The British-American journalist, publisher, and author has died of heart failure in New York last night.
There’s a scam going on in the eBook industry, and, as with most high-dollar missteps, no one is stopping it.
Before we get into the details of these legal evasions, it’s critical to understand that eBook authors make money per pages read. When authors fill their works with special features to drive the page count into the thousands, eBook readers feel like they’re getting a steal: extra content for the same price. But, for the author, ‘steal’ isn’t that far off.
Image Via David Gaughran
There have been a number of tactics to stop self-publishing abuses designed to arbitrarily inflate eBook profits, but few have actually been effective. Authors are banned from directly incentivizing reviews, but some have found a workaround: Chance Carter, a self-described “bad boy who writes about bad boys,” created a giveaway in which reviewers would earn the chance to receive a Tiffany ring. It’s clear he really is a bad boy: he nested six extra books in the back of his Mr. Diamond (the precious gem is as hard and desirable as the protagonist’s, well, you know).
This is how authors game the system: filling their publications with bonus content to artificially inflate the length of each book. It’s called ‘book stuffing,’ and it’s no game—the top scammers are making $100,000 per month.
Image Via Medium
There’s some measure of justice, even if that measurement is more an inch than a mile. Bad boy Carter was banned after #tiffanygate made its way into the public consciousness… but not for long. Many suspect Carter now writes under the pseudonym Johanna Hawke, who writes about “bad boys and hotties.” He’s back with a different name… and the same game.
Well, how bad could it be if an author includes a few bonus chapters? Given that it’s far more than just a dozen extra pages: pretty bad.
“Pregnant By My Boss” by Cassandree Dee/Kendall Blake is at #20 in the Kindle Store. The advertised book finishes around 7% of the way through. . This author is a Kindle All Star – earning tens of thousands of dollars a month from the communal author fund. @AmazonKDP #tiffanygate pic.twitter.com/sGcLyK71eJ
— David Gaughran ✍ (@DavidGaughran) June 9, 2018
Self-published Kindle Unlimited authors receive their income from a ‘communal authors’ fund,’ the distribution of which is largely dependant both on what percentage of a book readers complete AND how many total pages readers turn. Amazon has made limited attempts to stop this abuse of the system, enacting a rule that no more than 10% of a book can be bonus content. But many authors have circumvented this system with ‘compilations’ or ‘collections,’ allowing them to hit that 3,000 upper page limit.
This bit of ingenuity is hardly the end of these scammers’ tricks. Many such eBook authors engage in ‘mosaic book stuffing,’ the practice of repackaging previous releases into one new (and derivative) work. While some authors engage in active plagiarism, others will re-use passages of their own works, stitching together some botched Frankenstein’s monster and re-selling it to the public. Others use false links in their novel, which trick readers to skip directly to the end. These authors then get a bonus upon the novel’s completion.
It’s a cheap trick, but the consequences are costing authors who don’t engage in such deceptive policies. The communal fund is, as you may have imagined, communal. Amazon may benefit from the increased sales, and readers may appreciate the extra content. But the authors don’t—at least, not the ones who are honest.
Featured Image Via ElegantThemes.com
Last week, popular online publishing site Wattpad announced its entry into the world of physical books. The new publishing imprint, Wattpad Books, already has its starting lineup of new releases: six YA novels across popular genres, a decision which officials believe should appeal to the site’s Millenial and Gen-Z reader base. Despite the stigma surrounding self-publishing, these stories have had mass market appeal. Cupid’s Match by Lauren Palphreyman, the most popular story among these picks, has racked up over 40 million reads during its time on the site.
But the selection process for these books is more than just a numbers game—it’s more like a numbers science. Going forward, Wattpad will use new artificial intelligence technology to help ensure the success of its publications.
Image Via The Odyssey
Don’t misread this information—robots will not be deciding what art is. Instead, Wattpad’s Story DNA Machine Learning Technology, an AI program, will analyze Wattpad’s content for insights into certain stories’ successes. While other programs might analyze the number of comments and shares a story has earned, the AI breaks a story down to its most elemental features: grammar, diction, and sentence structure. From there, the AI will compare each story not only to works published on Wattpad, but also to books in the public domain. And, Wattpad representative Ashleigh Gardner stresses, “our human content and editorial experts are just as important.”
Image Via YouTube
The website has long been popular for its accessibility. While traditional publishing has not always addressed diverse stories and difficult topics the way it’s working towards today, online publishing subverts outdated (if often unspoken) rules about what sells. Wattpad will continue to choose its stories based on what appeals to its readers—in particular, LGBT+ content, strong women, and thoughtful depictions of mental illness. The AI technology won’t change this truth: the stories that appeal to a diverse body of readers are so often their own.
Featured Image Via Wattpad