Episode 172 – Thinking Small, Author Bullying, and Scammers Hit #1

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Question of the Week: Do you think Amazon will do anything about its click-farming problem? Why or why not?

What should Amazon do about its clickfarm problem? Jim and Bryan have their thoughts on that question and this week’s other top stories. After thanking their patrons Faster Than Falling, Leaving Eva, and Inharmonic Fantasy, the powerful publishing pair tackled tips on author mindset, beta readers, and pricing. News stories included the BookBaby’s author survey, author apps, bullying, PublishDrive, thinking small, and a click-farmed book hitting #1. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you think Amazon will do anything about its click-farming problem? Why or why not?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How writers can advance from starving artists to successful authors
  • What authors should look for in beta readers and how to get the best results
  • How authors can use one survey’s results to gauge optimal pricing
  • What marketing tactics separate successful authors from low-earning authors
  • How indies can strengthen their fanbase with an author app
  • How cult-like author leaders operate and how to avoid their cyberbullying
  • How a Hungarian publishing distribution startup caught Google’s eye
  • Why authors need to think small to build a devoted fanbase
  • Why one author advocate says the Kindle Store is officially broken
Links:

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  • Amanda Smith

    Wow, the topic of online bullying is hitting even a business community like self publishing.

    Heat ring it describes as cult-like hit a nerve of truth for me. On tumblr (which I’ve retreated from over the years) there’s very moral based bullying, based in current liberal politics. And it’s reminded me of the moral censoring we saw around mid-century, of comic books, movies, and later video games. It’s similar social activism and censorship, but it was coming from the liberal side instead of the conservative side.

    • Bryan

      If there’s a community, I suppose there are bound to be bullies! Thankfully, 99% of the community members are not bullies :).

  • Benjamin Douglas

    Disclaimer: not intended as fearmongering.

    I don’t know what Amazon may or may not do, and I appreciate the general positive tone here, but I confess I get nervous whenever the indie community begins to clamor for change. My observation is that KDP seems to make changes with an axe rather than a scalpel, as evidenced by the rule that everything in the title must now appear on the cover (to prevent keyword stuffing), and by many changes made in the attempt to regulate the erotica category.

    • Bryan

      “KDP seems to make changes with an axe rather than a scalpel.” This is true. Good point.

    • My first book was published on KDP and CS in 2012, and they enforced the ‘title must appear on cover’ thing way back then.

      I feel like most big changes aren’t because indies rally, but because Amazon got screwed or finally realized it.

  • Spider McGee

    Bryan, I told you never to discuss the tens of thousands of dollars that Google Play owed me. That’s the last time I’ll ever regale you with the tales of my literary success.

    • Bryan

      Sorry, Spider!

      • Spider McGee

        Ah, hell, I forgive you. Just do NOT mention that I have a new Nick Dixon book, “A Finger in Every Pie”, in the Kindle Store as of today. Keep that under your hat.

        • Bryan

          I can’t keep a promise like that!

  • “What problem?” – Amazon

  • I agree that an app won’t be worth it for most authors, especially at those prices. However, for certain audiences, you could have better interaction with those who use the app.

    I don’t know how many app services there are, but dwnld.me has a monthly subscription model, and is built on templates, letting you import your basic content from your site to get the look and feel.

    With group interaction and the overwhelm of social media in general, inviting them to a place that’s just your place could help keep in touch with them and make them feel special. Who doesn’t want to feel special?

    • I’m not sure I understand the attraction – as a reader/subscriber. I listen to the SPF podcast, this podcast, and many others – all thru my podcast player app (Podcast Addict). I have no desire to go to a separate app to get one podcast, when I can get all of them through one.
      Now if we were talking about an author who I read everything she or he publishes, and want to know the minute something’s out… maybe. I still feel like I get plenty of notice during the podcast of what’s coming up. And the show notes always have the links I need.
      If an author doesn’t have a podcast, then the answer might be different.

      • For an author alone, I totally agree, but many non-fiction authors have business, coaching, groups, podcasts, and products besides books. Getting those people into a system YOU control probably helps.

        I think part of it is that it’s special and the other part is that it’s NOT facebook. it used to be forums, RSS readers, and blog comments, but facebook took those things away from all but the most established brands. Some people are taking their Groups to apps/systems like Slack or Band just to put them in a place where there’s less noise from other things. One day, those things will either fail or be so saturated that people will take their fans to yet another platform. 🙂

  • Hi Bryan, on Good Reads it has long been known for tough reviewers and their reputation is only feeding the trolls appetites. As for amazon, perhaps they need to institute a 48 hour review period to help weed out fake books and a 1 week delay before listing the book on amazon unlimited, I could live with that to solve this problem.

  • Vania Margene Rheault

    I don’t feel Amazon will do anything–their reputation is pretty secure as it is. So, sorry, Jim, I’m going to have to disagree that readers will blame Amazon for a bad purchase. When your coffeemaker breaks after one use do you blame Target where you bought it, or do you blame China where it was made? Authors need to take control of their own reputations, and if they want to use clickfarms, that is their choice. I do agree with Jim in that there won’t be repercussions if the book is good, but if it’s bad, readers will blame the author, not Amazon. But I hear of authors who use pen names all the time to experiment, or to dump association with a bad series. I’m afraid that’s just publishing in this day and age.

  • Crissy Moss

    QOTW ; Facebook has the worst problem with click farms, and they have done all they could to get rid of them. And can’t. Even if amazon tries to cut down on them (and I’m sure they are) it’s almost impossible to get rid of them completely short of having someone check every single book doing ok in the KU system for quality, readability, and originality. Does it suck? Is it full of grammar and spelling errors? Are there blank pages?

    You point at reviews as a measure, but that only measures so much. I only have 20+ reviews on my books, but I’ve had a few thousand downloads. It’s an indicator, but it isn’t the only one.

    As for the other question you asked, why people bully… Jealousy, and a sense of righteousness seems to be the top two reasons. If someone does something that others don’t agree with it is more likely today then it use to be for certain people to do things like dox, stalk, cyber bullying, and other nasty things. And Goodreads has had problems with these groups for a while. They did this to another author not so long ago just because all the characters in her book were white. Other authors have had this treatment for having a sexy girl on the book cover, writing a book someone in the group just didn’t like, or for just saying the wrong thing in social media. There are groups of authors, and people irl, that are very keen on policing morality and will stop at nothing to insure their morals are upheld. Just look up the black block and see what they do on public streets and think… They are online, too.

  • Dave

    I am going to offer a contrarian position. I believe Amazon is doing something and they are doing things in a more intelligent manner than I have seen from some other big companies. Before I go any further, let me share a couple examples of how things work in a very similar situation with Google and Apple.

    I used to develop apps (and still do a bit so I might look into the author apps idea at some point). When you submit an app to Apple, you are faced with a multi-day (and sometimes a week or more) review process where they will kick back your app for even minor errors. Do you want to wait a week for your books to get published or for changes to go into effect? On the other end, you have Google who literally accepts every app with no review. Sounds great, right? Well, they are know for overaggressive policing (on a very hit-and-miss basis) that can result in your account getting shut down with no questions asked and no explanation offered. AND you are banned for life. Aren’t you glad Amazon doesn’t do that when there are misunderstandings?

    My first point is that things could be a lot worse. I for one would rather have a little bit of scamming that goes undetected (for a time) and get my books published almost immediately and know I’m not going to get shut down and lose all earnings when I have a Bookbub (yes, I meant that).

    The main argument is that the only possible way to shoot all the way to #1 overnight is to cheat. I would say that is not correct. I have had Bookbub deals take a book all the way to #10 on the US store. I am not saying the book in question had that, but how would any automated system know the difference between 4000 Bookbub sales and 4000 clickfarm sales? The answer is it wouldn’t and there would be mistakes where legitimate books and authors got penalized.

    Long story short, I do believe Amazon does a good job. Are they perfect? Nope. Do we want perfection? Absolutely not because the only way to catch 100% of the scammer is to catch some non-scammers in the process.

    I have already spent more time worrying about this topic than any of us should. Time to go publish another book 🙂

  • I’m a contarian on the app thing. One of the first things I do on checking out an app is go in an turn off all those annoying notifications. If I can’t tone them down to a level I can live with then the app gets trashed.

    I suspect a major driver in the ongoing clickfarm issue is purely financial. Until readers start turning away in droves its no more than an annoyance. Remember, as writers we are a supplier of product and suppliers are always in the squeeze. Since this is mainly KU and KU payouts are a seemingly arbitrary amount that is easy to adjust as appears to be happening.

  • Spider McGee

    Mmmm…click farming. Sounds like a good career, based on my latest so-called scattershot book “launch”. More like book *lunch*, since I’m eating the cost of that Facebook ad this week. What do click farmers grow, clicks? Because I am IN.