This is just one of many stories swirling around the indie publishing community today and for the past week about Amazon’s apparent crackdown on scammers.
In a blog post from yesterday, indie published author Adam Dreece tells his story which would strike a lot of fear in anyone, but particularly someone whose books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited…
Last week (Thurs – Jan 12, 2017), I received an email from Amazon around 11pm. They were “reaching out to me” to inform me that they had detected something called “system generated accounts” and thus, were immediately deleting my account. I’ve recently learned that there were a number of us hit, and all of us had the same thing happen.
Dreece had his books widely available for a while, but had taken this one series off the other eBook retailers and put the books into KDP Select, hoping to gain some traction there for this one series. He did a couple of promotions through December, and this resulted in improved rankings and higher page reads. Although he noticed that there was something strange about those page reads, and he emailed KDP about it…
I’d noticed a weird spiky behaviour in KU reads, 25k, 0, 10k. It looked suspicious to me, so being the boy-scout that I am, I raised it. I even posted about it on FB, as it was really weird.
The KDP Support person’s response was clearly they thought me cute and naive, and they assured me there was no problem. I said I was scared that the Fiverr promo I’d used (which was new to me, but had over 650 reviews and was a top seller) could have been a scam or something, and they told me no. I even DOUBLE checked with them to please check everything, and I was told everything was fine.
Obviously, there was a problem, as far as Amazon was concerned; a few weeks later, they deleted his account and unpublished all his books from their Kindle store (He notes that his paperbacks were still available, as were his stories featured in anthologies). While Amazon “investigated the matter” and thankfully, ultimately restored his books (but not his ranking, which I noticed when I went over to his page to see if they were actually back), all he could do is freak out, then wait.
What are the things I’m taking away from this most recent tale?
- Dreece also reported that he had issues with Amazon bothering about his copyrights on those books. This is something I heard happened to another author whose story was highlighted on the Sell More Books Show Podcast last week. Is it a coincidence?
- Amazon has had to delete a lot of books and a lot of fake Kindle Unlimited subscriptions in order to start dealing with the brazen scamming that has been going on with the program, especially once some work-arounds with inflating page reads were discovered and exploited. The click farms are striking back by now covering up their fake book page reads with real book page reads. This is why Dreece had the trouble with the “system generated accounts.” Apparently, Amazon realized that the bots are page-reading legit books in order to throw off Amazon and somehow fool them into thinking the click farm fake KU subscriber is a real account. As Dreece points out:
I’ve since learned that scammers have been pointing their bots at other authors, often targeting the #1 in smaller categories, so to throw suspicion away from their fake books.
- Fiverr seems to play into this in some way. I have used Fiverr in the past to promote The Inventor’s Son, in particular I’ve used BKnights gig a few times, both for free and paid book promotions. The effectiveness of the paid book promotions was diminishing, however, in 2016, and so I have stopped using them for this purpose. A lot of indie published authors, however, still use Fiverr gigs for promoting their Kindle books, and those books tend to be in KDP Select more often than not. They are hoping to get page reads, since that boosts their rankings just as much as if someone bought their book, just as much as they are hoping people buy the book for 99 cents. The books are legit, and possibly even the promoter is legit, but the click farms know those sites and seem to be preying on those books featured on them. I have heard they were even targeting books featured on BookBub, and that’s pretty brazen, IMO.
- Amazon really, really wants you to use AMS ads (I’ve got an epic post coming up about them, stay tuned)! I think they got tired of Facebook and BookBub sending so many people to their site, so they decided to get into the PPC (Pay Per Click) game and upped the ante by allowing all authors to participate, not just those enrolled in KDP Select. Use of other book promo sites seems to be raising their blood pressure these days…
- I think Kindle Unlimited may be seeing the final year of it’s existence. I had noticed that Amazon has been advertising HARD to get new subscribers into the program (possibly to make up for all the fake accounts they had to shut down) but at the same time seem to be trying in a very clumsy manner to plug the holes. Since some of the subscriptions they might have sold during Cyber Weekend were for a year or even a bit longer, Amazon might try to hold out and keep it running until those subscriptions run out. They may integrate it into Prime once again, or have an expanded KOLL program to take it’s place, to allow Prime members to borrow more than one book a month and allow even people without Kindle devices to take advantage of the program, but I don’t see Kindle Unlimited surviving as it is too much longer. Authors who might have been considering putting books into the program (and let’s face it, three months is a long time in the world of the indie author) can read tales like this and it makes them think long and hard about it!
Dreece himself put it best in his own blog post:
In December, I’d decided to enter their KDP Select program. This was my reward.
Some authors I’ve already heard from are wondering about which Fiverr gig he’d used, and are wondering if there isn’t more to this story than we’ve heard. Although, since Amazon did actually republish his books, there must have been some evidence of this author’s innocence. What do you think of all this?