Episode 116 – Web Tracking, Affiliate Abandonment, and KU Cautionary Tales

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Dual Question of the Week: Why did Amazon drop Pixel of Ink and the other deal sites? What should Bryan name his baby?

Summary: Amazon brought down the hammer in our top two stories of the week. After thanking their patron Parker Hudson (and his book On the Edge http://bit.ly/parkhud ), Jim and Bryan took on tips related to web tracking, single tasking, and choosing your genre. They dispensed with stories on the Apple settlement, Neon Play, and Facebook video to get to the big ones: harmful KU scams and Amazon dropping more ebook deal affiliates. We have a Dual Question of the Week: Why did Amazon drop Pixel of Ink and the other deal sites? What should Bryan name his baby?

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What You’ll Learn:

  • More about Bryan’s biggest project ever
  • How using tags can enhance Google Analytics data
  • Why single tasking is more productive than multitasking
  • How to choose your genre
  • Why Apple may owe you spending money
  • Why Hachette acquired a mobile games company
  • Why Facebook thinks text is a thing of the past
  • How some KU indie authors lost their account
  • Why Amazon cut ebook discovery sites from its affiliate program


On the Edge by Parker Hudson

Tag, You’re It

Divide and Conquer

Genre Mantra

Apple, Juiced

Neon Peon

Facebook’s Future Forecast (1)

Facebooks’ Future Forecast (2)

Farming for Prawn (1)

Farming for Prawn (3)

Deal With It (1)

Deal With It (2)

Deal With It (3)

Dual Question of the Week: Why did Amazon drop Pixel of Ink and the other deal sites? What should Bryan name his baby?

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  • M.A. Robbins

    Got my Apple settlement this week. $55.33. Not bad.

    Bryan’s child’s name (if a boy) should be Ted, of course.

    • Bryan

      Of course! 🙂

  • jamiearpinricci

    Why did Amazon drop the deal sites? Let me tell you a story:

    Once upon a time a scorpion and a frog met beside a raging river.

    “Excuse me, frog,” said the scorpion, “Would you let me ride upon your back to cross this wide river?”

    “Never!” exclaimed the frog, “Surely you would sting me.”

    “But my dear frog, if I stung you, you would sink and we would both die.”

    “That is true. You may climb upon my back.”

    Halfway across the river, the scorpion stung the frog. As he was dying, the frog exclaimed:

    “Why did you do that, scorpion?!? Now we will both die!”

    “I cannot help it,” replied the scorpion, “I am a scorpion. It is simply in my nature.”

    • Spider McGee

      Frogs are stupid. AESOP!

      • jamiearpinricci

        Exactly! Anyone who expects Amazon to keep giving them anything without getting screwed in the end is the stupid frog. 🙂

    • Bryan

      Darn scorpion. And darn us frogs.

      • jamiearpinricci

        Don’t get me wrong. I love Amazon, but it isn’t a benevolent mother who is only interested in our well-being. It serves us only insofar as it serves itself.

  • Lavie Margolin

    I second Ted… Good call, @@m_a_robbins:disqus

    • Lavie Margolin

      Think of the promotional possibilities- in lieu of gifts, buy a box set… 🙂

      • Bryan

        Hahaha, thought about that.

  • Crissy Moss

    There is some oddness going on with the audio. jim is on the right and Bryan is on the left instead of it being mono sound… Weird since I am listening on headphones.

    • Bryan

      Working on fixing this now. My apologies!

      • jamiearpinricci

        I listened to the whole thing, imaging the two of you on my shoulders. Which one was the angel and which the devil? 😉

        • Bryan

          Great question! All fixed now :).

      • Crissy Moss

        I listened to it anyway. I just thought you would like to know. Glad you got it all straightened out.

  • Laura Martone

    Darn it! M.A. beat me to it: I was gonna suggest Ted, too (whether the littlest Cohen is a boy OR a girl). Leonard wouldn’t be bad either… oh, wait, that’s already taken. Hmm… love me some Leonard Cohen. Shoot, I’ll have to give this some thought. The only thing I’m sure of, however, is that I would strongly veto Spider McGee – that’s just plain cruel – although Spider Cohen does have a nice ring to it, especially if your kid turns out to be an MMA star. 😉 As for Amazon, I have to agree with you, Bryan – sorry, Jim. I mean, I hate to get all “conspiracy theory” on you, but I think the timing of Amazon’s enforcement of their TOS on the heels of the launch of Goodreads deals is much too suspicious to be ignored.

    • Bryan

      Leonard Cohen!

  • Billy Hoffman

    Oh no you broke the golden rule of podcasting. Never do mono with one voice in each ear on separate tracks! Can’l listen with headphones.

    • Bryan

      Yup, I screwed that up. Didn’t realize Audacity was set to record two mono tracks. Why would that be the standard?!

      See what happens when Jim goes off to the Cavaliers parade :).

      • Spider McGee

        Audacity can be a harsh mistress. I learned that early on in my first podcasts in 2007. I did a lot of bad, bad stereo-only shows before I got it (kinda) right. For my more recent podcasts (The Intolerable Shenanigans Podcast, ask for it by name), I record to a high-quality MP3 in Total Recorder, go to Audacity to put the pieces together, save to a huge mono WAV file, run that massive file through Levelator. Then, run that WAV file through Audacity again, where it gets turned into a final MP3, tagged by MP3 Tag, and uploaded to Podbean, where 29 people download it. I do it for the love. If this was my job, I would have been fired long ago.

  • Spider McGee

    I listen in one earphone, and I only heard the Jim Talking To Himself Show. Creepy!

    • Bryan

      All fixed :).

      • I only heard mono audio, you in one ear and Jim in the other (plus a lot of static), for the whole show. But maybe I just missed the fix.

        • Bryan

          I thought it was fixed, but I’ll give it another look. You may have already downloaded the problematic one. Sorry!

  • Spider McGee

    It goes without saying that I haven’t heard the whole show yet, but I don’t suggest you name your kid “Spider”. This is because Facebook won’t accept that as a real name and shut my page down months ago. Come on, there HAVE to be some kids out there with that as their name. Well, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t think so, and they ain’t gettin’ Facebook accounts.

    • Bryan

      Boo, Facebook! What about SPIDER-MAN?!?!? Real person.

  • I’m going with Marco for a name. ☺️

    Great show! I got my settlement and it was $34. Not bad!

    As for KU, I laughed when Jim said no one would pull out. I actually pulled all my books out of KU during the scammer scandal because I was so pissed at them for not taking action for months. So I’m glad I’m out now! I may try KU again someday but they need to fix things before I come back.

    • Bryan

      Marco Cohen!

      • Yes! I’m a big HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER FAN. Lol. I have two girls, but if I had had a boy, he would have been Marco. 🙂

  • W.H. Lock

    About Amazon- I think they cut sites like PoI because there wasn’t a selection process like BookBub has. Here’s what I think is going to happen- sites like BB who run a list but are very selective in who they promote will get to keep on keeping on. but sites that just throw out any ol book will get banned. Because now that Amazon has a lock on the market, they want to start selecting for quality rather than quantity.

  • W.H. Lock

    And yeah, name the kid after me or Ted.

    • Bryan

      W.H. Cohen!

  • Brecht Ryckaert

    Having experienced something similar with Google Adsense (suddenly enforcing rules that were previously tolerated), I’m with Jim on this one. I’m guessing they’re just scaling back. Too bad for Pixel of Ink. Was a great site indeed.

    Second, congratulations Bryan. Having become a proud dad myself in november last year, I just know you’re in for a great ride. And for the name… it would be epic if you’d call him/her “Mini-Me Cohen”.

    • Bryan


  • First, congratulations on little Roland Cohen.

    • Bryan


  • QOTW – I think this is the natural follow up to when Amazon cut people off who were promoting just (or mostly) free books. Remember that early freepocalypse? Sites and services had to start promoting paid books, too, and even then percentage had to be high enough or they got cancelled.

    POI doesn’t really review books and recommend them, it’s just a paid list blast. The affiliate system is designed to bring Amazon new customers OR drive more purchases based on recommendations, not just because an author paid to be on a list.

  • I’ve seen stuff like the Kindle Unlimited issue before, but usually in affiliate marketing scheme. It always follows the same pattern: (1) Big company decides not to base payout on confirmed, real sales, but on something else. (2) Anytime you base payout on something other than real sales, the system can be gamed. (3) People game the system. (4) Big company is shocked to discover that the system is being gamed. (5) Big company slaps together fraud-detection software that doesn’t actually work, and baby is thrown out with the bathwater.

    This happened to me when eBay switched from a sales-based affiliate scheme to a click-based one. Suddenly they decided that I was being naughty, though in fact I’d changed nothing.

    KU is in the same boat. Some wet-behind-the-ears idiot decided to move away from sales-based publisher compensation without bothering to first find a way that actually works. Someone who can make that mistake is ill-equipped to fix it, so I, for one, am staying far, far away from KU.


    • Bryan

      Oy. Yup. Boo!

  • “Tag, You’re It,” appears to be a broken link. Or is it just me.

    • Kirsten Oliphant

      Not just you! 🙂

    • Bryan

      Fixed! Thanks :).

  • Kirsten Oliphant

    I can’t say precisely why Amazon is cracking down now (other than the self-serving reason of wanting their deal site to be more prominent) but I think the lesson we should learn is this: FOLLOW THE RULES. I break all kinds of rules when it comes to “best practices,” but when it comes to policies (like Amazon’s affiliate policy) or disclosure (with the FTC), I am a stickler. This not only keeps you on the up and up with those companies and regulations, but establishes trust with your audience. If you’re sticking to the policies & regulations, your whole world can’t come crashing down around you.

    Well. It CAN. But not because you were breaking rules you should have followed in the first place. it may just be crashing down on you because of the zombie apocalypse (which may OR may not be related to Amazon’s drone delivery).

    As for names, I think our kids have great names, so I’ll just share those: Sawyer & Lincoln (boys), Cooper & Quin (girls). We are calling our #5 (due in November) Cinco. For now.


    • Yep, I see a lot of authors skirting various rules, assuming they will never be enforced, but what happens if they cancel your kdp account because you were putting reviewers in a drawing for prizes? Sure, it’s unlikely, but so was this a few years ago.

    • Bryan

      Nice names. Yay Cinco :). Cinco and Baby Cohen will be pretty close in age!

  • Brian Brown

    Baby Name: I strongly suggest researching your family trees. When we were expecting four years ago, we decided on a name and called my wife’s tummy that name for a couple of months before we looked at our family trees for an unrelated reason. We discovered a name that ran through my wife’s family tree that seemed to be an obvious choice if we wanted to go totally traditional. Eventually, we let our daughter decide. We called her by each name when she was born. She opened her eyes for the first time in response to the family tree name. At 3 years old today, I couldn’t imagine her having any other name. As a bonus, she is the apple of her 99-year-old great grandfather’s eye (her name was also his late wife’s).

    Amazon’s Actions: The comments on the linked articles make some good points. We don’t know for sure if BookBub is also getting slapped. They aren’t talking. It’s possible they have a special deal with Amazon. It’s also possible Amazon slapped POI and Fussy Librarian for reasons other than the emailed affiliate links, although Amazon’s TOS clearly states this would be a valid reason to get slapped. My point is that we are never going to know. Jim is right that Amazon’s policy of secrecy is smart. We can speculate why some TOS violations are enforced and why some aren’t, but the reality is that only Amazon knows for sure. My guess is that it ultimately involves the best possible experience for the Amazon customer, but again, only a guess. My takeaway is that I will write on the chalkboard 100 times:

    I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS. I will not violate Amazon’s TOS…

    • Bryan

      Cool idea, thanks!

  • I don’t know if I have an answer for either question of the week. #1 requires the ability to see into the Amazon black box while #2 revolves around such a personal choice I feel like I’d be stepping and Brian’s toes even after he has put the word out there.

    My biggest comment is about your response to News Item #2. Specifically, the focus on the scammers causing the problem rather than the innocent bystanders who have been caught in the crossfire. In my mind Jim spent the bulk of his rant speaking to people who just don’t care. Scammers know that any particular system had a shelf life. They expect to reach a point where they must cut and run until a new mark comes along. Most important of all, they don’t care one iota about who they harm in the process. In this case they are deliberately targetting small players as shields while they milk the system for a few more dollars. I would not be the least bit surprised if a handfull of the people going all anti-ku are in fact scammers looking to hide their tracks and/or position themselves for the next play. In every book, and in every movies/tv series, that’s how the game is played.

    I’m just glad I chose to take the road less travelled by going wide from the onset, making myself immune to this interation.

    • Bryan

      It really is terrible what’s happened to the innocent self-pubbers. I hope Amazon takes its head out of its butt and does something about it.

  • I am so excited for you Bryan. I love being a husband/father more than anything else. Enjoy the awesome ride! You could be like Ron Howard and have your child’s middle name as the city in which the baby was conceived? Bryan Chicago Cohen II.

    As for Amazon fighting off the competition, I agree that it seems to be punishing the people who helped build their business, but, at the end of the day, it is a business. Those groups that got shut out were using a business model with one major source of income. That’s never a good idea, if you can avoid it. It’s no different than writers only having their books in Amazon. You’re at their whim.

    • Bryan

      I do always strive to be like Ron Howard. Thanks :).

  • L R W Lee

    Appreciated your show this week. I heard about you, Bryan, when you joined up with Mark Dawson to do a webinar with him this Wednesday!

    As for the question of the week, I used to run an online retailer and I well remember the days of buying affiliate links…so a walk down memory lane. When I started out writing, I had my books on Amazon exclusively, but when they introduced KU I decided to test the waters and distribute on the other major platforms (Google Play, Smashwords, etc). I’ve never been disappointed with the results. To put all your eggs in the proverbial “one basket” is high risk in this day and age. Amazon has so much power it can do whatever it wants, which, I believe, is exactly why it made the move it did with affiliates… We just have to hope they take a humanitarian, benevolent dictator, approach to business going forward and don’t squeeze “we the people”.

    • Bryan

      Hey L R W, welcome to the show! May our benevolent dictator shield us from the cold ;).

      • L R W Lee

        Indeed yes LOL 🙂

  • WHY did Amazon do this? Can’t answer that, but WHAT they did was wipe out a couple of reliable referral sources that only added to their bottom line. I imagine there are huge numbers of people on the Fussy Librarian list and the POI list that aren’t on Goodreads, and therefore won’t be getting Goodreads Deals promotions, so…seems kinda spiteful on the surface. As for a baby name: “Lil’ Shawty.”

  • Anmarie Uber

    How about Jeremy Bryan Cohen or Joshua. Have no idea where that came from…

  • Stella Wilkinson

    Sorry, been on holiday and only just catching up. Why has nobody suggested Bram? It struck me straight away. First two letters of you and your wife’s names, plus the literary connection, makes it a shoe-in in my humble opinion 🙂 Oh, and it’s cool as cake! Huge congratulations Bryan and Amy xx

    • Bryan

      Ooh, I like Bram. Thanks, Stella!

  • I think Meta would be a good name

    • Bryan

      Ah, Meta. It’s so… the word is on the tip of my tongue…