logo
Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: gaming-the-system
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-10-25 19:14
Follow-up to Over Priced at $0.00 -- How the scam worked
Promised to an Earl: Arranged Marriage Historical Romance (Victorian Historical Romance) - Joyce Carroll

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.

 

Sixty-eight dollars.

 

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.

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2017-10-19 17:27
How Harvey Weinstein got away with it, and #metoo

This is not the Booklikes blog post I planned to write this morning, and yet it is.

 

Most people, like the women Harvey Weinstein abused over the years, lead lives of quiet desperation.  We're aware of the inequalities around us, and the injustices, and the inability to do anything about it.  We do our jobs and don't complain about the unfairness of the pay or treatment, because we need the paycheck.  We make ourselves believe that suffering a bit of abuse will ultimately pay off.  Maybe the boss who treats us like shit will suddenly offer us that promotion or raise, or that producer with grabby hands will put us in the role that will make us a star.  It happens just often enough to keep our hopes alive, doesn't it.

 

Those of us who rock the boat, who blow the whistle, who aren't content to put up with the bullshit, we're the ones who pay the price.  And we're held up as examples of what will happen to "you" if you do the same.  It happens just often enough to destroy your hopes and keep you in your place, doesn't it.

 

Sometimes those who dare to rock the boat are very powerful, almost as powerful as the ones who knock them down.  Mostly they aren't very powerful; they're just fed up to the eyeballs with the injustice of it all.

 

It doesn't matter; if you rock the boat too much, you'll get tipped out of it and left to drown.

 

Most of you know the basics of the saga that led to the Great Goodreads Purge of 2013.  A few of us dared to rock the boat regarding the paid-for reviews that boosted crappy books.  We documented the literally thousands of reviews and ratings that were coming from review swap groups and authors' sock puppet accounts and review mills like fiverr dot com.  We dared to out the authors who were buying the reviews.  And we dared to post negative reviews of books we thought were poorly written, especially those books written by authors who mistreated readers and reviewers.  Some of us were authors who paid the price -- in the currency of retaliatory reviews.

 

And some of us got tipped out of the boat to drown -- we were permanently banned from Goodreads.

 

Some of us came here to BookLikes in search of a more welcoming and less hostile environment, where we could review honestly, including pointing out the author behavior that we believed was harmful to the reviewing and reading community.

 

For the past four years or so, we've enjoyed that environment.  We've put up with the sometimes sporadic functionality of the BookLikes site.  We've struggled with the book data base and its limitations.  We've provided content and we've provided librarian services, whether we were official BL Librarians with the little tag or just readers eager to add our own contributions from our personal book collections.

 

Through most of that four years, we've been reasonably safe from attack by the trolls -- most of us know who they were/are so I won't name them.  And we've been spared the spectacles of authors who gamed the system to shove their books down readers' throats and who then went into berserker mode when some honest reviewer panned their book.

 

Maybe our safety has been a function of BookLikes' relatively small footprint in the book community.  I don't know.  What I do know is that as soon as I read about the demise of Amazon's discussion forums a few weeks ago, I worried that authors desperate for a place to promote their works would eventually find BookLikes and disrupt our peaceful community.

 

I don't want to rock the boat.  I like it here at BookLikes.  Despite what certain people may think -- yes, I'm looking at you, Melissa -- I get no pleasure out of reading a badly written book and pointing out its flaws.  I can understand the temptation of reviewers to post only great reviews, because life is often simpler if you just praise everything and criticize nothing.

 

But that's not me.  I don't go out looking for poorly written author-published books so I can rip them to pieces.  Unfortunately, my book-buying budget is very limited, and therefore I seek out the affordable books which are often written by the authors who publish them.  And unfortunately, many of them don't meet my personal standards.

 

Other people seem to love them, or at least they post glowing reviews.  Are they like the fans who flocked to Harvey Weinstein's movies or who watched Bill Cosby's television shows and just didn't know the sordid details of what was going on behind the scenes?  Would they have cared if they had known?  Or would they have said, "I don't care what he does; I like his work and I'm going to continue to support him, because my pleasure and enjoyment are more important than the price people have to pay to bring it to me."

 

Those people, the silent ones who never rock the boat, never see themselves as contributing to the abuse.  Of course not!  Are they free to continue to enjoy the products?  Of course!  But I am just as free to point out the full story.

 

See also Joanna Russ's What are we fighting for?

 

There are reviewers here on BookLikes whose reviews make my brain hurt, and for a lot more reasons than any of you might think.  The grammar and spelling and usage are appalling, to the point that I sometimes wonder if English is not their native language.  I wonder how someone can be an avid reader and not have picked up by osmosis the basics of the language, yet there appear to be many who have.  Some of the books read and enjoyed and given glowing reviews strike me personally as horrible, depressing, worthless, and I can't imagine anyone finding the reading of them pleasurable.  But that's their right, and I may not agree with it, but I respect it.  Some reviewers appear to me -- if not to anyone else -- to have a particular agenda which I find personally abhorrent.  They have as much right to express it as I have to express mine.  I keep my mouth -- or my fingers -- tightly shut.

 

The reason I remained silent was that I firmly believed BookLikes afforded us as readers a level playing field, as free from official interference as possible.  (Obvious cases of bullying or other overtly bad behavior would and should be dealt with accordingly.)  I was as free to express my views on books and book-related issues -- and even on non-book issues -- as anyone else.  The apparent favoritism of Goodreads and Amazon toward those books and authors and reviewers who drove the bottom line was virtually absent from BookLikes.  There were no paid promotions forced into our individual dashboard feed; we didn't have to feel we had to like certain books or authors or risk retaliation from The Powers that Be.

 

A few days ago that all changed.

 

I'm a writer.  I've been a writer almost as long as I've been a reader.  (But not as long as I've been a rock hound!)  I love writing and I love talking about writing.  I made a comment on someone else's blog post about the difficulty of crafting villains in my work, an innocent and non-controversial comment, or so I thought.

 

Not long afterward, I received a private message from another BookLikes member in response to my villain-creating comment.  I thought the message was likewise innocent and non-controversial; I welcomed him as a new member to our community and added him to my Following list.

 

He had only a couple of blog posts here, and they were almost all self-promotional.  He had no books shelved, no reviews posted.  He had only three followers, one of whom was myself.  But, he was new.  I thought he'd learn the ropes and join in.

 

A day or so later, I received another message from him, this time soliciting his newsletter on a subject in which I have never shown any interest.  There was no reason for him to send me this solicitation, so I wrote back that I had no interest in it and I warned him against spamming. 

 

BookLikes does not have a specific policy against spamming, so there was no reason for me to report him.  He wasn't breaking any Terms of Use, though it was very likely that kind of behavior might lead to his becoming less popular. 

 

As events unfolded, I was very glad I hadn't reported him.  He responded unpleasantly to me, which didn't hurt my feelings at all, though I did post a bit of a warning to my personal community of followers here.  The sentiment seemed to be that he had indeed spammed and that behavior wasn't welcome.  It should have dropped off the radar screen right there and then.

 

It didn't.

 

Though he had not been active in terms of shelving books or posting reviews, he had written several BookLikes blog posts about his writing.  I did a tiny bit of follow up because I had a personal interest in the subject of some of his work, and I was disappointed to find hints of potential -- in my opinion -- plagiarism.  But again, I kept most of my thoughts to myself or only shared them with my followers and very quietly.

 

Or at least I did so until the book in question began to be promoted personally by one of the few visible BookLikes employees.

 

Now the balance of power had shifted enormously.  Now I was just another BookLikes user, subject to banning or other disciplinary measures at the whim of those nameless, faceless Powers That Be.  I no longer had a safe voice.

 

My fellow BookLikes friends suggested that well, BookLikes staff had the right to review, and probably the right to reblog as well, which was how this had all come to my attention.  I decided I must just be alarmist, even though I felt very uncomfortable. 

 

I felt even more uncomfortable when I downloaded this author's free book from Amazon.  I found more evidence of potential plagiarism (and perhaps copyright infringement, too) but I felt helpless to do any more than post a review.  Even then, I knew I was taking an enormous risk.  The weight of official BookLikes favor might be behind the promotional post and reblogs, but it might not.

 

Today that changed again.  Now the support is official, with the promotional post coming from BookLikes itself, not just a staff member.  Is this author now protected against negative reviews by the BookLikes support?  Will we ever know?  BookLikes isn't based in the United States, so it may not fall under the regulations of the Federal Trade Commission, which rules paid promotion has to be disclosed.  Was BookLikes paid to support this author?  Do they have a financial interest in promoting this book?  Will other authors be pressured to pay for promotional support?

 

Will other authors be prevented from posting negative reviews?  Technically, under those FTC regulations, authors are not supposed to post negative reviews of their direct competition.  That's the rule that kept me from posting reviews on Amazon; it's in their guidelines and is based on those FTC regulations which have the force of law in the US.  (I'm old enough to remember the Payola scandals of the 1950s, which led to some of those FTC regulations.)

 

BookLikes has always had this power, to promote or to silence.  As far as I know, they've never used it or threatened to use it, and from that has come this feeling of safety I've enjoyed -- and perhaps you have, too -- for the past four years.

 

I'm here at BookLikes as a reader, as reviewer, as an artist, and only lastly as an author in search of readers.  I value my friendships here on BookLikes -- yes, even with those reviewers whose spelling makes my eyeballs ache and whose reading choices make my stomach queasy -- as friendships, and not as potential sources of income.  Once in a while I make reference to my own books, but I have never solicited and will never solicit sales or reviews.

 

Nor have I seen other authors do so, at least not within my limited circle of friends on the site.  We may make announcements, yes, and comment on our writing progress.  I confess, I'm now extremely uncomfortable even posting about my writing projects still in progress.  Will I be required to pay BookLikes even for that kind of promotion?  Is it considered spam?  Are my followers uncomfortable with it?

 

Do I have to worry now that if I write a negative review, I will be punished by BookLikes, even to the point of being banned from the site?  Will I, or other writers, or other reviewers, feel pressured to post only positive reviews?  Will I, or other writers, or other reviewers, feel pressured to post only positive reviews of books and/or authors openly and officially promoted by BookLikes?

 

BookLikes has flexed its muscles.  It has reminded all of us that it holds enormous power.  Does it have as much power as Amazon or Goodreads?  Perhaps not, but it has the power to silence.

 

It's very possible that BookLikes did what they did in the belief that they were only helping someone who deserved it.  The problem is that they have the power -- which they have now used -- to determine who "deserves" promotion and who doesn't.  Does that mean the deserving are those who pay?  And in what currency?

 

I've been a victim of #metoo abuse, in ways that I'm not at liberty to divulge right now.  Maybe that's why I'm more inclined to speak out than many others.  But there have always been those who threw caution to the winds, who put justice above their careers, and did the right thing.

 

I've spent the past week or so giving some serious thought to what I want to do with the rest of my life.  I turned 69 last Friday, so I'm sure there are a lot of people who think I'm a little late in getting around to that.  But when I woke up this morning at 3:00 a.m., I knew that I had come to a more or less solid decision to focus more of my time and energy on my writing.  I love the rocks and gems, I love the other creative endeavors I'm engaged in, but the writing is my first love, and over the past couple of years it has proven to be the most remunerative as well. 

 

When I logged onto BookLikes and saw the official post promoting one author, my heart sank.  I'm not morally capable of the kind of kissing up that's required to gain the favor of the powerful.  And I'm not financially capable of the kind of promotional expenditure that others are.  I've always had to rely on the quality of my work to speak for itself.

 

Now I know that on BookLikes, that's no longer enough.  The playing field is no longer level and now it's all about power.

 

I have none.

 

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
text 2017-02-26 07:03
Book Blitz - Worth Any Cost

Worth Any Cost
Brenna Aubrey
(Gaming the System #6)
Publication date: February 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance

You are cordially invited to the wedding of the decade.

Adam Drake and Emilia Kimberly Strong have chosen a date to solidify their love in the bonds of matrimony.

Join them on their exotic destination wedding. Visit with their friends and loved ones. But hold the champagne toast. Fate has a few last tests for our couple on their way to the altar.

Natural 20 or natural disaster?

Goodreads / Amazon / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Kobo

 

 

EXCERPT:

 

Satisfied with my results, I settled on the bed, all snug and dry in my robe. Pressing a stack of clean washcloths to my mouth to muffle the laughter, I heard the water turn off. After a few seconds’ hesitation, he called from inside the bathroom.

 

“Hey. Where are all the towels?”

 

I didn’t answer, just laughed some more and smothered my giggles.

 

The slap of his wet feet on the bare floor sounded as he crossed the bathroom toward the door. He poked his dripping head out of the doorway. “What did you do?” His dark eyebrow arched, hair soaked and plastered to his forehead. A puddle quickly formed around his feet.

 

I held up one of the tiny washcloths. “You want this, don’t you? The hate is swelling in you now.”

 

His mouth quirked. “Something’s swelling, but it isn’t hate.” He pushed the hair away from his forehead and cleared the water that had dripped into his eyes. “Somehow I thought getting away with that was too easy.”

 

I smirked. “You should know me better by now. As for drying off…you could always use your dirty underpants.”

 

“Underpants? What am I, five?” He clenched his jaw and then grinned. “Don’t underestimate the power of the dark side, young Jedi.”

 

I rolled my eyes. “So you’re going to try to one-up me? So predictable. I’m shaking in my boots.”

 

His dark eyes gleamed as he came closer. Rivulets of water had collected on his tasty abs. It was fascinating to behold.

 

“And you should know me better, too.” He grinned evilly. “I don’t one-up. I one-hundred-up.” Then he shook his head inches from my face. Droplets of water sprayed everywhere. I let out a screech and pulled back. “You are looking too dry over there, little girl. Let me help you with that.”

 

And he promptly pinned me, dripping wet, to the bed and started rubbing his drenched face in mine. “You’re gonna soak the bed!” I screeched.

 

“Collateral damage,” he replied. He reached down and pulled the belt on my robe, opening it. Then he shifted, sandwiching me between his wet body and the bed.

I squirmed and wiggled, and he only seemed to like it more. He shook his head again.

 

My hand smacked his hard chest. “You’re such a boy.”

 

He grinned. “I’m all boy,” he said, pressing his erection against me.

 

“I won’t take this lying down,” I muttered.

 

“You don’t have to take it lying down.” He laughed. “There’s always up against the door or the shower wall. Or you can take it bent over the back of the couch or a dozen other different ways. Whatever way you take it…you are taking it.”

 

 

 

Author Bio:

 

Brenna Aubrey is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author of contemporary romance stories that center on geek culture.

She has always sought comfort in good books and the long, involved stories she weaves in her head. Brenna is a city girl with a nature-lover's heart. She therefore finds herself out in green open spaces any chance she can get. She's also a mom, teacher, geek girl, Francophile, unabashed video-game addict & eBook hoarder.

She currently resides on the west coast of the US with her husband, two children, and two adorable golden retriever pups.

 

Sign up for Brenna's email list for release updates, and free content (deleted scenes, bonus stories, etc.) please copy & paste this link into your browser:
http://BrennaAubrey.net/newsletter-signup

 

Website / Goodreads / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

 

GIVEAWAY!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


XBTBanner1

 

 

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
review SPOILER ALERT! 2016-12-14 05:34
Suspicious minds
The Semper Sonnet - Seth J. Margolis

When Stephanie at Stephanie's Book Reviews reviewed this book, I was intrigued enough to check it out on Amazon.  The Kindle edition was only 99 cents. so I splurged and bought it.

 

Disclosure:  I paid the full retail price for the Kindle edition.  I do not know the author, nor have I ever had any contact with him about this book or any other matter.  I am an author of contemporary gothic and historical romances.

 

This is not really a review, since I've only read a couple chapters and may or may not read any more.  But I'm so disgusted by what I found that I feel compelled to post this information.  As an author, I cannot post it on Amazon; authors are not allowed to post negative comments/reviews.

 

I know virtually nothing about the publisher of this item, Diversion Books of New York City.  They have a website that makes them look professional, and they seem to have a number of authors and titles in their catalogue.  But I personally would never recommend them to anyone, based on my reading of the opening chapters of this book.

 

Editors are supposed to fix errors.  Although editors are human and make mistakes, they shouldn't make big fat obvious ones.

 

 

Screen shot from K4PC

 

 

 

 

Copied text from later in the same chapter:

 

Lee Nicholson would not be wounded. She would not bleed.

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Location 245). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

 

Copied text from the next chapter:

 

“You haven’t been charged with anything, Miss Nichols.”

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Location 292). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

Copied text from later in the next chapter:

 

Where would she go?

“Miss Nichols?”

Detective Lowry was staring at her with something verging on concern.

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Locations 317-318). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 

And later:

 

“Leslie Nichols?”

She turned from her dresser to face one of the plainclothes men sifting through every item in her bedroom.

“I’m known as Lee. Lee Nichols.”

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Locations 365-367). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

 

An error like that is pretty much unforgivable.  I caught it on a first reading late at night when I was tired as hell.

 

Names are important . They are one of the first identifiers of a character.  They can also stop a reader in her tracks if they're wrong or jarring or . . . too familiar.

 

From early in Chapter 1:

 

Her mentor at Columbia, David Eddings, had assured her that it was her looks and not her scholarship that had landed her a spot on the news.

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Locations 224-225). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

 

David Eddings was a well-known author of several best-selling fantasy series.  Coming across an unusual name of a real person like this is a jolt that pulls a reader out of the make-believe world of the novel.  Had the name been Donald Eddings or David Geddings, I would never have noticed it.  But I did notice "David Eddings" and was immediately on alert.

 

When the main character's name changed from "Lee Nicholson" to "Lee Nichols," the importance of the other name doubled.  "Leigh Nichols" is one of the many pseudonyms of another best-selling author, Dean Koontz.

(spoiler show)

 

 

Had this been a self-published book, I probably would have stopped reading at that point and just posted a DNF review.  There were other elements of the plot that bothered me even at less than 4% into the book, but I could have overlooked those if I felt confident of the writing.  But because it was published by a third party, I decided to do a little more research.

 

The first stop was Amazon, to see what the reviews were like.  Oh man, oh man, oh man, here we go again.

 

The Semper Sonnet's dedication:

 

For Jean Naggar

Margolis, Seth. The Semper Sonnet (Kindle Location 64). Diversion Books. Kindle Edition.

 

 From the Amazon page for the book:

 

 

Full transparency my ass.

 

Oh, and that 1 comment?  It's Jean Naggar's link to her own book.  Follow that up and you'll find that Ms. Naggar is a literary agent.  I'd be willing to bet she's Seth Margolis's agent.

 

Full transparency my ass.

 

So now I have a really bad taste in my mouth about this author and this book.  I regret spending even 99 cents on it and putting 35 cents in Margolis's bank account, 7 cents of which probably went to Naggar.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-10-27 23:49
Speculation regarding Amazon's "new" product review guidelines

http://greywarden.booklikes.com/post/1488937/presenting-amazon-s-early-reviewer-program

 

Not sure whether reblogging would mess things up worse, but I didn't want to hijack the original post with a huge long reply.  Then again, that may have been the best solution.  Oh, well, I usually screw things up anyway, so what the heck.  I'll cross reference this to it just in case.

 

Disclosure I:  I do not and will not review anything on Amazon.  As an author, I'm restricted to posting only positive reviews of books like might be close to my genre, which currently means anything in the romance category, plus paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense.  Rather than risk losing my KDP privileges, I just don't review anything.

 

Disclosure II:  Being banned from Goodreads for daring to call out shills and unethical authors, I don't review there either.  I never had any secret accounts there and have never attempted to set up any.  I have no interest in being on a site where I can't be honest, or where the dishonest are given more credibility, visibility, and leeway than I am.

 

After reading the Amazon info that Grey Warden posted in the linked blog and the subsequent discussions there and on Obsidian Black Death's reblog, I took about an hour away from the computer and did some thinking.  Which leads to - - - - -

 

Disclosure III:  As an author re-entering the publishing arena with new material, rather than just republishing old stuff, I have ulterior motives.  I do not have the means to pay for promotion, and I'm uncomfortable doing it myself, so I have relied on occasional mentions of my work here and on Facebook, then on word of mouth (or fingers, as the case may be).  I DO NOT READ ANY OF MY REVIEWS, but I do track my sales and sales ranking, and that requires a glance at the listing for my book on Amazon.  (I do not look at Goodreads or any other site, including BL)  As of this afternoon, the book has 7 reviews and an average of something around four stars.  I'm happy.  I have no idea who reviewed it or what they wrote, but my sales and Kindle Unlimited reads have been satisfying.  I sent out exactly one free ARC; all other copies have been purchased at full retail price or borrowed through Kindle lending programs.

 

With all of that out of the way, some observations and speculations.

 

Though it's been over three years since the Amazon merger with Goodreads and the subsequent GR September Purge, my belief is that Amazon has been under some pressure -- perhaps from the FTC but perhaps internal pressure -- to clean up the review mess.  I haven't even followed this "coupon club" issue, but from what I saw today, it looks like just another venue for scamming, and Amazon already has enough of that.

 

The fake reviews, whether they come from fiverr, from indie blogger shills, from review swap groups, or from reviewers who like the freebies that come with high reviewer ranking, could only hurt Amazon's brand.  I think we all know this.  And while Amazon may be the biggest online retailer and have a huge, huge, huge share of the SPA ebook market, thousands of five-star reviews for crap products could not be good for their brand.

 

If there were threats of enforcement from the FTC, that would make it even worse.

 

So down comes the hammer on the shills on 3 October, and now, less than a month later, a new program designed/hoped to further restrict the fake reviews.

 

The key part of the Early Rewards program, in my opinion, is that the product has to be purchased from Amazon.  This prevents sellers from shipping out freebies to solicit reviews.  It does not, however, weed out the organized shills, such as on fiverr, who simply charge the price of the product so they can buy it and review it and get the "verified purchase" tag.  And in the event of fulfillment by Seller, rather than by Amazon, more shenanigans are possible.

 

If the ER program is limited to fulfillment by Amazon, that problem may be taken care of.

 

But the real problem is still being masked, and that is the issue of Amazon selling crap products.  It's not the reviews that are hurting their brand; it's the crap they're allowing to flood their marketplace.

 

A year ago, when Amazon launched their Handmade @ Amazon platform, sellers had to apply and be accepted before they could list items in the marketplace.  Once a Seller was approved, they could pretty much list just about anything within the parameters; they weren't required to have new products juried in.  Though I haven't done any research at all, I suspect there are some sellers in the H@A marketplace who are selling items that would not have passed the original vetting process.  There's nothing *I* can do about it, though Amazon should take a hand in policing it.  They probably don't and probably won't.

 

Because they're so damn greedy and want every single selling fee they can get their hands on, consumers be damned AND sellers be damned.

 

There are crafters and artisans who will not list on H@A because they don't want to deal with the policies of the customer is always right and refunds are always given to quell complaints.  This has fostered an attitude amongst sellers -- it's rampant on eBay, too -- that the customer must be satisfied at all costs to avoid any kind of negative feedback.   Some Amazon sellers are successful enough that they can afford this kind of refund-on-demand, but others can't and are intimidated by it.  This, of course, encourages the purchasing of positive reviews, and it's what has gotten everything so messed up.

 

(The review policy on Etsy.com is much more restrictive -- only persons who have purchased the item can review it, and they can only review that specific product.  The system gets gamed, but not as badly as Amazon or Goodreads.)

 

At some point, Amazon may find itself forced to restrict what products it allows independent sellers to list on the site.  Attempts to regulate reviews and reviewers may simply not be enough, because if there are sellers who are trying to game the product system in the first place, they will continue to find ways to game the review system.

 

And at some point also, Amazon may very well have to take a position on how it justifies treating books as a separate product category.

 

Why is an ARC of a book any less of a free product than a bottle of organic vitamins or a non-stick waffle iron or a solar-powered phone charger?

 

Furthermore, why is a perma-free Kindle book, downloaded 20,000 times to get 100 five-star reviews, any less an incentive?

 

And what about the incentives and solicitations listed in the books themselves, encouraging readers to leave good reviews so the author can sell more?

 

How will all of the new regulations -- not just the October 3rd memo with its requirement that the reviewer have purchased $50 worth of merchandise but this new program and any others -- affect reviews on Goodreads?  They are no less sales devices than the reviews on Amazon, and I have a feeling it wouldn't take me long to find that some of our favorite fiverr shills are still at work there.  (The last time I looked was a few months ago, and it took me about ten minutes to locate the first one and then tie it to an Amazon review.)

 

Amazon wants the best of all worlds.  They want to sell all the products all the time, but they only want legit reviews, and preferably positive ones that sell product.  They don't want the hassle of vetting the products -- or the legal liability that would come with it -- but they want all products under the Amazon brand.  I think this newest program is an attempt -- and it has both strengths and weaknesses that I can see -- to clean up a horrific mess of their own making, but without actually cleaning it up.

 

As long as Goodreads is under the Amazon umbrella, there will be just as much dishonesty there as on Amazon, and perhaps much more.  Will GR start requiring purchases from Amazon in order to review?  What about reviews for out-of-print books not for sale on Amazon, or only on sale through affiliate/independent sellers?  What about reviews of library books, borrowed from friends?  Many of these books may not even be listed on Amazon.

 

If reviews are restricted on Amazon -- which they should have been from the beginning -- because Amazon is a retail site, will authors/publishers turn to Goodreads for shilling?  Will Goodreads be able to regulate it?  Or will Goodreads have to start instituting the same kind of restrictions as on Amazon?

 

I think that down the road, this new program by Amazon is going to have a big impact on book bloggers.  If ARCs and Kindle freebies are allowed to be reviewed, then why not free products in exchange for reviews?  And if free products are not permitted, then ARC and freebies should be banned, too.

 

I can't speak for non-book products, but I do believe, in all sincerity, that without a fully independent book reviewing site, this problem is going to continue and continue and get worse long before it gets better.

 

And now I'll shut up.  At least for a while.  Long enough to fix supper.

 

 

More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?