Author Topic: Amazon Actions re NEW Bonus Content Limits, Amazon Taking Action (MERGED)  (Read 151219 times)  

Online Crystal_

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As we're already off on a tangent (and I'm having deja vu  :P), I thought I might as well bring up an earlier question that is also tangentially related - and that maybe recent developments have shed greater light upon:

What are the implications of this whole debacle for the Romance market in particular?

I recall, maybe a year ago or so, looking at the Amazon bestseller list for Romance and wondering, Is this what most Romance readers really like? At that time, the 'stuffer' type authors were even more prominent on the list than they have been recently; I started noticing maybe six months ago that the list was changing, with books from Amazon imprints and trad pubs more frequently appearing. In any case, it struck me as strange. Especially because Amazon's top Romance list looked really different from B&N or Kobo, and the kinds of Romance books that tended to show up on the NYT and USA Today bestseller lists.

I have no doubt that some readers like books of this sort. The 'stuffer' variety, that is. But the situation is so nutso confusing that I hardly know what to think beyond that. Do the stuffers get their books to the top of the list because there are in fact hordes of readers who love them - more than readers who like what would generally be regarded as the higher quality types of Romance? Or are the stuffers just supremely good at reaching their niche of the reading market through expert and intensive marketing? (And on a related note: How much are they really earning from page reads per average borrow to fund this marketing? Some critics cite the potential maximum payout of $13 as if that's the average per borrow, which seems.. implausible in most any scenario. Surely precious few actual readers are reading 3000 pages, especially when 90%+ of those are coming from the same titles that have been stuffed into the author's last dozen releases. How much 'click to the back' type trickery is still going on, and how much does that impact the average?) Or are the rankings the result of even more nefarious activities, e.g. botted borrows and reads? If so, do these account for 10 percent of borrows? 50 percent? More?

Yeah, I'm late to the game and it probably shows  ;D But the stuffer type books are just.. pretty much bewildering to me. I started out reading a mix of some of the classic Romance authors (Woodiwiss etc.) and random stuff from the Harlequin lines. I always thought that books from the Harlequin lines pretty much represented the low end of Romance: inexpensive books for people who liked to read a lot and weren't super picky about quality. From what I've read, many of them aren't all that good. (There are some pretty good ones mixed in there, though.) But almost none of them are really terrible. Now, I admit that I haven't read a huge selection from the stuffers, but I've read some. And.. wow, were they bad. Like are-you-sure-this-is-a-Romance? bad. Like 10x more text describing bodily fluids than text focused on anything emotional, bad. But maybe nowadays, that kind of bad is.. good? Hopefully this is something that will become clearer if Amazon continues to take action against the extra-naughties and creates a more level playing field.

IMO, it's a combination of both. There is a voracious readership for sexy books and many of those readers are less quality sensitive. A lot of them are in KU or only willing to buy .99 books. But, remember, people buy books based on their packaging, not their content. People don't know how good a book is until they read it. Yes, the Look Inside is there, but IME, most readers don't check it before they buy or borrow.

With appealing packaging and a lot of marketing, you can move a lot of units of a commercial book, even if it's not very good. With a stuffed book, a lot of readers will skip to the next story to give that a chance. Then the next. The next. Which is how a lot of these people got massive pages.

But there certainly are readers who are less discriminating who enjoy these sexy books.

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    Offline MmmmmPie

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    With a stuffed book, a lot of readers will skip to the next story to give that a chance. Then the next. The next. Which is how a lot of these people got massive pages.

    That's a good (and sobering) point. Under this scenario, the poor writing might actually be contributing to their success.

    Offline 101569

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    Here's my perspective on collections and box sets, I would bet its fairly similar to many romance readers.

    I love box sets and collections of authors I enjoy.  I don't pick up a boxset/collection from an unknown author and just binge on them. I will buy/try out one or 2 of their regular books before I waste my time on a boxset/collection. I don't also just pick up a boxset/collection because it's a bestseller whereas I used to pick up a single title that way.

    Offline PhoenixS

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    Let me say up front that until recently I managed a couple of dozen single-author box sets in KU (and still have a few of my own). And that I managed an additional 3 dozen multi-author box sets and another dozen single-author boxes before KU. As an author and publisher, I love box sets.

    Box sets and collections are not the culprits. The publishers pushing out stuffed content are. The publishers who aren't necessarily pushing out stuffed content but who are gaming, scamming and pivoting at every turn are the culprits. These are the folk who are incentivizing buys/borrows/reads/reviews. These are the people gaming the Giveaway program. These are people incentivizing preorders (offering free books in exchange for proof-of-order). There is nothing wrong with 99 cent box sets (or sets at any price). There is much wrong with the way SOME box sets are being "marketed" across all genres. Black hat techniques for any reason, any single title, any stuffed book, any compilation or any box are practices that harm (in the legal sense) any author sticking to the rules.

    If the stuffers regroup, come back under the auspices of Amazon (although if that happens, pretty sure that will raise another stink), and publish box sets using completely white hat practices, then more power to them. Personally, I doubt they will. Black hatters rarely change their hats.
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    Offline SalomeGolding

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    IMO, it's a combination of both. There is a voracious readership for sexy books and many of those readers are less quality sensitive...

    This is my take. It's both.

    Yes, many people actually do like these books. It's the quick-and-dirty, cheap fast food version of the romance novel.  There will always be a huge market for cheap fast food.

    But yes, the crafty and scammy tactics did help to overstate their popularity on Amazon.

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    Offline Becca Mills

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    I think this thread has derailed.

    Not a derailment, as things seem to have remained civil, but gone off down a side line, for sure. I'll see if I can clip out the material on catfishing and merge into to the long, rich thread on pen names and catfishing we had a few months ago, which is here: https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,259658.0.html. Not sure I can do that, though -- as I recall, the forum software wouldn't let me split threads the last time I tried -- so I'll also just suggest we try to keep this thread focused on Amazon's new rules and actions, and on their affects on authors and the sales environment. Even if I can't merge this material into the older catfishing thread, it can still be revived if folks want to continue discussing the issue.

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    Offline BGArcher

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    Not a derailment, as things seem to have remained civil, but gone off down a side line, for sure. I'll see if I can clip out the material on catfishing and merge into to the long, rich thread on pen names and catfishing we had a few months ago, which is here: https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,259658.0.html. Not sure I can do that, though -- as I recall, the forum software wouldn't let me split threads the last time I tried -- so I'll also just suggest we try to keep this thread focused on Amazon's new rules and actions, and on their affects on authors and the sales environment. Even if I can't merge this material into the older catfishing thread, it can still be revived if folks want to continue discussing the issue.

    Can I just say as a derail that you've done a kick butt job as a moderator and kept the trains running on time so to speak? Thanks for helping keeping it civil, and being leniate when some of us get a tad spicy :) (i'm totally including myself in this category).

    Offline Becca Mills

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    Can I just say as a derail that you've done a kick butt job as a moderator and kept the trains running on time so to speak? Thanks for helping keeping it civil, and being leniate when some of us get a tad spicy :) (i'm totally including myself in this category).

    Thank you, BGArcher. That's nice to hear. :)

    Looking back through the thread, I'm not sure where the conversation could be split. We seem to have flowed naturally from which authors' books had been taken down > the idea that some of them might be multiple pen names published under the same account > the issue of an author's multiple pen names promoting one another's books > how readers might react to finding out an author is nothing like their pen name persona > using other-gender, other-race, or other-sexuality personae > using pen names to catfish readers > what are ethics, anyway? And I participated in that moving-off process myself! ::) Let's chalk it up to "that's just how conversation goes sometimes" and try to get back on track.

    Again, the existing catfishing thread can be revived. :)

    Edit: Couldn't resist adding another step, once I thought of it.
    Edit: Also, I see JRTomlin has started a thread on pen names and ethics just today: https://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,264589.0.html.
    « Last Edit: June 27, 2018, 12:34:02 pm by Becca Mills »

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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Just because people use pen names to get their books in front of more eyes, doesn't mean that they're doing something bad.

    As my Granny used to say, Lord God Almighty. I don't know that a single person has said pen names in themselves are bad. But the way some have used them, in skeevy, skin-crawling ways (which have been talked about in various author communities since, well, years ago), is bad. People have pointed this out over and over, and yet you persist in putting words in our mouths that were not spoken. You've passed the point of beating a dead horse to now crushing its bones. Let's just stop, shall we? Poor horsey.

    To recap:  Scamming bad. Vile use of anonymity bad.

    Offline Usedtoposthere

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    I had a Marketing professor in business school, former naval officer, whose advice was, "Never do anything in business that you wouldn't want to see printed in the paper." Pretty easy to follow. That's my own line.

    It doesn't work on people without consciences who can't feel shame, of course. I'm guessing a fair percentage of scammers in any field fit into that category. (And yeah, those people are often charming and delightful in person. That's actually another clue.) But it's helpful for folks on the fringe, wondering whether Tactic X is shady or not.

    Which doesn't mean you can't have a pen name. It's about the actions you take under that pen name. Are you OK with them if Amazon finds out? If your mom finds out? If your kids find out? If not--you're on the wrong side of the line.

    Pretty simple, really.

    Offline Gone 9/21/18

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    IMO, it's a combination of both. There is a voracious readership for sexy books and many of those readers are less quality sensitive.

    I agree with this, but Romance readers aren't the only ones IMO who aren't quality sensitive. I also read mysteries and thrillers and westerns, and some of what's on recommended by Amazon and bestseller lists is really poorly written. Maybe it's an overall trend in modern books? Last night I read a cozy mystery by a favorite author. It's traditionally published and it really needed another editing pass. It actually had things like referring to a character by one name throughout and then all of a sudden a different name for the character popping up once. Since you can reliably change a character's name with a Find and Replace pass in any word processor, how does that even happen? Right before that was a regular mystery that ended not with a cliffhanger but with several plot threads just abandoned.

    Readers like me are partially to blame, I guess. I'll buy and read the next mystery by the favorite cozy author in spite of the lessening quality of editing. But I won't read more by the mystery author who left the plot holes.
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    Online Crystal_

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    I agree with this, but Romance readers aren't the only ones IMO who aren't quality sensitive. I also read mysteries and thrillers and westerns, and some of what's on recommended by Amazon and bestseller lists is really poorly written. Maybe it's an overall trend in modern books? Last night I read a cozy mystery by a favorite author. It's traditionally published and it really needed another editing pass. It actually had things like referring to a character by one name throughout and then all of a sudden a different name for the character popping up once. Since you can reliably change a character's name with a Find and Replace pass in any word processor, how does that even happen? Right before that was a regular mystery that ended not with a cliffhanger but with several plot threads just abandoned.

    Readers like me are partially to blame, I guess. I'll buy and read the next mystery by the favorite cozy author in spite of the lessening quality of editing. But I won't read more by the mystery author who left the plot holes.

    Oh yeah, I'm sure. But I can't speak to other genres as I only really know romance.

    I know I've lowered my standards a lot in what I watch (all the police procedurals), because I watched so much of the A-list stuff already. It's hard to find great genre work in any medium. So often, entertainment value and production value and narrative skill don't go hand in hand. (A TV show might look beautiful and have great acting but also have clunky plotting, for example). At least, not in the types of stories I enjoy.

    My taste in TV really helps me understand the average reader. I'm much pickier with books, and only read about one or two a month, because reading is a really intense experience for me. I will read stuff that isn't 10/10 for me for research, but it's pure torture wheras I'm fine with 7/10 TV.

    Offline SalomeGolding

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    As my Granny used to say, Lord God Almighty. I don't know that a single person has said pen names in themselves are bad.

    Hahaha. Reading the same post, I was going to respond with "Lord Have Mercy", which is another grandmother / mother saying.

    But I refrained.

    People and their straw men.

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    Offline unkownwriter

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    Hahaha. Reading the same post, I was going to respond with "Lord Have Mercy", which is another grandmother / mother saying.

    But I refrained.

    People and their straw men.

    LOL Our Grannies where some amazing women, weren't they? Mine was about 4'9", as delicate as fine china, generous and loving, but you didn't cross that woman.

    And yes, the straw man arguments follow threads like these like bees flock to nectar.

    Online Dpock

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    This morning I received a newsletter from a now banned stuffer (I subscribed to their mailing list for research purposes). The gist of the newsletter was to claim they "had no idea" why their books were no longer available on Amazon, and "they were working with Amazon" every day to get the issued resolved.


    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    This morning I received a newsletter from a now banned stuffer (I subscribed to their mailing list for research purposes). The gist of the newsletter was to claim they "had no idea" why their books were no longer available on Amazon, and "they were working with Amazon" every day to get the issued resolved.

    The favorite catch phrase of both convicts and relatives asking me to fix their pc: I didnt do nuthin!


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    Offline 101569

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    The favorite catch phrase of both convicts and relatives asking me to fix their pc: I didnt do nuthin!

    I'm pretty sure until I take a hammer to it I really didn't do anything!  8)

    Offline Not any more

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    I don't think it's so much that these readers are gullible people; I think a lot of them are just desperate to connect to someone who they feel understands them and their experiences. There is a sense among many of them that because you wrote something that they connected with on a deeply emotional level that you get them and share a connection. At least it seems to be the case with romance readers where the novels tend to deal with very intimate emotions and situations. I don't have enough experience writing outside that realm to know if it's true for other genres or not. But I can tell you that I've had readers tell me ALL kinds of things that I would never dream of telling a perfect stranger. This has been in unsolicited fan mail, and some of it gets personal to the point of being disturbing - there are a lot of damaged people out there. I have since removed my email from my books and largely limit interactions to my Wordpress blogs where everything is public and it's safer for everybody. But this connection they feel makes it very easy for the unscrupulous to take advantage.

    In this public forum, I don't see very many deep, introspective dives, but I hope that people realize how true this is. As Kelli says, I think it's probably more common in romance and books that explore relationships, feelings, and mental states, but occasionally I'll get a fan mail from someone who connected with something in one of my books.

    You see the same thing on social media. If all you ever see are your spouse and kids, and maybe a few people at church once a week, the person who reaches out to you through the internet can become very real and very important. When we write something, it's not just about the money. Some people are actually touched by our words and our ideas.
    This post remains on KBoards over my objections.

    Online Dpock

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    The favorite catch phrase of both convicts and relatives asking me to fix their pc: I didnt do nuthin!

    Though it's not the case with the author I mentioned above, I have learned of one innocent who had a book taken down (their account wasn't suspended). This was due to a loose association rather than a TOS violation. I don't understand it well enough to explain further, though I suspect it involved newsletter swaps.

    In either case, I do hope Amazon has committed to an arbitration process.


    Offline Phxsundog

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    Though it's not the case with the author I mentioned above, I have learned of one innocent who had a book taken down (their account wasn't suspended). This was due to a loose association rather than a TOS violation. I don't understand it well enough to explain further, though I suspect it involved newsletter swaps.

    In either case, I do hope Amazon has committed to an arbitration process.

    If we're thinking of the same person, I think the author who lost this book had it published under a small publisher's account who was running it. It's this account that got in trouble. This small publisher wasn't an abusive stuffer but had a few books that possibly weren't labeled quite right for the new bonus guidelines. If there was no wrong doing then I hope Amazon lets this account go.

    The publisher had also done newsletter swaps with the abusive stuffers in the past. Probably unknowingly or innocently. So association causing a few extra suspensions is possible here. Many of these newsletter swaps were being coordinated through the Bookclicker service owned by Chance Carter. Bookclicker is used by scammers and legitimate authors unfortunately. Another good reason to stay far far away from anything Chance is involved with. He's been permanently banned by KDP and since many of his closest associates were the megastaffers, it's possible Amazon is looking at any traffic from businesses related to him.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: June 30, 2018, 01:45:20 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline MmmmmPie

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    (Chance Carter has)... been permanently banned by KDP and since many of his closest associates were the megastaffers, it's possible Amazon is looking at any traffic from businesses related to him.

    If so, this is very good news. But how certain are you of this? Is this official? Also, do you have any insight on the stuffers who are still operating? It seems like there was a one-day purge, and then possibly business as usual. I can't help but wonder if/when the other shoe will drop. Sadly, if the remaining masterminds/stuffers are allowed to continue, they'll only benefit from the loss of their fellow stuffers.

    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    Though it's not the case with the author I mentioned above, I have learned of one innocent who had a book taken down (their account wasn't suspended). This was due to a loose association rather than a TOS violation. I don't understand it well enough to explain further, though I suspect it involved newsletter swaps.

    I was just being a [email protected]$$.  I understand that Amazon uses nukes to catch flies, and likely there's some innocents caught in the web. 

    As usual, all we can do for now is hope Amazon sorts out the wheat from the chafe - reinstates those who deserve it and bans those who equally deserve it.


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    Online Dpock

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    I was just being a [email protected]$$.

    No, that's not what I thought. It just prompted an afterthought.

    I think the fact that Amazon only took down the innocent's book and not the author's account shows they're being a little more discriminating now.


    Offline viper9826

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    Chance Carter profile may be down but looks like he might be back up under [redacted]. Even bold enough to use his own pic which has been compared on twitter. Brass balls is all I can say.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
    « Last Edit: June 28, 2018, 06:30:33 pm by Becca Mills »

    Offline Phxsundog

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    The small publisher I'm thinking of who managed the book in trouble oversaw books for several authors. So yes, multiple pen names potentially caused the issue, or any of one of them that took down the full account. I agree if any names crossed a line with KDP then that would be enough to get the whole account suspended. Unfortunately several authors are hurt in this case because they trusted their books to this publisher to put them on the account. It's reasonable to believe several criteria goes into Amazon suspending certain books and accounts. However it's hard to believe the extreme stuffing and collection retitling used by many of the names suspended isn't part of it. Even if it isn't the only reason they're down.

    The pen name Viper listed is not Chance Carter. I haven't seen credible proof anywhere he's returned. The pen name posted belongs to another publisher running several other names and has a public record distinct from Chance. This is a case where bad rumors are circulating based on wrong assumptions.

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