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.

 

 

author, book review, reading

Readers’ Favorite: I’ve earned my stamp

For those of you who follow my blog you’ll have noticed it is more about the books I have read and the authors I have encountered rather than my own books, Darrienia and Herbal Lore. The reason is a simple one, I believe authors should support each other.

I have recently been approved as an official reviewer for Readers’ Favorite and a few days back I earned the privilege of being able to use their official stamp.

From this point onward any review I do on their behalf will feature the stamp, whilst other reviews will not. I’d like to thank you all for following my blog, and wish you a wonderful week.

RF_Official_Reviewer

author, charity, writing

Camels and Cake: Tea for Three

Camels and Cake is a collection of flash fiction from authors across the globe, uniting together to raise money for a global aid charity. 100% of al51eL-qhNCDL__SX327_BO1,204,203,200_l money from this project is donated directly to the charity.

You will recognise some of the author’s names from books I have reviewed in the past, and I must say, it has been a great honour to work with every one of these people.

The authors involved in Camels and Cake are as follows:

Nicole Wilson 
Jason Byrne
Jennifer Stone 
Bernard Stacey 
K.G. Christopher    
Chase Gamwell
K.J. Simmill 
David Parkland
Karen Gray

Again it has been an honour, thank you for including me in this wonderful project.

reading

Writer review – Michael Frost – Horror

I often find myself returning to the blog of a particular writer. I feel it highly unfair, since I am enjoying his short stories so much, that the joy, (or should I say bone chilling horror?), I experience reading his work should go unmentioned. This writer is Michael Frost and his work can be found here Michael Frost’s page

I think Mr Frost has a very distinctive writing style, for me it conjures a very particular feeling and image. Imagine, if you will, all those Christmas movies which start, or are introduced, by a well known author sat before an open log fire, imagine the warmth and comfort you feel from that image, from that person. Then as the story begins you find not the merriment of Christmas cheer, but a deeply disturbing tale which sends goose bumps chasing up and down your skin as the images conjured with such mastery of words as that some of the images leave you feeling chilled to the very depths of your soul.

I personally prefer reading horror when the dark nights are closing in, I love creating an atmosphere, especially for reading horror. If I don’t go to bed concerned about what horrors conjured by the tales may find me then, although I could praise a story’s merits, I wouldn’t sing it’s praises. So far this writer’s work has indeed plagued my rather active imagination, and in broad daylight no less.  Just this morning I read ‘The Attic’ and thus far it has been the most horrifying yet, although I am not reading his work in any particular order. After reading it I had to visit the the hospital, and as I walked the long empty corridor, carrying my son, I heard a strange scraping sound from above. It didn’t take much for my mind to return to the story and wonder what horrors lay within the crawl spaces above, waiting for the right opportunity to lore their prey into their trap, pulling them into their own version of this story as below, people walked by unaware, or even dismissive, of what may be causing the strange noises heard from above.

One thing is for certain, Michael Frost is certainly a master of his craft, some of his stories go beyond what is expected from them, surprising the reader and taking them to whole new levels of terror as they are forced to imagine themselves in that position, in that place. Of course, he possesses many different styles of story, psychological, horrific, terrible, and sometimes haunting. Each tale differs so greatly to the last, not only in story, but in atmosphere and the emotions it invokes in the reader. Sometimes the horror is obvious, sometimes it is written with gentle subtlety. His style adapting to the needs of the story effortlessly.

I sincerely hope you will take the time to visit Michael Frost’s website and see for yourself the many faces of horror this writer has not only captured, but shows such proficiency in.

author, charity, Home, Homepage, reading, writing

Chairty page now open for the Darrienia giveaway

Hi all, it’s a little premature I know, but I have opened the charity page for the UHNM charity, with funds being directed to the Neonatal department.

Anyone wanting to enter the draw for a chance to win a £20 Amazon voucher, two books authored by K.J. Simmill, and other goodies, please check out my fundraising page KJ’s justgiving page

This giveaway is a means to raise funds for the University Hospital of North Midlands, with funds being directed by the charity to support the neonatal departments.

The Winner of the giveaway will be drawn on August 31st, prior to the release of Darrienia on 1st September 2015.

There is no suggested donation, so please give what you feel you can, anything raised will be gratefully received. If you are donating please be sure to leave an email address, so that I can contact you if you are the winner and arrange for the items to be shipped to your location. No details will be used by myself for any means other than contacting the winner.

In addition to this giveaway, in which a donation is requested for entry, the author will also be donating 10% of royalties to the UHNS charity received from the title Darrienia.

I am still in the starting stage of getting everything arranged, details of the items will be added at a later stage, however I can reveal that it will contain the following:

Two books both authored by K.J. Simmill, A £20 Amazon gift voucher, a Darrienia notebook, A pen, and a 2016 calendar.

Please note the cut off date for entry will be August 30th 23:59 GMT, the draw will be held, and the winner announced, on August 31st. The items will then be shipped to the winner.

Donating through JustGiving is simple, fast and totally secure. Your details are safe with JustGiving – they’ll never sell them on or send unwanted emails. Once you donate, they’ll send your money directly to the charity. So it’s the most efficient way to donate – saving time and cutting costs for the charity.

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author, charity, reading, writing

You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology for Macmillan Cancer Support

Hi I hope you are all in good health.

I just wanted to do a very quick blog for an upcoming book. I have personally pre-ordered my copy and can’t wait to get my hands on it, so watch this space for a review in the upcoming months.

At this moment I am not getting as much time as I would like to dedicate to reading, in fact, my reading list has almost doubled whilst I still have yet to check a book off it. I can’t help myself, I love reading, and if I am honest, about 95% of all the works I purchase are written by indie authors.

Many years back indie authors were getting bad press and words like vanity publishing were being thrown around by traditional publishers, but to be quite honest, having read a large number of indie books I have yet to come across one that hasn’t clearly shown the author’s passion for writing, a passion which is clearly reflected through the brilliant characters and compelling plots. It is for this reason I now favour the indie authors over the traditionally published ones. Of course, being independent means they don’t get the publicity of traditionally published authors and all marketing comes out of their own pocket and awareness comes from word of mouth, and the help of social media and blogs.

As you may know I am quite active on social media, more so Twitter at the moment, I have made friends with a number of authors and I was really excited to learn about an upcoming release which will contain the works of many indie authors. A few of the names I already know and have loved their work, so I jumped at the chance to pre-order it, who knows, I may even find more books to add to my ever growing list.

The authors of this work span over countless time zones and have banded together in order to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support, in fact 100% of the royalties from this labour of love are being donated to this cause. I think what this selection of authors are doing is amazing, they have dedicated their time and effort into producing an outstanding work and have done so selflessly under the banner of doing something good for charity.

The book itself, which is titled “You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology” is now available for pre-order and will be available from the 11th July

Why not take a look at it for yourself? The link is below. I hope you are as excited about reading this as I am.

Click here to check it out

Here’s the list of authors involved in this project it is the combined effort of the following International Indie Authors. In order of appearance.

Lesley Hayes (Editor In Chief, grammatical and literary advisor)
BL Pride
Anthony Randall
Ian D. Moore (Project Leader, Charity Liason/Legal, formatting/proofreading)
Mike Billington
D. Avraham
Sallyann Phillips (Editorial Team, Blog Tour Organiser and Promotions Advocate)
Kayla Howarth
Christoph Fischer
Phyllis Edgerley Ring
Felipe Adan Lerma
Sylva Fae (Editorial Team, Promotions Advocate)
Andy Updegrove
Penny Luker
Katerina Sestakova Novotna
Lisa Shambrook
Tom Benson
Katharine E. Hamilton
Lucinda E. Clarke
Barbara Doran
Angela Lockwood
Rebecca Bryn
Max Power
Paul Ruddock
S.K. Holmesley
Eric Lahti
S.E. Meyer
Nico Laser (Cover image graphics designer, file formatting and conversion.)
Diana J. Febry (Editorial Team)
Christine Southworth (Artist and cover image creator)

Certain members of the above group also had other roles in the creation of this anthology as indicated.

reading

Book review – Angel’s Blood by Sallyann Phillips

As you may have seen me mentioning a few times, my favourite book of 2014 was, without a doubt, Angels Blood by Sallyann Phillips.  But what made this book my favourite?

As a teenager I loved the work of L.J. Smith but as with teenage fiction you get to a point where you outgrow it. Truth be told since that point I have tried multiple paranormal, vampire, supernatural style books but I had never found that instant connection, until now.  I found this book rekindled the same emotions and enjoyment for me as an adult which L.J. Smith’s work did for me as a child, with the added bonus of the writing style being such that I have no concern of outgrowing.

I adore the writing style of this author. I have always loved a story with strong characters which drive a plot forwards, in fact characters and character development make or break a story for me.  I found myself really enjoying the exchange between them, and yes I grinned with them and I have no shame in saying there was even one point in the story I found myself shedding tears, all three times I read it.  (Yes I have read it three times, twice of which was this year.)  The characters are well-thought out and deep, each possessing their own, very real personality. The creation and interactions between them so expertly done you feel like these characters are your friends and you passionately root for them.

But enough about the characters, attempting not to including any spoilers to the plot.  The story follows the protagonist Tavi as she struggles to cope with the recent loss of her father, but in her attempt to ensure her safety finds herself forced into a life which her mother tried so desperately to protect her from. Worse still, her arrival at Camden Falls starts a chain of events that span back countless years, tracing back to before her birth. As she learns more about her history, her origins, she is compelled to put an end to the trouble which links back to the reason her mother so desperately tried to protect her from the life she is trying to embrace.

I found the plot well conceived and gripping,  moving forwards at the perfect pace.  The author introduces a new origin myth for vampires and werewolves which is truly inspired.  The story leaves the reader wanting more and I eagerly await the second book in this compelling series, in fact I can quite confidently say this author has a fan for life.

I honestly believe this work eclipses some of the writings of well-known authors in this genre. I believe given the opportunity Angels Blood could go all the way to the big screen, or at the very least have a TV series.  The reasoning behind my belief, other than the fact this work is brilliant and enjoyable, follows on from the popularity of Vampire Diaries, True blood, Being Human and other such popular series and that’s not even touching films.  I feel the work fills a gap in the genre, there is already so much on the market about vampires, why not now embrace a brilliantly written werewolf focused plot which crosses carefully into vampire terrain in a well-executed manner.

I hope you will pick up a copy for yourself and leave a review on Amazon.

Buy it here