I debated on whether or not to broach this publicly, but after a little bit of pondering on the subject and the sheer amount of assholes gaming the system and rendering Amazon's search function useless, I decided I had to try and bring light to the rampant amount of scamming and unethical behavior that is going on in Kindle Unlimited. As both an author and a reader, I'm pissed, and I want others to know the damage that is being done.
It's no secret that when we go exclusive with KDP Select (meaning we can't sell our ebooks anywhere but Zon when we choose this option), we are paid from a fund Amazon sets aside every month. Amazon is supposed to monitor page reads and pay us accordingly. The more page reads we get, the more money we make. I have worked very hard to release what I feel are quality books for readers to enjoy. I love producing worlds where readers can escape their own realities for a little bit of time, and I love that I get to do what I love to try and make a living. I've taken care when crafting my stories, I've put money into covers, editing, advertising, PR, and giveaways, I've done everything I can to build up visibility, and since July I've had nearly two million pages read in Kindle Unlimited. That's a good chunk of change for someone like me who has only been at this for two years, though I'm still very much a small-time author, as there are some who reach my page reads in days instead of months.
And therein lies the problem. There are legitimate authors with some phenomenal books who are getting millions of page reads every month, and they deserve that. I'm not talking about them at all. I just want to make that clear before I get into the meat of the reason for this blog post. I'm talking about the unethical asshats who don't give a shit about the craft or readers.
Go take a gander at let's say paranormal romance on Amazon... Go ahead, type it in the search bar. I'll wait....
You back? See those books with tons of keywords stuffed into the titles? They're asshats, too, even if they aren't doing this particular scam (though they are violating the KDP TOS) I'm going to tell you about, but I'll get to that in a minute. Click on the "Look Inside" function on one... Let me guess, there's an important message you must click on before you read? Or maybe there's a "Click here to win a free Kindle" link? Yeah, don't click on that, like ever. Here's the deal, on top of the fact that there probably is no important message or free Kindle actually being given away, when you click those links, these authors (who usually aren't even real authors, but so-called "internet entrepreneurs) are tricking the system into thinking you've read the whole book. They stuff every possible thing you can think of into the file and they get paid for 3000 pages read (the new cap Zon has put on what they'll pay per reader per book in KU, but before February 1st, they could've gotten paid for hundreds of thousands of pages per book), netting them roughly $13 per click.
When Amazon first rolled out this pay-per-page-read thing, they told us they kept track of exactly how many pages were read and that clicking to the last page wouldn't register as a full read. They responded to concerned authors who pointed out that it would be too easy to take advantage of the new system by assuring them that only the pages read would be registered, but that clearly isn't the case. These "authors" are making bank on this scam because even if real readers aren't clicking the link, they can afford to pay people to go through and click them and still make tons of money. They're releasing 20, 30, 40, 50, etc. books a day, many of them just slapping a new cover with stolen stock images and art on the same file. That adds up fast and many of the people exploiting Amazon's failed tracking system are getting the much-coveted All-Star bonuses that Amazon gives to top earners in the KU program. Guess what else this tactic is doing? It's driving down the rate Amazon pays per page read, which affects the authors of the books you actually want to read. This will cause many to pull their books from KU, leaving the crap behind.
This is where it pisses me off as a reader. I have a KU subscription, and it is getting more and more difficult to find good reads in the program. Those asshats (and many of them are the same people using the click here links to net full reads) I mentioned before who are stuffing every keyword they can think of in the titles have rendered the search function useless because pages and pages and pages of these books show up first. This isn't good for any authors selling on Amazon because even if you aren't in KU, your books are shoved to the back, too, which drastically reduces a book's chances of being found. So essentially, these "internet entrepreneurs" are taking over the whole damn thing and pushing real authors out.
As a reader, I want to be able to search for rock star romance or paranormal romance or whatever I'm in the mood for and actually get those books, but I'm getting BBW Bear Shifter Billionaire BDSM Taboo Step-Brother Blah Blah Blah Latest Trendy Buzzword instead of what I actually want. Back in October, I noticed a sharp decline in not only page reads, but also sales. This is around the time these keyword stuffed books started showing up, and around the time I stopped being able to find books I wanted to read.
As usual, Amazon seems slow to fix the problem (and I'm not convinced they're all that concerned since they're still paying out the same amount in the monthly fund, regardless of who it goes to), but when does it stop? Probably never. Scammers will scam. That's what they do. No matter what change Amazon rolls out next, the unethical will be ready to jump onto the next thing and the next. It was already tough to make a living writing books, but it seems damn near impossible now that Amazon has made it so easy to scam and be lucrative in KU. The truly sad thing about this is that there are so many of these "internet entrepreneurs" who are boasting in Youtube videos about what they've done as if it is perfectly acceptable, and they're enticing more and more people to follow suit. Hire ghost writers or just throw together some random BS, stuff everything but the kitchen sink into a file, stick a link in the front that jumps to the past page, outsource for pennies for people to click that link, lather, rinse, repeat, and wait for the hefty deposit to hit the old bank account at the end of the month. And shame on Amazon for claiming they could monitor page reads when they really couldn't. Maybe they should have developed a way to do that before deciding to change the way they paid authors. At the very least, they should ban the accounts of people who pull this shit.
Amazon might not care what's going on at the moment, but they might want to think twice if they aren't trying to remedy the situation. Readers will leave the program when they can't find anything but unappealing scammy books by non-authors that remind me of those annoying pop-up ads at the front of each book and scattered throughout. I won't be renewing when my subscription is up, and I'd guess that a lot of other readers feel the same way I do.
With all that being said, I will be transitioning The Take Me Duet out of KU at least until this issue is fixed. I cannot compete with the scammers who are making MILLIONS of dollars off this who are also tarnishing the reputation of books in the KU library. Not only has the rate I'm paid fallen, but my page reads have also taken a huge hit due to reduced visibility. I went from 15,000 to 20,000 and sometimes more page reads a day down to 1,000 to 2,000 a day, and I know that number will decline even more if I stay in this version of KU. Take Me On will be out on March 30th with Take Me Home coming out on April 3rd. Craving has to stay in until September because it is in a KU box set, but I'll have to reevaluate the rest of the series when it's closer to their Select expiration date. I have a new release coming out in May, and it doesn't look like it'll be enrolled in the program either, and I hate that it has to be that way, but, as an author, pulling my books is the only real way I know of showing Amazon that I am not happy. I'm hoping they fix this soon, but I'm not counting on it.
I never did that well going wide with my books, but it has to be better than the shit that's going on in KU. Maybe readers will be able to actually find my books at Apple, Google Play, etc. There's nothing I want to do more than write, but I'm afraid I will not be able to go on indefinitely if the assholes gaming the system continue to reap all the rewards.
It is extremely imperative at this time for readers to be sure to follow the authors they love because it's getting harder for us to reach you. Ways you can do this is to sign up for their newsletters and check their social media pages periodically so you don't miss their new releases. If you want to help real authors who are working hard to produce quality work and a good reader experience, please report the asshats to Amazon when you see them. They are more likely to listen to customers who are having negative experiences than they are us lowly authors who only provide them with content to sell.
I apologize now if some of my thoughts up there seemed a little scattered. I'm frazzled and pissed off at this whole thing.
Scammers suck. Don't click their links. Authors who care about the books they put out are having an even harder time now that these asshats are clogging up the search function and scamming the page-reads system. My books are being transitioned out of KU for the time being.