Disclosure: I obtained the Kindle edition of this book when it was offered free on 6 January 2016. I do not know the author nor have I ever had any communication with her about this book or any other matter. I am an author of adult fiction and general interest non-fiction.
Thanks to comments by Darth Pony and Alexandra's Adventures in Books to my original "Over Priced at $0.00," I did some further research on how the scammers have operated to screw over readers -- and writers! -- via the Kindle Unlimited program. Because I already had this item purchased and downloaded, it provides perfect material for analysis.
As you can see from the above screen shot (taken today), this item is now listed at $0.99 and is not available for Kindle Unlimited reading. The lone Amazon review is a one-star warning not to buy the book.
According to the product information, this "book" is now 37 pages long.
Here's how the scam worked.
When Kindle Unlimited began, authors were paid the full royalty on any KU book the reader turned 10% of the pages. This quickly proved too easy to scam, so the process was changed. Authors were then paid a set amount per page turned (whether actually read or not). It was still easy to pad books by double or triple spacing, leaving blank pages between chapters, and so on. At that point Amazon came up with Kindle Edition Normalized Pages ("KENP"), which basically amounts to counting pages by equivalent words. The current approximation is ~187 words per page, and the current royalty payment is ~$0.005 (one half cent) per KENP.
What the scammers did was to bundle dozens (literally dozens) of these short books/stories into a single volume, slap a cover and title on it, and publish it via Kindle Direct Publishing and enroll it in the KU program. One book, of course, wouldn't be enough to rake in lots of royalties, so they took the same dozens of stories, shuffled the order, and republished them in other collections. With new covers and new titles, they looked like another whole product, even though they weren't.
(I have some more of these in my Kindle collection and I'll try to locate and post more screen shots later.)
Once the reader was enticed to download the book via KU, she encountered various enticements, such as this:
Yes, "at the very end of this Book." But, look at the number at the very bottom of this page: 116459.
By comparison, Marsha Canham's full-length historical romance Bound by the Heart only yields 6801 "locations." (These are not actual pages; I'm not sure exactly what measurement is used.)
A single click to the end of 116,459 brought the scammers 17 times the KU royalty that a full-length novel by a real author would have brought. If the reader found out the material was crappy, she didn't much care, because it came "free" with her monthly KU subscription. There really wasn't much incentive to leave a negative review, and it would only have taken more of her time, which she may have already considered wasted. Why waste more on a negative review?
Whether "Joyce Carroll" really is a New York Times bestselling author remains to be discovered. She may have been one of those who sold a big bunch of books in a collection for $0.99 and ended up on some list. Again, it's a scam.
Now, are readers hurt by this? Well, they are if they spend good money on this crap. I confess I haven't actually looked at the "Promised to an Earl" story yet, but the others I looked at were pretty poor fare. Still, most KU readers probably only look at the time they spent on books they otherwise wouldn't have read, because there's no actual money involved for them.
Authors, however, are directly impacted.
The KU pool is determined by Amazon each month, and it is then divided amongst the participating books by those KENPs actually turned. To give you an idea of how that works out, my book The Looking-Glass Portrait is listed at 391 pages on Kindle; Marsha Canham's book is listed at 406, so pretty darn close to equal. LGP is calculated to have 827 KENPs. So this scam book "Promised to an Earl" generated roughly $68.00 in royalties each time someone clicked on that link to take them to the end of the book for a freebie.
That $68.00 was pulled out of the pool of funds available to the authors who actually wrote books and lent them via Kindle Unlimited.
And we don't know how many of these scam books were actually listed.
Here's the review I did of one, however, along with one page from the text to show spacing and the location amount on the bottom.
Apparently Amazon has tried to rein in some of these scam books. I don't know if The Second Sister has been trimmed down so it doesn't add up the KENPs; I'll check later.
But, friends and fellow readers, this is just another reason why negative reviews are important. This is why we can't just shrug our shoulders and say "There's nothing I can do about it." These tactics are wrong. They hurt real authors, and they hurt real readers by depriving them of the well-written books real authors are putting out there.
Deal with it, Anne Rice. Deal with it.