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.

Wanna swap book reviews?

By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015

I’ve never been sought after as a book reviewer until I began posting on some Facebook book promotion groups. I’ve written book reviews in the past, but I don’t mention that on my website, blog or Facebook page. I also joined some groups where readers gave reviews. Soon I learned that 99% of those readers were also authors who needed their books reviewed. I was sent requests to swap reviews several times a day.

“Hi, are you interested for a review exchange?  My book is FREE on Kindle.”

“Hi Lisa, can we swap for your book? let me know. thanks”

“Hi Lisa, are you up for an honest review exchange? I have downloaded your book  and if you’ll give me a go signal then ill leave a positive review for your book. I have two books for free right now and ill appreciate if you”ll choose one for this.”

“Hi Lisa, I just downloaded your book.My book is also free today. Would you like to trade reviews?”

“Hey There, Would you be interested in doing an honest review exchange for some free books? I have 4 free books.”

“Hey would you be interested in an honest review swap? I have two free books today. Please download 1 or 2 and send me over your book (s) Free Books Only Today”

“Hi Lisa . Do you have 99c books for exchange reviews? Please let me know . Thanks!  Here’s my book :”

This is my latest request that I had to include as it’s so blatant. “Hi Lisa, I saw that you have an ebook available on Amazon – . I have one too, and I want to ask you if you want to exchange some reviews? I’ll buy your ebook and review it on Amazon with a 5 star and you’ll do the same with mine? Let me know if you are interested” 

Whenever I got one of those review swap requests, the first image that came to mind was this: grumpycat

Going by the casually written email examples, many of the free eBooks offered for review were of the same caliber. Worse than that, much of the information contained within the mercifully brief nonfiction titles could be found on Wikipedia and other online reference sites. 

I’m not saying that all nonfiction titles are scams, but the way you can tell if they are is to see if the author is an expert in their field. Have they written a soap making book and make and sell soap? If the book is about dieting and weight loss, have they utilized the diet plan they write about? I’ve discussed it in this post about shopping for soap making or bath & body products eBooks, but it applies to all nonfiction titles. 

What made me stop this quid pro quo review shenanigans? 1. I felt like I was at a certain vanity publisher’s message boards circa 2005 reading about authors asking other authors to buy and review their books. 2.  Review swaps aren’t appreciated at Amazon. 

So, I’m officially done with swapping, trading or exchanging eBook reviews. 

If you want to put a stop to review swaps, feel free to share this photo! 

grumpy cat says no to swapping book reviews

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”

It’s Crafting Season ~ Consumer Beware!

By Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

tapioca shampoo bar melt and pour soap handmade shampoo bar ebookAlthough Hobby Lobby has been displaying Christmas items since August, signs of the upcoming holiday selling season are  evident online. This is also the season when the newbies emerge. Beginning soapmakers, and other handmade bath and body products makers [lotions, lip balms, body butters, sugar and salt scrubs, etc.] are getting that “I wanna sell my handmade products” fever. People who don’t know the difference between melt and pour glycerin soap base from cold process soap from hand milled soap. Novice soapers who dump fresh fruit and veggies in melt and pour glycerin soap base [hello mold!]. People downloading free eBooks and making their first batch of lotion or a sugar scrub, minus preservatives. Others with little or no experience clamor to join the selling festivities on and offline at various crafty venues. Consumer, beware! 

I’ve included a section on premature selling in my latest eBook on marketing. I’ve also written an article about Melt and Pour Soap Basics. It took me six years before I began selling my soap and other products. During that time, I tested and retested recipes. I made many mistakes. I also invested lots of time and money, and gave away lots of soap to my testers before accepting a single dollar.

“No matter what method they use to sell their newfound wares, there are several problems with premature selling. One doesn’t bake a cake and decide to open a bakery. That may be their goal, but first they have to make dozens or hundreds of cakes in order to be a confident and skillful baker.” The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing

For the Consumer

If you want to buy handmade bath and body products online, make sure you check out the website very carefully. Any soaper worth his or her lye mixture will be able to convey their expertise. They know what type of soap they make, they know all the benefits of each ingredient, they usually mention how long they’ve been creating their handmade products. They may have photos or videos of their work area. There should be lots of testimonials from satisfied customers or peer reviews from other soapers. They might be a member of the Better Business Bureau, the Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, or the Indie Business Network.

When purchasing from a soaper offline you can tell by talking with them how much they know about their product[s]. How long have they been in business? Ask them what they use to color their soaps. Don’t ask for recipes or act like you want to make soap, unless they also teach soaping classes. Another way to test the soaper or salesperson is to inquire about the fragrance – is it an aromatherapy pure essential oil/blend of essential oils or a skin safe cosmetic fragrance? Soaps and/or other products with essential oils will generally cost a little more. Soapmakers usually are pleased to discuss their labors of love. Those who employ others to sell for them should also be well versed in what goes into these handcrafted products.

Beware and be aware of what you’re buying and we’ll all have a healthier and safer holiday season!

What’s So Great About Pinterest?

by Lisa Maliga

Copyright 2013-2016

The following article is an excerpt from the eBook “The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing.

Pinterest is relatively new, but as it’s photo-driven, your soapy pictures will be seen and hopefully repinned, by many potential customers. This is my favorite social media site because of the emphasis on photos. You can create hundreds of boards all focused on your favorite topics. For example, as a soapmaker it’s in your best interest to post photos of your soaps. Create a soap board and pin your pics. If you make salt scrubs, create a board for that. Are lip balms your thing? Have a lip balm board and pin your photos. But don’t just limit yourself to your business board. Create boards for other fun crafts and hobbies, food, drink, travel, DIY and organization, movies, music and so much more. For example, I’m a member of a large Chocolate group board with more than 34,000 followers and the array of pictures of chocolate is overwhelming! Most of the pins aren’t just photos – they lead to websites that include recipes. That’s why having a blog is another big benefit – you and others can share your photos, get more blog hits/website hits, and that can lead to more sales.

You can put your boards in alphabetical order, numerical order, group by subject, or in any order you’d like. Once you name your boards, and you can be as creative as you’d like, add an accurate description. If you’re running a group board, indicate whether personal/company advertising is okay in the description. 

sunshine kitty cat by lisa maliga
Sunshine

When it comes to pinning, you can like a pin, pin it, or comment on a pin. Pinning means you can add it to one of your own boards or add it to a group board. For example, a picture of a kitten may have originated from the Kittens group, so you don’t want to repin it there, but it would fit in well with the Cute Animals group.

If you upload a picture of your lemon scrubby soap, don’t neglect to add that into the description. Also, you can add a line like Sally’s Soap Site – Lemon Scrubby Soap. Remember, descriptions are keywords and this is another way to advertise your soap site for nothing other than taking a few minutes out of your day to pin pretty pictures! Yes, I encourage you to add your gorgeous photos to enhance Pinterest, and you’ll win more followers and potential customers if you brighten up their day with a bright and breezy quote or a picture of a field of lavender flowers or a tropical sunset.

There are people that won’t join Pinterest due to copyright/trademark infringement issues. That’s entirely up to each individual. According to Pinterest, they “Encourage artists to create great work by linking back to their pages, and leaving polite comments when you see pins that aren’t correctly credited.”

The Soapmaker’s Guide to Online Marketing is available at the following online bookstores: Amazon, Barnes and Noble NOOK, Smashwords and Kobo

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

Inspired by LUSH

By Lisa Maliga
Copyright 2010-2013
It was about a dozen years ago that I first became aware of Lush when I read a blurb about this English natural bath & body products company. I got online and went to their then simple website which took me a few minutes as I was on dial-up. What I saw was a lot more innovative than the stuff at the local health food store. They had soap with slices of honeycomb, a Canadian homage to maple syrup, and a Queen of Hearts Complexion Soap with rose petal infusion and rose absolute, cocoa butter, vanilla and rose geranium. I wanted to buy everything on that site! The shampoos had beer, henna, cognac oil, and marigold. Other products were rich in bananas, yogurt, rhassoul clay, vanilla beans, chocolate and so many exotic sounding ingredients.
 
I loved the names like Flying Saucers and Skinny Dip for their bubble baths. Banana Moon and Pineapple Grunt, a Butterball bath bomb that was filled with vanilla and chunks of cocoa butter caught my attention as did so many others…
 
Eight days later my order arrived and inside that cardboard box was the loveliest combination of scents. Each item was simply wrapped in waxed paper with the green and yellow Lush logo. I’d never washed with a pineapple scented soap, much less one that had actual chunks of pineapple in it! A lover of natural soaps, I tended to go for the budget priced ones from China and India that were small, hard and long lasting. The Honey Waffle soap looked like a rectangle of preserved honey with a large chunk of honeycomb embedded in it. I chuckled when I was able to stick my fingernail through part of it. I inhaled the honey floral aroma and rushed over to the kitchen sink to wash my hands. The softness and smoothness were obvious and the lingering scent of the floral honey scent made me happy and I kept sniffing my hands. Then I tested the pineapple soap on my face and now I had a pineapple-y smelling face. I had a difficult time keeping my honey smelling hands off my face! Both soaps smelled so tantalizing that I wanted to take a bite out of them!
 
As I looked at the lovely bars of soap resting on the frame above the shower door, I imagined that entire “shelf” [measuring about 3 inches wide by almost six feet long] covered with all possible types of Lush soap. Soaps I wanted to try, like Sea Vegetable, Bohemian and Red Rooster. I just stood there wondering if I won the lottery if I’d fly up to Washington and do all my Lush shopping there. Or call in the humongous order and watch the UPS guy wheeling his box laden dolly up to the front door and be smiling from the aromas emanating from the boxes…
 
Well, I didn’t win the lottery, but I did learn how to make soap. LOTS of soap!
The photo below shows a “duplicate” of Lush’s Karma soap using a similar fragrance but coloring it bright blue and naming it Good Karma!
good karma lush type soap by lisa maliga

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