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text 2018-05-28 18:08
I have no idea what's going on with Amazon, Kindle Unlimited, and Reviews

There are bits and pieces in various threads on Twitter, but I haven't been able to put the whole puzzle together.

 

Part of it has to do with "stuffing" Kindle Unlimited books so the authors get more page reads than the book deserves.  I've detailed a few examples I found before I even know "stuffing" was a thing.  The author publishes a novel or novella or even a short story, but pads the document with other material, which may be previously published stories or even junk filler like recipes and scrapings from the internet.  A link at the beginning of the book similar to "Click here for bonus material and special offers!" takes the reader to the end of the book and grants the author full Kindle Edition Normalized Pages ("KENP") credit for pages read.  If a 200-page novel is expanded to 500 pages -- or more -- the author gets an enhanced payout.  KU is currently paying just about $0.005 (half a cent) per KENP, so stuffing can mean the difference between a $1.00 profit and $2.50 per book.  If the book is crap and would not ordinarily even have been read, that profit to the author goes up from maybe $.10 (for 20 pages read).

 

Apparently there's a crackdown on "stuffing."  Apparently Amazon has changed review policies, at least on products other than books.  I can't confirm that, though, because I pay so little attention to Amazon reviews.  I don't look at mine and can't post reviews, so the whole issue is moot as far as I'm concerned.

 

I have five novels published with Kindle Direct Publishing, and all are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.  I know this hurts readers who would like to avoid the behemoth, but I have to be realistic.  When my books were listed with Smashwords, the sales were infinitessimal.  Through Amazon sales and Kindle Unlimited reads, I've made way more than I could ever have made through other outlets.  That income is what enables me to keep writing.

 

My books aren't padded.  I don't have any stupid trademarks pending.  I write under my own name -- Linda Hilton -- and that's the name I use to post online.  The authors who game the system, whether it's through fake reviews, stuffing their books, or other shenanigans, are not my colleagues; they are my adversaries.

 

They are not friends of readers, either.  Who would cheat their "friends" by making them pay, even with their time if not their money, for crap?  The ill-gotten KU payments that go to book stuffers are funds taken literally out of the earnings of legitimate authors, those who are writing the books readers actually want to read.

 

I don't know what exactly Amazon is doing about this, but apparently they're doing . . . something.  Whatever it is, I hope it works.

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text 2018-02-08 18:46
note to self
Out Of Reach - J.B. Millhollin



Author followed me on Twitter.

Amazon reviews are all 4- and 5-star, several same reviewers, some with no other reviews.  "Twists and turns" abound.

Publisher Fulton Books is a subsidy publisher.

Downloaded only the sample, haven't looked at it yet other than to note that 20% of it is the TOC.

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text 2018-02-07 21:16
Another BBA Bites The Dust

This one has had a relatively small impact, but follows familiar patterns, and reveals anti-reader, anti-consumer attitudes we've seen before.

 

Author Elena Maria Vidal has written several self published Historical Fiction novels, set around the time of the French Revolution, including one about Marie Antoinette which the blurb for the book claims is "...based upon the author's thirty years of research. Whenever possible the historical persons speak for themselves out of memoirs and letters." According to her bio she has an MA in European History.

 

A couple of readers with expertise in the subject matter, including The Just About Average Ms M, have posted their less than favorable reviews regarding Ms. Vidals novels, in part pointing out what they believe are significant historical inaccuracies.

 

Some of these reviews go back a couple years, some are more recent.  These reviews have been targeted by a few of Ms. Vidal's fans (and/or possible sock puppets), posting unpleasant things in the comment section.  Additionally Ms. M's own books, which I understand are academic in nature, have been victim to one-star retaliation ratings.  Of course this activity cannot in and of itself be held against the author, without any evidence she's party to it.

 

However, a few months ago Ms. Vidal posted a blog post on her blog (recently now deleted) entitled "Trolls on the Internet and Negative Reviews" in which she attempts to paint herself as the victim of "bullying" and "harassment" due to these negative reviews.  She claimed, in essence, that the other reviewer, who I won't name here, posted negative reviews of her book due to some personal vendetta against her.  As evidence she cited the fact that this person had years previous held discussions with her via her blog regarding their mutual interest of French history, as well as debating such issues with her on one of her book reviews on Amazon.  I've spoken briefly with this person and he's stated he enjoyed discussing the topic with someone who was mutually interested.  I would not be surprised if these conversations became heated or adversarial.

 

I don't believe this person was motivated by malice to post negative reviews, but out of disagreement with historical facts and claims presented in the content.  Regardless, Ms Vidal clearly feels otherwise.  She admits to having contacted this person's place of employment to inquire if he had a "history of violence."

 

Independent of this Ms M., who is an expert in the subject matter, also posted negative reviews of Ms. Vidal's novels.

 

In her blog post complaining of these reviews, Ms. Vidal writes,

 

"There are reviews which are a genuine critique of the work which can actually help the author improve. I have had many such reviews and they have helped me to grow as a writer. But reviews of the one-star variety are not meant to help a writer become more proficient at his or her craft. One-star reviews are meant to destroy. They do not care about helping anyone's writing skill, They do not want the writer to ever write again."

 

As you can see she is another who believes consumer reviews are to be "genuine critique of the work" which in my opinion Ms. M's at least obviously are, and that their purpose is to "help the author improve", and "helping" the author's "writing skill" which of course is not their purpose at all.

 

Additionally, according to her, one-star reviews serve no legitimate purpose, and posting them must be due to malicious intent toward the author.  I must wonder then why she thinks both Amazon and GoodReads offer their users/customers the option of rating a book 1 star.  According to Amazon and GoodReads it's to allow their users/customers the ability to express "I Didn't Like It", according to Ms. Vidal it's "meant to destroy." and an effort to cause the writer to never write again.  Which of course is utter bullcrap.

 

In this blog post Ms. Vidal also posted links to multiple reviews by these two reviewers, both on Amazon and GoodReads, calling these reviewers out and making it easy for fans to target them for harassment.  Some did make the attempt, and both GoodReads and Amazon deleted such comments from the reviews due to TOS violations.  In one place where she provided links she stated,

 

"I am linking to this to show how determined and obsessed they are to bully and harass me. It is psychological terrorism and terrorists need the light shown upon them."

 

Please note, she's referring here to negative book reviews.

 

Last week a couple GoodReads users posted as "Discussion Questions" of her books accusations of "persecution" and harassment of this author, referencing the blog post.  Those questions have now been deleted and the users who posted them are now no longer GR users. I suspect this is due to GR action, per TOS, but I cannot be sure.

 

As many of us are aware, all of these are common tactics some authors employ in an attempt to intimidate readers into removing, and not posting, book reviews that displease them.  Failing that, it is designed to discredit the reviewers so that readers and potential readers, disregard them and are taught not to post such reviews themselves.

 

In short - an attempt to subvert the purpose of consumer reviews as independent, unbiased, honest, consumer opinion.

 

Within the last day Ms. Vidal reported on her Facebook page that GoodReads has removed her account and she is no longer a GoodReads Author.  I have confirmed this is correct.

 

"Now this is strange. I received a message from Goodreads saying that I have been banned. It seems that some people complained about my "abusive" behavior! I assumed then that my entire author page had been taken down. But it's still there, although I no longer am a "Goodreads Author." https://www.goodreads.com/aut…/show/150437.Elena_Maria_Vidal What is really weird is that they took down all my reviews of other authors' books! I feel bad because those authors sent me their books expecting a review! I just want people to know if my review of your book is gone, it is not my doing!"

 

https://www.facebook.com/ElenaMariaVidal/posts/10156038408018162

 

 

 

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text 2018-02-07 21:04
I saw this on Twitter

http://time.com/5137858/amazon-mystery-packages/?utm_campaign=time&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&xid=time_socialflow_twitter

 

Two experts say the Gallivans are likely unwittingly being used in a ruse to manipulate Amazon buyer reviews. The anonymous sender is likely writing glowing reviews of their own product.

 

 

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review 2018-02-06 14:25
Review: Operation Hail Storm
Operation Hail Storm - Classroom Edition - Brett Arquette

Due to some unethical and TOS violating marketing this book caught my notice and I decided to take a look at it. Is this book truly as good as the author claims, and some glowing 5 star reviews assert?  Well, in addition to the spamming, and strange claims of being well suited for fans of very dissimilar books, it will probably not surprise you that more honest reviewers also state it is in serious need of good editing.


Looking at the Kindle Sample, so far the first 9 pages are one big Info Dump. *Snore*.

So far, the sketchy info we have about the two "girlfriends" of the high ranking North Korean official that are hanging out at his pool is that they're unbelievably interested in the eagle-but-we-know-it's-really-a-drone they see flying. Like, seriously, in between huge info dumps about this drone, it's mechanics and functioning, etc, these girls just keep repeating things like,

"Look at the pretty bird,"
"Oh, I see it," "Is it an eagle? I think it's an eagle!"
"I think it is an eagle,"
"Do you see the eagle, Mr. Kim?"
"Look, Mr.Kim. The eagle is right there."
"Do you see the eagle?" [Yes AGAIN...] "she asked Kim again."

Now, I admit, I'm not an expert in how nubile young "girlfriends" act and talk about when hanging out at the luxury pool of a powerful and wealthy man in what is a very poor country. But I really do expect this isn't it.

And, back to some unnecessarily detailed info dumping...

And then, "Understanding if he didn't look at the eagle, the women would continue to pester him,"

Are these "women" eight years old? Mentally challenged in some way? On drugs? Or maybe this guy has a fetish for ornithologists?

'"It's so beautiful," his girlfriend [inconsistent - as we're already told there are two of his "girlfriends" present, so...] said. "It must have a nest close to here. Around and around it goes. I've seen it every day for the last few days."'

Really, I'm shaking my head, sure, mention the bird, but this is really ridiculous and unbelievable behavior by women in this situation. I'm getting the impression the author here just wants the characters to serve the plot - which is calling attention to this "bird" (and talking about it on and on and on), and didn't put much thought into making these "girlfriends" believable as actual characters, or the situation of hanging out at this pool very believable. He's also insulting his readers, because he apparently thinks they are too stupid to notice something important unless he repeatedly hits them over the head with it.

So far, Mr. Kim has only grunted. Twice.

"Did you see it?" "Oh, wouldn't it be wonderful if you could just float on the air like that? No worries. No problems."

Mr. Kim laughs.

Now we get more telling and not showing.

(I'm bored.)

The First Chapter: A drone that is made to appear to be an eagle is flying above the estate of a North Korean official tasked with building a long range missile. The official and two of his "girlfriends" notice it. And pages and pages and pages of info dumping about this drone, and the hot water this guy will be in if he doesn't deliver.

That's it. (I'm still bored).

Ok, the eagle-really-a-drone is being shot at, and the drone operator says, "Don't those idiots know that the eagle is a protected species?"

Telling me he's an idiot since 1. only certain species of eagle are protected and 2. in the US. I suspect the author may have intended that to come off as sarcastic humor, but the way things are written here in context it doesn't come off that way. Probably in part because of a lack of providing important details like facial expressions and tone of voice.

"He'd been recruited by Hail because he was the winner of the X-Wing Fantasy Flight Game Contest."

I just rolled my eyes so hard I hurt myself.

 

I'm a gamer. I'm also a Sci-Fi reader. I know there's actually a place to put gamer-fantasy-fulfillment like this into a story and have a willing audience go with the author, in spite of this sort of thing being unbelievable and unrealistic.  That place is in some forms of Sci-Fi/Fantasy.  It doesn't suit a political thriller like this book is.  Here it simply feels so unrealistic it jars the reader out of the story.  This type of story depends upon sounding realistic and credible, making it sound believable, even when stretching what we currently have as far as present day tech.  This is one example of where this book fails in that regard.

Enter the woman team member, "Typically, she wore a dress that showed off her long legs. [Of course she does *roll eyes*] She was tall for an Asian woman, but she liked being tall. Tall, smart and sexy."

Excuse me while I hurl. Yeah, yeah, I get this is a "guy" story. Puke.

This woman is the member of a para-military team, on a para-military ship, in the middle of a para-military operation. Wearing a dress. Just, no. <= not gonna happen. A skintight, latex, catsuit would make more sense than a dress. Does this ship have an elevator? Because if she's using stairs or ladders to move between decks she's giving everyone a nice show, whether they want it or not. Maybe she doesn't care. *eyeroll*

Then of course she has to look down and check out her fingernail polish. For chipping. Ya know, just to look like she's cool and collected. Or, has her priorities seriously skewed. Again - No.

I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps this woman just slept her way through MIT, because so far she cares mostly about looking sexy, showing off her legs, and the state of her manicure. Sure, those things have their place - but not in the middle of a para-military operation on board a para-military ship.

This is really, really, bad as far as female characters, who so far are either cardboard props just there to cry out "the bird! the bird!", or a book smart woman who clearly has zero common sense, and is so sexual a being she has to walk around on a para-military ship where the guys flop around in t-shirts, wearing sexy dresses so, I dunno, she can be oogled or something.

I'm wondering if the person who wrote this has ever met a woman, like, in actual real life.

 

One reader made fun of this comment, which is part of the narration, not a comment from a character:

 

"...but missile technology was complicated—damn near rocket science."

 

The sarcastic comment about this is well deserved, because of course missile technology is exactly rocket science.

 

Prior to his unceremoniously being removed from GoodReads for TOS violations, the author insulted this reader for not being able to recognize what he felt was obvious sarcastic humor.

 

Well, I have read the above in context and I can confirm it doesn't come off as sarcastic humor by the narrator.  It's rare for a book to have a narrator that breaks the 4th wall to give humorous asides to the reader. And when it's done it's both consistent and clear.  That this statement comes off as stupid, rather than a joke by the narrator, is a failure of the writing, not of the reader.


This book, so far, isn't the worst I've read, although that bar is really, really low, and it may have appeal for a male audience who like female characters to be out of male fantasy rather than reality, and enjoy prolonged and very detailed explanations and descriptions of numerous gadgets and weaponry. But, it's not that great, either.

 

I found the characterization to be shoddy to non-existent.  The writing is way too much telling not showing, with pages and pages of info dumping.  I understand some readers enjoy high tech stories with details about the gadgets, but that should be told organically to the story, and interspersed with the plot and the action.  Here the story grinds to a halt as we're provided a detailed lecture. It's incredibly boring, and very bad writing.  Particularly for an Action/Adventure/Thriller.

 

Don't like the marketing efforts for this one.  This author has been booted from GoodReads for spamming many users offering them this book for free.  In these spam messages he makes claims to it being similar to all sorts of dissimilar popular books, in the effort to entice readers.

 

After being booted from GoodReads this author continues his spam campaign by creating new accounts, sending spam to users, then deleting those accounts.  Rendering blocking useless, and making reporting to GR more difficult.

 

This author is also asking people to "like" positive reviews of his books, which is considered review manipulation and violates TOS.


Additionally, the $9.99 price is also way too high for a self-pubbed ebook.

 

 

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