Who still has the time to endlessly read long-ass novels? This isn't Tsarist Russia, we don't need Dostoyevsky to stretch it out just so we have something to do during the eight-month winters. Yet for some reason, novels keep getting longer and longer, and nowhere is this more obvious than in the world of self-publishing, where a surprising number of 3,000-page monsters are popping up in Amazon's bestseller lists. But if you flip through their many pages, the only story you'll ever find is one of fraud and deception.
Self-publishing has taken great strides in the last few years. What was once considered career suicide is now a great way to finally tell your tale of two horny extraterrestrial cosplayers falling in love during the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918. This is mainly due to online platforms like Amazon's Kindle Unlimited, where for a monthly fee, you can read over a million indie author titles. But as no books are actually getting sold, Amazon rewards authors for each of their pages being read, paying them half a cent per page from a communal fund of about $21 million, capping off the reward at 3,000 pages. That's one and a half Moby Dicks, or one-tenth of an L. Ron Hubbard chapter.
But it didn't take long for the Kindle store to become awash in a new scam: "book stuffing," or the art of getting your page count as high as possible. Popular book stuffing techniques are copy-pasting previous writing into the new text, increasing the spacing in between paragraphs, and every other kind of jackass padding technique you'd find in the average high school book report on Jane Eyre. But the real book stuffers aren't even writers, they're full-time con artists. Many simply pay freelancers to ghostwrite a bunch of stories and then put them all in one massive book. Then, after some heavy promotion, they offer their many readers incentives like bonus material, giveaways, and prize draws to get them to go through their long-ass books cover to cover. Or they just pay click farms to thumb through their shitty prose for a couple of cents per hour. And you know it's good art when people have to be bribed to read it, like how all of Stephen King's 1980s novels came with a voucher for free cocaine.
That was the technique of "author" Chance Carter (a pseudonym for "a bunch of random people on Fiverr who did his job for below minimum wage"), the only book stuffer to receive any sort of repercussion so far. Amazon removed his books after catching him quite blatantly gaming the system. How blatantly? Carter's personal assistant (who we'll just assume was the author in a wig) openly published their "Kindle Flip" method, whereby they manipulate readers into flipping through his book twice to earn him as much money as possible while earning them nothing but a lot of wasted time and one sore index finger.
And the money is very nice indeed. Book stuffing has earned some scammers up to $100,000 a month, which is more than even most celebrity authors make from their hardcovers. With their spamming and click farming, these dirtbag authors also manage to worm their way into many bestseller lists. So not only are they taking what little money the self-publishing world has from hard-working authors, but they're also elbowing actual good novels out of the public's attention. Not that book stuffers care; they're too busy reading their bank statements.
Cedric's new novel, "Aliens And Cosplay In The Time Of Influenza,will be out never. He is on Twitter, though.
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