Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gaming the System at Amazon KDP

I've always contended that there are a number of people gaming the KDP system. Today I'll offer evidence of it.

You can make yourself look very good if you have a few hundred, or even a few thousand bucks, to spare by going to the store and buying "gift" credit cards and then use them to buy your own books after lowing the price to 99 cents (or free) and then leave yourself reviews with a credit card that isn't linked to your real name. You can register a gift card under any fake name, phone #, and address you like. Then Amazon has no way of knowing who you really are, and they'll accept your reviews of your own books. Kid's stuff-101, right?


The vast majority of mainstream authors will sell about as many print books as they do Kindle books. Providing the Kindle and print editions come out around the same time, their sales rankings will be pretty close. Hardback sales usually take a nosedive after the print/kindle edtions come out, so you generally can't count those. However, sometimes the Kindle edition will come out while the hardback is still selling well and there isn't yet a paperback edition, or if there is one, it's something like a large print edition or a mass produced edition if it's a classic, and those don't sell very good. In that case, the Kindle and hardback editions may rank very close in sales. A good example is Bill O'Reilly's Killing Lincoln. The only paperback edition of that book is a large print edition, so it doesn't sell well at all. But look how close the hardback and Kindle eidtions are in sales ranking:

Hardback - 60 # ranking
Kindle - 174

Here's an example of someone I won't name, but it's a self-published author who sells extremely well through Kindle books, but look at their Createspace paperback sales ranking of the same book which has been out for a couple of years now:

Paperback - 1,365,020
Kindle - 1,352

Now let's look at a book by a good traditional author. Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is on the best seller's list again because of the new movie coming out.

Paperback - 17
Kindle - 144

Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle by the The Countess Of Carnarvon is big because of the PBS Downtown Abbey series:

Paperback - 38
Kindle - 461

If someone self-published uses KDP (Kindle books) & Createspace (or Lulu) and has their book(s) available in both Kindle and print editions, and they're a big seller, then their sales rankings should run close to the same in both Kindle and print since the buying public purchases about as many Kindle books as print books right now. (Actually, paperback sales are generally still a bit higher.) If you see a large descrepency, between the two, you can bet it's probably somebody gaming the system. After all, it's cheap for someone with a good job to spend a thousand dollars on gift cards in order to produce sales and phoney reviews by just lowering the price on their Kindle books now and then use gift cards to spend a dollar on each in order to make a few purchases and leave reviews, and then raise the price back up the next morning. But how do they do the same with print books without loosing their shirts? They can't. The Kindle books didn't cost them anything to make or sell. But they can't lower the price of print books below a threshhold that covers all the costs of it, and that isn't cheap, so gaming the system with print books is very difficult unless you're very rich.

The gist of things is this: If Kindle sales rankings are very high, and print sales rankings are very low, there's reason for concern.