Copyright 2015 by Lisa Maliga
Just after the July launch of the Kindle Unlimited program an author of a soap making eBook emailed me asking for a review. After reading it, I got the impression that everything within the 50 pages was regurgitated information. There weren’t any resource links. The recipes weren’t coherent—add some of this oil with some of this water and this amount of lye. Instead of getting a review, the author received an email asking about her soap making experience. Unsurprisingly, there was no response.
That was my introduction to a Kindle Unlimited eBook.
Books in Kindle Unlimited, KU for short, are only found on Amazon’s website. None of the titles are available at Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Oyster, Scribd, Smashwords or other online bookstores.
While free for authors, readers pay $9.99 per month for the service that “…allows you to read as much as you want, choosing from over 700,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks. Freely explore new authors, books, and genres from mysteries and romance to sci-fi and more. You can read on any device.”
Authors with books in the KU program generally price their titles from $0.99 to $9.99. They can also give a title away for up to 5 days during each 90-day period their title is enrolled in the KU program. If free, anyone can download the book whether they are KU members or not. Another huge benefit for the KU author is the borrowing part of the program. Whenever a KU member borrows a title, the author receives up to $1.40. The amount varies every month but it’s always more than one dollar. Even if the book is priced at 0.99, the author still gets $1.40 [or whatever the amount is that month] PER BORROW. That’s why every single rip-off title is enrolled in this program.
There are many excellent titles in the KU program. But I’m going to concentrate on the rip-off titles that are often plagiarized from websites, blogs and Pinterest. By reading this article, you’ll learn how to avoid downloading rip-offs.
[For the record: I won’t tackle fiction because that’s a lot different, especially with series, serials, billionaire romances, erotica, and alphas.]
A rip-off title is usually less than 50 pages in length. Of course, regular nonfiction titles may also be brief, so I’ll point out the many red flags that boldly signal a rip-off. Again, this is only for nonfiction books, as that’s where I have the most experience as I write about soap crafting. I’m going to expand it to include all bath and body/bath and beauty books.
However, even if you read and write about real estate or farming, you still should find this article helpful.
Soap making books begin with the history of soap making. For other bath and beauty books, the opening pages will let you know how toxic commercial lotions, lip balms, sugar and salt scrubs, bath bombs, etc. actually are.
* LONG titles with up to 30 words. This is called keyword stuffing.
Example title: Homemade Body Butter: 25 Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes To Keep Your Skin Smooth And Feeling Moisturized! (How To Body Butter, DIY Body Butter, Natural Body Butter And Lotion Recipes).
I’ve only changed a few words, but this is how some rip-off books are marketed. It’s not necessarily wrong but it’s clumsy!
*Nonexistent Book Contributors
Every author credits him or herself, but there are also other contributors that can be added like editor, foreword, photographer, illustrator, introduction, preface, translator and narrator. I’ve found books that have ‘body butter’ as an editor, ‘lotion’ as a foreword, and ‘soapmaking’ as an illustrator. Doing this exploits the entire Kindle publishing program and if found should be reported.
* Not crediting stock images.
* No author biography
Interested in learning about the author? If there’s no bio, there’s no way of knowing how much knowledge they have pertaining to the subject they’ve written about. There won’t be any sort of email address, website, Etsy page or social media information such as Twitter or Face Book. They have no blog or newsletter.
The lack of an author bio may indicate a new to KU author who is unaware that Amazon offers this free promotional tool. Alternatively, it might be a deliberate omission.
An author bio should indicate the author’s experience in making the products they are writing about, as they should be an expert in the field. Do they include their company name and contact information? Whether or not they own a business, or have owned a business in the past? How long have they been making B&B products? If they don’t make and sell their products, what qualifications do they have to write their book?
* Common American Names
This is another way to lure borrowers and buyers—by using familiar surnames like Thomas, Brown, Mitchell, White, etc. It’s also how those from other countries make names seem more acceptable than their own. Authors who use several pseudonyms may do so to avoid detection. It’s also a way of using a name like a keyword – to attract more borrows and sales.
If a book has dozens of reviews, that might mean it’s often borrowed/sold. All of the reviews may be legitimate ones, especially if the reviewer indicates that they received a free review copy. To find a rip-off title, look beyond lots of 5-stars or 1-stars, or even no reviews.
eBooks may contain numerous 5-star reviews with only a smattering of bad reviews. Suggestion: read the bad ones. For example, a one star review written by a soap maker noted the amount of lye in a recipe in one of the rip-off titles was incorrect and the author had confused percentages and ounces. In other words, some “author” with no knowledge of soap making is presenting potentially harmful information. If a reader follows the instructions, that soap would burn their skin. Additionally, they would have wasted their time in reading the book and trying to apply the instructions, and money on buying ingredients and equipment. The responsibility of the author of any type of DIY book is to offer correct and accurate information. Sadly, the author of the questionable amounts has also written a dozen other titles in related fields.
A rip-off title may have garnered many positive reviews based on review swaps. I’ll go on record and state that I did a few of them from September to December 2014. Since then, I have completely stopped reviewing books due to the numerous rip-off titles I was getting.
* Proofreading problems
If the author is someone who is fluent in English as a first language, the quality of authorship ranges from excellent to riddled with grammar and “spell checkitis.”
* Poor Translating
Foreign authors may have run the manuscript through an online translator resulting in unintentionally hilarious reading. My favorite was the one about heating your soap over a “weak fire.”
* Offer FREE bonus or gift in the beginning of the book.
* Enticing Cover Photo of the Product[s]
All book covers should be enticing, of course. However, a rip-off will be revealed if the featured product[s] recipe and photo aren’t included inside the eBook. For example, a stack of oatmeal soap on the cover, yet there is no oatmeal soap recipe in the rip-off title.
* NO sample other than a table of contents or a legal disclaimer. The reader has to purchase or borrow the book in order to read more because there’s no actual writing sample.
* If recipes are included, they may be in a mixture of ounces, grams, tablespoons and teaspoons, which is very confusing for the reader.
* No medical or legal disclaimer. No safety precautions.
* The name on the cover may be spelled differently than the name on the book’s Amazon page.
* Rip-off titles can be heavily promoted and reviewed by bloggers. Unlike non-KU titles that only earn 4% commission on each title sold, bloggers may get up to 8.5 % on KU titles sold and/or borrowed.
In order to avoid being ripped off, please use this article as a checklist.