An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

This is the letter that I have sent to Jeff Bezos regarding the problems with KU Book Stuffers, Scammers, and thieves. Take from it what you will.

Dear Mr. Bezos,

I am Suzan Tisdale. I began my self-publishing career in December of 2011. Within a year of releasing my first three novels, I was able to give up my day job.  As a self-published, indie author, I made in one month what would have taken me a year to earn at my regular, 9-5 day job. I was a KDP Select Princess and constantly extolled the virtues of the KDP Select Program. Nothing and no one could get me out of it.  
Then you launched KU 1.0, and my income dropped 90% in the first month of its inception. With that inception came the scammers. And those scammers have only become more brazen and prevalent, as time has passed. Due to the blatant scamming, the loss of income, I had to pull all of my titles from the KU Program. I had to do that in order to survive this ever changing business. 

I am quite certain you are aware of the current state of the Kindle Unlimited Program. It is fraught with what we in the industry call ”book stuffers,” ”book scammers,” and other names I won’t repeat in front of polite company.

The scammers are employing a tactic that, again, I’m quite certain you are familiar with. It is called surround and suffocate. They are flooding the sponsored ads and inundating their newsletters subscribers with a bare minimum of ten emails per day, all in an effort to push the legitimate, honest, hardworking authors off the also-boughts and the best-sellers lists. Their end goal, I am certain, is to get rid of any and all legitimate authors and books.

They get their subscribers to download KU books written by legitimate authors, instruct them to flip to the end of the book, just so that their ‘compilations” will show up in the also-boughts of those legitimate authors’ books. 

In turn, these innocent authors, who have no idea what is going on, see an unexpected and unexplained spike in their pages read. Your KDP bots see it too. And this leads to your employees sending out those lovely little letters that accuse these innocent people of wrongdoing. The authors are not given the opportunity to investigate or debate the matter. The Amazon bots and those people youemploy will withhold all funds for pages read for that month. And in some cases, accounts are being shut down, all because someone the author doesn’t know and never hired used their book to scam the system for someone else.

Meanwhile, the scammers and stuffers, the thieves who feast off the KU pot like parasites, continue to thrive and flourish. They are allowed to continue to have 3,000 page books – and I use that term lightly – flooding the KU lists. They are allowed to rake in a bare minimum of $100,000 per month — though I suspect that number is much higher — feeding off the KU pot and the all-star bonuses.

Time and time again, we have proven to our reps and others at Amazon, that these books are breaking Amazon’s TOS. The scammers slap together a 3,000-page book, stuffed to the gills with 10 to 20 other stories they’ve written or bought from ghostwriters on Fiverr. Then they recycle and rearrange those same 10 to 20 stories and shove them into another book with a different cover and title. So in effect, they have 10 to 20 books all with the same 10 to 20 stories stuffed inside, thus the 3,000 page compilations with such titillating titles as Pregnant By My Boss or My Friend’s Dirty Uncle.

With their parasitic approach, they also feed on the kind hearts of their readers. These stuffers are notorious for instructing their readers to download the book using their (the reader’s) KU Subscription and “flip to the end of the book” without reading it. After doing that, they then instruct and sometimes demand their readers also purchase the book. That 3,000 page book is worth $13-$14. Far more than the 30 cents they make off any sales at the $.99 listing price.

There are other tactics these parasitic stuffers use to game the KU system. Instead of giving away 4,000 ARCs, as they used to do, now they have their Virtual Assistants and dedicated fans purchase anywhere from 150 to 300 copies of a book and gift those to the ARC team so that their required 4 to 5 star reviews show up as verified purchases.
In effect, these scammers have turned their devoted readers into click farms.

The list of violations, tricks, and ways to game the system is endless, and some of the bolder and more successful offenders are actually teaching others how to do all of them.

Legitimate authors do not employ any of the tricks I’ve mentioned above. We continue to write novels with heart and substance. We do not ask our readers to do the ‘flip,” nor do we demand they leave a five-star review. We don’t offer prizes such as Tiffany shopping trips for five star reviews. With the current state of KU we couldn’t afford to even if we wanted to and it wasn’t against Amazon’s TOS. Many authors are just barely making a living at this, this career we used to love and enjoy and get excited about. 

While we have presented the evidence to our reps and other Amazon employees for over three years now, these scammers are still allowed to feast like kings at the KU table. The rest of us, the legitimate authors, are left like starving urchins to feed off naught more than scraps and crumbs they toss on the floor.

 For these scammers and stuffers it’s all about visibility. Because visibility = money. And they are raking it in hand over fist.

Yes, we have vast amounts of proof that these things are going on and have sent them to our reps and your employees on numerous occasions. Our voices aren’t heard. Our concerns, it appears, fall on deaf ears. The people you’ve hired to work for you ignore us at every turn. They’re even beginning to ignore the readers who have started to register complaints on these matters. Many readers have publicly stated on social media that they left the KU program because of the scammers. Many authors have too.

If nothing is done to fix the KU program, and soon, you will have nothing left to offer your readers other than books such as, Claiming His Virgin In the Pool, Triple Daddies, and 6 Mountain Men for Christmas. How do you think your readers will react when that happens?

Mr. Bezos, I implore you to take a good, long, hard look at what is happening in the Kindle Unlimited and KDP program. It breaks my heart to see this company that I used to love, brag about, and could say with much pride that I was one of your KDP Select Authors, has turned into this unrecognizable place where scammers flourish and legitimate authors fade away each and every day.

Ever hopeful,

Suzan Tisdale

 

 

 

 

 

 

40 thoughts on “An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos

  1. That explains something that happened to me. I tried to post a review of a book I had gotten through NetGalley. This was not allowed. It took about 2 weeks for me to be allowed to post my review.

    So, wouldn’t that lead you to believe there are things being attempted to stop some of the flim flam?

    I get all the terrible things which are being done right now. I know if I were you and other authors I would be picketing in front Bezos’ home.

    There must be an equitable way to repair the damage and put systems in place which treat actual authors fairly.

    Please keep in mind, there will always be people who try to take advantage and work the system. We will have to learn to tap dance fast enough to keep them from taking over the world.

    Take care.

  2. It is my fervent hope and prayer that they are in fact doing something. But this has been going on for three years now. It’s time to put a stop to it.

    Hugs,
    Suzan

  3. Yeah, this. Not going to lie, I came into the KDP world recently, and I have seen people in my genre cheat and scam openly. One person was bragging earlier about abusing the categories because she “needed to have her stories to get seen.”

    I think I told you, but I pulled my own story out of a category that I originally thought fit, but chose not to. I went from the top ten to the #300s, and that is okay. My story just didn’t belong there—I moved it from Asian fiction to interracial fiction.

    It is better to have really earned that position when I have worked hard for it than to get it by cheating.

    Anyway, here is to hoping Amazon does something.

  4. If it’s okay with you, Suzan, I’ll leave my “open letter” as written on David Gaughran’s blog (also sent as a modified email directly to Amazon too ) here in the reply. It lists my “suggested solution” to this situation.

    http://davidgaughran.com/2018/06/03/amazon-book-stuffing-scamming-kindle/#comment-27175

    I had a reply to my email yesterday stating this in part:

    “I have passed along your feedback to the appropriate team for investigation, but please note I am unable to share the results of that investigation.”

    I’m not expecting any results from my email, but hopefully, it adds weight to the important messages to champions like you or David or others who are influencers. Every extra message will make the message less easy to ignore for Mr Bezos.

  5. This is a travesty! I can’t believe they allow this. I will NEVER subscribe to KU.

  6. Reblogged this on Can't Judge a Book By Its Cover and commented:
    Well said, I have KU but have never abused the system I pay fir the system once a month fee, and it is making me very angry that so called writers and I use that word with Sarcasm, have been allowed to get away with this for so long. Amazon really needs to change there ways or the READERS will go elsewhere

  7. I reported someone for book stuffing, and feel like a tittle tattle, but it needed to be done, I bought a book and the main story for which it was advertised was on 12& of he book in some cases it had 3 sentences on one page the vast majority of the tail was done this way, but the rest of the book was filled with not one but 6 more books, two peeks at upcoming books and links to other authors book who I have since found out is the SAME PERSON, it is unethical and disgusting

  8. Amazon sent me a letter and threatened to close my account if suspicious readers continued to read my books. I asked how can I stop, and they said it was my job. I removed all 12 books from KU and lost tons of money. Going wide doesn’t reap the same royalties. Amazon needs to fix KU and stop threatening innocent authors.

  9. Thanks for posting your letter, Suzan. These scams effect more than just KU authors and subscribers. All indies will feel the results of scams and dishonest practices. I shared Katheryn’s video about category jumpers on my facebook page and got a couple of comments saying that authors should just mind their own business and not encourage readers to complain to Amazon. I’m happy to see not everyone feels that way. If the money dries up these people will go away and move on to another con, leaving the legitimate authors to do what they do best–please the readers. Thanks again, Suzan. You’re a rock star!

  10. I thank God for people like you Suzan Tisdale and many others who are fighting to right the unscrupulous practice that continues to affect many legit writers trying to make an honest living. God bless you all.

  11. Fantastic letter. I so hope you get a response! Well thought out, articulate and spot on!

  12. Wow! I am a reader and have been tempted on a number of times to enter the KU world. A few years ago, I was speaking with an author and asked how in the world she could make money if I just signed up on KU. She told me how she gets paid, but then said that there is a HUGE problem with “stuffers” who cheat and get legitimate authors in trouble when they have done nothing wrong. THAT was it for me. I will NEVER join KU as long as it is run the way it does now. It infuriates me that Amazon is taking GOOD money from customers and then allow THEIVES to steal from both authors AND readers! My money is paying for THEIR theft! This problem has been taking money away from legit authors AND readers for YEARS, and Amazon seems to not care which makes them JUST as “guilty” as those who are stuffing and scamming to get money. 😦

    Thank you for the letter. I try to use Amazon as little as possible due to other problems with the company, but if you want an ebook in a convenient way, Amazon is the ONLY place to go. 😦

  13. Wow, thanks for writing about this. I hadn’t heard a thing about it–I guess because I’m not in the KU program. It’s depressing Amazon has allowed this to continue, and never taken action against the culprits, but I can’t say I’m overly surprised. They have some bizarre policies.

    I once received a one-star review because a woman couldn’t figure out how to sign up for my blog. She says right in the review that she never read the book. I reported this to Amazon, and they said it wasn’t “against their policies.” So, you aren’t allowed to comment on the shipping or customer service of one of their third-party sellers in a review–which is entirely relevant–but someone can leave a negative book review because they couldn’t figure out your website? Yeah, that makes sense.

  14. If the authors are not supported, they will have no choice but to go elsewhere. The fans will follow.

  15. Avid reader and been KU for years, I too have noticed the “cheats” and wondered how they had such “ratings” and I had to really check out the reviews especially the lowest ones and now can usually spot them by covers, blurbs, etc. but it is very annoying. I kept on as authors I loved Kiera Montclair, Suzan Tisdale, Katherine Lowry, Logan, Bethany Claire, Vivienne Savage are/were on it and have found others but find trying fewer new authors because I’m so wary now. So Amazon please straighten this out as though bought a 2 yr KU will be reconsidering it if all my authors leave. There will alway be cheats but when it is brought to your attention for YEARS and you still have not done anything to correct or at least mitigate it, well KU may end up biting the dust. We readers already put up with a lot with you charging same for Kindle as paperback, then the true lack of competence in proofreading these days (I just found a missing first letter on first page no less on an established author!) but I read for the stories. Though I will say I wish more authors would drop all the explicit porn sex scenes or at least limit them as they get boring, too repetitive and if you read 4 or more books a week feel cut and pasted. I actually now skip completely over them. I prefer those like Maggie Shayne’s Texas Brand series or Kiera Montclair. Tell me a story with dialogue and fleshed out characters, make me care about them!

  16. You are my hero!!! Thank you so much for having the courage and the conviction to write Jeff Bezos. If he answers, my respect for him will grow, but personally, I think he’ll pass it on to one of his minions. In 2012 I was making a great living and then KU came along, not so great now.

  17. This is why a lot of authors are selling through their own sites or other book sites in order to make money. Amazon doesn’t care about the people who made them who they are. Facebook is the same way. Once they got so bit they were making millions, money was all they cared about.

  18. Amazon has never cared about anyone who helped make them who they are. That’s not surprising.

    The word that no one is using is “fraud.” Because the KU Global Fund is a set amount of money determined by Amazon (one author gets more, another gets less) these practices defraud other authors of their rightful income, and Amazon – which doesn’t lose any money regardless – is facilitating that fraud through inaction.

    The problem is that very few people will have the means to mount a lawsuit against a scammer for fraud. I mean Author A directly sues Author B for their share of their fraudulently obtained proceeds. Who can possibly undertake something like that? Is there another remedy when Amazon has no reason to change the system they benefit from?

  19. Okay, I have no idea how to do this but…there must be some way we can harness social media to grow a petition with a million names on it? Surely if enough writers and readers make a noise, even Jeff Bezos will have to hear. 😦

  20. Thank you for this, Suzanne. Magnificent letter. I too published my first ebook in 2011. And I too have seen my income sink lower and lower since the KDP Select began, even though I publish a crime thriller (in a series) once/year. My books are 300 pp long, not 3000 … and the income I get for the page reads is waaaaay less than I was getting in royalties. Moreover, when people read my books via the KDP Select, the VISIBILITY for the book title remains the same. Whereas, when the title is SOLD, the visibility (ie sales rank) increases. Thus, KDP Select is a double whammy. You get less money and less visibility. I have taken all my books out o KDP Select.

  21. It feels like indies need to unionize, then go on strike.

    I’m barely making anything on Amazon as of yet, and I am leaving KU. Thank you Suzan for reconfirming my decision to leave.

    With thanks!

  22. As a reader, how can I spot the scanners? I don’t subscribe to KU, but I read enough that it was sounding appealing. No way until they sort this!

  23. As a new author this is so disheartening but I have to believe that good will prevail eventually. Thanks to people like you, Suzan.

  24. I have always thought the Kindle Unlimited program to be a scam as I have read hundreds of laments by authors that their income dropped by 50% or more when Amazon went to pay by page system. But, at the same time, it is the author’f fault for leaving their books in a system that is gamed for Amazon to make the larger percentage of royalties that used to go to into the author’s pocket.

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