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Stone and Silt
by Harvey Chute

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Big Al's Books & Pals 2014 Readers' Choice Awards: Young Adult Nominee

A ruthless murder and a stolen shipment of gold.

At school, sixteen-year-old Nikaia Wales endures the taunts of bullies who call her a “half-breed.” At home, she worries about how her family will react if she reveals her growing feelings for the quiet boy next door.

Those are soon the least of her troubles. Nikaia discovers a hidden cache of gold, and when police find a corpse nearby, her father becomes a suspect. Worse, Elias Doyle is circling, hungry to avenge his brother’s death.

Nikaia desperately searches for clues to save her father. In her quest to find the killer, she learns about the power of family, friendship, and young love....

Author Topic: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall (MERGED)  (Read 74038 times)  

Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #25 on: July 16, 2017, 02:22:00 AM »
Well, Amazon has now acted which would make you... wrong.

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Offline BellaJames

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #26 on: July 16, 2017, 02:24:11 AM »
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?

Money makes life easier. Being an ethical, honest, creative smart-working author takes too much effort. They have found a short cut and it's a lot easier than the road you guys are taking.

It's all about making quick cash and moving on to another scam. The ones on Youtube bragging about how much they are making or the ones on forums admitting that they stuff their books, buy reviews or miscatergorize on purpose, are not in this for a long term career.

Needing money can make people do almost anything. These people can create a bunch of trash and use systems to sell more books, get more reviews easily and make a pile of money then run. Does Amazon take action later down the line or do they just get away with a pile of cash.

Then they pop up on Youtube with their trashy courses and attract more people who want to make money easily. These people follow this bad advice without thinking about what they are getting into and how it's affecting other people (authors and readers). I've seen the comments where people think these guys are so clever. 

« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 03:22:56 AM by BellaJames »

Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #27 on: July 16, 2017, 02:24:45 AM »
What is appropriate is reporting your suspicions to Amazon...

You missed the part where I did that multiple times over an 18-month period and Amazon refused to act while the problem got so bad that scammers could put books at #1 in the store at will?

...or addressing them directly with the author.

Because scammers usually respond to a polite request to cease scamming?

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Offline TwistedTales

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #28 on: July 16, 2017, 02:25:26 AM »
Well, Amazon has now acted which would make you... wrong.

And there you go making assumptions again. You don't know what they've done or why. All you see is a rank has disappeared...for now. Who knows why or what will happen next.

Regardless of any apparent action by Amazon you are still attacking (and encouraging others to attack) authors based on what you think they're doing.

We will never agree.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #29 on: July 16, 2017, 02:29:21 AM »
I want to publicly thank David and Phoenix (and probably others I don't know about) for all the work they put into this.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #30 on: July 16, 2017, 02:42:02 AM »
Don't Amazon still have that automated response letter citing "systematically generated accounts to manipulate rankings" to ping the scammers with? I recall there's no warnings, they just move to terminating accounts immediately. Apparently some legit authors got caught in that net. Consider the theory that the clickfarms promote innocent authors as well to disguise themselves.

Although the recent author with the #1 book gave his response on twitter, and it was pretty damning.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #31 on: July 16, 2017, 02:53:00 AM »
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.

We don't know what else may be going on behind the scenes. The rank-stripping is highly visible, but we don't know whether the author was also creaming off pages read illegally or not. If it was just rank manipulation, then rank stripping is a proportionate response, in my view.

I don't think there's a lot of point in closing down accounts in cases like this, because it's easy enough to set up a new account and Amazon ends up playing whack-a-mole. I do wish, though, that they'd act more decisively against ALL these rank-bot authors, instead of just the one or two that break out into an internet orgy of outrage. The other one that was mentioned in the original thread (which we're not allowed to identify as per forum rules) is still #37 in the store.
   

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #32 on: July 16, 2017, 03:02:02 AM »
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.
Especially true when legitimate authors have been caught up in the scam and had their accounts banned and their royalties withheld.


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Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #33 on: July 16, 2017, 03:34:15 AM »
I do not agree with targeting someone (and inciting others to target someone) based on what you think is happening.

I didn't target anyone. I described what was happening and suggested that people take action in the form of complaining to Amazon and educating their readers.

Also, in the comments I specifically asked people not to use the review system to vent their anger and instead to respectfully make their points to Amazon.

But to you that's "targeting someone" and "inciting" - yeah. Okay. Whatever.

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Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #34 on: July 16, 2017, 03:37:59 AM »
Here is exactly what I said. So inciting...

Quote
I also don't think using reviews for this purpose is prudent.

By all means make your point to Amazon forcefully, but do so respectfully, and leave the review system for readers. If you are a reader who has purchased or borrowed this title because you saw it in the charts then feel free to share your thoughts, but I would suggest keeping your complaints pointed at Amazon here.


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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #35 on: July 16, 2017, 03:41:44 AM »
Here is exactly what I said. So inciting...


I agree. The review system is messed up as it is without making it worse. As to inciting, well if you hadn't blogged about this book, he would likely have come here complaining that his rank had disappeared like a couple of other people. When they do that, I'm not sure they realise what they've done wrong. There was a comment on your blog asking why it was any different to all the other methods.


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Offline dgaughran

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #36 on: July 16, 2017, 03:44:04 AM »
And there you go making assumptions again. You don't know what they've done or why. All you see is a rank has disappeared...for now. Who knows why or what will happen next.

Right, because Amazon is in the business of stripping ranks for no reason? Remember this is exactly what happened to Angelin Sydney after she used a clickfarm to put 14 books simultaneously in the Canadian Top 40.

But maybe I'm making assumptions. Maybe I'm actually living in the 23rd century and my eyeballs are actually tiny little video screens which are projecting these manufactured images and none of this actually happened. Maybe I'm a giant cockroach living in a post-apocalyptic version of Humberside that has somehow developed consciousness and is currently tripping off radioactive moss. Maybe I'm a 12th century shaman in pre-colonial Peru who is on a vision quest.

Nobody knows for sure.
« Last Edit: July 16, 2017, 03:45:47 AM by dgaughran »

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #37 on: July 16, 2017, 03:48:25 AM »
David, Twistedtales, you've made your points on both sides. Let's not turn this into a personal argument between the two of you.

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Offline MonkeyScribe

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #38 on: July 16, 2017, 03:52:54 AM »
I'm really uncomfortable with people leaving drive by reviews, both for the internet mob mentality (which often destroys innocent people), and because as others have said, this is taking community problems and pushing them into a space that should be for readers to evaluate books.

Having said that, reporting books using scam tactics to Amazon/KDP reps is highly appropriate. When multiple people are reporting something, you'd think KDP would want to take advantage of other people's free labor, at least in the initial investigation stage.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #39 on: July 16, 2017, 03:57:07 AM »
I'm actually not comfortable with it either. Aside from everything you said (which I fully agree with), I think it's important to keep the focus on Amazon here. This guy is just one guy, but there is a bigger problem to solve. I tried to frame the article about the overall problem, but obviously had to lead with the headline news about someone grabbing the #1 spot while people could still see it for themselves. If you look at the article he only takes up a portion of it and the lion's share is actually about the overall problem and Amazon's response.

As soon as I saw people were leaving one-stars on the guy's book I commented on my blog advising that was inappropriate. And I quite deliberately made Amazon the focus of the "suggested actions" at the end of the piece.

But no matter how careful you are it's not going to stop some people from leaving one-star reviews. I'm sure they will argue their case, but it's not something I personally want to encourage.

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Offline MissingAlaska

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #40 on: July 16, 2017, 04:02:27 AM »
As far as pointing out individual books, we should remember that click farms might target legitimate books as a way of covering their tracks. This could happen to any of us (which is quite frightening).

This is a particularly thorny problem to weed out from a legal perspective. Amazon must be able to prove that not only did a click-farm increase a book's ranking -- but that the author of that book arranged for that to occur. Without hard evidence, they run the risk of accusing innocent authors targeted by spammers.

Sadly, this doesn't bode well for Kindle Unlimited. It's only a matter of time until legitimate authors finally leave - and readers with them. As a prawn, I have gained both exposure and readers - but it might finally be time to go wide.

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Offline PaulineMRoss

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #41 on: July 16, 2017, 04:04:35 AM »
Having said that, reporting books using scam tactics to Amazon/KDP reps is highly appropriate. When multiple people are reporting something, you'd think KDP would want to take advantage of other people's free labor, at least in the initial investigation stage.

Unfortunately, simply reporting these cases to Amazon, even when multiple people do it, seems to have no effect. It seems as if they only respond quickly when there's widespread public outrage about a particular case. The other less well-publicised example mentioned in the other thread is still ranked #42 in the store.
   

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #42 on: July 16, 2017, 04:12:47 AM »
Unfortunately, simply reporting these cases to Amazon, even when multiple people do it, seems to have no effect. It seems as if they only respond quickly when there's widespread public outrage about a particular case. The other less well-publicised example mentioned in the other thread is still ranked #42 in the store.

I know, it's super frustrating, and ironically, this guy is far from the worst offender. He's just someone who got greedy at the wrong time, right when irritation because of KU's lowered payment had people ready to act. It's like spraying a little air freshener in an outhouse. It's barely covers the stench, and any effect will be gone in five minutes.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #43 on: July 16, 2017, 04:21:57 AM »
As far as pointing out individual books, we should remember that click farms might target legitimate books as a way of covering their tracks. This could happen to any of us (which is quite frightening).

This is extremely important to remember which is why going after the authors who use them shouldn't be the only solution. Fiverr should not be allowing these sellers on their platform.

Regarding the targeted author, when asked how he got to number 1 he said on twitter "I have friends in high places", sort of a coy response that implies he knows how it happened. If he was innocent he would be saying he has no idea, he's stumped.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #44 on: July 16, 2017, 04:24:42 AM »
Quote
Maybe I'm a giant cockroach living in a post-apocalyptic version of Humberside that has somehow developed consciousness and is currently tripping off radioactive moss.

Hm. There's a story in there somewhere.

Being stripped of rank is a start, but it does nothing to stopping people from collecting money via click-farmed page "reads". Until they stop the money, Amazon is behind the game. How they go about that is up to them, but I suspect it's going to take vetting every entry into Select, which is what they should have done from the beginning. None of this would likely have occurred if they'd simple been more select in allowing stuff into Select. But, it would take more than a simple program which would cost money (and no, third world country employees wouldn't have worked, it would have to be American-based trained people to spot the less-obvious scams).
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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #45 on: July 16, 2017, 04:41:13 AM »
Regarding the targeted author, when asked how he got to number 1 he said on twitter "I have friends in high places", sort of a coy response that implies he knows how it happened. If he was innocent he would be saying he has no idea, he's stumped.

I loved some of the responses.  One was something like "So you hired a click farm in Nepal?"

On a side note, I was trying to figure out the logistics of how to make a click farm profitable.  I went to Kindlepreneur to see how many books you would need to sell to hit #1.  It was over 6700 a day.  That means the click farm has put up $67,000.  Amazon probably doesn't care, because that's a lot of $$$.  Though I guess it is possible that the click farm creates 6700 new accounts a month, each with a credit card, for the free KU trial.


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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #46 on: July 16, 2017, 04:50:17 AM »
I loved some of the responses.  One was something like "So you hired a click farm in Nepal?"

On a side note, I was trying to figure out the logistics of how to make a click farm profitable.  I went to Kindlepreneur to see how many books you would need to sell to hit #1.  It was over 6700 a day.  That means the click farm has put up $67,000.  Amazon probably doesn't care, because that's a lot of $$$.  Though I guess it is possible that the click farm creates 6700 new accounts a month, each with a credit card, for the free KU trial.

You don't need to sell *any* if a book is in KU. Borrows equal sales. You only need a lot of clickfarm-owned KU subscriptions. There was an article about a guy who was auto-generating KU accounts with auto-generated email addresses. Don't tell me these people aren't smart. As my grandmother used to say "Now if they only put that brainpower towards honest work..."

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #47 on: July 16, 2017, 04:54:11 AM »
I'm in a small FB author group with the other book mentioned in David's article. From his past posts, I would not characterize him as someone who wants to make a quick buck by writing junk. Whether it is or not, he genuinely believes he has a good product. 

When he posted about hitting #1 last Sunday, I was very quick to skepticism. I went rooting around to see if he got a Bookbub, or what other promotion services he used-- The only thing I found was a sketchy website which listed popular items on Amazon (not just books).  He also did do some release promos at the start of June.  Though I didn't publicly accuse him of gaming the system, I did share my suspicions with some of my friends in that group.

After some thought, though, I wonder if there was any malicious intent.  It could be that he (and maybe the main subject of David's post) might have commissioned a service he thought was a legitimate promotion. 

It doesn't make it any less wrong, of course.  I'll be watching over the next couple of days to see if and how he responds to accusation.


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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #48 on: July 16, 2017, 05:00:00 AM »
I'm in a small FB author group with the other book mentioned in David's article. From his past posts, I would not characterize him as someone who wants to make a quick buck by writing junk. Whether it is or not, he genuinely believes he has a good product. 

When he posted about hitting #1 last Sunday, I was very quick to skepticism. I went rooting around to see if he got a Bookbub, or what other promotion services he used-- The only thing I found was a sketchy website which listed popular items on Amazon (not just books).  He also did do some release promos at the start of June.  Though I didn't publicly accuse him of gaming the system, I did share my suspicions with some of my friends in that group.

After some thought, though, I wonder if there was any malicious intent.  It could be that he (and maybe the main subject of David's post) might have commissioned a service he thought was a legitimate promotion. 

It doesn't make it any less wrong, of course.  I'll be watching over the next couple of days to see if and how he responds to accusation.


In order to get to number one in the entire store he would have been purchasing the scammers deluxe package which would have set him back some serious cash. I think he knew was he was paying for.

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Re: Scammers Breaking The Kindle Store : Skyrocketing to #1 Overall
« Reply #49 on: July 16, 2017, 05:25:40 AM »
You don't need to sell *any* if a book is in KU. Borrows equal sales. You only need a lot of clickfarm-owned KU subscriptions. There was an article about a guy who was auto-generating KU accounts with auto-generated email addresses. Don't tell me these people aren't smart. As my grandmother used to say "Now if they only put that brainpower towards honest work..."

Right, when I said sales, I meant "sales and downloads."   I have no doubt these people are smart.


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