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text 2018-06-10 21:53
BAD WRITING

Clearly brimming with confidence, her long legs strode into the room wearing a velvet knee-length gown while smoking a cigarette.

Scott, Catherine. The Westward Bride (Kindle Locations 1768-1769). Catherine Scott. Kindle Edition.

 

The book is no longer available on Amazon.  This is from one of the MANY stuffed stories added to the main title.

 

It was so bad, so glaringly bad, I just couldn't help snipping it out to share with all my BookLikes friends.

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text 2018-06-04 05:50
Kindle Unlimited Book Apparent Stuffers - a list in progress

These are authors whose books appear to be somewhat padded with material that may violate Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing guidelines for inclusion in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library programs.  I have not  confirmed all of them.  Some may have already been removed as of 8 June 2018; some may have brought their books into compliance with current Amazon Terms of Service.

 

Most of the books in my personal collection are historical romance, with some of the stuffed books/stories being paranormal and/or contemporary.  Some of the most notorious "stuffers" appear to be writers* of contemporary "new adult" romances.  (*It's believed that many of the filler stories are written by ghost writers from fiverr and other sites.)

 

 

 

(Alphabetically)

 

Alexis Angel (aka Lana Hartley)

Abby Ayles

 

RR Banks

JL Beck

Veronica Bird

Emily Bishop

Alexa/Annabel Blair

Candy Blake

Kira Blakely

Cassandra Bloom

LA Books (publisher? author? not sure)

 

Emily Brand

Rachel Brant

 

Joyce Carroll

 

Chance Carter (3 June 2018, some books may have been pulled from Amazon; 4 June 2018, appear to have been reinstated. 8 June 2018 appears to have been removed completely)

 

Nikki Chase

Eddie Cleveland

 

Elena Davinski

Cassandra Dee

Nicole Elliot

 

Fanny Finch

Aria Ford

Rye Hart

Rose Haven

Stephanie Hunt

Annabel Hunter (may also be Alexa/Annabel Blair)

 

Teagan Kade

Fiona Knightingale

 

Lisa Lace

RS Lively

Eva Luxe

 

Eve Madden

Cassandra Michaels

 

Catherine Scott

Tia Siren

Gary Starta

Christine M. Styles (aka North Andrews. Sarah Marquez)

 

Keith Taylor, aka Aya Fukunishi

 

Brittany White

Sky Winters

 

 

 

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text 2018-06-02 19:22
Book Scammers on Amazon Kindle Unlimited

 

I'm going to be writing and updating this post throughout the week-end.

 

*Sunday morning update at the end.

 

In a way, I'm writing this for myself, in an effort to understand exactly what happened, when, and how.  Maybe no one else will care, but I do, for very selfish reasons.  I want to be able to write and publish what I write and make enough money from it to continue.

 

This issue is pretty complex, and I know I've written about it before but I don't have links handy to all my posts and comments.  (Will add links to my previous posts when I have time to find them.)  Apparently, however, Amazon is finally trying to do something about it. This seems like a good time, therefore, to examine the whole situation.  Maybe nothing can actually be done, maybe the scams will just continue, but at least we'll know what's going on.

 

 

My prior posts, related as well as sort-of related, added as I locate them:

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1762037/i-have-no-idea-what-s-going-on-with-amazon-kindle-unlimited-and-reviews

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1654030/over-priced-junk-do-not-want-to-read

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1652355/today-s-awful-freebie

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1610884/follow-up-to-over-priced-at-0-00-how-the-scam-worked

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1610287/over-priced-at-0-00

http://lindahilton.booklikes.com/post/1446899/i-don-t-know-what-these-are-other-than-very-bad-writing

 

 

Here's a link to David Gaughran's blog that has some of the other background information, too, on both the trademark issues going around Romancelandia and the Kindle stuffing.

 

If you are on Twitter, you should be able to find this thread, which gives a lot of information and has some links also.  I followed Tymber and am now getting more information from others.  There is also a lot of information being compiled under #GETLOUD.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a sample of one apparent "stuffer."

 

 

Here are the stats on this book:

 

 

This is a screenshot of the "Look Inside" Table of Contents.

 

 

 

 The TOC occupies several pages of the Look Inside preview, ending with this:

 

 

What this apparently means is that "Elizabeth" is the first "story" in this collection.  The 15,000 word title story, "Sold," doesn't show up until the third or so page of the TOC, depending on your screen magnification.  Yes, it's linked on the first page of the TOC, but that means the link takes you further into the book, which equates to more pages "read" for the Kindle Unlimited author.

 

So let's go to the background information, some of which I've shared before.

 

Kindle Unlimited is an Amazon subscription program.  You pay a set fee each month and are allowed to read as many KU titles as you like.  When you stop paying the subscription fee, you lose any/all KU titles.  I think there's a limit to how many you can have out at a time, so when you've read one, you return it and can check out another, just like at the library.

 

KU books are enrolled by the authors/publishers.  One requirement is that they be exclusive to Amazon, so you won't find many traditionally published ebooks on KU. Mostly it's author-published material, like my novels.  As I've explained before, I never sold enough on the other platforms to bother with them; I'm happy to be just on Amazon.

 

When a KU book is downloaded to the subscriber's device, it shows up on the author's data as 1 page read.  As the reader progresses through the book, the pages mount up.  The author can keep track of her KU "sales" in almost real time.  As far as I know -- and according to the screenshot further down -- the author is only paid for the first KU read by that account; you can't have Aunt Sophie read it over and over and keep getting paid, any more than you can get paid for re-reads of other books, either physical or digital.

 

Amazon determined that the fair way to pay authors for KU reads was to calculate a standard "page" -- called the KENPC, or Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count.  They are currently on Version 3.0.  This is important.

 

My most recently published novel, The Looking-Glass Portrait, was listed on Amazon in July 2016.  It went directly to Kindle Unlimited and has never been listed anywhere else.  Other than fixing a handful of typos -- think we found five altogether -- LGP has not been edited or revised in any way since July 2016.

 

 

The data hasn't changed either.

 

 

 

 

 

It's listed at 366 print pages; the actual trade-size print-on-demand paperback edition is 364 pages. But the critical number is the KENPC pages, which according to the publication data provided to me as the author is 637.

 

Previously, whether under KENP v. 2.0 or before, it was 827.

 

To be perfectly honest with you, there's probably a notification in one of the Kindle Direct Publishing newsletters I've received over the past year that explains this, but I haven't read them.  At any rate, the current payment schedule is about $0.005 -- half a cent -- per KENPC actually read by the Kindle device.  The reader herself may be just flipping pages or even using a link to get to the end of the book, but it's all about what the device records and sends back to Amazon as the furthest page read.  That's how the author gets paid.

 

Again, to be honest with you, I earn about $2.00 for every Kindle edition of LGP sold.  I earn about $3.00 for every KU edition read.  As I posted on Twitter a couple of days ago, I keep the Kindle price low for those who aren't KU subscribers; I have no control over the KU price or payment.  (Anything below $2.99 only earns a 35% royalty; at $2.99 I earn 70%, minus a small fee based on file size.)  These numbers are set by Amazon, so they're the same for all self-publishing Kindle authors and Kindle Unlimited enrollees.

 

Please note the comparison:

LGP with a file size of 1985kb generates 366 print pages. Davinski's Sold is shown as 1850kb, but 1947 pages.  What I don't know, obviously, is the KENPC on Davinski's book.  As far as I know, that information is only available to the author/publisher.  Here's the information on LGP, which shows that the KU rate is paid "the first time" the subscriber reads it.

 

 

 Recently -- though I don't know exactly how recently -- Amazon decided to try to put a stop to this book "stuffing," which is the bundling together of various texts into a huge file, selling it at a low price but offering it on KU to get the payment for page reads.  (Screen shot doesn't capture it all, so I'm doing just a text cut and paste.)

 

Bonus Content

If you choose to include bonus content (e.g., other stories, or previews of other books that are not part of your book’s title), it should be relevant to the customer and should not disrupt the reading experience. To meet these guidelines, we require placing additional content at the end of the book, and listing the bonus content in your book's table of contents.

To provide an optimal customer experience, bonus content should make up no more than around 10% of your book. If you would like to include multiple stories within your book, consider creating a collection of works. When selecting your book’s title, always make sure to follow the Metadata Guidelines.

Primary and bonus content must meet all program guidelines (e.g., bonus content in KDP Select titles must be exclusive). Translated content must be high quality and not machine generated. Disruptive links and promises of gifts or rewards are never allowed.
 
In other words, If you have a 15,000 word novella titled "Sold," you can't have 250,000 other words in short stories, novellas, vignettes, poems, or recipes to pad out the rest of the book.  You could, I'm guessing, have a collection or anthology titled "Sold" and include a bunch of stories, novellas, poems, and even recipes, provided you made clear that it was in fact a collection.  Even so, all of the material -- with certain exceptions -- has to be Kindle Select eligible.  That means all of it has to be exclusive to Amazon, not published or available elsewhere.  ("Kindle Select" means it's exclusive to Amazon; "Kindle Unlimited" means it's available for the subscription lending.)
 
I opened this post with the reference to Tymber Dalton's Twitter thread, which is unrolled here. 
 
She encourages readers to "get loud" and complain to Amazon if they encounter "stuffed" KU titles.  There are several problems with this.
 
1.  Most KU subscribers don't know stuffing is against the rules.
2.  Most KU subscribers don't care that it's against the rules.  They pay $10/month for unlimited reading, so if they get a dud once in a while, who cares?
3.  Most KU subscribers don't care enough to take the time to collect the details necessary to report rule breakers.
4.  Most KU subscribers are not directly affected by the stuffing.
 
Authors, on the other hand, are directly affected.  As I posted above, my book has already been downgraded from 827 pages to 637, which cuts my KU royalty by almost $1.00 per book read.  But when a scammer/stuffer book earns $15.00 or more for bogus bonus content, that's $15.00 taken out of the "pool" that Amazon sets aside for distribution.
 
Each month, Amazon determines how much will go into the KU fund.  (This pool also includes funds for the Kindle Owners Lending Library, KOLL, which is part of the Prime package.)  That total fund is then divided amongst all the pages read in the KU and KOLL programs. If a scammer/stuffer book is recorded as 1947 KENP, but mine is only 637, that author takes three times as much out of the pool for bogus content than I get for legitimate content.
 
If all the scammers and stuffers were prevented from cashing in on their scams, maybe the legitimate KU authors could make a little more and thus write a little more.
 
As I documented in this particular post, it's very possible that some of the scammers could be earning $40.00, $50,00, or more per book when the author of a legitimate book earns $3.00 or $4.00.  However, as I've continued to research for this post, apparently there's basically a topping out point.  Amazon now limits an individual title to 3000 KENP, or approximately $15.00 per book.  From a very long Kboards discussion here in April, there is some support among writers to drop the limit to 1000 pages, thus hindering the stuffers.  Again, the more I research this, the more research I need to do.  As one author posted in that thread, 200,000 words equated to approximately 1,100 KENP in April. If those figures were accurate, then my LGP at 144,000 words would have come in at approximately 800 KENP, which is what it used to be (827).  So, has the rate changed?  I don't know.
 
More research needed.
 
Ultimately, we authors can't do much about any of it.  Most of the scamming/stuffing is in the romance and erotica categories, and authors can't provide negative reviews of other books in their own genre.  We risk having our Amazon privileges revoked, including the ability to publish via Kindle.  Even if we don't review but only report suspected scammers, we have no way of knowing if that does any good -- there is no feedback -- and we don't have any way of knowing if even reporting can get us in trouble.
 
Amazon has also started a program of blocking users who have too many returns, but no one seems to know how many is "too many" (or whether there are different standards for other merchandise versus Kindle books).  So a reader who returns a purchased -- rather than KU borrowed -- book that's been stuffed could be at risk of banning, and therefore hesitate to say anything.
 
As I said, it's a complex issue.  The writers are hurt, and they have the least capability to defend themselves.
 
Obviously, I've called out a few here on BookLikes, but this platform is far too small to make a difference.
 
Monetarily, how have the Amazon changes affected the authors?  This is crucial as well, because with the Kindle Select program, which is what permits an author even to enroll a book in KU, the author has no control over the pricing.  Amazon determines the monthly fund and the amount that will go to each KENP read.  (There are some who believe the fund amount is actually determined by the number of pages read and that the per page rate is what they play around with.)
 
As I did further research, I learned that the formula for determining the KENP of an individual book was recalculated in January 2016, to KENPC v2.0.  The Looking-Glass Portrait was published in July 2016, so would have fallen under that calculation.
 
The formula changed again in August 2017, to KENPC v3.0, supposedly to help reduce scamming/stuffing.  What little reporting I've had time to read so far doesn't show much of a decline in the number of KENP per book, so it's possible my own figures are incorrect.  I will continue to research.
 
 
*Sunday morning update
 
 
Readers are now chiming in at #getloud that the stuffers have chased off new writers thus depriving readers of new material.  Not that the scammers/stuffers care, since they are taking in big $$$.
 
I'm not sure how much research I can do today, and my own real work awaits as well.  (Rock tumblers need changing, and plants need watering.  Dusting?  Cleaning?  Are you kidding?)  But I will keep you all posted.
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text 2017-03-24 02:03
General Mystery Shopping Scammers

 

Scam Alert

 

There are disreputable companies and individuals scamming shoppers. Be assured that these practices have nothing to do with our company. Some charge a fee for information on becoming a shopper. Secret Shopper does not and has never charged a shopper to affiliate with us. If you have paid someone for information or to sign up, your first step might be to check your statement for whatever account was charged. The correct name of the company is often listed there, and your financial institution may be able to help you put a stop to the charges.

 

One of the more serious scams involves someone claiming to be with a legitimate company such as Secret Shopper and sending out large counterfeit cashier's checks or money orders. The shopper is told to cash it and wire the majority of the funds via MoneyGram or Western Union, then keep the rest as their 'pay' for the shop. Don't be fooled by these scams! By the time you find out that the check is not legitimate, you are out the money you sent and will be held accountable for the bounced check by your financial institution.

 

Another scam involves someone texting mobile phones claiming to be with a legitimate company such as Secret Shopper and asking for either money or personal information. Secret Shopper does not send unsolicited text messages to individuals. Contact your local law enforcement agency if you receive one of these texts.

 

Unfortunately, these fraudulent companies use various names or web addresses of reputable companies like ours in their ads and emails. Some scammers even use email addresses or websites which spoof those of legitimate companies. Our website address is https://www.secretshopper.com. If you are directed to a website claiming to be Secret Shopper but with a different address, it is NOT our website. We also do not solicit people to sign up with us via email. The only way to apply to shop with us is on our website.

 

Suggested steps to take if you have been scammed:

 

- Contact your local police department to file a report.
- File a report with Action Fraud, the UK's national fraud reporting centre at Fraud Police website.
- You may also wish to visit the Mystery Shopping Provider's Association (MSPA) website at MSPA EU to search for a list of reputable mystery shopping companies.

 

Secret Shopper® has been in business for more than 25 years. We are a charter member of the Mystery Shopping Provider's Association and in good standing with the Better Business Bureau.

 

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text 2017-03-23 00:46
Microsoft Corporate Blog- Don’t fall for tech support scammers offering costly - PC cleanup ‘solutions’

 

We’re all familiar with how telemarketers occasionally interrupt our lives, often at the most inopportune times. However, even more upsetting is receiving an unexpected phone call claiming that your PC has been infected with viruses and can be cleaned only for a hefty fee. What’s worse is that the caller is almost certainly a fake — a bad guy who pretends to work for Microsoft or one of our partners.

 

Sound familiar? This tech scam follows a well-known pattern. A phone call comes in from a blocked or international number, and the caller urgently claims to be a Microsoft-certified tech agent who has detected viruses or malware on your Windows PC that must be fixed right away. These callers use scare tactics such as telling you to check your Event Viewer to reveal a bunch of “errors” or even ask to take over your PC remotely to reveal more so-called problems. And, inevitably, they demand payment via credit card or online payment system, usually to the tune of several hundred dollars, to clean your PC. If you resist, they often get angry or even threaten to destroy data on your computer.

 

What’s really alarming is that this type of scam shows no signs of slowing down. Increasingly, we hear via our front-line support team, and even from friends and family, that these scammers are getting bolder, targeting not only individuals but also businesses. It is appalling that they’re taking advantage of your trust in Microsoft in an attempt to steal your money. It’s immoral, it’s disrespectful and it’s certainly illegal.

What can you do to protect yourself? To start, check out our Web article on how to avoid tech support phone scams. (My personal favorite is simple: Just hang up the phone.) Second, report it. Tell the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) or the anti-fraud organization for your country. We’ve got a few links below to get you started:

 

- The Microsoft Safety & Security Center is a hub of information and resources dedicated to helping keep your PC safe from threats, including viruses, malware and phishing attempts.
- Help Microsoft stop cybercriminals by reporting information about your phone scam.
- The FTC Phone Scam webpage has a phone scam reporting hotline and useful advice on what to look out for when receiving unsolicited phone calls.
- In Canada, the Anti-Fraud Centre can provide support.
- In the U.K., you can report fraud as well as cold calls.

 

Whenever you receive a call or a pop-up on your PC and feel uncertain whether it is from someone at Microsoft, don’t take the risk. Reach out directly to one of our tech support experts dedicated to helping you at the Microsoft Answer Desk, or simply call us at 1-800-426-9400 or one of our customer service phone numbers for people located around the world. We know how disconcerting it feels to be targeted by scammers, and we want to help.

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