author, reading, writing

Authors beware: A new danger for KU authors

Hi all,

Anyone who follows me closely will know my book was removed from Amazon for almost a fortnight after they registered some unusual activity. At first I was at a loss. What was it, where had it come from? But since I have learnt a terrifying truth behind Kindle Unlimited, it is one all authors need to be aware of. It is a KU scam that could ruin your career and put your money into fraudsters’ pockets.

In this post I will detail my own experience, in hope you know what to look out for.

I was running a book promotion, a push to generate interest in my first book. After approaching blogs and book promotion sites I began to run a 99cents promotion on Darrienia, which at that time was number one in two of its categories. Book two is coming out at the end of the year and, despite it being a stand alone novel, I was aiming to attract more readers in the hope they would want to read the second book. I did what any author would, attempt to get the message out there. It worked, with the 99cents offer I see an increase in sales, but also an increase in KU activity. Brilliant right? Not really.

A week later my book was no longer for sale. Confused I logged onto my KDP account but couldn’t access the bookshelf and the ‘Contact Us’ button wasn’t working. After hours of trying to find a way to contact Amazon KDP, posting on the forums asking for help, I remembered having raised a query with them. I found it and clicked ‘no’ on the did we solve your problem link and finally, I was able to send them an email. But the information I got back was concerning.

“We are reaching out to you because we have detected that borrows for your books are originating from systematically generated accounts… 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. We will issue a negative adjustment to any outstanding royalty payments.”
Wow. I looked at my reports and saw the steady stream of KU reads still present, rising and falling over the days as would be expected. But the words ‘systematically generated accounts’ raised concern. I asked for clarification but believe my email went unseen. I email again, detailing all the third-party promotions and sites I have been using in case one of them did something untoward. Days later I receive an email back to say they are investigating and will get back to me within 7 business days. So I wait. I wait and I wait, all the time fearing the worst. Amazon wipe all my KU page reads and obviously as above keep all my sale royalties too. But I didn’t care about this, I still don’t. I was never writing for the money. I had a story that I needed to tell and my entire writing future was on the line.

When royalty payment day came I had still heard nothing. But then something strange happened. I get a phone call from my bank. Someone has charged £100s worth of iTunes to my account.

Alarm bells are obviously ringing.

Back in February I was the victim of identity fraud, but not the kind you see on TV. This person rang my bank pretending to be me but failed the security checks. They did however have my account number, sort code, name, address, mobile number, and date of birth. The bank was great, they contacted Action Fraud and Cifas. I also paid to register with Cifas and a credit reference agency. I got my credit checks password protected and a note on my account stating I have no intention to apply for any loans or credit cards. The next day a letter comes through, someone has tried to open a savings account in my name. I call this bank and alert them to fraud. Next a letter comes from Three about the mobile phone and contract I am trying to take out via their web-store. But because I am now registered as having been a victim of identity theft they are contacting me to ensure the application is legitimate. I call them and once again advise it isn’t genuine. Then nothing. the bank are monitoring my account, I cant have credit checks run without being asked for a password, and silence seems to fall once more. I thought I was safe safe. I was wrong.

The day of this month’s royalty payment comes and £100s are requested from my bank.

My bank were great. I was given new details and the transactions were voided. Then it occurred to me, given the timing surely this was more than a coincidence. What if this odd activity against my book wasn’t a result of the promotions but someone trying to ensure there was money in my account for them to take? I contact Amazon and update them on the events. I ask if their investigation has yielded any information I can pass on to ActionFraud and Cifas and I advise them of the bank’s actions. Suddenly things are held in a different light. I have fraud reference codes and a targeted attack on my bank on the day the payments would have cleared. Amazon take this new information on board and agree to reinstate my account.

Even now I am unsure if the person who attempted to steal my identity in February is the same person who did this, but one thing is certain, it has opened a whole new page on fraud and nearly ruined my writing career in the process.

You may be reading this thinking someone got their hands on my bank statements, or I am careless with my information. Believe me, I am not. Before I switched to paperless statements all bank statements went through a zigzag shredder. Anything with my name and address on gets shredded, even junk mail. The only people who had my bank details were companies I used for direct debits, Amazon, my mobile provider, and of course Paypal. So perhaps I was not careful with my online activity. I like everyone these days have multiple antivirus/ anti-malware tools, ones which protect real time, ones which prevent trojans, adware, flash cookies, malware, etc.  My bank even provide their online banking customers with free software that guards against keylogging and protects the sites you select. By giving them the code from their software they were able to confirm that my computer was not compromised.

The moral of this story is simple. If you see activity in your KU which is against the normal figures contact Amazon immediately, and keep an eye on your bank for small transactions you are unfamiliar with, someone could be testing the water. Don’t assume you’re getting interest in your book, even if you are running a promotion, or pushing KU. It is better to contact them first with concerns rather than suddenly not be allowed to sell with them and then have to prove you have no knowledge of events.

This experience has really opened my eyes. The things that were done I had never dreamed possible, especially with Amazon’s IP tracking. After all, they always know who and where you are. I still don’t know how it was pulled off, and I imagine I never will. I only hope that either the fraud teams, or Amazon catch up to them. The events are too closely linked not to be connected, so whether this is a new fraud specifically targeting authors, or someone exploiting existing victims after researching them further, one thing is clear, they knew me. They knew I was an author and found a means to exploit it for their own gains and very nearly ruined me in the process.

Personally, I have asked if Amazon will remove my book from KU before the end of the 90 day contract considering what has happened. KU was a great idea, but my fear of this happening again is still too real and I am not sure I can ever trust it again.

I hope this information reaches far and wide, it is something we all must be aware of. Who knows how many people have already been targeted, and how their techniques will adapt in the future.

Thank you for reading.

If you are interested in my book, it is back on Amazon, still at 99cents, and can be found here

If you have found this information useful please share the post, this is something all authors with their work on KU need to be aware of.

 

 

58 thoughts on “Authors beware: A new danger for KU authors”

    1. exactly, we spend hours on end promoting, without trying to seem pushy, trying to gain interest, followers, etc, then when things start to look good you praise the time and effort, only to find out it was something else entirely 😦 I hope your books are doing well, thanks for reblogging

      Like

  1. This is the second post I have read like this – the other person was taken off amazon indefinitely! Really scary – and if Amazon are going to take such action I think I’ll rethink my KU membership too!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Thanks for passing this information on. I was on KU, but decided not to return once off. Was going to change my mind recently, but now I won’t! That was such a nightmare for you. Sorry you went through that. Any time we put ourselves in the public eye, it’s not always a good thing, unfortunately.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I feel absolutely sick for you. I can’t imagine that happening to me, but it could. I have a book coming out 6/30 which would have been exclusive to KU for 90 days. Forget it now! There’s no way. I appreciate you writing your horrible experience for others to learn and beware. I’m so sorry this happened to you. Truly, you are grace under fire.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you (sorry my reply is less than timely) if you’re on KU the best thing is to watch page reads and notify Amazon if you think anything is untoward. I personally will not go back to KU, but I know a lot of authors who have never had any problems. I hope your book launch went well

      Like

  4. now people who say I should use Kindle Unlimited know why I don’t or won’t. Even though this never happened to me. Only my two non-fiction books are on KDP select but not KU, also they don’t sell so no money to be made there.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi there,

        I am just curious if you’ve had an explanation of what happened from Amazon that gave you more trust in KU? I was checking out your book and it looks like you’re currently enrolled in KU again. I know this is a pretty old post, so I was just curious how things have gone since all of this went down…

        Today I received the email:

        “We are reaching out to you because we detected reading or borrow activity for your books originating from illegitimate accounts attempting to manipulate the Kindle programs. These accounts might be related to a third-party marketing service. You will receive royalties associated with legitimate or paid sales; however, we will not pay for reading activity related to illegitimate accounts.”

        Lost lots of reads from last month, killed book rank, and prompted me to remove all the books we have from KU (as soon as the current enrollment expires).

        We’ve always gotten about 50% of our monthly revenue from the KU sales, so I hate to leave it, but this has be concerned, especially after reading so many other accounts of this completely devastating other authors.

        Appreciate your post and any additional thoughts you might have. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think I replied to this, sorry. In honesty, after my bank account was targeted and the fraud action teams got involved I felt more comfortable because I had this to back me up, instead of it just being something that occurred with Amazon. I also had countless requests from people to put my books back on KU, so after exchanging a few emails with Amazon, and asking they notify me if there is any strange activity, changing banks, passwords, etc etc, I gave them another chance. Although even now my stomach flutters if I see an unexpected spike.
        As for Amazon themselves, the fact they didn’t remove your books completely is good news, when I had this issue my titles were removed without warning. It shows they are now understanding that you can’t control if someone with a crack account reads your work. (apparently page read farming is a thing) and that they are only paying for what they can see as legitimate reads (I’m not sure how they would flag this unless they use their IP tracking or have flagged accounts) shows progression, but it can be frustrating when you see some good figures and find out they’re not ‘real’. The best thing to do you be to ask them if they can elaborate on the affected reads, and if there’s anything you can do to help put a stop to them.

        I can only really work on what I would do based on the experience I had, I’m not saying this would help, but I really can understand the frustration. I hope you get it sorted

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry you have gone through something like this. Some people are just rotten, and the lengths they’ll go to are astonishing. I’m definitely removing my KU title at three end of the exclusion period; the risks are simply too great. =/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. People like this don’t care who they hurt, they are out for themselves. I hope your books are doing well, whilst I won’t return to KU I do often urge anyone on there to keep an eye on page reads and if they are unsure contact Amazon through the KDP dashboard. it’s always better to voice a concern first. I hope you’re doing well 🙂

      Like

  6. Thank you for blogging this. I’m so sorry to hear you had to go through this. I have a novel ready to launch soon and I was considering KU for the first 90 days. I think I will take a different approach.
    I’m reblogging on “The Write Lovers” blogspot.
    Tia

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My only advice if you use KU would be to keep an eye on the page reads, and if you’re unsure, or get a sudden boost, contact Amazon through the KDP dashboard. It’s better to be safe. I am steering clear, once bitten and such. I wish you the best with your books

      Like

  7. Reblogged this on Edgewise Words Inn and commented:
    This is one more reason why I will never go Kindle Uunlimited. I’ve never had problems with the Big A, but I don’t want all my eggs in their basket. I use Draft 2 Digital to post to all other venues. That way, in one day of uploading in 2 simple steps, Amazon and D2D, I am able to make sure my work is available in all formats. If a person wanted they could even post to Amazon through D2D, but I prefer to keep that separate as most of my sales are through Amazon.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My personal PayPal account was hit on June 2nd for a $100 itunes card from paypal digital gifts. I called PayPal and they refunded it immediately. A few days later I checked my publishing business paypal account and realized they’d hit it for $25, $50, and $100 iTunes cards (all through PayPal Digital gifts). I contacted PayPal and filed a claim, expecting immediate resolution. A couple of days later they fired off an email stating nothing unauthorized had occurred and closed the claim. Needless to say, I was – and still am – livid.

    Unlike you, I did not see any increase in sales (in fact, my personal books are not enrolled in KU at all). However, June 2nd is 2 days after Amazon paid out royalties, so I believe I’m suffering from something very similar to what you are. I’ve forwarded your account on to PayPal in my appeal to the their claim in hopes they realize what complete douche bags they are being. If they don’t, I plan on raising a serious stink and hopefully launching a social media storm against them. I’ve had great experiences with PayPal before this – but it only takes one epic failure to ruin that credibility.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Any time, (my reply however is not so timely, sorry) My main advice would be just to keep an eye on your reads and if you suddenly get a lot of traffic send a quick email over to them, better safe than sorry. My books haven’t been on KU since it was reinstated, and still people are reading it on that platform. (Which Amazon state is fine as it was downloaded prior to being removed)

      Like

    1. There really is, it is terrifying really. The amount of people who contacted me to say they’d had a similar thing was unbelievable, and it all seemed focused around the same month.

      Like

    1. They do apparently, although from other cases I have read, similar to my own, it seems the automated email doesn’t go through. I agree completely, they have all manner of contact details for us, and whilst they can see if things look untoward we, as authors, simply get excited about a sales boost thinking all the effort we’re putting in to advertising is beginning to pay off.

      Like

    1. Thanks, they truly don’t care who they hurt and what they destroy. Touch wood I’ve not had any further issues, but I am hearing more and more of the same type of thing these days.

      Like

  9. Theres even a bigger crisis now with kdp, a small time author has no voice. A one day surge in one of my books and my account is terminated, royalties denied. amazon doesn’t want to listen or atleast investigate first. I experienced them more like conmen. Extreme and frustrating

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.