I honestly didn’t realize how long I’d been in the world of self-publishing until recently. I hadn’t realized exactly how much craziness I’ve witnessed, or what I thought I’d missed during my absence the last few years. But, here we are again. The fight against sock puppets, book stuffing, and scams has come flooding back. It’s the same old game, just with better graphics.
When I first joined the community towards the end of 2012, all of this craziness seemed so new and intense. I worked with authors and bloggers, and posted about everything from piracy, to bullying, and everything else that felt so immediate at the time.
In February of 2013, I have my first exposure to an author that took bad reviews as bullying and I blogged about it here. That author went on to create 2 sock puppet accounts using the exact same email username just on different platforms (Gmail and Yahoo) and proceeded to accuse me of making fun of the author in question. You can read the whole thing in the comments section of that post. Long story short, she ended up emailing me on my personal, private email rather than my author email and it was a whole thing.
At the end of March of that same year, I talked about people signing up to beta read an author’s book, only to come back to the author and tell them that the book was unreadable. However, if the author was willing to pay the beta reader to edit the book, the beta reader would leave a 5 star review on Amazon. That post is here. Because I spoke out, the beta reader in question (who read my book but hadn’t yet propositioned me) gave me a 1 star review and the author friend that was approached a 3 star review, but the text of said review made no sense. I can show you those reviews if you ask, but it’s 5 year old news at this point. Of course, I did make a follow up post in 2014 about how to handle scammers in those situation.
I’ve seen authors get upset about the success of people like J.K. Rowling, authors stalking actual bully reviewers, authors telling readers the “correct” way to review books (and the backlash that typically ensues in that situation), the book stuffing scam that caused the KU changes that are the center of the current problem, and the list goes on and on.
The reason I’m posting my “credits” is because the sad fact of the matter is that I’ve seen it all. People get riled up over a situation only to let it die away when it’s no longer interesting, or progressing. Accusations of sock puppetry fly around (and I’m not innocent from pointing at people that are very obviously operating those accounts), but ultimately they die.
Enter into the ring Suzan Tisdale. She is the self-publishing author who writes Scottish historical romance novels, along with a pen name that publishes romance novels of the more erotic variety. Through her charismatic coverage of #cockygate, Suzan has garnered a following of fellow authors and readers who are tired of the system gaming, review scamming, and reader trickery. And just like in many situations before, because Suzan has garnered such an audience, there are people that are trying to “prove” that she is scamming, herself.
While I don’t necessarily agree with absolutely everything Suzan says, and I think that there are some times that she doesn’t gather all of the information she needs before she makes a post or does a live video, she has a charm that continues to bring focus to the problems that we as self-published authors face and will readily correct herself if she does share information that isn’t correct in the moment. I think one thing that we haven’t had before in these situations is someone like Suzan that can hold an audience’s attention, approach things from a stern yet understanding place, and knows how to capitalize on her platform.
Suzan first gained attention due to her coverage of #cockygate. Her audience appreciated the even handed way she spoke directly to Faleena. Of course, Faleena spiraled, #cockygate blew up, but Suzan has not stopped leading the charge against the wrongs that have plagued the self-publishing community.
Because there are people standing up for what’s right, the people that are being called out decided to strike back. Since the theme of this post is history repeating itself, wouldn’t you know that Suzan and other authors standing up for these scammers are being “called out” as it were. Twitter sock accounts are springing up all over the place, attempting to call these authors “scammers” themselves, and accusing them of starting witch hunts.
Can I just point out that I absolutely despise use of the phrase “witch hunt” in situations like this. It’s not a witch hunt. No one is going to die. The people getting called out for scamming are losing their scam accounts. As far as I’m aware there has been no doxing of anyone’s information, no one has been crushed to death, hung, drowned, burned or any other form of torture that the victims of the actual witch hunts had to go through.
Anyway, I do hope that there is change for the better, and history does not repeat itself. I hope that we see the changes that are so desperately needed in the self-publishing world, and I hope that we continue to see the voices of those people fighting for us getting louder.
Keep on fighting!
**I want to preface this whole thing by saying that I do think the new algorithm is a lot more self-published author friendly and a great way for more authors to get more out of their published works.**
People have the notion that self-publishing is easy. You just write whatever you want, scarcely edit, and throw it up on Amazon for the world to buy and love. That idea has driven people to use self-publishing as a get rich quick scheme. Haphazard covers and poor story lines have overrun an already saturated market. It makes it hard for those stories that have true merit to gain any forward momentum.
With Kindle Unlimited being less than a year old, it has already established itself among the truly subscription based systems that people are really into now days. Commonly referred to as “Netflix for books” Kindle Unlimited allows readers to pay a measly $9.99 a month and they have access to every registered book in the KU catalog. This saves readers (especially those that can’t go 5 minutes without a book) hundreds of dollars. Originally, authors that had books enrolled in the KU program got their royalty payment if the reader got through 10% of the book. Not bad, I mean, a person doesn’t even have to finish your book for you to get something.
The new algorithm was easily and well explained by Susan Wylie Wilson:
This is the math: They are counting the total number of pages read. So if your book is 146 pages, and they read only 145 pages, you get paid for that 145 pages. They will add up all the pages read total by all the readers who read your work. So if 200 people download and READ your 146 page book all the way through, they will do the math. That would be 29,000 pages read. Then they would take that number and multiply it by the total fund for the month, in their scenario that’s $10 million, which is 290 billion. Then they divide that by the total number of pages read that month by all of their readers, in this scenario that is 100 million pages. Which gives you a profit of $2,900. In that same vein, lets say that your book is 146 pages long, and 150 people read it all the way through, 40 people read to page 144, and 10 people read only to page 20, then you would have 27,860 pages read, then in that same scenario, you would make a profit of $2, 786
Author added Just saw this for clarification: “A little clarification: A 100-page book will only pay 10x as much as a 10-page book assuming both are read completely through to the end. Page counts also are determined based on where “Chapter 1″ starts, so front matter isn’t counted. A 100-page book read to page 10 will garner the same royalty as a 10-page book read to completion.”
So how can someone look at these amazing new figures with any kind of hesitation? The author looking to get rich quick could throw together a few short, poorly constructed pieces, make them KU exclusive, and wait. If a book is part of KU, the reader isn’t paying anything for books so they are more likely to download anything and everything. Now I am not certain if there are limitations to the number of pages that must be read (which there must be) but someone can crank out a 10 page novella, and with a little puppetry work, they can be making a decent amount of money. It’s frustrating to see.
All in all, I hope this doesn’t discourage short story authors from continuing to make their works KU exclusive if they so choose, but I do hope that this weeds out the schemers. This is a step forward for self-publishing authors and allows them to get the funding they deserve. This may also help further reduce piracy because people won’t have to wait for a book torrent to be available for them to get it for free. I don’t mean to poo poo on the KU service because this truly is a great thing. I just hope those deserving of success see it.