If you’re involved in the romance community on Twitter, you’ve undoubtedly seen the #GETLOUD call to arms. If you haven’t, let me bring some issues to your attention.
First, there’s an issue called pagestuffing or bookstuffing (same thing.) This is something that has wormed its way into the Kindle Unlimited program by scammers who are gaming the system. Oftentimes these “authors” utilize several different pen names and purchase ghostwritten stories, stuffing as many of them as possible into a single book.
First, let me explain how Kindle Unlimited works for authors:
Authors get paid for each page read in Kindle Unlimited. Based on Amazon’s monthly pot, that usually amounts to around a half a penny (or less) per page depending on how many books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited at any given moment.
Amazon’s Terms of Service state that if your book cover only advertises one book, then the content of the book must equal one book. In other words, you can sell a boxed set, but you must advertise it as a boxed set. Pagestuffed books don’t do that. You think you’re downloading one book, but that book ends at, say, 20%, and you’ve got 2 or 3 or 6 extra books hidden in the back as “bonus content.” Now, authors are allowed to include bonus content in their books, but it must not exceed 10% of the total content. So, a prologue or teaser chapter for the next book is allowed.
Check out this video by author Heather C. Leigh for a better explanation than I could ever give you. (Trust me, the visuals help!)
Pagestuffing doesn’t just hurt those that are in Kindle Unlimited though. It hurts all legitimate authors, because these stuffed books are occupying ranks that should be held by legitimate books by legitimate authors. Many of these scammers are encouraging their readers to flip to the end of the stuffed books without bothering to read them JUST so the author gets paid that extra money, and these folks are bringing in four, five, and six figure incomes each month because of it. It’s a wholly unethical practice.
Look at the graphic below. This is the top ten bestseller list in sports romance. Those that are highlighted in yellow are verified pagestuffers. You’ll probably recognize some of those names. You’ve probably read some of them. And if you read their “work” and enjoyed it, that’s okay. But just be aware of the shady practices they’re using to dupe the system.
You can spot a pagestuffed book a couple of ways.
First, look at the page count. Not many romance novels are more than 300-400 pages, and most aren’t even that many.
You can also use the “Look Inside” feature and glance at the table of contents. Are there extra books listed at the end of the table of contents?
You can also look at the formatting. Scammers love to triple or quadruple space their paragraphs in order to take up more space, because more space means more pages, and more pages means a bigger payout for them.
Some “authors” (I’m using quotes, because I’m using that term loosely) are even going so far as to promise goods in return for reviews, which is a violation of Amazon’s Terms of Service AND an FTC violation. (Meaning, they’re breaking federal law.) They’ve also been known to ask their readers to double dip. Borrow the book in KU, skip to the back so they get paid for the pages read, and then go to Amazon and purchase a copy of the book so they get paid royalties in addition.
Here’s an article explaining all of this better than I can.
If you find a stuffed book and would like to report it, you can take the following action:
- Scroll down to the bottom of the page to the blue box labeled “Feedback.”
- The third line down: Would you like to report this content as inappropriate? (Click here.)
- From the dropdown box, select “Violates Amazon Kindle Terms of Service.”
- In the comment box you can simply state that the book violates the terms of service by utilizing pagestuffing or bookstuffing or however you want to word it.
Amazon listens to readers. They want readers to be happy, so the more readers complain about the pagestuffing, the more likely Amazon is to enforce the rules.
You can also follow the #GETLOUD hashtag on Twitter to stay up to date with pagestuffers and scammers as they are discovered and called out. Remember, this isn’t JUST about page stuffing. Many of these authors are hiding behind several pen names and/or pretending to be someone they’re not in order to dupe readers. (I don’t have a problem with pen names, but when you’re, for example, a man pretending to be a woman in order to get your female readers to confide in you so you can either use that against them or use it in your stories, then I’ve got a problem with that.)