WIP: Heeding Warnings

I’ve decided on significant changes to cope with Friday’s revelations about Amazon. Will they be enough?

Sunday

I can’t say enough good about the Miracle Morning routine. The day started out with some lounging, then a trip to my parents’ place to say “Happy Father’s Day!”. In the evening, I went to run a poker tournament. In and around all that, I considered my options about Friday’s revelations about Amazon, and I came up with a plan.

Coping With Amazon’s Terminator Bots

To recap briefly what I noted on Friday, Amazon allows people to publish e-books through their KDP operation, then encourages them to enroll their books in the KDP Select program for periods of 90 days. While books are in the program, they earn higher royalties in several markets, they gain the ability to use the Free Days and Countdown Deals promotions, and they are available to Kindle Unlimited subscribers to borrow and read. This last one is where the trouble is. Scammers have started uploading junk books, then having dummy Kindle Unlimited subscribers (on the free trial period) “borrow” and “read” (click through the pages) of those books, to fraudulently get paid by Amazon. To combat the fraud, Amazon has created algorithms to analyze the borrowing data of the books in KDP Select, and if their algorithms come to the conclusion that the borrows and reads were fake, they terminate your publishing account. With no warning and virtually no recourse. Forever.

And, either the algorithms are frequently wrong or the scammers are also targeting innocent books to try to hide their true activities, so that innocent authors are finding themselves permanently banned from the biggest bookstore in the world, through absolutely no fault of their own.

Given that any author with books enrolled in KDP Select can be a victim of this, and that most of my books are in KDP Select, and that the marketing I was planning on doing just might set off the terminator bots, I was in a quandary about what to do. What I have decided, so far, is this:

  • I’ve changed the status of all my books so they will not auto-renew in KDP Select.
  • I’ve changed my new books to not be in KDP Select by default.
  • I’m holding off on my promotions until I know more about the problem and potential solutions.
  • I will check my stats on KDP every day to try to make sure I detect scammer activity before Amazon does.
  • I’m developing a new plan to “go wide” with production, meaning having my books available at all retailers instead of just Amazon. I can still do 99-cent promotions, and though it’s more manual work and the royalties are half those for the same sale using Countdown Deals, the security seems worth it.
  • I’m re-examining plans to sell books off my site directly, so that I can continue to write and sell books regardless of what crazy things retailers do.
  • I also ended my own subscription to Kindle Unlimited. On the whole, I think it would be better to spend the $10/month on books I can keep forever (kind of), rather than simply borrowing them. Also, I’m hoping that other people are doing the same thing, so that Amazon will get the message that their customers, as well as their suppliers, are unhappy with the way they are treating some of their suppliers.

People I respect, like Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Sean Platt, Johnny B. Truant, David Wight, and many others, have for a long time been strongly and strenuously arguing against being exclusive with Amazon (which enables participating in the KDP Select program). I feel foolish for not heeding their advice earlier.

Only about 60 days to be clear of this hazard.

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