February 26, 2018

Amazon CreateSpace is mostly full of bad books — some criminally bad


Listen, we all know it’s true: a whole lot of the books self-published through Amazon are bad. Honestly, not everyone can be number-one buckaroo Dr. Chuck Tingle, whose self-published line of gay dinosaur erotic erotica deserves leatherbound printing to preserve it for the ages. No, the self-pub world has some garbage in it, too. Often, that means the book doesn’t sell.

Recently, Patrick Reames, an author of books for the commodities industry, was surprised to find out he’d also written a sixty-page, $555 book of fiction — not to mention that it’d sold pretty well, netting him $24,000. The reason for his surprise was simple: he hadn’t written any such book.

As security blogger Brian Krebs wrote last week, it appears Reames had found himself entangled in an elaborate money laundering operation on CreateSpace, Amazon’s print-on-demand self-publishing tool. For one thing, Reames did not have a CreateSpace account. Beyond that:

Reames said the books he has sold on Amazon under his name were done through his publisher, not directly via a personal account (the royalties for those books accrue to his former employer) so he’d never given Amazon his Social Security number. But the fraudster evidently had, and that was apparently enough to convince Amazon that the imposter was him.

Shortly after this information came to light, Aaron Pressman at Fortune reports that Amazon began taking down a number of these fraudulent books and accounts. And while it remains unclear how many of them remain, Reames was confident that there were thousands.

The scope of the problem remains unknown. What is clear that is Amazon might have a reason for dealing with it quietly: they’re profiting too, taking in nearly half the cash the book in Reames’s name cleared — over $20,000 in revenue.

On his own blog, Reames speculated that the scheme could be used for “selling guns, dealing drugs, funding terrorism… you can use your imagination.” And with Amazon getting a cut, don’t expect them to take aggressive action anytime soon.



Peter Clark is a former Melville House sales manager.