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Messages - TwistedTales

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1
Writers' Cafe / Re: My KU page reads have died. How about yours?
« on: Yesterday at 04:01:59 AM »
It not only can be done, it is being done. I don't bother as I have Apple devices with the Kindle app on them so I can set it for night reading, but those who don't have devices with a night mode, and only a Kindle, seem to be switching to Kobo purely for night reading. I have a bias against Kobo (experience of poor service and build quality) so I have no interest in switching. I still would like to see Amazon catch up to modern technology and provide something similar to the Kobo Comfort-Light system.

Not saying you're wrong, but I like to crosscheck data, particularly something like this because I know the tech is getting all sorts of easy-to-use plug-ins and apps to circumvent security. My tech knows about sideloading and plug-ins to do this, but I didn't know you could do it with KU books. That's the bit I want to ask about.

The problem with stuff like this is nothing stays the same. Sure, in 2016 maybe no one would have bothered and by 2018 only a small percentage will, but by 2019 it could become commonplace to sideload. I mean, I knew nothing about sideloading until this year, but now I have direct sales solutions using it and readers are getting books that way from me.

Time moves pretty fast in this business.

2
Writers' Cafe / Re: My KU page reads have died. How about yours?
« on: Yesterday at 03:20:42 AM »
So -- you are saying they use KU without really using KU? In other words, the readers enjoy the pages of books but the authors don't get any of the credit for pages read because that is bypassed? Sounds awesome for authors. "Removing the DRM plug-in" -- is that a form of hacking?

If this is true then I doubt the reader returns all copies of the book (like they do in KU) because the book is duplicated on another app/device, which would mean they are effectively stealing the books by keeping a copy.

I'm not in KU to check if this form of sideloading can be done with books in KU, but I do plan to ask some techs about it. If it can be done then it's a very serious security breach because readers aren't as tech illiterate as they were even a few years ago. It means you can expect a growing number of people to use this loophole, especially if other reading devices have additional/better features.

3
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: Yesterday at 03:09:23 AM »
Likely, the system reports your page reads within a certain range so no one can reverse engineer the actual formula.

An algorithm designed to generate a random number within a bandwidth (where the formula is based on word count, etc) is also possible. Is it likely? Knowing Amazon, then I'd say there is a reasonable chance they'd do something like that, especially if they are stating reloading will change the KENPC. If there was any stability in the calculation, then that shouldn't happen, which means the instability is either deliberate or accidental.

Accidental means the algorithm is changing somehow, deliberate means the changes from one load to another are being forced, which gives credibility to your theory.

4
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 20, 2018, 04:11:41 PM »
I've been using the same Word template with the same styles for years. Every book starts by copying the template to a new file name, changing the title and copyright date, then I page down to the heading for Chapter 1 and start typing. The only thing that's changed is the version of Word that I use. The template was originally created from my first success in getting a manuscript past Meatgrinder. After that headache, I never wanted to hassle with it again.

KENPC isn't calculated by a million monkeys or a random number generator (be more fun if it was), it's just an algorithm. If you get different results and it's not the document template or formatting then logically it can only be because it's not using the same algorithm. There are only two ways I can think of to cause that:

1. Amazon use different servers to upload books (which will be true) AND the systems are not identical (which is possible, but it means their environment control is rubbish).

2. Amazon are changing the algorithm (& feeds) so rapidly the algorithm is different from one upload to another (which is possible and maybe they do that to confuse scrammers?).

5
Well, to really drive home how ridiculous this is...Vine is an INVITATION ONLY program. That means Amazon already checked you out and decided your reviews are valuable and deliberately invited you into the program. You can't apply to join it.

So, they're also throwing into question their own quality assessment methods. Excellent. Sounds like Amazon have everything under control.  :-\

C'mon, Amazon, I'm sure you can get that bar lower...  :P


6
I think the notice is designed to be helpful. Amazon are letting you know that scrammers have taken over the shop to such an extreme degree that it's a 50/50 shot that anyone reading the notice is a scrammer, otherwise why would you feel the need to list scramming as an option if it wasn't commonplace.

Does Amazon have no awareness how much they give away about the abysmal state of their shop with these messages? If scramming was 1% of transactions then no one would include it in a general purpose notice, the fact they do means it's substantial.

Sheesh, it's comms 101, folks.

7
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 20, 2018, 07:30:13 AM »
If I could discern any kind of consistently applied and traceable logic, I wouldn't complain. Instead, it seems completely random. I've sliced and diced the numbers between these two books, and can find nothing that would imply consistency in their methodology. :(

I must confess when it came to tracking KENPC my attention wandered. When KU2.0 was released I did compare the books and track them for around 12 months and, other than the constant reductions in KENPCs, I didn't detect much inconsistency between books (they'd be roughly comparable based on word counts). If it's now random between books of similar word count and formatting then that must have happened since the first 12 months.

The calculation will be an algorithm that takes into account word count and formatting in the same way. If you haven't done anything different in your formatting, then that implies they have more than one algorithm and they might. They're processing a lot of books and the workload will be split across multiple servers. Technically, all instances of software are mirror images of one another, but I have seen situations where overflow processing can be done on systems outside of the fully controlled environment. If they're not kept in perfect synch then you can get different results. That said, it would mean their systems are out of control, which for all we know they are.

Another reason might be the algorithm and/or the feeds into it are being changed so frequently that, even though the time between calculations was brief, the algorithm was different.

Or there is a slight variation in your formatting that's buried inside the template and you can't see it. However, providing you started with a clean file I'd be surprised if that's the cause, but it can happen.

8
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 20, 2018, 04:56:34 AM »
I wrote to customer service to ask them to take a look at my recent release, since the assigned KENP didn't make any sense. Their first response was to say that they had audited my page reads and they were accurate. Not what my complaint was about, so I complained about their answer. This is their next response (note that this is a new release, out two days):

I understand that the KENPC page count for your book ''Dragon's Egg'' seems too low.

I've checked your book and I see that you've recently republished your title. Each time you submit a revision, we recalculate your book’s Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We use standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.) to determine the number of pages in your book, from the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book.

We're constantly working to ensure the KENPC accurately reflects each book. As a result, we may update the way KENPC handles certain formatting elements which can create a change in your KENPC.

Thank you for your understanding and for using Amazon KDP.

That's a more informative message than the one they published in the KDP notice. When I was in KU I never had an issue with how they calculated KENPC, other than it had to be consistently applied and have a traceable logic based on the number of words (not font size or formatting).

My main issue was the way it kept changing for no reason, even if you hadn't reloaded the book. Maybe that level of messing about has changed over the last 18 months, I couldn't say.

With Amazon, a lot of the issues are about transparency and the "trust us" answer just doesn't wash anymore. Personally, I think Amazon need to accept the "trust us" answer isn't a go and they should adjust their kimono just a little so we can see more of their reasoning. Just doing that would likely result in a decent reputational shift, but given the way they deal with criticism is to shut down, I'm not sure they know how to find the middle ground.

9
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 10:27:24 PM »

Ah, but nowhere did they mention 'counting' or 'reporting.' Instead they 'measure' and 'calculate.' Course, we all know that hell would freeze over long before anyone ever accused them of being 'logical,' and worse- the entire universe would implode if they did anything 'consistent.'

Fair observation. I hadn't picked up on their very precise use of language to make the notice 100% meaningless.

I did wonder if they were working to a secret squirrel master plan, and everything they did would be logical if only I understood the plan. I've since concluded there is no plan other than opportunism, which is why they bounce from one dopey thing to the next. Opportunism (which Bezos calls "exciting the customer") might be a good strategy for them (although that is doubtful because the bigger the shop the more expensive it is to change no matter how poorly you pay people), but it makes them a bad partner for suppliers because you don't know what they'll do next, which is kinda where we are now with Amazon. And notices like this one make it as clear as mud.  :P

10
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 10:14:25 PM »
Uh... more like the scammers are hungrier than your average Amazon employee.

Not sure about that. Haven't you been following the data about how many Amazon employees rely on food stamps? This is the wrong forum for that discussion, but it's worth googling.

11
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 03:11:14 PM »
"Be aware humans, we have the universe's most advanced processes and techniques for detecting each time you inhale and exhale with the highest degree of precision possible in the history of history."

*pulls back curtain to reveal kittens on exercise bikes*

If it really was kittens on exercise bikes there is a chance we'd be distracted by all the fluffy cute, but tragically I think it's more like Jabba the Hut on a unicycle.

12
Writers' Cafe / Re: Facebook Ads Crisis
« on: June 19, 2018, 01:47:59 PM »
I hope so, too! I only used them in conjunction with a Book Bub and a few other ads. I really wish I hadn't. I'm not sure they made much difference anyway. And now, after turning them off, to find out they've still been billing me. I've felt like crying since I found out last night.

There does appear to be something quirky happening with FB billing right now. I usually get an invoice email at the end of every month, but two days ago they started sending them daily, and the charges are against an "advertizing credit". Usually the monthly emailed receipts have a reference number so I have no idea what an "advertizing credit" is, but I've seen threads where people have received actual refunds.

They seem to have a problem with their billing system and it must have overcharged. There's no way to talk to an actual person in FB, but to date they have always replied to my emails, admittedly a few weeks later. Given all the billing problems that seem to be occurring AND the fact you suspended the ads, then there's a reasonable chance this is an error and it'll be fixed. Doesn't help with the worry, but it's worth noting that there is wider billing problem and they are issuing credits.

13
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 01:25:59 PM »
I think the scammers are smarter than the people Amazon hires.

  :P

That explains everything!

14
To be fair, the shareholders' letter of protest against Rekognition was signed by only 19 people.

As a shareholder I'm all for this initiative. Granted, I'm a small fish in that pond. But I suspect more than a few institutional shareholders feel likewise. And that's who Bezos is probably listening to.

Well, that's kinda my point. Unless you're a big player moneywise (& no indie author can claim that when it comes to that sort of money), then you don't have a vote or a voice so STFU or get out.

Haven't you heard about Amazon's other genius employment tactics - VTO or "pay to quit"? All these things add up to the same message - STFU or get out. Some of us get out, some of stay, and it's neither here nor there which way you go, just don't expect Amazon to listen to you because that's not something they do unless you're a big player, as in you're part of the billionaire club and even then you might not qualify.

Like I said, kudos for trying, but unfortunately this update is another confirmation of Amazon's unstated policy of STFU or get out.


15
I wouldn't have expected anything more from the Marie Force attempt, but kudos for trying and thanks for the update.

I don't have any ax to grind over the subject, but this link is indicative of what it takes to move Bezos/Amazon. If Amazon's shareholders can't get them to listen, then I wouldn't hold out much hope for us little indies. It seems to me no one is listening to anyone anymore, which is why people are getting more aggressive on social media. When a company won't even let you talk to a customer rep then you limit their avenues to get a message through, not that I think it'll do us much good. Until the customers stop spending vast sums with Amazon (or the government break 'em up) then we can expect more of the same.

https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/amazon-shareholders-jeff-bezos-stop-marketing-facial-recognition-tool-n884296

16
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 04:56:34 AM »
I can format my book five different ways and get five different KENPCs, and that's without using any number of formatting hacks to artificially boost it.

It's neither robust not accurate.

What's that now? You want a logical and consistent method to calculate KENP, AND a reliable approach to counting and reporting pages read. Tsk, next you'll be wanting the ability to talk to customer services, an informative and useable TOS, and to be kept up-to-date about changes before they happen.

That KDP notice amounts to the usual "trust us" message we always get from Amazon, and it deserves the usual "nuh uh, but thanks for playing" response. :P

17
Writers' Cafe / Re: "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 03:15:19 AM »
Yup. The take away from that was slim to nothing. And to think people accuse authors of padding.  :P

18
Writers' Cafe / "How we measure page reads" KDP notice
« on: June 19, 2018, 02:59:24 AM »
From the KDP board. They are getting chatty lately...

https://www.kdpcommunity.com/s/article/How-we-measure-pages-read?language=en

"Hello,

In response to concerns we’ve heard from authors, we wanted to take a moment to clarify in more detail how we measure pages read to calculate the monthly allocation of the KDP Select Global Fund.
 
We have worked steadily over time to improve the fidelity of the KENPC system that measures the number of pages read. For the vast majority of cases, KENPC v3.0 records actual pages read with a high degree of precision. For the few remaining cases, such as very old devices, we employ several processes and technologies (both manual and automated) to accurately measure pages read. In addition, we regularly audit the pages read of top titles.
 
Our commitment to the fair allocation of the KDP Select Global Fund remains a top priority. That includes addressing attempts to manipulate our services. If you have direct evidence of these types of activities, we will review every single example provided to us at content-review@amazon.com.

Best Regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team"

19
Writers' Cafe / Re: KDP insinuates that Amazon ads are manipulative?
« on: June 14, 2018, 04:59:30 PM »
Because you received a form letter. The same form letter they send to every person you emails that address about that subject, regardless of the actual content of their email.

Amazon always sends form letters. It's why people tend to have to email over and over, often escalating, before getting a non-form letter response.

The team, or whoever looked at your email, didn't check your account. Probably didn't even read your email in entirety. They simply ascertained . what you were emailing about (page read stripping) and replied with the form letter.

In the wider business world, the current CRM (Customer Relationship Management) systems are auto generating replies to customer emails based on AI, which means no human is reading the emails. Fair to say, the CRM AI is a bit dim and inappropriate responses are frequently issued to customers.

From what I can see of Amazon's processes, they're auto generating page cuts, suspensions and bans based on a set of criteria nobody seems to understand. Emails are issued and actions taken without any human ever getting involved, which is not unusual for many business processes, but if an author writes to them, the current CRM interprets the email and auto sends a response. If the author writes again they end up in an argument with a none too bright AI system rather than ever reaching a person.

20
Writers' Cafe / Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
« on: June 14, 2018, 05:04:08 AM »
I liken it to buying games on Steam vs getting DVDs from a games store. I will actually buy Steam versions of games I've owned for years, just to have them in one place, automatically updated and always available.

I also get credit on amazon for affiliates sales, and I use that to buy ebooks.

Maybe, but I'm set up and have campaigns scheduled, so I prefer to give it a go before writing it off as impossible. Now it's set up, it's no effort to add the direct sales channel to campaigns and I wouldn't expect to sell enough initially for it to add much, if any, admin effort to manage the customers.

Personally, I can't see any reason not to give direct a go. I've got nothing to lose and potentially a lot to gain. Taking a swing at it is a no-brainer for me.


21
Writers' Cafe / Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
« on: June 14, 2018, 03:56:53 AM »
I've been on the web since 1993, and I agree that it's much harder to sell anything now. I was hugely excited by Payhip a year or so ago and set up PDF, Kindle, and epub versions of two books. Never sold one! Not one.

I do sell the occasional paperback or hardcover off my websites, but again, not nearly as many as ten or twenty years ago. In the 1990s people really needed gatekeepers on the web; but there's no need of us now. With Amazon accounting for 50 percent of US online sales, who needs to go anywhere else?

I think selling direct is about using the right marketing tools to find your target audience. You're also changing the profile of your target audience, and they'll need to be people willing to buy direct for permanent discounts (done using discount codes) and additional benefits like free books, stories not available elsewhere, etc. The Patreon model offers that sort of members benefits approach and some of that could be adapted for direct.

What I don't think will always work is just making the direct buying facility available. Sure, if you have a massive following then you can probably sell any way you want, otherwise you'll need a more structured approach, which is around the target profiling, marketing tactics, and sweeteners like permanent discounting, etc.

At this stage of the online sales game, I doubt direct will be a large percentage of sales for many, but successful book selling (outside of the KU ecosystem) is about incrementals. Every platform adds a percentage of sales, which in total is a respectable number and direct is just an additional sales channel. Over time, the percentages shift, so Amazon can start as 80% of total sales and (in my experience) erode to 20% as your reputation grows on the other platforms. Direct could easily go the same way by starting as 5% and growing over time to being much higher. I suspect it's a question of how well you promote direct as to what percentage of your sales it could become over time.


22
Writers' Cafe / Re: Selling ebooks directly from your own website
« on: June 13, 2018, 01:33:21 PM »
Hey, everyone! Julie from BookFunnel here, and I just wanted to chime in on how BookFunnel helps with this and, more generally, about selling direct. Short answer: you should give it a try. We're doing a whole blog series about selling and exclusive content over at:

https://blog.bookfunnel.com/2017/not-sold-in-stores-intro/

BookFunnel launched Sales Delivery Actions last fall that covers a lot of the issues mentioned here. You can use one of the existing sales platforms we integrate with (Payhip, Selz, PayPal, Shopify, and WooCommerce) to handle the store and all the money details, and BookFunnel will handle the delivery. If your readers have trouble, our support is there 365 days a year (yes, even on Christmas) to help readers "side load" their book onto their device.

You certainly don't have to use BookFunnel, but if you already have an account with us, you should give it a try (and, if you don't have an account, you can sign up for $20 a year). There are no extra fees, and BookFunnel doesn't take a cut of any of the sales. We just handle the delivery and all the support headaches. :)

And, to the question of whether readers are willing to go through all this, our CEO thought the same thing as others have said here. Namely that readers won't do it, it's too much trouble, they don't care, etc... He has since been proven very wrong. I just checked our numbers for delivery actions, and since launching back at the end of September, we have delivered over 18,000 books sold from authors' websites. Most through special offers, exclusive content or discounts, boxsets, and just plain appeals to readers. Readers love their favorite authors, and they want to support them.

We're happy to answer any questions about direct sales, even if you don't have a BookFunnel account. Just drop us a line at support@bookfunnel.com!

We've set up bookfunnel and payhip for direct selling and so far it's working well. The only issue we have is payhip also send a copy of the book when we only want it sent by bookfunnel. If you know how to stop payhip from doing that I'd be interested to learn.

Our next campaign runs aren't happening until September and we have all platforms including direct sales available through our website. For direct sales we can comfortably offer a 20 - 25% discount code and still make close to what we would selling through other platforms. When we sell direct we know who the buyer is, which means we can offer additional benefits like members only stories, discounts and freebies. There are so many potential advantages to selling direct that it's not an option I would write off lightly.

I expect September will be the first of many trials we'll run around direct selling while we learn how to do it right. Bookfunnel and payhip have certainly provided an easy to set up and use option, so thanks for your support. Some of us out here are quite impressed.

23
Writers' Cafe / Re: Amazon as your competitor
« on: June 12, 2018, 01:28:58 AM »
It's true Amazon favor their brands over others, which means having them gain so much power over the consumer market will have a negative knock-on effect to suppliers inside and outside of their ecosystem.

I suspect they're finding the book markets a bit harder to take control of because there is a degree of artistic endeavor. It's only a degree though, a lot of books are commodity in that the reader is wanting a familiar experience, so they actively look for the same story. That reader is a high consumer, which means they generally don't want to (or can't afford to) pay much for their reading habit. In theory, if Amazon swept enough of those readers into a subscription pool, then by volume alone they could be profitable, but that assumes the payouts to authors are legit, which is how we end up with their current process of randomly cutting page reads. The subscription logic only works if the fee and payment calculations are valid, otherwise I'm sure it's not profitable.

However, that type of reader is only one type and, although they probably consume the highest number of books, they pay the least for them, which makes them a low margin business. There is another market where the reader chooses their books based on a different set of criteria. They're not necessarily looking for a copycat storyline and may well pay more to get what they're looking for. Overall, those readers might read less books, but the margin on every book sold is a lot higher than what the subscription book earns. This is why declaring Amazon own 80% of the book market makes no sense -- for example: owning 80% of a 1% profit margin business isn't worth as much as owning 20% of a 80% profit margin business.

When you start assessing whether Amazon are a competitor, you need to work out what market you're talking about. In the subscription model, I'd say Amazon aren't much of a competitor for anyone in KU for a variety of reasons, but most obviously the sheer volume of churn means there is plenty of room for everyone inside it. The content mills publishing 20, 50, 100, 1,000 books a month are probably the greatest threat to that model and Amazon come second, but that's only because they keep screwing with author payments.

Take a look at the higher margin market and you have so many competitors it's hard to see Amazon imprints as the worst of it. By making a borrow = a sale, Amazon pitch the higher margin market against the subscription market, effectively burying our books on their site. I think that does more damage than Amazon imprints ever could. In that one action, they pitch us up against the content mills as well. Analyze that fight and we don't win, which makes Amazon a secondary site not worth marketing. The other competitors in the high margin market are the TPs and other sale only indies. On the other platforms (not Amazon), its a fair fight that comes down to visibility, pricing, packaging, quality, loyalty, in other words, nothing outside of typical good product design, packaging, management and marketing.

The noise in this business is mostly around the subscription model and how Amazon abuse it to dominate their own site, but they've done such a thorough job of screwing anyone not in KU that they have become irrelevant to authors not in KU. I believe they are now tearing apart authors in KU desperately trying to make their subscription model profitable, because that's what the page cuts will be about.

My interpretation of Amazon's page cuts is they have tantamount confessed that KU doesn't work (which means it does not make profit because that's all they care about) and they don't know how to fix it. Now they've unleashed some mad logic that will result in a solid reduction in page reads to get their escalating costs under apparent control. It's a sloppy solution to say the least, but what I've come to expect from Amazon. They're not the best run outfit by a long distance.

24
I remember when I went wide a couple of years ago, and talking about it. I got slammed pretty hard for (supposedly) trying to get Select authors to pull out, that I was talking a narrow view, that I shouldn't be trying to dictate what others did--when in reality I was (mostly) just pointing out the the risks.

Lots of people didn't want to hear about those risks. Just like people riding a stock market bubble, most people pooh-poohed the risks, choosing to believe KDP would do them right. I even got ripped up for daring to call Amazon's savaging of authors and their livelihoods "abusive."

The petty part of me feels vindicated, but the better part of me is saddened by what's happening--still happening, as we keep seeing the same type of thing over and over.

Select/KU is a minefield. Filled with rewards, sure, but still a minefield. The only way to not eventually hit a mine is to get out of the minefield.

If you stay in the minefield, make sure it's a considered decision, and take every precaution you can. As mentioned above, plan for the worst-case scenario--losing your entire Amazon account, even the right to sell your books retail--and decide whether the risk is really worth it.

Quite a few of us have been ragged on hard for pointing out possible risks and outcomes over the years, but I believe there is value in all opinions being expressed. Anyone who can't cope with the scary nature of the risks can stop reading, or should question themselves whether this is the business for them.

By its very nature business, especially small business, is high risk and often stressful because you have limited resources with which to address problems when they occur. Small business has a very short road from "ok" to "royally screwed". If anything, staying on top of potential outcomes and being prepared for them is mandatory, and probably the only thing that will help you sleep at night (that very much applies to people paying their bills this way).

But those of us trying to stay ahead of the axman take a kicking from people who don't want to run their businesses this way. My advice is if someone scares (or irritates, frustrates, annoys, etc) you too much then use the block feature, because there are other people who do want to know about risks and what they might/could do about them.

25
I'm not in any way arguing with the prudence of having a plan B in the event Amazon really does go completely crazy. It's not ever a bad idea to plan for the worst case scenario. All I'm suggesting is that assuming the worst case scenario is the only possibility doesn't really add anything to people's preparedness. All it does is increase stress levels. You may not be that vulnerable to stress. I'm saying this for the benefit of the people who are. I've seen plenty of people make themselves miserable by obsessing over upcoming disasters, some of which never happened. So, yes, it's good to have a flexible response in place, but one doesn't have to assume the worst will happen in order to prepare for it.

So, you think no one should discuss potential outcomes, risks and scenario planning just in case someone reads it and gets stressed out by it.

They best not watch the news then because that's full of scary stuff.  :o

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