17 July 2017

Is Kindle broken?

Amazon KDP has been good to me. Way back in 2013, Due Diligence made it into the top twenty crime thrillers and the overall top one hundred kindle charts. You can imagine how chuffed I was. I sold several thousand books in a very short time and all because Stephen Leather invited his readership to try it.

A few years down the line, services like BooksgoSocial and Bookbub will promote your book for a modest fee. They can be picky, though, as they depend on keeping faith with their readers and not fobbing off some rubbish on them. A lot like Stephen, who took the trouble to read the copy I sent him. Not like Stephen because he helped me for free, as he's helped lots of other writers.

Amazon, in order to promote their Prime membership, decided to offer free loans of books that were enrolled in KDP Select. At first they paid authors on the basis of downloads. Then they decided that this wasn't fair. Short books received the same payment as longer ones. It didn't matter if the books were read or not the author got paid regardless. Then Amazon decided to change the basis of payment. Every page read was recorded and totted up and the fund distributed accordingly. Seemed fair to most people at the time.

I quite liked it at first, I had a 'pages read' graph to go with my copies sold one. Some days, I'd pretend the pages read were the copies sold just to make me feel especially good. Then bad things started to happen. I got wind of authors' amazon accounts being removed because of anomalies in their page counts. One of my books took a leap skywards for no reason, thousands of page reads where there had been a steady few hundred before. I got cold feet and took all my books off Select. Losing your Amazon account is fatal for an author in these digital times and I realised that abuse of the new Amazon payment system was likely to become worse. I was right.

Recently, really awful books by unknown authors have been hitting the top of the Kindle charts. Books with very few and very bad reviews. They got their exposure and thousands of sales by what's known as clickfarming.

Clickfarming involves downloading the book hundreds of times and then employing someone to flick through each copy. Let's say a book is 200 pages. After each 200 page views are recorded, Amazon count it as a sale. Then the book is catapulted up the charts, people see it and they buy it.

Not only that, but the author is paid a share of the KU pot on the basis of every page read.

Some organisations offer this service to authors for a fee. Others take all the money themselves by uploading their own books, often computer generated or pirated.

In order to make it more difficult for Amazon to detect them, some clickfarms add some 'innocent' books to the ones they are pushing.

Amazon delete the accounts of anyone they suspect of clickfarming and this seems to have included authors who were completely unaware of what was going on. I've not heard of any successful appeals.

So, keep your eyes peeled, stay sharp and safeguard your precious account. If you're new to Kindle, think twice before enrolling in Select.

photo credit: ToGa Wanderings Free Internet via photopin (license)

4 July 2017

Publishing, self or otherwise


I was looking for an image that best represented much of my writing. This is stuff I had to write, stuff I enjoyed writing and stuff that helped me to get a better handle on the process of writing. All good stuff, as far as I'm concerned. Do people lie awake at nights longing to read this stuff?
Neither would they thank me for offering it to them. In the unlikely event that they did read it, they would be mightily irritated. To the extent that they'd shun anything and everything I might show them in the future.
And I don't blame them. It's what I do.

Self-published books

This is an image representing self-published writing. The notice on the bin bag hasn't been edited or proof read, something that 99% of self-published writing has in common. Anyone that reads the label can see that what's inside is rubbish.

Write, by all means. Write as often and as long as you can. Write everything that comes into your head. But try to resist the impulse to publish it until you're absolutely sure it's the best thing to do.

Otherwise, when you do come up with something worth reading, any readership you might hope to attract has long ago written your name on their reading list and crossed it off with an indelible marker.

I was very fortunate. I wrote what I considered to be a cracking SF trilogy. Everyone who read it said it was awesome and brilliant. The problem was that my friends and family weren't professional writers and, worse still, are usually inclined to be kind to me. Neither of these factors was helpful in determining the merits of my novels. What I needed was an objective and knowledgeable opinion from someone used to giving one. A professional critique, to give it its proper title.

My first critique was very difficult to take. It took me years to get over my anger and disappointment but I did come to terms with it eventually. My writing got better, much better. I became conscious of things I do that get in the way of the story and learned to avoid them much of the time.When my first novel was published, I'd improved enough to tell a good story without annoying the hell out of most of my readers. This proved a good marketing ploy because many of the same readers went on to buy more of my work, which gets better all the time. As it should.

photo credit: Mink When will people start to recycle? via photopin (license)
photo credit: garryknight Heavy via photopin (license)