ScAmazon 2 – Mammoth Consequences: The Digital Sweatshop

About a month ago, I did a post about the scams that are rocking the self-publishing world on Amazon. I pointed to the scam Kindle internet marketing course that Dave Koziel was doing, and the 15-year-old German kid who made 130K using his methods.

Today, I saw a video from Dave Koziel on YouTube. He apparently felt it necessary to explain to his viewers that his methods weren’t really “scammy” and why he, himself, is not really a scammer. Watch the video for yourself. (I don’t recommend eating anything beforehand, though, if you have a tendency to get queasy…)

You see, Koziel admits he’s not a writer but more of an internet marketer who hired ghostwriters to write his hundreds (literally, hundreds) of 8,000-10,000 word “books.” He would then publish those books under pen names on Amazon. In KU 1.0, those 8-10K books would yield $1.30-ish a borrow. After KU 2.0, Dave clearly found himself with an abundance of short books that paid about half-a-penny per-page-read. So about $0.40-$0.50. That’s quite a pay cut.

Then Dave realized, if he bundled all his books together (and, you know, published them under different titles, changing up that order with every new title) he’d get paid more and could maximize his “Kindle real estate” so to speak. In fact, he discovered, if he got his reader(s) to click to the end of that mass of titles, even if they didn’t read them, he’d get paid for a full read!

This is particularly interesting to me because, as I revealed in a previous post, a representative at Amazon had directly told me, at the very beginning of KU 2.0, that “skipping to the end of a book” would not result in a full read. Dave Koziel, on the other hand, says that Amazon directly told him that yes, skipping to the end of a book does result in a full read, and that they somehow planned this by design.

So, Amazon – which is it?

Clearly, the evidence shows us that skipping to the end of a book does, indeed, result in a full read. We now have conflicting reports about whether or not that was intentional, or even known, by Amazon.

Dave Koziel took it upon himself to put a call out to his readers at the beginning of his books, asking them to click to the end if they wanted him to get paid for all his hard work (or in his case, his ghostwriters’ hard work and his cash outlay…) He explained to them that Amazon had started paying authors by the page read, and in order to get fully paid, they had to skip to the end.

What reader, who picked up a book because they liked the cover/blurb enough to borrow it, wouldn’t click to the end after that plea?

Koziel claims he was just being honest with his readers. And his scam wasn’t a scam, or even a loophole – that Amazon told him they’d designed the system this way on purpose. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I do know that Koziel and the others he taught his “system” to clearly had some ethically questionable morals, but they weren’t technically doing anything against Amazon’s TOS. As with the short “scamphlets” (making books so short, just opening them would get a reader to 10% and count as a $1.30-ish borrow, no matter what content was inside) this “loophole” was built into Amazon’s system.

The shocking thing, to me, was that Amazon decided to pay authors by “pages read,” when in fact, they couldn’t actually count those pages. They threw out a communal pot of money to the authors and like some literary Hunger Games, we were forced to fight over it. And the thing is – the game was rigged. Not just Amazon’s algorithms that favor their own imprints (they do) or Amazon giving authors sweetheart deals in Kindle Unlimited.

No, this game was rigged by Amazon’s own design. In the first version of Kindle Unlimited, they created a perfect storm where erotica authors (who already wrote short) could get $1.30-ish per borrow for a 5000 word story. This made authors of 100,000 word novels mad–and allowed scammers internet marketers like Dave Koziel to create scamphlets–so Amazon closed that loophole. But it turns out, Amazon had “fixed” the loophole in Krap Unlimited 1.0 only to create an even bigger one in Krap Unlimited 2.0.

So the game’s still rigged.

David Gaughran and Phoenix Sullivan recently pointed out how many of these scammers have taken courses like Koziel’s and run amok with them, adding even scammier ideas along the way to the mix. These scammers are using giant click-farms to drive their books up in rank on the free charts (and Kindle Unlimited subscribers can still borrow books while they’re free).

They’re stuffing their titles full of keywords (a practice Amazon cracked down on years ago and have since let run rampant again) even going so far as to put keywords at the beginning of each title so they’ll appear high in the search rank. (This has made it nearly impossible to find anything on Amazon – they’ve effectively broken Amazon’s amazing search engine.)

While many authors have learned that adding a “bonus book” at the end of their titles can increase pages read (a bird book in the hand, and all that) and actually add value for readers – scammers have taken it upon themselves to add thousands and thousands of pages of “bonus” content. Sometimes they just put all their ghostwritten books in to increase that page count to 3000. Or they translate those books with Google Translate into twenty different languages and put those at the back. Some are even so bold as to just put gobbeldygook culled from the internet with a link at the front with an incentive (win a Kindle Fire!) to skip to the end.

They’re also putting their books into as many categories as possible (most of them unrelated to the actual content) and sometimes aping the looks of covers, titles and even author names, to appear high in searches for popular books.

So… why isn’t every author out there doing this? Well, the reality is, some of them are. They’ve found out about the loophole and have jumped on the bandwagon because… if you can’t beat them, join them? After all, the loophole is still open. Amazon has done nothing to close it. Skipping to the end of a book still results as a full read, right this very minute. Amazon recently capped the amount of pages read per book at 3000. They have also now disallowed (sort of… in certain cases… about what you’d expect?) putting the table of contents at the back of a book.

Of course, none of that has actually fixed the problem. And that is ALL the action they’ve taken. That’s it. They still have a loophole big enough to drive a $100,000 a month Mack truck through!

As Phoenix Sullivan pointed out: “How many ethical authors are feeling pressured into adopting black hat techniques seeing how many black hatters are making bank on them with seeming impunity? Some days even I’m tempted to grab a few EINs and a handful of throwaway email accounts, put on a black hat and go to town. I understand the system—all I need is one good month to game it…”

Authors learned very quickly that Amazon is where the real money is. Amazon allowed self-publishing stars like Joe Konrath, Amanda Hocking, and Hugh Howey to rise to the top after being rejected by the gatekeepers or legacy/traditional publishing, to make thousands, hundreds of thousands, from their work.

When self publishing first became a thing, everyone claimed that with no gatekeepers there was going to be a “ton of crap flooding the market!” Oh noez! Of course, what they meant was a “ton of crap writing” from authors who couldn’t write up to legacy standards.

I don’t think anyone thought, “from hundreds of ghostwriters paid by internet marketers!”

Forget devaluing our work by offering it for $0.99 or free. Forget devaluing “literature” by allowing self-published authors to publish directly to readers. That wasn’t the “race to the bottom” everyone worried about. THIS is the true race to the bottom.

Dave Koziel claimed he wasn’t doing anything wrong. He says he’s not a scammer (even though he admits he’s not really a writer.) He’s a self-proclaimed “internet marketer,” just looking to make a buck on the internet. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Actually, there is.

Koziel is just one example of his kind. (In fact, he teaches and sells internet courses to others who want to copy what he’s done.) And if Koziel alone has hundreds of ghostwritten books, and they’re not plagiarized or written like a third grader (two things he claims in his video…) then the reality is, he’s accumulated material at a rate that no reasonable writer could accomplish. Only a few outliers (Amanda Lee, I’m looking at you, girl! 😛 ) can reasonably write 10K a day without burning out. But Koziel can hire 10 ghostwriters a day. 100 a week, if he wanted to. He can mass-produce titles at will.

Granted, the system itself is the problem when everyone is vying for a piece of the same pie. The more scammy you get, the more money you make. Yay you! But as the system starts to erode, and more and more mercenary types get on board, the further things collapse. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring a ghostwriter (Patterson does it all the time in the legacy world – and no one cares) there’s a problem when people start taking advantage of ghostwriters and working it all like a “system.”

If you pay a ghostwriter well, and that ghostwriter does a good job, that’s a legitimate business transaction. But most (if not all) of these odesk-type ghostwriters are undercharging (that hurts legitimate ghostwriters) because they’re overseas (there’s outsourcing again) and IMers can (and do) take advantage of that. There’s a difference between an author who has a story to tell who hires a ghostwriter (either because they don’t have time to write it, or because they don’t have the skills) and an IMer who gives an army of ghostwriters the trope-du-jour and says, “write me as many stories as possible.”

These guys may hire click farms, as Gaughran and Sullivan noted – but guys like this are also getting legitimate readers and building a following. (They talk a lot about building mailing lists so they can accumulate a way to sell all their scammy internet marketing things, not just books…) So what’s wrong with what he does? Clearly he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. But there is something wrong with it. I call it the Jurassic Park problem. Remember Jeff Goldblum’s speech to Hammond about cloning dinosaurs? When Hammond asked (like this guy Koziel) what’s wrong with what he’s done?

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with it – it didn’t require any discipline to acquire it. You read what others had done and you took the next step. You didn’t earn the knowledge for yourselves, so you don’t take any responsibility for it. You stood on the shoulders of geniuses to accomplish something as fast as you could, and before you even knew what you had, you patented it, and packaged it, and slapped it on a plastic lunchbox, and now you’re selling it. Well… you were so preoccupied with whether or not you could, you didn’t stop to think if you should…”

Since Koziel likes YouTube videos so much – here’s one he and all of his minions should watch:

The problem is now we really are competing for readers with this guy. It’s like the outsourcing to other countries that corporations do to trim margins in any business – it’s a slippery slope. And now what do we have? A digital sweat shop environment. Writers terrified of falling off a 30-day cliff, utilizing voice software like Dragon to keep up and write as many words as possible as fast as they can, creating shared pen names to try to get a foothold in a flooded market.

It’s hard enough to gain visibility on Amazon these days, when there are plenty of excellent, legitimate writers out there putting out some great books. Because the reality of the gatekeepers was not that there was too much “garbage” out there to publish – the reality was always that there was never enough room at their table. There was plenty of stuff leftover that just went to waste – that’s the stuff that writers can now self-publish, now that the traditional gatekeepers are gone. And much of it is great stuff – books readers prove, with their buying dollars – they actually want to read.

Today, self-publishing authors don’t have to worry about getting past the gatekeepers. But they have to compete with internet marketers who see Kindle as a “business opportunity” and who are using it, solely, to make money. We’re competing with someone who can scam Amazon’s system (which, admittedly, is Amazon’s fault – they’ve made it “scammable”) and they’ve proven with hard numbers that they can take upwards of $100,000 or more a month out of the pot.

There are people in the world whose ethics are very fluid. Who think, “Why shouldn’t I take advantage of this giant money-making loophole?” And when those people don’t stop to think if they should, just because they can, and they decide to take advantage… there are plenty of people who come afterward who feel like they have to, as well – just to level the playing field.

How can a “real author” (as opposed to a scammer internet marketer) compete in a self-publishing world where scammers internet marketers can buy and publish hundreds of titles at a time? Where they can make enough money scamming publishing their deluge of titles to spend those ill-gotten gains on Amazon marketing (Dave Koziel says he was paying Amazon to market his “books”) and Facebook ads, outspending legitimate authors by thousands, sometimes hundreds of thousands?

Who can compete with that? Unless an author is going to throw up their hands and decide (a temptation that Phoenix Sullivan so eloquently expressed above) “The hell with it, if I can’t beat them, I might as well join them!” how is that author going to have a chance?

In his video, Koziel says he can see why authors might be angry at him… but I don’t think he really does see. He feels he’s simply taking advantage of a legitimate business opportunity. Like most internet marketers, he’s looking at the short-term gain, and not paying attention to the long-term consequences. Or any consequences at all.

Granted, Amazon created this monster. All of these loopholes, from the scamphlets in KU 1.0 to today’s garbage-stuffed tomes in KU 2.0, could have been prevented with a little forethought on Amazon’s part. I told them this was a risk when they decided to change to paying by pages-read and they either a) lied to me, knowing readers could skip to the end for a full-read or b) they actually didn’t know that skipping to the end would result in a full-read. I’m not sure which is worse.

But if Amazon hadn’t started down this road to begin with, most of these scammers “internet marketers” wouldn’t have gained a foothold in the first place. Now they’re like sharks circling in bloody waters, and they’re not about to leave, unless someone cleans up this mess. And even if Amazon takes action, KDP and self-publishing is now a hunting ground they’re not likely to give up any time soon.

Even if Amazon cleaned up the waters tomorrow, these scammers internet marketers would continue to work the system, looking for ways to game it. Like the raptors in Jurassic Park–they have no ethical dilemmas whatsoever–they’ll continue to test the fences for weaknesses.

As Koziel’s video goes to show. These internet marketers will say and do anything to make money in the system. They haven’t paid their dues. Goldblum’s argument applies categorically – no discipline was required to obtain it, so they take no responsibility for it. Because they’re not writers, because they don’t care about the craft, telling a story, supplying a reader with real value and creating a real relationship between author and reader (rather, they just want to collect mailing list subscribers so they can spam them…) They remove themselves from the “system” they are gaming, and see it as just that – a system to game.

To them, it is a game. And thanks to Amazon’s lackadaisical attitude, they’re winning.

It’s readers and real authors who are losing. Because of the crap (real crap – now we know what it looks like) flooding Amazon’s virtual shelves, because of the keyword-stuffed or deceptive titles muddying up the search waters, real authors and readers are the ones who lose in this game. Readers can’t find what they want to read (I know, as a reader, I can’t find anything on Amazon anymore in the Kindle store, because of the keyword stuffed crap) and authors can’t compete with scammers internet marketers who could care less who they hurt with their scams.

They do hurt people. Real people. Because KDP Select is paid out of a communal pot, there is a finite number that decreases when scammers internet marketers decide to make “books” their “business.” Except they’re not writers, and they don’t really care about books. Or readers. Or the self-publishing community. Their idea of “paying it forward” is to monetize their scams “knowledge of the system” and sell it to others so they, too, can be scammers internet marketers.

Not once do they talk about craft–about plots and voice and point of view. Those are pesky details they outsource to someone else. They’re not even providing outlines – just pointing to the best-selling trope of the hour (what is it this month? is it shifters? billionaires? navy seal shifter billionaires?) and letting the ghostwriters do all the heavy lifting. While they sit back, package and re-package the “work,” publish and republish titles (sometimes dozens of times – and Amazon doesn’t care) with new ASINs when they drop too far in rank (to gain those extra five free days in KDP Select) and find any possible way to scam internet market themselves as high of a paycheck as they can manage for the month.

Never once thinking about or caring about the authors who are writing real stories, for real readers, who can’t humanly produce on the mass level in the digital sweatshop environment these scammers internet marketers have created – where Amazon has allowed them to flourish. This is where we all work now, thanks to the scammers internet marketers.

Thanks to Amazon.

I hope Dave Koziel meant it when he said he could understand why authors were angry with him – perhaps his video is proof that maybe, just maybe, he’s growing the seed of a conscience. Maybe he’s finally thinking, albeit a little too late, whether or not he should do something, instead of focusing on whether or not he can. 

But I don’t live in a fantasy world. I know Dave Koziel and those like him are just doing what they do. They’ve found a lucrative hunting ground, and they’re going to continue doing what they do (while occasionally justifying or spinning it in a YouTube video) until they can’t do it anymore.

In the meantime, authors and readers continue to lose – and their trust in Amazon wanes.

selenasigsmalltrans

19 comments to ScAmazon 2 – Mammoth Consequences: The Digital Sweatshop

  • Ed Lewis  says:

    You’re making a leap here that doesn’t make sense to me…and doesn’t seem logical.

    First off, those gaming the system are greedy & 100% wrong. At the same time, so is Amazon. They are taking their monthly ‘cut’ from KU subscribers without a system in place to provide proper compensation to those providing content. They’ve put a system in place that CANNOT do what they claimed…and they apparently do NOT care – so long as they take their recurring MILLIONS every month from KU subscribers.

    While both parties are WRONG. Amazon deserves the brunt of the blame, because without their flawed system, the scammers would not exist. It’s that simple.

    The leap I don’t understand is why you feel it’s wrong for non-writers to use the KDP platform to publish…

    Why is it wrong for someone to look at Kindle like a publisher, not as a writer?

    How does that make them a “scammer”?

    How is someone labeled a “scammer” for merely deciding to start their own publishing company by hiring writers to write stories and books for them?

    As for the ‘gatekeepers’, they are gone…and they ain’t coming back.

    And the argument that it’s hard for writers to gain visibility on Amazon these days, well…that’s true across all types of media, not just for writers on Amazon. Sorry, but there is an ‘entitlement’ vibe to this part of the argument.

    Lots of writers come from the “artsy” side of this. They feel as though the best-written books should be the best-selling books.

    But it doesn’t work that way. And it never has. Even before ebooks and indie publishing – bad books and “trash” fiction were selling. Long before any of these technological changes ever took place. To expect that to change simply because the medium and platform changed isn’t logical.

    I just don’t agree with the ‘leap’ you seem to have made that someone is a ‘scammer’ simply because they don’t actually WRITE their own books. It seems like one step too far…

    If someone is hiring writers to write quality content for them under a pen name – and readers are buying it and liking it – how is that person/publisher a “scammer”, exactly? Because they have chosen to use the KDP platform to start a publishing company?

    That’s a leap of logic I can’t agree with.

    Obviously if someone is doing things like keyword stuffing, inflating page reads, filling books with worthless content, or publishing bad books – that is a deplorable.

    On the flip side, Amazon should have measures in place to protect against ALL of those things. Books and titles should be screened for keyword-stuffing before going live. Books should have TOC’s at the beginning of the book…and before deciding to pay authors based on pages read, Amazon should probably have a way to accurately determine pages read. One that can’t be gamed by a 15-year old kid.

    And their customer reviews should sort out the bad books.

    Amazon can FIX all of this…and they can do it rather easily. So that begs the question…why aren’t they doing it?

    The answer is MONEY. Amazon gets their ‘cut’ of the KU pot every single month regardless of whether or not a percentage of it goes into the hands of scammers instead of those who deserve it. That’s messed up.

  • Dee Dawning (@deedawning)  says:

    This is pure crap. I always considered myself an artist first even when I was building million dollar home and a businessman second. We shouldn’t have to deal with flim flam men or pirates. Amazon should. Amazon brought this on when they thought oyster or Scribt might make some money instead of them and they invited the scammers in the door with unlimited. The only way for real author to combat this shit is to unionize or join a union.

  • Kelli Wolfe  says:

    I went through the KU new releases and there are hundreds and hundreds of the easily-findable synonymizer books in just the romance and science fiction categories for both days. The scammers have completely swamped the new release lists with their books. I found page after page after page where there might be only one or two legitimate books in the lists. Many of these people aren’t even going to the trouble to put the title or author name on the cover.

    If they aren’t there already, these books are approaching 50% (or more) of the total number of new releases added to KU. At this scale, Amazon can only ignore the problem for so long. SCAmazon and SWindle Unlimited are starting to make it into popular use outside of the normal angsty writer circles.

    When it begins to publicly damage the brand and the subscription rates fall off, that’s when the beast will rouse itself. And we all know how that turns out for authors – especially the erotica authors.

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    Granted, the system itself is the problem when everyone is vying for a piece of the same pie. The more scammy you get, the more money you make. Yay you! But as the system starts to erode, and more and more mercenary types get on board, the further things collapse. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with hiring a ghostwriter (Patterson does it all the time in the legacy world – and no one cares) there’s a problem when people start taking advantage of ghostwriters and working it all like a “system.”

    If you pay a ghostwriter well, and that ghostwriter does a good job, that’s a legitimate business transaction. But most (if not all) of these odesk-type ghostwriters are undercharging (that hurts legitimate ghostwriters) because they’re overseas (there’s outsourcing again) and IMers can (and do) take advantage of that. There’s a difference between an author who has a story to tell who hires a ghostwriter (either because they don’t have time to write it, or because they don’t have the skills) and an IMer who gives an army of ghostwriters the trope-du-jour and says, “write me as many stories as possible.”

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    Yep. Time to stock up on lube. We’re about to get reamed again. :/

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    Unionizing writers is like herding cats. 🙁

  • Kelli Wolfe  says:

    Most of the new books making it into the system are not ghostwritten. They’re computer generated. Text is fed into the program from several sources, usually existing novels. The program takes snippets from each source and stitches them together. It then replaces 75% of the words with synonyms. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of these being added to KU every single day. That’s not an exaggeration, either. I counted hundreds both yesterday and today, in two different categories, without making it all the way through the entire day’s releases.

    This is going to cause a huge problem for anyone with new releases if it isn’t fixed. Visibility has been bad, but it’s going to drop to nothing.

  • Dee Dawning (@deedawning)  says:

    There are a couple sites teachers use to find plagiarism which Amazon could use very easily if scammers are using existing materials. here are some. http://www.Smallseotools.com, http://www.plagtracker.com, http://www.Plagiarisma.net, http://www.noplag.com.

    When cats get fed up enough they can be herded. Screenwriters guild would be nice.

    When we come across scam books we could write 1 star reviews although that might bring retaliation.

  • Ed Lewis  says:

    Dee Dawning…you’re disagreeing with me and calling it “pure crap” while you’re agreeing with me.

    I said the scammers are scammers…and need to go. But lumping anyone who doesn’t actually WRITE their books in with the scam artists simply because they choose to act as a PUBLISHER on Amazon/KDP isn’t helping anyone.

    As far as KU goes…I commented on Selena’s first “Scamazon” post that it needs to end…or Amazon has to FIX the pages read accuracy and close any loopholes. Personally, I’d rather see it end. That way customers actually PAY for books…and Amazon stops being a crooked middleman with an obvious conflict of interest. Which is a huge part of the problem now.

    Unionizing? Good luck with that. Pipe dream…at best. At worst, an incredible waste of time and a nice way for some lawyers to line their pockets.

    Selena…I agree with most of what you’ve said. The scammers are bad for business and will do nothing but kill this little KU ‘golden goose’ Amazon has built. I just don’t think someone who is doing everything on the up-and-up but not doing the writing should be lumped in with blatant scammers who ‘game’ the system and steal from the KU coffers by ‘tricking’ Amazon into paying them for pages read that aren’t actually ‘read’, but rather skipped thru use of a hyperlink…or skimmed by a reader pushed to do this by an author trying to get paid, like Dave Koziel claims he did.

    However, why should someone using Kindle like a publisher does be lumped in with blatant thieves and scammers?

    Just because a few writers don’t like it?

    It’s also unfair to claim that the freelance writers who accept ghostwriting jobs are being taken advantage of.

    Who are we to tell someone what they can or can’t charge to take a writing gig? Who are we to tell a freelancer who needs to pay their rent or put food on their table that they can’t accept a couple hundred dollars to bang out a 15,000 word novella?

    Writers who don’t want to work for that, don’t have to. They can always go self-publish their work if they feel “taken advantage of”.

    Anyone who’s been around this game long enough knows it’s not quite that simple. Despite all the rags-to-riches stories people see on the local news and social media about indie authors like Hocking or whoever…it’s not quite that easy.

    There’s no guaranteed paycheck when you self-publish. However, there is when you take a freelance gig.

    For those who like to gloss over comments and jump to conclusions – this is not to be taken as me standing up for the scammers. They need to be eliminated. The problem is, they are not going to eliminate themselves. Amazon has to do it. They have to close the loopholes with pages read. They need to either find a way to accurately compensate authors for pages read or eliminate it completely. They need to fix their in-site SEO so that keyword-stuffing nonsense is no longer effective.

    It’s obvious Amazon needs to step up and make changes. We’ll see if they do.

  • Kelli Wolfe  says:

    There is a big difference between being a publisher in the classic sense and someone who tosses a pile of cheesy knock-off outlines at a bunch of Third World ESL ghostwriters to churn out low quality, mass-produced content on the cheap to foist on unsuspecting readers.

    Could you *technically* still call them publishers? Maybe you can torture the word to mean that, but you’re never going to make real writers or publishers respect them as such. Readers won’t, either. It’s just more mass-produced cheap garbage, and the world is already awash in that.

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    “Writers who don’t want to work for that, don’t have to…”

    Right.

    Except this is the same “frog in a boiling pot” problem we have with Amazon right now. They keep driving the price for content down, and down, and down… until authors have very little choice anymore. We’ve gone from “sales” to “borrows” to “pages-read.” Do you know how much money we left on the table with those shifts alone? Our content is becoming worth less (and eventually it will be worthless!) while Amazon trains readers to expect content for “free.” (An all you can eat buffet for $9.99!) How long before they roll KU into a Prime membership. I wonder?

    The same is happening with ghostwriters in situations like this. The price for content gets pushed lower, and lower… until everyone is writing for pennies. It’s like Huffington Post not paying the writer. Hey, plenty of writers lined up to write for them – so it must be ok! Except it’s not.

    Pay the artist.

    I have done plenty of bundles, with stories from legitimate authors, and I’ve either paid them royalty share, or we’ve done a flat fee where the bundle’s sole purpose was to help provide a service and keep costs low for other authors. I believe in paying it forward, I believe in supporting indie authors, and I don’t think that Dave Koziel’s methods (and his teaching of those get-rich-quick methods) are helping anyone. In the long run, they’re hurting everyone, even the scammers (whose own books are going to be buried in the morass of crap accumulating on Amazon… ah the irony…)

  • Ed Lewis  says:

    Problem is…you’re preaching to the choir. And jumping to some (unfair) conclusions.

    I’ve said before, and I guess I’ll say it again, I’m not a fan of KU and think Amazon would be better off just ending it.

    But they won’t. Because it makes them (easy) money…and because writers keep accepting the smaller and smaller payouts. Authors do not have to join KU. And I realize there are some issues with that, but that’s how it goes when you build your business on someone else’s land.

    I never said writers shouldn’t be paid. I never made that argument, so I’m not sure how it’s relevant. What I stated was in regards to a writer having a choice between accepting a freelance gig for a couple hundred dollars compared to that writer making the same investment of their time and resources to self-publish a similar work.

    One has a guaranteed income for the writer, the other does not. It’s not about squeezing writers. It’s about them having the choice to write for a fee or self-publish. You want to assume that writers who choose to write for a fee are being “taken advantage of”. That’s not true. They are making a choice. They are choosing to write for a guaranteed price.

    If they would rather invest their time and energy into self-publishing, that’s up to them, not someone else. With that comes risk…and no guarantee…possibly even a loss. A loss of time, energy, money.

    My point is, it’s up to each individual writer to make this choice. And someone who decides to start a publishing business that hires writers who want and CHOOSE to work for a guaranteed fee is not a bad person for doing that. Especially since they are taking plenty of responsibility and risk along the way.

    Don’t get me wrong, in no way do I condone what people like Dave Koziel do and teach. I just don’t think it’s fair to lump honest people who hire writers in with the scammers just because they choose to run a business differently than your average indie author.

  • Ed Lewis  says:

    Kelli…I don’t condone publishing low-quality content. But shouldn’t the judge of that be the readers? And as long as publishers aren’t doing anything nefarious, I don’t think Amazon should stop them from publishing.

    Wasn’t that why everyone was head-over-heels for this new publishing business model? No more gatekeepers! Now the readers will decide, not some 22-year old intern at a publishing company!

    Why would indie writers be worried about competing against books that are terribly written? Shouldn’t it be easy to compete with them?

    Like I said, I’m not condoning publishing garbage. But I also think that if someone wants to publish garbage, they should have that freedom.

    Amazon should instead go ahead and actually start enforcing their rules. They should either fix KU or scrap it. And they should fix their search feature so it stops rewarding keyword-stuffed content. They should consider purging books from the system that get a consistent flow of negative reviews.

    What makes a “real” writer and/or publisher? Do I need to be certified? Do I need the approval of other writers? Do I need a fancy office on Madison Ave or some other trendy hotspot?

    What if I’m just a guy who publishes books? Books that my customers happily buy, enjoy, and leave positive reviews on…does that qualify me as a “real” publisher? How many pats on the back from other writers do I need before I am accepted to the “Real Writers Secret Club”? Or is it readers that matter?

    I’m just curious.

    I honestly thought this stuff died when this whole indie publishing revolution started.

    Now it looks like some writers who benefited from it want to go to something more like the old system now that they are at the other end of things.

    Doesn’t Amazon already have a system in place to protect against poor quality books? Customer reviews?

  • Thom  says:

    This is a young industry, in crisis right now. Let’s imagine we all had businesses selling burgers. Then suddenly our industry was flooded by resturants offering cheap burgers made from horse meat.

    It tastes awful. Is bad for your health. But it’s cheap to produce. They hoist those horse meat burgers on an unsuspecting public. Soon the public comes to distrust ALL burger joints. The actions of a few have caused significant problems for the many.

    When readers refer to crap indie-published books on Amazon, this is what they are referring to. They make no division between guys like Dave and the rest of us. We are ALL indies to them.

    And that’s the problem. These scams books are hurting our reputation and our wallets.

  • Gerald M  says:

    ScAmazon can kiss my ass. Never had the slightest bit of interest in their Krap Unlimited deals right from the start. What’s going on right now reinforces my belief right from the start, that ScAmazon deserves not one cent of my hard earned money. The inmates seem to be in charge of that asylum, now more than ever.

  • Jenna  says:

    Sitting in Starbucks killing time until my job interview. I cannot make enough money on Amazon to write full time. I don’t write fast enough or, rather, when I do the content isn’t up to my own standards. Time to go back to a real job.

    This is the real fallout, that so many of us will have to walk away from what was formerly a good enough and fair-ish system, which allowed us to make a living. And it’s not because the money is no longer there, but the route to it is filled with pirates and robbers who publish pure and utter junk which clogs up the system. It damages the brand of indie books in general and keeps legitimate authors from getting close enough to the money. Thank you Selena for telling the truth.

  • Dee Dawning  says:

    Should a guy who was in the cleaning business be able to retire and become an Amazon publisher? They can but they shouldn’t. It’d be like me deciding plumbers make good money, I think I’ll be a plumber. I think anyone who wants to get in the business should have a background in writing/editing/publishing or at the very minimum try to learn what publishing books is all about.

    It’s bad enough that the guy we work for cares more about his cheap ass customers than the people who allowed him to become a billionaire, the authors. We are like gambling chips to him. I was a gambling chip to Wall Street eight years ago and I don’t want to be one again.
    Anyway, I saw Bezos on 60 Minutes a couple years ago and it was fairly enlightening. He’s obviously smart, a good businessperson and as you’d expect full of himself. He even unveiled his drone scheme there on TV. But I took away one thing from his interview. To me he seemed a bit paranoid. I think he thinks of Amazon as something like the Roman empire and the Huns and Visigoths are at the gates ready to pillage and destroy his empire. That’s what keeps him constantly striving to stay ahead of the competition. He said if he sat on his laurels Amazon could be the next Sears Roebucks.

    The point is where would he be without the artists, the authors. It’s not a normal business where you can hire authors off the street and train them. Without the authors Amazon is Walmart on the internet. Years ago Amazon would have been dead with a constant supply of books, but now Amazon is diversified enough where it could get by as a behemoth discount retailer. But not having a supply of books would definitely put a crimp in his sales–and prestige.

    Like Selena says, the digital book business is in the toilet. At least the ethical business is in the toilet. Most of us at 35 cents a clip are barely making min wage or less and the actual minimum wage workers have a change to more than double that. Do we? Frankly, I don’t anything to get excited about.

    BTW aren’t Amazon’s warehouse workers trying to unionize?

  • Anita Cox  says:

    I can see so many excellent points above but it still begs the question…what is an author to do?

    A (responsible) self-pubbed author has spent a pretty penny on editing, cover art, formatting, etc. The traditionally published author is sharing a large slice of the pie with their publisher. Both types of authors then spend additional money on marketing, hours online marketing, thousands hitting book cons…all to make a name for themselves.

    Because we are selling books. Real books with real content.

    And I see the correlation here between Huffington Post and this jackoff in the video. Clickbait. Jackoff in the video says he’s isn’t doing anything unethical. No? Swamping a business and diluting the pool that has been feeding families so you can get rich quick with clickbait certainly isn’t right.

    The ‘zon needs to either fix the KU program or get rid of it and go back to SALES. That might fix the damned problem and get rid of the scum sucking IMers.

  • Alan Beckstead  says:

    Selena, you go girl!

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