Random Suff

Are you a Kindle Unlimited reader? If so, here’s a few tips…

Loads and loads of avid readers have joined Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited (KU). It’s been a great deal for many readers, allowing an unlimited reading experience for the price of a single paperback every month. I mean, what’s not to love?

If you’re a reader.

If you’re an author, well, that relationship can be a mixed one. I love it, even with glitches simply because I can reach readers who no longer buy books and read KU books exclusively. I get it. Given how many thousands of pounds of books I’ve donated over the years, I really get it. I’m one of those people that actually filled up a Kindle!

That said, there are some glitches showing up in the KU experience that have impacted payments to the authors. Here are a few tips from a KU author to all the lovely KU readers out there. Most of the tips are based on research (including informal polls and hard data gathering), done by many indie authors. Since we’re not having much luck getting Amazon to address these problems, I’m hoping that sharing with you will help.

Tip #1  –  Please don’t go back to the beginning of the book once you’re done.

This one is pretty simple. Amazon is basically counting your pages from where you ended reading (as far as we can tell no better system is yet in place). So, if you read a book and enjoy it so much that you go back to look at the cover or the list of other works by the author, well….it erases all your pages read, which means that author will not get paid. While Amazon denies this, we have demonstrated proof that such happens.

I, for one, frequently do this. I did the same thing with physical books. I’d sigh, wish the book wasn’t over, and close it to look at that beautiful cover again. It wasn’t any different with a Kindle book and often I’d click the contents to go back to the page where their other works were listed. YIKES! While I’m not reading with KU, if I were, then a whole lot of authors would have been unpaid. And worse, the more I enjoyed their work, the more likely they were to not be paid!

Tip #2  –  Please note that you read the book in KU at the top of your review if you leave one.

Amazon is weighing verified reviews over non-verified reviews, but at the same time, Amazon has NO tag for those who read a book using KU. That’s super silly, since to me, a KU membership means you invested your money in that book and your review should count. By noting that you read it via KU at the top of a review, you let readers who may distrust non-verified reviews know you’re a real reader! (Also, let’s hope they get a KU tag soon!)

Tip # 3  –  Please sync your book before you return it.

Right now, no one is entirely sure how this flaw is happening. Maybe it’s by device or app, or maybe there’s something in the settings. Whatever it is, we do know that syncing a finished book with Amazon improves the likelihood that Amazon will show the pages read and therefore, pay the author.

Tip #4 – If you read in Page Flip, the author will not be paid.

This is a tough one! I love reading in Page Flip mode on my 8.9 Kindle HDX. It’s perfect for that. If I were a KU reader, then every book I read that way would have resulted in ZERO payments to the author. Yep, that’s correct and Amazon has actually confirmed that. Page Flip is intended as a navigation feature, (according to them), so any pages read that way will not count.

If you read in Page Flip, please leave for regular view at least at the end of the book. We’re pretty sure they’re still counting the last page read to calculate payments, but it’s possible Amazon is now counting any flip from the front to the back of the book as a fraudulent read (and withholding payments). Even so, it’s worth a try.

Note: If you’re not sure if you’re reading in Page Flip or not, you can tell because there’s an outline around the page (on most devices and apps) and the progress bar is visible at the bottom of the screen without tapping.

Thank you to all the KU readers out there! I appreciate every single one of you and hope to meet many more of you through that wonderful program. Happy Reading.

Anatomy of KU Scams – Untangling the Knots

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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.

Busy, busy – Cute Book Charms Done!

Just a quick update because I don’t want anyone to think I’m blowing off the website. Here’s the happenings around here in no particular order.

photo (3)

Goodreads Giveaway: Congrats to the winner! I’m packing up your paperback and trying very hard to get a bookmark done so I can slip that in the envelope with the book. The bookmarks for Strikers came out uber-cute, and I just finished the charms for The In-Betweener, so let’s hope those are cool as well. Here’s a peek at what the first test of a Strikers bookmark came out like (my charms are better now). I’m going to stick one of my Love Your Zombies wristbands in there as well.

StrikersBeadMark2

Speaking of Swag: I’ve not been ignoring my writing, but I’ve filled up any hour not spent writing with doing my swag making. There’s something strangely addicting about making things like that. It’s very futzy and precise, yet allows my thoughts to wander a bit as well. Here is what I just got done with! That’s a lot of future bookmarks!  

BCFinished2

And Writing?:  Oh, yes, I’ve been writing. I’m deep into the final changes to Forever Between, which will be out on March 20th. (Speaking of which, I’m opening up the Advanced Review Copy list! There were a lot of non-completes in the last list, so it’s open to those that have actually left reviews in the past this time. A few new folks are welcome, but not at the rate I did last time since so few actually followed through.)

Also, I’m right in the middle of a new story, this time an Alternate History story for another one of those spectacular anthologies. Luckily, he extended the deadline out to March 15th, so I can take a deep breath. I had no idea alternate history was so hard to write. I’ve also finished another short called Vindica…or rather, two versions of it with one substantially longer, like a novella and the other version short enough for an antho. It’s scheduled to appear in another one of the amazing Chronicles series produced by Samuel Peralta. (Hint: Zombies).

Between Life and Death, the third book in the Between Life and Death Series, is coming along very nicely and I hope that everyone likes the way I’m wrapping up that series. While The In-Betweener was a relatively short book (191 pages), Forever Between is half-again as long and Between Life and Death is longer still. Not weirdly long, but longer because the world of Emily expands so much. I really love these characters. Emily, Veronica and Charlie are such interesting and good people and I’m going to hate to say goodbye to them. Really.

And Other Miscellaneous: We got socked in by snow (like a whole lot of other places!) during the last storm and it looks like it’s going to happen again starting tonight. That means lots of snow shoveling, sliding around on slippery ice while trying to get my dog to actually pee on snow (for some reason he just can’t do that), and staying indoors while hoping my pipes don’t freeze. While you’d think that would be good for writing, it’s not for some reason. So, I’ll just need to buckle down and do the work.

Hope everyone stays safe out there and has a good book to settle down with. Until next time!

I Made Book Charms!

CharmsTest1.jpg

Look what I did!

Those are me trying to test out my ability to make book charms. Those are about one inch long.

I’ll be the first to admit that they aren’t perfect yet, but I’m going to keep working on it until I get it down to an art. And look at the second picture…little pages.

My entire kitchen island is covered in craft stuff right now. Good thing I have zero intentions of cooking!

CharmsTest2.jpg

It’s Alive! The In-Betweener is on Amazon.

InBetweenerFinal500x750

I’m as excited as a kid on Christmas! Seriously.

Releasing a new book is hair-raising for sure, but I really like this book (all three in the series actually) and so far, the wonderful beta readers and ARC readers like it, too. That’s good news!

This morning I logged onto Amazon and uploaded a new file because…oh, yes…there was a random + sign in the text of the file that was up for pre-order. LOL…it doesn’t matter how many editors or proof-readers an author has, there will always be something.

But while I was doing that (and  muttering at the computer because of the + sign) I realized there were already reviews…and they were great ones. And then I did the happy dance around my living room. Charlie (the half basset/half beagle old man doggy of the house) actually woke up from his post-breakfast coma and made a rude noise at me. So, I stopped dancing and decided to post instead. So, this is my web-based happy dance. 🙂

Have a great Saturday everyone and happy reading!

Work In Progress

Savannah Slays (working title)

5000/ 100000 words. 5% done!

Portals - Portal Invasion #1

78000/ 78000 words. First Draft Done!

Mercy - PePr Inc novella

3000/ 20000 words. 15% done!

The Ways We End

66000/ 66000 words. 100% Done! Publishing Dec 8th! (Dark Collections 2, "And Then Begin Again" goes live on the Dec 8th too!

Strikers: Outlands

40000/ 10000 words. 40% Done!

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