KBoards | a community forum for Kindle Users and Authors

Authors' Forum => Writers' Cafe => Topic started by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:06:56 AM

Title: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:06:56 AM
When the topic of KU gaming comes up, many people don't seem to understand what page stuffing (aka book stuffing or bonus stuffing) is and why it is so harmful. Author Heather C. Leigh has made a handy video explainer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX_OZtyzbnQ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX_OZtyzbnQ)



(Before the usual suspects chime in, yes, this practice is against the TOS and KDP Executive Customer Relations has confirmed that explicitly to me in writing.)


Edit: New link for the video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7xronSRNEU



Edited to change image to a link - further explanation in my post below, but do PM me if any questions. Evenstar, Moderator
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 04:28:54 AM
KENPC 3 doesn't count skipped pages anymore, though. This is kind of a moot point. The only way people get paid for "stuffed pages" now is if the person actually reads the bonus books. Whether you believe that bonus content is against KDP terms of service or not (I don't), there is nothing wrong with someone getting paid for pages a reader actually reads. There's nothing illicit about that at all.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:33:26 AM
KENPC 3 doesn't count skipped pages anymore, though. This is kind of a moot point.

It's my understanding that this loophole was not successfully plugged, as many have assumed.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 04:33:48 AM
KENPC 3 doesn't count skipped pages anymore, though. This is kind of a moot point. The only way people get paid for "stuffed pages" now is if the person actually reads the bonus books. Whether you believe that bonus content is against KDP terms of service or not (I don't), there is nothing wrong with someone getting paid for pages a reader actually reads. There's nothing illicit about that at all.

Leaving aside the first part, which seems to still be broken on some devices and in some situations, this isn't a question of bonus content, like a novella included in a box set. These are the same books, put together in multiple different ways, not marked in the product descriptions, etc. You're reading a book, hit 30%, and it ends, only to have a bunch of other stuff at the back. It creates a messy, unfavorable impression of the ebooks being sold on Amazon's store.

Also, my experience is that people are rarely breaking only one rule. They're squatting in inappropriate categories, they're stuffing keywords into their titles, they're cheating on the pub dates in order to try to game the hot new release lists, etc.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:37:05 AM
Whether you believe that bonus content is against KDP terms of service or not (I don't)...

It's against the TOS. I emailed KDP Executive Customer Relations to establish exactly that. I'll copy the emails here for you.

My email to ECR in July:

Quote

Hi,

I would like to get some clarity from Amazon about whether a certain practice - popularly known as "bonus-stuffing" - is permitted by KDP.

Bonus stuffing is the practice of putting additional, full novels in the back of another novel to inflate page count (for the purposes of increasing KU payout) - usually paired with some kind of inducement for readers to click to the end, passed the content they likely own already (as it's novels already on sale in the Kindle Store). This inducement often takes the form of an exclusive short story, or special offer.

I'll give an example:

If I'm an author with four books - Title A, B, C, & D. I will publish my books like this:

Title A (with B, C, D in the back also, and then an exclusive short to get readers to skip the content they have already read previously, so that the full page reads are counted by Amazon).

Title B (with C, D, and A in the back also... and so on across my catalog).

There is conflicting answers coming back from KDP Customer Support and the matter is causing huge debate. The practitioners feel they are just proving "bonus" content and it is permitted. Those opposed see it as a naked attempt to inflate page count, trick Amazon's page counting system into thinking the reader has read five or six times the amount of pages they truly have, and thus grab an inflated payout from the KU pot.

Ethics aside, it would quite obviously seem to provide a poor customer experience. If your Kindle is telling you that you're at 18% of the book file and the story suddenly ends, that will be an anti-climax. It also seems to clearly contravene existing KDP guidelines about Disappointing Content, specifically the provisions that forbid:

"*Content that is not significantly differentiated from another book available in the Kindle Store
*Content that is a non-differentiated version of another book available in the Kindle Store"

Nevertheless, it's Amazon's interpretation that matters here, not my own. So can we get a clear ruling? Is this practice permitted or not?

Kind regards,

David Gaughran

Their completely unambiguous response (emphasizing the most relevant part):

Quote
Hello David,

Thank you for your questions about bonus content. Generally, bonus content is permitted, so long as it and its placement do not create a misleading or disappointing customer experience, this applies to all books including books enrolled in KU.

To your specific example, authors are not permitted to publish the same work multiple times with only minor changes or a reordering of content, regardless of whether the book includes bonus content. When we determine authors are publishing undifferentiated titles like this, the titles are subject to removal from the Kindle store and the author is subject to potential account-level action.

If you have other examples you would like us to look into, please send them to content-review@amazon.com

Regards,

Executive Customer Relations
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 04:38:24 AM
All of the evidence I've seen is that the loophole has been plugged. (Except for possibly on the cloud reader on PC). It is no longer the issue it was, so videos like this are stirring people up for a non- issue.

As far as "if they're doing one thing, they must be doing other things", that's not the point here. Even if I agree with you, I think it's a bad idea to go after people for something that isn't true. It destroys your credibility. If you continue to throw anything you can against the wall and hope something sticks, no one is going to take you seriously.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 04:42:38 AM
So this is where David and I might have a slight disagreement. If there's a box set, and it says "includes the bonus novella: SOME COOL BOOK", and that novella isn't here, there, and everywhere, I think that's okay. So sure, "bonus content." David is stricter on this than I am.

But what is unambiguous is that books that aren't mentioned in the description and that are included in different sets, merely reordered this way and that in a way to throw up all sorts of titles and confuse the lists, the algos, the readers, is violating the ToS. And in my experience, when you see something that looks scammy at the very first glance, those are the same authors who are up to all sorts of other garbage, too. It's not an innocent mistake, they are purposefully trying to defraud the system.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 04:47:00 AM
But, they aren't getting away with it anymore because Amazon plugged the hole. It's time to move on to something else.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 04:48:43 AM
But, they aren't getting away with it anymore because Amazon plugged the hole. It's time to move on to something else.

It feels like you're purposefully trying to muddy the waters.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:50:36 AM
Hmmm, someone with one post before this thread goes up rushes in to say it's not against the TOS (it is) that it has been fixed (it hasn't) and that we should all move on anyway before our credibility is destroyed.

Seems legit.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 04:51:21 AM
I'm really not. I'm actually trying to be helpful. If I do agree that there are shady things going on, then the focus needs to be on stuff that's still happening. Drudging the bottom for old issues isn't going to stop the current nefarious stuff from happening. The focus needs to be on the things that are still affecting authors right now and not on the issues that Amazon has already fixed.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:57:26 AM
Drudging the bottom for old issues isn't going to stop the current nefarious stuff from happening.

It's not an old issue. These guys are still stuffing, and still leveraging those artificially increase page counts into greater payouts from the communal pot, All Star bonuses they don't deserve, and visibility they are taking from others.

The focus needs to be on the things that are still affecting authors right now and not on the issues that Amazon has already fixed.

It hasn't been fixed.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: crow.bar.beer on January 04, 2018, 04:58:39 AM
All of the evidence I've seen is that the loophole has been plugged.

It'd probably make more sense to share the evidence, then, rather than keep insisting Amazon fixed the problem despite what others are saying.  ;)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 05:04:18 AM
Sorry, I don't have screenshots of the tests I've seen people run.

One question, though. I've noticed that the books by the authors that all of this is referring to, the masterminds, have gotten significantly shorter. Instead of 1200 - 1500 pages, it seems that they are now 300 - 600 pages. Doesn't that indicate that the "stuffing" isn't working anymore?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 05:05:53 AM
People deliberately upload shorter paperbacks and then get KDP to update the page count to reflect the print edition, and then go back and stuff the ebook edition.

Been that way for a while.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 05:08:27 AM
I guess they do that so it looks like a regular book?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 05:09:53 AM
It's an attempt to cover their tracks, an indication they know they are doing something wrong.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 05:10:50 AM
Well, if I have incorrect information, then I apologize. Thank you for explaining it to me.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SuzyQ on January 04, 2018, 05:18:26 AM
Including bonus material is not against TOS. It is unethical when it is multiple 'free' books that exceed the length of the original book or when the author tries to trick someone into reading something 'at the back.' This video is dangerously slanderous IMO.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 05:20:01 AM
Including bonus material is not against TOS. It is unethical when it is multiple 'free' books that exceed the length of the original book or when the author tries to trick someone into reading something 'at the back.' This video is dangerously slanderous IMO.

What part is slanderous? It shows the stuffing that is taking place quite clearly.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 05:23:36 AM
Including bonus material is not against TOS. It is unethical when it is multiple 'free' books that exceed the length of the original book or when the author tries to trick someone into reading something 'at the back.' This video is dangerously slanderous IMO.

The bolded part is exactly what the video is showing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 05:28:13 AM
So, I checked some of the books she's talking about in the video. I have a KU subscription. There isn't a link at the end of the epilogue in the Mia Ford or Joanna Blake book to skip to the "sneak peaks".

Regardless if what you are saying is true or not, this video does contain some misinformation about some of the authors mentioned.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 05:36:07 AM
The answer is to not play Amazon's game. Leave KU to the page stuffers and scammers. If Amazon won't do anything about it then it's up to you to deal with it yourselves. They're saying it's not a problem, but if all the genuine authors leave KU because of the inherent unfairness of the system, then Amazon has to either deal with the issue, or continue to ignore it. If the readers complained about page stuffing, then Amazon would deal with it - but they don't and probably won't.

Honestly, this chestnut has been roasted so many times it's wizened and dry as a bone.

and from my point of view (from outside KU) the reader isn't getting a bad deal and there's little difference between calling it a boxset and having the pages stuffed. The reader gets a great VFM deal either way. The problem is purely using the links to jump from one end of the book to the other. Something anyone can do with any book at any time. The system's broken - so why continue to use it?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 05:50:10 AM
Not everyone games KU in the exact same way.
 
They all have one thing in common that I've seen: stuffing.

(Note: not saying there is anything inherently wrong with ghosting, just mentioning that some do it, some don't. Also, many of these other behaviors are also against the TOS. Some of the others might be minor fouls in isolation, it's when combined with the stuffing that it becomes a real dick move, and much more problematic overall.)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Evenstar on January 04, 2018, 06:43:02 AM
We have received several reports and so I think it is best to clarify a couple of things.

As far as I am aware, we do allow links here to most content, providing it is "family friendly", what we try to avoid, however, is people naming names on this site, unless they are speaking of personal experiences (and even then we use as much discretion as we feel able). So please avoid any "naming and shaming" here or the posts will be edited.

Evenstar
Kboards Moderator
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Puddleduck on January 04, 2018, 06:58:18 AM
So this is where David and I might have a slight disagreement. If there's a box set, and it says "includes the bonus novella: SOME COOL BOOK", and that novella isn't here, there, and everywhere, I think that's okay. So sure, "bonus content." David is stricter on this than I am.

I didn't get the sense that he was saying any bonus content at all was wrong, so I'm not sure you're really disagreeing with him.

As a reader (not KU), I've decided not to get some books I was looking at because of comments essentially saying they're stuffed. It is incredibly annoying to look at something that is presented in all ways as a single novel, only to find out it's actually one short novella and one (or two or five) other, completely unrelated novellas. I look at the page count, usually, when choosing to buy a book. I like novels and don't read a lot of short works. And if I'm reading a short work, I darn sure want to know it's a short work going in, because page count gives me some idea of how intricate and meaty a story will be. So I would definitely agree that book-stuffing like this (bundling without giving any indication that a book is a bundle) makes for a poor customer experience. That it could lead to me unknowingly buying the same book twice (because it's included as a "bonus" in another book I've already bought) makes it worse. For one thing, I like to keep my library fairly streamlined, so even knowingly buying a book separately and then in a bundle (usually because of promos on boxed sets) kind of irks me, but it's something I did with full knowledge of what I was doing, so that's just something I have to deal with. From an organizational perspective, stuffed books are a huge PITA.

I think a small amount of clearly labeled bonus content is fine. But not too much, otherwise it inflates the page count and makes the reader think they'll be getting more of the core story than is actually there. For a lot of us, length is definitely a factor that we consider when we're looking to see if a book appears to be worth the asking price. I might pay $7 for a novel. I would almost certainly not pay $7 for a novella and a bunch of random stuff I didn't ask for and didn't know I was getting. And I know these don't usually sell that high, but the same concept applies even for cheap books. Not everyone subscribes to KU, so it's worth looking at how page-stuffed books affect readers who only buy (not borrow). Selling what are actually bundles as if they were single novels is, IMO as a reader, completely unacceptable.

And that's my response to the argument that even if it weren't against TOS there'd be nothing wrong with doing this.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dpock on January 04, 2018, 07:04:41 AM
The system's broken - so why continue to use it?

KU is 48% of my Amazon income.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: blubarry on January 04, 2018, 07:10:33 AM
I'm glad there are people out there taking a stance on this like Heather and David. If only Amazon would take notice and actually do something, but from my experience, even the KDP reps don't really understand the issue. Maybe KU4 will bring about real change.

It might be my tired brain this morning, but there seemed some misinformation in her video. It's not the number of pages read that gets visibility, it's the borrows that influences rank. Stuffing for more pages read earns them more money (both pages and All Star bonus - max of 25k not 50k for author bonus, could be higher if book bonuses, other stores).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 07:12:22 AM
The answer is to not play Amazon's game. Leave KU to the page stuffers and scammers. If Amazon won't do anything about it then it's up to you to deal with it yourselves.

Honestly, this chestnut has been roasted so many times it's wizened and dry as a bone.

You've hit the nail on the head. Anyone in KU deserves everything they get at this point, which includes having their royalties subsidizing stuffers and botters and bonus scammers. I've come to the view that yes, they deserve it. If you know all this bs is going on and still join the program, then you're agreeing to selling in that environment. It was one thing to complain when we all assumed zon was looking to run an honest shop; but at this point it's clear they don't care about applying consistent effort to achieve that. It was clear when they started deranking people as a slap on the wrist when they should have been banning them from selling on the store entirely. Zon is 100% A-OK with scumbags doing business on its platform... not just with books, but with all sorts of products. It's a flee market mentality (KU is just the epitome of this mentality).

The only thing I didn't like with the video, though, is this notion that visibility equals increased sales. I don't think that's true in the least. Sales generate rank, not the other way around. Rank doesn't even make a book sticky (unless zon picks it up and starts pushing it in front of people; but simply being high in the charts does basically nothing on its own). And these books aren't reaching the top of the charts because they are stuffed, they are getting there through some other function and they'd still be there if they weren't stuffed. The stuffing (assuming the loopholes still exists) merely enables them to steal from the KU pot.

There are probably millions of readers outside of KU who are happy to buy books. If you can't build sustainability off them, then that's what you have to consider in terms of your future efforts.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 07:14:49 AM
KU is 48% of my Amazon income.

It's probably 60% of your income, just that 12% of your KU royalties are going to pay off the botters and scammers.  :P
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 07:35:50 AM
Its an outdated concept that if we all got what we thought we deserved, we'd get it all, if we all got what everyone else thought we should have, we'd get nothing.

Reality is a harsh employer. You have to fight for what you can get, but whingeing never made anyone any money. It seems to me that there are some very clever people out there fighting for their share (and getting it in spades). What they can do - you can do - and if Amazon isn't doing nowt about them, they probably won't do anything about you either. As long as the reader ends up with a smile on their face while paying Amazon their monthly tithe nobody is going to rock the boat.  No, I wouldn't do it, but then I refuse to belong to KU [any more] because it's a scam and the author is the victim. The responsible and best way to get even with Amazon, is to keep your books wide and support their competitors wherever you can. One day KU will collapse and if you're in there dependant on their handouts, then you will be the loser and Amazon and the scammers will not twitch a muscle to help you.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Bill Hiatt on January 04, 2018, 08:00:41 AM
You've hit the nail on the head. Anyone in KU deserves everything they get at this point, which includes having their royalties subsidizing stuffers and botters and bonus scammers. I've come to the view that yes, they deserve it. If you know all this bs is going on and still join the program, then you're agreeing to selling in that environment. It was one thing to complain when we all assumed zon was looking to run an honest shop; but at this point it's clear they don't care about applying consistent effort to achieve that. It was clear when they started deranking people as a slap on the wrist when they should have been banning them from selling on the store entirely. Zon is 100% A-OK with scumbags doing business on its platform... not just with books, but with all sorts of products. It's a flee market mentality (KU is just the epitome of this mentality).
It's important to note that not everyone knows what's going on in KU. A lot of newbies don't read Kboards or similar forums and have no idea what kind of problems the program has when they sign up.

Your criticism might be more valid for someone like me who does know about the problems and doesn't depend on writing as my primary means of support. I could leave KU without taking a huge financial risk. However, it's a much more difficult choice for someone who is dependent on that writing income. Not everyone makes a success of going wide. Not everyone has enough overall income to say, as I've seen some authors do, that they lost money leaving KU, but it was worth it. Not everyone can take a 20% drop in income in stride. (And yes, I've heard people cite that kind of loss--and even more--as worth it.) Saying that people like that are getting what they deserve because they are reluctant to put their financial well-being at risk doesn't seem fair to me.

I'm sure you're going to say that KU isn't a reliable source of future income, and you could well be right. That still doesn't mean it's easy for someone to abandon a good revenue stream right now and hope that wide distribution can compensate.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Evenstar on January 04, 2018, 08:08:17 AM
This question is mere curiosity as I personally dislike stuffing as a reader, but wouldn't it make all the difference if the front cover simply added the line: Includes bonus content?

That way there would be no terms broken and no one being misled?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 04, 2018, 08:08:34 AM
Including bonus material is not against TOS. It is unethical when it is multiple 'free' books that exceed the length of the original book or when the author tries to trick someone into reading something 'at the back.' This video is dangerously slanderous IMO.


Good thing the video qualifies that not all of the authors shown are page stuffing and that bonus content and excerpts arenít against TOS.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 04, 2018, 08:15:59 AM
This question is mere curiosity as I personally dislike stuffing as a reader, but wouldn't it make all the difference if the front cover simply added the line: Includes bonus content?

That way there would be no terms broken and no one being misled?

Possibly. If the bonus content is unique it is allowed. If itís merely another book already listed in KU or for sale somewhere else, itís against TOS
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 08:16:47 AM
Anyone in KU deserves everything they get at this point, which includes having their royalties subsidizing stuffers and botters and bonus scammers. I've come to the view that yes, they deserve it.

So, you don't sell on Amazon? Because yeah, if you are, you're losing money to this, too. You think these people are only stealing visibility from the exclusive writers?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 04, 2018, 08:18:44 AM
Its an outdated concept that if we all got what we thought we deserved, we'd get it all, if we all got what everyone else thought we should have, we'd get nothing.

Reality is a harsh employer. You have to fight for what you can get, but whingeing never made anyone any money. It seems to me that there are some very clever people out there fighting for their share (and getting it in spades). What they can do - you can do - and if Amazon isn't doing nowt about them, they probably won't do anything about you either. As long as the reader ends up with a smile on their face while paying Amazon their monthly tithe nobody is going to rock the boat.  No, I wouldn't do it, but then I refuse to belong to KU [any more] because it's a scam and the author is the victim. The responsible and best way to get even with Amazon, is to keep your books wide and support their competitors wherever you can. One day KU will collapse and if you're in there dependant on their handouts, then you will be the loser and Amazon and the scammers will not twitch a muscle to help you.

I would agree with you except this is specifically against amazons own rules. Then they turn around and harass other authors for ridiculous things like reviews or demanding their copyright letters. They pick and choose which rules to follow and sorry, that isnít okay.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 08:27:13 AM
I would agree with you except this is specifically against amazons own rules. Then they turn around and harass other authors for ridiculous things like reviews or demanding their copyright letters. They pick and choose which rules to follow and sorry, that isnít okay.

The point is by staying in KU you accept that you're a willing participant in this harassment. You become party to it and are therefore complicit. Writing emails to Amazon and making videos is all well and good, but in the end you all KNOW it's totally ineffective. If people really wanted to do something about it, they would leave KU in droves. I'm not unaware that people derive their income from this, but then so do workers in sweatshops in Pakistan. you don't dare risk being expelled, or worse killing the goose yet you realise someone somewhere has to ride to your aid. The bane of being an Indie is you're an army of one.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: icarusxx on January 04, 2018, 08:33:21 AM
I didn't get the sense that he was saying any bonus content at all was wrong, so I'm not sure you're really disagreeing with him.

As a reader (not KU), I've decided not to get some books I was looking at because of comments essentially saying they're stuffed. It is incredibly annoying to look at something that is presented in all ways as a single novel, only to find out it's actually one short novella and one (or two or five) other, completely unrelated novellas. I look at the page count, usually, when choosing to buy a book. I like novels and don't read a lot of short works. And if I'm reading a short work, I darn sure want to know it's a short work going in, because page count gives me some idea of how intricate and meaty a story will be. So I would definitely agree that book-stuffing like this (bundling without giving any indication that a book is a bundle) makes for a poor customer experience. That it could lead to me unknowingly buying the same book twice (because it's included as a "bonus" in another book I've already bought) makes it worse. For one thing, I like to keep my library fairly streamlined, so even knowingly buying a book separately and then in a bundle (usually because of promos on boxed sets) kind of irks me, but it's something I did with full knowledge of what I was doing, so that's just something I have to deal with. From an organizational perspective, stuffed books are a huge PITA.

I think a small amount of clearly labeled bonus content is fine. But not too much, otherwise it inflates the page count and makes the reader think they'll be getting more of the core story than is actually there. For a lot of us, length is definitely a factor that we consider when we're looking to see if a book appears to be worth the asking price. I might pay $7 for a novel. I would almost certainly not pay $7 for a novella and a bunch of random stuff I didn't ask for and didn't know I was getting. And I know these don't usually sell that high, but the same concept applies even for cheap books. Not everyone subscribes to KU, so it's worth looking at how page-stuffed books affect readers who only buy (not borrow). Selling what are actually bundles as if they were single novels is, IMO as a reader, completely unacceptable.

And that's my response to the argument that even if it weren't against TOS there'd be nothing wrong with doing this.

If everything that is in a book is listed in the Table of Contents, all you need to do is look at the TOC to know what is in the book before you buy it. If you don't bother to look at the TOC, that's your choice, but then it's caveat emptor. So in general, I think "stuffing" may be relevant in KU because it has an effect on author payout, but for direct sales, as long as there is no mass repeated duplication of content, it can be a problem only when texts are not in the TOC. If a reader chooses not to look at the TOC, that is equivalent to a someone in a supermarket buying a box without knowing what is actually inside. As far as confusion about the length of the title text, if the description on the product page says it's a short story or a novella or a novel, any serious reader knows the difference.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 08:35:19 AM
Saying that people like that are getting what they deserve because they are reluctant to put their financial well-being at risk doesn't seem fair to me.

I'm sure you're going to say that KU isn't a reliable source of future income, and you could well be right. That still doesn't mean it's easy for someone to abandon a good revenue stream right now and hope that wide distribution can compensate.

If I stick my hand in a wood chipper I deserve to lose my fingers :P

At this point, there are no victims anymore. The nature of KU is no longer in question and the realities of the program are stark and in everyone's face. So anyone joining is accepting those realities (whether said realities contradict the TOS or not; the TOS is essentially a joke at this point).

Joining KU is neither right nor wrong objectively speaking (subjectively we can all have opinions), but at this stage of the game, no one is a victim. Even new authors, unless they don't do any research before joining, will quickly find out all about KU's flaws with a little googling.

I think when people accept that and stop hoping for Amazon to clean up its act, they'll make better decisions for themselves. And that may not mean leaving KU (I don't disagree KU may still be the right choice for many authors). But at least they'll stop concerning themselves with things that 1) they can't control and 2) are never going to change. :)

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Puddleduck on January 04, 2018, 08:40:50 AM
This question is mere curiosity as I personally dislike stuffing as a reader, but wouldn't it make all the difference if the front cover simply added the line: Includes bonus content?

That way there would be no terms broken and no one being misled?

Just how I feel about it as a reader: No. That wouldn't be enough. Only saying "Bonus Content" would, to me, imply maybe 10 pages or so worth of like an author Q&A, maybe a short story at the end. If the "bonus content" amounted to more than 5, maybe 10 percent of the book, that little tag would do nothing at all to mitigate my displeasure. To me, even one more full book that's over 10k words or so is much more than generic bonus content. Even a short story, really, should be more specific about what it includes. If all it said was "bonus content" and not listing titles and saying whether the extra stories are novellas, novels, or whatever, I'd think it meant something other than another story. (Story snippets maybe, like an alternate ending or something, but not another full story.)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 08:40:53 AM
So, you don't sell on Amazon? Because yeah, if you are, you're losing money to this, too. You think these people are only stealing visibility from the exclusive writers?

No I don't. What is visibility? Rank? That does zippo for generating sales. 

You know what steals my visibility? An AMS system tilted to favor KU authors. An Amazon algo that promotes KU books over non-KU books.

Whatever "visibility" one KU member is losing to another, is still less than non-KU authors are losing to KU-authors in general.

But honestly, I could care less about all that because rank does not generate sales. Sales generate rank.

And none of my royalties are going to scammers or stuffers or botters... they all go into my pocket. I've said it before, on the direct side I think zon is running a good operation. On the KU side it's a total gong show.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 08:45:37 AM

And none of my royalties are going to scammers or stuffers or botters... they all go into my pocket. I've said it before, on the direct side I think zon is running a good operation. On the KU side it's a total gong show.

Yep! I'm not exclusive with Amazon yet I get a good deal so long as I don't try and compete with those in KU. Should we demand a level-playing field?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PhoenixS on January 04, 2018, 08:56:11 AM
This question is mere curiosity as I personally dislike stuffing as a reader, but wouldn't it make all the difference if the front cover simply added the line: Includes bonus content?

That way there would be no terms broken and no one being misled?

Intent to defraud is a thing. Adding "includes bonus content" while stuffing the same books over and over in your catalog is scamming the system. It is misleading. It is breaking terms. And it's not OK.

No I don't. What is visibility? Rank? That does zippo for generating sales. 
...
But honestly, I could care less about all that because rank does not generate sales. Sales generate rank.

Initially, that's true. Rank, however *can* help sustain visibility [ETA: visibility=sales]. That, too, is a thing. A demonstrable thing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 08:57:36 AM
Yep! I'm not exclusive with Amazon yet I get a good deal so long as I don't try and compete with those in KU. Should we demand a level-playing field?

We've got a better playing field :)  Sure, zon tilts everything toward KU, but it's really inconsequential. It used to bother me when I thought rank generated sales to some degree. I no longer believe that's true (it's really been a paradigm shift to how I view the industry). So being top of the charts is more of an ego thing than it is a money or sales generator. 

Once I went wide I started to really accept that rank means nothing. The only metric that matters to me now is sales and revenue. Some of my best months I had crappy rank, because my sales were spread out across different vendors and different countries.

So I think the playing field is ultimately level, it's just that there are so few of us who are wide and who do better wide that it doesn't seem that way on public forums.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 09:03:44 AM
Intent to defraud is a thing. Adding "includes bonus content" while stuffing the same books over and over in your catalog is scamming the system. It is misleading. It is breaking terms. And it's not OK.

Initially, that's true. Rank, however *can* help sustain visibility. That, too, is a thing. A demonstrable thing.

But it is "OK" if amazon doesn't enforce its TOS.  :P  That's what I'm saying... is that amazon's rules aren't actual rules, they are simply artifacts that they can choose to use/enforce if they want, but rarely do. It's abundantly clear at this point that zon really doesn't care what's going on with the KU stuffers/scammers/borrow botters, etc.  Sure, if you and David and a ton of other folks blast them, they'll maybe do something about a handful of authors. But otherwise, it's utterly irrelevant to them what's going on. 

And yes, of course, rank can sustain rank, but rank doesn't generate sales (at least I don't believe it does to any degree worth valuing). So this obsession with visibility that KU members have, I just don't get anymore. And zon purposely gives a borrow bump because they know people are obsessed with their rank.

All I care about are sales and revenue  :P


edited; PM if you have questions -- Ann

 

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: andycat on January 04, 2018, 09:22:12 AM
I think one major issue in this discussion is that most people don't stuff in the manner David describes in his email to Amazon (which seems to be what he references and what other people in this thread are alluding to when they say it is against Amazon's TOS.)

David describes the stuffing as being (quoting directly from his email):

Title A (with B, C, D in the back also, and then an exclusive short to get readers to skip the content they have already read previously, so that the full page reads are counted by Amazon).

Title B (with C, D, and A in the back also... and so on across my catalog).



BUT in my experience (and I write romance so I see this day in and day out! lol) this is not actually how it works. The first title is always an original one. So the pattern is more like this:

Title D (with A, B, C in the back)

Title E (with A, B, C, D in the back

Title F (B, C, D, E in the back)


etc.

So in each case, there is always a new title. The response David received from Amazon said that "authors are not permitted to publish the same work multiple times with only minor changes or a reordering of content" but in the VASSST majority of cases, that is not what's happening. There is always SOME new content, even if it's just a 25K novella back-ended with 150,000k of previously published content.

I don't like stuffing either, and even though I write romance, I don't do it. I write 80K novels and I price them at 3.99 (except for launch/sales). I'm ALLLL for training readers to value good content and I honestly believe stuffers are eroding the marketplace. But I don't think it's helpful to accuse people of being 'scammers' or whatever when they are working within the very system Amazon created.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Bill Hiatt on January 04, 2018, 09:29:04 AM
If everything that is in a book is listed in the Table of Contents, all you need to do is look at the TOC to know what is in the book before you buy it. If you don't bother to look at the TOC, that's your choice, but then it's caveat emptor. So in general, I think "stuffing" may be relevant in KU because it has an effect on author payout, but for direct sales, as long as there is no mass repeated duplication of content, it can be a problem only when texts are not in the TOC. If a reader chooses not to look at the TOC, that is equivalent to a someone in a supermarket buying a box without knowing what is actually inside. As far as confusion about the length of the title text, if the description on the product page says it's a short story or a novella or a novel, any serious reader knows the difference.
I think it's better for bonus content to be clearly listed in the product description. The Look Inside typically opens at the beginning of the actual content, so a customer has to scroll backward to see the TOC. Also, the TOC listings could be misleading. If you think you're looking at one novel, you might interpret the any divisions you see other than chapters as parts of that novel. (Some novels are divided into parts, each of which has chapters within it.)

Also, keeping in mind an ebook TOC has no page numbers, a prospective buyer might not be able to tell how long the bonus material is, leading to the scenario that was discussed earlier. It's one thing to buy a novel and have a little related bonus content, quite another to buy a handful of novellas.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 09:36:57 AM
But I don't think it's helpful to accuse people of being 'scammers' or whatever when they are working within the very system Amazon created.

Yeah! that would be me and I admit I'm using a 'catchall' phrase because everyone seems to consider anyone bending the rules is taking advantage or 'scamming' the system. When I say 'scammers', I really mean 'lovely people with misguided views on being fair and considerate to others' all good ? :D
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 09:39:37 AM
There is the law and then there is what is ethical and the two do not always coincide.

Stuffing, in my view, is when you add bonus content to a title with the hopes that, because of glitches in the matrix, aka the way Amazon inexpertly calculates page reads, you will garner money from the KU pot for pages not read.

Period.

Any tactic (using the print length to pretend the book is only 300 pages, sending out only the actual title to reviewers and then uploading a new book with all the stuffed content so that it looks like the book is only 300 pages, reordering the same content over and over with a special bonus epilogue at the end, etc.)  -- anything that tries to get page reads for pages not read is unethical, even if there is no actual statement against it, or if the TOS don't explicitly prohibit it.

If you know that someone left their back door open and money on the kitchen floor and go in wearing muddy boots which accidentally pick up the money off the floor you are robbing and trespassing even if you didn't have to break in and even if you didn't actually pick up the money with your hands.

Come on, people! This is a simple ethical issue.

If you are willing to take what you do not rightfully have a claim to, you are behaving unethically even if there is no law or TOS bullet point against it.

People who see a loophole and use that to get paid for content that is not actually consumed are scammers.

Scammers who scam in one way have an ethical system in place that means they may be more likely to look for other ways to get something that they are not legally or ethically entitled to. So I agree with David on this point as well.

This should be simple for most of us, but some of us don't have the same moral or ethical system in place.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 09:41:53 AM
I think it's better for bonus content to be clearly listed in the product description.

Exactly. If you're adding anything beyond a bonus chapter, minor content etc, you're selling a bundle and you should label it clearly as a bundle, box set, collection etc.  It takes relatively little commitment to add in the description exactly what the customer is getting when they purchase.  Not going to say everyone who does is trying to game the system, but I will definitely give side-eye to any product description that doesn't tell me what I'm getting for my dollar.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: icarusxx on January 04, 2018, 09:42:37 AM
I think it's better for bonus content to be clearly listed in the product description. The Look Inside typically opens at the beginning of the actual content, so a customer has to scroll backward to see the TOC. Also, the TOC listings could be misleading. If you think you're looking at one novel, you might interpret the any divisions you see other than chapters as parts of that novel. (Some novels are divided into parts, each of which has chapters within it.)

Also, keeping in mind an ebook TOC has no page numbers, a prospective buyer might not be able to tell how long the bonus material is, leading to the scenario that was discussed earlier. It's one thing to buy a novel and have a little related bonus content, quite another to buy a handful of novellas.

Well, yes. The point is to provide full infomation in the TOC or in the product description so there is no confusion. What I think is not feasible is providing full information on the cover. But in general, I think any reader should look at the table of contents before buying a book, if there is a TOC. If the length of items matter, the word count can be included in the TOC. I take my guide as an author from my experience as a reader. As a reader I want as much information as possible up front and if I have to scroll back from the opening content to get it, that's fine. In general, a reader has an oblication to find out as much as possible about a book before they buy it, and the author has an obiigation to provide as much information as possible, given the constraints of a digital book. Anyway, I think we have no real disagreement between us.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SuzyQ on January 04, 2018, 09:44:13 AM
Once again...

 Bonus Content
If you choose to include bonus content (e.g. other stories, or previews of other books), it should be relevant to the customer and should not disrupt the reading experience. To meet these guidelines, we recommend placing additional content at the end of the book.

Content must meet all program guidelines (e.g., bonus content in KDP Select titles must be exclusive). Translated content must be high quality and not machine generated. Disruptive links and promises of gifts or rewards are never allowed.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G202018960
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 09:44:49 AM
What I think is not feasible is providing full information on the cover. But in general, I think any reader should look at the table of contents before buying a book, if there is a TOC. If the length of items matter, the word count can be included in the TOC.

Forget even the TOC, you have the marketing description where you can list all this stuff up front.  Easy, no mess, and doesn't even require people to crack open the Look Inside.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 09:49:03 AM
Once again...

 Bonus Content
If you choose to include bonus content (e.g. other stories, or previews of other books), it should be relevant to the customer and should not disrupt the reading experience. To meet these guidelines, we recommend placing additional content at the end of the book.

Content must meet all program guidelines (e.g., bonus content in KDP Select titles must be exclusive). Translated content must be high quality and not machine generated. Disruptive links and promises of gifts or rewards are never allowed.

https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G202018960

Yes, that's clear. People will still argue their own personal definition of what constitutes 'bonus content' though :/
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Anarchist on January 04, 2018, 10:01:06 AM
The point is by staying in KU you accept that you're a willing participant in this harassment. You become party to it and are therefore complicit.

That's a hell of an accusation.



Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Anna Drake on January 04, 2018, 10:03:27 AM
This question is mere curiosity as I personally dislike stuffing as a reader, but wouldn't it make all the difference if the front cover simply added the line: Includes bonus content?

That way there would be no terms broken and no one being misled?

I was thinking the information could be added to the description.

I'm really torn by this. I'd like to add the first chapter of the next book to the back of the previous book. Trad publishers do this. Or at least they used to. But I'm conflicted because several people have said this should not be done. Beats me why not, though.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 10:04:53 AM
I'm really torn by this. I'd like to add the first chapter of the next book to the back of the previous book. Trad publishers do this. Or at least they used to. But I'm conflicted because several people have said this should not be done. Beats me why not, though.

I think most (hope) of us are more here arguing against full books without proper disclosure. I've always added a bonus chapter to my stuff - ie. a teaser of what's to come.  I don't see any issue with that.  It's been a common practice for a long time.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: LadyG on January 04, 2018, 10:12:27 AM
Seriously???? That is clear as day. It is NOT against TOS. They even give you a handy dandy guide to what is okay! Trust me, I wish it WAS not allowed. But can the witch hunt please stop now?

Quote
...it should be relevant to the customer and should not disrupt the reading experience...


So when I buy a book that claims to be a mail order bride romance novel, only to find that I've actually bought a 12-page short story followed by 17 other "novels" ranging from Amish romance to Viking or Scottish erotica and a cookbook thrown in just for snicks, that's "relevant to the customer"? Or when that 12-page story is followed by a link to "special bonus content" at the back of the book, it doesn't "disrupt the reading experience"?

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Anna Drake on January 04, 2018, 10:19:28 AM
I've said it before, on the direct side I think zon is running a good operation. On the KU side it's a total gong show.

The best post yet.

And to those who say we in KU are sellouts. Consider this:

I was wide and, since Pronoun's demise, I have come back to Zon and KU. Why? Because I learned through my time with Pronoun most of my sales and downloads happened at Zon. I might not like it. I might even wish it were not true. But there it is. Zon today. Zon tomorrow. Zon ad infinity.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Bill Hiatt on January 04, 2018, 10:22:19 AM
I think most (hope) of us are more here arguing against full books without proper disclosure. I've always added a bonus chapter to my stuff - ie. a teaser of what's to come.  I don't see any issue with that.  It's been a common practice for a long time.
I agree. That's a frequent publishing practice, even though I haven't yet done it myself.

To avoid minor problems with KU pages read, Amazon probably shouldn't count back matter (which I would assume includes sample chapters). I thought those parts weren't counted, but I'm not sure.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: lilywhite on January 04, 2018, 10:30:21 AM
There is the law and then there is what is ethical and the two do not always coincide.

THIS. Times 1000000000.

I am heartily tired of hearing folks say something is "allowed," as though their entire moral compass and belief system is based only on what they can get away with. How about doing what's right?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: icarusxx on January 04, 2018, 10:31:31 AM
Forget even the TOC, you have the marketing description where you can list all this stuff up front.  Easy, no mess, and doesn't even require people to crack open the Look Inside.

Yes, but I WANT the reader to open the book and read the Look Inside and get hooked (I hope).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: icarusxx on January 04, 2018, 10:42:16 AM
THIS. Times 1000000000.

I am heartily tired of hearing folks say something is "allowed," as though their entire moral compass and belief system is based only on what they can get away with. How about doing what's right?

Sure. But who determines what is right? Or ethical? At least what is allowed, or the law, is explicit.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 10:45:59 AM
The video is gone now. I wonder what happened?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Monique on January 04, 2018, 10:48:39 AM
The video is gone now. I wonder what happened?

It's being edited to correct some erroneous information and will be reposted shortly.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 10:49:44 AM
It's against the TOS. I emailed KDP Executive Customer Relations to establish exactly that. I'll copy the emails here for you.

My email to ECR in July:

Their completely unambiguous response (emphasizing the most relevant part):

It's been clear for awhile that you can't publish the same content re-ordered. But it seems you can publish bonus content so long as the total package is different.

I.E.

Book A contains B then C
Book D contains A then B
Book F contains A then C

I would like bonus content to be against the ToS, but Amazon has made it clear bonus content is okay by their inaction. This has been going on for over a year.

If everything that is in a book is listed in the Table of Contents, all you need to do is look at the TOC to know what is in the book before you buy it. If you don't bother to look at the TOC, that's your choice, but then it's caveat emptor. So in general, I think "stuffing" may be relevant in KU because it has an effect on author payout, but for direct sales, as long as there is no mass repeated duplication of content, it can be a problem only when texts are not in the TOC. If a reader chooses not to look at the TOC, that is equivalent to a someone in a supermarket buying a box without knowing what is actually inside. As far as confusion about the length of the title text, if the description on the product page says it's a short story or a novella or a novel, any serious reader knows the difference.

Ah, but this isn't true. Lots of authors are putting their bonus books in their ToC as chapters, so their ToC look something like this:

Book For Sale
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
etc.
Mailing List
Author's Note
Other Book 1
Other Book 2
Other Book 3

To where it's not clear if those are samples are entire books. I know I often list my excerpts samples by the book's title. But I use Vellum, so the exact chapters of everything are very clear.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Evenstar on January 04, 2018, 10:50:41 AM
I don't like locking threads, but please try not to start attacking each other for personal choice regarding KU V Wide, otherwise I'll be forced to hit the time out button.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: icarusxx on January 04, 2018, 10:56:44 AM
It's been clear for awhile that you can't publish the same content re-ordered. But it seems you can publish bonus content so long as the total package is different.

I.E.

Book A contains B then C
Book D contains A then B
Book F contains A then C

I would like bonus content to be against the ToS, but Amazon has made it clear bonus content is okay by their inaction. This has been going on for over a year.

Ah, but this isn't true. Lots of authors are putting their bonus books in their ToC as chapters, so their ToC look something like this:

Book For Sale
Ch 1
Ch 2
Ch 3
etc.
Mailing List
Author's Note
Other Book 1
Other Book 2
Other Book 3

To where it's not clear if those are samples are entire books. I know I often list my excerpts samples by the book's title. But I use Vellum, so the exact chapters of everything are very clear.

Agreed. But do you want to ban all bonus material because some authors are devious?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 11:06:50 AM
Sure. But who determines what is right? Or ethical? At least what is allowed, or the law, is explicit.

To me, the ethics are pretty clear. If they aren't, it says a lot about those who don't get the ethical issues.

Don't steal. Don't cheat. Don't lie.

Anything that equals stealing or cheating or lying is unethical. And wrong. People should know this just from growing up in our society. These things shouldn't have to spelled out in elaborate detail in the TOS so that people don't scam.

In moral development terms, sticking to the letter of the law rather than being informed by the spirit of the law is at the school-aged kid level.

In KU, we are supposed to be paid for actual pages read. That's our contract with Amazon. If a book with a KENP of 300 is read in full, we expect to be paid $1.35 when the payout is $0.0045 per page. We trust that Amazon can count the actual pages a customer reads. Whether it can or not is another question entirely.

That is our legal contract.

An ethical author would believe that if a customer only reads 100 KENP, we should get $0.45. If the customer reads the whole book, the author expects to get paid for the full KENP. An ethical author would want what was their rightful due and not more -- or less.

Now, the unethical author sees that Amazon can't actually count real pages read. So they stuff their books full of bonus content, other books that are already published, translations of those books, and material that has no relationship to the titled content. They do not describe this content in the product page. They also include a special never-before-seen epilogue at the end and a link to that bonus content in the TOS -- KNOWING that their readers will skip to the back of the book to read that special epilogue. Their book is now 10,000 KENP. The unethical author gets paid for a full 10,000 KENP even though the customer has not actually read those pages. They get $45 instead of $1.35.

SCORE!!!!

If anyone thinks that's kosher, they are ethically challenged.

I don't know about anyone else, but my mother and father -- and the Bible -- teach us not to lie, cheat or steal.

- knowingly including unlabelled bonus content, hiding content, bad translations, etc, to get around TOS. Lying.
- knowingly including stuffed content with incentivized link to the end to get unread pages? Cheating
- knowingly getting paid out of the KU pot for pages that were not actually read? Stealing.

Seems pretty darn clear to me.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 11:12:22 AM
To me, the ethics are pretty clear. If they aren't, it says a lot about those who don't get the ethical issues.

Don't steal. Don't cheat. Don't lie.

Anything that equals stealing or cheating or lying is unethical. And wrong. People should know this just from growing up in our society. These things shouldn't have to spelled out in elaborate detail in the TOS so that people don't scam.

In moral development terms, sticking to the letter of the law rather than being informed by the spirit of the law is at the school-aged kid level.

In KU, we are supposed to be paid for actual pages read. That's our contract with Amazon. If a book with a KENP of 300 is read in full, we expect to be paid $1.35 when the payout is $0.0045 per page. We trust that Amazon can count the actual pages a customer reads. Whether it can or not is another question entirely.

That is our legal contract.

An ethical author would believe that if a customer only reads 100 KENP, we should get $0.45. If the customer reads the whole book, the author expects to get paid for the full KENP. An ethical author would want what was their rightful due and not more -- or less.

Now, the unethical author sees that Amazon can't actually count real pages read. So they stuff their books full of bonus content, other books that are already published, translations of those books, and material that has no relationship to the titled content. They do not describe this content in the product page. They also include a special never-before-seen epilogue at the end and a link to that bonus content in the TOS -- KNOWING that their readers will skip to the back of the book to read that special epilogue. Their book is now 10,000 KENP. The unethical author gets paid for a full 10,000 KENP even though the customer has not actually read those pages. They get $45 instead of $1.35.

SCORE!!!!

If anyone thinks that's kosher, they are ethically challenged.

I don't know about anyone else, but my mother and father -- and the Bible -- teach us not to lie, cheat or steal.

- knowingly including unlabelled bonus content, hiding content, bad translations, etc, to get around TOS. Lying.
- knowingly including stuffed content with incentivized link to the end to get unread pages? Cheating
- knowingly getting paid out of the KU pot for pages that were not actually read? Stealing.

Seems pretty darn clear to me.


Once more I must rue the lack of a like button on kboards.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 11:12:54 AM
Their book is now 10,000 KENP. The unethical author gets paid for a full 10,000 KENP even though the customer has not actually read those pages. They get $45 instead of $1.35.


But, didn't Amazon put a roof on these books at 3,000 KENP?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: EB on January 04, 2018, 11:20:48 AM
Their completely unambiguous response (emphasizing the most relevant part):
Quote
Their completely unambiguous response (emphasizing the most relevant part):

Quote
Hello David,

Thank you for your questions about bonus content. Generally, bonus content is permitted, so long as it and its placement do not create a misleading or disappointing customer experience, this applies to all books including books enrolled in KU.

To your specific example, authors are not permitted to publish the same work multiple times with only minor changes or a reordering of content, regardless of whether the book includes bonus content. When we determine authors are publishing undifferentiated titles like this, the titles are subject to removal from the Kindle store and the author is subject to potential account-level action.

If you have other examples you would like us to look into, please send them to content-review@amazon.com

Regards,

Executive Customer Relations

KU is filled with this kind of nonsense and those who are doing it just get better at packaging it. This is one of the main reasons I've stopped running promotions (closed to submissions indefinitely); I simply do not have the man power to super-scrutinize or buy/read start to finish every book that is submitted. My usual method is cover/blurb/book sample/customer reviews, which can miss stuffed books, books with duplicate content, and plagiarized books. When this topic blew up a few months ago, I went over submission records and I was not happy.

All I can say is that yes, there are a handful of individuals that are responsible for dozens of pen names doing things like book stuffing, duplicate content, and Facebook Ads with stolen/unauthorized use of celebrity/other copyrighted images, and frankly, I am shocked at the connections. These are not just fly-by-night scammers; these are authors who have been in the business for a long time (some are successful and well-known in other genres), who know the self-pub industry well, and have figured out a way to monetize their product in an extreme way. They know the key ingredients to sell a book: genre-appropriate cover, good blurb, interesting sample, and customer reviews. The stories are common troupes, quick, easy, steamy reads, generally enjoyable. The content is minimally edited, but they don't care; they get those reviews up, sell a bundle in a week or two, and then abandon any promo on that book because the next one is ready to release. Books are unpublished, rewritten, and republished; the same stories are rotated as bonus material between the books. Most of the shenanigans teeter on the edge of Amazon's TOS.

Shady? Yes. Unethical? Yes. Against TOS? Sometimes. Are they getting Amazon All Star Bonuses? Yes. Make of that what you will.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantisatheart on January 04, 2018, 11:21:20 AM
Ok, please don't scream at me because I'm asking this as a valid question. I've never stuffed, added, or anything else naughty, but...I do have a shed load of 10K shorts that had been previously published in the good old days when shorts were hot, but I took them down after KU2, and the covers were really awful. I don't want to pay for new covers, etc, but they are sitting around doing nothing of value.

So, question 1; Is it against TOS to put these as bonus content in the backs of new books if they aren't published anywhere else?

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: EB on January 04, 2018, 11:24:12 AM
Ok, please don't scream at me because I'm asking this as a valid question. I've never stuffed, added, or anything else naughty, but...I do have a shed load of 10K shorts that had been previously published in the good old days when shorts were hot, but I took them down after KU2, and the covers were really awful. I don't want to pay for new covers, etc, but they are sitting around doing nothing of value.

So, question 1; Is it against TOS to put these as bonus content in the backs of new books if they aren't published anywhere else?

You can put all your shorts in one volume; you can use your shorts as extra content at the back of other books.

If you put 10 shorts in one volume, then change the order around for the same 10 shorts 10 different ways and publish it as 10 different books, that is likely to get you into trouble.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: lilywhite on January 04, 2018, 11:25:57 AM
Sure. But who determines what is right? Or ethical? At least what is allowed, or the law, is explicit.

I will grant you that sometimes it can be difficult (or at least not simple) to determine what's right -- though not near as much as people like to say when they're skirting the boundaries -- but in this circumstance, an argument for moral relativism just doesn't work at all. It's not at all tricky, ethically, to figure out that getting paid from the KU pot more than once for the same content is wrong, or that getting paid for content that was not actually read is wrong. That's actually really, really simple.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 11:28:27 AM

these are authors who have been in the business for a long time (some are successful and well-known in other genres), who know the self-pub industry well, and have figured out a way to monetize their product in an extreme way. They know the key ingredients to sell a book: genre-appropriate cover, good blurb, interesting sample, and customer reviews. The stories are common tropes, quick, easy, steamy reads, generally enjoyable. The content is minimally edited, but they don't care; they get those reviews up, sell a bundle in a week or two, and then abandon any promo on that book because the next one is ready to release. Books are unpublished, rewritten, and republished; the same stories are rotated as bonus material between the books. Most of the shenanigans teeter on the edge of Amazon's TOS.

When you consider it, it's a lot of work, fast turnaround, plenty of chances to screw up and high overheads with big rewards. Like a fast-food outlet compared to a standard-fare restaurant. Or a 'stack-em-high-sell-em-cheap' supermarket. Either way, they knock the competition on the head.
 

Are they getting Amazon All Star Bonuses? Yes. Make of that what you will.


Which tells you exactly why they are winning.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 11:28:42 AM
To me, the ethics are pretty clear. If they aren't, it says a lot about those who don't get the ethical issues.

Don't steal. Don't cheat. Don't lie.

Anything that equals stealing or cheating or lying is unethical. And wrong. People should know this just from growing up in our society. These things shouldn't have to spelled out in elaborate detail in the TOS so that people don't scam.

In moral development terms, sticking to the letter of the law rather than being informed by the spirit of the law is at the school-aged kid level.

In KU, we are supposed to be paid for actual pages read. That's our contract with Amazon. If a book with a KENP of 300 is read in full, we expect to be paid $1.35 when the payout is $0.0045 per page. We trust that Amazon can count the actual pages a customer reads. Whether it can or not is another question entirely.

That is our legal contract.

An ethical author would believe that if a customer only reads 100 KENP, we should get $0.45. If the customer reads the whole book, the author expects to get paid for the full KENP. An ethical author would want what was their rightful due and not more -- or less.

Now, the unethical author sees that Amazon can't actually count real pages read. So they stuff their books full of bonus content, other books that are already published, translations of those books, and material that has no relationship to the titled content. They do not describe this content in the product page. They also include a special never-before-seen epilogue at the end and a link to that bonus content in the TOS -- KNOWING that their readers will skip to the back of the book to read that special epilogue. Their book is now 10,000 KENP. The unethical author gets paid for a full 10,000 KENP even though the customer has not actually read those pages. They get $45 instead of $1.35.

SCORE!!!!

If anyone thinks that's kosher, they are ethically challenged.

I don't know about anyone else, but my mother and father -- and the Bible -- teach us not to lie, cheat or steal.

- knowingly including unlabelled bonus content, hiding content, bad translations, etc, to get around TOS. Lying.
- knowingly including stuffed content with incentivized link to the end to get unread pages? Cheating
- knowingly getting paid out of the KU pot for pages that were not actually read? Stealing.

Seems pretty darn clear to me.

I didn't watch the video, so maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see what this has to do with the current state of bonus content. Skip to the back epilogues are against the ToS and people did get take down notices for them. Low quality content is also against the ToS.

Arguing with straw men distracts from the current issues of bonus books. What is happening now, everywhere in romance, is that authors are placing backlist books behind their new releases as "bonus books." So you'll see NEW RELEASE with Backlist Book A behind it as a bonus book.

I'm not a fan of this practice, but I have tried it, because readers seem to like it, and it seemed like a good way to put the spotlight on a backlist series. Most of the feedback was positive. A few people criticized the bonus book's content (didn't like the book), but I didn't get any reviews complaining that there was a bonus book. I was surprised by that, as I hate bonus books as a reader and as an author, but it is what it is.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 11:30:31 AM
or that getting paid for content that was not actually read is wrong.

That's an assumption. How do you know people don't read those extra books?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: icarusxx on January 04, 2018, 11:31:12 AM
I will grant you that sometimes it can be difficult (or at least not simple) to determine what's right -- though not near as much as people like to say when they're skirting the boundaries -- but in this circumstance, an argument for moral relativism just doesn't work at all. It's not at all tricky, ethically, to figure out that getting paid from the KU pot more than once for the same content is wrong, or that getting paid for content that was not actually read is wrong. That's actually really, really simple.

Maybe yes. But not all things here are simple, or even well-defined. What are you going to do about the things that are not simple? Maybe it's best to stop making personal value judgments about things that are not simple.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: lilywhite on January 04, 2018, 11:33:49 AM
That's an assumption. How do you know people don't read those extra books?

When they are incentivized to skip them to get to some other content, I think it's a fair assumption. Might there be exceptions? Sure.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: lilywhite on January 04, 2018, 11:35:30 AM
Maybe yes. But not all things here are simple, or even well-defined. What are you going to do about the things that are not simple? Maybe it's best to stop making personal value judgments about things that are not simple.

Hard to stop something I'm not doing. The ethics of this issue, as I said, are very simple. I'll judge anyone I like, and if you don't care for that, Kboards has a function that will allow you not to see my posts.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TobiasRoote on January 04, 2018, 11:37:51 AM
Ah well, it was a good while it lasted. Good night everyone :D
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantisatheart on January 04, 2018, 11:38:34 AM
You can put all your shorts in one volume; you can use your shorts as extra content at the back of other books.

If you put 10 shorts in one volume, then change the order around for the same 10 shorts 10 different ways and publish it as 10 different books, that is likely to get you into trouble.

Interesting. Thanks. I certainly don't want to do anything wrong, but with about fifty short books hanging around doing nothing, a short at the end of a book seems like a logical way to go, and they are same genre and same style of book.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: andycat on January 04, 2018, 11:40:09 AM
I will grant you that sometimes it can be difficult (or at least not simple) to determine what's right -- though not near as much as people like to say when they're skirting the boundaries -- but in this circumstance, an argument for moral relativism just doesn't work at all. It's not at all tricky, ethically, to figure out that getting paid from the KU pot more than once for the same content is wrong, or that getting paid for content that was not actually read is wrong. That's actually really, really simple.

So by that logic, no one should put ANY bundles or boxsets in KU, because they might accidentally get paid for pages people haven't read. Say I wrote a four book series and then put out a bundle. Reader A read book 1 and 2 through KU separately when they were first released, and now she sees I have a bundle so she borrows that to read book 3 and 4. She skips over books 1 and 2 because she's already read them -- but I get paid for them anyway. Is that stealing? Is it not stealing because it wasn't intentional? What's the point of even having bundles in KU -- yes, it's slightly more convenient for some readers, but it also can result in authors being paid more than they're owed, so we should just not do them, right? Because it's unethical / stealing?

I'm not trying to be difficult -- I honestly hate stuffing, don't do it myself, and actually DO think Amazon should just make KU so that it's one title per ASIN and that's ALL -- I just honestly find it baffling that people get soooo upset about stuffing. I'm genuinely curious as to whether there'd be this reaction if there was just a flat payout rate for page reads and not a "pot" -- do people feel that they're personally being harmed by stuffing? That these authors are stealing from them?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 11:44:50 AM
KU is a rental system.  If I rent a movie on Amazon Instant Video and then want to watch the movie again a week later, I have to pay to rent the video again. Amazon and the movie people are getting paid twice for me watching the same content.

How or why should books be any different?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 11:45:06 AM
Ethics are irrelevant at this point. KU is NOT an ethically-driven platform. Zon pretended like it was, wagging their finger at botters and fake reviews and all the other stuff. But they've done next to nothing to stop any of this (and possibly attacked more innocent authors than guilty ones, although we'll never really know the truth on that front).

KU is the equivalent of a church that chastizes promiscuity while running a brothel in the back. 

So expecting anyone to behave ethically within KU at this point, I dare say, is asking too much. :)  The platform is there to be abused and will be, the only question is whether you're stealing other people's royalties or they are stealing yours.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 11:48:04 AM
KU is a rental system.  If I rent a movie on Amazon Instant Video and then want to watch the movie again a week later, I have to pay to rent the video again. Amazon and the movie people are getting paid twice for me watching the same content.

How or why should books be any different?
That's not really the same thing. It's more apt to compare KU to Netflix, where you pay a monthly fee for access to content. Do you have to pay twice when you watch the same episode of 'The Ranch' more than once? Do the show runners of 'The Ranch' get paid for each time you watch it?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 11:52:01 AM
Ethics are irrelevant at this point. KU is NOT an ethically-driven platform. Zon pretended like it was, wagging their finger at botters and fake reviews and all the other stuff. But they've done next to nothing to stop any of this (and possibly attacked more innocent authors than guilty ones, although we'll never really know the truth on that front).

KU is the equivalent of a church that chastizes promiscuity while running a brothel in the back. 

So expecting anyone to behave ethically within KU at this point, I dare say, is asking too much. :)  The platform is there to be abused and will be, the only question is whether you're stealing other people's royalties or they are stealing yours.

Nope. That does not excuse unethical behaviour on our part.

Each of us have to make an ethical decision to act in certain ways.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Betsy the Quilter on January 04, 2018, 11:54:39 AM
Hard to stop something I'm not doing. The ethics of this issue, as I said, are very simple. I'll judge anyone I like, and if you don't care for that, Kboards has a function that will allow you not to see my posts.

It has a couple features that will do this.  One of these is called moderation, which can run the gamut from deleting posts to post moderation to forum timeouts.  You are responsible for your own posts, and we expect you to conduct yourself in such a way that the "ignore" feature that I think you meant is not needed.  Let's keep it civil.

In other news, TobiasRoote and Modi Gliani, you are banned from this conversation due to pushback against Evenstar's moderation, those posts now removed.   

Betsy
KB Admin
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 11:57:55 AM
That's not really the same thing. It's more apt to compare KU to Netflix, where you pay a monthly fee for access to content. Do you have to pay twice when you watch the same episode of 'The Ranch' more than once? Do the show runners of 'The Ranch' get paid for each time you watch it?

Netflix pays an upfront licensing fee, so that's different from KU. It would be awesome if they did pay us an upfront licensing fee, but that's not how the business model works. On the other hand, Prime Video does pay out everytime someone watches a video. Not just once. Every time.

So, why should KU be any different?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 11:59:14 AM
Nope. That does not excuse unethical behaviour on our part.

Each of us have to make an ethical decision to act in certain ways.

Well, the ethical thing to do is when you find out the church is running a brothel, is to stop going to the church. But no one is willing to go that far to support ethical behavior (ie. actually leaving KU). So even the people who are using KU properly, are enabling (in their own small way) the unethical actors by supply KU with content and enabling zon to keep KU the way it is. So everyone in KU is, if only a teeny weeny little bit, engaged in unethical behavior (if only by participating in a system that is okay with said behavior). 

But at this stage, I really can't judge anyone who is being unethical on a platform that all but says such behavior is absolutely fine. I don't even know how you begin to define what's ethical in such an environment. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 12:01:25 PM
That's an assumption. How do you know people don't read those extra books?

I am sure they weren't reading the bad Polish translations...

The key is that when certain authors learned about the loopholes in Amazon's ability to calculate actual page reads, they jumped at the chance to scam the system and began stuffing, botting and incentivizing clicks. The really sociopathic ones put in bad Polish translations. The less sociopathic ones merely reordered bonus content ten ways with links. There may have been some panicked authors who thought they had to include stuffing in the bird because everyone else was doing it, but that doesn't work when we're talking ethics.

I don't trust the top 100 books in the hot categories any more as a result. Not only were some authors republishing smut shorts and labelling it Women's Classic Fiction, they were adding 9500 KENP extra of bad translations and unrelated content, incentivizing links, using contests, etc. AND using bots and buying reviews to get to the top of the Kindle store. 

It's all tainted now, and while those authors are raking in the dough, I have to look myself in the mirror each day and so I won't do it.

Thing is, those who scam don't care because they don't have the capacity to act ethically. To them, all they care about is the $$$ in their bank accounts.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 12:04:12 PM
Netflix pays an upfront licensing fee, so that's different from KU. It would be awesome if they did pay us an upfront licensing fee, but that's not how the business model works. On the other hand, Prime Video does pay out everytime someone watches a video. Not just once. Every time.

So, why should KU be any different?
How do you know Prime Video pays out every time someone watches a video? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm simply curious. That's not how it was explained to me regarding a project but I'm always looking for enlightenment. As for being paid every time in KU, I think that's pie-in-the-sky and not even remotely feasible. If you want that, you should definitely get out of KU because it's not monetarily feasible. When you rent a movie from On Demand and whatnot, what happens? You get the movie for a set period of time (usually twenty-four to forty-eight hours). You can watch the movie as many times as you want in that timeframe. Do the studios get paid each time people watch them during that timeframe? I get what you're trying to argue but it's simply not the same thing.
Personally, I'm all for personal ethics. I'm incapable of understanding why people want to screw over others in this manner. I'm also incapable of understanding why anyone would argue for a lack of ethics. I just can't wrap my head around it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 12:12:24 PM
How do you know Prime Video pays out every time someone watches a video? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm simply curious. That's not how it was explained to me regarding a project but I'm always looking for enlightenment. As for being paid every time in KU, I think that's pie-in-the-sky and not even remotely feasible. If you want that, you should definitely get out of KU because it's not monetarily feasible. When you rent a movie from On Demand and whatnot, what happens? You get the movie for a set period of time (usually twenty-four to forty-eight hours). You can watch the movie as many times as you want in that timeframe. Do the studios get paid each time people watch them during that timeframe? I get what you're trying to argue but it's simply not the same thing.
Personally, I'm all for personal ethics. I'm incapable of understanding why people want to screw over others in this manner. I'm also incapable of understanding why anyone would argue for a lack of ethics. I just can't wrap my head around it.

It was in Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/amazon-lets-creators-upload-video-and-get-paid

It's also in the TOS for videodirect.amazon.com

I don't think it's a big deal for an author to get paid a couple of times for the same content if a reader really loves the book and reads it again. I do think it's a big deal to skim page reads by using link bait. It's not a black or white issue for me because most of these issues mean different things in different contexts.

I have an ARC team that reads my books, and they leave honest reviews. (I know this because they've left me bad reviews before.) I don't think that's unethical. I do think paying 1000 people to leave a review or getting reviews by holding contests where a review is the entry is immoral.

There has to be room for nuance in this discussion.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 12:17:12 PM
So by that logic, no one should put ANY bundles or boxsets in KU, because they might accidentally get paid for pages people haven't read. Say I wrote a four book series and then put out a bundle. Reader A read book 1 and 2 through KU separately when they were first released, and now she sees I have a bundle so she borrows that to read book 3 and 4. She skips over books 1 and 2 because she's already read them -- but I get paid for them anyway. Is that stealing? Is it not stealing because it wasn't intentional? What's the point of even having bundles in KU -- yes, it's slightly more convenient for some readers, but it also can result in authors being paid more than they're owed, so we should just not do them, right? Because it's unethical / stealing?

I'm not trying to be difficult -- I honestly hate stuffing, don't do it myself, and actually DO think Amazon should just make KU so that it's one title per ASIN and that's ALL -- I just honestly find it baffling that people get soooo upset about stuffing. I'm genuinely curious as to whether there'd be this reaction if there was just a flat payout rate for page reads and not a "pot" -- do people feel that they're personally being harmed by stuffing? That these authors are stealing from them?

Some of us are angry because the stuffers poisoned the well for everyone.

Some of the stuffers have changed their tactics because of changes in Amazon TOS and because some of them were caught, but someone who would be happy to cheat the KU pot in one way, will be willing to do it in the next new way.

The plain fact is that these stuffers wouldn't stuff if they weren't in KU. That should tell you plenty about the motives for stuffing. They would divide up those books, publish each title separately and charge separately for each book to maximize their earnings.

Because it's in KU and Amazon didn't really know how to count pages, they knew they could get money -- for free.

I get paid $2.03 for my 450 KENP book that is read to the end. If someone stuffs 2550 KENP-worth of material in the back of their 450 KENP book and includes a link to a bonus story at the end, and the customer clicks to the end without reading ANY of the material, they get paid $13.50.

That's patently unfair.

Amazon has tried to address some of this by being more careful about what content is included in the KENP, but there are still ways to scam the KU pot and people are still doing it in new and different ways.

I think Amazon created a monster with KU, but that doesn't make it right for people to cheat.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 12:17:16 PM
So by that logic, no one should put ANY bundles or boxsets in KU, because they might accidentally get paid for pages people haven't read. Say I wrote a four book series and then put out a bundle. Reader A read book 1 and 2 through KU separately when they were first released, and now she sees I have a bundle so she borrows that to read book 3 and 4. She skips over books 1 and 2 because she's already read them -- but I get paid for them anyway. Is that stealing? Is it not stealing because it wasn't intentional? What's the point of even having bundles in KU -- yes, it's slightly more convenient for some readers, but it also can result in authors being paid more than they're owed, so we should just not do them, right? Because it's unethical / stealing?

Maybe it's just me, but I think it's usually pretty easy to deduce probable intent by how something is presented.

In your example of someone buying book 1 and then a bundle: did I as the author make it clear what the bundle is?  If so, then I'd say that's on the customer.   Maybe they bought book 1, then realized they could still save money by buying the full bundle.  The author getting paid by KU in this case is less a case of them trying to scam the system and more a result of a broken page read mechanism.  I'd like to hope the author in question here is perfectly fine with not being paid for those extra reads when said shoddy system is finally fixed.

Conversely, if I open book 1, find a completely different story up front, then see a mysterious link that tells me "Hey, if you want to read the story you paid for, Click here", which conveniently takes me to a spot near the back of the book, well, personally I wouldn't feel all too bad about making a judgement call as to that person's true intentions. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 12:22:23 PM
It was in Popular Science. https://www.popsci.com/amazon-lets-creators-upload-video-and-get-paid

It's also in the TOS for videodirect.amazon.com

I don't think it's a big deal for an author to get paid a couple of times for the same content if a reader really loves the book and reads it again. I do think it's a big deal to skim page reads by using link bait. It's not a black or white issue for me because most of these issues mean different things in different contexts.

I have an ARC team that reads my books, and they leave honest reviews. (I know this because they've left me bad reviews before.) I don't think that's unethical. I do think paying 1000 people to leave a review or getting reviews by holding contests where a review is the entry is immoral.

There has to be room for nuance in this discussion.
I will have to read the article later (still have 1400 words to write). That is not how it was explained to me by an Amazon rep but I will definitely ask about it. As for stuffing, I think it is a black or white issue. Would people stuff if they didn't get more money out of it? No. Where is the money coming from? The pot. Does stuffing affect the rate? Yes. So, is that taking money out of other author's pockets? Yes. How is theft not a black and white issue? I don't think it's that difficult.
As for ARCs, I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. I happen to be against all ARCs (whether paid or not), but that's neither here nor there. ARCS aren't really stealing money from other author's pockets. Stuffers are, for sure, but I'm not sure how ARCs would work in that manner.
Let's put it another way. Say a bunch of high-selling authors each have catalogs of 100 books. Say they inflate their books and stuff them to the point where they get a bigger piece of the puzzle (say twenty top authors take over 50 percent of all reads, which is feasible) but those who don't have 100 books to stuff get even less page reads now because people are too busy reading stuffed books and now they're getting even less per page. Say the per page readout drops to the point where it takes 10K out of your pocket every month. How do you feel then?
Now, give me one reason why people can't just not stuff. Just one feasible reason why they can't just not stuff.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 12:23:47 PM
Maybe it's just me, but I think it's usually pretty easy to deduce probable intent by how something is presented.

In your example of someone buying book 1 and then a bundle: did I as the author make it clear what the bundle is?  If so, then I'd say that's on the customer.   Maybe they bought book 1, then realized they could still save money by buying the full bundle.  The author getting paid by KU in this case is less a case of them trying to scam the system and more a result of a broken page read mechanism.  I'd like to hope the author in question here is perfectly fine with not being paid for those extra reads when said shoddy system is finally fixed.

Conversely, if I open book 1, find a completely different story up front, then see a mysterious link that tells me "Hey, if you want to read the story you paid for, Click here", which conveniently takes me to a spot near the back of the book, well, personally I wouldn't feel all too bad about making a judgement call as to that person's true intentions.

Bingo.

Authors create boxed sets because some readers like the ease of having all three or five books in a series or collection together so they can start reading and read in the single document until the end.

Others prefer to go one book at a time, and decide at the end of book 1 whether to download book 2.

Amazon is okay with boxed sets being in KU.

They are not okay with the stuffing, botting, and any other deceptive or scamny tactics to get downloads, page reads, or rank. They have clarified the TOS to make it crystal clear for those who have any adult level of reading comprehension. The fact that they cannot actually really police the TOS is not license to act unethically.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Anarchist on January 04, 2018, 12:28:24 PM
That's not really the same thing. It's more apt to compare KU to Netflix, where you pay a monthly fee for access to content. Do you have to pay twice when you watch the same episode of 'The Ranch' more than once? Do the show runners of 'The Ranch' get paid for each time you watch it?

For me, the biggest needle-across-the-record moment of the thread was realizing I have yet to watch The Ranch.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 12:28:50 PM
Personally, I'm all for personal ethics. I'm incapable of understanding why people want to screw over others in this manner. I'm also incapable of understanding why anyone would argue for a lack of ethics. I just can't wrap my head around it.

Ditto. Write a better book than me, churn out content faster than me, out-market me, have more rabid fans than me, or just plain get luckier then me. Those are all risks we take being in business.  It's the name of the game.  I have no interest in taking the low road, though.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 12:35:15 PM
I will have to read the article later (still have 1400 words to write). That is not how it was explained to me by an Amazon rep but I will definitely ask about it. As for stuffing, I think it is a black or white issue. Would people stuff if they didn't get more money out of it? No. Where is the money coming from? The pot. Does stuffing affect the rate? Yes. So, is that taking money out of other author's pockets? Yes. How is theft not a black and white issue? I don't think it's that difficult.
As for ARCs, I'm not sure what that has to do with anything. I happen to be against all ARCs (whether paid or not), but that's neither here nor there. ARCS aren't really stealing money from other author's pockets. Stuffers are, for sure, but I'm not sure how ARCs would work in that manner.
Let's put it another way. Say a bunch of high-selling authors each have catalogs of 100 books. Say they inflate their books and stuff them to the point where they get a bigger piece of the puzzle (say twenty top authors take over 50 percent of all reads, which is feasible) but those who don't have 100 books to stuff get even less page reads now because people are too busy reading stuffed books and now they're getting even less per page. Say the per page readout drops to the point where it takes 10K out of your pocket every month. How do you feel then?
Now, give me one reason why people can't just not stuff. Just one feasible reason why they can't just not stuff.

The only reason I would put bonus material in is the hope that they love my work so much that they'll keep reading. If they do keep going and read a second book, they're not going to return that book and go check out the single title of the bonus book. So, there's little danger of double dipping in that situation.

The reason to do it is to remove a barrier. If someone likes your book and they have to click out of it to go to Amazon and check out another book, there are a 1000 things that could distract them. They may never make it to another book. If they can just keep reading, it's better. You're not stealing. You're getting paid for someone reading your work. Like I said, they're not going to to go out and check out that bonus book as a single title and read it again (unless they really, really love it) So, you haven't taken anything away from anyone else.

Now, if people are putting "click here for a sneak peek" and that click bypasses 5 books that they never read (and the author still gets paid) that's shady.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rose Andrews on January 04, 2018, 12:36:00 PM
The mail-order bride books in Western romance are greatly affected by this. As a reader, I've been burned by purchasing what I thought was a novel but was instead a collection of (oftentimes bad) shorts. The books are marketed as a single novel but lies. They are not and I have felt ripped off when the story I thought I was buying ended up not being the case.

As an author, the tactic annoys me but we live in an imperfect world where not everyone adheres to the same morals.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: andycat on January 04, 2018, 12:39:34 PM
Maybe it's just me, but I think it's usually pretty easy to deduce probable intent by how something is presented.

In your example of someone buying book 1 and then a bundle: did I as the author make it clear what the bundle is?  If so, then I'd say that's on the customer.   Maybe they bought book 1, then realized they could still save money by buying the full bundle.  The author getting paid by KU in this case is less a case of them trying to scam the system and more a result of a broken page read mechanism.  I'd like to hope the author in question here is perfectly fine with not being paid for those extra reads when said shoddy system is finally fixed.

Conversely, if I open book 1, find a completely different story up front, then see a mysterious link that tells me "Hey, if you want to read the story you paid for, Click here", which conveniently takes me to a spot near the back of the book, well, personally I wouldn't feel all too bad about making a judgement call as to that person's true intentions.

Yes, I agree about those two scenarios, and Amazon has indeed made it clear that you can't link to the back like that. But there are a hundred different scenarios in between the two you detailed, and that's where I think the grey area lies. And why I think it is very dangerous to start suggesting Amazon police people based on intent, or to paint everyone who 'stuffs' with the same brush. Just my opinion!

Like I said, I don't stuff and I dislike the practice, but for me that's because I think it devalues our work ("our" being all of us collectively as authors.) But I guess I don't get oh-my-god-so-enraged as some people do, because I don't think people are stealing from me personally when they stuff (let's be honest, the "pot" is an illusion and Amazon makes the payout whatever they want. lol.) 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 12:42:17 PM
The only reason I would put bonus material in is the hope that they love my work so much that they'll keep reading. If they do keep going and read a second book, they're not going to return that book and go check out the single title of the bonus book. So, there's little danger of double dipping in that situation.

The reason to do it is to remove a barrier. If someone likes your book and they have to click out of it to go to Amazon and check out another book, there are a 1000 things that could distract them. They may never make it to another book. If they can just keep reading, it's better. You're not stealing. You're getting paid for someone reading your work. Like I said, they're not going to to go out and check out that bonus book as a single title and read it again (unless they really, really love it) So, you haven't taken anything away from anyone else.

Now, if people are putting "click here for a sneak peek" and that click bypasses 5 books that they never read (and the author still gets paid) that's shady.
In that case you would be putting an excerpt chapter to entice a reader to look at another book, which is not stuffing. What reason would there be to stuff twenty books -- including a cook book, scraped Wikipedia content, stolen erotica, bad translations and a public domain history textbook -- after the initial book?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 12:44:17 PM
In that case you would be putting an excerpt chapter to entice a reader to look at another book, which is not stuffing. What reason would there be to stuff twenty books -- including a cook book, scraped Wikipedia content, stolen erotica, bad translations and a public domain history textbook -- after the initial book?

There's no reason for that. I agree with you.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Cassie Leigh on January 04, 2018, 12:45:10 PM
The only reason I would put bonus material in is the hope that they love my work so much that they'll keep reading. If they do keep going and read a second book, they're not going to return that book and go check out the single title of the bonus book. So, there's little danger of double dipping in that situation.

I have seen multiple customer reviews where someone said, "Oh and this book had these three other books I'd already read by this author, but since they were there I read them again."  That's double-dipping because the author is getting paid for reads of the same book more than once.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 12:46:21 PM
I have seen multiple customer reviews where someone said, "Oh and this book had these three other books I'd already read by this author, but since they were there I read them again."  That's double-dipping because the author is getting paid for reads of the same book more than once.

If they love the books that much, then the author deserves another payout. But, that's my opinion. If you write content so good that people want to read it over and over, you should be paid more.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 04, 2018, 12:47:56 PM
Netflix pays an upfront licensing fee, so that's different from KU. It would be awesome if they did pay us an upfront licensing fee, but that's not how the business model works. On the other hand, Prime Video does pay out everytime someone watches a video. Not just once. Every time.

So, why should KU be any different?

When a reader buys a book, the author only gets paid once, no matter how many times the person reads it. Why should the author get paid multiple times just because the book is in KU?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Cassie Leigh on January 04, 2018, 12:49:14 PM
But that's not how KU is supposed to work. Someone borrows Book A and reads it ten times you get paid once. Stuffing gets around that. (And each time that happens that money is taken from other authors in KU because all authors in KU split a set pool of money each month.)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 12:51:23 PM
These discussions always get caught up in legalities and technicalities - because there is a lot of room for discussion about potential ambiguity there, as any courtroom will testify. And cheaters will always find some half-phrase they personally consider ambiguous, no matter how clear the rulings are.

The intent, however, is 100% clear.

Nobody put in "bonus books" under KU1. As soon as Amazon started paying per page, certain people started stuffing whatever they could get away with into each book.

Newsletters, excerpts, bonus books - whatever content they could feasibly shove in there to inflate their page count, they did it. And are still doing it. Some change tactics, based on public outcry or reprimands. Others brazen it out.

The intent is the same.

You can argue the legalities and technicalities all you want (and I'm confident the rules 100% ban this practice, as explictly outlined above). But if you engage in stuffing, I know you are a cheater, and so does everyone else.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 04, 2018, 12:52:13 PM
If they love the books that much, then the author deserves another payout. But, that's my opinion. If you write content so good that people want to read it over and over, you should be paid more.

Then they could buy the book outright, if they love it that much. But even then, when a book is purchased, the author only gets paid once, no matter how many times the reader reads it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 12:54:08 PM
But that's not how KU is supposed to work. Someone borrows Book A and reads it ten times you get paid once. Stuffing gets around that. (And each time that happens that money is taken from other authors in KU because all authors in KU split a set pool of money each month.)

Again, if you write a book so good that someone reads it 10 times, you deserve to be paid more. If you're worried about people taking a piece of your pie by reading someone else's book 10 times, then write books your readers want to read 10 times.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 12:59:33 PM
Again, if you write a book so good that someone reads it 10 times, you deserve to be paid more.

Yes. It's called word of mouth. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 01:01:15 PM
Yes. It's called word of mouth. 

Or "I read this paperback so much, it fell apart so I bought another." 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 01:03:29 PM
I'm totally against people putting random stuff in a book to skim extra page reads, but getting mad because other authors are getting second read-throughs, is a very "crabs in the bucket" mentality.

People are actually reading the book in that case. We should be focused on the people who are getting paid for pages that weren't actually read. imho.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 04, 2018, 01:05:06 PM
Again, if you write a book so good that someone reads it 10 times, you deserve to be paid more. If you're worried about people taking a piece of your pie by reading someone else's book 10 times, then write books your readers want to read 10 times.

There are very few things that require the creator to be paid every time a thing is used. By that thinking, the company should get paid every time someone uses the Keurig machine to make a coffee.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 01:06:39 PM
There are very few things that require the creator to be paid every time a thing is used. By that thinking, the company should get paid every time someone uses the Keurig machine to make a coffee.

you mean like how they get paid for the little cups?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 01:07:03 PM
You can argue the legalities and technicalities all you want (and I'm confident the rules 100% ban this practice, as explictly outlined above). But if you engage in stuffing, I know you are a cheater, and so does everyone else.

hehe, pretty sure the people cheating could care less what people think of their cheating :)

I'm truly baffled how all the focus is on the perpetrators and not on the bank that leaves the vault open with a big sign above it saying "please, come in fill your pockets, we won't call the police, we promise."

I truly cannot understand how people are so upset over this and then stay in KU at the same time. I mean, i understand that view a year ago. But now? After everything we know?

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 01:07:27 PM
I'd like to remind everyone how these practices first became known.

At the start of 2016, I started blogging about plagiarizing scammers who were destroying the free charts. These guys were using bots to put their stolen crap at the top of the charts, and using a variety of tricks to inflate their KU payout.

I hosted a post from Kboarder Phoenix Sullivan in April 2016 which detailed how the whole, crazy, multi-pronged scam worked... and what little Amazon was doing to combat same.

Many of you guys will have read that and most of you would have reacted like everyone else: with anger.

Some people were different. They saw an opportunity. And they were smart, way smarter than this first wave of dumb scammers. They didn't plagiarize, they hired ghosts. They didn't steal content, they paid ghostwriters to read what was in the charts and clone the hits.

But they kept many of the dirty tricks. Quoting from my comments under Phoenix's guest post from April 2016, this was the toolbox of those plagiarizing scammers. These are the practices that the group we shall call "bad boy stuffers" are engaging in. Remember this was written almost two years ago.

And these are the scammer practices some of you are defending:

Quote
2. Page bloat. A common ruse is to upload 25 titles with different covers, but each containing all 25 books, with the order rotated slightly. Others fill the books with ďtranslationsĒ of the main title, or random content pulled from who-knows-where. This can turn a $1 KU payout into a $12 payout Ė from the common pool (i.e. your pocket).

3. Click here tricks. Once the page count is bloated, then various inducements are given to readers to click to the end Ė whether thatís some kind of Table of Contents manipulation, telling the reader the ďrealĒ content is there, or offering them free books, or whatever.

4. Category squatting. Titles are often added to a bunch of additional categories Ė often completely unrelated to the advertised content Ė for extra visibility.

Here is the post if you are curious: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/ku-scammers-attack-amazons-free-ebook-charts/

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 04, 2018, 01:08:32 PM
you mean like how they get paid for the little cups?

They're not getting paid for the cups, they're getting paid for the coffee in the little cups. The cups are just packaging.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jena H on January 04, 2018, 01:10:01 PM
If they love the books that much, then the author deserves another payout. But, that's my opinion. If you write content so good that people want to read it over and over, you should be paid more.

Wow.  What a statement.  Tell that to the mom who gives her four-year-old one cupcake (of the dozen she baked for a bake sale) and then the kid steals three more.  "But mom, they're so good!"  Does that "compliment" mean the mom shouldn't be mad at the kid for stealing earnings from the PTA book committee?

And by the way, how do I pay Jane Austen next time I read Sense and Sensibility for the eighth time?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 01:10:24 PM
I'm also sure it won't be a huge surprise for you to hear the truth about these "bad boy authors". I've investigated them. Many started out as authors of crappy non-fiction - 10 page junk titles designed to scam the first iteration of KU.

Least surprising plot twist ever...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Cassie Leigh on January 04, 2018, 01:22:56 PM
Again, if you write a book so good that someone reads it 10 times, you deserve to be paid more. If you're worried about people taking a piece of your pie by reading someone else's book 10 times, then write books your readers want to read 10 times.

Maybe my readers do read my books multiple times. But because I don't stuff books and "sell" customers the same thing in ten different configurations I don't get paid for those ten reads whereas someone who stuffs might. Stuffers are creating an unequal playing field. Deliberately. It doesn't cost Amazon (because the pool is fixed). It costs their fellow writers.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 01:23:39 PM
you mean like how they get paid for the little cups?
Not really. You can buy your own coffee or tea and not pay the Keurig folks a dime after the initial machine purchase.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Betsy the Quilter on January 04, 2018, 01:32:59 PM
Folks,

Let!s not discuss each other, keep on topic, thanks.

Betsy
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 04, 2018, 01:45:58 PM
I'm also sure it won't be a huge surprise for you to hear the truth about these "bad boy authors". I've investigated them. Many started out as authors of crappy non-fiction - 10 page junk titles designed to scam the first iteration of KU.

Least surprising plot twist ever...
That's just it, though, David. The system has been broken since its inception. Some of us here predicted exactly how the system was going to be scammed before KU 1.0 even launched. Switching to page reads allowed Amazon to stop hemorrhaging money on bogus borrows, but 2.0 was even more broken because Amazon has never been able to track actual pages read in their software. And Amazon has zero incentive to fix these problems because they're paid up front by the subscribers and they control the payout so they're essentially guaranteed to make money no matter how many scammed page reads there are. This is why 2.5 years later there is still no page read fix and nothing more than token efforts to keep the scammers out of the top 100 for "visibility" purposes. They don't care. They don't have to as long as the monthly subscriptions keep coming in.

Fixing the program would require Amazon implementing a system that could determine every individual page read. They can't do that. It would require firmware updates for dozens of different devices, running two completely different data collection and reporting systems in parallel effectively forever to cover any devices which weren't upgraded, and the data storage and bandwidth requirements would increase by at least two orders of magnitude. They can't do those things and still make money on the program without slashing the payout to levels that no one would accept or raising the subscription fee so high that their rates would crater. So they don't. But without knowing which individual pages are read there are always going to be ways to game the program.

So the scammers are here to stay because Amazon isn't going to spend the money to do anything about them. The page reads system will never be truly fixed because it can't be. We can beat our heads against the wall about it, but at the end of the day it's just part of the cost of doing business in the program.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Ava Glass on January 04, 2018, 01:52:22 PM
It's my understanding that this loophole was not successfully plugged, as many have assumed.

As of August is wasn't fixed on the PC and cloud readers. Other readers however:


I tested someone's book on my phone (Android), and only 7 page-reads were registered, even though I skipped from the beginning to close to the end. I'm about to test another, but this seems pretty darned promising!

Maybe Amazon removed that language about "improving our ability to measure pages read for such cases as non-linear reading" from the site because it doesn't yet apply to the Cloud Reader and could therefore be seen as misleading.


Also, I noticed an example of a stuffed book you posted once didn't have Page Flip enabled. Who knows what happens when an author disables PF.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 02:02:16 PM
Seems fitting.

(https://imgur.com/NhxwLez.png)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 02:10:31 PM
That's just it, though, David. The system has been broken since its inception. Some of us here predicted exactly how the system was going to be scammed before KU 1.0 even launched. Switching to page reads allowed Amazon to stop hemorrhaging money on bogus borrows, but 2.0 was even more broken because Amazon has never been able to track actual pages read in their software. And Amazon has zero incentive to fix these problems because they're paid up front by the subscribers and they control the payout so they're essentially guaranteed to make money no matter how many scammed page reads there are. This is why 2.5 years later there is still no page read fix and nothing more than token efforts to keep the scammers out of the top 100 for "visibility" purposes. They don't care. They don't have to as long as the monthly subscriptions keep coming in.

Fixing the program would require Amazon implementing a system that could determine every individual page read. They can't do that. It would require firmware updates for dozens of different devices, running two completely different data collection and reporting systems in parallel effectively forever to cover any devices which weren't upgraded, and the data storage and bandwidth requirements would increase by at least two orders of magnitude. They can't do those things and still make money on the program without slashing the payout to levels that no one would accept or raising the subscription fee so high that their rates would crater. So they don't. But without knowing which individual pages are read there are always going to be ways to game the program.

So the scammers are here to stay because Amazon isn't going to spend the money to do anything about them. The page reads system will never be truly fixed because it can't be. We can beat our heads against the wall about it, but at the end of the day it's just part of the cost of doing business in the program.

It's true that there will always be scammers.

It's part of the human condition because there are always people with broken consciences who don't care as long as they are lining their own pockets.

That doesn't mean that the rest of us with intact consciences should throw our hands up and say "That's life". We don't do that about murder or rape or theft or other acts that are outlawed.

If it wasn't for people complaining to Amazon, both customers and authors, (but mostly customers. Let's face it -- Amazon really only cares about customers -- not authors) Amazon may have done nothing. In fact, they probably wouldn't have because all they really care about is whether the program keeps performing its function of drawing new customers into Amazon.

We have to keep pushing if we hope that Amazon will do anything, because the easiest -- and cheapest -- thing for them is to let things stay as they are.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Monique on January 04, 2018, 02:12:17 PM
It isn't an either/or. We can feel that Amazon has a screwed up system and those that stuff/etc are scammy.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Monique on January 04, 2018, 02:16:27 PM
Also, regarding getting paid for the same book 10 times. Now, I'm not in KU but I'm pretty sure authors are paid once per account/read. If so, aren't those who are paid more than once circumventing the terms. Isn't that exactly why they do this? To "try" to get around the TOS to make money that they should not be making under the rules.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 02:18:23 PM
Also, regarding getting paid for the same book 10 times. Now, I'm not in KU but I'm pretty sure authors are paid once per account/read. If so, aren't those who are paid more than once circumventing the terms. Isn't that exactly why they do this? To "try" to get around the TOS to make money that they should not be making under the rules.

That's it.

They wouldn't do this except for KU's broken page read system. They wouldn't bundle up 15 books in a print volume and charge 99c for it. Nope.

It's really simple to understand.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 04, 2018, 02:20:53 PM
As of August is wasn't fixed on the PC and cloud readers. Other readers however:
It isn't fixed. Most of the older devices - of which there are no telling how many millions - have not received firmware updates in years.  And there are dozens of videos of people demonstrating on test books that it is not fixed on their devices. It is an enormous problem from a technical standpoint, and I doubt Amazon fully understood how difficult at the time they decided to change over. It was almost certainly a knee-jerk reaction to the KU 1.0 scamming issues which they intended to rectify using the "Last Page Read" feature without any real consideration for how easy that would be to scam. Much like how they pushed the Page Flip feature which made the problem significantly worse. Minimal beta testing would have revealed the problem, so they either didn't do it or they didn't care. My money would be on didn't care, especially considering their complete denial that the problem exists despite it being so easy to replicate.

Amazon fixes problems that they want fixed and ignore the others. For example, about three years ago I discovered that the keywords for a number of my books were "stuck." I keep records of them going back to initial publication and I stumbled across the fact that while they were being updated on the KDP dashboard side, the changes were not propagating to the search engine. I got it escalated up to their tech guys, was able to demonstrate that the search engine was not using the keywords that were in KDP, and they agreed it was an issue and they'd get back to me. Two years later it still wasn't fixed and I gave up worrying about it. Whatever the problem was, they weren't going to fix it because it wasn't an issue that was costing them money or "broke" the site.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Ava Glass on January 04, 2018, 02:27:53 PM
It isn't fixed. Most of the older devices - of which there are no telling how many millions - have not received firmware updates in years.

Sure. Older ereaders could very well count skipped reads. However, it is an error to not acknowledge that a partial fix occurred with KENPC 3.0--not as a call to stop discussing the issue, but merely as fact.

And there are dozens of videos of people demonstrating on test books that it is not fixed on their devices.


Were these videos made before or after KENPC 3.0?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 02:29:52 PM
I'm also sure it won't be a huge surprise for you to hear the truth about these "bad boy authors". I've investigated them. Many started out as authors of crappy non-fiction - 10 page junk titles designed to scam the first iteration of KU.

Least surprising plot twist ever...

David, I've always been a fan of yours, but I have to say, your focus on "bad boy" authors makes it harder to take your issues seriously. You may not realize it, but romance authors have been called scammers for all matter of things that are just good marketing. This is especially true in more sexy and trendy romance.

Now, I know the authors you are talking about and they do indeed write bad boy romances. But it's legitimate bad boy romance authors who are hurt most by their shady tactics. The vast majority of bad boy romance authors are not doing anything black hat.

Again, as much as I hate stuffing, Amazon's continued inaction makes it clear to me that stuffing if allowed. If it's allowed, people will do it. Debating ethics is entertaining, but, at the end of the day, it doesn't do anything to change people's behavior.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 02:30:45 PM
Most of the older devices - of which there are no telling how many millions - have not received firmware updates in years. 
Are you sure? I still have a 2009 Kindle and another from 2011 and both get regular firmware updates. By "regular" I mean at least once a year. At least I think. I had the 2011 one out (I just keep it for emergencies) about two months ago and an update went through the minute I put it on the wi-fi. The other one has Amazon's old wi-fi (the one where it just hooks up to the server) and it updated last time I booted it up about four months ago.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 04, 2018, 02:37:37 PM
In that case you would be putting an excerpt chapter to entice a reader to look at another book, which is not stuffing. What reason would there be to stuff twenty books -- including a cook book, scraped Wikipedia content, stolen erotica, bad translations and a public domain history textbook -- after the initial book?

Exactly. I think people who aren't trying to do something shady are pretty much capable of using common sense. Does the advertised book end at 20% of the total book? OK that is bullsh-- territory.

Is it an extra chapter to advertise your next book? No one will complain.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Monique on January 04, 2018, 02:38:48 PM
David, I've always been a fan of yours, but I have to say, your focus on "bad boy" authors makes it harder to take your issues seriously.

Why? Why on earth would that make it difficult to take the issue seriously? It's an accurate name for a current bunch of scammity scammers. They're morphing into some new creature so perhaps a rename will come, although why you want it, I don't know.

Quote
You may not realize it, but romance authors have been called scammers for all matter of things that are just good marketing. This is especially true in more sexy and trendy romance.

Not David but I'm pretty sure he knows what's what here. If you feel he's somehow calling all "bad boy" author scammers, you are mistaken. If not, I don't understand why you would care.

Quote
Now, I know the authors you are talking about and they do indeed write bad boy romances. But it's legitimate bad boy romance authors who are hurt most by their shady tactics. The vast majority of bad boy romance authors are not doing anything black hat.


Pretty sure he's never implied they are. He's ON THE GOOD AUTHORS' SIDE. Why do you think he does this? For fun? To help those who are most affected.

Quote
Again, as much as I hate stuffing, Amazon's continued inaction makes it clear to me that stuffing if allowed. If it's allowed, people will do it. Debating ethics is entertaining, but, at the end of the day, it doesn't do anything to change people's behavior.

LOL. Stuffing is NOT allowed. Amazon's failure to properly enforce their rules on any sort of consistent basis doesn't mean they don't exist. I can't grok this mentality.

Ethical discussions are critical. Clearly, from this thread they are needed now more than ever.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Ava Glass on January 04, 2018, 02:40:20 PM
Are you sure? I still have a 2009 Kindle and another from 2011 and both get regular firmware updates. By "regular" I mean at least once a year. At least I think. I had the 2011 one out (I just keep it for emergencies) about two months ago and an update went through the minute I put it on the wi-fi. The other one has Amazon's old wi-fi (the one where it just hooks up to the server) and it updated last time I booted it up about four months ago.

There was once an update that older Kindles had to download or lose internet connectivity.

https://the-digital-reader.com/2016/03/23/how-to-manually-update-your-kindle-if-you-miss-the-deadline/
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 04, 2018, 02:42:33 PM
It's true that there will always be scammers.

It's part of the human condition because there are always people with broken consciences who don't care as long as they are lining their own pockets.

That doesn't mean that the rest of us with intact consciences should throw our hands up and say "That's life". We don't do that about murder or rape or theft or other acts that are outlawed.

If it wasn't for people complaining to Amazon, both customers and authors, (but mostly customers. Let's face it -- Amazon really only cares about customers -- not authors) Amazon may have done nothing. In fact, they probably wouldn't have because all they really care about is whether the program keeps performing its function of drawing new customers into Amazon.

We have to keep pushing if we hope that Amazon will do anything, because the easiest -- and cheapest -- thing for them is to let things stay as they are.
The problem with this is that our pushing - and a lot of people have pushed and complained - has accomplished exactly nothing since the 2.0 rollout. The things that they could do would add enough overhead to the cost of the system that it would no longer be sustainable. Fix page reads. Follow iTunes' lead and require that every single book be reviewed by a live human being before it goes live. Either of these would largely eliminate the problem. But Amazon won't (or can't) do them because of the associated costs. Those are the ONLY ways to fix the problems with KU. Anything else would just be yet another hack which would open up more loopholes for the scammers. Unless the underlying problems are fixed, the program is going to remain broken and all the complaints in the world aren't going to change anything.

Are you sure? I still have a 2009 Kindle and another from 2011 and both get regular firmware updates. By "regular" I mean at least once a year. At least I think. I had the 2011 one out (I just keep it for emergencies) about two months ago and an update went through the minute I put it on the wi-fi. The other one has Amazon's old wi-fi (the one where it just hooks up to the server) and it updated last time I booted it up about four months ago.
Amanda, it was true as of the last time I had checked which I'll admit was a while ago - back before Page Flip was implemented. Many of those older devices hadn't gotten firmware updates in 2-3 years at the time, which was a strong argument in support of the fact that they simply were not capable of doing what Amazon claimed. Amazon is now publishing the source code for a lot of their firmware updates. An enterprising girl who was so inclined could dig into that and probably get a better idea as to what is actually going on under the hood with respect to these things. It isn't going to be me, though. Life is too short. :)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 04, 2018, 02:43:01 PM
There was once an update that older Kindles had to download or lose internet connectivity.

https://the-digital-reader.com/2016/03/23/how-to-manually-update-your-kindle-if-you-miss-the-deadline/
I remember. I did the update so as not to lose the reader but now it updates whenever I turn it on, which is like once a year. I honestly don't know why I still keep it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 04, 2018, 02:45:39 PM
Again, if you write a book so good that someone reads it 10 times, you deserve to be paid more. If you're worried about people taking a piece of your pie by reading someone else's book 10 times, then write books your readers want to read 10 times.

I... what?

Are we pretending that there are a significant portion of readers who like to read the same book ten times? That's not a real thing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 02:48:01 PM
I... what?

Are we pretending that there are a significant portion of readers who like to read the same book ten times? That's not a real thing.

Yeah, I know. People have thrown that out as an example, though, so I responded.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Ann in Arlington on January 04, 2018, 02:48:46 PM
I... what?

Are we pretending that there are a significant portion of readers who like to read the same book ten times? That's not a real thing.

I won't argue the adjective 'significant' but there are definitely a lot of people I know who re-read favorite books yearly, or even more often. That said, they're likely to have purchased such books rather than borrowed via KU or another subscription service.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 02:53:24 PM
David, I've always been a fan of yours, but I have to say, your focus on "bad boy" authors makes it harder to take your issues seriously. You may not realize it, but romance authors have been called scammers for all matter of things that are just good marketing. This is especially true in more sexy and trendy romance.

Now, I know the authors you are talking about and they do indeed write bad boy romances. But it's legitimate bad boy romance authors who are hurt most by their shady tactics. The vast majority of bad boy romance authors are not doing anything black hat.

Crystal, I'm not trying to make generalizations. I'm trying to keep within the strict parameters set by the mods. If they want me to be explicit and name names, I have mountains of actual evidence, screenshots and the like, to back up every single claim.

It seems they don't want names named, so I have to use some form of words to express who I am talking about.

The group I am talking about is well known to most people. They write bad boy romances. They all engage in book stuffing. Many use ghostwriters. Many squat in inappropriate cats. Many use click here inducements. Many incentivize reviews and engage in mass gifting.

The people are generally known to those paying attention, I wish I could be more explicit.

I'm obviously not talking about all people who write bad boy romance. That is the sandpit in which they have chosen to play. If you have a better identifier for this group of people, I'm all ears.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jena H on January 04, 2018, 02:54:13 PM
I won't argue the adjective 'significant' but there are definitely a lot of people I know who re-read favorite books yearly, or even more often. That said, they're likely to have purchased such books rather than borrowed via KU or another subscription service.

For the past month or so I've been rereading paperbacks that I bought 20+ years ago--some for the fifth or sixth time.  Not to mention how often I pull down Conan Doyle, Jane Austen, or other writers on my "keepers" list from my bookshelf.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 04, 2018, 02:57:08 PM
OK, there are people who read old paperbacks repeatedly. But we are talking about KU books and book stuffing. If you want to read the same book ten times, it would make sense to keep it in your kindle instead of borrowing another book and reading it at the end of ten other books. That makes no sense.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Wayne Stinnett on January 04, 2018, 02:57:58 PM
Again, if you write a book so good that someone reads it 10 times, you deserve to be paid more. If you're worried about people taking a piece of your pie by reading someone else's book 10 times, then write books your readers want to read 10 times.

That's like saying that since I like my new truck so much, I should pay the dealer two or more times as much?

No, you write a book, you sell the book, and the reader reads it as many times as they want. But, the author only gets paid once. Same with KU, if you liked the book and want to read it again, fine. But, the author doesn't get paid again just because you read it again.

Slipping Book A into the backmatter of Book B, with Book C after that is a scam. Slipping Books A and B into the back matter of Book C with Book D after that is an even bigger scam. You can call it any politically correct thing or brilliant marketing idea you like, but anyone with a strong moral compass will say, "No, that's just wrong."



edited; PM if you have questions -- Ann
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 03:02:10 PM
OK, there are people who read old paperbacks repeatedly. But we are talking about KU books and book stuffing. If you want to read the same book ten times, it would make sense to keep it in your kindle instead of borrowing another book and reading it at the end of ten other books. That makes no sense.

Kind of off topic, but I don't think I've ever read a book more than once. (Except Frog and Toad when I was, like, 8). My TBR pile has about a thousand books in it. There's no way I'm going to miss out reading a new book to read one I've already read.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jena H on January 04, 2018, 03:04:24 PM
OK, there are people who read old paperbacks repeatedly. But we are talking about KU books and book stuffing. If you want to read the same book ten times, it would make sense to keep it in your kindle instead of borrowing another book and reading it at the end of ten other books. That makes no sense.

Totally agree with that.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Ann in Arlington on January 04, 2018, 03:08:59 PM
Y'all need to cut out the personal attacks and denigrating commentary if you want this thread to stay open.

Just sayin'
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 03:10:48 PM
Why? Why on earth would that make it difficult to take the issue seriously? It's an accurate name for a current bunch of scammity scammers. They're morphing into some new creature so perhaps a rename will come, although why you want it, I don't know.

Not David but I'm pretty sure he knows what's what here. If you feel he's somehow calling all "bad boy" author scammers, you are mistaken. If not, I don't understand why you would care.


Pretty sure he's never implied they are. He's ON THE GOOD AUTHORS' SIDE. Why do you think he does this? For fun? To help those who are most affected.

LOL. Stuffing is NOT allowed. Amazon's failure to properly enforce their rules on any sort of consistent basis doesn't mean they don't exist. I can't grok this mentality.

Ethical discussions are critical. Clearly, from this thread they are needed now more than ever.

It doesn't really bother me, because I know the group he's talking about, but I've seen a lot of authors react negatively to it. It's hard to explain the mentality of many romance and erotica authors if you aren't around them. We're constantly under attack by people who take issue with what we do.

You say stuffing is not allowed. But Amazon will not say the same thing if I email them with a different example than David's. I know because I have done so. I asked a KDP Rep at RT if bonus was allowed and she said yes, point blank. It's in the ToS that bonus content is allowed. Do I want that to be the case? No. But my wishes don't change reality. Saying "of course it's not allowed" doesn't change reality either. And it's not a productive discussion.

Even if it wasn't (irrelevant, but for the sake of argument), by continuing to do nothing, Amazon is making it allowed. A law that isn't enforced isn't a law.

Crystal, I'm not trying to make generalizations. I'm trying to keep within the strict parameters set by the mods. If they want me to be explicit and name names, I have mountains of actual evidence, screenshots and the like, to back up every single claim.

It seems they don't want names named, so I have to use some form of words to express who I am talking about.

The group I am talking about is well known to most people. They write bad boy romances. They all engage in book stuffing. Many use ghostwriters. Many squat in inappropriate cats. Many use click here inducements. Many incentivize reviews and engage in mass gifting.

The people are generally known to those paying attention, I wish I could be more explicit.

I'm obviously not talking about all people who write bad boy romance. That is the sandpit in which they have chosen to play. If you have a better identifier for this group of people, I'm all ears.

When you make broad generalizations against romance authors, romance authors stop listening to you. It's human nature. I think it would help to be a bit more specific about how this is one specific, small group of authors. That is, if you want romance authors to stay on your side.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 03:17:43 PM
When you make broad generalizations against romance authors, romance authors stop listening to you. It's human nature. I think it would help to be a bit more specific about how this is one specific, small group of authors. That is, if you want romance authors to stay on your side.

Not making broad generalizations about romance authors, obviously.

Happy to entertain how exactly I can be more specific without naming names. I referred to the niche they are operating in. You seem to find that objectionable as a signifier. What do you propose as an alternative?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Monique on January 04, 2018, 03:21:22 PM
When you make broad generalizations against romance authors, romance authors stop listening to you. It's human nature. I think it would help to be a bit more specific about how this is one specific, small group of authors. That is, if you want romance authors to stay on your side.

Where is he making broad generalizations against romance authors? If you read the actual articles he writes it's v clear who he is talking about and who he is looking out for. I'm flummoxed by this part of your post. (And others but I'm too tired to address them, and don't see the point. This one though, really bugs me.)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 03:21:59 PM
It doesn't really bother me, because I know the group he's talking about.

This seems to indicate that the way I described them was successful in communicating who I was talking about... which makes me unsure what the problem is exactly.

But if you have a superior form of words, I'm happy to entertain same.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Mark Dawson on January 04, 2018, 03:22:49 PM
Simple way to fix this - lower the max for KENPC to, say, the equivalent of a doorstep novel. Letís say 700 KENPC, for the sake of argument. No more incentive to stuff.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 04, 2018, 03:31:02 PM
Simple way to fix this - lower the max for KENPC to, say, the equivalent of a doorstep novel. Letís say 700 KENPC, for the sake of argument. No more incentive to stuff.

I have two box sets, one of which skirts the 3000 kenpc limit (I write long books).  And Iíd be fine with this. Relegate bundles to non KU eligible (as thereís technically no monetary incentive for KU readers to borrow them.)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Mark Dawson on January 04, 2018, 03:32:00 PM
Thatís it - if KU subscribers can get the novels, whatís the point of the box set?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MyraScott on January 04, 2018, 03:34:10 PM
Simple way to fix this - lower the max for KENPC to, say, the equivalent of a doorstep novel. Letís say 700 KENPC, for the sake of argument. No more incentive to stuff.

I do think this is a little of a sledgehammer approach, but it seems they need a sledgehammer since they aren't capable of writing the software to actually count page reads.  It wouldn't stop the 12-page short stories stuffed with other junk, but it would be a dent in the currently unlimited gold rush that is stuffing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PhoenixS on January 04, 2018, 03:41:03 PM
Again, as much as I hate stuffing, Amazon's continued inaction makes it clear to me that stuffing if allowed. If it's allowed, people will do it. Debating ethics is entertaining, but, at the end of the day, it doesn't do anything to change people's behavior.

Inaction doesn't mean allowed. Remember when Amazon didn't take action against Select books being pubbed by the author as a single title AND being pubbed by someone else in a box set? That rule was in place for 2 years before Amazon got around to taking action. And when they did, a lot of box sets got slapped down. That particular rule continues to be policed, too.

It's a sad world when [generic] folk believe personal ethics (such as abiding by contract terms they've signed) have to be followed only when they're policed.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 04, 2018, 03:41:29 PM
The original video seems to be pulled down?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Monique on January 04, 2018, 03:43:02 PM
Agreed, Phoenix. It's akin to "It's not a crime if I don't get caught." Stealing from a place of business that doesn't have a security guard is still stealing, isn't it?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Gentleman Zombie on January 04, 2018, 03:49:36 PM
Simple way to fix this - lower the max for KENPC to, say, the equivalent of a doorstep novel. Letís say 700 KENPC, for the sake of argument. No more incentive to stuff.

I'm sure some kind of limitation to KENPC is coming. Much like the changes to KU in regards to shorts. It's inevitable really.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atunah on January 04, 2018, 03:49:48 PM
Not sure if any of you want to hear from a reader on this issue. But here it is anyway.

I appreciate the work dgaughran and Phoenix and others are doing on this. I am a reader, not an author. Since romance is being brought up, I am a huge romance reader, its my favorite genre. Its the best selling genre. Guess where these stuffing and scamming issues abound? Yep, romance.

I am a former reader of indie contemporary romance. Or I should say, most indie romance. There are still a few "old" ones.
Why? Because I can't find anything anymore in the sea of stuffed, scammed and regurgitated garbage. I actually read the genre, I hang out where readers hang out. I am not alone. I like me a bad boy romance, a mail order bride romance, a highlander romance. Can I find them now on Amazon? No. They have been infected by the same type of "marketing packages". Are there still well written romances by indie authors? Of course there are. But I can't find them anymore. Once in a blue moon I get a recommendation by a reader I trust and then I can try one. I won't even touch them with a 10 foot pole otherwise anymore, I been burned so many times. Unless I already know you, I don't care. And the saddest thing is that some authors that are known are doing this stuff now. That is the maddening.

I have a KU subscription. I also buy books outright and get some from library. When you browse, you can't sort out KU books, so its all in one blob. I don't browse anymore for books for those reasons. I am tired of seeing a cover and a blurb and then finding out its a short porn story with 20 other short stories tacked on to it. Or that it looks like a book, but ends at 40% when I read. Or its full of what I call "slap-and-chop" marketing. You know, but wait, click here......

There is a severe lack of impartial reader based recommendations sites that are not based on paid ads and marketing. I can't tell the good from the bad anymore and yes, I used to be able to do that. My vetting system still works. Its just much more strict and eliminates most gems I used to find on my own. And it eliminates pretty much most new authors.

And those that actually write the good stuff are missing out when we readers get run off by this stuff. I see reads going down for some of you each month and often so called page flip is blamed. But what about all of us that just can't find you guys anymore. Or we lost the will to sift through the bog. I been reading back list titles in KU, indies I know like Amanda, Madeline Baker, etc. Outside of KU I stick with indies also that are known to me. Many of them from KBoards. I been here since 2008 so I know those that been around a bit.

I said it before many times. The only way I think KU can be fixed is doing curation. It also fixes the overall issues. No mis-categorizing, no stuffing, no bonus, no nonsense translations, no box sets, etc. Every book gets looked at. If you are a proven author you get an auto in. You get caught "cheating" you are out. All they have to do is expand the prime reading into KU. I much rather have 100,000 books to pick from that are curated than 5 million that are not.

And yes, I have send feedback to amazon. I also send reports on books I see that are stuffed, scammy or wrongly categorized in obvious ways. I am not the only reader out there that has had it. Its really upsetting to read all those excuses being made. Not just here, but I see it on other places too. Justifying loopholes. But the end result is that reader experience has gone to the dogs. Sad.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 04, 2018, 03:50:31 PM
Simple way to fix this - lower the max for KENPC to, say, the equivalent of a doorstep novel. Letís say 700 KENPC, for the sake of argument. No more incentive to stuff.
That's what people thought when the limit was cut to 3000 KENPC. In response the scammers just created more bundles that were shorter, which is exactly what they'd do if Amazon limited it to 700.

As for eliminating box sets from KU, given how ineffective Amazon's bots have been at identifying EASY scams, do you really think they could implement something like that without thousands of innocent authors being nuked in the process and having their legit books yanked by mistake? (And undoubtedly right before their Bookbubs kicked off...) Amazon can't identify basic issues like nonsense computer-generated text and screen scrapes, but you expect them to come up with something to identify a box set that actually works? I wouldn't hold my breath on that one...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MaryMcDonald on January 04, 2018, 03:50:58 PM
The only way this will ever resolve is if Amazon gets rid of the pot. Without a pot to split, stuffers will get a much harder look from Amazon as the stuffers will be stealing from Amazon, not authors.  Amazon doesn't care about indie authors, we're just content providers. Only indies and small publishers have to deal with the pot--major publishers are on a different pay scheme (The Hunger Games, Harry Potter, etc)

A question for those with Amazon imprints; do books with an imprint get the same as indies or is there some other payout for those books?

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 03:53:28 PM
You say stuffing is not allowed. But Amazon will not say the same thing if I email them with a different example than David's. I know because I have done so. I asked a KDP Rep at RT if bonus was allowed and she said yes, point blank. It's in the ToS that bonus content is allowed. Do I want that to be the case? No. But my wishes don't change reality. Saying "of course it's not allowed" doesn't change reality either. And it's not a productive discussion.

Bonus content = okay
Book stuffing = not bonus content = not okay
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 04:00:35 PM
Thatís it - if KU subscribers can get the novels, whatís the point of the box set?

Less friction.
More opportunities for promotions.
Buyers.

Inaction doesn't mean allowed. Remember when Amazon didn't take action against Select books being pubbed by the author as a single title AND being pubbed by someone else in a box set? That rule was in place for 2 years before Amazon got around to taking action. And when they did, a lot of box sets got slapped down. That particular rule continues to be policed, too.

It's a sad world when [generic] folk believe personal ethics (such as abiding by contract terms they've signed) have to be followed only when they're policed.

I don't recall that ever being in the ToS. No one was joining multi-author bundles maliciously. It was simply a way to cross-promote. My understanding was that they were allowed until Amazon changed their rules. But that just goes to show how unclear the ToS are.

Again, my read of the ToS is that stuffing is allowed (Amazon could very easily solve this by getting more specific).

Quote
If you choose to include bonus content (e.g. other stories, or previews of other books), it should be relevant to the customer and should not disrupt the reading experience. To meet these guidelines, we recommend placing additional content at the end of the book.

Content must meet all program guidelines (e.g., bonus content in KDP Select titles must be exclusive). Translated content must be high quality and not machine generated. Disruptive links and promises of gifts or rewards are never allowed.

There is no mention of duplicate content.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Usedtoposthere on January 04, 2018, 04:05:50 PM
It doesn't really bother me, because I know the group he's talking about, but I've seen a lot of authors react negatively to it. It's hard to explain the mentality of many romance and erotica authors if you aren't around them. We're constantly under attack by people who take issue with what we do.

You say stuffing is not allowed. But Amazon will not say the same thing if I email them with a different example than David's. I know because I have done so. I asked a KDP Rep at RT if bonus was allowed and she said yes, point blank. It's in the ToS that bonus content is allowed. Do I want that to be the case? No. But my wishes don't change reality. Saying "of course it's not allowed" doesn't change reality either. And it's not a productive discussion.

Even if it wasn't (irrelevant, but for the sake of argument), by continuing to do nothing, Amazon is making it allowed. A law that isn't enforced isn't a law.

When you make broad generalizations against romance authors, romance authors stop listening to you. It's human nature. I think it would help to be a bit more specific about how this is one specific, small group of authors. That is, if you want romance authors to stay on your side.
I'm a romance author. I listen to David. I know exactly who he's talking about, and to me, that group does not "write" romance. They are not in the same business as I am. They're in the business of putting up ghostwritten books that often cross my personal lines on issues of consent, cross-marketing them with each other, and, let's say, pushing the rules to the limit, if not skirting them.

I don't have any problem with them being called out, because getting rid of them would get rid of a taint on my genre.

Meanwhile I'll go along and write my stuff and put it out there. I can't do anything about what Amazon or any other vendor does. I have expressed my dissatisfaction to KDP multiple times, and that's about what I can do. I hope someday they'll limit KU books to one title. Period. Will they? No idea. But I'm glad that people like David and Phoenix are on this, willing to spend their time and energy pushing for reform.

(And I too have had a very clear message from the Content people at KDP that book stuffing is not allowed. And yep, a law that isn't enforced or isn't enforced strictly enough is still a law. For Heaven's sake. Of course it is.)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 04, 2018, 04:06:20 PM
This seems to indicate that the way I described them was successful in communicating who I was talking about... which makes me unsure what the problem is exactly.

But if you have a superior form of words, I'm happy to entertain same.

I also dislike hearing them called bad boy authors, because they are such a small group, and I don't really consider them "authors," which those of us who are actually, legitimately writing in that genre are.

How about calling them what they have called themselves? The masterminds?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 04:08:41 PM
New link for the video for those who want to share/watch/hair-split: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7xronSRNEU
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ReGina W on January 04, 2018, 04:12:55 PM

Again, my read of the ToS is that stuffing is allowed (Amazon could very easily solve this by getting more specific).

There is no mention of duplicate content.

And that is because you are looking in the wrong section. The duplicate content section does not fall under the description of bonus content.

Quote
Disappointing Content
We do not allow content that disappoints our customers, including but not limited to:

    Content that is either marketed as a subscription or redirects readers to an external source to obtain the full content
    Content that is freely available on the web (unless you are the copyright owner of that content or the content is in the public domain). For more information, you can refer to the sections titled ďIllegal and Infringing ContentĒ and ďPublic Domain and Other Non-Exclusive ContentĒ in the Content Guidelines.
    Content whose primary purpose is to solicit or advertise
    Content that is not significantly differentiated from another book available in the Kindle Store
    Content that is a non-differentiated version of another book available in the Kindle Store
    Content that is too short
    Content that is poorly translated
    Content that does not provide an enjoyable reading experience


https://kdp.amazon.com/en_US/help/topic/G200952510
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Usedtoposthere on January 04, 2018, 04:20:12 PM
Yep. Specifically, the Content people told me that the "significantly differentiated" test was the problem--that you can't re-order the same content multiple different ways and call it different.

Now if only they'd enforce that. I do think that at some point they will, and the screaming will be loud and long, as it was when the boxed set rules changed due to abuse. I don't think I'll feel sad.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MaryMcDonald on January 04, 2018, 04:26:11 PM

Even if it wasn't (irrelevant, but for the sake of argument), by continuing to do nothing, Amazon is making it allowed. A law that isn't enforced isn't a law.


Um, yes it is. I think Amazon even enforces the 'law' (ie, TOS) from time to time. Maybe daily. We'll never know because it's not like the stuffers are coming here and telling us they were caught. But to say it's not a law because so many people are getting away with it is like saying it's fine and dandy to go 85mph in a 55mph zone because the cops aren't catching everyone doing 85 mph. If you take your argument to a judge, he'd laugh you out of court and tell you to pay your fine on the way out. Not being able to catch everyone is not the same as saying it is isn't enforced.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 04:30:31 PM
I'm a romance author. I listen to David. I know exactly who he's talking about, and to me, that group does not "write" romance. They are not in the same business as I am. They're in the business of putting up ghostwritten books that often cross my personal lines on issues of consent, cross-marketing them with each other, and, let's say, pushing the rules to the limit, if not skirting them.

I don't have any problem with them being called out, because getting rid of them would get rid of a taint on my genre.

Meanwhile I'll go along and write my stuff and put it out there. I can't do anything about what Amazon or any other vendor does. I have expressed my dissatisfaction to KDP multiple times, and that's about what I can do. I hope someday they'll limit KU books to one title. Period. Will they? No idea. But I'm glad that people like David and Phoenix are on this, willing to spend their time and energy pushing for reform.

(And I too have had a very clear message from the Content people at KDP that book stuffing is not allowed. And yep, a law that isn't enforced or isn't enforced strictly enough is still a law. For Heaven's sake. Of course it is.)

Like I said, I don't have a problem with it, but I've seen many, many romance authors write off David's complaints because of the language he uses. He could make it clearer he's talking about that certain group of authors who have a name for themselves, vs. bad boy romance authors as a whole. (I don't know if the mods will allow him to mention that name or not).

As far as I can tell, undifferentiated content only refers to content that is the same but not reordered. So you can't do A, B, C, D then D, C, B, A, but you can do A, B, C then A, B, D, then A, B, C, D, etc.

As I said before, it would be very easy for Amazon to make this clear, but they continue to not do so.

I have actually not seen any examples of reps saying stuffing is not allowed, unless it was about undifferentiated content, which needs to be exactly the same content in a different order. I asked a rep about book stuffing (with the example of "could I put Book A behind my new release") and the rep said that stuffing is allowed. I asked another time, I got no response.

I used to thrash about this a lot, but I realize I have no control over what Amazon does. I have better uses of my energy.

Um, yes it is. I think Amazon even enforces the 'law' (ie, TOS) from time to time. Maybe daily. We'll never know because it's not like the stuffers are coming here and telling us they were caught. But to say it's not a law because so many people are getting away with it is like saying it's fine and dandy to go 85mph in a 55mph zone because the cops aren't catching everyone doing 85 mph. If you take your argument to a judge, he'd laugh you out of court and tell you to pay your fine on the way out. Not being able to catch everyone is not the same as saying it is isn't enforced.

We're arguing different things. Yes, it's still illegal, and you can still get caught. But if no one ever polices the road, and people are regularly driving 85 MPH there, then the law is irrelevant.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MaryMcDonald on January 04, 2018, 04:34:47 PM
Not sure if any of you want to hear from a reader on this issue. But here it is anyway.

I appreciate the work dgaughran and Phoenix and others are doing on this. I am a reader, not an author. Since romance is being brought up, I am a huge romance reader, its my favorite genre. Its the best selling genre. Guess where these stuffing and scamming issues abound? Yep, romance.

I am a former reader of indie contemporary romance. Or I should say, most indie romance. There are still a few "old" ones.
Why? Because I can't find anything anymore in the sea of stuffed, scammed and regurgitated garbage. I actually read the genre, I hang out where readers hang out. I am not alone. I like me a bad boy romance, a mail order bride romance, a highlander romance. Can I find them now on Amazon? No. They have been infected by the same type of "marketing packages". Are there still well written romances by indie authors? Of course there are. But I can't find them anymore. Once in a blue moon I get a recommendation by a reader I trust and then I can try one. I won't even touch them with a 10 foot pole otherwise anymore, I been burned so many times. Unless I already know you, I don't care. And the saddest thing is that some authors that are known are doing this stuff now. That is the maddening.

I have a KU subscription. I also buy books outright and get some from library. When you browse, you can't sort out KU books, so its all in one blob. I don't browse anymore for books for those reasons. I am tired of seeing a cover and a blurb and then finding out its a short porn story with 20 other short stories tacked on to it. Or that it looks like a book, but ends at 40% when I read. Or its full of what I call "slap-and-chop" marketing. You know, but wait, click here......

There is a severe lack of impartial reader based recommendations sites that are not based on paid ads and marketing. I can't tell the good from the bad anymore and yes, I used to be able to do that. My vetting system still works. Its just much more strict and eliminates most gems I used to find on my own. And it eliminates pretty much most new authors.

And those that actually write the good stuff are missing out when we readers get run off by this stuff. I see reads going down for some of you each month and often so called page flip is blamed. But what about all of us that just can't find you guys anymore. Or we lost the will to sift through the bog. I been reading back list titles in KU, indies I know like Amanda, Madeline Baker, etc. Outside of KU I stick with indies also that are known to me. Many of them from KBoards. I been here since 2008 so I know those that been around a bit.

I said it before many times. The only way I think KU can be fixed is doing curation. It also fixes the overall issues. No mis-categorizing, no stuffing, no bonus, no nonsense translations, no box sets, etc. Every book gets looked at. If you are a proven author you get an auto in. You get caught "cheating" you are out. All they have to do is expand the prime reading into KU. I much rather have 100,000 books to pick from that are curated than 5 million that are not.

And yes, I have send feedback to amazon. I also send reports on books I see that are stuffed, scammy or wrongly categorized in obvious ways. I am not the only reader out there that has had it. Its really upsetting to read all those excuses being made. Not just here, but I see it on other places too. Justifying loopholes. But the end result is that reader experience has gone to the dogs. Sad.

I'm an author, but also a reader of romance (only have one romance myself, and it's over 3 years old. I gave up writing the genre because no way can I keep up!). Anyway, as a reader, I also love mail-order bride books, time travel, or western romance in general. I haven't found a good one in ages. I don't know if the books I've browsed have been stuffed because when I do the Look Inside to see how I like the writing, it takes me right to the sample. I'd have to scroll up to see the TOC, I guess, and I don't normally do that. I think I will from now on. If they are stuffed then it's probably a pretty good assumption that they are also ghost-written and so quality might be wildly different from book to book even if it's put out by the same 'author'.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 04, 2018, 04:40:11 PM

We're arguing different things. Yes, it's still illegal, and you can still get caught. But if no one ever polices the road, and people are regularly driving 85 MPH there, then the law is irrelevant.

I really have to push back on this last bit.

We all know that there is a law against rape.

We all know that rape happens a lot.

We all also know that only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.

Clearly, the law is not being enforced.

That does not make it okay for men to rape.

It's really sad when I have to resort to such an extreme case to make an ethical point.

Sure, maybe Amazon is not enforcing its own TOS on stuffing. That does not mean stuffing is okay. That does not mean that we should all just shut up and stop complaining.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 04, 2018, 04:40:48 PM
Not sure if any of you want to hear from a reader on this issue. But here it is anyway.

I appreciate the work dgaughran and Phoenix and others are doing on this. I am a reader, not an author. Since romance is being brought up, I am a huge romance reader, its my favorite genre. Its the best selling genre. Guess where these stuffing and scamming issues abound? Yep, romance.

I am a former reader of indie contemporary romance. Or I should say, most indie romance. There are still a few "old" ones.
Why? Because I can't find anything anymore in the sea of stuffed, scammed and regurgitated garbage. I actually read the genre, I hang out where readers hang out. I am not alone. I like me a bad boy romance, a mail order bride romance, a highlander romance. Can I find them now on Amazon? No. They have been infected by the same type of "marketing packages". Are there still well written romances by indie authors? Of course there are. But I can't find them anymore. Once in a blue moon I get a recommendation by a reader I trust and then I can try one. I won't even touch them with a 10 foot pole otherwise anymore, I been burned so many times. Unless I already know you, I don't care. And the saddest thing is that some authors that are known are doing this stuff now. That is the maddening.

I have a KU subscription. I also buy books outright and get some from library. When you browse, you can't sort out KU books, so its all in one blob. I don't browse anymore for books for those reasons. I am tired of seeing a cover and a blurb and then finding out its a short porn story with 20 other short stories tacked on to it. Or that it looks like a book, but ends at 40% when I read. Or its full of what I call "slap-and-chop" marketing. You know, but wait, click here......

There is a severe lack of impartial reader based recommendations sites that are not based on paid ads and marketing. I can't tell the good from the bad anymore and yes, I used to be able to do that. My vetting system still works. Its just much more strict and eliminates most gems I used to find on my own. And it eliminates pretty much most new authors.

And those that actually write the good stuff are missing out when we readers get run off by this stuff. I see reads going down for some of you each month and often so called page flip is blamed. But what about all of us that just can't find you guys anymore. Or we lost the will to sift through the bog. I been reading back list titles in KU, indies I know like Amanda, Madeline Baker, etc. Outside of KU I stick with indies also that are known to me. Many of them from KBoards. I been here since 2008 so I know those that been around a bit.

I said it before many times. The only way I think KU can be fixed is doing curation. It also fixes the overall issues. No mis-categorizing, no stuffing, no bonus, no nonsense translations, no box sets, etc. Every book gets looked at. If you are a proven author you get an auto in. You get caught "cheating" you are out. All they have to do is expand the prime reading into KU. I much rather have 100,000 books to pick from that are curated than 5 million that are not.

And yes, I have send feedback to amazon. I also send reports on books I see that are stuffed, scammy or wrongly categorized in obvious ways. I am not the only reader out there that has had it. Its really upsetting to read all those excuses being made. Not just here, but I see it on other places too. Justifying loopholes. But the end result is that reader experience has gone to the dogs. Sad.

Atunah: As a bad boy romance author, I totally agree with this. This is why I'm so sad for the readers: Because it's really, really hard for them to find legit new authors to read right now. I mean, I write bad boy romance, and I look through the new best sellers myself because I'm always looking for new talent but man, it's so hard because the scammy stuff has clogged up the lists so much that the legit stuff is really far down, and you have to *know* what to look for to sift through the scammers to find it. Which most readers just aren't going to know.

It sucks. I just keep writing, focus on quality, and on my readers, and hope for the best. But I also don't love that this handful of people are giving the whole of bad boy romance a bad name.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PhoenixS on January 04, 2018, 04:44:50 PM
Now if only they'd enforce that. I do think that at some point they will, and the screaming will be loud and long, as it was when the boxed set rules changed due to abuse. I don't think I'll feel sad.

Just a point of clarification, since it's mentioned in some ongoing legal battles and we should be crystal clear on this: The Select box set rule was implemented prior to the widespread abuse. We've tracked it back and taken screenshots of it on the Wayback Machine (archive.org). Whether folk were aware of it or not, it was not a new rule by a long shot when Amazon began to enforce it a little over a year ago.

Quote
I don't think I'll feel sad.
Me either.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Ava Glass on January 04, 2018, 04:52:53 PM
I've seen many, many romance authors write off David's complaints because of the language he uses. He could make it clearer he's talking about that certain group of authors who have a name for themselves, vs. bad boy romance authors as a whole.

I think it would also help to make the point that although the page skip issue is partially fixed, it is not fully. This way, people won't dismiss these discussions as "based on outdated info." We've seen it happen in this very thread.

ETA: Actually, do we know this issue hasn't been fully fixed? Has anyone tested the clould and PC readers in the last two months? What about books that have managed to disable Page Flip? Do authors who circumvent PF get paid for skipped reads? We need more testing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: V.P. on January 04, 2018, 04:56:32 PM

We're arguing different things. Yes, it's still illegal, and you can still get caught. But if no one ever polices the road, and people are regularly driving 85 MPH there, then the law is irrelevant.

What if one gets into an accident? If it can be proved, via witnesses or accident scene investigators, that the person who caused the accident was driving thirty mph over the speed limit, the consequences can be extremely severe. Also, what if another driver were hurt or killed in the accident? Bad enough to have caused the accident because of speeding, but even harder to live with the guilt. Laws, even those that are not often enforced, were created for a reason - usually to protect the rights and needs of others. Violate them and you (generic you) open yourself up to the possibility of getting yourself and others into a world of hurt. Same principle could be applied, although on a lesser scale, to the current topic under discussion,.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Lefevre on January 04, 2018, 05:00:04 PM
Thanks for posting this David.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 04, 2018, 05:00:36 PM
It's really sad when I have to resort to such an extreme case to make an ethical point.

Except the government (ie. police) can't monitor every citizen of every day to catch every rape as it happens so they have a slam dunk case in court. Zon on the other hand has f'ing skynet that sees all, hears all, tastes all, controls all. So if skynet is allowing things, it's because... it allows it.

This is a business, it's zon's job to gate what goes on their store. If they can't do that, particularly with KU, then shut 'er down. But we all know they can gate this stuff if they want to... they just don't care.



Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: lilywhite on January 04, 2018, 05:02:58 PM
Like I said, I don't have a problem with it, but I've seen many, many romance authors write off David's complaints because of the language he uses. He could make it clearer he's talking about that certain group of authors who have a name for themselves, vs. bad boy romance authors as a whole.

He put it in quotes ("bad boy romance authors") -- you got it and I got it. Phoenix and Rosalind got it.

I can't help but be cynically curious if the people who act like they don't get it are just looking for a reason to be mad at him because he's calling out practices they endorse or participate in? I mean, I write bad boy romance and Dave is one of my dearest friends. I certainly don't feel judged.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: lilywhite on January 04, 2018, 05:05:02 PM
It sucks. I just keep writing, focus on quality, and on my readers, and hope for the best. But I also don't love that this handful of people are giving the whole of bad boy romance a bad name.

I could have written this. It sucks.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: she-la-ti-da on January 04, 2018, 05:10:55 PM
Quote
The only way I think KU can be fixed is doing curation. It also fixes the overall issues. No mis-categorizing, no stuffing, no bonus, no nonsense translations, no box sets, etc. Every book gets looked at. If you are a proven author you get an auto in. You get caught "cheating" you are out.

I've said it many times before that Amazon needs to curate the "Select" list. They don't have to do all of the books (though if Apple can do it, why can't Amazon?), just the ones that are being touted as something special, that readers should be interested in.

People tried to tell Amazon that KU wasn't going to work as they'd hoped. When the second version came around, warnings went out again. Both times, the warnings proved correct. I can understand in general that Amazon wants some leeway in the TOS, but for something that was ripe for scamming, those terms need to be crystal clear, with no loopholes. And they need to be enforced. Will it happen? Nah. We'll get KUv4, likely pretty soon, and then the wailing and gnashing will being anew, and the scammers will simply find a new way around it all, and thus the merry-go-round spins.

I also think some folks are being deliberately combative and misleading when they talk about stuffing and what's in the rules, or what's allowed VS what's enforced and so on. Most of us have seen that when Amazon finally does put their foot down, it's preceded by a bomb that takes out the innocent and maybe a few guilty get burned. But they seem to recover well enough.

Me? I've given up hope that anything substantive will be done. I use KU as best I can, because I need the money. I'm not blind to what's happening, and I truly hate that honest writers are getting hurt, and that readers are not finding books they want. It's broken and the only real fix would be to end the program, but I don't see that happening as long as people keep buying subscriptions.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: LadyStarlight on January 04, 2018, 05:14:56 PM
Simple way to fix this - lower the max for KENPC to, say, the equivalent of a doorstep novel. Letís say 700 KENPC, for the sake of argument. No more incentive to stuff.

THIS. I've been saying this for so long. It's such an easy fix. The 3000 limit is absurd and should not be that high. We could argue what it should be lowered to, but I think 700 is a reasonable number. By a quick guess, that's ~150k words. It's kind of just a bandaid and they can still stuff novellas out to the max w/ this change, but they wont really have too much of an advantage over those who write longer novels. The KU3 change already helped and we've saw the rate steadily start to come back up, but more needs to be done.

A single ASIN per title would be one step further. One title can only be in KU once. You want to bundle up KU titles? Fine, just don't allow them in KU. Making box sets and putting some kind of "bonus/extra ending/whatever" is just another more transparent way of trying to inch out extra page reads. The whole point of adding an extra ending or putting a bonus at the end is to have fans who've already read the original to just go grab it with KU and read the end, resulting in double dipping.

But until readers start to complain, I don't see anything getting done. A few do, but those who enjoy the free reads far outnumber them. From my own conversations with KDP, bonus content is allowed in it's predominant current form... a new release with <insert bonus content here>. Their action (or inaction) backs that up.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 05:16:29 PM
Me? I've given up hope that anything substantive will be done. I use KU as best I can, because I need the money. I'm not blind to what's happening, and I truly hate that honest writers are getting hurt, and that readers are not finding books they want. It's broken and the only real fix would be to end the program, but I don't see that happening as long as people keep buying subscriptions.

I've mostly given up, too, but it bugs when people (not you) say hey, shouldn't have parked your car there if you didn't want it stolen. It's your fault there are thieves! Neglecting the fact that you're parking in the parking lot of your place of employment, and not just tooling around bad neighborhoods for the fun of it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atunah on January 04, 2018, 05:25:20 PM
I'm an author, but also a reader of romance (only have one romance myself, and it's over 3 years old. I gave up writing the genre because no way can I keep up!). Anyway, as a reader, I also love mail-order bride books, time travel, or western romance in general. I haven't found a good one in ages. I don't know if the books I've browsed have been stuffed because when I do the Look Inside to see how I like the writing, it takes me right to the sample. I'd have to scroll up to see the TOC, I guess, and I don't normally do that. I think I will from now on. If they are stuffed then it's probably a pretty good assumption that they are also ghost-written and so quality might be wildly different from book to book even if it's put out by the same 'author'.
I just don't have the time to read a gazillion look inside. I cannot read on my computer anyway so it would have to be samples. I cannot and will not read samples, ever. I don't having partial stories floating in my head and again, its a waste of time for me. I tried it, samples that is, could have read a actual good book instead. I just don't vet like that. So not an option anymore. I am just tired of it to be honest. Time travel is so difficult to find good newer stuff. besides Monique and Angela Quarles, which I recommend, I can't think of anything. I have to go back in time and find stuff from 20-25 years or so ago that has been re-released. I am working my way through Madeline Baker's excellent books in Ku right now. All back list titles from long ago. Mail order? Might as well re-read Loretta Chase over and over at this point. Just to frustrating. Once the stuffing branched out into HR, it was the end.

Atunah: As a bad boy romance author, I totally agree with this. This is why I'm so sad for the readers: Because it's really, really hard for them to find legit new authors to read right now. I mean, I write bad boy romance, and I look through the new best sellers myself because I'm always looking for new talent but man, it's so hard because the scammy stuff has clogged up the lists so much that the legit stuff is really far down, and you have to *know* what to look for to sift through the scammers to find it. Which most readers just aren't going to know.

It sucks. I just keep writing, focus on quality, and on my readers, and hope for the best. But I also don't love that this handful of people are giving the whole of bad boy romance a bad name.
Yes, its sad. For readers and authors. But I just don't have the time and patience to sift through it anymore. I just can't. I just want to read good books. I used to browse the top sellers, new releases. Not anymore. I don't care anymore, I really don't. I just want to read. Its making me sad what has happened to my favorite genre. I been going back more and more to trade publishers where I don't have to deal with any of this stuff. And I was one of the early indie romance readers right here. But it is what it is. Time is money and lifeblood really. The older I get, the less time I have to waste on crap books. Perception is there. I see a stuffed book, I assume its not good. Now I don't even look anymore.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 05:26:42 PM
I really have to push back on this last bit.

We all know that there is a law against rape.

We all know that rape happens a lot.

We all also know that only 6% of rapists ever spend a day in jail.

Clearly, the law is not being enforced.

That does not make it okay for men to rape.

It's really sad when I have to resort to such an extreme case to make an ethical point.

Sure, maybe Amazon is not enforcing its own TOS on stuffing. That does not mean stuffing is okay. That does not mean that we should all just shut up and stop complaining.

That isn't a good comparison, because it implies that rapes are not prosecuted, when they are. The majority of rapes aren't reported. Many that are reported are prosecuted because of lack of evidence.

Zon has all the evidence it needs to any ToS violation. It's right there in the book/on the product page.

But that is irrelevant to what I'm saying.

I'm not saying lack of enforcement makes it okay to break the law. I'm saying lack of enforcement makes a law irrelevant. There might as well not be a law in terms of how it will affect behavior. If a law is never enforced, people don't concern themselves with the consequences for breaking the law.

If Amazon doesn't enforce its ToS, people won't worry about violating the ToS. You can see this in author behavior. No one worried about extra subtitles until Amazon started enforcing that. Authors actively avoid publishing content that gets blocked, because Amazon enforces their no noncon rule. Few authors worry about their keywords/categories being totally accurate, because Amazon does not enforce that. etc, etc, etc.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TessOliver on January 04, 2018, 05:29:28 PM
Not sure if any of you want to hear from a reader on this issue. But here it is anyway.

I appreciate the work dgaughran and Phoenix and others are doing on this. I am a reader, not an author. Since romance is being brought up, I am a huge romance reader, its my favorite genre. Its the best selling genre. Guess where these stuffing and scamming issues abound? Yep, romance.

I am a former reader of indie contemporary romance. Or I should say, most indie romance. There are still a few "old" ones.
Why? Because I can't find anything anymore in the sea of stuffed, scammed and regurgitated garbage. I actually read the genre, I hang out where readers hang out. I am not alone. I like me a bad boy romance, a mail order bride romance, a highlander romance. Can I find them now on Amazon? No. They have been infected by the same type of "marketing packages". Are there still well written romances by indie authors? Of course there are. But I can't find them anymore. Once in a blue moon I get a recommendation by a reader I trust and then I can try one. I won't even touch them with a 10 foot pole otherwise anymore, I been burned so many times. Unless I already know you, I don't care. And the saddest thing is that some authors that are known are doing this stuff now. That is the maddening.

I have a KU subscription. I also buy books outright and get some from library. When you browse, you can't sort out KU books, so its all in one blob. I don't browse anymore for books for those reasons. I am tired of seeing a cover and a blurb and then finding out its a short porn story with 20 other short stories tacked on to it. Or that it looks like a book, but ends at 40% when I read. Or its full of what I call "slap-and-chop" marketing. You know, but wait, click here......

There is a severe lack of impartial reader based recommendations sites that are not based on paid ads and marketing. I can't tell the good from the bad anymore and yes, I used to be able to do that. My vetting system still works. Its just much more strict and eliminates most gems I used to find on my own. And it eliminates pretty much most new authors.

And those that actually write the good stuff are missing out when we readers get run off by this stuff. I see reads going down for some of you each month and often so called page flip is blamed. But what about all of us that just can't find you guys anymore. Or we lost the will to sift through the bog. I been reading back list titles in KU, indies I know like Amanda, Madeline Baker, etc. Outside of KU I stick with indies also that are known to me. Many of them from KBoards. I been here since 2008 so I know those that been around a bit.

I said it before many times. The only way I think KU can be fixed is doing curation. It also fixes the overall issues. No mis-categorizing, no stuffing, no bonus, no nonsense translations, no box sets, etc. Every book gets looked at. If you are a proven author you get an auto in. You get caught "cheating" you are out. All they have to do is expand the prime reading into KU. I much rather have 100,000 books to pick from that are curated than 5 million that are not.

And yes, I have send feedback to amazon. I also send reports on books I see that are stuffed, scammy or wrongly categorized in obvious ways. I am not the only reader out there that has had it. Its really upsetting to read all those excuses being made. Not just here, but I see it on other places too. Justifying loopholes. But the end result is that reader experience has gone to the dogs. Sad.

I copied Atunah's post because it is worth a second read.

The store is such a cluttered mess. Amazon had this amazing site with algorithms that let the "cream" rise naturally to the top. That store no longer exists. As an author I wish they would make two separate lists, one for KU and one for wide books. They don't seem interested in fixing the scam problem (I gave up and pulled my books from KU deciding I could no longer share the pot with scammers) but it would be nice if they let those of us who just want to sell books wide have a chance to be seen on the sight. It seems like a separate list would be good for authors and readers.

And David, as a legit "bad boy author" I never miss reading your posts. Thanks for keeping up the fight.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rose Andrews on January 04, 2018, 05:31:25 PM
I'm an author, but also a reader of romance (only have one romance myself, and it's over 3 years old. I gave up writing the genre because no way can I keep up!). Anyway, as a reader, I also love mail-order bride books, time travel, or western romance in general. I haven't found a good one in ages. I don't know if the books I've browsed have been stuffed because when I do the Look Inside to see how I like the writing, it takes me right to the sample. I'd have to scroll up to see the TOC, I guess, and I don't normally do that. I think I will from now on. If they are stuffed then it's probably a pretty good assumption that they are also ghost-written and so quality might be wildly different from book to book even if it's put out by the same 'author'.
It's not just bad boy romance this is happening in. Western romance is full of these stuffed books. I don't even risk trying a new to me author anymore in mail-order-brides because of the stuffing. The last one I did try--I thought I was getting a novel about a single mother. It turned out to be close to 30 stories stuffed in that book. I got p*ssed. That's not what I thought I was buying. Plus it's cheating. Much like Atunah, I pretty much find my reads on Goodreads now, in thrift stores or at the library. I don't use KU to read anymore.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 04, 2018, 05:33:25 PM
I've mostly given up, too, but it bugs when people (not you) say hey, shouldn't have parked your car there if you didn't want it stolen. It's your fault there are thieves! Neglecting the fact that you're parking in the parking lot of your place of employment, and not just tooling around bad neighborhoods for the fun of it.
The problem with that analogy is that in this case your employer is actively paying the thieves who steal the cars, and they don't care if it's your car that gets stolen so long as they get their cut as usual. Oh, and they make you pay for parking there, too.

As a reader I second everything Atunah has said in here.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 05:34:26 PM
That isn't a good comparison, because it implies that rapes are not prosecuted, when they are. The majority of rapes aren't reported. Many that are reported are prosecuted because of lack of evidence.

Zon has all the evidence it needs to any ToS violation. It's right there in the book/on the product page.

But that is irrelevant to what I'm saying.

I'm not saying lack of enforcement makes it okay to break the law. I'm saying lack of enforcement makes a law irrelevant. There might as well not be a law in terms of how it will affect behavior. If a law is never enforced, people don't concern themselves with the consequences for breaking the law.

If Amazon doesn't enforce its ToS, people won't worry about violating the ToS. You can see this in author behavior. No one worried about extra subtitles until Amazon started enforcing that. Authors actively avoid publishing content that gets blocked, because Amazon enforces their no noncon rule. Few authors worry about their keywords/categories being totally accurate, because Amazon does not enforce that. etc, etc, etc.

Book stuffing would be more like jaywalking. It's against the law, but nobody cares. I've jaywalked in front of the police and the courthhouse.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MonkeyScribe on January 04, 2018, 05:52:40 PM
Book stuffing would be more like jaywalking. It's against the law, but nobody cares. I've jaywalked in front of the police and the courthhouse.

Jaywalking while stealing purses and wallets from people in the crosswalk.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Usedtoposthere on January 04, 2018, 05:56:27 PM
Book stuffing would be more like jaywalking. It's against the law, but nobody cares. I've jaywalked in front of the police and the courthhouse.
My son got a ticket for jaywalking in high school. He had to pay about $150 in fines and court costs AND had to do 20 hours of community service.

It was a world of hurt.

In that case, the cops gave him a ticket (I assume) because they were trying to stop the h-s kids in the city from doing so much jaywalking, endangering them and putting drivers at risk of hitting a kid, which would be horrible. It was a deterrence issue, and unfortunately, he was one of the ones caught up in it.

We'll see if Amazon ever deters. This "crime" isn't much like jaywalking--it doesn't really put the authors at risk, because the people who do it mostly seem to be the ones who are just doing the "author" thing as a money-making deal. It's more like arresting auto thieves, I'd say. In some neighborhoods in the SF Bay Area, where I used to live, the police have pretty much abandoned all pretense of going after car thieves. Which means the crimes are just absolutely brazen at this point. Infuriating to law-abiding people who are SOL if they don't have an off-street place to park their cars. And encouraging the thieves to move on to home burglary, since the cops won't even come out and take a report on that anymore.

Yeah, I'd say it's pretty much just like that. Auto burglary and home burglary are still crimes, of course. The victims still care mightily. It's still wrong. The city just doesn't have/isn't willing to deliver the resources to fight it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 04, 2018, 06:01:00 PM
Book stuffing would be more like jaywalking. It's against the law, but nobody cares. I've jaywalked in front of the police and the courthhouse.

It's not even, but it's not against the ToS if the stuffing is differentiated content.

I don't like that stuffing isn't against the ToS, but it is what it is.

The fact that we continue to disagree about if it's against the ToS are not doesn't speak well to the clarity of the ToS.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jena H on January 04, 2018, 06:02:36 PM
Book stuffing would be more like jaywalking. It's against the law, but nobody cares. I've jaywalked in front of the police and the courthhouse.

You must be so proud.


Jaywalking while stealing purses and wallets from people in the crosswalk.

This.  Jaywalking itself doesn't "hurt" anyone (except in case of a lead-footed driver).  So NO, jaywalking itself isn't a good analogy either, unless you add MonkeyScribe's scenario to the mix.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 04, 2018, 06:04:17 PM
Jaywalking while stealing purses and wallets from people in the crosswalk.

Only squares jaywalk in the crosswalk. You gotta do that in the middle of the street.  ;D
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 04, 2018, 06:27:34 PM
The fact that we continue to disagree about if it's against the ToS are not doesn't speak well to the clarity of the ToS.

I think it says more about those desperate to kick up dust.

"I'm just asking questions," doesn't hold water when they all go in one direction.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ReGina W on January 04, 2018, 07:41:58 PM
It's pretty easy to frame a question about TOS to KDP and get an answer that bears up what you want to hear. For instance, if you ask if it is okay to use one free book as bonus content...that's not the same as asking if it's okay to put out 6 books with all the same content in a different order and add your grocery list to the end of it and hey, maybe your little sister's diary just because you can.

One of those things is not like the other.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Becca Mills on January 04, 2018, 07:51:21 PM
Have been out sick today and haven't read this thread at all, so I'm locking to catch up.

ETA:

Okay, apologies that that took a while. Reopening.

I'm seeing a good discussion overall, but with a dismaying undercurrent of passive-aggressive digs at posters who've questioned or objected to the thread's genius loci. That needs to stop. KB is not an announcement system; it's for conversation, and conversation means interacting civilly with people whose views may not align with your own. Thank you.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dragovian on January 04, 2018, 11:36:28 PM
It was my understanding that rank was based on borrows, not on pages read; has that changed since KU3? Because the video explicitly states the ranks are tied to pages read (or maybe she just means author rank is tied to pages read; I'll have to re-watch when it's not 2:30am).

I also take some issue with the statement that "bad boy" is a "click-bait word", and what she calls "a professional but generic cover" others might call "to market". So I feel like the video is over-reaching what her actual evidence shows.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Doglover on January 04, 2018, 11:43:37 PM
It's pretty easy to frame a question about TOS to KDP and get an answer that bears up what you want to hear. For instance, if you ask if it is okay to use one free book as bonus content...that's not the same as asking if it's okay to put out 6 books with all the same content in a different order and add your grocery list to the end of it and hey, maybe your little sister's diary just because you can.

One of those things is not like the other.

It's also possible to ask kdp a perfectly straightforward question, get an answer, then have someone else ask the exact same question and get a different answer. Someone on a facebook group asked if it was ok to use a book in select as a giveaway for subscription sign ups and was told yes, it was. When I did it, they told me to take it down or they would remove it from select.

A clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Doglover on January 04, 2018, 11:48:54 PM
It was my understanding that rank was based on borrows, not on pages read; has that changed since KU3? Because the video explicitly states the ranks are tied to pages read (or maybe she just means author rank is tied to pages read; I'll have to re-watch when it's not 2:30am).

I also take some issue with the statement that "bad boy" is a "click-bait word", and what she calls "a professional but generic cover" others might call "to market". So I feel like the video is over-reaching what her actual evidence shows.
Rank is based on sales and borrows, not page reads. I think the point is that these scammers get a lot of sales because of their low price, then get the high visibility which gives them lots of borrows and loads of pages read that they haven't genuinely earned because of the stuffing. At least I think that's what it means.

Personally, it is all double Dutch to me. I understood the click farms, that made sense; this is just mystifying.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 04, 2018, 11:51:19 PM
(https://s18.postimg.org/k9gycnlvt/jeff_goldblum_jurassic_park_quote.jpg) (https://postimages.org/)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 04, 2018, 11:59:07 PM
Some thoughts.

There is significant conflation of issues, misunderstandings, and what almost looks like misinformation in this thread. I'll do what I can to mow through it a little bit in as objective a way as I can.

Lets start with the basics.

Someone in the thread was discussing bonus books causing titles to rank higher on the charts than they should have, and they attributed this to extra illegitimate page reads somehow leading to better ranking. In essence, they were saying that books with bonus content inside them were, by definition, cheating to get their rank because of extra "illegitimate" page reads happening inside those books.

That's fundamentally not correct. Rank, to the best of my understanding (and demonstrated with significant testing over the years) has nothing to do with the number of pages-read inside your book. Your book gains rank based upon individual sales, and individual borrows. Sell a copy, go up in rank. Someone KU borrows your book, you go up in rank.

Obviously a book getting a ton of page reads is going to be ranking well, but that is because the book has been borrowed extensively, not because the pages themselves are contributing to rank.

Your book could have 10 pages or 3,000. It doesn't matter. 1 KU borrow will move that book the exact same amount on the charts. If I borrow a 3000 page book and read all 3000 pages, then borrow a 10 page book and read all 10 pages, the amount of pages I read inside the book has absolutely zero bearing on how well the book ranks. Both books will rank similarly as a result of the single borrow. Want proof? Look at any number of short stories or children's books that are sitting high on the charts. They wouldn't be able to rank there if rank was a function of pages-read inside the book. Instead, the charts would be dominated by high KENPC titles.

The second misconception I'd like to address is the idea of page reads being given "illegitimately" if a reader peeks at the back of a book (or scrolls to the back to see some special piece of bonus content). This was a "feature" of KU titles for a very long time, but Amazon fixed it awhile ago. Clicking to the back of the book no longer generates a full-book-read. You can test this for yourself. Attempts to get a reader to "click to the back" (even if it's just encouraged by including an especially juicy bonus at the back) does not result in full-book-page-reads.

You might ask, if what I'm saying is true, why do these authors use bonus books?

Answer: Because it has been conclusively proven that many KU readers who finish one of your books (and presumably who enjoyed your book) will keep reading if they realize that there is another title they can read by simply flipping a page. By offering up a couple additional books inside your title, you're giving the reader a chance to keep reading without returning to the Kindle store. You're giving them a chance to read more of your pages, and earn you more money.

In other words, if you take two similar books at a similar rank, and one of those books has a bonus title in it and the other doesn't... the book with the bonus title will (in my experience) earn more than the book that lacks a bonus title. The difference isn't as large as you might think. It's hard to compare book VS book, but I've got pretty extensive tracking across a few hundred of my own titles that shows a difference in the 10%-20% range and I'm pretty confident about the accuracy of those numbers. Obviously the difference is significantly lower now than it was in the past (in part due to the changes Amazon put into effect that killed the full-book-read bug, and in part due to authors over-using the strategy and causing some readers to start railing against the practice, but I digress).

Regardless of whether it's more profitable or not, I'm trying to make the point that every page read inside those books by an actual reader is a legitimate page read in a legitimate book. The fact a book has a bonus title in it does not make the title illegitimate. Sure, you're not allowed to pump out a bunch of barely differentiated works, but if you throw a bonus book in the back of a totally new title, that is completely within the ToS at Amazon. If a reader decides they like you as an author and want to continue reading inside your KU title and ultimately finish book #2 inside that title, those are legitimate page reads under the current system and rules.

If Amazon changes those rules and makes it 1-title-per-book, that's not going to change anything about what is happening on those top lists. The authors who are using bonus-content can just as easily dominate the lists without a single bonus book inside their titles. They might earn just a little bit less money in the process, but it makes no real difference. The monetary difference between a book with bonus content and a book without bonus content isn't large enough to effect the strategy that is putting those books on the top list. Their profit margins go well beyond the small boost a few bonus books inside a title will give you. I will say it again: Bonus books aren't putting those books on the top list!

But wait... I hear you say... If these bonus books aren't DIRECTLY causing these books to sit on the top 100, how is this happening?

That's easy. These books are being placed on the top 100 list in a way that is extremely easy to explain, is easily reproducible, and isn't "illegitimate". Do you want to know the secret sauce?

Step 1: Have a huge mailing list, or a group of people willing to share mailing lists, or some cash to spend paying other authors to send your books out to their mailing lists.

In many cases, this step starts with an author building a penname of their own and building a huge mailing list off that penname. This takes genuine skill. I know an author who was phenomenal in building their mailing list. They would do all sorts of things to build engagement, including creating personalized romance stories for each and every person who signed up (by scheduling a series of automatic emails for every subscriber that used the name they gave when they signed up to "put them" in a story that was being written "just for them"). There are tons of really neat ways you can build a mailing list full of interested and loyal readers, and getting a mailing list that is between 5,000 and 30,000 people strong is a fantastic way to jumpstart this whole process. Hitting the top 100 list requires a lot of sales, but firing a book off to 30,000 excited readers (whether they're yours, or belong to a whole group of people who are sharing/co-marketing books) is a great way to help make that happen. Even if only 1/30th of those people buy the book, we're talking about 1000 sales/borrows and a massive boost to your rank before you've even spent a dime.

Step 2: Produce a book that is market focused, has a high quality title, and is written in an entertaining way for a wide percentage of the available romance readers. Maybe you wrote the book, maybe a ghostwriter wrote it. That is irrelevant so long as the book is written to market and is entertaining. This book might be published under the penname you built (with the mailing list you built), or maybe you're going to publish it under a totally new penname. It doesn't really matter.

Step 3: Use the mailing list you built up to ARC review the book. I know authors who will send out a free copy of their book to thousands of their mailing list subscribers prior to launch. They do this so that by the time the ebook edition is published, there are hundreds of reviews on it on the very first day. Free books to thousands of engaged fans who like you = hundreds of day 1 5 star reviews.

Some authors pay ARC review services to handle this instead. Either way, they generate a few hundred reviews on launch.

Step 4: Market the hell out of the book. Pay to have it fired off to mailing lists. Use your group of likeminded friends to blast it out to all of their readers. Run a stupid expensive facebook ad. It doesn't matter if the book has positive ROI here, you're just trying to give it shelf space. You might spend ten or twenty thousand dollars (or much much more), but your goal is to generate the thousands of sales and KU borrows it takes to put you on the top list.

Step 5: Pull back your marketing expenses as the book climbs to the top of the list, and allow its momentum to earn you back your expenses and profit on top of that.

Step 6: Rinse and repeat.

Doing this requires a significantly large amount of money (as you'll need a marketing budget that can stretch across a 90 day period at any given time), and it requires you to have a good handle on exactly what kind of books are selling. It requires you to understand facebook advertising and how to pull off a relatively low cost-per-click on marketing campaigns there. It requires you to put together a very significant number of mailing list subscribers, or to purchase slots on paid mailing lists, or to have like minded friends who work together to pimp each other's books into the top lists.

Does this sound familiar to you in some way? It should. It's not substantially different than the way people have dominated the top charts since the invention of the printing press. You can buy your way onto the list if you've got the money and a book good enough to present there.

Can you lose money doing this? Absolutely. It's possible to push a book that is genuine garbage into the top 100, and watch it immediately fall into obscurity before it can earn back your expenses.

Now that I've explained all of that, I want to make a couple final points.

Publishing a ghostwritten book IS NOT EVIL.

I don't know why so many people are pushing the "this is all just ghostwritten garbage" angle. Who cares if it's ghostwritten or not?

I've ghostwritten in the past for other authors. I wrote high quality books, because I wanted the author in question to... you know... BUY them from me. They wouldn't have bought the book if I wrote a piece of trash.

I've bought ghostwritten books for my own publishing company and the same rules apply. I made ghostwriters sign contracts affirming that they were sending me wholly original works. I provided those authors with plotlines of my own design that they followed in the creation of the book. I did my due diligence in checking the resulting document for plagiarism to the best of my ability. I accepted works that were of high quality, and I had those works professionally edited. I was proud of the end-result, even if I didn't personally put pen to paper in its creation, and I compensated the author for their work.

I'm not the only person who has ever published a ghostwritten book under their name. Put up a list of all-time bestselling authors and I'm sure a number of them published ghostwritten content under their name at one point or another. Why wouldn't they? I've got a top 100 penname along with several less successful names, and there is no way I could produce enough content on my own to satisfy the readers of those pennames. I used ghostwriters to keep the regular releases coming, and the income flowing.

I get the sense people are trying to conflate plagiarism with ghostwriting. That's silly. A good ghostwritten novel is not functionally different than a book I write myself. It's an original work written to satisfy my readers. It's not a stolen book!

Can ghostwriting be done poorly? Of course it can. You could technically buy up a piece of absolute garbage and attempt to publish it, but again, throwing tons of money and effort at marketing a trash book is going to net you a trash result. Why would you do this when it isn't meaningfully harder to push a high-quality work? There are tons of authors out there who will jump at the chance to write a genuinely good book for you at a reasonable price, and there are incredible editors out there who can take those finished works and make them even better for a small fraction of what the book itself cost. If you've got the money to do this sort of thing, there's no reason you can't do it in an effective and completely legitimate way.

In the same vein... if ALL of these books people are pointing out on the top lists (that look similar or have similar covers and new pennames and are following similar sales trajectory) are being published by the same person, or the same small handful of people... who cares? Even if they're all ghostwritten works, why is that a problem? There are massive publishing houses that put out hundreds and even thousands of books every year (including plenty of ghostwritten content) and I don't see us marching with pitchforks against them. Why is everyone up in arms about a person or small group of people who have built enough of a marketing engine that they can reliably produce highly successful books?

That's what disappoints me in some of the posts I've seen in this conversation. I've heard all sorts of bizarre accusations thrown around (like accusations of people "gifting" books in some kind of illicit way, or bonus books somehow causing sales rank increases, or some group of "masterminds" creating fake or somehow illegitimate titles and dominating the charts with them, thereby stealing money from other legitimate authors). There are authors in this very thread who were discussing how they had repeatedly reported books to Amazon because they had bonus content in them, then complained that the books were still live, stealing from "real" authors.

I've got news for you. The people behind those books are authors. They're publishers. They're entrepreneurs. They're operating within the framework we've been given, and they've figured out how to make a good living doing it. They're not doing anything illicit in the process.

Bonus books are the flavor of the week being used to attack those people, but bonus books are irrelevant. I said it above and I'll say it again: take away bonus books, and these same authors and same kind of popular mass-market dominating books will still be sitting on the top 100 list, making a damn fine living. Maybe they'd have a slightly harder time earning a KU all-star bonus, but if that means they have to push a little harder on marketing and earn ninety grand a month instead of a hundred, is that really all that big of a deal?

Too long, didn't read? There is nothing mystical about what these authors are doing, or how they are dominating the charts. I practice many of the same basic strategies to put my own books high on the bestseller list. Bonus books are not making these books into bestsellers. They aren't relying on some kind of bizarre book-gifting voodoo or click farms. These are legitimate written-to-market reader-pleasing books with high quality covers and a high quality sales pitch being pushed into the top list through traditional means, by selling said books to the masses at a low price and relying on KU page reads from the mass of readers who will see the book on the top 100 list to make up the difference and deliver a profit. Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for a conspiracy theory to chase :).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 12:08:14 AM
I think it says more about those desperate to kick up dust.

"I'm just asking questions," doesn't hold water when they all go in one direction.

???

I looked at the ToS wanting bonus books to be against them for a long time. But the way I read then now, they are clearly okay. By they, I mean the way most authors use bonus books-- a backlist titles or five behind a new release. As long as there's always a new release, even if an author stuffs the same titles, it will always be differentiated content.

@bobfrost 10-20% sounds really low to me. I'd put it a lot higher, 25-50% or more even, though I don't have a lot of data. I think, the better your first book is, the better your read through will be. I noticed a big increased in sellthrough with book one of a series stuffed vs just a sample and I've had other authors tell me their attempts to not stuff were financial failures. Banning bonus books would really hurt a lot of authors bottom lines and it would make it much harder for this particular group of bad boy authors to make bank.

I'm not on one side or another. I hate bonus books but I accept that they're here to stay, at least for awhile.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 12:18:02 AM
@bobfrost 10-20% sounds really low to me. I'd put it a lot higher, 25-50% or more even, though I don't have a lot of data. I think, the better your first book is, the better your read through will be. I noticed a big increased in sellthrough with book one of a series stuffed vs just a sample and I've had other authors tell me their attempts to not stuff were financial failures. Banning bonus books would really hurt a lot of authors bottom lines and it would make it much harder for this particular group of bad boy authors to make bank.

I'm not on one side or another. I hate bonus books but I accept that they're here to stay, at least for awhile.

It certainly varies from book to book, but those are my averages across a wide number of titles.

Obviously it was higher before Amazon fixed the "click to the back = full page-reads paid" situation. Lately, I've seen those numbers dwindling fast, and I've seen a significant rise in "attacks" on books that had bonus content (in the form of 1 star reviews and the like).

My most recently published titles don't have bonus books at all. I think the writing is on the wall at this point, as there are quite a few authors who have decided Bonus Book = EVILDOER, and are actively coaching their readers to attack authors who utilize them. We all have to make decisions that are best for our own catalogs. If I were pushing single-releases on relatively unknown pennames I'd bonus-book without hesitation, but on my main pennames, I'm pursuing a more long-term strategy and I don't want to upset or scare away dedicated readers and fans (or have people accusing me of being some kind of "scammer" just because I wanted to give my readers an extra book or two inside one of my titles as a free bonus).

That said, I stand by everything in my post above. Maybe there are people who net 25-50% higher page reads from bonus-book laden books, but I certainly don't. Even if the books we're talking about on the top 100 ARE netting 25-50% more money because of their bonus content (whether that came from internal pages read or from amazon all-star bonuses those extra pages earned the author), I wouldn't change a thing about what I said. Remove those bonus books and those same books from those same authors would still be dominating the charts. They've built a promotional engine that can push one of their books into the top of the marketplace, and taking bonus content out of those books will, at worst, slightly reduce their profitability (or encourage them to simply produce higher KENPC single-title works). Nothing changes. They are earning their spot on that top list in a legitimate way (as far as I can tell), and they will continue to do so.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 12:30:53 AM
As a quick sidenote about the boogiemen of the thread (the "masterminds")...

Clearly we've got a group of authors who are working together to cooperatively promote their new releases in a systematic way. Their books are linked through also viewed and also boughts, and they are all achieving similar levels of success on release. They are using very similar facebook marketing campaigns, similar AMS campaigns, and are probably sharing things like keywords and specific marketing targets and demographics. They've found their audience, and they're using it to ride the top charts. You can pull the books up side by side and see that they've got a shared list of ARC readers (probably carefully pruned to find the 200-400 people who will most reliably read and quickly review the titles they send them).

Join their mailing lists for yourself and you'll see the cross-promotion happening in real time. I'd bet we're talking about a handful of people with more than 50,000 mailing list subscribers between them, using each other's lists to power their books to the ceiling, and that's before we consider the paid email blasts being sent out on their behalf by other authors through the currently available mailing list marketplace.

There is nothing sketchy or mystical about what they are doing. There are several different groups of highly successful authors who have formed small cooperative circles to help each other succeed that aren't fundamentally different from the "masterminds".

You haven't stumbled upon some kind of criminal author conspiracy. You've just found some authors with a successful business model.

Occams razor and all that.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 05, 2018, 12:46:14 AM
???

I looked at the ToS wanting bonus books to be against them for a long time. But the way I read then now, they are clearly okay. By they, I mean the way most authors use bonus books-- a backlist titles or five behind a new release. As long as there's always a new release, even if an author stuffs the same titles, it will always be differentiated content.

I believe the phrase used in the TOS is 'significantly differentiated'. Say you have five books that are 1,000 pages long, and each has the title book, which is 200 pages, plus four bonus books which are 200 pages each. That means 20% of that book is new content, and 80% is other books that have, presumably, been published before. (Because no one would stick new, unpublished books in as bonus content and sell those books, because a reader could get a whole whack of their catalog for a really low price, and they'd be screwing themselves out of a lot of sales.) And if 80% of a book is the same content as 4 other books, that doesn't really seem to be all that significantly differentiated, to me.

Now, even if those books have only been published once, each as their own single book, stuffing them into the back of the new book is still against the spirit of the TOS, if not the letter, because KU reads only get counted once. Someone could borrow a book and read through it five times, but only the first time gets counted. So it's fair to say that Amazon only wants to pay out on one read-through. So, taking that into account, if someone puts that book into several more books as bonus content, it seems reasonable to assume they're attempting to circumvent the rules and be paid for those pages more than once.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Urcelia on January 05, 2018, 01:26:54 AM
Leaving aside the first part, which seems to still be broken on some devices and in some situations, this isn't a question of bonus content, like a novella included in a box set. These are the same books, put together in multiple different ways, not marked in the product descriptions, etc. You're reading a book, hit 30%, and it ends, only to have a bunch of other stuff at the back. It creates a messy, unfavorable impression of the ebooks being sold on Amazon's store.

Also, my experience is that people are rarely breaking only one rule. They're squatting in inappropriate categories, they're stuffing keywords into their titles, they're cheating on the pub dates in order to try to game the hot new release lists, etc.

Youíre a 100% correct with your last statement.  Iíve recently discovered that supposed ďindie authorsĒ are completely taking over the ďIndie Author / booksĒ lists on Amazon.  Theyíre taking up all visibility and rankings in these categories even though they have publishers, agents and 30+ books out and have been on bestseller lists for years. When I pointed 5 such authors out to AZ, I got a ďit is what it isĒ reply and theyíve done absolutely nothing about it.   Why should they?  Theyíre making money right? Meanwhile, true Indie Authors (such as myself) stand little to no chance of occupying these lists against seasoned giants who are illegally squatting just to stay at the top.   >:(
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 01:43:53 AM
It's pretty easy to frame a question about TOS to KDP and get an answer that bears up what you want to hear. For instance, if you ask if it is okay to use one free book as bonus content...that's not the same as asking if it's okay to put out 6 books with all the same content in a different order and add your grocery list to the end of it and hey, maybe your little sister's diary just because you can.

One of those things is not like the other.

Exactly.

Which is why in the last thread about book stuffing, I printed my exact email to KDP and the exact response. I haven't seen ANY of the "book stuffing is fine" crowd do likewise. That should tell you something.

I also should note that my email wasn't just to any KDP flunkie, it was to Executive Customer Relations. The email is in the third post or something on this thread. You can clearly see that I asked them for a clear ruling, explained the controversy, and gave a very specific example with no wriggle room.

And still people say up is down.

There is literally no level of proof that will satisfy the "stuffing is not against the TOS" crowd. They aren't arguing with clean hands.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 01:50:54 AM
As a quick sidenote about the boogiemen of the thread (the "masterminds")...

[..]

Join their mailing lists for yourself and you'll see the cross-promotion happening in real time.

[...]

There is nothing sketchy or mystical about what they are doing.

[...]

You haven't stumbled upon some kind of criminal author conspiracy. You've just found some authors with a successful business model.

Nice try.

I know a lot about these authors. I've got a whole bank of screenshots. These is what I have personally witnessed, and this circle will engage in some or all of these actions:

1. Book stuffing and Click here inducements to inflate page count and payout.
2. Review manipulation, against the TOS (asking for upvotes/downvotes, removing people from street teams if they don't review in a certain timeframe, incentivizing reviews with gifts, demanding a certain kind of review, demanding ARC readers PM them before posting a review of less than 5 stars).
3. Mass gifting to hit lists.
4. Using stolen images without permission for Facebook ads.
5. Men pretending to be women and engaging in private girl talk (super creepy and gross).

That's just for starters.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 02:02:04 AM
???

I looked at the ToS wanting bonus books to be against them for a long time. But the way I read then now, they are clearly okay.

[...]

I'm not on one side or another. I hate bonus books but I accept that they're here to stay, at least for awhile.

And yet, here you are in thread after thread persistently claiming that stuffing is permitted, when we have it clearly in writing that it is not.

A reminder, this was the clear example I gave to ECR:

Quote
If I'm an author with four books - Title A, B, C, & D. I will publish my books like this:

Title A (with B, C, D in the back also, and then an exclusive short to get readers to skip the content they have already read previously, so that the full page reads are counted by Amazon).

Title B (with C, D, and A in the back also... and so on across my catalog).

And this was the very clear response:

Quote
To your specific example, authors are not permitted to publish the same work multiple times with only minor changes or a reordering of content, regardless of whether the book includes bonus content. When we determine authors are publishing undifferentiated titles like this, the titles are subject to removal from the Kindle store and the author is subject to potential account-level action.

And yet you aren't convinced for some reason. How curious.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: RBN on January 05, 2018, 05:23:10 AM
"If I think I can get away with it, I'll do it" is not a philosophy shared by all people. "No one worried about XYZ rule until somebody got busted" is belied in every thread by all the people speaking on behalf of the rule and those who seek and receive clarification from ECR rather than assuming an interpretation of the TOS that allows them to do whatever they please is conveniently the correct one. Stop attributing behavior to human nature when there humans right in front of you behaving otherwise. We are all making choices, not being driven by some biological imperative to run wild in the absence of enforcement.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: crow.bar.beer on January 05, 2018, 05:35:44 AM
Except the government (ie. police) can't monitor every citizen of every day to catch every rape as it happens so they have a slam dunk case in court. Zon on the other hand has f'ing skynet that sees all, hears all, tastes all, controls all. So if skynet is allowing things, it's because... it allows it.

Your statement is a fallacy. Having access to the relevant information ≠ the automatic ability to investigate and act on it. Everyone and everything has limited resources, and investing energy in one area implies not having it to invest in another. Amazon obviously prioritizes what its employees and systems do, because it has to in order to survive.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 05, 2018, 05:54:17 AM
As a quick sidenote about the boogiemen of the thread (the "masterminds")...

Clearly we've got a group of authors who are working together to cooperatively promote their new releases in a systematic way. Their books are linked through also viewed and also boughts, and they are all achieving similar levels of success on release. They are using very similar facebook marketing campaigns, similar AMS campaigns, and are probably sharing things like keywords and specific marketing targets and demographics. They've found their audience, and they're using it to ride the top charts. You can pull the books up side by side and see that they've got a shared list of ARC readers (probably carefully pruned to find the 200-400 people who will most reliably read and quickly review the titles they send them).

Join their mailing lists for yourself and you'll see the cross-promotion happening in real time. I'd bet we're talking about a handful of people with more than 50,000 mailing list subscribers between them, using each other's lists to power their books to the ceiling, and that's before we consider the paid email blasts being sent out on their behalf by other authors through the currently available mailing list marketplace.

There is nothing sketchy or mystical about what they are doing. There are several different groups of highly successful authors who have formed small cooperative circles to help each other succeed that aren't fundamentally different from the "masterminds".

You haven't stumbled upon some kind of criminal author conspiracy. You've just found some authors with a successful business model.

Occams razor and all that.



That's very naive. Those very same "successful marketing" authors run pay for play websites in which they sell secrets on scamming amazon KU. Many of them are the same person. Selling books and doing well isn't a crime, what IS illegal, per Amazon's own words, is to inflate page count using UNORIGINAL ALREADY PUBLISHED MATERIAL, then jamming a legit bonus scene at the end.

Here is Amazon's TOS on Bonus Content.

Bonus Content
If you choose to include bonus content (e.g. other stories, or previews of other books), it should be relevant to the customer and should not disrupt the reading experience. To meet these guidelines, we recommend placing additional content at the end of the book.

Content must meet all program guidelines (e.g., bonus content in KDP Select titles must be exclusive). Translated content must be high quality and not machine generated. Disruptive links and promises of gifts or rewards are never allowed.

For more information, see our content guidelines and Terms and Conditions.


BONUS CONTENT MUST BE EXCLUSIVE
Meaning, you can't stick 6 other KU books in the middle of your single novel, then the legit bonus at the end, urging customers to skip to the end past the 2000 other pages of books, to get paid for the entire thing. It is CLEARLY against TOS. The fact that some of you don't care this is happening and think it's simply "smart marketing" blows my mind. It's people stealing money out of other authors' pockets, illegally, and their "employer" is doing nothing about it.

When you publish with KDP, they expect you to follow their rules. Well, I, in turn, expect them to enforce those rules. I've seen too many honest authors punished for ridiculous things like getting a Bookbub ad and being accused of clickfarming to get higher rank, using blog tours for legit reviews, then stripped of all reviews, or legit reviewers purchasing books then being banned from leaving any more reviews for no explanation whatsoever. I've seen plagiarists with accounts left intact and honest authors delisted because they didn't register for a copyright that Amazon randomly decided that day they just had to have.

So for Amazon to cherry pick which rules they will and will not enforce is disgusting at the very least. The fact that it literally takes money from Peter to pay Paul makes it criminal, IMO.
If there wasn't a set pot and the stuffers didn't effect other authors' income, this wouldn't even be as big as a deal (even though Amazon would still be the ultimate hypocrite for not enforcing their rules). At least it technically wouldn't be hurting anyone.

This entire practice, being left unpursued by Zon, makes me sick.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 05, 2018, 05:57:06 AM
The only reason I would put bonus material in is the hope that they love my work so much that they'll keep reading. If they do keep going and read a second book, they're not going to return that book and go check out the single title of the bonus book. So, there's little danger of double dipping in that situation.

The reason to do it is to remove a barrier. If someone likes your book and they have to click out of it to go to Amazon and check out another book, there are a 1000 things that could distract them. They may never make it to another book. If they can just keep reading, it's better. You're not stealing. You're getting paid for someone reading your work. Like I said, they're not going to to go out and check out that bonus book as a single title and read it again (unless they really, really love it) So, you haven't taken anything away from anyone else.

Now, if people are putting "click here for a sneak peek" and that click bypasses 5 books that they never read (and the author still gets paid) that's shady.

It's STILL shady because you cannot, per Amazon's TOS, put already published material in other books. (short excerpts are a gray area). They then put a "bonus scene" in the back of each book, with all the previously published books in the middle, so readers click and flip to the end of each and every one to get that bonus scene, essentially giving the scammer 3000 pages read for 6 books regurgitated 6 times with a special scene at the end.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 05, 2018, 05:58:03 AM
If they love the books that much, then the author deserves another payout. But, that's my opinion. If you write content so good that people want to read it over and over, you should be paid more.

Except in KU, if you reborrow a book you've already read, the author DOES NOT get paid a second time. I can't believe I have to say this, but once more, it's AGAINST AMAZONS RULES.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 05, 2018, 06:05:49 AM
That's just it, though, David. The system has been broken since its inception. Some of us here predicted exactly how the system was going to be scammed before KU 1.0 even launched. Switching to page reads allowed Amazon to stop hemorrhaging money on bogus borrows, but 2.0 was even more broken because Amazon has never been able to track actual pages read in their software. And Amazon has zero incentive to fix these problems because they're paid up front by the subscribers and they control the payout so they're essentially guaranteed to make money no matter how many scammed page reads there are. This is why 2.5 years later there is still no page read fix and nothing more than token efforts to keep the scammers out of the top 100 for "visibility" purposes. They don't care. They don't have to as long as the monthly subscriptions keep coming in.

Fixing the program would require Amazon implementing a system that could determine every individual page read. They can't do that. It would require firmware updates for dozens of different devices, running two completely different data collection and reporting systems in parallel effectively forever to cover any devices which weren't upgraded, and the data storage and bandwidth requirements would increase by at least two orders of magnitude. They can't do those things and still make money on the program without slashing the payout to levels that no one would accept or raising the subscription fee so high that their rates would crater. So they don't. But without knowing which individual pages are read there are always going to be ways to game the program.

So the scammers are here to stay because Amazon isn't going to spend the money to do anything about them. The page reads system will never be truly fixed because it can't be. We can beat our heads against the wall about it, but at the end of the day it's just part of the cost of doing business in the program.


If Amazon is going to pay us according to pages read, they better darn well be able to tell how many pages were actually read. Otherwise, they need to fix it. THEIR contract with us agrees to pay us per page read. If they can't, then I call BS.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Lydnizô on January 05, 2018, 06:09:23 AM
We are all making choices, not being driven by some biological imperative to run wild in the absence of enforcement.

Thank you. Sometimes on this type of thread I wonder if I've accidentally stepped into another dimension.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Anarchist on January 05, 2018, 06:15:34 AM
Sorry to disappoint anyone looking for a conspiracy theory to chase :).


(https://memegenerator.net/img/instances/500x/62582777/blasphemy.jpg)


Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Elizabeth Ann West on January 05, 2018, 06:23:53 AM

If Amazon is going to pay us according to pages read, they better darn well be able to tell how many pages were actually read. Otherwise, they need to fix it. THEIR contract with us agrees to pay us per page read. If they can't, then I call BS.

In the terms and conditions, they also declare that they alone determine what IS a page read. So there's never going to be a way to say "I wasn't paid for pages read" because Amazon determines what is and isn't a page read.

I think our biggest problem as authors is inconsistent support at KDP. By that I mean rules applied unequally. I watched an entire author group blow up that some customer service email was shared and an author said where they got it, Amazon got mad at the original owner of the group that the email got out and at NO TIME WAS ANYONE mad that Amazon had offered different customer service based on author status.  . . .

I emailed this week I have a promotion next week on a book so I hopefully don't get rank stripped. The email I got back wasn't even coherent sentences.... with great hits like :


"Our business team will always have a careful review of the book monitoring and sales on various aspects and deep excavation on the type of sale related to the book."


So relieved they are deep excavating the type of sale.....

Just about every problem we have comes down to a poor KDP Support team with no consistency, a ton of "glitches" lately (when I have been publishing with them for over half a decade, it's never been this bad), and swiss cheese loopholes in their T&C.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 05, 2018, 06:28:06 AM
Exclusive content means exclusive to KU not exclusive to the individual book.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Doglover on January 05, 2018, 06:35:28 AM
Exclusive content means exclusive to KU not exclusive to the individual book.
Sorry?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Atlantapug on January 05, 2018, 06:45:45 AM
It's pretty easy to frame a question about TOS to KDP and get an answer that bears up what you want to hear. For instance, if you ask if it is okay to use one free book as bonus content...that's not the same as asking if it's okay to put out 6 books with all the same content in a different order and add your grocery list to the end of it and hey, maybe your little sister's diary just because you can.

One of those things is not like the other.


David HAS asked this, and they flat out said putting extra books under one title is NOT allowed.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 06:48:33 AM
My philosophy in all of this is very simple, perhaps even old-fashioned. I want readers. Not just today's readers, but tomorrow's as well. I don't expect everyone who reads one of my stories to pick up everything I put out. That's just naive, but I want people to remember my stories well enough that they at least consider it.  And the only way they're going to consider it is if I deliver good stories. Not with tricks, not with deception, not with cutting corners. All of that is a short term fix, nothing more. 

We can fool ourselves all we want, but a lot of what we're talking about here either falls into two categories: deception or desperation. 

The scammers are going to scam. That's what they do. They either can't or won't compete on a level playing field for a variety of reasons (maybe they're not that good, maybe they just like the thrill etc etc).  And when Amazon changes the rules, they'll find new ways to scam.  And if Amazon finally closes all the loopholes, they'll move on to some other burgeoning industry they can scam.  It's what they do and they couldn't care less about the rest of us.

The desperate are going to view the scammers and justify following their lead with claptrap such as "They do it and get away with it. Why shouldn't I?"  I feel some pity for them, because many are really just following their dreams and trying to hang on to it - in this maturing market - for as long as they can.  Pity does not equal condoning, though.  And while I can't lie and say I haven't made some boneheaded choices, I'm doing what I can to never fall into that mindset.

The rest ... those who are here to build real and true readerships will either persevere or bow out gracefully. 

As an aside....
While I can't say my market intelligence is anywhere close to complete, I try to keep a pulse on my genres. I'm in several author groups on Facebook, and follow several more. I pay close attention when a question of "who are you reading?" or "who is your favorite author?" comes up.  It's pretty fascinating to see.  Because the answers often contradict what I see in the charts, which says a lot about who's putting out good stories and who's putting out something people are just picking up because its in the right place / right time.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PaulineMRoss on January 05, 2018, 06:50:09 AM
They then put a "bonus scene" in the back of each book, with all the previously published books in the middle, so readers click and flip to the end of each and every one to get that bonus scene, essentially giving the scammer 3000 pages read for 6 books regurgitated 6 times with a special scene at the end.

This keeps being said as if it's a universal law or something. This USED to be true, that skipping to the back of a borrowed book always gave the author payment for all the pages skipped over. It is no longer true. Starting with KU3 back in August, most of the time*** authors are only paid for the pages that are actually read. I always download my own books straight after release to check that the internals are in order. I check the front matter and first few pages, skip to the back and check the back matter. That used to give me a full read-through. Now I get 7-10 pages read. And that's exactly as it should be.

*** I've been told that reading online still triggers a full read-through, but I'm sure they're working on that.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 05, 2018, 07:00:09 AM

David HAS asked this, and they flat out said putting extra books under one title is NOT allowed.

That's not what they said. They said (paraphrasing from the email exchange that David has pasted), that it is against their TOS for an author to put out, e.g., four books with the exact same content but with different books as "the" official books and the others as bonus:

ABCD
BCDA
CDAB
DABC

Putting bonus books is not against their TOS, though.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MaryMcDonald on January 05, 2018, 07:04:03 AM
I have a question--how do these stuffed books get so high in the rankings in the first place? It can't be because they're stuffed, especially when book A has books C and E in them, and book B has A and D, with Book C having D and A. Those are a bunch of duplicate books, so I can't see why someone would borrow all three? How confusing for the reader! There has to be some way they are getting these books into the top 100 that goes beyond stuffing.

Unless page reads do count. Remember, Kindle now has a chart that shows which books are most read. Maybe there is a page-read factor that is new since that chart? I'm just speculating here and have no evidence other than being totally baffled as to how those books are making it into the top 100, and even the top 10 on Amazon.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PamelaKelley on January 05, 2018, 07:19:53 AM
It's obviously against the TOS. But, because Amazon rarely enforces it, the ones who stuff will happily continue to do so. It's their business model. And they don't care that it's unethical as hell, because it works for them, and until Amazon cracks the hammer, why stop?

Unfortunately, I just don't think Amazon cares that much. If they did, they'd find a way to quality check the books before they go live and not allow the stuffed books to be released until the extra content is pulled. Making the cap shorter isn't the answer, as that is likely to result in more crap books flooding the market, not less.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ReGina W on January 05, 2018, 07:23:50 AM
It's also possible to ask kdp a perfectly straightforward question, get an answer, then have someone else ask the exact same question and get a different answer. Someone on a facebook group asked if it was ok to use a book in select as a giveaway for subscription sign ups and was told yes, it was. When I did it, they told me to take it down or they would remove it from select.

A clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

I totally agree. I've asked that very same question of them more than once. I figured if I asked a few times I could arrive at a consensus answer.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Betsy the Quilter on January 05, 2018, 07:29:40 AM
Folks,

Let's keep on topic of what constitutes stuffing and the issues with it.  Do not derail this thread.  Posts may be edited or removed.

Betsy
KB Mod
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 05, 2018, 07:31:12 AM
It's obviously against the TOS. But, because Amazon rarely enforces it, the ones who stuff will happily continue to do so. It's their business model. And they don't care that it's unethical as hell, because it works for them, and until Amazon cracks the hammer, why stop?

Unfortunately, I just don't think Amazon cares that much. If they did, they'd find a way to quality check the books before they go live and not allow the stuffed books to be released until the extra content is pulled. Making the cap shorter isn't the answer, as that is likely to result in more crap books flooding the market, not less.

At least one of the worst offenders has changed all their prior books, revising them down from 3000 to 250 pages. Revising all previously published books seems like a lot of effort, so I'm guessing they enforce it sometimes, possibly when people report it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 07:39:35 AM
Thank you, David Gaughran, and others who keep addressing this issue. I write "bad boy romances" and am not remotely offended that you use the term. In fact, I'm GLAD you use the term, because it helps shed light on how legitimate authors of bad boy romances are getting hosed by these scammers. I've had several legitimate Amazon top-100 books, but lately, it's gotten nearly impossible to get any visibility without resorting to these unethical methods.

My category has become the dumping ground for everything you've been covering. Please keep it up!
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 05, 2018, 07:40:01 AM
At least one of the worst offenders has changed all their prior books, revising them down from 3000 to 250 pages. Revising all previously published books seems like a lot of effort, so I'm guessing they enforce it sometimes, possibly when people report it.

Maybe not, though. I thought so, as well, but when I went to the ToC and looked inside, the books were still there. They'd done a paperback version of the original book, and in those cases that's the pagination that shows up on the product page. I literally just figured this out a couple of days ago, and I think that's what they are doing now.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 07:46:55 AM
Maybe not, though. I thought so, as well, but when I went to the ToC and looked inside, the books were still there. They'd done a paperback version of the original book, and in those cases that's the pagination that shows up on the product page. I literally just figured this out a couple of days ago, and I think that's what they are doing now.

You'd think someone writing to KDP to say "Hey, I know it says my ebook is 15,000 pages long, but my paperback is really only 47, can you change my page to reflect that?" might set off red flags.  But I guess not.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 05, 2018, 07:52:37 AM
On these stuffed books you can actually read nearly the entire advertised book just from the "Look Inside," or sometimes the whole book.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 07:58:09 AM
I personally don't care if authors stuff books full of their backlist and charge 99c for it -- as long as they are not getting paid for double, triple and quadruple page reads as a result.

If I knew that Amazon had systems in place to ensure that only the title content was counted and paid out, and the bonus material didn't count, I'd be fine. Who would care? That's their choice.

What bothers me is when this is done to deliberately get paid for content that is not actually read and/or which has already been paid for (outside of an official boxed set titled as such).

Because that is scamming and unethical and against TOS.

But if none of that stuffed content actually was counted and paid out? Who gives a FF?

Obviously, these stuffing publishers are getting paid for that stuffed content or they wouldn't do it. They'd be literally giving away most of their backlist for free.

So to me, they are stuffing because they do get paid for the bonus content multiple times. Why else do it? Out of the goodness of their heart?

I just checked the top 20 bestsellers in one romance category. First book was totally stuffed. Actual title content stopped at 17% and was 300 pages according to the print version.

So, it seems the scam is to publish the actual title content, publish the paperback, and then when the two are linked, upload a new stuffed version so that the book looks legit. However, there are 1764 other pages of material attached to the backend. Whether the customer actually reads those pages is unclear, and it is unclear whether those pages actually count in terms of KENP.

Maybe some anonymous stuffer could come along and clear this up for us.

Hey, you -- yeah you! Stuffer anonymous. Do those extra 1764 pages of content count when the paperback page count has been linked? I can't imagine they don't because why else stuff?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PaulineMRoss on January 05, 2018, 08:01:45 AM
Maybe some anonymous stuffer could come along and clear this up for us.
Hey, you -- yeah you! Stuffer anonymous. Do those extra 1764 pages of content count when the paperback page count has been linked? I can't imagine they don't because why else stuff?

Thank you for making me smile in an otherwise totally depressing thread. :)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 08:02:13 AM
But if none of that stuffed content actually was counted and paid out? Who gives a FF?

Exactly. If bonus content was exactly that - a free bonus to customers with no monetary incentive other than perhaps enticing them to buy the next book - then it wouldn't be an issue.  But let's be realistic.  If Amazon managed to either institute a perfect system or outright kill KU, how much of that "bonus content" would remain out of the goodness of these authors' hearts?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 08:02:27 AM
What's so pathetic is that Amazon could make two very simple changes that would immediately solve the worst of the "stuffing" problems.

1. Only let borrows count toward rank if there is a corresponding buy. Examples:
1 borrow + 1 buy = 2 rank points. 
5,000 borrows + 1 buy = 2 rank points
1 borrow + 10 buys = 11 rank points.
Why this would work: Right now, scammers can bot/cheat their way to the top through click farms and deceptive advertising. The current system is so easy to exploit that it's pathetic. In short, the current system enables scammers to "buy rank" through cheap/free borrows. If Amazon reweighted this as I've suggested, rank-buying becomes much more expensive.

2. Don't pay authors more money for a "borrow" than for a "buy."
Example: You want to price a book at 99-cents? Great! You earn 33 cents when you sell your book, but your "royalty" per borrow is also capped at 33 cents. Viola! The incentive to stuff-books is completely gone.

With these two very simple, very basic, and very easy fixes, we've solved the stuffing problem. Oh sure, these cheaters would go on to other scams, but you've got to start somewhere. Right now, the current system is so unnatural that it's a joke. In what world, do you earn more from a borrow than from a buy? And in what world, do you give "free in KU" rentals the same rank-juice as actual purchases?

Crazy-world, that's where. It's beyond shameful that this hasn't already been fixed. Not only is the current system harming legitimate authors, it's turning Amazon's most popular categories into a train-wreck. Someone is obviously asleep at the wheel here.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 08:04:05 AM
I have a question--how do these stuffed books get so high in the rankings in the first place? It can't be because they're stuffed, especially when book A has books C and E in them, and book B has A and D, with Book C having D and A. Those are a bunch of duplicate books, so I can't see why someone would borrow all three? How confusing for the reader! There has to be some way they are getting these books into the top 100 that goes beyond stuffing.

Unless page reads do count. Remember, Kindle now has a chart that shows which books are most read. Maybe there is a page-read factor that is new since that chart? I'm just speculating here and have no evidence other than being totally baffled as to how those books are making it into the top 100, and even the top 10 on Amazon.

People working one angle on zon generally will work ALL the angles on zon.

So they are most likely bot borrowing their way to the top.

Or maybe, as another poster said, they are spending $20k to market their way to the top (although I highly doubt there are that many authors with the money to do that kind of thing, much less sustain rank over months). 

Regardless, the criminals aren't the problem, zon is. They've incentivized botting by tying rank to borrows. Every single issue with the zon store is KU related. On the direct side, zon is absolutely fine as a selling platform.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: LilyBLily on January 05, 2018, 08:22:32 AM
This is an infuriating thread. No one agrees on what stuffing is, and the ones doing the stuffing claim they are justified in doing it. Various people are raising deflecting arguments, taking it to the personal, and more, to avoid the point: They know what stuffers are doing is not justifiable but they want everyone here to agree it is.

That is not happening.

Keep on arguing, but I'm not buying.


 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Sam Kates on January 05, 2018, 08:24:55 AM
This is one of those depressing (yet absolutely necessary) threads that makes me question my sanity in trying to make a living at this game. I don't engage in any of the shady tactics mentioned here or in other threads so, sure, I can look myself in the mirror and not blink, but I can't look at my sales dashboard or bank balance without grimacing.

When I first bundled together some short stories and published them to KDP around four years ago, I thought it was difficult to gain visibility then. Ha! I now have nine books out there, including six novels, and I'm struggling far more now to make readers aware of them. I believed, in my naivety, that a good story, well written, will always win out, but that belief has gradually been replaced by an ever deepening cynicism.

I'm gradually improving my marketing skills and slowly building a mailing list, but stuff like this must make every ethical author wonder whether the struggle is worth it when we see so many others gaming the system and making a killing. If we're not prepared to sink to their level, what can we do? Struggle on or give up, I guess.

For my part, I intend to struggle on, at least for now. But I wonder how many have already given up out of sheer frustration.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Allyson J. on January 05, 2018, 08:34:50 AM
I find that even advertising a romance is nearly impossible, as these same books/authors are also clogging up the promo sites as well. Every popular romance advertiser is filled with them. If, as a reader, all I saw offered were these stuffed books, I might think that was all there was available... And after picking up book B and realizing I'd already read it in the back of book A, and that they were both in the back of book C, I'd feel extremely annoyed & cheated.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JustWriting on January 05, 2018, 08:37:15 AM
I hate what the scammers do, but I know that there will always be people who try to cheat the system. Period.

The bit I really don't get is why those engaged in this kind of scamming care what anyone else thinks about it. Why do they feel the need to try to convince the rest of us that what they're up to is okay? I'd almost have more respect for them if they said: hey, I'm scamming the system and making a bucketful of cash, and I don't care what anyone else thinks.

At least that would be honest.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 08:39:23 AM
What clarifies things for me is this:

If it wasn't for KU, none of the stuffers would be bundling up 3000 KENP worth of pages together and charging 99c.

It's KU that is the problem. It incentivizes *some* authors to stuff and scam and they are succeeding because Amazon polices its program in a very uneven way.

There will always be people who look for loopholes and kinks in systems to profit from. It's the nature of the human beast. KU just has so many loopholes and kinks to exploit.

I would NEVER have considered stuffing my books and using incentivized links to get illegitimate page reads or filling them full of Google translations to pump up the page count.

The stuffers probably think of me as a jealous SUCKA!

Maybe I am. I have a big backlist. I could stuff some books full of other books the way I see the top stuffers doing.

Here's the thing: my conscience tells me not to stuff. Am I really that wrong-headed? Is stuffing and getting either unread page reads / duplicate page reads really perfectly morally acceptable?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 08:42:11 AM
The bit I really don't get is why those engaged in this kind of scamming care what anyone else thinks about it. Why do they feel the need to try to convince the rest of us that what they're up to is okay? I'd almost have more respect for them if they said: hey, I'm scamming the system and making a bucketful of cash, and I don't care what anyone else thinks.

At least that would be honest.

Scamming and honestly do not go hand in hand.  What does is FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.  Creating even a shred of doubt instills debate and - best of all for them - silences some critics.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PamelaKelley on January 05, 2018, 08:49:37 AM
I hate what the scammers do, but I know that there will always be people who try to cheat the system. Period.

The bit I really don't get is why those engaged in this kind of scamming care what anyone else thinks about it. Why do they feel the need to try to convince the rest of us that what they're up to is okay? I'd almost have more respect for them if they said: hey, I'm scamming the system and making a bucketful of cash, and I don't care what anyone else thinks.

At least that would be honest.

Most of the big scammers don't care. They are not weighing in on this board. They are busy stuffing their books. I suspect the few weighing in defending it are really trying to convince themselves because they know it's rotten, but 'everyone else' is doing it and they want their piece of the pie too.  It stinks.  But until Amazon does something, I don't expect much to change.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 08:49:51 AM

It's KU that is the problem. It incentivizes *some* authors to stuff and scam and they are succeeding because Amazon polices its program in a very uneven way.

Here's the thing: my conscience tells me not to stuff. Am I really that wrong-headed? Is stuffing and getting either unread page reads / duplicate page reads really perfectly morally acceptable?

And this is exactly why KU long-term is doomed. Because you WANT to build your store on the backs of ethical, honest authors. You want to build your AMS platform on those same people. You want REAL authors, not marketing folks and scammers who have simply chosen writing as their niche to apply their true skill (marketing or scamming). But amazon has clearly done nothing to value or support the honest authors and everything to support (ie. turn a blind eye) to the worst of the worst.

KU is ruining the publishing industry by shoving bad content and the worst actors to the front of the line.

So this is a prison riot. Whether you want to stay in your cell or go out there and shiv people is up to you. Ultimately, it's just chaos until the riot police are called in and order is restored.

Or you (as in anyone) can simply sell direct where all this madness doesn't exist :P  But I realize that's not feasible for everyone.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 08:53:21 AM
IF the page reads issue was fixed as has been claimed, stuffing (sell book as A, include books B, C, D as bonus content with link from the end of A to "special" bonus story at the end) would make no sense. Yes, you might get some people who read an extra book or two, but it wouldn't really perform any better than a normal box set, especially since it isn't being labeled as such, and you wouldn't have to spend a fortune promoting multiple books. In a couple of "stuffies" you've just included all of your back catalog and there's no reason for people to even pick up the other volumes. Even if you include unique bonus content in the back of all of your other books, that's all that's going to be read. So this practice only makes sense if you're getting paid for those skipped pages as well.

The double dipping issue where people get paid for the same pages being read twice is an annoyance, but under the circumstances probably isn't a significant loss to the program. Most of the books are too new for it to be a real problem. If you just read Stuffie #1 with A, B, C, D and then pick up Stuffie #2 with E, A, B, C to get the Super Bonus Story at the end, you aren't going to re-read A, B, C again. For the most part this isn't going to be a serious issue, any more that what happens if you have a set of books in KU both individually and as a bundle, someone reads book #1 on a countdown deal then comes back a couple of months later and borrows the bundle to read everything at once so you get paid twice. It happens, but does it really have any kind of significant impact on payouts? No.

While unethical, these people are not stupid. They're not going to the trouble to make these books and spend money like water to jack their ranks up for nothing. They've proven again and again that they can adapt to the changes to KU even faster than we can, because while we're focused on turning out the best novels possible for our readers they're only focused on maximizing the money they strip from KU. So they're doing this for a very good reason, and the only reason that I can come up with that makes any sense is that the page reads problem is not actually fixed, or that the fix introduced still more loopholes that are being taken advantage of.

And Sela is dead on the money here. KU is fundamentally flawed in that it has always been possible to spend a given amount of money to get more out of the system than you put in. It's like going to a casino where you can't lose. All you have to do is find the break-even point using the subscription fee and the current payout rate, hit it, and then scale out. This is NOT POSSIBLE with sales. It only works on a subscription system where you can get access to infinite product for a flat fee. It doesn't matter whether the payout is a per book like in KU 1.0 or by page reads. It's a relatively simple mathematical problem and these people know how to solve it and use it to turn KU into a slot machine that always pays out.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 05, 2018, 09:00:05 AM
What clarifies things for me is this:

If it wasn't for KU, none of the stuffers would be bundling up 3000 KENP worth of pages together and charging 99c.

It's KU that is the problem. It incentivizes *some* authors to stuff and scam and they are succeeding because Amazon polices its program in a very uneven way.

There will always be people who look for loopholes and kinks in systems to profit from. It's the nature of the human beast. KU just has so many loopholes and kinks to exploit.

I would NEVER have considered stuffing my books and using incentivized links to get illegitimate page reads or filling them full of Google translations to pump up the page count.

The stuffers probably think of me as a jealous SUCKA!

Maybe I am. I have a big backlist. I could stuff some books full of other books the way I see the top stuffers doing.

Here's the thing: my conscience tells me not to stuff. Am I really that wrong-headed? Is stuffing and getting either unread page reads / duplicate page reads really perfectly morally acceptable?

The thing is, they have completely different motivations and goals. They are not "authors" and they aren't looking to build anything long term. They care about making a giant boatload of money, right now. That's all.

I would never do this because, at the very least, I want to build a readership that will follow me into the future. A legit author doing this would dilute her/his brand, make her/his books less distinctive, and generally wear out readers with so much bewildering content recycled over and over and so many newsletters offering the same bunch of other authors doing the same thing.

A genuine author who wanted to genuinely grow a fan base would be stupid to do those things.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 09:00:50 AM
In the end, we all have to make an ethical choice. Do we want to use scammer / grey hat / black hat tactics and have success? Or do we want to have success on ethical terms?

When doing market research and planning my 2018 schedule, I did study the top 100 in romance, in the categories I enjoy writing: contemporary, new adult, military, and romantic suspense.

Romantic suspense is the only one not dominated by the stuffers.

That's where I'm going this year. I know I can't compete with the stuffers, at least not in the top 100 outside of a Bookbub. I won't use grey hat techniques to get there. So, I'm done with worrying about the stuffers and KU scammers. Amazon clearly isn't policing its own program so there's nothing I can do except rage against the machine, and that's not good for my blood pressure.

So, I'm through with even worrying about the scammers. They'll continue to line their pockets using the slimy techniques they have developed and I'll be over in my little corner of the romance publishing world trying to write as much from my heart as my mind and my conscience. I won't make as much money or be able to claim that little orange flag, but I'm still doing well by my own measure.

That's good enough for me because I prefer not to feel ethically slimy. I know I would if I did use scammer tactics. I don't want my place in the pile to be achieved through ill-gotten gains...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 09:08:22 AM
Oh but I would ABSOLUTELY love to interview a stuffer for my podcast -- anonymously is fine. All I would need was a screen cap of a Book Report page with identifying content blanked out so I know they are bonafide.

I would love to discuss the ethical questions around tactics and learn how a stuffer thinks about this business and how beneficial these tactics are. I would love to get their take on things, because frankly, I am a bit in awe of their ability to use these techniques with a clear conscience.

Not that I expect I'll get any takers, because let's face it -- if they really are using grey / black hat techniques, they don't want to admit it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 05, 2018, 09:12:47 AM
Oh but I would ABSOLUTELY love to interview a stuffer for my podcast -- anonymously is fine. All I would need was a screen cap of a Book Report page with identifying content blanked out so I know they are bonafide.

I would love to discuss the ethical questions around tactics and learn how a stuffer thinks about this business and how beneficial these tactics are. I would love to get their take on things, because frankly, I am a bit in awe of their ability to use these techniques with a clear conscience.

Not that I expect I'll get any takers, because let's face it -- if they really are using grey / black hat techniques, they don't want to admit it.

I'd love to read/hear an interview, too. But since they pay a lot of money to be in their mastermind group and learn the techniques, I'm guessing part of the deal is that they are not allowed to discuss it with outsiders.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 05, 2018, 09:15:44 AM
I'd love to read/hear an interview, too. But since they pay a lot of money to be in their mastermind group and learn the techniques, I'm guessing part of the deal is that they are not allowed to discuss it with outsiders.

They aren't supposed to because they paid for the info, but there's more than one of them that have talked. You know what they say, "Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead."
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Mercia McMahon on January 05, 2018, 09:22:13 AM
I agree that KU is easily twisted to ensure payouts and that books with the rest of the series in it are driven by the page reads payment model, but I am not sure that scam is the correct word. A scam is normally where a con artist tricks the unsuspecting Josephine Public out of her life savings. From the reader viewpoint stuffed books would initially be a treasure trove (free stuff) and could go on to become an annoyance (but only if reading the same author). Nor is Amazon being scammed because their main complaint is that book stuffing might reduce the optimal reader experience. Book stuffers are more system players than scammers. It's up to Amazon to create a better system. Those playing the system are almost certainly acting within the law.

It would not require many person hours for Amazon to keep book stuffers out of All Star bonuses, but they don't. Why not? It cannot be because Amazon wants eyes on its website as five books in one download keeps the reader away from the website as they are too busy reading free stuff. More likely it is Amazon's fear of being sued. Amazon's updating of Terms of Service leaves something to be desired. Compare it to something like Second Life where you cannot proceed until you have accepted the new Terms. Amazon may have a clause about being able to change the terms, but so does Second Life and Ingram Spark, who both require specific assent when they change the Terms. Amazon's one-sided alteration of a contract may not stand up in court and so the easily identifiable book stuffers will continue to be eligible for All Star bonuses.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Wayne Stinnett on January 05, 2018, 09:31:33 AM
2. Don't pay authors more money for a "borrow" than for a "buy."[/b]
Example: You want to price a book at 99-cents? Great! You earn 33 cents when you sell your book, but your "royalty" per borrow is also capped at 33 cents. Viola! The incentive to stuff-books is completely gone.

This would make a break even point on a $2.99 book at about 450 KENPC. Many epic fantasy novels are twice that. In fact a book with 450 KENPC is barely novel length.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 05, 2018, 09:38:06 AM
This would make a break even point on a $2.99 book at about 450 KENPC. Many epic fantasy novels are twice that. In fact a book with 450 KENPC is barely novel length.
Not to mention that stuffers will slide around that by charging $9.99 for a book and manipulating that way. They don't care about sales because they don't get a lot of them. They just want to maximize KU money.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 09:39:56 AM
Thanks, bobfrost, for  your very logical & thought out post. I think if someone wants to be in KU they should look at how to make their books do better within the system they choose to be apart of. Instead we have a thread purportedly about bonus books devolving  into people surmising that top 100 bad boy romance authors are clickfarming without a shred of evidence.

To me it just shows that people will always find a reason to be upset that their own books aren't doing better than they'd like & looking to blame everyone but themselves. The people screaming scammers at every little thing & conflating them with big things look just as bad to most reasonable people as the scammers they are decrying. Those who are witch hunting other authors, throwing mud everywhere will just end up getting mud on their own faces.

I too am shaking my head at the disdain for ghostwriting. Ghostwriters write well & fast. Often they are familiar w/ the genre expectations. And they get paid for the work they accept & want to do. So Idk why they are even being brought up in this conversation except that apparently it's a way to release faster & get more books. Who cares. Anyone ever hear of James Patterson? The Nancy Drew series? People don't read those books bc they love award winning writing from one author. They love the brand & genre & that they know what to expect when they get one. If any author has built a brand & hires people to help him release more books in that brand faster & better than the competition than most power to them. If they want to add all their other books in there to keep people reading then more power to them. I view them as you do bobfrost- as innovative entrepreneurs. People who combine art & business.

I don't see how the email posted has shown that Amazon is against bonus books. I think it's one person's opinion or interpretation of what he wants it to mean & I don't understand why we're all supposed to be browbeaten into agreeing w/ him or told we have bad ethics just bc our viewpoint is different.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 09:40:10 AM
I agree that KU is easily twisted to ensure payouts and that books with the rest of the series in it are driven by the page reads payment model, but I am not sure that scam is the correct word. A scam is normally where a con artist tricks the unsuspecting Josephine Public out of her life savings. From the reader viewpoint stuffed books would initially be a treasure trove (free stuff) and could go on to become an annoyance (but only if reading the same author). Nor is Amazon being scammed because their main complaint is that book stuffing might reduce the optimal reader experience. Book stuffers are more system players than scammers. It's up to Amazon to create a better system. Those playing the system are almost certainly acting within the law.

It would not require many person hours for Amazon to keep book stuffers out of All Star bonuses, but they don't. Why not? It cannot be because Amazon wants eyes on its website as five books in one download keeps the reader away from the website as they are too busy reading free stuff. More likely it is Amazon's fear of being sued. Amazon's updating of Terms of Service leaves something to be desired. Compare it to something like Second Life where you cannot proceed until you have accepted the new Terms. Amazon may have a clause about being able to change the terms, but so does Second Life and Ingram Spark, who both require specific assent when they change the Terms. Amazon's one-sided alteration of a contract may not stand up in court and so the easily identifiable book stuffers will continue to be eligible for All Star bonuses.

UGH.

I think that, from Amazon's POV, they don't care about stuffers as long as the content is not scam content aka plagiarized or scraped from the web. The really black hat scammers did that in KU 1.0 and made a killing. If they have taken care of the skip-to-the-back full page read glitch, then all they are paying for is duplicate reads. I know my readers tell me they re-read the entire series of my books, which now are at 9 full-length books, when a new one is coming out and some re-read every year. So I know readers do re-read books they really love.

I'm trying to be rational here -- if the stuffers are not taking page reads from the pot illegitimately, I honestly wouldn't care. If they are using all white hat techniques to get to the top 100 and get their all star bonuses, more power to them.

It's just that given all the real honest scams associated with KU since its inception, I tend to mistrust the whole lot of those who stuff their books.

Maybe everything they are doing is totally above board and legitimate.

I'd love to be proven otherwise.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 09:41:04 AM
This would make a break even point on a $2.99 book at about 450 KENPC. Many epic fantasy novels are twice that. In fact a book with 450 KENPC is barely novel length.

I see what you're saying, but happily, your fellow epic fantasy authors would be in the same boat, which means that the end-result would likely be a higher price point in your genre as more authors adjust their prices upward to ensure they'repaid the appropriate amount for page-reads. In my proposed scenario, you'd likely end up making more not only from borrows, but on purchases too as natural market forces drove the average price upward.

The current system, in contrast, continually drives prices downward and is utterly unaligned with any real market forces.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 09:48:39 AM
Not to mention that stuffers will slide around that by charging $9.99 for a book and manipulating that way. They don't care about sales because they don't get a lot of them. They just want to maximize KU money.

I see your point that they don't care about sales, but they DO get some sales. And the 99-cent price point gives them a big advantage in promotional gigs, not to mention also-boughts and the best-selling charts. Look at the top 100 in the New Adult genre. It's packed with 99-cent books. My $3.99 books look overpriced in comparison. Now, imagine that the scammers have their books priced at $9.99. Now, THEIRS look overpriced. Plus, when someone does purchase this scam "book" for $9.99, they're more likely to complain when it's a short story stuffed with "bonus" content.

Continuing with this thought...If they suddenly priced their books higher, we'd at least get one benefit -- their scamming would drive book prices upward, rather than downward. As it stands now, it's a race to the bottom.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: EB on January 05, 2018, 09:54:05 AM
What bothers me is when this is done to deliberately get paid for content that is not actually read and/or which has already been paid for (outside of an official boxed set titled as such).

Because that is scamming and unethical and against TOS.

But if none of that stuffed content actually was counted and paid out? Who gives a FF?

Obviously, these stuffing publishers are getting paid for that stuffed content or they wouldn't do it. They'd be literally giving away most of their backlist for free.

So to me, they are stuffing because they do get paid for the bonus content multiple times. Why else do it? Out of the goodness of their heart?

This is the crux of it to me. ^^
There is a reason they are pricing the books at $0.99; because a 2000 KENP page KU read yields a $9.20 price per full read (going off a random $0.0046 KU page payout). Yes, read that again: $9.20 for a $0.99 book. They don't put those bonus books in there for [crap]s and giggles, they put them in there specifically to get a massively inflated number of page reads. They don't care about the $0.99 sales with a yield of $0.33 at 30% royalty, it's that $9.20 payout they're going for. ** note that the KENP is a number that Amazon calculates and assigns to your book; it is not the same as the number of pages displayed on the book product page. The KENP can be found in your KDP dashboard, and that is the number that your page payout is based on. **

In comparison, one of my series box sets with 4 full-length books has a KENP of 1560 KENP; it is priced for sale at $9.99. A full KU read for that book at $0.0046 page payout earns  $7.18. That's on a book priced at $9.99. Somehow, I don't think the business plan of KU was to pay authors a zillion times more than the actual list price of a book.

And since the collective payout fund each month is distributed by the total number of page reads of every book in KU, those who are engaging in the TOS games are stealing money from the fund and skewing what the actual page payout rate should be, decreasing the payout for ALL authors in KU.

And then they get All Star Bonuses on top of that, as much as $25,000 per month, which is the icing on the cake and enables them to keep spending massive amounts of promotional funds on the new wave of $0.99 books up for release...and the cycle continues.

I really don't care much what other authors want to publish. I've watched many of these books shoot to the top 10 on amazon as a result of massive marketing efforts, and when you look at that book a month later it's ranked in the millions. They're not sustained sales and the readership is not consistent. That's not the kind of readership I want, and it's not how I choose to run my ship. To each their own.  But you bet your arse I'm gonna speak up when it affects how much I get paid for my own books, which this scheme most certainly does.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 09:56:02 AM
UGH.

I think that, from Amazon's POV, they don't care about stuffers as long as the content is not scam content aka plagiarized or scraped from the web. The really black hat scammers did that in KU 1.0 and made a killing. If they have taken care of the skip-to-the-back full page read glitch, then all they are paying for is duplicate reads. I know my readers tell me they re-read the entire series of my books, which now are at 9 full-length books, when a new one is coming out and some re-read every year. So I know readers do re-read books they really love.

I'm trying to be rational here -- if the stuffers are not taking page reads from the pot illegitimately, I honestly wouldn't care. If they are using all white hat techniques to get to the top 100 and get their all star bonuses, more power to them.

It's just that given all the real honest scams associated with KU since its inception, I tend to mistrust the whole lot of those who stuff their books.

Maybe everything they are doing is totally above board and legitimate.

I'd love to be proven otherwise.

I don't think bad boy romance authors who regularly hit top 100 and who stuff their books are clickfarming. I haven't seen any proof of this but just a bunch of wishful thinking. I think people running a business do what is best for the business. Never in my readings about clickfarming have I even seen that it is very profitable. I think it gets visibility but not a lot of money so idk why people would risk their accounts doing it. I think some people are just stupid & naive. But mastermind bad boy romance authors hitting top 100 are not stupid. It takes more work than clickfarming or a lot of people with bad ethics could & would be doing it. Also a lot of authors use bonus books - even some of the ones holding hands & screaming about scammers. It's just that their books don't - or no longer - regularly hit top 100 so we don't hear about their own books. I think there's a huge bias in that they like to scream about the ones who make it to the top but clearly the formula isn't as easy as stuffing = top 100 or everyone w/ bonus books would be at the top. I also don't think it's clickfarming because the books take a natural progression on the charts compared to a clickfarmed book. I think it's just as simple as what bobfrost posted. The villianized authors have figured out how to make KU work best to their advantage. For this they are scammers & thieves because some people think it's wrong to make a system work to one's own advantage.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 09:58:05 AM
Thanks, bobfrost, for  your very logical & thought out post. I think if someone wants to be in KU they should look at how to make their books do better within the system they choose to be apart of. Instead we have a thread purportedly about bonus books devolving  into people surmising that top 100 bad boy romance authors are clickfarming without a shred of evidence.

To me it just shows that people will always find a reason to be upset that their own books aren't doing better than they'd like & looking to blame everyone but themselves. The people screaming scammers at every little thing & conflating them with big things look just as bad to most reasonable people as the scammers they are decrying. Those who are witch hunting other authors, throwing mud everywhere will just end up getting mud on their own faces.

I too am shaking my head at the disdain for ghostwriting. Ghostwriters write well & fast. Often they are familiar w/ the genre expectations. And they get paid for the work they accept & want to do. So Idk why they are even being brought up in this conversation except that apparently it's a way to release faster & get more books. Who cares. Anyone ever hear of James Patterson? The Nancy Drew series? People don't read those books bc they love award winning writing from one author. They love the brand & genre & that they know what to expect when they get one. If any author has built a brand & hires people to help him release more books in that brand faster & better than the competition than most power to them. If they want to add all their other books in there to keep people reading then more power to them. I view them as you do bobfrost- as innovative entrepreneurs. People who combine art & business.

I don't see how the email posted has shown that Amazon is against bonus books. I think it's one person's opinion or interpretation of what he wants it to mean & I don't understand why we're all supposed to be browbeaten into agreeing w/ him or told we have bad ethics just bc our viewpoint is different.

I have nothing against ghostwriting. I feel bad for ghostwriters because I think they under-appreciate their own skills. Maybe they are put off by the business side of things and don't want to be responsible for all the publishing side. That's fine but I feel like, if they had some help, they could be the ones making the money instead of the business person hiring the ghostwriter. But I am fine if a business person wants to approach publishing like a publisher rather than a writer. And I am totally fine if a writer wants to mix business and pleasure and hire some ghostwriters and write some of their own books. I am totally fine with that.

It's the black and gray hat techniques that bother me.

I think someone who approaches this like a business rather than as an author first is more likely to do what every business person does -- find the quickest way to the easiest money. That means cutting costs where it is feasible and spending money where it makes the most sense so that profits are higher. That might mean paying a ghostwriter far below what their words are worth. That might mean paying a review service and getting reviews that are clearly cranked out and not from legitimate readers. That might mean paying for bot-driven rank and downloads. That might mean skirting the law as close to the line as possible without totally crossing it. Or crossing it because the reward of higher profit is stronger than the rewards of good moral character.

Now, the majority of business people merely do it for love of being entrepreneurial and that's great. They follow the laws. There will always be some who cross the line. The business news is filled with them. The majority of authors will follow the TOS. There will always be that few who contravene TOS to sell more books, get more page reads, etc.

As to jealousy that some books do better than others, well, sure, some of this is jealousy, no doubt. But some of it is because people see that the system is broken / flawed and the playing field is not level. It's inevitable that those who play by the rules will be upset when those who do not play by the rules or bend them succeed.

There is a clash between those of us who do this for love first and money second and those who do it for money first and love second -- if at all. Each has different motives and interest as a result.



Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 10:00:30 AM
There is a reason they are pricing the books at $0.99; because a 2000 KENP page KU read yields a $9.20 price per full read (going off a random $0.0046 KU page payout). Yes, read that again: $9.20 for a $0.99 book....  And since the collective payout fund each month is distributed by the total number of page reads of every book in KU, those who are engaging in the TOS games are stealing money from the fund and skewing what the actual page payout rate should be, decreasing the payout for ALL authors in KU.

And then they get All Star Bonuses on top of that, as much as $25,000 per month, which is the icing on the cake and enables them to keep spending massive amounts of promotional funds on the new wave of $0.99 books up for release...and the cycle continues.

Yes, THIS!!! It's a self-perpetuating cycle. Not only are they stealing from genuine authors, their ill-gotten gains fund their next round of scamming.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: EB on January 05, 2018, 10:01:19 AM
Thanks, bobfrost, for  your very logical & thought out post. I think if someone wants to be in KU they should look at how to make their books do better within the system they choose to be apart of. Instead we have a thread purportedly about bonus books devolving  into people surmising that top 100 bad boy romance authors are clickfarming without a shred of evidence.

Who said anyone was clickfarming?  ::)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 10:16:59 AM
I don't think bad boy romance authors who regularly hit top 100 and who stuff their books are clickfarming. I haven't seen any proof of this but just a bunch of wishful thinking. I think people running a business do what is best for the business. Never in my readings about clickfarming have I even seen that it is very profitable. I think it gets visibility but not a lot of money so idk why people would risk their accounts doing it. I think some people are just stupid & naive. But mastermind bad boy romance authors hitting top 100 are not stupid. It takes more work than clickfarming or a lot of people with bad ethics could & would be doing it. Also a lot of authors use bonus books - even some of the ones holding hands & screaming about scammers. It's just that their books don't - or no longer - regularly hit top 100 so we don't hear about their own books. I think there's a huge bias in that they like to scream about the ones who make it to the top but clearly the formula isn't as easy as stuffing = too 100 or everyone w/ bonus books would be at the top. I also don't think it's clickfarming because the books take a natural progression on the charts compared to a clickfarmed book. I think it's just as simple as what bobfrost posted. The villianized authors have figured out how to make KU work beat to their advantage. For this they are scammers & thieves because some people think it's wrong to make a system work to one's own advantage.
Clickfarming is CHEAP. Insanely cheap. Got $600? You can have yourself a million Twitter followers overnight. These guys operate out of sweatshops in Asian countries where they run 3 shifts a day and pay their workers $120 a year.

Pay to play is $9.95 for the KU subscription plus some small amount for the clickfarmer.
You only have to generate 2211 page reads (at $0.0045 per page) from that subscription to make it pay for itself. Call it an even 2500 to pay for the subscription plus the clicks to generate the page reads.
That scales indefinitely, and it's exactly what we saw with the bazillion computer generated novels that got dumped into Amazon a while back. What's going on now is more subtle so it slides under the radar. All you have to do is provide the content, which can be ghostwritten for very low cost. But even at a few thousand dollars for a 90k word novel the startup cost is extremely low compared to the potential payout. Once you've got the content in place your only expenses are the $9.95 subscription fees plus whatever you're paying for the clicks. It's like being able to print your own money.

And yes, there are people here who have seen it and documented in detail that it IS going on. It's been discussed and analyzed in many previous topics.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 10:18:36 AM
Nice try.

I know a lot about these authors. I've got a whole bank of screenshots. These is what I have personally witnessed, and this circle will engage in some or all of these actions:

1. Book stuffing and Click here inducements to inflate page count and payout.
2. Review manipulation, against the TOS (asking for upvotes/downvotes, removing people from street teams if they don't review in a certain timeframe, incentivizing reviews with gifts, demanding a certain kind of review, demanding ARC readers PM them before posting a review of less than 5 stars).
3. Mass gifting to hit lists.
4. Using stolen images without permission for Facebook ads.
5. Men pretending to be women and engaging in private girl talk (super creepy and gross).

That's just for starters.

Ok, lets break this down again. I'll address each point you're making. Ready?

You said: 1. Book stuffing and Click here inducements to inflate page count and payout.

Once again, Amazon has long-since fixed the system that allowed "CLICK HERE" inducements to cause additional pagereads. You either don't know this, or you're being misleading in how you're talking about this. Go try it for yourself. Borrow one of your books (which is allowed). Read a couple of pages the traditional way, then use the little scroll bar to flip yourself to the very back of the book and read a page there (skipping the pages in between). You'll be paid for the pages that showed up on your device. Page 1-2-3-and 355 (or whatever the last page is). Total KENPC paid out: 4.

In the past, yes, click inducements paid out an entire book worth of page reads. Many of us (myself included) thought this was baloney, and Amazon eventually addressed this.

Putting extra bonus books inside a title absolutely increases page count inside the book. I mean, there's a WHOLE OTHER BOOK in there. Of course the page count rises. Whether or not the page-reads rise depends solely on the reader. If the reader keeps on reading and turning actual pages inside the book, the author keeps getting paid. That's how KU works today. Putting 3000 pages worth of books inside one of your titles isn't going to generate 3,000 KU pages read per customer who reads the book. You're ONLY going to get paid for those pages if the reader actually flips past them in the standard way. You won't get paid if they click to the back, and you won't be paid if they page-flip to the back. They have to display (full-screen) one of your pages in order for that page to register as "read". This has been extensively tested and if you didn't already know this is how things work, now you do. Feel free to test for yourself!

You said 2: Review manipulation, against the TOS (asking for upvotes/downvotes, removing people from street teams if they don't review in a certain timeframe, incentivizing reviews with gifts, demanding a certain kind of review, demanding ARC readers PM them before posting a review of less than 5 stars).

Sending out ARCs to a group of readers is absolutely allowed. There is nothing in the TOS that prevents you from providing your book (free of charge) to a bunch of readers who frequently review your work. Is it possible to break the TOS by deliberately working to manipulate reviews and the like? Absolutely. The way you're suggesting these things are being manipulated though...

I've been around the tracks a few times over the last handful of years. I've gotten to know a ton of incredibly successful bestselling authors. I can tell you that many of them have sat there and deliberately made an effort to cultivate an ARC list full of readers who reliably put out 5 star reviews. Many of the things you're mentioning? They are normal actions taken by many bestselling authors. Here's how I handle my ARC list:

step 1: I send out a message asking my arc reader list which readers are interested in an advance review copy of my newest book (with a cover preview and a blurb).

step 2: 100-300 of those readers message me back letting me know they're excited and want to read that book!

step 3: I send out the books, they read them.

step 4: I send out a message asking them all if they loved the book, and tell them that I can't wait to read their reviews.

step 5: I regularly cull ALL of my email lists, removing people who are inactive, aren't responding to emails, aren't opening emails, etc.

In this process, I absolutely send those ARC editions out to the readers who I expect (based on past experience) to review my book. Why would I send the book to a bunch of people who don't review and aren't engaging with me an an author? I send my books out to super-fans and I communicate with those fans regularly to build relationships that result in the reviews I want.

None of that is ToS breaking to the best of my understanding. It's not an unusual way to operate if you want to generate >100 reviews at launch.

Maybe these "boogeymen" are going around deliberately removing reviewers who don't give good reviews, but can you reliably prove that? Technically a reader knowing they'd be booted from a list if they didn't give a great review might be an inducement to give a great review, but that's going to be virtually impossible to prove in any meaningful way. And it's more complicated than it really needs to be. ARC reviewers are easy to gather up from your mailing list of fans, and I can tell you that almost every single customer I've ever given a free book that has reviewed said book, has come back with a 4 or 5 star review. Just the act of giving them a free book (and the fact that they are already one of your fans) virtually guarantees a great review. No kinkiness required. No "gift" required. No inducements required. No carrying a big stick required. I've never removed a person from an ARC list because they gave a bad review... because I've never had an ARC reviewer GIVE a bad review.

If these authors are genuinely bending the rules (in a big way) and paying readers to give them 5 star reviews (and manipulating the reviews in a way that breaks ToS), Amazon has proven time and again they will take action against people they catch doing that. They remove illegitimate reviews, and people have been banned from amazon and even sued by amazon for faking reviews.

Even if these "masterminds" were at one point engaging in such a practice, I doubt they still are. There's no need. Either way, I think you're making a pretty huge accusation and backing it up with supposed "screenshots" that you haven't shared. I'm not saying those screenshots don't exist, but you haven't been thus-far forthcoming.

Do you just hate ARC reviews in general? Would you rather they not exist entirely? I'd be 100% on board with arguing that ARC reviews shouldn't really exist, and that the only reviews we should see on books at Amazon should come from people who have purchased the book, but even that would probably be a situation rife with abuse, where people willing to bend those rules and purchase books for a group of trusted reviewers would gain an advantage over average authors like myself who have a rabid fanbase that they utilize to gain day-1 reviews for their books.

Anyway, long story short on this one... tons of bestselling authors use ARC reviewers, it can be done in a way that doesn't break the current ToS, and I think you're making a mountain out of am molehill on this situation.

Next...

You said 3: Mass gifting to hit lists.

What?

Have you used the book gifting process at Amazon? Last time I experimented with this, "gifted" books did NOT result in any change in rank. I tried this on several low ranking books thinking that gifting 50 copies might help jumpstart my rank, and in every attempt I made at it, absolutely nothing happened to the rank of the book. I must have tested this at least four or five times over the years, each time with the same exact result.

Is that what you're talking about? How exactly does "mass gifting to hit lists" do anything of value? What in the world are you saying these people are doing? Can you explain exactly what it is "mass gifting to hit lists" means?

If gifted books (given away through Amazon's gifting system) effect rank today, that is absolutely news to me. It didn't work in the past, although admittedly it's been awhile since I tested it. Have you tested this? Can you prove that this happens? I would be very interested in seeing your data and/or information (or if I'm misunderstanding what you're suggesting these masterminds are doing, please, by all means, explain it).

You said 4. Using stolen images without permission for Facebook ads.

I saw this little blowup. I'm willing to go with the "benefit of the doubt" and guess that this tight knit group was using a marketing company to produce their ads, and that the company used those images without their permission or knowledge. It would make sense, given the fact that all of these ads were incredibly similar despite belonging to different apparent authors who are known to collaborate and share resources. If one of them found a facebook ad guy who could deliver low CPC, it makes sense that they'd all be using them.

Of course, it's STILL wrong. That's still their fault, but as far as I can tell they are no longer using those images. If the people who's images were infringed upon want to go after the authors in question, I see no issue with that whatsoever. Copyright is important.

That said, I think it's silly to act as if a stolen image is in some way better than a stock photo they could have bought legally for $1 and used in the same exact ad. "Man with bare chest" isn't a difficult stock photo to find, and they are roughly interchangeable. I saw every one of those "infringing" ads, and I didn't recognize a single person in them. I don't think having a picture of a "vine star" I've never seen before in my life on an ad is going to make that ad any more successful than it would be with any of the hundreds of other interchangeable stock images with a bare chest man on them. Feel free to argue this if you'd like, but at the end of the day, these authors don't appear to be using infringing photos anymore, so I think it's fairly irrelevant.

To recap... using copyright infringing photos is bad, but it's also not some "secret" to gaming the top-list. They shouldn't have done it (intentionally or unintentionally), but I don't think those photos had anything meaningful to do with the success of the book they were pushing, since those photos could easily have been swapped out for available cheap stock photography and not changed in look or substance.

You said 5. Men pretending to be women and engaging in private girl talk (super creepy and gross).

Oh come on.

Fact: The romance world is dominated by female authors.
Fact: While it is possible to succeed greatly as a male author in Romance, there is a not-insignificant number of readers who absolutely will not read a romance novel they know was written by a man.
Fact: Many authors operate under gender-swapped pennames in romance and other genres to best meet the expectations of the audience in those genres!
Fact: Engaging with your readers over social media helps build a fan base and sell more books!

I know a top 100 thriller author right this very second who is a woman writing under a man's name. They have a facebook page and a fan-facing presence where they pretend to be a man, because in their particular niche, male authors are vastly more acceptable. Should we be upset with that author?

I am a man. I have published under dozens upon dozens of pennames over the years, and many of those pennames have been female. I've communicated with fans, pretending to be the female author they are excited to be reading. I've used my wife as a "model" for my penname, staging photographs where she is sitting with fingers at the keyboard, or a hand on a coffee cup, or holding up one of my paperbacks. I've done all of these things. At no point was any of this "creepy" or "gross". I'm a businessman and an author, trying to best satisfy the demands of the marketplace I operate within. Why should I let my gender get in the way of writing highly successful books? I didn't sell my first million books worrying about whether or not you thought it was creepy that I pretended to be a woman to meet the social and societal expectations of the bulk of the marketplace.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Wayne Stinnett on January 05, 2018, 10:22:36 AM
In the end, we all have to make an ethical choice. Do we want to use scammer / grey hat / black hat tactics and have success? Or do we want to have success on ethical terms?

When doing market research and planning my 2018 schedule, I did study the top 100 in romance, in the categories I enjoy writing: contemporary, new adult, military, and romantic suspense.

Romantic suspense is the only one not dominated by the stuffers.

That's where I'm going this year. I know I can't compete with the stuffers, at least not in the top 100 outside of a Bookbub. I won't use grey hat techniques to get there. So, I'm done with worrying about the stuffers and KU scammers. Amazon clearly isn't policing its own program so there's nothing I can do except rage against the machine, and that's not good for my blood pressure.

So, I'm through with even worrying about the scammers. They'll continue to line their pockets using the slimy techniques they have developed and I'll be over in my little corner of the romance publishing world trying to write as much from my heart as my mind and my conscience. I won't make as much money or be able to claim that little orange flag, but I'm still doing well by my own measure.

That's good enough for me because I prefer not to feel ethically slimy. I know I would if I did use scammer tactics. I don't want my place in the pile to be achieved through ill-gotten gains...

This, right here. A million times.

Do these scammers affect me? Yes, I'm in KU. But, to what degree? Less than half my income is from KU. In a perfect world every book in KU would be just that. A book that was once for sale and put into a borrowing system. No scammers, no stuffers, and nobody taking advantage of an imperfect system. If this happened overnight, the payout would increase by just a few percentage points, as the vast majority of authors in KU are that, authors. So, I'd guess it affects my bottom line by about half of those few percentage points.

If it were just the money, well, it's not really that big a deal to me. I donate five figures a year and this wouldn't be close to that. I've been blessed and got lucky, and I don't have to worry about money. So, if it's not the money for me, what is it?

I'll tell you what it is, and Sela hit on it in her first paragraph. I. Don't. Like. Thieves.
To me, it matters not one bit if you're a second-story man, bypassing a sophisticated security system, and rappelling into a diamond store or someone who sticks a candy bar in their pocket at the corner convenience store. The level of theft is inconsequential. You're a thief.

I'm not pointing a finger at any one person, just all thieves in general. For someone to take something from another person who worked hard to get it, is just downright low. Just because you don't get caught and there isn't any law enforcement to put you in jail, doesn't lessen the fact that you're low-life scum. If the shoe fits, sue me.

Can any of you lawyer types tell me why stuffing to get a bigger, unearned piece of the communal pie, thereby stealing from those who earned it, isn't a violation of some law? Why can't these t*rd fondlers simply be arrested and charged with a crime?

Each of us make moral and ethical decisions all day, every day. We each know where that line is. Me? I like it just fine over here on this side. Anyone else is free to dance near, or across that line if they choose. Just don't blame anyone else when the hammer falls. And don't look at me for help, I'll be getting as far away from you as possible. We all know the Amazon hammer has a really wide head.

For any of you new members who don't know who I am; I'm just a storyteller who got lucky and now earns half a million dollars a year, just by telling a story. Nothing else. I'm not even a very good writer. But, I don't cheat. And you don't have to either.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 05, 2018, 10:24:45 AM
Exclusive content means exclusive to KU not exclusive to the individual book.

When Amazon has made it clear that they only want to pay out on one read-through per reader, exclusive does basically mean exclusive to the book.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 05, 2018, 10:28:09 AM
Honest question: if you're inflating your book's page count as a means of extracting more page read money from the KU pot than you are due, is that not theft? Or is there some ambiguity here that I'm not seeing? Is the gray area based around what folks are inflating their page counts with?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 05, 2018, 10:29:31 AM
As for the mass gifting, they're doing it a different way (at least the most predominant way I've seen). They're setting up private Facebook groups and getting a couple thousand people in them and then they pay these people extra to buy the book. So, for example, one I saw was handing out $5 Amazon gift cards to people in these groups as long as receipts were shown for a .99 purchase for that particular book. No shown receipt, you're kicked out of the group and not considered for future purchase circles. Ridiculous? You bet. People want the rank because it pays for itself with other people buying the book because of the increased visibility. So, they lose money on the gift cards (which are often purchased by a third person, usually a VA) but they make up for it on sales visibility.

Also, that reading snafu about the furthest page read has been fixed on most ereaders but it's still a problem with the online reader and it's still being used for scamming purposes. I believe Amazon is working on something to handle the online reader, but it's not quite there yet.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dragovian on January 05, 2018, 10:33:50 AM
When Amazon has made it clear that they only want to pay out on one read-through per reader, exclusive does basically mean exclusive to the book.
How does this effect boxed sets, then? Because last I heard (and even the video agrees), single-author boxed sets are fine.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MaryMcDonald on January 05, 2018, 10:39:22 AM
You know what bugs me? Way back in 2012--before KU-- I published a novella that was a prequel to my then three book series. It was about 45k long, so not super short, but only half as long as the 90k books in the series. I felt guilty for such a short book (that I'd only written because some readers asked for it) and added some bonus scenes at the end. Some were flash fiction stories with the same character as the series, some were cut scenes. It added up to just under 5k worth of material. I did it out of wanting to give readers more, not as a way of cheating them, but I was raked over the coals by a reader in the UK about a year after publishing the book. She felt cheated because the story stopped at 80% (there was also the usual back matter, author note and what have you). I was dumbfounded, but since nobody had ever mentioned the bonus material in reviews, as in, liking it,  I just took it all out.  So how is it that readers aren't even angrier that the book they purchased ends around 15% in?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 05, 2018, 10:40:17 AM
How does this effect boxed sets, then? Because last I heard (and even the video agrees), single-author boxed sets are fine.

Because "exclusive' means to KU and not to the individual book. And, anybody who doesn't believe me, can write KDP and ask them for themselves. You can escalate your question to a supervisor if you don't get a straight answer  from a regular rep.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 10:40:43 AM
Also, that reading snafu about the furthest page read has been fixed on most ereaders but it's still a problem with the online reader and it's still being used for scamming purposes. I believe Amazon is working on something to handle the online reader, but it's not quite there yet.
Then I don't see what possible purpose the stuffing could serve, unless they are using click farms of KU subscribers to generate multiple payouts for the same content. There has to be some reason for doing it, and I can't come up with a single legitimate reason for putting up content that way.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 05, 2018, 10:42:11 AM
Also, that reading snafu about the furthest page read has been fixed on most ereaders but it's still a problem with the online reader and it's still being used for scamming purposes. I believe Amazon is working on something to handle the online reader, but it's not quite there yet.

So, in your opinion, do you think a lot of this stuffing issue will go away as Amazon's algorithms/tech improve?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Phxsundog on January 05, 2018, 10:48:51 AM
Bobfrost, I strongly disagree about brushing off the stolen images. The mastermind group or their marketing company were using ads from celebrities and Instagram models who sometimes have millions of followers. They ripped off videos from name brand fashion companies. Whoever ran the ads for them knew this was being treated like an endorsement of their books by public figures and billion dollar companies. That's wrong and illegal.

It brings up another question: if they're this sloppy with their outsourcing or deliberately underhanded, what other tricks are they doing that are not just shady, but illegal? I know at least two instances where a Top 100 book factory name stole content from bestselling brands, changed it slightly and published it. Amazon has taken down a handful of their books in the past. Possibly that's due to plagiarism. The authors who were victims recently are investigating and considering their legal options. There's a good chance this is happening more than anyone thinks because this group is consciously willing to break every rule, including laws. Or else they're so sloppy they don't bother checking their own ghostwriters for plagiarism or their ad services for stolen intellectual property.

There's another issue in all this, whether anyone thinks their main strategy is legitimate or not. This mastermind group is reshaping the entire KU market and slowly driving solo romance authors out of business. They automate, outsource, and spend on a scale no one has ever seen among KU marketers. Many of the mastermind owners are increasingly removed from day-to-day operations. Their goal is to build smoothly running self-sustaining machines. They're not authors but internet marketers.

There's never been a situation like this where a small number of people are gaining so much power from publishing ghostwritten books in high volume with little regard for product quality beyond their covers. You can say that's just the way the cookie crumbles and that's a fair opinion. They came up with a better business model, so maybe they deserve to drive everyone else under, multiply pen names, and take every bonus and most of the page reads for themselves.

That's a fair point of view, even if I disagree myself.

However, the implications of that happening deserve to be discussed. This isn't conspiracy. It's actually happening. It's something that will affect every single author in KU and the Amazon ecosystem if it continues. This is a new development in KU and the deeper romance market, where one group of a couple dozen publishers is closer than anyone has ever come to gaining monopoly power. It's only a matter of time before this group or someone like them does it in other categories, too, because KU is so susceptible to this business model.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jan Hurst-Nicholson on January 05, 2018, 10:51:48 AM
You know what bugs me? Way back in 2012--before KU-- I published a novella that was a prequel to my then three book series. It was about 45k long, so not super short, but only half as long as the 90k books in the series. I felt guilty for such a short book (that I'd only written because some readers asked for it) and added some bonus scenes at the end. Some were flash fiction stories with the same character as the series, some were cut scenes. It added up to just under 5k worth of material. I did it out of wanting to give readers more, not as a way of cheating them, but I was raked over the coals by a reader in the UK about a year after publishing the book. She felt cheated because the story stopped at 80% (there was also the usual back matter, author note and what have you). I was dumbfounded, but since nobody had ever mentioned the bonus material in reviews, as in, liking it,  I just took it all out.  So how is it that readers aren't even angrier that the book they purchased ends around 15% in?

Probably because they BOUGHT the book and felt cheated. With KU the thinking is the book is 'free' so they don't feel cheated.

I complained about a Maeve Binchy paperback that was actually a collection of short stories, but that wasn't made clear. There were many reviews complaining about the same thing so the publisher updated the blurb to reflect that it was short stories (but nothing you can do about the already printed versions)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 05, 2018, 10:52:41 AM
Honest question: if you're inflating your book's page count as a means of extracting more page read money from the KU pot than you are due, is that not theft? Or is there some ambiguity here that I'm not seeing? Is the gray area based around what folks are inflating their page counts with?

I think think the ambiguity is based on a couple of things. 1) whether there's an incentive to click past all the bonus content to get to the back of the book. If there's not, that lends credence to the idea that the author is including the pages in the hopes that the reader will actually read them. Which leads to 2) if the bonus content is included in several books, does that mean the author is getting paid multiple times for the same content, if the reader decides to read the book once, and then again when they're going through the content? Or when they're skipping through the content, looking for something they haven't read yet? And then there's also 3) the definition of 'bonus' content. If someone stuffs five novel-length books into the back of a novella they sold for $0.99, it seems reasonable to assume they're not doing that out of the goodness of their hearts. But if someone puts three chapters of the next novel in their series in the back of the book as a teaser to get people excited about their next release, that's a legitimate practice. Both are bonus content, and it's possible that in both those cases the author will get paid for the bonus content, but the intention behind the act is likely very different.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 05, 2018, 10:55:03 AM
Then I don't see what possible purpose the stuffing could serve, unless they are using click farms of KU subscribers to generate multiple payouts for the same content. There has to be some reason for doing it, and I can't come up with a single legitimate reason for putting up content that way.
I think a lot of them are using click farms. I think the online reader is benefitting certain groups and when that's no longer an issue that will make the situation better. I've watched a handful of stuffers who I think are actually legitimate authors who decided to stuff to increase their bottom line simply because everyone else was doing it. I won't name names (obviously), but one of the bigger name authors who was stuffing seems to have completely stopped. The other is down to only stuffing one extra book in the back of the books instead of the ten that were shoved in there before. I do think Amazon is going after the click farms (which is where the rank stripping comes in) but I don't think they've perfected their system. In an ideal world, stuffing wouldn't matter. The situation is certainly better than it was a few months ago. It's not quite fixed yet. If I had to guess, I think the stuffing has probably cost me a good six figures over the last year and a half. I'm in the unique position where I can survive that, though, absorb it and move on. It's those making less in KU who are really getting hurt. I think, as someone else mentioned above, that once it becomes too difficult to scam KU, a lot of these people will move on to the next online moneymaking scheme. The thing is, KU isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. I certainly don't think it will be the same in five years, but it's not going anywhere now so people have to decide what will work best for them and build a brand that will stay as evergreen as possible. The mega stuffers aren't doing that, which means they don't plan on being here in five years. They will suck every ounce of money they can out of this and then move on to the next big thing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 05, 2018, 10:57:23 AM
Because "exclusive' means to KU and not to the individual book. And, anybody who doesn't believe me, can write KDP and ask them for themselves. You can escalate your question to a supervisor if you don't get a straight answer  from a regular rep.

The use of 'exclusive' in the TOS is in reference to KU, and not to the book. But Amazon's actions have made it clear they don't want to pay out for more than one read-through per reader. If they didn't care about paying out multiple times, they wouldn't have put a stop to all those multi-author box sets that contained content that was published in Select in other places.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jim Johnson on January 05, 2018, 11:03:22 AM
And this is exactly why KU long-term is doomed. Because you WANT to build your store on the backs of ethical, honest authors. You want to build your AMS platform on those same people. You want REAL authors, not marketing folks and scammers who have simply chosen writing as their niche to apply their true skill (marketing or scamming).

Who's the 'you' in all this? Amazon is here to make money. I don't think they're too worried about building a store on ethical or honest authors. If they were, they'd have much more stringent policies in place and the means to enforce them consistently. Maybe you're talking about an ideal situation (which I doubt can exist anywhere).

I don't think KU is going anywhere. It's heaven for hungry readers, and there's a never-ending supply of books.

But amazon has clearly done nothing to value or support the honest authors and everything to support (ie. turn a blind eye) to the worst of the worst.

Depends on how you look at it, really. There are honest authors using KU and not stuffing books, using clickfarms, or whatever other tactic. Amazon enables me to publish books to a global audience quickly and easily. That service is a huge support and boon compared to the tradpub days I worked through.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 05, 2018, 11:04:08 AM
The use of 'exclusive' in the TOS is in reference to KU, and not to the book. But Amazon's actions have made it clear they don't want to pay out for more than one read-through per reader. If they didn't care about paying out multiple times, they wouldn't have put a stop to all those multi-author box sets that contained content that was published in Select in other places.

What about regular box sets? Those are most certainly allowed and contain duplicate content.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 11:09:49 AM
And yet, here you are in thread after thread persistently claiming that stuffing is permitted, when we have it clearly in writing that it is not.

A reminder, this was the clear example I gave to ECR:

And this was the very clear response:

And yet you aren't convinced for some reason. How curious.

No, I have agreed several times that your specific example is not allowed. But that is not how authors are putting out bonus content.

This has been a huge discussion on the romance community for over a year now. Maybe some people here are late to the party, but it's old news in romance. For a long time, I lead the charge against bonus books. But after a year of gnashing my teeth and watching Amazon do nothing, I realized bonus books would continue until Amazon changed their policies.

I've also said many times that a rep at RT told me that bonus content is allowed. Of course, I do not have that in writing as it was a conversation. I asked a more involved question about book stuffing and her final response was "Yes, bonus content is allowed." There was a lot of hesitation, but she did answer.

Oh but I would ABSOLUTELY love to interview a stuffer for my podcast -- anonymously is fine. All I would need was a screen cap of a Book Report page with identifying content blanked out so I know they are bonafide.

I would love to discuss the ethical questions around tactics and learn how a stuffer thinks about this business and how beneficial these tactics are. I would love to get their take on things, because frankly, I am a bit in awe of their ability to use these techniques with a clear conscience.

Not that I expect I'll get any takers, because let's face it -- if they really are using grey / black hat techniques, they don't want to admit it.

I don't consider myself a "stuffer," as I've only done it once, and that was after a year of decrying it as the worst thing to ever exist, but I'm happy to discuss it on your podcast.

I got tired of seeing other people make more money more easily, and I felt that it put me at a disadvantage. I was writing bad boy adjacent books and pricing at 3.99 and I could actually sell at 3.99. In my mind, if there were no bonus books, my .99 competition would be struggling to break even on their ads, so my price point would be more competitive (I might be skipping a few steps in that description). I was, still am, very concerned about the long term value of my brand and of giving readers what they want, so I surveyed my readers. And they were overwhelmingly in favor of bonus books. So I tried it (on a book I was already planning on releasing at .99), and it worked very well. I can see why authors--including a huge amount of legitimate romance authors (I won't list names for obvious reasons), probably most who price at .99--do it.

I don't have other super-successful .99 releases to compare it to, though I have previously released box sets at .99. Those never did all that well. Box sets are a hard sell. I agonized over the decision to use bonus content, but I inevitably decided to do it because I wanted more eyes on my backlist series. It was a decision primarily motivated by sellthrough and it worked very well in that regard. I still hate that bonus books exist and wish Amazon would ban them, but as long as they're allowed, I'm going to make them a part of my strategy.

I am in this for love, but money is the easiest way to measure how many readers I'm getting. More money = more readers.

I stand by all of my decisions. I made them after coming to terms with the fact that bonus books are allowed.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 11:17:25 AM
I think a lot of them are using click farms. I think the online reader is benefitting certain groups and when that's no longer an issue that will make the situation better. I've watched a handful of stuffers who I think are actually legitimate authors who decided to stuff to increase their bottom line simply because everyone else was doing it. I won't name names (obviously), but one of the bigger name authors who was stuffing seems to have completely stopped. The other is down to only stuffing one extra book in the back of the books instead of the ten that were shoved in there before. I do think Amazon is going after the click farms (which is where the rank stripping comes in) but I don't think they've perfected their system. In an ideal world, stuffing wouldn't matter. The situation is certainly better than it was a few months ago. It's not quite fixed yet. If I had to guess, I think the stuffing has probably cost me a good six figures over the last year and a half. I'm in the unique position where I can survive that, though, absorb it and move on. It's those making less in KU who are really getting hurt. I think, as someone else mentioned above, that once it becomes too difficult to scam KU, a lot of these people will move on to the next online moneymaking scheme. The thing is, KU isn't going anywhere for the foreseeable future. I certainly don't think it will be the same in five years, but it's not going anywhere now so people have to decide what will work best for them and build a brand that will stay as evergreen as possible. The mega stuffers aren't doing that, which means they don't plan on being here in five years. They will suck every ounce of money they can out of this and then move on to the next big thing.

That's a pretty bold and damaging claim.

There is no evidence that the authors behind these mass market books are engaging with click farms to earn money on "stuffed" titles. If there is evidence of this, please, by all means share it because I'd happily rail against anyone using a click farm.

As a top 100 author who has frequently placed books into the top 100 through massive marketing campaigns, and earned money off those books as a result of natural sales and KU borrows that come when you have a spot high on the charts (thanks to its immense visibility), I can say that there is absolutely no reason to engage with click farms in that situation. You can make plenty of income completely legitimately. Why would you risk your entire account and potential legal action, along with months of unpaid royalties, to use a click farm?

I'm not saying there aren't authors who have used click farms to rack up some income (and I'm sure there are people who have gotten away with this for awhile), but obviously that's illicit and Amazon can, has, and will continue to crack down heavily on people who are caught doing it. It's a bit disingenuous to try and link people with bonus content with people who are willing to use click farms full of fake KU subscribers robo-flipping through books.

That's not the kinds of authors we're talking about in this thread. We've got a group of people who have developed a marketing strategy that can place their books on the top 100 in a way that is reliable. They have a big arc list, huge mailing lists, and a lot of cash to spend on ads. If bonus books were banned tomorrow by Amazon, they could launch titles into the top 100 (profitably) without any bonus content at all. It might make things a LITTLE harder. My guess is they'd just move from 50,000 word romance novels into 100,000 word romance novels, which isn't that big of a deal, especially if we're talking about ghostwritten content. These people don't need to engage with botnets of page-flippers in order to make their money and dominate the chart, and to conflate them with people who engage in these kinds of illicit acts, especially without evidence of such, seems dangerous and wrong.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Mercia McMahon on January 05, 2018, 11:20:26 AM
Also, that reading snafu about the furthest page read has been fixed on most ereaders but it's still a problem with the online reader and it's still being used for scamming purposes. I believe Amazon is working on something to handle the online reader, but it's not quite there yet.

Many London commuters are (like me) reading on a Kindle Wi-Fi, which is a non-touchscreen e-Ink not updated since before Page Flip. As readers we operate on a policy if if it ain't broke don't replace it and Amazon operates on a policy of don't update it in case you break it. The current version update 4.1.3 was the one that threatened no more more cloud access if you did not update and since then there has been zilch, although the model remains popular due to its size and lack of a touchscreen. I had to update to 4.1.3 by March 2016. Page Flip was released in June 2016 ans so  neither it nor furtherest page read changes are present on this still popular 2013 Kindle, primarily because it was the one being pushed in Waterstones, the major British bookstore chain briefly sold Kindles in-store..
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 11:33:22 AM
Honest question: if you're inflating your book's page count as a means of extracting more page read money from the KU pot than you are due, is that not theft? Or is there some ambiguity here that I'm not seeing? Is the gray area based around what folks are inflating their page counts with?

It's not theft.

You have a book. You decide to add a bonus book to the book. Amazon says you can do this in their ToS. Bonus content is specifically allowed so long as you're not pumping out tons of undifferentiated content. Functionally, you're not publishing something that's any different than a box set (which is also allowed).

So now you've got a book that is effectively two-in-one. Your 250 page book, is now a 500 page book because there's two books in there!

A reader borrows that book in KU. They read the first 250 pages and finish book #1. You have been paid on 250 pages.

The reader sees that there's a bonus book in there. They loved your first book. They're happy and enjoying your work and they're still excited about the way you ended your title. You've got a little blurb in there saying hey, don't stop now, I've included one of my bestselling novels just for you. Turn the page and read BESTSELLING ROMANCE #2!

The reader decides to keep reading, and reads through book #2. Now you get paid 500 pages.

If the reader stops at any time, you get paid for what the reader read. If they stop on page 462, you got 462 pages read.

None of this has been illegitimate. The reader read pages, and the author got paid per page read.

This is KU, so the reader could borrow as many books as they want. They could borrow and read your whole catalog. Functionally, reading 2 books inside one ebook is no different (payout-wise) than the same reader going and borrowing 2 separate books in your catalog and reading them one at a time.

This isn't being done to game the system through the use of some kind of bug. It's not being done to steal form the KU pot. People are putting bonus books inside their published works because it has been well proven through experimentation that a reader is more likely to keep reading if you give them the option to do so, than they are to go all the way back to amazon, pull up your personal author page, find another book, borrow it, and read it. Bonus books keep the reader inside your book, paying you pages. It's not stealing, it's an effective strategy to keep a reader engaged!

You could argue that it shouldn't be allowed, and I would actually agree with you. I'd love to see one-book-per-KU TITLE, if only because this would ensure readers are more likely to be back browsing the store, and that pool of readers is more likely to find new books and new authors and new things to read as a result. The churn of those readers would be, imho, good for everyone!

But lets not conflate that with an "ethical" issue. If someone wanted to put ten bonus books inside their KU title, it would be silly and probably counterproductive, but it wouldn't be "theft" if someone decided to read all ten and the author got paid for 3,000 pages read as a result.

In the past, this was different. When every single e-reader was causing every single page inside a book to pay out if someone peeked at the very last page in the book (without reading anything in between), you could ABSOLUTELY argue that there were authors using bonus books in a way that inflated their income artificially through the abuse of a known "feature". That said, I'd have pointed at Amazon and said that it was their job to fix that problem, which is ultimately exactly what they did!

They fixed that "feature".

Nowadays, to my knowledge, the only way this still happens is if someone is reading in the kindle cloud reader, and I haven't tested that in awhile so it might actually no longer be the case (feel free to test it). I highly doubt that the kindle cloud reader potentially still possessing this "feature" results in any meaningful amount of pages being paid out in this way. All the other e-readers that I know of (and the kindle app) no longer function in this way. You get paid for the pages people read. If the bug does still exist in the cloud reader (someone should confirm that), and you want to rail on Amazon and demand that they fix the cloud reader so it can accurately determine the amount of pages a reader is actually reading (which is important when we're being PAID based on how many pages are being read), I'd 100% support you in that endeavor. If I'm being paid per-page-read, I want the recording of those pages to be ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE!

Long story short, lets not call someone a thief because they've decided to give their readers an extra book inside their mobi file.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 05, 2018, 11:34:20 AM
That's a pretty bold and damaging claim.

There is no evidence that the authors behind these mass market books are engaging with click farms to earn money on "stuffed" titles. If there is evidence of this, please, by all means share it because I'd happily rail against anyone using a click farm.

As a top 100 author who has frequently placed books into the top 100 through massive marketing campaigns, and earned money off those books as a result of natural sales and KU borrows that come when you have a spot high on the charts (thanks to its immense visibility), I can say that there is absolutely no reason to engage with click farms in that situation. You can make plenty of income completely legitimately. Why would you risk your entire account and potential legal action, along with months of unpaid royalties, to use a click farm?

I'm not saying there aren't authors who have used click farms to rack up some income (and I'm sure there are people who have gotten away with this for awhile), but obviously that's illicit and Amazon can, has, and will continue to crack down heavily on people who are caught doing it. It's a bit disingenuous to try and link people with bonus content with people who are willing to use click farms full of fake KU subscribers robo-flipping through books.

That's not the kinds of authors we're talking about in this thread. We've got a group of people who have developed a marketing strategy that can place their books on the top 100 in a way that is reliable. They have a big arc list, huge mailing lists, and a lot of cash to spend on ads. If bonus books were banned tomorrow by Amazon, they could launch titles into the top 100 (profitably) without any bonus content at all. It might make things a LITTLE harder. My guess is they'd just move from 50,000 word romance novels into 100,000 word romance novels, which isn't that big of a deal, especially if we're talking about ghostwritten content. These people don't need to engage with botnets of page-flippers in order to make their money and dominate the chart, and to conflate them with people who engage in these kinds of illicit acts, especially without evidence of such, seems dangerous and wrong.
I'm a top 100 author, too. Awesome, right? I said that I think a lot of them are using click farms because otherwise it makes no sense to stuff. I don't see how that's damaging and reckless. I watch a lot of lists. I also "see" a lot of the stuff that's going on behind closed doors because a lot of people are pretty open about what they're doing. I already said I'm not naming names but there are huge groups of people out there being open about some of the stuff they're doing. All you have to do is look around.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 11:43:02 AM
Bobfrost, I strongly disagree about brushing off the stolen images. The mastermind group or their marketing company were using ads from celebrities and Instagram models who sometimes have millions of followers. They ripped off videos from name brand fashion companies. Whoever ran the ads for them knew this was being treated like an endorsement of their books by public figures and billion dollar companies. That's wrong and illegal.

I didn't brush it off. I agree. It's wrong. It's potentially illegal. I say "potentially" because it's absolutely possible to infringe upon a copyright in an unknowing way, and therefor not be guilty of criminal copyright infringement. If they were paying someone to do those ads, and that person used infringing photos without their consent or knowledge, it's completely possible that the author themselves are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Which again, doesn't make it OK. As soon as they discovered this had happened, it would be on them to immediately remove the infringing ads and to take steps not to let it happen again!

This obviously shouldn't have happened, and I am 100% in support of the people they infringed upon going after them (or if they were using an ad company, for those infringed individuals to go after said ad company) if they choose to do so.

I'm also sensible enough to know that mistakes happen, and that these authors may not have been intentionally attempting to infringe. Given the fact that it's easy (and cheap) to use one of the approximately 11-billion-pictures of dudes with their chest out from any one of the dozens of legitimate stock image sites, and that those ads wouldn't have been meaningfully changed in content or character or CPC by using a legally obtained photo, I tend to lean toward the "this wasn't done on purpose" line of thinking.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 05, 2018, 11:43:35 AM
I think think the ambiguity is based on a couple of things. 1) whether there's an incentive to click past all the bonus content to get to the back of the book. If there's not, that lends credence to the idea that the author is including the pages in the hopes that the reader will actually read them. Which leads to 2) if the bonus content is included in several books, does that mean the author is getting paid multiple times for the same content, if the reader decides to read the book once, and then again when they're going through the content? Or when they're skipping through the content, looking for something they haven't read yet? And then there's also 3) the definition of 'bonus' content. If someone stuffs five novel-length books into the back of a novella they sold for $0.99, it seems reasonable to assume they're not doing that out of the goodness of their hearts. But if someone puts three chapters of the next novel in their series in the back of the book as a teaser to get people excited about their next release, that's a legitimate practice. Both are bonus content, and it's possible that in both those cases the author will get paid for the bonus content, but the intention behind the act is likely very different.

Whew, well, that seems pretty messy indeed...trying to determine intent, I mean. I guess the fix to the whole issue is better algorithms, since I doubt KU is ever going away? Which is not to say KU should go away, I'm sure there are many authors making good money from the program who do not engage in nefarious practices. I guess Amazon just needs to keep making improvements. That's probably an understatement.  :)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 11:46:34 AM
Bobfrost, I strongly disagree about brushing off the stolen images. The mastermind group or their marketing company were using ads from celebrities and Instagram models who sometimes have millions of followers. They ripped off videos from name brand fashion companies. Whoever ran the ads for them knew this was being treated like an endorsement of their books by public figures and billion dollar companies. That's wrong and illegal.

It brings up another question: if they're this sloppy with their outsourcing or deliberately underhanded, what other tricks are they doing that are not just shady, but illegal? I know at least two instances where a Top 100 book factory name stole content from bestselling brands, changed it slightly and published it. Amazon has taken down a handful of their books in the past. Possibly that's due to plagiarism. The authors who were victims recently are investigating and considering their legal options. There's a good chance this is happening more than anyone thinks because this group is consciously willing to break every rule, including laws. Or else they're so sloppy they don't bother checking their own ghostwriters for plagiarism or their ad services for stolen intellectual property.

There's another issue in all this, whether anyone thinks their main strategy is legitimate or not. This mastermind group is reshaping the entire KU market and slowly driving solo romance authors out of business. They automate, outsource, and spend on a scale no one has ever seen among KU marketers. Many of the mastermind owners are increasingly removed from day-to-day operations. Their goal is to build smoothly running self-sustaining machines. They're not authors but internet marketers.

There's never been a situation like this where a small number of people are gaining so much power from publishing ghostwritten books in high volume with little regard for product quality beyond their covers. You can say that's just the way the cookie crumbles and that's a fair opinion. They came up with a better business model, so maybe they deserve to drive everyone else under, multiply pen names, and take every bonus and most of the page reads for themselves.

That's a fair point of view, even if I disagree myself.

However, the implications of that happening deserve to be discussed. This isn't conspiracy. It's actually happening. It's something that will affect every single author in KU and the Amazon ecosystem if it continues. This is a new development in KU and the deeper romance market, where one group of a couple dozen publishers is closer than anyone has ever come to gaining monopoly power. It's only a matter of time before this group or someone like them does it in other categories, too, because KU is so susceptible to this business model.

Thank you for bringing up the potential larger issues involved in this. It really is changing the landscape when a multiple-NYTs bestseller that tops the Amazon Charts can't stick in the top 100 because stuffer trend books are (potentially) botted and scammed to the top of the charts.

It is a business model. It certainly isn't about art or craft.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 11:49:19 AM
I'm a top 100 author, too. Awesome, right? I said that I think a lot of them are using click farms because otherwise it makes no sense to stuff. I don't see how that's damaging and reckless. I watch a lot of lists. I also "see" a lot of the stuff that's going on behind closed doors because a lot of people are pretty open about what they're doing. I already said I'm not naming names but there are huge groups of people out there being open about some of the stuff they're doing. All you have to do is look around.

It's potentially damaging because even in this very thread there are specific books and specific authors being called out by name (including a video that shows several of these books and covers as they demonstrate the bonus content within).

Equating people using a bonus book with people using click farms could potentially damage them as an author or a brand, or encourage the kind of witch hunting and review-sniping that we've already seen happen to authors on numerous occasions when accusations like this come to light.

In other words, you're not naming names, but other people most certainly are, and since we're discussing those specific authors and groups of authors, it feels a little reckless to accuse them of a potential crime without evidence of such.

Anyway, I get what you're saying in regards to "why would they do this if not for click farming?", but I've also tried to explain the reasons behind this. You can test it for yourself if you felt like putting a bonus book inside a few of your titles. You'll see that, over time, a book with bonus content tends to earn a bit more money than a book without bonus content. It does so because (imho) having another book to read inside the title you've already got open reduces friction and allows the reader to continue paying you per-page-read (rather than sending that same reader back to the Amazon store where they might never look at any of your books ever again).

This is more relevant to single releases than it is for series though, so it might not be applicable to a catalogue like yours. With single releases, there isn't a huge incentive for a reader to go back to amazon and find the next book from the author in question. You just finished a stand alone title, you've got your happy ever after, and you go looking for another book that strikes your fancy! With a series, as you know, things are different. You finish a title and you want to read book #2, or #3, or #15. Your readers carry over from book to book, and you don't need bonus content to make that happen.

With single releases, having a second book inside your title gives a reader a reason to keep reading your work. They liked your work, and hey, here's another book I can just keep on reading without even having to fuss with the Kindle store. Yay!

There are readers out there who will do that again and again, reading through 2-5 bonus books inside your single title and therefor paying you out as if they kept going back and picking up new books in your catalog. The reduction of friction allows an author who is focusing on single-releases to earn more than they otherwise would, purely based on increased reader engagement with their content.

Get what I mean?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Phxsundog on January 05, 2018, 11:49:56 AM
Amanda's claim is more than fair. We're talking about a group that was caught with proof using stolen pictures to promote their books in ads. Even when they were publicly shamed over it, the ads kept running for weeks. I saw it with my own eyes on Facebook. People continued to catch them running stolen ads and posted proof. Again, for weeks. I heard from the other side they knew they had a problem right away and ignored it until it snowballed. They hoped it would just go away. They didn't care that their ads manager was using stolen content until it became a PR firestorm. That's illegal and wrong however you cut it. They blew what little ethical integrity might have given them the benefit of the doubt before.

I'm done giving them credit or assuming they didn't mean any harm. You can pass the buck to a third party ads manager, claiming they didn't order deliberate theft, but it doesn't change the fact they knew it was happening and persisted for weeks.

I don't know if what Amanda said is true but it isn't unreasonable to assume lots of other dirty tricks are ongoing, including clickfarms. I know for a fact some of them were click farming in the summer before the rank stripping happened. Don't know if it's happening now but I wouldn't put it past them after seeing them break the law and knowingly continue as long as they could.

Obviously any crime should be proven. Still the copyright theft is beyond the pale and I don't feel they deserve the benefit of the doubt anymore.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MyraScott on January 05, 2018, 11:52:14 AM
Long story short,
I think it's way too late for that.

lets not call someone a thief because they've decided to give their readers an extra book inside their mobi file.

No one is calling anyone a thief who has decided to give their readers an extra book.  Good for them! 

The problem is when that extra book:

You are really using some strong language to defend book stuffing, and seem determined to make straw man arguments about what is and isn't being discussed. Maybe you feel guilty, maybe you don't but one doth protest a bit too much...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 05, 2018, 11:57:47 AM
It's not theft.

You have a book. You decide to add a bonus book to the book. Amazon says you can do this in their ToS. Bonus content is specifically allowed so long as you're not pumping out tons of undifferentiated content. Functionally, you're not publishing something that's any different than a box set (which is also allowed).

So now you've got a book that is effectively two-in-one. Your 250 page book, is now a 500 page book because there's two books in there!

A reader borrows that book in KU. They read the first 250 pages and finish book #1. You have been paid on 250 pages.

The reader sees that there's a bonus book in there. They loved your first book. They're happy and enjoying your work and they're still excited about the way you ended your title. You've got a little blurb in there saying hey, don't stop now, I've included one of my bestselling novels just for you. Turn the page and read BESTSELLING ROMANCE #2!

The reader decides to keep reading, and reads through book #2. Now you get paid 500 pages.

If the reader stops at any time, you get paid for what the reader read. If they stop on page 462, you got 462 pages read.

None of this has been illegitimate. The reader read pages, and the author got paid per page read.

This is KU, so the reader could borrow as many books as they want. They could borrow and read your whole catalog. Functionally, reading 2 books inside one ebook is no different (payout-wise) than the same reader going and borrowing 2 separate books in your catalog and reading them one at a time.

This isn't being done to game the system through the use of some kind of bug. It's not being done to steal form the KU pot. People are putting bonus books inside their published works because it has been well proven through experimentation that a reader is more likely to keep reading if you give them the option to do so, than they are to go all the way back to amazon, pull up your personal author page, find another book, borrow it, and read it. Bonus books keep the reader inside your book, paying you pages. It's not stealing, it's an effective strategy to keep a reader engaged!

You could argue that it shouldn't be allowed, and I would actually agree with you. I'd love to see one-book-per-KU TITLE, if only because this would ensure readers are more likely to be back browsing the store, and that pool of readers is more likely to find new books and new authors and new things to read as a result. The churn of those readers would be, imho, good for everyone!

But lets not conflate that with an "ethical" issue. If someone wanted to put ten bonus books inside their KU title, it would be silly and probably counterproductive, but it wouldn't be "theft" if someone decided to read all ten and the author got paid for 3,000 pages read as a result.

In the past, this was different. When every single e-reader was causing every single page inside a book to pay out if someone peeked at the very last page in the book (without reading anything in between), you could ABSOLUTELY argue that there were authors using bonus books in a way that inflated their income artificially through the abuse of a known "feature". That said, I'd have pointed at Amazon and said that it was their job to fix that problem, which is ultimately exactly what they did!

They fixed that "feature".

Nowadays, to my knowledge, the only way this still happens is if someone is reading in the kindle cloud reader, and I haven't tested that in awhile so it might actually no longer be the case (feel free to test it). I highly doubt that the kindle cloud reader potentially still possessing this "feature" results in any meaningful amount of pages being paid out in this way. All the other e-readers that I know of (and the kindle app) no longer function in this way. You get paid for the pages people read. If the bug does still exist in the cloud reader (someone should confirm that), and you want to rail on Amazon and demand that they fix the cloud reader so it can accurately determine the amount of pages a reader is actually reading (which is important when we're being PAID based on how many pages are being read), I'd 100% support you in that endeavor. If I'm being paid per-page-read, I want the recording of those pages to be ABSOLUTELY ACCURATE!

Long story short, lets not call someone a thief because they've decided to give their readers an extra book inside their mobi file.

I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thinking on it. So, I guess the issue lies in what the bonus material consists of? For instance, if someone's bonus book is getting them paid for extra page reads under a different title, while also getting them paid for page reads under its own title, that's a problem, correct, because that would mean they're doubling (tripling, quadrupling, etc) up? That's a problem, no? Or is there ambiguity to that practice as well that I'm unaware of? No snark, honestly asking.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 05, 2018, 11:58:44 AM
I honestly am not pointing at anyone specific. I'm simply pointing out what some people are doing in certain groups and not naming names. How do I know? They're not even hiding it. Go look around. A lot of people brag about it. I most certainly have not pointed to anyone in this thread. I simply explained about the scams I've seen going. I didn't say which groups were doing them (and it has spread far and wide past romance, although they're still the hardest hit). I did not equate bonus books with anything. In fact, my issue is with stuffing. Where did I even mention a single bonus book? Stuffing and bonus books are different. Stuffing is insidious and we're all going to suffer for it. As for using bonus books, I'll pass. That's not part of my marketing strategy. As far as stuffing goes, never. One of the most important things in my business is integrity. At the end of the day, that's one of the few things you can always take with you. With more than 100 full novels, though, I could do a lot of damage to the KU pot if I wanted to start stuffing. What if 100 people with expansive catalogs and big followings did the same thing? I don't stuff because I don't want to steal from others. I just want to write and publish. I wish everyone felt the same way.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 05, 2018, 12:01:18 PM
There's another issue in all this, whether anyone thinks their main strategy is legitimate or not. This mastermind group is reshaping the entire KU market and slowly driving solo romance authors out of business. They automate, outsource, and spend on a scale no one has ever seen among KU marketers. Many of the mastermind owners are increasingly removed from day-to-day operations. Their goal is to build smoothly running self-sustaining machines. They're not authors but internet marketers.

There's never been a situation like this where a small number of people are gaining so much power from publishing ghostwritten books in high volume with little regard for product quality beyond their covers. You can say that's just the way the cookie crumbles and that's a fair opinion. They came up with a better business model, so maybe they deserve to drive everyone else under, multiply pen names, and take every bonus and most of the page reads for themselves.

That's a fair point of view, even if I disagree myself.

However, the implications of that happening deserve to be discussed. This isn't conspiracy. It's actually happening. It's something that will affect every single author in KU and the Amazon ecosystem if it continues. This is a new development in KU and the deeper romance market, where one group of a couple dozen publishers is closer than anyone has ever come to gaining monopoly power. It's only a matter of time before this group or someone like them does it in other categories, too, because KU is so susceptible to this business model.

Yikes, as an author in this for the love yet also hoping to make a living at it, this chills me to the bone.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 12:09:01 PM
Long story short, lets not call someone a thief because they've decided to give their readers an extra book inside their mobi file.
And yet isn't it funny how none of the people doing what David said - which is what we're actually talking about rather than just putting some innocent bonus content into the book which we all know is within the TOS - DON'T say what they're doing? Nothing on the covers. Nothing in the blurbs. Nothing to indicate that there are multiple novels included in what readers are going to assume is a single novel? I mean, usually if you're giving readers extra content you tell them because it encourages them to think that they're getting more bang for their buck.

And yet not one single book I looked at that's doing this in the Romance->Contemporary top 100 does so. (There are a LOT of them, by the way. I had no idea it was this widespread. Practically every single book priced at 99 cents in KU is doing it.) At most a couple of them say "bonus content included" at the very bottom of the blurb. Not "Hey, there are actually 3 of my novels in here. That's a freakin' steal at 99 cents! And if you're a KU reader you can read all 3 with one download. Isn't that cool?"

Now, why is that? If everything is totally legit and aboveboard, why wouldn't they be telling the readers what they're doing? And why disguise what you're doing in the TOC so it isn't apparent that you're getting multiple books in there, as so many are? Of course if you go into the Look Inside and scroll to the end and see that you've been able to read almost 2/3 of the book, you figure out that there's a lot more content in there somewhere. But how many readers really do that?

So why all the secrecy and obfuscation if what's being done is perfectly legitimate?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 12:09:14 PM
I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thinking on it. So, I guess the issue lies in what the bonus material consists of? For instance, if someone's bonus book is getting them paid for extra page reads under a different title, while also getting them paid for page reads under its own title, that's a problem, correct, because that would mean they're doubling (tripling, quadrupling, etc) up? That's a problem, no? Or is there ambiguity to that practice as well that I'm unaware of? No snark, honestly asking.

If they are getting paid double and triple for the same book, then the only problem is that you aren't stuffing also  :P

If someone can clarify if that's happening, that would be good.

How does amazon handle box sets? If you read the box set and then go and read the three books in the set individually, do they pay you for both sets of reads even though it's the same content?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: kw3000 on January 05, 2018, 12:15:14 PM
How does amazon handle box sets? If you read the box set and then go and read the three books in the set individually, do they pay you for both sets of reads even though it's the same content?

Geez, I hadn't even thought of that. The more I read this thread, the more disheartened I become. There is reason for optimism in all of this though, right? Eventually this will all get cleaned up and figured out. Right? (pretty please?)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: ShayneRutherford on January 05, 2018, 12:21:57 PM
What about regular box sets? Those are most certainly allowed and contain duplicate content.

That's true. But at least it's only feasible for one duplication - one single, and one box set - rather than as many box sets as the book can be published in. It's not perfect, but at least it's better.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: AngelaQuarles on January 05, 2018, 12:25:31 PM
I am a former reader of indie contemporary romance. Or I should say, most indie romance. There are still a few "old" ones.
Why? Because I can't find anything anymore in the sea of stuffed, scammed and regurgitated garbage. I actually read the genre, I hang out where readers hang out. I am not alone. I like me a bad boy romance, a mail order bride romance, a highlander romance. Can I find them now on Amazon? No. They have been infected by the same type of "marketing packages". Are there still well written romances by indie authors? Of course there are. But I can't find them anymore. Once in a blue moon I get a recommendation by a reader I trust and then I can try one. I won't even touch them with a 10 foot pole otherwise anymore, I been burned so many times. Unless I already know you, I don't care. And the saddest thing is that some authors that are known are doing this stuff now. That is the maddening.

And this is a perfect example of how this practice is affecting non-KU writers. I'm an indie romance writer and I just launched a new contemporary romance series this fall and it flopped. Like big time. Reviews are great, the books are solid, but it's like screaming into the wind to get noticed in the sea of contemp romance when no one who reads contemporary regularly even knows who I am (so they won't take a chance on me). In my niche of time travel, I'm good, but venturing outside where I'm unknown? I can't get traction.


And those that actually write the good stuff are missing out when we readers get run off by this stuff. I see reads going down for some of you each month and often so called page flip is blamed. But what about all of us that just can't find you guys anymore. Or we lost the will to sift through the bog. I been reading back list titles in KU, indies I know like Amanda, Madeline Baker, etc. Outside of KU I stick with indies also that are known to me. Many of them from KBoards. I been here since 2008 so I know those that been around a bit.


^^This.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 12:29:22 PM
I honestly am not pointing at anyone specific. I'm simply pointing out what some people are doing in certain groups and not naming names. How do I know? They're not even hiding it. Go look around. A lot of people brag about it. I most certainly have not pointed to anyone in this thread. I simply explained about the scams I've seen going. I didn't say which groups were doing them (and it has spread far and wide past romance, although they're still the hardest hit). I did not equate bonus books with anything. In fact, my issue is with stuffing. Where did I even mention a single bonus book? Stuffing and bonus books are different. Stuffing is insidious and we're all going to suffer for it. As for using bonus books, I'll pass. That's not part of my marketing strategy. As far as stuffing goes, never. One of the most important things in my business is integrity. At the end of the day, that's one of the few things you can always take with you. With more than 100 full novels, though, I could do a lot of damage to the KU pot if I wanted to start stuffing. What if 100 people with expansive catalogs and big followings did the same thing? I don't stuff because I don't want to steal from others. I just want to write and publish. I wish everyone felt the same way.

Stuffing is using bonus books. That's how the terms are used in the romance community, where this is most prevalent.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 12:29:46 PM
And yet isn't it funny how none of the people doing what David said - which is what we're actually talking about rather than just putting some innocent bonus content into the book which we all know is within the TOS - DON'T say what they're doing? Nothing on the covers. Nothing in the blurbs. Nothing to indicate that there are multiple novels included in what readers are going to assume is a single novel? I mean, usually if you're giving readers extra content you tell them because it encourages them to think that they're getting more bang for their buck.

And yet not one single book I looked at that's doing this in the Romance->Contemporary top 100 does so. (There are a LOT of them, by the way. I had no idea it was this widespread. Practically every single book priced at 99 cents in KU is doing it.) At most a couple of them say "bonus content included" at the very bottom of the blurb. Not "Hey, there are actually 3 of my novels in here. That's a freakin' steal at 99 cents! And if you're a KU reader you can read all 3 with one download. Isn't that cool?"

Now, why is that? If everything is totally legit and aboveboard, why wouldn't they be telling the readers what they're doing? And why disguise what you're doing in the TOC so it isn't apparent that you're getting multiple books in there, as so many are? Of course if you go into the Look Inside and scroll to the end and see that you've been able to read almost 2/3 of the book, you figure out that there's a lot more content in there somewhere. But how many readers really do that?

So why all the secrecy and obfuscation if what's being done is perfectly legitimate?

Have you ever published box sets?

I have. Pretty extensively.

While there is overlap between box set buyers and standard single-book buyers, it is very clear that there are a large number of standard-book buyers who aren't out there looking for box sets.

In my experience, it's easier to chart (and hold the chart) with a nice big sexy single-book cover than it is with a box-set cover. Many authors (myself included) who used bonus content would usually put a little message at the bottom of the blurb that says something to the effect of "this book contains some special surprises from AUTHOR HERE". Some authors spell out exactly what's inside, some don't. There's no rules about this disclosure one way or the other, so authors don't need to disclose it.

When a reader gets to the end of the book and realizes there's a bonus book in there, they might keep reading. That same reader might not have bought the book in the first place if it was a 2-book-box-set (because that wasn't really what they were looking for). They're happy to get the bonus, but they weren't necessarily looking for it.

What I'm saying is... the bonus content presents an opportunity for further reading. That's all. It gives a reader who just wanted a single sexy romance, a chance to keep reading from the same author (in the same way a link to one of their other books and a blurb to try to entice them to go buy/read it would have done, except with a bit less friction since the book is RIGHT THERE and all they need to do is turn the page).

I think you're trying to read a sinister intent into this that doesn't exist. You can do the experiment for yourself with some bonus content on your own books. You'll see, flat out, that single-releases with bonus content tend to earn a bit more than the same single release without the bonus. Not because of any crazy bug or incentive to get people to somehow click to the back, but because a reader who enjoyed your work might want to keep reading (and you've provided them a perfect opportunity to do so).

If anything, I think the lack of "disclosure" is due to this kind of discussion. People are starting to attack books with bonus content, and they are smearing authors in front of their readers in the process (or "training" them to avoid these "scammer" books). At this point, disclosure paints a target, imho. Just look how many people flat out misunderstand bonus content, or who are conflating it with all sorts of legitimately black-hat enterprises.

If you want Amazon to change the rules to require someone to disclose every title inside their book in the blurb or cover or title, or if you want them to create a one-book-per-KU-title rule, I'd support either of those changes. I don't see anything fundamentally wrong with that. I'd support that kind of a change without even a second thought. There's no reason for bonus books to exist, and frankly, I don't think KU should allow box sets either (they should be allowed to be put up for sale, but we don't need box sets in KU because it's unlimited reading - keep the readers going back to the Amazon store and keep the reader base churning for the benefit of everyone).

Anyway, failure to disclose a bonus book isn't against the rules. That's as cut and dry as it can possibly be.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 12:30:28 PM
That's true. But at least it's only feasible for one duplication - one single, and one box set - rather than as many box sets as the book can be published in. It's not perfect, but at least it's better.

Also, typical box sets are up front about what they are and what they contain. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 12:40:19 PM
I appreciate you taking the time to explain your thinking on it. So, I guess the issue lies in what the bonus material consists of? For instance, if someone's bonus book is getting them paid for extra page reads under a different title, while also getting them paid for page reads under its own title, that's a problem, correct, because that would mean they're doubling (tripling, quadrupling, etc) up? That's a problem, no? Or is there ambiguity to that practice as well that I'm unaware of? No snark, honestly asking.

The bonus book shouldn't end up paying twice (or triple, or quadruple), because again, you only get paid for pages that are full-screen and viewed on your reading device.

So, lets say we have a book. Lets call it "BAD BOY BIKER".

We put BAD BOY BIKER out as a single release. No bonus content. People read it, it's 250 pages, they can pay out a maximum of 250 pages on the book.

We put out a second book. BAD CHICK BIKER.

In BAD CHICK BIKER (a 250 page book), we decide to add BAD BOY BIKER as a bonus book. Now we've got a 500 page book.

Two people read BAD CHICK BIKER. One of them is brand new to you as an author, one of them has previously read BAD BOY BIKER and they're a repeat customer.

They get to the end and see that you've added BAD BOY BIKER as a bonus book. The new reader is excited. They LOVED BAD CHICK BIKER, and they want to read more. They read BAD BOY BIKER. You get paid 500 pages.

The other reader has already read BAD BOY BIKER. They're not interested. They close the book at the end of BAD CHICK BIKER. You get paid 250 pages. You have not gotten paid for BAD BOY BIKER twice.

If, however, the person sees BAD BOY BIKER at the end of BAD CHICK BIKER and says "oh god, I loved that book so much I'm going to read is A SECOND TIME", yes, you'll get paid for those pages twice.

Now lets say we've got a third book we're putting out. This one is BAD DADDY BIKER.

We decide to go crazy with bonus content. We're going to put BAD BOY BIKER and BAD CHICK BIKER in there. So we've got books A B AND C, BAD DADDY BIKER, followed by BAD CHICK BIKER, followed by BAD BOY BIKER. A 750 page book.

A reader opens it up. they've previously read BAD CHICK BIKER and they're excited for your new release. They read through, and once they get to the end they realize you've got bonus content in there... but now they see that the first bonus content is BAD CHICK BIKER, a book they've already read. They zip past that (with the scroll bar or the table of contents) so they can get to BAD BOY BIKER. They read BAD BOY BIKER at the very back of the book.

Do you get paid for 750 pages? No. You get paid for the 500 pages that the person displayed on their e-reader. They skipped the book in the middle, and as a result, you didn't get paid for it a second time.

Hope that all makes sense.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 12:47:02 PM
Bob Frost, we're talking about the stuffers who stuff four books in the back of their title book. Then publish those individual books as title content, with the other books as stuffed content, and then sneak peeks at the end, which may tempt the readers to scroll to the back to read the new content, thus getting multiple duplicate reads of the same content. And if they have multiple pen names, they can post books from their other pen name as bonus content and get paid for the same content twice or multiple times.

You're talking like the stuffing is limited to a single author offering one bonus book at the end of one book. I don't personally really care about that and probably most don't either.

Would someone please PM me with any info on the stuffers and the plagiarism / IP issue? I must have missed that.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Becca Mills on January 05, 2018, 12:48:59 PM
You are really using some strong language to defend book stuffing, and seem determined to make straw man arguments about what is and isn't being discussed. Maybe you feel guilty, maybe you don't but one doth protest a bit too much...

Myra, this is exactly the kind of thing I asked people not to do in my last post. You can refute bobfrost's position logically, as KelliWolfe does above. That's fine. But everyone here *must* be spoken to civilly, whatever their position on bonus books/stuffing.

Folks, please help us keep this thread open by following our Forum Decorum (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,36.0.html). Posts must be respectful, courteous, free of insults and name-calling, etc. Doesn't matter whether you're responding to someone you agree with 100% or someone whose position you find utterly repugnant -- the same rules apply.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 12:50:55 PM
I honestly am not pointing at anyone specific. I'm simply pointing out what some people are doing in certain groups and not naming names. How do I know? They're not even hiding it. Go look around. A lot of people brag about it. I most certainly have not pointed to anyone in this thread. I simply explained about the scams I've seen going. I didn't say which groups were doing them (and it has spread far and wide past romance, although they're still the hardest hit). I did not equate bonus books with anything. In fact, my issue is with stuffing. Where did I even mention a single bonus book? Stuffing and bonus books are different. Stuffing is insidious and we're all going to suffer for it. As for using bonus books, I'll pass. That's not part of my marketing strategy. As far as stuffing goes, never. One of the most important things in my business is integrity. At the end of the day, that's one of the few things you can always take with you. With more than 100 full novels, though, I could do a lot of damage to the KU pot if I wanted to start stuffing. What if 100 people with expansive catalogs and big followings did the same thing? I don't stuff because I don't want to steal from others. I just want to write and publish. I wish everyone felt the same way.

I don't think there's a meaningful distinction between using one bonus book in the back of a title, and using 3000 pages worth. Either way, it's bonus content in the back. "Book Stuffing" and "Bonus Books" are used pretty interchangeably in these kinds of conversations. The magnitude of how many titles are "stuffed" into a book shouldn't really matter. It's either OK to put books in the back, or it's not. At the end of the day, the page reads that come from "stuffed books" happened because a reader decided to keep flipping pages. As long as we're talking about legitimate authors (people who aren't using click farms and the like), those are legitimate page reads whether there is one book or seven... just as they would be legitimate if the reader decided to borrow your whole catalog one at a time and flip through the whole thing.

I don't disagree with you on the potential "damage" this could cause. I feel like egregious bonus books and "stuffing" is bad for the marketplace as a whole, even if it doesn't actually break any rules. I've said it before in this thread and I'll say it again: I would 100% support Amazon instituting a 1-book-per-ASIN policy for KU. No box sets in KU. No bonus books. That'd be fine by me.

It wouldn't level the playing field. People with huge marketing engines and a massive pile of money to burn on ads will still rise to the top, but it would increase overall churn in the marketplace and would probably cause readers to buy/borrow and read from a wider range of authors (which would benefit everyone).

Anyway, like I said, I don't think your catalog would really benefit from bonus content. Series releases already give readers incentive to push from one title to another, so you don't need a bonus book to do that (and it'd just get in the way of your efforts to keep a reader engaged with your series and reading through dozens of titles). Bonus books certainly aren't for every catalog or every situation. They aren't a blanket "make lots of money" strategy, and I think their benefit is starting to be outweighed by the negatives even for authors that see genuine monetary benefit in using them.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 12:51:30 PM
If, however, the person sees BAD BOY BIKER at the end of BAD CHICK BIKER and says "oh god, I loved that book so much I'm going to read is A SECOND TIME", yes, you'll get paid for those pages twice.

Which is double dipping.

Now lets say we've got a third book we're putting out. This one is BAD DADDY BIKER.
We decide to go crazy with bonus content. We're going to put BAD BOY BIKER and BAD CHICK BIKER in there. So we've got books A B AND C, BAD DADDY BIKER, followed by BAD CHICK BIKER, followed by BAD BOY BIKER. A 750 page book.

Which is now potentially triple dipping, and so on and so on. 

Yes, you can make the argument all you want that you're not forcing the reader to read your book again, but let's face facts the hope is there.  Anyone doing this is essentially putting out products that are designed to scam the system and then hiding behind straw man arguments about "well, I guess the reader just loved me that much". 

ETA: I have no problems with properly disclosed box sets. But anything beyond the potential of double dipping (with a single book / box set combo) is entering seriously murky waters in my book.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 05, 2018, 12:53:11 PM
Have you ever published box sets?

I have. Pretty extensively.

While there is overlap between box set buyers and standard single-book buyers, it is very clear that there are a large number of standard-book buyers who aren't out there looking for box sets.

In my experience, it's easier to chart (and hold the chart) with a nice big sexy single-book cover than it is with a box-set cover. Many authors (myself included) who used bonus content would usually put a little message at the bottom of the blurb that says something to the effect of "this book contains some special surprises from AUTHOR HERE". Some authors spell out exactly what's inside, some don't. There's no rules about this disclosure one way or the other, so authors don't need to disclose it.

When a reader gets to the end of the book and realizes there's a bonus book in there, they might keep reading. That same reader might not have bought the book in the first place if it was a 2-book-box-set (because that wasn't really what they were looking for). They're happy to get the bonus, but they weren't necessarily looking for it.

What I'm saying is... the bonus content presents an opportunity for further reading. That's all. It gives a reader who just wanted a single sexy romance, a chance to keep reading from the same author (in the same way a link to one of their other books and a blurb to try to entice them to go buy/read it would have done, except with a bit less friction since the book is RIGHT THERE and all they need to do is turn the page).

I think you're trying to read a sinister intent into this that doesn't exist. You can do the experiment for yourself with some bonus content on your own books. You'll see, flat out, that single-releases with bonus content tend to earn a bit more than the same single release without the bonus. Not because of any crazy bug or incentive to get people to somehow click to the back, but because a reader who enjoyed your work might want to keep reading (and you've provided them a perfect opportunity to do so).

If anything, I think the lack of "disclosure" is due to this kind of discussion. People are starting to attack books with bonus content, and they are smearing authors in front of their readers in the process (or "training" them to avoid these "scammer" books). At this point, disclosure paints a target, imho. Just look how many people flat out misunderstand bonus content, or who are conflating it with all sorts of legitimately black-hat enterprises.

If you want Amazon to change the rules to require someone to disclose every title inside their book in the blurb or cover or title, or if you want them to create a one-book-per-KU-title rule, I'd support either of those changes. I don't see anything fundamentally wrong with that. I'd support that kind of a change without even a second thought. There's no reason for bonus books to exist, and frankly, I don't think KU should allow box sets either (they should be allowed to be put up for sale, but we don't need box sets in KU because it's unlimited reading - keep the readers going back to the Amazon store and keep the reader base churning for the benefit of everyone).

Anyway, failure to disclose a bonus book isn't against the rules. That's as cut and dry as it can possibly be.

Do you call them boxed sets when you sell them?

Or do you publish them purporting to be a single book, and then SURPRISE there are ten other books in the table of contents, and a link click to a "FREE STORY OFFER!" at the end.

Not sure why you're pretending that these are the same things. I can't tell if you're genuinely confused or just trying to muddy the waters of the conversation.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 12:58:52 PM
Bob Frost, we're talking about the stuffers who stuff four books in the back of their title book. Then publish those individual books as title content, with the other books as stuffed content, and then sneak peeks at the end, which may tempt the readers to scroll to the back to read the new content, thus getting multiple duplicate reads of the same content. And if they have multiple pen names, they can post books from their other pen name as bonus content and get paid for the same content twice or multiple times.

You're talking like the stuffing is limited to a single author offering one bonus book at the end of one book. I don't personally really care about that and probably most don't either.

I'm talking about the same thing. It doesn't matter if it's 1 book or 10, it functions the exact same way.

If a reader is tempted to "scroll back" to look at a sneak peek at the back of the book, KU does NOT pay the author of that book for pages that were scrolled past. That -used- to happen, but it doesn't happen anymore in almost every situation.

The only way pages get paid out, is if the reader literally flips past them one at a time, full-screening the pages.

Is it possible that someone interested in a sneak peak might sit there and tap the "next page" button 700 times, thus generating 700 page reads? Sure... I suppose it's possible... but it's far more likely they'll scrub forward in the book or utilize the table of contents to get to the sneak peak at the back, thus only generating the pages-read that they actually read.

So, just to be perfectly clear, lets imagine a book.

This book has book 1 (the book the reader really wanted to read). It also has TEN bonus books crammed in there, bringing the total pagecount of this book to the 3,000 KENPC limit Amazon has imposed. Holy crap! This is one STUFFED book.

At the very back, the author puts a super exciting SNEAK PEEK or SURPRISE. The reader is intrigued. They read the 250 page book they bought (generating 250 pages read for the author), but boy oh boy, that SNEAK PEAK is calling their name. They use the table of contents or the scrub slider to whip themselves straight to the back of the book. There it is, page 3000 in this incredible tome of a stuffed book, the SNEAK PEAK they've been dying to read, full-screen on their device. One page registers as being read. Now, the author has been paid on a total of 251 pages.

"ALWAYS REMEMBER TO DRINK YOUR OVALTINE"

The reader is satisfied with their secret sneak peak message. They close the book.

The author gets paid for exactly 251 pages. Not 3,000.

There was a time when peeking at the last page of this book WOULD have paid 3,000 pages. Amazon fixed that awhile back. It no longer works that way. You don't get paid when people scrub past content they've already read, or when they skip to the back to read some special bonus.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MyraScott on January 05, 2018, 01:00:15 PM
My sincere apologies, Becca.

Do you call them boxed sets when you sell them?

Or do you publish them purporting to be a single book, and then SURPRISE there are ten other books in the table of contents, and a link click to a "FREE STORY OFFER!" at the end.

Not sure why you're pretending that these are the same things. I can't tell if you're genuinely confused or just trying to muddy the waters of the conversation.
This 100%. 

Truth in advertising.

As others have said repeatedly, if "bonus content" is in there to sell your books (What a great value this is!) then the authors' would clearly state in the description what the reader was buying.   But they don't.  They go to lengths to make the book appear "normal" by matching the page count to the paperback and do not use these fabulous bonus books to actually entice readers to act.

It makes absolutely no sense... unless you are hiding those pages.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MyraScott on January 05, 2018, 01:03:03 PM

There was a time when peeking at the last page of this book WOULD have paid 3,000 pages. Amazon fixed that awhile back. It no longer works that way. You don't get paid when people scrub past content they've already read, or when they skip to the back to read some special bonus.

If this were true, people wouldn't be stuffing their books.  But they are because the cloud reader in particular still pays for "last point read."  I haven't tested all devices, but I just now tested cloud reader and it pays for skips.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:03:11 PM
Do you call them boxed sets when you sell them?

Or do you publish them purporting to be a single book, and then SURPRISE there are ten other books in the table of contents, and a link click to a "FREE STORY OFFER!" at the end.

Not sure why you're pretending that these are the same things. I can't tell if you're genuinely confused or just trying to muddy the waters of the conversation.

I'm not mudding the waters at all. If you re-read my posts you'll see that I've done both. In the past, I've published box sets that are marketed as box sets, and I've published single titles with bonus content (ranging from a single book, to as many as ten books).

The point I was trying to make is that there are two pools of readers when it comes to box sets and singles. Putting a book up as a box set (and marketing it as such) will often result in missing out on sales you could have made to people who don't ordinarily buy box sets.

This is also why you usually want to make a box set later on for your titles (after they've hit the long-tail as individual books), because there is a subset of readers who specifically seek out box sets, and you may as well earn your sales off those readers!

In the same vein, if you put up a book with (say) ten different books "stuffed" in there, but market it as a single title without mentioning the books inside (SURPRISE), that book is going to sell just fine to people who want to buy "singles", and a decent number of those readers will reach the SURPRISE at the end and will decide to keep reading, because they like you as an author and they want to read more of your work.

Those same readers might not have bought this book if you marketed it as a box set up-front. Get what I'm saying?

Sorry if there was some confusion in what I was saying. It wasn't my intention to confuse.


Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 01:03:42 PM
I wish someone could explain to me why stuffers stuff, if it isn't to try to benefit from double, tripe and quadruple dipping.

Why not just publish each book separately and charge 99c for it?

In KU, it matters not since the reader can simply read 300 pages and then move on to the next book.

It seems to me that the only reason to stuff is to benefit from potential double, triple and quadruple dipping because Amazon can't detect multiple reads of the same content -- or maybe for sure when content is skipped.

I'm told by some that the skipping is no longer in effect except on the Amazon online reader, but I don't know that for a fact. I have to take the word of other people. Excuse me if I am skeptical.

Boxed sets are different because they either pack together an entire (or portion thereof) series so that the reader doesn't have to go hunting for the next book in the series -- or they are in the same universe, etc. It makes logical sense to collect the books up into one volume.

And they are clearly advertised and described as such. Some readers ONLY read a series when the series is done and they look for finished boxed sets in particular.

Stuffing is different because the content is replicated half a dozen times in different volumes, which means it's possible to get multiple dipping.

That can be the only reason to stuff. A bonus book at the end of the title content is not the same as stuffing 4 or 5 books at the end, and publishing each of these books separately with all the other books stuffed in the back and so on.

To me, the only reason to stuff is in the hopes of fortuitously (or through manipulation) getting paid multiple time for the same content read by the same reader.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:07:05 PM
My sincere apologies, Becca.
This 100%. 

Truth in advertising.

As others have said repeatedly, if "bonus content" is in there to sell your books (What a great value this is!) then the authors' would clearly state in the description what the reader was buying.   But they don't.  They go to lengths to make the book appear "normal" by matching the page count to the paperback and do not use these fabulous bonus books to actually entice readers to act.

It makes absolutely no sense... unless you are hiding those pages.

I don't think bonus books are there as a sales enticement at all.

If you read what I've been saying, I think bonus books are there to capture a reader you've already got on the hook, and keep them reading your work.

It's reducing the friction between one of your books, and the next book in your catalog. The reader gets to the end of your book (which they enjoyed, presumably), and they are presented with another book to read. They don't have to go back to Amazon, they don't have to go download a new title or fuss around. They like the book they are being offered, so they just keep reading.

I actually suspect "advertising" the fact that there are bonus books is detrimental to sales at this point (in part, because people have been vilifying the practice, and in part because authors have been frankly over-using it in silly ways - like stuffing ten books in a single mobi and not telling readers about it until they finish their book #1 and their kindle still says 10% read). Still, there's no question that in my experience, putting a bonus title at the back of the book generates more pages read on that title, because plenty of readers DO continue reading instead of going back to Amazon and finding some other author to read.

You might only get one shot at that reader, and bonus books gives them a chance to read more than one of your titles, which results in more pages read and is the primary reason people are using bonus books today.

I'd love to see the practice go away as a whole (1-title-per-ASIN is a rule I'd be happy to see, and no box sets in KU would be fine too), but it's not a nefarious practice.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:11:57 PM
Which is double dipping.

Which is now potentially triple dipping, and so on and so on. 

Yes, you can make the argument all you want that you're not forcing the reader to read your book again, but let's face facts the hope is there.  Anyone doing this is essentially putting out products that are designed to scam the system and then hiding behind straw man arguments about "well, I guess the reader just loved me that much". 

ETA: I have no problems with properly disclosed box sets. But anything beyond the potential of double dipping (with a single book / box set combo) is entering seriously murky waters in my book.

If you want to argue that Amazon shouldn't pay KU pages when a book is read for a second time (such as in a box set VS a single release, or in a bonus book situation), I have no issue with that argument.

I don't love bonus content, and I think 1-title-per-ASIN for all KU titles is a perfectly reasonable way to avoid this even being a problem in the first place.

As it sits, Amazon has chosen to pay people twice if a reader decides to legitimately read a book a second time in a box set or bonus title situation. I don't see anything wrong with that. If they want to change that, it's their field and their ball. They can change it.

It might be hard to change it without eliminating bonus books and box sets altogether though. It's probably unreasonable for Amazon to specifically track content and ensure that the same words on a page aren't displayed in two separate books in order to prevent a passage or text from paying twice. Like I said, much easier to enforce 1-ASIN-PER-KU title.

They could still allow box sets for regular sale without messing anything up. People could publish those as NON KU titles. It's not like KU subscribers would be missing out - those books in the box set would still be exclusive to Amazon, and they could still read all of them individually through their KU subscription one at a time in your regular catalog.

That, IMHO, is the best solution to this if bonus books are something Amazon truly didn't want.

So far, that is not the way Amazon has went. They are allowing bonus books to continue to exist.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: LadyG on January 05, 2018, 01:15:54 PM
As a reader, I don't see it as a "bonus" when I buy a 500-page book only to discover that the book I thought I was buying is actually a much shorter story with "bonus content" filling up the rest of the page count.

It's deceitful. It's deliberately misleading the customer. It' a poor customer experience.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Amanda M. Lee on January 05, 2018, 01:16:31 PM
Stuffing is using bonus books. That's how the terms are used in the romance community, where this is most prevalent.
And yet using one bonus book or chapter is not stuffing. It's kind of neat how that works out.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MyraScott on January 05, 2018, 01:17:12 PM
And I will say it again because you missed it:

Cloud Reader still pays for all the pages skipped.

I just tested it.

I don't understand why you believe book stuffing doesn't exist, and that's OK.  I don't believe in a lot of things others are convinced of.  But repeating it over and over doesn't make all the evidence go away.  Everyone can draw their own conclusions.

But yes, on at least one access point, stuffing still pays.  Even if the author put three extra books in with butterflies and rainbows in their heart, and put in that link to "get a free book" at the back as a totally innocent special offer, they are getting paid on some devices at this time for pages that may or may not have been read.

I predict when those loopholes are finally closed, special surprise "bonus books" will go away.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:19:24 PM
As a reader, I don't see it as a "bonus" when I buy a 500-page book only to discover that the book I thought I was buying is actually a much shorter story with "bonus content" filling up the rest of the page count.

It's deceitful. It's deliberately misleading the customer. It' a poor customer experience.


I don't disagree. I suspect many readers feel this way. Lately, I think this has been causing a very real decline in readership for authors who utilize heavily bonus-stuffed titles as people realize the books they are buying are "stuffed".

This might explain why many authors using such a strategy today are often skipping from one penname to the next, rather than focusing on building one penname and one brand.

I think it has the potential to break ToS for promoting a bad reader experience as we move forward. No argument there at all. I've largely abandoned the practice for this very reason (well, for that reason, and I've abandoned it because I'm moving into series where bonus content isn't really beneficial).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 01:19:45 PM
Have you ever published box sets?
Yes. I know some readers love them and some hate them. I also understand how KU works, and so do those top 100 contemporary writers putting in more bonus content than the book they say they're actually selling. They understand that the page read issues are not completely fixed. They know that double-dipping isn't allowed. And yet they're deliberately pursuing a publishing path that allows them to take advantage of both issues, and they're doing their best to hide the fact that they're doing so, to the point where they're not even informing their own customers.

The thing is, people used to do this same kind of thing back in the erotica shorts golden age before KU. They did it with the intent to double dip on sales - get readers to pay for the same content twice. It's safer with KU - not nearly as many customer complaints about the practice when each borrow isn't getting billed to their credit card. But it amounts to the same thing. Double dipping on page reads, with the added bonus that if the reader isn't using one of the fixed devices you get paid for all the skipped pages, too.

So what do you call it when an author/publisher knowingly engages in a practice that will give her money she shouldn't get, and which will be taken away from fellow authors? There's a word for that. Think hard...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Squeakers on January 05, 2018, 01:20:55 PM
Ok, this may or may not be derailing, but having read through this entire thread I have a question. I am really wanting to stay on the right side here, but am now slightly confused.

I had a plan, and my plan looked like this:

Release - Book 1, then Book 2, then 3 (all in the same universe, but different stand alone stories for different main characters that were side characters in other books I released)
Release - Collection, box set, whatever you want to call it, Books 1-3

Release - Book 4, then 5, then 6. Again same universe, same theory.

Release - Collection/Box set Books 4-6

Then release ultimate bundle - Books 1-6

All priced differently, and in the blurbs it would be clearly marked to what the reader was getting with each.

Would this be considered stuffing? Or, wrong? I hope not. But if it is I will take another look at my plan and reevaluate. But all the back and forth in this thread had me questioning if this original plan was actually a bad thing to do. Having not published in KU before the thought of getting paid for stories more than once hadn't occurred to me. The only reason I had thought to do this was because I know some readers like to read straight through (Me being one of those readers) and I was trying to fill that need by having the various box sets.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:21:12 PM
And I will say it again because you missed it:

Cloud Reader still pays for all the pages skipped.

I just tested it.

I don't understand why you believe book stuffing doesn't exist, and that's OK.  I don't believe in a lot of things others are convinced of.  But repeating it over and over doesn't make all the evidence go away.  Everyone can draw their own conclusions.

But yes, on at least one access point, stuffing still pays.  Even if the author put three extra books in with butterflies and rainbows in their heart, and put in that link to "get a free book" at the back as a totally innocent special offer, they are getting paid on some devices at this time for pages that may or may not have been read.

I predict when those loopholes are finally closed, special surprise "bonus books" will go away.

Didn't miss this. I knew it used to still pay even after they fixed other kindle readers. I'm surprised it still pays out, but I suspect it makes up for a fairly meaningless amount of pages read in terms of skipped-pages as I don't think the cloud reader is representing a massive portion of our readership.

Hey, I could be wrong on that, of course. Amazon should fix their cloud reader. I find it offensive that amazon pays us per page read, and doesn't know how many pages were read.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 01:26:34 PM
As it sits, Amazon has chosen to pay people twice if a reader decides to legitimately read a book a second time in a box set or bonus title situation. I don't see anything wrong with that. If they want to change that, it's their field and their ball. They can change it.

And again, I'm not going to say boo if someone buys book 1 then buys a box set and decides to re-read book 1.  It happens.  But, again, the potential exists for someone to do this over and over again.  Putting that extra book in tons of different titles.  Or putting lots of "bonus books" in every title.  Once someone gets beyond a basic book / box set combo and into a situation where a bonus book exists in many different locations and with perhaps many different bonus books per volume, they're crossing over into territory that I have a hard time justifying as anything other then trying to manipulate the system for more page read $$ then they're entitled to. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:26:49 PM
Yes. I know some readers love them and some hate them. I also understand how KU works, and so do those top 100 contemporary writers putting in more bonus content than the book they say they're actually selling. They understand that the page read issues are not completely fixed. They know that double-dipping isn't allowed. And yet they're deliberately pursuing a publishing path that allows them to take advantage of both issues, and they're doing their best to hide the fact that they're doing so, to the point where they're not even informing their own customers.

The thing is, people used to do this same kind of thing back in the erotica shorts golden age before KU. They did it with the intent to double dip on sales - get readers to pay for the same content twice. It's safer with KU - not nearly as many customer complaints about the practice when each borrow isn't getting billed to their credit card. But it amounts to the same thing. Double dipping on page reads, with the added bonus that if the reader isn't using one of the fixed devices you get paid for all the skipped pages, too.

So what do you call it when an author/publisher knowingly engages in a practice that will give her money she shouldn't get, and which will be taken away from fellow authors? There's a word for that. Think hard...

I've stated my case on this. I understand where you're coming from, but I disagree with your take on it.

Also, I disagree with the "takes money out of other author's pockets", because lets face it, the per-page rate is exactly what amazon wants it to be, and has little to do with the amount of pages read (as evidenced by their constant goosing of the KU pot every single month with random and unpredictable amounts of money). If we had a dead-set per-page rate and KU pot, I'd be open to this kind of thinking... but at it sits, Amazon decides the KU rate is going to be 0.0043 this month, and they add the money required to make that happen. The amount of page reads seems, as far as I can tell, to be almost irrelevant. I've spent plenty of time trying to deduce some kind of mathematical pattern behind the KU pot and the boosts Amazon gives it every month on the 15th, and I cannot see one. If you do, by all means, I'd love to hear your theory. That sort of thing excites and fascinates me.

At any rate, if Amazon wants to change this, they can. It won't make any meaningful difference in who's dominating the top lists though. Maybe a one-asin-per-KU title rule would cut their profits by some small margin, but a person who can push a book into the top 20 today could push that same book into the top 20 without any bonus content, and they'd make plenty of money on it (as evidenced by authors such as myself who can push a no-bonus-content title into the top 100 and earn a bucketload of money off it).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 01:26:57 PM
Didn't miss this. I knew it used to still pay even after they fixed other kindle readers. I'm surprised it still pays out, but I suspect it makes up for a fairly meaningless amount of pages read in terms of skipped-pages as I don't think the cloud reader is representing a massive portion of our readership.

Hey, I could be wrong on that, of course. Amazon should fix their cloud reader. I find it offensive that amazon pays us per page read, and doesn't know how many pages were read.

I would think that the mere fact that this glitch remains would make it ample enticement for scammers. You could simply convert click farms to be swipe farms, all of them reading on their computers or iPads using the Amazon reader and swiping a dozen books a day. If you could corral up 1000 such eager readers with computers, you could have them spend hours each day swiping through various stuffed books...

Hey...

*runs off*

JK  8)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Rick Gualtieri on January 05, 2018, 01:28:23 PM
Ok, this may or may not be derailing, but having read through this entire thread I have a question. I am really wanting to stay on the right side here, but am now slightly confused.

Release - Book 1, then Book 2, then 3 (all in the same universe, but different stand alone stories for different main characters that were side characters in other books I released)
Release - Collection, box set, whatever you want to call it, Books 1-3
Release - Book 4, then 5, then 6. Again same universe, same theory.
Release - Collection/Box set Books 4-6
Then release ultimate bundle - Books 1-6

All priced differently, and in the blurbs it would be clearly marked to what the reader was getting with each.

While I'm not a big fan (and Amazon might not be either) of having the same book available in multiple box sets, this isn't anything I'd blink at if you're being forthcoming about what the customer is getting when they buy.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 01:31:21 PM
Didn't miss this. I knew it used to still pay even after they fixed other kindle readers. I'm surprised it still pays out, but I suspect it makes up for a fairly meaningless amount of pages read in terms of skipped-pages as I don't think the cloud reader is representing a massive portion of our readership.

Hey, I could be wrong on that, of course. Amazon should fix their cloud reader. I find it offensive that amazon pays us per page read, and doesn't know how many pages were read.
And we don't know how many millions of older devices are out there which haven't had firmware updates released since before the fix. Mercia mentioned one earlier in the topic. I'm fairly sure my older Fire that I use almost daily hasn't had an update in the last 2 years. We can argue it back and forth all day long, but no one but Amazon knows for sure and they aren't telling. They denied the page read and page flip problems even existed for how long? So we don't know. But my WAG is a lot.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 05, 2018, 01:33:42 PM


Also, I disagree with the "takes money out of other author's pockets", because lets face it, the per-page rate is exactly what amazon wants it to be, and has little to do with the amount of pages read (as evidenced by their constant goosing of the KU pot every single month with random and unpredictable amounts of money). I

Even if I agreed with that (which I don't)--the book stuffers are screwing legitimate, high selling authors out of their well-deserved author bonuses every month.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 01:37:25 PM
And yet using one bonus book or chapter is not stuffing. It's kind of neat how that works out.

Yes it is. One bonus book is stuffing. That's the definition of stuffing.

I wish someone could explain to me why stuffers stuff, if it isn't to try to benefit from double, tripe and quadruple dipping.

Why not just publish each book separately and charge 99c for it?

In KU, it matters not since the reader can simply read 300 pages and then move on to the next book.

It seems to me that the only reason to stuff is to benefit from potential double, triple and quadruple dipping because Amazon can't detect multiple reads of the same content -- or maybe for sure when content is skipped.

I'm told by some that the skipping is no longer in effect except on the Amazon online reader, but I don't know that for a fact. I have to take the word of other people. Excuse me if I am skeptical.

You don't wish that because I did explain it and you ignored my post.

Readers are lazy. If they like a book, they'll keep reading the bonus content. Thus, more pages. You also get eyes on an additional book which can help with sellthrough if that book is first in series of another series.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Cassie Leigh on January 05, 2018, 01:41:52 PM
This is more about the links to get people to go to the back than bonus content I think, but this is from the Guide to Kindle Content Quality:
"If the formatting of a bookÖis designed to unnaturally inflate sales or pages read, we will take action to remove titles and protect readers. This also includes disruptive or unnecessary enticement to click on elements within TOCs. Continued addition of these types of elements in your titles could affect your account status, up to and including termination."

Also, not that it's come up here, but: "Do not frontload bonus content (e.g. other stories, or previews of other books) at the beginning of a book with a link that takes readers to the actual book at the end."

And my personal definition of stuffing is bonus content at the back of a single title that is longer than the actual title itself. One short story or epilogue at the end of a novel-length work would be what I would think of as legitimate bonus content.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:43:21 PM
And we don't know how many millions of older devices are out there which haven't had firmware updates released since before the fix. Mercia mentioned one earlier in the topic. I'm fairly sure my older Fire that I use almost daily hasn't had an update in the last 2 years. We can argue it back and forth all day long, but no one but Amazon knows for sure and they aren't telling. They denied the page read and page flip problems even existed for how long? So we don't know. But my WAG is a lot.

They didn't just deny the page flip problem existed... they admitted it exists, said it isn't resulting in any meaningful loss of pages-read, and heavily promoted the use of page-flip in their new devices when you open up books... which probably further exasperated the problem (I know I still get plenty of 1-page-read on my book report dash... it's easier to see this when you've got hundreds upon hundreds of titles floating around out there).

Silliness :).

But I digress.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Sati_LRR on January 05, 2018, 01:46:04 PM
The excuse that book stuffing is perfectly fine now that they "plugged" the hole on "some" e-readers is laughable. I won't go into all the reasons why, except just one: Do you really think scammers and click-farms are using actual physical devices? If you do then I have a bridge to sell you.

The skipped page issue has not been resolved on the cloud reader. And with a laptop, a few browsers, KU accounts, combined with programs like AutoHotKey and other automation software, not to mention specifically built browser extensions that can "read" the books at a set "natural" pace or scroll right through, it's easier for them to set the program running, sit back and watch while they rake the money in than it is to tap away on physical screens. Cost effective too.

The problem has never really been with (a very few) readers that re-read bonus content which ends up giving the author another piece of the pie, that's a drop in the bucket -- though granted it should be like that across the board for everyone to "double-dip" or not at all -- the problem lies with those that specifically exploit certain unclear aspects of the TOS for their own gain to the detriment of others, while Amazon do sweet-FA about it.

Also, let's not be coy. Many of the "top", "authors" who publish in the same genre that I write in are NOT authors. They are not even writers. They are marketers who package content. They do it well... for the most part, but then they dip their greedy toes into the grey and black hat waters, which results in the mess we are in right now. KU is categorically broken for the vast majority of those that enroll. (Oh, and before proof is demanded of me regarding my claims about these marketers... been there done that, and it got me nowhere.)

Amazon could easily fix the KU scamming problem if they were willing to put their money in their pockets. Actually, they don't even need to do that. A million or so subtracted from the monthly pot would be more than enough to establish a large enough team that could verify each and every single book that is enrolled in KU every day. Run the math, it checks out. But they prefer frugality and a hands-off "let a bot sort it out" approach.

I know I would welcome a smaller pot (and slight publishing delays) if it eliminated 99% of the scammers, but I know this won't happen so instead we should all brace for impact and keep on writing instead of shouting into the void (though I don't want to discourage discussion, it just get's to a point where we're just wasting energy and vital head-space on something that we don't have the power to change). Especially since 4.0 will no doubt be with us shortly and it'll be predictably brutal. Amazon does not care, and the scammers certainly couldn't give a flying f...

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:46:35 PM
I would think that the mere fact that this glitch remains would make it ample enticement for scammers. You could simply convert click farms to be swipe farms, all of them reading on their computers or iPads using the Amazon reader and swiping a dozen books a day. If you could corral up 1000 such eager readers with computers, you could have them spend hours each day swiping through various stuffed books...

Hey...

*runs off*

JK  8)

That'd be pretty easy for Amazon to spot and stop. They actively police against this sort of thing, which is great.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Becca Mills on January 05, 2018, 01:49:15 PM
My sincere apologies, Becca.

Thank you, Myra.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 01:52:03 PM
And yet using one bonus book or chapter is not stuffing. It's kind of neat how that works out.
But I believe an earlier poster included the part of the TOS which explicitly stated that including an excerpt or bonus chapter(s) in your back matter was fine so long as it adhered to the KU exclusivity rule. Apparently the difference in intent matters? That would make sense when you also take into account their wording of the "substantially different" clause. As in many cases the intent of the TOS wording is clear, but people tend to try to "interpret" it in a way that allows them to do what they want to do even though they know they shouldn't.

And then they cry when they lose their accounts. 

Unfortunately when Amazon decides to wake up and enforce THEIR interpretation of the rules, very bad things tend to happen to a lot of people.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 01:54:20 PM
The excuse that book stuffing is perfectly fine now that they "plugged" the hole on "some" e-readers is laughable. I won't go into all the reasons why, except just one: Do you really think scammers and click-farms are using actual physical devices? If you do then I have a bridge to sell you.

The skipped page issue has not been resolved on the cloud reader. And with a laptop, a few browsers, KU accounts, combined with programs like AutoHotKey and other automation software, not to mention specifically built browser extensions that can "read" the books at a set "natural" pace or scroll right through, it's easier for them to set the program running, sit back and watch while they rake the money in than it is to tap away on physical screens. Cost effective too.

While I am absolutely certain that these sorts of things are happening, and that there are people engaging in precisely the practices you're discussing, I don't think this is what is happening with the vast majority of top 100 titles that have stuffed books.

You don't need armies of bots "naturally" reading through books to make a killing on the top 100 list. There are millions of legitimate KU readers who will do that kind of work for you, free of charge, and they'll love you for it as they devour your latest market-driven heavily marketed book.

If anything, I suspect people gaming the system with phony page reads and click-farms have learned from their mistakes and have taken their efforts below the radar (and into higher ranks that never hit the top lists). We're not seeing the cut and paste cookbooks sitting in the top 100 anymore. I'm sure those people are still out there, but I don't think they're interested in painting a giant target on their catalog.

I could be wrong, but if you're trying to say that top 100 titles with bonus content are likely to belong to evil botnet operators... I'd have to genuinely disagree. I know many of those authors in one way or another, and I don't know anybody who operates in the way you're describing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: V.P. on January 05, 2018, 02:10:23 PM
Someone said upthread that it doesn't matter if there is a link to a "sneak peak" at the back, since Amazon fixed that problem and the author doesn't get paid for the "skipped" pages. Others claim that the "fix" only works on newer Kindle devices, but not on older Kindles or on Cloud readers. I wonder if there is any evidence out there to back up this claim?
 I'm asking this because I don't own a Kindle - I read exclusively on the Cloud page reader & have done so for years. I wonder how many others out there are like me? Because if those who are saying that the "fix" doesn't work on the Cloud readers are correct, the authors who engage in this practice are indeed still getting paid for the "skipped" pages.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Sati_LRR on January 05, 2018, 02:13:47 PM
That'd be pretty easy for Amazon to spot and stop. They actively police against this sort of thing, which is great.
Hahahaha... no. You'd think so, but no. Amazon is ineffectual when it comes to this. Maybe they catch a few, but they can not distinguish to a great degree of accuracy between a reader and a program that is specifically designed to act like a reader who also has what looks to be a legit account.

I know many of those authors in one way or another, and I don't know anybody who operates in the way you're describing.
I also believe everything I'm told, too. /sarcasm. But seriously, they're not exactly going to invite you behind the curtain and show you explicit proof that they're scamming. They'll lie until they're blue in the face until they are caught, and even when they are caught doing something illegal or against the TOS they'll conveniently shift the blame or plead ignorance.

You don't need armies of bots "naturally" reading through books to make a killing on the top 100 list.
You don't need an army of bots, a spare laptop is enough.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KennySkylin on January 05, 2018, 02:25:24 PM
I would guess that when Amazon says "bonus content" they mean things like chapters from the next book, excerpts, teasers, character bios, maybe a side-story short/novella that is tied to the main book or series. Not, have some books ghostwritten and stuff those suckers in different configurations into the back of everything you ever release from now until the end of the world. In my opinion this really just seems like a way to get paid an excessive number of times for duplicate content.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Avis Black on January 05, 2018, 02:30:55 PM
Amazon won't fight stuffing if it draws readers in.  That's blunt, plain, and simple.  They want to drive their ebook competition out of business.  They behave as if they think topping off the KU pot each month is a small price to pay if it drives other ebook sellers into the ground.

There's another possibility.  What if Amazon tolerates stuffing because they actually want all their KU authors to do it?  If all the good authors operating at any point in time were forced into KU and had to stuff their entire collected works into 1 or 2 volumes just to make a living, this would make all good content disappear from other ebook retailers, along with their readers.  Every reader would subscribe to KU.  All good authors would become chained to Amazon to make a living, and they'd also be forced to make nothing more than around .004 cents a page--at this point in time.  It could go lower in a monopoly. 

At .004 cents a page, Amazon will have driven down wages for authors to the point where all anyone would ever make is around $1.20 for every 300-page novel.  If 99-cent pricing becomes dominant for these stuffed books just to get visibility on a chart or be able to buy ads, that means a .35 sale profit is all you're getting from a sale of around 10 of your books.  If one reader reads a ten-volume stuffer of 3000 pages, and buys it at .99 cents, the total lifetime profit you'll ever make from those ten volumes per reader is capped at 12.35, or $1.235 per book. 

At a KU payout of 1.20 per every 300-page book, you'll need 41,666 readers per year to make 50K.  To sustain a 50K income every year, you'd need to produce 10 new 300-page books every year, or draw in 41,666 new readers to your backlist every year.  Frankly, some genres don't even have that many total readers.  Only the biggest genres have a chance at producing new readers in those numbers.  The math is not workable for a lot of authors.

If Amazon became a monopoly, shoehorning nearly all the ad space onto one website means the competition for attention would only become even more fierce, and most authors will not be able to compete with the deeper pockets of the richest ones.  The amount of space on each Amazon page for ads is limited, so even the wealthiest authors who use ads would be competing hard against each other.  If other ebook retailers no longer exist, traditional publishers would be free to pour most of their ad budget into Amazon ads, and this would force most of the indies trying to advertise right off the pages.     

Amazon would likely be forced to ration ad page space and page time to accommodate so many ad buyers.  Even the best indie authors are quite likely see the effectiveness of their ads decline if they're having to fight hard for visibility in what would become only a small amount of open ad space.   

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: thesmallprint on January 05, 2018, 02:33:47 PM
Am I interpreting this correctly: if a reader reads the same book again and again, the author gets paid for a full page read each time?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 02:40:51 PM
I also believe everything I'm told, too. /sarcasm. But seriously, they're not exactly going to invite you behind the curtain and show you explicit proof that they're scamming. They'll lie until they're blue in the face until they are caught, and even when they are caught doing something illegal or against the TOS they'll conveniently shift the blame or plead ignorance.

I'm not basing my assumption that they aren't doing anything illicit involving botnets and the like on these people telling me they're on-the-level...

Sure, I know them to one extent or another, and many of them I absolutely trust to be honest... but I'm not going to go up to a top author and say "Hey, so... you're using botnets, right?"

Thankfully, I don't need to talk to them about it.

I don't think they're using bots because frankly, I see the strategy behind their methods. I operate in a very similar way to many of the romance authors you see across the top 100 lists, and I know that I am able to achieve my success without botnets or crazy illicit activities. It stands to reason that they, too, with books ranking in similar ranges, would be doing just as well without needing to resort to black-hat tactics.

It's not like they're hiding their methodology. Join their mailing list. Go check out their facebook pages. Make yourself a romance-loving female facebook profile and watch the ads pile up on your dashboard. Open their books and look at how they are written and constructed.

Why would those authors, who can legitimately place their books high on the lists without needing to rely on organic reach and are making money by the truckload as a result of this, do something as stupid, illegal, and potentially account-threatening as paying some illicit bot net operator to read their books?

Greed is a dangerous thing, and I'm sure there's a few greedy black hat marketing gurus out there with absolutely no ethical compass who will do anything to make a buck (including bot-reading), but I think we should apply occams razor to this and realize that it's actually EASIER (and safer) to make a truck load of money without having to create a big network of bots reading pages through a thousand VPNs on KU accounts that the person in charge has somehow managed to pick up at enormous scale.

If you seriously think even a relatively minor fraction of those authors on the top 100 list with their market-driven books and their $1,000/day+ marketing campaigns and their hundreds of five star reviews are messing with botnets, I don't think anything I can say to you will change your mind. :)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: RPatton on January 05, 2018, 02:44:14 PM
So reading through this, I think the issue is that there is a 500 lb gorilla in the room that isn't be discussed. Forget the page reads. The payout from the page reads is nice, but it's inconsequential. What is important? The All-Star Bonuses.

Let's say I have a book that is a single title and contains one book inside (for argument's sake, let's say the KENPC is 500). It launches at the same time and closely matches the rank of a book published by another author. This one too is advertised as a single title, but it contains several bonus books and has a KENPC of 2500. The All stars bonus is determined upon the number of pages reads, not the number of times a book is borrowed. So, even someone, with a book that includes five times as many KENPC as my book, they will likely own the All-Star charts.

And yes, I do believe that this could be construed as a theft, or at the very least fraud. If authors are rewarded for the number of page reads they have, then inflating the number of possible page reads by duplicating the same content ten or more times over, is at the very least fraud.

I personally don't have a problem with bonus content as long as it is less than 50% of the entire book. I choose not to include bonus content because the one time I included a short novel, one or two people complained. Not a single person said how great it was to get a two-fer. I have also since moved from KU to the wide market, so my horse in the KU race is currently out to pasture. However, what happens in KU does have an impact on all authors who sell directly through Amazon. The sheer volume of freebie seekers and the amount of readers being conditioned to .99 makes it more difficult to find qualified readers. It doesn't mean it's impossible, but it also comes with costs, such as time spent not writing. Not to mention the Newsletter saturation happening. The problem isn't isolated to stuffing (and by this, I am defining the term to mean content not advertised on the cover or blurb and exceeds 50% of the entire book), it's that stuffing is just one of the symptoms in a much larger problem.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 03:07:52 PM
If an author publishes a legitimate book with legitimate bonus content they own the rights to, within the terms of the TOS, and legitimate readers borrow and read the pages in that book, including the bonus pages because they are enjoying the book, and the resulting pagereads win the author an all-star author bonus, that is neither fraud, nor theft.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 03:13:47 PM
Geez, I hadn't even thought of that. The more I read this thread, the more disheartened I become. There is reason for optimism in all of this though, right? Eventually this will all get cleaned up and figured out. Right? (pretty please?)
Intel's Meltdown bug. Amazon is in deep, deep trouble. Well, all the cloud computing industry is, really, but Amazon has been using AWS profits to shore up all of their unprofitable divisions for years. This is going to clobber AWS with up to a 30% performance hit running the mitigation software. To replace that they'll have to add at least 30% more hardware - potentially more because of scaling issues. That's going to have an ugly impact on the performance their customers see until it's in place, and even then they're going to have to jack their prices up to pay for it all. At a 30% markup how many companies are going to decide it's cheaper to go back to doing everything in-house instead of in the cloud? And how many companies are going to decide they would rather not risk their data on cloud servers that might not be patched correctly? They're already seeing waves of complaints roll in.

So what happens if Amazon can no longer rely on AWS to prop everything else up? They have to get to work to make those other divisions profitable. Which might include doing a better job of selling books out of their bookstore. Fingers crossed, but not holding my breath...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 03:22:02 PM
So what happens if Amazon can no longer rely on AWS to prop everything else up? They have to get to work to make those other divisions profitable. Which might include doing a better job of selling books out of their bookstore. Fingers crossed, but not holding my breath...

This is an excellent point. To me, it seems fairly obvious that Kindle Unlimited isn't a huge profit center for Amazon. (More likely, they lose money on it, but they don't mind, especially as it helps drive their competitors out of business.) But if their side money dries up, they might be forced to actually try to make money off book sales again. My fingers are crossed too. Amazon used to be such a terrific book store. It would be nice to see those days return, speaking both as a writer AND as a reader.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 03:44:21 PM
So reading through this, I think the issue is that there is a 500 lb gorilla in the room that isn't be discussed. Forget the page reads. The payout from the page reads is nice, but it's inconsequential. What is important? The All-Star Bonuses.

Let's say I have a book that is a single title and contains one book inside (for argument's sake, let's say the KENPC is 500). It launches at the same time and closely matches the rank of a book published by another author. This one too is advertised as a single title, but it contains several bonus books and has a KENPC of 2500. The All stars bonus is determined upon the number of pages reads, not the number of times a book is borrowed. So, even someone, with a book that includes five times as many KENPC as my book, they will likely own the All-Star charts.

And yes, I do believe that this could be construed as a theft, or at the very least fraud. If authors are rewarded for the number of page reads they have, then inflating the number of possible page reads by duplicating the same content ten or more times over, is at the very least fraud.

I personally don't have a problem with bonus content as long as it is less than 50% of the entire book. I choose not to include bonus content because the one time I included a short novel, one or two people complained. Not a single person said how great it was to get a two-fer. I have also since moved from KU to the wide market, so my horse in the KU race is currently out to pasture. However, what happens in KU does have an impact on all authors who sell directly through Amazon. The sheer volume of freebie seekers and the amount of readers being conditioned to .99 makes it more difficult to find qualified readers. It doesn't mean it's impossible, but it also comes with costs, such as time spent not writing. Not to mention the Newsletter saturation happening. The problem isn't isolated to stuffing (and by this, I am defining the term to mean content not advertised on the cover or blurb and exceeds 50% of the entire book), it's that stuffing is just one of the symptoms in a much larger problem.

I mean, the pot is like 17 million. All Star bonuses are a total of under a million dollars. Stuffing has made the All Star threshold ridiculous, but All Stars aren't in the cards for most authors, so that isn't on their radar.

I agree it's unfair, but as long as it's allowed, that doesn't really matter. Not to Amazon and not to authors.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 03:48:19 PM
If an author publishes a legitimate book with legitimate bonus content they own the rights to, within the terms of the TOS, and legitimate readers borrow and read the pages in that book, including the bonus pages because they are enjoying the book, and the resulting pagereads win the author an all-star author bonus, that is neither fraud, nor theft.

I think most of us are fine with bonus content that is included in a single book and is read by an actual reader.

What we have an issue with is when a stuffer stuffs a dozen books with a dozen other books and simply reverses or reorders the content. Sure, maybe some readers don't read content that they've already read and skip over it. But maybe they don't. Maybe they read again. And it's possible to read it yet again in the next book with the content duplicated.

It's impossible for us to know how many times any given reader re-reads borrowed content. I don't know. The thing is, stuffing the way I have seen makes it possible for stuffers to get multiple reads of borrowed content. I don't know if Amazon has fixed the page read issue. I know it was raised with them. I don't recall them addressing it directly. So I have to rely on people telling me second-hand that the loophole has been unlooped.

If, as you say, it's all legit and above board, and the authors / publishers are simply out-writing, out-publishing and out-promoting all the other authors by using superior tactics which definitely follow the TOS, then that's different. I can bow to their superiority.

Still, they should be able to do all that without stuffing.

Stuffing seems key to their success. Which begs the question: Why stuff?

If their promotion and marketing are so superior, and their books so much more attractive than other books, it would seem that stuffing would be unnecessary. The marketing, promotion and superior content alone would be enough to get rank and page reads and dollars.

They must be stuffing for a reason or else, why bother?

I can only conclude stuffing is key to their whole strategy. Is it to get the extra page reads -- and maybe as a result, all star bonuses?

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 03:48:31 PM
I agree it's unfair, but as long as it's allowed, that doesn't really matter. Not to Amazon and not to authors.

Still not allowed, no matter how many evidence-free assertions you make.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 04:00:47 PM
Still not allowed, no matter how many evidence-free assertions you make.
If I had a nickel for every author who jumped on the "Everyone else is doing it and Amazon hasn't hammered any of them for it yet so it must be OK" wagon since 2011 and subsequently had their books/accounts yanked...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 04:01:32 PM
I mean, the pot is like 17 million. All Star bonuses are a total of under a million dollars. Stuffing has made the All Star threshold ridiculous, but All Stars aren't in the cards for most authors, so that isn't on their radar. I agree it's unfair, but as long as it's allowed, that doesn't really matter. Not to Amazon and not to authors.

I agree with the logic, but see this as a good reason to eliminate the bonuses, because I believe it's the "winner-take-all" setup that is driving some of the scamming. How many scammers make bank on the bonuses alone, even if they lose money on their aggressive book promotions? Plus, the bonus structure just one more thing that encourages stuffing and is driving individual authors out of Kindle Unlimited.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: blubarry on January 05, 2018, 04:04:31 PM
All Star bonuses are attainable for authors who don't stuff. I never have and have consistently hit All Star bonuses for a while now. And to whoever said the elephant in the room was the bonuses, I would respectfully disagree. The scammed pages read (and I know for a fact that it's still working for some, regardless of what bobfrost and others claim) reduce the payout amount. That's what everyone in KU cares about, not the bonus money.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 05, 2018, 04:10:13 PM
I agree with the logic, but see this as a good reason to eliminate the bonuses, because I believe it's the "winner-take-all" setup that is driving some of the scamming. How many scammers make bank on the bonuses alone, even if they lose money on their aggressive book promotions? Plus, the bonus structure just one more thing that encourages stuffing and is driving individual authors out of Kindle Unlimited.

When the mastermind group started, they counted on the All-Star bonuses to make money because they spent everything else they made getting their books into the top 100.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 04:17:15 PM
Still not allowed, no matter how many evidence-free assertions you make.

Okay... I don't know why we have to go through this again. How many times do I have to say that a KDP Rep told me, point blank, "Bonus content is allowed."

I think most of us are fine with bonus content that is included in a single book and is read by an actual reader.

What we have an issue with is when a stuffer stuffs a dozen books with a dozen other books and simply reverses or reorders the content. Sure, maybe some readers don't read content that they've already read and skip over it. But maybe they don't. Maybe they read again. And it's possible to read it yet again in the next book with the content duplicated.

None of that is happening regularly. I'm sure there are a few bad apples, but most people who stuff do something like this:

New Release with Book A
New Release 2 with Book B
New Release 3 with New Release and Book B

It's not cool if people are getting paid for skipped pages, but, at this point, that is 100% on Amazon. Amazon has said, time and time again, that skipped pages do not count. So I don't see how you can blame authors for taking them at their word.

It's impossible for us to know how many times any given reader re-reads borrowed content. I don't know. The thing is, stuffing the way I have seen makes it possible for stuffers to get multiple reads of borrowed content. I don't know if Amazon has fixed the page read issue. I know it was raised with them. I don't recall them addressing it directly. So I have to rely on people telling me second-hand that the loophole has been unlooped.

If, as you say, it's all legit and above board, and the authors / publishers are simply out-writing, out-publishing and out-promoting all the other authors by using superior tactics which definitely follow the TOS, then that's different. I can bow to their superiority.

Still, they should be able to do all that without stuffing.

Stuffing seems key to their success. Which begs the question: Why stuff?

If their promotion and marketing are so superior, and their books so much more attractive than other books, it would seem that stuffing would be unnecessary. The marketing, promotion and superior content alone would be enough to get rank and page reads and dollars.

They must be stuffing for a reason or else, why bother?

I can only conclude stuffing is key to their whole strategy. Is it to get the extra page reads -- and maybe as a result, all star bonuses?

I don't understand why you're treating this as a mystery. Stuffing gets you more pages because it removes the friction to read the next book. It's the key to the strategy of most romance authors who price at .99. They are sacrificing royalty money for pages. Of course people are going to take the opportunity for each full read to make them more. The choice is between making money and making more money.

People can still hit the charts without stuffing. But why would they when they don't see any downsides to stuffing?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 04:42:11 PM
Okay... I don't know why we have to go through this again. How many times do I have to say that a KDP Rep told me, point blank, "Bonus content is allowed."

That is the very definition of an evidence-free assertion. You are asserting this conversation took place, without providing evidence. Much like others in this thread have claimed that Amazon told them it was all fine, without providing the evidence.

I have furnished the actual email from me to KDP ECR, and the response. Evidence.

There is a difference.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 04:47:59 PM
For the avoidance of doubt, as I'm sure someone is about to wilfully misunderstand me, I'm not suggesting you are telling lies. Rather, the reason why "Someone told me this at a conference" isn't satisfactory evidence is that we don't have a record of the conversation. We don't know the context.

For example, if I asked an Amazon rep "Hey, is bonus content allowed?" They might well say yes, thinking I meant a map or a teaser for the next book, or some such.

But if I said "Hey can I stuff 5 whole books and 6 excerpts and a whole load of my newsletters into the back of not just one novel, but all my novels, even though those books are already on sale in the Kindle Store" - well, then I strongly suspect the answer would be no, just as it was when I emailed ECR.

I trust you can see the difference here.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Becca Mills on January 05, 2018, 05:05:48 PM
David, the question you posed to that rep specifically laid out the ABCD-BACD-CABD-DABC version of stuffing, where there's zero unique content among the books -- the content is shuffled but otherwise identical. I think the specificity of the scenario you proposed makes it easy for people to dismiss what that rep said if zero-unique-content is not exactly what they're doing. Do you think the person you communicated with then would be willing to give a clear, quotable ruling on stuffing where there's *some* new content from book to book -- new release stuffed with bonus books from the author's backlist, for instance? Or maybe articulate a limit on total allowable bonus material -- a short story's okay, but a whole novel's too much, for example?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 05:09:28 PM
Do you really think that would satisfy those who claim it's not against the TOS?

We did this dance in the last thread. That's why I emailed ECR. And yet... here we are.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 05:11:39 PM
PMing you something very relevant Becca.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Becca Mills on January 05, 2018, 05:18:38 PM
Do you really think that would satisfy those who claim it's not against the TOS?

We did this dance in the last thread. That's why I emailed ECR. And yet... here we are.

If the rep's answer were clear, I do think it'd convince some people, yeah. In any disagreement, there are always some who are open to being convinced. And, of course, some who are not. Seems like your audience is the former group, however small or large it may be.

PMing you something very relevant Becca.

Thanks, will go take a look.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 05:24:52 PM
Okay... I don't know why we have to go through this again. How many times do I have to say that a KDP Rep told me, point blank, "Bonus content is allowed."

None of that is happening regularly. I'm sure there are a few bad apples, but most people who stuff do something like this:

New Release with Book A
New Release 2 with Book B
New Release 3 with New Release and Book B

It's not cool if people are getting paid for skipped pages, but, at this point, that is 100% on Amazon. Amazon has said, time and time again, that skipped pages do not count. So I don't see how you can blame authors for taking them at their word.

I don't understand why you're treating this as a mystery. Stuffing gets you more pages because it removes the friction to read the next book. It's the key to the strategy of most romance authors who price at .99. They are sacrificing royalty money for pages. Of course people are going to take the opportunity for each full read to make them more. The choice is between making money and making more money.

People can still hit the charts without stuffing. But why would they when they don't see any downsides to stuffing?

I'm sorry but I went and checked the top 100 in Romance in particular categories and it's not just one book with an extra book added onto the back. The title content ends at 17%. Which means that it has 1,464 additional pages, or the equivalent of 5 extra full-length books tacked onto the end. Each of this author's books has at least 3 full length novels -- the same ones -- tacked onto the end. Plus sneak peeks at other new content.

Author two, has a book which ends at 30% and is 400 pages long. That means there's an additional 900+ pages added onto the end. Another of their books has titled content that ends at 10% and is 198 pages long. That means there's an additional 1800 pages of content added on at the end or the equivalent of 9 full length books. This goes on and on...

It's not just books with one book added at the end.

Something's rotten in the state of Denmark...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: doctorshevil on January 05, 2018, 05:31:33 PM
David, the question you posed to that rep specifically laid out the ABCD-BACD-CABD-DABC version of stuffing, where there's zero unique content among the books -- the content is shuffled but otherwise identical. I think the specificity of the scenario you proposed makes it easy for people to dismiss what that rep said if zero-unique-content is not exactly what they're doing. Do you think the person you communicated with then would be willing to give a clear, quotable ruling on stuffing where there's *some* new content from book to book -- new release stuffed with bonus books from the author's backlist, for instance? Or maybe articulate a limit on total allowable bonus material -- a short story's okay, but a whole novel's too much, for example?


Exactly this.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: thevoiceofone on January 05, 2018, 05:38:13 PM
It's not an old issue. These guys are still stuffing, and still leveraging those artificially increase page counts into greater payouts from the communal pot, All Star bonuses they don't deserve, and visibility they are taking from others.

It hasn't been fixed.

I guess there are 2 questions to this

1. If you can't change it why belly ache about it?

2. I see this all the time people taking books they have published and putting them in with other books. Amazon seems to be fine with it. So I'm guessing its okay.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Gentleman Zombie on January 05, 2018, 05:40:25 PM
The elephant in the room is this. Many romance readers only read the "good" parts. They skip through a densely stuffed book stop and read the naughty bits and then move on to the next spicy excerpt. That's why stuffing works. There's a significant number of readers who don't care about the overall story... They only want the sex. Is this all readers? Of course not! But it's enough of a percentage to make stuffing  profitable. So that kind of reader frantically skims through and registers legitimate page reads. They don't complain or even care if the book is stuffed. They also become super engaged fans of their favorite authors. That's why this all works.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: thevoiceofone on January 05, 2018, 05:45:21 PM
I'm sorry but I went and checked the top 100 in Romance in particular categories and it's not just one book with an extra book added onto the back. The title content ends at 17%. Which means that it has 1,464 additional pages, or the equivalent of 5 extra full-length books tacked onto the end. Each of this author's books has at least 3 full length novels -- the same ones -- tacked onto the end. Plus sneak peeks at other new content.

Author two, has a book which ends at 30% and is 400 pages long. That means there's an additional 900+ pages added onto the end. Another of their books has titled content that ends at 10% and is 198 pages long. That means there's an additional 1800 pages of content added on at the end or the equivalent of 9 full length books. This goes on and on...

It's not just books with one book added at the end.

Something's rotten in the state of Denmark...

Are you sure you are not confusing this with OMNIBUS editions or those books where they say "5 romance books"?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 05:45:28 PM
If I had a nickel for every author who jumped on the "Everyone else is doing it and Amazon hasn't hammered any of them for it yet so it must be OK" wagon since 2011 and subsequently had their books/accounts yanked...

If I had a nickel for every account I’ve seen banned I’d have twenty five cents, and I’m telling you right now each and every one of those people deserved it.

So far, I know of absolutely zero accounts and exactly zero books that have been removed for bonus content. The TOS specifically allows bonus content in the book so long as it’s a substantially differentiated title.

Spamming a bunch of books with literally identical content shuffled around will get you a naughty gram from amazon. I know. I’ve got one before by accident. They will ask you to remove one of the titles, or they will remove one on their end if you don’t do it quickly enough. That’s against the TOS.

If amazon wants to change this, I welcome the change. Until then... shrug.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: TwistedTales on January 05, 2018, 05:47:59 PM
I donít know why anyone is worrying about bonus books when the entire ecosystem is wrecked.

If youíre wide, then the borrow equals a sale makes sure youíre buried in the ranks. KU readers download books without even reading the LI. Many decide after downloading if theyíll read the book, which is one of the reasons there are one page reads.

If youíre in KU, but donít belong to one of the growing number of author consortiums sharing mail lists, then youíre buried in the ranks. Those author consortiums are flooding the site with books every two weeks, so there is no room in the ranks for any author who is not in their gangs. Many KU authors advertize using AMS, which means a good percentage of everything they earn in KU is paid back to Amazon anyway.

Readers will be rapidly getting to the point where they donít trust the reviews, ranks, category lists, content, or Amazonís recommendations. As an aside, the product side of Amazon is filling with fake goods and garage style operations, which is making buying from Amazon an unreliable experience.

Eventually all this adds up to buyers and readers no longer trusting Amazon and theyíll take their money elsewhere. All Amazon will have left are various types of subscribers who want everything for their notional monthly fee.

Where does it all end? The buyer will decide when enough is enough. When the people who pay real money to Amazon to purchase products/books get fed up with the lack of integrity and unreliable supply theyíll walk away.

While authors worry about bonus books, the entire ecosystem is stacking up against them. When the paying buyers walk away then the ecosystem will have to change, but until then itís going to keep getting worse in every direction, whether youíre in KU or not.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: LadyG on January 05, 2018, 05:52:34 PM
The elephant in the room is this. Many romance readers only read the "good" parts. They skip through a densely stuffed book stop and read the naughty bits and then move on to the next spicy excerpt. That's why stuffing works. There's a significant number of readers who don't care about the overall story... They only want the sex. Is this all readers? Of course not! But it's enough of a percentage to make stuffing  profitable. So that kind of reader frantically skims through and registers legitimate page reads. They don't complain or even care if the book is stuffed. They also become super engaged fans of their favorite authors. That's why this all works.

No. Contrary to popular beliefs, romance readers are not a bunch of bored, sex-starved housewives looking for a steamy read to spice up our lonely days. Wrong on so many levels, and really quite insulting. Some of actually do care about the overall story... in fact, I'd say that most of us enjoy the overall story. Sure, the steamy bits can be a fun part of the overall story, but they are just that: a part of the story.

Please do not attempt to blame the page stuffing problem on horny romance readers! Give me a break.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 05:55:48 PM
On a funny sidenote... Iím pretty sure sharing an ECR communication between you and KDP is an actual violation of the KDP terms of service...

But I digress :)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 05, 2018, 05:58:47 PM
On a funny sidenote... Iím pretty sure sharing an ECR communication between you and KDP is an actual violation of the KDP terms of service...

But I digress :)

I told them what it was for.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 06:00:28 PM
Relevant KDP terms of service:

7 Confidentiality. You will not, without our express, prior written permission: (a) issue any press release or make any other public disclosures regarding this Agreement or its terms; (b) disclose Amazon Confidential Information (as defined below) to any third party or to any employee other than an employee who needs to know the information; or (c) use Amazon Confidential Information for any purpose other than the performance of this Agreement. You may however disclose Amazon Confidential Information as required to comply with applicable law, provided you: (i) give us prior written notice sufficient to allow us to seek a protective order or other appropriate remedy; (ii) disclose only that Amazon Confidential Information as is required by applicable law; and (iii) use reasonable efforts to obtain confidential treatment for any Amazon Confidential Information so disclosed. "Amazon Confidential Information" means (1) any information regarding Amazon, its affiliates, and their businesses, including, without limitation, information relating to our technology, customers, business plans, promotional and marketing activities, finances and other business affairs, (2) the nature, content and existence of any communications between you and us, and (3) any sales data relating to the sale of Digital Books or other information we provide or make available to you in connection with the Program. Amazon Confidential Information does not include information that (A) is or becomes publicly available without breach of this Agreement, (B) you can show by documentation to have been known to you at the time you receive it from us, (C) you receive from a third party who did not acquire or disclose such information by a wrongful or tortious act, or (D) you can show by documentation that you have independently developed without reference to any Amazon Confidential Information. Without limiting the survivability of any other provision of this Agreement, this Section 7 will survive three years following the termination of this Agreement.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 06:01:58 PM
I told them what it was for.

Did they give you the expressed written permission to share it?

Itís silly, I know. Iím not harping on you for it. I was just laughing at the fact that even sharing an email can be a TOS violation. Not trying to actually accuse wrongdoing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 06:07:50 PM
Are you sure you are not confusing this with OMNIBUS editions or those books where they say "5 romance books"?

PLEASE...

I've been publishing for 5 years. I've organized two boxed sets with 5 - 8 other authors. I have three of my own boxed sets, collecting all the books in a series. I know the difference between a stuffed book and an omnibus or collection.

The number one book in one huge romance category has a title content of 300 pages. It ends at 17%. The book has an additional 5 full length books (equivalent) added on top of the titled content and none are mentioned on the cover or on the product page. The books are linked in the TOC. Then, there are special sneak peeks at the very end of the stuffed books. The next featured book by this author has some of the same content tacked onto the end. Again, no mention of the bonus content on the cover or on the product page. As does the next. Every one of the author's books are stuffed with variations of the their catalogue.

Stuffing must be important to the business plan or else they wouldn't do it.

If it's just a matter of ensuring the reader doesn't go off to read someone else's book, it would be entirely possible to add a link to the end of the book like most of us, taking the interested reader onto the product page of the next book, etc. Stuffing is key here, and I suspect there must be more to the story than just trying not to lose a reader. Either there are swipe-farms being used to get unearned page reads or they are just relying on this as a strategy to double dip when readers re-read content they've already read, thus getting around the TOS.

I don't know what it is, but stuffing is important in this business model.





Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 06:11:38 PM
Of course it is. Stuffing single releases with bonus content earns you more money than not stuffing, and is allowed, therefor people do it.

Itís part of their money making business plan. If amazon said ďone book per ASIN for KU titlesĒ, they would remove the bonus content and make slightly less money.

Thereís no conspiracy. They do it because it earns money. Iíve explained the reasons why repeatedly now :).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: V.P. on January 05, 2018, 06:22:54 PM
Of course it is. Stuffing single releases with bonus content earns you more money than not stuffing, and is allowed, therefor people do it.

Itís part of their money making business plan. If amazon said ďone book per ASIN for KU titlesĒ, they would remove the bonus content and make slightly less money.

Thereís no conspiracy. They do it because it earns money. Iíve explained the reasons why repeatedly now :).

Are the types of practices Sela described in the post above yours actually allowed? I though that the TOS placed certain restrictions on what we are permitted to offer as bonus content, but I could be wrong.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jim Johnson on January 05, 2018, 06:30:43 PM
The elephant in the room is this.

The other other elephant in the room is anyone thinking that any of this discussion is going to change squat about Amazon's practices. Amazon'll do what they do when they want to. KU is what it is. Authors who are sufficiently forewarned and are aware of the pros and cons make a choice to either participate or not.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 06:31:47 PM
That is the very definition of an evidence-free assertion. You are asserting this conversation took place, without providing evidence. Much like others in this thread have claimed that Amazon told them it was all fine, without providing the evidence.

I have furnished the actual email from me to KDP ECR, and the response. Evidence.

There is a difference.

How am I supposed to prove a verbal conversation took place? I don't need to prove it to you or anyone else. I know what the rep told me. I know what I believe is safe for my career. I know that by doing nothing Amazon has made it clear bonus content is fine.

You can choose not to believe me if you'd like, but don't say I'm willfully ignoring your evidence. I have seen your evidence and declared it irrelevant. Everyone agrees that undifferentiated content isn't allowed. But that isn't how people use bonus content, so it really doesn't matter if it's allowed.

I'm sorry but I went and checked the top 100 in Romance in particular categories and it's not just one book with an extra book added onto the back. The title content ends at 17%. Which means that it has 1,464 additional pages, or the equivalent of 5 extra full-length books tacked onto the end. Each of this author's books has at least 3 full length novels -- the same ones -- tacked onto the end. Plus sneak peeks at other new content.

Author two, has a book which ends at 30% and is 400 pages long. That means there's an additional 900+ pages added onto the end. Another of their books has titled content that ends at 10% and is 198 pages long. That means there's an additional 1800 pages of content added on at the end or the equivalent of 9 full length books. This goes on and on...

It's not just books with one book added at the end.

Something's rotten in the state of Denmark...

What's the difference? Bonus books are bonus books, whether there's one or a dozen. Either you're against them or you're for them. Saying "one is okay, but two is wrong" is silly.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 06:36:29 PM
If this were true, people wouldn't be stuffing their books.  But they are because the cloud reader in particular still pays for "last point read."  I haven't tested all devices, but I just now tested cloud reader and it pays for skips.

People stuff their books because it makes financial sense when you are getting paid per page to keep the reader reading lots of pages. It really is as simple as that yet people enjoy inferring bad intent.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 06:38:30 PM
Are the types of practices Sela described in the post above yours actually allowed? I though that the TOS placed certain restrictions on what we are permitted to offer as bonus content, but I could be wrong.

You can read it for yourself. Itís not terribly long.

But yeah, at no point does the TOS for KDP expressedly forbid putting five books inside a single title. At no point does it require you to let readers know the books are in there. At no point does it say you canít have a sneak peek or some other interesting content at the very back.

I guess you could argue this potentially promotes a bad customer experience (which is against the tos) but thatís a pretty subjective thing to say. Given that nobody has ever had their book removed over the kinds of bonus content we are discussing, Iíd say you have your answer.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 06:41:25 PM
I wish someone could explain to me why stuffers stuff, if it isn't to try to benefit from double, tripe and quadruple dipping.

Why not just publish each book separately and charge 99c for it?

In KU, it matters not since the reader can simply read 300 pages and then move on to the next book.

It seems to me that the only reason to stuff is to benefit from potential double, triple and quadruple dipping because Amazon can't detect multiple reads of the same content -- or maybe for sure when content is skipped.

I'm told by some that the skipping is no longer in effect except on the Amazon online reader, but I don't know that for a fact. I have to take the word of other people. Excuse me if I am skeptical.

Boxed sets are different because they either pack together an entire (or portion thereof) series so that the reader doesn't have to go hunting for the next book in the series -- or they are in the same universe, etc. It makes logical sense to collect the books up into one volume.

And they are clearly advertised and described as such. Some readers ONLY read a series when the series is done and they look for finished boxed sets in particular.

Stuffing is different because the content is replicated half a dozen times in different volumes, which means it's possible to get multiple dipping.

That can be the only reason to stuff. A bonus book at the end of the title content is not the same as stuffing 4 or 5 books at the end, and publishing each of these books separately with all the other books stuffed in the back and so on.

To me, the only reason to stuff is in the hopes of fortuitously (or through manipulation) getting paid multiple time for the same content read by the same reader.

The reason is because readers don't have to take the extra step to find other books in your catalog to keep reading more pages. You as an author who is also a business person are making it easier for the reader who is also a consumer to continue reading & consuming your content. You are removing a barrier. But yet on this forum ya'all call authors who are also good business people scammers. So this is why many don't want to talk. I sincerely hope this has helped answer some questions. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 06:46:56 PM
I went back to my correspondence with KDP indie specialists about stuffing. When i wrote them, I gave explicit examples of what I was seeing without giving actual titles:

Book 1: Title 1, Stuffed content: Book 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Book 2: Title 2, Stuffed content Book 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Book 3: Title 3, Stuffed content Book 2, 4, 6, 7, 8
Book 4: Title 4, Stuffed content Book 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
Book 5: Title 5, Stuffed content Book 1, 2, 3, 4, 8

Etc.

This is a summary of the points the rep gave in her response: I won't quote directly since that is apparently not allowed.

Bonus content is permitted.

If its placement does not mislead or disappoint customers.

Authors are not allowed to publish the same works multiple times with only minimal changes

Or a reordering of material

This is whether or not the book contains bonus content.

When Amazon determines that an author is doing this

The titles are subject to removal

The author is subject to account level action.


So, I think that is clear. Simply reordering works in different volumes with minimal difference is not permitted.

The fact that Amazon doesn't police this does not by any means legitimize it. It simply means that they have not allocated resources to police this adequately. That is a business decision on their part. If they did police it effectively with an eye to stopping it, the titles I have been looking at today would definitely be in direct contravention of Amazon's TOS.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 06:55:18 PM
But honestly, I could care less about all that because rank does not generate sales. Sales generate rank.

Agreed. I've got a long post that I'll put up shortly.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 06:57:11 PM
Speaking of which... whatís your podcast? I love podcasts.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 07:05:35 PM
So PhoenixS actually asked this question of Amazon back in July (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,253302.msg3533149.html#msg3533149). It was more carefully worded than David's in this topic and specifically addressed the New Book + Old book 1 + Old book 2... issue. The Customer Support Supervisor's response was unambiguous (I'm going to quote for the people too lazy to go back and read the two relevant posts):
Quote
I see that, you would like to combine four of your books "BH," "PH", "NH" and "HH" and publish, where you would submit the books with a single title and offer the other books as bonus content.

If you do so, a customer who is purchasing the books "BH" and "PH" perceiving that he/she purchases two different books, would end up with having the same content in the both the books repeatedly.

Since, this will be considered as duplication of the content, you may not include the other books in the primary content as our KDP Terms and Conditions doesn't allow submitting the duplicate books.


Further, you may certainly include a short story as a bonus content in your book, however you may not include the same story on all the titles in your catalog as the customers who are purchasing different titles from the same publisher will have the same short story as a duplication.
Later in the thread it was stated that Amazon was handing out content review notices to people doing this.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 07:16:58 PM
It's not an old issue. These guys are still stuffing, and still leveraging those artificially increase page counts into greater payouts from the communal pot, All Star bonuses they don't deserve, and visibility they are taking from others.

It hasn't been fixed.

It's not a "communal pot".

KENP is decided after the pay period ends. It isn't zero sum. It has never been zero sum. Some scammer isn't taking money out of your pocket.

Scammers are taking up space on the bestseller lists, but I remain VERY unconvinced that being on those lists helps your visibility by anything more than a little bit.

Time and again I'll do Countdown Deals and freebies, sometimes with BookBub or KND or some other smaller marketing company, something with no one.

What happens is predictable. With free titles, I'll hit the Top 100. With paid titles, I'll hit a bunch of smaller bestseller lists that I wasn't on before.

If being on a list meant "extra visibility" that increases sales and downloads across the board, you would expect that hitting #100 would eventually mean you hit #80, then #60, then #40, then the top 20.

Instead, with a bell curve that is incredibly predictable, the sales or downloads spike... and then begin to drop.

Case in point: free book yesterday, ENDURANCE, peaked at #70 free. Began today at #95. Currently at #112. It's on a bunch of bestseller lists, #1 right now in OCCULT, and it will only go down.

The visibility argument would state that I should have kept rising, because the higher on the list I got, the more eyeballs who saw me, and the more downloads I'd get. The book has had around 700 reviews, a four star average, and horror is popular. There are a lot more kindle readers who haven't read ENDURANCE than those who have.

And yet, the ranking dropped, the downloads are slowing down, and the visibility of a high rank didn't seem to do much.

Being on a bestseller list doesn't EVER mean a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the added list visibility sustains itself.

The only way to stay on a list is with some sort of extra push--ads, marketing, promo--or some very lucky word of mouth, or physical sales, or a publisher push, or if you have a large enough fanbase then new releases can stick on a list for as long as old fans first hear about it, or tell family and friends about it.

But just being on a list really doesn't do much for sales or KENP.

These scammers are taking a bunch of money from Amazon. A click farm with 2000 kindles would earn an author of a page stuffed 500 page book $4800. And this can be done without the loophole. If a click farm has a whole line of kindles, they can pay a group to manually click each page and still make money for the author who bought the service, even charging $500 for 2000 downloads. How is that any different than any other factory assembly line?

Now, I just wasted a few hours of my life looking at the romance bestseller lists, and I spotted at least two dozen authors with ebooks that were page stuffed, with descriptions and covers that were ridiculously similar.

Maybe it's one company, or a few people, doing this. Maybe it's a few dozen people doing this. David, I'm sure you have ample evidence.

But they aren't taking your piece of the pie. And the rank they have isn't what's making them money; I'd guess it's the click farms. Rank by itself doesn't help much, and I humbly ask anyone reading this to show me data to prove me wrong.

The only thing these scam books are taking is All Star Bonuses... which are bonuses. That sucks, but it's not stealing money directly from you. No more than a reader buying your book and not mine is stealing money from me.

I've had All Star Bonuses. They're nice. But when you're selling that much, you really don't need the bonus to make ends meet.

Simple math shows that Amazon is losing a lot of money on this. Several hundred grand a month, at minimum.

But that's Amazon's money. Not yours.

It is a problem. And it's irritating, because some people are cheating, and we're playing by the rules.

But--and I've said this for years--KENP isn't zero sum. No one is taking money from us.

That said, I've spent a bit of time thinking about this situation. If this problem is to be solved, here's what I believe needs to be done. It probably won't be popular, but this is what Amazon can do to stop the scammers.
 
1. Don't allow ebooks to be bundled unless they are labeled as a bundle on the cover art and in the title and description.

2. Use plagiarism software to make sure the same books aren't being released multiple times with different title names, character names, and author names.

3. Don't allow bundles to be advertised. Many of these scam books are sponsored content, meaning the creators are buying ad space.

4. Don't count KU borrows in Amazon ranking. Or have a whole separate KU bestseller list. There is already FREE and PAID, one more might make things easier of KU readers to find material.

5. Make sure that when KENP is paid, it was actually a page read, not a skip. I just asked my Zon rep to confirm this. I'll report back.

6. Limit the number of ebooks, and page lengths, that new KDP authors can upload. You shouldn't be able to upload ten 600 page ebooks in one month. No one could do that unless they are using a team of ghost writers or plagiarizing other work or packaging the same books over and over.

7. Eliminate the All Star Bonus. Instead, add that proposed monthly amount to the KENP payout.

8. Pay attention to reviews. There are reviewers who only review scam books, and they are easy to spot.

9. There are a lot of covers that say "USA Today Bestselling Author" and a quick search shows they were never on that list. Verify bestseller list status.

10. Look at accounts that pay the same address. I had five pen names, but they all are linked to Joe Konrath under one account. If there are multiple KDP accounts that pay the same person, corporation, bank account, or address, that requires closer scrutiny.

And most of all, there needs to be human eyes on this. At least until the field is properly cleared. It's my understanding that bots are rank stripping legitimate, unstuffed ebooks. If this is true, having a trained team, that can be contacted by authors, would go a long way to making things better.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 07:32:27 PM
11. shut down KU. 100% problem solved.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 07:35:52 PM
11. shut down KU. 100% problem solved.

Or shut down KDP. Problem solved.

Unfortunately, readers like KU. My wife reads five books a week. It's a terrific program for customers, and as far as artist compensation goes, it's peerless. Ask some musicians to tell you about Spotify and Pandora some day, if you want to hear about artists getting the short end.

KDP isn't going away. Remember your serenity prayer.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 07:37:36 PM
It's not a "communal pot".

KENP is decided after the pay period ends. It isn't zero sum. It has never been zero sum. Some scammer isn't taking money out of your pocket.

Scammers are taking up space on the bestseller lists, but I remain VERY unconvinced that being on those lists helps your visibility by anything more than a little bit.

Time and again I'll do Countdown Deals and freebies, sometimes with BookBub or KND or some other smaller marketing company, something with no one.

What happens is predictable. With free titles, I'll hit the Top 100. With paid titles, I'll hit a bunch of smaller bestseller lists that I wasn't on before.

If being on a list meant "extra visibility" that increases sales and downloads across the board, you would expect that hitting #100 would eventually mean you hit #80, then #60, then #40, then the top 20.

Instead, with a bell curve that is incredibly predictable, the sales or downloads spike... and then begin to drop.

Case in point: free book yesterday, ENDURANCE, peaked at #70 free. Began today at #95. Currently at #112. It's on a bunch of bestseller lists, #1 right now in OCCULT, and it will only go down.

The visibility argument would state that I should have kept rising, because the higher on the list I got, the more eyeballs who saw me, and the more downloads I'd get. The book has had around 700 reviews, a four star average, and horror is popular. There are a lot more kindle reader who haven't read ENDURANCE than those who have.

And yet, the ranking dropped, the downloads are slowing down, and the visibility of a high rank didn't seem to do much.

Being on a bestseller list doesn't EVER mean a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the added list visibility sustains itself.

The only way to stay on a list is with some sort of extra push--ads, marketing, promo--or some very lucky word of mouth, or physical sales, or a publisher push, or if you have a large enough fanbase then new releases can stick on a list for as long as old fans first hear about it, or tell family and friends about it.

But just being on a list really doesn't do much for sales or KENP.

These scammers are taking a bunch of money from Amazon. A click farm with 2000 kindles would earn an author of a page stuffed 500 page book $4800. And this can be done without the loophole. If a click farm has a whole line of kindles, they can pay a group to manually click each page and still make money for the author who bought the service, even charging $500 for 2000 downloads. How is that any different than any other factory assembly line?

Now, I just wasted a few hours of my life looking at the romance bestseller lists, and I spotted at least two dozen authors with ebooks that were page stuffed, with descriptions and covers that were ridiculously similar.

Maybe it's one company, or a few people, doing this. Maybe it's a few dozen people doing this. David, I'm sure you have amble evidence.

But they aren't taking your piece of the pie. And the rank they have isn't what's making them money; I'd guess it's the click farms. Rank by itself doesn't help much, and I humbly ask anyone reading this to show me data to prove me wrong.

The only thing these scam books are taking is All Star Bonuses... which are bonuses. That sucks, but it's not stealing money directly from you. No more than a reader buying your book and not mine is stealing money from me.

Simple math shows that Amazon is losing a lot of money on this. Several hundred grans a month, at minimum.

But that's Amazon's money. Not yours.

It is a problem. And it's irritating, because some people are cheating, and we're playing by the rules.

But--and I've said this for years--KENP isn't zero sum. No one is taking money from us.

That said, I've spent a bit of time thinking about this situation. If this problem is to be solved, here's what I believe needs to be done. It probably won't be popular, but this is what Amazon can do to stop the scammers.
 
1. Don't allow ebooks to be bundled unless they are labeled as a bundle on the cover art and in the title and description.

2. Use plagiarism software to make sure the same books aren't being released multiple times with different title names, character names, and author names.

3. Don't allow bundles to be advertised. Many of these scam books are sponsored content, meaning the creators are buying ad space.

4. Don't count KU borrows in Amazon ranking. Or have a whole separate KU bestseller list. There is already FREE and PAID, one more might make things easier of KU readers to find material.

5. Make sure that when KENP is paid, it was actually a page read, not a skip. I just asked my Zon rep to confirm this. I'll report back.

6. Limit the number of ebooks, and page lengths, that new KDP authors can upload. You shouldn't be able to upload ten 600 page ebooks in one month. No one could do that unless they are using a team of ghost writers or plagiarizing other work or packaging the same books over and over.

7. Eliminate the All Star Bonus. Instead, add that proposed monthly amount to the KENP payout.

8. Pay attention to reviews. There are reviewers who only review scam books, and they are easy to spot.

9. There are a lot of covers that say "USA Today Bestselling Author" and a quick search shows they were never on that list. Verify bestseller list status.

10. Look at accounts that pay the same address. I had five pen names, but they all are linked to Joe Konrath under one account. If there are multiple KDP accounts that pay the same person, corporation, bank account, or address, that requires closer scrutiny.

And most of all, there needs to be human eyes on this. At least until the field is properly cleared. It's my understanding that bots are rank stripping legitimate, unstuffed ebooks. If this is true, having a trained team, that can be contacted by authors, would go a long way to making things better.

Some romance authors use similar ways of marketing, such as similar covers & maybe cover designers & tropes & blurbs, bc that's what sells the books best.  Some also use ghostwriters. That doesn't mean they must be clickfarming & their books are scam books. I feel like these are really negative things to say based on the books being the kind of things readers like to read: 'bad boy' romance books. If readers didn't eat it up like  hot cakes it wouldn't always be in the  top 100.

I'm w/ bobfrost bc I feel like this group is openly showing what to do to successfully make money in the contemporary romance genre & then other authors come along saying it's top secret & cliquish (yet also that an open invitation was extended to people) & that these people must be scammers. Instead of, you know, people who have figured out what kind of marketing works best to market romance books to romance readers.  The current topic/ way to attack these authors is bonus books but it relates bc people go from saying 'i think it's okay to use 2 bonus books but not 8' to 'bad boy romance books in the top 100 romance books are scammy.'
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dragovian on January 05, 2018, 07:41:26 PM

6. Limit the number of ebooks, and page lengths, that new KDP authors can upload. You shouldn't be able to upload ten 600 page ebooks in one month. No one could do that unless they are using a team of ghost writers or plagiarizing other work or packaging the same books over and over.
What's wrong with using a team of ghost writers? Indies would hardly be the first to pay multiple people to write books which are then published under a single pen name, and I'm not sure why "ghost writers" are repeatedly being grouped under scam tactics.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 07:47:34 PM
Some romance authors use similar ways of marketing, such as similar covers & maybe cover designers & tropes & blurbs, bc that's what sells the books best.  Some also use ghostwriters. That doesn't mean they must be clickfarming & their books are scam books. I feel like these are really negative things to say based on the books being the kind of things readers like to read: 'bad boy' romance books. If readers didn't eat it up like  hot cakes it wouldn't always be in the  top 100.

I'm w/ bobfrost bc I feel like this group is openly showing what to do to successfully make money in the contemporary romance genre & then other authors come along saying it's top secret & cliquish (yet also that an open invitation was extended to people) & that these people must be scammers. Instead of, you know, people who have figured out what kind of marketing works best to market romance books to romance readers. 

Romance writers bundling content isn't the problem. Some of them will get tossed out, baby with the bathwater, when Zon cracks down on the book stuffing. But I would need to see some hard sales data to show that releasing a book, and tacking on four bonus books, and selling it all for 99 cents without being able to repackage and sell those five titles, makes money.

Even being #1, I don't see legit sales and KENP reads being sustainable. The only way to sustain this is with click farms, publishing multiple titles repeatedly under different names, and opening new accounts as soon as Zon shuts you down.

It doesn't matter if your cover, blurb, trope is selling--there is NO way to guarantee that imitating Author X with 5 stuffed titles, in KENP for 99 cents, will result in hitting a bestseller list.

I'd need to be shown otherwise. I've been doing this a long time, and still have no idea why certain titles sell. But when the bestseller lists are dominated by book stuffers, something is amiss. And right now, in various romance categories, they're being manipulated. It isn't innocent authors parroting success.

That said, it still isn't zero sum. These writers are exploiting a loophole in Amazon. They aren't stealing your books, your readers, or your money.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jim Johnson on January 05, 2018, 07:50:14 PM
I'm not sure why "ghost writers" are repeatedly being grouped under scam tactics.

True that. Ghostwriting has been around for ages; nothing particularly scammy about it unless one thinks Tom Clancy, RS Stine, James Patterson, Ian Fleming, VC Andrews and tons more writers on countless books and series of books wrote all their own manuscripts.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 07:50:33 PM
What's wrong with using a team of ghost writers? Indies would hardly be the first to pay multiple people to write books which are then published under a single pen name, and I'm not sure why "ghost writers" are repeatedly being grouped under scam tactics.

I'm not saying what's "right" or "wrong." I'm saying how this problem could be fixed.

But there is a big difference between a bunch of commissioned authors writing Star Wars tie-ins, and putting out ten pen names all with the same fifty titles all book stuffed with the characters changed, then paying click farms to take advantage of KENP.

If someone releases ten books in a month, for twelve months straight, get eyes on them.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dragovian on January 05, 2018, 07:54:32 PM
But there is a big difference between a bunch of commissioned authors writing Star Wars tie-ins, and putting out ten pen names all with the same fifty titles all book stuffed with the characters changed, then paying click farms to take advantage of KENP.
Putting out ten pen names all with the same fifty titles is also different from using a team of ghost writers. If that's what you meant, maybe that's what you should have said.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 07:56:43 PM
If someone releases ten books in a month, for twelve months straight, get eyes on them.
Unless of course it's Amanda...  :D
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Becca Mills on January 05, 2018, 08:03:32 PM
So PhoenixS actually asked this question of Amazon back in July (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,253302.msg3533149.html#msg3533149). It was more carefully worded than David's in this topic and specifically addressed the New Book + Old book 1 + Old book 2... issue. The Customer Support Supervisor's response was unambiguous (I'm going to quote for the people too lazy to go back and read the two relevant posts):Later in the thread it was stated that Amazon was handing out content review notices to people doing this.

Kelli, I agree that Phoenix asked (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,253302.msg3533150.html#msg3533150) a more multifaceted question that covered several different approaches to stuffing, but the rep (in my reading) missed part of what she was asking. Phoenix asked:

[...]

Very plainly, please let me know:

1) whether I will be paid for all the pages read in a book that contains bonus content as created below.

2) if the following examples of creating bonus content are within the Terms & Conditions for Select:

From my personal catalog:
A.) I offer the single title BH, then simply add as a surprise bonus:
PH
NH
HH

B) I offer the single title PH, then add:
BH
NH
HH [oops, edited to abbreviate]

C) I offer the single title NH, then add:
TH
HH

D) I offer the single title TH, then add:
BH (same pen name)
HS (different pen name, different subgenre)
AH  (different pen name, different subgenre)

From the SMP account I manage for another author (she has close to 80 titles available):
A) I include the 504 KENP series starter CH, the 338 KENP series starter LP, and the 265 KENP series starter TRW in ALL 80 titles, adding an extra 1100 KENP pages of content to every title in that catalog.

B) I include a brand new short story not yet published anywhere as an extra bonus incentive at the end of all 80 titles.

[...]

The rep answered (http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,253302.msg3533150.html#msg3533150):

[...]

I see that, you would like to combine four of your books "BH," "PH", "NH" and "HH" and publish, where you would submit the books with a single title and offer the other books as bonus content.

If you do so, a customer who is purchasing the books "BH" and "PH" perceiving that he/she purchases two different books, would end up with having the same content in the both the books repeatedly.

Since, this will be considered as duplication of the content, you may not include the other books in the primary content as our KDP Terms and Conditions doesn't allow submitting the duplicate books.

Further, you may certainly include a short story as a bonus content in your book, however you may not include the same story on all the titles in your catalog as the customers who are purchasing different titles from the same publisher will have the same short story as a duplication.

[...]

In my reading, the rep has only answered the parts of Phoenix's question that I bolded, skipping over the more complex questions sandwiched between the two simpler ones. The first question the rep answered is the same question David asked -- can you publish two books with identical content in a different order? (Both books contain BH, PH, NH, and HH.)

The second question the rep answered, about adding the same short story to 80 different books, is different from the one David asked and seems to prohibit duplicated bonus content between books, period. This answer seems important to me, and that's what I'd go by if I felt any inclination to add additional bonus material to my books (I already include a glossary and a sample chapter from the next in the series).
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 08:04:16 PM
Or shut down KDP. Problem solved.

Unfortunately, readers like KU. My wife reads five books a week. It's a terrific program for customers, and as far as artist compensation goes, it's peerless. Ask some musicians to tell you about Spotify and Pandora some day, if you want to hear about artists getting the short end.

KDP isn't going away. Remember your serenity prayer.

Why, there's nothing wrong with KDP. No botters, no scammers, no stuffers, no nothing. No problem, no need to shut it down.

KU on the other hand is riddled with problems and amazon can't seem to fix them. Hence, the only 100% solution is to shut it down.

To be honest, I find it really sad that authors are so damn scared of losing their precious subscription program. The thing is a giant piece of kaka, and people cling to it like a buoy in a tsunami.

It's not the end of the world if amazon decided to just toss KU in the trash. God forbid it might actually make the publishing industry better to be in and sell in. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Lilly_Frost on January 05, 2018, 08:06:50 PM
I like to read the odd SF or Fantasy Romance now and then, and I picked up a SFR title in KU that listed the "book" I thought I was getting, and in the blurb, it mentioned there was a bonus short story at the end. Well, just when I thought things were going along at a good pace, the book ended. At 6%. The bonus story that was in the same vein as the book was ALL the way at the end, past over a dozen additional stories that, to put it bluntly, was crap I wouldn't have wasted someone else's time and eyeballs on, much less my own. Out of curiosity, I downloaded another SFR title by the same author that also mentioned a bonus story. Same stories, different order. The bonus story in one was the main story in the other and vice versa. The intervening stories were all Billionaire/Bad Boy/Biker/Shifter/Vampire stuff that does not scratch the itch of someone wanting to read about adventures on an alien planet. The author knew that, I'm sure, and so put the two similar stories at opposite ends of the book so that they would get credit for the other 88% of the story that didn't actually get read. I clicked back to the cover of both books before I returned them, and sincerely hope that the author didn't get paid for the page reads. Oh, and there was no mention on the cover/blurb/etc. that those other "books" were part of the content. I just looked at the page count, saw that it was around full-length novel page count, and assumed I was getting a single book with a single short story. That seems pretty deceptive to me, especially when they did it twice with the same stories, in a different order, with a different title and cover.



I'm sorry but I went and checked the top 100 in Romance in particular categories and it's not just one book with an extra book added onto the back. The title content ends at 17%. Which means that it has 1,464 additional pages, or the equivalent of 5 extra full-length books tacked onto the end. Each of this author's books has at least 3 full length novels -- the same ones -- tacked onto the end. Plus sneak peeks at other new content.

Author two, has a book which ends at 30% and is 400 pages long. That means there's an additional 900+ pages added onto the end. Another of their books has titled content that ends at 10% and is 198 pages long. That means there's an additional 1800 pages of content added on at the end or the equivalent of 9 full length books. This goes on and on...

It's not just books with one book added at the end.

Something's rotten in the state of Denmark...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 08:07:45 PM
Putting out ten pen names all with the same fifty titles is also different from using a team of ghost writers. If that's what you meant, maybe that's what you should have said.

Show me a ghost writer, and I'll show you someone who was exploited.

When someone makes money off of your work and doesn't give you the artistic credit for it, you're being used.

If you feel you're being adequately paid for the work you did, and someone is able to make more money than they paid you, you're being used.

Haven't you heard? Anyone can self-publish.

Why would you let someone self-publish you and keep the majority of the money and take all the credit? And what would compel you do that to someone else?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Crystal_ on January 05, 2018, 08:08:44 PM
I went back to my correspondence with KDP indie specialists about stuffing. When i wrote them, I gave explicit examples of what I was seeing without giving actual titles:

Book 1: Title 1, Stuffed content: Book 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.
Book 2: Title 2, Stuffed content Book 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
Book 3: Title 3, Stuffed content Book 2, 4, 6, 7, 8
Book 4: Title 4, Stuffed content Book 3, 5, 6, 7, 8
Book 5: Title 5, Stuffed content Book 1, 2, 3, 4, 8

Etc.

This is a summary of the points the rep gave in her response: I won't quote directly since that is apparently not allowed.

Bonus content is permitted.

If its placement does not mislead or disappoint customers.

Authors are not allowed to publish the same works multiple times with only minimal changes

Or a reordering of material

This is whether or not the book contains bonus content.

When Amazon determines that an author is doing this

The titles are subject to removal

The author is subject to account level action.


So, I think that is clear. Simply reordering works in different volumes with minimal difference is not permitted.

The fact that Amazon doesn't police this does not by any means legitimize it. It simply means that they have not allocated resources to police this adequately. That is a business decision on their part. If they did police it effectively with an eye to stopping it, the titles I have been looking at today would definitely be in direct contravention of Amazon's TOS.

I'm not sure why you and David keep arguing this. We all agree you can't publish reordered content. There's a lot of willful disregard for reality in this thread, and I'm tired of arguing against it.

I don't think there is any more productive conversation to be had here, so I'm out.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 08:09:58 PM
To be honest, I find it really sad that authors are so damn scared of losing their precious subscription program. The thing is a giant piece of kaka, and people cling to it like a buoy in a tsunami.

KU has allowed new authors to reach readers without any risk. You can try a new author without paying for their book. And they still make some money.

I'd call that a wonderful thing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 08:21:48 PM
Why, there's nothing wrong with KDP. No botters, no scammers, no stuffers, no nothing. No problem, no need to shut it down.

KU on the other hand is riddled with problems and amazon can't seem to fix them. Hence, the only 100% solution is to shut it down.

To be honest, I find it really sad that authors are so damn scared of losing their precious subscription program. The thing is a giant piece of kaka, and people cling to it like a buoy in a tsunami.

It's not the end of the world if amazon decided to just toss KU in the trash. God forbid it might actually make the publishing industry better to be in and sell in.
KU is broken and will always be broken as long as it offers unlimited content for a flat subscription fee. It's basic math - you have a 100% guarantee that you can milk more money out of the system than you put in. This means every scammer on the planet is going to be looking to hit that. It's free money. They will come up with a thousand different ways to do it, and there will be so many of them that only the most egregious ones will get caught. I've seen dozens of kinds of exploits revealed here, and for every one that Amazon takes a swing at six more crop up to take its place.

Guaranteed free money is a very powerful incentive to the ethically challenged.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dragovian on January 05, 2018, 08:24:59 PM
Show me a ghost writer, and I'll show you someone who was exploited.
Fine, you want to have a different conversation than the one about book stuffing. You feel free to do that. But conflating ghost writers with scams is just muddying the waters.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 08:32:04 PM
Show me a ghost writer, and I'll show you someone who was exploited.

When someone makes money off of your work and doesn't give you the artistic credit for it, you're being used.

If you feel you're being adequately paid for the work you did, and someone is able to make more money than they paid you, you're being used.

Haven't you heard? Anyone can self-publish.

Why would you let someone self-publish you and keep the majority of the money and take all the credit? And what would compel you do that to someone else?
Having talked to some of the good ones who value their work highly, it's usually because they don't want to do it. They enjoy writing - they have no desire to be publishers. They can still make a living off of their writing without the headaches of learning advertising and promotion, cover design, generating ebooks, figuring out the vagaries of all the different platforms, dealing with email lists, and putting up with the neverending BS that comes from the distributors. After over six years of this, I can definitely see their point.

Then you've got the lower tier ones who aren't good enough to make it as indies and sell their services cheap on sites like elancer.com. A lot of those are ESL types. These are the ones typically generating the cheap content for the scammers who don't want to push computer generated or scraped content.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 08:33:49 PM
KU is broken and will always be broken as long as it offers unlimited content for a flat subscription fee. It's basic math - you have a 100% guarantee that you can milk more money out of the system than you put in. This means every scammer on the planet is going to be looking to hit that. It's free money. They will come up with a thousand different ways to do it, and there will be so many of them that only the most egregious ones will get caught. I've seen dozens of kinds of exploits revealed here, and for every one that Amazon takes a swing at six more crop up to take its place.

Guaranteed free money is a very powerful incentive to the ethically challenged.

There's no such thing as guaranteed free money.

Let's say you want to start a book stuffing scam. What do you need?

1. Books. They aren't free. You'd need a time investment at minimum. Or you could buy them from someone else. Or you could try plagiarism, and risk being sued. All of these have cost.

2. Cover art. Pay for it = cost. Make it yourself = time investment = cost.

3. Formatting. See above.

4. Self-pubbing. This is a time cost. Writing the blurb. Uploading to KDP.

5. Paying a click farm. That's a cost. And a big risk. Amazon could change the rules after you've paid, and your book is gone. Or they can catch you later, and say you violated TOS, and not pay you. Or even take legal action against you.

This isn't guaranteed money. It's a potentially dangerous gamble.

No one can guarantee "milking more money out of the system." If you know how, please share. I've sold close to three million books, and still don't have any idea what will sell. I've had as many flops as hits, and a lot in between.

Just because there will always be those who try to scam doesn't mean the program is worthless. There are insurance scammers. Should we eliminate insurance?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 08:45:58 PM
Fine, you want to have a different conversation than the one about book stuffing. You feel free to do that. But conflating ghost writers with scams is just muddying the waters.

Maybe we're talking past each other.

I'm pretending to be Amazon, and trying to stop this scamming problem. Among the many things I'd do, one of them is:

"Limit the number of ebooks, and page lengths, that new KDP authors can upload. You shouldn't be able to upload ten 600 page ebooks in one month. No one could do that unless they are using a team of ghost writers or plagiarizing other work or packaging the same books over and over."

The implication here is that no one could write that much, so they must be using other people to put out that much content. Many of the scammers I wasted my day looking at fit into a profile of releasing a lot of books in a short amount of time. So, if I'm Amazon, that's what I'd look at. Someone uploading a bunch of ghostwritten books.

Can you give me an example of someone using a pen name to upload a bunch of ghostwritten books that isn't a scammer? And, as I clarified, we aren't talking about tie-ins for known intellectual property.

I don't see that as muddying the waters. I also didn't say ghost writing should be forbidden. I said there should be a limit on what is uploaded. If you're using a team of ghost writers to upload a lot in a short amount of time, what's your intent? And once you state your intent, show an example.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 08:49:42 PM
Show me a ghost writer, and I'll show you someone who was exploited.

When someone makes money off of your work and doesn't give you the artistic credit for it, you're being used.

If you feel you're being adequately paid for the work you did, and someone is able to make more money than they paid you, you're being used.

Haven't you heard? Anyone can self-publish.

Why would you let someone self-publish you and keep the majority of the money and take all the credit? And what would compel you do that to someone else?

Many ghostwriters like being ghostwriters. They don't want to be book sellers or book marketers. They like to focus on writing. Plus they can do it in their share time or from anywhere; they don't have to meet publishing deadlines or stress about expenses or work for The Man are a job.

Authors who use ghostwriters direct them in what to write to market based on what they know their readers want to read and buy. By your reasoning It would be wrong for any company to take credit for the products they sell that workers make.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 08:51:12 PM
I'm not sure why you and David keep arguing this. We all agree you can't publish reordered content. There's a lot of willful disregard for reality in this thread, and I'm tired of arguing against it.

I don't think there is any more productive conversation to be had here, so I'm out.

You kept saying bonus content is okay. Yes. It is okay. Stuffers are not adding bonus content in the way Amazon means bonus content. Stuffers are reordering duplicate content multiple times in multiple volumes.

We appear to be talking about different things.

Bonus content added onto the end of titled content is good.

The same reordered duplicate content added on to multiple titles is not good.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 08:55:30 PM
There's no such thing as guaranteed free money.

Let's say you want to start a book stuffing scam. What do you need?

1. Books. They aren't free. You'd need a time investment at minimum. Or you could buy them from someone else. Or you could try plagiarism, and risk being sued. All of these have cost.

2. Cover art. Pay for it = cost. Make it yourself = time investment = cost.

3. Formatting. See above.

4. Self-pubbing. This is a time cost. Writing the blurb. Uploading to KDP.

5. Paying a click farm. That's a cost. And a big risk. Amazon could change the rules after you've paid, and your book is gone. Or they can catch you later, and say you violated TOS, and not pay you. Or even stake legal action against you.

This isn't guaranteed money. It's a potentially dangerous gamble.

No one can guarantee "milking more money out of the system." If you know how, please share. I've sold close to three million books, and still don't have any idea what will sell. I've had as many flops as hits, and a lot in between.

Just because there will always be those who try to scam doesn't mean the program is worthless. There are insurance scammers. Should we eliminate insurance?
Joe, I love you. It was your blog that got me started on this path back in 2011. But you're thinking like a writer/publisher and not a scammer who knows how to put a quarter in the KU slot and get a dollar back, every time.

You want to make money off of KU? A subscription costs $9.95. $9.95 / $0.0045 = 2211 page reads/subscription to break even. That's all. And it scales *infinitely* because there is no cap on borrows. So I've got a 70k romance novel in my catalog that comes in around 350 KENPC. 6.3 reads of a 350 KENPC in a month cover the subscription cost. That's not much - there are millions of romance readers who burn through 5 novels in a week.

So say I upload a catalog of 50 70k novels of computer generated text to KDP. The whole process is scripted so I don't have to do a freaking thing except type 'go' on my keyboard. The script sticks on a default cover from the Amazon selection and generates a random title. Price at 99 cents and stick it in KU. My cost at this point is $0, because the scripting tools to do all this can easily be downloaded for free. I just let it run for an hour or so while I go watch something on Netflix.

Now I run another script to create dummy Amazon accounts to generate page reads. This is where it costs because I set up subscriptions using prepaid credit cards. Say I'm poor and can only afford 10, so I drop $99.50.

Now I use each of those accounts to generate page reads for 20 books a month, alternating between my 50 to make it harder for Amazon to pick out and keeping the number low enough to fly under the radar. This is also easily scripted, so you don't have to pay a clickfarm to do it. There are other advantages to doing that, but as long as you don't get too greedy it isn't necessary.

10 x 20 x 350 = 70,000 page reads, which at $0.0045 = $315

The book rankings stay low so they don't attract attention. The individual accounts don't read too many books so they don't attract attention. And I've made a 300% profit for something like a couple of hours work.

So next month I reinvest that $315 to get 31 subscriptions. $976.

Lather, rinse, repeat. Again, it scales as far as you want it to go. Do it with twenty 90k novels instead of 70k. Mix them up. Add more publisher accounts with 50 books. Have a few of the "readers" get 25 books a month.

And all it cost you to get into the game was that initial $99.50 and a couple of hours of your time a month.

There are a BUNCH of ways to do this, and a thousand different ways to mix it up so it's harder for Amazon's bots to detect you doing it. We've covered dozens of them here, and caught most of them before Amazon ever noticed what was going on because they rely 100% on bots to do their detection. If you want to spend a couple of grand up front creating "real" books that are much, much harder to detect, you still make the investment back very quickly. And you can get away with it for literally years without getting caught.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 05, 2018, 08:57:36 PM
Maybe we're talking past each other.

I'm pretending to be Amazon, and trying to stop this scamming problem. Among the many things I'd do, one of them is:

"Limit the number of ebooks, and page lengths, that new KDP authors can upload. You shouldn't be able to upload ten 600 page ebooks in one month. No one could do that unless they are using a team of ghost writers or plagiarizing other work or packaging the same books over and over."

The implication here is that no one could write that much, so they must be using other people to put out that much content. Many of the scammers I wasted my day looking at fit into a profile of releasing a lot of books in a short amount of time. So, if I'm Amazon, that's what I'd look at. Someone uploading a bunch of ghostwritten books.

Can you give me an example of someone using a pen name to upload a bunch of ghostwritten books that isn't a scammer? And, as I clarified, we aren't talking about tie-ins for known intellectual property.

I don't see that as muddying the waters. I also didn't say ghost writing should be forbidden. I said there should be a limit on what is uploaded. If you're using a team of ghost writers to upload a lot in a short amount of time, what's your intent? And once you state your intent, show an example.

Wow, so now someone who uploads a lot of ghostwritten content is a 'scammer' unless they prove otherwise/ somehow prove a negative? If that is the measuring stick then no wonder so many accusations are being tossed around and conflated with 'scamming.' No one will take accusations of scamming seriously if it's supposed to be everything from using more than 2 bonus books to uploading ghostwritten content. I'm completely convinced now that a lot of this is just one big witch hunt without any real meat to it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Shelley K on January 05, 2018, 09:00:26 PM
I have tremendous respect for Sela, Phoenix, Monique and many others in this thread, whether or not I completely agree with every point made (spoiler alert, I agree with the majority). But after carefully reading the whole thing, the question that keeps coming into my mind, and I mean this completely without snark or sarcasm, is when does it end?

I get that the scenario David's talking about is a problem. Content recycled again and again for maximum KENPC. I don't think there's much that can be done about it unless Amazon decides to do something about it, but I understand why it grinds. Totally get that. We've all felt that, surely.

When it's verified that every version of a Kindle/reader does not register skipped pages, will the rallying cry then shift against only botters, or the people who might have someone read their book twice? That's already been fist-shaken at in this thread. And on one hand I get that, but on the other . . . is there some limit to this that's an arbitrary cut-off I haven't noticed? If I publish a series, for instance, four books, and in the first book I add the second as a bonus, and someone is so compelled by my story that they read the second one, where does that fall on the scale that's been built?

What if I publish a stand-alone novel, and later add it as a bonus on the first book of a new series? What if someone has read that stand-alone, and when they read the first book of my new series, they read the stand-alone again and I get another $2 for it? That's been derided here, too. And I get that, but honestly how is that supposed to be policed besides saying that there can only be a tiny amount of bonus content.

What if I put the first few chapters of the next book in the back, and when the person buys that book they read those first few chapters again?

Sincerely, where is the cut-off? If I have a collection of short stories, can I put a story from it as bonus content in another book, maybe a story per novel, and a true fan reads them all twice?

Genuinely, not snarking. It sounds like a lot of people here don't want bonus content aside from an excerpt, but only a tiny bit! Is that true, or am I misreading?

Also, bless you, Joe. Just bless, for many reasons. I'm always thrilled when you pop up!

(Also, let me point out that I don't stuff, never have, never will. I just want to write good books. But I think there's bonus content and then there's this egregious stuffing, and I'm not sure my viewpoint is the consensus. Just trying to figure out where people stand.)

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Dragovian on January 05, 2018, 09:06:42 PM
Wow, so now someone who uploads a lot of ghostwritten content is a 'scammer' unless they prove otherwise/ somehow prove a negative? If that is the measuring stick then no wonder so many accusations are being tossed around and conflated with 'scamming.' No one will take accusations of scamming seriously if it's supposed to be everything from using more than 2 bonus books to uploading ghostwritten content. I'm completely convinced now that a lot of this is just one big witch hunt without any real meat to it.
And this is precisely why I think conflating high-volume output via ghostwriting, or whatever the boogieman of the day is, with the sort of ACTUAL scam Kelli described is counter-productive.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Shelley K on January 05, 2018, 09:11:11 PM
And this is precisely why I think conflating high-volume output via ghostwriting, or whatever the boogieman of the day is, with the sort of ACTUAL scam Kelli described is counter-productive.

I recommend you ignore the ghostwriting stuff. Every professional writer who's ever written an article or anything for pay is doing the same thing. Why write an article for Better Homes and Gardens? Why not create a magazine and publish it yourself?  Yeah, no. A lot of ghostwriters are exploited, but many choose to sell their fiction because they don't want the hassle of the rest. It can be argued whether or not that's a good decision, but that's about it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 09:18:00 PM
Wow, so now someone who uploads a lot of ghostwritten content is a 'scammer'

Can you show me someone who uploads a lot of ghostwritten content who isn't a scammer?

If you're hunting ducks, you listen for the quacking. Maybe you track down the quacking, and see it's a parrot, imitating a duck.

No problem. Don't shoot. You aren't hunting parrots.

But listening for quacking will still get you ducks.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 09:19:38 PM
Shelley K, I am fine with bonus content, but there is a clear difference between an author giving away a short story or even a novel to readers as a gift and putting it at the end of a new release and getting paid for it, and what the most egregious stuffers are doing.

What has happened on this thread is that some folks are arguing "But Amazon says bonus content is fine!" which it is, while others are arguing "Stuffers are simply reordering duplicate content multiple times in multiple volumes and that is not simple bonus content!" But we don't seem to be hearing each other or understanding each other's points.

That's the sad limitation of this kind of debate. People talk past each other. :(

There's bonus content and then there's stuffing and the two are different kettles of fish.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 09:21:05 PM
Joe, I love you. It was your blog that got me started on this path back in 2011.

Thanks! :)

You laid out a really intriguing concept. I dunno if it would work or not, but it certainly seems plausible the way you wrote it.

I've never seen the scam you've outlined. I am seeing book stuffing on a large level, with clickfarms probably behind it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 05, 2018, 09:22:17 PM
Oh, and I, too, want to chime in as a fangirl of Joe Konrath and say that it was his blog that got me the courage to start self publishing. So, thank you Joe!
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 09:25:54 PM
Maybe we're talking past each other.

I'm pretending to be Amazon, and trying to stop this scamming problem. Among the many things I'd do, one of them is:

"Limit the number of ebooks, and page lengths, that new KDP authors can upload. You shouldn't be able to upload ten 600 page ebooks in one month. No one could do that unless they are using a team of ghost writers or plagiarizing other work or packaging the same books over and over."

The implication here is that no one could write that much, so they must be using other people to put out that much content. Many of the scammers I wasted my day looking at fit into a profile of releasing a lot of books in a short amount of time. So, if I'm Amazon, that's what I'd look at. Someone uploading a bunch of ghostwritten books.

Can you give me an example of someone using a pen name to upload a bunch of ghostwritten books that isn't a scammer? And, as I clarified, we aren't talking about tie-ins for known intellectual property.

I don't see that as muddying the waters. I also didn't say ghost writing should be forbidden. I said there should be a limit on what is uploaded. If you're using a team of ghost writers to upload a lot in a short amount of time, what's your intent? And once you state your intent, show an example.
I know a *lot* of people who do this. They create outlines based on their market research in the genre they target and hand them off to ghostwriters. They buy the content, pay for covers, editing, etc. and then publish it under various pen names. There's nothing wrong with it. Tradpub has been doing this for over 100 years.

The way you stop the majority of the scammers is to 1) implement a real plagiarism detection system and 2) do what Apple does and vet every single book that goes into the system by a human being. That gets rid of 99% of the plagiarized, scraped, and computer generated content that the scammers who can't afford to pay for ghostwritten material use. It will by no means stop them all, but it at least raises the bar. After that it starts getting a lot harder because the ones willing to put money down up front are a lot sneakier.

But you're never going to stop them all, because the financial incentive is too great. If you allow infinite content delivery for a finite fee, you can get free money out of the system. That's just math theory. You can argue against it all you want, but math always wins. The only way to stop the scamming is to restrict a subscription to no more than 2211 page reads so you can never extract more from payouts than the value of the subscription.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 09:34:01 PM
I’ve bought books from ghostwriters. Tons of them. Never particularly felt like I was taking advantage of them.

The best ghostwriters aren’t cheap. Some of them even expect ongoing royalty splits for the books they write.

But assuming you’re talking about the cheaper ones...

I’ve bought novels for as little as $500. Those were sparse and bare bones books that needed a lot of help... the kinds of 50,000 word books that were written over a single 40 hour work week. $12.50 an hour if you want to break it down. More than minimum wage. About a penny per word.

Turning those books into genuinely profitable work took effort and know how, but we all know it’s not all that hard to earn $500 from a novel if you have any idea what you’re doing and you’re willing to wait on the royalties.

So who would sell a novel for $500?

Someone who can’t afford to wait. $500 today pays the rent tomorrow. $500 60 days after the month in which the book is published doesn’t.

They are selling their work for cash they need. Nobody forced them to do so. It’s a transaction, nothing more.

Most of the books I bought over the years were in the $1,000 range. 2 cents per word, 50,000 word titles. These came from substantially better authors who, again, need cash now more than cash later. Selling off a couple novels per month brings you enough cash to get by in a pinch.

Some books I bought were much more. I’ve paid five figures for a single title before. My highest paid ghostwriter last year made one hundred and twenty thousand dollars... and they were worth every penny. :)

In every single one of these situations, I didn’t feel as if I was taking advantage of someone. In most of these instances, the author approached me and asked me if I would buy their work. I run a small publishing company, not a charity, but I’m not a cutthroat kind of guy. I pay what I feel a work is worth, based on how much of my valuable time or resources I’ll have to dedicate to make that work into a highly profitable book.

If those authors want to self pub they are welcome to it. I’m not a bad guy for helping them get over the hump in the meantime.

In the case of my highest earning ghostwriter, he has self published for years and never had a >$30,000 year. I loved his work and I recruited him. I told him flat out that he’d make more money publishing through me than he could make alone.  He lacks the marketing chops to earn the money his extremely high quality books deserve. He works with me because I have the platform to sell his books to the masses, and because he prefers to let me handle those aspects of the business. He writes them, I handle the covers and editing and marketing. We both make out profitably.

Again, it’s a healthy relationship... not an abusive one.

But that’s just my take on things as someone who has bought more than 100 books and doesn’t feel bad about it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 09:36:27 PM
Thanks! :)

You laid out a really intriguing concept. I dunno if it would work or not, but it certainly seems plausible the way you wrote it.

I've never seen the scam you've outlined. I am seeing book stuffing on a large level, with clickfarms probably behind it.
The one I laid out was a specific instance that we witnessed and documented here somewhere around a year and a half, two years ago. But the same principles still work because of the way Amazon's detection systems work. This stuff isn't hard. It doesn't take any kind of computer genius to pull it off. Generally the scammers buy prepackaged script kits to do all of these things from other scammers who did the initial R&D work. They're cheap and easy to use and come with instructions. It works a lot better if you spend a little more up front for cheap ghostwritten content and piles of covers that you can usually commission for $5 or less in large batches. A lot of that is automated as well. But the up-front costs are still minuscule compared to what you can pull out over time once you've had a chance to scale up a bit. Get 100 publisher accounts going with a few thousand "reader" bots or clickfarmers, all hitting books that never get more than a borrow every couple of days and you'll have a money making machine that Amazon won't catch for a long, long time.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 09:37:20 PM
There's bonus content and then there's stuffing and the two are different kettles of fish.

I'm not even clear on why authors are concerned about book stuffing. As I've been saying (for years), KENP isn't zero sum.

I don't think book stuffing is a good thing. I think it can harm the reader experience and erode trust in the Kindle platform. I think it is hurting Amazon financially, and would like to see Zon cut out scammers and give legit authors more money.

I also don't believe most of the terms I outlined would really benefit authors. But I think they would cut down on scamming.

It's natural for some to push the boundaries. I prefer asking forgiveness rather than permission when it comes to many things.

Back in KU 1.0, I had a lot of discussions with short story authors who felt it was unfair that Amazon changed their way of counting KU reads (originally you only had to read a few pages of a book to get a full KU payout, so short erotica authors made a killing). I don't begrudge someone making the same amount of money on a 15 page story as I do on a 300 page novel. They found a loophole, and exploited it. But them lamenting that the rules changes is amusing to me. What did they expect?

Dave has been on this topic for years. I think he's been fighting the good fight against scam publishers, and deserves heaps of praise for that. But this fight doesn't feel as noble to me. I'm 98% convinced that authors aren't being harmed by scammers, either monetarily or through decreased visibility.

Now, even though there isn't a solid argument for harm, there is an argument that it doesn't feel good to see someone who probably hasn't written a whole short story in his life buy his way to the top of a coveted bestseller list. But guess what? That's been happening for decades. I've written extensively about how the NYT list is wonky. Why should Amazon's bestseller list be any different?

And, as I've said, these scammers aren't good for the Kindle platform in general. They erode reader trust.

But this is one of many things Amazon needs to improve. Remember when they deleted all those reviews? That was awful. Remember when they censored erotica? Awful. Remember when they removed Hachette authors from the site?

Well, that last one was actually awesome. But I had a dog in that race.

The only reason I entered this thread is because Heather's video is flat out wrong. Her pie chart is wrong. If you want to have the argument about visibility and rank and the importance of the bestseller lists, fine. If you want to say that this is a zero sum issue, that's incorrect. Let's get past that and move along, because I don't see any good trying to alert Amazon that they're hurting authors when Amazon knows--and they do know this--that they aren't hurting authors.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 09:40:15 PM
KU has allowed new authors to reach readers without any risk. You can try a new author without paying for their book. And they still make some money.

I'd call that a wonderful thing.

KU uses authors to build a viable platform to bring in subscribers, then takes the money generated from that (which they don't tell anyone what that number is) and gives some of it to those authors and gives the rest to thieves (and presumably keep some for themselves also, but again, they don't tell anyone what that number is). Look at the guy that took $3M off KU, just one single guy (it's cringe-worthy to think of what the total loss to scammers collective is). Really zon should have tossed $3M back into the pot, but they never did, authors paid that guy, not zon (although since we don't know any of the numbers I guess you could argue zon did pay and just didn't tell anyone).

KDP though is clean. I go in knowing everything that's in store for me. Make a sale, get 70% in royalties, thank you come again. No fuss no muss. It's a fair partnership where everything is on the table. If someone wants to upload a bot-written book, go ahead, I don't care. You want to stuff? Go to it, stuff 100 books into one, it has zero impact on me.  Nothing anyone does can take my revenues away from me. There's a firewall between every author in the direct world.

KU is the opposite of that. Everyone is impacted by everyone else and it's a brawl to see who can grab as much of the pot every month as they can (by hook or by crook).

What you see as wonderful, I see as a nightmare  :P

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 09:43:37 PM
Get 100 publisher accounts going with a few thousand "reader" bots or clickfarmers, all hitting books that never get more than a borrow every couple of days and you'll have a money making machine that Amazon won't catch for a long, long time.

That is really interesting. Thanks for sharing it.

Here's a question for you: as you outlined in that scam, who does it hurt other than Amazon?

If it's off the radar of most readers, it doesn't hurt them. And if these books don't appear on bestseller lists, it doesn't harm authors.

Waaaaaay back in the day, Amazon had a BIG problem with public domain books. You can guess why; how about eighty different versions of Oliver Twist to confuse readers?

Zon changed the TOS to fix it. Then came the Wikipedia raiders, who would self-pub wiki pages. There still may be some of that, but Zon also clamped down.

Then there was the first wave of KU, and now the third wave.

When Amazon changes things for KU 4.0, it'll be interesting to see how the scammers adapt.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 09:53:10 PM
I'm not even clear on why authors are concerned about book stuffing. As I've been saying (for years), KENP isn't zero sum.
I get where you're coming from with this. Amazon decides what the pot is, so regardless of how many pages get read it's Amazon who decides how much we get paid every month.

But they don't make that decision in a vacuum. Two of the obvious variables that have to go into that decision are the number of monthly subscriptions and the number of page reads for that month. It's obvious that they do tally those numbers because of when they make the announcement for the rate every month. So the number of page reads is a factor, even if it turns out to be a smaller one, and inflating the number of those reads through scammer tactics has some measurable (if only by Amazon) impact on everyone's bottom line. The only way it couldn't is if Amazon completely ignores the number of page reads every month. I don't believe that for a minute. It may not be the dominant variable in the equation they use to decide what the payout per page is every month, but it's definitely in there.

And if Amazon ever decides KU has to be profitable rather than propping it up with money from elsewhere it instantly becomes a zero sum game. And if the AWS problems being discussed now are as bad as anticipated that may happen a lot sooner than people think.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 09:55:51 PM
KU uses authors to build a viable platform to bring in subscribers, then takes the money generated from that (which they don't tell anyone what that number is) and gives some of it to those authors and gives the rest to thieves (and presumably keep some for themselves also, but again, they don't tell anyone what that number is).

Uh, I used Amazon to build a viable platform to get readers. So did every other author who sells on Amazon. Writers aren't being exploited. Amazon is being exploited by scammers.

Look at the guy that took $3M off KU, just one single guy (it's cringe-worthy to think of what the total loss to scammers collective is). Really zon should have tossed $3M back into the pot, but they never did, authors paid that guy, not zon (although since we don't know any of the numbers I guess you could argue zon did pay and just didn't tell anyone).

Authors did not pay that guy. Amazon did.

The Kindle Unlimited pot is determined AFTER the period has ended.

Maybe I need to be clearer?

In the zero sum scenario that you are incorrectly assuming, there is a pie that is predetermined to be a certain size. According--again incorrectly--to the video Heather made, when a scammer gets a bigger piece of that pie, everyone else gets a smaller piece.

For the love of all that is good in the world, that isn't what is happening here.

Amazon does not bake a pie of a certain size and then say "here is the finite pie, and the KENP reads you have this month determine your share."

That isn't how it works.

Instead, after the month is over, Amazon looks at everything and THEN is bakes the pie.

There is a whole complicated reason for this. TLDR; having a set price, say half a cent per page, could potentially harm authors if the KU platform gets too big. So the amount has to stay fluid. They probably use some complicated algorithm that. For all we know, they pick the number out of a hat. But a static number wouldn't work. It has to be malleable, and it has to be after the page count has been finished.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 09:57:09 PM
It would be very difficult to obtain hundreds or thousands of KU subscriptions and to use those things to read your specific books without a very obvious pattern evolving.

You would need Proxies, prepaid cards, assorted knowhow to make the page flips look legitimate, and once youíd done all of that, it would still be painfully obvious to even the most basic detection routine that there were a mass of accounts systematically mass borrowing one dudes titles over and over, even if you tried to obscuficate it.

I know this sort of thing has happened (the since-removed cut and paste recipe books that kept flying into top 100 for awhile there were a pretty obvious example), but I donít think this is anywhere near as widespread as people are trying to make it out to be.

Amazon bans this sort of thing when they catch it.

We can sit here dreaming up elaborate scams, but as Iíve said repeatedly, I do not believe that the people dominating the top charts today are using click farms to do it. They donít have to. There are plenty of legitimate readers who will consume your book if you put it in front of them in an effective way. For someone who can reliably put a book into the top 100, itís easier to make your money legitimately than it is to run a silly botnet.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 10:01:43 PM
But they don't make that decision in a vacuum. Two of the obvious variables that have to go into that decision are the number of monthly subscriptions and the number of page reads for that month. It's obvious that they do tally those numbers because of when they make the announcement for the rate every month.

I've learned that what is obvious to you and me may not be obvious for Amazon. And Amazon is famous for not explaining itself.

Maybe the number of page reads isn't a factor. We don't know. Or maybe they've already factored scammers into the number, the same way a restaurant accounts for food waste, or a department store accounts for shoplifting.

We just don't know.

And if Amazon ever decides KU has to be profitable rather than propping it up with money from elsewhere it instantly becomes a zero sum game. And if the AWS problems being discussed now are as bad as anticipated that may happen a lot sooner than people think.

Maybe it's already profitable. But is anything at Amazon actually profitable when they keep investing in themselves?

I haven't heard anything about AWS. If it's about Meltdown, Moore's Law should eventually catch up.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 10:05:17 PM
AWS wonít melt down. Intel performance drops due to the bug patch are being exaggerated based on worst case scenarios. Real world systems wonít be impacted anywhere near theoretical limits.

Itís a crappy bug and itíll cost companies money, but at the end of the day this is a ďY2KĒ situation. They will patch the bug and... nothing of any consequence will happen and we will all go on with our day.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Seneca42 on January 05, 2018, 10:08:57 PM
Uh, I used Amazon to build a viable platform to get readers. So did every other author who sells on Amazon. Writers aren't being exploited. Amazon is being exploited by scammers.

Authors did not pay that guy. Amazon did.

You can't know amazon paid him. That's an assumption. It also assumes, to be true, the payout isn't derived from KU subscriptions revenue. Because it's sort of basic that guy puts fake books in KU, reads them with fake KU accounts, gets paid. Ergo, if he's getting paid from the pot other authors KENP rate gets diluted. 

So I'm not really sure what the pot is from your perspective? Some arbitrary number zon sets every month? Honestly, that would be even worse in terms of a hair brain way to run a multi-million-dollar operation. 

But to your exploitation point. Zon is NOT being exploited. Any exploitation someone performs on them they can shut down in the blink of an eye. For instnce, if they wanted to stop the abuse of their ranking system, they simply need to turn off borrow bumps.

so then the question becomes, why does zon allow itself to be exploited? And the answer is because they are busy exploiting the authors. And by that I mean not investing in the proper maintenance or resources required to run a proper subscription model. So instead, they are tossing whatever losses onto the authors (or at least I believe they are, I know you don't believe that).

So zon can't stop itself from being exploited without mucking up the exploitation model they are using on authors (if they spend too much "fixing" the system then the whole thing becomes a loss and not worth their time).

KU works for zon because they get their cut no matter what. 1% scammers or 90% scammers, so long as the sub revenue comes in, they are fine with it. It's the KENP rate that gets diluted.

But if you feel that's wrong, you'll have to explain it to me again :) Because I don't see how the program can say there's a pot and at the same time that what you get paid isn't determined by the pot.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Avis Black on January 05, 2018, 10:09:54 PM

Now, even though there isn't a solid argument for harm, there is an argument that it doesn't feel good to see someone who probably hasn't written a whole short story in his life buy his way to the top of a coveted bestseller list. But guess what? That's been happening for decades. I've written extensively about how the NYT list is wonky. Why should Amazon's bestseller list be any different?

Scamming your way to the top used to be limited by what traditional publishing let through their door.  It was gated.  Plenty of authors used to be able to hit the bestseller list without buying their way onto it. 

With self-publishing throwing the doors open to everyone, it's also opened the door to every scammer in existence.  To use a metaphor, the result is like being trapped in a massive crowd with everyone shoving and pushing.  No one wants to trample or injure other people, but there are so many of them that the sheer, mindless weight of that mass is likely to achieve that result.  Getting onto a bestseller list or any top 100 list honestly isn't likely to happen in the future without gatekeepers. 

Readers have limited patience and time for searching through great masses of books.  If Amazon got rid of scammers, it's very likely they'd sell more books, because readers would actually be able to find something they wanted.  Anyone in the business of selling books needs to wise up about this point.

If Amazon really wanted to figure this out, they'd split test the concept.  Let scammers onto some lists, but gate others, and figure out which lists are more profitable according to their sales history. 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 10:10:01 PM
I do not believe that the people dominating the top charts today are using click farms to do it. They donít have to. There are plenty of legitimate readers who will consume your book if you put it in front of them in an effective way. For someone who can reliably put a book into the top 100, itís easier to make your money legitimately than it is to run a silly botnet.

I believed the same thing. I always assumed click farms were part paranoia/part sour grapes because other authors are doing well.

Today, I spent some time looking closer at the problem, and it changed my mind. It not only seemed plausible, but highly likely.

Other than seeing pics and ads, one thing clinched it for me: watching my own rank.

Things don't just "stick" on bestseller lists, unless something is pushing them. A 99 cent stuffed ebook couldn't sustain itself for long. But too many of these ebooks are formatted EXACTLY the same way. They have similar covers, similar author names, similar book descriptions, similar author bios, no author photos (a round logo instead), similar sterile Facebook pages, similar obviously fake reviews, and the "bonus material" is eerily similar.

If you compare my stuff to any other mystery writer, you can instantly spot a dozen differences. Even if you compare two authors by the same publisher, you see differences.

Take a look at Heather's video (ignoring the fact that she's wrong about the pie chart) and follow some of the authors she highlighted.

There's something going on. And there is a lot of it. And it isn't authors imitating other authors.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 10:17:50 PM
It would be very difficult to obtain hundreds or thousands of KU subscriptions and to use those things to read your specific books without a very obvious pattern evolving.

You would need Proxies, prepaid cards, assorted knowhow to make the page flips look legitimate, and once youíd done all of that, it would still be painfully obvious to even the most basic detection routine that there were a mass of accounts systematically mass borrowing one dudes titles over and over.

I know this sort of thing has happened (the since-removed cut and paste recipe books that kept flying into top 100 for awhile there were a pretty obvious example), but I donít think this is anywhere near as widespread as people are trying to make it out to be.

Amazon bans this sort of thing when they catch it.

We can sit here dreaming up elaborate scams, but as Iíve said repeatedly, I do not believe that the people dominating the top charts today are using click farms to do it. They donít have to. There are plenty of legitimate readers who will consume your book if you put it in front of them in an effective way. For someone who can reliably put a book into the top 100, itís easier to make your money legitimately than it is to run a silly botnet.
Bob, I may not be a top 100 author but I spent 25 years in IT as a programmer and sysadmin - and I was damned good at both. :) 

I assure you that everything I said is perfectly feasible and that it happens Every. Single. Day. A lot of people make a living doing this. I've been on black hat forums where it's discussed. Other people here have as well. Anyone with a little know-how can download free scripts to do everything I said. People who don't know how can buy turnkey solutions from other black hats for very little that contain instructions on exactly how to do it. The people who get caught are the ones who are too dumb or greedy to keep a low profile, like the ones flooding the new releases with obvious scam books or pushing obvious scam books into the top 100 lists instead of making sure none of them get past the 300-500k rankings. We stumble across new scams here every couple of months without even trying. Usually they've been going on for a while and Amazon doesn't know about them until we report them, because Amazon is obsessed with doing everything through automation instead of using Real Live Humans who are really good at picking these sorts of things out where computers don't do so well.

A lot of the top 100 slots in both the store and individual categories are gamed. Phoenix Sullivan has detailed this any number of times and it's pretty irrefutable to someone who understands the data she's presenting. But the smart scammers who are bilking KU out of a *lot* of money every month are the ones who don't ever want their books in the top 100. They've got a bunch of KDP accounts quietly picking up a couple of thousand each and every month like clockwork with books that nobody ever notices.

As for detection routines, they're a mess. Every single social media and ad program out there spends a huge fortune each month trying to stay ahead of the click farmers. There's a reason click farming is a multi-billion dollar industry. Amazon isn't going to spend a fraction as much on fraud detection for KU as any of them spend on their systems because it's *tiny* in comparison. They almost certainly pay out more in the KU pot than they take in on subscription fees. So what's the point in spending a fortune on fraud detection. And it *isn't* simple to detect. I worked for a click fraud detection startup - with quite a number of people who came in from Symantec's virus detection group - and it's largely voodoo and black magic. The math PhDs spent a lot of time tearing their hair out, because it's relatively easy to blend into the background as long as you don't push too hard.

Quote
AWS won�t melt down. Intel performance drops due to the bug patch are being exaggerated based on worst case scenarios. Real world systems won�t be impacted anywhere near theoretical limits.
The kernel programmers I've been talking to - both Linux and Windows - disagree with you. For desktop users, you're right. They're not going to notice much. If you're running servers that do OLTP or other things that are disk and memory I/O intensive, you're going to eat it. Which is exactly what the guys over on the AWS forums have been saying since the patches went in. This is exacerbated by the fixes having to be installed twice since they're software patches - once for the hypervisor and then again for each VM instance running on the box.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 10:18:35 PM
The Kindle Unlimited pot is determined AFTER the period has ended.

Yes. And IMO, it's naive to think that the number of pages "read" doesn't factor into this. Let's take this to the extreme example. Are we really to believe that if next month, there are double the KU page-reads, that Amazon will keep the payout at approximately .46 cents per page? No. They would reduce the payout-per-page accordingly. Maybe Amazon is absorbing some of this loss, but they're definitely not absorbing all of it, or we wouldn't be seeing the ever-shrinking payouts along with the ever-increasing thresholds to receive All Star bonuses.

The current system is insanely unnatural. There is nowhere in a natural marketplace where a producer receives 33 cents when someone buys their product, but twenty times that amount when someone rents it. And as far as the ranking, this is equally whacked. By counting a borrow the same for rank-wise as a sale, they're turning the bestselling lists into a train-wreck.

And Joe, I mean this sincerely, I admire the snot out of you. You post here under your real name and have amazing insight. (Seriously, THANKS for that!!!) But I've got to disagree on this. Right now, one of your categories is "Women Sleuth." For the top 100 in your category, the average selling price is $3.92. I write in New Adult. Right now, the average selling price is $2.37 due to so many of these stuffed 99-cent books that are making bank on the stuffed content, along with All Star bonuses. Your category has not yet been infested with these "authors," so you might not have experienced the frustration firsthand, but if this is allowed to continue, it's only a matter of time before these tactics infest every (formerly profitable) category on Amazon.

Do we really want that? And if not, doesn't it pay to address it now before it spreads?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 10:25:01 PM
So I'm not really sure what the pot is from your perspective? Some arbitrary number zon sets every month? Honestly, that would be even worse in terms of a hair brain way to run a multi-million-dollar operation.

It has nothing to do with my perspective. It's what Amazon does. They tell authors what the KDP Select Global Fund is two weeks after the pay period ends.

We get emails two weeks after the month is over, saying what the fund is. After the fact. Not prior to the fact.

Here's a better way to think of it. You're moving, and you invite a bunch of friends over to help you move. You can make a bunch of food before they come over, and then they have to share it. If a lot of friends show up, they only get a little bit of food each. Or you can wait until the show up, and then make the food. That's what Amazon does. How they decide how much everyone gets is their secret.

so then the question becomes, why does zon allow itself to be exploited? And the answer is because they are busy exploiting the authors. And by that I mean not investing in the proper maintenance or resources required to run a proper subscription model. So instead, they are tossing whatever losses onto the authors (or at least I believe they are, I know you don't believe that).

This isn't a question of belief. It's what Amazon does. And they haven't tossed any losses on authors. The KENP pool has consistently gone up. It began in July of 2014 at 2.5 million. Last October it was 19.7 million.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 10:34:34 PM
This isn't a question of belief. It's what Amazon does. And they haven't tossed any losses on authors. The KENP pool has consistently gone up. It began in July of 2014 at 2.5 million. Last October it was 19.7 million.
At the same time KENPC calculations have been revised DOWN multiple times, and the per page payout has dropped. So while the pool has increased, the amount being paid out for a read through of a given book has consistently decreased.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 10:37:47 PM
Yes. And IMO, it's naive to think that the number of pages "read" doesn't factor into this. Let's take this to the extreme example. Are we really to believe that if next month, there are double the KU page-reads, that Amazon will keep the payout at approximately .46 cents per page? No. They would reduce the payout-per-page accordingly. Maybe Amazon is absorbing some of this loss, but they're definitely not absorbing all of it, or we wouldn't be seeing the ever-shrinking payouts along with the ever-increasing thresholds to receive All Star bonuses.

It'a frustrating that we don't know, but we really don't know. As I said above somewhere, Amazon could have scammers factored into the payout. Or could be ignoring page reads as a factor. Or subscribers as a factor. All we know for sure is that the pool keeps getting bigger, and the KENP fluctuates around the half a cent mark.

The current system is insanely unnatural. There is nowhere in a natural marketplace where a producer receives 33 cents when someone buys their product, but twenty times that amount when someone rents it. And as far as the ranking, this is equally whacked. By counting a borrow the same for rank-wise as a sale, they're turning the bestselling lists into a train-wreck.

I think the bestseller lists are already a train wreck, and haven't been a serious factor in sales for quite a while. I just don't believe they help visibility and sales.

And Joe, I mean this sincerely, I admire the snot out of you. You post here under your real name and have amazing insight. (Seriously, THANKS for that!!!) But I've got to disagree on this. Right now, one of your categories is "Women Sleuth." For the top 100 in your category, the average selling price is $3.92. I write in New Adult. Right now, the average selling price is $2.37 due to so many of these stuffed 99-cent books that are making bank on the stuffed content, along with All Star bonuses. Your category has not yet been infested with these "authors," so you might not have experienced the frustration firsthand, but if this is allowed to continue, it's only a matter of time before these tactics infest every (formerly profitable) category on Amazon.

Do we really want that? And if not, doesn't it pay to address it now before it spreads?

I see what you're saying. But I'm not concerned.

I have many books in the Women Sleuth, but few (if zero) in the Top 100. So there isn't any visibility for me there, unless I'm doing a promo. Most of my books are invisible to customers browsing the Top 100 of that list (because you can't browse after 100).

Right now, RUSTY NAIL is #376 in Women Sleuths. If 300 scammers took up the first 300 spots, then Rusty Nail would be ranked #376 and be earning the same amount of money. The same people discovering it now would also discover it at #676 (because how else are they discovering/buying now?).

As for average price, while it's down in your category, there is no proof at all it is due to sales or legit KENP reads. If it's mostly click farms, which I'm leaning toward believing, you aren't out anything. As I've said upthread, visibility on the bestseller lists doesn't get you much. And if click farms are the reason for the high rank, no one is buying the scam book rather than yours. Or they are eventually borrowing both, but KENP isn't zero sum.

Thanks for the kind words. :)
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 10:42:34 PM
The KENP pool has consistently gone up. It began in July of 2014 at 2.5 million. Last October it was 19.7 million.

But the rate-per-page has been sliding downward, even moreso when you consider that Amazon has a lovely habit of introducing new ways to calculate the number of qualifying pages. Oddly enough, these recalculations almost always result in fewer "pages" for the same number of words. In my own case, my books used to have approximately 500 "pages" by Amazon's calculations. Now, they have approximately 400 "pages." I haven't changed a thing, but I'm getting paid for 100 fewer pages.

The point is, Amazon keeps shaving our payouts, and it's easy to see why, considering all of the stuffing, etc. After all, that money has to come from somewhere. Even if Amazon is absorbing some of it, they're not absorbing all of it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 05, 2018, 10:43:13 PM
At the same time KENPC calculations have been revised DOWN multiple times, and the per page payout has dropped. So while the pool has increased, the amount being paid out for a read through of a given book has consistently decreased.

No, it hasn't. It fluctuates. Here's the last 18 months. http://akreport.com/amazon-kenp-rates
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Shelley K on January 05, 2018, 10:52:16 PM
Shelley K, I am fine with bonus content, but there is a clear difference between an author giving away a short story or even a novel to readers as a gift and putting it at the end of a new release and getting paid for it, and what the most egregious stuffers are doing.

What has happened on this thread is that some folks are arguing "But Amazon says bonus content is fine!" which it is, while others are arguing "Stuffers are simply reordering duplicate content multiple times in multiple volumes and that is not simple bonus content!" But we don't seem to be hearing each other or understanding each other's points.

That's the sad limitation of this kind of debate. People talk past each other. :(

There's bonus content and then there's stuffing and the two are different kettles of fish.

I totes agree. But can you see how when the most egregious offenses are impossible, like skipped pages are NEVER counted (which should have ALWAYS been the case IMO), a lot of people here will still be complaining about that one bonus novel that somebody publishes and gets paid twice for by tacking it onto the end of another book?   

That's being lumped in with people putting 12 novels at the end of a short story. All that does is muddy the waters, and as much as I'm all *shrug* about most of it, I think that's a shame. It's like Crystal pointing out that David referring to the biggest offenders as "bad boy" authors being a bad thing, and that being kind of ridiculed. Yeah, some of us know he means a certain group, I wish he could just name names for clarity here, but she's saying that a lot of authors don't get that and think he's calling all bad boy authors scammers. This is a real thing that happens. It's been dismissed. But it matters, because perception is gd everything, whether people realize it or not. But it's waved off as silly. M'kay. (You know what I mean, even if you disagree, and that's fair enough.)

I also feel like Joe Konrath does. This isn't a zero sum game, because every month Amazon decides the pot AFTER the fact. If it was set ahead of time, okay, zero sum. But it's not. They wait, and then up it x amount to keep the payout what THEY want. Anybody who doesn't think this is important . . .well. Okay. I guess I don't understand economics the way I thought I did.

To boil it down, there's an AMA on Reddit about a married couple who made 900K this last year. I think I know who that married couple is, and I think they happen to be a married couple I'm quite fond of, though I haven't interacted with either in a while. And yes, I think they used the stuffing that's so vilified in this thread to help them get there. Do I begrudge them that?

Not at all. I still think highly of both of them, and hope they can double that next year.  I guess that makes me a bad guy in some people's eyes. I guess I'll take that hit.

Still don't stuff. Still think that some people do things I feel are unethical. Still think it's Amazon's fault.

*shrugs and smiles*

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: KelliWolfe on January 05, 2018, 10:58:54 PM
No, it hasn't. It fluctuates. Here's the last 18 months. http://akreport.com/amazon-kenp-rates
Only if you look at a small enough sliding window. If you look at the overall trend from its inception in 2014 it is overall down. And you're ignoring the losses we've seen in our books' page counts with the KENPC 2.0 and 3.0 updates.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 05, 2018, 11:24:26 PM
I believed the same thing. I always assumed click farms were part paranoia/part sour grapes because other authors are doing well.

Today, I spent some time looking closer at the problem, and it changed my mind. It not only seemed plausible, but highly likely.

Other than seeing pics and ads, one thing clinched it for me: watching my own rank.

Things don't just "stick" on bestseller lists, unless something is pushing them. A 99 cent stuffed ebook couldn't sustain itself for long. But too many of these ebooks are formatted EXACTLY the same way. They have similar covers, similar author names, similar book descriptions, similar author bios, no author photos (a round logo instead), similar sterile Facebook pages, similar obviously fake reviews, and the "bonus material" is eerily similar.

If you compare my stuff to any other mystery writer, you can instantly spot a dozen differences. Even if you compare two authors by the same publisher, you see differences.

Take a look at Heather's video (ignoring the fact that she's wrong about the pie chart) and follow some of the authors she highlighted.

There's something going on. And there is a lot of it. And it isn't authors imitating other authors.

Here's what's going on:

The books being pointed out are coming from a small circle of authors. Those authors are working together in a systematic way to push books high in the charts. They share mailing lists and marketing strategies. They use the same kind of book formatting. They emulate one another, on purpose. All of this is well understood. People are calling that group the "masterminds".

The books those authors are pushing aren't "sticking" on the charts for no reason. They are being "STUCK" there by massive sustained marketing campaigns.

Those books are being deliberately written to satisfy a subset of profitable readers. They are being pushed hard with facebook ad campaigns and mass-email campaigns. An entire marketplace to buy mailing list blasts from other authors was established to further allow them to push their own work.

Yes, all of the books look eerily similar. Many of the books you're looking at are probably originating from just one or two of that circle of authors. They could do a better job to differentiate from one another if they wanted to, but I think they are deliberately keeping things similar (in an "if it's not broke don't fix it" kind of way).

There's nothing shady about it. They aren't bot-farming. I've done this kind of thing plenty of times. You jam a book into the top 100 with a sustained >$1000/day marketing campaign, and once you get it high enough, the KU page reads bring profitability. After a few days or weeks (depending on how the book is doing), you scale back the marketing campaign and let the book coast out of the top 100, pocketing the difference.

I can give examples from my own catalog. One of my successful books hit top 10 in the Kindle store. I spent over $22,000 in marketing on that book over a one month period, and kept the book in the top 100 for the entire month. The book earned more than $70,000, and the book and the penname it was on won a substantial all-star bonus. The profit margin was substantial.

https://i.imgur.com/6O4cjz7.png

Another of my books was less successful. I pushed it into the top 100 but it never made it past rank 50. I spent $6,000 on marketing, and in the end, it brought me almost eighteen thousand dollars that month before falling off the top list as I scaled back the marketing campaign.

https://i.imgur.com/appHmsv.png

I've got a million dollars worth of books like this - books that were often released on new pennames with no real back catalog, and earned between ten and fifty thousand dollars in profit over their first month due to the benefits of forcing a book into the top 100 with a sustained marketing campaign. These authors are doing the same thing, but I suspect they are spending substantially more marketing dollars than I typically do (to push books into the top 10), and they have a larger base of mailing list subscribers to blast these books out to (thus further inflating their initial bump). Because they are co-marketing these titles, the books are being linked together through also bought and also-vieweds, furthering their own circle of income (since a reader checking one of their books out might see an also-bought for one of the group's other books, and click over to enjoy it).

As you know, there is an almost exponential scale in terms of earnings as books approach the top 10. Get a book there, hold it there with massive marketing cash, and you'll rake in a huge profit... assuming you know what you're doing and how to keep CPC low on effective advertising. It might cost you a small fortune, but books in the top 10 make a small fortune. I had one book in the top 10 that was earning the better part of ten thousand dollars per DAY for a somewhat sustained period of time. That was a unicorn, and obviously I was very frustrated when I discovered I couldn't replicate that success in a reliable way, but the point is if these people can reliably push a book into the very top of the top lists, they are not hurting for cash.

People are looking for a greater conspiracy that doesn't exist. We've got a group of authors using identical tactics and actively sharing those tactics to dominate a corner of the KU marketplace. They're pretty damn focused (and certainly extremely consistent), but they're not vastly different than any of a number of different groups of authors who have co-marketed and climbed the charts together in the past. There's no need for these authors to engage in click farm tactics or for them to be running thousands of KU accounts or some other kind of black magic evil tactic. They can earn plenty of cash by continuing to push out similar books, tying them together by co-marketing, and pushing them with craploads of FB and AMS money, along with paid mailing list blasts from other popular authors who sell through the mailing list marketplace that has been recently established. They are hitting all-star bonuses that help pay for the marketing campaigns that got them there.

They're using bonus content and the like because it increases their profitability, but the strategy they are employing would work without bonus content (albeit with a slightly lower amount of net profit).

I will say that it is possible to end up netting negative ROI if you're not careful doing this though. One mis-step or a book that misses the market can be expensive. I've had to massively scale back marketing campaigns in the past when I realized a book (for whatever reason) was getting horrible traction from my mailing list and marketing blasts. If these people are relying on KU author all-star bonuses to put them into profitability, that's a dangerous gamble. I doubt they are though. My own experience tells me they're probably raking substantial profit, and that they have a large pool of money to cover these marketing campaigns during the wait time between selling a book and being paid for it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 05, 2018, 11:56:19 PM
Here's what's going on: The books being pointed out are coming from a small circle of authors. Those authors are working together in a systematic way to push books high in the charts. They share mailing lists and marketing strategies. They use the same kind of book formatting. They emulate one another, on purpose. All of this is well understood. People are calling that group the "masterminds".

The books those authors are pushing aren't "sticking" on the charts for no reason. They are being "STUCK" there by massive sustained marketing campaigns.

And what pays for this advertising? The fact they're getting up to nine bucks a borrow for skipped content (the loophole isn't fully closed, as many people have mentioned) and All-Star bonuses for pages read plus pages skipped. By exploiting this obvious loophole, of course, they can pay for huge marketing campaigns. This factoid doesn't make it better. It makes it worse, because they're using the money they scam from us this month and putting it toward scamming us next month, too.

Look, if I were willing to do this, I have no doubt I'd be making a ton more money. But I've (perhaps foolishly) believed that Amazon would eventually enforce their own terms of service, and I didn't want to risk losing my account. Plus, I don't want to engage in false advertising and alienate my reader base.

If nothing else, it would be nice if Amazon just told us that this was okay. We could all do this. Oh sure, our readers would be frustrated, and we'd eventually get to payouts of .0001 cents per page, but at least the playing field would be level. But as it stands now, those who play by the rules are taking huge hits in terms of earnings and visibility. Of course, we're going to object. We'd be foolish not to.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Phxsundog on January 06, 2018, 12:10:25 AM
That's what's going on with lots omitted. Here's the part left out:

These authors have proven they are willing to deliberately break the law. It's on record publicly.

They did it with their Facebook ads running stolen images from models and fashion brands for weeks. If it was an underhanded ads manager, then they still knew and let it happen. For weeks.

Weeks.

Let that sink in for a minute. This wasn't some error they were sorry about or a blind misstep. They got caught and showed the entire industry their true face.

I'm not naming names but I've also seen very strong proof a few books from this group are plaigarized from major brand authors so big it would shock you pale if you knew who they were.

Yes, they do have big mailing lists and smoothly operating ghostwriting machines. They do spend oodles on ads. None of that's an issue.

It's the rest of it that proves this isn't some freakishly successful group of authors using whitehat means scaled to make major money. Normal publishers don't hire shady ad teams and then leave stolen ads running for weeks after it's creating bad press. Normal publishers don't lazily push out ghostwriting without checking it for plaigarism. Normal ones don't format their books to intentionally break page flip with enormous fonts, which consequently causes the books to look like a mess.

That's not some dig at bonus content. I couldn't care less about the debate there. What I care about is, shenigans are happening with this group. It's not unreasonable for people to wonder about clickfarms when they've been caught breaking the law and continuing to do it.

No need to believe me if you don't want to. Anyone who's studied them in detail knows it's just a matter of time before they walk into a trap legally with their sloppy tactics and questionable employees. Then everyone will know the truth is worse than you even suspect.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 06, 2018, 12:43:26 AM
That's fascinating, Bob.

I have questions. And doubts. Don't blame me for my skepticism. I've been at this for a long time, and what you're describing is outside my realm of experience.

I expect you're going to get some backlash for posting this, but information is always good (says the guy who still has Loompanics books on his shelf). I appreciate the candor.

Here's what's going on:

The books being pointed out are coming from a small circle of authors. Those authors are working together in a systematic way to push books high in the charts. They share mailing lists and marketing strategies. They use the same kind of book formatting. They emulate one another, on purpose. All of this is well understood. People are calling that group the "masterminds".

The books those authors are pushing aren't "sticking" on the charts for no reason. They are being "STUCK" there by massive sustained marketing campaigns.

This tracks with what I've seen on Amazon. A lot of searches for these stuffed romance books show up as "sponsored content".

But this also brings my first question. I've spent thousands of dollars on ads over the years, and the only consistent surefire ROI is Bookbub. I've played extensively with Amazon ads (sponsored products and product display), and to a lesser extent with Twitter and Facebook. I've had limited success with BookBub wannabes, and haven't really give Google a fair shot. That said, if I can goose an Amazon ad to returning $1.15 on the dollar spent, I'm giddy. And it doesn't last forever. Spending a buck to make a buck fifteen isn't the key to a fortune, even scaling it. And there are loses that make up for that profit.

I don't know any type of advertising that has the kind of returns you're talking of here. My newsletter has 14k people, all opt-in, and my return is nowhere near what you speak of, even with a people who are eagerly anticipating my next book. I can't imagine a bought newsletter list being more effective.

So I'd like more details, cuz I'm not sold.


Those books are being deliberately written to satisfy a subset of profitable readers. They are being pushed hard with facebook ad campaigns and mass-email campaigns. An entire marketplace to buy mailing list blasts from other authors was established to further allow them to push their own work.

Yes, all of the books look eerily similar. Many of the books you're looking at are probably originating from just one or two of that circle of authors. They could do a better job to differentiate from one another if they wanted to, but I think they are deliberately keeping things similar (in an "if it's not broke don't fix it" kind of way).

There's nothing shady about it. They aren't bot-farming. I've done this kind of thing plenty of times. You jam a book into the top 100 with a sustained >$1000/day marketing campaign, and once you get it high enough, the KU page reads bring profitability. After a few days or weeks (depending on how the book is doing), you scale back the marketing campaign and let the book coast out of the top 100, pocketing the difference.

I can give examples from my own catalog. One of my successful books hit top 10 in the Kindle store. I spent over $22,000 in marketing on that book over a one month period, and kept the book in the top 100 for the entire month. The book earned more than $70,000, and the book and the penname it was on won a substantial all-star bonus. The profit margin was substantial.

https://i.imgur.com/6O4cjz7.png

Another of my books was less successful. I pushed it into the top 100 but it never made it past rank 50. I spent $6,000 on marketing, and in the end, it brought me almost eighteen thousand dollars that month before falling off the top list as I scaled back the marketing campaign.

https://i.imgur.com/appHmsv.png

I've hit #1 as a freebie, and as a paid book, and have been in the Top 100 of both many times. But I've never made near the numbers you're talking, and it has been years since I cracked six figures in a month. Though I'm in the thriller genre, there is a voracious subset of readers who are out there, waiting to discover me. I just haven't been able to find them to the tune of $70k in a single month for a single title, even though the books are good.

What you're describing is akin to how legacy publishers launch a title. Lots of people helping, lots of promo avenues, lots of money spent, lots of focus on the product. I can see some people shouting "scammer" but I'm viewing this as using the available tools and conditions to maximize effectiveness. If this is really happening, as described, there isn't anything scammy about it.

So what kind of specific marketing did you do? Or is this a case of book stuffing, which you curiously haven't mentioned? Can readers skip to the end and still get credit for all KENP count? 

I've got a million dollars worth of books like this - books that were often released on new pennames with no real back catalog, and earned between ten and fifty thousand dollars in profit over their first month due to the benefits of forcing a book into the top 100 with a sustained marketing campaign. These authors are doing the same thing, but I suspect they are spending substantially more marketing dollars than I typically do (to push books into the top 10), and they have a larger base of mailing list subscribers to blast these books out to (thus further inflating their initial bump). Because they are co-marketing these titles, the books are being linked together through also bought and also-vieweds, furthering their own circle of income (since a reader checking one of their books out might see an also-bought for one of the group's other books, and click over to enjoy it).

Email blasts aren't free. And if a list gets passed around, people will opt out. And the ROI on a cold blast can't be too high. You're anonymous, and you've disclosed a lot. Are you saying clickfarms aren't part of this? It's all just advertising and actual readers, paging through regular length books?

And what about juggling titles? Are you changing titles and characters as well as pen names? Do you trade or buy titles and pen names and covers from each other? How many times do you use a single story? How many authors share it and change it? Who wrote it? How much did it cost to get?

Does this work like a shopping club? You buy what is suggested, get instructions, and follow those instructions to make your book a hit?

As you know, there is an almost exponential scale in terms of earnings as books approach the top 10. Get a book there, hold it there with massive marketing cash, and you'll rake in a huge profit... assuming you know what you're doing and how to keep CPC low on effective advertising. It might cost you a small fortune, but books in the top 10 make a small fortune. I had one book in the top 10 that was earning the better part of ten thousand dollars per DAY for a somewhat sustained period of time. That was a unicorn, and obviously I was very frustrated when I discovered I couldn't replicate that success in a reliable way, but the point is if these people can reliably push a book into the very top of the top lists, they are not hurting for cash.

Here's a part I don't understand/believe. You can't keep CPC low because you're bidding against others. To get seen, you have to big higher. And you're claiming a substantial ROI, which means either most of the people who see your deal (for 99 cents I assume) automatically click and buy, or those that do make up for it in KU by getting through a stuffed 500 page book, which would still only earn $1.50 on a $1.00 bid.

I'd have to know your techniques better to accept this, because it doesn't pass the sniff test for me. Throwing money into ads only works if the ads already work. And it isn't easy to create an effective add.

People are looking for a greater conspiracy that doesn't exist. We've got a group of authors using identical tactics and actively sharing those tactics to dominate a corner of the KU marketplace. They're pretty damn focused (and certainly extremely consistent), but they're not vastly different than any of a number of different groups of authors who have co-marketed and climbed the charts together in the past. There's no need for these authors to engage in click farm tactics or for them to be running thousands of KU accounts or some other kind of black magic evil tactic. They can earn plenty of cash by continuing to push out similar books, tying them together by co-marketing, and pushing them with craploads of FB and AMS money, along with paid mailing list blasts from other popular authors who sell through the mailing list marketplace that has been recently established. They are hitting all-star bonuses that help pay for the marketing campaigns that got them there.

Who's writing the books? And where are the mailing lists for sale?

They're using bonus content and the like because it increases their profitability, but the strategy they are employing would work without bonus content (albeit with a slightly lower amount of net profit).

I will say that it is possible to end up netting negative ROI if you're not careful doing this though. One mis-step or a book that misses the market can be expensive. I've had to massively scale back marketing campaigns in the past when I realized a book (for whatever reason) was getting horrible traction from my mailing list and marketing blasts. If these people are relying on KU author all-star bonuses to put them into profitability, that's a dangerous gamble. I doubt they are though. My own experience tells me they're probably raking substantial profit, and that they have a large pool of money to cover these marketing campaigns during the wait time between selling a book and being paid for it.

So, can you share the specific formula? Or is this a special invite-only club?

Can you confirm stuffing and swapping titles?

What advertising do you do to get just a high ROI? Could I see a campaign?

I already have ebook bundles. I'd be interested in dropping these $9.99 sets to 99 cents and then throwing ad dollars at it to see if I could replicate your claims, but I'd need specifics. How do you guys share information? Do you buy it from one another? Trade? Is one person the guy who is selling the program?

Finally, have any of you masterminds been confronted by Amazon? Had your payment frozen, or had to return money? What's the risk here?

If this is real, as presented, you aren't doing anything wrong. But there is room to overstep bounds, and Amazon gets angry about feeling it has been scammed. I'd like to know the safeguards you have in place.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 12:56:02 AM
That was discussed earlier in the thread and I already gave my opinion on it.

Itís all to easy to jump to conclusions here or to lay blame on groups of people for what may have been an accidental or innocent act. Before you start calling people criminals, maybe you should do a little research on copyright infringement. Itís more than a little likely that the photos infringed upon were civil copyright infringement, not criminal infringement, and its possible they are innocent of civil copyright infringement as well if they were unaware it was taking place and took steps to stop infringing as soon as they became aware

Either way, youíre making some pretty huge accusations without actually knowing the truth one way or another.

And it may not have been a group that did it, either.

I have more than fifty pennames. At any given time, I might have multiple books on multiple pennames that I am promoting with similar or even directly copied ads and marketing strategies.

Obviously I own all the rights necessary to the photos I use, but the point is, all of those copyright infringed photos might have originated from one person, or one ad guy, and you might be totally wrong in your assertion that they did this with direct intention.

Itís still wrong, but these authors (or author) might be innocent of any crime whatsoever.

I know you want them to be criminals, but the facts donít necessarily line up with the judgement youíre throwing at them.

Youíre going further and saying theyíve plagiarized, and Iíve seen no evidence of that whatsoever. If they did, let the person they infringed on come forward and run these people up the flag pole. Prove it. I will not defend a plagiarist. None of us will. But these people havenít plagarized a single word, to the best of my knowledge.

Nobody to my knowledge has shown those authors have plagarized any content. Nobody can prove they intentionally violated some photo copyrights (and to look - they arenít using those photos anymore).

Mountains out of mole hills, imho.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Jan Hurst-Nicholson on January 06, 2018, 01:19:47 AM

 I've spent thousands of dollars on ads over the years, and the only consistent surefire ROI is Bookbub.


Thanks for that valuable info  :-*. Saves much money and time-wasting. Now I need to sell enough books to be able to apply for a BookBub  ::) 
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Nicholas Erik on January 06, 2018, 01:31:08 AM
Not Bob, obviously, but the way I understand the basic strategy outlined in his posts is this:

1) write (or pay a ghostwriter to write) a decent length novel in a genre/style that's currently doing well in the Top 100 (e.g. something with very clear market demand right now)
2) get a high quality cover and write the blurb in a style that's currently hot

Then, get a bunch of ARCs out to your street team, launch at $0.99 in KU and:

3) cross promote with other authors via newsletter swaps - both for free (e.g. authors you've networked with) and whose lists you've paid to be on; this might also be supplemented with shared lists that multiple authors/pens use
4) send out to your own newsletter peeps and social media
5) book promo sites
6) spend massively on Facebook/AMS/BookBub to complete the Top 100 push, even over $1k a day
7) throttle down the PPC spend once you hit the book's natural ceiling, and then bank the profit from the visibility.

If I'm missing some key ingredient, I apologize.

Nothing seems unusual or untoward to me; in fact, this is basically standard KBoards marketing advice, just honed to a super-effective point. I think what's hard to fathom is the sheer scale this type of marketing operates on. For example, Joe mentioned thousands of dollars in ads and 14k subscribers, which are both huge for most indies. But some of these authors doing regular Top 100 runs have lists of 50k+ or more. They might have a combined newsletter reach, with cross promos, of 500,000+ subs. $22,000 in advertising, assuming you're spending $0.30/click, is over 73,000 clicks in a month. If you're a maestro and manage that to $0.20/click, you're talking 110,000 super targeted clicks. That's how they're making so much money - just a huge amount of targeted traffic being sent to a highly targeted book. In turn, this ignites Amazon's automated merchandising algorithms (which, I think, is the real benefit of selling a bunch of books - not the visibility from the bestseller charts), which trigger auto-curated email blasts and feature you prominently on the site.

Of course, there's also substantial risk, too. $22k, or even $5k is a lot to put up - especially when you're not going to get it back for 60 - 90 days, and might not get it back at all, if your book whiffs on hitting market expectations. It's also really hard to spend 5-figures in a month on PPC for one title without the bid prices running rampant on you. All that takes substantial skill and careful monitoring to pull off.

Bonus books and everything else aside - issues which can be mostly fixed by Amazon lowering the KENP page cap to around 800 - 1000 pages and just making a one title per KU ASIN policy - I think Bob is right in that much (to be clear, not all) of what we see in the Top 100 is simply effective and expensive marketing. Obviously there are shenanigans going on from folks willing to really push the boundaries of the TOS. I'm sure KDP will eventually address these issues (probably with a hatchet, rather than a scalpel, judging from past fixes), and the extremes are so ridiculous as to be almost comical (e.g. stuffing ten randomly scraped books after a new release). While I don't really spend much time thinking about it, it'd be nice if Amazon fixed some of the more glaring issues, as I think the more extreme tactics probably result in poor customer experiences - which makes readers hesitant to try new authors, or even buy books from Amazon at all. That's not good for us or Amazon.

But the truth about a lot of the books dominating the charts right now might be much more sobering for many: the indie game is hyper-competitive, and it's much harder for authors to bootstrap their way to a career in 2018. It's a huge business, and authors are spending mind-boggling amounts of money (not to mention time) on advertising - much, much more than a lot of people think - to stake claim to that valuable real estate at the top of the store.

Of course, there are those who don't spend a lot on ads, and still hit the Top 100, but those folks seem to be getting rarer. Also, you obviously don't need to hit the Top 100, or anywhere close, to make a decent living. But I've definitely seen ad spends skyrocket (and organic visibility dip) over the past few years as authors fight for visibility.

Nick
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 02:11:19 AM
That's fascinating, Bob.

I have questions. And doubts. Don't blame me for my skepticism. I've been at this for a long time, and what you're describing is outside my realm of experience.

I expect you're going to get some backlash for posting this, but information is always good (says the guy who still has Loompanics books on his shelf). I appreciate the candor.

This tracks with what I've seen on Amazon. A lot of searches for these stuffed romance books show up as "sponsored content".

But this also brings my first question. I've spent thousands of dollars on ads over the years, and the only consistent surefire ROI is Bookbub. I've played extensively with Amazon ads (sponsored products and product display), and to a lesser extent with Twitter and Facebook. I've had limited success with BookBub wannabes, and haven't really give Google a fair shot. That said, if I can goose an Amazon ad to returning $1.15 on the dollar spent, I'm giddy. And it doesn't last forever. Spending a buck to make a buck fifteen isn't the key to a fortune, even scaling it. And there are loses that make up for that profit.

I don't know any type of advertising that has the kind of returns you're talking of here. My newsletter has 14k people, all opt-in, and my return is nowhere near what you speak of, even with a people who are eagerly anticipating my next book. I can't imagine a bought newsletter list being more effective.

So I'd like more details, cuz I'm not sold.

I've hit #1 as a freebie, and as a paid book, and have been in the Top 100 of both many times. But I've never made near the numbers you're talking, and it has been years since I cracked six figures in a month. Though I'm in the thriller genre, there is a voracious subset of readers who are out there, waiting to discover me. I just haven't been able to find them to the tune of $70k in a single month for a single title, even though the books are good.

What you're describing is akin to how legacy publishers launch a title. Lots of people helping, lots of promo avenues, lots of money spent, lots of focus on the product. I can see some people shouting "scammer" but I'm viewing this as using the available tools and conditions to maximize effectiveness. If this is really happening, as described, there isn't anything scammy about it.

So what kind of specific marketing did you do? Or is this a case of book stuffing, which you curiously haven't mentioned? Can readers skip to the end and still get credit for all KENP count? 

Email blasts aren't free. And if a list gets passed around, people will opt out. And the ROI on a cold blast can't be too high. You're anonymous, and you've disclosed a lot. Are you saying clickfarms aren't part of this? It's all just advertising and actual readers, paging through regular length books?

And what about juggling titles? Are you changing titles and characters as well as pen names? Do you trade or buy titles and pen names and covers from each other? How many times do you use a single story? How many authors share it and change it? Who wrote it? How much did it cost to get?

Does this work like a shopping club? You buy what is suggested, get instructions, and follow those instructions to make your book a hit?

Here's a part I don't understand/believe. You can't keep CPC low because you're bidding against others. To get seen, you have to big higher. And you're claiming a substantial ROI, which means either most of the people who see your deal (for 99 cents I assume) automatically click and buy, or those that do make up for it in KU by getting through a stuffed 500 page book, which would still only earn $1.50 on a $1.00 bid.

I'd have to know your techniques better to accept this, because it doesn't pass the sniff test for me. Throwing money into ads only works if the ads already work. And it isn't easy to create an effective add.

Who's writing the books? And where are the mailing lists for sale?

So, can you share the specific formula? Or is this a special invite-only club?

Can you confirm stuffing and swapping titles?

What advertising do you do to get just a high ROI? Could I see a campaign?

I already have ebook bundles. I'd be interested in dropping these $9.99 sets to 99 cents and then throwing ad dollars at it to see if I could replicate your claims, but I'd need specifics. How do you guys share information? Do you buy it from one another? Trade? Is one person the guy who is selling the program?

Finally, have any of you masterminds been confronted by Amazon? Had your payment frozen, or had to return money? What's the risk here?

If this is real, as presented, you aren't doing anything wrong. But there is room to overstep bounds, and Amazon gets angry about feeling it has been scammed. I'd like to know the safeguards you have in place.

I'll do what I can to respond to this, but you're asking a ton of questions here, so bear with me.

Let me first start with a big caveat: I have no intention of sharing any information here that could identify any of my pennames, for reasons that should be extremely obvious reasons if you're reading this thread and seeing the undercurrent of anger and resentment being leveled at successful authors and pennames that aren't operating in ways remarkably different than how I operate my own business. That said, I am not a "mastermind", so I can only speculate as to what they are doing based on what I've seen, heard, and my own general experience in the field.

OK.... Lets go.

First up, I've never had a book bub. NEVER. Not one. They reject me every single time I submit for one. They rejected books sitting in the top 10. I suspect that is in part because I am working purely with KU titles. They seem to favor wide-published works.

Amazon ads don't scale. Facebook ads do scale. You can spend thousands of dollars every day on facebook pushing a book if that's what you want to do, and if you're effective at producing those facebook ads, and in targeting a productive demographic/group of readers who are more likely to purchase and/or borrow your book, you can absolutely make positive ROI on the effort.

The positive ROI you make might not necessarily come from the ad itself. I frequently run ads that, in the moment they are running, are not profitable. I might spend $1,000 in a day pushing a book, only to see the book earn $500 or $700. I'm not worried about that, because KU page reads always come in after-the-fact. In the following days, the income will rise on the book. Amazon's algorithms will kick in, your book will be linked to other bestselling works, and your income will rise even if you kill the marketing campaign. The trick is obviously knowing how to balance your spending against your earnings, and avoiding a disaster (blowing cash on a book that never really wants to take flight). I'm not going to sit here and pretend I've never lost money on a book. It happens. It hurts. You try to mitigate that by pulling down ad campaigns quickly if things aren't going the way you expect.

Facebook ads can quickly get expensive. Jacking up spending can cause your cost-per-click to skyrocket. There are ways to mitigate this. My average campaign on a major book launch runs anywhere from 8 cents per click to 32 cents per click. Right now I've got a handful of different major campaigns going with large daily spend, and here's my CPC from yesterday:

https://i.imgur.com/prW3zYu.png

As you can see, it ranges from 8 cents to 19 cents on my currently running campaigns on relatively new releases.

How do I get these kinds of CPC rates on my marketing? By intelligent targeting, the use of pixel audiences, and because I've got some really REALLY good ads that are pegging their relevancy score. I had a career in advertising long before I got into writing books. This is my wheelhouse.

Obviously not every click from an ad is going to turn into a purchase. Hell, most people are lucky if 10% of those clicks turns into an actual hard sale (and there's no way to tell how many of those clicks turn into borrows). My own rates run a bit higher than that (in the past, when I didn't realize it was against the ToS, I used an amazon marketing link to give me some idea of how many of my clicks were converting, and I assume I'm doing at least as well today, despite not having any way to track it beyond looking at the actual sales and pages read on my dashboard).

Lets use 10% as a guide though.

19 cents per click. $1,000 spent in a day. 5,263 clicks. If 10% of those people buy the book and you get a similar number of KU borrows, you're talking about over a thousand effective purchases of your title.

If we figure 500 sales, that's $175 in sales royalties at 99 cents. We've gotta make up $825 in KU pages to earn out. That's 191,860 pages.

Seems pretty tough, but it's not that bad. If you've got a 300 KENPC book, that's just 639 full read throughs.

Those 1000 sales in a single day just shoved the book straight into the top 100. Sustain that for a few days and a huge number of KU subscribers are going to see your book and borrow it. Over the next 3-5 days, your KU page reads climb hard, and they stay high for 1-2 weeks after the initial push (and longer if you sustain the marketing campaign).

That's millions of pages read pouring in very quickly as you pull back in your marketing and allow the book to sink or swim. A few weeks later, the book has fallen off the top 100 but it will continue to make good money for weeks and months beyond that. Without even looking I know I've got 3 books I released back at the beginning of September that are still earning 3 figures a day (collectively) all these months later, without any further marketing being placed in them. Do this right, and you make out quite well.

Even if you're dealing with higher CPC, you can make this work if you have a large enough mailing list. I've got a fairly large mailing list that I use for pushing romance, and a few other lists that are steadily growing for other genres. I use FB ads to build my mailing lists too, but that's getting a bit out of the realm of what we are discussing here so I'll leave it at that.

With a large mailing list, you can generate a lot of sales on a new release. When you can reliably push 500-1000 sales out of your mailing list every time you launch a book, that has done the vast majority of the work for you. Those purchases kick your book straight up close to the top 100 list (or break you into it), and you don't need to be quite as good at marketing to push the rest of the way. Even a relatively high price ad getting 40 or 50 cents per click can work if all you need to do is generate a few hundred extra sales, and again, the KU page reads that will come later pay for this if you're publishing a great page turner of a book into a hot market/niche.

Ok, moving forward...

I've mentioned previously in this thread that I have put bonus books in my titles in the past. I've "stuffed" with a few extra titles on numerous occasions when I was publishing single-releases. I don't do this on series releases, because it's not worth it. I asked Amazon and ECR if what I was doing was kosher, and they confirmed to me that it was. I'm sure you can "stuff" in ways that Amazon wouldn't agree are promoting a quality reading environment for readers, but they didn't seem to have any issue with the way I operate.

Perhaps that's because I don't do things in an egregious way.

Anyway, I've run plenty of books with and without bonus content, and lately, I see books with bonus content earning between 10 and 20% more than books I leave the bonus content out of (I'm talking about single releases here - I never release series books with bonus content so I don't have data there). I attribute this to lack of friction. A reader can just keep on reading inside my book if they like the first book I delivered to them, and as such, I'm receiving more pages read.

You ask if readers can still "skip to the back" and trigger a full book read. I can tell you that Amazon has largely fixed this (it used to be the case, but it isn't really the case anymore). There are still some platforms where this occurs (like the Kindle Cloud reader), but I seriously doubt that it leads to any meaningful amount of pages read. If it did, I suspect Amazon would have already fixed it. Either way, it's not my fault that Amazon hasn't patched all of the potential ways that a full-book worth of page reads can be triggered, and they have repeatedly denied that this even happens. I can prove it, of course, by clicking to the back of a book in kindle cloud reader and demonstrating that it generates a full book read... but Amazon is not going to confirm this.

Ok... moving forward...

You say: "Email blasts aren't free"

That's not entirely correct. I mean, ok, it's not free to have a mail chimp account with a ton of email subscribers on it (I spend money every single month for mine), but it doesn't cost me a dime to blast out an email to all of my subscribers.

And if you've built a small circle of friends who all share email lists... blasting out to all of them is, effectively, free.

This obviously requires that group of friends to be willing to cross-promote, but that's ok. The cross-promotion actually raises all ships. By constantly sharing each others books and pruning/growing their list, they are able to find the subset of readers who want to buy those books... and those buyers end up linking those books together in also-boughts and also-vieweds on the kindle store. This means a reader looking to buy one of the books is going to be presented with the whole group's books in the also-boughts below the title. It's very likely that buyer will buy one of those books (if they make a purchasing decision upon arriving at that page), even if not the one they pulled up directly.

My email blasts have extremely strong click rates. I, again, attribute that to my career history in advertising. Here's a recent blast from one of my big lists, as an example of this:

https://i.imgur.com/z8dKFAl.png

41.6% open rate, and a 15.7% click rate. I'm proud of those numbers... and that's not an outlier. I'm good at mailing lists.

Even if you figure a much lower click rate... even if you can only manage a 5% or 3% or even 1% click rate, that adds up to a lot of people eyeballing your book in the kindle store once you're sitting on a mailing list with tens of thousands of readers.

32,000 mailing list subs * 5% click rate = 1600 clicks. 3% = 960. 1% = 320.

And of course, I don't stop with one email blast. There are still nearly 60% of my subscribers who didn't open that first email. I specifically target them again with another well built blast... and I target the people who don't open that list blast as well.

By re-targeting and re-focusing on my list to try and maximize how many people open the blasts, I end up with a significantly higher click rate overall than any one campaign would suggest.

Anyway, moving past that...

You mention "juggling titles". I'm not sure what you mean by that. You're talking about changing titles, characters, pen names? I don't know what you mean. Using a single story multiple times? I think you have a misunderstanding in how all of this works.

I don't share my books with anyone. I don't let other people use my books. By "sharing books", I meant that this group of authors is SHARING the book with their own mailing list subscribers. They are sending out an email blast saying "Hey, check out this awesome bestselling romance!".

Sorry about any confusion there. There is NO sharing of book content or changing of book content or flip-flopping of pennames or whatever you thought was going on there. I was talking about a group of like-minded authors using their mailing lists to cross-promote each other. I'm not sure how we got our lines crossed.

This is NOT a shopping club or anything of the sort. The group I was discussing is just a group of likeminded authors who got together and decided to do this (technically, an extremely successful author sold a training program that would teach people how to earn a bunch of money selling books on KU, and those people ended up forming the little group together with their teacher after he taught his course).

Ok... next thing...

You mention that you don't believe that a person can keep CPC low. I demonstrated above that I do keep my CPC low. Sure, if you bid against others in the open market and use poorly optimized demographics and targets, your CPC will spike. Experience and some knowledge about how systems like Facebook's ad program work can help you avoid those pitfalls. I'm not going to sit here and explain the ins and outs of getting low CPC. There are people who sell courses for thousands of dollars to teach people that kind of thing... and if I told everyone exactly how I did things, suddenly I'd have a bunch of people competing with me for the same customers, thus spiking my CPC ;). I will say that I extensively use facebook pixel audiences. If you don't know what that is, look it up. If you don't know how I'm building useful pixel audiences full of tens or even hundreds of thousands of KU shoppers... you might want to take some time to really think about that. (hint hint hint hint hint)

As for ads themselves... yeah. Throwing money at an ad only works if the ad works. I'm good at ads. I'm really, really, really good at ads.

Ok... your next question... you ask: Who's writing the books?

That's easy. Some of them are probably written by the author who is publishing the book... and some of them are probably purchased ghostwritten titles that the person doing the publishing polishes up and makes into a book that will sell on their penname. You can buy ghostwritten romance novels for anywhere between $500 and $5,000, depending on the quality you're looking for. There are trustworthy ghostwriters who are ready to write your books if you are willing to pay them. Go join one of the major author forums and you can find people offering their services, or you can look for them among people that you have met during your years publishing. Most of the ghostwriters I've worked with over the years were either people I directly recruited, or people who came to me asking if I'd buy their book.

Case in point: I've got an old author friend sending me a book this morning that I will likely buy. They needed some money, and they offered it up for $1,000. It's a solid book that needs a bit of work. I'll buy it without hesitation.

Do you know an author who writes amazing books you admire, that can't seem to gain traction on them? Do you know an author who is putting out book after book, but isn't really succeeding? That person is probably ripe to approach about ghostwriting. You could let them write books for you, publish them under a penname you control, and those books would make large amounts of money for yourself, and for your ghostwriter (assuming you are paying them fairly, or are splitting royalties with them in some way).

You ask: Where are mailing lists for sale?

Bookclicker and by building relationships with other authors and asking them if they'll send your newest book out if you pay them some cash :). You can buy promo slots on other people's email lists, or sell slots on your own. They use an API with the mailing list services to ensure that the blasts you purchased were sent out, and you can see the open rates and the like. If you're willing to burn a few thousand dollars, you can open a lot of doors and have your book showing up in tons of people's email lists.

As to the last part of your message, I already told you above that I am not one of the "masterminds". I am not part of their group so I can't give you specifics on how they communicate and share info, but obviously I'm sure they coordinate with each other through something simple like e-mail or a group chat program like slack or ryver.

Now that I've said all that, I apologize for the somewhat broken stream of text above. I was trying to respond to everything in your long post and I didn't want to fuss with quotes. :)

Let me end this by again summarizing what is happening, because it seems like we've gotten our wires crossed a bit.

To simplify this, lets just pretend there is ONE author. Lets call him Bob. Please note, I'll be using "me" and "my" and other possessives in the following lines for narrative purposes. I am not actually participating in one of these author groups at this time. I prefer to operate my business solo, and I am very successful solo :).

That said...

Bob writes a book (or buys a ghostwritten title). It doesn't matter if he wrote the book or if he bought a ghostwritten title, the important thing here is he has a brand new, unique, high-quality book. Please note that by "high quality" I am not necessarily speaking to the quality of the book in terms of grammar or prose. I am saying it is "high quality" in terms of being a book that is written to satisfy a hungry market in a target niche. It's a crowd-pleasing page turner of a book.

Now, Bob packages this up as a book for KDP. In the process, he goes to his back catalog of books and picks a few of those older bestselling titles to place in the back of this new book as "bonus content". This is what people are describing as "book stuffing".

Bob doesn't have to do this. He does it because in his experience on a single standalone title, doing so will earn him more money. 10-20% more, to be exact. He also does it because he has talked with Amazon about it directly, and they said it was ok... and because pretty much every author in the top 100 does the same thing.

So now we've got a book with the New Book up front, and 2-3 old back catalog titles in the back of the book. If the reader finishes book #1 and is excited and happy about what they just read, they can keep reading book 2, or 3, or whatever by simply turning the page. Some readers love this, and will keep reading. Some don't care for it, and will close the book after book #1.

Are you with me so far?

Now imagine I have 3 friends doing the exact same thing. They are all polishing up their own unique books. Now we've all got a book to launch. We are all using the same basic templates in Vellum for these books, so every single book looks very similar, but obviously they are all COMPLETELY unique. No content from my books is showing up in any of their books.

Now we all publish our books. We send out email blasts to our own email subscribers, telling them about our book.

Then we go a little further. We send out blasts to our readers telling them about our FRIEND'S books too. This group of friends staggers their releases so they're not dumping 4 emails on someone all at once, but this means the readers on that email list are getting blasts every week telling them about a new exciting book to read. They love it.

In the same vein, we all share an ARC reader list with awesome hungry readers who love leaving 5 star reviews. We send our books to these people and we end up with 200+ 5 star reviews on launch day.

Now I promote the ever holy living hell out of my book. In a week, when one of my friends launches, they'll do the same to THEIR book... and in another week, another friend launches and they'll do the same.

This constant stream of heavy promotion lifts all of our ships on the water, because our books are all connected.

The authors share tactics, such as sharing how to hit lower CPC on their advertising, or sharing ad copy or images that have produced low CPC on their own books. They share keywords they've used at Amazon that are effective. They share assistance with blurbs and titles and covers etc etc etc.

They make a bunch of money... and they start the process all over again with a brand new book.

Get what I mean?

To an outside observer, it might look like something kinky is going on, but it's just effective marketing and a group of people sharing email lists so they can mass-blast tens of thousands of readers with every release and jump to the top-lists. These authors all look similar, because they are all following the instructions of the guy who started their group. He taught them exactly how he does things, and they are following in his footsteps and working together to cross promote and keep their books on top of the list.

There is NO need for crazy things like click-farms and the like. There is no confrontation with Amazon or funds frozen because what I just described is totally normal and completely within the rules. This isn't "risky" behavior. There is no TOS violation. These are just successful authors making money.

As for me? I'm a guy running a small publishing company. I've got a few dozen authors I work with on a regular basis. I buy lots of ghostwritten content (some of it straight-up, and some of it I buy on royalty-sharing agreements). I write some of my own books, I personally edit some of my purchased ghostwritten titles. I engage the services of good editors. I pay an incredible cover artist to create all of my covers. I have a catalog of more than 500 titles, and it's not unusual for me to publish more than ten books in a single month. Sometimes, that number is substantially higher than ten. I've built this from the ground up (starting as an author, and gradually incorporating things like ghostwriters and editors etc). At one point a year or so back, I actually considered renting a commercial space and hiring people to work there with me as permanent on-staff editors and publishing agents... but my early attempts to hire people as employees soured pretty quickly and I realized I was happier when I was the only one I needed to worry about on a day to day basis. At the end of the day, I'm happy to be working more or less solo, with ghostwriters occasionally drifting in and out of my life long enough to drop a new book into my inbox and receive a bank transfer for their trouble ;).

Lastly, people in this thread have been arguing that the "masterminds" use of bonus content is gray hat/bad/evil, but I've said it before and I'll say it again right here... even if Amazon came out with a policy banning all bonus content (1 ASIN PER KU TITLE, period, no box sets, no bonus books), it wouldn't fundamentally change how these people are operating. They would remove the bonus content and keep right on going, accepting a slightly lower profit margin. They would also probably end up increasing the size of the actual books they are publishing (100k romance novels instead of 50k titles), but that isn't a terribly difficult thing to do. We're talking about a romance novel. There are some pretty obvious way you can inflate their page count while simultaneously giving the readers exactly what they came for ;).



Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 02:24:21 AM
Not Bob, obviously, but the way I understand the basic strategy outlined in his posts is this:

1) write (or pay a ghostwriter to write) a decent length novel in a genre/style that's currently doing well in the Top 100 (e.g. something with very clear market demand right now)
2) get a high quality cover and write the blurb in a style that's currently hot

Then, get a bunch of ARCs out to your street team, launch at $0.99 in KU and:

3) cross promote with other authors via newsletter swaps - both for free (e.g. authors you've networked with) and whose lists you've paid to be on; this might also be supplemented with shared lists that multiple authors/pens use
4) send out to your own newsletter peeps and social media
5) book promo sites
6) spend massively on Facebook/AMS/BookBub to complete the Top 100 push, even over $1k a day
7) throttle down the PPC spend once you hit the book's natural ceiling, and then bank the profit from the visibility.

If I'm missing some key ingredient, I apologize.

That's it, in a nutshell.

The trick is in knowing how to do all of those things in an effective way.

For example, it's hard to find good ghostwriters you can trust not to steal/plagiarize content (I should know, I've caught three plagiarists in the past few years, and one of those people literally submitted a book to me that plagiarized A BOOK THAT I HAD WRITTEN!!!). That seems like it wouldn't be all that difficult, but you really do need to have cultivated some relationships if you want to find a genuinely high quality ghostwriter that will write for you at an affordable rate.

It's also hard to find tens of thousands of dollars in your bank account that you can use to sustain these kinds of huge marketing campaigns for the 60-90 days it takes you to receive a paycheck from Amazon ;).

Every single one of those steps is harder than it sounds on paper.

Anyway, there are days I wish I could boil things down to a post as tight as the one you just made... but that's one of the challenges of being a ridiculously prolific author I guess.

I write... a lot...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MaryMcDonald on January 06, 2018, 03:41:23 AM
Probably because they BOUGHT the book and felt cheated. With KU the thinking is the book is 'free' so they don't feel cheated.

I complained about a Maeve Binchy paperback that was actually a collection of short stories, but that wasn't made clear. There were many reviews complaining about the same thing so the publisher updated the blurb to reflect that it was short stories (but nothing you can do about the already printed versions)

But I did say in the blurb that the book had bonus material. There was no deception.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 06, 2018, 03:44:49 AM
There's a lot of duplicity in this thread - personified by the person claiming to hate stuffing but insisting it's against the TOS, being a stuffer. I checked one of their books and it has two novels and novella stuffed in the back.

The most ridiculous idea, though, is that the group we are all referencing, the stuffers who operate in bad boy romance, are some kind of superpowered marketing machines, wearing the whitest of white hats, and everyone else is just mistaking their marketing genius for shenanigans.

People are looking for a greater conspiracy that doesn't exist.

If I'm missing some key ingredient, I apologize.

Happy to oblige.

There are a good few missing parts from your sketch. Now, I'm sure "bobfrost" will again demand evidence and names even though he knows I'm not permitted to back up these claims in that manner, so let's say this: I can name names. I have screenshots to back up all of this. If the mods want me to privately back up any of these claims then they can PM me and I'll privately show them the evidence.

Anyway, here's what's missing from the bad boy stuffer operation in the above comments.

1. Ghostwriters.

There's quite a bit of dissonance going on here. Indies fought hard for their freedom to break away from the crappy terms forced on us by publishers. And now some of those indies are trying to claim that ghostwriters on even crappier terms are all so well treated. Give me a break.

I've actually spoken to some of these ghostwriters - some who write for the bad boy stuffers too. They often get paid uber crappy terms like between 1c and 3c a word. And that pay is worse than it sounds because the ghosts do EVERYTHING. Outlining, blurbs, taglines, story, the book itself. The whole shebang. Ghosts don't get paid a higher rate for coming up with the plot or tagline or whatever. It's really exploitative.

Bad boy stuffers often don't even read romance, they hire other people to read the Top 100 and given them a list of the hot tropes, then they hand those to a ghostwriter and tell them to write something, on crappy terms, with penalties if they take longer than, say, 4 weeks. Then package it up and pass it off as their own.

Many have several ghosts on the go at the same time, allowing them to publish a few books a months. This creates a blockade of titles choking off all visibility in niches like Contemporary Romance and Military Romance and Sports Romance.

Yes, these guys also use legit advertising (but seeing their Facebook campaigns, I would hesitate before calling them any kind of expert), but they bankroll that advertising with their monster KU payouts and bonuses - money they earned by cheating the payout, stuffing and so on.

I asked one of these ghostwriters why she doesn't write for herself (I'm trying to help her self-publish and get away from these a-holes) and she said that she felt she couldn't crack romance on her own.

Guess why?

2. Impersonation

I know a lot about this circle. I know their pen names, their real names, their upwork profiles, and the links between them all (all screenshotted, in case anyone wants to go on a deleting binge).

Nearly all of them are dudes pretending to be women.

Whatever your feelings on that, it gets very problematic when engaging in private girl talk, whether that's in your secret Facebook group, your mailing list, your ARC group (I've seen them all), or on social media.

Do you think it's appropriate that a man impersonates a woman and then asks a group of young woman about their sexual experiences - and they share thinking they are speaking to another woman?

This kind of thing goes on all the time and it's creepy AF.

3. Review manipulation

You will notice that a lot of these bad boy stuffers have a huge amount of reviews on launch day, all unverified, all saying similar things.

I have screenshots proving that they break the TOS when it comes to reviews, and cross other ethical lines to manipulate their review count, score, and average.

Many kick readers out of their ARC teams if they don't review in a certain time, or if they give less than 5 stars. This is not permitted. Many offer financial or other inducements for a review - this is against the TOS, you are only allowed to offer a free copy of the book being reviewed. That's just for starters - the review shenanigans going on are many and varied and keep mutating.

4. Stuffing

It doesn't matter how many exact examples that I and others send to ECR and get written proof this is banned, those who are engaging in the practice will claim otherwise, and engage in FUD to create general doubt.

The intent is clear: it's cheating. It's artificially increasing your KENPC to increase your payout. And the crappy kicker on all this is that you are doing so at the expense of your fellow authors.

And then that increased payout bankrolls a new spate of novels from mistreated ghosts, and a new round of Facebook ads (helloooo stolen pictures!) to cement that visibility, squeezing out the honest authors who actually do write their own books and don't stuff and don't manipulate reviews and don't cheat.

***

I could go on and on and on but I have books to launch. All I'll say is this:

People have speculated that other activities are engaged in by this group, such as various shades of plagiarism or rip-offs, clickfarming or bots, and review purchasing.

I'm still piecing together the whole operation so I can't comment on that specifically right now. However, in all the years I've been tracking scammers and cheaters of various types, people who cross one ethical line rarely stop there. That first ethical barrier is always the hardest to breach, and then it becomes much more routine after that.

Considering what this group do engage in, further unethical activities wouldn't be the biggest stretch ever.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 06, 2018, 04:06:53 AM
Here's what's going on:

*snip*

People are looking for a greater conspiracy that doesn't exist. We've got a group of authors using identical tactics and actively sharing those tactics to dominate a corner of the KU marketplace.

Okay, you've sold me.

In fact, I give up.

I don't have $22,000 to spend advertising one book in its release month.

I spend 1% of that in my book's release month by comparison. My mailing list is only 8,000. The only time I get in the top 100 is during a Bookbub.

In fact, the most I have spent on promotion during any month, release or not, was $2000. I make $22,000 a month from my entire catalogue. I release 4 - 6 books a year. I'm just a little old author, trying to be as business-like as I can be and write good books.

I did join one of the top stuffer mailing lists to see what s/he/they sent out and had to unsubscribe because I got emails every day with different books by different authors, but then I am not primarily a reader. I'm a writer so to me it was way too much email. I know that there are tons of romance readers who are just readers who read a book a day so they probably eat up that email.

It's in part why I'm trying to move into other categories in romance and move into non-romance genres because there is just no way to compete with these machines as a lone indie. But I don't need to compete with them. It's not necessary to become a book mill to have a nice living and write books.

We authors have to choose what we want from this gig. Do we want to write memorable books that make us a good to great living over the long term? If so, it is possible without using these techniques and without spending $22,000 on a release month in marketing and pumping out a dozen books a month of recycled material.

I know because I do it and I know lots of authors who are doing it, too. My books don't hit the top 100 in the Kindle store or on the romance list, but I make consistent five figure months and six figure years. That's AMAZING! I have full control over my workday and work week and work month and work year. I have thousands of followers on every platform, and every day get comments from readers on how much they love my books and re-read them again and again. Who wait for my next release.

So, if you are disheartened by what you've seen and read in this thread, join the group, but don't let it dissuade you from keeping on keeping on.

YOU DON'T HAVE TO BECOME A STUFFER AND COOKIE CUTTER GHOSTWRITER-HIRING PUBLISHER to make a decent to very good living writing the kind of books you want. And that's encouraging.

There are lots of us mid-list authors out there who write our own books, don't stuff, don't swap, don't hire ghostwriters, and don't write cookie cutter books, but it does take some savvy to compete in this marketplace when the big guns are doing that and taking up all the oxygen.

Here's the thing -- my book and series that did really well and made my little career -- such as it is? It's still selling, and still making me six figures a year five years after I wrote the first book. People remember it and go back and re-read it and say so on my Facebook ads. I highly doubt that the flavour of the month book written by a ghostwriter to a very narrow trend that looks suspiciously like every other book produced by this consortium of publishers will do the same five years down the line. I may be wrong but I have my suspicions after reading the top book in my chosen romance category at the moment.

And I guess that is my antidote to the frustration I feel at how Kindle Unlimited has soured the indie book marketplace.

That's my bottom line. We don't need to become book-stuffing trend-writing mills.

I think KU sucks donkey. I think it's great for readers, who now think they get books "for free" and so now expect to get all books "for free" and complain to me when they can't get my books "for free." It sucks for authors because it encourages the kind of publisher who puts out those top 100 forgettable romance books and makes indie authors even more dependent on Amazon.

Yeah, that's sour grapes. I don't like what the romance market has become because of KU, but that's reality and we all have to adapt. Last year, I put some books in KU for half the year and earned about the same from page reads as I earned on Apple. KU is currently as big as Apple. It's a reality we have to adapt to.

Thing is, I earn less in KU per book for a full read through than when I sell the same book on Apple because I can charge full price for my books on that platform. Readers on Apple expect to pay full price. Readers in KU think they aren't paying for books because borrowing is unlimited and they only pay the subscription price.

I recently had a reader chastise me for not having my books in KU because she wouldn't pay for books anymore because she got them for free in KU and wouldn't support any author who wasn't in KU...

That's what KU is doing to the market. It sucks donkey. That's my conclusion. YMMV
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dgaughran on January 06, 2018, 04:11:50 AM
Forgive the blog link, but I just want to address the pernicious notion that you have to stuff or use ghosts or cheat in some way to win in KU. I wrote a whole post about how that is BS. Quoting from that, if you will indulge me:

Quote
Whenever an argument erupts in indieworld about some new skeavy tactic, there are always a bunch of writers ready to justify it, whether thatís review purchasing, bonus-stuffing, title-keyword-stuffing, click here inducements, or even clickfarming/botting Ė thereís always a group of vocal defenders. (Often anonymous.)

The defenses always involve the same fallacies. One being that all is fair in love and war Ė itís all one big sales game, and whoever gets people to click on the buy buttons wins.

[...]

The most popular defense is the old dopersí one: everyone else is doing it, why shouldnít we? Obviously, these cheap justifications are really for the cheaters and scammers themselves, so they can sleep at night.

[...]

The idea that you can only get ahead by cheating is especially pernicious because it creates more cheaters. Itís like that old clichť about the underworld where you can only join the inner circle after your first kill. You have skin in the game now, and itís attached to your own ass.

However, itís a lie.

Link: https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2017/09/29/you-can-win-without-cheating-ffs/
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Davanna on January 06, 2018, 06:32:56 AM
FWIW, my reaction to this whole KU (I was going to say debacle) thing.

Who I am: I am researching how to market self-published fiction because I am planning a series with the first book to launch this summer. I am very excited because I have wanted to do this ever since I was a kid, and now i see my chance with self-publishing. Anyway . . .enough about me. That's just where I am coming from. 

My reaction to all this is that I would not publish in KU. It is easy for me to take this stance that since I will not miss the income that i have never had from this source, obviously. It just seems like a total nightmare, and I would not want to be involved in any way. I would advise anyone who has never published and is planning a first book  to avoid it as well
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 06, 2018, 07:05:26 AM
I'll do what I can to respond to this, but you're asking a ton of questions here, so bear with me.

Let me first start with a big caveat: I have no intention of sharing any information here that could identify any of my pennames, for reasons that should be extremely obvious reasons if you're reading this thread and seeing the undercurrent of anger and resentment being leveled at successful authors and pennames that aren't operating in ways remarkably different than how I operate my own business. That said, I am not a "mastermind", so I can only speculate as to what they are doing based on what I've seen, heard, and my own general experience in the field.

OK.... Lets go.

First up, I've never had a book bub. NEVER. Not one. They reject me every single time I submit for one. They rejected books sitting in the top 10. I suspect that is in part because I am working purely with KU titles. They seem to favor wide-published works.

Amazon ads don't scale. Facebook ads do scale. You can spend thousands of dollars every day on facebook pushing a book if that's what you want to do, and if you're effective at producing those facebook ads, and in targeting a productive demographic/group of readers who are more likely to purchase and/or borrow your book, you can absolutely make positive ROI on the effort.

The positive ROI you make might not necessarily come from the ad itself. I frequently run ads that, in the moment they are running, are not profitable. I might spend $1,000 in a day pushing a book, only to see the book earn $500 or $700. I'm not worried about that, because KU page reads always come in after-the-fact. In the following days, the income will rise on the book. Amazon's algorithms will kick in, your book will be linked to other bestselling works, and your income will rise even if you kill the marketing campaign. The trick is obviously knowing how to balance your spending against your earnings, and avoiding a disaster (blowing cash on a book that never really wants to take flight). I'm not going to sit here and pretend I've never lost money on a book. It happens. It hurts. You try to mitigate that by pulling down ad campaigns quickly if things aren't going the way you expect.

Facebook ads can quickly get expensive. Jacking up spending can cause your cost-per-click to skyrocket. There are ways to mitigate this. My average campaign on a major book launch runs anywhere from 8 cents per click to 32 cents per click. Right now I've got a handful of different major campaigns going with large daily spend, and here's my CPC from yesterday:

https://i.imgur.com/prW3zYu.png

As you can see, it ranges from 8 cents to 19 cents on my currently running campaigns on relatively new releases.

How do I get these kinds of CPC rates on my marketing? By intelligent targeting, the use of pixel audiences, and because I've got some really REALLY good ads that are pegging their relevancy score. I had a career in advertising long before I got into writing books. This is my wheelhouse.

Obviously not every click from an ad is going to turn into a purchase. Hell, most people are lucky if 10% of those clicks turns into an actual hard sale (and there's no way to tell how many of those clicks turn into borrows). My own rates run a bit higher than that (in the past, when I didn't realize it was against the ToS, I used an amazon marketing link to give me some idea of how many of my clicks were converting, and I assume I'm doing at least as well today, despite not having any way to track it beyond looking at the actual sales and pages read on my dashboard).

Lets use 10% as a guide though.

19 cents per click. $1,000 spent in a day. 5,263 clicks. If 10% of those people buy the book and you get a similar number of KU borrows, you're talking about over a thousand effective purchases of your title.

If we figure 500 sales, that's $175 in sales royalties at 99 cents. We've gotta make up $825 in KU pages to earn out. That's 191,860 pages.

Seems pretty tough, but it's not that bad. If you've got a 300 KENPC book, that's just 639 full read throughs.

Those 1000 sales in a single day just shoved the book straight into the top 100. Sustain that for a few days and a huge number of KU subscribers are going to see your book and borrow it. Over the next 3-5 days, your KU page reads climb hard, and they stay high for 1-2 weeks after the initial push (and longer if you sustain the marketing campaign).

That's millions of pages read pouring in very quickly as you pull back in your marketing and allow the book to sink or swim. A few weeks later, the book has fallen off the top 100 but it will continue to make good money for weeks and months beyond that. Without even looking I know I've got 3 books I released back at the beginning of September that are still earning 3 figures a day (collectively) all these months later, without any further marketing being placed in them. Do this right, and you make out quite well.

Even if you're dealing with higher CPC, you can make this work if you have a large enough mailing list. I've got a fairly large mailing list that I use for pushing romance, and a few other lists that are steadily growing for other genres. I use FB ads to build my mailing lists too, but that's getting a bit out of the realm of what we are discussing here so I'll leave it at that.

With a large mailing list, you can generate a lot of sales on a new release. When you can reliably push 500-1000 sales out of your mailing list every time you launch a book, that has done the vast majority of the work for you. Those purchases kick your book straight up close to the top 100 list (or break you into it), and you don't need to be quite as good at marketing to push the rest of the way. Even a relatively high price ad getting 40 or 50 cents per click can work if all you need to do is generate a few hundred extra sales, and again, the KU page reads that will come later pay for this if you're publishing a great page turner of a book into a hot market/niche.

Ok, moving forward...

I've mentioned previously in this thread that I have put bonus books in my titles in the past. I've "stuffed" with a few extra titles on numerous occasions when I was publishing single-releases. I don't do this on series releases, because it's not worth it. I asked Amazon and ECR if what I was doing was kosher, and they confirmed to me that it was. I'm sure you can "stuff" in ways that Amazon wouldn't agree are promoting a quality reading environment for readers, but they didn't seem to have any issue with the way I operate.

Perhaps that's because I don't do things in an egregious way.

Anyway, I've run plenty of books with and without bonus content, and lately, I see books with bonus content earning between 10 and 20% more than books I leave the bonus content out of (I'm talking about single releases here - I never release series books with bonus content so I don't have data there). I attribute this to lack of friction. A reader can just keep on reading inside my book if they like the first book I delivered to them, and as such, I'm receiving more pages read.

You ask if readers can still "skip to the back" and trigger a full book read. I can tell you that Amazon has largely fixed this (it used to be the case, but it isn't really the case anymore). There are still some platforms where this occurs (like the Kindle Cloud reader), but I seriously doubt that it leads to any meaningful amount of pages read. If it did, I suspect Amazon would have already fixed it. Either way, it's not my fault that Amazon hasn't patched all of the potential ways that a full-book worth of page reads can be triggered, and they have repeatedly denied that this even happens. I can prove it, of course, by clicking to the back of a book in kindle cloud reader and demonstrating that it generates a full book read... but Amazon is not going to confirm this.

Ok... moving forward...

You say: "Email blasts aren't free"

That's not entirely correct. I mean, ok, it's not free to have a mail chimp account with a ton of email subscribers on it (I spend money every single month for mine), but it doesn't cost me a dime to blast out an email to all of my subscribers.

And if you've built a small circle of friends who all share email lists... blasting out to all of them is, effectively, free.

This obviously requires that group of friends to be willing to cross-promote, but that's ok. The cross-promotion actually raises all ships. By constantly sharing each others books and pruning/growing their list, they are able to find the subset of readers who want to buy those books... and those buyers end up linking those books together in also-boughts and also-vieweds on the kindle store. This means a reader looking to buy one of the books is going to be presented with the whole group's books in the also-boughts below the title. It's very likely that buyer will buy one of those books (if they make a purchasing decision upon arriving at that page), even if not the one they pulled up directly.

My email blasts have extremely strong click rates. I, again, attribute that to my career history in advertising. Here's a recent blast from one of my big lists, as an example of this:

https://i.imgur.com/z8dKFAl.png

41.6% open rate, and a 15.7% click rate. I'm proud of those numbers... and that's not an outlier. I'm good at mailing lists.

Even if you figure a much lower click rate... even if you can only manage a 5% or 3% or even 1% click rate, that adds up to a lot of people eyeballing your book in the kindle store once you're sitting on a mailing list with tens of thousands of readers.

32,000 mailing list subs * 5% click rate = 1600 clicks. 3% = 960. 1% = 320.

And of course, I don't stop with one email blast. There are still nearly 60% of my subscribers who didn't open that first email. I specifically target them again with another well built blast... and I target the people who don't open that list blast as well.

By re-targeting and re-focusing on my list to try and maximize how many people open the blasts, I end up with a significantly higher click rate overall than any one campaign would suggest.

Anyway, moving past that...

You mention "juggling titles". I'm not sure what you mean by that. You're talking about changing titles, characters, pen names? I don't know what you mean. Using a single story multiple times? I think you have a misunderstanding in how all of this works.

I don't share my books with anyone. I don't let other people use my books. By "sharing books", I meant that this group of authors is SHARING the book with their own mailing list subscribers. They are sending out an email blast saying "Hey, check out this awesome bestselling romance!".

Sorry about any confusion there. There is NO sharing of book content or changing of book content or flip-flopping of pennames or whatever you thought was going on there. I was talking about a group of like-minded authors using their mailing lists to cross-promote each other. I'm not sure how we got our lines crossed.

This is NOT a shopping club or anything of the sort. The group I was discussing is just a group of likeminded authors who got together and decided to do this (technically, an extremely successful author sold a training program that would teach people how to earn a bunch of money selling books on KU, and those people ended up forming the little group together with their teacher after he taught his course).

Ok... next thing...

You mention that you don't believe that a person can keep CPC low. I demonstrated above that I do keep my CPC low. Sure, if you bid against others in the open market and use poorly optimized demographics and targets, your CPC will spike. Experience and some knowledge about how systems like Facebook's ad program work can help you avoid those pitfalls. I'm not going to sit here and explain the ins and outs of getting low CPC. There are people who sell courses for thousands of dollars to teach people that kind of thing... and if I told everyone exactly how I did things, suddenly I'd have a bunch of people competing with me for the same customers, thus spiking my CPC ;). I will say that I extensively use facebook pixel audiences. If you don't know what that is, look it up. If you don't know how I'm building useful pixel audiences full of tens or even hundreds of thousands of KU shoppers... you might want to take some time to really think about that. (hint hint hint hint hint)

As for ads themselves... yeah. Throwing money at an ad only works if the ad works. I'm good at ads. I'm really, really, really good at ads.

Ok... your next question... you ask: Who's writing the books?

That's easy. Some of them are probably written by the author who is publishing the book... and some of them are probably purchased ghostwritten titles that the person doing the publishing polishes up and makes into a book that will sell on their penname. You can buy ghostwritten romance novels for anywhere between $500 and $5,000, depending on the quality you're looking for. There are trustworthy ghostwriters who are ready to write your books if you are willing to pay them. Go join one of the major author forums and you can find people offering their services, or you can look for them among people that you have met during your years publishing. Most of the ghostwriters I've worked with over the years were either people I directly recruited, or people who came to me asking if I'd buy their book.

Case in point: I've got an old author friend sending me a book this morning that I will likely buy. They needed some money, and they offered it up for $1,000. It's a solid book that needs a bit of work. I'll buy it without hesitation.

Do you know an author who writes amazing books you admire, that can't seem to gain traction on them? Do you know an author who is putting out book after book, but isn't really succeeding? That person is probably ripe to approach about ghostwriting. You could let them write books for you, publish them under a penname you control, and those books would make large amounts of money for yourself, and for your ghostwriter (assuming you are paying them fairly, or are splitting royalties with them in some way).

You ask: Where are mailing lists for sale?

Bookclicker and by building relationships with other authors and asking them if they'll send your newest book out if you pay them some cash :). You can buy promo slots on other people's email lists, or sell slots on your own. They use an API with the mailing list services to ensure that the blasts you purchased were sent out, and you can see the open rates and the like. If you're willing to burn a few thousand dollars, you can open a lot of doors and have your book showing up in tons of people's email lists.

As to the last part of your message, I already told you above that I am not one of the "masterminds". I am not part of their group so I can't give you specifics on how they communicate and share info, but obviously I'm sure they coordinate with each other through something simple like e-mail or a group chat program like slack or ryver.

Now that I've said all that, I apologize for the somewhat broken stream of text above. I was trying to respond to everything in your long post and I didn't want to fuss with quotes. :)

Let me end this by again summarizing what is happening, because it seems like we've gotten our wires crossed a bit.

To simplify this, lets just pretend there is ONE author. Lets call him Bob. Please note, I'll be using "me" and "my" and other possessives in the following lines for narrative purposes. I am not actually participating in one of these author groups at this time. I prefer to operate my business solo, and I am very successful solo :).

That said...

Bob writes a book (or buys a ghostwritten title). It doesn't matter if he wrote the book or if he bought a ghostwritten title, the important thing here is he has a brand new, unique, high-quality book. Please note that by "high quality" I am not necessarily speaking to the quality of the book in terms of grammar or prose. I am saying it is "high quality" in terms of being a book that is written to satisfy a hungry market in a target niche. It's a crowd-pleasing page turner of a book.

Now, Bob packages this up as a book for KDP. In the process, he goes to his back catalog of books and picks a few of those older bestselling titles to place in the back of this new book as "bonus content". This is what people are describing as "book stuffing".

Bob doesn't have to do this. He does it because in his experience on a single standalone title, doing so will earn him more money. 10-20% more, to be exact. He also does it because he has talked with Amazon about it directly, and they said it was ok... and because pretty much every author in the top 100 does the same thing.

So now we've got a book with the New Book up front, and 2-3 old back catalog titles in the back of the book. If the reader finishes book #1 and is excited and happy about what they just read, they can keep reading book 2, or 3, or whatever by simply turning the page. Some readers love this, and will keep reading. Some don't care for it, and will close the book after book #1.

Are you with me so far?

Now imagine I have 3 friends doing the exact same thing. They are all polishing up their own unique books. Now we've all got a book to launch. We are all using the same basic templates in Vellum for these books, so every single book looks very similar, but obviously they are all COMPLETELY unique. No content from my books is showing up in any of their books.

Now we all publish our books. We send out email blasts to our own email subscribers, telling them about our book.

Then we go a little further. We send out blasts to our readers telling them about our FRIEND'S books too. This group of friends staggers their releases so they're not dumping 4 emails on someone all at once, but this means the readers on that email list are getting blasts every week telling them about a new exciting book to read. They love it.

In the same vein, we all share an ARC reader list with awesome hungry readers who love leaving 5 star reviews. We send our books to these people and we end up with 200+ 5 star reviews on launch day.

Now I promote the ever holy living hell out of my book. In a week, when one of my friends launches, they'll do the same to THEIR book... and in another week, another friend launches and they'll do the same.

This constant stream of heavy promotion lifts all of our ships on the water, because our books are all connected.

The authors share tactics, such as sharing how to hit lower CPC on their advertising, or sharing ad copy or images that have produced low CPC on their own books. They share keywords they've used at Amazon that are effective. They share assistance with blurbs and titles and covers etc etc etc.

They make a bunch of money... and they start the process all over again with a brand new book.

Get what I mean?

To an outside observer, it might look like something kinky is going on, but it's just effective marketing and a group of people sharing email lists so they can mass-blast tens of thousands of readers with every release and jump to the top-lists. These authors all look similar, because they are all following the instructions of the guy who started their group. He taught them exactly how he does things, and they are following in his footsteps and working together to cross promote and keep their books on top of the list.

There is NO need for crazy things like click-farms and the like. There is no confrontation with Amazon or funds frozen because what I just described is totally normal and completely within the rules. This isn't "risky" behavior. There is no TOS violation. These are just successful authors making money.

As for me? I'm a guy running a small publishing company. I've got a few dozen authors I work with on a regular basis. I buy lots of ghostwritten content (some of it straight-up, and some of it I buy on royalty-sharing agreements). I write some of my own books, I personally edit some of my purchased ghostwritten titles. I engage the services of good editors. I pay an incredible cover artist to create all of my covers. I have a catalog of more than 500 titles, and it's not unusual for me to publish more than ten books in a single month. Sometimes, that number is substantially higher than ten. I've built this from the ground up (starting as an author, and gradually incorporating things like ghostwriters and editors etc). At one point a year or so back, I actually considered renting a commercial space and hiring people to work there with me as permanent on-staff editors and publishing agents... but my early attempts to hire people as employees soured pretty quickly and I realized I was happier when I was the only one I needed to worry about on a day to day basis. At the end of the day, I'm happy to be working more or less solo, with ghostwriters occasionally drifting in and out of my life long enough to drop a new book into my inbox and receive a bank transfer for their trouble ;).

Lastly, people in this thread have been arguing that the "masterminds" use of bonus content is gray hat/bad/evil, but I've said it before and I'll say it again right here... even if Amazon came out with a policy banning all bonus content (1 ASIN PER KU TITLE, period, no box sets, no bonus books), it wouldn't fundamentally change how these people are operating. They would remove the bonus content and keep right on going, accepting a slightly lower profit margin. They would also probably end up increasing the size of the actual books they are publishing (100k romance novels instead of 50k titles), but that isn't a terribly difficult thing to do. We're talking about a romance novel. There are some pretty obvious way you can inflate their page count while simultaneously giving the readers exactly what they came for ;).

Wow. Thanks for answering in depth.

I have two takeaways.

First, assuming what you say is legit and you aren't leaving out any important steps, it's obvious to me that this is a very smart approach. BookBub influences Amazon disproportionately because they've managed to build huge subscriber lists. They've secured eyeballs who want ebooks.

This sounds like you've managed to do the same thing by joining forces with other authors, and straight marketing savvy, Again, giving you the benefit of the doubt, it's really smart, gutsy, and impressive. And it also compares to marketing campaigns done by the big six, with even less shady behavior on your part. The big six have done some really skeevy things.

I've written a blog for years, and some of my most interesting discussions with the anonymous posters. On one hand, anonymity gave them total freedom to tell the truth. Lee Child posted on my blog for quite some time before copping he was Lee Child. There were other cases where I knew the person, respected their anonymity, and didn't out them. And others where I never knew the person, but it was obvious they were a publisher, or a big writer.

On the other hand, I also dealt with anons who spouted things that were so unbelievable, I questioned their veracity. And I also resented what I perceived as cowardice to not own their own words.

In your case, you'd certainly endure some resentment from fellow authors if you revealed who you were, but I think we both know that it would also get Amazon's attention, if only for the amount of public outcry, and Zon very much could change their TOS if enough people complained. They did it with reviews, making them vanish. They did it with erotica, making it unsearchable. And the big controversy here is book stuffing, and when the heat gets high enough Zon might make that move and forbid it, too. And the thing being denied is click farms, which I used to think was urban legend talk, but my day spent researching showed me it is real.

So how much can I trust an anonymous guy claiming huge numbers but not copping to anything even remotely against the TOS? Especially since you're talking in numbers that I've never been able to attain with my advertising efforts, other than BookBub?

I retain my skepticism, but your explanation looks solid. And if it's true, it shouldn't alarm anyone, including Amazon. Playing the game really well, within the rules, isn't cheating. And as I've stated ad nauseum, this isn't zero sum. No skin off my nose.

What I don't believe is that one of your titles could ever become self-sustaining for long. While reaching #1 in a hot category will make it visible, I don't think that visibility accounts for too many sales. It's the promo that is driving the sales. Tough to prove causation and correlation in this biz, but if you did some spreadsheets of when you stop promoting a title and compare that to sales drop off, I bet you'd confirm my belief.

Also, you didn't mention reviews. I've sold millions of books, and I have tens of thousands of reviews, but I can't get 200 in a month, like I see happening with many of these book stuffed romances. Plus, a lot of the reviews seem to show the same group of reviewers who are reviewing the same type of book, many who disclose they got it for free.

So where's the part where you use your newsletter network to trade free ebooks for reviews? I'd guess that's happening.

And if I come off as hostile here, I'm not feeling hostile at all. There have always been authors who knew how to work the system, and I never begrudged them their luck or hard work. Yesterday, I learned more about click farms and really couldn't see how certain books could make it without them. And I'm still not sure you're telling me the whole truth. But you've laid out enough that any Mythbuster could call your scenario PLAUSIBLE, without resorting to buying reviews, click farms, or sneaky book stuffing.

That said, if you did buy reviews, use click farms, and engage in rampant book stuffing that you've had to tone down since Amazon has adapted to it, I'd be more inclined to believe your numbers.

I don't know if I buy the "I'm not a mastermind" bit. You seem to know a lot about them. There were authors a few years ago selling ebooks and classes on how to get rich on Amazon, and if memory serves, many of them got outed, and some were busted. I also joined one of their Facebook groups to see what it was about, and found it to be dysfunctional and disorganized, concluding they maybe had a few successes, and then did the Tony Robbins thing and made their money by giving advice rather than following their own advice. The group I saw wouldn't have been able to hit #1... unless they were using click farms, buying reviews, and stuffing like crazy.

Ultimately, thanks for explaining this to the degree you did. Gotta be frustrating to be making a killing and not be able to talk about it. And congrats on your success. Of all the books I looked at yesterday (and I found dozens with obvious similarities, making me believe it was one person or a united group doing it), none of them seemed like scams. They seemed legit, well produced, and crowd pleasing (to the extent I read reviews, even though some reviews seemed to be bought).

It's making me really wonder if something like this can be done in the mystery genre. I'm not interested in scamming readers or Amazon, but I am interested in reaching more readers, and if that can be done with bundling, low prices, advertising, and mailing lists (which is essentially what Bookbub does), and without bought reviews, clock farms, or exploiting the "skip to the end" loophole, I'd give it a shot.

Food for thought. Thanks again.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: V.P. on January 06, 2018, 07:14:37 AM
Speaking as an Amazon customer, I have to agree that practices like the ones being discussed here are going on all over the Amazon store and have driven me back to Amazon's competitors. Zon used to get 100% of my online shopping revenue. Not any longer. When I do a product search nowadays, so much crap comes up that I give up and start looking on other sites. Many of them now offer a Paypal checkout option, the lack of which was what stopped me in the past. The result is that I bought only one Christmas present from Amazon in 2017. The others came from Walmart online, Macy's online, Barnes and Noble, etc.
If practices like those being discussed here (regardless of any ethical questions) start to give their competitors a real edge and allow them to get back into the game, Amazon will have no choice but to wake up, take notice, and take action. How that action will affect authors is anyone's guess.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: dezburke on January 06, 2018, 07:37:37 AM
That was discussed earlier in the thread and I already gave my opinion on it.

Itís all to easy to jump to conclusions here or to lay blame on groups of people for what may have been an accidental or innocent act. Before you start calling people criminals, maybe you should do a little research on copyright infringement. Itís more than a little likely that the photos infringed upon were civil copyright infringement, not criminal infringement, and its possible they are innocent of civil copyright infringement as well if they were unaware it was taking place and took steps to stop infringing as soon as they became aware

Either way, youíre making some pretty huge accusations without actually knowing the truth one way or another.

And it may not have been a group that did it, either.

I have more than fifty pennames. At any given time, I might have multiple books on multiple pennames that I am promoting with similar or even directly copied ads and marketing strategies.

Obviously I own all the rights necessary to the photos I use, but the point is, all of those copyright infringed photos might have originated from one person, or one ad guy, and you might be totally wrong in your assertion that they did this with direct intention.

Itís still wrong, but these authors (or author) might be innocent of any crime whatsoever.

I know you want them to be criminals, but the facts donít necessarily line up with the judgement youíre throwing at them.

Youíre going further and saying theyíve plagiarized, and Iíve seen no evidence of that whatsoever. If they did, let the person they infringed on come forward and run these people up the flag pole. Prove it. I will not defend a plagiarist. None of us will. But these people havenít plagarized a single word, to the best of my knowledge.

Nobody to my knowledge has shown those authors have plagarized any content. Nobody can prove they intentionally violated some photo copyrights (and to look - they arenít using those photos anymore).

Mountains out of mole hills, imho.

You must not be looking very hard for the photos. As of this morning there are 18 LIVE Facebook posts from multiple authors using the copyrighted photos to promote the group's books. The posts are still receiving likes and comments. Some of the posts have been running since the summer and never stopped. How do you explain that? The authors couldn't be bothered to take the time to remove the posts? Apparently they're not too concerned about copyright infringement. Why is this? Is it because they're in foreign countries and think they can't be touched? I don't know. I'm curious that's all. 

Also in an earlier post you said you didn't recognize any of the people in the copyrighted photos and didn't see the value over using a stock photo. You don't know who David Beckham is? You've never seen a Calvin Klein Obsession television commercial? You wouldn't recognize the model Travis DesLaurier who has been on the cover of over 25+ romance books? How about a Hugo Boss television commercial featuring the actor Theo James? The male actor, Scott Foley from the television show Scandal? Nick Bateman, the the most famous Instagram model? There was added value in the copyrighted photos over using a $1 stock photo. For the record, there are many other photos that were never posted. A mountain of photos.

Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: Mercia McMahon on January 06, 2018, 07:43:17 AM
Some are speculating about Amazon's business reasons for not tackling paying over the odds for book stuffed KU page reads while forgetting Amazon's central business model: don't make a taxable profit. AWS has been problematic because it took off big time before they could plan sufficient investments to keep the corporation making a loss. I have never believed that the payout pot is connected to pages read. Like the introduction of All Star Bonuses I am sure that the pot is calculated on the basis of how low they can pay while keeping high quality books in KU and away from competing ebook retailers. This was very obvious in the early days when Amazon would announce what the pot was in advance and then need to top it up after the fact. While AWS continues to drag Amazon into profit they will not see a problem with high KU pots as it will help to bring the balance sheet into the area that Amazon loves and their shareholders hate. As to a collapse in Amazon's market share, that is what the investment is really all about. Amazon's online business could collapse tomorrow and they would have a multi-million dollar business serving up the logistics for those still making their money with online stores. If Amazon's gold rush ended they are well placed to follow the gold rush maxim that the real money is made by the company selling tools to the prospectors.

Book stuffing is not a scam (as that involves obtaining monies by deception) and it is not even harming Amazon's bottom line as it marginally reduces the tax burden that AWS has given them.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 07:50:10 AM
You must not be looking very hard for the photos. As of this morning there are 18 LIVE Facebook posts from multiple authors using the copyrighted photos to promote the group's books. The posts are still receiving likes and comments. Some of the posts have been running since the summer and never stopped. How do you explain that? The authors couldn't be bothered to take the time to remove the posts? Apparently they're not too concerned about copyright infringement. Why is this? Is it because they're in foreign countries and think they can't be touched? I don't know. I'm curious that's all. 

Also in an earlier post you said you didn't recognize any of the people in the copyrighted photos and didn't see the value over using a stock photo. You don't know who David Beckham is? You've never seen a Calvin Klein Obsession television commercial? You wouldn't recognize the model Travis DesLaurier who has been on the cover of over 25+ romance books? How about a Hugo Boss television commercial featuring the actor Theo James? The male actor, Scott Foley from the television show Scandal? Nick Bateman, the the most famous Instagram model? There was added value in the copyrighted photos over using a $1 stock photo. For the record, there are many other photos that were never posted. A mountain of photos.

I haven't seen more copyright infringing photos, but I'm also not trolling around on these people's facebook pages all day. If they're using them, that's silly, stupid, immoral, possibly illegal, definitely infringing, and they should be taken to task for it by the people who are being infringed upon. I saw some of the original ads coming down that were causing outrage, and I assumed they'd been removed by the author/authors.

As for the rest... I've never watched a soccer game in my life. I have no idea what David Beckham looks like. I'm sorry, but recognizing sports stars isn't my thing. I'm aware a man named David Beckham exists. I'm aware that he's supposed to be good looking, but I couldn't pick him out of a lineup of stock images of brooding scruffy men.

Nick Bateman? Instagram model? I've never set foot on instagram. The only thing I know about instagram is some of my facebook ads are displayed there.

The television show Scandal?

I've never heard of it, never watched it, and have no idea who Scott Foley is. I'm sorry, but I don't watch much television and I haven't had cable in years and years (I have a netflix and HBO subscription for their original series, and a hulu subscription so I can catch shows like SNL every week).

So far, every single "infringing" photo I've seen people point to has been a head scratcher to me. I look at it and I say "that looks like any number of stock photos I could buy right this very second, and I wouldn't know it was infringing if someone didn't tell me it was".

Again, if these idiots (or idiot, this might all come from one person) are infringing on copyright of photos when easily available stock photography is out there waiting to be used (CHEAP), I have no idea what to say. I'm not trying to defend that kind of garbage. That is absolutely silly. I run facebook ads every single day with images I own the rights to, and I have no problem nailing down low CPC in the process. I don't understand why someone would be using infringing photos. Maybe pictures of Beckham and instagram stars lowers your CPC, but even if it did, that wouldn't make it ok.

What can I say? Copyright infringement is bad, even if it's unintentional. I'm not justifying it, I was simply saying that it might not be criminal.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 06, 2018, 07:58:14 AM
Hi Dave--

I emailed Heather and haven't heard back. If you're in touch can you get her to revise her video with the pie chart? This isn't zero sum, and spreading incorrect info ain't good.

Anyway, here's what's missing from the bad boy stuffer operation in the above comments.

1. Ghostwriters.

There's quite a bit of dissonance going on here. Indies fought hard for their freedom to break away from the crappy terms forced on us by publishers. And now some of those indies are trying to claim that ghostwriters on even crappier terms are all so well treated. Give me a break.

I've actually spoken to some of these ghostwriters - some who write for the bad boy stuffers too. They often get paid uber crappy terms like between 1c and 3c a word. And that pay is worse than it sounds because the ghosts do EVERYTHING. Outlining, blurbs, taglines, story, the book itself. The whole shebang. Ghosts don't get paid a higher rate for coming up with the plot or tagline or whatever. It's really exploitative.

Bad boy stuffers often don't even read romance, they hire other people to read the Top 100 and given them a list of the hot tropes, then they hand those to a ghostwriter and tell them to write something, on crappy terms, with penalties if they take longer than, say, 4 weeks. Then package it up and pass it off as their own.

Many have several ghosts on the go at the same time, allowing them to publish a few books a months. This creates a blockade of titles choking off all visibility in niches like Contemporary Romance and Military Romance and Sports Romance.

Yes, these guys also use legit advertising (but seeing their Facebook campaigns, I would hesitate before calling them any kind of expert), but they bankroll that advertising with their monster KU payouts and bonuses - money they earned by cheating the payout, stuffing and so on.

I asked one of these ghostwriters why she doesn't write for herself (I'm trying to help her self-publish and get away from these a-holes) and she said that she felt she couldn't crack romance on her own.

Guess why?


And the Monkees, a group manufactured exclusively to sell records and merchandise, became the biggest band in the world, outselling Elvis and The Beatles combined.

I said upthread that I thought ghost writers were being exploited. Peter, Davy, Mickey, and Mike were also exploited. But there was nothing illegal going on. You may not like it, but this isn't like scam publishers taking money from newbies and offering no real services.

If people are able to hire ghost writers and work the system within the rules, it doesn't hurt anyone other than the ghost writers who continue to undervalue their product. And a good argument could be made that it is their choice.

I've commented, many times, on the perceived "visibility" of bestseller lists, and you haven't responded. I don't think they do much. And a list can't be "choked off" if the self-publisher is playing by the rules.

It remains to be seen how much the rules are being followed. But my mind is open.

2. Impersonation

I know a lot about this circle. I know their pen names, their real names, their upwork profiles, and the links between them all (all screenshotted, in case anyone wants to go on a deleting binge).

Nearly all of them are dudes pretending to be women.

Whatever your feelings on that, it gets very problematic when engaging in private girl talk, whether that's in your secret Facebook group, your mailing list, your ARC group (I've seen them all), or on social media.

Do you think it's appropriate that a man impersonates a woman and then asks a group of young woman about their sexual experiences - and they share thinking they are speaking to another woman?

This kind of thing goes on all the time and it's creepy AF.

Look, I've had pen names, and wrote erotica and maintained a female pen name, complete with email address. And I did interact with fans, because that's what writers do.

It was weird, but not creepy. And certainly you respect anonymity on the Internet. If you want to point fingers at everyone who has ever misrepresented themselves on the world wide web, you're going to be in the minority. There are millions of fake accounts set up to stalk, flame, troll, and cause problems. Pretending to be a female romance writer, as long as there's no harassment involves, doesn't crack even the Top 25 Internet Sins.

3. Review manipulation

You will notice that a lot of these bad boy stuffers have a huge amount of reviews on launch day, all unverified, all saying similar things.

I have screenshots proving that they break the TOS when it comes to reviews, and cross other ethical lines to manipulate their review count, score, and average.

Many kick readers out of their ARC teams if they don't review in a certain time, or if they give less than 5 stars. This is not permitted. Many offer financial or other inducements for a review - this is against the TOS, you are only allowed to offer a free copy of the book being reviewed. That's just for starters - the review shenanigans going on are many and varied and keep mutating.

I'm with you here. My own cursory examination of the issue uncovered a lot of suspect reviews.

And... so what?

I had this review argument back in 2012. I've never paid for a review. Ever. But it's ubiquitous. Seems like 5 out of 10 Yelp reviews are shills.

And here's the thing; if you and I can spot the fakes, we're not the only ones who can. Give the average reader some credit. The worst that can happen is they buy a bad book--which doesn't harm anyone.

Back in my day, book critics could make or break a book. A few people had too much power, and that power was abused, and it was Very Bad.

Amazon democratized reviews. And even with the fakes, it's a much better system now than with the Exulted Gatekeepers.

It will never be perfect. There will always be scammers. But caveat emptor applies, and readers aren't being harmed. Neither are you.

4. Stuffing

It doesn't matter how many exact examples that I and others send to ECR and get written proof this is banned, those who are engaging in the practice will claim otherwise, and engage in FUD to create general doubt.

The intent is clear: it's cheating. It's artificially increasing your KENPC to increase your payout. And the crappy kicker on all this is that you are doing so at the expense of your fellow authors.

It isn't cheating if it's allowed. And it isn't zero sum.

The way bobfrost laid it out above, this seems like a grass roots BookBub. Now, I remain unconvinced he's telling the whole truth, and maybe off forum you could convince me otherwise. I also just checked out Book Clicker, and didn't join because apparently you can't join without being anonymous, which gave me pause. More research needed there.

But some "bad boy romance author" having a huge KENPC payday doesn't effect your payout, or your visibility. And it doesn't seem to be harming readers.

And then that increased payout bankrolls a new spate of novels from mistreated ghosts, and a new round of Facebook ads (helloooo stolen pictures!) to cement that visibility, squeezing out the honest authors who actually do write their own books and don't stuff and don't manipulate reviews and don't cheat.

I don't want to see ghost writers mistreated, but it's their careers. I don't want to see legacy authors mistreated, either, and have blogged for years to inform them so they don't sign unconscionable deals. But it happens. Their loss. I can't help them, and neither can you.

And no one is being "squeezed out."

Back in the day, James Patterson would have a new serial killer cop thriller out the same week that I did. He had 400 books, front and center in B&N and Borders, at a 40% discount. I had two books, full price, buried spine-out in the mystery section.

That's what being "squeezed out" is. And it was legal, and commonplace, and there was nothing anyone could do about it...

Until DTP came along. Finally, for the first time ever, I had the same shelf space as Patterson. He had one page. I had one page. And I did what I always knew I could do--I sold a lot of ebooks. Because the playing field had been evened.

But the playing field didn't stay even. As Amazon grew and changed, authors were able to exploit certain glitches. The free list to paid list glitch (that made me a ton of money). The KU 1.0 glitch that let short story writers get rich. The KU glitch that paid for unread pages.

And then there's BookBub, and arbitrary group of gatekeepers and kingmakers who can do the equivalent of selling you the front table at Borders and B&N.

There is no "fair" or "cheating" in any of this. It's business. It takes luck, talent, savvy, hard work, and money, and some will make it and most won't.

People have speculated that other activities are engaged in by this group, such as various shades of plagiarism or rip-offs, clickfarming or bots, and review purchasing.

I'm still piecing together the whole operation so I can't comment on that specifically right now. However, in all the years I've been tracking scammers and cheaters of various types, people who cross one ethical line rarely stop there. That first ethical barrier is always the hardest to breach, and then it becomes much more routine after that.

Considering what this group do engage in, further unethical activities wouldn't be the biggest stretch ever.

If there is plagiarism, it needs to stop. That was one of my suggestions in my upthread post, which you didn't comment on.

If there is clickfarming, that needs to stop. I think buying reviews is yucky. I think underpaying ghost writers is exploitative. And this bookstuffing thing, if the click-to-the-end exploit hasn't been patched, is also questionable, and may lead to many of these types of authors getting banned or facing litigation, which Amazon is doing.

But it isn't hurting writers, Dave. You might not like it that someone is gaming the system, and I get that. I thought it was woefully unfair that I never got a PW Starred review, or coop space, or discounting, or a dump box, or grocery store sales, and the list goes on and on. Other authors had opportunities that I never did.

It doesn't surprise me to see the same things happening on Amazon. But spending this much energy to fight it, when it doesn't hurt anyone and won't ever stop, is a waste of your time and talents.

You think it's unfair. I get it. It IS unfair.

But it is NOT zero sum. And bestseller visibility does NOT add many sales. And readers aren't being hurt. And someone selling more books than you has no effect on your sales at all.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: PhoenixS on January 06, 2018, 08:13:03 AM
It's making me really wonder if something like this can be done in the mystery genre.

I don't think you have long to wait, Joe. These guys are purportedly moving wholesale into other popular categories.

With the caveat that I don't know Bob or his 50 pennames specifically, I do know some of the tactics being used by some of the 'masterminds' (this is a term they call themselves; others use a term that starts with 's' and rhymes with 'hammers').

Gifting is big on the list of tactics, using Amazon's gifting contest and simply making everyone a winner. Hundreds of gifts per title being given in this fashion have been documented. And so long as the books are claimed within 24 hours (and there are incentives for closed Facebook groups of 'readers' to do so), those gifts are counted as sales for rank purposes.

Incentivizing reviews to create a rabid population of reviewers is another. Creating a closed group of ARC reviewers among several authors/pennames, then drawing names for a handful of $25, $50 or $100 gift cards for each book  launched, and keeping that list culled means any number of enthusiastic reviewers reviewing for the rewards. Of interest, you'll note that most of the reviews for their books are many words more than the one-liners common to a lot of reviews for most other books. One-line and no-line and 3-star or lower reviewers get culled from the contests and from the mail lists.

Facebook groups acting as clickfarms (again, incentivized by gift cards) where 'readers' with KU accounts (the authors/publishers don't even have to maintain the accounts themselves!) must show proof of borrow by sending in a screenshot of the LAST page of a book (and generating a full read in the process). With the advent of the *partial* page-read fix, there are now keywords scattered throughout the books that 'readers' have to find, prompting them to scroll through most, if not all, of the pages in their hunt.

Yes, these books have a host of "rabid fans," interested more in winning gift cards and in the contest/festival atmosphere than in the books themselves. Couple the amount spent on legit ads with illegit incentivizing and category squatting with mainly erotica titles disguised as romance, chic lit and women's fiction classics -- along with content stuffing -- and you have a recipe for scamming that can appear innocuous on its face, but which is insidiously eroding the bestseller lists, customer confidence and KU.

Also, I'll point out that Amazon has in the past *refunded* scammed money to KU authors (which kind of reinforces the idea that KU *is* a zero sum/pie chart game). They also *have* terminated accounts of folk who repeatedly stuffed content. And yes, I have names of folk who were shut down because of stuffing.

And, of course, there are those folk who've come to KBoards in the past and argued the tactics they used did not violate KDP T&Cs whose accounts have been terminated and were not reinstated.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 06, 2018, 08:29:55 AM
And what pays for this advertising? The fact they're getting up to nine bucks a borrow for skipped content (the loophole isn't fully closed, as many people have mentioned) and All-Star bonuses for pages read plus pages skipped. By exploiting this obvious loophole, of course, they can pay for huge marketing campaigns. This factoid doesn't make it better. It makes it worse, because they're using the money they scam from us this month and putting it toward scamming us next month, too.

Look, if I were willing to do this, I have no doubt I'd be making a ton more money. But I've (perhaps foolishly) believed that Amazon would eventually enforce their own terms of service, and I didn't want to risk losing my account. Plus, I don't want to engage in false advertising and alienate my reader base.

If nothing else, it would be nice if Amazon just told us that this was okay. We could all do this. Oh sure, our readers would be frustrated, and we'd eventually get to payouts of .0001 cents per page, but at least the playing field would be level. But as it stands now, those who play by the rules are taking huge hits in terms of earnings and visibility. Of course, we're going to object. We'd be foolish not to.

Yes, as bobfrost said, this is exactly what's going on. These authors have made the system work in their favor & have been able to get a lot of page reads on their books that allows them to be able to pay for a lot of advertising & they have the marketing for these books nailed down to a T. They know a formula that works & they stick to it & why wouldn't they? It works. It makes money.

Others scratch their head or say they must be scamming for it to work. Nope. It's entirely possible that by working together & sharing what they know they've figured out what works best & they keep doing it. No mystery at all there to me. I've been writing & publishing for a long time & like bobfrost I see very clearly the formula used & why it's successful. It is all there in plain black & white for anyone who wants to follow & learn from. Sometimes instead of some big conspiracy theory there's a very simple explanation.

The fact that other authors don't make the system work for them & then go after those who do with pitch forks is what bothers me. Many of these authors are in close contact with Amazon reps and have received answers letting them know it's okay to use bonus books. Those who have tried to come here & talk have let us know that but then they are chased away by people on high horses who think their opinion should be gold.  So they don't bother trying to explain it but& just do it & it keeps working. Their books are allowed to stay in the store  along with alllll the other stuffed books [funny how it's only the successful authors who have their stuffed books  attacked for being scammy when there are plenty of other less successful books stuffed to the gills] & they sit there pretty in the top 100 despite other authors reporting them kots & lots & lots, out of either malicious or misguided motivations, spurred on by those who view themselves as Amazon police for things that in their own (should be but isn't) humble opinion that these others authors are unethical for taking full advantage of the 3000 KENPC allotted to them.

 When they try to come here and let other authors know how they too can make more money they are demonized and called scammers so of course they are not going to share. Then some people wake up to the realization that these 'masterminds' have known all along - that stuffing is perfectly okay. And everyone says hmm if only Amazon would have told us. Well Amazon is purposefully vague all the time. Blame amazon for that, not authors making it work to their advantage. There is no set in stone ethics that say you have to leave money on the table just because some other authors do & think you should too & will make you Iver the coals if you don't do it their way. Plenty of authors stuff and have been stuffing for a long time now so if this was a clear cut issue of 'bad author doing evil things Amazon hates' then we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

I truly think this is all about people not wanting to accept the way Amazon operates & adapt- instead they hate those who do. Every author has to make their own business decisions about what they believe to be right & what is best for their business. But when I see authors going after competitors & playing Amazon police for things that aren't even real crimes according to Amazon itself, I agree w/ JAKonrath that it is not a noble crusade. To me it's more likely spurred on by those who are being left behind being mad at those who are ahead in the system as it evolves.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 06, 2018, 08:30:00 AM
I don't think you have long to wait, Joe. These guys are purportedly moving wholesale into other popular categories.

I'm not worried. But the wheels are spinning in my head. If it is possible to create a BookBub effect without BookBub, by joining forces with other authors, what could be achieved if it was done by a bunch of name authors with huge backlists?

Keeping things completely above the board, if ten million-selling thriller authors pooled their resources, I bet it would have an impact. If this works with pen names and cheap ghost written work, wouldn't it work better with existing brands and vetted names? And wouldn't the readers benefit?

And, of course, there are those folk who've come to KBoards in the past and argued the tactics they used did not violate KDP T&Cs whose accounts have been terminated and were not reinstated.

There's the hitch. I'm a writer first, a businessman second. I don't want to run afoul with Amazon, because writing is like breathing to me. I need it to live.

But apparently I'm missing something when it comes to advertising and marketing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: writerlygal on January 06, 2018, 08:36:16 AM
Yes, you are onto something JA. The mastermind group works together to learn how to operate like traditional publishing houses do, except in KU. I think the reason they get so much hate is because of a big divide between authors who are artists at hearts & publishers who are business people at heart. I think people who are both do best in this industry but I also think those w/ a business leaning win big financially & it seems those who are not artistic leaning equate their marketing & business know how w/ scams. In this very thread we have people pointing out that it's the fact that this group is allegedly more 'publisher' than 'author' that they have a problem with. But it doesn't matter - those w/ the business leanings still get ahead & Amazon is a capitalist marketplace in the end. KU is the most stunning example of that. Anyway.  I think the model they employ works best for romance but probably could work in any genre - a whole lot better than nothing, anyway.


I'm not worried. But the wheels are spinning in my head. If it is possible to create a BookBub effect without BookBub, by joining forces with other authors, what could be achieved if it was done by a bunch of name authors with huge backlists?

Keeping things completely above the board, if ten million-selling thriller authors pooled their resources, I bet it would have an impact. If this works with pen names and cheap ghost written work, wouldn't it work better with existing brands and vetted names? And wouldn't the readers benefit?

There's the hitch. I'm a writer first, a businessman second. I don't want to run afoul with Amazon, because writing is like breathing to me. I need it to live.

But apparently I'm missing something when it comes to advertising and marketing.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: V.P. on January 06, 2018, 08:37:52 AM
Amazon's online business could collapse tomorrow and they would have a multi-million dollar business serving up the logistics for those still making their money with online stores. If Amazon's gold rush ended they are well placed to follow the gold rush maxim that the real money is made by the company selling tools to the prospectors.

Fascinating. This sort of approach to business never occurred to me. I wonder what the other business/marketing gurus participating in this thread think about this? Would Amazon truly not care if their online business collapses tomorrow?
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 06, 2018, 08:53:16 AM
Fascinating. This sort of approach to business never occurred to me. I wonder what the other business/marketing gurus participating in this thread think about this? Would Amazon truly not care if their online business collapses tomorrow?

This would not work for other businesses, because a primary ingredient in the MasterMind success is earning ten times the standard market value for their product. If they're earning up to nine dollars for a borrow, but only 33 cents for a sale, this suggests that their income-per-transaction is inflated by a factor of ten, twenty, or more. It is the unique Kindle Unlimited system that enables this.

If Amazon closed the gap between how much is earned for a sale versus how much is earned for a borrow, while also changing the amount of rank-juice per borrow, the stuffing would disappear overnight. Until that happens, the rest of us have a decision to make. Do we beat them? Or join them? Because as it stands now, it is a huge disadvantage to not stuff.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: CN_Crawford on January 06, 2018, 08:55:23 AM
Yes, you are onto something JA. The mastermind group works together to learn how to operate like traditional publishing houses do, except in KU. I think the reason they get so much hate is because of a big divide between authors who are artists at hearts & publishers who are business people at heart.

No, the reason authors get annoyed about it is that we see book stuffing as stealing from our income, both by lowering KU pay out rates and scooping up All Star bonuses through underhanded methods.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 06, 2018, 09:00:09 AM
This would not work for other businesses, because a primary ingredient in the MasterMind success is earning ten times the standard market value for their product. If they're earning up to nine dollars for a borrow, but only 33 cents for a sale, this suggests that their income-per-transaction is inflated by a factor of ten, twenty, or more. It is the unique Kindle Unlimited system that enables this.

If Amazon closed the gap between how much is earned for a sale versus how much is earned for a borrow, while also changing the amount of rank-juice per borrow, the stuffing would disappear overnight. Until that happens, the rest of us have a decision to make. Do we beat them? Or join them? Because as it stands now, it is a huge disadvantage to not stuff.

Why does it have to be stuffing? What's wrong with a box set?

I've got four sets of trilogies for sale at $9.99. By the summer, I'll have eight sets. All different titles. All good books with lots of positive reviews.

I always thought it would be akin to slitting my own throat if I lowered the prices on these. It would kill the individual sales, and cheapen the brand.

If I actually lowered them all to 99 cents, with a marketing and advertising push, could I actually outsell what I'm doing with individual titles?

This discussion really makes me want to try it...
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: MmmmmPie on January 06, 2018, 09:10:02 AM
Why does it have to be stuffing? What's wrong with a box set? ... This discussion really makes me want to try it...

Me too. Not even kidding.

But I'm not sure these are quite the same thing. In both of our cases, we'd be advertising them as box sets, which for whatever reason, don't seem to get the same algo-love from Amazon. It's definitely food for thought though.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 09:12:35 AM
Wow. Thanks for answering in depth.

I have two takeaways.

First, assuming what you say is legit and you aren't leaving out any important steps, it's obvious to me that this is a very smart approach. BookBub influences Amazon disproportionately because they've managed to build huge subscriber lists. They've secured eyeballs who want ebooks.

This sounds like you've managed to do the same thing by joining forces with other authors, and straight marketing savvy, Again, giving you the benefit of the doubt, it's really smart, gutsy, and impressive. And it also compares to marketing campaigns done by the big six, with even less shady behavior on your part. The big six have done some really skeevy things.

I've written a blog for years, and some of my most interesting discussions with the anonymous posters. On one hand, anonymity gave them total freedom to tell the truth. Lee Child posted on my blog for quite some time before copping he was Lee Child. There were other cases where I knew the person, respected their anonymity, and didn't out them. And others where I never knew the person, but it was obvious they were a publisher, or a big writer.

On the other hand, I also dealt with anons who spouted things that were so unbelievable, I questioned their veracity. And I also resented what I perceived as cowardice to not own their own words.

In your case, you'd certainly endure some resentment from fellow authors if you revealed who you were...

I think that's somewhat of an understatement. Things go a bit beyond resentment. There are people in this thread building case-files against authors, with screenshots and wide ranging accusations, who are willing to share their profile of deceit with anyone who asks. There are people literally reporting books. In the video linked in posts above, the person making the video says they've reported a book "six times" and that they are amazed it is still up (this on a book that, to my eye, is a legitimate looking title with a couple bonus titles and a sneak peek of one of their other books). There is a substantial amount of anger looking for something to lash out at.

But lets leave that aside a second and address the other part of what you're saying.

Even if I was not anonymous... I'd still be anonymous. You might recognize a few of my dozens upon dozens of pennames, but I think it's just as likely you wouldn't recognize any of them if I named a name. I could list off my top dozen pennames and you'd probably only know them in passing if you keep a regular eye on the top lists. I've got ranking pennames right now, but again, I doubt you've noticed them or given them a second look. If I pull up my book report right now, my top selling books this morning say that I'm a celebrated african american female novelist... and a gay man from New York... and a quirky white christian female from Texas. In this business, I am whoever I need to be in order to best meet the needs of the readers I am reaching. I'm a bit more than a female "bad boy romance" author (or publisher), but I'm one of those, too.

I'll be the first to say that I'm far better at publishing and marketing my books than I am at writing them. I've never been good at building a huge single-author presence. I've got hundreds upon hundreds of books spread out across pennames, and I frequently start a new name when I try to branch out into new niches. I've had pen names climb into the top 100 and fade away and whither a handful of months later. It's the cycle I deal with. I've found a way to make a living, but it's not for everyone.

Is that a smart way to operate? Honestly, I don't think so. I think I would be more successful today if I'd have kept my nose down and built myself up in one solid niche. I say again: I would be more successful if I'd put my nose down and tried to build ONE name.

I've made mistakes, I guess, but I'm not complaining because I've also achieved some great things. :)

Which isn't to say that my method of operation isn't changing! Over the past handful of months I've been moving away from single book releases in favor of series. Series releases don't really benefit from bonus content (because obviously your primary goal at the end of a series book is to get the person reading the next one... not to give them extra bonus content that might lose their interest). I've been having some remarkable success, and when I extrapolate that out... I feel pretty good about where I'm heading. I'm building something petty neat...

I'm pretty sure I'll shatter my previous income highs in 2018-2019, and by the end of the year, that will probably be a penname you've "heard of". If you squint hard enough, you might even realize it's me ;).

At any rate, I'm trying to explain what I think is going on behind the curtain and I've been as open about it as I can be. By all means, maintain skepticism, but feel free to put yourself in my shoes and ask yourself if you'd reveal any of your pennames given the content of this thread thus-far. I'm dead certain that I have not violated any terms of service, but hey, I'm not looking to open myself up to scrutiny because if you want to see books with a few bonus titles "stuffed" inside, I've certainly published books that look like that in the past.

What I don't believe is that one of your titles could ever become self-sustaining for long. While reaching #1 in a hot category will make it visible, I don't think that visibility accounts for too many sales. It's the promo that is driving the sales. Tough to prove causation and correlation in this biz, but if you did some spreadsheets of when you stop promoting a title and compare that to sales drop off, I bet you'd confirm my belief.

I agree, promo drives sales.

But having a book that is reciprocally linked to other hot books in your genre also drives sales. Lots of sales. Being on the top lists drives sales. Visibility drives sales. It's the same reason authors want their book facing cover-out on the table at barnes and noble. If it's visible, people will buy it. If it's spine-out, nobody is going to see it.

I'm sure you understand reciprocal also-boughts, but just in case someone reading this doesn't... go check out YASIV.com and punch in a book. Punch in a relatively unknown book. Look at how the book has links that point OUT from the book, but few (if any) books that point back IN. Now go and grab a top 100 title that has been on the list for at least a few weeks. Punch it in. Notice how the web of connected books point BACK at this book? Those are reciprocal also-boughts. That means that this book is showing up as a "customers also bought" on other top selling books. This is insanely important. God only knows how many people will see your book if it has reciprocal also boughts! This kind of placement is what drives sales and causes a book to sustain itself as you scale back your marketing campaign.

Your advertising and marketing efforts are purely there to force yourself into visibility, and to force Amazon's algorithms to take notice of your book and slap reciprocal also-boughts on them.

Also, you didn't mention reviews. I've sold millions of books, and I have tens of thousands of reviews, but I can't get 200 in a month, like I see happening with many of these book stuffed romances. Plus, a lot of the reviews seem to show the same group of reviewers who are reviewing the same type of book, many who disclose they got it for free.

So where's the part where you use your newsletter network to trade free ebooks for reviews? I'd guess that's happening.

I talked about reviews in other posts in this thread.

I don't know exactly how the "masterminds" are generating reviews, but I know how I do it.

I've got a group of readers that I have built up over the years who love reading and reviewing books.

It's that simple, really. I send out a quick email to everyone on that list asking who's excited to read a new book. I show them a blurb and a cover.

I send advance review copies to everyone who responds, plus anyone who I know is likely to leave a review based on past experience.

A few days later when the create space title is live (before the KU title is live), I email them again to ask how much they loved the book, and to tell them how excited I am to hear what they think about it. I also have a review link inside the book that points to that create space title (I use a url through one of my websites so I can change the target once the Createspace title is live). That makes it easy for customers to find the book and review it if they're so inclined.

I don't offer up gifts or force people to review or anything like that. I don't have to coerce these people. It's not necessary. When you're giving your fans free books, they tend to be pretty kind on their reviews. After all, they like the work you're sending them.

I'll be the first to admit it took me awhile to build a list like this though. On early books, I would just blanket send-out THOUSANDS of free copies of my book in hopes of a few hundred reviews. Now I can get by with a much smaller number of send outs. I'm not looking for tens of thousands of reviews, of course. I just need 100-300 on day 1 of the KU release to act as social proof.

If you're curious how I manage this when I'm publishing under different pennames, that's not all that complicated. For pennames that are similar, I can use the same group of readers. I just offer up a book one of my "friends" wrote, and get them all excited, and ask who wants to review it... or I flat out tell them I'm writing under a new name.

For vastly different genres... I have a different list of readers. For example, I have a completely separate list of ARC people for my gay romance efforts, for fairly obvious reasons. There is of course some overlap between gay and straight romance, but you don't want to be sending out a ton of MM romance to a bunch of readers who enjoy MF. That'll cause good reviewers to quit your list.

It is completely within the terms and conditions to give free books to your readers (so long as you're not violating exclusivity clauses, which I am not because I am giving out those copies before a book is published at Amazon and thus covered under their exclusivity requirements). You can give out books with the hope that those readers review it without breaking the rules. Amazon allows those reviewers to make unverified reviews on your book.

In case you're wondering... I also have something I call my "street team". It's not really a traditional street team, but it's a few dozen readers that I've built relationships with over the years. I can tell them I've got a new book out and they'll excitedly run and buy/review it. I don't have to tell them to do that. I don't have to encourage them to do that. They're my superfans. I interact with them on facebook almost every day. They're part of a private group I run there. Those are the people I can count on to get super-excited about every release, and to buy and review them as verified buyers. I don't have to give them books. They are super excited to buy them for 99 cents. The key here is knowing the people you're talking to. Building relationships with your readers is very important if you want to be able to reliably push 200+ reviews on day 1 of a book launch without sending out thousands upon thousands of free books.

To my knowledge, nothing I'm doing in that vein is black or gray hat in nature. If someone feels differently they're welcome to debate this. As it sits, I'm running an ARC list in a way that is functionally identical to many bestselling authors. I certainly don't have to "buy" my reviews.

If Amazon stripped away any benefit unverified reviews gave a book, or came out with a blanket "NO ADVANCE REVIEW COPIES" rule, I'd adapt. I could probably built my group of verified reviewers quite a bit larger if I was inclined or required to do so, or I could take steps to work harder at encouraging my normal readers to review my book or share their thoughts.

I should probably be doing that anyway, but right now that's one of the 80/20 things (one of the 80% of things that probably wouldn't account for 20% of my income, so I avoid wasting time on it).

I don't know if I buy the "I'm not a mastermind" bit. You seem to know a lot about them. There were authors a few years ago selling ebooks and classes on how to get rich on Amazon, and if memory serves, many of them got outed, and some were busted. I also joined one of their Facebook groups to see what it was about, and found it to be dysfunctional and disorganized, concluding they maybe had a few successes, and then did the Tony Robbins thing and made their money by giving advice rather than following their own advice. The group I saw wouldn't have been able to hit #1... unless they were using click farms, buying reviews, and stuffing like crazy.

I can't prove to you that I'm "not a mastermind", but I'm not. When the person who started it was selling his course, I assumed it was going to be the same kind of Tony Robbins stuff you're describing.

Obviously that's not what it ended up being, and the proof is written all over the top 100. You can't look at what is sitting on those lists and say it's dysfunctional or disorganized. Those books are highly focused, absolutely organized, and clearly successful...

Ultimately, thanks for explaining this to the degree you did. Gotta be frustrating to be making a killing and not be able to talk about it. And congrats on your success. Of all the books I looked at yesterday (and I found dozens with obvious similarities, making me believe it was one person or a united group doing it), none of them seemed like scams. They seemed legit, well produced, and crowd pleasing (to the extent I read reviews, even though some reviews seemed to be bought).

It's making me really wonder if something like this can be done in the mystery genre. I'm not interested in scamming readers or Amazon, but I am interested in reaching more readers, and if that can be done with bundling, low prices, advertising, and mailing lists (which is essentially what Bookbub does), and without bought reviews, clock farms, or exploiting the "skip to the end" loophole, I'd give it a shot.

Food for thought. Thanks again.

I don't really let it frustrate me. I am happy with my success and satisfied with what I've created. I can look at my publishing company and point out plenty of flaws, but I'm proud of it and that's all that really matters. I didn't get into this looking for adulation or fame. Hell, I couldn't bask in that fame even if I wanted to, because as I've already mentioned, I often write under pennames that don't match my own gender (and sometimes, pennames that don't even match my ethnicity). If the project I'm currently works on breaks out in the way I suspect it will, I'll be a relatively "famous" author hiding behind my wife's face. She'll be the one holding the books and grinning ear to ear on facebook.

Maybe one of these days I'll work on a project and publish it as... me... but I'm plenty happy with remaining a guy nobody knows, pulling strings from off-stage.

Anyway...

Last thing I want to say here.

Look, maybe the "masterminds" are doing some shady things in the background. Maybe they're breaking ToS on reviewers, maybe they're using stolen photography on their ads (I have no idea why they would be doing this intentionally, but obviously we have some proof they have and potentially continue to do this). Maybe they're legitimately operating in grey or black hat. Maybe they're bot netting and doing all the crazy things people are speculating on.

I'm not trying to say they're the "whitest of white hats". I'm just saying that you could replicate much of what they're doing without resorting to any of those things. If they're breaking the rules and eventually get their wrists slapped, I have no doubt in my mind that they will come back from that just as strong tomorrow. I'm not sitting here trying to defend these guys and girls (I have no idea what their actual genders are so I'm not going to assume), I'm simply pointing out that I think it'd be easier for these people to be pulling off the success you're seeing completely within the envelope, than it would be for them to be operating some kind of dark-net bot page flipping operation, or a mass plagarism ring, or running around using some kind of evil tactics that we don't even know about...

If they break Amazon's rules, I'm all for Amazon slapping them upside the head for it.

But I'm not going to sit here building a dossier on the subject, because I know from my own little publishing company that almost everything I can see them actually doing looks above-board (to my own understanding of how they are operating), and that the things they are doing is not dissimilar to the way I myself operate.

Take that for what you will. Believe me, don't believe me, no skin off my back either way.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: LadyG on January 06, 2018, 09:19:41 AM
bobfrost, that may be one of the saddest things I've ever read.

Really makes me question what I'm doing here, and why I even bother trying to write or sell books. If what you're describing is the future of self-publishing, maybe it's time for me to go back to posting my work on blog or Wattpad.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 09:20:01 AM
Why does it have to be stuffing? What's wrong with a box set?

I've got four sets of trilogies for sale at $9.99. By the summer, I'll have eight sets. All different titles. All good books with lots of positive reviews.

I always thought it would be akin to slitting my own throat if I lowered the prices on these. It would kill the individual sales, and cheapen the brand.

If I actually lowered them all to 99 cents, with a marketing and advertising push, could I actually outsell what I'm doing with individual titles?

This discussion really makes me want to try it...


Honest talk: It might work.

Lower prices a bit, put book 1 in the series at 99 cents, and push the ever holy living [expletive] out of it.

Sell-through in my experience is about 60% from book 1 to book 2 and so on. With a large sustained marketing campaign on book 1 you could keep it in the top list, and sell-through into the other books (and the KU reads that come with it) would probably drive your income upward.

With a series as long as yours, you could probably sustain that kind of a campaign indefinitely. I know authors who do exactly that, and keep book 1 in their series on the top lists month after month.

It's scary to do something like that... but it wouldn't really be that big of a deal to test it. 99 cents on book 1, 2.99 on all the others, $1,000-$2,000 VERY GOOD marketing per day on book 1.

You could dedicate ten or twenty grand to the test, run it for a week or two, and see how it works. You should see the numbers rising by the end of the first week. And the best part is, you don't actually have to make all of your spend back on book 1. As readers filter through your series, you would see a rising tide across the whole backlist.

Worst case you don't see a huge climb in income, but you're not exactly going to be "out" ten or twenty grand, because obviously a good portion of that money will be earned back by the series. Jack the prices back up and call it a lesson learned I guess.

Worth the risk?

Lets just say that if I had a catalog that looks like yours, I wouldn't hesitate.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: JA Konrath on January 06, 2018, 09:25:16 AM
I think that's somewhat of an understatement. Things go a bit beyond resentment. There are people in this thread building case-files against authors, with screenshots and wide ranging accusations, who are willing to share their profile of deceit with anyone who asks. There are people literally reporting books. In the video linked in posts above, the person making the video says they've reported a book "six times" and that they are amazed it is still up (this on a book that, to my eye, is a legitimate looking title with a couple bonus titles and a sneak peek of one of their other books). There is a substantial amount of anger looking for something to lash out at.

But lets leave that aside a second and address the other part of what you're saying.

Even if I was not anonymous... I'd still be anonymous. You might recognize a few of my dozens upon dozens of pennames, but I think it's just as likely you wouldn't recognize any of them if I named a name. I could list off my top dozen pennames and you'd probably only know them in passing if you keep a regular eye on the top lists. I've got ranking pennames right now, but again, I doubt you've noticed them or given them a second look. If I pull up my book report right now, my top selling books this morning say that I'm a celebrated african american female novelist... and a gay man from New York... and a quirky white christian female from Texas. In this business, I am whoever I need to be in order to best meet the needs of the readers I am reaching. I'm a bit more than a female "bad boy romance" author (or publisher), but I'm one of those, too.

I'll be the first to say that I'm far better at publishing and marketing my books than I am at writing them. I've never been good at building a huge single-author presence. I've got hundreds upon hundreds of books spread out across pennames, and I frequently start a new name when I try to branch out into new niches. I've had pen names climb into the top 100 and fade away and whither a handful of months later. It's the cycle I deal with. I've found a way to make a living, but it's not for everyone.

Is that a smart way to operate? Honestly, I don't think so. I think I would be more successful today if I'd have kept my nose down and built myself up in one solid niche. I say again: I would be more successful if I'd put my nose down and tried to build ONE name.

I've made mistakes, I guess, but I'm not complaining because I've also achieved some great things. :)

Which isn't to say that my method of operation isn't changing! Over the past handful of months I've been moving away from single book releases in favor of series. Series releases don't really benefit from bonus content (because obviously your primary goal at the end of a series book is to get the person reading the next one... not to give them extra bonus content that might lose their interest). I've been having some remarkable success, and when I extrapolate that out... I feel pretty good about where I'm heading. I'm building something petty neat...

I'm pretty sure I'll shatter my previous income highs in 2018-2019, and by the end of the year, that will probably be a penname you've "heard of". If you squint hard enough, you might even realize it's me ;).

At any rate, I'm trying to explain what I think is going on behind the curtain and I've been as open about it as I can be. By all means, maintain skepticism, but feel free to put yourself in my shoes and ask yourself if you'd reveal any of your pennames given the content of this thread thus-far. I'm dead certain that I have not violated any terms of service, but hey, I'm not looking to open myself up to scrutiny because if you want to see books with a few bonus titles "stuffed" inside, I've certainly published books that look like that in the past.

I agree, promo drives sales.

But having a book that is reciprocally linked to other hot books in your genre also drives sales. Lots of sales. Being on the top lists drives sales. Visibility drives sales. It's the same reason authors want their book facing cover-out on the table at barnes and noble. If it's visible, people will buy it. If it's spine-out, nobody is going to see it.

I'm sure you understand reciprocal also-boughts, but just in case someone reading this doesn't... go check out YASIV.com and punch in a book. Punch in a relatively unknown book. Look at how the book has links that point OUT from the book, but few (if any) books that point back IN. Now go and grab a top 100 title that has been on the list for at least a few weeks. Punch it in. Notice how the web of connected books point BACK at this book? Those are reciprocal also-boughts. That means that this book is showing up as a "customers also bought" on other top selling books. This is insanely important. God only knows how many people will see your book if it has reciprocal also boughts! This kind of placement is what drives sales and causes a book to sustain itself as you scale back your marketing campaign.

Your advertising and marketing efforts are purely there to force yourself into visibility, and to force Amazon's algorithms to take notice of your book and slap reciprocal also-boughts on them.

I talked about reviews in other posts in this thread.

I don't know exactly how the "masterminds" are generating reviews, but I know how I do it.

I've got a group of readers that I have built up over the years who love reading and reviewing books.

It's that simple, really. I send out a quick email to everyone on that list asking who's excited to read a new book. I show them a blurb and a cover.

I send advance review copies to everyone who responds, plus anyone who I know is likely to leave a review based on past experience.

A few days later when the create space title is live (before the KU title is live), I email them again to ask how much they loved the book, and to tell them how excited I am to hear what they think about it. I also have a review link inside the book that points to that create space title (I use a url through one of my websites so I can change the target once the Createspace title is live). That makes it easy for customers to find the book and review it if they're so inclined.

I don't offer up gifts or force people to review or anything like that. I don't have to coerce these people. It's not necessary. When you're giving your fans free books, they tend to be pretty kind on their reviews. After all, they like the work you're sending them.

I'll be the first to admit it took me awhile to build a list like this though. On early books, I would just blanket send-out THOUSANDS of free copies of my book in hopes of a few hundred reviews. Now I can get by with a much smaller number of send outs. I'm not looking for tens of thousands of reviews, of course. I just need 100-300 on day 1 of the KU release to act as social proof.

If you're curious how I manage this when I'm publishing under different pennames, that's not all that complicated. For pennames that are similar, I can use the same group of readers. I just offer up a book one of my "friends" wrote, and get them all excited, and ask who wants to review it... or I flat out tell them I'm writing under a new name.

For vastly different genres... I have a different list of readers. For example, I have a completely separate list of ARC people for my gay romance efforts, for fairly obvious reasons. There is of course some overlap between gay and straight romance, but you don't want to be sending out a ton of MM romance to a bunch of readers who enjoy MF. That'll cause good reviewers to quit your list.

It is completely within the terms and conditions to give free books to your readers (so long as you're not violating exclusivity clauses, which I am not because I am giving out those copies before a book is published at Amazon and thus covered under their exclusivity requirements). You can give out books with the hope that those readers review it without breaking the rules. Amazon allows those reviewers to make unverified reviews on your book.

In case you're wondering... I also have something I call my "street team". It's not really a traditional street team, but it's a few dozen readers that I've built relationships with over the years. I can tell them I've got a new book out and they'll excitedly run and buy/review it. I don't have to tell them to do that. I don't have to encourage them to do that. They're my superfans. I interact with them on facebook almost every day. They're part of a private group I run there. Those are the people I can count on to get super-excited about every release, and to buy and review them as verified buyers. I don't have to give them books. They are super excited to buy them for 99 cents. The key here is knowing the people you're talking to. Building relationships with your readers is very important if you want to be able to reliably push 200+ reviews on day 1 of a book launch without sending out thousands upon thousands of free books.

To my knowledge, nothing I'm doing in that vein is black or gray hat in nature. If someone feels differently they're welcome to debate this. As it sits, I'm running an ARC list in a way that is functionally identical to many bestselling authors. I certainly don't have to "buy" my reviews.

If Amazon stripped away any benefit unverified reviews gave a book, or came out with a blanket "NO ADVANCE REVIEW COPIES" rule, I'd adapt. I could probably built my group of verified reviewers quite a bit larger if I was inclined or required to do so, or I could take steps to work harder at encouraging my normal readers to review my book or share their thoughts.

I should probably be doing that anyway, but right now that's one of the 80/20 things (one of the 80% of things that probably wouldn't account for 20% of my income, so I avoid wasting time on it).

I can't prove to you that I'm "not a mastermind", but I'm not. When the person who started it was selling his course, I assumed it was going to be the same kind of Tony Robbins stuff you're describing.

Obviously that's not what it ended up being, and the proof is written all over the top 100. You can't look at what is sitting on those lists and say it's dysfunctional or disorganized. Those books are highly focused, absolutely organized, and clearly successful...

I don't really let it frustrate me. I am happy with my success and satisfied with what I've created. I can look at my publishing company and point out plenty of flaws, but I'm proud of it and that's all that really matters. I didn't get into this looking for adulation or fame. Hell, I couldn't bask in that fame even if I wanted to, because as I've already mentioned, I often write under pennames that don't match my own gender (and sometimes, pennames that don't even match my ethnicity). If the project I'm currently works on breaks out in the way I suspect it will, I'll be a relatively "famous" author hiding behind my wife's face. She'll be the one holding the books and grinning ear to ear on facebook.

Maybe one of these days I'll work on a project and publish it as... me... but I'm plenty happy with remaining a guy nobody knows, pulling strings from off-stage.

Anyway...

Last thing I want to say here.

Look, maybe the "masterminds" are doing some shady things in the background. Maybe they're breaking ToS on reviewers, maybe they're using stolen photography on their ads (I have no idea why they would be doing this intentionally, but obviously we have some proof they have and potentially continue to do this). Maybe they're legitimately operating in grey or black hat. Maybe they're bot netting and doing all the crazy things people are speculating on.

I'm not trying to say they're the "whitest of white hats". I'm just saying that you could replicate much of what they're doing without resorting to any of those things. If they're breaking the rules and eventually get their wrists slapped, I have no doubt in my mind that they will come back from that just as strong tomorrow. I'm not sitting here trying to defend these guys and girls (I have no idea what their actual genders are so I'm not going to assume), I'm simply pointing out that I think it'd be easier for these people to be pulling off the success you're seeing completely within the envelope, than it would be for them to be operating some kind of dark-net bot page flipping operation, or a mass plagarism ring, or running around using some kind of evil tactics that we don't even know about...

If they break Amazon's rules, I'm all for Amazon slapping them upside the head for it.

But I'm not going to sit here building a dossier on the subject, because I know from my own little publishing company that almost everything I can see them actually doing looks above-board (to my own understanding of how they are operating), and that the things they are doing is not dissimilar to the way I myself operate.

Take that for what you will. Believe me, don't believe me, no skin off my back either way.

Thanks again for the response, and the info.

I keep quoting you in entirety because I've dealt with anons on my blog who backtrack and then delete their posts. Not that I'm thinking you'll do that, but I'm a writer and prone to making back-ups, and a quote is the easiest way to do that.

You've made me rethink my approach to advertising, which I'd soured on. You've also made me rethink the power of low prices, which I've consistently been using to goose sales, but only via Countdowns.

I need to find out for myself what a 700 page trilogy, priced at 99 cents, with an advertising push, can do when it comes to KU. This will take some time, and some experimenting, but I think I've learned enough here to give it a shot.

I appreciate your responses. Much success to you.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 09:40:54 AM
bobfrost, that may be one of the saddest things I've ever read.

Really makes me question what I'm doing here, and why I even bother trying to write or sell books. If what you're describing is the future of self-publishing, maybe it's time for me to go back to posting my work on blog or Wattpad.

Don't be sad!

Breaking into the top 100 kindle list has always been difficult. That list has always been dominated by people with marketing budgets large enough to crush an elephant underfoot.

You don't have to break into those lists to make a damn good living.

I've got a book right now that isn't a mass-market paperback. I wrote it for the joy of writing it. I know it won't sell craploads of copies if I push it hard. I know that the market for that book is limited.

I wrote the book over nanowrimo in my "spare" time, spending about 42 hours on the book itself, start to finish.

Here's that book today:

https://i.imgur.com/upwHOtK.png

That's more than $4,000 earned so far, and the book continues to earn in the neighborhood of $100 per day. I have never spent more than $5/day marketing that book, so total costs are incredibly small. I made the cover myself. I formatted the book myself. I edited the book myself.

In the next few months, that book will earn thousands more dollars. Over the course of the year, it will do relatively well. That is a 50,000 word novel, not war and peace.

All told, I expect it to eventually earn me upwards of $10,000 or more, when I look back on it a year or two from now.

That is one book, written in one month over an amount of hours that equates out to about an average American work-week. I can (and have, in the past) written 3-4 novels of similar length in a single month without feeling like I'd done anything too crazy. If you sit down and treat this like a job, you can write one or two of these novels every single month without breaking a sweat.

I didn't do ARC reviews on it. I didn't blast it out to my massive romance mailing list (because it's not a book in that genre).

If I wrote 12 of those in a year, even without the benefit of the publishing machine I've built for myself... I'd be looking at a substantial income. I mean, if each of those books only earned $4,000... that's still $48,000/year.

If this book (and books like it) earned $10,000 over the year, we're talking about $120,000 earned on books that NEVER broke into the top lists.

That book, right now, is sitting squarely in the 3,000s in rank. It has never come anywhere close to the top 100. It never will. It will never have a $1,000/day marketing campaign attached to it.

And yet, if I wrote twelve of those one right after another, I don't think anyone would say I'd failed as an author ;).

Let me take this one step further...

I was not born with a silver spoon. I didn't wake up five years ago with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank itching to be spent on facebook ads.

I built that from the ground up. Everything I have... my giant mailing lists... my arc list... my pixel audience etc... I made all of that happen as I wrote and published my books one at a time, just like everyone else.

Sure, I've scaled up and I have ghostwriters and all sorts of advantages today, but I could start over tomorrow with absolutely NOTHING, and build back up to what I have today.

In fact, I'd argue I could do it much faster the next time around, because I know what I'm doing. I'd approach things very differently if I was starting from scratch, and I'd spend a lot less time flopping around trying to find my legs.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: sela on January 06, 2018, 09:41:01 AM
Sometimes instead of some big conspiracy theory there's a very simple explanation.

The fact that other authors don't make the system work for them & then go after those who do with pitch forks is what bothers me. Many of these authors are in close contact with Amazon reps and have received answers letting them know it's okay to use bonus books. Those who have tried to come here & talk have let us know that but then they are chased away by people on high horses who think their opinion should be gold.  So they don't bother trying to explain it but& just do it & it keeps working. Their books are allowed to stay in the store  along with alllll the other stuffed books [funny how it's only the successful authors who have their stuffed books  attacked for being scammy when there are plenty of other less successful books stuffed to the gills] & they sit there pretty in the top 100 despite other authors reporting them kots & lots & lots, out of either malicious or misguided motivations, spurred on by those who view themselves as Amazon police for things that in their own (should be but isn't) humble opinion that these others authors are unethical for taking full advantage of the 3000 KENPC allotted to them.

 When they try to come here and let other authors know how they too can make more money they are demonized and called scammers so of course they are not going to share. Then some people wake up to the realization that these 'masterminds' have known all along - that stuffing is perfectly okay. And everyone says hmm if only Amazon would have told us. Well Amazon is purposefully vague all the time. Blame amazon for that, not authors making it work to their advantage. There is no set in stone ethics that say you have to leave money on the table just because some other authors do & think you should too & will make you Iver the coals if you don't do it their way. Plenty of authors stuff and have been stuffing for a long time now so if this was a clear cut issue of 'bad author doing evil things Amazon hates' then we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

I truly think this is all about people not wanting to accept the way Amazon operates & adapt- instead they hate those who do. Every author has to make their own business decisions about what they believe to be right & what is best for their business. But when I see authors going after competitors & playing Amazon police for things that aren't even real crimes according to Amazon itself, I agree w/ JAKonrath that it is not a noble crusade. To me it's more likely spurred on by those who are being left behind being mad at those who are ahead in the system as it evolves.

I know there's a lot of animosity towards the stuffers who top the charts from authors here -- me included. So I realize this is directed at me.

For those who see no problem with stuffing, it's easy to write those of us off who feel that animosity, but let me say this:

As soon as KU was first instituted, people started scamming it. Remember the huge influx of scraped content off the web that were nothing more than 10-page scraped content that garnered a $1.30 payout as soon as the pamphlet was open?

Hey! They made fast bucks and took advantage of a loophole to make a killing. Business is business, right?

Then, there were authors cutting their novels up into 10 parts, releasing so that each part garnered $1.30 so a 300 page novel was worth $13.00 instead of $2.99 they would usually charge. The readers didn't care as long as they could get access to all 10 parts easily in KU for their $9.99 monthly fee.

Readers finally complained, so Amazon put the hammer down and we got KU 2.0. Paid by the pages read instead of a flat fee for reading a particular percentage.

Those authors who premised their business plan on putting out 12,000 word episodes saw their revenues fall drastically -- 90% in many cases. The erotica authors lost out big time.

Then we saw the scamming of the new system. If you can't make money off 5,000 word short erotica, then bundle it all up in one 10,000 page package and plop it in Romance. Tack on the HEA or HFN to make sure it works.

Now, we're talking. At a $0.0050 payout per page read, that meant the one volume could earn $50. BINGO! We saw an influx of publishers stuffing everything including the kitchen sink into their tomes, such as Polish translations, blog posts -- anything -- to get that massive payout.

Of course that had to end. Amazon started to crack down on those and now the TOS definitely outlaw machine generated translations as well as copyrighted material that the publisher does not own the rights to, etc. and a 3,000 KENP cap.

We also had the stuffed books with links to the super secret story at the end, or free Kindle or $50 gift certificate contents -- just click to the back and enter to win! This tactic garnered a full payout of 3,000 KENP for $15 instead of for the single title payout of $2.25.

Amazon cracked down on that as well because it obviously was scamming the KU pot.

We also had the bot-driven rank books, which have been discussed endlessly on this board. Pay black hat companies with click farms in wherever and make guaranteed rank or downloads. Then we have erotica being plopped into categories where it doesn't belong -- I mean, a reverse harem with seven men in Women's Fiction / Classics as the #1 bestseller?

Just business people responding to the new reality, right?

But we authors aren't supposed to get p-d off at those people who are always trying to scam the system.

Working the system is different. Writing fast, publishing fast, intense promotion, smart marketing -- I'm fine with all that. I bow down to those who have figured it out and are implementing legit business practices that don't contravene the TOS.

I have asked Amazon and have been told that bonus content that is simple a reordering of existing content is not acceptable. Yet, it's still going on and so I assume Amazon KDP Specialists don't know what they are talking about or Amazon doesn't care enough to stop it.

There have been so many scams since KU started, you'll have to excuse me for being skeptical now about the top 100 and hostile to the scammers who remain.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: SaraBourgeois on January 06, 2018, 09:56:59 AM
Why does it have to be stuffing? What's wrong with a box set?

I've got four sets of trilogies for sale at $9.99. By the summer, I'll have eight sets. All different titles. All good books with lots of positive reviews.

I always thought it would be akin to slitting my own throat if I lowered the prices on these. It would kill the individual sales, and cheapen the brand.

If I actually lowered them all to 99 cents, with a marketing and advertising push, could I actually outsell what I'm doing with individual titles?

This discussion really makes me want to try it...

This will absolutely work. It's how I make the majority of my money. I write and publish 3 - 5 mysteries, and then make a bundle. Price the bundle at 99cents and push the advertising hard for a couple of weeks. Once the promos are done, I raise the price of the book and ride the wave down.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 09:57:08 AM
Thanks again for the response, and the info.

I keep quoting you in entirety because I've dealt with anons on my blog who backtrack and then delete their posts. Not that I'm thinking you'll do that, but I'm a writer and prone to making back-ups, and a quote is the easiest way to do that.

You've made me rethink my approach to advertising, which I'd soured on. You've also made me rethink the power of low prices, which I've consistently been using to goose sales, but only via Countdowns.

I need to find out for myself what a 700 page trilogy, priced at 99 cents, with an advertising push, can do when it comes to KU. This will take some time, and some experimenting, but I think I've learned enough here to give it a shot.

I appreciate your responses. Much success to you.

If you look at my posts you'll usually see "edited" at the bottom. I can't help it. I'm a constant self-editor. I go in re-reading my posts and often make little tweaks to better state my case.

But I don't go back and remove the whole thing, typically speaking, unless someone is being particularly difficult and I realize even attempting to communicate with them was a mistake :).

Maybe that applies to this thread, who knows, but I can't think of anything I've said thus-far that I would backtrack on. I've laid out the basics of how I feel these authors are operating, and I've given people a look at how I operate in the past, the present, and how I am shifting my business as I move into the future.

Anyway, good luck in all of your endeavors JA K. You've been an inspiration to me in the past, and I think the direction I'm heading right now is going to be successful in part because people like you have lit the path in front of me. If something I said put a lightbulb over your head and helps you nail down some newfound success, I'll be happy to see it.
Title: Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
Post by: bobfrost on January 06, 2018, 10:16:04 AM
Just business people responding to the new reality, right?

But we authors aren't supposed to get p-d off at those people who are always trying to scam the system.