says:

    Books are now a low priority for Amazon, hence the neglect and lack of interest. 😦

    Like

    • Lots of people making this argument too, which I used to argue quite forcefully against but…

      Like

      • acflory says:

        I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips, but I did read somewhere that books have been well and truly overtaken by other products on Amazon. I wish Amazon would dismiss Unlimited as a failed experiment and leave books as simple sale commodities, like nappies or hardware. :/

        Liked by 1 person

  83. Lee Gabel says:

    David, you’re a prince among writers.

    I think a good first step would be to separate KU titles so we’d have a top 100 Paid, top 100 KU and top 100 Free. It wouldn’t stop the problem, but it wouldn’t affect non-KU books.

    Like

  84. NP says:

    Given that all of this is true… and I believe it is… why aren’t authors leaving KU (KDP Select) in droves? If KU authors are truly being paid (what sounds like) “slave wages”, while giving up their rights 3-months at a time (and being blocked from valuable promotion activities like Audience Building), why are they staying… and making Amazon stronger by helping them kill BN, iBooks, et. al.? Isn’t there more power to be had by exiting KU?

    Like

    • Well, no one likes exclusivity, and most authors realize that their individual actions will have little effect on a market when there are just so many authors and titles enrolled. Big name authors might have some clout, but not the rest of us.

      As to your question, most people aren’t in KU because they love KU, but because they feel they have to be in KU or their books will be invisible on Amazon. There are benefits to being in KU, for sure, sometimes great benefits. But I bet most authors are enrolled because they feel like they have to be, rather than because they are overwhelmingly positive about KU.

      And all of that is down the the exclusivity requirement, which is despised.

      Like

      • NP says:

        Readers dislike that exclusivity clause almost as much as authors. But it exists for one reason: starve out BN, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Play.

        For an author, staying in KU (KDP Select) may seem like the “only way” to make money. But the truth is, Amazon is profiting on their fear to gain control of the market. And when Amazon gains control, royalty percentages will drop like a stone.

        Then, the only folk in the system who stand a chance of earning a “living wage” will be the publishers big enough to wrangle a better deal.

        There’s a reason Amazon is ignoring/placating you and the problem you’ve correctly identified: it’s in their best interest to do so. Why? They are testing the strangle-hold they have on KU authors.

        Like

    • V. says:

      You would be surprised how many new writers are completely oblivious and naive about the industry they’ve joined. There are still people who can’t tell the difference between KDP and KU/Select. They even think you have to go exclusive to use KDP. I wish it wasn’t true, but it really is. In groups where newbies can join in, like on Facebook, I see questions and misconceptions like this *all* the time. New people will feed Amazon even if all the old-timers left and never looked back.

      Like

  85. CLByiers says:

    Reblogged this on Shadows of the Ether and commented:
    Please reblog to help spread the word. Amazon really need to take this seriously.

    Like

  86. Bethany says:

    As a reader, I find this despicable! The “Top 100” WAS the Must-Go destination for avid readers to find Must-Have titles. Now it’s proving to be a joke. Not only has this “Author” hurt others in his field of work, but he’s betrayed the hand that feeds him–THE CUSTOMER!! I used to have Kindle Unlimited, but opted out after my favorite authors stepped down, siting Amazon’s new (much lower) payout. Not only is Amazon losing its authors, but also its readers. Bad for business, Amazon.

    Like

  87. CLByiers says:

    Thank you for writing this. I had no idea things were this bad. I really hope Amazon do something soon.

    Like

  88. Adam says:

    I’ve been keeping my eye out on this story throughout the day, and I find it ODD that Amazon keeps removing some of those pesky 1-Star reviews. Think they’re trying to sweep this under the rug? And why am I NOT shocked?

    Like

  89. Pingback: Shared – Scammers Break The Kindle Store | Unusual Things

  90. I would really like to know, David Gaughran, how, unless you have been following this book, you know what its rank has been since it first published. Just a thought and an irritating annoyance I would like cleared up. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anthea Sharp says:

      The third graphic in David’s post is a screenshot (and it’s genuine, as I saw this with my own eyes, having watched the book in question climb like crazy on Friday.) Look at the red box David has drawn around the information that the book had gone from a ranking of 385,841 to #1 within 24 hours. Amazon *can* and does track this type of chart movement. Too bad they ignore what it actually means.

      Like

    • No problem. There are a number of tools available. Something like the chart in the screenshot above will only track rank changes in the last 24 hours or so, and only then if your book is below #400 in the rankings and one of the Top 100 movers in terms of rank increase.

      But there are plenty of external tools which use the Amazon API to track a book’s rank over time – and they are very useful indeed. One is Novelrank, which is fairly well known. The other is KND’s tracker, which is my preferred tool these days. It doesn’t track all the international stores like Novelrank, but has some cool extra bells and whistles – like the ability to track books in groups. So I can, for example, stalk a bunch of books in my genre on one handy page, or all my own books, etc.

      Everything on the internet leaves a trail.

      Liked by 2 people

  91. This is a devastating and phenomenally useful investigation. David Gaughran has been my guide and inspiration in working towards self-publishing on Amazon. He deserves a medal and some financial reward for all the time he has been forced to take away from writing. Thank you David, but tell us quickly, in a new book, where to go now?

    Like

  92. Two quick things before I try and catch up with comments:

    1. As Kevin mentioned above, I don’t think reviewing this guy’s books is the best course of action here. Perhaps channel that anger into a complaint to Amazon – either by email or social media or whatever channel you prefer. Try and keep it respectful so no one has the excuse to dismiss your complaint because the anger bubbled over into something counterproductive.

    2, I also don’t think authors necessarily need to leave KU or organize some kind of protest to leave KU. If readers wish to do so for whatever reason, I think that could have a much larger effect, but honestly I think any such protest would be a drop in the bucket. As for authors, they are in already in a tough position and people need to make the best decision for their books and their business – whatever that may be. It’s already hard enough out there without imposing artificial constraints on what authors can do.

    Like

  93. Reblogged this on Flamingcrystal and commented:
    No wonder some of those #1 books i’ve read are crap and I stopped reading at 2%. Such a waste of my time and data, which could have been spend on real and deserving authors…

    Like

  94. Kate Rigby says:

    Hmmm , maybe we should start selling direct from our websites and bypass the Zon…

    Like

  95. Matt Cole says:

    Wow. I suspected this was an issue, but didn’t realize it was this bad. Thinking on this, the reality is Amazon is still getting some money from the illegitimate sales, from the click farm books.

    If they are not taking action, that tells me their internal audit is either
    A)showing an even bigger issue than you uncovered or
    B) they are unaware how to differentiate legitimate from illegitimate rank increases (thinking of the not-so-obvious usage of click farms).

    Then the real possibility of being sued. Not sure what the answer is, but appreciate this comprehensive article on the issue.

    Liked by 1 person

  96. Everyone and everything (ie a company in this case) act for gain. For some perceived good. So I think the question that would throw the most light on Amazon’s seeming lack of response is: What does Amazon gain by giving a free pass to these scammers? It would seem that Amazon’s highest good would be sales for it’s entrepreneurs (such as authors) and customer trust. But are they it’s true goals? Best way to judge is by Amazon’s actions. The complaint re Amazon’s so called “inaction” toward obvious scammers, actually points to Amazon’s active and continuing action of ignoring entrepreneur authors. And over time this “action” becomes “policy” although meanwhile masked as “correction in process.” Jeff Bezos is known as a Globalist. And for Globalists, we, the 99.9% are fodder. It’s time we turned to a non-globalist option. However, even if authors left Amazon in droves, I don’t believe Bezos would care. We don’t matter anymore now that books have been used to build his company. And the company is now apparently(note Amazon’s actions) focused on destroying any gains on the part of honest authors either by lowering our gains or by supporting the scammers by ignoring them. And who funds these click-farms? Could it be Jeff Bezos? Is that yet another income stream for him?

    Like

  97. Kayla says:

    Thank you David. Good read. Question- how does one become a blogger on WordPress?

    Like

  98. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here is a very sobering post on a flaw in the Amazon Kindle Store from this post on David Gaughran’s blog.

    Like

  99. In light of all this, I’m thinking, maybe Amazon for authors was a shiney object, at least for me. Immediate publication, high royalty, immediate reporting, and paid royalties on regular basis. So, I embraced Indie publishing when I found agents interested in my book but commanding me to cut my word count as that would make it an easier sell for them. So I self-publshed in 3 books like Twilight was published. None of those books are stand alones. Unfortunately, as soon as I published 3-4 years of painful events ensued in my life. Death of best friend, the company I worked for closed (owned by the friend who passed away), surgery for me requiring 2 months nursing home care. Then shortly after that my brother died quickly of cancer. I was reeling from all this and unable to focus on developing marketing tools. Now, as I work on a new edit edition, new cover, new title, and using a pen name, in light of all this lack of suport for authors at Amazon, I begin to think again re Trad Publishers. At least maybe give it a try? Neither option great. have to say, very depressing. At least in this moment.

    Like

  100. Reblogged this on Stevie Turner, Indie Author. and commented:
    This is the first time I’ve heard of clickfarms. Thanks for this info David Gaughran.

    Like

  101. Pingback: Sunday post #15 - AvalinahsBooks

  102. Such a well-written post. It’s terrible that it was necessary. I know of authors whose books were removed from KU because someone else put their book on a pirating site. If they can handle removing authors for such an imaginary infraction as having someone pirate their book or having typos in their book, you’d think they could handle scammers. Apparently, not. :/

    Like

  103. Pingback: Scammers Break The Kindle Store – Nesa Miller

  104. Sharon says:

    I have a quick question. Are click farms using paying KU accounts or just the free trial period account?

    If they’re using paid accounts it means that to guarantee 1000 downloads they’re forking out at least 9950$ per month which means a lot of authors have to pay them for them to recup the investment and actually make money. Which is super scary and again suggests more scammers are using the system in a more subtle less detectable way to steal money every month.

    If instead they’re using the free trial accounts … wouldn’t a simple solution be that borrows and reads from a free trial account are not accounted towards rankins free or paid. That page read under a trial account are not paid. Yes, some legit authors would lose some sales and ranking but if it eliminated the problem of scammers all together I bet the benefits for honest author would by far surpass the cost.

    Especially considering the many comments of authors with legit promos not making ot to the top of the free charts because they’re infested bu scammers.

    What do you think?

    Like

  105. Amazon is too busy going after other industries (can you say groceries) to care about this problem. For them to take any action authors and readers need to hit them where it counts – money and SEO (search engine optimization). We can do this by:

    1. For your social media posts use “your blog/website links” instead of linking to Amazon. Authors and other vendors are giving Amazon mega amounts of free SEO daily, which is why Amazon is so high up in Google engines. Instead have your blog/website at the top of the Google page.
    2. If your books are in other eBook/book stores, on your web page put those store book links ahead of your Amazon book link.
    3. Seriously consider pulling your eBooks out of the Select program to establish your brand on other platforms, which will help you in “the long run.”
    4. Buy your books elsewhere and pull out of KU. I find it insulting (for an eBook that’s for sale) to pay an author half a cent for each page I read, as it can take hours to get one sentence, paragraph, or page to perfection. By the way, Smashwords is having its annual sale. I paid $20.00 for 28 eBooks that I sampled before buying or downloading.

    To solve this problem and avoid future problems, authors have to take action and inform the public what is going on. You’re dreaming if you think Amazon is going to solve the problem.

    Liked by 1 person

  106. Bob says:

    I remember reading The Magicians (now a TV show). First book was almost ok, definitely not “good”. Second one was terrible. Didn’t bother to read the third one. I wondered for a long time why it was so popular. On the third book release, someone monitored the release and it looked like a ddos attack from the multiple click farms the guy was hiring to spam his book. His argument was that it was just a current normal business practice. Now it’s a TV show no one watches. Wohoo!

    Liked by 1 person

  107. Thank you for this investigative work.Changing the direction of the great battleship Amazon seems improbable, perhaps impossible. A lot of very good writers flounder and drown in its wake, as if indie writers and publishers don’t face enough problems. The age of fake news, in our government and our daily lives, reigns supreme. I have been a writer all my life, although I never published my first book until I was 71. I am working on number four right now. All my books have won awards. I will keep writing until they drag me out, feet first, typing “The End” on the screen. You have done a great service to every serious writer and publisher out there, David. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  108. Lynn Lamb says:

    Reblogged here: http://www.lynnlamb.com/blog/scammers-break-the-kindle-store
    I left a review on DragonSouls page concerning the scam. It was originally accepted, but has since been removed. But his rankings are also gone, so my fingers are crossed.

    Liked by 1 person

  109. Pingback: 1 – Scammers Break the Kindle Store

  110. writerchick says:

    Sharing widely. Thanks David, for keeping on top of this thing. I am but a tiny little fish in the Amazon sea but it was because of your posts about the Select program that I pulled my books out. You’re right though, serious pressure is probably the only thing that will get the Zon to do something. Oddly, one of the writers you use as an example is in a FB writing group I belong to. Now I’m wondering if I should leave the group. Anyway, thanks so much for your diligence and dedication to putting the truth out there.
    Annie

    Like

  111. writerchick says:

    Reblogged this on Anita Rodgers "Writer Chick" Blog and commented:
    This is a serious situation that should concern not only authors but readers who get their reads from Amazon. We are all being scammed.

    Like

  112. Nicecotedazur1 says:

    I read today Jeff Bezos cashes in 150 Millions a day .. Do you really think anyone there is concerned about your worries. Guess not. There are flocks and there are leaders. If those guys are smarter than the average, well so be it. Follow the leaders, not the flock.

    Like

  113. Vicky Loebel says:

    Thanks as always for an excellent blog. As a slow-writing itty-bitty indy, I’ve found it depressing that even though I have more books and more sales this year than last year (that’s the system, right?) my ranks are much worse than they used to be. Hopefully Amazon will listen and not just implement arbitrary rules that jerk around legitimate authors. It really doesn’t seem like this problem would be hard to address.

    Like

  114. Reblogged this on markedwardhallbooks and commented:
    Scammers break the Kindle Store. If you are an author and have books in Kindle Unlimited, you’ll want to read this.

    Like

  115. Ellis Shuman says:

    I reblogged this on Ellis Shuman Writes
    http://ellisshuman.blogspot.co.il/2017/07/scammers-break-kindle-store.html

    Which was a bit of a challenge as I don’t have a WordPress blog!

    Thank you for posting this article David. Unfortunately, there are not enough hours in the day for me to consider options other than Amazon for my books. I am too busy writing and editing them at this stage. Still, now I understand what exactly is going on at Amazon!

    Liked by 1 person

  116. MG WELLS says:

    Amazon is trying to take over the world. I have contacted them several times about deleted reviews and messing with my book files. They do not seem to care. The folks at KDP only say they are sorry and they do not have a direct line you have to contact AMAZON here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/contact-us/general-questions.html?skip=true#b and then ask them to connect you with KDP. The mere fact a writer cannot contact KDP directly is a scam. Of course, they are so sorry. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Kate Rigby says:

      Same here, MG Wells. They’ve deleted 5 star reviews of mine – Amazon UK – not Amazon.com because I am ‘known’ to one reviewer. That reviewer didn’t know me until she read my books and became a fan. Yet Amazon is fine about you reviewing your own books! I know because I tested it out for a lark, just to see how absurd the system really is….

      Like

  117. MG WELLS says:

    Reblogged this on MG WELLS and commented:
    Thanks to David Gaughran for Sharing This Information. I Have Noticed The Book, DRAGONSOUL by Kayl Karadjian, does not have the proper book stats listed by Amazon. Also, Reviews are NOT Great.

    Like

  118. MG WELLS says:

    Great that you screen shot it, David. All the amazon stats are gone. Best wishes.

    Like

  119. Pingback: Amazon Coddling Clickfarmers? | Author_Iris_Chacon

  120. John Maberry says:

    Seems like the thing to do would be to get this issue covered by some muckraking journalists at ANY major news outlet–EXCEPT the Washington Post. One could expect Jeff Bezos to have some major heartburn if WAPO did a story on this.

    Like

  121. ktomsovic says:

    Fantastic post! Thanks for taking the time and having the guts to lay this out for all to see.

    Like

  122. You’re absolutely right (as always), David. If the scammers didn’t get paid, they wouldn’t be scamming. If Amazon was smart, they’d hire you. Thanks for continuing to fight the good fight!

    Like

  123. KellyNJ says:

    I’m one of the readers that doesn’t do KU and tries extremely hard not to purchase from the Zon at all – it’s very much feeding the troll that’s going to demand more. Unless an author only publishes on Amazon I always purchase from an another retailer. The only chance we have is to keep competition alive – for authors and readers alike.

    Liked by 1 person

  124. Alan says:

    As has been noted previously, even if you check your ethics at the door, the long-term effects of click-farming it to the top is going to come back to bite you in the ass (karma, baby). Look at Dragon Soul’s “also boughts”… it’s already a mess. A ton of paranormal, erotica, shape-shifting… these are fine genres but not for readers of this guy’s genre. Then you have a ton of titles like these in his also boughts:
    Smoking Meat: Fish Edition. : Delicious Smoking Fish Recipes for Everyone
    How To Retire: A Practical Guide As You Countdown To Retirement
    The Real Food Version CookbookA DIY Easy Beginner’s Cleaning Manuals To Clean And Organize Your Home Effectively

    Short term gains. I guess that’s fine if you’re an all out scammer but if you’re a desperate author thinking all roll in the mud just once to get a push you do not get too far. Plus David is watching! 🙂

    Like

  125. S. C. says:

    Amazon as a business will do what’s best for Amazon. We all know that. However, these gamed placements in the bestseller list cost Amazon itself in terms of revenue and they seem unaware of that fact.
    Sorry for the math but I need to illustrate a point and money talks. A top ten book that garners 6000 or so copies a day at say, 4.99, with say, 50% outright sales at a 30% cut to Amazon is $4,500 a day to them just on sales ($4.99 x 6000 x 50% x 30%). Borrows are another $250 or so for the other $3000 copies “fully read” on a 200 page book – assuming it is a KU book. If it is a non KU book then it’s even more money.
    That’s $4750 for a legit book vs. $500 or so for a gamed, click farm borrow book assuming the page reads are gamed too. That’s a direct hit to Amazon’s bottom line of over $4K a day –FOR ONE BOOK–for the scammers hijacking a spot.
    With all their analytics and algos, I am shocked that this doesn’t jump out at the Amazon finance people. With the extent and number of the scammed books, it has to be costing Amazon HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS PER DAY. If they compared the revenue metrics on these books to others legit books on the top lists they would see that they are losing tons of money from having that spot taken over by a scammer.
    Each high visibility spot on the bestseller lists is a revenue opportunity to Amazon. Having it occupied by a sub-optimal book not able to garner high sales legitimately is an opportunity cost for Amazon too.
    The scammers have applied that Bezos saying: ‘your margin is my opportunity’ and gamed not just the system and authors, but Amazon itself. Amazon may not care about authors but they should care about their own bottom line.

    Like

  126. RaineBalkera says:

    Seems to me the real problem here is subscribing to KU, which has always had its share of flaws and little to no resolutions. Amazon takes your money and cares less about you. Big surprise.

    Like

  127. I recently pulled all my books from KU and am waiting on the time to expire so I can go wide because of things like this. Amazon used to be the go-to for having the best visibility, but with scammers taking over, I wonder if my efforts are best placed on Smashwords, Kobo, and B&N.

    Like

    • Kate Rigby says:

      I wouldn’t hold your breath, Patricia. Amazon have the monopoly and they know it, but they are still the platform where most of us get the majority of our sales. But pulling out of KU is a smart move. It makes perfect sense to have your books as widely available as possible.

      Like

  128. John says:

    The thing is:

    Most of the authors don’t know what they are buying. It’s not their fault.
    Most of the websites offering those services are only affiliates, believing that its a true promotion too, like authors, since they only take a commission. It’s not their fault.

    The real problem are the source of all of this, which is this website: http://www.bookuplift.com
    They are the one’s providing the service that they claim that is LEGITIMATE, but in fact, they are not. So, the source is the problem, since all the authors and affiliate websites think that this is a legit promotion, but in fact its not.

    Simple as that.

    Like

  129. Typical. Yet my wife wrote a review of my novel and Amazon refused to publish it, saying it was a “biased review” since she knew me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amazon removed a bunch of reviews a year or two ago because authors and fans interacted on social media. That interaction meant they ‘knew’ each other and a lot of legitimate reviews were taken off. They’re quick to do things like that but scammers? No problem, I guess.

      Like

      • Kate Rigby says:

        They’re still doing it Kristy. Amazon.uk, that is. They removed some of my 5 star reviews from someone who does know me now but only are reading and enjoying my books. She then recommended them to a friend who I didn’t know, who also gave a 5 star review, and they removed hers too. No matter how many times I emailed and phoned them, they wouldn’t budge. I’m wondering about contacting Bezos himself….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Kate Rigby says:

        Sorry that should read ‘after’ reading my books..can’t seem to turn off predictive text on iPad…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I’m sure they’re still doing it everywhere, Kate, and I’m sorry you’ve lost some legitimate ones too. Here, from what I recall, they threatened to cancel accounts if the authors and readers didn’t stop complaining. They’re so concerned a fan might have turned into a friend for fear their recommendations might be skewed … yet scammers can cheat their way to #1 with garbage and they refuse to do anything. It doesn’t make any sense. 😦

        Liked by 1 person

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  133. MWG says:

    As a long-time Amazon customer (I made my first online purchase there in 1995), I’m going to add that this is one of a number of reasons that despite my Prime membership I don’t buy as much from Amazon as I used to.

    For instance, I’ve had some bad experiences with other Amazon sellers. Once you buy from certain sellers will immediately claim that the order is shipping so that you can’t cancel. The product arrives, but not at all quickly. I’ve seen other sellers with low product prices and obscene shipping charges–I’ve seen it as high as $1000 (!) for something that weighs less than a pound.

    They also recently removed access to a tool I’d been using to upload and keep track of my photo backups. The Amazon tools are terrible, frankly. I understand that they want to prevent abuse but they also make legitimate use difficult and I’m seriously considering dumping Prime over this.

    So although I’ve wandered a bit from the topic I do feel that Amazon’s KU scam problem is part of a bigger and more disturbing trend.

    Like

  134. David, thanks for this article. Just created a video discussing this issue on my YouTube page, and linking to this post.

    Like

  135. Pingback: Oplichters verminderen kansen voor hardwerkende self-pubbers | Maria Staal

  136. Maybe it’s time to get rid of Kindle Unlimited. It’s been flawed from the beginning and the problems just get worse over time. There were issues with the borrows but at least they seemed to keep that under better control.

    Like

  137. Pingback: Amazon Encourages Indie Authors to be Shady

  138. Dale says:

    Bravo! This needed to be said. Shared!

    Like

  139. authortcmichael says:

    I knew scamming and gaming was happening on Amazon with sellerd, and I knew it was definitely plausible on the KDP/KU self publishing side, but I didn’t realize those who do it could reach the top 10 or even the top 100. That is very upsetting and disheartening. I will share your blog post on my blog, Facebook account (over 1300 people), and my twitter account (over 2100 people). This is seriously aggregating. Thanks for the info and I hope you can provide updates, whether you gain more information or other who are in the loop do

    Like

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  141. Reblogged this on Mel Gough and commented:
    So infuriating!

    Like

  142. BDR says:

    The REAL question, here, is why this is an important issue in your life. One or two authors gaming the system a couple of times wouldn’t seem to justify the amount of resources that you’ve devoted to this.

    Relax, dude, it ain’t the end of the world

    Like

    • If you had read the post you would see that it’s not one or two authors. There are probably thousands of titles involved in various scams, and the problem has been growing for 18 months.

      Is it weirder to spend one’s time exposing scams, or to spend one’s time telling other people how to spend their time? 🙂

      Liked by 3 people

  143. Reblogged this on Writer's Resource Blog and commented:
    This is an issue that everyone who uses Amazon–to buy anything from toilet paper to books and gardening equipment–needs to know about.

    Like

    • Susan Stec says:

      I’ve put it out everywhere and it’s generating FB posts spawning off on all Amazon scamming. It’s great. We all need to share it, keep sharing it, keep reporting them, and and the friends that help them get back up under different businesses spawned from closed accounts. Tweet and tag Jeff. Call them out if you know 100% it’s a scam. If we unite, we as an indie community can stop them. And those of us working it, are. This needs to g viral. The scammers look for newbies, show them the money…at first, then when they lose everything after it all fizzles, kick them to the roadside. A quick fix is just that. Not a superstar, there is never an easy way. Market professionally, develop a brand, and build. And if those who scam take what little you have down, build it again, the honorable way.

      Like

  144. Joe Owens says:

    Amazon is so big they just do not care about such. It is a sad result for authors like us who try so hard to do it the right way.

    Like

  145. zeecelugo says:

    Reblogged this on Zeecé Lugo's Corner and commented:
    This is sad. As an author who has been trying for a long time to make her place in the Amazon ratings with hard work and perseverance, and failing, I find this problem to be demoralizing. It is sad how Amazon rushes to take away reviews from us, but the really important issues, they ignore.

    Like

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  147. Lost about 1/4 of legitimate reviews, and I need every single review I can get. What Amazon is teaching me is that it might be better to consider cheating the system, because if you play fair and honest Amazon will punish you for this. Pulled out of KU some time ago, now considering shutting down all my kindle options. Disgusting.

    Like

  148. Pingback: Scammers Break The Kindle Store | AnnaProofing

  149. Tricia Len says:

    I hate Amazon! It has ruined Romance books… I don’t know who to trust so now I only buy from authors that I know. I hope that like all giants…it falls!

    Like

  150. One of the reasons I’m pulling my books from KU.

    Like

  151. Judi says:

    Perhaps using a reputable publisher, instead of Amazon where anyone can become a “best selling author” would be your best bet. If your book is not good enough for a real publisher, don’t quit your day job because you are not an author. YOU SUCK!

    Like

  152. K.C. May says:

    Amazon won’t stop it until their customers demand it. I’m starting to think that authors need to pitch in and pay for a full-page ad in the NYT to alert people to this ongoing problem.

    Like

  153. Angela White says:

    Please email me if you want over 100 pictures of the scammers on Fb. That’s how they communicate to the clickfarms. I’d upload the one I just took right here if I could. The clickfarmers are laughing at your article, saying the bots have not been shut down.

    Like

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  157. Angela says:

    Wow. I never signed up for KU because I’d rather buy a book I really enjoyed the sample of and wanted to finish reading. I read and re-read my books many times over. And I generally read a LOT. Authors from well known publishers to the self-published. Of course, now I’m worried that many of those self-published books I bought (where Book 1 in a series was free) had higher ranking because of these clickfarms. Or if the clickfarms even effect that. (Sorry, I only get the basics of what you’re saying is happening, but enough to understand what is going on with KU.)

    I have the utmost respect for genuine authors who put themselves and their work out there. I truly appreciate the hardwork that takes me to another time or world or wherever the story leads.

    I do enjoy the availability of using my Kindle. And the storage! (Oh, my. My bookshelves runneth over in the den) But, I will follow my favorites to whatever platform they choose.

    Liked by 2 people

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  160. Reblogged this on 38 Caliber Reviews and commented:
    Found this through Ilona Andrews blog post on the subject.

    Like

  161. Tim says:

    Great article. My opinion is that the biggest problem with Amazon and the false-rankings is the bottom line. With it’s many divisions, Amazon probably considers the ebook business small potatoes compared to sales as the #1 retailer in the world. The people in management there are small cogs in a giant wheel, and most likely have no authority to implement fixes, nor will upper management approve an expenditure without the real possibility that it will improve their bottom line. Addressing author concerns is a moral problem, not a monetary one, for them.

    Even with their resources, it would be extremely difficult for an entire team not actually on the front line to discover, monitor and fix what David has described. The same idea as to why companies hire hackers to solve hacking problems instead of programmers.

    I sincerely hope that new alternatives from other companies will be embraced by authors and consumers and taken seriously. Artificial indicators such as Amazon Rankings for Kindle books will probably never be taken for what they really are: A Joke. But there is a crying need for accurate, independent sources of what’s worth reading and listening to not based strictly on sales figures, which is being manipulated. Just as Consumer Reports started independent reviews of consumer merchandise years ago.

    Amazon is also exploiting authors, narrators and producers on ACX, their audiobook division. An author’s audiobook will only be sold on platforms supported by Amazon. This includes, *and is limited to* Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Unfortunately, the authors’ books have to complete with audiobook titles from every major publisher and author in the world. Mainstream publishers have little to fear in the way of real competition from ACX productions. Meanwhile, Amazon has everything to gain from exclusive sales, and very little to lose … other than authors going elsewhere to get their books produced (which is happening more and more).

    Like

  162. Pingback: What do YOU think about the what this reblog has to say about the Amazon Kindle store? – Blue Cat Review

  163. jilljmarsh says:

    Reblogged this on jjmarsh and commented:
    David Gaughran does it again. How scammers are twisting the bestseller charts.

    Like

  164. D.K. Wilson says:

    This is crazy! I’m so heated just thinking about this!

    Like

  165. twogalsandabook says:

    Reblogged this on Two Gals and a Book and commented:
    Totally agree… something needs to be done. Honest authors work too hard to be ripped off by ones who do not wish to put in the effort. I hope Amazon starts to act to stop this unethical practice, before they lose more trusted authors.

    Like

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  170. Colleen says:

    If a reader puts up a review with “obviously used a clickfarm to get to this spot on KU” – will the review be left up? Maybe with a little bit of detail on why it was so obvious to back up the claim? Such as “moved from spot 386,496 to #1 overnight, with little or no reviews, so the author must have used a clickfarm to get here.”

    Liked by 1 person

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  172. Earl says:

    You do realize that if this book was click farmed then ALL of the books in the “Customers Also Bought” section had to be click farmed by the same company. That list is all the highest “also” related books. You should click farm review all of them, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I would be careful about making assumptions like this. Click farms generally stick to borrows, and borrows don’t affect also boughts at all – which is why many click-farmed books still have Also Vieweds instead of also boughts (because they haven’t hit the threshold of 50 sales to first trigger also boughts).

      Where you *might* see some links between books/authors is on the “Customers Also Bought By…” section on the author’s Amazon Author Page. But this is only an indication that you should dig deeper, certainly not a determination of any shadiness having occurred.

      Like

  173. Pingback: “Clickfarming:” It’s a thing? Apparently. – HemmingPlay

  174. Dana says:

    Reblogged this on Dana Stabenow and commented:
    A wake-up call for all readers who mistakenly think quality writing is found at the top of KU lists.

    *Full disclosure: None of the books I publish myself are on KU. We tried it once and lost a bunch of money.

    Like

  175. Joe Vasicek says:

    What’s the likelihood that some of Amazon’s mid- to lower-level employees are in on the scams and selling their inside knowledge of the algorithms to the clickbaiters? That would explain the lack of response from Amazon.

    Liked by 1 person

  176. I used to receive $$ deposits from Amazon for my book sales – not huge book sales, but some — I have heard zip from them in over a year. They say they are rewarding their best seller authors and they have a million dollar fund to do this.
    Not being a “best seller” I have been cut out of the loop.
    Do you have a comment?

    Like

  177. Wow. I had no idea this was going on. Thanks for the information!

    Like

  178. Sam Torode says:

    Thanks for your great work on this, David! A few weeks ago I saw a strange-looking book in the top 5 overall titled “Rise and Fall of a Poor Man” –now the mystery is solved.

    Personally, I’ve been disappointed with KU ever since they went for paying for borrows to “pages read.” I understand their reasoning (people were flooding the market with super-short books), but it wasn’t good for many legitimate books. And clamping down on one type of scam created others.

    But I never sold much of anything on Apple or B&N in years past, so KU is still the only game in town…

    Like

  179. towerone says:

    Commented on in the http://news.authorology.com newsletter.

    A sad fact of life is that some people prefer a direct route rather than the twists and turns nature intended for us. Nevertheless, let me ask you a question. Is paying for ‘readers’ really any different to the review syndicates run by ‘self publishing’ courses, or the book ‘launch teams’ organised by authors? Gaming the system is gaming, however well you dress it.

    Like

    • I think virtually everyone would consider manipulation of sales rank a much more serious crime than manipulation of reviews. The latter has an indirect benefit at best, the former has a direct benefit in terms of visibility and sales and page reads AND gets you additional money from the communal author pot.

      I’d also add that there are legitimate uses of street teams and the like. Giving out ARCs in exchange for an honest review is a long-standing practice in publishing. The ability to do it virtually cost-free at huge scale raises some interesting questions, for sure. If I have a street team of 5,000 people, who I know will give me overwhelmingly positive reviews, is that kosher? I’m sure you’ll get people debating either side of that.

      Certainly offering any kind of inducement (other than a free copy of the reviewed book) is against the Amazon ToS, and I believe against FTC regulations also, as would be removing people from your street team because they didn’t give you a five-star review – both things that authors have engaged in before (trad and self). As is review trading and review purchasing. The latter of all those is probably the biggest foul out of that group, but all are pretty small beans compared to hiring a click-farm to give you a fake sales spike which will steal income from your fellow authors.

      Like

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