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Messages - TwistedTales

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Amazon automate everything. If you were to look back at old issues like public domain works, copyright, exclusivity problems, etc, Amazon have automated most of them so now bots find the "errors" and send emails to authors about non compliance and penalties.

They've been doing the same thing with the scamming issues. Initially they weren't as confident with their conclusions so the penalties were often withdrawn, but that seems to be changing now. The notice they've published tells me they're confident in their process and bots, not so much that they won't accept "feedback", but sure enough that they're entrenching the process by using bots.

The thing to remember is this is only the set up. Once they have a process and bots in place they will expand the capability and reach of the bots. Right now they're capturing specific types of "scamming", but they'll add to that based on feedback and additional analysis. We can expect the scope of the bots to be wider and the penalties to be strictly enforced.

What does it mean? I guess KU just got even harder to survive. Now actual scammers know Amazon will ban accounts I'm sure they will be busy working out how they can use that to their advantage. It's the nature of KU. Everyone is wheeling and dealing it, looking for way to get what they want out of it. Unfortunately, the system controls in KU are shockingly weak, so there are plenty of ways to abuse it. It appears Amazon's solution isn't to design a better system, but to keep gap filling in the hope eventually they'll catch every leak. They won't and it'll mean KU will become increasingly difficult to manage.

Same. I also told them my sales data from other sellers, which I suspect is the only thing they're after with those surveys, is proprietary information they'll have to purchase from me.

Nice one!

I get those questionnaires regularly and no longer bother to complete them. What's the point? You get no feedback. Most company surveys provide summary feedback as a courtesy to the people who took the time to do the survey, but not Amazon. You might as well have flushed your feedback down a black hole. Furthermore, nothing ever seems to change in our favor, so I'm guessing they're not running those surveys for our benefit.

So, Amazon can keep emailing me their surveys and I'll keep deleting them because I value my time even if they don't.

good bot

I think the gist is instead of having a human check upfront they're letting the bots decide who lives and dies. If you think you deserve to live then you better flag it to them otherwise the bots rule.

I hope they're serious about re-auditing in response to feedback.

(Why does typing that make me feel like a naif?)

It's not like Amazon to admit to anything they're doing, which suggests to me they don't plan to stand down from this latest tactic like they have before. I suspect this new three step process to remove "illegitimate" page reads and banning authors is now the new norm. Re-auditing probably means they're willing to check if their bots were right, but we don't know what they think "right" is.

Just saw this on KDP forum. See below for content.

"Removal of Illegitimate Reading from the KDP Select Fund


We have recently heard concerns from authors about our on-going efforts to detect and remove illegitimate reading from the KDP Select Fund. In order to fairly distribute the KDP Select fund to all authors, we remove fraudulent activity, notify authors, and only pay royalties associated with legitimate reading activities. We greatly appreciate the questions and feedback we have received and are re-auditing our processes based on these concerns.
If you ever have specific questions about your account, or feel like your account status was inappropriately affected, please contact us at and we will take a look.

Best Regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team"

Writers' Cafe / Re: Facebook followers
« on: May 21, 2018, 09:08:25 AM »
I've only ever done it once and I don't remember, but the guy I blocked had left comments in posts and when I clicked on his comment (as the Adminstrator) it offered me the option to block him. There's probably another way if he hasn't made any comments, but you'd have to google it. Sorry.  :(

Writers' Cafe / Re: Facebook followers
« on: May 21, 2018, 08:55:10 AM »
You can block his user name. If you do that then he can no longer see your page or interact with it. If he has another account then he can use that one to take actions on your page, but if you catch him again then block him again.

Otherwise I don't think we can stop someone from following our page. I think the most you can do is stop them from commenting on it, but even that is post by post rather than the whole page.

I'm confused. On this thread, I see a lot of people stating that Amazon is headed for a "pay to play" platform, i.e., you have to pay for AMS ads if you want sales, and that's how they make up for the higher than average royalties.

On at least one other thread, this notion is quashed by some other authors as some sort of paranoia.

Which is correct?

Everything is a question of how you choose to see it so that's why you get differing opinions.

Amazon have loaded 5 million books and there are at least 100,000 more being loaded every month. It makes it nearly impossible to be visible on the site, so most authors have to advertize one way or another. Some have mail lists, but often that isn't enough anymore to reach high enough ranks to make the cat 100 lists or to stay there for long enough to be seen. Authors who aren't in KU don't benefit from a download = sale rank kick so we're even less visible. Amazon offer AMS ads as a way of being visible so many authors feel they must advertize to be seen.

Regardless of which ads you run, every time you spend money on the books in any way you are reducing the "margin", which is the gap between the royalty and what you spent. Authors who feel they must use AMS to make their books visible are reducing their margin.

Is this Amazon's master plan? Well, according to their annual report they intend to expand their advertizing platform so I'm guessing yes. It serves them to charge suppliers to make their products more visible on their site. It serves them to make any supplier who doesn't pay to be visible to be less visible. Amazon have publicly stated they will be significantly growing their ad revenue (which is AMS ads), so the entire "pay to play" is intentional, planned and a significant part of their revenue growth plans.

You can draw whatever conclusion you want from that.

I've found their eshot support has fluctuated. Since 2014, sometimes they've sent the new release update multiple times within a week or so of release, other times they haven't bothered at all. Sometimes I get a barrage of emails about my books and others, then it all goes quiet for up to 12 months. I've assumed the various emails are sent out based on what Amazon want for the minute -- more sales, more KU downloads, more new releases, etc.

Does it hurt my sales? Probably, but it's the death of a thousand cuts on Amazon. Download = sale in ranks is the biggest lie they tell the reader and causes the most damage to my visibility. I sell well on the other platforms where I'm not being intentionally buried, so I know Amazon are deliberately causing me to lose sales. Having up to 1,500 books advertized on my page thanks to AMS ads doesn't do me any favors either. Every time I drive traffic to my page my prospect buyer is confronted by a huge billboard of other books. It means I don't waste money promoting my Amazon pages. I send more traffic to the other platforms.

The fact that Amazon only sporadically and unreliably send out emails on my behalf is the least of the issues, but it probably doesn't do me any favors either.

I'm just glad I went wide 18 months ago. My Amazon US sales can fluctuate (international usually do quite well for me), but my sales on the other platforms continue to grow. If Amazon keep burying sale only authors with the download = sale, then we'll put our marketing efforts into the other platforms who don't bury us. In the end, we'll do so well on those platforms we won't care how well we do or don't sell on Amazon. It's really Amazon's loss, but I don't think they care so neither do I.

The one thing I do derive confidence from is my books sell wide. It's a relief because at least I don't feel forced to stay with Amazon (or KU), especially since they appear to be going a bit nuts.

While we are "what if'ing", I've got a conspiracy theory in mind.

So...what if the scammers/spammers weren't just covering their tracks? Like...would you really want to use a service like that to boost your page reads if you were a legit author and doing very well? No matter how well they covered themselves, *eventually* Amazon is going to catch the person who hired them (along with all of the innocent people) and shut their account down.

Now, what if instead of covering their tracks, these companies were being hired to target the competition. "Hey, I'm number one in 5 categories, but man, the competition is tough, so you click farms give page reads to the other people who are selling well and moving up the charts, so I don't get bumped out of my top categories. They'll either take their books out of KU, or get banned, but either way, the threat is eliminated."

Makes more sense to me than risking your own account for a few thousand page reads.

As for the theory that there are groups of authors helping each other out or something, I'm not part of any such group and know like 2 other authors personally and we certainly don't leave reviews for each other or do any other questionable things. One author I know caught up in this doesn't even do any marketing outside of inexpensive AMS ads...not even newsletter swaps.

Thatís not entirely a tinfoil hat theory in that was already being done in a form. Back when Fivver openly advertized reviewers you could buy a one star for someone elseís book. So, as conspiracy theories go, not so much a theory.  :-X

And no one is saying you did anything wrong, weíre just tossing out ideas. Amazon let the bots do the work and theyíre none too smart, so getting caught in the net isnít always a sign of anything other than Amazonís bots have been drinking the koolaid again, either that or their staff have.  ;)

I don't actually think you are too far off.. but here's where I differ from your line of thought.

A lot of this nonsense seems to be happening in genres with heavy concentrations of Whale Readers. These are the guys and gals who read several books a month.  So a program like Kindle Unlimited is a smorgasbord to this type of reader. Their activity is also very outside the normal range of the average reader. I think their unusual reading habits are triggering new security algorithms Amazon has put in place. 

Remember when Scribd kicked all Romance and Erotica titles out of their program? Well what if something similar is going on with Kindle Unlimited right now.

Of course this is all baseless speculation, but its what I think is happening.

Hereís an interesting twist then...what if LitRPG isnít that insanely popular, but just looks like it is because thereís a strong incentivized circle somewhere? Iím not saying itís true, but if there are a lot of dud downloads and  page reads, then do we even know whatís organically popular (outside of the usual culprits). Kinda kills the write to market logic if you canít really tell whatís genuinely popular.

Would Amazon really boot out a genre like Scribíd did if it was genuinely popular? I doubt it. Theyíre bigger than Scribíd and can probably carry it no matter how popular it is, but anything is possible.

Twisted's a theory, but I don't think it really explains all of what's happening.

My sister writes non-fiction and almost ALL her income is through paper sales. She signed up for KU for the sole purpose of occasionally offering her readers a free electronic copy of the paper book they already bought. She doesn't participate in newsletter swaps or on FB groups and isn't in any author group in any form--the books are really more promo and support for her consulting business than they are a separate business.

Last month she had her page reads almost entirely cut. Amazon ignored all her requests for an explanation. This week, without warning, her account was closed. It's since been reinstated, but....

She had, however, ventured out with some AMS ads, so she falls in that category, not the one you're suggesting.

To me, this looks like changed algorithms that were intended to stop the scammers but are so broad that they've led to way too many hits on honest, legitimate authors who are following the rules.

It is only a theory because we donít have the data to prove anything. In your sisterís case, you donít know who did download the book, also her account was reinstated once a human looked at it, so whatever was going on clearly wasnít considered a problem.

Donít forget Amazon use bots to do all their work, which is how innocent players get caught up. Usually an additional look-see unravels a lot of the incorrect bot decisions. But for those people who canít get the decision reversed, even if they really havenít done anything wrong, you have to ask why.

I have a theory, but Iím not sure anyone will like it or itís easily solved. Try not personalize this theory because itís not targeted at anyone or laying blame on anyone in this thread. Itís only a possible explanation and nothing else.

We all know there are friendly and/or incentivized circles inside KU. These are groups of people who download books and flip through pages so the author gets paid. Itís not a bot, but a real person with a real account. Itís not offshore and probably includes a lot of authors who are ďhelpingĒ one another out. It was always going to happen because the design of KU makes it too easy to do.

If this was done on a small scale (& Iím sure it always has been), then it wouldnít be much of an issue. Maybe 10% of page reads were duds, but if this tactic escalated and thousands of people participated, then 50% or more page reads could be duds. Thatís going to hammer down the page rate and drive non participating authors and possibly real readers out of KU.

Could Amazon track this sort of behavior? Not while it was a small percentage, but if it got to be a higher percentage then of course they could. So, itís possible it got to be too higher percentage of page reads and Amazon got enough data to identity the participants.

Does that mean all authors being zinged weíre part of the ďfriendlyĒ circle? No. In theory, those circles could be downloading other books and flipping through them as a way of shielding the target books.

How do you stop someone Amazon has decided is a ďbad actorĒfrom downloading your book? You canít, so unless youíre participating in one of the circles there is no way to defend against them. In fact, there probably isnít way to stop it other than to leave KU, but if Amazon retrospectively punish then youíre done.

The only possible positive note is that Amazon may be sending out a warning to everyone in KU to stay clean. If thatís the case this will stop next month, but if the various circles donít shut down, then Amazon will keep this up until they catch everyone including the dolphins.

Let me get this straight...

The last game was the circular one where you have to use AMS to be visible to get page reads, but then pay a good percentage (if not all and then some) back to AMS. Letís not forget the 6 week delay between paying AMS and getting paid by Amazon for page reads.

Now Amazon have decided to cut out the middle man, namely AMS, and go straight to removing page reads. This game is even more fun. Now you pay AMS to get page reads, which Amazon might take away the following month after youíve spent (& paid for) the money with AMS.


If Amazon know 50% of page reads are fake, then why do they allow them to be reported at all? Shouldnít they cancel ďbad actorísĒ account, after all they clearly know who they are, donít they?

This ďillicitĒ page reads is turning into a terrific catch-all excuse for Amazon anytime they want to tune their margins. And they donít even need to prove it. Kinda says it all really. KU has no integrity and apparently neither do KDP.

I made the USA Today list with a book in only my name. That book continues to sell well, as do the follow on books. I use the ďlettersĒ sporadically on various marketing materials to promote other books.

I donít think having the ďlettersĒ is what sells books, but having control of the book that won the letters does. By that I mean, if the book is good enough to sell that many copies (without resorting to any ďtricksĒ other than straightforward advertizing), then it acts as a great introduction to your entire catalog. If the book gained its letters by being forced there (I think we all know the difference), then it might not be such a good intro.

Nothing beats a book that resonates with real buyers and, with or without those letters, providing you get the book visible then itíll help sell your entire catalog. How you get those letters is probably more important than having them, which means you can do just as well without them. Itís not having the letters that sells my catalog, but having a popular book as a hook does.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Are Also Boughts Gone?
« on: April 22, 2018, 02:28:37 AM »
The alsoboughts are useful for us, certainly, but if this is what they are testing, I can see why it might make sense. Presumably they want to find out whether the increased amount authors would need to spend on AMS ads would outweigh the sell-through they get from alsoboughts. I can even see a situation where they might make authors pay to show the actual alsoboughts on the page.

ETA: this is pure speculation, by the way.

I can see how it would benefit Amazon, but it does take away the last free feature they offer. Letís hope this isnít their latest evil plan.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Are Also Boughts Gone?
« on: April 22, 2018, 01:56:17 AM »
I've been seeing it for a while on my phone, and it's been discussed here before. Not to start a 'sky is falling' rumour, but I suspect Amazon are experimenting with no alsoboughts.

If thatís true, then theyíre taking away the last useful feature of their site. Thanks to the expanding content mills and KU borrow equals sale, the cat 100s are out of reach for many (even if they are in KU). If the ABs go, then 99.99999999% of books will not visible other than through advertizing, whether thatís with AMS or others.

Being wide I have to advertize anyway, but it would just be another nail in Amazonís coffin for me. Theyíre already becoming only 40% of my sales and even less of my US sales, so I guess that percentage will get even smaller.

Writers' Cafe / Re: Are Also Boughts Gone?
« on: April 22, 2018, 01:34:36 AM »
First time I saw it I thought amazon had wrecked the ABs, but very few people saw it and it went away with a reboot. Itís weird yours isnít. If itís an incoming change, then none of us will be happy about that.  >:(

Writers' Cafe / Re: Are Also Boughts Gone?
« on: April 22, 2018, 01:24:45 AM »
It appears to be a bug on the iPads. If you clear your browser they should appear correctly. If not, then try rebooting as well. That seems to fix it.

The content mills target the book a day reader, or at least the ones that donít use jerk circles and bots to inflate downloads and reads will. I still believe, and it is supported by Amazonís round of banning and suspending of author and customer accounts, that there is a decent percentage of fraud happening in KU.

I suspect the only way to fight the content mills is not to target the reader type theyíre chasing, which is the read a book (or two) a day crowd. Although that type of reader might only be 30% of the KU subscriber base, they probably do something like 85% of the page reads, if not more if you include the scamming and jerk circles.

Ultimately, and itís probably not too far in the future, the content mills will infect every genre because most have a percentage of that type of reader. You can probably dodge the bullet by being agile for a little longer, but I doubt itís a long term strategy.

Do Amazon care about the content mills taking control like this? I donít think
Amazon get involved in content, quality or method of generation (providing its within the law), so much like the book stuffing issue, I think you can expect little help. To be honest, I think they barely care about the jerk circles and bots, but they do try to keep it in check because, beyond a certain level, it will completely wreck the store for the customer.

I suspect many authors will end up supplying content to the mills. You can already see it happening. Ghostwriting appears to be growing, some players are aiming to buy entire catalogs (no judgement about that because I genuinely donít care), increased coauthoring, and outright rebadging by some, where theyíve bought the book for either nothing or a few hundred bucks.

Where does all this lead? I keep saying the same thing because I think itís true. The content mills only want one type of reader, which is the book a day KU subscriber. I think if you want to survive in this industry, youíll have to learn how to do it without that type of reader. That being the case, then itíll be less about genre/trope/niche and more about building a genuine following who may only read a book a month, so youíll need more of them to make bank and being wide might be the way to go. Itís also a much slower way to build a fan base, but youíd like to think theyíll be loyal.

I guess you must pick between door one and door two, but behind one is a lion and the other has a tiger.  :-X

You are welcome.  :)

If you click on the individual star ratings (ie the 5 yellow star line) instead of the ďshow all reviewsĒ, then youíll see the reviews are still there. The only thing I havenít seen before is none of the reviews are showing on the main page, but it could be because they are all very new. Iíve had it happen before and believe itís a glitch. Give it a day or two, then contact KDP if they donít show up on the page.

Writers' Cafe / Re: KU -vs- Other retailers
« on: April 19, 2018, 12:37:44 PM »
I would love to be out of KU.

I don't like being so dependent on Amazon, and I don't like that my books have to be sold exclusively through them while in KU.

But at this point of my self-publishing career, I don't think it makes sense to go wide.

Although, I hope to do so someday.

It helps to have a bigger catalog. A single series is like having one book because you must choose to be all in or all out. I knew when I left KU that I could, at a push, drop a series back in. In fact, I did enrol one book after I left (Amazon made a mistake and unenrolled it after about ten days and I never renrolled because I sort of regretted chickening out ó yeah, yeah, I get itís not PC to call it that, but itís how I felt at the time).

There is also the worry about leaving the mothership. Mommy is bad tempered, a bit of a drinker, and shouts a lot, but you know her quirks and sheís predictably p*ssed most of the time. Without all the unwritten and barely written rules in the TOS, you do feel a bit untethered, but that passes fairly quickly and I was surprised how much changed for me. Little things like release cycles and relaxing launch activities to suit my personal schedule.

Being wide is very different to being in KU, and I suspect both experiences are worth having, even if itís just to know for absolute sure what each side looks like for you. That way you are not relying on third-party and potentially skewed versions of a truth that isnít yours anyway.

Writers' Cafe / Re: KU -vs- Other retailers
« on: April 19, 2018, 12:22:48 PM »
Also, some of us have been in KU and wide, so our comparisons are based on real life experience. Some people left a few years ago, others more recently, and that changes their assessment. For some people it takes time to get traction wide, and others not so much. There are also people who have been in KU, wide, back in, and some still have a foot in both camps.

As is often the case in this business, itís difficult to get a one size fits all solution, or a simple ďdo this and that will happenĒ answer. There are just too many dynamics at play.

Just be aware this subject is fraught with people who want to prove theyíre doing the right thing by being in KU or out of it. It skews their assessment because theyíve made a call and want to believe itís right, so proving it to other people can build confidence in their own decision. The truth is there is only whatís right for you, which is likely to take some experimentation. Go ahead and be in or out because you can always change you mind later.

Writers' Cafe / Re: KU -vs- Other retailers
« on: April 19, 2018, 11:37:08 AM »
Just to counterpoint some of the awesome assumptions in this thread.

Some authors (& it is more than a few) get more than 50% of their revenue wide and make 80+% margin.

Bookbub appear to favor wide books over KU and they are a unique marketing capability, in that they can put book after book into the top 50 - 100 in, and even higher on the other stores. They can achieve such impressive results that authors will leave KU just to try and get one of their Featured Deals.

Thanks to the over enthusiastic KU take up there is a lot less competition wide, which means our advertizing budgets go a lot further.

We also donít worry about exclusivity, or book stuffing, or scammers, or niche tropes, or length of book, or page rates to know what we earned, or monthly schedules so we are on the HNR, or our ranks because ours will always be shot on Amazon, which means we are free to create when we want, what we want, and give it to whomever we please. Makes life a lot simpler.

Many of us who are wide are profitable. Could we make more money if we enrolled in KU? Some might, some might not, it really depends on what you write, frequency of publishing, length of book, etc. I probably would make more in KU, for a while at least, but eventually Iíd be chasing the dragon, advertizing like crazy, giving Amazon most of my margin through AMS ads, while getting frustrated by how badly they run KU, not to mention the risk of being threatened because they think I cheated even if I didnít.

There is a lot more to being in or out of KU than making money versus not because both paths can do that depending on your books and talent, but you wonít understand it by reading the board, you really need to live it and draw your own conclusions.

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