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Old 10-06-2017, 05:23 PM   #1
Lima Bean
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Amazon thinks I cheated, but I didn't.

Amazon used to let people get away with gaming the system. I applauded them for trying to crack down on the cheaters , but now that I have been wrongly accused of manipulating sales I'm not as enthusiastic.

In case you're interested in what happened to me, here I go . . .

I didn't know there was a problem until I noticed one of my books had lost its sales rank. I thought it was a technical glitch, so I contacted customer service. They thought it was a technical glitch as well and promised to look into it.

A week after my first inquiry I finally got a message back from someone in compliance:

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions. We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.


Compliance also wrote:

We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations.

Please be aware we will not be providing additional details.




I take it that they think I'm a scammer, but they won't share the evidence as to why they've reached such a conclusion. The email account used by their compliance team doesn't allow the recipient to reply, which is meant to discourage back-and-forth conversations. Geez, I know Amazon is busy, but that's kinda crappy.

It's enrolled in KDP Select, so I used the free giveaway option sanctioned by Amazon. It ran from Sept 18th to 22nd. I advertised the giveaway at the usual places like FKBT, Fussy Librarian, Genre Pulse, Kindle Nation Daily, ENT and a few more.

After thinking long and hard on why Amazon believes it has evidence that I'm manipulating sales, I wonder if it has anything to do with the one-day Kindle Fire giveaway I sponsored at Kindle Nation Daily during the giveaway. However, eligibility to win didn't require a purchase or a download. The only requirement was to sign up to follow my blog or author page. So there's no sales manipulation going on there--only platform building so followers will know when I release future books and hopefully consider purchasing them. Could this be the culprit? I dunno because Amazon won't tell me how they arrived at their conclusion.

And, since I didn't do anything to game the system, I'm at a loss about how to correct it .

If what they are saying is true, that sales or borrows or whatever are coming from bogus accounts, I am not working in collusion with them. I didn't ask or pay anyone to do any such thing. The fraudsters are doing so independently of my wishes. So how can I make them stop?

Doesn't it make sense that these fraudsters, in order to make their fake accounts look more legitimate and fly under the radar longer, would possibly download legitimately offered free books alongside the ones they're being paid to artificially boost rank?

I pretty much told Amazon all of this, but they cannot be swayed.

I asked them how long they plan to punish me, but they won't even answer that much. Their reply is always the same parroted response, "We cannot offer advice on marketing services or details of our investigations."

To Amazon's credit, they have allowed the book to stay up for sale. It doesn't have a rank though. This means it doesn't get the benefit of showing up on any of the top genre lists, which hurts sales.

I've also noticed the book hasn't gotten any reviews since it lost its rank. That's surprising after 7000+ free downloads a few weeks ago. I figured it would get at least a few. Is it possible Amazon is suppressing them? Then again, only a small percentage of readers leave reviews. I'd like to ask compliance if this is part of my punishment, but they're a secretive bunch over there .

I've heard of author's getting kicked off the site for scamming the system, so I'm happy they haven't gone that far.

For now the book continues to sell despite its rank being suppressed, but time will tell if Amazon will let me keep what I earned or pocket all of the proceeds for themselves. Stay tuned.

A frustrating situation that I cannot fix, but a reminder for all writers out there to think twice before putting all of your eggs in one basket.

Last edited by Lima Bean; 10-06-2017 at 08:47 PM.
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Old 10-06-2017, 05:38 PM   #2
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To me, it just sounds like they're trying to determine what accounts are attempting to manipulate your sales rank. I see nothing in their response to indicate that they're accusing YOU of this manipulation. Until this is determined, as they state, "your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased." They're trying to protect themselves from the scheming scum that - in the past - has tarnished the reviews of their ebooks.

They DO go on to say that it's your responsibility to monitor your own marketing strategies. It's not their job to do this; it's your job.

Again, they're attempting to determine what is going on. They're not accusing you of this attempted manipulation. I certainly don't read their words that way.
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Old 10-06-2017, 05:52 PM   #3
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Hey Lima,
Can I ask how many weeks ago you did this promotion?
If it was less than 6 months ago with only 7000 downloads, you have gotten exactly the number of reviews that I expected.
Here are the two biggest reasons.
1. Not that many people review books.
2. People tend to pick up several free books at a time. Expected wait time on a free TBR, anywhere from 6 months to years.

So sorry you got caught in a trap.
Did you per chance get featured on ereaderiq?
I know he is legit but last time I looked the scammers were playing him like a Stratovarius.

Last edited by Cinisajoy; 10-06-2017 at 05:55 PM.
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Old 10-06-2017, 05:59 PM   #4
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Your interpretation makes me feel better, Dr. Drib. Thank you.

Also, I agree that it's my responsibility to monitor my marketing strategies.

However, I cannot stop fraudsters from buying my book any more than Amazon can stop kidnappers from buying duct tape from their website.
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:19 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cinisajoy View Post
Hey Lima,
Can I ask how many weeks ago you did this promotion?
If it was less than 6 months ago with only 7000 downloads, you have gotten exactly the number of reviews that I expected.
Here are the two biggest reasons.
1. Not that many people review books.
2. People tend to pick up several free books at a time. Expected wait time on a free TBR, anywhere from 6 months to years.

So sorry you got caught in a trap.
Did you per chance get featured on ereaderiq?
I know he is legit but last time I looked the scammers were playing him like a Stratovarius.
Using my own Kindle habits, I figured about ten percent of those who downloaded my book would actually read it and about one percent of them would leave a review. That would equal seven reviews. Just an estimate I pulled out of my arse. I'm still hopeful that they'll show up sooner or later .

As far as I know, it wasn't featured on ereaderiq. Now you got me curious. How does one go about scamming a website that's only purpose is to tell people about free and discounted books?
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:41 PM   #6
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Please pm me for the answer.
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Old 10-06-2017, 06:44 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lima Bean View Post
Using my own Kindle habits, I figured about ten percent of those who downloaded my book would actually read it and about one percent of them would leave a review. That would equal seven reviews. Just an estimate I pulled out of my arse. I'm still hopeful that they'll show up sooner or later .

As far as I know, it wasn't featured on ereaderiq. Now you got me curious. How does one go about scamming a website that's only purpose is to tell people about free and discounted books?
I think your review decimal is off. .1% leave reviews. So <1 in 7000.
Is yours a long book?
Give it at least a month.
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Old 10-12-2017, 11:54 AM   #8
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Lima Bean - Same deal for me

My bookbub and other ads ran Sept. 18.
Ranking disappeared two weeks ago and same emails.
I'm at a loss and scared to death I'll lose my account for nothing.
I followed all the rules and yet ...
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Old 10-12-2017, 11:57 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KBelle View Post
My bookbub and other ads ran Sept. 18.
Ranking disappeared two weeks ago and same emails.
I'm at a loss and scared to death I'll lose my account for nothing.
I followed all the rules and yet ...
What other ads?
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Old 10-12-2017, 12:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KBelle View Post
My bookbub and other ads ran Sept. 18.
Ranking disappeared two weeks ago and same emails.
I'm at a loss and scared to death I'll lose my account for nothing.
I followed all the rules and yet ...

Although you feel this way, I think this may be an over-reaction.

Give them a few weeks and see if anything has changed regarding your ranking stats.
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Old 10-13-2017, 06:25 AM   #11
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It's been a few weeks and my rank hasn't returned. I'm not hopeful.

KBelle, send me a PM if you want to compare notes. Maybe we can find a common denominator.
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Old 10-13-2017, 06:49 AM   #12
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I hope you're right. The common thread seems to be the free book promotion the week of Sept. 18.

Last edited by KBelle; 10-13-2017 at 07:08 AM.
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Old 10-13-2017, 07:08 AM   #13
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Crap. Can you delete your quote, then? I'm new to forum life! thanks.
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Old 10-13-2017, 08:44 AM   #14
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Crap. Can you delete your quote, then? I'm new to forum life! thanks.

Done.

Remember, just ask the person to PM you.
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Old 10-14-2017, 09:42 PM   #15
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Quote:
We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.
Hi Lima Bean,
I agree with Dr.Drib that it doesn't sound like they are blaming you. It sounds like some people who purchased your book/got it during the giveaway have also been flagged somehow as having accounts that have been used to try to manipulate the sales system. So they are looking into it and trying to make sure that your ranking isn't somehow skewed by these account holders. You're just the unlucky author who is caught in the middle of things. I hope they get it sorted out for you soon.
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