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Money-Chasing Burns Bestselling Author...*Poof!* His pen name is gone.

ChickenHawk

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Imagine yourself a bestselling author on Amazon, raking in fame and fortune as a top romance novelist. Now, imagine your brand is gone in an instant, and why? Because you dedicated your energy to cheating, money-chasing, and skirting the rules rather than building a long-term brand.

Just this month, this is exactly what happened to a notorious book-stuffer who recently lost his Amazon publishing account in one fell swoop. Will he get it back? Maybe. Maybe not. But no doubt, he's crying now, especially because he was exclusive to Amazon and thus, had all of his eggs in that particular basket. (Commandment of control, anyone?) Based on his author rank, this person was probably grossing six figures a month. Now, he's earning nearly nothing, because all of his print and ebooks are gone from the Amazon store. (His audiobooks remain, because they're not part of the KDP ecosystem.)

What did this guy do to torpedo his career? It's hard to say what exactly cost him his account, but only because he was engaged in so much questionable activity that we can only guess.

This guy was reviled by scores of regular authors, not because of his success, but rather because of the questionable things he did to achieve that "success." He stuffed his books to artificially inflate their page counts, in order to trigger obscene Kindle Unlimited borrow-payouts (up to 15 bucks a pop) for books priced at 99 cents. He engaged in questionable practices to get positive reviews. (Rumor is, an illegal Tiffany jewelry giveaway was what finally did him in.) He coached other "authors" on how to exploit the weaknesses of Amazon's Kindle Unlimited system. His assistant coached "readers" on how to flip through these stuffed books to trigger a maximum payout, whether the "books" were actually read or not.

Want to know the sad thing for this guy? Before he went to the dark side, he was a regular bestselling romance author with a growing, enthusiastic fanbase. He didn't need to cheat to make money, but apparently, the temptation of quick and easy cash was too much for him to resist.

And while he was raking in his ill-gotten gains, ethical authors were (and still are) paying the price as practically all of the visibility, money, and All Star bonuses were scooped up by him and "authors" like him. Oddly enough, a ton of these stuffers are still operating, obviously betting on the fact that this will never happen to them.

Maybe they're right. Maybe they're wrong. Either way, they're chasing money at the expense of building a brand that lasts.

Below are some links that offer more details:
In summary, money chasing is a glorious thing...until it bites you hard in the a$$.
 

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MJ DeMarco

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Wow, money-chasing, bro-marketing in its purest form.
 

ApparentHorizon

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That's crazy @ChickenHawk It makes me sad to see how people with talent ruin their career because they look for the easy money making and cheating.

So bad.

:-(
He didn't have talent (at least no writing talent), just exploited a loophole. (which you could argue is creative problem solving)

Otherwise, he wouldn't have risen up in the first place.

While I don't agree with the tactics, it's a great example of taking an opportunity (a luck of the draw) and turning it into something profitable.

Now he has a couple mil$ stashed away, plenty of connections and a huge email list.

He'll be fine. Sucks for the authentic authors that got pushed out of the way though.

And according to the articles, his audiobooks are still up.
 

Azure

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You're right in a sense...and wrong in another. Let me explain;

You're looking at this from the frame of mind of a person who wants to build a long lasting, successful, multi channel business. For you, diversifying your sales outlets and building a long lasting, ultimately sellable business is your goal.

Chance - and other "page stuffers" or scammers in other industries -are LOOKING for that cheap buck. They have no intention of putting forth the efforts to build what you are, nor do they want to. They live for the jolt that they get every time they get an influx of fast cash. They had no intention of building a platform off Amazon and vesting control becsuse their scam is KDP exclusive. If it worked elsewhere - and best believe they have tried to find other places - they would be there doing the same thing .

For these sorts of people, the thrill of the con becomes an addiction, and eventually the mantra "every score is a score" falls into place. It's a real addiction, similar to gambling in some regards. You can control the odds to an extent, but the house(be it the law, or Amazon) always ends up winning.

and then you find another scheme to live through.
 
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ChickenHawk

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Interesting. So, the guy in the picture from the first article is not really the guy? No one knows who the person really is?
Probably, he uses a pen name, but as far as the photos, I believe that really is the guy who goes by the name of Chance Carter, only because some authors on the Kindle forums have apparently met him in real life. But one thing's for certain. Once you get a reputation for dishonesty, everything about you becomes suspect.

He didn't have talent (at least no writing talent), just exploited a loophole. (which you could argue is creative problem solving) Otherwise, he wouldn't have risen up in the first place.
With most of the stuffers and scammers, I'd agree 100%, but alas, this wasn't quite true in Chance's case. Before he started scamming, he'd already achieved success as a bestselling romance author. I will agree with you, though, that this generally isn't the case. Most of the scammers have no writing talent and would never succeed as authors outside the warped Kindle Unlmited ecosystem, where they earn money through "clicks" as opposed to gaining a true readership. If (when?) Kindle Unlimited goes away, or if it's significantly modified, most of these scammers will see their income evaporate overnight, even without being banned by Amazon.

For these sorts of people, the thrill of the con becomes an addiction, and eventually the mantra "every score is a score" falls into place. It's a real addiction, similar to gambling in some regards. You can control the odds to an extent, but the house(be it the law, or Amazon) always ends up winning. And then you find another scheme to live through.
Yup. And really, for most of these "authors," they have very little to lose. Without Kindle Unlimited, they have no writing career anyway, so it's not like they're risking their pen names by scamming. When Kindle Unlimited goes away, they'll just move onto their next scam.

One thing that's especially frustrating about all the scamming is that genuine authors -- those of us who have actual reputations to lose -- don't dare engage in such activities, because we're in it for the long haul. This puts us at a huge disadvantage compared to the stuffers and scammers. It will be a happy day indeed when they're finally purged from the Amazon store. Personally, I think that day is coming soon due to increased negative publicity for Amazon.
 
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ChickenHawk

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An Open Letter to Jeff Bezos:
(*Edit to clarify that I didn't write this letter, even if I do agree with every point.)

(Excerpts from the Letter...)
"Time and time again, we have proven to our reps and others at Amazon, that these books are breaking Amazon’s TOS. The scammers slap together a 3,000-page book, stuffed to the gills with 10 to 20 other stories they’ve written or bought from ghostwriters on Fiverr. Then they recycle and rearrange those same 10 to 20 stories and shove them into another book with a different cover and title. So in effect, they have 10 to 20 books all with the same 10 to 20 stories stuffed inside, thus the 3,000 page compilations with such titillating titles as Pregnant By My Boss or My Friend’s Dirty Uncle."

"With their parasitic approach, they also feed on the kind hearts of their readers. These stuffers are notorious for instructing their readers to download the book using their (the reader’s) KU Subscription and “flip to the end of the book” without reading it. After doing that, they then instruct and sometimes demand their readers also purchase the book. That 3,000 page book is worth $13-$14. Far more than the 30 cents they make off any sales at the $.99 listing price."

"The list of violations, tricks, and ways to game the system is endless, and some of the bolder and more successful offenders are actually teaching others how to do all of them."

"While we have presented the evidence to our reps and other Amazon employees for over three years now, these scammers are still allowed to feast like kings at the KU table. The rest of us, the legitimate authors, are left like starving urchins to feed off naught more than scraps and crumbs they toss on the floor."

"If nothing is done to fix the KU program, and soon, you will have nothing left to offer your readers other than books such as, Claiming His Virgin In the Pool, Triple Daddies, and 6 Mountain Men for Christmas. How do you think your readers will react when that happens?"
 
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Andy Black

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Thanks for sharing @ChickenHawk. It must be super frustrating for you. I’m sure that when it hurts Amazon in their wallet they’ll slam the door hard.

I always wonder at the folks street-smart enough to come up with scams. Why don’t you use those smarts to do it legit?

I worked for a couple of companies doing grey-hat stuff. If they just stopped seeing people as “traffic”, “clicks”, or “users” then they might still be around today.
 

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DustinH

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Probably, he uses a pen name, but as far as the photos, I believe that really is the guy who goes by the name of Chance Carter, only because some authors on the Kindle forums have apparently met him in real life.
If that really is his picture then I can tell he is not to be trusted. In all of his photos he doesn't show his teeth in his smile. That sounds weird but it was the first thing I noticed.
 

Charnell

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Want to know the sad thing for this guy? Before he went to the dark side, he was a regular bestselling romance author with a growing, enthusiastic fanbase. He didn't need to cheat to make money, but apparently, the temptation of quick and easy cash was too much for him to resist.
He was a regular publisher of ghost-written content. While that's a legitimate way of becoming a best-selling 'author', it isn't cheap. My opinion is that he was always working toward the practices that eventually, and none too soon, got him banned.
 
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ChickenHawk

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He was a regular publisher of ghost-written content. While that's a legitimate way of becoming a best-selling 'author', it isn't cheap. My opinion is that he was always working toward the practices that eventually, and none too soon, got him banned.
Interesting. I knew his latest books were ghost-written, but I had no idea that he never wrote his own stuff. Thanks for the clarification!

That certainly does put a new spin on it. It also makes me wonder if, after initial success with high-quality ghost-written content, he started paying less for material. I say this because I've seen posts suggesting that the Masterminds* paid peanuts for their books. One ghostwriter, I believe, said she earned only $400 for a 50,000-word novel.

I think you're onto something that scamming was his plan all along. Even now, with Chance gone, the stuffing and scamming continues, with multiple stuffed romance books littering Amazon's top 100. Eventually, I believe, Amazon will be forced to take more drastic measures, such as limiting the number of pages per Kindle Unlimited book. One way or another, they need to do something soon to restore some integrity to their Kindle Unlimited offerings.

*For those who don't know, the Masterminds is the name of the most notorious group of stuffers, a bunch of mostly men who work together to rig the romance charts.
 

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Eventually, I believe, Amazon will be forced to take more drastic measures, such as limiting the number of pages per Kindle Unlimited book.
Oh, they've already done that. New TOS came out sometime in the last couple of weeks. Along with limiting length, they've also made it mandatory to state if the file contains more than one book and where else the individual books are available if I remember correctly.

Marie Force, a top-100 romance author, while not participating in KU, has offered her influence with KDP to sort out some of this garbage, and her talks with KDP have been productive. KDP is taking reports seriously and has real people checking on a case-by-case basis. For the first time, I have some hope that they will make real progress on this scam. But as someone else pointed out, scammers gonna scam. I believe they'll find and exploit another loophole again and again ad nauseum.

With too much else to do to mess with it right now, I've started the process of going wide by letting all my KU offers expire. If and when I get a break from projects I feel may be more valuable in the long run, I'll prepare all my books to go wide, and I'm looking at blockchain technology for sales instead of relying on other people's platforms.
 

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Well you certainly can't keep us hanging with this juicy little morsel.
Sorry, I forgot to answer this. I had to find the reference. There's a Facebook group called Author Support Network where I get most of my industry news, as its an industry in which I only marginally participate these days. Someone posted about Publica.com, which apparently is a new platform. I gather from the 184 comments on that thread the jury is still out, but it caught my imagination immediately. However, I haven't had time to look into it. Feel free to check it out. If you want to come back and summarize, go for it!
 

lowtek

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Sorry, I forgot to answer this. I had to find the reference. There's a Facebook group called Author Support Network where I get most of my industry news, as its an industry in which I only marginally participate these days. Someone posted about Publica.com, which apparently is a new platform. I gather from the 184 comments on that thread the jury is still out, but it caught my imagination immediately. However, I haven't had time to look into it. Feel free to check it out. If you want to come back and summarize, go for it!

Lol blockchain + authoring. When will the insanity end? IMHO it's just a marketing ploy to cater to people who want to hop on the bandwagon.

Don't get me wrong, the block chain is awesome and has many great applications. But ... preselling books? Why does that need a decentralized database? What benefit does that offer over any other digital platform? If it offered some way to prevent piracy of the material, then I could see that as a tangible benefit, but that's not something they mention under the benefits.
 

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Lol blockchain + authoring. When will the insanity end? IMHO it's just a marketing ploy to cater to people who want to hop on the bandwagon.

Don't get me wrong, the block chain is awesome and has many great applications. But ... preselling books? Why does that need a decentralized database? What benefit does that offer over any other digital platform? If it offered some way to prevent piracy of the material, then I could see that as a tangible benefit, but that's not something they mention under the benefits.
Off the top of my head, it removes the rules that Amazon places on preselling for no other reason than to control authors, but like I said, I haven't had time to take a thorough look, or even read all those comments on the thread where I first learned of it. It's low on my priority list right now. But thanks for your perspective.
 

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Wow. The scams by "Chance" remind me of the approach to life preached in Four Hour Work Week: Find the rules, find the loopholes, exploit the loopholes, declare yourself a winner. No difference between what Chance did here, and 4HWW's story of winning at sumo wrestling by startling the big guy out of the circle rather than actually wrestling him. I agree with Azure, Brandtastic and Charnell: Scammers gonna scam, it's just what they do.

One ghostwriter, I believe, said she earned only $400 for a 50,000-word novel.
I'm at $15k per 50,000 words for ghostwriting nonfiction business books. I don't have to invent anything, only get information from client interviews. I don't need any character development or plot, beyond The Boss Who Needed Better Training Methodology, and then he found the methodology and his team's more happy and successful than ever. Probably still better character and plot than the dirty uncle in the typing pool. The only explicit input/output scene will be the one about the enterprise database's hookup with the Process Navigator Window. Hmm, maybe the outtakes could be made a little spicier and sold to Chase for another $400?

Well you certainly can't keep us hanging with this juicy little morsel.
These are romance novels, so maybe that's exactly where they wanted things left hanging before the sequel!

But ... preselling books? Why does that need a decentralized database?
The point of blockchain is prevent scam entries from polluting the shared history of events. I could imagine the potential of a blockchain of authenticated reviews. Scammers who try to game the system, would only get away with it if they have more computing power than everyone who ever adds an honest review.
 

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Azure

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@Late Bloomer

It was actually a form of Kung Fu that Tim Ferris claims to hAve won a world championship in.

I'll give you a dollar if you can find any actual evidence of this though, because anyone that has looked into it - including people who follow the sport closely - can't seem to figure out what year it happened, or what major federation in happened in.

He made the story up.
 

Readerly

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Hi, @ChickenHawk. I stumbled across this article on TheVerge.com and immediately thought of you, for obvious reasons. What's your take on the story? It suggests that the gaming-Kindle-Unlimited-for-profit tide may have finally turned.

BAD ROMANCE
To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm
By Sarah Jeong

On June 4th, a group of lawyers shuffled into a federal court in Manhattan to argue over two trademark registrations. The day’s hearing was the culmination of months of internet drama — furious blog posts, Twitter hashtags, YouTube videos, claims of doxxing, and death threats.​
 
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ChickenHawk

ChickenHawk

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Hi, @ChickenHawk. I stumbled across this article on TheVerge.com and immediately thought of you, for obvious reasons. What's your take on the story? It suggests that the gaming-Kindle-Unlimited-for-profit tide may have finally turned.

BAD ROMANCE
To cash in on Kindle Unlimited, a cabal of authors gamed Amazon’s algorithm
By Sarah Jeong

On June 4th, a group of lawyers shuffled into a federal court in Manhattan to argue over two trademark registrations. The day’s hearing was the culmination of months of internet drama — furious blog posts, Twitter hashtags, YouTube videos, claims of doxxing, and death threats.​
Oh man, I'm sorry that I just saw this! But that's a really great article and summarizes the situation nicely. Reading it six months late, it's especially interesting because the tides have indeed turned. Money-chasers will almost certainly continue to invade Kindle Unlimited, but I doubt it will ever be as bad as it was. Amazon has done a lot to eliminate the scamming and in fact, almost all of the notorious pen names have been purged from the store along with their "books."

Thank goodness, I say! Sanity has returned to the bestselling charts, and honest authors are once again getting more visibility. Looking back, it's amazing that the scamming continued for as long as it did, but I'll say this, when Amazon finally took action, it did a pretty decent job of it. *Crosses fingers it continues.*
 

Readerly

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Oh man, I'm sorry that I just saw this! But that's a really great article and summarizes the situation nicely. Reading it six months late, it's especially interesting because the tides have indeed turned. Money-chasers will almost certainly continue to invade Kindle Unlimited, but I doubt it will ever be as bad as it was. Amazon has done a lot to eliminate the scamming and in fact, almost all of the notorious pen names have been purged from the store along with their "books."

Thank goodness, I say! Sanity has returned to the bestselling charts, and honest authors are once again getting more visibility. Looking back, it's amazing that the scamming continued for as long as it did, but I'll say this, when Amazon finally took action, it did a pretty decent job of it. *Crosses fingers it continues.*
I'm glad to hear some measure of justice has finally been served! And thanks for the rep, @ChickenHawk. It's much appreciated.
 

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