Links of note

How a cabal of romance writers cashed in on Amazon Kindle Unlimited

“… book stuffing plagues the romance genre on Kindle Unlimited, with titles that come in at 2000 or even 3000 pages (the maximum page length for a Kindle Unlimited book). That’s approximately the length of Atlas Shrugged or War and Peace.

“Book stuffing is particularly controversial because Amazon pays authors from a single communal pot. In other words, Kindle Unlimited is a zero-sum game. The more one author gets from Kindle Unlimited, the less the other authors get.

“Every time a reader reads to the end of a 3,000-page book, the author earns almost 14 dollars. For titles that break into the top of the Kindle Unlimited charts, this trick can generate a fortune.

“Of course, you might be wondering if any readers actually read through all 3000 pages. But authors deploy a host of tricks in service of gathering page reads — from big fonts and wide spacing to a ‘link back.’ Some authors would place a link at the very front of the book, to sign up to a mailing list. The link would take them to the back of the book, thus counting all pages read. It’s not clear whether any of this actually works.

“Readers aren’t unsophisticated, but Amazon’s reward system is set up so that any regret or dissatisfaction they feel after reading an inflated book that reached them through a variety of SEO tricks won’t make a dent in the pockets of one of these more market-savvy authors. All that matters is that the pages are marked as read.”

This type of gamesmanship is both fascinating and consistent. Anytime a company creates an automated ranking mechanism you know it’s only a matter of time before people hack it from within. One thing that’s always impressed me about Google is that it rewards relevance in its search results, which means the company’s goal (get people to use its search engine) and the searcher’s goal (find the most useful stuff) are in alignment. Content creators who rely on Google for traffic are motivated — for the most part — to craft material that’s valuable to the target audience. Doing well on Google means doing well for the audience. But a case like the one described in this article is more common, at least for a time. The good news is that some companies eventually figure it out. Google appears to have a handle on search now. Ebay applies buyer and seller feedback effectively. Slashdot uses impressive curation and moderation. It can be done.