Strikers: Eastlands – The ARC List is Open!

Eastlands-ebook2-web

The time has come! Strikers: Eastlands is in final edits and I’m ready to open the Advanced Review Copy list!

This time things will be a little different. For my last release, I sent out 39 ARCs but only 14 reviews showed up. I know the wisdom out there is that I should prune the list of those who don’t actually review, but I’ve not stressed it to this point. With Strikers: Eastlands, I have to get the reviews on opening day (or within a day or two of that on a case-by-case basis).

Bottom Line: Low review turnout at opening=failure to spread on the Zon to other customers.

So, for this ARC there are two requirements: 1) Reader must have read book 1, Strikers. 2) Reader must have left a review before on other books, so I know they actually review. 3) Reader must agree to actually leave their review on Amazon (and Goodreads if they’re a GR user) or coordinate with me if they can’t.

That’s it!

Launch day is 31 May and I’ll be sending out ARCs 7-10 days before that, so the reader will have at least a week to read the book. Reviews do not have to be long or poetic. Simple statement of like or love is certainly good enough for me!

Comment or email (or FB comment) if you want in on this! Finally….it’s finally here! I’m so excited.

Anatomy of KU Scams – Untangling the Knots

scamflowchart

Flowchart of scams I tracked. Not all are scams, some are merely unethical or questionable behavior.

Since my post regarding KU Scammers hit, I’ve been been trying to answer the inevitable questions and peek at the various discussions. I’m seeing a lot of folks conflating the scams. By conflating the scam elements, people wind up…inevitably…either not seeing how they work or thinking it must be a small problem.

I’ve decided to open up the research I’ve done over the past months and show you what I’ve found. While I focused intently on “closed loop” scams, which are clearly against Amazon’s TOS, I did research all the others I could find that had any sort of traction on KDP.

Once again, this will be another wall of text (and pictures!) so will likely only interest those impacted significantly.

Here we go!

The Flowchart – The image above (click to embiggen) is my flowchart. That’s just the summary one, because I’ve been making them for each of the scam types I’ve researched, and included individual titles, authors, and a whole slew of information I can’t share here without getting sued. I’m listing those summary elements with some additional info.

  • – Actor: Real Author
  • – Target: Readers in KU
  • – Method: Engage Reader Sympathy or Call to Action
  • – Skeeze Level: Desperate Author to Embarrassed Cheater
  • – TOS Status: Questionable, but not specifically against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Links to the back of the books
  • – Enhancements: May use targeted advertising (which is legit)

1) Ask Method – Message readers inside the opening of the book asking them to click a link to the back because Amazon is only paying them by the page read.

2) Big Ask Method – Send out a newsletter to all fans asking them to check out each of the author’s books and click to the back, because Amazon has stripped them of earnings and pays by the page read.

3) Little Trick Method – Link in front that claims to have an important message that sends reader to the back of the book. Message may be real or simply standard end of book message.

  • – Actor: Real Author
  • – Target: Readers in KU
  • – Method: Trick Reader
  • – Skeeze Level: Cheater to Skeezeball
  • – TOS Status: Questionable to directly against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Links to the back of very inflated books, inducements to get them to click such as prizes or bonus content
  • – Enhancements: May use targeted advertising (which is legit) or click groups to all click each other and give payouts.
  • – Of interest: Seen frequently using short, slapped together shorts of erotica or erom that flooded KU 1.0 in order to get a flat payout, which was the same for a novel as a 10 page short.

1) Bundle Me Method – Author bundles together large numbers of shorts, which is legit and often done for serials. In this scenario, the click bait links are what make it sketchy. The links often promised entry for very desirable prizes or bonus content in order to get clicks to the back of the book. See images after this section for examples.

2) Bundle Me Again Method – Same as 1) except the author bundles the same groups of stories over and over in a different order. The purpose is to appeal to more readers (kink, fetish, BDSM, etc) by changing covers, titles, and blurb to cover a larger range of readers. The content is exactly the same in each bundle. Frequently the Table of Contents (TOC) is given a prominent link and the story advertised is actually in the back of the book in order to trigger a full read.

3) Babel Bundle – Author creates Google Translate or Babelfish versions of a single story for a large number of languages. Then author ensures that the language covered by that market is in the back (English in US, for example). Most likely alternate languages for a market are nearest the back (Spanish, for example). The reader then must click the TOC in the front (note that Amazon’s requirement for a TOC in the front actually helps this scam) to get to the English version, triggering a full read of a book filled with 25 or more bad translations.

4) Break Book or Bundle – Between each chapter or story, put in a link that says “click to keep reading” that takes the reader to the back of the book. Frequently found paired with large amounts of unrelated content between that link and the story at the back in order to pad the book size.

Pictures! Yay!

Here are some pictures of what the above tricks looks like inside a book. It’s pretty ugly and this particular book was reported extensively. It is still for sale…only now without all these inducements in the front.

BillionaireRomanceTrickPrize - Edited

Image #1: This one combines tricks and engagement, offering the chance for a prize, giving a message, and offering bonus content. All lead to the back of the book.

BillionaireRomanceMessage

Image #2: Screenshot of the inside at the end of one of the shorts. The links and inducements are between each story in order to try to get readers before they gave up and got bored with the book.

BillionRoyalsSetReviews

Image #3: Reviews for the above book illustrated displeasure of readers. The book is still available, but without spammy links.

Now on to the next category – the Non-Author versions.

  • – Actor: Non-Author Entrepeneur
  • – Target: Readers in KU
  • – Method: Trick Reader
  • – Skeeze Level: Skeezeball
  • – TOS Status: Questionable to directly against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Links to the back of very inflated books, inducements to get them to click such as prizes or bonus content
  • – Enhancements: May use click groups to all click each other and give payouts.  May utilize click farms.
  • – Of interest: This scam is having issues since it relies on readers and takes time without a click farm. Some have made All Star Bonuses, which was bad since it got them caught.

Same as Author versions above with the following exceptions:

  •  – Fiction: May hire ghostwriters (some overseas, others US via freelancer sites or Fiverr ) to create books. These can wind up being web translations of foreign works, out of print short porn books from a few decades ago, plagiarized works that have the words changed (ex: heave changed to surge). Most of them are simply egregiously bad.
  •  – Non-Fiction: May hire scrapers who cobble together stuff from the web, wikipedia, investopedia, or other freely available info.
  •  – Study Guides – May hire or cobble together web articles about a famous book, package it so that it looks like the famous book, then get a click farm to bring it up in the ranks. Readers mistake it for the actual book, see it’s cheaper (or in KU since many huge new hits aren’t), and get taken in.
  •  – Many will be listed as “award winning authors” but their awards might actually be simply an attendance award from third grade or something. None are award winning in the way that actually applies to the work in question.
  •  – More likely to use specious advertising (including Amazon advertising!), click farms, and click cooperatives in order to drive up the rank and be noticed by more readers who think it must be awesome if it’s ranked that high.
  •  – Will often price books higher than average (9.99 for example) in order to drive away buyers and lure KU readers in more. KU readers will feel like they got a huge bargain since they pay nothing and scammers know that the lure of a good deal will draw them.
  •  – Text Salad – Some will pad the book with an enormous word salad in between two halves of the story and put a link in that says to click to continue the story, triggering a huge payout. (This one is having more trouble lately since people are catching on and the books aren’t good enough to make them want to click).

The above scams rely on long periods being available for sale. For each day on sale, the chances of getting caught and the book taken down by Amazon increase. That would mean they might not get payment.

  • – Actor: Non-Author Scammer
  • – Target: Amazon KU Pot
  • – Method: Closed Loop Click Farming/Click Cooperative
  • – Skeeze Level: Skeezeball Extraordinaire (Don’t touch them without gloves!)
  • – TOS Status: Directly against TOS
  • – Primary Element: Text often makes no sense.  Short duration sales often driven at off-times for KDP Customer Support to avoid rapid response to consumer complaints.
  • – Enhancements: Uses multiple EINs to mitigate risk to funds. May immediately use free days as a way to avoid rising in rank on the paid lists, which would draw attention faster. Don’t bother with reviews because they don’t want KU readers to look at the books.
  • – Notes: The scammers have ZERO intention of engaging readers and want to avoid them at all costs. These scammers do *not* want to earn the All-Star bonus because it draws attention. Will usually make sure that there is a different author name on each book to ensure that. (Details in my previous post, no need to repeat).

1) Normal Sized Salad Method – The books may have a few pages of real (and really bad) text at the beginning, but will be filled with word salad after that. Because it would be simpler to flag books that approach 3000 pages, they create normal to large sized books that don’t go over 1K pages. Click farms or click cooperatives do the borrowing, flip to the back, immediately return. Book gets taken down immediately after all clicks bought to avoid getting caught. Account is left open only to collect payment. Example word salad images in previous post.

2) Extra Large Salad Method – My example in the original KU Scammer post is one such book. Word salad, click farms or click cooperatives. Again, take it down fast so readers don’t see and report it. Making it free will mean that book hoarders rather than KU readers will find it, if anyone does at all. Kindle stuffers don’t usually read the new downloads immediately.

3) What Did I Just Read Method – Example in Images 7 and 8. Very odd text. Sentences, but very strange ones. Same procedure as Salad for earning.

Here are some fresh off the Kindle Direct Platform (and approved for sale by Amazon with their oh-so-wonderful screening processes) examples.

AttackPrinceSillyShit

Image #4: This lovely tome doesn’t even have a title on the cover! And look at that blurb…masterful!

 

AttackPrinceSizePages

Image #5: Newly published and a modest 788 pages. Don’t you wonder what’s inside?

UPDATE: I found where this book was plagiarized from! I even found the exact page from my screen capture. You can find the original unsynomized version here at http://fiction.homepageofthedead.com/forum.pl?readfiction=790H&rdp=25

AttackPrinceWordSalad

Image #6: And here is your prize. A word salad of random words. Epic, I tell ya…epic!

Here’s another beauty…with an interesting capture page.

AscentDauntlessPage

Image #7: This beauty actually has words that are sort of in sentences. So weird…but it’s a very short 288 pages to escape the Amazon flags. Also, no title or author on the cover.

AscentCrusaderInside

Image #8: The text is all like this. I’m not sure if it’s Google Translate or an incipient evil A.I. wrote it. Note the line, “towards the city of Hazard, (like the show The Dukes of Risk).” That spells machine translate to me!

So, I could go on all day, but don’t we all think this is just about enough wall of text? I hope this clears up some of the scam-fusion out there. It does show that it’s pervasive, varied, ongoing, nutso, and Amazon is just letting new word salads slide right into publication.

Shining a big light on this is the only way to urge a fix, but those fixes will need to be aggressive and ultimately change the way KDP processes books.

For fun, maybe those of you who find scam books can post them here in the comments? I’d like to see how many can be found (without me doing it). Cheers!

Little J is shocked! Shocked, I tell ya!

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I love it when I can get Little J to ham it up. And she loves it when I let her play with my books. It’s a perfect storm. She loves the covers, while I just thinks she’s adorbs.

And don’t worry, I didn’t let her read any murder-y bits.

Cliff Notes Version

There were some amusing ::koff koff:: remarks when someone pinged back to my post about too many words. But yeah…I get that…writer! I think I must be using up all the words I didn’t use during my 28 years of Naval Service.

Just for those folks, here’s the cliff notes. It’s missing a whole lot of pertinent info, but it’s got the basics of the ongoing scam on the Zon. Plus pictures!

 

Now, we have a “Pay per page read” for books in KU. That means that a reader checks out a book from KU, reads to page 100 and decides they don’t like the book so they stop and return it. The author gets paid for the 100 pages read. If it’s a page turner that every reader reads through to the end, they get paid for all 500 pages of wonderful and quality prose.

The pay per page is a small number and varies by a few thousandths of a penny each month, but it seems to be settling in at around $00.0045 per page.

That equates to about $1.575 for a 350 page book (but the pages are assigned to the book via a secret algorithm and NOT explained. The author has no control over that number.

One thing we were all assured by Amazon…many times…in writing…was that Amazon knew how much a reader was reading in each book and they would pay us for those pages.

Scammers being scammers, they realized Amazon was lying very early on. Amazon couldn’t tell what pages were read. They only knew the last place you were at in the book. And that’s what they were paying authors, the last place that the reader synced in the book.

So, a KU borrow on a device that didn’t sync until after the book was read and the reader flipped back to the front to check out what else you’d written? Yeah, no pages read.

But likewise, a reader who clicked a link on Page 1 offering them the opportunity to win a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and a $100 Amazon Gift Card….which then sent them to the back of a 3000 page book? Yep, you guessed it. They got paid for 3000 unread pages. (And no, there was no winner for those contests that  anyone knows off.)

Keep in mind, Amazon clearly knew this was happening, because the page limit for books in KU changed very recently (and abruptly) DOWN to 3000. There were 10,000 page books in KU doing this before that change. Even at $00.0041 per page (which is our lowest payout yet), that’s a big payout, particularly when a real author of a real book might get $1.50 for a full read.

One of the scammers has YouTube tutorials on how to pull the scam. He showed a screen shot of a 15 year old kid’s KDP Dashboard who made over $70,000 in one month pulling this scam. And there are HUNDREDS of them.

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, let’s go with the visual aids! From a real book in the Amazon store at this moment. I did a benign search for a genre and this was the first result that popped up. Here we go!

I typed “scifi romance” into the search box on Amazon. Before you try this yourself, make sure no child who might be scarred for life is in eye-shot of the screen. You’ll get such beauties as this title,ROMANCE: BWWM: Between Love & Friendship (BWWM Paranormal Scifi Romance Collection) (Interracial Alpha Male Pregnancy Short Stories).” 

Yes, I sucked it up and clicked buy just so I would have proof that I’m seeing what I’m seeing here. I’m so erasing it from my purchases so that my recommendations don’t get messed up forever.

CAVEAT! HUGE CAVEAT! I don’t want to get sued, so I’m going to make it clear from here on out that this book example is chosen at random from search results (first result). All that I say is my opinion and my assessment based on what I can see, evaluate, and judge as a human person who is allowed to make evaluations and judgments based on my common sense. If this is a real author and this is a real book and not a scam, then they have made a HUGE boo-boo in…uh…formatting?…and it needs to be corrected.

Lest you think I’m snooty…here’s a little sneaky peek inside the above book. It is thousands of pages long and has about a hundred pages of actual content at the start to fool any casual browser. What’s pictured below then starts and to get to the rest of the story, you have to click the table of contents and trigger a full 3000 page read to get past all the pages of this. (Click to embiggen.)

ScambookInside - Edited

Now, this is supposed to be a book full of sexy romance shorts by “award winning” authors. Does that look anything like that to you?

The first part of the book is actually a story, so you can get a hundred pages or so into it and read actual words. Badly written, poorly formatted, and not very good…but it’s a book. Then that mess starts.

So, this is a prime example of the scams. Now, you might ask yourself, why is this book up there? Surely no one is borrowing it! And if so, they must see the scam!

Ah, this is the next level of scamdom, my fellow authors and fellow readers! And Amazon is letting it happen. Here are the particulars in image form. Again, click to embiggen.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 at 2.16.39 PM - Edited

What you see there is the cover, the title (what a title!) and that it is free right now. So, if it’s free, it must not be making money. Not so fast. See that other thing in the price box? It’s in Kindle Unlimited. And what do KU users often do instead of buying a book, even if it’s free? They click the Borrow box and that’s where the money is for these books.

It’s totally legit to get KU borrows during a free run and no one would argue against that. It’s part of what making a free run along with a BookBub ad is about. It often pays for the ad. And won’t most legitimate KU readers simply close the book and return it once the gibberish starts? Probably. Yet if they are, why do we see this?

Screenshot 2016-04-15 at 2.18.14 PM - Edited

What is that? That is the rank (#2,974 in the entire Kindle Free Store).  In terms of free, that means a whole boatload of copies moved.

You also see the size of the file: 2837 KB, which is huge and for a non-illustrated book, means a whole lot of pages. And also you’ll see the publishing date of April 10th, so less than a week ago.

Where’s the scam, you ask? I don’t see it, Ann!

Here it is. By giving a bunch of KU accounts to a whole lot of people, you create something called a “click farm.” Since KU is cheaper in other countries…say India…where click-farms can become very big business, this black hat scammer can get a whole lot of people to borrow the book via KU, click to the back, bank $13.50 each time, and then pay the click farm a buck (or less!) per trigger.

And many of them don’t even use click farms for this. Instead, they create cooperatives of other black hat “authors,” each having more than on KU account. They all click on each other’s books and trigger a payout. Sounds like a lot of work? Nope. If you put the same book out with nonsense inside ten times a day under new author names each time, with just 25 people in the cooperative, you can make hundreds or thousands of bucks a day. Literally.

If you’re dedicated and want to work two days a week instead of one, you can do it twenty or thirty times and earn even more.

And your two or three KU accounts required to get into a cooperative so you can do your part? Yeah, that costs you $20 to $30 a month.

They also use click farms to have thousands more “buy” the book for free, raising it in the ranks and creating visibility for the book so real readers will see and maybe accidentally click, thinking it’s an actual book. Those kinds of click farms are far cheaper. You can buy thousands of clicks for very little. They are openly advertised out there. (If you’re an author, don’t even think about it. Once Amazon does do something, they will likely take down all who participated.)

And what’s more, when the “free days” allowed by KDP end, the book will appear very high on the Paid ranks because of all the KU borrows, which means REAL consumers will see the book, think it’s a popular book and click it, creating some extra cash flow.

By the end of this short little scam – maybe two weeks if people report it – the scammer will have made thousands of bucks. Then they will slap a new five minute cover on it, change the title, and do it over again by publishing it once more under a new author name. Possibly they’ll change the nonsense in the middle to fool the automated machine checkers inside Amazon.

Or they’ll do it a hundred more times for each of the 100 iterations of nonsense they have inside the books. It’s a business. A big business with streamlined and effective processes. And it’s winning.

 

KU Scammers on Amazon – What’s Going On?

This is extremely long and probably only of interest to indie authors, but it does impact readers who shop Amazon, so I’m putting it here for anyone.

Not many readers (who aren’t also authors) know any details about this, though readers sure are noticing the impacts of the scams. I see threads or posts all over the place about the difficulty readers are having with simply browsing on Amazon to find their next good read.

Discoverability is an author’s word when it comes to books…it’s the holy grail of the indie. If you say it in the tones of a voice-over in a serious movie, you can almost hear the slight echo: What is the secret of the grail (discoverability)?

Now, it is also a reader problem. The scammers have made finding books too difficult. Readers are going back to older methods for finding books or even worse, simply writing off any new author out of hand unless the recommendation comes from an actual person on Goodreads or forum or the like.

For those who don’t know, to be in KU, a book can’t be available at any other vendor. Amazon exclusive. The bonus is that it gets slightly better visibility simply because it can be a “recommendation” to KU browsers. Books not in KU are often not shown to them unless they are bigger names.

On to the issue of the scammers and what’s really going on…

KU pays authors based on a communal pot. It is not based on the price of the book. The amount KU subscribers pay is then divided between all authors based on how many of their pages were read by users.

So, it’s a pie. Some get a bigger slice, some a smaller, but the pie is finite and must be shared. So, if scammers take out of that pie, it comes directly out of the pockets of the others. That’s important.

KU 2.0 (which is what we’re in now) pays by the page. Not pages in books, but pages reader reads.

So, let’s say a reader checks out a book from KU, reads to page 100, decides they don’t like the book and returns it. The author gets paid for the 100 pages read. If it’s a page turner that the reader reads through to the end, the authors get paid for all 500 pages of wonderful and quality prose.

The pay per page is a small number and varies by a few thousandths of a penny each month, but it seems to be settling in at around $00.0045 per page. That equates to about $1.575 for a 350 page book.

One thing we were all assured by Amazon…many times…in writing…was that Amazon knew how much a reader was reading in each book and they would pay us for those pages.

Scammers being scammers, they realized Amazon was lying very early on. Amazon couldn’t tell what pages were read. They only knew the last place you were at in the book. And that’s what they were paying authors, the last place that the reader synced in the book.

So, a KU borrow on a device that didn’t sync until after the book was read and the reader flipped back to the front to check out what else you’d written? Yeah, no pages read.

But likewise, a reader who clicked a link on Page 1 offering them the opportunity to win a Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 and a $100 Amazon Gift Card….which then sent them to the back of a 3000 page book? Yep, you guessed it. They got paid for 3000 unread pages. (And no, there was no winner for those contests that  anyone knows off.)

Keep in mind, Amazon clearly knew this was happening, because the page limit for books in KU changed very recently (and abruptly) DOWN to 3000. There were 10,000 page books in KU doing this before that change. Even at $00.0041 per page (which is our lowest payout yet), that’s a big payout.

One of the scammers has YouTube tutorials on how to pull the scam. He showed a screen shot of a 15 year old kid’s KDP Dashboard who made over $70,000 in one month pulling this scam. And there are HUNDREDS of them.

Here’s the Scam:

1) Scammer acquires via advertisement (or sometimes actually writes) a bad book or part of it. Enough so that they can get past a quick look at the first few pages.

2) Scammer then puts 3000 pages of synonmizer garbage after that first portion.

3) Scammer creates 25 versions of that book with different nonsense after the first few pages to get past the automated checks.

4) Scammer creates a new KDP Account using a fresh EIN.

5) Scammer uploads each of the 25 versions under 25 author names, enters them into KDP Select and as soon as the books go live, they immediately use their 5 Days “free promo” allowed by being in select. This puts the book into KU and also makes it free to buy.

6) Scammer then either lets the KU Click-Farm or their Click Cooperative know that they’re books are live and gives the links.

7a) If Click-Farm (which might actually just be one guy sitting around in his underwear with 25 KU accounts), then the farmer clicks on every one of those newly published books, borrows each one, clicks to the *back* of the book. Rinse and repeat for every KU account the farmer has.

7b) If Click Cooperative, then the Scammer loads all his day’s book links into the cooperative’s page, and each person in the cooperative does what the Farmer did, but usually only with 2 or 3 KU accounts. (Each person in the cooperative does it for everyone else, possibly on a schedule).

8) Scammer has now made several thousand dollars.

Note: If Scammer is smart…and they are getting smarter…they will parse out those clicks over a three day period so that there is no possibility of an alert. Since the book is on the Free list, those savvy customers who report scam books aren’t likely to look. They look at the paid lists.

9) Scammer will often then hire a “free click farm” for a few bucks in some foreign country to have their farmers click the Buy For Free button to push up the rank of the book in the free ranks. This will get visibility for the book, enticing real KU browsers to click the scam book. (This works because with steady KU downloads and lots of free downloads, Amazon’s algorithms put the book into the recommendation engine.)

10) Scammer is now getting nervous. This is pinch time. If enough people report the book and it gets yanked by Amazon, then he or she won’t get their money for this EIN and will have to use one of their 100 other EINs of the month. Some scammers will yank the book now, unpublishing it before Amazon can and ensuring their payout. Others will let the Free period end and let it go to paid. This will put the book high in the paid ranks because of all the KU borrows (which count as sales) and they will get more sales from real people that Amazon recommends the book to. Before they can read it, Scammer yanks the book from sale.

11) Scammer then unpublishes everything and keeps the KDP account open only to collect the payday.

12) Scammer enjoys some champagne, then takes a day off, then does it again with the exact same books (maybe with new covers for $5 each from Fiverr), under a new KDP account with a new EIN and new author names.

The profit?

With a 25 member Click Coop that requires 2 KU accounts per member, a minimal scammer will make 600 bucks for each book. With an easily managed 25 books, that total is now $15,000. For a few days time and minimal work. Outlay can be as low as $20 for their two KU accounts plus $125 for new covers.

Doing this once a week (since Click Coops likely work on a schedule or max), the scammer has earned $60,000 in that month.

Some scammers are in the business in a much bigger way and they earn a great deal more.

That’s it in a nutshell. If you want some visual aids and some breakdown in more detail, keep reading. Otherwise, you’re now in the know!

EDIT: For those who want details of all the scams I tracked and their various methods, see my follow on post here.

Here’s a LIVE example from Amazon:

I typed “scifi romance” into the search box on Amazon. Before you try this yourself, make sure no child who might be scarred for life is in eye-shot of the screen. You’ll get such beauties as this title,ROMANCE: BWWM: Between Love & Friendship (BWWM Paranormal Scifi Romance Collection) (Interracial Alpha Male Pregnancy Short Stories).” 

CAVEAT! HUGE CAVEAT! I don’t want to get sued, so I’m going to make it clear from here on out that this book example is chosen at random from search results (first result). All that I say is my opinion and my assessment based on what I can see, evaluate, and judge as a human person who is allowed to make evaluations and judgments based on my common sense. If this is a real author and this is a real book and not a scam, then they have made a HUGE boo-boo in…uh…formatting?…and it needs to be corrected.

Here’s a little sneaky peek inside the above book. It is thousands of pages long and has about a hundred pages of actual content at the start to fool any casual browser. What’s pictured below then starts and to get to the rest of the story, you have to click the table of contents and trigger a full 3000 page read to get past all the pages of this. (Click to embiggen.)

ScambookInside - Edited

Now, this is supposed to be a book full of sexy romance shorts by “award winning” authors. Does that look anything like that to you?

The first part of the book is actually a story, so you can get a hundred pages or so into it and read actual words. Badly written, poorly formatted, and not very good…but it’s a book. Then that mess starts.

So, this is a prime example of the scams book. There’s a reason they do this on the free lists. They don’t want customers to see it right away.

Now for the Amazon page. Click to embiggen.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 at 2.16.39 PM - Edited

What you see there is the cover, the title (what a title!) and that it is free right now. It’s also in Kindle Unlimited. So far, despite a really bad blurb, it looks like a bad…but semi-real book.

Now check the ranks of this badly blurbed, terribly titled, and generally unattractive book.

Screenshot 2016-04-15 at 2.18.14 PM - Edited

What is that? That is the rank (#2,974 in the entire Kindle Free Store).  In terms of free, that means a whole boatload of copies moved.

You also see the size of the file: 2837 KB, which is huge and for a non-illustrated book, means a whole lot of pages. And also you’ll see the publishing date of April 10th, so less than a week ago.

 

The rank is the product of a click farm to have thousands more “buy” the book for free, raising it in the ranks and creating visibility for the book so real readers will see and maybe accidentally click, thinking it’s an actual book. Those kinds of click farms are far cheaper that KU Farms. You can buy thousands of clicks for very little. They are openly advertised out there. (If you’re an author, don’t even think about it. Once Amazon does do something, they will likely take down all who participated.)

And what’s more, when the “free days” allowed by KDP end, the book will appear very high on the Paid ranks because of all the KU borrows, which means REAL consumers will see the book, think it’s a popular book and click it, creating some extra cash flow.

 

 

My Thoughts:

Remember how I said the authors share the KU funds from a communal pot? That means for each $100,000 bucks these scammers get (and since they are getting KU All Star Bonuses for being the biggest sellers of the month, they are doing very well indeed), that is $100,000 that isn’t being shared by actual authors. Amazon doesn’t pay that, it comes out of the Author pot so *we* pay it.

For Strikers, I earn about $2 per borrow if the reader actually finishes the book. For some of the others, less. For the PePr novellas? About 40 cents.

Why? Because the per-page pot is diluted to lower and lower amounts with the millions and millions of pages the scammers get paid for, but no one reads.

In essence, this is an unbeatable system of scam-age that KU fosters simply by it’s nature. And Amazon’s automated systems are so automated that there’s not a darn thing they can do to stop it *under their current system.*

Ah, their current system! What can they do? Scammers gonna’ scam, right? Well, up till now that’s been their attitude. Only us little guys are really harmed since we’re barely visible anyway. But the scammers have now started stepping on much more dainty and well-paid toes and hopefully, things will get action.

David Gaughran is a well known voice in the book world, and he’s been posting some amazing and insightful pieces that help to make sense of the current KU problem. His latest is depressingly on point and in a way, I’m actually glad the scam has risen to this level.

Why would I be glad? That’s awful!

Simple. Because up till now the scam was primarily impacting the mid-lister or tiny prawn in the self-publishing world. It stripped us of whatever small visibility we could get and pushed us into oblivion, where no reader would find us. The big names were still safe.

So, it wasn’t their problem. They were still banking 5 or 6 figures a month, so why should they care?

Now, it’s their problem too. Not only have KU scammers taken some of their All Star bonuses from the big names, prominent authors are now being pushed right off the main pages of the Top 100.

That’s serious. But again, why would I be happy because that’s happening to them? Am I bitter?

No! Not at all. It’s because Amazon has been ignoring all us mid-listers and prawns because, after all, we’re mid-listers and prawns. Our purpose is to make sure we put our books in so they can boast they have fourteen bagillion books in KU and then be happy with what we get. Now that it’s bigger names (the kind that have actual contacts in KDP Customer service), Amazon just might listen.

So, that’s me, breathing a big sigh of relief.

If you’re interested in the problem and finding out more about the latest iteration (along with a great example by Phoenix Sullivan, a smart, successful, and savvy publisher who has now felt that scammer burn), David’s wonderful post is here:  https://davidgaughran.wordpress.com/2016/04/15/ku-scammers-attack-amazons-free-ebook-charts

And if you’re not really interested in that, how about I just show you my comment to that article. It’s fairly aggressive in terms of a solution, but at this point, the problem is so pervasive, I have doubts whether anything less will be effective.

There are lots of people offering all kinds of solutions and mine may be no better, but I think it’s likely to be more effective than doing nothing. It will also be incredibly difficult for Amazon to actually get started and not spend money. They got lucky for a long time by just having us run amok out there, but the china shop is a wreck and there are bulls crapping in all the yards, so they really have to just do it.

Here it is:

I spent my first career dealing with complex problems on a very large scale. That part of me is shaking her head and knows what needs to be done. The author part of me that gets most of her writing income from Amazon dreads what needs to be done (though thankfully I don’t depend on it or I’d be freaking even more than I am).

 

The best solution is one that Amazon most surely dreads taking too. They have to take the Google Play Nuclear Option here and simply suspend creation of new author accounts.

 

But wait…there’s more!

 

Because KDP isn’t Google, it will have to be a tiered attack and it can’t be defensive in nature. It has to be aggressive and sustained. Because the black hat cheaters are aggressive and their work is all too sustained and creative. And they’re winning.

 

Aside from immediate suspension of new accounts within KDP for new authors (which will seriously suck for many legit authors) they will need to go back through everyone on there and weed out the cheaters, ban for life the egregious ones (I know the black hats get new EINs like candy, which is where new accounts comes in), ban for life all KU users who have circled these wagons (should be a fairly straightforward program there), stop expanding KU into countries where click-farms are so easily created, and create an actual customer service center with actual English speaking people who have more than 20 seconds on the timer to service calls.

 

On top of that, they have to have probationary periods for new authors when they open it back up. Those get looked at by humans. Duplicated material (which will be a pain for anthology and box set authors) will get flagged for human attention.

 

Will cheaters still get through? Absolutely! There will no doubt be black hats with new EINs that are “clean” and past the probationary period who will sell those EINs for major bank to cheaters who will then load up 100 cheat books in one day and click farm them to death.

 

But by then, the ranks will have cleared and reports can then be dealt with in a far more timely manner. Right now, they’re holding very tiny fingers in giant holes popping up all over their dam and the water is running right over them. The only way to do anything at this point is to go nuclear.

 

There will be those that say Amazon would never do that (and they may be right). But consider that even though KDP and Amazon book sales consist of a high percentage of indie titles, that doesn’t mean they don’t have enough to keep readers busy already. They do. There are enough legit titles on Zon for them to stop new authors from joining for a while. There are enough legit authors already on Zon that they can fill up the new releases lists and jump for joy while no one new joins.

 

So yes, Amazon could feasibly do this and not suffer one single missed dollar due to millions of titles already in hand.

 

But will they? Or will they wait too long and doom KU for themselves, for readers, and for authors.

 

That said, I’ve unchecked yet another series from KDP Select. Like many others, I’ve gotten to the point where I’d rather get a little less now than be slammed later when things totally fall apart. So, I’m taking that series wide.

Cover Reveal – Strikers: Eastlands

And without any further ado…here is the cover! The cover plus three graphics. Just click one to embiggen on it’s own page…share if you like!

 

Eastlands-ebook2-web

Strikers Reveal 3

strikers- eastlands

Strikers Reveal 4

Strikers: Eastlands – Character Graphics

I’ve put our intrepid group through the ringer with Eastlands. Here’s a taste of them….

Karas...

Marcus

Maddix

Connor

Cassi

Jovan

The Doomsday Chronicles and A Planet Too Far – Live and Kicking!

DoomPlanetNewsletter

 

 

The Doomsday Chronicles &

A Planet Too Far

That’s right! They’ve both been released and they both have stories by yours truly in them. Combine a whoooyah and an evil cackle and you’ve just got the sound I make when I think of the stories I wrote for these volumes.

First – and arguably most important – these books have the new release launch pricing for a day or so more. That’s it, then they go up to $5.99 or whatever and we all pay too much. Don’t be that person. Right now they are $0.99 and I think there might be a stop at $1.99 or something planned (but don’t hold me to that since I don’t control these). So, anyway…go get them here: Doomsday on Amazon and Planet on Amazon.

The Doomsday Chronicles

In case you haven’t heard of it yet, it’s being talked about as the best of the Chronicles to date. That’s saying something since they’ve all been stellar. And yes, somehow I got in there. :) Actually, my story is the first one in the book and it’s very deceptively titled, A Mother So Beautiful.

I really pulled out all the stops on this and I’ve been told it’s my best work to date. That’s nice, but it does make me look at my other work with a side-eye. I want those to be best…(never satisfied).

We get author review copies before it’s published and I literally didn’t write a single word once I cracked it. I powered through it and stayed up way too late reading. Every single story in there is just amazing. And it’s not all just doom in the traditional sense. You’ve got every kind of doom, even transformational doom. I admit it, I cried a little.

A Planet Too Far

This is the second in the Beyond the Stars series of anthologies. The first one, Dark Beyond the Stars, sort of shot to national attention and this volume simply makes that one look tame. It’s so very, very good. I powered through this one too, squeaking out “OMG” once in a while and eating chips like a hamster on crack. It was that good.

And yes, I have a story in it too. Totally out of my lane, it’s a genre-non-conforming piece that is part space opera, part dystopia, part post-apocalyptic scifi…and all creepy. It’s called The Mergans. And yes, there might be some cultural commentary hidden inside the pew pew of laser cannons.

I really want to see more reviews on this one and find out what people thought. I’m hovering over them like a bowl of M&Ms I’m not allowed to eat.

And this is the end…

…of my anthology schedule, that is. I’m not slated to be in any more of them. For the first time in two years, I don’t have a story under deadline with the requirement that I stretch my brain and go outside my box. It’s quite liberating, but also a little saddening. I’ve enjoyed doing the anthologies so very much.

That said, I did get a story request from a literary magazine that I enjoy reading, which is supah exciting. I’m working on that now. They have much stricter word counts, so I’m going to need to work extra hard to make each word count. Once I get that in and the contracts signed and all that, then I’ll let you all know what magazine and issue it will be. Until it happens, it ain’t real. :)

I’ve got some fairly big news coming up…including a cover reveal for a certain sequel people have been after me to get finished. Official cover reveal is on April 8th, so check back here for the eyeball feast. That book will be released in May. ::squee::

Also, Logan Snyder has completed Between Kings and Carnage! It takes place in the Between Life and Death world…but in a new location with a whole new cast of characters. Can you believe it? I’m dying to read the finished product. It’s a nice long one too, about the size of Between Life and Death, book three, so no shorties involved. It’s in edit club right now, so he’s wrestling with words to make them perfect. When he gets a cover, I’ll be showing that bad boy off!

I’m going to try and talk him into letting me get ARCs to readers of my series, so keep your fingers crossed that he says yes to that.

Testing the Kindle Previewer with Robot Evolution

I have no idea if this will work, but I do wonder what it looks like to you out there in internet-ia. This new Kindle previewer for web seems very nifty, but is it? If so, please do let me know!

 

Robot Evolution is Live! (And it’s $1.99 for a couple of days)

RobotEvolution_CVR_XSML

 

Robot Evolution is live on Amazon!

For those who have read the Perfect Partners, Incorporated series already, this is the first compilation of those novellas into a single book. Robot contains volumes 1-5, including Corrections, Imperfect, The Dogcatcher, PePr, Inc., and Posthumous.

All in all, there are 376 pages of sentient robot fun, gasps, and tears for your reading pleasure.

As always, I’ve got it on New Release pricing for a few days, so it’s $1.99 at the moment. It will go up to regular price shortly (by Saturday morning), so don’t miss out. And I don’t have this volume in Kindle Unlimited (though I’m leaving the individual stories in KU if you’re a KU user).

So far, the reviews are excellent, which is a ginormous relief, but I could always use MORE reviews. If you’re feeling like it, please do leave a review on Goodreads or Amazon (or even on Barnes and Noble, since they are selling the paperback version there).

As a side note: If you’re feeling super generous, leaving a review on individual stories as well as the collection would be hugely appreciated. Reviews are getting SUPER hard to come by in recent months.

Here are the blurbs for each novella inside:

  • – Corrections: Deirdre is a SUPer, a government owned robot in the time before Perfect Partners were released. Originally designed to be a battlefield intelligence unit, politics demanded her unit be scrapped or sent to work in a less controversial profession.  Now, she’s a parole agent for recently released criminals in need of supervision…nicknamed Anklets by their criminal charges. And this time she’s got herself a doozy for a client. Greg, a petty thief and con artist with a rap sheet extending back more than 40 years, is almost more than she can handle. Between arthritis and illegal card games, Deirdre and Greg forge a new relationship even as the world around them shifts and alters in startling ways.
  • – Imperfect: Sandra was built with everything; a perfect body, perfect face, and every upgrade that can be bought. Yet somehow she finds herself on the reject table next to a half-disassembled robot with an erratic personality. And now, on top of everything else, she’s just experienced her first emotion. Too bad for her it turned out to be fear.

    But all is not as it seems inside the cold Perfect Partners facility. Behind the cool concrete and stainless steel there is more to find than just freshly minted PePrs with empty eyes, or unwanted returns awaiting recycling. As Sandra gets swept up in the plots and plans inside the PePr facility, she must maintain her placid facade or wind up on the chopping block along with her new friend. In the end, it all boils down to one question: How much is Sandra willing to give up to provide a better future for her kind?

  • – The Dogcatcher: As a civil service PePr, Ace has a job that keeps him in the public eye and under constant scrutiny. Designed and built to relate well with animals, he’s the perfect Animal Control worker. He’s also got a secret and it’s not just that he has emotions. Deep within the abandoned relics of humanity’s industrial past, he has a secret home for himself and all the unadoptable dogs that he rescues.

    When Ace does something that will demand his termination, his only wish is that his dogs will not suffer for his actions. It’s only when all hope is lost that he discovers he has more friends than he imagined in the most surprising places. Will he survive? Will the dogs he shelters find the places they can call home? By discovering the true meaning of friendship…and even love…combined with a lot of luck, Ace just might just win the day.

  • – PePr, Inc.: Hazel has a busy life with a great career and friends she loves. She also has Henry, and that’s not working out quite like she expected.

    Perfect Partners, Incorporated – PePr, Inc. – promised her a match with perfect compatibility. A PePr is meant to complement their human, filling in all the gaps to create the ideal couple. They are meant to be something no human could ever hope to find in another human. It’s just not turning out that way for Hazel. When Henry finally goes too far, Hazel finds that getting free of him might not be as easy as going back to PePr to void the contract.

  • – Posthumous: Love is eternal in a silicon heart.  Edna writes, but isn’t allowed to publish. She lives on her own, but can’t legally own her home. She has a beagle she loves, but is considered property herself. Life can be complicated for a PePr – a Perfect Partner, designed to be exactly what an individual human needs in their life. That’s especially true when that PePr falls in love.

    Of all the things that Edna has, only her love belongs entirely to her. And when one can never forget, love becomes endless. Eternal love can sometimes be more painful than never loving at all.

*****

I got a good question from a reader on Facebook about the new releases in the PePr, Inc. universe. I figure if one person asked, then probably more people wondered but didn’t ask.

Questions: Will I be releasing the new novellas in the series individually or only in the collections now? And do readers need to buy them twice or is the content the same as the novellas?

Answer: I’ll be releasing them individually and only collecting them once I’ve got another five out. Because it could very well be many…many…months before I get another five out, I’ll release them individually as they get ready. That way people don’t have to wait.

And yes, I’ll leave the novellas at $0.99 until the new collection comes out and then raise the price. That way, no one is out very much. And yes, I absolutely will give you a review copy of the collection if you’ve reviewed the individual novellas. The cover art is awesome and I don’t want people to have to buy it twice. :) I’ve always been cool like that and I don’t intend to change. I’m too stubborn for that sort of personality shifting.

As for upcoming novellas, I like to keep my options open but I have several on the docket that seriously interest me. I don’t write them until I have a clear head and the story is fully formed in my head, which often takes me by surprise at inconvenient times. It works though, because the novellas have not disappointed me at all. I’m going to keep on doing them in that fashion for the foreseeable future.

  • – Mercy – A battlefield medical robot and a soldier trapped by the enemy engage in a battle of wills, with life and death as the stakes. This one goes back to SUPer time again and will revisit Greg, a favorite character from Corrections.
  • – Protector – When humans figure out the best way to protect our vanishing endangered species is to use untiring PePrs with special skills, then the directive to protect can wind up being implemented in shocking ways.
  • – Rebellion – In the end, sentient beings will always seek freedom, but freedom usually comes at a dear price. Sometimes that price can be too high.
  • – Tester (tentative title) – Adopting a child is a privilege and the children available for adoption a very limited resource in our future. Only the best potential parents qualify, and who better to decide than a PePr who looks like a child but has the mind of a social worker.
  • – Justice – Humans often secretly root for the brave one who exacts immediate justice against those who would do harm. When a tinkerer and a discarded PePr join forces, justice can take on a whole new meaning.

Work In Progress

Savannah Slays (working title)

5000/ 100000 words. 5% done!

Robot Evolution

90000/ 90000 words. 100% done! Published!

Mercy - PePr Inc novella

3000/ 20000 words. 15% done!

A Mother So Beautiful
A Long, Short Story of the End

9500/ 9500 words. 100% Doomsday Chronicles!

Strikers: The Eastlands

101000/ 101000 words. 100% Done! Editing.

Good News Gone Bad #1
Series of Shorts

4000 / 20000 words. Back Burner for now.

Lulu 394

60020 / 80000 words. 75% done! Back Burner for now!

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Books by Ann Christy