Hot Takes: Part…who knows? So you want to know how to spot the scammers.

UPDATE: I’ve had a few people come into start shit. Before you try, let me direct you to my disclaimer. I don’t put up with shit stirrers on my blog. You want to do that, find your own platform. You’re not entitled to mine. Also, this is directed at a few people who’ve decided to come in with what appears to be an attempt to derail this discussion and the information posted due to issues with a specific person mentioned in the blog, despite the fact that I posted my own ‘experiment’. These people know who they are. It’s not directed at anybody else, so please don’t take it as such.

The past week has been a hot mess in a falling apart handbasket. I do have other words for it, but if I get too free with them, I’ll run off track and I’m doing a hell of a lot of that lately. People paying attention to the #CopyPasteCris mess have probably noticed there’s been a lot of talk about things not necessarily related to plagiarism. Cris Serruya did, after all, plagiarize some major authors, including Nora Roberts.

One question that seems to be prevalent in a lot of minds is how this all happened and how it got so big all of a sudden.

A Reckoning A Long Time In the Making

Well, it didn’t happen all of a sudden. This crap has been going on in the indie world for a while.

If you hang out on social media sites much, you probably heard about #Cockygate. The long story short there, a woman wanders into the writing field, writes some books, decides to do a series with Cocky in it, then suddenly notices other people use the word Cocky–and some of those uses predated hers–but wah, they’re damaging her brand, so she tries to trademark a word. It didn’t go well.

But during the mess, something a relatively small group of authors & readers knew about became something of a focal point.  Not just about Faleena Hopkins, but other authors.

Bookstuffing

Author puts up a book up for 0.99 or whatever, and only part of the book is new content. The rest is backlist books, excerpts and other assorted bullshit. This sums up bookstuffing, but I have an infograph, thanks to twitter user, Anteria Hawbaker.

scammers bookstuffers and plagiarizers

Now, you might thinking… what’s the problem here? More to read, right? Well, it depends on your point of view.  Those stuffing the books were (and still are) pushing the authors who don’t stuff books farther and farther out of the way on Amazon. If writers don’t make money, they can’t really afford to write. Not to mention if a handful of authors are dominating an area, that’s not leaving much room for you to find a lot of variety. Of course, you’ll always have your big name favorites, but this does make it harder for you to find newer people to love, because it’s harder for newer people to make it in a field that’s getting increasingly narrower.

Additionally, a lot of bookstuffers don’t care as much about craft and use scammy tactics like clickfarms and the kindle flip… please… they even name this shit now.

There’s a lot of this under tags like #getloud and #bookstuffing on twitter. Which has led to some heated discussions going on in social media. A small group of readers has been ringing the bell about scammers & bookstuffing for months and not many have been paying been attention. During this time, the scamming has gotten more and more blatant and now we have a book Frankensteiner with her very own hashtag… #copypasteCris

And So It Comes to This

Inside the indie world, a lot of authors knew there was scamming going on. Not all, of course, but there were signs and plenty have talked.

There’s still a disconnect of sorts between indies and traditionally published authors, though, and from my perspective, there’s an ‘old guard’ of indies and a newer group. The old guard, many of them, started out in traditional publishing, still hang with a lot of traditionally pub authors and I don’t know if there’s as much conversation between the two groups.  I could be wrong. I could be missing out entirely. I lost a sibling just under two years ago and I’m just slowly coming out of a depression, so I’m not quite as in touch with some things as I used to be.

However, I still get the vibe that there’s what is almost a ‘generational’ disconnect between indies and traditionally pub authors and the old guard traditionally pub fit in more with the trad. pubbed authors.  This disconnect reminds me a lot of the disconnect that once existed between print authors and ebook authors…ah, the good old days.

This disconnect also leads to not as much sharing of info and even when people follow each other and are friendly, the things that affect one group (like indies) may not necessarily grab the attention of the other group (frex, traditionally pubbed authors).

This could be apathy, it could be one group not seeing how it affects them or a lack of understanding, it could be a complete lack of awareness this was even going on–keep in mind, there are some authors who aren’t on social media all that much, and when it comes to more established authors or reclusive authors, some aren’t on social media at all. It could be any number of reasons and I think it’s probably a mix of all across the general group, because that’s reflective of human nature in general.

And now we have this big rumbling, a shocking surprise about all the scamming going on in the Kindle platform and how it’s affecting authors across a lot of platforms.

Indie authors have seen it, or at least a lot of them have, and they’ve been talking about it for months. Serruya’s actions brought it all into the public eye and now a lot of authors are realizing this is all very, very bad for the industry, but for many, it seems like this just sprung up out of nowhere.

Not the case.

Some screenshots from one of the readers who’ve been ringing that scammer bell… Nikki / aka Ease_dropper on twitter.

These are new release newsletters from ‘authors’ that frequently show up on Amazon’s KU bestseller list. Keeping in mind that Amazon rewards these people with bonuses for selling the most copies, etc, there’s money to be made in selling the most books. They don’t have to be good books. they just have to sell.

They don’t even have to be original…and I do mean original. As in published by one author, under one name, one time only.

See below.

These all came from Nikki’s feed, in the thread from the tweet above, but I’m using the images themselves so people can see the full size images. You can click on it to open a new tab to see names better, and look at the quick release schedule. That’s important.

list sample 3

list sample 2

list sample

About that original content

Naomi West & Nicole Fox books side by side comparisons - books identical

Heather West and Zoey Parker books side by side comparisons - books identical

Naomi West and Nicole Fox books side by side comparisons - books identical

kathryn thomas and paula cox

Nina Park and April Lust books side by side comparisons - books identical

Evelyn Glass & Claire St. Rose books side by side comparisons - books identical

Naomi West & Nicole Fox books side by side comparisons - books identical

Ellen Harper and April Lust books side by side comparisons - books identical

 

And food for thought on how this happens–there are suggestions that these ‘authors’ sell manuscripts once they aren’t bringing in money. Somebody else repackages, recovers, slaps a new cover on. Sound insane?

Well… keep reading.

One of the big bookstuffers who was finally removed from Kindle Unlimited last summer was Cassandra Dee. Look below.  See the covers?

But to test this…an experiment!

I took a name at random from the newsletter image and went to Amazon.

Paula Cox

paula cox

 

paula cox

And low and behold…

Paula Cox and Jenny Jax

This book has been published before. Under another name and has since been pulled from circulation, but with the internet, nothing really disappears.

A lot of these authors are practically ghosts (and I don’t mean the writing variety).  No really internet presence. They popped up out of nowhere and there’s no socialization. That alone doesn’t mean much, because authors aren’t always the most social creatures. But there’s also no website.  Just about every smart author knows a website is crucial. It’s where your fans go to look for you. There might be a facebook page or a twitter, but they’re almost robotic…little real interaction with authors, no real talk about writing craft, or even just how you want to drag your character through the screen and choke him for being a butthead.

Save for the books? They don’t seem to exist. And many of these books look like they’ve been published, pulled then regurgitated with new titles and covers.

So… want to know how to figure out if an author might be a scammer?

Look at the author. Do they have a website? Even new authors tend to have those.  New authors also tend to be active on Facebook & Twitter, etc because it’s something agents and editors look for. If you see a new to you author and it’s somebody you’ve never heard of and you can’t be sure if they are legit? Check those things out.

Look at their social media. Even if you’re not on twitter, you can skim a look at their feed. No, not all authors talk a lot, and not all authors are on social media, but if the author you’re interested in has a solid social media profile and has like… oh, …couch, cough, 210k tweets… random number, totally, that’s not how many tweets I have… or even five hundred tweets and they follow a mix of people, etc? They’ve got a website? It’s less likely you’re dealing with a scammer.

These scammers profit because they invest so little in the current persona, then dump it and reinvent a new identity at the drop of a hat. You can’t do that when it comes to social media and rebuilding websites, etc gets pricey, it’s time consuming and leaves more of a digital trail.

So… there are a few ways to vet an author…looking at the website, checking for social media…and if it’s an ebook? Read the sample. Really, those pages above? That stuff ain’t nothing to write home about. Free & 0.99 cents ain’t a bargain if you’re getting crap work anyway.

Also, if you want to do something about it, you can become a BOOK DETECTIVE…this is more helpful if you’re on social media, because the more people involved, the better. Kindle users can easily download samples from books by authors in the newsletter shots posted above. Look for phrases that are descriptive, that stand out.  Copy the text and do a google search for those words.

If you find a match, let people know and people can go to the book’s page on Amazon and report it. There’s a ‘report’ section down near the bottom and you can report books for violations of terms of service. I’d just report the book.  You can click on report inappropriate content, then select violates KDP terms of service. DO NOT REPORT AS COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT. Only the authors of the books can do that.  But repackaged material like this very well is pushing KDP’s quality standards. I’d point out that the book had been published before, post a link to where you found it and ask how that’s holding up the KDP standards for quality work. If enough complaints are made against a book/author, Amazon may take action.

You can also tweet about it. Send them messages on Facebook. Email.  Amazon has altered TOS when it’s clear scammers are abusing the system, but it takes work part of the people to get it done and that means…well, work.

**FYI!!!!  It seems like some people are getting grumbly over a lot of things in various places and missing some important points.

SCAMMING HURTS LEGIT AUTHORS!!!

I want it clear that most people are aware most KU AUTHORS are NOT scammers. Yes, some readers are leery now, and with good reason, thus the reason for the post.

We don’t need to have that argument here. What we need to do is focus on educating AND raising awareness (and hell with Amazon) so we can fix the problem and reclaim the genre some scammers are trying to steal from us.

If you’re coming in here to defend something sleazy like reselling manuscripts to repackage it…well, LOL.  Don’t. Do it on your own blog, because it will last here about as long as it takes me to see it.

Also! If you’re new here… this isn’t about legit ghostwriting.  I ghostwrite on the side and legit ghostwriters aren’t part of this problem.

Thank you for coming to my TED talk.

LOLOLOL. Updating to add:

Apparently some people don’t know who they are dealing with. It might behoove you to visit my disclaimer page, but I’ll save you the trouble.

  • This blog is mainly for me to use for updates, contests, ramblings, the occasional personal promo, ramblings and that sort of thing. Anybody and everybody is welcome but be advised that if you come in here to spam my blog with your promo or if you come in just to start slinging crap around, your comments will be deleted. I want to keep the blog fun and friendly for readers and authors alike, so no BS is tolerated. No flaming is allowed and no personal attacks.

Apparently some people have a…vendetta of their own, against a Twitter user I used in this post.

I’ve already deleted one comment that was little more than a personal attack stemming from an incident I’m unaware of. It has no merit on the issue I’m tackling, it’s a direct attempt to derail the subject, and…yeah, I’m not going to entertain it. You want that? Do it on your own platform. You’re not entitled to mine. I’m happy to delete comments from anybody thinking otherwise. This isn’t about stifling discussion, because you made it clear you don’t want discussion. You want to imply this entire topic is irrelevant because you don’t like where I found the information…ignoring the fact that I went out and found the exact same shit on my own.

You don’t have to like somebody to look at info provided and see merit, especially when I did the hard work that took all of ten minutes to prove that books are indeed being regurgitated and recycled by book packagers.

13 thoughts on “Hot Takes: Part…who knows? So you want to know how to spot the scammers.

  1. Becky

    Thank you for the education I received here in the last week! I had seen the bookstuffing stuff mentioned but did not really understand because it was not explained well where I saw it…now I get it and have seen a reduction in the practice.

  2. Vagabonda Reads

    Thank you for this information. It’s so disheartening to see plagiarists making bank on the hard work of writers. Becoming adept at detecting is the only way, unfortunately, to take these bad actors down. But it’s time consuming and emotionally draining; it leaves the author with little left for the page, and even less will to fight back.

    Thank you for holding up the torch and keeping it lit.

  3. Julia Gray

    There are a lot of vital points to unpack here, but unfortunately this whole issue is hugely discredited by association with “Nikki” aka easedropper. This person has a reputation for obsessive Twitter vendettas, which includes hacking into other people’s social media accounts. They are not a trusted source, particularly not among the LGBTQ+ author community. Please consider finding other sources for your investigations.

  4. Shiloh Walker Post author

    Julia, sorry. They aren’t discredited. I’ve followed the sources, checked work, etc. You may not like the source, but that doesn’t change the evidence…
    *especially* when I did my own little experiment to back it up.

  5. Angela Verdenius

    Thank you for such an excellent explanation of book stuffing and how it works. As an indie writer for some years (previously with a small publsiher), and someone who doesn’t Facebook or Twitter *sheepish grin*, this blog has been educational. You are right, good authors do get pushed down by scammers. Such a shame, as so many wonderful books out there are being missed by readers.

  6. Shiloh Walker Post author

    It’s nothing to feel sheepish about, Angela.

    Most authors have one or more forms because they’re useful, but it’s not required.

    🙂

  7. Anna Veney

    Thank you for the education on book stuffing and scammers. I will be more vigilant. I found you through Nora’s page. I’m going to try one of your books because of this and I am a nurse also who loves to read. Keep up the fight!

  8. Shiloh Walker Post author

    Anna, it’s awful anybody has to be more vigilant, but when scammers decide they’re entitled to our dollars… sigh.

    And thank you! If you’re in need of recs or suggestions, let me know…my backlist is…expansive.

  9. Mary

    Julia Grey. YOU are part of the problem.
    Did you do your own research or did you just listen to hearsay and follow the line of a bunch of author buddies who say Nikki is ‘unsafe’ for the LGBTQ community?
    Did you ever question WHY anyone would say that she is ‘unsafe’? Maybe because it’s in their best interest to discredit her and silence her.
    IF you actually DID SOME RESEARCH and made up your own mind you might discover that Nikki hasn’t hacked anyone. That whole thing was a lie made up to discredit information that had been given to her LEGITIMATELY by an author. Nikki has been continually discredited by those authors with something to hide. They are supported by sheeple readers who are happy to do their dirty work (I love your work, of course, I’ll page filp for you AND purchase your fake book)
    Nikki does her research, she backs up any claims of wrongdoing in the community. She and others who have been trying to expose the fakes and frauds are a credit to the LGBTQ community. I have seen her research and the irrefutable facts proving a group of authors in the LGBTQ community are scammers.
    If you want to help clean up KU and level the playing field so legitimate authors can make a living, great. However, if you are listening to and disseminating false information to support unethical practices then you have a big problem because the spotlight is now on the scammers.

  10. Nicole

    Thank you for the information, I didn’t know about most of the scamming going on until this newest issue. I was directed here by a comment on Nora Roberrs page,. I’m not a bit ebook buyer,, but I have been purchasing more lately, I have several sitting in a wish list because I just wasn’t sure if the content, but now I’m not sure of the authors, so I will go investigate more diligently. I have aspirations to become a published author sometime in the future and this current mess has made me really open my eyes and do some research on how it works. Again, thank you for your research and information.

  11. Shiloh Walker Post author

    No problem, Nicole! Downloading the sample and checking out the author’s website is usually the best way to check for quality, as well as looking for reviewes on a site like Goodreads. If the writing in the sample is compelling and well-written, that’s a positive sign. A website, too.

    It’s sad that people feel they need to vet their books, but I’m a reader myself. I want my money going to true creators, not somebody who bought recycled manuscript.

    Good luck with your writing!

  12. Mary

    Another place that I have found the scammers infesting is Prolific Works. I love this sir because legit authors offer novellas, deleted scenes, previews, as well as full books. It’s a great place to try a new author. You have to agree to a newsletter to get the freebie. Scammers are sharing that info. When I get a newsletter that I don’t remember signing up for unusually comes from there. I spend a day going through them and checking the books. The scammers give me lists to report bookstuffers. I have found good indie authors there plus freebies from known authors. Just be careful and check them out. I love that the scammers give me lists of themselves.

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