Remember earlier this year when authors were being punished for putting a table of contents at the end of their ebooks?
As David Gaughran inferred and Amazon confirmed, those authors were getting caught up in one of Amazon's fights against Kindle Unlimited scammers who were tricking readers into clicking links which lead to the end of an ebook (this enabled the scammers to get paid for an entire read).
Now authors are getting caught up in another enforcement action, only with much more serious consequences. Author Becca Mills writes on her blog, The Active Voice (which I found via The Passive Voice), about an author who was banned because the author had books in KU which showed suspicious reading behavior.
Here's the email Amazon sent the author:
We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts. While we support the legitimate efforts of our publishers to promote their books, attempting to manipulate the Kindle platform and/or Kindle programs is not permitted. As a result of the irregular borrow activity, we have removed your books from the KDP store and are terminating your KDP account and your KDP Agreement effective immediately.
As part of the termination process, we will close your KDP account(s) and remove the books you have uploaded through KDP from the Kindle Store. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royalty payments. Additionally, as per our Terms and Conditions, you are not permitted to open new KDP accounts and will not receive future royalty payments from additional accounts created.
A search of the KDP support forums turned up two more authors with similar tales. One dates to early May, and was posted by an author who had made the mistake of submitting their book to the wrong KU readers list on FB, but the other may be from an innocent victim.
All of these authors are either innocent victims of, or participants in, shady book promotions scams which are designed to scam Amazon out of Kindle Unlimited royalties by pumping up page views.
As Ann Christy explained over on TPV, the innocent authors with just one or two low ranking books (aka "prawns") are being used for camouflage by the scammers:
Bot driven KU accounts are hired by click-farms. Just like with Adsense and other such click schemes, how do they obfuscate that they are bot driven?
They download a random real book and make sure to do the same to that one. By doing it enough times interspersed with the books they’re hired to click-farm, they make it hard to figure out they’re a click farmer at first glance.
Unfortunately, now that Amazon has responeded to the click farming, they are hammering the innocent victims of the click farmers attempts to hide what they are.
If you’re a prawn, you’re a potential target.
I don't know which authors were willing participants, unwitting participants, or innocent victims, but that doesn't matter here.
What matters is that Amazon is banning both scammers and victims. In all fairness, I don't think Amazon can tell the difference (the willing participants look a lot like the victims), but again, that doesn't matter.
What matters is that there is a problem, and only one real solution. All authors can do to protect themselves is remove their books from Kindle Unlimited.
That stinks, yes, but what else can authors do?
image by garann