Amazon Only Cares About KDP Select Exclusivity

Amazon infamously takes a very light touch approach to policing the Kindle Store, except when it comes to KDP Select exclusivity, even when the author is not at fault, as I found out to my cost.

On Monday, I found out that some bug hit a German e-book site causing the reactivation of long-dead listings, including one of mine, causing myself and several other authors to inadvertently breach the KDP Select exclusivity rule.

Amazon pounced into action and cancelled my Countdown deal which was scheduled for this week, screwing up a carefully planned promotion. And despite pledging to resolve the matter and restore the promo, Amazon has not done so. Read More…

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

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. Read More…

Amazon Has A Fake Book Problem

Fake books powered by clickfarms are gatecrashing the Amazons charts and, despite being aware of the issue for over a year, Amazon has taken little action.

At the time of writing, if you look at the Kindle Store Best Seller charts now, and click over to Free Books, you will see that the Top 20 currently has five suspicious-looking titles which you can see in the image above.

None of them have reviews. All were published in the last week. They have no Also Boughts – meaning they have had very few sales historically. 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? Read More…

Vanity Publishing Is At The Heart Of Our Industry

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. This post is from 9 August 2016. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links but the comments remain open. 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 Read More…

Scammers Attack the Amazon Charts

Once again, scammers have swarmed the Amazon Best Seller list. It was only last month that 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 Read More…

Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

Amazon is an extremely innovative company – and can be 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 sale, and heard even more worrying stories from others who had their titles actually removed from the Kindle Store without notice.

What were these authors guilty of? What crime did they commit for Amazon to adopt such heavy handed treatment? Something completely innocuous: the Table of Contents was at the rear of their books instead of at the front. Yep, that’s it. Read More…

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

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 yourself 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, but I’m not linking directly and giving them an SEO boost). And it appeared to be a straight cog from my book Let’s Get Visible. What was going on here? I kept reading. Read More…

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

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 is precisely how Author Solutions operates Archway Publishing on behalf of Simon & Schuster, Westbow for HarperCollins, and Balboa Press for Hay House, among others. In short, Penguin Random House is still in the vanity business, it’s just flying under the radar – along with many more famous names in the industry. Read More…

The Authors Guild Dumps Author Solutions

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.

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 announcement, I would have missed it.

It’s almost as if the Authors Guild is trying to airbrush its partnership with Author Solutions from the history books. As if it was all just a bad dream. Read More…

Bay Area Book Festival Defends Vanity Partnership

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. Read More…

Barnes & Noble’s Dirty Little Secret: A Partnership With Author Solutions

Barnes & Noble’s self-publishing platform – Nook Press – launched a selection of author services last October including editing, cover design, and (limited) print-on-demand… without disclosing that some services are fulfilled by the gigantic vanity press operation Author Solutions.

This post is from 3 March 2015. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links, but it’s important to preserve these older posts on author exploitation. Comments remain open.

Absent that disclosure, 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. Read More…

How Jessica Mitford Took Down A $48m Author Scam

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 Treuhaft was approached by a 72-year old widow, living on Social Security, who had cleaned out her bank account to make a down-payment to The Famous Writers School. On the same day Mitford heard the widow’s sorry tale from her husband, she received a book in the mail for review: Writing Rackets by Robert Byrne, which also mentioned the school. Read More…

Penguin Random House In Global Vanity Push

This new Spanish imprint from Author Solutions also continues the trend of very close integration with the local Penguin Random House operation – one aspect of the merger and subsequent reorganization that doesn’t receive any attention in the trade press.

MeGustaEscribir is being marketed as “the supported self-publishing platform of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial” and the logo of Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial (PRH’s Spanish subsidiary) is all over the site.

This strategy of closer integration was flagged long in advance. When Penguin Random House Chairman John Makinson appointed company man Andrew Philips as CEO of Author Solutions in May 2013, he said that “a new chief executive from within Penguin would connect the business more closely to Penguin’s curated publishing activities.” Read More…

Publishing Is Rotten To The Core

Amazon is regularly slated for the way it manages its tax affairs. I have written extensively about this before, but, in short, Amazon is using common methods for minimizing its tax bills that are used by every major tech company, and many other multinational corporations too).

You can argue these loopholes should be closed (and I would agree, for what it’s worth), but these actions are legal. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the major publishers, and the global media conglomerates which own them, are doing the exact same thing.

Take Harlequin, for example. Harlequin doesn’t just use these corporate structures to minimize its tax bill. It has also used them to reduce the 50% digital royalty rate agreed in some of its initial ebook contracts to a paltry 3%. Harlequin is facing a class action suit because of this, but you won’t find coverage of that in the news media or outrage about Harlequin’s actions among publishing professionals. Read More…

Writer’s Digest Dumps Author Solutions 

Writer’s Digest has terminated its partnership with Author Solutions. Abbott Press – the imprint launched by Writer’s Digest, parent company F+W Media, and white-label vanity press provider Author Solutions – is still operational, but all ties to Writer’s Digest have been cut. This post is from 23 June 2014. It has not been updated except to clean up broken links, but it’s important to preserve these older posts on author exploitation and the comments remain open. It appears that Abbott Press will now be run directly as yet another Author Solutions brand but Writer’s Digest and F+W Media will have no further connection with it. (If you are unfamiliar with Author Solutions and its awful history, this will bring you Read More…