Yesterday, Amazon sent me the below e-mail:
“We are reaching out to you because we have detected reading or borrowing activity for your books originating from accounts attempting to manipulate Kindle services. These accounts might be related to a third-party marketing service you may have used. Please note that you will not receive royalties associated with illegitimate reading or borrowing activity.
We fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books but take seriously activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors. We encourage you to monitor the tactics they use to promote your books. You are responsible for ensuring that no tactics used to promote your books manipulate the Kindle publishing service and/or Kindle programs. Please note that future violations of our policies could result in account-level actions, up to and including termination of your KDP account.”
Naturally, I freaked out.
Almost all of my books are in Kindle Unlimited and I lost about half my page reads for the month of March. My income was slashed by nearly thirty percent and it is sad to say, I was livid, broken and upset.
As you see above, I am being accused of using a third party service to manipulate KU services to inflate my page reads in March 2018. I sent Amazon an e-mail to clarify that I had not used any third party service and I need more information so I can investigate how this could have happened in the first place. The only services I use for promotion are Amazon ads and word of mouth through Facebook. I haven’t heard anything back yet.
I took to Facebook thinking I was unfairly being targeted by a scammer or some other nonsense. Color me surprised when I began to hear the same letter was sent to other authors, many other authors. In the circles I travel, fellow authors Matt Dinniman, Jeff Sproul and Jeffrey Falcon Logue were hit with these same canned letters. I calmed down and began to get to work, researching what was happening and what I could do.
Facebook and Kboards were flooded with similar stories of receiving the same e-mail. Below are some links I read concerning what was happening.
I read story after story, trying to gleam some kind of sense to the events as they unfolded.
The more I read, the more it seemed to make sense. On April 6th, many Amazon accounts were shut down in an effort to stop bogus reviews and possibly click farm/bot accounts. Many normal users were caught in the sweep which has led to many angry customers. With the shut down, authors were flagged by these bogus and legitimate accounts, causing a knee jerk reaction to pull KU page reads from authors as a measure against clickfarms/bots. This sledge hammer approach has affected many innocent authors and consumers, including yours truly. Not only did many authors take a hit to their earnings, it has undermined the fragile trust in the KU program. The above letter is setting a narrative to place the blame on an author to distract from the very real possibility that Amazon is unsure how to effectively fight bots/clickfarms/scammers.
By placing the blame on the author, there is no effective way to combat false page reads if they are done by someone else. I have zero control on who reads my books and cannot fathom how to fight against that.
Despite the recent events, I hold no ill will to Amazon for taking such drastic actions. They are fighting against an enemy they cannot see. KU has been good to me even though I am a mid-list author at best. My books will never reach mainstream and that is something I accepted a long time ago. The recent events have burned me but I can’t sit on my hands and hope it goes away or never happens again.
Actions for the Near Future
I despise being beholden to another. The reason I became an author was to shape my own destiny. I talked with others and thought out the situation for a path I could use so not to be caught in such a witch hunt again.
Options are limited. I could pull my books from KU and go wide(Put my books on other platforms). By doing that, I won’t get caught in the KU changes but my income will be drastically reduced. Erotica isn’t really tolerated on other platforms or they don’t have enough business to keep me afloat.
A long term approach I may very well plan for is building a new foundation. What does that mean? I may have to change what I write so I can reach a wider audience. I must consider it because if these scammer witch hunts continue, I may lose out in the end anyway. I, and many authors caught in the hunt, need to cast a wider net. The KU program is great for a budding author but it should be used as a stepping stone to bigger things. That is why every KU author may have to diversify their catalog, including myself.
How can I help myself and others?
If you are an author who has received a letter and lost page reads, contact Amazon immediately. Let your voice be heard and show you are concerned of the recent events (Be calm and collected in your response. Treat the e-mail like you were writing one to your boss. Calm e-mails go farther then angry e-mails.) Even if you receive a canned letter response, Amazon is listening and will have to take some action if enough voices are heard. Even if you are not an author, rally by your favorite authors and write Amazon to show your support.
Another simple and effective way to help authors is read their books or share their releases on social media. Even if you cannot afford to purchase a book, the positive energy in sharing goes a long way to help authors gain visibility. The more they are seen, the better they will do and hopefully allow them to take control of their careers instead of being shackled to a restrictive program.
Support your favorite authors on their Patreon pages. A little goes a long way to break from the KU program.
Leave reviews on author’s books. This helps them gain visibility in Amazon’s algorithms.
Befriend authors, like their pages and/or blogs.
We all struggle to make a living and following our dreams. Some of us falter or fall but we must pick ourselves and each other up. The best thing to do now is stay calm and find new solutions to a recurring problem. Amazon will look out for their best interests and to be honest, so should you. Placing blame is a waste of energy but taking action to better your situation is key. Don’t wait for Amazon to make things better. Make it better for yourself and you will feel better.
I have a lot of work ahead of me to change many things but I won’t let my voice be snuffed out by indifference and corruption. There will always be people who try to beat the system. It’s important to know that you cannot control them. Take the steps to control what you can do and who you can help.
I will update with new information as it comes.