Self-publishing guru David Gaughran has been very pro-active in tracking down opportunists and outright cheats who game Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited payment-per-page-view system, and the entire Kindle/Kindle Store ecosystem. He’s also been militantly aggressive in calling Amazon to account when its own systems and service levels fall down. And unfortunately, he’s uncovered another pattern of Kindle Unlimited abuse, with the help of romance author and publisher Phoenix Sullivan. The new new scam involves orchestrated promotion of clutches of ebook titles on the Kindle Store, to trigger high KU payments off what are basically junk non-books.
Phoenix Sullivan describes the whole process in detail on David Gaughran’s blog, based on close personal observation. She reports carefully timed and closely grouped assaults on the Kindle Store’s Top 100 Free list by phalanxes of books, “with few to no reviews, keyword-stuffed titles (some with one or two misspelled words in the title), and blurbs that made it clear no English-speaking editor had touched them.” Such titles are robbing legitimate works of attention and readership that is more than just the oxygen of publicity – with Kindle Unlimited in the loop, it’s actual hard dollars. Currently going to “publishers” of non-books.
Adds Sullivan: “While Amazon seems to care little about the impact to KDP authors as a whole, they are undermining their own carefully built website infrastructure by allowing the gamers and scammers a place to flourish. They’re eroding the confidence of their customers every time a reader clicks in and is faced with a wall of low-quality scam books.”
Gaughran himself goes into even more detail on the various methods these con artists use. And none of them are rocket science. Almost all of them, however, depend on Amazon not troubling to apply its own rules and police its own ecosystem.
“Customer service levels at KDP are still unacceptable,” he complains. “All of these wheezes already have specific policies forbidding these actions. Amazon doesn’t need to scramble to produce a new framework for handling these guys. It already has the rules in place. It just needs to start applying them.”
Chris Meadows and others are already writing reams about whether Amazon really does care about ebooks. Such persistent practices don’t give any reassurance on that score.