Poll

Should long-book writers be forced to sacrifice KU income to benefit shorter-book writers (by lowering the KENP cap)?

Yes. It's OK to take from the minority to benefit the majority.
No. A solution to the bookstuffing problem should be fair to all legitimate authors.

Author Topic: Poll:Should long-book writers sacrifice KU income to benefit short-book writers?  (Read 3977 times)  

Offline okey dokey

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Amen to Julie of Bards and Sages

Hit the problem right on the head.

And the problem was CREATED by Amazon. All our adapting every few months isn't going to solve a problem CREATED by Amazon

Offline DonovanJeremiah

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If they can binge through the whole series, sure! But if the series isn't finished and hasn't even reached a natural breaking point, and they have to wait for the next book...

Regards, a very slow writer. :D

There was one hell of a cliffhanger after Book 2 (Frodo captured by the Orcs). I'm really glad I didn't have to wait for Book 3 to come out and could read them all at once. 

Both of these quotes bug me.

Why would there be a wait? If the doorstopper writers are writing their doorstoppers, they're not writing a trilogy. They're writing their doorstopper.

Once they finish it, realize that if a new cap has been instituted, then they're breaking the books into parts and selling as a trilogy.

I'd presume at that point with all the books having already been written because it started as a doorstopper, there's no long lag time between book releases.


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Offline Atlantisatheart

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Or we could all just spend a half hour every morning clicking through bad boy ads over coffee, and a half hour every evening with our hot chocolate. Wonder how much that would cost them?

Offline JWright

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Then some readers are going to wonder why you are making them buy 3 books instead of 1.  In some cases it might be fine but not in all.

I would support the cap if I thought it would actually do something, but I do not.


Both of these quotes bug me.

Why would there be a wait? If the doorstopper writers are writing their doorstoppers, they're not writing a trilogy. They're writing their doorstopper.

Once they finish it, realize that if a new cap has been instituted, then they're breaking the books into parts and selling as a trilogy.

I'd presume at that point with all the books having already been written because it started as a doorstopper, there's no long lag time between book releases.


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Offline Rick Gualtieri

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Or we could all just spend a half hour every morning clicking through bad boy ads over coffee, and a half hour every evening with our hot chocolate. Wonder how much that would cost them?

Or how much it might cost you.  Click fraud cases have been successfully pursued in the past.  Tempting as it might be, that way lies madness

(and yes, I realize you were joking, but it's probably important to know anyway). 


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Offline DonovanJeremiah

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Then some readers are going to wonder why you are making them buy 3 books instead of 1.  In some cases it might be fine but not in all.

That's true and I agree. I'm not in favor of the cap. It was the wording of it that indicated that readers wouldn't like to wait long between releases, indicating that it hadn't been all written.

I'm not a fan of three different books that I have to keep track of. It's why I love omnibuses, print and ebook.

Offline Dragovian

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The idea is that these heavily stuffed books don't sell particularly well on their own. They need a very strong advertising push. (Some people think they need more underhanded kinds of pushing as well, but let's leave that to the side.)

Let's say the folks publishing these stuffed books know that (I'm just making up an example, so these are not real numbers) they'll need to get, on average, 100,000 AMS ad clicks to generate 10,000 complete read-throughs of a particular book. Let's say they pay a dollar a click. They've spent $100,000. The book is 3,000 KENP, so 10,000 full read-throughs = 30,000,000 pages read. At .00449/page, they would gross $134,700 and net $34,700 on the book. They publish four of those a month and take home $138,800/month net.

Then a 1,000-KENP cap goes into effect. Well, these authors *still* need to get 100,000 AMS ad clicks to generate 10,000 complete read-throughs. But now a complete read-through brings in $44,900 gross, not $134,700. They're spending $100,000 to make $44,900 -- fail. Yes, they can publish three 1,000-KENP books instead of one 3,000-KENP book, but *each* of those books will require the $100,000 ad spend. They're spending $300,000 and netting $134,700. Furthermore, with three times as many books being advertised within these circles, their cost per click might go up. Maybe they have to spend $400,000 to generate 10,000 full read-throughs.
Which makes the idea "let's punish people who heavily advertise in order to get legitimate readers to create legitimate page reads, because we don't like their marketing model/they have more ad dollars to spend than we do." Because nothing about "spend a lot of money on ads to attract readers" is nefarious. No, not even if you think their books are garbage. No, not even if they're stuffing the same eight books behind every one of their new releases. Because, once you remove underhanded tricks like bots (clearly against ToS), incentivized reads (against ToS), and click-to-back schemes (links to back are against ToS; many ereaders have had that loophole fixed), the only way those pages are being read is if a reader wants to read them.

When you leave out the clear violations and turn it into just "3000 KENPC books and massive advertising push", this boils down to "let's punish people for getting legitimate page reads because we don't like those guys."


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Offline JWright

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Trilogies definitely work in Epic Fantasy, but I don't know about releasing them all at once because I think some would not like that if they thought it could be one book.  And I hate cliffhangers myself, lol.

I just think it's strange people are saying that Epic Fantasy writers can easily adjust but somehow the scammers business model is going to fall apart and somehow they can't adjust. They have so many resources at their disposal that I don't think that's true.  And I think if they are heavily advertising that does indicate there actually is demand for their books. Otherwise, they wouldn't advertise. 


That's true and I agree. I'm not in favor of the cap. It was the wording of it that indicated that readers wouldn't like to wait long between releases, indicating that it hadn't been all written.

I'm not a fan of three different books that I have to keep track of. It's why I love omnibuses, print and ebook.

Offline Not Lu

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This is KU. This is all you can read. 3 books or 1 book, it makes no difference to the reader.

Timothy, if this is the case I challenge you to prove it by splitting your latest book into 3 pieces (since you said it is easy). Then tell us if the reviews stay the same, go up, or go down (which I believe they will because the reader expected a full story and didn't get one).

Offline Atlantisatheart

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Or how much it might cost you.  Click fraud cases have been successfully pursued in the past.  Tempting as it might be, that way lies madness

(and yes, I realize you were joking, but it's probably important to know anyway).

Actually... no, I was joking, but thanks for the info because I'd never heard of click fraud before. What I was (badly) trying to say was, why are we turning on each other when we should be ganging up on the bad guys? If the bully is stealing your lunch money, kick him where it hurts. There has to be someone here that can come up with a dastardly plan to make these guys back off. We have some of the best minds in the business for coming up with plots.

Offline Becca Mills

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Which makes the idea "let's punish people who heavily advertise in order to get legitimate readers to create legitimate page reads, because we don't like their marketing model/they have more ad dollars to spend than we do." Because nothing about "spend a lot of money on ads to attract readers" is nefarious. No, not even if you think their books are garbage. No, not even if they're stuffing the same eight books behind every one of their new releases. Because, once you remove underhanded tricks like bots (clearly against ToS), incentivized reads (against ToS), and click-to-back schemes (links to back are against ToS; many ereaders have had that loophole fixed), the only way those pages are being read is if a reader wants to read them.

When you leave out the clear violations and turn it into just "3000 KENPC books and massive advertising push", this boils down to "let's punish people for getting legitimate page reads because we don't like those guys."

Yes. That's why 1) one's position on this whole thing may come down to whether one sees stuffing as the visible part of an iceberg of bad behavior, and 2) it's so important to know exactly what Amazon thinks of stuffing, in all its different types, as a standalone behavior.

Speaking personally, I don't have a handle on either of the above issues. Ergo my agnosticism on Doing Something.

Offline BGArcher

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This thread, and the other one preposing shortening the length of cap pages for books in K.U, feel a bit like people who complain about how kids spend too much time on their phones, or people always complaining about people who are on food stamps. The fact that stuffing happens is unfortunate. But I feel like a lot of the people in this thread are coming from the place of, "it's not fair." I wonder how much more effective those people's times would be, oh I don't know... writing more? Marketing better? It would be one thing if stuffers are truly killing the markets for the rest of us, but I don't think they are. Would it be nice if Amazon was clearer on their terms of service? Of course it would be.
I had a friend who got his pages halved last month. The thing is though, his pages were unusually high last month. To the point where he emailed amazon, telling them that he thought he was being targeted by a bot farm. They told him everything was fine. Cue three weeks later, they delete half of his pages, and send him a nasty letter.  Stuff like that feels like much more of a problem than some scammers.

There will always be scammers. If you write to market, work your butt off, I find that you find yourself worrying less and less about what other author's are doing, or what's "fair". I don't care if somebody makes a quick buck with bot farms. Long term, that's not viable. You know what is? writing great books, building a fan base, and keep writing great books. But i'm not doing this for six months or a year or two. I'm here for the long haul, because this is my career.

Offline Rick Gualtieri

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There will always be scammers. If you write to market, work your butt off, I find that you find yourself worrying less and less about what other author's are doing, or what's "fair". I don't care if somebody makes a quick buck with bot farms. Long term, that's not viable. You know what is? writing great books, building a fan base, and keep writing great books. But i'm not doing this for six months or a year or two. I'm here for the long haul, because this is my career.

I partially agree.  I'm here for the long haul too, and +1 on the writing great books, fan base etc.  However, I find it hard to turn a blind eye when others are dirtying the water.  I market myself as an indie author, and I take exception to those who take that title and drag it through the dirt, leaving us all a little muddier. 


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Offline RScott

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There will always be scammers. If you write to market, work your butt off, I find that you find yourself worrying less and less about what other author's are doing, or what's "fair". I don't care if somebody makes a quick buck with bot farms. Long term, that's not viable. You know what is? writing great books, building a fan base, and keep writing great books. But i'm not doing this for six months or a year or two. I'm here for the long haul, because this is my career.

Ditto this. Wasted energy worrying about this stuff. You can't change it anyway. Don't let your circle of concern overshadow your circle of influence. Focus on what you "can" do. Write more and better books.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 12:03:32 PM by RScott »
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Offline Edward M. Grant

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This thread, and the other one preposing shortening the length of cap pages for books in K.U, feel a bit like people who complain about how kids spend too much time on their phones, or people always complaining about people who are on food stamps. The fact that stuffing happens is unfortunate. But I feel like a lot of the people in this thread are coming from the place of, "it's not fair."

KU1 paid much better for short stories than novels. Which was great for me, but obviously wrong, so I didn't complain when it went away. KU2/3/whatever-it-is-right-now pays much better for people who stuff ten novels into one 'book' than people who release, you know, books. Which is great for the stuffers, but obviously wrong.

Just as KU1 went away when Amazon decided it was time for change, book-stuffing will go away when Amazon decides it's time for change.

Offline RScott

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If you want a fair system for authors, it's easy. Authors set a price for their book, and readers either buy it or don't. Job done.

They have that. It's called opting out of KU. :D
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Offline Edward M. Grant

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They have that. It's called opting out of KU. :D

Except you can't, because KU affects book rankings.

KU is a broken system that will flounder from scam to scam because it eliminates the price mechanism that is required for a rational marketplace.

Offline writerbiter

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I think we need a stricter cap. I know it might impact some boxed sets and obscenely long books, but I'm willing to sacrifice my own boxed sets if it means protecting rest of the store.

It's not like the fantasy writers wouldn't get paid at all. In fact, writing a 5 book, 100k a pop epic fantasy saga that hooks people through the entirety of the series with advertising, freebies, reader interaction/reader groups, social media/mailing list signups, and the bump from new releases seems like it would do a hell of a lot better than a single door-stopper that is published and immediately falls victim to the algo three months after publishing and fades to obscurity. But that's just what I've seen around the store with the higher ranking/KU all-star authors.

Anyway, something needs to be done. And since Amazon is unlikely to simply eliminate bonus material, this is a possible solution.

Online MmmmmPie

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Ditto this. Wasted energy worrying about this stuff. You can't change it anyway. Don't let you circle of concern overshadow your circle of influence. Focus on what you "can" do. Write more and better books.

This is lovely advice, until your own genre is overrun. To get a sense of things, I clicked on one of your genres, which you appear to be doing quite well in. Let's compare one of your genres to mine.

GENRE: Virtual Reality: Summary of Top 100
Avg. Sales Rank: 465,097
Avg. Monthly Rev (per book): $168
Avg. Price: $12.15
Avg. No. Reviews: 16
Total Monthly Revenue of all top 100 Books in this Genre: $16,818

GENRE: New Adult & College Romance: Summary of Top 100
Avg. Sales Rank: 827
Avg. Monthly Rev (Per Book): $12,451
Avg. Price: $2.55
Avg. No. Reviews: 266
Total Monthly Revenue of all top 100 Books: $1,245,126.
Additional note: For the top 20, the numbers are even more stark. The average price is $1.69. The average monthly earning per book is nearly $40,000. Combined, the top 20 books in this genre will earn nearly $800,000 a month, not including All Star Bonuses.


Some additional observations.
In my genre, 15 of the top 20 books are priced at 99 cents. These scammers are squatting in romance, because that's where the money is. It's easy for someone to say, "Just write better books or more books," when their genre hasn't yet been a target. Do you realize that some of these scammers are earning 6-figures a month easily? I repeat, a month. They're also lowering the payout for everyone in every genre and claiming an outsized portion of All Star bonuses due to the fact that they're stuffing these books to the gills and using their ill-gotten gains to buy more ghost-written stuff, buy more advertising, and further drive down the price points and incomes of genuine authors.

Are you willing to write a book and sell it for 99 cents? Are you willing to stuff six books into one, so you can compete? Are you willing to sit by and let internet marketers run genuine authors out of business? It seems to me that many writers in other genres don't see this as a problem, because it hasn't greatly impacted them personally.

This is why it would be personally terrific for me if Amazon instituted a cap only in romance. Either these internet marketers would move on to other genres, or they'd find a different pond to play in. But what I'm saying is let's band together to run them off Amazon entirely.

Online MmmmmPie

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They have that. It's called opting out of KU. :D

This also is a lovely solution, until your entire genre is overrun with these scammers, making it nearly impossible to get any visibility whether you're in KU or not. It's also driving up advertising costs and artificially lowering the price point. As for KU, I've already opted out, but that doesn't mean I'm no longer being impacted by what these scammers are doing.

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Non-sequitur...

In my opinion, use of the word "scammer" should be prohibited on Kboards, similar to use of the word "troll."

The label is used too loosely, often unjustly, and is always incendiary.

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Offline RScott

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This is lovely advice, until your own genre is overrun. To get a sense of things, I clicked on one of your genres, which you appear to be doing quite well in. Let's compare one of your genres to mine.

GENRE: Virtual Reality: Summary of Top 100
Avg. Sales Rank: 465,097
Avg. Monthly Rev (per book): $168
Avg. Price: $12.15
Avg. No. Reviews: 16
Total Monthly Revenue of all top 100 Books in this Genre: $16,818


That isn't my genre, that's just a category i'm in. My genre is LitRPG. Which has no set category on Amazon. I'm not saying i can't feel your pain, because I've been there. All i'm saying is, don't expect Amazon to save you. If your genre is saturated period (not just by scammers), then find a new a genre you can write in. It's what I did. The only thing you can choose to do is adapt. 
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Offline SeanHinn

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Sean, I'm not fully sold on the KENP cap idea myself, as of yet, but the fact that you keep saying the above suggests to me that you're not understanding the economic reasoning behind the proposal. If you want to convince people that they're wrong to support the proposal, I think you need to tackle the rationale behind it convincingly, instead of seeming not to get it.

The idea is that these heavily stuffed books don't sell particularly well on their own. They need a very strong advertising push. (Some people think they need more underhanded kinds of pushing as well, but let's leave that to the side.)

Let's say the folks publishing these stuffed books know that (I'm just making up an example, so these are not real numbers) they'll need to get, on average, 100,000 AMS ad clicks to generate 10,000 complete read-throughs of a particular book. Let's say they pay a dollar a click. They've spent $100,000. The book is 3,000 KENP, so 10,000 full read-throughs = 30,000,000 pages read. At .00449/page, they would gross $134,700 and net $34,700 on the book. They publish four of those a month and take home $138,800/month net.

Then a 1,000-KENP cap goes into effect. Well, these authors *still* need to get 100,000 AMS ad clicks to generate 10,000 complete read-throughs. But now a complete read-through brings in $44,900 gross, not $134,700. They're spending $100,000 to make $44,900 -- fail. Yes, they can publish three 1,000-KENP books instead of one 3,000-KENP book, but *each* of those books will require the $100,000 ad spend. They're spending $300,000 and netting $134,700. Furthermore, with three times as many books being advertised within these circles, their cost per click might go up. Maybe they have to spend $400,000 to generate 10,000 full read-throughs.

Whether the above is actually how it'd play out, I don't know, but I believe that's the dollars-and-cents reasoning behind the proposal. Someone please correct me if *I'm* the one who's not getting it!

Looking at the stuffer versus the epic fantasy author ...

The stuffer would be breaking one book containing six disconnected novels into three books containing two disconnected novels each. Since the three books would not be connected to one another by a single story, there's no driving reason for someone who reads one of them to go looking for the others. That's why each of the shorter books will need its own separate advertising.

In contrast, an epic fantasy author would be breaking one cohesive and, hopefully, addictive story into three books. The fantasy author would not have to advertise Books 2 and 3, the way the stuffer would have to advertise each of their three collections equally. The fantasy author would just advertise Book 1 and depend on sell-through to bring a good portion of readers through the entire story.

Therefore, the stuffer's advertising costs would triple, crippling their net income, while the fantasy author's would not.

I think there would be nothing preventing these folks from making "series of series". Volume 1 of the  ABC Series, #1 - includes books 1, 2, 3   Volume 2 of the ABC Series, #2 - includes books 4, 5, 6. etc.

And you are assuming there would be 100% readthrough of an epic book artificially chopped into parts. If the first part is all "getting the story going, introducing the players" and the action is in the second and third parts, that would not be the case.

I think - and if this logic is erroneous, please correct me - if Bookstuffing Outfit, LLC is used to earning $300k/mo, they are going to keep trying to earn $300k/mo, and that could only mean more titles and more ads, exacerbating the problem. Maybe their margins get cut by 50% - OK, great. Then they need to publish 6x as many titles to keep the same income coming in. The folks who are hoping this would be some kind of magic bullet would not get the benefit they are hoping for, I don't think.

This solution also ignores a MAJOR effect on the fantasy genres. Say you're dead right. Say I take a book and chop it into three parts. Say that can be done at zero cost for all previously published epic books. Say I don't have to invest in three different covers, and the readers are 100% OK with that. Say that all amounts to NO loss in quality or reader experience. (unlikely). Say I get 100% sell through and read through of those three parts (unlikely), and hit the top of the charts. I now own positions 1, 2, and 3 in the charts. That would make every other fantasy author have to fight that much harder to get visibility.

It's not that I don't get the *hope* of what would happen. I just don't think it will play out that way, and the only certainty is that it *will* cause harm to a segment of the author population.

Offline Elizabeth Barone

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Lowering the cap won't solve anything, because the problem is scammers' behavior, not the length of books. I thought we established this?

Actually... no, I was joking, but thanks for the info because I'd never heard of click fraud before. What I was (badly) trying to say was, why are we turning on each other when we should be ganging up on the bad guys? If the bully is stealing your lunch money, kick him where it hurts. There has to be someone here that can come up with a dastardly plan to make these guys back off. We have some of the best minds in the business for coming up with plots.

This thread, and the other one preposing shortening the length of cap pages for books in K.U, feel a bit like people who complain about how kids spend too much time on their phones, or people always complaining about people who are on food stamps. The fact that stuffing happens is unfortunate. But I feel like a lot of the people in this thread are coming from the place of, "it's not fair." I wonder how much more effective those people's times would be, oh I don't know... writing more? Marketing better? It would be one thing if stuffers are truly killing the markets for the rest of us, but I don't think they are. Would it be nice if Amazon was clearer on their terms of service? Of course it would be.
I had a friend who got his pages halved last month. The thing is though, his pages were unusually high last month. To the point where he emailed amazon, telling them that he thought he was being targeted by a bot farm. They told him everything was fine. Cue three weeks later, they delete half of his pages, and send him a nasty letter.  Stuff like that feels like much more of a problem than some scammers.

There will always be scammers. If you write to market, work your butt off, I find that you find yourself worrying less and less about what other author's are doing, or what's "fair". I don't care if somebody makes a quick buck with bot farms. Long term, that's not viable. You know what is? writing great books, building a fan base, and keep writing great books. But i'm not doing this for six months or a year or two. I'm here for the long haul, because this is my career.

If we created a Justice League of authors, there will always be a new scam tactic to fight. It's just how things work. I've said this time and time again on this forum. You're never going to get rid of people who cheat whatever system. That's what they do. I was up against it in early Google ads days, and now is no different. Heck, even with all of Google's algo changes, there are still people blogging complete garbage on their sites. Playas gonna play, haters gonna hate, and scammers gonna scam.

It's not my job to police Amazon's system. They're working on it -- see the thread about their lawsuit against a stuffer -- so to me it seems like lost energy trying to fight bad guys. I'd rather put my energy into writing and marketing my books in ways I know are ethical.

I do think it's important to call out bad behavior when we see it. There's another lawsuit going on within our community that is doing exactly that.

They have that. It's called opting out of KU. :D

This is the bottom line. If KU doesn't work for you, opt out. There are plenty of other ways to market a book. Let Amazon take care of their baby. You take care of yours.

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Offline writerbiter

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I think - and if this logic is erroneous, please correct me - if Bookstuffing Outfit, LLC is used to earning $300k/mo, they are going to keep trying to earn $300k/mo, and that could only mean more titles and more ads, exacerbating the problem. Maybe their margins get cut by 50% - OK, great. Then they need to publish 6x as many titles to keep the same income coming in. The folks who are hoping this would be some kind of magic bullet would not get the benefit they are hoping for, I don't think.

While I understand your concerns about fantasy, Limiting the cap would absolutely stop those exploiting the system.

These publishers literally spend $2k a day in ads to hit the top 100. The only reason they can do that is because they earn so much with their 3000 KNEP books--at least 2 a month per pen name, now approaching 3-4 a month. This is not an exaggeration.

However, they are not making much money.  They're just making enough that the system is profitable for them. A book might earn $60k in a month, but they might spend upwards of 75% of those earnings in ads, marketing, and their system of ghostwriters/personal assistants. If we limit the amount they can make per book, they will have less money to use for advertising. They will not be able to launch multiple books. They will not have a sustainable moneymaking scheme anymore. They will stop publishing and move on to the next black hat career.

They aren't writers. They aren't even editing the books. Readers can absolutely abandon author if they feel the quality is poor. That's why these publishers rotate multiple pen names.They know how long a pen name can last, how may books they can write, and when to jump ship. They are doing it for the love of literature. They aren't even doing it because they like it. There's money involved. Lots of it.

Right now, Amazon has made it exceedingly easy to exploit the program for their benefit. If we can make it less profitable and harder for them to do the same thing they're doing now, they will leave the program. Everybody benefits. The page rate will not be influenced by an inflated amount of pages read per month. The bonuses will once again be awarded to the authors who deserve them for high ranking, best-selling books. And it will stop these people before they infiltrate other genres.

Romance is dead. It's completely saturated, and even traditional publishing has stopped taking a number of submissions. Agents and editors cannot sell romance anymore. It's only a matter of time before those who are exploiting romance begin saturating your genre. All it takes is a handful of ghostwriters and the opportunity to earn a ridiculous amount of money on an exploited system. Lowering the cap is one of the easiest ways for Amazon to stop this from happening. It's not entirely fair, but it is the best we can hope for.