Remove the Pants on Fire From Your Head!

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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.)

169 responses to “Remove the Pants on Fire From Your Head!

  1. Whenever I see the Gaslight Media and Proglodyte Politicians (But I Repeat Myself) the alarums go off and I dig in my feet. Their history of stampeding the public is too consistent and the after action reports to replete with falsehoods that had to have been known at the time (pictures from wrong continent or decades earlier), all “justified” in the name of creating awareness.

    Well, Jocko, what I am mostly aware of is that you can be trusted about as far as a gift from the Greeks.

  2. *gets the snickers*

    Oh, gads, this was headed as “remove the pants” in my email and I thought we were going to get another Geek Dating article about not ignoring the obvious.

  3. I am double-plus disappoint. 😦 Woe is me.

  4. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Sarah, enjoy your “get-away”. 😀

  5. Not even a clue about the amazon panic, but I do remember an EBT card panic at one point– they were supposedly yanking stores’ ability to take it because the stores got too high a percent of business via it.

    Actual story, the stores were doing fake charges and handing out some percent of the cash to the folks who came in with EBT cards; a fraud ring. (Which they caught because the stores in question were tiny, and reporting that they sold many hundreds of dollars in groceries A DAY.)

    Again, no idea if it’s analogous, the explanation just sounded oddly familiar.

  6. I’m at the point now where every time I see one of these “OMG Amazon haz gon craziez an iz teh evulz!!!!!!!elebinity!!!!!” rants, my first thought is automatically “I wonder how *this* dumbass tried gaming the system.”

    • Me too.

      I’m a rare customer of Amazon. Don’t have any clue on how the supplier side works. The whole story stinks to high heaven, and makes no sense; unless someone is trying to getaway with something. The more that someone yells, the more the “walk away, don’t get involved, itch hits. Someone tried to do something, got caught, is now throwing a royal look at poor me tantrum.

    • Okay. If you are determined to plot evil (**all the writers raise one eyebrow**) here’s an idea.

      Get the least stable screws in the toolbox to start panics about THING. Hmmm… Maybe by infiltrating social or professional groups. Encourage groups that make money on scare stories to spread each one widely. Maybe CNN? Then pay professional bloviators from the Left and Right to make straw man attacks on the THINGY. Once nobody believes anything anymore about the dangers, it quietly unfolds it’s many serrated leg hands and begins to FEED!!!!

      Or you could do Mecha Katrina (It’s a hurricane! Of rogue AI airships!). Your protagonist could be a humble gun store owner with a harem coincidentally-all-female staff and customer base.

      Now *I* have to stop procrastinating and get back to work. Pit’s shack won’t draw itself.

    • The fact that you have to wonder, because Amazon refuses to clearly define it’s rules and provide specific details of violations with examples, explains why Amazon cannot be trusted.

      • No, Steve, wrong. You don’t have to guess. The rules are pretty damn clear, and they tell you when it changes.
        They don’t give you specific examples because Russia and China (mostly) and scammers keep inventing new scams.

  7. You suspect Someone is claiming victim-hood falsely? in America?!? In 2019???

    Unpossible.

    No, clearly Amazon has been hacked by the Chinese government and is being weaponized to demonetize all independent thinkers. That’s the only possible explanation.

    Or maybe it was the Russians. Ukrainian code-farmers?

  8. > So I’m delaying departure to say this.

    No. So much no.

    Grab your husband, get in the car, and GO. By the time you get back the whole affair will have blown over.

    AND STAY OFF THE INTERNET WHILE YOU’RE GONE!

  9. Some things to point out, but I’m not going into detail. I know this person in passing, but he is not a friend (though we have talked about this case and other things over the last year and we do have a mutual friend).

    Originally when Amazon took him off, they told him he could republish, but only if he went through a publisher. The moment he told Amazon who the publisher would be, they banned that publisher and took ALL of their works down as well.
    Yeah, really that happened. That publisher, I believe, was able to get their account back, but only on the proviso that they not publish this person’s books.

    Also, this guy has been publishing about as long as I have. He had a lot of stuff that was wide and was doing ‘okay’ before he went into the LitRPG and Harem fields. He’s never said how much he made, I’m the one that claimed he’s probably the most successful indy and that’s perhaps hyperbole, it was very late at night and I was tired when I said that.

    But I know what -I- make. And I know he’s making about ten times that from his sales numbers. I’ve seen other people do analysis of his works to try and determine his income and they came up with about the same numbers I did.

    And I can also state, from personal experience, that when Amazon has a problem with you, they do NOT write you about it. Ever. (I have a banned book that they won’t talk about, even though I discussed it with a VP at one point – I also had problems with advertising that required me to call in a favor from an acquaintance to FORCE someone at Amazon to tell me what was going on).

    So yes, the older books are available on other platforms, but his original thought was he wasn’t going to publish elsewhere, because he wanted to go back to Amazon and was afraid if he did publish elsewhere, that he would not be allowed back in. I don’t think he expected this to last over a year.

    The Judge said that Amazon is a private marketplace and has the right to do whatever they wish without telling anyone the reason why. That they can cancel any account without providing a reason. It’s ‘at will’.

    I know a lot of people want to think he was scamming Amazon – I know I did, no one wants to believe that their entire livelihood could be subject to the whims of a random algorithm. But I don’t see how he could be. I’m one of his contemporaries. I’ve read his books. I know the market (hell I’m one of the top names in the market currently). For a good long time there I was writing a book every three weeks, and I know what it takes to put one out in nine days (because I’ve done it). If he had been scamming, I think the rest of us would have noticed it, but we know the fans and we know the sales patterns.

    Can someone write a book a week? We had a long talk once about techniques and I was thinking of trying to go that way (but I’m lazy). 60K to 80K word books only require 6 to 8 days if you’re consistently producing 10K words a day.

    Amazon’s biggest problems right now all revolve around KU. That is where all the scammers go, because it’s easy. All the scammers come from places where Amazon gives away free accounts, and rather than stop giving away free accounts, Amazon has to come up with very convoluted anti-gaming techniques, written by people who don’t have a clue about game theory. I’ve had discussions with Amazon senior managers on this and was invited to interview for a job to help them with this problem. I turned it down because I hate Seattle and I want to write, not go back to being a wage slave.

    So Amazon’s basic claim was that he was employing bots and click farms. They didn’t show any evidence. Why did they ban him from the entire site, for life? They refused to say. Amazon is set up in such a way, now, that to have serious success on their platform, you have to be in KU. You are required to abandon all other sales outlets in order to be in KU.

    This has put a lot of us, who sell heavily through KU in a rather precarious position. Especially as we have no contact with amazon beyond their ‘contact us’ link on the webpage which just dumps us into the general help queue. In all of Amazon’s other business units, the people who generate high sales have a rep they can talk to, and who will call them if there is an issue. They don’t do that for indy authors and I wish they did. Instead I talk to a guy in India who barely speaks english and can’t understand my problem.

    • Can someone write a book a week? We had a long talk once about techniques and I was thinking of trying to go that way (but I’m lazy). 60K to 80K word books only require 6 to 8 days if you’re consistently producing 10K words a day.

      Sure, but that wouldn’t give file sizes that match what’s offered.

      Is he re-using tons of images all the time or something?

      • I’ve read a ton of his stuff, and I don’t recall any images to speak of. How he gets the files sizes is a mystery to me.

        • Are there any fancy chapter or section separators? Really ornate chapter headings? Those count as images, especially if you do ’em wrong, and can really inflate file sizes.

          …says the person who’s done them wrong, and promptly undid them rather than get hit with data transmission rate fees.

          • Not as I recall. I read him on KU, so I haven’t seen any of his work for quite a while. Working off .com memories here.

          • He didn’t get in trouble for padding. Amazon said in court that it was because the ratio of page downloads to books sold didn’t look right to them. That’s what Amazon said. So they effectively accused him of using bots and click farms to pump up his numbers.

        • Sadly, that does argue towards gaming.

          • BobtheRegisterredFool

            Yes. And when I put the right cap on, all sorts of possibilities come to mind. I’d say fun ones, but I want to be very clear that hacking Amazon is outside of my interests and skills. I enjoy thinking about unpleasant scenarios, but Amazon has not harmed my interests anywhere near enough to want to hurt it.

            This information is and was very interesting, and I’ve slightly modified several models.

          • Not a clue. I do well to get my stuff written and published. Gaming the system is way above my pay grade.

      • BobtheRegisterredFool

        Hmm. I recall a fair number of Japanese LN in harem and maybe litrpg genres. Anyone know what the file sizes for the ones in English on Amazon.com run?

      • That is my point. You can’t write a book a week that size, month after month after month. or rather you can, but it won’t even be coherent by month 5.
        Most people who write a book a month or a book a week keep it to around 80k words max. And sure, I could do that, and aim to doing it when I’m a little better.
        NONE OF WHICH MATCH THE SIZE.
        BTW the size works with a trick someone else has heard of: white on white tiny print in the bottom header, so each page read counts as three.
        Yes, against TOS

        • But what if you use REALLY BIG WORDS in your book?

          As for your claim about size, we all know that it isn’t the e-size, it’s the emotion.

          If he’s padding the text by putting in white on white words, doesn’t that mean he’s a White Supremacist? NO WONDER Amazon banned him!

        • 95K in a month is my hard physical limit, thus far, and I don’t intend to push to see if that changes.

          • I can do 80k in three days. Then I sleep for a day, and do nothing for two more.
            Look, this is even possible because I have around 40 hard banked story ideas for novels. if not, it wouldn’t be.

      • No. There are no images in his books that i ever saw, and I’ve read a bunch of them.
        Here’s the thing, if I wrote two books a month, every month, instead of one, I’d be deep into seven figures a year.
        Could I do it? Yeah, I think I could – but I wouldn’t enjoy it, I’m getting old and 12 hour days are losing their luster. Part of it involves putting together a team of editors you can trust (one for each series) and having someone else deal with covers, uploading, marketing, etc. I know he was paying people to do those things. I think he even had a couple of narrators on the payroll to keep the audiobooks going.
        Michael Anderle is the one who I would give the most credit to for pioneering the ‘assembly line’ aspect of writing.

    • John,

      OT, but just out of curiosity, are you planning any more Hammer books – I loved the first 3.

      Thanks!
      Yak

    • John, I’m going to take issue with a couple of comments here. First, you are solely relying on what he said and your own experience. You say Amazon has never contacted you about a problem,etc. That may be true. But it isn’t true for all of us. They have contacted me and others. They have worked with me when there was an issue where they pulled a book from sale. It took about a week and countless hours on the phone or via e-mail, but by acting like this was my job and dealing with them like i would anyone I was doing business with, I managed to get things worked out. So it isn’t quite as black and white as you’ve painted it.

      Also, Amazon isn’t forcing any of us to abandon all other marketplaces for KU. I know any number of authors who go wide and make six figures and more a year. I also know, again from first-hand experience, that there are ways to have a book in KU and also do a wide distribution of it. Yes, it takes work and I certainly recommend letting Amazon know what you plan to do but you can do it. The catch is you must have one of the versions, either the KU or the wide distro version, have substantial new material. That translates into 15-20% new material. The KU title has to indicate that it is different from the other versions out there (ie, have Author’s Cut or expanded edition, etc.,as part of the sub-title) and it has to have a new ISBN, one different from the other version. But it can be done and I have the authorization to do so in writing from Amazon.

      • Not every reader uses KU. I don’t.

          • Kindle Unlimited Lending Library? No thanks. I’m holding out for Copies Online New And Now.

            Everybody knows KULL is inferior to CONAN.

        • I got about twenty thousand who do.
          When Amazon came out with KU it took away 2/3rds of my readers it heavily cannibalized my income. I went from 5 figure months back down to 4. It sucked. At one point last year, I dropped out of KU for two months, dropped out completely. Enough of my readers followed me out of KU that I was still making the same money, but oh man did the whine and bitch fest begin.

          You have no idea how many people can not afford a 3.99 dollar book. I do. Over ten thousand of them. And I heard from them all. Some are just because they’re poor, a lot because they’re cheap, and many more people who just read everything in KU and nothing that isn’t, because at $10 a month they can afford to read as many books as they want to a day/week/month. So instead of maybe spending 8 to 20 bucks a day, which is well over a hundred a month, they spend 10.

          I went back to KU because I wanted to make my fans happy. At that point I wasn’t doing it for money, because being in it or out of it, I made the same. On all the other platforms combined (I went wide during those two months) I made less than $100.

          • I went back to KU because I wanted to make my fans happy.

            Such sacrifice, such noblesse, such concern for your fans!

            If you cannot perceive the market benefit of a business plan generating larger, happier fan base, even thought they’re paying you less per capita, at negligible cost difference to you, I doubt it is worth my while to attempt explaining it to you.

            BTW – if you are making arguments that basically rely upon your personal credibility, it is probably a good idea to eschew even such obvious exaggeration as saying you “heard from” 10K fans — not if you want us to believe you did any writing for sale while reading those complaints.

          • I pickup books from Author’s I don’t know from Bookbud from Free to $.99, linked to Barnes & Noble. Have picked up new series that way. Once I’m into a series, I don’t hesitate to pay $3.99+ for the next fix (er book). Some I’ll wait until fresh off the press cost has dropped, but there are a few that (although I grumble) it is first day release, heck with the cost.

            My grumble with KU is I don’t own the book. I can’t choose the medium to read it on. Right now I mainly read on 8″ Samsung with Nook App (not the Samsung Nook) or my Samsung phone (Nook App), when not at home.

            Right now I’m re-reading a 58 book series, and I have over a 100 unread books in my TBR libraries (where new purchases go so they don’t get lost in the general library; Nook Libraries have a limit of 100 books/library … I mean really 🙂 ).

            I also grumble when Sarah’s Sunday picks or BoodBud picks look interesting but they are only available on Amazon, KU only or not. But so far staying with Nook (or Baen) is my choice.

      • You are now the First person I have ever talked to who Amazon contacted over a problem. Question, did you reach out to them first? Or did they contact you out of the blue? The only times I’ve ever been called by Amazon was when I wrote a ‘Letter to Jeff’ and they responded to that.
        And yes, I am relying on what they said, because who else can I rely on? Amazon won’t talk, not ever. And seeing the size of his fanbase? I don’t see any reason for him to engage in shady practices.

        • No, she’s not. John, seriously, Amazon contacts everyone I know when there is a problem. And btw, there’s a lot of ceiling above you, and yes, my friends get flown in to discuss new functionality.

        • ????

          Obviously, I don’t have anything published to Amazon, but most of the “Amazon is the devil” articles that are linked here, folks got an email from Amazon telling them there was a problem, and the complaint is either that the person telling the story doesn’t agree it’s a problem, or doesn’t see how to fix it.

          IE, “your book was taken down for copyright infringement” type email, and the issue is they can’t figure out where the blazes the copyright infringement for that book might be, or who would claim it.

          • I’m not saying Amazon is the devil. I’m saying that they are uncaring and that if somehow you end up on the wrong side of them, you’re pretty much SOL.

            • You should really consider reading a bit more carefully what folks actually say.

              So far, almost every response you’ve made seems to be missing large, relevant points.

              In this case, you stated that you’ve never heard of Amazon contacting someone, and then appear to think that the examples I point to are you.

              Before that, when pointing out an option that would explain both why someone got flagged for hinkiness and or why they can write an extremely high number of books which might appear to be hinky to a bot, you seemed to have missed that you having never seen any images at all would suggest an issue when combined with the very large file sizes.

            • So what you’re saying is Amazon is your basic American retailer? I would never have suspected.

        • John, then you aren’t following indie authors and hybrid authors the way you should because there are many who have had the exact same experience. In one instance I reached out to them. In at least one other, they reached out to me. Each time there’s been a problem, I’ve been able to work with them and get the situation dealt with. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it is aggravating, but if you treat it as you would a business partner–which they are–then you can get a lot done.

          And I call bullshit on Amazon won’t talk ever because they do talk if you reach out to them through proper channels and don’t go off and try the case in social media before giving them a chance to fix the problem.

          I’m not saying he has done anything shady, although I have never heard of Amazon banning someone from the site and for life if they haven’t been in violation of the ToS and blatantly so. See, two can play that game.

          But here’s the thing. You seem to come in so often to bash Amazon but you fail to note the problems with other storefronts. Kobo that took books off sale for “suggestive” covers without warning to the authors. I had one, a frigging rom/susp novel that showed absolutely no skin. I never could get the book reinstated, even with a new cover. I know other authors who were caught in the same thing. Then there’s the NY Times best selling author who has a problem with BN consistently delaying release of their new books. . . for no reason. Authors have found themselves kicked from other platforms as well. We don’t hear about it because it’s not Amazon!

          Frankly, I’m tired of the hysteria from those who point to cases like your friend’s. It may have happened as he said or there may be some other facts you aren’t aware of. But, in the grand scheme of things, Amazon does pretty damned well by indie authors. Unless and until there is an alternative, it is up to us to make sure we are not in violation of their ToS–and that means keeping track of changes. This is a business, our business, and we need to treat it as such.

        • So, what percentage of the relevant population would you estimate you’ve been in position to have</I such discussion with?

          It is always dangerous to reason from small sample sizes.

    • Did anyone ask the judge if he applies the same logic to Christian bakers, or city-run farmers markets denying access to produce sellers when they find out they aren’t leftist, or…..

  10. As I read this, a band named Amason played (Algen) on the stream I’m listening to here at work.

    • OT: Have arrived at destination in Wisconsin.

      • Enjoy your visit.
        I think I am tied to town all week . . . other than not telling me squat, can’t blame work, tis the contractors who keep delaying things, and might even get roped into a saturday.

        • Have enjoyed. Nice visiting family & friends… and it seems I made a 330 mile beer+ run (oy).

          • sounds funner than packing equipment and sending it across town so I can . . . oh wait, we found that product we couldn’t find, you need to put it into drums! ***digs out pump and hoses etc so that can be done***
            -wait all friday for it to show up-
            ***???***
            Truck isn’t going to get there until tomorrow!
            ***!#@%$#$%#!!!!!!***

            Wait, wasn’t last time a 330 mile booze run?

            • Yes. This was another. This time I (we) ordered ahead as even the place that carries “everything” didn’t have what was desired in stock, at least not in desired quantity. And I only found that last year at the place that was going out of business.

  11. I was doubtful about being in Amazon’s KU program from the very beginning. I had a good few readers and fans who were reading my books on Nook, and through a couple of outer outlets, and having my eBooks only available through KU just didn’t set well with me, at all.

  12. There is a Dark Sarah who writes harem fantasy?

    And I’ve never been sent a single link or hint?

    • Kinda bypasses the point of DarkSarah…..

      • That is what anonymous email is for…and it wouldn’t have to be from Sarah…the other Huns are hiding it from me, I know it.

        In fact, I bet the guy in the post was going to email it to me and that’s why Amazon did him in 🙂

    • I thought it was just royal lactation fantasy. The harem stuff must be under an even different nom de guerre.

    • I wouldn’t assume that – She was mentioning that litrpg, anything bordering on erotica, and harem are on the bleeding edge of cheating. Then she said she writes in a field that’s all KU reads, no sales, and follows by saying harem is the same kind of thing – inferring that it’s also all KU reads, no sales.

      Which means that, sadly, Dark Sarah probably doesn’t write in harem, because harem is the same as her field in that it’s all KU, no sales.

      …interestingly enough, I’d quibble with Sarah on this. I know erotica is massively KU because there’s no sales history, it’s off the kindle the moment it’s returned, and all-you-can-read. On the other hand, I’ve watched some erotica authors mention that they’ve gone out of KU, to sales only. I’m not sure if they went wide, because it wasn’t the point of the post. When I checked their sales rank under the “Is this person someone with enough sales to be worth paying attention to their advice and commentary?”, they were doing quite well in kindle store rank.

      Not an erotica author, but I can figure out that there’s clearly something that’s countering “everybody knows” going on there. I just don’t have enough data to figure out what, where, when, and how.

      • Hush you, quit ruining my hopes for Dark Sarah Harem 😉

        Yeah, after I posted I went back and figured that probably read too much into it, but a guy can hope right 🙂

      • Plus, she did admit now that the boys are gone her inner 13 year old comes out more.

        And what is harem but a 13 year old boy’s fantasy.

        52 year old married men are much more likely to channel H. L. Mencken.

        • *laughs* And this is where I say… it’s Dark Sarah. She can write whatever she wants, and we don’t know. Maybe she’ll even say “Challenge. Accepted!”

          …and maybe I’m totally wrong! After all, she tells awesome, believable lies for a living!

      • Just curious, what kind of ranking numbers are you talking about? I seem to be staying between 15 and 20 thousand with, well, very modest sales.

    • There is a dark Sarah. There are people who know what she writes, though not for a year, as I said.
      The point of Dark Sarah is we don’t talk about Dark Sarah.
      For all you know, I write Hugo-worthy drek in my spare time. Or YA romances.

      • The First Rule of Dark Sarah is that nobody talks about Dark Sarah?

        Seem I’ve heard that in a slightly different context.

      • I keep thinking of Dark Sarah as like this retired supervillain that made the big score, settled down, married her mundane boyfriend, had the 2.5 kids (counting the cat as a kid), but she still has her lair under the house. She keeps up her exercise routine, updates her gear, that kind of thing.

        Every once in a while, she puts on the costume (and wonders why she made those choices-oh yes, Amazing Man couldn’t resist a F-sized rack before he met Hippolyta), and does some “civil service villainy,” like giving the entire Democratic National Convention karmic diarrhea…

        • Two things. Have you read my Mom Squad story?
          Also Have you read Kate Paulk’s Con series (yes, it’s off line now. Will be coming back, trust me. Soon) She tuckerized me as a retired succubus who married a fugitive angel.
          She’s not… wrong.

          • Now, I have new things to read! 🙂

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            “Mom Squad Story”?

            Give me a hint please.

            Oh, I have Kate’s Con Vampire stories. 😉

            • Yeah, and they ruined me for chicken at academic award banquets. I almost had to explain at an international meeting why I’d taken one look at the table and had a coughing/laughing fit.

            • I think it’s called Mom Slays The Dragon. It’s actually a piece of a novel called “call the mom squad” which is ALMOST done. One of a dozen or so.
              It’s in one of the collections. I have the titles of the stories in the Amazon listings.

              • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                Is it “Calling The Mom Squad” in the Trade Winds collection? 😉

                [Note, you can tell that I purchased the collection but didn’t completely read the collection. 😀 ]

                • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                  Oh, finished it. Good Read!

                • Look at the Amazon listing. I have not written Calling the Mom Squad (a novel) but the story is Mom Slays the Dragon.

                  • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

                    Ah, the Amazon Listing for Trade Winds doesn’t include the Table Of Contents.

                    The version that I downloaded earlier has “Calling On The Mom Squad” not “Mom Slays The Dragon”.

                    I’m checking to see if I can download the current version to see what the story title is.

      • You had me until you got to “Hugo-worthy drek”.

        You have too much self-respect to do that.

        Hell, I have too much self-respect to do that.

      • Ugh, no, not even for Dark Sarah.

    • I still believe that Dark Sarah writes home-improvement and repair books, and “How to restore vintage finishes” titles under a locked pen-name. So nyah. 😛

  13. From the title, my first guess was that it was going to be about the editorial policy at someplace like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

  14. It makes perfect sense if the guy is actually a shady investor and he’s trying to manipulate the market.

  15. Christopher M. Chupik

    Definitely possible to write a book in a week. Edgar Wallace was known to do so, when his funds ran low. Got to the point there was a popular joke:

    “I’m sorry, but Mr. Wallace is busy writing a novel right now.”
    “That’s fine, I’ll wait.”

    • of course it is. I’ve written a book in three days. It’s even possible to write a 300k words book in a week. But I challenge anyone even John Ringo to do a COHERENT 510k word a week novel EVERY MONTH month after month.
      I can’t do it, and I have issues of the sort that writes six novels, home schools a gifted kid and writes two austen fanfic novels in a year.

      • I think if we ran liquid nitrogen instead of Freon in his basement air conditioning, got him a supply of really good cigars, and bought his muse all the pro-pain products, I think he could pull it off…

        But, I suspect, it wouldn’t be so much “Oh, John Ringo, NO!”, but “MOTHER OF GOD! JOHN, WHAT DID YOU CALL UP?!? WE NEED A PRIEST, NOW!”

        • see, I work the other way. I NEED 80 degrees to work. So of course, John lives in TN and I live in CO.
          Because writers.

          • I live in California.

            I’m NOT someone that does well in California.

            I think for writers, the contrast of where they want to be and where they have to be is what allows them to write. I wish I had my copy of Transmetropolitan handy, is that there’s a scene where the line ended with “Spider needs to write. But, for him to write, he needs to be hated. Which is why he’s here, and not in his cabin in the woods.”

  16. Pardon the ignorance, but can someone please explain “KU” how its supposed to work for authors?

    Thanks

    • Kindle Unlimited is a program that allows readers to rent books for a fixed monthly fee*, or with a Prime membership. Authors agree to restrict the book to sell only on Amazon, and Amazon gives they a per-page-read payment from each rental. For a while it was based on percentage of the book read, but for various reasons it was changed to “per page.” Amazon determines how many words equals one page.

      *Not sure if this is still true, since I’ve never participated as a reader, just as a writer.

    • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

      KU = Kindle Unlimited

      It’s an Amazon Plan where Customers pay 9.99 per month to read (without purchasing) various Kindle Books. It’s sort of a “leading library” for Kindle Books.

      Authors are paid from the KU Fees a certain amount depending on how many people read (partially or completely) their books that they chose to be in the KU Library.

      Part of the “gain” for the Authors is that Readers can “take a chance” on the Authors Books to see if the Books are worth purchasing.

      IE There’s a new (to me) Author out there, since I pay the KU fee I can read any of the Author’s books in the KU Library. If I enjoy the book, then I am more willing to actually purchase that book and other books by that Author.

    • It’s a subscription library. You pay them money and then you can access it via an Amazon Kindle or Kindle software running on a phone or desktop.

      Besides the money, Amazon uses the reader device’s wifi or cellular connection to monitor every title, scroll, or page, the time you accessed each page, how long you spent there, and your physical location via GPS, tower triangulation, or at the very least your IP address. Last I heard Amazon was silent about what they did with all that, but data is a marketable product…

      • SIGH. BULLSHIT. Very very highly bullshit.
        They do track the last page you read. The GPS? As with any other device you can turn it off, and it’s easy to do (And I DO it in all my “reading” kindles.)
        It does NOT track the non KU titles you access or how often.
        Of course it has to do it for KU.
        I’d like to know what nefarious data even EVUL Amazon can derive from knowing I can read four Jane Austen fan fic novels in a day when I’m depressed.
        Please? Remove flaming pants from head. Leave that to the left. It’s a good look for them.

        • That’s not the data they’re looking for.

          That you bought Milo’s latest book…. or Roger Simon’s…. or any author supporting Trump…. or disputing the current dogma in 100 different ways…. that they’re interested in.

          And of course, even if Amazon isn’t interested, the Fire OS is Android, put out by those respecters of privacy at Google. Who have been documented as putting in innumerable ways to make you think that their “privacy settings” mean anything like that without obstructing the data stream one iota.

          For people like you and me, it really doesn’t matter; we got on the internet and put out our unvarnished opinions so long ago that we won’t ever be able to escape.

          • Steve, ALL THE ONLINE BUYING STORES HAVE THAT. How would they not?
            There are ways to get around it. See gift cards, made up names, sideloading.
            IF YOU THINK though that this data will be used, blah, blah, blah, I recommend you watch The Lives of Others.
            They can’t catch them all. They can’t even catch most of us.
            Look, my online profiles all say I’m center-left. WITH ALL THAT INFO IN THEM. Why? Because I buy a lot of weird crap, too, and in the end the analysts can’t believe that someone who buys books on the development of consciousness or perhaps on dragons is “right wing” so they assume I ‘read both sides’.
            Be not afraid, neither let yourself become unduly paranoid. And above all, don’t be defeatist.

            • I had reason to go through my “views” thing on Facebook recently.

              They had me identified as being a soccer fan into personal fitness and center-left Democrat, who would respond on far-right (whatever that means) posts and is interested in art and finance.

              The ONLY angle I can think of for why they’d think I’m a soccer fan is a big of history geeking from about three, four years back, when there was much chest-thumping about how soccer is the “real football.” (It isn’t. from memory, so spelling may be iffy. It’s “society football.” Soc-er. American football is Gridiron football, and RUGBY is football, though they tuned it way down for use at the Rugby school.)

              I follow a dozen different pun groups, and at least as many geek things, plus a bunch of parody and ag sites.

              All they had related was ‘nerd’. (Which, yes, true, but not horribly helpful; specific fandoms would work better.)

              • People often ask the “Are FB/YT/Google/Twitter et al stupid or evil?” and get the noted “Apply the healing powers of “And'” in response.
                Yep, they block the carp outta things right of Lenin, but they are too stupid to get it right all the time, or folk figure an end run on them. Latest was the difference in Google images v Bing on some leftoid embarassment. Evil has “Nothing to see here” and only photos supportive of the narrative, Bing has the stupidity in all its glory.

      • Can’t track me very well, my kindle is usually locked down except when I’m home and downloading through my home LAN. Of course if they want to batch download that data, I suppose they can do it whenever I get a new book. Speaking of which, I need to grab a copy of Sarah’s Witchfinder so I can pick it apart for study this weekend.

      • Now I wonder how location information is true and how much spoofing can be done. “What do you mean he’s 200 km UNDER the Ross Ice Shelf?”

  17. Thanks everyone. I have Kindle but only for things that I can’t get from Baen or Gutenberg. I can’t do much of anything requiring paid subscriptions.

    And Sarah, get off here and back to your weekend! (Please? ☺)

    • BobtheRegisterredFool

      I’ve spent the evening working out how many* pairs of flaming pants I can fit on my head, instead arguing that Dark Sarah is totally one of the intellectual leaders of the Alt-Right. The restraint is precisely to avoid disturbing your vacation.

      *Turns out that it is another one of those things that depends on definitions.

  18. I’m already deciding what pen-name my lit-rpg harem fantasy light novels will be under.

    Talk about leveling up

  19. Exposing my ignorance again, and I’m almost afraid to ask, what is “lit-rpg”?
    (I think I grok the “Harem fantasy” part. Oh! John Ringo! No!, correct?)

    • Harem, kinda, kinda not. Over in Japan world, it ranges from, say, Campione to Love Hina. Campione is pretty explicit that he will, and in the epilogue has, established the four in their own houses, and have kids with all of them. Love Hina on the other hand, uses the presence of several for teasing and titillation, but he ends up with one of them. Epilogue is the wedding. I guess Ai Yori Aoshi is a bit further than Love Hina, because we never think anyone other than the one girl has a chance.

      Blade Dance is harem that overlaps with fantasy adventure.

      LitRPG is different, and is to be distinguished from GameLit, the latter being a term our Mary coined after some confusion about definition of LitRPG.

      The RPG in LitRPG comes from CRPG, MMORPG, or VRMMORPG. LitRPG are stories where the real life of the story setting has actual mechanics, usually with visible stats, that work like the mechanics of CRPGs. So if some guy in a modern setting starts seeing statistics, or if someone is transported to a fantasy world that works on video game logic, or if a fantasy world has a magic system built to evoke an RPG video game, it may be LitRPG.

      GameLit is table table RPG based.

      Think The Gamer, Rise of a Shield Hero, or Danmachi.

      May include or be related to the genre of stories in the setting of a VRMMORPG.

      For a quick, easy intro, go to honyakusite dot wordpress dot com, and look at Wizard of the Flower Blades, Kousei Ishikawa is Cursed, Former Assassin…, and Dragon-chan…. Probably in reverse order from my list.

    • no, John doesn’t even begin to scratch that surface. It’s a whole erotica subgenre.
      Lit-rpg, like Ready Player One: through some contrivance, characters are lost in a game.

  20. Unh, ‘scuse me? Notice my picture? Wallaby ears. The pants keep them warm.

    Some folk are sooooo insensitive.

  21. Steven Bonaparte

    I’m guessing the reason LitRPG is the worst for being gamed on KU is because it has a lot of Chinese readers/writers?

  22. It strikes me that KU is a classic “Tragedy of the Commons” situation. There is a pool of money — the total subscription payments made by KU members — which Amazon is betting will be equal to or greater than the net payments to authors. If somebody is gaming the system to extract “excessive” payments through KU readings Amazon must either reduce the availability of material through KU (hurting other authors) reduce payments to KU authors, or increase the subscription fee, potentially driving off the marginal KU readers. Assuming Amazon is willing to accept small losses on KU memberships the situation remains that of a fixed pool f money available to KU authors, and anybody gaming the system — as evidence suggests has been ongoing — is directly damaging authors abiding by KU’s TOS.