Cassandra Dee and Mosaic Book Stuffing

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.

Cover Tweak screenshot

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.

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.

Book ending 8% screenshot

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:

Blurb note

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.

billionaires kitten TOC

(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:

boyfriends boss TOC

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…

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

85 Replies to “Cassandra Dee and Mosaic Book Stuffing”

  1. Am just catching up with today’s newspapers and see you have an honourable mention in The Times – Authors cash in with 3,000-page ebooks.

    You are referred to as an ‘expert in digital publishing.’

    I’m sure you’ve seen this article by now but I just wanted to say thank you. Please accept my gratitude for pursuing this matter and doing so successfully.

  2. It looks like she’s finally been taken down too, along with Tia Siren. So maybe Amazon just took a really long time to catch on?

  3. Not only is Amazon ignoring it, they’re actively promoting her. After reading your blog, I looked up Cassandra on Amazon. Shortly after that I got one of those Amazon emails saying “based on your browsing history, here are some titles you might enjoy.” First up was Pregnant by My Boss followed by a number of equally insalubrious offerings.

  4. I know there are a few people following the comments, so you might want to check out the update to the above post – I’ve added a visualization of Cassandra Dee’s book stuffing, just so you can really see how extensive it is, and the kind of sh*t that Amazon is ignoring.

  5. Thank you for your research. As long as people are enrolled in KU, Amazon makes money. It would be interesting if we could persuade our readers to opt out of KU for a brief period of time. Perhaps, July 4th? We might see an immediate response from Amazon, or find out our readers don’t care. This situation frustrates me!

  6. Did any of you read the Forbes article April 2018 where Amazon won a suit that in part addressed book stuffing? I wondered if that legal ruling would possibly be a stepping stone in resolving this issue

  7. David, FWIW I checked Pregnant by My Boss while reading your blog. The ‘compilation’ now contains only 5 books. (11June2018)

  8. The cover has a watermark. It seems to me that this is only going to drive authors out of KU, and then readers will be stuck with the same recycled stuff.

    This is exactly why I’ve never been in KU. I always wanted paid readers. But the problem is, these type of books take up all the bestseller slots and hurt visibility for everyone. Maybe every borrow shouldn’t count toward sales rank.

  9. Thank you for your continued vigilance and advocacy. I have decided to leave KU in a couple of weeks. I don’t have many books out and I don’t make much from KU anyway, but it’s the principle.

    I can’t believe the “jump to the end” bug hasn’t been fixed. I’m not a programmer by trade, but even I could come up with a system for validating every page read. It’s not difficult.

    1. For every problem there is a simple wrong solution.

      Fixing at the page read level means new firmware for all the old Kindles K1 K2 K3 K4 K5 at least.

      My suggestion is that each book is read by Amazon’s robot and the number of pages calculated to the end of the first book. That’s the maximum paid for.

      1. Chance keeps sending out newsletters and promoting books, even if his account was shut down. So that’s weird. He was very Cass Dee centric until this one, so they are all either buddies, or his recycled pen names.

      2. It’s not weird at all. He charges $250 (last I knew) for sending your book to his mailing list, and people will have paid for these slots months ago.

  10. Cassandra Dee’s moral compass doesn’t just spin right past north when it comes to bookstuffing and gaming the KU system. On her FB page, I noticed a post which featured a stock photo of a man on a beach, with the iStock watermark all over it.

    I know it might seem like a small matter, but as a writer and freelance designer — who pays for stock images — it’s pretty upsetting. How would “Cassandra” feel if someone lifted her carefully crafted words(!) and published the as their own?

    Okay, rant over. Thanks for the good detective work, David.

  11. I posted this on my facebook page over a week ago. Amazon does not care because the stuffers are bringing people online to the store to buy other items besides books.

    June 2, 2018

    I am convinced that the Amazon KU page reads situation goes something like this…

    The technology doesn’t EXIST to accurately determine the number of page reads for a book. They can do furthest page read, but not the total count of individual pages. This is important because the tech savvy people who would go on to capitalize upon this weakness over at the Zon knew it from the very beginning. AND THE STUFFERS ARE GOING TO STUFF THE SH!T OUT OF THEIR BOOKS UNTIL THERE IS A FIX. The ones who started early on the page stuffing KNEW THE TECHNOLOGY DIDN’T EXIST from the outset. They can’t fix the problem because there is no fix at this time. No matter what they say, those bot-laced responses never clarify anything.
    And I can’t imagine Amazon coming clean and announcing this news to the world is a possibility, either. Don’t hold your breath.
    The stuffing will still continue, in some new repackaged “Collection format”, too. It. Will. Continue.
    If the stuffers have to decrease the total size of their books, they will simply INCREASE the number of books they publish to make up for it. Simple Econ 101.
    Don’t be fooled by Amazon’s announcement. Nothing much is changing and they are still making their money hand over fist.
    They created KU and believe me, they know about the stuffing and don’t care. THEY DON’T CARE. If you are really unhappy about it, then don’t put your book in KU. Very simple.

  12. Sorry, I’m new and trying to sort all of this out. How does book stuffing steal from other authors? I realize it inflated their rankings, but what is this communal pot you are talking about?

    1. Jane – authors are paid for involvement in Kindle Unlimited based on the amount of pages reads from their books, and that payment comes from a communal fund determined by Amazon. So if someone cheats and grabs an extra $10,000 from the fund, that comes out of authors’ pockets, not Amazon’s. This is why these practices are particularly contentious.

  13. I think one thing that might work is a Real Author boycott of KU. I don’t use it myself but that’s more about my tech incompetence and suspicion of change. If the Real Authors organised and agreed to leave Amazon KU on a certain date, following it up with a well-publicised explanation of why they’re doing it, the behemoth might actually notice.

      1. I’m not seeing any ebooks on that page. Are you sure you aren’t seeing cached results or something? Can anyone else see what Mark is talking about?

      2. Plus if I go direct to any of his book pages I’m just getting the 404 doggos. Can you actually see his book pages and buy buttons?

      3. Yeah there’s a limit to how much nesting is allowed – keeps things manageable, esp. on mobile.

        As for the link, that’s RR Banks.

  14. This has been a big problem for a long time and Amazon does nothing because it’s not in Amazon’s best interests to make it change. When it becomes more important for them to fix it (because it’s costing them money, or customers, or they’re being sued, for instance) they’ll do something. Until then, don’t expect much.

    Suggestion: If every sympathetic reader out there closed their KU account, Amazon might take notice. Now, yes, I know that hurts the authors, too, but they’re already being hurt, right? Anyway, if there were some way to convince the thousands of book-loving, romance-loving, author-supporting KU readers out there that a three month hiatus from the program (they can always re-open their accounts) would accomplish something, it might help. Because with the minuscule payout that KU makes, Amazon is definitely making money on that gimmick, and if customers stop paying their monthly fees, that’s a loss to them. Of course, this would need to be accompanied by a petition or something explaining why the accounts are being closed.

    Unfortunately, most of the people who use Kindle Unlimited like to complain about how they could never afford to read all the books they want and KU is a godsend and all that, and they don’t seem to care (although they almost certainly know) that the authors they claim to love are being screwed to the wall with that crap; they have books that they exchange as if they were using a library (which, I believe, also hurts the authors) and they are paying a fraction of what it would cost them to buy these works, and they just don’t concern themselves with the aspects of KU that are killing careers and cheating legit authors.

    People like the idea that Amazon is “customer-centric,” a term the company loves to use, but the fact is that, like any other company, Amazon is only “centric” about what makes money and they don’t care about anything else. Including the talents that help bring that money in.

  15. I’d never heard of CD so I looked her up on FB. I don’t get how someone can have 14k followers on fb alone yet very little interaction. Dummy accounts? I’m guessing page stuffing isn’t the only sketch going on. Very concerning.

    1. Can easily happen when someone is spending huge on FB ads – you could plausibly garner that many likes even if you never really posted to your page.

  16. Easy book stuffing fix for Amazon if they do the following:
    A title can only be listed in KU once. (So a title could either be included in a box set or compilation or listed separately but not both.) An author can include additional content such as title previews, requests to leave reviews, glossary, epilogue, list of other titles by author, etc., as long as the additional content amounts to less than 10% of the total book content. (This 10% could be adjusted to whatever percent Amazon and author community determines as reasonable.) Books in violation can be reported by other authors and reviewed by Amazon. If in violation the title would be removed and the author emailed that they need to republish. This costs them lost sales, page reads and rank.

    1. Scrap all that – if the authors have to report other author’s books that violate the above terms you’ve just made up, then the authors can just report bookstuffing! You made a mountain there for no reason.

  17. What I don’t get about book stuffing is, yes you get more pages read on one book, but if you’ve stuffed it with your entire back catalogue people don’t need to buy anything else, so you could have got the same pages read by people reading all your work a file at a time. When I say you I of corse mean them not you you

    1. These stuffers don’t care so much about the long tail or building a sustainable readership as much as squeezing the lemon dry today.

  18. Just wanted to let you know that Tia’s triple spacing seems to be gone. The interesting thing to note, however, is that her page numbers didn’t decrease. According to Tia’s blurb her first (titled) book is 80K and that book ends at 23% of the 2,665 pages. By my calculations, that’s about 612 pages for 80K words. One of my pen names has a book of 85K words, and according to KDP, that book is only 250 pages. Tia’s words are obviously much more valuable than mine–garnering them about 2 and a half times the number of pages. And the book reads normal, too. No extra spaces or blank pages.

    They’re getting craftier…

    1. Something is definitely up. I’ve seen that a couple of times with different people. This is the problem with the catch-and-release approach – you’re just helping them get smarter each time with no real consequence.

      1. Exactly. And how many times is Amazon going to let them cheat and scam? 3-strike you’re out system or something like that should be implemented. And by out, meaning ALL your books taken down. If 10 books are reported repeatedly, out of 50 books, you can pretty much assume that *most* of the books will be the same, at least within the last 18 months or so. It seems like all of those authors took the same seminar starting at about January 2017.

    2. One of my books is 85k and it’s KENPC is 480. It used to be at the 550 mark (which seemed stupid high to me but I wasn’t going to complain) but about a month after release they adjusted my KENPC to the lower amount.

      It’s gross yours is only 250. I feel like Amazon is cheating you.

      1. The 250 was the “print length” they show on the product page. My KENPC was quite a bit higher.

    3. Belinda,
      I didn’t play with any formatting and my 73,000 words-long book has according to Amazon 376 pages, the 88,000 words-long 446 pages and the 95,000 words-long 476 pages. So that 250 pages for 85,000 worlds long story doesn’t sound right. I recommend you address Amazon about that.

  19. Thanks David,
    I appreciate reading your analysis on the bookselling environment. Clearly the KU eco-system is stressed and the unethical activity is robbing a lot of authors. The only thing I cannot understand is why so many KU authors tolerate the system. Either they are all making sufficient money from it, despite the unfairness, or they have “deer-in-the-headlights” syndrome. I don’t participate in KU, and never will until it becomes equitable. I do not understand why authors prefer to complain about the situation instead of voting with their feet. If Amazon suddenly experienced an exodus of authors from KU, they might respond. As many have said, until it impacts their bottom line, nothing will happen, yet this same behaviour is impacting other KU authors’ bottom line, and they do nothing. I really see nothing to complain about if you continue to allow yourselves to be cheated. I know that might sound harsh, but if you continue to remain in an abusive arrangement, the fault lies on you. If you don’t like it, don’t bitch–act. (just my $0.02, so please don’t divert from the conversation by putting me in the pillory and throwing vegetables.)

    1. No pillory! I will disagree though, if I may.

      First thing I’d argue is that I wouldn’t make such a strong link between the micro and the macro. Everyone has to eat so I’m not judging any author for making any (ethical!) decision which helps them put food on the table. I think most authors, unless they feel particularly strongly about something like exclusivity, will approach this in a very practical way and either follow the readers or do what works for their books. It’s easy for some authors to say “ditch KU” – less for certain niches like Military SF or some flavors of Romance which seems to be nearly all KU.

      Second… people have actually called for KU boycotts before and they were totally ineffectual. Advocating for reform has brought about change – not enough, but some change has happened. Boycotts, not so much. While I agree that if lots of big authors left KU en masse, or lots of readers cancelled subscriptions in protest, that might get Amazon’s attention, I don’t see it happening.

      Finally, I disagree with assigning any portion of blame to KU authors who remain in the system for whatever is happening now or comes next. I think you can stay in KU and advocate for change or highlight abuse. I see no dissonance there (for the first reason above in particular).

    2. Doug,
      as a romance author who started with KU, then pulled my books to distribute widely, and just recently put a few titles back on, this was all news to me. I knew that some people were supposedly making thousands a month from KU, but since I don’t write in the shall we say, “one-handed-wonder” category, I didn’t pay attention. But then David’s article caught my eye and I investigated. A .99 book nets me .35 cents royalties, .70 cents elsewhere, but I can make $1.20 or more in KU. I trade exclusivity for an increase in royalties and hopefully on KU finding new readers. I can honestly say I was completely naive to the book-stuffing scam. Now, I’m frustrated that the system has a huge loophole and Amazon is moving slowly to fix it.

      I’m not a deer-in-the-headlights kind of gal. I’m a hard working butt-in-chair writing, keep my eyes on my own work kind of gal. I love writing stories, Marketing sucks. I just assumed it was a fair system, and now I see that some are gaming the system and earning bonuses from Amazon on top of that. So, something needs to change. The something is an issue, because no matter what, someone will find a way to game the system.

      I can sell my book on Amazon and not be in KU, and I won’t renew my agreement. It seems to me that now that the light is on, the cockroaches will find another genre to infest and I feel strongly that the “authors” chose a genre with voracious readers to legitimize some of their sales.

      I’m looking for a reasonable solution, a logical solution. I believe that not offering a bonus, in addition to royalties may address some of the inequity. Responding to complaints, letting the complainant know their being researched and what the resolution is will also help. Any other suggestions?

      -Tobi Doyle

  20. Amazon doesn’t seem to care that many of these books contain subject matter that should only be in the erotica categories. Legally forbidden types of relationships or game play of these relationships I thought were only allowed in erotica. Also certain fetishes are supposedly not allowed in the regular categories. That should have raised flags but Amazon has done nothing. There is a difference between Steamy and Erotica. It’s sad that there are authors quitting writing.

    1. Not the hill I want to die on, especially when trying to parse quite intricate issues, but after flicking through these books that case could certainly be made.

    2. Absolutely! All of the book-stuffers “novels” are erotica (at least the ones I’ve checked out), not “women’s fiction” or Romance Sport or Romance suspense. I even saw one listed as “inspirational”, I kid you not!
      We all know the difference between erotica and romance. There *is* an “erotica” genre in Amazon. So it should have to be used for that genre!

  21. “this carnival of deflowering” Oh, David, this is one of the many reasons I adore you. In the midst of the horror, you always make me laugh. I’m just surprised that the appalling content doesn’t stop readers from buying. Based on the snippets of this woman’s prose style, who would WANT to read 3000 pages of it?? Yikes.

    Thanks, as always, for all you do.


    1. Nancy,
      I suspect very few actually purchase to read. Rather, the author has “page-flippers” to download the book and “read” it. If the author makes $13.50 every time the book is read, it would be fairly easy to pay someone or a clickfarm to “read” it. I suspect that proof of reading requires a review, which also explains all of the glowing reviews.

      -Tobi Doyle

  22. Great work again from David, but it’s hard to read this article and not be depressed as an author trying to make it in KU. Even if you agree with the notion that this is being allowed to happen because of the money they are generating, then what about quality? Amazon appears to have always been about putting the customer first, but surely by it being harder for other authors (especially new) to rise up the ranks, quality books are being kept away from readers, which is bad for everyone (including Amazon).

    Before being an author I came from the world of indie games, and I have seen companies basically achieve a monopoly in certain charts, because the high up visibility got them all the downloads, which then got them all the revenue, which then got them even more downloads and on and on. Until you end up in a situation where certain games and companies dominate the charts.

    The book charts on Amazon are not like that yet…

    I’m a fan of KU, from a reader and author point of view. And I’ll forever be grateful to Amazon to providing such a service/system, but I think at this point the only answer is to cap the page count to 500 (or thereabouts). And then Amazon can create some scheme where authors can easily setup boxsets via their dashboard, so the books are presented as being together, as apposed to just being a big file. I suspect this is where all of this is heading.

  23. Do you suppose Amazon will ever have a tip line for violations? People write into them all the time about nit-picky typos and they respond to authors, but where is there a place to complain about these blatant violations that hurt everyone (except book stuffers)?

    1. There is a light blue box at the bottom of every book’s page where you can report problematic content – not exactly front-and-center but it is there – and/or you can email to get to the right people directly.

      1. Done! I reported the book and author for book-stuffing and illegal clicks. We’ll see if CS really follows up or investigates, as they say.

      2. One problem Amazon has is not being able to tell us what ‘rules’ they use to take down ebooks and accounts. And there’s a very good reason for this, knowing the rules helps the scammers more than it does you or I.

        Let’s say I’m one of those ‘easily triggered’ types and you have written something that ‘triggers’ me. If I knew that it only took a hundred complaints to Amazon to get your book pulled I might call in some friends or pay fifer to get your book taken down – leaving you with the fun of trying to convince Amazon that the complaints are all false.

        As far as the stuffing and all the other games? Every time Amazon has tightened the rules to stop something dozens of ‘honest’ writers have screamed bloody murder because the new rules/limits have hit them too. The only way Amazon can even offer any payment from KU reads is because the whole thing is run by little bots, bots that the scammers look for ways to fool. Trying to add warm bodies would reduce the pay per page (which is something else a lot of writers whine about.)

        As I’ve said on other sites, KU was and is an experiment. When it starts costing Amazon too much to run they will close it down. Some writers use it because they think it makes them more ‘discover-able’, some because they see more money from KU than they do from ‘going wide’ and selling their ebooks elsewhere.

        The only way to convince Amazon to change things is to vote with your wallet. That means writers pulling their stuff out of KU and readers cancelling their subscriptions. But this won’t happen for two reasons. So long as there are still some good books to read the readers will stay, and it seems the writers crying the loudest about the scammers will never leave because they still believe that they would be discovered make good money on KU – if only those scammers were removed.

      3. Allen F – I don’t buy the idea that adding humans into the mix would automatically decrease rates – there are a lot of assumptions inherent in that. It might be true, it might not be true. In fact, you could argue the opposite case too (that cleaning up the store would increase reader trust and KU’s popularity and sales overall and be a net win and/or directly increase rates because less money from the fund is going to scammers). We just don’t know how Amazon calculates the fund, and only have guesses.

      4. David Gaughran –

        Amazon adding warm bodies to the bots just moves the goalposts for the scammers …

        Unless Amazon hires (and trains) an army, we would next be hearing the whine from writers on how long it takes Amazon to ‘vet’ each new ebook before adding it to KU. Then there’s going through what’s already in KU looking for ‘junk’ books. Yes, some will take only a minute to confirm/kill, but others will take longer and some of those ‘honest’ writers/books will most likely be caught in the gears as well.

        Then we add a new wrinkle, the warm bodies themselves. While most will be honest, there will be some that believe they have a ‘higher calling’ and will kill not only the scam books but those books they think are ‘wrong’ to be published. Yes again, Amazon will try to prevent this, but now we need watchers watching the watchers …

        Bots at least are a level playing field, this rule – pass/fail, next rule – pass/fail, until a book passes – or falls through the cracks. The fact that KU pays so well is why you have scammers – if there was no payout KU would have only writers hoping to be discovered (but not paid), and the scammers would go back to day-trading or whatever other scam they like.

  24. The only way to stop this trash from stealing from legit authors is to forbid compilations from KDP Select and to limit the number of pages to 500. Whether that happens is another story because Amazon is making too much money from Amazon ads.

    1. Limiting paid pages to 500, maybe. Limiting length to 500 is a bad idea, there are fantasy books close to double length or even past that.

    2. Not a good idea. What about an Omnibus? See Hugh Howey. See me!
      What about “Pillars of the Earth” (998 pages)? What about “Shogun” (1010 pages)?
      That slope is way too slippery.

      1. I’m not talking about the general store, only KDP Select. Neither Pillars of the Earth nor Shogun are in KDP Select (i.e., Kindle Unlimited) which is where the problem lies.

      2. Hi Magda. You may be right about Pillars and Shogun, but Howey’s Wool, Shift, and Sand omnibuses (omnibi?) are all in KU. And I’m sure there are others. Mine is 578 pages. Should I be expelled?

  25. Why can’t Amazon tell the difference between a reader actually turning all those pages (and presumably reading them) and clicking to the end? Can’t they just not count pages that aren’t actually visited?

    1. You would think a robust page counting system would be a prerequisite for paying authors based on pages actually read.

      You would think…

    2. I read something about Amazon being able to know if the reader just clicked to the end of the book and now they track “page flips.” So, the stuffers ask their readers to flip pages from the beginning to the end which takes a lot of time to do if the book has 3000 pages. The article I read said the “authors” have large “fan groups” who they get to buy their book and flip through the pages. Amazon can’t tell if the pages have actually been read even though my Kindle Fire states that its learning my reading speed!

  26. I suspect you have the key to why Amazon fails to do anything significant about the issue of book stuffers: they (Amazon) aren’t losing any money. Amazon doesn’t care who gets the money from the communal pot, and they get a bundle of it back from the stuffers from AMS ads, so they are almost making a profit off them.

    If Amazon was losing money to the stuffers the matter would have been dealt with in the space of a few days, but until Amazon is the one suffering, the stuffers are unlikely to be properly punished or penalised.

    I hope the matter is resolved soon, and satisfactorily, but I can’t help remaining cynical.

    1. The theory was floated by someone on Kboards – at least the part about AMS spend and driving FB traffic – and it’s pretty compelling.

      Too big to jail…

      1. The flaw in that theory is that authors using click farms doesn’t cost Amazon any money either, but they’ve brought the hammer down on accounts for alleged “illicit borrows.”

      2. Amazon IS losing money on bookstuffers. Otherwise the bookstuffers wouldn’t gain anything from the behavior. The stuffer is earning dishonest money through their scam.

        It wouldn’t be hard for Amazon to set triggerpoints for suspicious behavior. They don’t have to go through every book to catch it. If a book as a large number of pages, or if the filesize doesn’t match the stated number of pages. Then they could check only those books.

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