Scammers Break The Kindle Store Bewares

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts. The Kindle Store is officially broken. This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action. Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples. I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon"s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with Read More…

Amazon Has A Fake Book Problem Bewares

Fake books – powered by clickfarms – are gatecrashing Amazon”s charts. And despite being aware of the issue for well over a year, Amazon has failed to resolve it. If you look at the Kindle Store Best Seller charts right now, and click over to Free Books, you will see that the Top 20 currently has five suspicious-looking titles. None of them have reviews. All were published in the last week. They have no Also Boughts – meaning they have had very few sales. Each of these titles are around 2,500 pages long, seem to have duplicated content, and are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. What is going on here? For over fifteen months now, scammers have been raiding the Kindle Unlimited pot Read More…

This Is The Modern Publishing Business Bewares Publishing

Scammers used to operate at the edges of the publishing business, but have wormed their way into its heart. And the entire industry is in denial. An unintentionally revealing aspect of the tiresome Amazon-Hachette dispute was a series of statements from an organization purporting to advocate for authors’ rights. One of the heinous crimes Amazon was said to have committed was treating books like toasters. With such a claim, Authors United was attempting to tap into a current of feeling about the commoditization of literature – as if Amazon was the first company to put a price tag on a book, and writers around the country were hitherto living off laurels and kudos. It’s tempting to suggest that other entities Read More…

KU Scammers Attack Amazon's Free Ebook Charts Bewares

Last month, Amazon was caught up in a crisis at least partly of its own making when bungled attempts to deal with a growing Kindle Unlimited scammer problem resulted in the sanctioning of innocent authors. Amazon has since apologized, and has also pledged to beef up its response to the KU scamming mess – but questions very much remain about whether Amazon is taking the problem seriously enough. A quick check shows that some of the main scammers are still operating, under the very same author names and book titles that were reported to Amazon in late February and early March. Which is very disappointing. A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with Phoenix Sullivan about the problem and Read More…

Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors Bewares

NOTE: There are numerous updates at the bottom of this article, including responses from Amazon – the latest update being from March 31 as this story continues to develop. The short version is that Amazon has apologized for incorrect enforcement around TOCs and Quality Notices and stated you may now have a rear TOC without fear of removal. Amazon also said it is taking the scamming problem seriously. I have doubts about that, but you can make your own mind up… Amazon is an extremely innovative company – and usually quite responsive to self-publisher"s concerns – but sometimes it gets things very wrong too. Today is one of those times. I’ve received several reports from writers threatened with having books removed from Read More…

The One Where An Author Steals Text From My Book To Sell Pirated Software Bewares

In today’s episode we are going to out a two-bit huckster who tried to put one over on yours truly, take a quick detour through the verdant fields of copyright law (and the slightly plainer meadows of moral rights), and then end with an example of how to handle a scammer. Sound fun? Strap yourselves in! A helpful reader – who will remain nameless for reasons that will become obvious – emailed me yesterday morning. I was just about to start work but the subject line caught my attention: Did You Give Permission For This? Uh oh. I started reading the message he had forwarded. It had originated from a domain called IndieWriterSupport.com (you can cut-and-paste that address or Google it, Read More…

FYI: Penguin Random House Is Still In The Vanity Business Bewares

Penguin Random House announced the sale of Author Solutions on Tuesday, leading to headlines stating it has exited the self-publishing business and various commentators congratulating it for cleaning house. Unfortunately, neither of those things are true. Four Penguin Random House-owned vanity presses will remain in operation – Partridge India, Partridge Singapore, Partridge Africa, and MeGustaEscribir – and will be run as Partner Imprints. You can read more about how Partner Imprints work here, but the short version is that Author Solutions will operate these four vanity presses on behalf of Penguin Random House, and PRH’s job will be to provide leads (aka newbie writers), lend its name and brand to the effort, and then sit back and collect its commissions. This Read More…

Authors Guild Dumps Author Solutions (And Pretends It Was All A Bad Dream) Bewares

The Authors Guild – which bills itself as America’s leading writers" organization – has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions. The Authors Guild joins companies like Bowker, Writers’ Digest, and Crossbooks in cutting links to Author Solutions – a company which has faced a sustained campaign from writers targeting its deceptive and exploitative practices, as well as multiple class actions which are still working their way through the courts. Burying the Lede The announcement was made yesterday at Book Expo America, but the Authors Guild decided to bury its own lede. No mention is made of Author Solutions, just a brief mention of the subsidiary which the Authors Guild was partnered with: iUniverse. If I hadn’t been waiting for this Read More…

Author Solutions and Friends: The Inside Story Bewares

Author Solutions has forged partnerships with a long list of famous names in publishing – from Simon & Schuster and Hay House to Barnes & Noble and Reader’s Digest. Recent disclosures in various lawsuits, along with information sent to me by a Penguin Random House source, detail for the very first time exactly how these partnerships work and the damage they are causing. Since a second suit was filed at the end of March, Author Solutions is now facing two class actions, with the new complaint alleging unjust enrichment and exploitation of seniors on top of the usual claims of fraud and deceptive practices. It also has a wonderfully precise summary of Author Solutions’ operations: Author Solutions operates more like Read More…

Bay Area Book Festival Defends Author Solutions Sponsorship Bewares

I discovered yesterday that Author Solutions was sponsoring the inaugural Bay Area Book Festival – something at odds with the breathless verbiage on the event’s site: A new kind of book fair… the largest, most innovative, and most inclusive… [we will] create the nation’s leading book festival. The event doesn’t take place until June, so I thought it was a good time to try and stage an intervention. Shame on @BayBookFest for accepting sponsorship from known scammers like Author Solutions. What the hell were you thinking? #Baybookfest — David Gaughran (@DavidGaughran) March 19, 2015 After I sent that tweet I felt a little bad. Maybe the organizers didn’t know the full history of Author Solutions. Maybe they weren’t aware of the Read More…

Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press Bewares

Nook Press – Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform – launched a selection of author services last October including editing, cover design, and (limited) print-on-demand. Immediate speculation surrounded who exactly was providing these services, with many – including Nate Hoffelder, Passive Guy, and myself – speculating it could be Author Solutions. However, there was no proof. Until now. A source at Penguin Random House has provided me with a document which shows that Author Solutions is secretly operating Nook Press Author Services. The following screenshot is taken from the agreement between Barnes & Noble and writers using the service. You will see that the postal address highlighted above for physical submission of manuscripts is “Nook Press Author Services, 1663 Liberty Drive, Read More…

Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: Author Solutions and Nook Press Bewares

Nook Press – Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform – launched a selection of author services last October including editing, cover design, and (limited) print-on-demand. Immediate speculation surrounded who exactly was providing these services, with many – including Nate Hoffelder, Passive Guy, and myself – speculating it could be Author Solutions. However, there was no proof. Until now. A source at Penguin Random House has provided me with a document which shows that Author Solutions is secretly operating Nook Press Author Services. The following screenshot is taken from the agreement between Barnes & Noble and writers using the service. You will see that the postal address highlighted above for physical submission of manuscripts is “Nook Press Author Services, 1663 Liberty Drive, Read More…

How Jessica Mitford Exposed A $48m Scam From America’s Literary Establishment Bewares Writing

Jessica Mitford took on the American funeral industry, the California Department of Corrections, and the Ku Klux Klan, but it was her 1970 exposé of The Famous Writers School which led to Time calling her “The Queen of the Muckrakers.” And if a courageous editor hadn’t reversed his decision to kill her story, it might never have happened. Mitford had been aware of The Famous Writers School’s existence for some time. Anyone who was a frequent reader of newspapers, books or magazines would have seen its ever-present advertisements, inviting aspiring writers to cut out and apply for the free aptitude test. While Mitford was suspicious, she didn’t have anything concrete until her lawyer husband took on a new client. Bob Read More…

Author Solutions Steps Up Global Expansion, Penguin Random House Integration Bewares

Penguin Random House is speeding up the international expansion of its vanity press operations, while also seeking to integrate them more closely with the traditional side of the business – hoping to counteract flat growth for Author Solutions at a time when self-publishing is booming. Author Solutions launches a new self-publishing service company for the Spanish market next Tuesday – MeGustaEscribir – which contains the usual mix of crappy publishing packages and ineffective, overpriced marketing services, as well as some extremely questionable practices such as reading fees (more on that below). The way the Author Solutions scam typically operates is detailed exhaustively in this post, but here’s a brief summary. How Author Solutions Squeezes Newbie Writers Customers are captured through Read More…

Amazon Opens Dutch Kindle Store, B&N Moves Into Author Services Bewares Publishing

Amazon launched a Kindle Store in the Netherlands this morning, as anticipated by The Digital Reader yesterday. Kindle devices are now on sale for prices ranging between €59 for the basic model, up to €189 for the Voyage, and the store has opened with over 3m titles. However, only 20,911 of these titles are in Dutch and only 1,221 of these e-books are by Dutch authors. That may change now that KDP has launched a local portal for Dutch writers and small presses. The opening of the Dutch Kindle Store also means the abolition of the regressive and unpopular Whispernet Surcharge in the Netherlands which added $2 onto the price of many e-books. For those already publishing via KDP, your book Read More…