Wednesday, November 8, 2017

How to spot a fake book on Amazon

I don't know if you've noticed but Amazon has a fake book problem. David Gaughran spoke about it in his article here. I won't rehash all that he has covered but I wanted to go over a couple of points but specifically show an example of how the book looks on Amazon so you can identify it.

Is this book real

Briefly, a fake book is a book powered by bots that crash the Amazon charts and get listed high up in them, pushing legit high selling books off the charts. This happens particularly often on the free charts. Soemtimes they even get to the top of those lists and fake out the people who are buying books.

Usually, these fake books have these characteristics:
  1. They often have a rather hokey or clickbaity sounding title
  2. The cover is not very good
  3. The blurbs are not well written
  4. They have only one or two reviews even though they are high ranking on the charts and 
  5. They have over 1000+ pages in the book

I was on Amazon this morning looking around on the free romance charts and spotted one, so I downloaded it in order to show an example of what I'm talking about.

This book, Sold To The Dragon King has the kind of title that attracts me. It's got a dragon shifter in it and it's paranormal. What set of alarm bells was the sloppy cover and the number of pages - 1152!!

Fake book listing

When I looked into the book itself, I discovered:

The table of contents showed a lot of "stuff" that was not the story itself.

Fake book table of contents

As you can see, the story was very short and only 4 short chapters and they ended early on - at 26%. Everything after that was bonus material.

Fake book short story

The "bonus" material were all short stories too.

Fake book bonus story

I've read a few lines of the book and the writitng is not what I would call great.

These books are easy to spot. So if you're ever shopping for a free book on Amazon be careful what you click on. These books might sound good and you may think you're getting a lot of bang for your buck, but instead, what you are getting are a whole bunch of poorly written short stories. The free charts are littered with them.

So many fake books

If you wish to investigate further, you'll discover that this particular author from my example above (it's probably the case with others) has many books listed all of which are free or listed at a low price, and surprisingly published on the same day. What author publishes that many books on the same day unless it's a re-release of previous books (there are exceptions)? The author I'm using as an example here has published 13 books (I counted) all of similar ilk on the same day, most of them free.

The books are also all listed in the Kindle Unlimited program which as we all know is flawed. With the main story only being a short story, and padding the book with 80% plus of bonus materials, this is how they get you to click to the end of the book to show massive numbers of "pages read" in order to scam the KU system and get paid more money. Legitimate KU authors lose out to these scammers but that's a topic for another post.

Fake book author listing

The author also does not have an author page profile on Amazon (but is listed on Goodreads). But google search doesn't bring up the author. No Facebook or Twitter. I'm always rather suss when an author doesn't have social media pages.

I want to give the author(s) the benefit of the doubt but I do not believe in (1) offering short stories and passing that off as a full book (2) padding the book with more than 80% of "bonus material" (3) scamming the KU system to get paid more money.

I'm not planning any sort of crusade to expose all of these fake books and authors. That's something for Amazon to tackle although from what I hear, they are not taking the problem too seriously.

Anyway, I hope this helps you when you are buying books and you can spot a fake book a mile away and don't get taken in by them. Personally, I stick to authors I know and publishers I trust when it comes to buying books to read even when they are free. I am quite wary of indie authors and check and double check before I buy from them. I'm not saying all indie authors are a concern since I do read many reputatble indie authors.

Now I'm off to go delete that book out of my Kindle collection.

What do you think of this fake book problem? Have you encountered or bought any of these books before? I'd love to know your opinion on this.

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  1. Hi Deanna

    That is really interesting I have not come across any of these and I am not on KU but I think it is wrong to do this and Amazon should be more vigilant maybe I would not like getting a big book and finding the story so short, although I have to say that I would steer clear of a book with that many pages in it I love reading but wow :)

    Have Fun


    1. Yeah, it's frustrating when you accidentally click on one of these.

  2. Replies
    1. I didn't either until I read David Gaughran's article and then did some digging of my own.

  3. Wow, I had no idea about any of this. I'm off to read David's article now. Thanks for the heads up on this.

    1. You're welcome. I was surprised to find out about it too.

  4. Thanks for posting this. I've always wondered what was in the books to make them 1000+ pages, but was afraid to download them to find out.

    These books usually seem to appear on Amazon over the weekend (when there aren't enough real people working at Amazon to police it).

    1. Yes, and now you know. I was afraid to download one too but I took the chance just to find out what it was then deleted it off my Amazon account.