Author Topic: The free book list - 1 year later; spoiler: the scammers are still winning  (Read 6120 times)  

Offline Martitalbott

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Amazon has a much larger fish to fry at the moment with the scam third-party seller scandal hitting the mainstream press.

What scandal? Do you have a link?


Offline PhoenixS

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Amazon has a much larger fish to fry at the moment with the scam third-party seller scandal hitting the mainstream press.

You know, if that's how big corporations worked, I might give Amazon a pass on this (even though there have been Amazon scamming stories in the news routinely over the past year). But KDP is responsible for KDP. And the ebooks division is responsible for KDP, the associated small-press programs, Amazon Imprints relationships, KU and the Big 5 relationships. Vendors trying to sell knockoff versions of shoes and purses, for instance, would be dealt with by Amazon's clothing and accessories division. Individuals attempting ebook scams would be dealt with by KDP and/or the ebooks division. I agree that direction and possibly more resources would come from Amazon HQ, but KDP has just their little part of the Amazon whole to be laser-focused on. I would hope divisions share best-practices for dealing with scammers, but even that might not necessarily be the case. So nope, no pass from me.
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Offline Martitalbott

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Good grief, that's really awful. You'd think they would want to prevent these problems before introducing something new. Apparently not.

Online brkingsolver

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You know, if that's how big corporations worked, I might give Amazon a pass on this (even though there have been Amazon scamming stories in the news routinely over the past year). But KDP is responsible for KDP. And the ebooks division is responsible for KDP, the associated small-press programs, Amazon Imprints relationships, KU and the Big 5 relationships. Vendors trying to sell knockoff versions of shoes and purses, for instance, would be dealt with by Amazon's clothing and accessories division. Individuals attempting ebook scams would be dealt with by KDP and/or the ebooks division. I agree that direction and possibly more resources would come from Amazon HQ, but KDP has just their little part of the Amazon whole to be laser-focused on. I would hope divisions share best-practices for dealing with scammers, but even that might not necessarily be the case. So nope, no pass from me.
I'm not arguing with you, and as someone who makes the majority of my money from KU, I have skin in the game. As someone above noted, Zon tends to pay attention when they get bad press, and third-party is their bad press at the moment. If you have a way to elevate this to the press, then they may do something about it.


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Offline Seneca42

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Amazon's entire store is becoming like a flea market, with half the products coming from shady chinese vendors.

It's clear amazon doesn't care about quality control... just throw as much stuff up there as possible and hope people buy it.  Deal with products when customers complain, but otherwise, let it ride.

It's a buyer beware market now.


Offline C. Gockel

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Between newsletters and Instafreebie, I'm starting to see better results ROI-wise with Instafreebie. I take part in as many promos as I can, it seems to keep my email open rate high too.


I write books about Change, Chaos, and Loki
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Offline Nic

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https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/01/02/amazon-scams-on-the-rise-in-2017-as-fraudulent-sellers-run-amok-and-profit-big/#61cd84393ea6

My arse! Now I understand. I bought computer parts a while ago which never arrived. Emailed the seller twice, no response. Emailed Amazon and had the money back on my bank account faster than light. No comment, no nothing. Just paid, without the usual request to wait for the seller's response.

Offline Patty Jansen

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You know, at some point, Amazon is going to have to employ Real People (TM) to manually vet everyone who wants to sell anything on their site. You know, like Apple does *gasp*.

If they don't, it will be the death of them. Not immediately, but long-term.

Offline A.R. Williams

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My own theory is that Amazon doesn't like the free books...[snip] ...But from what I've observed, Amazon actually does the opposite. They've separated the frees from the paid rankings and they hide the free list. They have never offered authors the option to sell books free. It is only a side effect of their price-match policy. If they wanted the Zon platform to sell free books, it's so easy for them to make that happen. The fact that they don't, and in effect actively discourages free books' visibility, speaks volumes...

Exactly!!!

How do you get your books to be free on Amazon?

Method 1: Join KU and then use the five free days that you're allotted.

Method 2:  Do a little dance--(a) Set the price on Amazon (b) Set the price free on another site (c) Notify Amazon that your book is free on another site [d] Keep notifying Amazon that your book is free on another site until they listen and change your price.

(note: This is what the terms of service says about pricing you books on Amazon:)

Quote
4. Setting Your List Price
 
 You must set your Digital Book's List Price (and change it from time-to-time if necessary) so that it is no higher than the list price in any sales channel for any digital or physical edition of the Digital Book.
 
 But if you choose the 70% Royalty Option, you must further set and adjust your List Price so that it is at least 20% below the list price in any sales channel for any physical edition of the Digital Book.
 
 By "list price in any sales channel," we mean the suggested or recommended retail price or, if you sell your book directly to end users, your own sales price, for an edition of the book available outside of our Program.

Method one is a legitimate way to make your book free on Amazon. Method two, is at best, highly questionable.

What are the rewards for using method one versus method two: If you use method one you get 5 free days in a three month period. If you use method two you get an unlimited amount of free days.

So what happens when writers who are not as astute as the writers on Kboards learn that there are people who get unlimited free days for skirting the terms of service, while they who follow the spirit and letter of the t.o.s., get five days in a three month period (while also giving up the ability to list their book elsewhere)?

Does Amazon know? Does Amazon care? Why does Amazon not do something about all of those writers who go around the t.o.s. in order to make their books free? Is it not important since it is Amazon who actually price-matches and makes the books free? Is Amazon turning a blind eye to this debacle?

But they know, don't they?

They have to know--because they are the ones who change the price on the books to make them free. Right? So they don't really care?

If they don't really care, why can't you make your book free from the dashboard then?

::shrugs::

"Maybe Amazon just likes watching people dance."

Offline TwistedTales

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I've come to accept Amazon KDP is a train wreck in slow motion. The escalating list of problems are too numerous to list anymore, no doubt compounded by budgetary issues behind the scenes.

Bezos is finally being held accountable by shareholders demanding profit, but his managers have never been asked to make money before. Profit harvesting usually leads to reduced budgets, more aggressive tracking of ROI, redirecting of resources to more profitable activities, reduction in recruitment and improvement programs, etc. It means many of the problems we see have no plans to be fixed. Future improvements will have been shelved. What you see is all you've got. Worse still, under investment always leads to even more problems as situations change and things break.

Amazon KDP will continue to drive into the international market, but Bezos said the US is maxed and therefore will receive limited investment for growth. That's corporate speak for, "we cut the budget, folks."

The best we can do is minimize our exposure to the inevitable crash and burn.

Offline PhoenixS

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Why does Amazon not do something about all of those writers who go around the t.o.s. in order to make their books free? Is it not important since it is Amazon who actually price-matches and makes the books free? Is Amazon turning a blind eye to this debacle?

If you continue reading to the T&C Pricing Page, you'll find this, where Amazon explicitly discusses price-matching freebies and makes them an exclusion. Permafree does NOT violate the T&Cs. A lower non-free price, however, does.

"From time to time your book may be made available through other sales channels as part of a free promotion. It is important that Digital Books made available through the Program have promotions that are on par with free promotions of the same book in another sales channel. Therefore, if your Digital Book is available through another sales channel for free, we may also make it available for free. If we match a free promotion of your Digital Book somewhere else, your Royalty during that promotion will be zero. (Unlike under the 70% Royalty Option, if we match a price for your Digital Book that is above zero, it won't change the calculation of your Royalties indicated in B above.)"
https://kdp.amazon.com/help/topic/A29FL26OKE7R7B
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Offline KelliWolfe

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If Amazon really didn't want freebies, they would have axed them a few years back instead of splitting out the paid/free pricing and giving free their own top lists. Amazon knows how to sell things, and they're quite well aware that free books help sell more books. And ebooks are small enough that the storage and download costs to them are negligible. There's more data and bandwidth used every time you load up your product page than when someone downloads your free book from them.

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Offline PermaStudent

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My arse! Now I understand. I bought computer parts a while ago which never arrived. Emailed the seller twice, no response. Emailed Amazon and had the money back on my bank account faster than light. No comment, no nothing. Just paid, without the usual request to wait for the seller's response.

I stumbled into this when I had a problem with something under warranty bought from Amazon.  I contacted the company responsible per instructions on the seller's page, and the company claimed that because the product was bought on Amazon, they couldn't confirm if it was counterfeit and refused to honor the warranty.  I emailed Amazon with this response, and they gave a full refund with a canned apology and no additional comment.  I started googling to see if anyone else had a problem with that specific company/warranty, but no, it's Amazon...

Returning to the thread topic, yes, bad press seems to be the response trigger for Amazon.  It would be nice to see some proactive handling of these situations, but they seem to prefer cleaning up the messes rather than preventing them.  They  *know* it's going on, and they *know* it hurts the legit sellers (and writers), but if they're making money and the customers aren't complaining, they let it slide.  However, they seem to be knowingly making a lot of money off of suspected counterfeits lately. I'm waiting for the lawsuit.
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Offline SC

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When buying from Amazon, I always first try to get sold and shipped by Amazon. When that's not available, I look for "fulfilled by Amazon". If that's not available, I generally don't buy the product. And if I need to return something, I just return it through Amazon's site. I don't like to deal with third party sellers directly because so many are bad sellers and it's not worth the bother to me.

Online AlexaKang

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I stumbled into this when I had a problem with something under warranty bought from Amazon.  I contacted the company responsible per instructions on the seller's page, and the company claimed that because the product was bought on Amazon, they couldn't confirm if it was counterfeit and refused to honor the warranty.  I emailed Amazon with this response, and they gave a full refund with a canned apology and no additional comment.  I started googling to see if anyone else had a problem with that specific company/warranty, but no, it's Amazon...


This actually is true and Amazon vendors selling products are quite upset about this. I just read somewhere else (maybe Reddit, can't remember). What happens is, Amazon warehouses the same product from all Amazon sellers together. But when Amazon ships the product to your (generic your) customer, they don't distinguish between your inventory and all the other sellers. So for example, if you are a legitimate distributor of Pantene shampoos, all your shampoo inventory is lumped with all other sellers of Pantene shampoos. Among them might be counterfeiters' products. When your customer places an order, they might not be getting it from your stock, but you will get paid.

Apparently some vendors are getting customer complaints but Amazon's stated policy is that all same products are stocked together and they don't have to send from your inventory as long as you get paid.

It is also true that a lot of Chinese counterfeit goods are finding their ways into Amazon stores. I recently lived in China for years as an expat and the problem is actually very serious. Not serious as in, oh darn, it's a fake watch. But serious as in deadly and dangerous food and body care products. Even apparently innocuous things like Legos, might contain harmful paint. I'm always wondering when this bombshell will drop on Amazon and they'll have a PR crisis on hand.

Offline SC

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This actually is true and Amazon vendors selling products are quite upset about this. I just read somewhere else (maybe Reddit, can't remember). What happens is, Amazon warehouses the same product from all Amazon sellers together. But when Amazon ships the product to your (generic your) customer, they don't distinguish between your inventory and all the other sellers. So for example, if you are a legitimate distributor of Pantene shampoos, all your shampoo inventory is lumped with all other sellers of Pantene shampoos. Among them might be counterfeiters' products. When your customer places an order, they might not be getting it from your stock, but you will get paid.

Apparently some vendors are getting customer complaints but Amazon's stated policy is that all same products are stocked together and they don't have to send from your inventory as long as you get paid.

It is also true that a lot of Chinese counterfeit goods are finding their ways into Amazon stores. I recently lived in China for years as an expat and the problem is actually very serious. Not serious as in, oh darn, it's a fake watch. But serious as in deadly and dangerous food and body care products. Even apparently innocuous things like Legos, might contain harmful paint. I'm always wondering when this bombshell will drop on Amazon and they'll have a PR crisis on hand.

Holy crap, that's ... awful. Wow. Thanks for sharing all that. I'll definitely keep it in mind when buying certain things on Amazon now (or when deciding whether or not to do so).

Offline Becca Mills

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https://www.forbes.com/sites/wadeshepard/2017/01/02/amazon-scams-on-the-rise-in-2017-as-fraudulent-sellers-run-amok-and-profit-big/#61cd84393ea6

Phoenix, maybe you should drop a line to Wade Shepard, who wrote the above Forbes article, and see if he'd be interested in covering this other form of Amazon scamming. Generating mainstream publicity is probably the only way to get Amazon to take this seriously.




Offline dn8791

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Phoenix, maybe you should drop a line to Wade Shepard, who wrote the above Forbes article, and see if he'd be interested in covering this other form of Amazon scamming. Generating mainstream publicity is probably the only way to get Amazon to take this seriously.

This is a fantastic idea.

As an aside, this thread is convincing me that I need to go wide with my next series - and perhaps everything going forward.

Question for everyone: Do you think the day will come when KDP may no longer be the biggest market for most indie authors? Do you think it might ever shut down entirely?

Interesting times we're living in...


Offline Annie B

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The sad part is... whatever Amazon does about freebie scammers is likely to heavily impact legit users of freebies. Every change they make to combat people gaming the system or scamming generally ends up hurting legit authors. (Like what happened with multi-author KU bundles, for example...)

Offline Seneca42

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I've come to accept Amazon KDP is a train wreck in slow motion. The escalating list of problems are too numerous to list anymore, no doubt compounded by budgetary issues behind the scenes.

I'll be honest. I blame 95% of this on the authors for supporting KU. Don't get me wrong, I don't blame people for going in KU if it increases their money, but KU is what is driving the scammers.

The old saying "cutting off your nose to spite your face" is in full effect here. The more authors bend over for bezos, the less amazon is going to make any effort to satisfy their content suppliers.

This, btw, has been a trend since 2000 in all industries and is a function of the dot.com boom... where traditional middlemen (who used to take a small margin as their cut and competed with each other for that business) suddenly held all the control... they seized control over the demand and supply ends of the market. Walmart did it in the B&M space, and Amazon is doing it in the online space.

Authors who go into KU (and I admit, I was in KU for a year), in my opinion, are no different than anyone in the real world who buy goods made in china. It's fine to do, but then you can't complain that all the manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas.

Similarly, if you support the very thing that enables the botters and scammers AND pushes down your unit prices...you really can't blame Amazon for "screwing you".

Amazon can only do what it's doing because the content providers enable them to do so.

Unfortunately, I don't see that trend changing, so yep, the train wreck is only going to get worse.

Offline KelliWolfe

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Phoenix, maybe you should drop a line to Wade Shepard, who wrote the above Forbes article, and see if he'd be interested in covering this other form of Amazon scamming. Generating mainstream publicity is probably the only way to get Amazon to take this seriously.
The problem is that it's not a "general interest" story. The only people really impacted are self-published authors. The counterfeiting has potential to hit anyone who buys anything from Amazon, which is millions and millions of people, with potentially hazardous effects. No one out there really cares about a few thousand indie authors who might not be hitting the top 100 lists because of scammers.

Question for everyone: Do you think the day will come when KDP may no longer be the biggest market for most indie authors? Do you think it might ever shut down entirely?
Amazon isn't going to shut down KDP. The money it brings in is a fraction of their digital media sales, which is a fraction of their overall sales. It isn't about the money. It's about getting people through the door so they buy more stuff. That's why they like KU so much. They've openly stated in a press release that KU subscribers spend MORE on other purchases while they're in the store than regular book customers who buy. They're not worried about making money on books, which I'm guessing is why they devote as few resources to the book sales and KDP as they possibly can. It's just a means to an end for them, not an end in and of itself.

As for them not being the biggest market? There are probably a couple of dozen people here on kboards with the technical capability and solid enough understanding of how the system works to build a better storefront for selling books. It isn't about that. It's about everything ELSE that Amazon sells, and the convenience of doing all of your shopping through them. Even when people go to other sites to find books because Amazon's search/browse has gotten so messed up, they go BACK to Amazon to actually make the purchase. That's what you'd be competing against, and you'd be doing it against a company that is willing and able to run its entire book division at a loss for the sole purpose of attracting customers to their other goods. This is why Google Play and iTunes have never made more than a dent in Amazon's sales.
« Last Edit: April 20, 2017, 02:19:09 PM by KelliWolfe »

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Offline TwistedTales

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Seneca42

Blaming the authors is nothing they want to hear, particularly if they believe they're making money out of KU. I'm one of the oddities who was making money from KU, but walked away anyway.

Subscription models might be here to stay, but the KU version isn't stable. What other model promotes this level of scamming? Amazon need better fraud analysts, the people who specialize in identifying loopholes in systems and make sure the design prevents them from happening. Just tossing a system up in the vain hope no one will screw with it is probably the lamest thing I've seen a business do in decades. No business I know of does fraud management through detection - fraud is managed before you put a system in and not after.

KDP staff end up hopping around like cats on a hot tin roof trying to plug the gaps in their systems and business model that should never have been there in the first place. Authors get railroaded and abused while they try to fix something that cannot be fixed post design.

But that's not even the core of the problem. In their haste to take a market they'll never completely own, they've created a monster. Judging by what's happening to their other lines, it's not only confined to books.

Do I blame the authors? Not really. People will always take what looks like the path of least resistance. If in the final analysis they get burned they usually cast the blame somewhere else. It's human nature so there's no point arguing with it. I'm only accountable and responsible for my path, not anyone else's. Providing I keep my head on straight I'll make the right decisions to limit our exposure and that's all I really care about. The bigger picture isn't my sandpit so I watch what others are doing, shrug and move on.


Offline PermaStudent

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The problem is that it's not a "general interest" story. The only people really impacted are self-published authors. The counterfeiting has potential to hit anyone who buys anything from Amazon, which is millions and millions of people, with potentially hazardous effects. No one out there really cares about a few thousand indie authors who might not be hitting the top 100 lists because of scammers.

Rank manipulation happens outside of ebooks, too (according to Google--I won't give links to promote these shenanigans, but it's out there).  If an article is written about how scammers (in general) are using tactics to steer customers to counterfeits by artificially inflating rank, and Amazon isn't doing much about it, people might care.  And these effects can be most readily observed in the lists for free books, where pulling it off is easy.  If Amazon has to fix it for everyone, that includes publishers, too.
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Offline Seneca42

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Do I blame the authors? Not really. People will always take what looks like the path of least resistance. If in the final analysis they get burned they usually cast the blame somewhere else. It's human nature so there's no point arguing with it. I'm only accountable and responsible for my path, not anyone else's. Providing I keep my head on straight I'll make the right decisions to limit our exposure and that's all I really care about. The bigger picture isn't my sandpit so I watch what others are doing, shrug and move on.

Oh i agree. It's like buying products made in China... I don't blame people for doing it. I mean, if your budget is tight and the Chinese product is 50% less...you do what you gotta do. But at the same time, you should also acknowledge that the very thing that is saving you money may also be the thing that ultimately takes your job  :P

So I don't blame authors for bending over for bezos because most think they have no choice in the matter. But then, they should at least not be surprised or whine about scammers and bots ... because those things exist because they capitulated.

Just as a fun thought experiment. If every author pulled out of KU tomorrow, I guarantee you the bot issue would be fixed in 48 hours. Page read royalties would be doubled. And whoever is in charge of KU would be canned and Amazon would sincerely apologize to everyone for how they behaved in the past.

But, that's never going to happen. :)

So ya, Amazon is creating the system, but authors are enabling the system.

And I agree. The herd is gonna do what it is gonna do.