Author Topic: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall (MERGED)  (Read 71495 times)  

Offline Michael-Allen

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In the most recent KENPC topic thread, it was pointed out that a person "most likely" scammed their way to the #1 spot in all of the paid Amazon kindle store. The author David Gaughran wrote an excellent breakdown of what is going on. The below link was shared in the KENPC thread, but as Monique pointed out there, this should really have its own thread, so I decided to create a thread for it.

Share with others what is going on. The more people that know the better. Don't know what Amazon will do about it, but the least we can do is spread awareness. Ideally, it'd be great to get the story picked up by a big news organization (maybe then Amazon be more proactive) and that can only be done by drawing attention to it.

https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2017/07/15/scammers-break-the-kindle-store/#more-4447

Would love to hear ideas on how we can get the word out there. Later today, I'm going to look for an appropriate Reddit thread to share this information with.

Offline Greg Banks

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2017, 11:48:29 AM »
I think the answer to the problem is obvious. We need those with the real monetary power, the buyers, to care enough about this to start raising a stink. And poor reviews won't cut it, because scammers have already devalued them with fake/biased reviews. We need the buyers to start email Amazon in large enough numbers to get their attention.
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Offline TonyGonline

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2017, 12:00:45 PM »
Wow that was a well written piece and very informative, thanks for explaining it so clearly . More power to ya  ;)

The only thing I have left to wonder about is that amazon has a free and paid, why don't they also have a borrowed? Three separate ways to get a book, three separate charts!


Offline Drakon

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2017, 01:59:54 PM »
Thanks for going to so much trouble to notify Amazon of this scamming problem.

The problem seems to be growing at every level, because it's so hard to get visibility now.

 


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Offline LindsayBuroker

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2017, 03:31:33 PM »
The only thing I have left to wonder about is that amazon has a free and paid, why don't they also have a borrowed? Three separate ways to get a book, three separate charts!

I've wondered this from the beginning. I thought it was a BUG when KU came out and it became clear that borrows counted as sales for rankings purposes. It's ridiculous. A borrow isn't much harder to come by than a free download. I'm shocked that publishers (who have always published wide and continue to do so) never raised more of a stink. Non-exclusive indies aren't the only ones who get shuffled out of category charts because those KU borrows count as sales.
 

Offline Maalik

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2017, 04:11:49 PM »
I've wondered this from the beginning. I thought it was a BUG when KU came out and it became clear that borrows counted as sales for rankings purposes. It's ridiculous. A borrow isn't much harder to come by than a free download. I'm shocked that publishers (who have always published wide and continue to do so) never raised more of a stink. Non-exclusive indies aren't the only ones who get shuffled out of category charts because those KU borrows count as sales.

Higher visibility for KU titles is done intentionally to give more incentive for authors to be exclusive to their platform. It was a smart thing for amazon to do.

Offline X. Aratare

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2017, 04:25:04 PM »
I've wondered this from the beginning. I thought it was a BUG when KU came out and it became clear that borrows counted as sales for rankings purposes. It's ridiculous. A borrow isn't much harder to come by than a free download. I'm shocked that publishers (who have always published wide and continue to do so) never raised more of a stink. Non-exclusive indies aren't the only ones who get shuffled out of category charts because those KU borrows count as sales.
 

I run a subscription site and I know this to be true because my Members tells me that there are books of mine in the membership that they would definitely BUY but there are others that they only read because its "free" to them, i.e., included with their membership. They may end up loving these "borrowed" books, but the very fact that they were "free" or "included" is what made them read them in the first place.

I know this isn't something people like to hear (I've been shot down before with people saying: I pay $9.95 for KU!  You think that's "free"?  Uhm no, but the reading decisions are VERY DIFFERENT between buying a book and borrowing one that doesn't cost you anything more than $9.95. Because my members tell me this and I'm in KU, too, and I have to go through a mental hoop to BUY a book that isn't in the KU program than I do to simply borrow one that is. It costs me "nothing".) The scammers actually prove this as well.  That $9.95 allows them to make bank.  So no a borrow shouldn't equal a sale. It's not the same at all.  But I'm sure I'm in the minority in this.

As to the scamming, it isn't surprising.  It's disheartening, because as someone who is wide and will always likely be wide (I give my members all my books with their subscription, can't do that in KU), I not only am "fighting" to gain rank and visibility against those authors getting legit borrows against my sales, but also the scammers.  But KU has always been rife with the ability to scam it not only by blackhatters, but also by Amazon. Think about how Amazon itself has arbitrarily decided how many pages are in a book and how many of those pages are considered "read".  Instead of a straight word or character count, Amazon came up with a distorted system so that one book of 50k words doesn't have the same KENCP as another book of 50k words.

But I'm getting off topic. The thing is that KU is now hurting just about everybody except the scammers. In KU or not, you are now not getting paid as much if you're in KU and none of us are gaining proper visibility in ranking.

Offline Mercia McMahon

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2017, 04:39:03 PM »
I'm shocked that publishers (who have always published wide and continue to do so) never raised more of a stink.

I used to think that until Amazon announced that Amazon Publishing were the second highest selling publisher on the Kindle Store. Borrower ranks are to boost Amazon Publishing. Amazon had better hope the EU don't come after them once the Google case is settled.


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Offline Salvador Mercer

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2017, 04:44:00 PM »
I shared David's blog post to my FB page and tweeted it.  Not sure I can do too much more than that right now.
 

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2017, 04:44:18 PM »
But there's got to be a REASON why Amazon doesn't care about the scammed books making rank. I know that reason has to be money, but I can't figure out how in the long run it saves Amazon money, or, makes Amazon money.  :-[

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Offline Jim Johnson

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2017, 04:54:24 PM »
I shared David's blog post to my FB page and tweeted it.  Not sure I can do too much more than that right now.

Email jeff@amazon.com and ecr-kdp@amazon.com. Be polite. Enough of us do that, they'll either block all our emails or maybe do something. :)

Online Rosie A.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2017, 04:57:13 PM »
This makes me furious. I tried to post a response on David G.'s page but for some reason it did not post. Anyhow, I wish something would be done about this although it's wishful thinking. As a newer author, the majority of my titles are in KU. But one of them will be out tomorrow and I'm taking it wide. While I still think KU is good for new authors, it sickens me that people call themselves authors while cheating their way to the top. Didn't they learn in school that cheaters never prosper? Because they don't. What good does it do to forfeit your soul for cash?

Offline she-la-ti-da

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #12 on: July 15, 2017, 05:10:05 PM »
I would have posted this on David's blog, but I don't have Wordpress:

Quote
    Well, gosh, people What do you want Amazon to do? We already cant use a legitimate keyword like KU in our keywords, making the world safe for little children and puppies. Now you want the scammers stopped as well? Wow.

    ^^^That was sarcasm, by the way, for the impaired.

    David, youre doing the good work, but its not going to change until enough customers complain, and take their business elsewhere. I doubt this will happen, because there are enough legit books for the voracious little souls to stay busy for a long, long time. Im at the point where I wonder why I have ethics, because theyve done nothing but make me poor. Bah. (More sarcasm, dears.)
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Offline PhoenixS

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #13 on: July 15, 2017, 07:02:54 PM »
The only thing I have left to wonder about is that amazon has a free and paid, why don't they also have a borrowed? Three separate ways to get a book, three separate charts!

Not that they can't still create a separate list (which they used to have actually, but last summer we caught them out not updating it except with Amazon imprint books -- the link came down shortly after we created a stink about it, although that might have been coincidental), but they do have a filter specifically for KU. Customers can simply tick the box to see only titles that are currently in KU. Rank for it, however, is based on the poplist, not the bestseller list.

I've wondered this from the beginning. I thought it was a BUG when KU came out and it became clear that borrows counted as sales for rankings purposes. It's ridiculous. A borrow isn't much harder to come by than a free download. I'm shocked that publishers (who have always published wide and continue to do so) never raised more of a stink. Non-exclusive indies aren't the only ones who get shuffled out of category charts because those KU borrows count as sales.

I think there may be a two-fold answer to that, Lindsay. The first is the carrot incentive to keep folk in Select. There has to be a reward for exclusivity. The Big 5 opted to not join KU, so the 'punishment' is that KU books can leapfrog theirs in the bestselling ranks.

The second, imo, is a little more nuanced. There's a sort of compromise with the trads for allowing borrows to count on the bestselling lists since borrows don't count in the poplists. Couple that with the price bias in the poplists and the push to the poplists rather than the bestseller lists that Amazon does through all its recommendation algos, and the trads benefit in the tail by having higher visibility on the less-sexy backend, which includes search engine functions, alsobot placement, newsletters and recommendation emails.
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Offline Dragovian

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #14 on: July 15, 2017, 07:08:22 PM »
But there's got to be a REASON why Amazon doesn't care about the scammed books making rank. I know that reason has to be money, but I can't figure out how in the long run it saves Amazon money, or, makes Amazon money.  :-[
If Amazon were stopping the scammers, I would see the logic as: Scammers take a big chunk of the KU pot, driving down the per-page payment for everyone. Amazon axes scammers before payment goes out. Amazon does NOT re-calculate the payments for other authors. Amazon keeps the % of the pot which scammers "earned", lowering their KU overhead.

But that only works if they're shutting down the scammers before the 60 day payout period. Since we know they aren't, I can't see why they're reluctant to chlorinate the pool.

Offline TwistedTales

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #15 on: July 15, 2017, 09:46:42 PM »
I understand the intent of this blog post, but it's inappropriate to publicly shame an author just because you think they've done something wrong.

Amazon admit they set up departments to compete with one another like boxers in the ring. They have some misguided belief that aggressive competition gets the best results. I'm sure they're very amused to see authors attacking one another in this way.

I keep seeing kboards being used to publicly shame and attack ex and current members. The fact is, it's up to Amazon to deal with any abuse of their platform. As authors we may contact them about any suspicions we have and they can ignore, assess or take action. We don't get to dictate to Amazon what they do. We can't attack one another in the hope that'll put enough pressure on Amazon to do something about our suspicions.

All this outrage is getting out of hand. If you don't like what an author is doing then take it up with Amazon or the author. If Amazon do nothing then it either means your suspicions were wrong or they don't care. It's their platform and you either put up with how they run it or walk away.

In the case of KU, I elected to walk away. No amount of money is worth the crap you have to put up with.

Offline Doglover

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #16 on: July 15, 2017, 11:11:47 PM »
Am I the only one who has wondered if the author of this blog has been following the book in question? If not, how does he know what the book's rank has been before it shot up to no. 1? I am intrigued by that and would love to know.


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Offline Tulonsae

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #17 on: July 15, 2017, 11:15:48 PM »
Am I the only one who has wondered if the author of this blog has been following the book in question? If not, how does he know what the book's rank has been before it shot up to no. 1? I am intrigued by that and would love to know.

The previous rank is listed by Amazon. Look in the screen shot for Movers and Shakers in the article. The post puts a square red bracket around the number.

Offline Doglover

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #18 on: July 15, 2017, 11:21:33 PM »
The previous rank is listed by Amazon. Look in the screen shot for Movers and Shakers in the article. The post puts a square red bracket around the number.
Ah, I see. I never noticed that before. Thanks for enlightening me; that was a question that was going to niggle me. :)


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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #19 on: July 16, 2017, 01:16:59 AM »
I see that the book that triggered all this kerfuffle now has no rank. See? Amazon does pay attention sometimes.  ;D
   

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Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #20 on: July 16, 2017, 01:57:38 AM »
Am I the only one who has wondered if the author of this blog has been following the book in question? If not, how does he know what the book's rank has been before it shot up to no. 1? I am intrigued by that and would love to know.

There are a number of ways. The Movers & Shakers chart will only track rank changes in the last 24 hours or so, and only then if your book is below #400 in the rankings and one of the Top 100 improvers in sales rank.

But there are plenty of external sites which use the Amazon API to track rank over time.

One is Novelrank, which is fairly well known - not very accurate at tracking sales but good for tracking rank.

The other is KND's tracker, which is my preferred tool these days. It doesnt track all the international stores like Novelrank, but has some cool extra bells and whistles - like the ability to track books in groups. So I can, for example, stalk a bunch of books in my genre on one handy page, or all my own books, etc. It will show a book's ranking over time - giving the best and worst rank hit each month. It will show best/worst rank for each day over the last 30 days, and it will show best/worst rank for each hour of the last 24. Very useful indeed.

Everything on the internet leaves a trail.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 01:59:31 AM by dgaughran »

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Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #21 on: July 16, 2017, 02:00:54 AM »
I see that the book that triggered all this kerfuffle now has no rank. See? Amazon does pay attention sometimes.  ;D

I hope Amazon doesn't just take the easy PR solution here like with Angelin Sydney, and just strip the rank and leave it at that. There are other books which have pulled the same stunt, and obviously there is a much larger problem here which is going unaddressed.

Plus just stripping a book of its visibility going forward seems a pretty light punishment for a scam like this.

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Offline BellaJames

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #22 on: July 16, 2017, 02:10:33 AM »
Email jeff@amazon.com and ecr-kdp@amazon.com. Be polite. Enough of us do that, they'll either block all our emails or maybe do something. :)


This.


I emailed that first email address about the stuffed books with one story and gibberish in the back or the same sentence repeated over and over again. I added a couple authors names to my email and I got a reply and those books had disappeared within a few days.

I think if enough authors and frustrated readers email Jeff and his team, they will pay attention and hopefully take action.

I also want Youtube to remove the videos that are blatantly encourgaging people to scam and stuff their books. The ones telling people to copy info off the internet and publish it within a couple hour.



Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #23 on: July 16, 2017, 02:13:09 AM »
I understand the intent of this blog post, but it's inappropriate to publicly shame an author just because you think they've done something wrong.

This whole position is baffling. So if you see something wrong, you should never say it, just hope that the powers that be take care of it.

If Amazon do nothing then it either means your suspicions were wrong or they don't care..

Because Amazon is infallible?

It's their platform and you either put up with how they run it or walk away.

And Amazon cannot be questioned?

There's a word for this: authoritarianism.

If that's how you want to live your life, fine. But you get in a knot because someone else stands up? It really is a weird position to take.

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Offline TwistedTales

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #24 on: July 16, 2017, 02:17:48 AM »
This whole position is baffling. So if you see something wrong, you should never say it, just hope that the powers that be take care of it.

Because Amazon is infallible?

And Amazon cannot be questioned?

There's a word for this: authoritarianism.

If that's how you want to live your life, fine. But you get in a knot because someone else stands up? It really is a weird position to take.

Don't twist my words. Naming an author and accusing them of doing something you can't prove and then encouraging everyone to report them is inappropriate.

What is appropriate is reporting your suspicions to Amazon or addressing them directly with the author.

I'm not "in a knot", so please do not assume you know what I'm doing either.

I don't agree with this approach to resolving this issue. By all means take up your issues with Amazon. I do not agree with targeting someone (and inciting others to target someone) based on what you think is happening.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 02:19:42 AM by TwistedTales »