Ripping Readers Off: Kindle Unlimited Scam eBooks

Copyright 2016 by Lisa Maliga

Kindle-Unlimited-logo-220x86

Last April, I wrote this article: Don’t Buy or Borrow Kindle Unlimited Rip-off eBooks. 

What’s changed since then?

In July 2015, Amazon launched KU2, which pays authors by pages read. KU1 was a fluctuating amount of at least $1 per eBook borrow. The Amazonians have altered the system for their benefit and the amount per page is less than a penny –.0049 per page or less. If an author wants to make any money, they need to write longer books. And those books need to get read.

Or do they?

Nope, the author offers a free book or gift card or something for nothing and has that clickable link take the reader to the back of the book. Like magic, all the pages are read!

With the KU program, Amazon is like long defunct author’s sites Themestream and the Vines – pay per click companies that went belly up. While some legitimate authors are doing quite well, others are faring far worse than they were in KU1.

One of the main problems I’ve seen in the KU program, and this is in the nonfiction area, are foreign plagiarists stuffing books full of repetitive “information.” Or they upload their entire catalogue into one title. I’ve also seen books where the contents are available in a dozen different languages. Can you guess that the translation is run through an online translator resulting in hilarious errors?

What inspired this article was a review request from an author: someone who had been “University” educated, and an expert in various fields dating back to the early 90’s. A quick search revealed nothing except the author’s books in various Amazon stores. Here’s the email:

As an avid buyer and author on Amazon, I want readers to feel they are getting value for money and would recommend to their friends and family. I feel this book meets that requirement.

 I was hoping you could review a books and leave an honest review.

If you are interested I can send you the book as a gift free of charge.

 I saw that the title wasn’t unique and when looking at the author page I noticed:

“She has a passion for sharing his experience…”

Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner? Nope, someone who just didn’t care about proofreading their bio or who wasn’t too fluent in English.

There are many excellent titles in the KU program. But I’m going to point out potential rip-off titles that are often plagiarized from websites, blogs and Pinterest. By reading this article, you’ll learn how to avoid downloading or wasting your time and money on rip-offs and supporting scammers.

If you’re a reader who wants to learn how to bake cupcakes, wouldn’t you want to read a book by someone who has baked the recipes and can provide photos along with helpful tips? I want that! A few weeks ago, I mistakenly downloaded a scam book. At first I thought, oh goodie, 600 pages of cupcake recipes and information—all for 0.00. Wrong! 600 pages of drivel, NO pictures, and recipe after recipe of things I didn’t want to bake. The few cupcake recipes were so generic that one of them listed cake mix. I deleted that eBook.

Spot Those Scammy eBooks

Here are some things to look for when shopping at Amazon.

kindle unlimited logo * No author biography

If there’s no bio, there’s no way of knowing how much knowledge they have pertaining to the subject they’ve written about. There won’t be an email address, website, Etsy page or social media information such as Twitter, Pinterest or Face Book. They have no blog or newsletter.

kindle unlimited logo * Fake Author Biography

Some of the scammers have gotten smarter and include biographies and even pictures or illustrations of themselves. Read it carefully and you’ll see it’s false if no professional training is indicated. Or they might mention a school or university. How is the bio worded—in proper English or does it read as if it was translated from another language?

kindle unlimited logo * Common American Names

This is another way to lure borrowers and buyers—by using familiar surnames like Thomas, Brown, Mitchell, White, etc. It’s also how those from other countries make names seem more acceptable than their own. Authors who use several pseudonyms may do so to avoid detection. It’s also a way of using a name like a keyword – to attract more borrows and sales.

 

kindle unlimited logo * Poor Translating

Foreign authors may have run the manuscript through an online translator resulting in unintentionally hilarious reading. My favorite was the one about heating your soap over a “weak fire.” Some of the faux fiction scam books have incredibly bad titles.

kindle unlimited logo * Offer FREE Bonus/Gift at the BACK of the eBook

This encourages you to click the link and get the page reads. You won’t be able to miss this offer as it’ll be shown in very large and colorful fonts. It may appear more than once.

kindle unlimited logo * Very LONG eBooks

KU1 featured scamlets of 50 pages or less. Now the less is more motto has been replaced with the more [pages] the merrier! One trick I discovered is seeing lengthy books enhanced by offering the book in a dozen different languages. You can also bet that a professional human translator doesn’t translate, as that would be very expensive and time consuming. Ultimately, no one benefits.

Another method is for the scamming “author” to take several books and rearrange the order so the book becomes bloated with excess pages. You get a bundle of books you [probably] don’t care to read.

kindle unlimited logo * LONG Titles Stuffed with Keywords

Example: Homemade Body Butter: 25 Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes To Keep Your Skin Smooth And Feeling Moisturized! (How To Body Butter, DIY Body Butter, Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes).

kindle unlimited logo * Enticing Cover Photo of the Product[s]

A rip-off will be revealed if the featured product[s] recipe and photo aren’t included inside the eBook. For example, a stack of oatmeal soap on the cover, yet there is no oatmeal soap recipe in the rip-off title. Also, most rip-off eBooks won’t contain any photos.

kindle unlimited logo * If recipes are included, they may be in a mixture of ounces, grams, tablespoons and teaspoons, which is very confusing for the reader.

kindle unlimited logo * No medical or legal disclaimer. No safety precautions.

kindle unlimited logo * The name on the cover may be spelled differently than the name on the book’s Amazon page.

In order to avoid being ripped off, please use this article as a checklist.

Also, read what author Ann Christy has written about this topic. She includes in-depth analysis along with screenshots of some flagrant examples. http://www.annchristy.com/anatomy-of-ku-scams

 

Don’t Buy or Borrow Kindle Unlimited Rip-off eBooks

Copyright 2015 by Lisa Maliga

 bookscomputerJust after the July launch of the Kindle Unlimited program an author of a soap making eBook emailed me asking for a review. After reading it, I got the impression that everything within the 50 pages was regurgitated information. There weren’t any resource links. The recipes weren’t coherent—add some of this oil with some of this water and this amount of lye. Instead of getting a review, the author received an email asking about her soap making experience. Unsurprisingly, there was no response.

That was my introduction to a Kindle Unlimited eBook.

Books in Kindle Unlimited, KU for short, are only found on Amazon’s website. None of the titles are available at Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, Smashwords or other online bookstores.

While free for authors, readers pay $9.99 per month for the service that “…allows you to read as much as you want, choosing from over 700,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks. Freely explore new authors, books, and genres from mysteries and romance to sci-fi and more. You can read on any device.”

kindle unlimited logo Read this title for free and get unlimited access to over 700,000 titles.

Authors with books in the KU program generally price their titles from $0.99 to $9.99. They can also give a title away for up to 5 days during each 90-day period their title is enrolled in the KU program. If free, anyone can download the book whether they are KU members or not. Another huge benefit for the KU author is the borrowing part of the program. Whenever a KU member borrows a title, the author receives up to $1.40. The amount varies every month but it’s always more than one dollar. Even if the book is priced at 0.99, the author still gets $1.40 [or whatever the amount is that month] PER BORROW. That’s why every single rip-off title is enrolled in this program.

There are many excellent titles in the KU program. But I’m going to concentrate on the rip-off titles that are often plagiarized from websites, blogs and Pinterest. By reading this article, you’ll learn how to avoid downloading rip-offs.

[For the record: I won’t tackle fiction because that’s a lot different, especially with series, serials, billionaire romances, erotica, and alphas, etc.]

A rip-off title is usually less than 50 pages in length. Of course, regular nonfiction titles may also be brief, so I’ll point out the many red flags that boldly signal a rip-off. Again, this is only for nonfiction books, as that’s where I have the most experience as I write about soap crafting. I’m going to expand it to include all bath and body/bath and beauty books. However, even if you read and write about real estate or farming, you still should find this article helpful.

 redflagThe Formula

Soap making books begin with the history of soap making. For other bath and beauty books, the opening pages will let you know how toxic commercial lotions, lip balms, sugar and salt scrubs, bath bombs, etc. actually are.

redflag LONG titles with up to 30 words. This is called keyword stuffing.

Example title: Homemade Body Butter: 25 Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes To Keep Your Skin Smooth And Feeling Moisturized! (How To Body Butter, DIY Body Butter, Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes).

I’ve only changed a few words, but this is how some rip-off books are marketed. It’s not necessarily wrong but it’s clumsy!

redflag Nonexistent book contributors

Every author credits him or herself, but there are also other contributors that can be added like editor, foreword, photographer, illustrator, introduction, preface, translator and narrator. I’ve found books that have ‘body butter’ as an editor, ‘lotion’ as a foreword, and ‘soapmaking’ as an illustrator. Doing this exploits the entire Kindle publishing program and if found should be reported.

redflag Not crediting stock images.

redflag No author biography

Interested in learning about the author? If there’s no bio, there’s no way of knowing how much knowledge they have pertaining to the subject they’ve written about. There won’t be any sort of email address, website, Etsy page or social media information such as Twitter or Face Book. They have no blog or newsletter.

The lack of an author bio may indicate a new to KU author who is unaware that Amazon offers this free promotional tool. Alternatively, it might be a deliberate omission.

An author bio should indicate the author’s experience in making the products they are writing about, as they should be an expert in the field. Do they include their company name and contact information? Whether or not they own a business, or have owned a business in the past? How long have they been making B&B products? If they don’t make and sell their products, what qualifications do they have to write their book?

redflag Common American surnames

This is another way to lure borrowers and buyers—by using familiar surnames like Thomas, Brown, Mitchell, White, etc. It’s also how those from other countries make names seem more acceptable than their own. Authors who use several pseudonyms may do so to avoid detection. It’s also a way of using a name like a keyword – to attract more borrows and sales.

redflag Reviews

If a book has dozens of reviews, that might mean it’s often borrowed/sold. All of the reviews may be legitimate ones, especially if the reviewer indicates that they received a free review copy. To find a rip-off title, look beyond lots of 5-stars or 1-stars, or even no reviews.

eBooks may contain numerous 5-star reviews with only a smattering of bad reviews. Suggestion: read the bad ones. For example, a one star review written by a soap maker noted the amount of lye in a recipe in one of the rip-off titles was incorrect and the author had confused percentages and ounces. In other words, some “author” with no knowledge of soap making is presenting potentially harmful information. If a reader follows the instructions, that soap would burn their skin. Additionally, they would have wasted their time in reading the book and trying to apply the instructions, and money on buying ingredients and equipment. The responsibility of the author of any type of DIY book is to offer correct and accurate information. Sadly, the author of the questionable amounts has also written a dozen other titles in related fields.

A rip-off title may have garnered many positive reviews based on review swaps. I’ll go on record and state that I did a few of them from September to December 2014. Since then, I have completely stopped reviewing books due to the numerous rip-off titles I was getting.

redflag Proofreading problems

If the author is someone who is fluent in English as a first language, the quality of authorship ranges from excellent to riddled with grammar and “spell checkitis.”

redflag Poor translating

Foreign authors may have run the manuscript through an online translator resulting in unintentionally hilarious reading. My favorite was the one about heating your soap over a “weak fire.”

redflag Offer FREE bonus or gift in the beginning of the book.

redflag Enticing cover photo of the product[s]

All book covers should be enticing, of course. However, a rip-off will be revealed if the featured product[s] recipe and photo aren’t included inside the eBook. For example, a stack of oatmeal soap on the cover, yet there is no oatmeal soap recipe in the rip-off title.

redflag NO sample other than a table of contents or a legal disclaimer. The reader has to purchase or borrow the book in order to read more because there’s no actual writing sample.

redflag If recipes are included, they may be in a mixture of ounces, grams, tablespoons and teaspoons, which is very confusing for the reader.

redflag No medical or legal disclaimer. No safety precautions.

redflag The name on the cover may be spelled differently than the name on the book’s Amazon page.

redflag Rip-off titles can be heavily promoted and reviewed by bloggers. Unlike non-KU titles that only earn 4% commission on each title sold, bloggers may get up to 8.5 % on KU titles sold and/or borrowed.

In order to avoid being ripped off, please use this article as a checklist.

Starting a Crafty eCommerce Business Website

By Lisa Maliga, Copyright 2014

I’m sharing some basic tips on how to launch a crafty eCommerce business website.

Your website is your storefront. Will you design your own website or hire a professional? Another option is to get a predesigned virtual store at Etsy, eBay, Artfire, WordPress, etc.

Buy Your Domain Name

Usually it costs less than $10 per year.

More than a decade ago, I bought the domain name everythingshea.com which I still own. Although people from China wanted to own it, I said no, you can use whatever you want in Chinese but in good old American English it’s still EverythingShea.com. After all, I started this company because I love shea butter, and all my products contain shea butter.

Internet History: Archive.org

If you’re not already familiar with http://www.archive.org you might want to be. If you start an online website, whether you’ll be running it as a store, or just as a nice online display case of your product[s], it’s a helpful site to visit. You can see just about any website’s history or find out if the website ever existed and/or what it looked like years ago.

PayPal Shopping Cart

I used PayPal as my shopping cart. It’s free and all you pay is a small percentage for each sale. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, PayPal is an option you’ll want to consider. Also, PayPal is the payment of choice on Artfire, Etsy, eBay and many other online shops.

It’s All About You!

the soapmaker's guide to online marketing, lisa maliga, ebooks, soapmaking, soapcrafting, online marketingAside from having an eye catching, keyword-friendly main page, I recommend having an About page on your website. Visitors can get to know about you and your products. This increases customer confidence, tells us how long you’ve been making your products, and what inspired you to make them.

This page should feature information about the origins of your company. Share photos of your products—even if it’s only one. You can also have pictures of you and/or your workplace. If you have a soap site and sell soap bars or shampoo used for animals, show a picture of a dog being bathed in your soap. For an author’s website, display your picture, book cover, and/or workplace.

Expanding the WWW

The WWW is like the universe – expansive! It grows page by page, picture by picture, and video by video–every day and night. Like authors writing more books and uploading them onto Amazon, B&N NOOK, Kobo, iTunes, etc., the more titles you have, the more web pages you have, the more likely you are to be noticed.

Each page should accurately represent your product and not use any tricks. I’m a firm believer in quality versus quantity. Show and tell the audience why they need to buy your product. Be creative. Use photos and videos. Make it a visual feast that engages even a casual surfer. Lovingly describe your products, attracting people in such a way that they want to learn more—and become your customers!

Testimonials

Testimonials – Ask for them. Get them. Use them with the buyer’s permission.

Free Samples or Paid Samplers?

shea butter sampler everythingshea.com

As I was running an online only store, I didn’t offer free samples. However, I sold samplers containing several varities of shea butter and handcrafted soap. I always included a sample with any PAID order.

However, for authors, offering a free eBook will attract more readers. And there isn’t any mailing fee!

Learn more about online promotion here:

Promoting Your Website ~ An Excerpt from “The Soapmakers Guide to Online Marketing”

Promoting Your Website ~ An Excerpt from “The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing”

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

After hitting that button to send your pages to the WWW and launching your website, you want it to be seen. You want the orders to pour in. You want to see your bank account grow.

But hold on!

First, look at it thoroughly before sending anyone a link. Do the pages load quickly? Do the pictures show up or do you get a dreaded red X? How easy is it to navigate? Have you included your contact information? Test each link that connects your web pages to each other. Then test the outgoing links. Does the shopping cart work? Does your site have an inviting appearance? Are your pictures enticing? Proofread each page for typos. Then have your friends and family help you out by offering their opinions. Also, test it in various browsers not just Internet Explorer, Chrome, Safari, and Firefox. Check it out in at least a dozen, if not more, different browsers to see how it looks. http://browsershots.org

Getting your site seen around the world—or at least in your area–isn’t going to be that simple. Online entrepreneurs often think that just because you’ve put in a lot of time and effort that customers will be buying from you within a few hours or days. The problem is the sheer amount of competition you face. The smaller your site is, the harder it is to find in the vastness of the Internet. With effort, you can get your site noticed. Many methods of doing this are free.  However, while they may not cost anything, they will involve your time. 

The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing is available at Amazon KindleB&N NOOK, iTunes, Scribd, Smashwords, and Kobo.

the soapmaker's guide to online marketing, lisa maliga, ebooks, soapmaking, soapcrafting, online marketing