Author Topic: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video  (Read 34231 times)  

Offline bobfrost

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Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
« Reply #450 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.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 09:45:37 am by bobfrost »

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    Offline JA Konrath

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #451 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.

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #452 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.

    Offline sela

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #453 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.
    « Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 11:04:09 am by sela »
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    Offline SaraBourgeois

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #454 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.

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #455 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.

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #456 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.

    There have always been a subset of people trying to scam their way onto the top 100. There are probably scam books there right now.

    Not everyone on the top 100 is a scammer. Not everyone you think is a scammer is a scammer.

    If you think someone is scamming and want to talk about it, by all means, but be careful about laying on accusations without having all your ducks in a row. If someone in that discussion pushes back and says "hey, maybe they're not scamming", it might be worth listening to that point of view as well.

    I don't think it's a problem if you get p*ssed at a scammer, but be open to the idea that you might be wrong, and that pushing readers and other authors to attack those people because you think they might be scamming in some nefarious way is potentially damaging to an author who might not deserve that kind of attention or activity.

    I've had my books attacked before. I had an author take issue with a penname I operated. Somehow, they discovered that a book I'd published on that penname had been ghostwritten. I assume that my ghostwriter told someone, despite the non-disclosure agreement in my ghostwriting contract, or perhaps that book had been shopped around before I bought it.

    Anyway, how she discovered it is unimportant. What happened next is what mattered.

    That author was in direct competition with my penname, and they immediately went on the attack. They blew up their facebook shouting to all high heaven about how I was publishing "garbage" ghostwritten content. They immediately jumped to other far reaching attacks, accusing me of all sorts of misdeeds. If this person is willing to buy garbage ghostwritten books, are they also PLAGIARIZING? (just one example, but I think you can see from the above thread of discussion exactly what sorts of things I was being accused of)

    Now I was just a content mill taking advantage of readers with garbage books and a fake name. Was I even a woman? Was my rank even real? What else was I doing?!?

    She accused me of being a scammer. Flat out. Attempts to reach out and defuse the situation were, predictably, useless.

    Accusations flew fast and fierce, and my books piled on a healthy number of unverified 1-star reviews from her fanbase. She was encouraging her readers to "report" my books to Amazon.

    My newest release was totally derailed, and the income from that penname plummeted. All publicity is NOT good publicity.

    I abandoned the name entirely, pulled down all the novels published on the penname all at once. There were excited posts about how Amazon took that SCAMMER down.

    I'm sure the author who did that to me is still sitting around feeling quite good about how they destroyed a "scammer".

    If you have paid attention over the last handful of years to the occasional "scandal", you might have seen this happen. You might have even cheered that author on as they worked to take thousands upon thousands of dollars away from me and my family.

    I don't hold any grudges, but I'm telling you that there's often another side to the story, and it disappoints me when people start these kinds of hunting expeditions.

    Do with that as you will.


    Offline writemore

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #457 on: January 06, 2018, 10:31:37 am »
    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

    And that's not a stuffed book?  How do you reach so many KU readers?  The page reads to sales ratio seems... I don't know, let's go with 'interesting.'  If you can say, what genre was that book in?

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #458 on: January 06, 2018, 10:36:28 am »
    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.

    I don't think we're ever going to see quite eye-to-eye on everything, but out of the entire list of sins you're pointing out, this is the one that I keep coming back to and shaking my head at.

    This isn't creepy.

    In romance, there is a very real impact that the gender of an author can potentially have on a book.

    Can a male author engage their audience and build a successful penname in romance? Sure. I've seen it done! But those are the exception, not the rule. It's far easier to make a new female penname and gain acceptance from the readers without a second thought.

    In romance and erotica, you want to build a social media presence. You want to engage those readers. Sometimes, you want to do that in a steamy way that encourages them to READ MORE OF YOUR ROMANCE. There's nothing evil about that.

    If I put up a post asking my adult readers to share sexual experiences, or I put up some funny/quirky sexually related discussion on my FB wall, I'm not doing that because I'm some kind of mouth-breather who wants to drool over women's private thoughts. If I wanted to do that, I'd open up one of my books... ;)

    I kid, I kid, but I think you're seriously off the rails on this gripe.

    I am a man. I frequently engage in "girl talk" with my readers who believe that I am a woman. I engage with my fans on a daily basis to build my penname and grow my success. There is absolutely nothing creepy or wrong about this. Would readers be bothered if they discovered my "secret"? Maybe. Which is why I don't tell them. The fact that I am a man is totally irrelevant. They are reading my books (works of fiction), and they are enjoying them. That is what matters. They don't have to know that the picture of me holding a coffee cup at my writing desk from the neck-down is actually a picture of my wife.

    I might eventually write in genres where it benefits me to be a "man", but for the sake of profitability in romance, I'm firmly in the female category.'

    And as I said before, there are examples in the Kindle store right now of female authors posing as men, because their chosen genre favors male authors. Is that creepy too?

    I'm good at writing, editing, and publishing romance in a successful way. Why should I deliberately handicap myself by trying to break out as a male author in a female dominated field?

    Maybe I'm wrong about my ability to succeed as a man in romance. Maybe I could be one of the outliers... but I'm pretty damn comfortable flying below the radar as one of the girls, and I'm not ashamed of it.

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #459 on: January 06, 2018, 10:41:11 am »
    And that's not a stuffed book?  How do you reach so many KU readers?  The page reads to sales ratio seems... I don't know, let's go with 'interesting.'  If you can say, what genre was that book in?

    That's not a stuffed book. The page reads to sales ratio isn't unusual for a 99 cent book in my catalog (sales aren't going to generate much in the way of income at 30 some odd cents per purchase). If this was a $2.99 book or something, you'd see a bigger red line and a smaller blue one :). It's not an insubstantial number of sales. That is more than 1,300 sales represented on that chart.

    I guess looking at it a second time, this one might be getting a bigger chunk of KU reads than my "average", but it's not far off. I've got books that generate twice as many sales compared to page reads, but I suspect that's just because those books are in genres that have larger groups of paying customers.

    Also, although I'm using a small and very affordable marketing campaign on this book (in the $5/day range), I'm targeting that campaign extremely tightly to try and maximize my results. I'm getting a very low CPC but not huge sell-through from it in terms of hard sales, which leads me to believe some of my KU readers are coming from the ad campaign.

    I'm not keen on describing the exact niche this is targeting (as I intend to continue plumbing this niche for income and I'm not keen on flooding it with copycats), but lets say it's a smaller but rapidly growing niche with a tech-savvy audience that is doing pretty well right now. It's not mainstream at the moment, but it might be in the future.

    The point in showing that book chart is to say... hey... it's possible to make a great living without a huge pile of advertising money and a massive marketing engine behind you.

    Even someone who is bad at this could write and publish 24 novels in the next 12 months if they really wanted to. I promise you right now that if you write and publish 24 reasonably focused novels in the next 24 months on a penname of your choosing, aiming at a reasonably popular niche of readers, you'll be happy with the income those books generate even if you don't spend a single dime marketing them.

    But that's just my 2 cents on the matter.
    « Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 10:51:36 am by bobfrost »

    Offline JA Konrath

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #460 on: January 06, 2018, 10:45:59 am »
    There have always been a subset of people trying to scam their way onto the top 100. There are probably scam books there right now.

    I have a pretty egalitarian take on this. If you think someone is taking the easy route, nothing stops you from trying it.

    But, if I had a say, steroids would be legal in sports. Some people are taking them. Allow everyone to take them. If fans don't like it, new leagues will form that are steroid-free.

    I've never knowingly taken advantage of an Amazon loophole. But I've certainly had a lot of luck, much more than most, and I don't attribute my success to talent or hard work, even though I work hard and constantly strive to improve my craft.

    I got lucky, and played the cards I was dealt.

    Envy is rampant in this biz. I've never envied anyone, and never had personal animosity toward any author. Heck, Scott Turow and I had drinks and were civil, and if you know our history that may surprise you.

    The author who did that to you, Bob, stews in her own unhappiness. She wants to be special, and can't abide by the fact that what we do isn't special at all. We're not curing cancer. We're not stopping global warming. We're entertainers, doing what we love.

    Why hate anyone?

    This isn't a competition. But writers are notoriously destitute when it comes to issues of ego and mental health. I say this as a writer.

    What Peter says about Paul reflects more about Peter than it does Paul.

    I've had a lot of mud slung my way, and I deserve some of it. But as much as my opinion of Doug Preston is low, it would never enter my mind to try to harm his sales, or attack him personally. The guy spreads poisonous ideas, but he has a right to those ideas, and to make a living.

    I have a friend with Charlie Brown Syndrome. It's a disease where he constantly strives to do the right thing, it always goes bad, and he blames the universe for being unfair.

    Well, the universe is unfair. Toughen up, roll with the punches, and judge not.

    Someone else's success does not mean you are harmed. To the wise, someone else's success means you should hold off on your personal opinion and pay close attention to see what you can learn.

    Cuz you ain't gonna learn anything if you're too busy choking on those sour grapes.
    « Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 10:50:17 am by JA Konrath »

    Offline sela

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #461 on: January 06, 2018, 10:56:32 am »
    There have always been a subset of people trying to scam their way onto the top 100. There are probably scam books there right now.

    Not everyone on the top 100 is a scammer. Not everyone you think is a scammer is a scammer.

    If you think someone is scamming and want to talk about it, by all means, but be careful about laying on accusations without having all your ducks in a row. If someone in that discussion pushes back and says "hey, maybe they're not scamming", it might be worth listening to that point of view as well.

    *snip*

    I don't hold any grudges, but I'm telling you that there's often another side to the story, and it disappoints me when people start these kinds of hunting expeditions.

    Do with that as you will.

    Well, I apologize if I have contributed to rousing any rabble with my posts. I have a clear dislike of KU and have given my reasons before. I despise scammers. I have a lot of suspicion about the top 100 based on what I have seen taking place in KU over the past few iterations with documented scamming, black and grey hat tactics.

    I have never said everyone in the top 100 romance are scammers. I know some of them personally and they are not scamming. If people take my posts that way, I want to clarify that I don't mean to tar them all with the same brush. I haven't named any names and don't plan on it.

    What we're seeing is a maturing market in which business people are moving in and filling in the gaps left by the disruption of the publishing industry when Amazon came onto the scene. It's inevitable that the business people would move in -- that's their forte. I'd prefer it if authors could actually control things instead, but if wishes were fishes... We authors aren't all necessarily good at business so I suppose the business people will dominate. The problem with business types moving in? They will do what business does best -- rationalize the system to the lowest common denominator to produce the most profit. That means cutting back on the cost of labor (talent).

    We authors just broke free of the big 5 and so I hate to see authors driven to become ghostwriters because they can't compete with business people. I made $15K in the first month from my recent novel after spending $1500 on editing and covers and promo. If that had been a ghostwritten novel, I might have got $1000 for it. I don't want the business types to take over and for the "talent" to become mere employees.

    I'm sure it won't come to that, because while the business types will dominate the top 100 and maybe 1000, it's possible to still make a living in the top 1000 - 100,000 if you write enough solid reader-pleasing books and have the basics of marketing and promotion in place.

    That's what I'm counting on, anyway.
    The Author Formerly Known As Sela

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #462 on: January 06, 2018, 11:01:41 am »
    I don't think we're ever going to see quite eye-to-eye on everything, but out of the entire list of sins you're pointing out, this is the one that I keep coming back to and shaking my head at.

    This isn't creepy.

    You sir, are incorrect. This is creepy as hell.


    In romance, there is a very real impact that the gender of an author can potentially have on a book.

    Can a male author engage their audience and build a successful penname in romance? Sure. I've seen it done! But those are the exception, not the rule. It's far easier to make a new female penname and gain acceptance from the readers without a second thought.

    In romance and erotica, you want to build a social media presence. You want to engage those readers. Sometimes, you want to do that in a steamy way that encourages them to READ MORE OF YOUR ROMANCE. There's nothing evil about that.

    If I put up a post asking my adult readers to share sexual experiences, or I put up some funny/quirky sexually related discussion on my FB wall, I'm not doing that because I'm some kind of mouth-breather who wants to drool over women's private thoughts. If I wanted to do that, I'd open up one of my books... ;)

    I kid, I kid, but I think you're seriously off the rails on this gripe.

    I am a man. I frequently engage in "girl talk" with my readers who believe that I am a woman. I engage with my fans on a daily basis to build my penname and grow my success. There is absolutely nothing creepy or wrong about this. Would readers be bothered if they discovered my "secret"? Maybe. Which is why I don't tell them.



    If you want to write erotica under a female pen name, by all means, have at it. Nothing skeevy about that. If you want to engage with your readers as a chick, in general polite discourse, nothing creepy about that, either. But when you start getting into 'girl talk', getting them to share sexual experiences with you that you know full well they wouldn't share if they knew they were talking to a guy, that is just plain CREEPY. It's an abuse of trust, and I can't imagine there are too many woman who wouldn't feel the same way.



    And as I said before, there are examples in the Kindle store right now of female authors posing as men, because their chosen genre favors male authors. Is that creepy too?

    Simply choosing a pen name of an alternate gender isn't creepy. It's the pretending to be a chick so as to trick your fans into sharing info they wouldn't share with a dude that's creepy. Especially the part where you admit that you  know they wouldn't share, and that's why you do it.
             

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #463 on: January 06, 2018, 11:03:07 am »
    And that's not a stuffed book?  How do you reach so many KU readers?  The page reads to sales ratio seems... I don't know, let's go with 'interesting.'  If you can say, what genre was that book in?

    Here's a more mainstream title (still not one I could sell to the mass market, which is why I didn't do a huge marketing push on it - it is not one of my romances)

    https://i.imgur.com/0QSGRmp.png

    That's over $6,000 with a slightly higher number of buyers VS KU readers than the last one I shared. Again, not stuffed. 299 KENPC.

    That chart is 1.1 million pages read and 2600 sales. Total marketing budget on the book over that period of time was less than $600.

    That book is rapidly approaching ten thousand dollars in total net income since launch (it'll get there sometime in the next few weeks). It continues to earn a fairly predictable and nice income.

    That book is on a penname with two other titles that is almost completely unknown. It has less than 20 reviews.

    I did have a mailing list for this one, but it wasn't my BIG mailing list. I have about 1,200 people I was able to send this book out to (although that list is rapidly growing). I built that list over a few months worth of effort prior to launching this book, so it wasn't any herculean task.

    I'm not saying anyone could repeat what I'm showing you here. Obviously I succeed because I've spent years honing my craft. I am extremely good at producing a book (whether I wrote it or I bought it and edited the crap out of it) that will be a page-turner and get readers excited to borrow it. I'm good at sales copy. I'm good at marketing. My average book is probably going to do better than many other people's "average", and in the same vein, my average book is probably going to earn a lot LESS than what some superstar authors could manage to earn with it.

    But everything I did to make this book a success, is something that you could learn over the next year or two if you just keep working at it. Publish 12-24 novels in the next year and you'll know most of what I know by simple osmosis.
    « Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 11:16:19 am by bobfrost »

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #464 on: January 06, 2018, 11:07:40 am »
    Simply choosing a pen name of an alternate gender isn't creepy. It's the pretending to be a chick so as to trick your fans into sharing info they wouldn't share with a dude that's creepy. Especially the part where you admit that you  know they wouldn't share, and that's why you do it.

    The goal isn't to get people to share stuff they wouldn't share, or to engage them in fun girl talk.

    The goal is to get them to like you as an author (as a person), and to associate you with fun sexy books that they can read.

    The goal is to look just like any other female author those readers are enjoying. Go open up some of their facebook walls and look at the things they are posting. They are often extremely sexualized in their conversations. Why would it be ok for a "real" female to share a sexually related post to goose her readers into buying more books, but "wrong" or "creepy" for me to do the exact same thing? There is nothing wrong with meeting the expectations of your readers and being the kind of author they enjoy reading. I'm selling them fantasies, Shayne.

    I haven't done a "hey, share all your sexual experiences with me" post on my facebook wall, but if I did, I wouldn't think it was creepy or disgusting in any way shape or form. It would just be one of the many ways I was engaging with my reader base. Hell, it's not a bad prompt for getting some reader interaction, imho.

    I mean, just yesterday I posted up a little thing asking my readers to tell me what their favorite sex scene was in my latest book... and the day before I was communicating with people about my favorite "book boyfriends" and having a conversation about that with a dozen different women.

    I don't have book boyfriends. I don't care what sex scene they enjoyed (outside of from a purely mechanical standpoint, since I will likely use that information to write or edit my next book in a way that might better capture my audience).

    I'm sorry, but I just don't see any of this as creepy.

    I'm being honest here. I wouldn't go out and tell ten thousand fans "Hey everybody, I'm a DUDE!" because I think you know that would fly like a lead balloon, but I have no issues pretending to be a female author and providing my readers with the kind of interaction they expect from a female author who writes extremely steamy romance.

    In the grand scheme of things, pretending to be a woman for the purpose of selling books is about as close to a little white lie as anything I can imagine. It's not harming anyone.
    « Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 11:14:15 am by bobfrost »

    Offline writemore

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #465 on: January 06, 2018, 11:14:19 am »
    Thanks for explaining, Bob.

    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #466 on: January 06, 2018, 11:18:53 am »
    I offer up this bit of whimsy - with no logic behind it but experience - to anyone who's reading this thread and getting depressed to all heck.  I've been in a lot of industries over my career (one of the benefits of being a web guy ... you can work for anyone and still do the same job) and I've seen the same cycle over and over again.  I have no reason to believe it won't happen here.

    Industries start and grow by those passionate about it:  Doctors looking for cures, engineers who are all about creating more efficient processors, people who want tastier snacks et cetera.

    Then, after things are proven, the money guys come in.  They're good at what they do, but ultimately are all about the bottom line.  For a time, people benefit from lower prices, easier access, wider product lines.  And profits grow.

    But, eventually there comes a backlash, as both the creators and customers of those industries realize that emphasis on nothing but $$ means quality has slipped and the products of today, despite having flashier packaging, are ultimately inferior (for whatever reason).

    At that point there will be a rush to get back to basics.

    For those of you here to write stories, tell tales, entertain ... dig in, find your audiences, learn what you can, be smart about your business, and keep churning out good stuff.  It's a tough industry, so no guarantees, but I personally believe it'll give you a leg up once people tire of getting thirty marketing emails a day and just want to surf Amazon again for a good book. 
    « Last Edit: January 06, 2018, 11:29:21 am by Rick Gualtieri »


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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #467 on: January 06, 2018, 11:21:37 am »
    The goal isn't to get people to share stuff they wouldn't share, or to engage them in fun girl talk.

    The goal is to get them to like you as an author (as a person), and to associate you with fun sexy books that they can read.

    I haven't done a "hey, share all your sexual experiences with me" post on my facebook wall, but if I did, I wouldn't think it was creepy or disgusting in any way shape or form. It would just be one of the many ways I was engaging with my reader base. Hell, it's not a bad prompt for getting some reader interaction, imho.

    I mean, just yesterday I posted up a little thing asking my readers to tell me what their favorite sex scene was in my latest book... and the day before I was communicating with people about my favorite "book boyfriends" and having a conversation about that with a dozen different women.

    I don't have book boyfriends. I don't care what sex scene they enjoyed (outside of from a purely mechanical standpoint, since I will likely use that information to write or edit my next book in a way that might better capture my audience).

    I'm sorry, but I just don't see any of this as creepy.

    Okay, maybe I missed something. I could have swore I just saw something about getting women to share their sexual experiences. If that wasn't you, I apologize.

    However, I would just like to point out that when you say this...
    I am a man. I frequently engage in "girl talk" with my readers who believe that I am a woman... Would readers be bothered if they discovered my "secret"? Maybe. Which is why I don't tell them. The fact that I am a man is totally irrelevant.

    ...you're indicating that you know your behavior would be frowned upon by the people you're lying to, because the fact that you're a man is not totally irrelevant. If it were, you wouldn't be lying to your readers and pretending to be a woman.

             

    Offline lilywhite

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #468 on: January 06, 2018, 11:38:38 am »
    And that's not a stuffed book?  How do you reach so many KU readers?  The page reads to sales ratio seems... I don't know, let's go with 'interesting.'  If you can say, what genre was that book in?

    You can also get a graph that looks like that if you go into the Book Report back end and bump up the KU payout numbers. I'm sure you can get KU numbers that disproportionate to sales but I've never seen it, so that's worth mentioning.

    Offline Ava Glass

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #469 on: January 06, 2018, 11:40:26 am »
    I don't think we're ever going to see quite eye-to-eye on everything, but out of the entire list of sins you're pointing out, this is the one that I keep coming back to and shaking my head at.

    This isn't creepy.

    In romance, there is a very real impact that the gender of an author can potentially have on a book.

    Can a male author engage their audience and build a successful penname in romance? Sure. I've seen it done! But those are the exception, not the rule. It's far easier to make a new female penname and gain acceptance from the readers without a second thought.

    In romance and erotica, you want to build a social media presence. You want to engage those readers. Sometimes, you want to do that in a steamy way that encourages them to READ MORE OF YOUR ROMANCE. There's nothing evil about that.

    If I put up a post asking my adult readers to share sexual experiences, or I put up some funny/quirky sexually related discussion on my FB wall, I'm not doing that because I'm some kind of mouth-breather who wants to drool over women's private thoughts. If I wanted to do that, I'd open up one of my books... ;)

    I kid, I kid, but I think you're seriously off the rails on this gripe.

    I am a man. I frequently engage in "girl talk" with my readers who believe that I am a woman. I engage with my fans on a daily basis to build my penname and grow my success. There is absolutely nothing creepy or wrong about this. Would readers be bothered if they discovered my "secret"? Maybe. Which is why I don't tell them. The fact that I am a man is totally irrelevant. They are reading my books (works of fiction), and they are enjoying them. That is what matters. They don't have to know that the picture of me holding a coffee cup at my writing desk from the neck-down is actually a picture of my wife.

    Quoting to archive in case of edits. Not to mention screenshot.

    This needs to be shared all over FB to warn readers to BE VERY CAREFUL who they share details of their lives with.

    Because this IS creepy, not sorry to say.

    Offline Seneca42

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #470 on: January 06, 2018, 11:40:52 am »
    I offer up this bit of whimsy - with no logic behind it but experience - to anyone who's reading this thread and getting depressed to all heck. 

    If anyone is depressed it's because forums (including this one) have been pushing lollipop fantasies for the past few years.

    This is a rare thread where the dark underbelly of this industry is being talked about rather openly and it's nice to see.

    If anything this should be uplifting to people. If you're having a tough time in SP it's not because you suck (well it could be, but not always), it's because the industry is  bloody mess. 


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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #471 on: January 06, 2018, 11:48:24 am »
    Quoting to archive in case of edits. Not to mention screenshot.

    This needs to be shared all over FB to warn readers to BE VERY CAREFUL who they share details of their lives with.

    Because this IS creepy, not sorry to say.

    As a reader of romance, this isn't just creepy, I would feel violated. Its tough enough out there as a female romance reader, or female in general. I don't have to explain why I am sure. I feel not just upset, but just disgusted. I can't think of the right word to be honest, its making me literally sick.

    Solution for me after reading this thread, especially the last few pages? Sticking with trade published authors. I have had it at this point.  :(

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #472 on: January 06, 2018, 11:51:36 am »
    Silliness. I tried.


    Offline lilywhite

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #473 on: January 06, 2018, 11:57:17 am »
    Quoting to archive in case of edits. Not to mention screenshot.

    This needs to be shared all over FB to warn readers to BE VERY CAREFUL who they share details of their lives with.

    Because this IS creepy, not sorry to say.


    What's boggling is that he believes that the fact that he's doing it for cynical marketing reasons makes it okay, since he's not a drooling mouth-breather.

    THOSE WOMEN DON'T WANT TO SHARE THEIR SEXUAL THOUGHTS WITH YOU SO YOU CAN USE THAT PHONY CONNECTION TO PAD YOUR WALLET.

    Gross.

    Offline bobfrost

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    Re: KU Page Stuffing Explained - Helpful Video
    « Reply #474 on: January 06, 2018, 11:59:56 am »
    I didnt do what you are accusing me of doing.

    I said its no big deal if someone does, and that I frequently communicate with women while pretending to be a woman, because I write under female pseudonyms, and interact as such with my fans.

    If youre looking for a villain, youre barking up the wrong tree.

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