Buying & then gifting 1000s of books to influence sales rank is not the same as sending ARCs or gifting a handful of books to a few lucky readers.

Updated 2/3/18

Rebecca is going to work her butt off to get all 1000 copies given away…all of which will count as a sale. 1,000 copies given away in one day should get us into the Top 100! (from screenshot below)

If you’re an author who engages in this kind of behavior, I think you’re a disgrace.

Your opinion is that it’s perfectly fine? Good for you. Then you won’t be interested in my opposing opinion, so feel free to click away from this page. I’m not interested in hearing any whining about how “all the big 5 publishers do it,” or that’s how the industry “really operates”.  Take that nonsense and stuff it where the sun doesn’t shine.  And for those who think rank manipulation is the only way to hit the lists, I’ve had single-author volume books in the Top 100 (actually, the top 20) without gifting a single copy to manipulate sales rank- and so have MANY other upstanding authors I know.

FTR, we’re not talking about sending a handful readers ARCs via instafreebie, or sending readers a free copy of your book as a pdf or mobi file– we’re talking about authors BUYING thousands of copies through Amazon, itunes, B&N, and then doing massive gifting/giveaways with the express purpose of artificially inflating sales numbers with the goal of making USA Today and NYT Bestseller lists.  Those authors then organize themselves to spread out the gifting over multiple accounts (remember, we’re talking about box sets with 20+ authors involved) so activity with massive numbers of gifted books does not trigger scrutiny by Amazon on one individual account. Those who engage in this behavior will write long-winded explanations to conflate the issues, but they are not the same thing. Per Amazon TOS,  any activities that manipulate or artificially inflate sales rank are expressly prohibited.  If you are buying thousands of books to gift in order to ensure those “gifts” are counted as actual sales in order to inflate your sales rank, then yes, you’re violating Amazon TOS & I think you’re an utter disgrace.

It takes a lot to shock me, but the screenshots I’ve seen today have me stunned. Even more telling, when I questioned the practice directly to one of the authors who engage in this behavior, the author attacked me, questioned my character, insulted me, stated my question was irrelevant, implied that I was simply a mean person (for questioning him) and then defended his practices of buying books to gift to inflate sales rank as doing nothing wrong. Furthermore, one of his supporters then also chimed in to call me names, attack me, and excuse the sales manipulation behavior as “one” small issue that should be disregarded because that author supposedly does so much good for the author community.

Well, I disagree. I don’t think it’s “good” for the author community at all. I also find it disingenuous that any time someone speaks up and questions these behaviors, it turns into a personal attack on the character of the person asking the question. If an author is selling services and soliciting authors to come work for him, you’re damn straight it is relevant to ask him if he plans to teach those authors how to buy/gift thousands of books to manipulate sales rank. And if that person responds to criticism by attacking those who are asking questions, then that says more about what is really going on than I ever could.

Don’t come here to my page and try to defend any of this bullshit. If you think this kind of crap is a-okay and see nothing wrong with cheating your way onto bestseller lists, kindly remove yourself from my list and go pound sand.

Simple questions require simple answers.You buy thousands of books to gift to readers with the express purpose of artificially inflating sales in order to make USAT and/or NYT Bestseller lists (as you yourself have stated you do). Attempts to manipulate sales rank are a violation of the Amazon TOS. Is this what you teach other authors to do when they pay you for classes, or when you hire authors to work for you?

When authors who use these tactics can start answering direct questions without attacking the person asking the question, then I’ll start listening.

PS – I don’t blame those of you that have been sucked in by this stuff in the past. It’s easy to get taken when you’re in a FB group with everyone tooting the same horn. I’m proud of those of you that stepped away from the groups that are doing this. It takes a lot of courage, and I know how scared many of you were to make that break. I’ve seen the fallout now for years when authors try to distance themselves. Good for you, and glad you made it. Those of you who have not been able to break away, who are still afraid, now is the time. You have more support than you can image. Those of you that see nothing wrong with this and continue to support and defend it, however? Your choices DEFINE you.

** This is all public record as part of the ongoing court case, and I urge any authors thinking of getting involved in a box set scheme like this to read the thread here on KBoards http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,252500.

**The court case documents can be viewed online (including the screenshot below and many others). The case # is BC664530 at the LA County Superior Court website here http://www.lacourt.org/casesummary/ui/index.aspx… 

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And more who advocate this practice HERE:

(Apparently it’s an “Awesome hack” and “easiest way to hack the system”)

How to use Amazon’s giveaway feature to spike sales rank and sell more books

Edit: This didn’t work for awhile, but right now (4/26) it DOES work – you can set up a giveaway for 1000 people, get 1000 people to claim it, and you should end up in the top 100 of Amazon.

 

Updates 2/3/2018

THE GOOD:

Derek Murphy at the CreativeIndie has revised his post to explain his stance on gifting books HERE. Glad to see he has clarified his position.

2018 Update: I often share book marketing tactics or “hacks” without fully explaining my entire creative ideology, which can lead people unfamiliar with my brand to confuse me with other authors who are doing unscrupulous things. So first, let me explain that I don’t believe in gifting thousands of copies to “hack” the USA Today or NYT Bestseller lists (those letters are meaningless to me, though I may start using them if I hit the lists with a single book of my own.)

THE BAD…and the ugly:

Those who are involved in these practices are (predictably) engaging in calling me names, attacking me personally with silly insults, musing that I have nothing better to do or that I’m not successful…yadda yadda. Typical behavior when one would rather deflect from the topic at hand. Those involved are also attempting to conflate the issue by making statements such as:

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What I actually said was:

we’re not talking about sending a handful readers ARCs via instafreebie, or sending readers a free copy of your book as a pdf or mobi file– we’re talking about authors BUYING thousands of copies through Amazon, itunes, B&N, and then gifting them with the express purpose of artificially inflating sales numbers with the goal of making USA Today and NYT Bestseller lists. 

And it’s not that I think they’re doing anything. It’s what these authors have clearly stated they are doing – gifting and/or giving away thousands of books to artificially increase their sales numbers and inflate rank in order to make USAT or NYT Bestseller lists. They are organizing thousands of single-entry giveaways for the same book, which are available to the first person to click on the link, and when it is claimed it counts as a sale. Which you can see for yourself herehere, here, here, here, here, here, “How-To” Videos HERE and HERE that specifically state it is done to boost sales rank, an interesting one that explains they are using a deceptive description HERE (also directly against Amazon TOS #19 here and Amazon TOS misuse of sales rank HERE), the additional practice of coordinated buying swaps here, and many more images here.

FYI, as referenced above:

AMAZON TOS #19 

19. How do I make sure that I follow all of the guidelines when hosting a giveaway?
We prohibit and/or discourage the creation of giveaways which will lead to a poor customer or entrant experience. Giveaways should be created with the intent to award prizes to customers who have fulfilled the entry requirements or to drive product awareness. Attempts to game our ranking system, confusing or deceptive messaging, or any other abuse of our terms and conditions can result in loss of entitlements to create giveaways.

Examples of such prohibited/discouraged actions include, but are not limited to:
• General Giveaway manipulation;
• Creating giveaways that are virtually unwinnable;
• Soliciting or inducing (fraudulently or not) customers into disclosing personal information;
Using giveaways to manipulate sales rank (i.e. by creating multiple giveaways for the same ASIN, rather than creating one bulk giveaway)

 

Amazon TOS misuse of sales rank:

Misuse of sales rank:

The best seller rank feature allows buyers to evaluate the popularity of a product. Any attempt to manipulate sales rank is prohibited. You may not solicit or knowingly accept fake or fraudulent orders, including placing orders for your own products. You may not provide compensation to buyers for purchasing your products or provide claim codes to buyers for the purpose of inflating sales rank. In addition, you may not make claims regarding a product’s best seller rank in the product detail page information, including the title and description.

I’m not sure how anyone can read the TOS and still insist that buying thousands of your own books, keeping an organized spreadsheet to ensure all copies are claimed in a timely manner to count as sales, and stating unequivocally that you are doing it to inflate sales numbers to make the USAT or NYT Bestseller list is not against the Amazon TOS.

And to this educated statement:

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Like I said at the beginning of this post, this is my opinion of  events involved in an ongoing court case involving members of the author community. This is a topic that affects readers who are being deceived and authors who choose to get tangled up in these practices without all of the facts. This is a topic that affects all authors who hope to make bestseller lists, when the lists are cluttered up with organized box sets that bought that placement. Use your “valuable” time however you see fit; I’ll use mine the same.

Your opinion is that it’s perfectly fine, and that anyone who discusses this topic is just jealous, unsuccessful, mean, stupid, or trying to be the Author Police? Good for you. And pretty please, keep proclaiming it loud and proud on social media, so authors and readers can see exactly what kind of behaviors you engage in and support.