Hot Takes, Copyright Fakes & How We Fix This

I had another moment. A twitter moment, that is.

But I want to have it here at my blog, too.

Alright, people…let’s play a game.  I’m going to do another #HotTake on the blog in a bit but I’m going to let you see how I collect the info for this. Now bear with me, because some of this requires info gathering which can be slow. I’ve laid out a lot of this beforehand, but once I get down to the nitty gritty, it takes more time.

First… have you checked out the #WTF on Nora Roberts’ blog?
It stems from a comment made by one Mr. Frost.

Frost, you see, views books as ‘assets’. That’s it. Commodities to be bought and sold, and readers aren’t really even considered.

Those aren’t my words. See? MY words are in red. Frost is quite active on the forums at Kboards.

To him, selling the copyright of his book for them to repackage as a BRAND NEW BOOK with a new title, a new author name, a new COPYRIGHT date, is the same as me reissuing my Grimm’s Circle series, even though I make it clear these books were previously published.

Frost took exception to an addition Nora Roberts made to her previous post the day before, Blowback.

The addition? A twitter moment I put together highlighting some shit scammers use to bilk @amazon @amazonkdp @amazonbooks out of money, at the expense of legit, hardworking authors.

The moment, How to spot scammers…and raise hell, is here. Read, share, tweet and RT, because people need to see this info.

Since posting that moment and since Nora shared it, I’ve had a small but steady stream of trolls and whiners hit my blog, most of whom had their comments deleted. There’s now light moderation in place, as I’m not giving them *my* platform to do *their* propaganda. I’ve also had threats to ‘report’ me to Amazon, abusive emails, etc, so…yeah, I’ve pissed some people off. And I LIKE IT.But there’s more work to be done, because more people need to realize what’s going on, and draw awareness to it…AND we need to people moving on our behalf. I’m not talking Nora, either. Bless her heart for the work she’s done and for being willing to speak when others haven’t.

But if more people who ARE affected by this don’t speak out, why should anybody else care? So, small press authors, indie authors, midlist authors…you’ve got work to do. YOUR career is at stake.

You’re drowning in a sea of scammers. I’m going to show you one of the biggest tricks they’re pulling to make sure authors like you and me STAY drowning.

Follow along

Behold, a list of people turning @AmazonKDP & KU into their personal piggy bank… and also playing fast and loose with COPYRIGHT LAW. Is Copyright Fraud a thing?

Because it should be.

These are screenshots provided by twitter user, @ease_dropper, aka Nikki. These are newsletter lists by people who ‘release’ so-called ‘new’ books frequently.

Spoiler alert: many of them aren’t new.

View image on Twitter
View image on Twitter

BTW, trolls…yes, I’m familiar with your hate-on for Nikki, but I’m doing an experiment that pretty much proves the scamming so save your invalid arguments for people who give a flying fig. Legit authors don’t & readers are tired of being scammed.

Also…you might notice that if you comment, your comment doesn’t show right away. That’s a handy thing called comment moderation. Legit comments, concerns, questions will be cleared quickly, no problem. Shit-stirrers, however…well. This is my house. I decide who gets to cause trouble in my house. And no, that’s not censorship. You can go yell whatever you want on the street. Freedom of speech doesn’t entitle you to free use of my platform. You can thanks some of the assholes who’ve posted over the past few days for that.

On The Case

Let’s pick a name…We’ll go with the first name, April Lust. I’m trying really hard not to roll my eyes at that name, too. Actually, no, I’m not. But I digress.

Let’s get to work, April…show me what you got. I went to Amazon and picked out her most recent release.

Savage Vow. MC subgenre.

I’m just going to loop @AmazonKDP @AmazonHelp @amazon in here, too because the FIRST name on the list that I picked? Turned out to be a WHOPPER.

I opened the book and found some text to search.
See, April Lust’s “new” book, Savage Vow with a copyright date of 2019 isn’t new.

And while she might own the copyright NOW…she can’t alter the copyright date.

Here’s the text I searched for.

And this came up…

I couldn’t access the site. So…no proof. I won’t make statements with proof.

So, I searched out the title on Goodreads. Same genre. Oh. Look at the copyright.Same storyline.But…that’s not enough.

Look here. A review for the book. See the text?

See what happens when we search for THAT text in April’s ‘new’ book… with its 20 fricking 19 copyright date.

THIS HAPPENS

.

BUT…the fun doesn’t stop there. Because guess what…THIS BOOK WAS PUBLISHED EVEN BEFORE THAT.YEP. This book has been used hard and put wet several times over. Let’s look at the very first page of this book by April Lust, to which she claims a COPYRIGHT IN 2019…meaning THAT IS WHEN THE BOOK WAS FIRST PUBLISHED.

Meet Rafe, by Ellen Harper COPYRIGHT 2016

Tell me something, Amazon. How are you maintaining any quality by allowing these scammers to manipulate the #KindleUnlimited & kdp platforms like this?READERS PAY INTO #KU EXPECTING ORIGINAL WORKS, NOT REGURGITATED WORKS BY DECEPTIVE SCAMMERS.

And MEANWHILE, the authors who don’t screw the system get drowned by the cheats AMAZON rewards!

Fix the platform, Amazon & deal with these cheats.

Additionally, about that COPYRIGHT FRAUD thing… as I said, I don’t know if that’s a thing, but if it’s not, it should be.The copyright date of a book isn’t interchangeable just because the original rights owner SELLS the rights to another person.Copyright is there to protect rights owners and it’s a matter of LAW. You don’t get to CHANGE the dates to suit you just by unpublishing and selling it. Copyright FAQs

That date doesn’t change.

EDITED TO ADD:

Cassandra, a visitor to my blog from the other day left this comment.

Cassandra S.

I’m not a lawyer, but…

It seems to me that slapping a new title and new author name on a previously published book and then advertising it as a new, original work without any disclaimers whatsoever runs afoul of FTC regulations on consumer fraud and deception and also violates truth in advertising laws.

Might be interesting to take some of the research done on repackaged books, plus any ads or newsletters advertising them as new works, and see what the FTC thinks.

Anyone have a contact at the FTC?

Ummmm… I know nothing about this, but this is an interesting angle.  ANYBODY??? And does anybody have newsletter or screenshots of Facebook ads?

What can we do?

People are asking on twitter and blogs…what can I do? 

One of the best things you can do is be aware of the problems, but don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Indie authors, small-press and midlist authors (like me…whimper) are struggling to make it and we need your support. Try our books out. You might love us. Hey, read me…totally. I rock at romantic suspense, if I do say so myself and my contemporaries are pretty fun, too.

Also, this isn’t saying that everybody who does well in the top list are manipulating them. That’s not the case. At all. There are plenty who get there by good, old-fashioned story telling. And FYI? If you look at the blurbs? Sometimes you can tell a quality, well written book apart from a scammer book just by read that blurb.

You don’t see attention grabbing tricks like GIANT BOLD FONT SAYING SHOCKING THINGS THAT IMMEDIATELY MAKE YOU READ ON JUST FOR THE WTFery OF IT ALL.

Additionally, some of these scammers slip out of the top spots or never make it in. This Lust chick’s book has been two weeks..damn, must be time to pull it and sell it!!!  Anyway, there are honest, legit authors who are doing things the fair way and rocking it like the awesome people they are.

But others drift by without catching attention and if they don’t make money, sooner or later, they’ll give up. If that happens to enough of us, how many books filling the Kindle platform are going to become regurgitated pieces we’ve seen over and over?

Yeah, but…who is legit and who isn’t?

While it’s understandable to leery, there are sources where we can all find reliable folks to recommend reads. The Bookbub deals they mail out regularly are vetted and they don’t grab just anything, plus they tend to look for variety. One thing about this rehashed books is that they don’t care about variety. Bookbub also lets readers do ‘follows’ like on Twitter and you can find people who share your taste in books. Goodreads is another source and you don’t necessarily have to participate.  Just read reviews on books you’re interested in. Eventually, you can find reviewers with similar taste so you can find reads through them.

Always download the sample. Many of the screenshots Nikki shared were by people used tricks like fat breaks between paragraphs which made the books longer (more page views). Things like that, other sketchy formatting, poor editing, all indicators that somebody is more after money than telling a story. FYI, authors like money but we want to tell a story, too.

Here’s something I always do.  I actively avoid a book that has nothing but glowing, praising reviews. There’s always somebody who dislikes a book. I’ve disliked books from even my favorites. So if a book has 50 reviews on release day and all of them are all hugs and kisses and sparkly roses with unicorns bursting out…it’s possible those reviews were bought and paid for. Not always, but possible.

But how do we change things?

It seems a lot of people feel helpless and frustrated and that’s a sucky feeling, I know. See how I’ve ranted the past week?

But we’re not helpless. Consumers are the ones who fill that Amazon kit, remember? So in the end, if consumers speak loudly enough, Amazon is going to realize they need to fix their best.

Write Jeff Bezos at jeff@amazon.com. The more he hears from us, the more he’ll realize this is a problem.  But he has to realize it will cost him money–our money if he doesn’t take action.

If you see issues like what I detailed above? REPORT IT and if you’re on social media, SHARE it so others can do the same.  DO NOT REPORT AS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. As these works are being sold between the people publishing them, they’ll claim copyright. However, Kindle readers have a right to expect a new book if they buy one with a copyright date of 2019.

Go to the book’s page and scroll down until you see an area like this, select the option “REPORT AS INAPPROPRIATE” then you’ll see a “Violation of Amazon Kindle Terms of Service”.

Include a link to the original work and state something along the lines of that as a reader, you have the right to expect a new work if the copyright date states  XX XX 2019. The copyright date will be in the details section right below the book. Then provide the link to the previously published book and point out the earlier copyright date. I mentioned that while the author may have the copyright, it was deceptive to release it as a ‘new’ work since it had been released in 2016. COPYRIGHT DATES DON’T CHANGE JUST BECAUSE THEY HIT UNPUBLISH.

Amazon area for reporting TOS violations

 

But about the writers? It’s their pool, shouldn’t they clean it up?

Absolutely. Scammers are slowly choking the life out of writers. I feel that strongly.  I turned to ghostwriting because a publisher shut down and I was losing a big part of income due to my backlist being removed from sale. But even as I return those backlist books to the public for purchase, even as I publish new books, I make even less.  I have an established reader base. Friends I know who are popular authors are doing the same.  Their new books are practically invisible where once they were major sellers. And new writers struggle to even get noticed at all. If new writers can’t get a foothold, where are the storytellers we expect to entertain us in twenty or thirty years going to come from? Or are we just going to re-reading regurgitated books into infinity?

There will be naysayers who argue that I’m jealous of the success of others and to that…let me laugh.  Success that is bought through paid reviews, clickfarms and via recycled books isn’t success. A hack may make money, but there’s more to being successful than that alone. So…screw that idea sideways.  With a rusty, tetanus-ridden railroad spike.

Originality matters. The value of a good book matters. A reader’s ability to trust they’re getting a new book when they download a book that just released? It matters.

So, to that end…I’m asking fellow authors and other industry professionals to write their professional organizations to step up and look into this matter.

I belong to RWA, a well-known writing organization that has acted as an advocate for matters that affect romance writers.

As this is a matter that is affecting genre fiction as a whole, if you’re a writer who belongs to organizations like Author’s Guild or SFWA, these groups have also acted as author advocates in the past.  The more we speak as one voice, the better our chance to convince Amazon to take action against those who use Kindle’s platforms as their personal piggybanks.

This is not just a romance genre problem, and it’s not just a small-press or indie writer problem.  It’s affecting midlist writers as well and will eventually affect all published fiction authors and likely those in non-fictions.

Below is the letter I sent to RWA. I urge fellow RWA members to send letters of their own and fellow writers to contact their own writer organizations.

To the Members of the Board:

With the next board meeting coming up, there’s a matter affecting numerous writers within RWA that I feel needs to be addressed. I understand that the agenda is full, but this is a problem that has been ongoing for some time and it’s getting worse.

After it was discovered that Cristiane Serruya plagiarized more than two dozen authors, something else brought back into the focus on social platforms was the matter of how certain players in the industry are manipulating the Kindle platform—namely Kindle Unlimited—in a manner that is affecting authors in a negative manner. It’s severe enough that I’ve seen several writers comment on how they’ve given up writing altogether.

Some focus has been placed on ghostwriting, but that isn’t my concern. I ghostwrite myself, so I’m biased, but professional ghostwriters in honest contracts with ethical clients don’t pose a problem, regardless of whether anybody agrees on the practice on a personal level.

The issue boils down to the deceptive practices used by scammers, with everything from buying reviews, to keyword manipulation, clickfarms, etc. But the worst, in my opinion, is something I’ve recently become aware of and that’s the matter of a group of select individuals who sell manuscripts amongst themselves, then repackage as brand new works and reissue so they continually have what looks like endless new releases.

There are literally no changes made to many of these works, sometimes not even the character names. Yet they put a brand new copyright date on the book to make it look new.

I found two different books that had done this, and I didn’t have to search. I simply pulled these names off a screenshot I saw on twitter, did a phrase search on Google and they were there.  One title had been published in 2016, 2017, and 2019, each time as an original work.

Amazon has been made aware of this, of course. Readers have contacted them, individual authors have.  But they’ve taken little to no action.

I, personally, feel there’s a matter of legality going on with the copyright dates, as copyright dates, once set, don’t change. Derivative works can add additional copyright dates and there are other factors that come into play, but that original date stands.

These practices are deceiving readers and they are drowning writers. Romance is being hit especially hard due to the popularity.

I’ve got screen shots of the information I’ve found myself on my twitter feed, and there are more screenshots by the reader who clued me in on what was happening.

This is a screenshot of the newsletters where I found the names I researched.

https://twitter.com/ease_dropper/status/1099504870527250432

Some of the works the reader found. She’s been doing this for months and reporting the scammers for months.

https://twitter.com/ease_dropper/status/1099504873245167616

https://twitter.com/ease_dropper/status/1099504876105666560

The first time I looked into this, I used ‘author’ Paula Cox. I simply did a web search with some text from the Kindle app and it pulled up a second, unpublished book that was still on the internet.

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1100108458701942784

The work had been published before as Jenny Jax.

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1100109632104730625

Today, before writing this letter, I pulled another name from the list, April Lust. I grabbed the most recent work and this one was the one that been published twice over before making its current debut.

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1100109632104730625

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101150815912374279

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101150815912374279

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101152859733876736

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101153261296500740

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101153656123154434

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101156064282714115

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101156659974545409

https://twitter.com/shilohwalker/status/1101157704628867072

There is nothing on these works to indicate they’ve been previously published. The works are issued with new copyright dates, which seems to be some sort of violation of copyright law. This all works up to these people feeding a slew of recycled material into the Kindle Unlimited platform which is funded by readers who think they’ll be accessing original content.

I’m asking for RWA to look into this and consider speaking to Amazon on this issue. RWA, as an advocate for writers, has access to lawyers and other with more specialized knowledge than I have at my disposal. I understand this is a big request, but I firmly feel this is a matter that is affecting not just members, but the area of genre fiction as a whole. It’s cheapening our work, devaluing our work and if we don’t take action and demand Kindle see the value in the works we provide to them, there will come a time when hardly any authors can afford to provide work.

Thank you for your time.

Shiloh Walker, RWA Member

If there are other writers out there who wish to write their organizations, you’re welcome to use my screenshots and my links in your letters. You can contact Nikki on twitter at @ease_dropper to request to use her images.

But don’t stay silent. Ignoring this will only make it worse.

In short, genre fiction belongs to us, the people who create it, the people who love it, the people who help bring it to life, share it, review it, talk about it, laugh and rage and scream about it. We see books as more than assets and while these author mills who churn out piles of pages like they’re cutting up potatoes think they understand all these genres we love so much, while they think they understand the authors and the readers who help drive this industry, that’s bullshit. It’s ours and we can take it back if we work hard enough.

6 thoughts on “Hot Takes, Copyright Fakes & How We Fix This

  1. Caitlyn Lynch

    “There will be naysayers who argue that I’m jealous of the success of others and to that…let me laugh. Success that is bought through paid reviews, clickfarms and via recycled books isn’t success. A hack may make money, but there’s more to being successful than that alone. So…screw that idea sideways. With a rusty, tetanus-ridden railroad spike.”

    THIS. I’m not jealous of their success. I’m pissed about their scamming. There’s a big, big difference, and it’s disingenous to try and derail the conversation by claiming ‘you’re just jealous!’

  2. RPatton

    Part of the issue is the culture of silence. Keep your head down, don’t look at anyone else’s paper, and whatever you do, don’t call someone out for being a knicker-weasel. A while back, a group of authors ran ads using copyright images not belonging to them. When people called them on it, they blamed their ad manager (who, by the way, some are still using, but that’s another ball of wax). When peers criticized them within closed communities, those who were critical got shut down. Fast.

    It wasn’t until the group of authors (and I use that term generously) lost their publishing privileges on KDP and some things came to light that I decided I had enough of the culture of silence. But I also knew I was putting my neck on the line. I haven’t and probably won’t publish more than a handful of books on this pen name and have shifted to a new one, one I can’t associate with this name. I’m scared and I am a small fish. There are other authors, those who are top authors in KU who are scared to speak out as well. They want to see changes, but they are scared to act, because imagine the vitriol you’ve witnessed on your blog focused on competing authors.

    I don’t know what the fix is. I wish I did. However, I for one, have decided that remaining silent is not the answer. If someone does reach out to Amazon,, I strongly suggest emailing jeff@amazon.com, and CC’ing both content-review@amazon.com and legal.@amazon.com. KDP as a department hasn’t done a very good job keeping their house clean.

  3. Donna

    Thank you for bringing this issue to the attention of readers. I read about it on Nora’s blog also. Now that I am aware, I can make better choices on which authors I download from KU. I have a special pricing for my subscription to KU until later this year. Once the pricing expires, I will be unsubscribing from KU. I noticed some of the warning signs that you posted, but didn’t understand what they meant. I just thought it was poor editing. I have a quite a few favorite authors (you included) and know their works, so I will rely on them to make recommendations to new authors instead of Amazon. Knowledge is power, so thank you for educating me.

  4. Shiloh Walker Post author

    @RPatton, I’ve heard similar stories lately. I wish I could offer guidance there, but I don’t know what to say. There are more people speaking up & more authors in general are FINALLY talking about this, so maybe it will start to take effect.

  5. Shiloh Walker Post author

    Donna, I hate that people feel they need to do that, but Amazon’s gotta clean up their mess.

    Chances are the books with the ‘bad editing’ were some of the problematic books. Expansive spacing, etc is something that falls to formatters and both indie authors and traditional publishers know how important a good reading experience is.

  6. Kerri Kerce

    Thank you for your the informative blog entry! Goodreads is great, I use it all the time. Amazon is another go to, but I definitely do my research on the authors with rave reviews on both sites. How can a book have rave reviews, or any for that matter, that are months away from publish dates? Finding new(er) authors, debut novels, etc., used to be so simple. Now it’s like doing research for a term paper using the catalog index cards at the library.

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