Author Topic: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo  (Read 31834 times)  

Online Seneca42

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2017, 08:35:48 AM »
The trigger seems to be the fact that, through our successful promotion, we jumped way up in the store rankings in a single day, peaking at #97 in the US Amazon store.  That's it.  It isn't a mistake nor some short term wackiness on Amazon's system.  It is quite deliberate.

well, it's not just that (I'd be shocked if the rank jump caused this). Lots of books go high off a bub. I went to #77. The vast majority (90%+) break the top 100.

I'm not saying you did anything wrong. But there's no way simple rank alone caused this. Again, not saying you did anything wrong, but skynet clearly acted on something (even if it's something nuts associated with a glitch of some sort).


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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2017, 08:48:01 AM »
Am I reading it right that the book came out on March 5th but has no reviews?

Offline ChristinaGarner

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #27 on: October 20, 2017, 08:49:21 AM »
First, I just want to say that I don't think OP did anything wrong. I think this is more likely a glitch or one of the nefarious services out there decided to run their box in an effort to look legit.

However, the idea that a nefarious promoter will not violate TOS on a paid book is absurd, and in fact has been done A LOT with box sets in order to list.

There were three popular methods:

1) Give X promoter $300 and they'd buy 250 copies of your 99-cent ebook through their scam accounts and pocket the rest. You'd get a boost in rank and visibility.

2) "Buyers circles." People on this board actually used them for Nook and organized them out in the open. They'd get 50 people and each person would promise to buy one copy of each of the others books--so for 48.91 they'd get 50 sales if everyone followed through. People did it more on the down low with Amazon books, but it violates Nook, iBooks, and Kobo TOS as well.

3) Incentivized sales through a promoter who would use methods where they'd say, "Buy this and send me the receipt and you'll be entered to win (insert Amazon gift cards / Trad pubbed paperbacks / etc.)"



You're 100% on target here. I'd also add the tactic of using Amazon giveaways. Creating dozens - sometimes hundreds - of one entry/one winner giveaways guarantees the sales, and if the prize is claimed that day it counts toward rank as well.

Reiterating the point above that I don't think the OP engaged in this behavior, just agreeing with C's point that a promotor can easily use nefarious means to promote books that aren't free and still turn a profit.


Offline Jnassise

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #28 on: October 20, 2017, 08:52:12 AM »
Am I reading it right that the book came out on March 5th but has no reviews?

Yes, that's right.  We created it for a Bookbub deal and it took months to get the deal. We didn't promote to any of the fans of the series (now 8 books deep) and didn't ask for reviews. So, no reviews.

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Offline ChristinaGarner

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #29 on: October 20, 2017, 08:52:44 AM »
Am I reading it right that the book came out on March 5th but has no reviews?

That's what I'm seeing, and does make me wonder if that triggered something within Amazon. Shooting up the charts with no reviews has been a hallmark of botted books, and it wouldn't surprise me that if Amazon has created a check against botting, they'd include that as a trigger for further action.


Offline Jnassise

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #30 on: October 20, 2017, 08:55:41 AM »
well, it's not just that (I'd be shocked if the rank jump caused this). Lots of books go high off a bub. I went to #77. The vast majority (90%+) break the top 100.


Yep and in the past month there are more than twenty instances that I know of where authors have been penalized for breaking that top 100.

You have your opinion. I have mine.  I know what we did to promote the book and the fact remains that all we did was run a Bookbub featured deal.

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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #31 on: October 20, 2017, 08:55:58 AM »
How is it breaking TOS? The book is paid, someone paid to get it, done.

I don't see how buying a product, or even paying people to buy your product, violates the TOS.

Um ... this has been discussed many times on the board before and I'm not gonna go in and find the exact lines. But yeah, it violates TOS. Go look back at the posts by the lovely Bards N' Sages, she's highlighted the deets aplenty.


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Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #32 on: October 20, 2017, 08:58:37 AM »
Yep and in the past month there are more than twenty instances that I know of where authors have been penalized for breaking that top 100.

You have your opinion. I have mine.  I know what we did to promote the book and the fact remains that all we did was run a Bookbub featured deal.


Christina DID NOT accusing you of doing anything wrong. She suggested that may have been a trigger. I have a box set that's been out for months that doesn't have any reviews either, like you created specifically to get a 'Bub. I just haven't gotten that 'Bub yet!

I'm really hoping this turns out to be a technical glitch and this will be sorted by noon.


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Offline Jnassise

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #33 on: October 20, 2017, 09:00:07 AM »
Christina DID NOT accusing you of doing anything wrong.

I know that. I didn't think that she had accused me of anything.  My comment - "you have your opinion, I have mine" was directed at Seneca's comment that there was no way simple rank could have caused this issue. I think it could have. That's all.

Edited to add - I can see how you might arrive at that conclusion though. Apologies for the lack of clarity in my post.
« Last Edit: October 20, 2017, 09:19:40 AM by Jnassise »

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Offline ChristinaGarner

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #34 on: October 20, 2017, 09:07:26 AM »
I know that. I didn't think that she had accused me of anything.  My comment - "you have your opinion, I have mine" was directed at her comment that there was no way simple rank could have caused this issue. I think it could have. That's all.

Edited to add - I can see how you might arrive at that conclusion though. Apologies for the lack of clarity in my post.


Just pointing out that the comment about having an opinion was quoting Seneca not me. (But thanks for having my back, C!)

I'm sorry this happened to you guys.


Offline Annie B

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #35 on: October 20, 2017, 09:50:10 AM »
The bundle's normal price is 7.99 and we didn't promote it at all since it was created pretty much to get a Bookbub feature when we were able to, so that's why no reviews. I have a feeling no reviews might have helped trigger the Amazon spam catcher or whatever happened, but if that's the case, people should be double worried imo because know what kind of books with no reviews hit high? Books by people who sell well and have just launched. If new releases hitting top 100 could trigger this (haven't seen it yet, but this is first time I've heard of a rank stripped from a Bookbub .99 promo too, always a first for everything I guess)... that's really bad news.

I am hoping that Bookbub will be looking into this from their end, too. :(  It defeats the entire purpose of running a feature if this is a real possibility of happening.

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #36 on: October 20, 2017, 10:01:27 AM »
Given a paid book can't be botted, this leaves three possibilities:

1) A glitch - skynet accidentally interpreted the book as free, rather than paid, and deranked it because of volume. I find this very unlikely. 
2) something else was wrong with the book/authors - fake reviews, past botting, etc. (the bub merely triggered attention and inspection of the book and the derank is based on other actions in the past) (op, not saying you did anything, just laying out the possibilities).
3) Zon is going after bub

If it's #3, that's good news in that it says zon is nowhere near as strong as we think they are. It would explain, in part, the KU rank bump, which creates the illusion KU books are outselling other books, when in reality they are not (not even close). It also means bub feels either threatened enough or strong enough to push back again zon's monopoly (as they have been doing by favoring wide).

I can tell you kobo has a new "bookbub promo" that they are offering in their promo tab. It's just a ppc ad in the bub email blast, but authors don't pay the ppc, kobo does I guess (authors pay their standard 10% of a sale).  I suspect Kobo is working more closely with bub now.

Something is going on; the sands are shifting under our feet. Should be fun time ahead.

Bold highlight is mine. I have to put this out there, because it's been bugging me since it happened. Last month, I had a FREE promo of a book via BB. It did very well, as I expected, and generated enough free downloads to hit the top 10 in the free store. This was a FREE book, mind you.  Well, I was shocked to see that the free downloads apparently factored into the Author Rank and boosted me into the top 25 for historical romance. It was definitely the free downloads that did it, because sell through did not change significantly on my paid books until about 2-3 days after the BB, and even then, it was a gradual increase that still would not account for enough hourly sales to bump my Author Rank that high. My Author Rank shot up on the day of the BB and the day after.

At the time, I thought it was weird, since on the Author Rank page it clearly states that only PAID sales count towards rank, and in the past, thousands of downloads of free books haven't sever affected it. After hearing all these stories, it makes me wonder what the heck is going on with rank/sales tracking and how it is being triggered.  I am 100% certain that it was the free downloads that bumped me up in Author Rank -- which is crazy, since FREE downloads are not supposed to have anything to do with that. If that tabulation method is screwed up, I can only imagine what else is being reported for other situations.

** Also weird, on two days past the BB, my Author Rank disappeared for two days, then reappeared - yet it never showed the highest rank of 24. Author Rank is supposed to display the best ranking for the reported day. I'd think I was seeing things if I had not taken screenshots.

Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #37 on: October 20, 2017, 10:10:43 AM »
Jnassie and Christina -- I'm glad we're all on the same page.

Jnassie let me just say again that I am so sorry that this happened to you. I hope it turns out to be a glitch and is fixed soon.


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Online Seneca42

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #38 on: October 20, 2017, 10:15:35 AM »
I am 100% certain that it was the free downloads that bumped me up in Author Rank -- which is crazy, since FREE downloads are not supposed to have anything to do with that. If that tabulation method is screwed up, I can only imagine what else is being reported for other situations.

 8) 

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #39 on: October 20, 2017, 10:33:29 AM »
My opinion is that someone is doing something super fishy behind the scenes. I just don't think it's the people involved in this box set. Rather, others using it as a smoke screen to cover their own bad behavior.

Offline Atlantisatheart

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #40 on: October 20, 2017, 10:36:22 AM »
My opinion is that someone is doing something super fishy behind the scenes. I just don't think it's the people involved in this box set. Rather, others using it as a smoke screen to cover their own bad behavior.

Why pick on a paid book? I said it before on the last thread and called it a conspiracy theory, but I'll say it again without that tag - It's amazon trying to destroy other ad sites.

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #41 on: October 20, 2017, 10:38:15 AM »
It's terrible that things such as this can happen. I thought the problem was confined to books in KU and to free promotions. That would be bad enough, but it now appears no one is safe.

Amazon desperately needs to be some people on this and stop relying so heavily on bots. The whole situation illustrates the dilemma of trying to beat scammers mostly by automated means. It simply can't be done. Either a lot of scammers keep on scammer with impunity, or innocent authors get caught in the anti-scam measures--or, as seems to be the case now, both things happen at the same time.

I'm reasonably confident that Amazon isn't specifically trying to attack Bookbub somehow. I think that mostly because Bookbub really might sue over something like that, since it could conceivably threaten its entire business. Yes, there are other markets, but Amazon is by far the biggest. How many people would stand in line for a Bookbub that, if it were successful, would get the author in trouble with Amazon?

Amazon would be foolish to risk a suit because the bad PR that would come out of it would be horrendous. If nothing else, it would expose how broken Amazon's bot-driven system is. Amazon would be subpoenaed for all kinds of documents I'm sure it wouldn't want to make public.

Frankly, it might be less expensive (and certainly less damaging in the long run) for Amazon to buy Bookbub. Unlikely? Yes, but stranger things have happened.



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Offline Atlantisatheart

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #42 on: October 20, 2017, 10:44:54 AM »
It's terrible that things such as this can happen. I thought the problem was confined to books in KU and to free promotions. That would be bad enough, but it now appears no one is safe.

Amazon desperately needs to be some people on this and stop relying so heavily on bots. The whole situation illustrates the dilemma of trying to beat scammers mostly by automated means. It simply can't be done. Either a lot of scammers keep on scammer with impunity, or innocent authors get caught in the anti-scam measures--or, as seems to be the case now, both things happen at the same time.

I'm reasonably confident that Amazon isn't specifically trying to attack Bookbub somehow. I think that mostly because Bookbub really might sue over something like that, since it could conceivably threaten its entire business. Yes, there are other markets, but Amazon is by far the biggest. How many people would stand in line for a Bookbub that, if it were successful, would get the author in trouble with Amazon?

Amazon would be foolish to risk a suit because the bad PR that would come out of it would be horrendous. If nothing else, it would expose how broken Amazon's bot-driven system is. Amazon would be subpoenaed for all kinds of documents I'm sure it wouldn't want to make public.

Frankly, it might be less expensive (and certainly less damaging in the long run) for Amazon to buy Bookbub. Unlikely? Yes, but stranger things have happened.

They'll pay a lot less for it if they weaken it first. Let's be honest, bookbub has thumbed its nose ay amazon authors and amazon aren't going to like that bookbub favour other stores. It helps to take sales from amazon.

Are bookbub big enough to take amazon to court, especially if they start losing author money? I think not. Cheaper to sell, or do what amazon wants.

Offline C. Gockel

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #43 on: October 20, 2017, 10:45:17 AM »
OP ~ have they verified that this is a matter of suspicious sales?


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Offline ChristinaGarner

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #44 on: October 20, 2017, 10:47:33 AM »
Amazon desperately needs to be some people on this and stop relying so heavily on bots. The whole situation illustrates the dilemma of trying to beat scammers mostly by automated means. It simply can't be done. Either a lot of scammers keep on scammer with impunity, or innocent authors get caught in the anti-scam measures--or, as seems to be the case now, both things happen at the same time.

I'm reasonably confident that Amazon isn't specifically trying to attack Bookbub somehow. I think that mostly because Bookbub really might sue over something like that, since it could conceivably threaten its entire business. Yes, there are other markets, but Amazon is by far the biggest. How many people would stand in line for a Bookbub that, if it were successful, would get the author in trouble with Amazon?


I'm in agreement. To MonkeyScribe's point above, I think that could explain some (perhaps a good bit) of what's been going on. But some of the most recent incidences of rank stripping--this one included--smacks more to me of a ham-fisted, software-driven approach by Amazon at catching scammers.

I get having an algo that triggers a review. I do not get having a computer make the final decisions given the nuances involved and the far-reaching effect those decisions have.


Offline Going Incognito

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #45 on: October 20, 2017, 10:48:09 AM »
I'm really glad I'm wide. Even without Amazon, Bookbubs are great. I already stopped using AMS, and now I'll pause all Facebook, Bookbub, and other ads leading to Amazon until they stop being ridiculous.


Until Amazon stops being ridiculous? You may be in for a long wait.

Offline Bards and Sages (Julie)

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #46 on: October 20, 2017, 10:48:52 AM »
How is it breaking TOS? The book is paid, someone paid to get it, done.

I don't see how buying a product, or even paying people to buy your product, violates the TOS.

Any attempt to manipulate Amazon's algorithms is a violation of the TOS.

Legitimate advertising is about generating PROFIT. If the purpose of the promotion is to instead generate a faux spike in your sales rank and artificially manipulate the ranks, then it is a violation.

Amazon cares because artificial manipulation of their algorithms  p*ss es in the pool everyone used. By generating those faux sales, you mess up the entire system, which is dependent on accurate data concerning consumer interests. Algorithms assume sales are based on genuine interest and then extrapolate from there. If the data being imputed is corrupted, it pushed out corrupted data.

So if you pay someone $300 to generate 250 faux sales, yes, Amazon got paid. But it also ended up with 250 bad data points that the software thinks were legitimate interest. That information cascades through the entire system and messes up also-boughts and recommendations to others.

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Online Seneca42

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #47 on: October 20, 2017, 10:51:57 AM »
Why pick on a paid book? I said it before on the last thread and called it a conspiracy theory, but I'll say it again without that tag - It's amazon trying to destroy other ad sites.

It wouldn't be expensive to apply bots against a paid book at 99c. I mean, if the authors making six figures start going after each other (which I've always thought will happen at some point), a few hundred bucks to put someone in the dog house with zon is no big deal.

additionally, it would be a very smart way of legitimizing the bot accounts (a little more expensive, but heck, so many authors are botting it's probably worth the cost). Problem becomes if zon identifies them as bots anyway and then takes action on the paid books they were used on.

hehe, can all of this get any messier or absurd?

Online Seneca42

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #48 on: October 20, 2017, 10:56:23 AM »
So if you pay someone $300 to generate 250 faux sales, yes, Amazon got paid. But it also ended up with 250 bad data points that the software thinks were legitimate interest. That information cascades through the entire system and messes up also-boughts and recommendations to others.

I mean, i guess I can see that. I just can't see why anyone would bother with this. You'd have to spend a TON to influence the ranks significantly. And it would only last for a short time.

And I'm definitely of the belief that rank does not generate sales (sales generate rank, rank doesn't generate sales, that's the conclusion I've come to). Also boughts definitely do, though.

Anyway, of all the scams I've heard of the one I'm least offended by would be someone buying their own book. It's about the weakest form of cheating I can imagine hehe. 

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Re: Amazon yanking sales ranking after a Bookbub promo
« Reply #49 on: October 20, 2017, 10:57:56 AM »
I'm of the opinion that we shouldn't assume malice when incompetence is an equally obvious explanation.

I think Amazon saw a nine-month old multi-author box set with no reviews shoot up to the top 100 in a day, and an algo is telling them that's a botted book. The algo is wrong, but the distance between the people being harmed by that conclusion and the people who can change it is too great for this to be resolved quickly.