Author Topic: Amazon Actions re NEW Bonus Content Limits, Amazon Taking Action (MERGED)  (Read 151338 times)  

Offline sela

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The math has always bothered me. I know their are plenty of  people that don't get their moneys worth in reads each month, but I bet there are many of us that get way more. I figured it out for my reading style. Im reading on a bad week only about 5-7 books on a week were I have plenty of time 20+ a week. Let's say the average voracious reader in romance keeps it down to 1 book a night including weekends which I bet they read a few more than that but lets call it 30 books at an average of 300 ish KNEP they are generating  a little over $40 in revenue for authors, but only paying 9.99 or less. On a month I've read enough books to generate over $180 in revenue for authors. Now know I know the average reader doesn't consume that much but I am sure there are quite a few of us that do. How are they making any kind of money here?

I suspect that Amazon doesn't look at KU as a money-making scheme in and of itself. It's a doorway to the Everything Store. It gets readers with credit cards to join up, and because they spend less on eBooks (mostly indie) because of their $9.99 all you can eat menu, they can spend those extra dollars elsewhere in the store. Maybe buy a Prime membership and spend even more.
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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    The math has always bothered me. I know their are plenty of  people that don't get their moneys worth in reads each month, but I bet there are many of us that get way more. I figured it out for my reading style. Im reading on a bad week only about 5-7 books on a week were I have plenty of time 20+ a week. Let's say the average voracious reader in romance keeps it down to 1 book a night including weekends which I bet they read a few more than that but lets call it 30 books at an average of 300 ish KNEP they are generating  a little over $40 in revenue for authors, but only paying 9.99 or less. On a month I've read enough books to generate over $180 in revenue for authors. Now know I know the average reader doesn't consume that much but I am sure there are quite a few of us that do. How are they making any kind of money here?
    They aren't making money. It isn't about making money and never has been. It's about getting people into the store where they buy other goods, and denying content to the other retailers through exclusivity. That's Amazon 101. Amazon isn't about making money - they have always been about increasing market share at the expense of every other consideration. Think about what Scribd had to do to stop bleeding red a couple of years back - they had to drastically reduce the amount subscribers could borrow and eliminate huge swaths of romance and erotica from their catalog. But what are the two biggest categories of books in KU? Does anyone honestly think KU has been making money with scammers like the ones we've been discussing in here raking in millions of dollars every month from bogus page reads? And those are just the ones that we know about because they got greedy and stuck their heads up. For every one of them there are hundreds, possibly thousands more keeping a low profile and raking in a few thousand on each account they have. How can they possibly be making money with that going on?

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    Offline David VanDyke

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    But then, I hear some of these bestsellers in interviews and they talk about being full-time writers and they talk about having families etc.

     I think a lot of them feel pressure to keep the money rolling in because they have mouths to feed and health coverage to pay for, etc etc.

    Politely: Bullpuckey.

    Mouths to feed and health coverage to buy takes far less than what these guys (gender-neutral) were pulling down. They were (are?) pulling down 6 figures PER MONTH. That's not keeping the kids in Cheerios and diapers. That's "Whee! I just bought a seven-figure house and a Lambo" territory.

    Do not, please weep for the black hats. The deserve no sympathy.

    In saying to someone who's chosen the wrong path, 'I empathize', I'm not saying I want to get down in the muck with them, nor am I excusing away their harmful practices. I recognize the damage they've done and are doing. But again, I am saying with a motivation as powerful as fear, how do you get through to those who would harm the rest of us by doing what they're doing? Maybe I'm looking for hope here, I don't know.


    There's justifiable fear, and there's cowardly fear. Justifiable fear would be, as you say, fear of the kids going hungry or un-doctored. Cowardly fear is fear of losing a premium lifestyle, or losing unearned/stolen status, or fear of actually working hard for the "success."

    I'd bet you large sums of cash money NONE of the black-hatters are motivated by justifiable fear.
    « Last Edit: June 29, 2018, 07:33:25 pm by David VanDyke »

    Offline David VanDyke

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    Gee, it's almost as if people are jumping on a point I haven't made and are using it to make a point I don't disagree with without actually taking into consideration what I've actually said, in full and in context. This must be the internet or something.

    Good gravy, I have not said "it's okay for people to cheat because they have families to feed". I have said I get that it can be a motivating factor that leads them to committing negative acts, and I'm not sure how you combat it. There is a difference there if you care to see it.

    I've also said I completely am against committing said acts. Full stop. And I've also said it's not excusable. And to reiterate, I'm not saying that fear is definitively why they're doing it, I'm saying I could see it as a potential reason. And I recognize what a powerful motivator that can be and I'm wondering if there's any way to get through to these folks. I don't understand what's wrong with saying this.

    I get that this is a subject that raises people's hackles, but a little appreciation of nuance would be nice.

    You said you "empathize" with these scum. That's more than a factual understanding of the situation. They deserve no empathy.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: June 30, 2018, 10:25:22 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline Becca Mills

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    Folks, tussling over the exact nature, extent, and origin of someone's grotesquerie and turpitude isn't really a KBish conversation -- it generates name-calling, piling on, gratuitous allusions to RH (amazing how those keep popping up), and other stuff we don't really want.

    If there are no more stuffing-related developments to report and no concrete strategies or impacts to discuss, it's probably best to put a bow on this thread and stick it under the tree for future generations' Googling pleasure.

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    Offline Jan Hurst-Nicholson

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    I don't think there is an excuse for nefarious behavior. I'm only saying fear can be a motivating factor and that I understand how it can cause some folks in KU to take part in these non-ethical activities.


    Some people are motivated to steal to put food on the table for their children. Some beg for the same reason. Some steal to get money for drugs. Some people scam pensioners out of their life savings by selling them fraudulent services. It's usually the scammers who do it for greed.

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    Offline spellscribe

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    I think theres a pretty generous sliding scale in regards to both the intention of the publisher and the lengths they go to. For every stuffed-ghostwritten-bottled-incentivised book out there, there are probably one hundred that fall just barely on the wrong side of the TOS line. Single infractions. Small ones. But still, books that cheat the system in some way.

    I have no doubts there are cheaters making no money. 5heyre trying but they havent cracked it. Others make a little. Some do ok honestly and just fudge the line to give them a little extra. And they probably have every motivation you can imagine, from Ferraris to, yes, food on the table.

    Wrong is wrong, but I agree with the sentiment that EVERYTHING has to be considered in order to shut it down effectively.

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    Offline 39416

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    Folks, tussling over the exact nature, extent, and origin of someone's grotesquerie and turpitude isn't really a KBish conversation

    "grotesquerie"?

    Guess you saw my last query letter...

    Offline unkownwriter

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    I don't think it's fear at all. Remember in "The Godfather" how the family laughed at the son who wanted to fight for his country? They thought of him as a sap. That's how all crooks view honest people: saps, patsies, idiots, and so on.

    We've had plenty of people come here and basically suggest we're idiots to write our own books, too.

    We'v had this, and the "I can't see any other way to feed my family except to join the cheaters." thing, too. And the "If it wasn't okay, Amazon would have stopped it." malarkey. And the "The readers love these books!" crowing.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: June 30, 2018, 10:28:10 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline My_Txxxx_a$$_Left_Too

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    « Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 06:02:10 am by WasAnn »
    I've been told that my signature is too long, so here is the BLUF. Don't click anything if you got here via Google. Your data is now theirs.

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    Offline 101569

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    Did anyone else notice that there are a lot more naked men chests in the best seller list?


    It's starting to look more like I would expect it to filled with actual authors I recognize. There are a few books in there that still might be stuffed or were previous stuffers, but over all wow there is a huge difference.

    Offline PhoenixS

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    The excuses of the gray hatters I'm seeing range from "bonus [let's just read that as 'stuffed'] books are expected these days" to "I'm blocking you because even though I'm associating with scammers and using some/many of their illegit practices, I myself am not a scammer, so don't insinuate that I am one."

    The first excuse places blame on the customer. The second shifts the conversation.

    Folks, tussling over the exact nature, extent, and origin of someone's grotesquerie and turpitude isn't really a KBish conversation -- it generates name-calling, piling on, gratuitous allusions to RH (amazing how those keep popping up), and other stuff we don't really want.

    If there are no more stuffing-related developments to report and no concrete strategies or impacts to discuss, it's probably best to put a bow on this thread and stick it under the tree for future generations' Googling pleasure.

    For me, the outrage over stuffing is not confined to just the Top 100 All-Star Bonus earners. It's for everyone who's out there knowingly engaging in gaming and/or outright scamming. To that end, there are other pockets of folk who continue to game/scam beyond the Top 100 romance stuffers. In fact, one of those non-romance authors tightly associated with a certain practitioner this past week had their catalog of 50+ books pulled down. Those tactics at least should be able to be called out here, even if (or especially because) they are the same tactics as have been discussed before. Folk who are skirting the rules across genres are now sharing their tactics, their people and their lists, and cross-pollinating their way across not just the KU landscape or even the Amazon landscape, but infecting the other platforms as well.

    I consider the fact of that 50+ book catalog by a fairly recognizable indie name being taken down to be a 'further impact'. As many of us have said over and over in this thread, 'stuffing' is shorthand for a myriad of shady tactics, and isn't confined 'only' to stuffing. Is the timing of this author's takedown coincidental with the high-profile romance stuffers coming down? If we can't talk about some of this, we may never be able to ferret out the linking threads.

    And if we want to talk just the actual act of stuffing, we can point to the hundreds of legacy-type stuffed box sets that are still being published in subgenres such as mail-order brides. These boxes and their authors/publishers have been slapped back and decimated over time by Amazon, so they are no longer dominating the free and paid charts as they once were, but they're still raking in a goodly amount of passive KU money by the sheer numbers of them under each publisher account. Yet Amazon is letting them persist, taking the classic 'out of sight, out of mind' approach. Like many of the authors using bots to claw their way to the top ranks, Amazon apparently thinks that simply slapping them back off the charts is enough to take attention off of them.
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    Offline Used To Be BH

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    Honestly, since we all know KU isn't about bringing in first level profits, meaning the actual KU subscriptions aren't meant to be a profit making venture, then it must bring profit elsewhere...which is in data collection and the Everything Store. Profit may not be defined as immediate dollars, but also as future dollars. Most of us agree on that too. So what's going on must be bringing something to those ventures. Must be, or else they'd stop it. Yet they aren't.

    Amazon is doing token acts meant to make it seem like they care about this problem, yet those acts are, in essence, entirely useless and often wrongly aimed. Even the wrongly aimed acts have a message. That message is, "Be careful how hard you push us, because we'll axe some of you." It keeps us quiet, treading lightly, fearful of being the next honest author caught in a net we shouldn't even be near. It keeps us dolphins fearful of going near the tuna.

    So what are they actually gaining by allowing all the scammers? Well, the rubes who are reading and being manipulated into false reads to get into contests and such must be giving something that makes it worth it. Is it just their massive orders of toilet paper and leggings? Probably some of that, but also they're providing data, which is highly salable. Also, the more they "share posts," which feature said scammy author, the more they bring in new members to the fold, who may incidentally read a few books, but who will also buy leggings and TP and provide data.

    More importantly, such scammy things don't happen on iTunes and B&N and Kobo, so the lure of scammy contests and illegal lotteries *removes* anyone susceptible to such lures from those ecosystems, eventually getting them so used to Amazon that they don't go back. It doesn't matter that they never make much in the way of money other than leggings and TP and data...they also don't make money for the other venues.


    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    There's no question that Amazon hasn't done all it can to address scamming. That said, I think referring to the steps that have been taken as token might be a bit harsh. It sounds to me like a pretty major shift involving a lot of bad actors. The changes some people have noted in the bestseller lists are something we haven't seen before, at least not to this extent.

    I think there's some danger in assuming that everything that happens must be something Amazon intended to happen. That Amazon in general wants more market share and more data is undeniable. That Amazon is specifically encouraging scamming to draw more people into the ecosystem? I doubt that. I have to wonder if people participating in illegal lotteries and, as has been suggested, flipping through the same content on purpose to get their partner in crime more pages read credit, are really people who are going to make good customers. (That's almost like a store encouraging shoplifters to come to a brick-and-mortar store on the theory that more bodies in the store are always better. Someone who doesn't know where the line is or doesn't care strikes me as being more likely to give Amazon a headache--fake reviews, return scams, etc.)

    We don't have any evidence that that subset is really contributing that much to Amazon in terms of revenue or data. What they are doing is creating a situation that will sooner or later generate bad press for Amazon--and we know Amazon doesn't want too much bad press. Their previous regulatory actions are almost all reactive, following articles in national publications. Anyone can figure out that scammers, even if they try to fly under the radar, are creating an atmosphere in which future scandals are inevitable.

    Amazon may sometimes do the wrong thing on purpose, but I think it's much more often that it tries to use algorithms too much and real people not enough. It's also that it grew very fast and didn't always adapt its structure to that growth. Things like having KDP, Author Central and Createspace continue  to use three different sets of HTML rules in product descriptions for years isn't the behavior of a criminal mastermind--it's just plain carelessness. So is having KDP Print, which we now Amazon wants to succeed, roll out with glacial slowness, taking months to incorporate even the most basic features. So much happens on Amazon that looks as if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, I tend to think some of the problems are faulty infrastructure problems rather than deliberate policy.

    « Last Edit: June 30, 2018, 10:34:25 pm by Becca Mills »
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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    For me, the outrage over stuffing is not confined to just the Top 100 All-Star Bonus earners. It's for everyone who's out there knowingly engaging in gaming and/or outright scamming. To that end, there are other pockets of folk who continue to game/scam beyond the Top 100 romance stuffers. In fact, one of those non-romance authors tightly associated with a certain practitioner this past week had their catalog of 50+ books pulled down. Those tactics at least should be able to be called out here, even if (or especially because) they are the same tactics as have been discussed before. Folk who are skirting the rules across genres are now sharing their tactics, their people and their lists, and cross-pollinating their way across not just the KU landscape or even the Amazon landscape, but infecting the other platforms as well.
    How well would their tactics even work outside of KU? I mean, I could see them trying in the other stores, but when you have to rely only on sales rather than page reads it gets a lot harder to game the system. The whole reason things like stuffing, padding, and botting work is because of the structure of KU. Without that most of their techniques are worthless or even counterproductive.

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    Offline PhoenixS

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    How well would their tactics even work outside of KU? I mean, I could see them trying in the other stores, but when you have to rely only on sales rather than page reads it gets a lot harder to game the system. The whole reason things like stuffing, padding, and botting work is because of the structure of KU. Without that most of their techniques are worthless or even counterproductive.

    Think broader: gifting, reviews, incentivizing buys of the same title across multiple platforms...
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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    Think broader: gifting, reviews, incentivizing buys of the same title across multiple platforms...
    Gifting and incentivizing could work, but it's going to be far more expensive anywhere outside of Amazon because the customers are going to be paying full cover price rather than borrowing "free" books. Even if they keep their prices at 99 cents they'd have to spend many, many times more money for far lower returns than in KU. Readers outside of Amazon aren't as price conscious and tend to be warier of bargain basement books, and reviews don't seem to matter as much. On B&N, for example, they're essentially a joke. They're more than welcome to try, but I think they're going to be throwing a lot of money away to little purpose. Especially since the other retailers tend to pay a lot more attention to what goes on in their bookstores than Amazon does and have fewer qualms about nuking accounts that break their TOS.

    Let them burn their money that way. I'll have a Coke. :)

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    Offline My_Txxxx_a$$_Left_Too

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    « Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 06:01:23 am by WasAnn »
    I've been told that my signature is too long, so here is the BLUF. Don't click anything if you got here via Google. Your data is now theirs.

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    « Last Edit: September 20, 2018, 06:00:58 am by WasAnn »
    I've been told that my signature is too long, so here is the BLUF. Don't click anything if you got here via Google. Your data is now theirs.

    No, I do not agree to the TOS. I didn't sign up under it and don't agree. Further, you don't own any of my stuff. Period. I'm overwriting and deleting it all, and I highly recommend you who are reading this do the same. Focus on that which gives good Google-Fu.

    Offline PearlEarringLady

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    We see action on the botted books, the bot-based borrows, the things that don't have a customer in the loop the most. That's telling. The scammers who have real customers that they swindle or lure or ensnare are generally dealt with only when the pitchforks start coming out amongst us masses.

    Ohhhhhhhhhhh... {Lightbulb moment} Now I get it. :o

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    No company this on target and tightly wound would let something this crazy happen over such a long period of time if they didn't calculate that it benefited them.

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    Offline lilywhite

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    They deserve no empathy.

    Every human being deserves empathy (which is different from sympathy). Empathy is simply understanding, and IMO we could all stand to have a bit more of it.

    I hate scammers more than anything, and idgaf that CC is probably gonna lose his fancy new house, but I definitely empathize with seeing a big ol' money-making opportunity out there and deciding to grab it. I haven't done it, because I was raised better than that. (To quote my grampa for the hundredth time, "Character is what you do when no one is looking.")

    But when I'm scraping for extra freelance jobs that take up time I want to spend on writing? When I'm making hundreds per month, but the people who hire me for ads/launch consulting or editing are making 5 and even 6 figures? Yeah, I get why the scammers do it. Absolutely.
    « Last Edit: June 30, 2018, 11:23:56 am by lilywhite »

    Offline KelliWolfe

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    Oh, I think you might be surprised just how much big companies don't care about stuff - which is not the same thing as being inept. I agree with you, they know exactly what they're doing, and for that matter - what they're not.
    It's like plagiarism in KDP. Oh, they could certainly do something about that if they wanted to. It wouldn't be technically difficult or even that expensive to implement. But why bother? If the plagiarist isn't caught, Amazon makes their cut from any sales. If someone brings it to their attention they simply pull the book and claw back and keep all the money from the sales, not just their usual 30-65% cut. There's absolutely no incentive for them to do anything to stop it, so they don't.

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    Offline lilywhite

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    This is a great post. We haven't always agreed on things in the past, but I can definitely agree with you on this.

    Thanks, Lynn. There's always common ground somewhere. :)

    Offline Becca Mills

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    I understand that people are outraged at what's happening within KU, but there are limits to the way and extent that outrage can be vented here.

    Posts that focus on helping people understand the situation on a factual level, brainstorm possible solutions, or figure out how to mitigate the impact of all this on their own careers are great. But subjecting an identifiable person or group of people to relentless, repetitive opprobrium (piling on) or using slurs/insults to refer to them is not welcome here. It doesn't matter what a person or group has done; they still have to be spoken to and/or about in civil terms. There are no exceptions. When these basic rules aren't followed, threads get locked, and there's less opportunity to share concretely helpful ideas and information.

    KBoards threads are on the first page or two of Google results for "book stuffing," "KENP manipulation," "KDP bonus content," "KU page-reads," "KU and click farms," "KU botting," "KDP account suspended," and countless of other search strings. The threads that rank high for major searches tend to be monsters like this one -- those that break a thousand posts. That means mega-threads are the ones people seeking info find most easily. When invective gets a thread like this one locked, later important developments will have to be addressed in new threads. Those threads are less likely to go big and rank high in search results. That means valuable information shared in them will be harder to find and may have less impact.

    This thread is currently on the first page of Google results for "kdp bonus content." If a small group of people get the thread locked because they feel they must indulge their desire to call the masterminds this name or that, and Ann, Betsy, and I do not continue to have the time to edit it all out, then that group of people will deny others the opportunity to share info and ideas in what is likely to remain a highly visible location for years to come. That's counterproductive. So please, help us keep threads like this one open by policing your own tone and language.

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