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