Anyway, the sad news is both authors have been terminated with Amazon for right now. Fans are sending emails to firstname.lastname@example.org to try to get some traction on there. So, what do I think happened?
This is all ad hoc/circumstantial/speculative guessing, but I think two things happened.
1.) Amazon cracked down on several people scamming the system and fed the data to AIs to look for similar patterns of book sales, page read-through, etc.
2.) Other authors deliberately flagged them.
Part one I’m almost certain about. Amazon had some kerfuffles with people stuffing books, click-linking to the end, promising rewards to people who would skip to the end, etc.
I think Amazon fed that info of bad behavior through to their AI. AIs typically work by looking for information that is an outlier and then using that to make decisions. If you want to have a good read on the issue, see here: http://www.evolvingai.org/fooling
When looking at the data for authors who Amazon banned, they have a lot in common with JAC and MSE: Quick releases, big sales, and avid readers. AIs typically look for outliers on the field, which is why certain patterns fool AIs, but not humans.
Several authors were hit with the ban/suspension hammer after the first wave, but most were reinstated in about a week. On this blog when I had the advice from Anthea Sharp about going wide, that’s the reason.
However, MSE and JAC are still banned. I think the extra layer is MSE and JAC were also targeted by other authors manually. I don’t know the full figures for either author, but my own guess is somewhere in the 15 – 25k per month.
If you’re an author pulling in 300 dollars a month in sales, those figures will cause some sour grapes.
Amazon hinted at this in conversation with one person who went through their chat service about why they were banned, which said that “people complained about offensive material.”
I think the combination of them getting flagged by both an AI and getting manually flagged by complaints triggered Amazon gave them the boot.
I normally wouldn’t have thought authors would be that petty until I read kboards. After I read a few posts in Kboards, I thought, “Well yes, there are people who are that petty.”
Also don’t read Kboards.
MSE seems to have kicked off a hornet’s nest with spurious trademarks. He’s attempted to trademark Dragon Slayer, (of which there are already several series), an image of someone holding a weapon, and many more.
The reaction to this has gone over about as well as a loud fart in Church. MSE’s explanation:
So here is the deal. A few months ago, Jason Cipriano came up with the idea for Star Conqueror. It was similar to Star Justice and Death Ship in concept, somewhat, but he showed me the outline and I thought it sounded like a great idea that wasn’t copying me at all.
Fast forward to the day the book came out, and I had several dozens of people PM or email me to say “I thought this book was yours because the cover looks exactly like one of your covers, and I bought it. Do you know Jason is trying to rip you off?”
I of course, told them that he wasn’t ripping me off, but it got me thinking that I really don’t have any sort of protection if someone wants to do a “Star Justice” series, or a “Tamer” series, or a “Destroyer” series or a “Dragon Slayer” series. I’ve created those books, and there currently isn’t anyone else doing series like those, and they are ripe for nefarious authors to rip off.
And I can’t do anything about it unless I own the trademark.
So I’ve filed trademarks for those things, since they are series I’ve created, and they have value. If I get them, it doesn’t mean I can just crush any author who has a book named “Dragon Slayer” it just means that I have leverage in case someone comes out with a series named “Dragon Slayer” that is obviously trying to capitalize on my hard work.
This is something every publishing company does with their series that performs.
The trade address is encompassing my formatting. It’s a pretty long shot that I can get it, but even if I do, it will be pretty impossible to enforce… Unless I have dozens of people saying that they bought someone else’s book thinking it was mine. Then, combined with the TM and customer emails, I have a better case to get the offending book taken down.
Hope that makes sense. I’m trying to protect my business- mostly because I see all the crazy stuff going on in the romance genre, and I realize that other authors will gladly steal from me if they don’t think I can come after them.
My response to this is the same any time I hear about this.
- In all creative fields, there will be ripoff artists who will take your work.
- Those people are invariably never successful.
- The attempts to get a trademark will lead to more backlash and do far more damage to your personal brand than anything a scammer can do to you.
I’m hoping that he and Jason get reinstated in Amazon soon, neither one is able to work now that they’re having to fight this. For MSE, I’m hoping he will drop the trademark and issue an apology/explanation before his reputation gets tarnished. Scammers, thieves, and ripoff artists suck, but this fight isn’t worth it.