Author Topic: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall (MERGED)  (Read 18888 times)  

Offline AgnesWebb

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Yes, thank you to David and Phoenix for thoroughly researching and exposing this massive flaw in the system.
When I saw that "Broken People from God's Land" #1 in the Kindle store last week, I was SO freaking confused. Not only did it look terrible, but it had practically no reviews and an unrecognizable author. They have fully hacked and infiltrated Kindle Unlimited. It's really messed up.

Offline she-la-ti-da

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I think you misunderstood me. I'm not saying Amazon should do nothing. I'm reacting to Amazon's tendency to lash out indiscriminately.

I didn't mean to imply I thought you meant Amazon should do nothing, just pointing out that your example was different from what these folks are doing. Sorry for not being clearer.  :-[ The easiest way to determine if a book is a true "out of the blue" miracle or botted is to look at the sales, not downloads, and how many reviews it gets (because these click farms don't leave reviews -- likely because of the rule requiring $50 of purchases in the store.

I would agree that, if multiple criteria are met, as you suggest, the risk of hitting an innocent person goes down considerably. The only scenario that might still be a problem would be scammers targeting an innocent person's book to camouflage their activity. We know that happens to some extent. Aside from that, yes, if a book shows none of the usual attributes of a bestseller but keeps hitting a top rank, it's hard to deny something's up.

It is hard to deny, and that was something that got in my craw. David isn't one of those people who jumps on something with no evidence (not that I'm saying you said that, but it was implied in some other responses). People who've been around for a while should know that, or they could ask. I thought myself that I'd been targeted by one of these scammers in April. I kind of freaked out when the page reads started going up. But then I realized sales had shot up as well (it was stratospheric for me, not so much to anyone else  8)), so I think I just hit it at the right time with a new release.

The idea of restricting Select entry is brilliant. If a book had to demonstrate a little traction before entering the program (and KU), that would stop a lot of scams dead in their tracks. At the very least scammers would have to work harder to get the same result.

Exactly. They can't get a foothold in sales, because that would cost them a fortune, even at .99, but they can rake in the dough with a few thousand free KU accounts with fake addresses. So if it was harder to get into Select, that would eliminate the vast majority of the issue right there. And I don't think it would cost Amazon all that much. They could write bots to catch most of it (the repeated content, the bundles/box sets with the same books in different order, the books that aren't written very well). There would be a need for people to do spot checks and to look at things the bot caught but wasn't completely clear, but I'd bet it would be far cheaper than a click farm!

It sounds as if Amazon is already taking some steps regarding box sets, but I'm also on board with prohibiting them if necessary. That said, they are a nice way to offer a discount to someone who buys the whole series. What I'd advocate would be a virtual box set arrangement in which Amazon gives an author the ability to offer a lower price if a reader buys a certain combination of books (presumably in one order to avoid record-keeping complications). The principle would be similar to Matchbook or Whispersync. Authors could still offer a bargain, but there wouldn't be a separate box set in KU to potentially gum up the works. Also, the box set wouldn't become a product competing with the individual series titles, which seems as if it could be an advantage to me. I quite agree that a KU subscriber woudn't have to go through that much extra trouble to borrow the books individually.

From what I'm hearing, something was done with the cap on box sets recently. I also think there was some more thorough checking to make sure stuff was truly only in Select. It's a start, but not near enough. I like your idea about how we could still offer a deal to our readers. I hope Amazon looks into something like that.
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Online Lauriejoyeltahs

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I have noticed on the kindle app that all of the books I've read over the last two weeks too at some point and it will say page 988, then I turn the page and it says page 988 over and over. The most recent was a Robin Hobb book that showed a preview in the first book of a series for the last book, (I didn't understand why it wasn't for the next one but who am I.) Another was an indie epic fantasy just over 700 kindle pages and it had previews for five or six books in a different series. ( this also surprised me because this book was only recently added to KU but I guess they've picked up on the page payout t thing already except they didn't count or at least I think they didn't since the page numbers stopped and said the same page over and over.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2017, 03:22:25 PM by Lauriejoyeltahs »

Online Bill Hiatt

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I have noticed on the kindle app that all of the books I've read over the last two weeks too at some point and it will say page 988, then I turn the page and it says page 988 over and over. The most recent was a Robin Hobb book that showed a preview in the first book of a series for the last book, (I didn't understand why it wasn't for the next one but who am I.) Another was an indie epic fantasy just over 700 kindle pages and it had previews for five or six books in a different series. ( this also surprised me because this book was only recently added to KU but I guess they've picked up on the page layout thing already except they didn't count or at least I think they didn't since the page numbers stopped and said the same page over and over.
Interesting! I can see why someone would want to have an excerpt of the next book at the end of the previous one. Trad-pubbed paperbacks have done that for a long time. However, it really doesn't make sense to count that kind of backmatter as part of the KENP total. It does sound as if Amazon is at least doing something.


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Online Sam Rivers

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How scaming works
« Reply #104 on: July 17, 2017, 04:46:37 PM »
This article tells how the scamming works.  I found it interesting so I thought I would pass it on to you.

https://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/amazon-encourages-indie-authors-to-be-shady

Offline StephenBrennan

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Re: How scaming works
« Reply #105 on: July 17, 2017, 04:53:35 PM »
Don't click on it! It's a scam!  :o

Offline martyns

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Re: How scaming works
« Reply #106 on: July 18, 2017, 12:56:52 AM »
Don't click on it! It's a scam!  :o

Really? What makes you think it's a scam? I was going to click on it... Now I kind of don't want to.


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Offline dgaughran

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Good Ereader is not a reliable source. I didn't even click on it - please refrain from doing so either. Don't quote them, don't link to them, they are garbage.

They write misogynistic trash which smears all indies with braindead generalities. And they make huge dough from it - the site owner sold the company for a big wedge last year.

Don't give them any more clicks.

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Offline Mylius Fox

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Good Ereader is not a reliable source. I didn't even click on it - please refrain from doing so either. Don't quote them, don't link to them, they are garbage.

They write misogynistic trash which smears all indies with braindead generalities. And they make huge dough from it - the site owner sold the company for a big wedge last year.

Don't give them any more clicks.

Cool, our very own fake news.  8)

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Offline berkenstock

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Good Ereader is not a reliable source. I didn't even click on it - please refrain from doing so either. Don't quote them, don't link to them, they are garbage.

They write misogynistic trash which smears all indies with braindead generalities. And they make huge dough from it - the site owner sold the company for a big wedge last year.

Don't give them any more clicks.

I did, out of curiosity. :( But I quickly backed out at their implication was that all indies were scammers.

Online Perry Constantine

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Offline CLStone

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I did, out of curiosity. :( But I quickly backed out at their implication was that all indies were scammers.

How dare we write great books and offer them at lower prices and keep low overhead! :p

Granted though the reputation for indie being scammy can end up being like people who think all 'work at home jobs' are scams. There are a lot of scams, a lot of people who are merely ignorant and try some dumb things, and then you have the small, genuine group trying their best and are too busy working their tails off.

But I used to do what dgaughran has been up to, following a few questionable people who seem to be going under the radar and pointing out the issues, only I was doing it in the work at home job world.

But I've had to do my fair share of the opposite, too, when someone was innocent but a mob mentality broke out, no research to base it from but everyone was angry. I'd have to dig in, figure out the mess and sort out what was going on.

It's good to be careful and ask questions and to presume innocence. When I used to teach a class how to spot scammers, I ended up making a list of what were warning signs and red flags. Warnings were things like no website, just an email address, or no internet history at all. Red flags were things that were definitely not okay, like charging a fee to turn in an application, or like here in the publishing world, an ebook filled with repeat paragraphs and links to the back of the book, etc.

Teach people how to spot scams, and you get fewer people just pointing fingers randomly, which I think is what the biggest concern. No one wants a KU filled with scammers, but no one also wants to get the boot when they had a good, random week and are suddenly questioned by Amazon when someone gets a jealous streak and starts pointing fingers. 

You could say if they are innocent that Amazon would be okay with it, but we know how long it takes for Amazon to get to some things, and if you were an innocent who had a random lucky streak and suddenly get ranking on pause while they look into it, you lose that streak. It still hurts innocent authors, so I feel it is better to teach exactly what to look for, and at what point you should get in touch with Amazon about it.

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Offline Desmond X. Torres

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FWIW, I think their site's down.
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Got this email from Amazon ECR following the email I sent late last week:

Quote
Thanks for taking the time to contact us.  We take any manipulation of our programs and services very seriously and have forwarded your concerns to the appropriate team for investigation. Although we cant disclose the outcome of the investigation, and corrective actions are not always visible to the public, we appreciate your feedback. Along with our ongoing investigations, well continue to dig into any example you provide to us.

Nothing new to other folks' responses, but someone's reading the emails.

Online PhoenixS

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Got this email from Amazon ECR following the email I sent late last week:

Nothing new to other folks' responses, but someone's reading the emails.

Total boilerplate response, though. I've got a stack of those piled up with that exact verbiage. :(
  (click to enbiggen)

Online Perry Constantine

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Total boilerplate response, though. I've got a stack of those piled up with that exact verbiage. :(

Yup, I got the exact same email. Exact same wording.

Offline dgaughran

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Same boilerplate email - in response to a report they asked me to compile. I offered them a whole pile of info. They didn't want it.

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Offline Phxsundog

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Scammers have Amazon by the tail so long as clickbots run on legit books. Not just who ordered them. Amazon can't tell the difference. Neither can anyone else.

Offline jckang

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #118 on: July 19, 2017, 04:43:43 AM »
I genuinely appreciate this concern. However, let me try and reassure you: as I noted in the comments of my own post, I didn't post all of the evidence in my possession for various reasons. I have offered that to Amazon of course, we'll see if they bother replying this time. (I don't want scammers to know the exact ways in which I determine clickfarmed books or how I find their books. I gave a broad overview of some of the means in my post so that people could see what I was talking about, but I don't want to give scammers a list of what to avoid, or a template on how to do it in a more invisible way either.)


Is this also true of the book that you mention hitting #1 two Sundays ago? The author went onto Facebook and categorically denied all wrongdoing, but I'm still quite skeptical.


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Offline jcalloway

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I got the same email.

Amazon is willing to act when bots swarm AMS ads. They reimburse authors for false clicks without hesitation. I assume they are also active behind the scenes, swatting the bots and fortifying their security to ensure the ads aren't abused.

And yet, after well over a year, authors and readers are still receiving the same copy+paste responses to complaints about the bots/clickfarms/scam books. The difference, I suppose, is that the AMS bots have the potential to impact Amazon's bottomline, if authors stop using the ads.

But when its our bottomline, they send form replies. Great. Nothing new, then.


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Philippa Gregory is ranked at 6 thousand something in the entire UK store but doesn't have a single review. That could well look dodgy if she were not a famous, trad published author.

Just proof that we shouldn't jump to conclusions.


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Philippa Gregory is ranked at 6 thousand something in the entire UK store but doesn't have a single review. That could well look dodgy if she were not a famous, trad published author.

Just proof that we shouldn't jump to conclusions.

Dave's not just using current rank as an indicator here. In his post, he talked about how he could find no presence of this book on book promotion sites and how it's over eight months old and has always had a pretty low rank until this happened. The author isn't well-known and when asked how he achieved such a high rank, he coyly responded that he has "friends in high places."

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Fwiw, the author posted the following statement on FB regarding the issue. The photo is pretty damning evidence.

https://www.facebook.com/talesofashkar/photos/a.768331256598272.1073741828.597605267004206/1359890214109037/?type=3&theater

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Offline zzz

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Fwiw, the author posted the following statement on FB regarding the issue. The photo is pretty damning evidence.

https://www.facebook.com/talesofashkar/photos/a.768331256598272.1073741828.597605267004206/1359890214109037/?type=3&theater


Very illuminating. I wonder why the click farm didn't bother to "read" a few hundred of those borrows and at least let the guy make back some of his investment.

Offline Tilly

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Fwiw, the author posted the following statement on FB regarding the issue. The photo is pretty damning evidence.

He admits he paid a "marketing" company (who apparently have now vanished without a trace) and maintains he had no idea how they generated their results to catapult him to #1? He is also trying to cast shade by claiming he can name others who do the exact same thing. Colour me sceptical...