Author Topic: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages  (Read 7513 times)  

Online Becca Mills

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #100 on: April 14, 2018, 10:17:05 PM »
Lastly, for those of you who are saying "$5 is plenty for a book!": please think it through. You're all smart. If you were paying many, many thousands of dollars in production, editing, and graphics costs to create a 300k book, you'd feel differently. $5 wouldn't even come close to covering costs. How much do YOU earn for 300k words? You probably have 5-6 books you release to reach 300k. Are YOU OK with only earning $5 total KU money for 5-6 books? Of course not. And you shouldn't be. Your work is worth more than that. So is the work of epic writers.

I've made decent money on my second book, which is 138K words, and it's all from purchases that pay me about $2.70 each (it's not in KU). I think that's how most of us do it -- with sales volume over time. A good book well handled can sell for years and years. Even with a lower per-unit payoff, it can add up quite a bit if you're writing something that has some endurance, which I think most epic fantasy authors are aiming to do.

Why does everyone keep ignoring the elephant in the room?

This is a problem IN THE ROMANCE GENRE. And it could only ever *be* a problem in the romance genre.

Why? Because a poorly-written, incoherently-compiled stuffed book with a stock photo cover in any other genre would get one-starred into oblivion. Try pulling this nonsense in sci-fi, or fantasy, or literally *any* other genre, and see what happens.

In my experience, people tend not to see how formulaic and poorly written the work in their own genre may seem to outsiders. It's the formula and style they happen to like, so to them, it's good. But someone on the outside will pick it up and see stock characters, hoary plot tropes, stilted dialogue, or whatever other sins. That's why people on the outside of a genre aren't the ones who get to decide whether or not particular examples of it are good.

Offline SeanHinn

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #101 on: April 14, 2018, 10:53:08 PM »
I've made decent money on my second book, which is 138K words, and it's all from purchases that pay me about $2.70 each (it's not in KU). I think that's how most of us do it -- with sales volume over time. A good book well handled can sell for years and years. Even with a lower per-unit payoff, it can add up quite a bit if you're writing something that has some endurance, which I think most epic fantasy authors are aiming to do.

In my experience, people tend not to see how formulaic and poorly written the work in their own genre may seem to outsiders. It's the formula and style they happen to like, so to them, it's good. But someone on the outside will pick it up and see stock characters, hoary plot tropes, stilted dialogue, or whatever other sins. That's why people on the outside of a genre aren't the ones who get to decide whether or not particular examples of it are good.

"Quite a bit" isn't a level playing field. A system like what's being proposed here says that a 300k work in a single volume should be worth less per word than three 100k works in multiple volumes, when the level of complexity in creating the piece is significantly higher - *only* so those who write smaller works can make more money. And let's be clear: that's the reason this discussion is being had. Those who write smaller works want more money. Which is great, if it's at the expense of bookstuffers; that's a fair-minded position to take. But at the expense of other legitimate authors?

It's kind of like saying, "$200,000 is plenty for a home builder to make, let's cap it at that," without taking into account that it costs significantly more to build a 4,000 square foot home than it does a 1,500 square foot home. It's illogical and arbitrary.

To be absolutely clear, lest it be assumed I think otherwise: I make no value judgement on the quality of one genre's creations versus another, only that I think it is quite clear that these stuffed books - the ones that are the root of the problem we are discussing - are being created by content farms with authors who have no vested interest in quality. They are ghostwriters being paid by the word (with terribly exploitative rates, as I understand it), and the quality of work has no bearing on an individual's name or professional reputation. Those who are publishing this work are making no effort to publish great stuff - they are pumping out volume, at the expense of readers and authors alike.

It can be argued that KU is stupid idea. I disagree, but other points of view are valid. But if someone else was to tell you, "OK, well, I think you should only earn $1.80 per book, versus the $2.70 you now earn, because by setting that limit in place *I* will make more money," I think your hackles would be raised, too. KU is a huge part of the book industry right now. The revenues it generates for authors are significant. But the playing field needs to be level, or it's really not about bookstuffers anymore, is it? It's about "as long as I get mine."

« Last Edit: April 14, 2018, 11:01:27 PM by SeanHinn »

Offline Crystal_

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #102 on: April 14, 2018, 11:13:32 PM »
The reason they're in romance is because that's where the biggest pool of money is. Sadly, many of these scammers probably share your contempt for the genre, meaning they believe that anyone can do it. If fantasy books were the most lucrative, the scammers would be ruining your genre instead. They'd be saying, "Cripes, how hard can it be to throw a bunch of elves and dwarves together and have them go on a quest?" Note: I don't personally believe this. I'm just saying that all genres require a certain craftsmanship to produce quality, and it's easy to belittle a genre when you're not a fan.

As far as one stars and readers/authors policing the genre, this is easier said than done. In romance, we're literally flooded with these things. Plus, the scammers' reviews don't generally come from unbiased reviewers, but rather from people with an incentive of some sort . Basically, we romance authors (and readers, too) are facing a tidal wave of crap that has become nearly impossible to withstand, because these scammers/stuffers/whatever are putting out so many books, so often, and with such huge advertising budgets that it's like a firestorm. You can put out a small fire, but a raging inferno is a different matter.


While I don't necessarily agree that no one writes romance stories over 1K, speaking as a romance author, I would be fine with what you suggest. But I fear that you're missing something very important here. If these scammers were booted out of romance, they'd find another place to nest. That might be your genre. And trust me, reader-policing or not, you don't want to be facing this tidal wave of slop. If romance is limited to 1K, and others aren't, probably romance writers would breathe a huge sigh of relief, because it would be other genres getting hammered, not us.


I'm not trying to be snarky here, but I'm genuinely curious (since I don't write in your genre), what did fantasy authors do before KU 2.0? Under KU 2.0., you can earn several times more per rental than you can if someone actually buys the book. Before KU 2.0, were books in your genre priced higher? I know that's the case in romance. KU 2.0 has led to a drastic and troubling decrease in prices, as people push renting over buying. On a similar note, what would you do if KU went away entirely? Not concern-trolling here, but do you have a backup plan for when/if that happens? Because I suspect that if the scamming keeps up, we'll be seeing more drastic changes than what any of us have suggested.

Yes, please cap romance so people take this crap into other genres. I can't wait until it's fantasy that's flooded with .99 stuffed titles.

Offline Nicholas Erik

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #103 on: April 14, 2018, 11:21:35 PM »
Amazon already polices duplicate content. Publish two box sets, one with books a b and c, the others with the same books in a different order (c b a) and amazon will send you a naughty gram asking you to take one down.

One title per ASIN for KU titles is so much easier than dealing with all this baloney. Amazon can police that easily. Epic writers can still reap the fruit of their epic. Box sets can still be sold (outside of KU), and everybody operates in a slightly more fair manner.

I couldnt personally care less if they drop the kenpc cap to 1000. It wont effect me at all. It would effect vanishingly few. Even so, I think its an unnecessary change that wouldnt be as effective as just asking authors to put one book in any KU title. Easy peasy.

Fair enough. I've never tried to publish duplicate content, so I wasn't aware of this. That makes fixing this easier, at the very least.

One book per KU title makes sense to me, as I proposed in my original post, and it's an easy policy change. I'm on board, barring any compelling counter arguments.

To address other solutions:

1) capping romance will do nothing (besides getting romance authors to breathe a sigh of relief). All the stuffed books will immediately move to another popular genre with a clear formula (re: all of them).
2) checking a box that makes you swear not to break the rules will not do anything. You already agree to the KDP TOS; Amazon already sporadically bans people for breaking them. Anyone breaking the rules doesn't care, because Amazon's enforcement is spotty at best and the risk is worth the reward.

Any counter arguments to the single titles only in KU proposal? Box sets will no longer be eligible for the program, and as I've said, that will affect me. But that strikes me as a sensible and elegant solution that will require little effort on Amazon's part, but immediately wipe out a great deal of the problems. I'm sure there will be other problems that crop up, but at least it will cut down on a bunch of the current BS.

We'd need a clear definition of what "single title" means in terms of front/back matter allowed, but otherwise, that seems workable.

Nick

Online Becca Mills

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #104 on: April 14, 2018, 11:28:04 PM »
"Quite a bit" isn't a level playing field. A system like what's being proposed here says that a 300k work in a single volume should be worth less per word than three 100k works in multiple volumes, when the level of complexity in creating the piece is significantly higher - *only* so those who write smaller works can make more money. And let's be clear: that's the reason this discussion is being had. Those who write smaller works want more money. Which is great, if it's at the expense of bookstuffers; that's a fair-minded position to take. But at the expense of other legitimate authors?

It's kind of like saying, "$200,000 is plenty for a home builder to make, let's cap it at that," without taking into account that it costs significantly more to build a 4,000 square foot home than it does a 1,500 square foot home. It's illogical and arbitrary.

To be absolutely clear, lest it be assumed I think otherwise: I make no value judgement on the quality of one genre's creations versus another, only that I think it is quite clear that these stuffed books - the ones that are the root of the problem we are discussing - are being created by content farms with authors who have no vested interest in quality. They are ghostwriters being paid by the word (with terribly exploitative rates, as I understand it), and the quality of work has no bearing on an individual's name or professional reputation. Those who are publishing this work are making no effort to publish great stuff - they are pumping out volume, at the expense of readers and authors alike.

It can be argued that KU is stupid idea. I disagree, but other points of view are valid. But if someone else was to tell you, "OK, well, I think you should only earn $1.80 per book, versus the $2.70 you now earn, because by setting that limit in place *I* will make more money," I think your hackles would be raised, too. KU is a huge part of the book industry right now. The revenues it generates for authors are significant. But the playing field needs to be level, or it's really not about bookstuffers anymore, is it? It's about "as long as I get mine."

I see your point, Sean, but I've never thought of books as having per-word value. I see them as having a market value. There are books I'll pay $15 for, and there are books I'll only pick up if they're free. That's the case even if the free book is much longer than the $15 book, took much longer to write, or had much higher production costs. A book's worth is really just a function of how much I want it, and I think most of us tend to recognize that and set our prices accordingly. I mean, a particular 1,500-sqft home might cost ten times what a particular 4,000-sqft home costs because other factors feed into desirability beside sheer size, right? I think of books the same way, so I have trouble reducing my feelings about value to a simple per-word calculus. My thoughts are also probably influenced by what authors have historically made. I mean, $5/book is *so* much more than the Tolkien estate must be making off each sale of Fellowship, you know? And that novel probably pushes up toward 200K. KU may be setting some authors' expectations way beyond what the book industry has ever been able to support in a long term way.

All that said, I'm not sure the KENP cap is the way to go, or that Amazon will have any interest in doing it. I really have no idea how to fix these problems. It's all just hideously complicated, and it's not like Amazon is a responsive partner as we try to address it. :(

Offline Phxsundog

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #105 on: April 14, 2018, 11:35:19 PM »
I have nothing but love for romance. There's a grain of truth that this problem is a romance specific exploit driven by the big money in the genre. Plus the formulaic nature of some romance themes made it easy to break things down into a system the scammers were able to follow. Many of the scammers currently causing problems were around for years publishing piles of erotica titles and junk romances with bad covers and blurbs. What changed is when one very selfish author decided to sell them a master course that gave them a huge leg up. This person taught these bottom of the barrel scammers how to find good covers, write compelling blurbs, run Facebook ads and hire tons of ghosts. He then formed a collective with them under several rules: publish the same trends, spend at least $10k per book on ads and do email swaps daily.

Their strategy tries to make their books look as outwardly normal and marketable as possible while hiding junk underneath. The content is a wave of crap, as one person said. The vast majority of this content is bought at $0.01-0.02 per word off freelance sites. Sometimes (but only sometimes), they throw another couple hundred at line editors to make incoherent stories barely readable.

The whole scenario is like invasion of the body snatchers for real authors. Even real publishers who care about content quality. So many are being replaced and robbed blind by these machines with their KU gaming tricks and incredible ability to drop 2-4 books under each name every month like clockwork. Some of the same machines are now publishing 80,000 word novels weekly. Always stuffed. Always including exclusive never before published books hidden behind several other bonus books. Often with entire bonus books disguised as "sneak peaks" in the table of contents. They worry constantly about people like David Gaughran calling them out and have tried hard to hide their stuffing. They rush to get the paperback linked to Kindle quickly or sometimes publish it first, then tell Author Central to populate the paperback page count to hide the stuffing.

The posters who said they want to do this in other genres are right on the money. They've tried. It's much harder for them outside romance because there's no guru standing by to sell them info. They also depend on huge email lists and constant swaps. That hasn't been easy for them to come by outside romance. They were able to dupe lots of normal romance authors into swapping with them for a while. They use a website that showed up here months ago and was rebuffed over data security issues to coordinate swaps. They still con other authors into swaps by booking them with unsuspecting authors who share their whole lists, only to get a sendout back to a low quality segment of the scammers' own lists.

This group of 20-30 internet marketers has created a nightmare in romance and KU. Romance authors who worked for years to build a good brand are being reduced to second rung authors stuck behind the scammers. Solo authors are being replaced. This is not a problem limited to romance. This group wants to storm everything they can and take over with reams of rapid fire ghostwritten content. KU vulnerabilities will leave the door open to them to try unless something changes.

Something has to happen to stop this. Soon. Or they'll only grow more sophisticated. Eventually they'll find a way to invade mysteries, thrillers, fantasy, you name it. Lowering the page cap isn't a perfect solution but it's the best proposal I've heard.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2018, 11:37:54 PM by Phxsundog »

Online MmmmmPie

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #106 on: April 14, 2018, 11:39:15 PM »
One book per KU title makes sense to me, as I proposed in my original post, and it's an easy policy change. I'm on board, barring any compelling counter arguments.

I do like the single title idea, but I personally believe that these scammers will simply piece together several stories and call it a single story. Just off the top of my head, I can think of several ways that could be done with plausible deniability. Even in traditional books, there are stories within stories, such as the classic "1,001 Nights" example or "The Thirteenth Tale." This, unfortunately, will require Amazon to police it, which we know they won't do.

This also does nothing to address the primary problem of KU 2.0, which is that you can get 13 bucks a borrow for a 99-cent book. The 99-cent price point is rich for gifting to buy rank. The 13-dollar borrow is a juicy target for click farming and margins so unnaturally high that they can support artificially high advertising campaigns.

Personally, even though this suggestion sounds wonderful on merit, I believe it will be a mere speedbump to the scammers.

But please, don't take the above comments the wrong way. I'm so very thankful that we're brainstorming possible solutions. And if my thoughts on this don't line up with what others believe, I'll just be grateful that something is getting done.

Offline SeanHinn

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #107 on: April 14, 2018, 11:54:47 PM »
I see your point, Sean, but I've never thought of books as having per-word value. I see them as having a market value. There are books I'll pay $15 for, and there are books I'll only pick up if they're free. That's the case even if the free book is much longer than the $15 book, took much longer to write, or had much higher production costs. A book's worth is really just a function of how much I want it, and I think most of us tend to recognize that and set our prices accordingly. I mean, a particular 1,500-sqft home might cost ten times what a particular 4,000-sqft home costs because other factors feed into desirability beside sheer size, right? I think of books the same way, so I have trouble reducing my feelings about value to a simple per-word calculus. My thoughts are also probably influenced by what authors have historically made. I mean, $5/book is *so* much more than the Tolkien estate must be making off each sale of Fellowship, you know? And that novel probably pushes up toward 200K. KU may be setting some authors' expectations way beyond what the book industry has ever been able to support in a long term way.

All that said, I'm not sure the KENP cap is the way to go, or that Amazon will have any interest in doing it. I really have no idea how to fix these problems. It's all just hideously complicated, and it's not like Amazon is a responsive partner as we try to address it. :(

Man, that really is the issue right there. Amazon needs to be prodded into action. Fair action, I'd say, but I don't think this idea is fair. It wouldn't harm me with the books I have out so far, but it would really change what I want to write down the line, and I have several author buddies who are writing 300k stories right now. I think one other thing to take into account is this: I am sure you're right, Tolkein's estate isn't making $5/book. But neither are they spending a nickel in advertising, production, branding, etc. The trad authors make way less in terms of the size of the check that comes in, broken down per unit, but they have no expenses. An indie epic author (who pays for editing and original art) is $5k into a book, minimum, before they hit the publish button, and the cost of advertising your way into the charts in fantasy right now is nutso. I heard someone above talk about 25c a click and I almost spilled my beer. I'd lop off my pinky toe if I could get a click for 25c. Some of my ad bids are well over $1. It's a $10k+ roll of the dice to launch an epic fantasy book, not to mention the many, many months of full time effort they take to write. Without KU, I'd have to price at $9.99, and no way a nobody like me gets sales at $9.99.

Anyhow, the idea I think is to punish the wrongdoers. I know that's harder, but a sweeping change to the entire thing to put a few dozen jerkwads out of business is shooting a mouse with a cannon. And really, I dunno that it would even work. Putting on my evil genius hat, if I were one of these outfits, I would just publish a ton of 1k books. I think this might even make them harder to spot, frankly. In any case, I doubt they'd just close up shop, and it would destroy AMS for those who advertise in the romance genre - there would be that many more titles clamoring for daylight. Ugh.

Offline SeanHinn

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #108 on: April 14, 2018, 11:56:41 PM »
The vast majority of this content is bought at $0.01-0.02 per word off freelance sites.

That is the saddest thing I have read on Kboards. I knew it was low, but that's... I don't even have a socially acceptable word for it.

Online MmmmmPie

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #109 on: April 15, 2018, 12:49:21 AM »
To those who write 300,000-word books, please, pleeeeease consider what you're doing. You all seem like really decent people, dedicated to your craft and with a genuine concern for your fellow authors. But based on what Amazon has done in the past, I fear you're building your house on shifting sand. If you realize that you can't price your book at $9.99 (because it's higher than the "going rate" for a non-famous author), you must also realize that getting 13 bucks a borrow is unsustainable long-term.

This reminds me of the tail end of KU 1.0, where legitimate authors were in the middle of their 7-volume serialized stories, just as the hammer fell and KU 2.0 was announced, seemingly out of the blue. Here, these authors had built their entire plans around a quirk in Amazon's system that enabled them to receive more than the "going rate" for their work. And then, it was gone, leaving these authors scrambling, or hell, driving many out of the market entirely.

You're right that crafting a fantasy novel takes a lot of work, money, and time. Sheesh, the TIME. It's the thing we can't replace. A couple of years from now, it's very unlikely that KU 2.0 will be around in its current form. When the change comes, you'll want to have a backlist of novels you can earn money from. To ensure you're covered either way, are you absolutely sure that you wouldn't rather put out a trilogy rather than a single 300,000-word book?

You probably won't believe this, but the above comments are rooted only in genuine concern. It seems that you're counting on KU 2.0 being around in its current form indefinitely. However, that seems highly unlikely, at least to me. As such, it might be worth asking yourself what you would do if KU wasn't around, and then taking whatever steps to ensure that your books would be profitable with or without KU.

After all, these are scary times, my friends, and KU is long overdue for a serious shakeup.

Offline Jack Krenneck

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #110 on: April 15, 2018, 01:30:51 AM »
"A system like what's being proposed here says that a 300k work in a single volume should be worth less per word than three 100k works in multiple volumes, when the level of complexity in creating the piece is significantly higher - *only* so those who write smaller works can make more money. And let's be clear: that's the reason this discussion is being had. Those who write smaller works want more money. Which is great, if it's at the expense of bookstuffers; that's a fair-minded position to take. But at the expense of other legitimate authors?

I've published epic fantasy in both short and long versions. From my perspective, shorts are hard but long is excruciatingly difficult, so I agree with all the above. I don't think it's any different for other genres. But epic fantasy is by tradition trilogies, and a boxed set trilogy can be a gold mine -- in both sales and page reads. Why should someone be penalized for writing complex books that readers are craving and that earns legitimate authors money? Just why???

There's no logical reason for the proposed cap. It will do nothing to stop the scammers, which is the reason put forward for the idea. What then is to be gained from it? Perhaps some of its supporters remember the days when a 10 page book earned as much per borrow as a 1000 page epic, and they'd like a return to something along those lines. Perhaps they'd even use scammers as a smoke screen to legitimize their real motive...

But at the end of the day, Amazon is going to do what Amazon is going to do. Except they've already considered all these issues in deciding the existing cap. And given they're now taking some action against the heart of the problem -- scammers -- I think that foreshadows the direction of their future intentions.   

For the record, I'm a full-time author. This is my job. I only have one boxed set over the suggested limit, but I wouldn't want to lose a big chunk of the revenue it generates. Which I would. Readers buy a boxed set of a complete series more readily than they buy a boxed set of part of a series.   

Offline jb1111

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #111 on: April 15, 2018, 02:08:23 AM »
Well, not to get into a war of words here, but I'm not seeing it. I just went and looked at Kindle ebooks > Romance and wasted a couple minutes of my life and only found one book in the top 20 that "might" be one you're talking about. The other nineteen books were all between 200 and 350 pages, more or less. Hardly worth the time of a stuffer.

If you check out the Women's Fiction category, you see a lot of stuffed books. You have to page through the LookInside to see the evidence of any stuffing, and if you see an 8 megabyte file size, that's evidence of it also.

FWIW, chances are high if you see a buffed tattooed dude on the cover and a provocative title, it has a certain amount of extra material inside.

Online MmmmmPie

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #112 on: April 15, 2018, 02:10:02 AM »
Perhaps some of its supporters remember the days when a 10 page book earned as much per borrow as a 1000 page epic, and they'd like a return to something along those lines. Perhaps they'd even use scammers as a smoke screen to legitimize their real motive...

Egads, we've been found out! And we would've gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for those meddling kids, er, I mean fantasy authors.

Offline jb1111

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #113 on: April 15, 2018, 02:52:44 AM »
I see a certain amount of heat directed towards romance in particular, and some saying cap the genre and leave the other genres uncapped.

I don't agree with any particular genre -- be it romance or whatever -- being told they have to have a cap and other genres don't.

You don't penalise a genre -- try to fix the actual problem.


Offline writerbiter

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #114 on: April 15, 2018, 07:29:53 AM »
Unfortunately, you cannot simply limit the romance cap. Those exploiting the system will simply re-categorize their books. It's happening already. Look at Urban Fiction, Westerns, Vigilante Justice, etc. Romance is already creeping into other genres because it's easier to hit the top 100 subcat. And if a limit would be implemented strictly on romance, these authors will attempt the same strategy in other genres. Fantasy and sci-fi, thrillers, inspirational etc. It won't stop the root of the problem -- an exploit, not the behavior of individual publishers.

Remember, they are not writers. They don't care about the stories, the characters, or building a brand. They do this for the money, and they will do whatever it takes to earn more, including exploiting a system in place that a majority of writers do not abuse.

The program needs to be altered, and it's long overdue.

You also cannot rely on the community to police and review books for 10% or more bonus content. The review does not stop with the authors monitoring the store. A complaint will need to be read and verified by an Amazon representative. This would require more and more manpower, and Amazon is not a company that hires additional people to do these jobs. They demand automation. That's just how Bezos works. It's obvious the KDP department is tremendously understaffed already. Adding an additional workload for actual, warm-blooded reviewers will never happen. It's an expense, and they will not spend any additional money or sacrifice any additional staff.

On that note, any sort of plagiarism software is unlikely to be implemented. Thousands of books are published every day. Amazon cannot devote the resources to running a plagiarism checker on every one of them, especially as a plagiarism checker presupposes they have a scannable database somewhere where they can check for published material. Again, you're asking for more manpower, more programming, more delays, and more hands-on treatment of the program at least in the beginning to solve the problem. Assuming there's a technological solution to the problem without considering the processing power/server power such a review process would require is not thinking like Amazon--they want to do the most they can for the least amount of manpower, programming, and effort.

So, we have to meet them in the middle. Even further than the middle. And while a lower cap might harm a very select minority of writers who are writing longer books, they are a small minority. The overwhelming majority of writers in the program write books that are smaller than two hundred thousand words (1000 KNEP). And while I'm seeing complaints from writers who utilize box sets, this change does not impact your individual books. You would still be able to publish your titles with no change whatsoever.

If we want to improve the program, we need to think about the majority of authors were utilizing it. And the majority of authors are writing single title books, not box sets, that are under two hundred thousand words. If the change benefits 99% of the writers using the program, is it fair to make exceptions for a minority of writers knowing that it causes a massive exploit which detrimentally impacts the program for everyone?

No, it isn't fair. But neither is what these publishing houses are doing to the entire store.

Remember, there are two problems plaguing the store at the moment. Click farmers and publishing powerhouses who are exploiting the page system. The publishers are not only seizing a larger share of the monthly pot, there also taking the All-Star Bonuses. Unfortunately, the bonuses are no longer awarded to the authors who have a best-selling book. They rewarded to those ghostwritten publishers who have the largest quantity in the store. This flies against the spirit of the program and is detrimental to many authors who should rightly be awarded the bonuses. They are seizing a large share of the monthly pot, they are driving prices down, and the longer Amazon allows this to happen, the more they will exploit the system.

As an example, last month, twelve of these authors reached the Top 100 in a single weekend. That's not unusual. They usually release together, coordinating their tropes as well as their covers images and fonts and colors. Each of these authors included 6 to 12 bonus novels, as close to the three thousand page cap as they could get. At that point, the Top 100 was no longer the 100 best-selling books. It became the top 200 (or worse). This happens twice a month, and, judging by their new publishing schedules, it will soon happen once a week.

They exploit the system, and they are rewarded for it because Amazon does not believe bonus books constitute a detrimental experience for the readers. There is no cause for them to change anything about the bonus books or stuffing as the readers do not complain.

Therefore, we need to address the problem differently, in a way that Amazon can and will implement. Lowering the cap is an easy and free solution for Amazon. If earnings are reduced, those exploiting the system will not be able to launch as effectively. (Or at all.) And while the fear may be that those simply release more books, they cannot launch double or triple the amount of books on one third of the earnings. Not when they are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars a day with each new release. They will not be able to profit. They will stop and move on to the next moneymaking scheme which may or may not be on Amazon (Ebay, Etsy, etc).

Unfortunately, I don't have a petition. The representative I spoke with asked for individual authors to email their thoughts to the department directly:

KDP-CRS <at> amazon.com


Offline El-Do

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #115 on: April 15, 2018, 08:07:49 AM »
Every potential benefit of lowering the cap is based on nonexistent evidence. That's my problem with this sweeping change. You're hurting a lot of authors with box sets in exchange for potential benefits that may or may not be realized. Once a change like this goes through, there's no going back.

To be clear, there is no evidence a lower cap will stop scammers and stuffers (evidence from prior lowering of cap suggests it will have no effect).

There is no evidence that the payout would go up even if scammers were stopped.

There is no evidence the long-term viability of KU is in peril.

We're talking about slashing earnings for many authors who are not running afoul of Amazon's policies for no clear benefit to authors as a whole.

These are the sort of changes--based on mere possibilities and assumptions--you make when the outcome affects you and you only, ie: changing a cover, blurb, etc.


Offline David VanDyke

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #116 on: April 15, 2018, 09:51:38 AM »
"Quite a bit" isn't a level playing field. A system like what's being proposed here says that a 300k work in a single volume should be worth less per word than three 100k works in multiple volumes, when the level of complexity in creating the piece is significantly higher - *only* so those who write smaller works can make more money. And let's be clear: that's the reason this discussion is being had. Those who write smaller works want more money. Which is great, if it's at the expense of bookstuffers; that's a fair-minded position to take. But at the expense of other legitimate authors?


Every regulation or law involves some tradeoff of freedom-and-profit (call this FAP for now) vs. security/safety (SS). Like a speed limit on the freeway curbs FAP but provides increased SS.

This is the same--a little curbing of FAB could provide disproportionately large SS. They key is to find the sweet spot.

Nobody wants a cap of 200 KENPC, for example, just like nobody wants a speed limit of 40 on the freeway. The speed limit curbs the FAP of skilled drivers with perfect cars who feel comfortable going 150+, but mostly it inhibits those who would hurt other drivers if they were allowed to go that fast.


« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 09:55:54 AM by David VanDyke »


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Online Becca Mills

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #117 on: April 15, 2018, 10:27:35 AM »
On that note, any sort of plagiarism software is unlikely to be implemented. Thousands of books are published every day. Amazon cannot devote the resources to running a plagiarism checker on every one of them, especially as a plagiarism checker presupposes they have a scannable database somewhere where they can check for published material. Again, you're asking for more manpower, more programming, more delays, and more hands-on treatment of the program at least in the beginning to solve the problem. Assuming there's a technological solution to the problem without considering the processing power/server power such a review process would require is not thinking like Amazon--they want to do the most they can for the least amount of manpower, programming, and effort.

The attractive thing about Turnitin is that the computing power wouldn't have to be native to Amazon, I don't think. Amazon would have to partner with Turnitin to add its existing database of book files to the Turnitin library and to integrate Turnitin into the file submission process. All that would be an upfront cost, but after that, it would be an automated process run (I think) off Turnitin's servers. Turnitin does this kind of integration work with companies who make online teaching platforms. Amazon already runs some kind of plagiarism checker on submitted files. I know because my free books trigger those annoying copyright queries every time I upload. They'd be replacing what they already have with something that can produced a fine-tuned percentage of matched text. If what they're using can't do that (who knows, maybe it can).

That said ...

There is no cause for them to change anything about the bonus books or stuffing as the readers do not complain.

Therefore, we need to address the problem differently, in a way that Amazon can and will implement. Lowering the cap is an easy and free solution for Amazon.

... why would Amazon want any sort of solution, even an easy, free one, for a situation it doesn't perceive as a problem because readers aren't complaining about it? I'm not trying to be snarky. This is my fear, actually, based on the company's history of lax enforcement and the answers Shelley K got from Amazon a few days ago: that Amazon is fine with most of these stuffed books because a large segment of readers actually like them or, if there is no such segment of readers, all the readers who are not reading them are not complaining in sufficient volume.

Offline Not Lu

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #118 on: April 15, 2018, 10:29:04 AM »
I see your point, Sean, but I've never thought of books as having per-word value. I see them as having a market value. There are books I'll pay $15 for, and there are books I'll only pick up if they're free. That's the case even if the free book is much longer than the $15 book, took much longer to write, or had much higher production costs. A book's worth is really just a function of how much I want it, and I think most of us tend to recognize that and set our prices accordingly. I mean, a particular 1,500-sqft home might cost ten times what a particular 4,000-sqft home costs because other factors feed into desirability beside sheer size, right? I think of books the same way, so I have trouble reducing my feelings about value to a simple per-word calculus. My thoughts are also probably influenced by what authors have historically made. I mean, $5/book is *so* much more than the Tolkien estate must be making off each sale of Fellowship, you know? And that novel probably pushes up toward 200K. KU may be setting some authors' expectations way beyond what the book industry has ever been able to support in a long term way.

All that said, I'm not sure the KENP cap is the way to go, or that Amazon will have any interest in doing it. I really have no idea how to fix these problems. It's all just hideously complicated, and it's not like Amazon is a responsive partner as we try to address it. :(

Becca, you nailed it. The price of a book should be based on how much the reader wants it. The price of a page read should also be based on how much the reader wants it. Right now, that's what Amazon is doing... paying the author as long as the reader keeps turning pages. Setting a page cap would mean that the reader wants to pay for the next page, but Amazon arbitrarily decided to stop paying the author because the reader went past a page limit that was pulled from someone's fanny (for no effective reason).

Back to solving the problem:

1. Identify and eliminate duplicate content in KU
2. Identify bots checking out books and don't give a botted book a rank boost
3. Identify bots reading pages and don't pay for a botted page read

On the bright side, it appears that Amazon is starting to go after the bots and stuffed content. Now that they've won their first case against a scammer they'll feel much more confident to go after the others (which is probably why people are losing page reads from March).

Offline ParkerAvrile

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #119 on: April 15, 2018, 10:35:26 AM »
I don't want to be argumentative, but something's bothering me about this argument, what I've read of it.

I just think if the books are that bad, why do people keep coming back? I don't read his genre, but the mastermind guy has thousands of rabid fans. And his business model isn't exactly top secret. If you think his strategy is a shortcut to success and a guaranteed path to the top, what's stopping you from trying it? I heard people were spending $20K to promote a title with a high ROI.  Thousands of people, not 20-30 people, would be doing it if this was a guaranteed path to success. That just isn't a hard amount of money for middle-class people to get their hands on. Many of us probably have credit card limits higher than that.

Why is it impossible that somebody was willing to take more risk than we're willing to take, thus putting themselves in position for a possible higher reward?

I bet there are other teams we never hear about who also spend plenty marketing their books, but those books sink sight unseen. If all you had to do was throw $20-50K at a book to make a hit, every single big trad book would be a hit.

Edited because I realize you said $10K. I heard $20K-50K, but I suppose it's all rumors. $10K, of course, is achievable by even more people.
« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 10:39:02 AM by ParkerAvrile »
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Online Becca Mills

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #120 on: April 15, 2018, 10:47:14 AM »
Man, that really is the issue right there. Amazon needs to be prodded into action. Fair action, I'd say, but I don't think this idea is fair. It wouldn't harm me with the books I have out so far, but it would really change what I want to write down the line, and I have several author buddies who are writing 300k stories right now. I think one other thing to take into account is this: I am sure you're right, Tolkein's estate isn't making $5/book. But neither are they spending a nickel in advertising, production, branding, etc. The trad authors make way less in terms of the size of the check that comes in, broken down per unit, but they have no expenses. An indie epic author (who pays for editing and original art) is $5k into a book, minimum, before they hit the publish button, and the cost of advertising your way into the charts in fantasy right now is nutso. I heard someone above talk about 25c a click and I almost spilled my beer. I'd lop off my pinky toe if I could get a click for 25c. Some of my ad bids are well over $1. It's a $10k+ roll of the dice to launch an epic fantasy book, not to mention the many, many months of full time effort they take to write. Without KU, I'd have to price at $9.99, and no way a nobody like me gets sales at $9.99.

That's really shocking to me, Sean. I had no idea y'all had to run such pricey ads. I guess a whole lot of books that take a long time to read are competing for a limited number of readers. Brutal. :(

Anyhow, the idea I think is to punish the wrongdoers. I know that's harder, but a sweeping change to the entire thing to put a few dozen jerkwads out of business is shooting a mouse with a cannon. And really, I dunno that it would even work. Putting on my evil genius hat, if I were one of these outfits, I would just publish a ton of 1k books. I think this might even make them harder to spot, frankly. In any case, I doubt they'd just close up shop, and it would destroy AMS for those who advertise in the romance genre - there would be that many more titles clamoring for daylight. Ugh.

I think the idea is that they wouldn't be able to maintain their current per-book ad spends while remaining profitable: they'd have three times as many books to advertise, and each book would only earn 33% of what it used to.

But some folks have also said most of these books aren't really scraping the 3,000-KENP ceiling, anyway. So ... dunno.

Offline JulesWright

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #121 on: April 15, 2018, 10:54:34 AM »
I really don't understand why lowering the page count would do anything. Black hatters won't care about page length if they are using automation.  If there are groups of writers cooperating with each other by sharing mailing lists, etc.  they also have economies of scale on their side compared to one writer who works alone trying to earn an honest living (although they too can be part of newsletter swaps, etc.)  They will still have economies of scale on their side even if they make less per book compared to one writer trying to do things honestly (not using black or gray methods, etc).    It wouldn't put them out of business.   I don't think most of their books right now are hitting close to 3,000 KENPC, maybe some are over 1,000 but don't think they go up to 3,000 that often.

I don't understand why Amazon doesn't do anything about stuffing.  They are paying for extra page reads that way.  I don't know how that benefits them unless it attracts more people to subscribe to KU or people reading stuffed content keeps them tied to Amazon more so that they buy more Amazon goods.  Neither one of those seem likely to me, but I'm not sure. 
« Last Edit: April 15, 2018, 10:56:12 AM by JulesWright »

Offline SeanHinn

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #122 on: April 15, 2018, 11:03:20 AM »
So, we have to meet them in the middle. Even further than the middle. And while a lower cap might harm a very select minority of writers who are writing longer books, they are a small minority. The overwhelming majority of writers in the program write books that are smaller than two hundred thousand words (1000 KNEP). And while I'm seeing complaints from writers who utilize box sets, this change does not impact your individual books. You would still be able to publish your titles with no change whatsoever.

If we want to improve the program, we need to think about the majority of authors were utilizing it. And the majority of authors are writing single title books, not box sets, that are under two hundred thousand words. If the change benefits 99% of the writers using the program, is it fair to make exceptions for a minority of writers knowing that it causes a massive exploit which detrimentally impacts the program for everyone?

Epic writers/books do not represent only 1% of the books bought and read. If you're going to use numbers to persuade people to follow your movement, find out what they are first.

The tyranny of a majority against a minority is a thing loathed, rightly, by all fair-minded people.

If your objective is to ONLY punish the wrongdoers, to the benefit of the community at large, I assume, then, that you would be open to carving out an exception for writers of legitimate epics, yes? Your answer to that question will expose your motive.

I can't help but shake my head at how folks don't see how this wouldn't work at all, and would probably screw things up even worse. Do any of you guys use AMS? You know how it works, right? The more titles being advertised, the more expensive the bids become. When these stuffers/scammers start chopping their books into 1k chunks, you're gonna have a problem FAR worse than what you have now. Yeah, they will lose some margins, and they'll still print money. Your stuff will become INVISIBLE. Fine, forget whether it's fair or not, or whether it will severely harm good, honest people - clearly, many of the people in this thread don't care a whit about harming other authors, so long as they benefit - at least use common sense. It's a bad idea that won't work, and could make things a hell of a lot more awful.

Online Dpock

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #123 on: April 15, 2018, 11:20:17 AM »
If all you had to do was throw $20-50K at a book to make a hit, every single big trad book would be a hit.


A 1/5 page ad in the New York Times Book Review is over $10,000 so a traditional publisher might look at a $50,000 launch as cheap. That figure rather exceeds my AMS budget for the next dozen years.

Are traditional publishing houses advertising in AMS? I've never noticed.

A book-stuffer FB group advocates $5000-$10,000 launches. They sell at $.99 and game KU with bonus books. I've seen BR screenshots purporting to show they consistently double their money (they have a bad boy romance focus).

I suspect Amazon's view is their customers get a lot of value from the bonus book situation. In other words, it's a boon for their customers. There's really no incentive for them to change the system because in their view it's not broken (unless the stuffers bring in the bots).



Online Becca Mills

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Re: Lowering the KNEP Cap from 3000 to 1000 Pages
« Reply #124 on: April 15, 2018, 11:21:18 AM »
I don't want to be argumentative, but something's bothering me about this argument, what I've read of it.

I just think if the books are that bad, why do people keep coming back?

I think there are different camps when it comes to how stuffed books are generating income, and also when it comes to what Amazon's rules on stuffing really are. That we differ on the basic facts of the matter makes discussion, much less consensus, hard.

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