SCAMAZON – Amazon “Kindle Unlimited” Scammers Netting Millions

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How are scammers making millions off Amazon? (And off any author enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select program?)

It’s easy. So say digital entrepreneurs scammers like Dave Koziel – who admits to outsourcing his material, he’s not an actual writer or anything. You see, all you have to do it just upload “books” stuffed to the gills with anything, even unrelated material (romance books, cookbooks, South Beach diet books, foreign language texts, any and everything you’ve got at your disposal) then use a click-bait link at the front of the book (something like “Click here to win a Kindle Fire!”) to take the reader directly to the very back. A German blog has detailed these tactics as well, although it seems the German Amazon store (much smaller than the U.S. one) is cracking down on this now.

Why does this method result in big bucks? Because of how Amazon has changed the way it pays authors enrolled in KDP Select. Authors know that when Kindle Unlimited was first launched (rather quickly and in direct response to other book subscription services that were just popping up like Scribd and Oyster) we were paid “by the borrow.” It was similar to a sale (on sales, we were paid 70% of list cost on books priced between $2.99 and $9.99) except now we were paid out of a general fund instead of a set percentage. (Like a “pot” or “kitty” – a communal pool of money – except in this case, Amazon was the only contributor and authors the recepients.)

But Amazon changed that payment method from “per borrow” to “pages read.” Not pages written, mind you – but how many pages a reader actually reads.

Except, the problem with this method that’s recently come, shockingly, to light, is that there’s a loophole in the system. Apparently, if you put a link at the beginning of your book to the very back and a reader clicks it – the author is paid for all those pages. A full read. Even though a reader just skipped over them.

Remember when Amazon capped the KENPC count at 3000? This is why.

Except Amazon didn’t want us to know one important thing – they lied to us.

They have no idea how many pages a reader actually reads.

Let me say that again, just so you don’t miss it:

AMAZON HAS NO IDEA HOW MANY PAGES A READER ACTUALLY READS.

Wow. A little bit of karma coming back at you with these scammers, Jeff Bezos?

Because Amazon has been scamming authors in the KDP Select program all along.

They decided to pay us by “pages” read, when in fact, they can’t count actual pages read, and they can’t time how long a reader actually takes to read those pages (last time I checked, no one could read 3000 pages in less than two minutes…)

Oh, they can email me and my publishing company that I’m missing a “page break” at the end of my novel, or threaten to take my book off sale or label it problematic for typos (that may or may not actually be typos), or actually take my book off sale (which they recently did – Bear Necessitiesjust after a great freebie run, too, while it was on sale for $0.99 – thanks, Amazon!) because I provided bonus content in the front of a book instead of at the back – but they can’t actually count how many pages a reader reads in a book.

Yet… this is how they have decided to pay authors. Per page read.

See anything wrong with this picture?

I sure do – and it smells like fraud and class-action lawsuits to me.

How do I know Amazon can’t count how many pages a reader reads?

Because, if Amazon had a way to count how many pages a reader actually reads, a link at the front of the book that took the reader to the very back would result in two pages read.

Just two, not every single page in the book.

But as Dave Koziel and company have proven, that’s not what’s happening. There’s a little loophole in Amazon’s system. When a reader clicks a link at the front of a book that takes them to the end of a 3000 page “book” – it gives that author 3000 “pages read.” Not just two.

If Amazon had a way to count how many pages a reader actually reads, placement of the TOC (table of contents) at the front or back of the document would be irrelevant.

But as this post proves (and man, do I feel awful for author Walter Jon Williams – he’s out a hella lot of money because of Amazon’s knee-jerk reactions and lack of planning and forethought) Amazon has suddenly begun removing books from sale that have a TOC at the back of the book. As usual, they decided to shoot first and ask questions later, and damaged legitimate authors in the process, as David Gaughran first pointed out.

If Amazon had a way to count how many pages a reader actually reads, placement of “bonus material” (an extra story or book along with the original source material, which many authors have started to do, including myself, in the Kindle Unlimited program) would be irrelevant. You could put it at the front or back of the book, and it wouldn’t matter, because the table of contents tells the reader what’s where, right?

Except the truth is, Amazon is showing us through their actions – their cap on KENPC, their insistence that the TOC needs to be at the front of a book, and their recent email to me about “bonus” content not being allowed at the front of a book – that they have no idea how many pages are being read in any given book.

All they know is where a reader STOPS reading.

That’s all they can actually calculate.

That’s why a TOC needs to be at the front (because TOC defaults as the “start” point of a book, and if it’s at the back and a reader goes to the TOC, an author has just been given credit for a full read even if the reader didn’t read the book) and why they are no longer allowing “bonus” content at the front of a book.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, there are legitimate, non-scammy reasons to put a TOC at the back or bonus material at the front. The TOC (especially if a book is long or a boxed set) takes up valuable real estate in the “Look Inside” feature or “Sample” on Amazon. Placing it at the back avoids that issue.

And the logic behind putting “bonus” material at the front?

Well, this is how I explained it to Amazon in my letter to them:


I had a very legitimate reason for putting the bonus book/content at the front of this title.

The last time I put a bonus book at the end of the book, I had reviews complaining that the original title ended at “50%” – and they thought it was much longer, because the bonus book was taking up real estate at the back of the original text.

In this case, I put the bonus book up front (and labeled it clearly on the title page and in the table of contents) so that when the reader finished the main book, it would be near 100% and they would understand they’d reached the end, and wouldn’t feel “cheated” or “ripped off.”

It’s easy to look at a Table of Contents (TOC) and navigate to the book they purchased.

You see, I was under the assumption that, since Amazon is paying us by PAGES READ, that you, at Amazon, actually had a way of knowing HOW MANY PAGES A READER ACTUALLY READ.

I assumed, since it would be fraudulent otherwise, per our contract in publishing with you, that since you were paying us by pages read, if a reader skipped over a book in the table of contents, we wouldn’t actually be paid for those pages. So that putting bonus content at the beginning of a book would be no big deal, no harm, no foul.

Apparently, that isn’t the case. And you never told us that. As a matter of fact, you, personally, (rep’s name redacted), lied to me and said that skipping to the end of a book would NOT result in a full-read. We emailed about this and talked about it on the phone when KU 1.0 was originally rolled out, and you assured me that yes, Amazon had a way of tracking the pages a reader actually read, with time spent on each page.

Turns out, Amazon hasn’t been able to correctly count pages read since the very beginning, even though that’s exactly how you’re paying us. 

If you think this isn’t fraud, and that there aren’t authors out there already talking about a class action lawsuit, you’d be very, very wrong. There are a lot of wealthy authors out there who are beyond furious about this new information. 

I suggest you plug this leak as fast as you can and make some apologies and remuneration for it. 

And restore my book to published status immediately – and its rank as well, since you took it off-sale for a reason that shouldn’t have been a problem or caused an issue if you hadn’t lied to authors about your ability to actually count the pages you were oh-so-generously paying us less than half-a-penny for. 


On my part, it was completely unintentional. I was directly told that skipping over content in a book would not result in pages read. But that was clearly a lie.

I thought I was creating a better customer experience (kind of like Walter Jon Williams and his TOC placement) when in fact I was unknowingly using a tactic commonly utilized by scammers.

Unfortunately, it’s not the only scammer tactic I unwittingly adopted.

You see, I have a link at the front of my books in my table of contents (I happen to place my TOC up front, so I dodged that particular bullet) that leads to the back and a link to sign up to my mailing list. I incentivize signing up to the list by offering readers five free reads. I’ve been doing this for years.

The thing is, I had no idea that doing this resulted in a full read in Kindle Unlimited. Because Amazon specifically told me directly that “skipping pages” wouldn’t work – that they could count pages read – and linking to the back page would not result in a full read!

I’ve been “cheating” and didn’t even know it was cheating. I wasn’t complicit in a scam but I’ll sure be blamed for it if Amazon shoots first and asks questions later. (And as we know, they usually do…) Especially since I write erotica and my name is mud Selena Kitt. I’m guilty already by default. 😛

The problem is, Amazon has been throwing the baby out with the bath water by taking books off sale for having a TOC at the back of the book or bonus content in the front. As David Gaughran first pointed out, real authors are being hurt by Amazon’s attempts to plug up a leak that shouldn’t have existed in the first place.

And I’m afraid it isn’t going to end there, folks. 

Are links from the front of the book to the very back going to be next in Amazon’s line of fire? Could be.

The irony is, many people do what I do – put a link in the TOC to a mailing list with a free read to sign up. Many of those originally had their TOC at the back of their books – but now Amazon is forcing them to put their TOC at the front. In effect, forcing them to have a link now at the front of their book to their mailing list… which leads to the back of their book, and would result in a “full read” if a reader clicks that link.

Doh.

I don’t know how Amazon will close this particular loophole, but I know what I’m doing this week. *sigh* Time to reformat my Kindle Unlimited books and take out the link to free content at the back and put that content somewhere up front. It’s not “WIN A KINDLE FIRE” click-bait – it’s a legitimate offer – but I’m sure Amazon will see what they want to see. Their logic is “about what you’d expect.”

It’s better to get out of the way of a potential nuclear explosion if you know it’s coming than sit around and wait for it to happen – at least that’s my philosophy. And the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So if Amazon’s reaction to this KU 2.0 problem so far is any indication, I’d suggest you follow my lead and clean up those “links to the back of the book” now before they nuke your stuff.

The thing is, all of this cleanup was preventable. There was no reason to implement such a flawed program like Kindle Unlimited in the first place. Amazon certainly could have predicted the original “loophole” in KU 1.0 that they attempted to close with KU 2.0.

Remember when short books were all the rage in KU 1.0? That was because every borrow that was read to 10% paid out around $1.30 each (well, at last count, the amount kept going down every month…) Erotica writers were hit hard when Amazon switched to the “paid per page read” scenario, because erotica authors have always written in short-form. What we were once being paid $2.09 (70% of $2.99) per sale for (before Kindle Unlimited came along) became $1.30 per borrow in KU 1.0. When KU 2.0 was implemented, we were then being paid about $0.15 per read-through.

Ouch.

But the real scammers in KU 1.0 weren’t erotica authors (who simply benefited from the per-borrow payout by doing what we’d always done –   writing short stories) the real scammers put gibberish inside a book and made them so short that by simply opening the book on your Kindle, that first page would count as 10% of the book and result in a paid borrow.

Cha-ching!

Are you telling me Amazon couldn’t have foreseen that?

If so, I have some swamp land in Florida to sell you.

Then KU 2.0 came along to “fix” the issues/loopholes/leaks of the “scamphlets” in KU 1.0. Amazon went to a “pay per pages read” scenario. It’s ironic that their solution to stem the money they were bleeding in the first Kindle Unlimited version was increased exponentially in the next one.

In KU 2.0, they weren’t paying out $1.30 a borrow to scammers who created their little “scamplets” and borrowed them in their little circles anymore. (Or to those nasty erotica writers who’ve always written short stories for readers who want to buy them… they clearly deserved to be punished for their dirty minds and “selling sex” in the first place, right? /end sarcasm)

That’s great, but… before the KENPC cap was very recently instituted, the pages you could get paid for per-read were unlimited. Which meant that anyone could release a “book” of unlimited length in KDP Select (these scammers are putting garbage in their books – foreign translations, articles from Wikipedia, just words for words’ sake) then put a link at the front of that book that jumped to the back –  and voila. A $100 download in one click. I’m not kidding. I know authors who have told me they’ve seen these scammers bragging about getting that much per-read before the KENPC cap.

Even when they put the KENPC cap of 3000 on it, with the payout last month at $0.0041 per page read, that meant the maximum payout was $12.30 per download. Still not too shabby. Especially if you have lots of scammer friends to borrow your book and just click a link to read to the end – and push up your rank in the process.

KU 2.0 is far worse, in terms of scamming and money lost, than KU 1.0 ever was.

Guess you should have just continued paying out for those dirty erotica shorts, Amazon… 😛

Amazon’s continued “fix” to these problems are like putting a Band-Aid on a bleeding artery. Because guys like Dave Koziel aren’t just making money off Amazon. He’s making money off selling this method to other scammers and telling them how to make money scamming, too. And the more they scam, the more money they take out of the “pot.”

Check this link out. Apparently a 15-year-old mentee of Dave Koziel made $64,000 in a month. That’s not a typo.

Do I think this kid wrote all those words? Not if he’s following Dave’s advice, he’s not.

I’m posting the screen shots here, just in case the link gets removed. (You never know…)

Quoted on those images, Dave Koziel says: “A screen shot I got earlier from my mentee and coaching student @justin8600 For those of you who don’t know what this is it’s a report from Amazon that shows you your actual royalty payments from the Kindle store. Take a close look at these numbers and you’ll see how much money he is actually getting paid this month from Amazon. Did I mention he’s only 15? A lot of you may look at this and think it’s fake. How can a 15 year old possibly make $70,000+ in a month online from selling ebooks on Amazon? The world is changing and fast. Opportunities are out there to make money and a lot of it! It doesn’t matter how old you are, where you came from, what your circumstances are etc.”

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Authors and readers –  does this make you angry? It should. You’ve been lied to and cheated, not just by the scammers, but by Amazon. Primarily Amazon, really. Scammers suck, but they’re like cockroaches. They do what they do. They go where the food is, right?

They’re on Amazon because that’s where the money is.  Whose fault is that? Scammers are exploiting a loophole that was created by Amazon’s short-sightedness and could have been prevented by Amazon in the first place.

The scammers are scammers – and they’re providing a poor customer experience to be sure – but Amazon bears the brunt of the blame here, let’s not lose sight of that.

If Amazon’s focus is “customer-centric” then their Kindle Unlimited program is a giant fail. KU 1.0 was called “Kink Unlimited” because authors (many who hadn’t started out writing erotica) jumped on the erotica shorts bandwagon and the market was flooded with them.

But KU 2.0 is now being called “Krap Unlimited” because of all of these crappy scam-books that claim to have great content, but really only contain a bunch of garbage and a click-bait link up front to take readers to the end, so the “author” of the book can get paid for all of those pages.

And when readers find these word-salad books, do they think, “Oh geez, a scammer, what a jerk?” No. They think, “Welp, everything they say about self-publishing and indies is true – their books suck!”

Thanks, Amazon, for perpetuating that myth. :/

And while the readers have to wade through crap (and boy, do they – I thought keyword stuffed titles weren’t allowed, Amazon?) authors are getting hit the hardest under KU 2.0. Not only are we getting paid less than half a cent per-page-read, these junk-books are forcing legitimate authors to split the “global fund”/pot with the scammers. The rate we’re being paid per page just keeps dropping.

Gee, I wonder why?

Let’s take a look, shall we:

  • -6.32% = December rate decrease
  • -10.72% = January rate decrease

We can thank the scammers – and Amazon – for that.

And here are some more numbers for you.

Amazon claimed recently that pages read were up by 25%. But I know that didn’t see a pages-read increase of 25%. Did you? I bet you didn’t. Want to know why?

Because those pages read were click-bait scammer reads, that’s why.

I can’t prove it – but other authors have speculated as much, and I believe they’re right.

Take a look at this graph. (Courtesy of my author friend, Michelle Keep – she’s awesome BTW, smart as a whip, and writes great books – and provides amazing services to authors – check her out!)

graph

Before November 2015, the pages-read increased steadily for months by about 100 million-ish a month.

Then, in November 2015, there was a 350 million pages-read increase from the previous month. A pretty sharp increase but we’d seen increases similar to it, from December to January the year before in 2014.

Then, between December 2015 and January 2016, look at the huge rise. There were 700 million more pages read in that month. How do we explain that? Christmas rush? Hm. Maybe.

Historically speaking, though, the program increases pretty steadily on that graph – but it started spiking in November 2015 and continued to climb drastically—far more than it ever had before—in December 2015 and January 2016.

Let’s look at the actual numbers.

  • From November 2015 to December 2015, the pages-read increased by 347,751,042. (about 350 million)
  • From December 2015 to January 2016, the pages read increased by 716,220,032. (about 700 million)

Can Kindlemas account for this gigantic rise? Can we just chalk it up to Christmas growth?

Well, let’s look at the year before:

  • December 2014 shows 1,154,321,678 pages read. (1.1 billion)
  • January 2015 shows 1,402,376,812 pages read. (1.4 billion)
  • Between December 2014 and January 2015, that’s an increase of only 248,055,134. (about 250 million)

That’s 1/3 of the increase we saw between December 2015 and January of 2016 (which was an increase of 716,220,032 – about 700 million)

Historically speaking, this giant increase is suspect.

So let’s go back and look at this year’s dramatic jump.

  • December 2015: 2,929,051,855 pages read (2.9 billion)
  • January 2016: 3,645,271,887 pages read (3.6 billion)
  • If we add those two numbers we get: 6,574,323,742 (6.5 billion)

Now, just for chucks and giggles, let’s subtract the “average” historical Christmas/Kindlemas jump in pages read (which last year we saw was about 250 million…) Or, hell, let’s go a little further, let’s add to that historical average and say we should have historically seen about a 300 million pages-read increase from Dec 2015-Jan 2016…

If we do that, we’re left with a 763,971,074 difference.

That’s a shocking, inexplicable 750 million pages-read increase.

For speculation’s sake, let’s say that huge page-read increase is actually the result of scammers. Just for argument’s sake, let’s say they’re the ones who have caused this dramatic rise in pages read.

If you translate those pages-read into dollars (multiplying it by the last known pages-read amount Amazon paid out, which was $0.0041 per page)… that comes to…

About 3.1 million dollars.

That’s a lot of money. 😮

Okay, I get it, I hear you – maybe it’s an exaggeration. Maybe Amazon did have a big jump in program growth this year, because they were pushing Kindle Unlimited around Christmas time and offering discounts. Okay, that’s possible.

So let’s account for that.

Even if natural growth increased enormously this year – what if scammers accounted for just 1/3 of that 750 million increase in pages-read?

That’s still a million dollars out of the pot.

But that’s not all, folks.

No, because not only are these scammers stealing money out of my pocket and every author’s pocket who participates in the KDP Select program, they are getting “All-Star” bonuses on top of it. Just to add a little insult to injury and rub some salt in those wounds.

Amazon awards All -Star Bonuses to its top-sellers in the KDP Select program. Some of those are $25,000. Scammers most definitely got bonuses last month – and legitimate authors who have gotten them all along for being top-sellers discovered that their usual pages-read didn’t qualify. The bar had suddenly been set higher, and not by real authors, but by scammers.

And there’s no denying the fact that Amazon could have prevented all of this. They could have anticipated all of these issues – just as they could have anticipated the problem of erotica surfacing on children’s Kindles and done something proactive and preemptive about that.

But Amazon works like the pharmaceutical companies. They make a lot more money ignoring root causes and treating symptoms.

The question now is – what are they going to do about it? And is it going to hurt?

I’m afraid the answer to the latter question is “yes.” As to the former one? Well, they’ll treat the symptoms again, I’m sure. They’ve already screwed over legitimate authors claiming they now have TOC and bonus content issues in their books, whether Amazon was aiming at the scammers or not. We’re collateral damage, as usual.

And frankly, I’m beyond angry. I’m appalled. I’ve become an unwitting participant in this “scam,” because Amazon lied to me. Amazon informed me in no uncertain terms that skipping over content in a book would not result in pages-read.

How can I ever trust them again?

How can you?

Whatever trust I did have (ha) has been completely decimated. I don’t even trust their royalty reports at this point.

And you know what really sucks? Thanks to Amazon’s deception, I’ve been cheating other authors without realizing it. I suppose, if I were in the Hunger Games (which is exactly what this whole thing feels like) I’d just end up dead. I don’t have the stomach for this sort of zero-sum competition they’ve set up in KDP Select between authors. But like Katniss, I don’t have a lot of choice, if I want to feed my family.

In the end, the worst thing of all, at least for me, is Amazon’s stranglehold on the market. They’ve forced me into this horrible, socialist program of theirs where it is a zero-sum game – and I have to fight or die.

If you want to make a living at this, Amazon has created an environment where we’re all getting in the same bread line and fighting each other for crumbs. We’re all hungry. And getting skinnier every day.

(And OMG if one person in the comments says, “You’re not ‘forced’ into the program! You have a ‘choice!'” I will delete you so fast it will make your head spin like Linda Blair. We’ll talk about Amazon’s algorithms and how they weigh the visibility of KDP Select and the decreasing ability to make a living on any other vendor some other time, okay?)

Authors – when we were selling books, did we feel we were “cheating” each other out of dollars? Nope. Because we knew there was (arguably) an unlimited amount of dollars to be had. Competition in the marketplace is great – that’s good for the ecosystem. But competition for a “pot” of something?

That way lies… this madness.

And that’s all on Amazon.

They created this KDP Select monster. And remember that their whole company is run at a loss. In effect, Amazon is being subsidized by their shareholders. Authors keep complaining about Nook and Apple and Kobo and Google and want to know – why is no other retailer challenging Amazon for marketshare?

Because they can’t afford to – THEY aren’t being subsidized.

And we, as a culture, have created the monster that is Amazon.

That, unfortunately, is on us.

selenasigsmalltrans

 

 

66 comments to SCAMAZON – Amazon “Kindle Unlimited” Scammers Netting Millions

  • Lisabet Sarai  says:

    So, have you talked to a lawyer?

    IS there any basis for a class action suit?

    Can we get some big name authors on board?

    I’m feeling sick to my stomach.

  • Brad Vance  says:

    Thanks so much Selena! I call it digital doping, it’s no different than an athlete taking advantage of a loophole to use a PED. Everyone who plays fair get screwed, and Amazon might as well be FIFA as far as fixing broken systems is concerned. Naturally my own books just renewed two weeks ago and I’m stuck in the program through May but there’s no longer any reason for any legitimate offer to stay in this program. I still remember Hugh Howey talking about what a golden age 2.0 would be for legitimate authors who provided great content to their readers LOL time for him to eat his words.

  • Marie  says:

    Thanks for this informative and detailed post. I (and many authors) suspected when KU first started, that this sort of problem would happen down the road. But everyone else was quick to shoot us down. Now that we’re in the harsh reality of it all, people are wondering WTF is going on. Scammers suck, and they will always find a way to cheat the system, no matter what you do. That’s just the nature of the beast. As for KU, the continuous piss-poor payout was one of the main reasons why I didn’t want to use it for my new books (the other was that I didn’t want exclusivity). I mean, seriously. You’re getting paid literally pennies for all your hard work. In some cases, traditional authors are making more revenue per book than KU people are (and they get paid pennies, too). This is no different than what the music artists are going through with Spotify.

    The solution to this? Don’t put your new books in KU. Go wide. At this point, I think the only thing KU would be good for is putting your worst-selling books in there. If you’re not making sales while they’re available wide, then put them in KU. You’ll be a few pennies richer than you would be if they were just sitting stagnant on the other channels. Yes, this sort of ‘desperate’ mindset is a sign of the times. But this is what I’ve done with a couple of my books. They were widely available on various channels, and I’d not seen a single sale from them in two years (even when I did promo for them), so at that point, I just stuck them in KU, and actually got some reads in there. If I make a few pennies from it, then cool, but I’m not concentrating all my efforts on KU because of all the problems that it comes with. But at least my worst-selling books will have somewhat of a chance of making something than they were when they were wide.

    Fighting scammers is like fighting pirates. It’s an endless game of whack-a-mole. Whenever there’s money involved, scammers will always find a way to cheat the system.

    I’m sorry that you’ve been having so many problems, Selena 🙁

  • Pissed off Author  says:

    Jesus Christ. Yet one more reason to loathe Amazon.

  • Louise  says:

    Interesting

  • Mojo  says:

    Wow, that’s some great article, Selena. Thanks for sharing that with us. I’m in shock. I always put the TOC in the back so people get an honest sample from the front. Guess, I have some reformatting work to do (or I may just pull the plug on this whole operation since I really don’t like where it’s heading). Thanks for the heads up! Your blog teaches me something valuable every single read. You’re the Bernie Sanders of Indie Publishing.

  • Elisheva  says:

    And this is just more reasons for me to avoid buying books on Amazon when I can!

  • D.Houston  says:

    Amazon’s negligence is annoying and infuriating at this point. When select first came out I had my doubts. I also felt foolish because so many of my fellow authors were making big bucks with it. Then KU2 came out and the first question almost everyone asked was “can’t this be gamed?”. I remember those concerns and I remember people posting that Amazon assured them that skipping to the end wouldn’t result in a full read.

    So in the gist is Amazon lied.

    Now we have this huge mess. No matter how much Amazon tries to play it down, it’s a huge mess. Entire categories are filled with scam books. This affects us whether we’re in KU or not, because of visibility.

    How many pages of keyword scam is a buyer going to wade to through, before they give up?

    HUGE MESS! Just check out categories like Alien Romance, Regency Romance, Paranormal Romance. Using those popular keywords brings up pages and pages of scam books.

    Ok back to writing before I become more frustated and demotivated. Thanks so much Selena for writing this!!!

  • Madison Johns  says:

    The problem beyond what Amazon can and can’t do is the scammers who scramble to game the system. Those gamers are ruining it for all of us. Many did put out short books just to get that per book royalty when that was the system. If Amazon ever want to improve anything it needs to be find a way to actually count what is really read. Personally I put my TOC at the front of the book where it belongs. It doesn’t take up that much space. If you write super short books you might not even need one at all. Amazon has only complained to me about the TOC not being in a box set that include multiple books. I’m not a big KDP author, but I know some that are legitimately making big money doing it the way it’s intended to be done. They aren’t scammers, but have found a fan base. The majority of my books are wide since I want to build a fan base of buyers not readers wanting everything for free. The freebie readers are also the most critical of books.

  • […] Selena Kitt said it best on this blog post. If you’re just coming in to this conversation, it turns out that upwards of 10% of Kindle Unlimited $ have gone to scammers who’ve gamed the “pages read” system with links to end matter like “Win A Kindle!” which has automatically counted ALL pages in their title as “read.” And the worst of it is, her Amazon rep reassured her at the advent of 2.0 that only actual pages read would be counted. Never mind the $25,000 “All Star” bonuses that have gone to these same scammers… […]

  • Brandy Dorsch  says:

    As an author currently stuck in KU hell, let me know if there is a lawsuit. My sales have been horrible for months.

  • Ed Lewis  says:

    The entire KU model is broken. Amazon needs to scrap it and simply concentrate on taking their 30% cut on books priced $2.99 to $9.99…and the 70% cut of books price above or below those prices.

    Why leave themselves wide open to fraud and abuse…and do so on the backs of HONEST, hard-working authors?

    Amazing that they implemented this system with such an archaic system in place to actually COUNT pages read. Did they just assume no one would eventually figure out that this $300 billion company actually didn’t have the technology it needed to accurately count pages read?

  • Zrinka  says:

    I never saw a point in TOC that goes something like this Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three…unless the titles are linked so that reader can click on it and be taken to that particular chapter. If the chapters aren’t titled e.g. In the Beginning, And the plot thickens or something, I don’t see the point of putting any TOC. None of my books have it. I didn’t know that it is required and never had any issues with Amazon but then my books are published by traditional publishers and they are the ones that format it their way.

  • James Mace  says:

    Thanks for the detailed and highly informative post. Chalk this up to yet another reason why I absolutely refuse to have my books exclusive in KDP Select. I make a pretty comfortable living writing historical novels, and yes, most of my sales do come from Amazon Kindle. That being said, KU is complete and utter crap for most authors. The few times I decided to give it a try, I only made a fraction off ‘borrows’ than I did with sales. When someone purchases a book of mine, I get the full royalty, whether they read the entire thing or not (mind you, I hope they actually do). I found that with ‘pay-per-page’ I was still making much less, even if someone did read the entire book cover-to-cover. Not worth my time. Another issue that annoys me is Amazon is fibbing big time when it claims to pay us 70% royalties. They skim a LOT, and in reality it is closer to 60%. I really can’t complain too much about 60%; however, I wish they were honest about it.

  • JA Huss  says:

    Just so you know, Selena – i contacted my rep with the link to this article and the official response was “Selena Kitt is not a KDP spokesperson and doesn’t have any information that you don’t have. Much of this article is pure speculation, rumor, and fear triggered by a misinterpretation of a recent forum update, which you can read for yourself here: https://kdp.amazon.com/community/ann.jspa?annID=991

    BTW – I don’t know Selena. Never, ever in my life have I ever interacted with her in any way before this comment. I didn’t bait my rep into this answer, I just asked a very simple question about this article and how page-reads are calculated and this is what I got back.

    How can this article that Selena posted, which obviously took days, if not weeks, to prepare, be a knee-jerk reaction to the forum update posted at 8 am this morning?

    And the kicker to the end of the response from my rep? Pretty much “If you don’t like it, you’re free to stay non-exclusive. Goodbye.”

    Thanks, Amazon. Thanks a lot for that very calculated, passive-aggressive reply. I love being devalued.

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    Unreal. THIS is how they treat authors. Wow.

  • S.J. Baily  says:

    I agree with Ed. I wish they’d just scrap KU. Let us simply sell our books on their site. The rest are schemes and scams that let some people get rich quickly. Writers want to write and be read and make a living. Amazon has too much control over too small of a market.

  • Calvin Gifford  says:

    🙁 I can only hope that Amazon comes to its senses soon and fixes this. Until then I will just keep supporting real authors and stay away from KU.

  • Autumn  says:

    So, normally when I finish a book, I don’t stick around to read the teaser at the end of the book. Does this mean that you’re (authors) aren’t getting paid for me reading 100% of the pages included in the download, even though I *did* read 100% of the story? That sucks.

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    That’s not really a big deal. It’s just a few extra pages, most of the time. If you stick around for the bonus book (if an author included one) then great, we get paid for those pages read. If you don’t, that’s okay too.

    But the function that’s at issue here is the ability to skip to the end of a book and the author being paid for a full read. That shouldn’t be possible. But tests (and scammers) have shown that it is.

    That makes the way Amazon pays us (per-page-read) quite problematic, because they can’t actually tell how many pages you, as a reader, actually read. They can only tell at which page you stopped.

  • brenda  says:

    this is despicable. amazon are quite arrogant in how they treat people which is like shit, in particular their authors. it is quite simply a case of amazon does not need you but the author and readers do. amazon has the foot traffic which is why so many authors opt in for a shitty percentage I must say.

  • Mark  says:

    One of the biggest problems on Amazon is still the fake reviews. Sure they shutdown Fiverr but people are paying Virtual assistants to do review swaps with other virtual assistants for as little as $2 per review. They have a system in place where they feel they won’t get detected.

    It’s absolutely rampant. There are whole industries on Upwork dedicated to this task. How can you compete with books with 100 fake reviews 4 weeks after launch?

  • Brenda G.  says:

    Take a look at this guy. He is paying freelancers on upwork to click through his books. someone needs to report him. He says he’s makign $5k+ per day. He’s taking out of all out pockets. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Do5XypMzeGQ

  • […] Huss commented on Selena Kitt’s blog post about “Scamazongate,” and quoted her Amazon rep’s reply: “Much of this […]

  • MAOM7  says:

    I wanted to read this whole article. But I ended up skimming it. The rampant use of bolding and capitalizing statements took most of the readability away from it. It might be good information, it might be valuable information, but when you have to make your point, your point gets lost. Just my opinion, of course, but this is a very long article with lots of bolding and capitalization and when people shout that much, one has to wonder about the message being sent.

    As for Amazon, it is the Walmart of the online world, and to bank on support from them, or to bank on the fact that they should act ethically and in a straightforward, above-board way is to assume that that is their goal. Their goal has been, has always been, and will always be, to get people addicted to their sales model so that they can do the one thing that is their true mission: make money. And just like Walmart, they are not really interested in sharing that money with their suppliers, customers, or staff.

    Want to stop Amazon? Stop buying from them, plain and simple. Stop buying.

  • » Podcast Episode #12 – Coincidentally  says:

    […] a new, romance-centric bookstore in LA, the latest disappointment from Amazon, and a great new book from Chenise Miller, Coincidental […]

  • Skye  says:

    This is just shocking and disgusting. Amazon should be ashamed of the way they are operating with regards to this and other things they are doing. The mind boggles that they can spend time slapping notices on books for minor grammatical issues, but they can’t do anything to stop blatant scammers. I wonder if anyone in the MSM will pick this story up, because I bet if it was in the papers and on the news Amazon would be much more likely to act.

  • Joseph Riden  says:

    Yeah, OK, I get it. It’s Amazon and the pirates in the KU thing. But I’m sorry, everyone is missing the point.

    How do all the shitty books ever get into the Amazon system in the first place? With no quality control on the front end, I can make millions republishing all the phone books in the USA as erotic novels in KU? Is Amazon a publishing house or is it a Dumpster?

    What is really wrong with this whole picture is greed resulting in a sloppy publishing apparatus that is just waiting for piracy to set in and take it over. Amazon, or any publisher, at least needs to have a human being read the book to determine acceptance before it’s published. It’s called an Acceptance Edit. Every news story has to go through one to get into the newspaper. Computers can not do this, it takes a person. We lost the simplest good thing about traditional publishing — the content was really writing, not hash. And the whole shitty formatting thing is beyond belief. It has to be impossible if publishing, by self or other, is going to work.

    In sum, if there is no quality check that assures legitimacy on the front end, anything we write that is legitimate will be mixed with garbage in Amazon. If readers can’t expect a good read, why would they buy a piece of writing? And I have news for you, Amazon is not the only Publisher doing this kind of stuff now. A straight, honest path to getting a book published without being scammed is not out there as far as I can see.

    Right now I have a book in formatting and it’s real, and people will want it. In a couple weeks when all the parts are meticulously assembled and checked before submission, where am I going to take this?

    How did we ever get to this place?

    Joseph

  • Joseph Riden  says:

    This is great material for a book, actually. Selena, how would like to collaborate on an Amazon Exposé Kindle book? The way I write and format, it will be perfect or 99.99% and nobody will have anything to complain about. It will pass formatting easily and slide right into the distribution. Then Amazon will be selling a well-made e-book about how totally AFU they are.

    Joseph

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    Ay-yiyi! I am willing to take one for the team, paint a target on my back, and poke Amazon’s hornet nest with a stick in order to bring the truth to authors on my blog… but once we start talking about a publication on Amazon’s own site that I may benefit monetarily from? Eek. Even I’m only willing to go so far…

  • Ed Lewis  says:

    How does throwing the baby out with the bathwater actually FIX anything?

    The system doesn’t need to have humans reading books and deciding whether or not they pass an acceptance edit. That’s because it has this built in on the back-end. Amazon allows customers to easily review or flag a low-quality book…and also makes it easy for unsatisfied customers to get a refund.

    That gatekeepers are dead. They aren’t coming back. And that’s not going to change.

    The issue here is KU and people cheating the system to siphon money out of the pockets of others and into their own.

    It’s simple…Amazon offers a membership service to readers that allows them to read as much as they want for just $10/month. It’s the same model Pandora and Spotify use in music…NetFlix does it with TV and movies…and Zinio and Texture use it for magazines.

    Amazon needs CONTENT for readers, so it must find a way to incentivize it for authors/publishers. They do this based on performance. This makes sense as Amazon should want to give more incentive to those who produce the best content.

    First it was with ‘borrows’. But over time, that system was easily ‘gamed’…which meant money from the Kindle Unlimited partnership was funneled from Amazon into the hands of those who knew best how to ‘game’ the system, not those who were producing the best content. As more and more ‘gamed’ the system, less money went to those who produced quality content, so they had little incentive to keep their content in KU.

    So it was changed to Pages Read. Problem is, that has now been ‘gamed’ even more relentlessly by these scammers. At least with ‘borrows’ they were maxed out at around $1 for each borrow. Now with the new system, some of these people are making $10 per KU download because they are fooling Amazon’s system into thinking someone has “read” thousands of pages just because they clicked on a link in the book.

    The problem with KU is that Amazon has no real way of measuring PERFORMANCE. The system is built upon Amazon giving unlimited access to customers for $10/month, collecting that money, taking their cut, and then distributing the remaining money to authors based on their performance.

    But they can’t actually measure performance…so how is the system supposed to function properly?

    Spotify and Pandora run similar membership services with a similar payout structure for artists. Except that Spotify and Pandora actually have the ability to accurately determine performance. The more listens an artist gets, the bigger their royalty from the ‘pool’ at the end of the month.

    As we’ve seen with Amazon, it appears that they can’t accurately count pages read. Not only can they not count them, the system is wide open to rampant abuse for anyone who wants to use a few creative loopholes.

    The choices are clear. Either Amazon finds a way to accurately measure performance so that royalties from the KU program are paid to those who deserve them…or eliminate KU altogether.

    My guess is they will try to hang on to KU and FIX the problems. Amazon loves the continuity membership model because it provides them with a steady flow of predictable income month-after-month. Let’s see if they can do it.

  • David Henderson  says:

    Thanks for the article Selana, really appreciate the time and effort you must have put it.

  • Podcast Episode #12 – Coincidentally  says:

    […] a new, romance-centric bookstore in LA, the latest disappointment from Amazon, and a great new book from Chenise Miller, Coincidental […]

  • […] Scamalot (1) […]

  • jay  says:

    The well known authors of all time are best sellers not best writers, selling a good product is not wrong maybe authors should be business minded and stop whining.

  • Gary Prischak  says:

    This really sucks!

  • […] all about it: HERE,   HERE,   HERE,  and  HERE  and the Zon’s response […]

  • Dee Dawning  says:

    The answer is simple UNIONIZE. Better yet have existing unions like Screen Writers Guild represent us. If they will. Trouble is, I fear many authors would fight this. A union could help with pirates too, though pirates seem to small potatoes compared to what Amazon is facilitating.

    Anyway we all check a box that says we have full rights to the material we are posting. Can’t Amazon go after these scammers for fraud?

    BTW Thanks for the heads up Selena. I intend to repost this. Let me know if you prefer I don’t

    Dee Dawning

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    You can repost, feel free, just link back! 🙂

    As for unionizing – we don’t have a central employer (even though we kind of do…) We’re so scattered. And authors … it’s like herding cats! 😛 We DO have the erotic authors guild, but that’s just for erotica. (And is focused on things that erotica authors face – we’re usually on the front lines of this sort of thing…) But it would be good to have something more global. I think as more self-pubbed authors join the ranks, something will pop up. Someone with more time and organizational skills than I have, I hope!

  • Selena Kitt  says:

    Sure, but the bestselling authors of all time didn’t have to divvy up a communal pot of set-funds between themselves either. They had to deal with crappy royalty rates and insane contracts, granted. But the money was unlimited, in theory. In this case, the bestselling authors on Amazon were being stolen from, because the company who was paying them decided to use an extremely questionable and unreliable way of actually keeping track of “sales.” And those who were stealing were blackhat internet marketers who simply found a loophole in Amazon’s system. Scammers are inevitable – but when it gets to critical mass (in this case, scammers were stealing 20% of the pot) it becomes a problem that has to be brought to light and, hopefully, fixed.

  • Susanne Sanderson  says:

    I am glad I never went with KU. I always felt I could get a sample to my kindle, usually if the author was new. Anyone can tell if try are interested with a sample. Or I just purchase the book. I have always felt it was easier to get it from Amazon straight to my kindle, but I am definitely rethinking that. I didn’t realize how little you authors got from KU, or for a purchase for that matter. Keep fighting the good fight with Amazon. Just because they think they have a captive audience, I think it will start to turn around on them with readers catching on and siding with the authors. Good luck.

  • kira  says:

    Very informative! It makes my stomach turn with all that’s being done..ugh!
    Would it be effective to just keep samples on KU, and specify that it is a sample or a peek? And the full version in the marketplace?

  • Tammie Browning  says:

    Wow,I feel bad for all the authors. I was just going to buy KU but thankfully I read this, now I won’t purchase it. I want to purchase my books so the Author receives as much money from the purchase as possible and I don’t want any of my money going to some low life scammer. I’m not an author but this really upsets me because I know authors out a lot into their writing, their time is just one very important part. I also know a lot of authors give out gifts as prizes and at signings and that cost them money so they can’t afford to lose money to scammers. I hope something is done about this and done immediately.

  • Ijon Tichy  says:

    As a reader: I cancelled KU 30 minutes after my first visit. It looks & feels like the leftovers of a (trashy) flea market.
    Another point: I don’t want amazon to know how long i spent on what page in detail. It’s bad enough that they know which books i read (thats why i also use Callibre), so maybe they should get rid of this KU BS altogether…

  • When Nothing Works… – S. J. Pajonas  says:

    […] Then the scam scandal of Kindle Unlimited hit and suddenly everything began to make sense. […]

  • Self-Publishing News  says:

    […] Selena Kitt has also penned a comprehensive post about the scammers here. […]

  • Arik Steen  says:

    Thank you for this report in the English-speaking world. I am the author of the original text in Germany on selfpubli.eu. We have reported in the meantime, more than 600 books in Germany. Many have been deleted.

    Arik Steen

  • […] reported by author Selena Kitt, The Fussy Librarian, David Gaughran and others, digital entrepreneurs (ie scammers) have found a […]

  • […] leave the last word on this for now to one of the longest serving champions of indies, Selena Kitt, here. Still at Amazon, and still on security, looks like there are plans to secure 1-click payment with […]

  • […] Source: SCAMAZON – Amazon “Kindle Unlimited” Scammers Netting Millions […]

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