The Amazon charts continue to be plagued by book stuffing, ten days into the new regime. Aside from one rather notable head on a pike — Chance Carter appears to have had his account shut down, but quite possibly for other actions — book stuffers are continuing largely as normal, only making minor tweaks to their presentation, simply appending the words “Collection” or “Compilation” to their titles and covers. And not even bothering to do that on all their (still) stuffed books.
In fact, book stuffing is so lucrative, that a whole cottage industry has sprung up around making quick tweaks to your skeavy empire.
The stuffers are clearly thumbing their noses at Amazon. They seem pretty damn confident that minor tweaks will fly, and that the whole new regulatory regime is, well, a sham. What will happen with someone like Cassandra Dee will be a good bellwether.
Cassandra Dee is the #1 author in Contemporary Romance, and she is a major book stuffer. Because of KDP’s catch-and-release approach to these guys, they are able to constantly make minor tweaks to how they stuff. I can only presume that KDP sends them communications about problematic breaches of the Content Guidelines, the stuffers make a minor tweak, and are allowed to continue… until the next time they get a KDP letter.
Why Amazon takes such a light touch approach to regulating this mess is a mystery, because these authors have purloined millions of dollars from the collective author fund in the last year alone. Perhaps if that was coming out of Amazon’s end instead of our end, we would have seen more comprehensive action by now.
These stuffers also invest most of the money back into AMS campaigns (which goes directly back to Amazon) or Facebook campaigns (which drives tens of thousands of customers to Amazon every day) and perhaps this makes them untouchable.
Because everyone in romance knows about Cassandra Dee.
Like many of the others (and there are many) Cassandra Dee has taken a number of different approaches to book stuffing, from the regular approach of just shoving in as many books as it takes to hit that max 3000 page payout, to formatting hacks to artificially boost the page count, to a pretty popular approach today which I’ll call mosaic bookstuffing — which seems to exist to try and fool Amazon into thinking that these guys are publishing genuine collections with differentiated content. But a deeper look shows that’s not the case.
Let’s take Cassandra Dee’s Pregnant By My Boss as an example. (“Kendall Blake” is listed as a co-author, but I’m working on the presumption that’s just another pen name for Cassandra Dee. Happy to be corrected.)
Anyway, Pregnant By My Boss is currently #23 in the entire Kindle Store, meaning it’s probably generating thousands of sales and borrows a day, no doubt powered by an extensive Facebook and AMS campaign. And as this tweet below proves, it contains a lot of books outside the advertised content, bumping her page count up considerably. In fact, the advertised content ends at around 8%, meaning you could read the entire advertised book in the free sample.
"Pregnant By My Boss" by Cassandree Dee/Kendall Blake is at #20 in the Kindle Store. The advertised book finishes around 7% of the way through. . This author is a Kindle All Star – earning tens of thousands of dollars a month from the communal author fund. @AmazonKDP #tiffanygate pic.twitter.com/sGcLyK71eJ
— David Gaughran (@DavidGaughran) June 9, 2018
The only change Cassandra Dee appears to have made to comply with the new rules against book stuffing is to append the word Compilation to her title — she hasn’t even bothered putting it on the cover, let alone taking out any of the 11 books which make up this very stuffed file.
I bought Pregnant By My Boss (RIP my Amazon recommendations…) to ensure I was describing the situation accurately. I noticed something interesting right away. The first thing you see is a mailing list link, and the landing page for that links to a Facebook Group called Alpha Males on Top.
The two admins of that page are Cassandra Dee and a certain PA who works with many of the major book stuffers. Chance Carter was also on her client list previously, as well as someone called Faleena Hopkins too, but I’m sure that’s a total coincidence…
Moving on the table of contents of Pregnant By My Boss. As you can see in the screenshots appended to the above tweet, the TOC is considerable, around 10 pages long. I had to spread it over three separate tweets! It contains these books:
- Pregnant By My Boss (the advertised content)
- The Boy Next Door (a book by “Jade Evans” — noted in the blurb and front matter as bonus content)
- The Billionaire’s Kitten (unadvertised content)
- The Wicked Virgin (unadvertised content)
- The Naughty Virgin (unadvertised content)
- Delivering The Virgin (unadvertised content)
- The Trashy Virgin (unadvertised content)
- The Dirty Virgin (unadvertised content)
- Beg Me (unadvertised content)
- Loving the Babysitter (unadvertised content)
- The Curvy Girl Takes Two Men (unadvertised content)
And then if the curvy girl hasn’t completely knackered you, there’s also a four-chapter Sneak Peek at the end of all those 11 stories for any readers who don’t already have a sufficient idea of the quality of Cassandra Dee’s writing.
While there is no page count listed on the Amazon product page for the book, I can see by paging through it that it has 20,000 locations, meaning a page count in Amazon’s KU system of, I estimate, around 3,000 pages, which just so happens to be the maximum payout mark, or $13.50 for the author, if you prefer.
Moving on to this actual content, Pregnant By My Boss ends at 8% of the way through the file. Meaning that if Cassandra Dee had published that book on its own, as she should, it would be (rough estimate) around 240 pages, or $1.08 per readthrough. Even allowing for some error in my rough estimates, the difference is considerable.
Let’s look at what is bulking up this book file.
First up is The Boy Next Door by “Jade Evans” which I presume is yet another pen name for Cassandra Dee, but, again, I’m happy to be corrected. This book appears to be exclusive content, and is flagged both in the blurb and the front matter. Had Cassandra Dee stopped there, she might have been in the clear.
But she didn’t.
Next up is The Billionaire’s Kitten. This book is not advertised in the blurb or front matter. Here is the note in the blurb in case it gets… tweaked at a future point:
The Billionaire’s Kitten is sold separately on Amazon, and that edition of The Billionaire’s Kitten elsewhere on Amazon is also stuffed, containing the following books in the table of contents. Also note the click-to-the-end inducement. I’d estimate this book is around 2,250 pages long, meaning that when a reader clicks on that inducement, Cassandra Dee gets an instant payout of around $10.12 instead of the $1.51 she should get for just having The Billionaire’s Kitten read.
(Note: there is a false impression circulating that the click-to-the-end loophole has been closed. This is not true. We have tested it on multiple devices and the loophole only appears to have been closed on certain devices. Also, there are related tricks in play which I’m not going to make public for obvious reasons. Similarly incorrect rumors surround the kind of KU formatting hacks used by Tia Siren — those most certainly do still work and inflate your page count.)
Anyway, you’ll see the edition of The Billionaire’s Kitten also contains the full books of The Wicked Virgin, The Naughty Virgin, Delivering The Virgin, The Trashy Virgin, The Dirty Virgin, Beg Me, and The Curvy Girl Takes Two Men. Amusingly, the latter is marked “NEW” because presumably her readers will have encountered all these other books before. We’re certainly about to encounter the same books over and over.
Back to our scheduled programming of examining the content of Pregnant By My Boss. Third up in this carnival of deflowering is The Wicked Virgin — a book we have already seen stuffed inside The Billionaire’s Kitten. It too is sold separately on Amazon, and is stuffed, containing three books, the advertised content, plus two unflagged books by Cassandra Dee: Ruthless and Obsessed.
Fourth up in this tome is The Naughty Virgin — which we also saw inside The Billionaire’s Kitten. Also sold separately on Amazon, and is stuffed with just one extra title: Scandal. We’ll get back to why there is such a miserly approach in this particular book in a moment but a similar approach is taken with the next book — Delivering The Virgin — which has just Crazy in the back when sold separately on Amazon. And with the next two books after that: The Trashy Virgin and The Dirty Virgin. Both of those are sold separately on Amazon too, and have Double Huge and A Baby for the Billionaire stuffed in the back respectively.
Ninth in the list of this never-ending book pleasekillmenow is Beg Me — continuing the pattern of lighter stuffing on the backlist with just Addicted in the back. Tenth is Loving the Babysitter with our old friend Double Massive lurking in the back. And rounding out this gallery of rogues is The Curvy Girl Takes Two Men which turns out not to be as exclusive as promised in the table of contents of The Billionaire’s Kitten, because it is stuffed in here too.
In case you are worried that Cassandra Dee is running out of stamina and losing the will to stuff, there is a pattern to these varying amounts of stuffing. Newer, higher ranked, more visible books will be stuffed to the maximum. Older, lower ranked, less visible books get content peeled out of them and then recycled once more in the newer, more likely to be borrowed, books. No doubt this mosaic-style approach and constantly shifting contents also keeps Amazon’s detection systems on their toes.
But the pattern is clear. For example, here is Cassandra Dee’s next highest-ranked book. My Boyfriend’s Boss is ranked #60 in the entire Kindle Store (she has another at #73 too, making her more popular overall right now than Nora Roberts, if the Amazon Contemporary Romance Author charts are to be believed).
And because My Boyfriend’s Boss is highly ranked and more likely to be borrowed, that’s stuffed to the max. Here’s the table of contents:
The content ends at 24% of the book file. But this book is not billed as a Collection or Compilation, and no additional content is indicated, so she hasn’t even bothered paying minimal lip service to the new regulations. I estimate the file is around 2,200 pages long, meaning she could earn maybe $9.90 or so per borrow.
The contents are familiar too, containing many books we have seen multiple times: The Dirty Virgin, A Baby for the Billionaire, Loving The Babysitter, Ruthless, Obsessed, and the Twin Stepbrothers Exposed. And as detailed above, many of those titles are in turn sold separately on Amazon and stuffed themselves.
It’s Stuffedception, is what I’m saying.
The mosaic pattern of stuffing aside, the danger of continued Amazon inaction is clear too. As these book stuffers purloin more and more money from the communal author fund, they can plow that back into further books, which are then heavily advertised on AMS and Facebook, giving them more titles to recycle and switch around, making any future detection efforts even harder.
Which also blocks off all the chart positions and advertising spots for any other romance authors, or any other type of romance book… if that matters to anyone at Amazon HQ, who seem happy to let the amazing bookstore they diligently built fall into complete disrepair. A pity.
And to all the poor authors currently suffering from another round of page read stripping — which I’ll be blogging about soon — I can only guess at how frustrating you must find all this.
UPDATE June 15: Someone made this helpful visualization of the scale of Cassandra Dee’s book stuffing. It’s quite something. Please share if you can…
Here is a visualization of the book stuffing cheats used by Amazon's (supposedly) #1 Contemporary Romance Author – Cassandra Dee. Most repeated books are color coded to show how blatant this is. It's nuts. And this is just one of her pen names… #GetLoud #Tiffanygate pic.twitter.com/YxjKysF5sk
— David Gaughran (@DavidGaughran) June 15, 2018