Scamming Scammers Scam Amazon With Scamming Scams

by wjw on July 19, 2017

Kindle Unlimited, for those of you who don’t know, is an Amazon service where (if you’re an author) you upload your book exclusively to KU.  In return for this exclusivity, Amazon does . . . well, I’m not sure what they do for the author, but if you’re a reader, you can read, um, Unlimited numbers of titles for about ten bucks a month.  The money goes into a pool, controlled by Amazon, and is distributed to authors not by books downloaded, but by pages actually read.

This probably makes sense for a reader who (1) reads a shit-ton of books every month, and (2) doesn’t really care if they’re any good.

I’ve never made any of my books available to KU, because (1) not all my readers have a Kindle, and (2) it seemed not to make great business sense simply to take Amazon’s word that they have this big pot of money that they are distributing to you with absolute fairness and impartiality.

KU is an enormous black hole, with books going in one end and money coming out the other, and you only have Amazon’s word for what happens in that black hole.  I decided when I got into indiepub that dealing with a completely opaque marketing process probably wasn’t good for my mental or financial health.

Especially now, as according to indie author David Gaughran, the whole KU system is now riddled with scammers scamming their way to the top of the Amazon bestseller list.

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.

So what, you ask, is a clickfarm?  Clickfarms are low-cost services that will, for example, download a shit-ton of your books and pretend to read them, so that you’ll (1) jump to the top of Amazon’s bestseller list, and (2) make a shit-ton of money.

We aren’t taking about the darknet here. These services are open to the public and incredibly easy to find. I’m not going to link to them directly, but here’s an example of the kind of services they offer:

  • 100 guaranteed KU borrows for $59

  • 200 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 100 ranking for $109

  • 1000 KU borrows with a guaranteed Top 5 ranking in any category for $209

They also provide paid reviews, ghostwriting services, the works. Fake authors, fake books, fake borrows, all parlayed into real chart position stolen from genuine authors and significant funds paid out of the communal KU pot.

The scammers have been repeatedly reported to Amazon, which has (so far as Mr. Gaughran can tell) done nothing.

What this tells you is that Amazon’s fabulous and storied metrics might be worth a lot less than Amazon wants us to believe.

Of course the last time Amazon tried to fix a problem with scammers on KU, they used the equivalent of a 10kt nuclear device and nuked a bunch of people who weren’t scammers, and weren’t even KU authors, including me.

So even though I’ve stayed clear of KU, maybe I should be thankful that Amazon doesn’t seem to be on top of the problem.

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