November 13, 2017

The Gorilla

Where does an 800lb gorilla sit?
Wherever the fuck he wants.

I try to be pretty upbeat in these posts, but I just can’t do it today. I’ve read quite a few articles recently (one, two, three, and four) about Amazon stripping page reads or royalties or flat out terminating accounts from authors who’ve had a spike in sales. The idea is that the author has hired some sort of click farm service to read through their books and inflate their overall book rank. Obviously, this is bad. 

I knew most of this when I first launched The End of Refuge. When I did a summer sale and corresponding promotion for the novel, I saw my pages read jump drastically from basically nothing to over 20,000 pages/day. My first reaction was to flip out. Obviously, bots had gotten hold of my book and were generating all of the page flips. I emailed my promotion manager, and I also emailed Amazon.

At that point, I had already heard a few authors’ stories of having their accounts terminated when click farms targeted their book. I got a call from an Amazon rep saying that they had looked into my page reads, and they were all legitimate. I breathed a sigh of relief when my promotion concluded as a general success.

It only made sense for my next big promotion to coincide with the release of Quality DNA. I had put a lot of work into the launch of The End of Refuge but had invested serious blood, sweat, and tears into my second novel, so I really wanted it to do well. I did a 99¢ sale on both of my books for the launch. This time I didn’t get a sudden jump to 20,000 page reads/day, but sales were good, and it was certainly a nice start for my second novel and overall a success. All said and done, I had a total of just over 200,000 page reads for October.

Then, on November 9th, I got this gem in my inbox:

We are reaching out to you because we detected reading or borrow activity for your books originating from illegitimate accounts attempting to manipulate the Kindle programs. These accounts might be related to a third-party marketing service. You will receive royalties associated with legitimate or paid sales; however, we will not pay for reading activity related to illegitimate accounts.

I just…

My page reads for the month of October are now around 12,000. 

Basically, my sales have been scaled back to where they had been on months when I hadn’t done any promotion at all. It’s like I’ve released my new novel and didn’t tell anybody about it—but I did tell people about. I shouted on all my social media about my great new book and scheduled promotions which shared my launch news all over the internet and to their newsletter subscribers. I didn’t pay bots to read my book. By the end of the promotion, it brought in 40% more in expected royalties than my previous one. That seems completely reasonable; the first promotion was when I had one published book, the second I had two. And Amazon had even checked into that first promotion to verify those page reads were from legitimate accounts.

I’m a math person, so I’ll do the math. The page reads I lost out on are equivalent to about 500 people reading through an entire book. Those 500 people paid $5,000 for their Kindle Unlimited subscriptions for October. So what happens to that money?

Amazon pockets it.

See, if there was a mistake where 500 people had gotten a free copy of my book, I’d be okay with that. But that’s not the case. 500 readers paid for their subscription. Amazon got their money, so the authors are the ones who take a loss.

Obviously, I’m reeling and perhaps a touch emotional. It feels like that 800-pound gorilla just shat in my face. It’s taking all my willpower not to pull both of my novels off Amazon right now. There’s really not much recourse for recovering the withheld royalties. If I go to battle against the 800-pound gorilla, I’m going to lose.

The worst part of this is that’s it’s really shaken my confidence as a writer. If the largest book-selling platform can (and did) pull away the majority of my sales, there’s little chance of me being able to make a career as an author. My (expensive) hobby may always be just that: a hobby.

Not wanting to leave this on a sour note, I’m doing a giveaway. Sorry—giveaway has ended. From today until Thanksgiving (in the US) I’ll be giving away free ebook copies of Quality DNA to every person who subscribes to my newsletter. If you’re already subscribed, shoot me an email at to claim yours. While the novel is still enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program, I am able to provide free copies via email for reviews, so these are ‘review copies.’ It’s completely up to you if you want to leave a review or not.

I’ll also randomly select two subscribers to win an autographed paperback of Quality DNA. No purchase necessary, open worldwide, all you need to do is subscribe. I’ll notify winners on December 1, 2017, via email and ask for a shipping address then. 

1 comment:

Matthew said...

I don't want a free copy of your second novel, but would like to purchase one. Where is the best place to do this if I'm not part of Kindle world.

Really sorry to read this.