Author Topic: Amazon Actions re NEW Bonus Content Limits, Amazon Taking Action (MERGED)  (Read 150442 times)  

Offline PhoenixS

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Someone might have multiple pennames talking to each other as a way to recommend each-other's books (so they can leverage all of their various penname fanbases to push a single book from a new pen or an existing pen). It's not all that abnormal for a professional running a small press to do something like this to help push their success as a whole.

So the cool kids today call them successful tactics for running a business?

Gee, and here I always thought those were called sockpuppets.
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    Offline Phxsundog

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    Regarding shady practices, every single one of the suspended accounts belongs to a person who was in Chance Carter's Mastermind. I guess he taught them well. The students were able to outlast their teacher for three weeks before getting hit by Amazon!

    It's worth noting who hasn't been suspended yet in this group. There are a few still up who unstuffed their collections just the past day or two. This suggests to me it is the collections, and removing theirs let them narrowly escape before the trap swung shut. Something must have told them continuing to do it was becoming increasingly risky. Meanwhile, their friends didn't listen, and now have to pay the price with KDP.

    If the others wind up suspended this week I'll think otherwise. But as of right now it looks like the collection and compilation retitling trick was the final straw for Amazon. KDP wants the bonus content gone. Not just stuffed into a 70% duplicate content book conveniently retitled collection.

    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    So the cool kids today call them successful tactics for running a business?

    Gee, and here I always thought those were called sockpuppets.

    Yeah and "abnormal" or not, being caught doing so is a really good way to find yourself in the middle of a social media sh** storm.


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    Offline bobfrost

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    So the cool kids today call them successful tactics for running a business?

    Gee, and here I always thought those were called sockpuppets.

    Cross promo between two pennames isn't a scam.

    But like I said, not a hill I'm looking to die on.

    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    Cross promo between two pennames isn't a scam.

    But like I said, not a hill I'm looking to die on.

    I think you're confusing actual cross promotion with someone pretending their pen names are separate people and thus hold valid opinions.

    Me sending to my email list that my pen name has a new book out isn't a big deal.  Me having a conversation with my pen name online, in which my pen name wholeheartedly endorses my stuff as if they were a completely different person = deceptive marketing which ... yes ... is a scam.


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    Offline L_Loryn

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    There are four types of people in this industry:

    1. Hobbyists: Writers who enjoy writing and don't care about or need to make a living. These are the purest who's only reason for writing is because they love it.

    2. Professionals: Writers who intend to make a full-time income off their writing. They are serious about both marketing and craft, while obeying the clear lines of ethics.

    3. Business Casuals: Maybe they write their own books. Maybe they don't. Whatever the case, marketing is more important than craft. This is where ethics become blurred but many at this level still manage to be honest people...

    AND THEN....

    4. The people who were pulled off Amazon yesterday: [publishers] who knowingly and willingly strong-arm Hobbyists, Professionals, and even some business casuals out of the market. They target and use readers as weapons to get to the top, selling the names and addresses of readers to each other.

    The conversations in this thread revolve around 'The Plastics'

    They don't deserve your empathy or considerations. They don't deserve second chances.



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    « Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 11:35:55 am by Becca Mills »

    Offline Used To Be BH

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    Cross promo between two pennames isn't a scam.

    But like I said, not a hill I'm looking to die on.
    Scam is a somewhat subjective term. There are behaviors we would all agree on, and others about which we might differ.

    Obviously, there are legitimate reasons for having a penname. There are also legitimate reasons for having multiple pennames, particularly if one writes in different genres and wants to keep them separated (though in that case, cross-promotion seems to be defeat the purpose).

    I can't offhand think of any trad publishing examples of an author using one penname to promote the work of another penname. For instance, Stephen King could theoretically have endorsed the work of Richard Bachman to get it off to a flying start, but he didn't. Of course, he was trying to keep the fact that he was Bachman a secret, though people eventually figured it out.

    Pennames are an established practice. Multiple pennames endorsing each other I would say are not an established practice. How is that any different from inventing a fictional person and having that person praise your book? As far as I can see, it isn't. That's why PhoenixS was comparing it to sock puppets.

    When I used to have Facebook launch parties, I had some of the characters in the book interact with the guests. The difference is, in the context everybody knew they were fictional. Had I trotted in some supposedly real people who were in fact fictional and had them give glowing reviews of the book, that would have been an entirely different thing.
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    Online Usedtoposthere

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    What's interesting about any scandal/major current issue, in Book World or in the rest of life, is that you get such a clear picture of where people's ethics lie. It's been incredible to me, these past couple weeks, how people (and so many people) can actually think certain actions are OK, but--there you go. It's right out there now.

    Offline David VanDyke

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    This, above.

    In any controversial, long thread, there's always at least one person who defends unethical practices, claiming they're ethical.

    Now, I completely understand defending someone's RIGHT to do something unethical, if it's legal or allowed. That's not the same as claiming the unethical is, in fact, ethical, merely because it's legal or allowed.

    For example, representing pen names as real persons and having conversations between them... Yeesh. Just...yeesh. That's a no-brainer, yet we still see people defending that practice and others. Legal? Sure. Ethical? No way.

    And indefensible. I'm constantly appalled by defense of such practices.


    Offline MmmmmPie

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    I'm really confused about something.  Sometime within the last couple of weeks, a notorious stuffer had their books taken down. A few days later, the books returned, but were no longer stuffed (assuming I'm remembering correctly). Now, the books* are stuffed again. One of these books, dubbed a "Romance Compilation," is in the top 100.

    What is the logic here? Why would you unstuff them, and then restuff them? It seems pretty darn risky in the current environment, unless they're confident they'll be fine.

    What am I missing?

    *Edit/Additional Note: Not all of her books are stuffed, but about half of them are.
    « Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 10:57:44 am by MmmmmPie »

    Offline DonovanJeremiah

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    For example, representing pen names as real persons and having conversations between them... Yeesh. Just...yeesh. That's a no-brainer, yet we still see people defending that practice and others. Legal? Sure. Ethical? No way.

    I'm confused. So I can't write a book using a pen name, and then interact with the readers at all?

    I use a pen name. I'm a real person. I have to use a pen name for personal protection reasons. Readers write to me/interact on social media, I can't respond as my real name. All I have is the pen name and face.

    And that makes me unethical?


    Or am I missing something?

    Offline Avery342

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    I'm confused. So I can't write a book using a pen name, and then interact with the readers at all?

    I use a pen name. I'm a real person. I have to use a pen name for personal protection reasons. Readers write to me/interact on social media, I can't respond as my real name. All I have is the pen name and face.

    And that makes me unethical?


    Or am I missing something?

    No, that does not make you unethical. If you started a second pen name and brought that name into a conversation with you and your readers saying how great you or your books are--that's unethical.

    Offline MmmmmPie

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    I'm confused. So I can't write a book using a pen name, and then interact with the readers at all?

    I use a pen name. I'm a real person. I have to use a pen name for personal protection reasons. Readers write to me/interact on social media, I can't respond as my real name. All I have is the pen name and face.

    And that makes me unethical?


    Or am I missing something?

    I think what you're missing is that the discussion revolves around a single person using multiple pen names and having Pen Name#1 publicly interact with Pen Name#2 and Pen Name #3, etc. to sway readers' opinions. 

    --Pen Name#1: "Oh, my God, Pen Name#2, your books are awesome!!!"
    --Pen Name#2:  "Wow, thanks Pen Name#1, coming from such an amazing author as yourself, I so appreciate that!
    --Pen Name#1: "You know who else is a super-awesome writer? Pen Name#3. I just LOVE her books."
    --Pen Name#2: "OMG, Me too!!!!!!"
    --Pen Name#3: "Awww, gee thanks, gals, coming from superstars like yourself, that means ever so much..."


    Offline Rick Gualtieri

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    I'm confused. So I can't write a book using a pen name, and then interact with the readers at all?

    Not at all.  What we were talking about here was having your pen name promote your other stuff / talk to *you* as if they were a real person, acting like they were an independent 3rd party.  In the past we've also talked about catfishing your fans ... i.e. pretending to be someone you're not (the opposite sex, a service man etc) to glean personal information off of your readers.

    Simply interacting with people isn't predatory. It's how you do it.


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    Offline Dpock

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    Or am I missing something?

    Pretending to be a different gender.


    Offline DonovanJeremiah

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    Ooooh!

    I get it.

    I can't imagine why someone would do that. Interacting as one person is exhausting as it is. Creating sock puppets to talk to each other? Who has time for that?

    Thanks for clearing that up.

    Offline boba1823

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    For example, representing pen names as real persons and having conversations between them... Yeesh. Just...yeesh. That's a no-brainer, yet we still see people defending that practice and others. Legal? Sure. Ethical? No way.

    I don't actually see that as a no-brainer at all. I think the ethical implications are going to depend on context and details of the situation.

    The central ethical issue that a typical 'sock puppet' situation raises is that a person is deceptively creating the appearance of a broad(er) consensus of opinion. E.g. one person, rather than stating "I recommend Author Bob's books!" as an individual, pretends to be ten people making the same claim. To the uninformed observer, this claim therefore seems weightier because [human psychology stuff]. So in situations where an author has three or more pen names, and is using two or more of these to hype up a third, then it is reasonable to see that as unethical.

    However, in situations where an author is using just one pen name to recommend books by his or her other pen name.. that's much less clear, and personally I find it hard to see what is ethically problematic about it. There's no attempt to create an inflated sense of the general opinion that the books by the second pen name are worth reading - it's just one person offering his or her perspective. Further, it is presumably more or less the truth; the author probably does genuinely endorse the books that belong to his or her second pen name.

    This is what may be the most important aspect of the second situation: Giving fans the whole truth - mentioning "Oh and by the way, this is my second pen name!" - is not likely to make them less trusting of the endorsement, but rather, it is likely to make them even more interested. If I'm a fan of Stephen King and he says "Hey, I just read this Bachman fellow, he's pretty good, check out his book," then maybe I will - because I reason that if King likes Bachman, maybe Bachman writes kind of like King, which means maybe I'll like Backman too. Whereas if King just says "I wrote this book under my pen name Richard Bachman, check it out," then I'm much more likely to check it out. It was written by an author that I already like, so the chances of me liking it are much higher than they would be if I merely thought it was an author that Kind recommends.

    In any case, I do wonder what the point would be - having multiple pen names, pretending they are in fact different authors, but also cross-promoting between them. I only have one pen name at the moment. Sometime in the future, if I want to try out a very different genre, I'd probably cook up a new one. But.. different genre, so I wouldn't see the point of cross-promoting. I guess if it was a somewhat similar genre - I'm writing Contemporary Romance, so maybe if I ever did a Paranormal Romance (though I don't plan to) - but then I wouldn't see the point of not telling current fans "Hey check out my other pen name if you like PR!"

    Offline MmmmmPie

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    In any case, I do wonder what the point would be - having multiple pen names, pretending they are in fact different authors, but also cross-promoting between them.

    Just thinking out loud, I bet the point is to rake in more All Star bonuses, because the author bonuses are awarded per pen name. If you've already reached the point where Pen Name#1 is getting a top-tier bonus through stuffing, adding a second pen name opens up a second bonus opportunity.

    Also, maybe they want to hedge their bets in case a pen name gets taken down for scamming, or is busted by the public or readers for doing something unethical. Or maybe, it's because they're using a big team of ghostwriters and so they're using the pen names to mask how quickly they're releasing new books. For example, if you have one pen name and release a book a week, that might seem odd. But if you rotate the releases among four pen names, each pen name can release a "book" a month without raising reader suspicions.

    Thoughts?

    Offline Becca Mills

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    However, in situations where an author is using just one pen name to recommend books by his or her other pen name.. that's much less clear, and personally I find it hard to see what is ethically problematic about it. There's no attempt to create an inflated sense of the general opinion that the books by the second pen name are worth reading - it's just one person offering his or her perspective. Further, it is presumably more or less the truth; the author probably does genuinely endorse the books that belong to his or her second pen name.

    This is what may be the most important aspect of the second situation: Giving fans the whole truth - mentioning "Oh and by the way, this is my second pen name!" - is not likely to make them less trusting of the endorsement, but rather, it is likely to make them even more interested. If I'm a fan of Stephen King and he says "Hey, I just read this Bachman fellow, he's pretty good, check out his book," then maybe I will - because I reason that if King likes Bachman, maybe Bachman writes kind of like King, which means maybe I'll like Backman too. Whereas if King just says "I wrote this book under my pen name Richard Bachman, check it out," then I'm much more likely to check it out. It was written by an author that I already like, so the chances of me liking it are much higher than they would be if I merely thought it was an author that Kind recommends.

    This reasoning makes sense to me, but the idea of doing it still makes me feel all squirmy and skin-crawly and generally mortified. It might be one of those cases where the "feels wrongness" of it has more impact than the actual reasoning. Or maybe it's because the two possibilities you compare -- recommending Bachman while copping to being Bachman vs. recommending Bachman while keeping the connection secret -- aren't the only two possibilities. The third option is King just not recommending Bachman at all. Personally, I think that's the route I'd take.


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    Offline KelliWolfe

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    In any case, I do wonder what the point would be - having multiple pen names, pretending they are in fact different authors, but also cross-promoting between them. I only have one pen name at the moment. Sometime in the future, if I want to try out a very different genre, I'd probably cook up a new one. But.. different genre, so I wouldn't see the point of cross-promoting. I guess if it was a somewhat similar genre - I'm writing Contemporary Romance, so maybe if I ever did a Paranormal Romance (though I don't plan to) - but then I wouldn't see the point of not telling current fans "Hey check out my other pen name if you like PR!"
    You're thinking like an author and not a black hat marketer. Imagine you're a content mill, churning out vast numbers of ghostwritten books, and you can't stick them all under one pen name because a lot of readers won't go for that. So you create a number of different pen names as brands where you can spread out the books so no individual author looks too prolific and raises questions. You can put out many new releases in a month, rather than just one or two. Some readers are going to be attracted to a given brand because of style or content or whatever. You then try to attract those readers to your other brands with newsletter swaps, multi-pen bundles, personal recommendations, etc. The more of your pen names they're reading, the more money you're making.
    « Last Edit: June 26, 2018, 11:35:37 am by KelliWolfe »

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    Offline BGArcher

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    Pretending to be a different gender.

    No. Sorry, but that's wrong at best and comes off as transphobic. I can be a male writer and have a few female pen names. There is nothing wrong with that. If I use a male pen name to write thrillers, and a female pen name to write cozy mysteries or romance, I am doing nothing wrong, both in terms of store rules, and ethics. As for if I had those pen names co talk to each other, that's a different question, but the argument being made that it is clearly unethical is also not correct.

    Offline BGArcher

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    You're thinking like an author and not a black hat marketer. Imagine you're a content mill, churning out vast numbers of ghostwritten books, and you can't stick them all under one pen name because a lot of readers won't go for that. So you create a number of different pen names as brands where you can spread out the books so no individual author looks too prolific and raises questions. You can put out many new releases in a month, rather than just one or two. Some readers are going to be attracted to a given brand because of style or content or whatever. You then try to attract those readers to your other brands with newsletter swaps, multi-pen bundles, personal recommendations, etc. The more of your pen names they're reading, the more money you're making.

    But there's a glaring problem with your logic. If you're hiring ghost writers to write those books, and you as the publisher are editing them and cleaning them up to fit a brand, a brand that readers are clearly reading, you aren't doing anything wrong. You are in effect just what your job described. A publisher. You could make the argument easily that it is entrepreneurship at it's finest. So doing cross brand promotion is just smart marketing, and ethically is 100% on board.

    Now, that's only if the books are each following the new rules of the store. But in theory, the lot of you who were happy with the black hatters being taken down should be okay with someone doing this, if it was ever really about the store being fair.


    Offline Dpock

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    No. Sorry, but that's wrong at best and comes off as transphobic. I can be a male writer and have a few female pen names. There is nothing wrong with that. If I use a male pen name to write thrillers, and a female pen name to write cozy mysteries or romance, I am doing nothing wrong, both in terms of store rules, and ethics. As for if I had those pen names co talk to each other, that's a different question, but the argument being made that it is clearly unethical is also not correct.

    Let me clarify: Pretending to a different gender when engaging readers directly, as in emails, tweets, PMs, smoke signals, etc., is a questionable activity. Just using an alternate gender pen with no further reader engagement is fine, but it makes the Author Central bio a bit challenging.


    Offline SuzyQ

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    There are four types of people in this industry:

    1. Hobbyists: Writers who enjoy writing and don't care about or need to make a living. These are the purest who's only reason for writing is because they love it.

    2. Professionals: Writers who intend to make a full-time income off their writing. They are serious about both marketing and craft, while obeying the clear lines of ethics.

    3. Business Casuals: Maybe they write their own books. Maybe they don't. Whatever the case, marketing is more important than craft. This is where ethics become blurred but many at this level still manage to be honest people...

    AND THEN....

    4. The people who were pulled off Amazon yesterday: [publishers] who knowingly and willingly strong-arm Hobbyists, Professionals, and even some business casuals out of the market. They target and use readers as weapons to get to the top, selling the names and addresses of readers to each other.

    The conversations in this thread revolve around 'The Plastics'

    They don't deserve your empathy or considerations. They don't deserve second chances.



    Edited. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca

     I'm pretty sure you're missing a whole category of writers who love writing and don't really care about the same ethics or values that you do.

     I think it gets pretty dangerous when you start assuming that just because someone is a "real author" they agree with you on everything and vice versa. I.e. Just bc someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean they're not a real author

     Personally I find a lot of the scammy practices being used to get ahead abhorrent but not all of them. 3000 page books? Gross. Successful running ad campaigns? I don't see a problem there. There's a lot of gray areas and we get into trouble when we start making generalizations. I'm happy they're removing people case by case and it seems like they're doing it in the appropriate way. But I don't assume anybody feels the same way I do about literally anything even if we all fall into the category of "legitimate authors"

    Offline Desert Rose

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    Re: Amazon Actions re NEW Bonus Content Limits -- threads MERGED
    « Reply #849 on: June 26, 2018, 11:51:29 am »
    That is very simple (or should be). The material that is part of a book is something that you read to further explore that book. I love the appendices of the Lord of the Rings. They are long, but I don't see Amazon banning one of the greatest novels of the 20th century any time soon. A 30%  extract from Sir Gawain and the Green Knight would count towards bonus content.
    I actually agree with you on this, but until/unless Amazon clarifies, that's just, like, our opinion, man. And someone with a different opinion may well report a book that places "The End" at the 85% mark and ends the appendices at 92%, with some back matter and a preview chapter of the next book. Their opinion about where the book ends is as valid as ours, absent clarification.

    And in the current climate, I do not doubt there are people who will report a book that ends at 89% for having that extra two pages of "bonus content", even if it's all legitimate back matter.
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