SFFMP 81: Kindle Unlimited Scams, Writing in Kindle Worlds, and Dystopian Fiction with Ann Christy

Today we talked with science fiction author Ann Christy, who has been tracking Kindle Unlimited and reporting on what scammers are up to in the program and why that’s important to us as authors. We also discussed how she came to be writing in Hugh Howey’s WOOL world and the pros and cons of publishing in Kindle Worlds.

Here’s a little more of what we covered:

  • Kindle World is restricted to US accounts and limits non-US readers.
    Kindle World can be positive for many writers because Amazon deals with many details. For example, they set the prices. There are a lot of things writers don’t have to deal with.
  • The split is 65/35% for the creators of the world and the authors of the books.
  • Ann said that when she started, she didn’t understand everything involving self publishing and didn’t even know what was a ‘good’ tally of sales day to day. She was concerned that she only had 100!
  • Ann wrote four books in Hugh Howey’s WOOL world before writing fiction set in her own worlds.
  • Ann made sure that she kept her own worlds open for people who wanted to write within her world. After her positive experience with Hugh Howey, she wanted to give opportunities to other writers.
  • There will always be scammers in Kindle Unlimited because they can move faster than Amazon.
  • One method that scammers do is to put together a large number (sometimes 3,000) pages of unreadable material. They hire people to ‘click farm’ and the hired clickers open the book and skip from the first page to the last page. The authors get paid as though someone had read 3,000 pages.
  • It’s so refined and organized that the collectives of scammers sometimes ‘take turns’ for who gets their bogus books “read” by the collective that week.
  • The books don’t stick around for long. The scammers will remove the copies that were up after they have been click farmed and then they will re-release them under another title.
  • To ensure that their ‘books’ were not well reviewed by Amazon, the scammers were careful about what days and times they submitted their projects that reduced the chances of being caught by Amazon reviewers. As long as they take down the book before Amazon notices it, then they can collect the money made through click farming.
  • It seems that Amazon has begun cracking down on the scammers. There are fewer scamming books then there were before.
  • There are other forms of scamming for Kindle Unlimited that will be more difficult to catch with an algorithm, so Amazon has a lot of work ahead of them.
  • To reduce the chances of Amazon thinking you’re a scammer, be careful about the number of times you include specific stories into box sets. It can appear that you are trying to scam by spreading out the story that many times. But things like bonus chapters of the next book are completely fine—It’s more of the over saturation that can get you watched.
  • Ann says that if she were in charge of the situation at Amazon, she would put a system together where new authors would have their books looked at by a human, and perhaps the next three books and/or any books within a 90 day period. She thinks that they should still allow authors who are in the system to publish to keep new content coming in.
  • Can you report scammer books? Yes. You can scroll down to the bottom of the book page and report books as scam books. Unfortunately it hasn’t proved to be as effective as we could wish it was.
  • Honest authors should leave links to mailing lists, etc. and limit your clicks within the book. This will reduce the potential red flags. Anything that is in the legitimate table of contents can stay.
  • Ann says her major marketing tool is to ‘beg BookBub.’ Besides that she admits that she doesn’t really know how to market and needs more tutelage.
  • We also discussed whether being anthologies help and how hot of a genre dystopian fiction is right now.


Learn more about Ann Christy and her books at her Amazon author profile. You can also connect with her on her Facebook page. Strikers Eastland, the sequel to her Strikers novel, is coming out at the end of May. She also has a story coming out in Dark Discoveries magazine.



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  • First up, thanks for this one. I mean thanks for all of them, but I think Ann was a great guest and you guys asked really useful and pertinent questions.

    So many thoughts from this. Okay:

    1. Do you (anyone) foresee a kind of dystopian future in which Amazon has to clamp down so far in vetting everything that being an independent author ceases to exist all over again, and we are effectively back to square one with Amazon replacing the Big Five with the Big One? I mean, in a sense, unless we’re doing print-runs and selling out the trunk of the car, we’re not *really* independent are we? And if, because of scammers or just low quality work, Amazon decides to become a Gatekeeper, then it’s just another publishing house, right?

    2. In terms of what you can and can’t put in the front – this is maybe one for Ann if she’s popping in to answer questions – should we avoid putting an image-based invitation to sign up to an externally linked mailing list to get the next book free outside of Amazon (as we have been advised to do on every self-publishing podcast under the sun which has hosted Nick Stephenson) in both the front and back matter? I hope not for Nick’s sake, as that would be his mutli-hundreds-of-dollars “secrets of marketing course” down the pan. (I don’t know more on that – I never sign up to that sort of stuff, but I’ve heard from people who have). Still, would that be a no-no?

    3. Still, my big takeaway every time is always: write a really good book, cover it in a beautiful, genre-appropriate cover, tell a few people about it, move on and write the next one.; that is your best marketing strategy. Everything else is glitz. I take heart in that!


    • I’ll take 2)

      While there are compelling reasons to want to invite the reader to join your list right away, there are lots of good reasons to wait as well.

      I’ve noticed that Amazon is opening books (no matter where the bookmark “start” is) at the start of the book proper. Maybe some people know how to force that or don’t mind bugging KDP to get that start position changed, but in the end, I’m not sure how well a big flashy CTA in the front matter works in general.

      Unless one can be sure that the reader will see it there, why risk it? CTAs got on their radar because so many linked to the back of the book, and an honest CTA for a mailing list should take them out of the book, so on appeal, Zon would have to see that it complies with TOS.

      If one absolutely has to do it, then there’s nothing wrong with it.

      • Hi Ann,

        Thanks for that reply – extremely useful! I was considering putting that big flashy CTA in the front of my series leader because I’d heard all the hype. But I had a niggling sense of discomfort about it in any case; it just seemed a bit Clickbanky/Spammy. I mean the only people I want on my list are people who genuinely enjoy the books, and they are surely going to arrive at the back, where a reasonable CTA can be found.

        So even if strictly speaking there’s nothing wrong with it in TOS terms, there’s not a lot to be lost by leaving it out – especially if no one is going to see it anyway!

        Thanks again. 🙂

        • SFFpodcast

          Thanks for listening and commenting, Austin! I’m putting the mailing list CTA in the back of my books in the new series. I also thought about doing it up front, since others recommend it, but decided I’d prefer to get people who actually read the first book and liked it enough to want the bonus freebie. Nothing to do with KU necessarily. Just my style. 😉

          • Thanks for replying, Lindsay.

            That’s exactly how I feel.

            I’ve sat through a few free webinars by people we all know but I won’t mention, which are essentially long-winded, slightly spammy sales pitches for “courses” that will “reveal the secrets” and all that – costing hundreds of dollars. I’ve never signed up because I don’t believe there *are* any secrets! I think it’s all a bit disingenuous and smells of … well, something unsavory anyway.

            I think it’s just about putting out good books, being honest and helpful (genuinely, not as a marketing tactic!) and then doing a few of the obvious things to let people know your books are there. After that, people either like the books or they don’t.


  • daniel obrien

    Love Ann’s writing. BTW: her Silo 49 series moved me to read all of the original WOOL books before hers so it didn’t hurt Hugh one bit to let her extend his world. 😉

  • Wow, I had no idea people work so hard to game the system. Imagine what they might accomplish if they put all that ingenuity and energy into actually writing a book!
    I had already read Silo 49 and really enjoyed those, but didn’t sample any other of Ann’s books. After listening to this, I checked out PePr, Inc. I love the robots! So buying those books, too. Authors – podcasts sell books!
    Thank you SFFMP

    • SFFpodcast

      Thanks for stopping by, Suzanne! Yes, those scammers could probably solve world hunger if they wanted to…

      I’m glad you checked out some of Ann’s books and found some you enjoy. Thanks for listening!

  • Thanks so much for the very investigative show. Loved it!
    A brief thought on boxsets from my experience: Folks who purchase boxsets are looking for deals, incredible deals, ten or more books for 99 cents. It’s quite difficult to convert most of them to buy single books for $3.99 or more. I was a part of a boxset, Thrilling Thirteen, which came out about three years ago. We sold around 45,000 copies at 99 cents and then $2.99 and made some decent money. But there was very little conversion from that pool to readers who went on and bought my books at full prices. And, as it was discussed in the show, these are the folks that leave negative reviews, even though they get a book for a few cents.
    Keep up the great work, folks.