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The Dark Side of Kindle Publishing

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12 stepper

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This is not a normal place for me to post I am about as far from being a writer as Bret Favre is for being a poster boy for proper conduct with members of the opposite sex but I just personally feel a pull to share a story that might be impacting others and a warning to those yet not impacted.

By profession I am a substance abuse counselor and in my spare time offer my services to many as a personal sponsor to those going thru the 12 steps and trying to maintain there sobriety recently at a 12 step meeting I encountered a individual which I had only talked to in passing but this night he seemed to need a ear to bend after the meeting so we agreed to meet for coffee after the meeting.

It seems this individual had painted himself into a corner with his wife and family his career and finances and facing a crisis with his 4 years of being clean and sober and his story goes as follows …

Due to his shaky work past and a degree in English gotten some time ago he turn to writing as a means to support his wife and family and having some success of selling a few articals here and there and short story once in a while he came across the ideal of self publishing on amazon for owners of e readers kindles I guess they are called as away for his many novels that had never seen the light of day. After visiting the websites and blogs of those who seem to be the leaders of encouraging writers to join the growing list over at amazon he posted his books and waited for the money to roll in but nothing seemed to happen at first and he began to doubt if this was going to work.

Until a exchange of emails of one of these leaders did he learn how to make it work and this is what the leader told him he needed to do and I hope I explain it clearly and you all more then likely understand it better then I.

He was told that it was less about talent and more about making money and using the system loopholes to work to his advantage he was told the best prices to put on his books was those that would get him a 70% return from amazon thus if a 1000 dollars was spent on his books he would get 700 dollars so if he brought 1000 dollars worth of his own books he would only be losing 300 dollars. But what he was doing or told to do would be able to make up that 300 dollar lose and them so he spent days setting up fake email accounts and fake amazon accounts to push his own books and review then always giving a 4 or 5 star reveiws sometimes a 3 star to make it look legit. He also felt that he needed to support the various pied pipers of this “scam” for the lack of a better word, for as he felt a need to be within the click and it worked. He saw his books get higher rankings then many of the well known authors and his books started to show up as amazon recomends and other people boght his titles on all his books.

But it has not been easy as now he spends his days marketing and buying his own titles to try to keep the profits rolling in but the profits are not as easy as they once was for now more and more people are doing the same thing and more and more books are being placed on amazon for downloading. He starting to notice he is not making the money he once was somedays if he does not buy he sees very few of his titles brought. he cannot spend the hours writing as he has in the past and his family thinks he has finally become a successful writer but in realty in has got caught up in a legal pyramid scam at least that’s how I see it.

Having had a long history with working with those in recovery and being in recovery my self I know to check the stories being shared with me for being truthful and so far the persons story checks out.



Here is a link to one such story that backs up his http://consumerist.com/2010/12/author-claims-to-manipulate-amazon-rankings-by-buying-own-book-every-day.html


Knowing that many creative types are prone to have substance abuse issues just felt to need to share this as a warning and be careful before you start down this dark trail.
 

CaoPaux

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Since this less about e-publishing than self-publishing, I'm moving it down a forum.
 

DoctorMandaBenson

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Well, yes, but this has always been the case, and not just with electronic publishing. There's nothing to stop a billionaire submitting a book to an agent, having it accepted by a major house and published, and then buying up a million copies to manufacture it into a bestseller. In this world, if you have money and you don't mind wasting it, you can cheat a lot of systems.

(Edit: this is directed at the OP's assertion that cheating is something new, and not at CaoPaux's moving the thread)
 
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veinglory

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It looks like self-publishing to me, combined with a black hat marketing technique that probably doesn't work all that well.
 

MartinD

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Not a new practice, I don't think.

Per the NY Times (about 10 days ago, when the "True Grit" remake was released), a similar thing was done years and years ago when True Grit was first released. A studio had bought the rights but felt the novel would have more cachet as a best-seller. So they sent out staff members to buy the book in bulk and, viola!, it hit #2 on the list.
 

Terie

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Funny how just this past weekend, someone else was flabbergasted that a new Kindle owner was having a hard time finding worthwhile things to download. Turns out that the bestseller list (which, incidentally, she was using to make her initial purchases) is being gamed by self-publishers. Such a shock.

To the OP, I, too, am sorry your acquaintance got sucked into this kind of scheme. It's just one of the multitudinous lies out there about how to get rich quick by self-publishing. Sigh.
 

JulieHowe

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There's no dark side to the Kindle. One individual made a bad personal decision. That's all.
 

izanobu

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Crazy. I don't know any self-published writers who are doing that. Seems like too much work for little/no reward.

The self-published writers in the bestseller lists got there because they sell a lot of books... not because they are gaming anything. Don't diss their hard work, they are fellow writers too :)
 

12 stepper

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Crazy. I don't know any self-published writers who are doing that. Seems like too much work for little/no reward.

The self-published writers in the bestseller lists got there because they sell a lot of books... not because they are gaming anything. Don't diss their hard work, they are fellow writers too :)
sorry not true my friend is not doing this on his own there seems to be a network of many who do this as to small reward at one point my friend had a 10.000 return for his work
 

Terie

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The self-published writers in the bestseller lists got there because they sell a lot of books... not because they are gaming anything.

Some yes, others, quite clearly not.

Don't diss their hard work, they are fellow writers too :)

I didn't, in point of fact, diss anyone's hard work. I dissed the shenanigans of some self-published writers. And I won't apologise for that, because I have to deal with that kind of crap on a daily basis. The number of self-promo posts to other newsgroups where I hang out is attrocious.

And to clarify, I don't attribute these types of shenanigans to all self-pubbers....only to those who actually engage in that behaviour.
 

12 stepper

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Here is something to think about. One of the many writers who is the toast of Kindle publishing will soon over take traditional publishing in sales as they claim that to have sold 185,000 copies of their books in less then a year. But in a recent interview stated they cannot yet afford a professional editor for their books.

So let’s look at why such a claim makes no sense. If the number of books sold is legit the majority of their Kindle books are priced at $2.99 which gives them a 70% return on each sale. They have a few books at .99 cents so let us say that 92,500 of the $2.99 books sold and 92,500 of the .99 cent books sold which would give them a profit of $240,612. It seems to me if those claims of sales are real that an editor would be easily afforded.

Just heard from my friend who is caught up in the what I am calling the Kindle Pyramid Publishing Scheme. Many writers are getting together and agreeing to buy 20 or so of each others books to give the appearance that there books are selling. Much talk is being made about how many of their own books they would have to buy to get on the New York times best seller list of e-books that will soon be starting.
 

izanobu

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Uh, read that article again. Hocking says that she's looking for a professional editor for her books, not that she can't afford one.

Quote from article: "I am now looking for a professional editor - as in the kind I would get if my book were to go through a publishing house. What I find most frustrating about editing and being indie is that everything else I can do myself. Writing, covers, marketing, etc. But I cannot edit properly myself. It's just not possible."

Rest of article is here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/tonya-plank/meet-mega-bestselling-ind_b_804685.html

Try reporting your facts clearly before trying to claim that any self-publishing success is manufactured and a lie. I'm pretty sure Amanda Hocking and others are doing just fine without buying thousands of copies of their own books :)

While I imagine there are writers out there trying to "game the system", I have a feeling they are the minority. A bad book won't sell many copies and if the writer buys all their own books, they'll eventually run out of money and/or go away. I've never seen anything on the Kindleboards or other indie venues that suggests a pyramid scheme... There is a lot of self-promotion, sure. Is it annoying? Sometimes, but that's how a lot of indie authors are getting the word out. Promotion is not the same as manufacturing fake sales and reviews, however.
 

Anne Lyle

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As you've discovered, 12_stepper, there's a lot of rubbish being talked about e-publishing - which is not to diss people who are trying to do it properly. I think Amazon are already discovering that these sort of practices are actually hurting their Kindle Store sales through unwary book buyers being duped into paying for poor-quality ebooks. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, they do about it (apart from pulling an ebook that describes how to do it from the Kindle store, which they did only the other day).

Someone has to do the quality control, writing-wise, and if Amazon's automated listings based on sales can be nobbled (as we say over here), we find ourselves back where we started, with recognised authorities (publishing houses) as gatekeepers.
 

Cyia

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Padding their sales with fake purchases isn't the fault of Kindle, nor is it a business practice they encourage themselves. If your friend read it on "blogs" it's most likely just another failed "get rich/famous quick scheme" like any other.

People come up with those sorts of things all the time, believing they're being creative or even innovative, but all they're doing is rehashing the same things - that don't work - that others have tried for years. You might call it a Pyramid scheme, but it's not. It's a bad decision on your friend's part. If you want to self-publish, then you should do the research necessary to know what you're in for.

Vanity published writers through most vanity houses will get to the "I'll buy yours if you buy mine" stage at some point. It doesn't work well because most of the other authors have no more disposable income than the first writer.

And, had that writer gone with a commercial publisher (even an e-press), they wouldn't need to afford a professional editor. The book should be reasonably well edited by the author to start with, after that, the publisher has an editor handle the rest.

(and 185,000 copies in a year is hardly "overtaking" commercial sales if you're talking best sellers. Both JK Rowling and Dan Brown bury that mark in a day. For most books, yes, 185 K is exceptional, but if you're talking "toast of the town" numbers, you're still in the cheap seats.)
 

Lauretta

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Why is it me thinks 12-Stepper has other motives in mind for this post...

You're not alone.

Is it not clear that's not Kindle or Amazon's fault? I'm sorry for your friend, but to me it's obv the person who got caught in this scam has some problem himself and he's looking for easy ways to get money.

A friend of mine did the same with some Xo... chocolate. Does it mean every chocolate they sell in the world is bad and it has a dark and obscure side? Or is that just my friend being fragile and delusional?

Before pointing the finger somewhere else, and blaming "the other", people should understand it's their own fault they've been trapped in such ridiculous ideas of making easy money. There's no easy money. Otherwise we would be rich. All of us.
 

Midian

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sorry not true at all hate to see folks get used

I'm confused as to why you would say he's being used. He knows full well what he's doing, he's explaining it all to you. He's not a victim. He is making a choice to do something that's morally ambiguous.

It has nothing to do with Kindle or Amazon and everything to do with him and others that do the same thing. It's shady and he knows it.
 

RichardLeon

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No, it has everything to do with Kindle and Amazon, because Kindle and Amazon could easily stop it if they wanted to.

It's not hard to check IP numbers and the timing patterns of posts and reviews, especially when you have the infrastructure to run one of the world's biggest server farms.

And the difference between this and pro-pub is that in pro-pub it happens occasionally, whereas any so-called self-published media soon become an exercise in self-marketing.

And IM is full - absolutely exploding and packed to the rafters - with sociopathic low life scammers who run various cons and systems to screw over their customers.

The same thing happens on iTunes, in the app stores, and on other online services. It was already endemic on the charts of DIY music service MP3com more than ten years ago.

It's a completely predictable outcome of any market where content creators are supposed to do their own marketing, and where they can influence sales charts.

And the market owners don't care, because it makes no difference to them if a creator sells 1000 copies of something to themselves or to real customers.
 

veinglory

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It seems to me that charts say how many copies sold over a certain time frame. They don't pretend or promise to do more than that.

If someone decides to buy a bunch of their own books, or time their promotions to a small window of time to spike their ranking, well, okay. It is unlikely to have any really lasting effect unless the book really does take off with the general public (i.e. is actually really good).

It is a bit like getting all your friends to "Stumble" your website. If your website sucks it is still an exercise in futility. If your website is good it might help it take off, which is fair enough.
 

Lauretta

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No, it has everything to do with Kindle and Amazon, because Kindle and Amazon could easily stop it if they wanted to.

So, let's say I I sell Lauretta's chocolate in a grocery shop, and buy almost all my chocolate or ask a friend to do so, to increase the sales and stuff like that, is this an owner's shop problem or my own problem if after I while I run out of money and don't see any real profit?
 
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