In the past year or so, I’ve noticed an upsurge in scams that employ the Amazon name, or the names of Amazon trademarks, to try and trick hopeful writers into believing they are working with a company affiliated with Amazon, or even with Amazon itself.
As is common with scams these days, many of these questions come from writers who’ve been solicited via email or phone (you can see one such story here)–but also from writers looking to self-publish, who googled “self publishing” or “Amazon self-publishing” or “KDP publishing” or a similar search term.
Right at the top of such searches are sponsored links purchased by Amazon fakers. For example, here’s what came up for a search on “Amazon Kindle publishing”:
All four sponsored links are scams (see the list at the bottom of this post). The real Amazon KDP is down there at #5.
Some Amazon fakers use Amazon-ish logos, the better to further the illusion.
Others simply rely on the power of including “Amazon” or “KDP” in their names. Some include disclaimers indicating that they’re not actually affiliated with Amazon–but many don’t, and for those that do, it’s down at the bottom of their sites where it is easy to miss.
Although the proliferation of Amazon-named scams is relatively new, the type of operation they represent has been around for some time: these are all ghostwriting scams, similar to those I discuss in detail here. Ghostwriting scams sell ghostwriting services, but also editing, formatting, publishing, marketing, design, and more, and aggressively market themselves to writers who are looking to self-publish or searching for services associated with self-publishing.
The Amazon fakers exhibit the same set of markers as other ghostwriting scams: solicitation, poor written English (almost without exception, they are based overseas, primarily in the Philippines but also in India and Pakistan), claims of expertise that can’t be verified because there’s no concrete information about company or staff, false claims (for example, to have been in business for 10 years when their web domain was only registered a year ago, or to have worked on traditionally-published books by well-known writers), and unrealistic hype (“Become the next best-selling author!”).
They use the same tactics to make themselves seem legit: 5-star ratings on TrustPilot (where fake and paid reviews are rampant: a good review at TrustPilot is in no way an indication that a company is honest or legit), equally fake testimonials from people with no last names and/or stock photos. Some falsely attach the names of traditionally published authors to glowing reviews of their services.
Another hallmark of ghostwriting scams: doing business under multiple names. For example, Amazon Digital Publications also does business as Pioneer Book Writers (their websites are identical).
Amazon Publishing Partners and Amazon Publishing Forum also have identical websites. Ditto for Amazon Global Publishing and Amazon Publication House. Amazon Publishing Associate, Worldwide Book Publishing, and Book Publishing Services share web content and formatting. And Amazon Publishing Pros shares text and “portfolio” items with Kindle Publishers Inc., Savvy Book Marketing, and Infinix Digital…ghostwriting scams all.
Ghostwriting scams often offer a fairly reasonably-priced package to begin with–but only to get you through the door, so you can be targeted for upselling pressure or fraudulent bookstore schemes (you’re told that bookstores want to order thousands of copies of your book; you have to pay for it to be printed, but don’t worry, 100% of the sales proceeds will be yours!).
I’ve also heard from authors who paid for services and never heard from the scammer again, or who received “edited” manuscripts that incorporated new errors, or who experienced delay after delay inadequately explained by excuses, or who protested quality issues or other problems and were suddenly informed they’d been transferred to a new company and the whole process had to start over. Most ghostwriting scams promise money-back guarantees–but surprise! They don’t honor them. Authors who persist may simply be ghosted, or, if the scammer is feeling frisky, threatened with bogus legal action and destruction of their credit score.
A few simple rules to help you avoid Amazon fakers:
- Amazon does not charge fees for its self-publishing services. KDP is free. Amazon doesn’t sell adjunct services, either (such as marketing), and it doesn’t work with “affiliates” that offer such services. If you have to pay, you are not dealing with Amazon, regardless of what the company calls itself.
- It requires no special or proprietorial expertise to self-publish on Amazon (or IngramSpark for that matter). Thousands of authors do it very successfully all by themselves. Don’t believe anyone who claims they can add some sort of secret special sauce to turbocharge the process. They’re not doing anything you couldn’t do on your own. (Whether you want to DIY is another question, of course. Not everyone does. But if you don’t, there are better options than a fake Amazon.)
- Any publishing-related solicitation is highly likely to be a scam. Reputable companies rarely reach out to authors they don’t already work with. For scammers, on the other hand, it’s their main mode of recruitment.
- If you’re looking for a reputable service, don’t click on sponsored links. Are all sponsored links scams? Certainly not. But plenty of them are, so they’re best avoided.
- If you’re interested in self-publishing but aren’t sure where to start, visit Writer Beware’s Self-Publishing page…and do it before you start searching for a service or platform. It’ll give you the context you need to sift through the info you find online, and links to helpful resources, too.
KDP “Kickstarter” Fake
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten several reports of emails from “firstname.lastname@example.org” with the subject heading “Amazon-Kindle KICKSTARTER Program!” They follow a couple of different formats:
The first solicitation boils down to a pretty standard re-publication scheme, where the writer’s book is re-published for “free” but they have to pay for the “endorsement” or “certification” or whatever (the writer who received this was self-published with one of the Author Solutions imprints, a favorite target for solicitation scams). The second is a bit more mysterious, but “you will retain complete control over your book’s content and pricing” suggests that it’s the same re-publication scam, just couched in a different (and more grammatical) manner.
Who is the scammer behind these missives? The second one provides a possible clue. The odd “Dear, [author name]” salutation, with its inappropriately placed comma, is characteristic of email solicitations from Page Turner Press & Media, which has been busily impersonating major motion picture companies for the past couple of years. You can see an example of one of these emails toward the bottom of this post. I’ve seen many others.
Regardless, Amazon does not offer a “Best Seller Program” (that’s the province of dodgy PR outfits), and in the extremely unlikely event that KDP ever contacts you out of the blue, you can be sure it won’t be from a gmail address.
A (By No Means Exhaustive) List of Amazon Fakers
Whether because the real Amazon has caught wind of their misuse of its trademarks, or too many unhappy customers have accumulated, Amazon fakers often have a short shelf life. All of those below are currently active, but many others have come and gone, as attested by still-existing search links that go nowhere or lead to “Account Suspended” notifications.
Amazon Book Publication
Amazon Digital Pro
Amazon Digital Publications
Amazon Direct Publishing
Amazon Ebook Publisher
Amazon Global Publishing
Amazon KDP Publishing
Amazon Kindle Direct Publisher
Amazon Listing Hub
Amazon Professional Publishers
Amazon Publication House
Amazon Publisher Partner
Amazon Publishers Online
Amazon Publishing Agency
Amazon Publishing Associate
Amazon Publishing Company
Amazon Publishing Forum
Amazon Publishing House
Amazon Publishing Hub
Amazon Publishing Library
Amazon Publishing Live
Amazon Publishing Partners
Amazon Publishing Plus
Amazon Publishing Pro
Amazon Publishing Solutions
Amazon Self Publisher
AMZ Book Publication
AMZ Books Publishers
AMZ Expert Inc.
AMZ Pro Hub
AMZ Publication Hub
AMZ Publishing Pros
KDP Book Associate
Kindle Direct Publishers
Kindle Direct Publishing
Kindle Publishers, The
Kindle Publishers Inc.