Nora Roberts Sues #CopyPasteCris, But She Can’t Go After Amazon

In early March I wrote three blog articles, I Write My Own Damn Books Can We Just Get Real for a Moment, and An Open Letter to Nora Roberts, after it was discovered the self-proclaimed USA TODAY bestselling author Cristiane Serruya had plagiarized dozens of authors and books, including Nora Roberts, Courtney Milan, and EL James, just to name a few. For the record, according to the archive on USA TODAY‘s website, Cristiane Serruya has never once hit the list. And now that she has been called out on her plagiarism, she’s admitted that she hasn’t even written one single book, instead farming it out to ghostwriters she hired on the notoriously unscrupulous site Fiverr.

Now Nora Roberts is going after blood as she has sued Brazilian author Cristiane Serruya for her blatant theft of approximate ten of her books. Needless to say, authors both big and small are urging her on, happy someone is finally standing up to the cesspool of low quality books and scammers that have been running rampant on Amazon for nearly a decade now, the steady flow of Frankensteined books and half-assed rough drafts forcing many authors to quit publishing altogether while simultaneously banishing the professionally produced books to the proverbial Amazon dungeons.

Authors are sick of being forced to compete with the immoral writers who have no qualms about using every unethical and black-hat tactic they can think of to squeeze as much money out of the Amazon publishing system as possible. By them doing so, it has forced a lot of authors to stop writing and publishing as they simply cannot compete with those scammers who are able to spend $100K or more on AMS ads and other forms of advertisement each year. Those of us who have been limping along hoping the system would eventually right itself have been left with our books banished to the proverbial dungeons of Amazon, no longer able to make sales or have any visibility on our books at all.

Needless to say, now that someone like Nora Roberts has learned the disgusting ways of the publishing world the hard way, and has thus been caught up in it, we are all very excited to know she is not taking this shit lying down. Everyone is behind her, authors and readers alike, and we are all cheering her on. Many authors are holding out hope that Nora’s voice in regards to how bad Amazon has let things get will be the first step in righting a system that was built on dishonesty and greed. Many are voicing their hope that Nora will actually take on Amazon itself.

Unfortunately, I’m not as hopeful as the rest in regards to her taking on  Amazon. Honestly, she doesn’t have enough money to do it. And if you want to get down to the nut-cutting, not even JK Rowling has enough money to take on Amazon.

Before everyone gets bent out of shape, I think we all need to take a real, hard look at Amazon’s revenue and why they are able to get away with all the shit they do, why they do not bother to police their own store, or even enforce their own rules and TOS other than when it suits them. Once you look at the basic economics of Amazon, you’ll understand why it would literally take all of the Big 5 publishers and all of their top 5% earning authors making a class-action lawsuit against the Zon, followed by pretty much every single author and business that has ever been a part of their store, to truly do any type of damage to them.

According to CNBC, Amazon reported earnings of $10.1 BILLION in 2018 alone. Gross profits for the year were over $141 BILLION. In 2017, their net profits were just over $3 BILLION, with a gross profit of over $118 BILLION. Of that, it is estimated that approximately 30% of that income came from book sales, which would be approximately $3 BILLION in net profits for 2018.

With numbers like this, it is no wonder everyone is fighting so hard to be seen on Amazon. Unfortunately, with revenue streams in the tens of billions, it is also no wonder Amazon has been completely unfazed by the multitude of authors who have been steadily calling them out for their bad practices. So while Nora may reportedly be worth $370 million and JK Rowling $1 billion, Amazon has enough revenue coming in to keep any type of lawsuit buried in the court system for decades.

While all of us would certainly LOVE to see Amazon come tumbling off its pedestal for once, it’s going to take more than just Nora Roberts to do it. It’s going to take more than just the Big 5 publishers to do it. It’s going to take more than just JK Rowling to do it. In fact, about the only way to get a retail giant like Amazon to take a step back and actually put the fear of bankruptcy into them would be if the top 20 richest authors in the world got together, along with the Big 5 publishers, and every other author who has ever done business with them, all fighting together to put the proverbial nuts in a vice.

I, for one, would happily jump on board that express train. Hell, I’d happily tap dance on the ashes that was once the Zon-Almighty.

But for now, I’m another author who is standing behind Nora Roberts hoping she is able to draw blood. It may be a small victory in the grand scheme of things, but if enough people begin beating down the gates of Amazon, then maybe, just maybe, we can take back our sagging careers and turn this once noble profession back into the proud industry it used to be.

And – you go, Nora!

An Open Letter to Nora Roberts (and other authors, too)

 

 

I’ve been following your blog as the #CopyPasteCris saga has unfolded, and I’ve tried so many times to comment on the posts, but words have failed me. Not because I couldn’t think of what to say, exactly, but because there simply is so much to say on the matter, and honestly, words cannot express how happy I am that someone with some clout has finally had their eyes opened to the atrocities us “small fry” authors have been enduring for a good five years now.

I do not mean that disrespectfully. What has happened to you with #copypastecris is beyond deplorable. I’ve been plagiarized myself, on more than one occasion, although not to the extent you, and so many other authors, have been suffering at the hands of this most resent, high-profile plagiarist. Even a single line taken is like a knife through the heart. Entire sections, entire books – that’s more like the proverbial sword through the midsection.

I say this because honestly, I feel like now maybe someone will actually listen. For years I’ve sat and watched an industry I grew up in, an industry I absolutely loved, de-evolve into nothing but back-stabbing authors, con artists, scammers, and wannabe “writers” who are more than willing to step on anyone and do anything, and I do mean anything, to make a quick buck through the self-publishing industry. I’ve watched no less than a dozen really great writers from my social network toss in the towel in 2018 alone.

And I may be next. Although quitting is the last thing I want to do.

The truth is, I’m tired. And with so many scammers skimming off 6+ figures a year through shady tactics, I simply cannot compete. Not when I’m barely drawing in $100 in royalties a year, and losing thousands on publication and marketing expenses.

Like so many other authors, I work full-time. Writing is my escape from the drudge of the dreary 9 to 5 I do every day. Nothing makes me happier than to sit down at my keyboard and enter into the worlds I’ve created.

But, I’ll be honest. I do expect to get paid for the hours upon hours, the weeks, the months, sometimes the years it’s taken me to write a single book. And I thoroughly expect to be reimbursed for the thousands of dollars I’ve paid out-of-pocket to have my books properly polished before publishing. If I was doing this just for fun, I’d stick with my WattPad account and stop clogging up the proverbial slush piles that Amazon has become over the past few years.

I’m hoping with someone with as much pull in the industry as you, that maybe, finally, authors and readers alike will pull their heads out of the sand and finally start demanding better. I’ve been begging, screaming, and pleading with everyone for years now to stop giving their books away, to stop pricing them so cheaply, to stop pushing out a new “junk” book every week or month and realize how much damage all this has been causing authors, to the industry as a whole.

This revolution, this epiphany if you will, it must come from the authors because honestly, readers will only continue to demand what authors are willing to give them. If all the cheap and the free went away, maybe readers would start demanding better books. Maybe they wouldn’t mind paying for the books they want to read. Maybe that $5 for an ebook wouldn’t seem so pricey if it was once again the norm. If Amazon and the other platforms would finally start manning their stores, if they would put some type of quality controls into place, if the writing world would right itself so the really good authors would once again rise to the top of the rankings instead of the top being dominated by whoever has the largest pocketbook, then maybe, just maybe, authors like me won’t have to give up on their life-long dream.

I’ve been screaming it from the rooftops, but alas, I am just a nobody-author who has been pegged as “jealous” because I’m no longer making money.

But you, my dear Nora, please keep fighting the good fight. Please give those of us whose voices have gone ignored for years now a chance to finally be heard. I’m tired of fighting this alone.

Because after more than thirty years of fighting, clawing, and having my butt handed back to me by editors, by publishers, and now by the very authors I’ve helped support over the decades, I’m not sure I have much fight left in me. There’s only so much any one person can take before they are forced to give up on their dream.

Today, I do not want to join the ranks of the really good authors who have been forced to quit.

Tomorrow, however, may be the day that I am finally forced to face the staggering odds that have been stacked against me by others in my profession.

All because no one wants to listen. After all, if it’s not affecting their bottom line, then what do they care?

 

Also on #CopyPasteCris:

Can We Just Get Real for a Moment?

I Write My Own Damn Books, Thank You Very Much

Can We Just Get Real For a Moment?

Honestly, as much as I write, as many times as I have addressed this, I do not believe I could possibly have explained how bad the publishing industry has de-evolved as well as what Nora Roberts did in this post. 

What I do find enraging is the number of authors who are still choosing to stay in total denial about the harsh reality staring them in the faces. Yes, authors who are pushing out cheap, quick, badly written ghostwriter books are ruining the system. A real writer, one who writes their own books, cannot possibly shove out a decent book complete with developmental line editing, proof reading, copy editing, rewrites, and all the many, many necessary steps that goes into getting a book ready, in a month, and certainly not in a week. While I believe it is possible to write the first, unpolished rough draft in a few weeks to a month, it’s going to take as much time, if not longer, to adequately polish and rewrite the book. Add in the fact that most authors are working regular day jobs and are staying up late into the night to get a few words in, and you’ll quickly understand why it takes so long to write a really great book.

Authors who are consistently giving away their catalog for free or at ridiculously reduced prices are ruining the system. And yes, readers who are demanding the free and the fast and the cheap are helping to feed the beast. I know readers are on a budget, but so are the authors who write these books, and they are often having to budget the production costs out of their own personal paychecks they get from their regular jobs, forcing themselves and their families to do without so they can publish that next book. They have bills to pay, they have kids to feed, and they deserve to be paid for the work they put into these books just as much as anyone else does for the work they do for any other company.

 

The problem is, this is an ugly, cheating, greedy beast with many, many tentacles. You can’t kill the beast by ignoring any of those tentacles. because it’s going to take another swipe, and the other tentacles will regenerate.” -Nora Roberts

 

Add in the book stuffers, the scammers, the rings of so-called authors who are joining secret groups and teaching each other how to game the system, teaching each other how to lie, to cheat, to steal, all in the name of making a few quick bucks. I’ve seen this going on for years now. Run up the click bids on AMS ads from a few cents a click to a few bucks a click, choke out your competition with the sheer volume of crap. That’s been the modus operandi for years. I’ve been screaming this from the rooftops for literally five years straight at this point.

But no one has wanted to believe me. Again, just shove your head into the sand and pretend it’s not happening, because so long as your own little boat isn’t rocking, then what do you care.

Guys, we get it. Trust me, when it comes to reading on a budget, or doing anything on a budget, authors totally get it. Indies are solely responsible for footing the bill for the thousands of dollars paid out to editors, to proofreaders, to graphic cover artists, and then there’s the bottomless money pit that is marketing and promoting of the book once it’s finally ready to go to print. We are the poster children for “tightening your belt.” But if all you are looking for is a cheap, free read and you don’t care if it’s been properly edited or not, then there is WattPad, Booksie, FanFic, Fiction.net, and a whole host of other freebie websites where you can read free books and stories until your heart is content.

Going to Amazon and downloading these trainwreck books for free or cheap should not be an option. These books have no business sitting next to books that have been put through the wringer with editors and proofreaders. Amazon should be where the real books are, written by real writers who are serious about their craft. It shouldn’t be a get-rich-quick scheme populated by word vomit slapped up for sale by scam artists out to make a quick buck. Amazon should not be turned into a “book mill” farm designed to part readers from money. And unfortunately, every time you download these books, you are just feeding the beast.

Wondering what you could possibly do as a reader? First, READ THE REVIEWS. Popular books that are constantly being shoved into your search results on Amazon generally have a lot of reviews (most of which are fake reviews purchased from fake accounts, but that’s another story entirely). Look through the 1 and 2 star reviews. If a lot of the reviews point out the immense number of typos and grammatical errors, then give it a hard pass, especially if you are having to pay money for it. As noted above, there are plenty of free books and stories on other sites you can read that are probably better written and with fewer typos than the books pushed out by the “book mills.”

Second, take a peek inside the book using the LOOK INSIDE feature. You can read the first few pages of a book to get a feel for the author’s style. Granted, some authors will polish just this portion of the book so you may not find many errors. But, if you do happen to get suckered into purchasing a book that is riddled with typos, grammatical errors, and/or is a virtual trainwreck that is really difficult to read, then you can always report the book. I don’t think most readers realize this function exists on Amazon. If you scroll all the way to the bottom of the book page on Amazon, there is a little blue box with the heading Feedback where you can report a book for poor quality or formatting issues, as well as report it for inappropriate content or copyright violations.

However, and I cannot possibly stress this enough, please do not go reporting books all willy-nilly. Keep in mind in the trad publishing world, one typo/error per page is considered acceptable upon publication. For a 300-page book, that’s approximately 300 grammatical errors and/or typos that can sneak through without any problem. So seeing a misspelled word here and there is fine, but if you come across one that is littered with errors or incorrect formatting, please do report those books. Unfortunately, Amazon will only take action once the readers start to complain.

So please, if you are a reader, take back control of your reading material. Demand better. Stop feeding the beast. If you want cheap, free, and do not care about a polished product, then please browse WattPad or Fiction.net. When you go to the virtual shelves of Amazon, demand better. Expect to pay money for a book, and then expect that book to be polished and readable. No, demand it. And if it’s not, report it.

You may not think it’s really hurting anyone. I mean, if you are an author and it’s not hurting you, then why try to stop it? You’re making money, so who cares?

I care because ten years ago I was making money. I was easily bringing in as much money a year as what I would have working a regular, full-time job. My first few books were selling hundreds of copies a day. I had that beautiful orange bestseller sticker on more than one occasion, on more than one book. And then slowly, it began drying up. My books went from selling close to a thousand the first day to not even getting a dozen pre-orders. I was a forgotten commodity, tossed aside for the cheap, the fast, the free books. I, like so, so many authors, went from being on top to literally going months without a single sell despite having a back list of over 20 books.

This is why you should care. Because if it can happen to a former international bestselling author, then it’s just a matter of time before it starts happening to everyone else.

Authors, it’s time we started demanding better as well. It’s time we stop trying to play nice and stir in the shit pot. Maybe it’s time we dumped out the shit & started calling out the Chance Carters of the author world. Because when Nora fucking Roberts starts to take notice of just how fucked this industry has become, then you better believe the shit has really hit the fan.

 

#bookscammers #bookstuffers #copypastecris #tiffanygate #cockygate #indiepublishing

Conspiracies Abound: Is Amazon Really Giving Indies the Boot?

Image result for ban amazon

 

In recent days, news began to spread of the closing of CreateSpace as the service is being migrated with the current print option through the KDP dashboard. Several months back when they announced CreateSpace was discontinuing its editing and cover creator services it was theorized CS would eventually close its doors. Well, it was theorized by me and other authors insisted I was just being paranoid. Who’s being paranoid now? So – when Amazon finally shuts down indie publishing through their platform, just remember you heard it from me first.

But why would Amazon want to discontinue selling books? They are pretty much the world leader in book sales. In fact, it’s estimated that about 35% of their total annual revenue comes from book sales. It would not make any sense for them to stop selling books.

Well, I didn’t say they were going to stop selling books. They were selling books long before they introduced KDP (the indie publishing platform which allows anyone to create an author account and self-publish an ebook to Amazon’s Kindle) and allowed everyone with internet access to start uploading junk files. It’s safe to say they’ll probably be doing it long after they’ve taken their toys and kicked us all out of their sandbox. What I’m saying is Amazon is eventually going to close down their direct publishing platform, potentially giving indies the boot for good.

The signs have been around us for years, but no one seems to want to pull their heads out of the sand long enough to see what has been staring them in the face for a good five years now.

First, Amazon closed down Kindle Worlds. For those unfamiliar with KW, this was a section of Amazon which allowed authors to write in worlds already  well established by other authors. While I personally had not heard of the majority of them on there (they were mostly composed of worlds created by successful indie authors as opposed to well-known trad published authors), there were a few that I recognized, most specifically the Pretty Little Liars world created by Sarah Shephard.

Most indie authors who wrote in KW were making more money than they were with their own books. But that’s to be expected. Fanfiction is big business (hello EL James & Cassie Clare). You already have a built-in reader base who are just itching to get their hands on some new material. I can see why both the authors who created the worlds, and those who chose to step in to fill the gap with fanfiction, would find it so appealing.

For whatever reason, Amazon chose to close out KW. Maybe the authors who had agreed to share their worlds were having second thoughts, maybe they wanted a larger royalty cut and the Zon didn’t want to part with more money, maybe they just didn’t want to hire the manpower it was taking to ensure the books were up to par. At this point, it’s literally anyone’s guess, but the fact remains they chose to shut down this part of their publishing business, a part that was largely successful by self-publishing standards.

Second, there was the announcement earlier in the year regarding CreateSpace discontinuing their editing and cover design services. Now comes the obvious next move – closing down CS altogether and migrating the Print-on-Demand feature over to the KDP dashboard. Doing this makes no sense from a business perspective. They already had the CS site up and running, and it had been running long enough that most of the website bugs had been worked out. In fact, Amazon wasn’t the original owner of CS, having purchased the POD company from BookSurge back in 2005 when it was still called CustomFlix (the name was changed to CreateSpace  in 2007). It begs the question of why they would want to pull a website their creative audience had been using relatively pain-free for fifteen years.

But the questions do not just stop there. Why would Amazon then hire programmers and coders to reinvent the wheel over on the KDP dashboard? The interfaces are nothing alike, and God only knows how much of a disaster the new “cover creator” is going to be for full wraps on the paperbacks. From a business standpoint, it would have made more sense to have simply created a click-through button on the KDP dashboard to take authors over to the CS dashboard where they could have continued on with business as usual. I’ve paid for my own webhosting. The price is not so astronomical that most authors can’t afford it, much less a multi-billion dollar powerhouse like Amazon. So getting rid of the website that had been around and working fine for nearly two solid decades makes little sense on either side of the fence. But I digress.

Third, there are the continued problems which have plagued the Kindle Unlimited (KU) from its conception. In the beginning, long-form authors (those who wrote full length novels and enrolled them into the KU program) soon learned there were sub-par micro-fiction pamphlets with less than 10 pages being uploaded to the KU program. Since the initial KU program paid per book read, these micro-fiction scammers were able to push out thousands of these 10 page-or-less shorts and upload them to KU, netting them upwards of $2 per borrow, a feat which hardly seemed fair to the long-form authors who were only getting paid the same amount for a 100K word novel. After everyone took to the streets screaming for an improvement, Amazon then rolled out the KU 2.0 program, a system which paid authors per page read rather than a fixed amount per borrow.

It didn’t take the micro-fiction scammers long to realize this new program took them to the opposite end of the spectrum. Now if they wanted to make bank, they would have to fill a book with as much recycled garbage as they could to net them as large of a payout as possible. They used all kinds of dirty little tricks to game the system, something which had authors utterly livid for years before they had finally had had enough of getting shafted and once again threw a big enough of a collective fit to get Amazon to take notice and do something about the scammers.

Then there is the simple fact that KU isn’t a very sustainable model, at least not in its current form. It’s estimated there are only approximately 100K KU users. At just $9.99/month for a subscription, that is only netting the Zon approximately $1M a month. Yet, the payout global fund for the KU program for participating authors has routinely been $20M/month for several months. It’s obvious Amazon is funneling money into the program in an attempt to keep authors in the program. But how long can they continue to pour money into a sinking ship? The payout per page is already less than half-a-cent, meaning authors have to have hundreds of thousands of page reads each month to even bring in a living wage. With more and more authors jumping ship to push their books to other platforms, one has to wonder just how long they can keep their own ship afloat.

Fourth, Amazon has absolutely zero quality control over on KDP. Literally anyone who has an internet connection can slap up a file, a cover, and be up and running as a “published author” in under a day. This means there are now literally hundreds of thousands of books hitting the Zon every single month. This translates into hundreds of thousands of new authors using KDP each and every day. But why does that matter?

If you are in the indie world, you have no doubt seen the drama in previous months surrounding #CockyGate, #GetLoud, #BookStuffers, and all the other drama. It basically all boils down to far too many “authors” using the KDP platform to game the system, screw Amazon and readers out of money for shitty product, and push legitimate, quality authors and their books right off the charts. The amount of money and manpower it would take for Amazon to put real people in charge of quality control over this platform far outweighs the amount of revenue it is generating.

Amazon doesn’t have to worry about any of this with trad publishers (well, they mostly don’t have to worry about sub-par books. We’ve all seen the questionable content some of these publishers have produced). They know they are going to get properly formatted books that have at least seen a cursory glance by an editor, something you are less-often to come across from a self-published book. So from a business standpoint, it makes much more sense for them to close down the KDP platform for good than to attempt to overhaul it and bring it up to the same level of quality throughout the platform as you are currently going to get from a trad published book.

And this brings me to my last point – all the bad publicity. With all the drama that has been going on, and with so many of us indies, we have all pretty much had it up to our eyeballs with shitty books hitting the #1 spot on Amazon, we’re sick of the bookstuffing scammers screwing legitimate authors out of a huge chunk of profits, we’re sick of the Zon not treating us as equals in the publishing business, and we’re really tired of being forced to compete with shitty books. Basically, we are all shining a very bad light on how the Zon operates its indie publishing platform. And as I noted above, it would cost way too much money and manpower to get that platform under control and up to trad publishing standards than what they are willing to spend.

I always knew it would eventually get to a tipping point. For many years we were all on a see-saw, teetering back and forth, talking among ourselves. But in the past few years, authors like me who have practically been forced to give up writing because Zon won’t get their shit together have become more and more vocal about just how unsatisfied we are with them, demanding we be treated better, demanding they have better quality control, demanding they actually mind their damn platform. We’ve all felt these complaints had fallen on deaf ears. But I don’t believe they have.

Taking a look at the signs from the past few years, I’d be willing to wager the Zon will eventually get tired of all the bad press we keep giving them and shut out indie publishers for good. They’ve already proven they do not care enough about us to offer up any type of real change. And the changes they have implemented, like closing down KW and CS, and making the KU platform so easily manipulated while making it nearly impossible for the little author to make any money, have not exactly been in indie authors’ best interests. We do not help their bottom line enough to warrant spending any more money on us to create a viable platform which weeds out the scammers and the sub-par books, much less give us an equal footing in the publishing world. We are a thorn in their side, the squeaky wheel which keeps getting louder as more and more of us hit the platform and voice our displeasure at their treatment of us.

So, all you conspiracy theorists out there. When KDP finally does go the way of the dinosaur, just remember you heard it from me first. I’ve already made several predictions which have come to pass, and I figure this one is coming. It’s just a matter of time.

Why Dafuq Do Authors Think BookBub is So Great??

 

Let’s just talk about how so many authors are so hell-bent on handing over fistfuls of money to BB (BookBub) for a “promotional” deal. For the longest time, authors sang the praises of BB as being the “cure-all” to their sale woes. Everyone claimed all it took to jump-start your career as an author is just land that coveted BB “deal.”

These days, with the market saturated and there literally being several hundred thousand free books available for download across multiple retailers, more and more authors are becoming aware of one simple truth – BB won’t help your sales. In fact, most authors report losing money on these BB deals.

For those authors who claim BB deals work, they often already have a fairly large reader base who are more than willing to buy their books. What they are actually experiencing is just regular sales from their fan base. They may or may not experience a bump in sales. And more times than not, these BB deals are stacked with other marketing and promotional ads going on simultaneously as the BB deals, making it practically impossible for them to measure exactly how well their BB deal actually did. All they know is they are getting sales, and they do not stop to really track down where those sales are actually coming from. It is this lack of investigation and blissful ignorance which BB continues to rely on to keep their business running.

Authors who claim BB deals were an utter failure for them often don’t stack their deal with other promotional ads, oftentimes having exhausted their small advertising budget with BB. (And with these prices, who could blame them?) When running only one promo deal at a time, it makes it much easier to really look at your numbers to see if a marketing venture is raking in a decent ROI or not.

But is it really worth it? Let’s break down the math, shall we?

The graphic at the top of the page shows the first few book genres, the size of that genre’s list subscribers, how much they charge for a free book (don’t even get me started on this thought process), for a $0.99 book, $1-$2 books, and those that are $3+. The last two columns are the book stats – the number of downloads you can expect on a free book on average, and the number of sells you can expect on a paid book on average.

Crime fiction has the largest number of list subscribers and has the second largest number of average expected sales on a deal. Obviously, you won’t get a return advertising a free book, so we are not even looking at those stats. But let’s say you discounted your $4.99 to just $0.99 That will cost you $1138 for your BB deal. Now, the average sales one can expect on crime fiction (which BB openly admits) is only 3180. If you do the math, that will net you just $1113 in average sales for your book when sold at $0.99 with a 35% royalty rate from Amazon. That is less than what you paid BB to advertise the book. Now, if you want to actually make money, you could toss $3983 their way and potentially gross over $8K in profits (netting around $4880 after you subtract the BB deal expense).

My biggest question – why would someone toss so much money at this company knowing they stand to not even break even?

These numbers are, of course, just estimates. But I find it incredibly strange that out of over 3.8+ MILLION subscribers, they are only averaging a few thousand sales on paid books. I seriously do not understand why authors rush out to hand over their cash for such shoddy results. It begs the question if anyone is actually sitting down, dong the math, and taking a hard look at these numbers. An average of 3K sales out of over 3.8 million is hardly what I would call “results” when it comes to paid advertisement, especially when I’m forking over upwards of $4K for said advertisement.

Another thing which really caught my attention is the number of average free downloads per category. Each one of these genres is pulling in average download rates of tens of thousands. Going back to crime fiction, out of 3.8+ million subscribers, the average download for free books is over 51K. When compared to the average books sold in that same genre, only around 3100, it shows just how huge of a gap there is. When comparing the average downloads of free books across the board, an alarming pattern comes to light – most people who subscribe to these BB newsletters are only in it to receive free books. It’s attracting the freebie-seeker, those who are usually only after free books, the type of reader who rarely becomes a paying customer.

The sad part? Authors are still tripping all over themselves to fork over hundreds of dollars just to have BB send their free book link to a bunch of readers who have no intentions of ever buying a book. So I once again ask – why do authors think this is such a good idea?

After looking at these figures, there’s one thing I know for sure – short of raking in close to a 7-figure a year income from my books, I can’t imagine any scenario where I would happily apply for a BB deal. Call me crazy, but when the ROI is this shitty, I’m going to look for more effective ways to spend my marketing dollars.

Why Should Amazon Clean Up This Giant Book Scamming Mess?

Because when you aren’t losing money, why should they give a rat’s ass, am I right?

It took the better part of 10 years before the rest of the indie community finally took notice, but I’ve been screaming FOUL! since 2008 on the shit going on over on the Zon. Ever since I hopped on board the KDP train back in 2008, about a year after it was unveiled, I’ve sat back and watched this entire industry dissolve into one huge cesspool of nothing but crappy books by even crappier people who are in this to do nothing but make money – by any means necessary.

Yes, I know I’m in this to make money. But when book stuffers and other scammers are literally bringing in more money each year by scamming the Amazon publishing system than authors who have been around for decades hitting the NYT Bestsellers list repeatedly, you would think this would clue Amazon in to the huge shit-storm going on with their site. But as I said, when it’s not technically costing them anything, why should they care? Even if they were to shut down the KDP platform to indies and just went back to allowing trad published books to be sold there, it wouldn’t hit them hard enough for them to do much more than blink. We’re only talking about $150 million compared to the 7 BILLION they grossed last year across the entire store worldwide.

The KU book stuffers are just one more piece of the scammer puzzle that has wrecked havoc on the indie community in recent months. Before it was KU, there were prolific authors who were publishing 5 page serial shorts each week, charging ridiculous amounts for each short, and using shady, unethical business practices to manipulate the rank so the “books” would eventually begin to get organic buys (purchasing reviews on Fiverr & using the earlier versions of “click farms” – basically taking one book, breaking it up into multiple parts, selling each part for $5 a pop and/or enrolling each part into the original KU 1.0 program which then netted each 5-10 page short upwards of $3 and using groups from Fiverr to purchase or borrow each section in mass groups to manipulate rank thus leading to more organic borrows and purchases)

And remember that high profile erotica writer who was sending “his” army of oblivious female readers to harass, bully, and 1 star his competition? That behavior wasn’t just isolated to this one moniker. Many, many authors have been known to engage in social media bullying and sending their hoards of fans and sock puppets to try to strong-arm their competition into quitting the industry or bow down to whatever ridiculous demand they had. Then there is the catfishing that was running rampant in the erotic romance genre. Men pretending to be women authors and women pretending to be male authors who sat around sweet-talking their female fans until they had these women completely convinced these swindlers actually cared about them. It’s the tried-and-true Casanova swindle except with romance authors and readers. It was designed to part these women from their money, pure and simple.

So will Amazon’s new TOS and recent “house cleaning” continue? Who knows. Everyone remember when Amazon finally cracked down on all the padded reviews? Did you notice they didn’t take down the reviews or ban the author accounts? No, because when you have high-profile authors burning up the ranks and bringing the Zon more money, you don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Instead, they decided it would be a good idea to go after Fiverr instead, although how on earth THAT was supposed to curb purchasing fake reviews is beyond me.

Even when they do finally decide to take action and ban these scammy authors, their accounts rarely stay deactivated. You all remember the whole debacle with boxed set guru Rebecca Hamilton? (If not, go take a gander at THIS kboards thread, it’s a real eye opener) After multiple complaints of her ill-gotten gains through boxed sets which hit the lists through mass gifting and author purchasing of literally HUNDREDS of the boxed sets, on top of the illegal lotteries she was running to tip the sales in favor of the large lists, Amazon finally banned her from publishing through them. But guess what? She’s back on Amazon and is even still putting together boxed sets for the hefty sum of $2000 per author, among other author services. And there are still dozens of authors who continue to sing her praises either out of sheer ignorance or the usual I-don’t-give-a-shit-so-long-as-I’m-making-money attitude which seems to run rampant among a lot of community members these days.

Then there is the prolific book stuffer Chance Carter who recently lost his publishing privileges through the Zon. This is at least the second incarnation of the same person so who knows how long it will be before he’s back up and running. He’s also the mastermind behind the BookClicker and BookBoyfriend apps. The BC apps has been used by hundreds of authors who have all unknowingly given this guy access to their MC and ML mailing lists which can then be skimmed for the subscriber information. I found all sorts of fun, incriminating information over on this Kboards thread. And if all this wasn’t enough to make your toenails curl, Chance Carter is also the mastermind behind a whole crew of authors using nefarious tactics to game the KU system. It’s really scary just how deep and convoluted this entire debacle goes, and just how many authors are all tied into this. I just don’t get why it took nearly a decade for other authors, and readers, to finally wise up to what’s been happening right under their noses. These authors are basically embezzling money and instead of the Zon firing them & having criminal charges brought against them, they are literally being slapped on the hand and allowed to carry on as if nothing happened. What the actual fuck Amazon?

Basically, the mighty Zon has changed their own TOS so much and are only half-ass enforcing them to the point that what they decide to do next, or if they will continue to enforce their own TOS, or if they will continue to catch innocent authors in their broad net while they try to clean up their own act, is anyone’s guess. If I’ve learned anything in the past ten years of being independently published through KDP it’s this – if you are making the Zon enough money they basically don’t care. Even if enough people throw a big enough fit to force the Zon’s hand, they are just going to allow these scammers to come back under a new name (or in Rebecca’s case, her own name) and keep right on with business as usual.

And about the only way a legitimate author is going to be able to compete with their black hat tactics is if they have a whole hell of a lot of cash to funnel into the marketing. After all, when everyone around you is using a bullhorn, about the only recourse you have is to break out the sky-writing.

 

Quick Links:

CASSANDRA DEE AND MOSAIC BOOK STUFFING

ONLINE RATINGS AND REVIEWS ARE FAKE

HAMTILTON LAWSUIT – MERGED THREAD

BOOKCLICKER

BAD ROMANCE

WHEN #COCKYGATE AND #TIFFANYGATE COLLIDE

WAIT, I’M ONE OF THE ADULTS?

BOXED SET SCAMS ON THE PASSIVE VOICE (please note the original article this thread links to on The Passive Voice has since been removed. While we are unsure why the original article was removed, it has been speculated it was due to the civil suits still going on between RH & some of the former participating authors of her boxed sets.)

 

A Few Things? I Wish it was Just a “Few” Things Wrong with the Industry

 

Many years ago, a huge chunk of the people on my friends list were other authors. There was one who I looked up to and tried to copy her strategies when it came time to release new books. Her books were always pretty high up in the ranking, and she was consistently posting photos of herself at these big signings she was always attending. Her timeline was filled with stories of people “recognizing” her at airports and restaurants. And she was more than happy to tell everyone about how many days in a row she had worked around the clock so she could meet her “deadlines” and get her books to the editors.

She was able to make enough money at being a writer to actually write full-time.

Or so she wanted everyone to believe.

She played the part of “successful” writer really well. She didn’t bother to tell other writers the reason she was able to keep writing, attend signings, and funnel so much money into advertising was because her husband made more than enough money to allow her to stay at home and be an “author.” I, like so many other writers who had on beer goggles when it came to “successful” authors, thought she only had everyone’s best interests when it came to dishing out advice for authors. And let me tell you, she was more than happy to dish it out.

When the first KU rolled out, this particular author was very vocal about how it was “hurting” her sales. She kept doing this for weeks until other authors started to take notice. Before long, she was encouraging writers to quit KU because, as she put it, her “sales had gone way down but her borrows were through the roof.” We all took it at face value. I mean, she was one of us and had always been there to encourage us, to chat with us, etc. So I, like so many other authors, bailed on KU. We all encouraged each other to leave the program. And a huge chunk of us did. Several thousand of us, in fact.

You see, none of us had bothered to do any real research. We weren’t crunching numbers. We were just blinding following someone who appeared to be successful. After a few weeks I noticed this author’s books were all still enrolled in KU, which I thought was odd considering she had been rallying for months for us to all pull our books. So I got to researching on my own, I got to crunching the numbers, and what I realized was I could actually make more money on a smaller book in KU than I could a regular sale.

So I pointed this out to her, showed her the numbers, and she responded with something like “yeah, that sounds about right.”

I called her out on her bullshit, reminding her she had told everyone who would listen we needed to leave KU because we were getting screwed yet her books remained in KU while the rest of us bailed at her insistence. Her response? It’s a personal decision. Everyone will have to decide for themselves if they want to stay in the program. She basically laughed it off and blamed us for leaving the program.

That was not the first time I had an author basically shit on me, and it wouldn’t be the last time either.

The bookstuffers, #TiffanyGate, #CockyGate, these are all examples of authors who blatantly break the rules and rub everyone’s noses in it. But it’s not just these types of authors you have to watch out for. There are still hundreds of them who will undermine your courage, step on you, lie to you, bully you, stab you in the back, sabotage you, start rumors, start up drama, go on witch hunts, twist your words – basically do anything they can think of to keep you from taking away what marginal bit of success they are experiencing. Whether it’s giving out bad advice, purposely sabotaging your career, or just not bothering to help out when you need it after you have done so much to help them succeed, there will always be authors who are more than willing to stomp all over you as they try to claw their way to the top.

And this type of backstabbing and sabotage isn’t just in the book selling market place. It’s permeated every tiny little nook and cranny in the indie publishing industry like a foul stench.

About three years ago I was trying to get a book signing event together in my birth town. People were interested – until someone decided to tag the author who had just had a book signing in that same large metropolitan area. The end result? She told me, and I quote “…you are trying to recreate it because you weren’t there.” I was basically told I was just “jealous” because I had not been invited to her event and how dare I try to put together a signing in my own state, in my own birth town. Because obviously just because there was more than enough authors to go around, I apparently didn’t get the memo that she had the monopoly on book signings in my state.

And as soon as she came along voicing her opinion and calling people out, guess what? Suddenly no one was interested in attending my author event any more. No wanted to side with me because doing so meant they could suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of her temper, banned from attending her event, or worse – have her chatting with other event coordinators who would then ban them from even more events.

This is just yet another way some of these bad eggs operate, yet just another example of #AuthorsBehavingBadly. Fear, intimidation, lying, cheating, scamming, bullying, and let’s not forget playing the perpetual victim – they are willing to do whatever it takes to keep the money coming in for them. They have no moral compass but they certainly like to pretend they do. They like deflecting blame, putting up smoke screens, make it look like they are taking the high road, and pretend they are the ones being bullied. Many of them aren’t really that successful, they just like to pretend they are. And then there are the ones in the big leagues, the ones who operate on a completely different scale, who are literally scamming their way into six-plus figures a year.

Unfortunately, we are still in the “wild west” phase of this industry, and we can’t just sit around and wait for a sheriff to come along and fix the industry for us. Until Amazon decides to begin minding their store with real people and actually take our complaints seriously, it’s up to us – the readers and the authors – to continue to shed light on the sleazy underbelly of this industry and bring the scammers and the cheaters to their knees. This industry may not be perfect, but it’s my industry, and I’m not going to sit by and let people continue to take advantage of me, my work, or my fellow authors who continuously bust their asses trying to produce a quality product for their readers. I’m tired of being intimidated, I’m tired of people trying to shame me, blame me, and bully me into staying quiet. It ends here.

#BookStuffers #BookScammers – #GetLoud

Sit back, this could take awhile. #BookStuffers #GetLoud

image

(Graphic credit to Anteria Hawbaker)

For the past four or so years I’ve been utterly miserable and disheartened with the publishing industry. You see, I’ve seen this shit storm building for years now. I saw what was happening. I knew there was bookstuffing going on, I knew there were authors who were purposely using black hat tactics to not only manipulate rank on Amazon, but who were also managing to get some of their books to hit the big lists. I’ve seen the illegal lotteries happening with the boxed sets and the big players who were teaching and instructing authors to buy up huge quantities of their own books and the boxed sets they were involved in and gift their way right onto the USA Today Bestseller list. I knew there were groups dedicated to teaching authors how to scam the system, how to skirt Amazon’s TOS, how to lie and steal their way into making KU All Stars bonuses. And let’s not forget about the droves of people who were, and still are, buying reviews, using click farms, or those who were bullying others and sending their “readers” to blast their competition with bad reviews and harass them to the point where many of them finally gave up and left the writing community completely.

This shit is NOT something that just cropped up in the past few days, or weeks, or even months. This shit has been happening for YEARS. And no matter how much I told other authors and readers about what was going on, no matter how much I blogged about it, no matter how much I tried to call attention to the blatant SCAMMING going on with all these top, “bestselling authors,” no one wanted to believe me. I was told I was “just jealous” of their success. I mean, who wanted to believe that an author who had hit the big lists multiple times did so by scamming their way onto those lists?

Needless to say, with everything that has been happening, I’ve slowly lost my desire to even be a PART of the indie community, not to mention I’ve lost my love of writing. Over the past four years I’ve slowed down tremendously, only pushing out two, maybe three full length novels a year if I am lucky. I stopped doing take overs, I stopped doing cover reveals, I stopped doing launch parties, I basically stopped doing any of it because the cold, hard truth of the matter is – no matter how many books I write, no matter how good I am, no matter how hard I work, I simply can NOT compete with the scammers. I can’t compete with someone who spends $30K, $40K, $80K a year on advertising and various scams that push their stuffed, shitty books to the top of the categories.

Y’all have no idea how happy I am to see other authors finally saying ENOUGH IS ENOUGH with all the shit that has been happening in this industry. I’m glad to see others who are finally standing up for themselves and their work and telling the scammers they are sick of being shit on by them and the industry.

But us just getting angry over the whole thing isn’t going to change it. Us just talking among ourselves in author-based groups isn’t going to change anything.We must UNITE, we must EDUCATE readers on what is happening and how to spot these scams, the stuffed books, the ones who are buying up fake reviews or using excessive ARC teams to manipulate reviews and ranking.

We have to continue to #GETLOUD and report this shit to Amazon, report the books, report the so-called authors. Because let me tell you, YOU may not think you deserve better, but by God I KNOW **I** deserve better. I know my work DESERVES better than to be forced to compete with such shit and the so-called authors who want to screw over and manipulate the system. I. DESERVE. BETTER.

Authors, stop letting these scammers shit on you and all the hard work, the YEARS of sacrifice you’ve made to get to this point. STAND UP, #GETLOUD, and FIGHT for a better system, for equal footing in the system, and for a equal share of the playing field. To loosely quote a fellow author, life may not be fair, but the publishing industry should damn well at least allow everyone to be on an equal playing field.

But it won’t happen if we don’t stand up for ourselves, our work, and each other. Let’s continue to #GETLOUD until the cream has finally risen to the top, and the shitty, scammy books are nothing but a bad, distance memory.

Why Authors Should Stay Far, Far AWAY from the New Book Boyfriend App

 

I’ll be honest, I practically live under a rock these days. But when it comes to anything related to potentially reaching more readers, I’m all ears. I’ve been on the band wagon for such supposedly “awesome” “author-friendly” apps as Book+Main, Vevo, and Mewe, just to name a few. Like everything else which has come and gone over the years, all of these apps have failed miserably when it comes to helping the “little author” build a loyal reader fan base. So when I started seeing the posts in my FB newsfeed about the new Book Boyfriend app, I started listening to see if this was going to be anything worth investing in, or just another useless app that fizzles out as quickly as it got started. And boy, oh book boyfriend, am I glad I did, because when even NYT & USA TODAY bestselling authors are afraid to touch this app, you better take note.

In a nutshell, the Terms of Service are shady as fuck for any author who signs up. It should be pointed out this app was actually created by a small group of authors. The first red flag is the app’s notice that as an author, your book won’t be promoted at all while they try to cultivate a reading community. So – if it’s not benefiting me as an author with ways to promote, what good is it? Why create an app designed to highlight books if you aren’t actively promoting books? Did I mention this app was created by a core foundation of authors? Do you see where I’m going with this?

 

Then there is the way they use your personal information. Now, I don’t speak lawyer, but these TOS give me all the feels – the bad feels. They agree they will retain your information, use it, keep it safe, but if said data gets transferred to a country where there are “loose” data protection laws in place, they merely say they have “security measures” in place. You are agreeing to give your personal information “voluntarily” and, of course, can withdraw your permission to use said data. However, if you choose to ask them to remove your data from usage, you “may not” be able to access the app any more. And there is this lovely clause that states they “will securely and permanently delete your personal information when there is (a) no justification for its further retention…”

 

 

And here is some more legal jargon which makes little to no sense: 6. What legal basis do we have for using your personal data?

“The legal basis we have for processing your data is based around the consent you have voluntarily provided us.”

So, what happens if you decide you don’t want to be any part of this shit-show and asked them to remove your information? Well, they’ll be happy to do it, but if they don’t and you keep asking them to stop using your data, they withhold the legal right to charge a fee for “administrative costs” for providing the information for “baseless or excessive/repeated requests…”

 

 

Now, if you are an author, here is why you should be running far, far away from this app. Basically, if you post anything to the app, such as a book cover, a blurb, an excerpt, a graphic teaser, etc., you are giving the owners of the app permission to re-use and re-distribute that content however they see fit, on any channel they see fit, and without giving the original owner of the content any attribution to said content. In other words, while you may own the content, you are giving them and any third party they want a “perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, transferrable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use, story, and copy that content and to distribute it and make it available to third parties…” – basically a free ticket to do whatever they want with your content without giving you credit as the owner and/or originator of said content.

 

 

To put it another way, they are forcing you to agree that if you upload content to their app, they can use the content however they want, without giving you credit as the creator/author, and there’s not shit you can do about it:

 

Now, remember above I asked why would you create an app based around books but then not offer any type of promotions for said book? And then they force authors who sign up to agree to let them do whatever they want with the content that is uploaded, which could include claiming it as their own without any credit to the creator or actual author of the book?

 

 

 

Of course, when authors began talking among themselves about how uneasy they felt with the TOS, the creators of the BB app immediately began crawfishing in an attempt to assure the authors via email that they “do not have the ability or legal basis to steal your content.” No, but the Terms and Conditions does give them the legal basis to USE said content without giving the author credit, and that they can adapt and amend the content at their sole discretion. It clearly states this in the TOS. Let’s take another look, shall we:

Their email appears to be them doing some major damage control when authors bring up legitimate questions about the TOS, questions which came with answers which approximated to little more than “please, let me assure you.” So long as the TOS gives them the legal right to NOT give me credit for my own content, or to edit it however they see fit, then no thanks. Like I said, when even NYT & USA TODAY bestselling authors are advising everyone to steer clear of this app, it’s time to sit up and take notice  –  and then run in the other direction.

 

 

 

**screenshot credit to those who took them