I was going to write something completely different — sorry Phantom, again — but last night just before I went to bed I saw the beginnings of another Amazon panic. Again.
Look, I understand this. We’re dependent on and at the mercy of Amazon, and the more money we make, the more we fear what they can do to stop it. I GET it.
But this case is even flakier than former panics. So, stand by.
There is a whole thing making the rounds of all my writers’ groups involving a writer who was banned from Amazon for life because “he had too many KU reads” an answer that supposedly took him months to get.
None of this makes any sense, and I don’t mean the reason given. Yes, that also doesn’t make any sense, but the “nonsensical” Amazon actions usually have a certain logic this lacks.
So let’s go into the story AS I HEARD IT — and keep in mind I haven’t watched any of the author’s videos. I SERIOUSLY dislike listening to and/or watching videos on the computer, so I don’t do it if I can help it. That’s my first caveat. However note that I’ve heard this story now from like 10 people, and they agree, so…
My NEXT caveat is that this is going to be a very long post.
So, TL/DR: There are enough holes in the story that I can’t regard the supposedly wronged author as truthful. So, this obviously is a big problem.
His experience with Amazon is entirely contrary to mine, and I have reason to believe they banned him FOR OTHER REASONS than what he chose to divulge, though what he chose to divulge is probably partially true.
IOW be not afraid. Amazon might go insane, but I have reason to believe this is not it, or even the beginning or it.
I’m not looking for a fight. I’m about to go away on a writing-and-cuddling weekend for the first time in over two years (almost three years) and I don’t want that ruined by an online fight. But I’m tired of watching people run around with the pants on their heads on fire. So I’m delaying departure to say this. (And yes, my husband is THRILLED. Why do you ask?)
FIRST and because I know some of you have caught Amazon-derangement from the left (heaven knows why, since you don’t trust the left on anything else. And yes, the left hates Amazon and would love to see it crash. TRUST me, I still lurk, unnoticed in a lot of writers email groups where the average politics are “Stalin or Mao?”): I neither trust nor love Amazon.
I don’t trust Amazon because I have now 21 years experience of traditional publishing, and my last illusions about trusting anyone associated with my books (other than me) were destroyed over the last year.
Trust might not be POSSIBLE for me under these circumstances. If tomorrow Robert, Dan and Marshall, formed a company and offered to make an animated movie of one of my books, I’d immediately start suspecting them of skullduggery.
As for loving Amazon, I love the CONVENIENCE, particularly of overnight delivery or sometimes same day delivery.
But to say I love Amazon itself would be like saying I have a mad pash for Walmart, which allows me to buy cheap bras and panties when I forget to pack them for a trip.
Both companies, btw, have boards/owners that are at least soft left and occasionally hard left. Both have arbitrarily banned merchandise because those idiots at SPLC say it’s evilbad.
Not in love with either of them. Amazon is more efficient than B & N and Walmart is cheaper and less crazy than Target, but that’s praising with faint damns.
I do HOWEVER have experience with Amazon both as publisher and as customer. As customer, they have the best customer service EVER.
As publisher, they occasionally throw bizarre, mind-boggling wobblers which take sometimes up to a week to resolve. Important note on this: Their wobblers are never unjustified, though sometimes it is “How programmers think publishers work.” (Like, not letting me publish my collection because it had “bits stolen from other books.” because they didn’t get that short stories revert to the author after a year, per industry standard. Or take the problem LitRPG people had last year, where Amazon was pulling their books because it was afraid that their games were violating game-makers copyright. The authors were justly incensed “It was a made up game.” BUT they failed to see the other side. There was logic. The logic is that SOMEONE used a real game, the game maker bitched because it was violation of copyright and threatened to sue Amazon. Amazon pulled anything that sounded real, or to close to real games for comfort. Yeah, a wobbler, but there is logic. And as far as I know, most of them eventually got solved)
Their wobblers are always solvable, even if it sometimes requires more time than I can give it in a day (hence the week.) I can get this stuff resolved by going on the phone. ME, with my accent and the voluble Latin temper. I’ve never had any other company ignore those as Amazon does, and still solve the problem.
Now, to this author’s specific case as I’ve seen it laid it out:
1- The most successful indie author ever. This should ring SO MANY alarm bells in the back of your head. No, seriously.
Why? Because how would he tell that? It’s not a claim you can even make. There is no way to tell, unless he’s been the #1 author on Amazon since indie was allowed. And even then, we know things other than sales influence the ranking.
So, how does he know? It reminds me of another figure who kept saying that he was about to publish the three “Biggest writers in SF/F” and couldn’t figure out why I was backing away fast.
Look, when there is no way anyone can know this, that kind of brag smacks of hard sales, and — at the very least — a looseness with the truth that should set off alarm bells.
I also know how Amazon treats high-selling indies — and you don’t need to be as high as you think, for that — and I have friends who are that. Not only do you get vouchers for stuff for free, but you have access to the highest ranks of Amazon often in personal visit, paid for by Amazon itself. So–
Not conclusive, but this type of sales-talk makes me doubt anything else the author has to say. Also to level set, the top tier of indie authors is making … millions, multiple. Keep that in mind for what he’s claiming.
2- Also went over to BN and took a look at his books there. What struck me first was there is no preview, at least not on my Mac. The second was file size for some of the books. The first one I checked had a file size of 3 MB.
It took several tries to find one under 1 mb.
Which means he either includes a hell of a lot of images or he is padding the books somehow–and that is something Amazon will get you for. If he’s not padding, he’s a damn liar.
He can’t be doing four of those a month. Hell, he can’t be doing one of those a month, not without hiring out a lot of it.
Look, this is ME saying it. And yes, I know John Ringo. There is a limit to what you can do, even when you have graphomania, which arguably I do.
For those who don’t know what those sizes mean: Witchfinder which weighs in at 170k words, meaning about two “normal” novels is approximately the same number of pages as the book I looked at. The file size for witchfinder is 1126 KB. He doesn’t seem to have pictures except for top of chapters.
So… what is going on? I don’t know, but it’s weird. And weird will get attention from Amazon programmers, period. Also it makes me suspect some kind of code embedded in the book to make each page count as more (Look, I haven’t heard of this, but LitRPG and anything bordering on erotica — supposedly this author always does harem — are always the leads in this kind of “how to game the system” innovation.)
3- The reason he gives makes no sense. No, bear with me on this.
Dark Sarah writes in a field where I usually sell NOTHING but make all the money in KU reads. I haven’t been very active the last year, so my money is down to nothing.
But at one time I was making most of my money from those, and it was ALL KU reads. No one even cleared their throat in my direction.
In view of the above, I presume 3 books a month or more this guy puts out are “Harem Fantasy” — so the same kind of thing — while Amazon might have an algorithm for “alarm bells, look at it” I DOUBT they’d pull his books, much less remove them and ban him based on an algorithm.
At most they’d send him a note going “Uh? What is happening, call us/email us.”
Now there is the possibility of those emails going astray, yes, and that causing a mess, but I DOUBT it would be instant. And a first step, I think, would be kicking him out of KU. NOT out of Amazon. Also, as me, sometimes I don’t check my emails for months (until recently, it wasn’t even close to my main income) so it’s entirely possible to get in big trouble. BUT again, you call, and eventually it gets solved.
5- He’s had books on Apple since 2016.The books he had banned, he had on Amazon on KU. Are those the exact same books? Because it’s possible to go wide and be on KU, but it’s very difficult, and 20% of content needs to be different. Is it, or did he do what many people do and just put on Omnibuses on other venues, and hope KU doesn’t notice? Mind you, even then the most they do is bann you from KU, but it is a violation of TOS.
That’s if they are the same books. IF they’re not, it makes his output even more unbelievable.
It’s not impossible nor criminal to have a “writing factory” of colaborators, and putting your name on the edited material.
But not telling your readers that is at the very least a “certain looseness with the truth.”
6 – His actions make no sense. No seriously. Keep in mind, he’s been making a bazillion, if his claims are true. And suddenly it’s cut off.
I don’t know about you, but my main source of income goes away, I’m going to try to replace it.
Banned for life? Sure. But see YOU are not the same as an entity with another tax payer number. And if the ban somehow mentions that? I’m sure he has a wife, a cousin or a close friend who could become his publisher. He’d have to change names, and lose income momentarily, sure.
BUT if he can write as much as that, it’s no big, and anyway, it’s only while he resolves things. Now he might have done this and not be divulging it, but it sure doesn’t SOUND like it.
Also, again, remember he has a ton of money.
You guys more or less continuously get confused over Amazon. Let me make something clear: you can get banned from Twitter or FB with no recourse. BUT AMAZON IS NOT SOCIAL MEDIA.
Amazon is BY DEFINITION a public market place. There are laws against those banning people because “oh, well, we felt like it.”
It seems to me the kind of lawyer he could hire with the money he has made would be making a federal case out of it.
LITERALLY. Probably headed to the supreme court.
And that kind of case would be in EVERY paper. We’re talking someone blocked from making MILLIONS of dollars.
It wouldn’t be some guy screaming on you tube and running a fundraiser.
Something doesn’t add up. It just DOESN’T. There is no way to make this stuff make sense, and I mean his side of it, not just Amazon.
7- What I suspect he ran into is “the many ways to violate KU” AKA “Stealing KU money from other writers” but the perpetrators never view it that way. Given that he has to be loose with the truth (see claim of bestselling indie ever, also see the diddoonuffin on how they gave him no warning, whatever, also see claims of how much he writes,) if not outright lying, I don’t feel too bad about suspecting this, but I still feel somewhat bad. However Harem and LitRPG are infected with more fraud than any other field.
The non-charitable thought is that he hired “bots” to read his books. Yes, this can be done. Yes, this will get you banned, because Amazon deals with Russians and Chinese doing this ALL THE TIME. The pattern is discernible by programing, and if serious enough it damn skippy will get you pulled without warning and banned-for-life.
The charitable view, and it has happened to people before, is that he got hit by accident with a “the bots also looked at my books to throw off where they were from and whom they were favoring.”
This happens every so often and there have been half a dozen cases, including a well-known Romance writer.
It takes a couple of months to solve, because Amazon has to be SURE you didn’t contract the bots.
I don’t even know how you DO that – my guess is programming forensics to figure out what the bots were doing and where they came from, etc – but there has to be a way to do it, because all the cases of this I heard of before have been solved. Yes, the writers lost a couple of months of income, but the cases have been solved.
8- That’s it. I have one version of it I can’t get to make sense, and the beginnings of the usual “Amazon has gone insane” panic among the usual suspects.
I’ll point out if Amazon has gone insane, it’s still less crazy than trad pub. And yeah, Amazon NEEDS competitors, and I understand your fears. I have them too.
OTOH this is one of the flimsiest causes for panic I’ve ever even IMAGINED. So you will forthwith (all of you, not John particularly) calm your bujungies and untwist your variform underwear.
Add to my reasons of suspicion that this guy is trying to cause just such a panic and stamped public opinion, instead of getting on with making a living, while solving this on a personal and if needed legal level.
NONE of it makes sense.
Amazon can be weird, but there is usually a rationality in the weirdness. This has none.
Take a deep breath and see what happens next.
And now I’m off. All my bags are packed, etc. There will be guest posts tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, and my presence here will be, G-d willing spotty.
Amuse yourselves. (This post is duplicated at Mad Genius Club, should you want to have fun there, too.)