Readers Have Gotten Informed and Now #GetLoud

Until recently, I was just a reader. Until recently, I was an uninformed reader. And until recently, I was a reader who stayed silent on the events that have recently shaken up the book world, publishing and the Amazon Kindle and Kindle Unlimited programs.

If you're on Twitter at all, you've likely seen the hashtags, #GetLoud, #CockyGate, #TiffanyGate, #BookStuffers and #BookStuffing.  I won't take time to rehash all of this, but I'll give a short recap with links to articles so you, dear reader, can read for yourself, research for yourself, and make an informed decision about whether or not you think you also need to speak out. And if you stick with me to the end, I'll show you exactly what you can do to be heard.

Starting from the beginning takes us back to #CockyGate, the first issue in recent weeks to get book land inhabitants, let's say, invigorated. Long story short, an author obtained a trademark for the word "cocky." I have one small bit of input on this.

If individual, commonly used words can be trademarked, what happens to ALL written creative expression when the words are all trademarked? For instance, if someone had trademarked common words such as book, article or reader, this post would be ridiculously cumbersome, if not impossible, to write.  To give you a starting off point in your research, here are several articles. Some readers of these articles have supported the content, some have found errors, and some have blatantly accused the authors of some of the articles of purposely stating mistruths. I leave it for you, an intelligent, discerning reader, to seek out and glean the truth.

Article from Myrddin Publishing.
Article from Legal Inspiration.
Interview with attorney Kevin Kneupper, who is fighting the TM.
"A dumb cover model" speaks out.
Romance Writers of America's involvement.

Search on the #CockyGate hashtag, as well as the cocky author's name, on Google and Twitter both, and you'll find all the information you need to draw your own conclusions.

Next we move to #TiffanyGate, which goes hand in hand with the #BookStuffing and #BookStuffers and is the predominant focus of #GetLoud most recently.  Bear with me and I'll try to explain things concisely. The first thing you need to know is how the Kindle Unlimited (KU) program works.

You, the reader, pay your $10 per month to read as many books as you like, ten at a time. So how is the author paid for the book you're reading? They're paid for each page you read or flip through. That money then goes into community funds to be distributed each month to ALL the authors in the KU program. So how can an author get a bigger payout from the pot? You've seen romance novels with over 1000 pages, right? The newly published book might end at 30 or 40 percent, and then there are all these "bonus" books "for your reading pleasure." Sounds great, right? Free books! But there are several problems with this.

First, if you've been reading the particular author, you probably already own or have read the bonus content. Second, authors get devious with we readers, including links that take us to the back of the book and, oh look here, the Kindle device thinks all of the pages were read. The reader is unwittingly duped into helping the author scam the KU system. Scam, you say? Absolutely. The author knowingly used you, the reader, to get a bigger payout from the KU funds. What other reason could there be for creating a link that jumps to the back of the book?  Which brings us to another problem. Unethical authors who partake in this book stuffing practice are stealing from other authors! Because the payout is per page, the authors with the most pages read (or flipped through) get the most money out of the pot of finite funds.

#TiffanyGate chronicles the events surrounding one such author (dare I call him the king of book stuffing?) whose Kindle books have now been removed from Amazon. The hashtag came to be after he offered the chance to win a prize from Tiffany & Co. for any "diamonds" in his readers group who purchased his new release and posted a verified review. (These same readers were encouraged to also borrow the book through KU and flip through to the end, but more on that shortly.)

In case you weren't aware, a review on a verified purchase carries more weight than an unverified review.  As a reader with over 500 Amazon book reviews in the past year, I learned this early on and make a point of purchasing as many of the books I review as possible because I know it helps my ranking. When I first started reviewing thirteen months ago, my ranking was in the tens of millions. At last check it was 1,655, and much closer to being a top 1000 reviewer. The verified reviews improve my ranking because my verified review is more likely to stay on the first page, thereby having a better chance of gaining helpful votes, thus improving my ranking.

Back to the Tiffany contest.  The author later changed the rule and opened the contest to any readers, removing the previous requirements, stating he found out that type of contest was against Amazon's Terms of Service. Not to mention a lottery type contest to incentivise reviews violates the Federal Trade Commission's laws. Really, that part wasn't mentioned. But trust me on this, dear reader, this author is only the tip of the iceberg of unethical authors who care far more about raking in the dough than they care about their readers. I've also seen documentation of authors instructing readers in their Facebook groups on how to do the "Kindle Flip," i.e. flipping through to the back of the book without reading, referring to it as "double dipping," as one author's PA stated, and encouraging readers to take up this practice so the author gets paid more.

If you'd like to learn more about #TiffanyGate, I'll drop some links below. For your reading pleasure, of course. 😉

Blog post by author David Gaughran about both #gates.
Article on book stuffing from Inc.
Article from Tech Crunch (the comments are very informative).
Article from The Digital Reader.

All of this just scratches the surface. Amazon clarified their rules to address book stuffing, but there's still too much wiggle room. Although it is, and has been, against their Terms of Service to publish previously published books multiple times, they've now stated the bonus content shouldn't exceed "about ten percent" of the total content. They've suggested if an author wants to publish multiple books, they should consider publishing a compilation in a boxed set. Does this mean previous book-stuffing authors have made changes? Of course they have. They continue to stuff new works full of old content but they amended the title to include the word "compilation" or "collection." They've made these same changes to their back catalog of stuffed books. Maybe they think we won't notice it's the same old content retitled "collection" or "compilation." As a reader, I'm inclined to be a little insulted by this.

So what can a reader do? We can write to Amazon expressing our thoughts and concerns at ecr-ksp@amazon.com. We can speak out on any and every platform available. Here is a reader, speaking out. Hats off to her for speaking up, taking a stand and helping to make readers' voices heard.

We can also report abuses to Amazon. But how will you know if a book you're considering buying or borrowing is stuffed? First of all, look at the number of pages. How many modern day romance novels have you read that are over 500 pages? There may be a few legitimate, longer than average length romance novels out there, but I have yet to find one.  Take a look at these examples.



Notice anything different about this last example? Right, the author conveniently omitted listing the number of pages. At this point, take advantage of the "Look Inside" feature.  First of all, is there a Table of Contents? (Leaving the Table of Contents out of a book or putting it in the back of the book is also against Amazon's Terms of Service.)  Have a look at the image below.


There thirty seven chapters of the new book, three "bonus" books that were previously published, and a sneak peek at a new work. This is what a stuffed book looks like, and you, the reader, can easily report it to Amazon. I'll show you exactly what to do.

On the book's listing page, scroll down to the bottom of the page until you see a blue box that is titled "Feedback."  Click on the third selection that says "Would you like to report this content as inappropriate?"
That will open another box with a drop down menu. When you click the menu box, you'll have three options, and it's the second that applies - "Violates Amazon Kindle Terms of Service."

Write a short note explaining how the book violates the ToS: missing Table of Contents (or placed in back of the book), excessive bonus content in the form of full-length, previously published books, or a link that automatically takes the reader to the back of the book (which you'll only know if you've purchased the book or borrowed it through KU.)

Those are the two biggest ways a reader's voice can be heard, through emails to Amazon and reporting books that violate their Terms of Service. You can also get involved on social media. The more readers that tag @Amazon, @AmazonKDP and @AmazonKindle, the more Amazon will take notice.

If you'd like more information, have a look at the threads on Twitter for #GetLoud, #CockyGate, #TiffanyGate, #BookStuffing and #BookStuffers, as well as other social media sites and Google. There is a lot of information out there that you can use to become better informed and then make an educated decision on your stance as a reader. Ultimately, the money for the Kindle and Kindle Unlimited programs comes from us. The readers. We are the customer. If you're dissatisfied with the service you're receiving, speak up, speak out, and #GetLoud! And if you have any questions once you start digging into all this, I'm here to help if you need me. Until next time, dear reader

Much love between the covers,

BookAddict

See my Amazon reviews here.


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