Kindle Unlimited – A Cheater Magnet Amazon Bewares

For a month or two, though, things improved. The charts cleaned up. Real, actual authors — not faceless book stuffers powered by ghostwriters — started surfacing again. Readers were saying that it was easier to find good books in the charts. I noticed the difference myself in July when helping someone with a launch; it seemed to take less of a push to get in the Top 100. I stopped paying attention to what the scammers were doing. Life was good.

It seems like Amazon stopped paying attention too. It was far harder to get into the Top 100 in September, and a quick look at the charts showed why. Many of those “authors” from Chance Carter’s mastermind circle who inexplicably survived the purges of June/July — grotesque characters like RR Banks — were suddenly charting again. En masse. With multiple books each, simultaneously.

They had figured out a new hole in the fence. I looked at the Contemporary Romance charts for the first time in a while and all the real authors were being pushed down again, while all the ghostwritten trash was swamping the Kindle Store once more. Read More…

Click Here For Success Bewares Marketing

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Elm Hill Books: Another HarperCollins Vanity Press Bewares

HarperCollins now has another Christian vanity press subsidiary with five-figure publishing packages, but this time the Big 5 publisher is also pimping out its sales reps and distribution network to sell the idea to novice authors. Elm Hill Books was launched last year and is the brainchild of Pete Nikolai – the longtime Director of Publishing Services at HarperCollins Christian Publishing. And both have form when it comes to exploiting writers.

In 2009, Pete Nikolai was working for HarperCollins subsidiary Thomas Nelson when, together with its CEO and Chairman Michael Hyatt, he partnered with Author Solutions to create WestBow Press. WestBow is a white-label Christian-flavored vanity publisher, pretty much the same any other Author Solution vanity imprint, just with a few crucifixes dotted around the place.

While Michael Hyatt subsequently reinvented himself as some kind of greasy life coach, Pete Nikolai ran WestBow as its Publisher, overseeing the sale of sub-standard publishing packages and countless, worthless marketing packages costings thousands of dollars. These marketing packages were sold using high-pressure sales tactics to unsuspecting newbies who had no business purchasing them, and little chance of recouping their investment. Read More…

Vanity and The Media Bewares Publishing

Experienced authors tend to chastise vanity press victims for not doing sufficient research, but the murky web of vanity partnerships — and the uncritical coverage which invariably accompanies same — makes it exceedingly difficult for newer writers to chart a safe path.

Some vanity presses are very good at crafting a veneer of legitimacy, one which can be very convincing to those starting out. Infamous vanity press conglomerate Author Solutions figured this out very early on, creating partnerships with Penguin, Harlequin, Writer’s Digest, Random House, HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson, Hay House, Reader’s Digest, Lulu, and Barnes & Noble.

These partnerships served two purposes. First, they delivered an endless stream of victims directly from the companies themselves who would refer business to Author Solutions in return for a cut. Second, they helped Author Solutions whitewash its past, acting as a reputational fig leaf, hiding its seamy nature until it was too late. Read More…

Cassandra Dee and Mosaic Book Stuffing Amazon Bewares

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.

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. Read More…

Amazon Faces Test Of Book Stuffing Policy Amazon Bewares

Amazon quietly rolled out new content guidelines on Friday to tackle the plague of book stuffing, along with some new metadata rules which all seem to be aimed at cleaning up the Kindle Store – something long overdue. However, one infamous book stuffer is already bragging about a loophole. This is a huge test for Amazon’s new policy and whether KDP will actually enforce it.

There was a push among some authors a few weeks back to get Amazon to lower the max payout size in Kindle Unlimited to 1,000 pages. Everyone proposing it knew it was an imperfect solution but argued it was better than the status quo. That was true, but the reason I didn’t join that call was simple: Amazon didn’t need new rules to tackle book stuffing, it needed a change in attitude. Stuffing was already breaking existing rules, Amazon was just not applying them. I was wondering what the point of new rules would be unless it was also accompanied by actual enforcement.

And now Amazon faces a test in the shape of book stuffer Tia Siren, who has made the most cosmetic of changes to her stuffed books — she has just appended the phrase “A Romance Compilation” to her book titles. — and is clearly thumbing her nose at Amazon and her fellow authors, while she continues to hoover up money from the communal author pot. Read More…

When #Cockygate And #Tiffanygate Collide Amazon Bewares

#Cockygate has been rolling for a month now and is quite multifaceted — touching on some pretty existential issues for writers, and indeed all creatives. This post from lawyer Marc Whipple tracks the beginning, in case you have been in a coma for the last month. The story also broke out into the mainstream briefly where it was covered by Vox and The Guardian, among others.

More recent developments are as follows. Multiple authors made creative stands against Faleena Hopkins’ extremely questionable trademark and even more dubious attempted enforcement of same, in the form of various Cocky-themed books and parodies. Hopkins responded with a video — which she since took down, presumably in case it destroyed her acting career — as well as a series of equally ill-advised posts.

Hopkins then filed suit against three parties: Kevin Kneupper, the author/lawyer who is formally challenging her trademark; Tara Crescent, an author who had published books with Cocky in the title previously; and Jennifer Watson, a publicist for an anthology raising funds to cover legal expenses of authors affected by all this. Read More…

Favorite Things: Blog Highlights 2011-2018 Bewares Publishing Writing

I thought I’d get the new blog rolling with two posts in one day. Why not, I’m the captain of this ship, dammit. You may have missed the monster post on Marketing in 2018 as it went out in the wee hours this morning — still stress testing traffic levels gradually on the new site. Speaking of…

I’m not one for anniversaries or the like, as my long-suffering partner will attest. And I generally save sentimentality for the saloon. Look forwards, not backwards, and all that palaver. But I did indulge myself a little when closing down my old blog and dove into those 2,000,000 views you guys generated since I started in 2011. Some interesting things jumped out! Read More…

PSA: ReviewMeta Is Not Accurate Bewares Resources

There’s an article doing the rounds at the moment from the Washington Post suggesting that the Amazon is undergoing some kind of fake review crisis. There are problems with Amazon reviews, of course, but this article is based on some pretty flawed data. At least in how it pertains to the world of books, which is what I know, and what I’ll focus on here. I can’t speak to the world of diet supplements or fake tan or giant tubs of lube – alas.

The article’s claims are largely based on a flaky site called ReviewMeta, which seems far better at getting publicity for itself than correctly analyzing the trustworthiness of reviews, which is a pity as it would be a wonderful tool if it was in any way accurate.

I first heard about ReviewMeta back in 2016 and was very excited to test it out. Naturally, I started with my own books, as I can be pretty sure there are no fake reviews there, being the author, publisher, and marketer of all these titles, and someone who is fastidious about the rules as my name is literally my brand.

However, ReviewMeta seems to call into question a large number of my reviews and reviewers. And by extension me, I guess. And all of you too, because many of the random selection of books I checked had similar issues. The ReviewMeta site helpfully gives explanations for why its system made these determinations, and you can actually break down each component and get a further explanation. This transparency is hugely commendable. Read More…

Giving A Voice To Indies Bewares Writing

A new organization is being formed which is aiming to give a voice to indies – the Indie Author Support Network. The idea was proposed by indie author Marie Force, and it’s still at the very earliest stages, but what I’ve heard so far is very promising indeed – particularly that it will be exclusively focused on high-level advocacy and interfacing with retailers on issues which concern indies.

I’m not a member of any writer organization. I joined one here in Ireland when I first returned home, but didn’t renew after they wouldn’t even take the most basic stand against a local publisher who wasn’t paying his authors.

I know people join organizations for lots of different reasons, whether that’s continuing education or competitions or even just the social/networking aspects at conferences, which are desperately needed in such a solitary profession, and I think those needs are pretty well met with the various genre-focused organizations out there, and NINC too. However, advocacy has always been of most importance to me and I think there is a critical need right now for a very focused group which specifically speaks to the rather curious set of issues that indies are dealing with in 2018. Read More…

Please Help An Author Fight This Crazy Court Case Bewares Writing

Christina Garner needs our help. She has been fighting a court case over the last year and is running an appeal for donations so that she can continue the fight.

If you haven’t been following this case, it is against a notorious author/box set promoter/marketer/”mastermind” teacher who goes by the name of Rebecca Hamilton – and also runs other author businesses like OTOH Books (formerly GenreCrave).

The name of Rebecca Hamilton may be familiar to you – and if it’s not, ask around. Because of the various suits and countersuits also involve claims of defamation, I can’t go into detail on what happened, but you can read Christina Garner’s eye-opening account on her GoFundMe page. Read More…

New Year, Old Problem: Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time Amazon Bewares

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts. Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later. Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard Read More…

NaNoWriMo Writing Prompts – Bad Boy Romance Edition Bewares Writing

Lots of people will be diving into NaNoWriMo in a few days, and lots more are sitting on the fence. I’ve been on that fence, it’s made of excuses! Today, I’m going to do you a solid by taking one of those excuses away. You’re getting some Writing Prompts. And not just any Writing Prompts, but Bad Boy Romance Prompts. (Please note that no actual romance writers were harmed in the making of these prompts.) Prompt #1: You are foreign. Maybe Australian! Your scammy non-fiction books aren’t selling too well, but you spot the latest trend: bad boy romance, and decided to write under a woman’s name – no, screw that, several women’s names! You eagerly stuff several books into Read More…

Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives Amazon Bewares

Phoenix Sullivan is well-known in the indie community – I’ve known her myself since 2009 or 2010 and consider her a close friend. Aside from being exceptionally generous with her time and knowledge, tirelessly sharing her insights on marketing and algorithms, Phoenix is also well known as a vocal campaigner against scammers and cheaters – particularly on the current big issues of book stuffing and clickfarming. And now she is being targeted. Phoenix made a box set free for a few days at the very start of October, advertising on Freebooksy, KND/BookGorilla, and Digital Book Today – all legitimate sites – and there was no other promotion involved with this title. No BookBub CPM ads, no Facebook campaign, no tweets, Read More…