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!
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.)
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.
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?
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.