So there I was minding my own business, reading up on promotional activities that I could try for my own books, I came upon a blog that detailed a Kindle Unlimited scam going on that affects the payout from the Kindle Unlimited pie.
Now I must applaud the scammers first of all because it is a most brilliant scam plan. Not everyone who plans a scam can actually pull it off brilliantly.
That said, this Kindle Unlimited scam is affecting all the honest hardworking indie authors whose books may never get the light of day because the scammers’ books are taking up highly coveted book rankings.
For my readers that don’t know how authors get paid when their books are enrolled exclusively Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited, there’s a communal pot based on the monthly subscription fee from subscribers to Kindle Unlimited as well as part of Amazon Prime membership for those that also own a kindle device.
Authors are paid based on the number of pages read. Apparently, it seems to be settling in at around $00.0045 per page. That equates to about $0.45 for a 100 page book and $1.575 for a 350 page book. My book Yetunde: An Ode to My Mother which is a short story with 28 pages on Amazon would have earned about $0.126 if it was read completely. Good thing
As per the blog I read, here’s how the Kindle Unlimited scam works
1) Scammer acquires via advertisement (or sometimes actually writes) a bad book or part of it. Enough so that they can get past a quick look at the first few pages.
2) Scammer then puts 3000 pages of synonmizer garbage after that first portion.
3) Scammer creates 25 versions of that book with different nonsense after the first few pages to get past the automated checks.
4) Scammer creates a new KDP Account using a fresh EIN.
5) Scammer uploads each of the 25 versions under 25 author names, enters them into KDP Select and as soon as the books go live, they immediately use their 5 Days “free promo” allowed by being in select. This puts the book into KU and also makes it free to buy.
6) Scammer then either lets the KU Click-Farm or their Click Cooperative know that they’re books are live and gives the links.
7a) If Click-Farm (which might actually just be one guy sitting around in his underwear with 25 KU accounts), then the farmer clicks on every one of those newly published books, borrows each one, clicks to the *back* of the book. Rinse and repeat for every KU account the farmer has.
7b) If Click Cooperative, then the Scammer loads all his day’s book links into the cooperative’s page, and each person in the cooperative does what the Farmer did, but usually only with 2 or 3 KU accounts. (Each person in the cooperative does it for everyone else, possibly on a schedule).
8) Scammer has now made several thousand dollars.
Note: If Scammer is smart…and they are getting smarter…they will parse out those clicks over a three day period so that there is no possibility of an alert. Since the book is on the Free list, those savvy customers who report scam books aren’t likely to look. They look at the paid lists.
9) Scammer will often then hire a “free click farm” for a few bucks in some foreign country to have their farmers click the Buy For Free button to push up the rank of the book in the free ranks. This will get visibility for the book, enticing real KU browsers to click the scam book. (This works because with steady KU downloads and lots of free downloads, Amazon’s algorithms put the book into the recommendation engine.)
10) Scammer is now getting nervous. This is pinch time. If enough people report the book and it gets yanked by Amazon, then he or she won’t get their money for this EIN and will have to use one of their 100 other EINs of the month. Some scammers will yank the book now, unpublishing it before Amazon can and ensuring their payout. Others will let the Free period end and let it go to paid. This will put the book high in the paid ranks because of all the KU borrows (which count as sales) and they will get more sales from real people that Amazon recommends the book to. Before they can read it, Scammer yanks the book from sale.
11) Scammer then unpublishes everything and keeps the KDP account open only to collect the payday.
12) Scammer enjoys some champagne, then takes a day off, then does it again with the exact same books (maybe with new covers for $5 each from Fiverr), under a new KDP account with a new EIN and new author names.
With a 25 member Click Coop that requires 2 KU accounts per member, a minimal scammer will make 600 bucks for each book. With an easily managed 25 books, that total is now $15,000. For a few days time and minimal work. Outlay can be as low as $20 for their two KU accounts plus $125 for new covers.
Doing this once a week (since Click Coops likely work on a schedule or max), the scammer has earned $60,000 in that month.
Some scammers are in the business in a much bigger way and they earn a great deal more.
That’s the Kindle Unlimited scam in a nutshell. If you want some visual aids and some breakdown in more detail, here’s the link to the original blog post.
So folks, what do you think about this Kindle Unlimited scam?