Lately there have been numerous blog posts and news reports about the rise of Kindle Spam and how cheap and low quality eBooks are infiltrating Amazon’s Kindle listings.
It’s made writers and authors around the web start to shake in their boots. Good grief they cry, “the spammers are here, we are doomed!”
But are we really?
Let’s look at the facts in a little more detail in a second, but first – what exactly are we dealing with here?
Basically there are three types of Kindle spam.
1) The glut of low quality PLR content eBooks (which also includes free or public domain material being made into books),
2) Good selling books being rewritten/copied and sold as original, and
3) Basic plagiarism where authors works are being resold by others illegally.
Let’s look at each in detail and what it means for your business.
Low Quality PLR eBooks
These make up the bulk of the ‘Kindle Spam’ that is being reported. Generally someone will buy the rights to use content in the form of articles or eBooks for a price (or find it for free) and either use it as is or rewrite it slightly to make it ‘original’.
Most of the time the graphics and book covers are also sold with the content making it very easy to get something up and selling fast without doing much at all.
Nearly all the time these books are short (less than 50 pages) and full of ads. They are mostly sold at 0.99 cents.
So what does this mean for you?
Probably nothing. I can see no evidence whatsoever that these books are harming author sales. Even authors who use the 0.99 cent modelling are not being affected. Has it harmed the sales of John Locke or Joe Konrath or any other Kindle author? No – in fact they are doing better than ever.
Does a fake Gucci purse impact the sales of the real thing? No. Evidence has shown that it actually increases demand for the original. Do $2 shops full of junk products hurt the sales of major department stores – again no. There is room in the market for all levels of quality and price.
In fact these PLR books might even HELP the sales of your book because readers will seek out good quality books. (And it really is up to readers to distinguish what they think is good quality – not us).
How will readers know what is good quality or not? Generally by voting or reviewing the work in the Amazon rating system or downloading a sample to see the quality for themselves.
Besides, people who put up PLR ebooks to try and sell them have done nothing wrong. They purchased the rights to this content and have a legal right to use it as they want to.
Bottom line: While annoying for legitimate authors, I can see no evidence whatsoever that PLR ebooks hurts their business.
Rewritten copies of good selling eBooks
This is where someone will see what is selling well in the Kindle store and download it, only to rewrite the material, put a new title on it, a new cover and make it their own.
This is more a problem with nonfiction than it is with fiction (it’s much harder to rewrite a novel with plot points and characters than it is to rewrite information and facts).
But will it impact your sales?
Possibly not. Generally this takes some work to rewrite an entire book – something most ‘get rich quick’ authors are not willing to do (why rewrite something when you can buy an entire PLR book for $7).
They are also unlikely to get professional editing, take time to find beta readers or hire a proper cover designer.
And marketing – again that takes too much work and not likely to happen for fly by night rewriters who just want to get lots of books up.
Copying ideas and concepts is nothing new in the book industry. How often do you see one book about a new topic and then hundreds of similar books follow.
While they may not be original (or entirely ethical), if they make it different enough they still are not doing anything wrong. And you can’t copyright ideas, only content.
Bottom line: If it happens to you, then it’s normal to get mad but the best thing you can do is be flattered. They wouldn’t do it if you weren’t brilliant. And again I have seen no evidence that it has hurt an original author’s works. Sometimes it even helps bolster further sales as demand becomes higher for the topic at hand.
Someone copying your book and selling it under their name
This is what most authors fear. Someone stealing their book in its entirety and claiming it as their own.
This is plagiarism and it is illegal.
But it actually happens surprisingly less than you think it does. If you see your book being sold by someone else, a quick letter/email to Amazon will get the book taken down. Amazon doesn’t want to deal with copyright infringement and WILL take down plagiarised content fast. Usually within 24 hours.
Annoying but quite easy to deal with.
Much more likely is that you’ll find your eBook being passed around and downloaded for free. People who won’t even pay the small price and would rather use a peer to peer network to get it for no cost.
Well get used to it. The more popular you become the more likely this is to happen. And there isn’t much you can do about this.
But guess what? There is still no evidence that this free downloading will hurt your sales. The people who share these illegal copies were likely not going to be customers anyway, but what usually happens is that if your book is good people will talk. Word will get around. You’ll actually get more sales. See what happened with “Go the F**k to Sleep” – a free illegal PDF created enough buzz that the book became an instant bestselling book on Amazon.
This problem has been rife in the music industry and again has not impacted greatly on music sales. In fact one band ‘the grateful dead’ ENCOURAGED fans to download their music for free. It made them richer. Sounds like a hard concept to understand (why would giving away free content actually make more sales for them?) but it did.
I’m not suggesting that you make your book for free on your site and encourage others to download it and pass it around, (although many authors DO include free copies of their work on their blogs and it doesn’t hurt their bottom lines), all I’m saying is that it probably won’t hurt your sales.
In fact it probably helps it.
So there you go. The facts are that so far there has been no evidence that Kindle Spam is impacting the sales of legitimate author’s works.
And that’s good news.