A Big Amazon Problem – #119

On the most recent episode of This Old Marketing, my weekly content and marketing news podcast with Robert Rose, we talked quite a bit about fake content. Among other things, we covered how AI-generated books are everywhere on sites like Amazon and Goodreads. Btw, Amazon owns Goodreads.

Basically, these AI books are being created and then taking the name of legitimate authors. One very famous author, Jane Friedman, shared her experience on this matter. She says:

There’s not much that makes me angry these days about writing and publishing. I’ve seen it all. I know what to expect from Amazon and Goodreads. Meaning: I don’t expect much, and I assume I will be continually disappointed. Nor do I have the power to change how they operate. My energy-saving strategy: move on and focus on what you can control.

That’s going to become much harder to do if Amazon and Goodreads don’t start defending against the absolute garbage now being spread across their sites.

I know my work gets pirated and frankly I don’t care. (I’m not saying other authors shouldn’t care, but that’s not a battle worth my time today.)

But here’s what does rankle me: garbage books getting uploaded to Amazon where my name is credited as the author.

So back to me…there were a number of books that came out in Jane’s name and were up on Amazon. Jane says because she’s fairly well-known Amazon and Goodreads took these down quickly…after a few days…but the damage was done. Jane goes on and says that even though these books were removed, they will always be floating around out there.

I’m sure the smart people at Amazon and Goodreads are working on this, but the fact that someone or some robot could so easily create a book in someone else’s name is a big problem. Right now, there is no real verification system (LinkedIn just integrated Clear to verify accounts). Authors, people just like Jane, have no control over their Goodreads profile.

Jane ends by pleading:

We desperately need guardrails on this landslide of misattribution and misinformation. Amazon and Goodreads, I beg you to create a way to verify authorship, or for authors to easily block fraudulent books credited to them. Do it now, do it quickly.

I agree with Jane that Amazon needs to do something about this, but Amazon may not seriously fight this fight. Amazon releases 1.4 million self-published books per year, so the cost to fund something on this scale is astronomical.

The solution, today, is that creators who develop their own audiences DO NOT publish on Amazon. Independent authors can create a safe space that they own and control and direct their fans to that page.

We’ve become so accustomed to putting everything we do as authors and creators on Amazon we never stop to consider if we should. I know I was that way. 10 years ago, when I published Content Inc., Amazon was critical to its success…getting recommended in multiple ways from Amazon. Simply put, Amazon significantly boosted my sales.

Today, Amazon is not as important because I have many other ways to reach my audience.

But Amazon is still important to many authors today, but it’s become TOO important to most. It’s a problem.

There are too many books and Amazon isn’t looking out for the independent author. What Amazon is doing is when the author sends a buyer to Amazon…Amazon gets all the customer data and keeps an unhealthy share of the profits. The author gets ZERO data.

Why we continue to do this is maddening to me.

There is a better way…and that better way, I think, is outside of Amazon. So grow your audience, build your tribe, and when you release your book, do it on your own site, where you keep your profits and your data.

Tennis and Russia

Pam and I had a great week watching professional tennis at Tennis In the Land in downtown Cleveland. After watching Sloan Stephens defeat Lauren Davis (a native Northeast Ohioan), we stayed on to watch Nadia Podoroska from Argentina versus Veronika Kudermetova from Russia.

Except that we had to look up where Kudermetova was from.

Why you ask?

Instead of having a country emblem on the screen like everyone else, Kudermetova’s was blacked out. Pam thinks the announcer said she was from Moscow, but I didn’t hear a city or country at all.

I understand why this was done, what with the Ukraine/Russia War sieging on, but I couldn’t help to feel bad for Kudermetova who seems to be playing without a country at the moment.

My Recommendations

Over the past month quite a few things have made a real impact on me.

Six: The Musical. One of the best musicals I’ve seen in a long time. And bonus…it’s 90 minutes with no intermission. Six is the story of the six wives of Henry VIII and which one suffered the most while married to Henry. The music is tremendous and the writing superb. Plus, it’s an all-female cast and band. Finally, if you are into such things, it makes a point that hits you over the head like a sledgehammer.

This Changes Everything documentary. After my Barbie update from last newsletter, I received a recommendation to watch this documentary. Every male should watch this to get some understanding of why content is the way it is in Hollywood…and…why there is still so much work to be done. You can watch it free on YouTube here.

Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. A fast-moving book told in a style I haven’t read since The Martian by Andy Weir. If you like sci-fi, you’ll love this book.

Immaculate Grid: Baseball.
I’ve never played Wordle in my life. I’ve stayed away from almost every online game on the planet. But my youngest son showed me this game and I was immediately hooked. I prefer the baseball version, but they also have football, hockey, basketball, and soccer. So good!

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