Author Topic: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?  (Read 702 times)

LilyBLily

I followed down an ad in a discount newsletter and the book has a long subtitle that makes claims so over the top that google lists it as the second item on page 1 when I search only a few of the words. Which is why I'm not pasting it here.

I know Amazon long ago said anything in the subtitle had better be on the cover of the book, but needless to say this bit of ad copy definitely is not on the cover. And it's not in parentheses, either.

My question is, is this kind of shameless hype pretending to be a subtitle a sure identifier of content mill books? Because I don't want to waste my time reading paint-by-numbers novels. And if I'm trying to do research in a category, the fakier books aren't the ones I should be reading, I would think, even though their extended blurbs might tell me something about what the mills see as the hooky content and tropes expected in that subgenre.

Or is this just authors going wild again, soon to be whacked in some way by Amazon for not following TOS? 

« Last Edit: April 18, 2019, 04:33:08 AM by LilyBLily »
 
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OfficialEthanJ

Sorry, not sorry:

Or is this just authors going wild again [...] ?

I can't speak to that issue, but I can say my idea of going wild is drinking English Breakfast tea when I'm writing.

(Vox Populi): That's not very wild.

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Electric Dan

My question is, is this kind of shameless hype pretending to be a subtitle a sure identifier of content mill books?

Hard to say without seeing examples, but I think I know what you mean and I'm going to say, "Not necessarily."

They might be a red flag that the book is perhaps not the highest quality but they could also be a sign of an author that read bad advice (say, on a forum somewhere) or an author that saw other books doing the same and figured that's how it was done or an author doing it intentionally for sport.

So, it may be a red flag but I wouldn't say it's a "sure identifier."
     
 

idontknowyet

I followed down an ad in a discount newsletter and the book has a long subtitle that makes claims so over the top that google lists it as the second item on page 1 when I search only a few of the words. Which is why I'm not pasting it here.

I know Amazon long ago said anything in the subtitle had better be on the cover of the book, but needless to say this bit of ad copy definitely is not on the cover. And it's not in parentheses, either.

My question is, is this kind of shameless hype pretending to be a subtitle a sure identifier of content mill books? Because I don't want to waste my reading time on paint-by-numbers novels. And if I'm trying to do research in a category, the fakier books aren't the ones I should be reading, I would think, even though their extended blurbs might tell me something about what the mills see as the hooky content and tropes expected in that subgenre.

Or is this just authors going wild again, soon to be whacked in some way by Amazon for not following TOS?
Oh my I hope so. I've seen a few of those that I thought no reasonable person would actually give this as a subtitle.

For example
A really good summer beach read
A really good book for romance readers

There are some i do appreciate though lik reverse harem, post apoc, etc. they help to sort books i am not interested in from stuff i am.
 

Bill Hiatt

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My question is, is this kind of shameless hype pretending to be a subtitle a sure identifier of content mill books?

Hard to say without seeing examples, but I think I know what you mean and I'm going to say, "Not necessarily."

They might be a red flag that the book is perhaps not the highest quality but they could also be a sign of an author that read bad advice (say, on a forum somewhere) or an author that saw other books doing the same and figured that's how it was done or an author doing it intentionally for sport.

So, it may be a red flag but I wouldn't say it's a "sure identifier."
That is often exactly the problem--someone taking bad advice but not necessarily intending to be a bad actor himself.

I've often wished KDP required completion of a course on do's and don't's prior to publishing, but that require effort on Amazon's part.


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bardsandsages

I've often wished KDP required completion of a course on do's and don't's prior to publishing, but that require effort on Amazon's part.

That would require the people at KDP to agree on one set of rules, wouldn't it?  :icon_rofl:

In all seriousness, this nonsense has become a huge problem on Amazon not just for books, but for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING.

Look up "sweaters" on Amazon and you will come across

Oak Leaf Wood Hangers, 6-Pack Coat Hanger Clothes Hangers with Extra Wide Shoulder for Heavy Coat, Sweater, Trousers, Retro Finish

Looking at health products? You'll find

Catalase 10,000 Formula Enzyme Supplement - Natural Catalase Enhancer with Biotin, Saw Palmetto & 10,000 Units of top Rated Enzyme Catalase with Amazing Hair & Health Benefits by Best Earth Naturals

or something as simple as hair ties.  HAIR TIES!

Cehomi 46Pcs Hair Scrunchies Velvet Elastic Hair Bands Scrunchy Bobbles Soft Hair Ties Ropes Ponytail Holder No hurt, Soft for Women or Girls Hair Accessories

It has gotten ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous.

And don't even get me started on the product descriptions that read like they were originally written in Chinese and then thrown through Google Translate into German and then again into English.

So it isn't just books. Amazon is just a hot mess. If you don't know EXACTLY what you are looking for, browsing is almost impossible for anything.  :icon_cry:
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Electric Dan

And don't even get me started on the product descriptions that read like they were originally written in Chinese and then thrown through Google Translate into German and then again into English.

So it isn't just books. Amazon is just a hot mess. If you don't know EXACTLY what you are looking for, browsing is almost impossible for anything.  :icon_cry:

Not to mention all the instances of the exact same product being sold by multiple sellers with their own, frequently weird, brand names.

Can be amusing checking the reviews on those though because some brands will have glowing reviews while other brands will have poor reviews when the products are exactly the same except for the brand name imprinted on them.

Nothing wrong with private labeling products when you're selling through your own store or website, but when it's on a site like Amazon where multiple sellers are selling the same private labeled products, it's a mess.

It's getting harder and harder to search and buy things on Amazon.
     
 

David VanDyke

Meta-truth:

Many shady techniques are used by otherwise innocent people, often only one or two techniques at a time, because they imitate what they think works by the "biggies." So for example, some new or otherwise legit authors see subtitle stuffing and think it's okay because so many "successful" people are doing it.

But really shady operators and scammers use ALL the questionable and outright prohibited techniques they can, to get an edge, unless they are actively slapped down.

So, the more of these techniques you see someone using, the more likely they are a self-aware scammer or shady operator, rather than someone who is simply clueless and trying stuff out that they think is okay.

It's the "where there's smoke, there's probably fire" principle. Occasionally it's just mist or dry ice vapor or fog or steam, or a smoke generator, but more often than not, it really is a fire. Or it will become one.
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notthatamanda

I know Amazon long ago said anything in the subtitle had better be on the cover of the book,

Somewhat related, I recently uploaded a new file to Kobo and got flagged for this when it went to publish.  I missed that rule when I published, or maybe it is a new rule, certainly last year there were tons of romance books on Kobo with super long subtitles that were definitely not on the cover.  I removed the subtitle and it went through just fine.

My personal favorite subtitle:  A Steamy XXX Erotic Tale, BWWM Short Story Contemporary Erotica MF Hardcore Pregnant Taboo Fertiel Brat Princess Single Mom Vs Millionaire Alpha Male Tall Dark Handsome

That's subtitle goals right there.
 

Kyra Halland

Quote
My personal favorite subtitle:  A Steamy XXX Erotic Tale, BWWM Short Story Contemporary Erotica MF Hardcore Pregnant Taboo Fertiel Brat Princess Single Mom Vs Millionaire Alpha Male Tall Dark Handsome

They missed the shifters. Gotta have shifters in a properly stuffed subtitle.


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Simon Haynes

Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2019, 12:54:50 PM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

The cover and the blurb can be misleading, but those subtitles usually tell me what the author thinks they wrote.


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LilyBLily

Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2019, 01:34:00 PM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

The cover and the blurb can be misleading, but those subtitles usually tell me what the author thinks they wrote.

They told me "Don't bother with this book."
 

dgcasey

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Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2019, 02:55:02 PM »
My personal favorite subtitle:  A Steamy XXX Erotic Tale, BWWM Short Story Contemporary Erotica MF Hardcore Pregnant Taboo Fertiel Brat Princess Single Mom Vs Millionaire Alpha Male Tall Dark Handsome

That's subtitle goals right there.

Helps with the word count, too.   grint
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TimothyEllis

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Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2019, 03:43:35 PM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

The cover and the blurb can be misleading, but those subtitles usually tell me what the author thinks they wrote.

They told me "Don't bother with this book."

Exactly that.  :hehe

And actually, usually it tells me the author didn't know what they wrote, because they have to try and quantify it afterwards.
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sliderule

Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2019, 07:54:45 PM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

As a member of a couple of reading groups for some highly busy genres, I can tell you that it's the readers who are driving this. They're the ones who suggest that it's easier to find what they're looking for if the author would put it in the subtitle. Sometimes they don't say it just that blatantly, sometimes they do.

It helps the reader rapidly sort through all the offerings in their genre to quickly drill down to what exactly they want.

If an author wants to reach them, then it's what they'll do.
 

Bill Hiatt

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Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #15 on: April 18, 2019, 03:19:58 AM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

As a member of a couple of reading groups for some highly busy genres, I can tell you that it's the readers who are driving this. They're the ones who suggest that it's easier to find what they're looking for if the author would put it in the subtitle. Sometimes they don't say it just that blatantly, sometimes they do.

It helps the reader rapidly sort through all the offerings in their genre to quickly drill down to what exactly they want.

If an author wants to reach them, then it's what they'll do.
In that case, perhaps it would be better if all vendors just made the keywords visible. Subtitles really aren't supposed to be collections of keywords like that, but I can see why a reader would want one.


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sliderule

Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #16 on: April 18, 2019, 09:25:51 PM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

As a member of a couple of reading groups for some highly busy genres, I can tell you that it's the readers who are driving this. They're the ones who suggest that it's easier to find what they're looking for if the author would put it in the subtitle. Sometimes they don't say it just that blatantly, sometimes they do.

It helps the reader rapidly sort through all the offerings in their genre to quickly drill down to what exactly they want.

If an author wants to reach them, then it's what they'll do.
In that case, perhaps it would be better if all vendors just made the keywords visible. Subtitles really aren't supposed to be collections of keywords like that, but I can see why a reader would want one.

I would agree. If their search was better, if I could have categories that weren't choked full of books that don't belong (whether by actively miscategorizing or Amazon's broken algorithm sticking them in there), if I could sort by keywords, I'd be a much happier reader and author.
 

RPatton

Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #17 on: April 19, 2019, 09:02:13 AM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

As a member of a couple of reading groups for some highly busy genres, I can tell you that it's the readers who are driving this. They're the ones who suggest that it's easier to find what they're looking for if the author would put it in the subtitle. Sometimes they don't say it just that blatantly, sometimes they do.

It helps the reader rapidly sort through all the offerings in their genre to quickly drill down to what exactly they want.

If an author wants to reach them, then it's what they'll do.

This is one of those perennial debates. I think there's a big difference between a word salad subtitle and a subtitle that says, "A Heartwarming Second Chance Romance". One readers don't entirely understand and the other readers appreciate because heartwarming is code for not super steamy but still has some sexy bits and isn't clean (although, heartwarming is slowly being co-opted).

Subtitles can be tongue-in-cheek, they can help readers, they can also be lampshading (these are my favorite). This is yet another one of those things that it's not so much the act of using longish or descriptive subtitles, but how it's done.
 
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Bill Hiatt

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Re: Are lavish subtitles the big clue to ghostwritten/content-milled books?
« Reply #18 on: April 22, 2019, 02:43:14 AM »
As an author trying to sell books in a fair marketplace (!), I resent long subtitles. As a book buyer I find them very useful.

As a member of a couple of reading groups for some highly busy genres, I can tell you that it's the readers who are driving this. They're the ones who suggest that it's easier to find what they're looking for if the author would put it in the subtitle. Sometimes they don't say it just that blatantly, sometimes they do.

It helps the reader rapidly sort through all the offerings in their genre to quickly drill down to what exactly they want.

If an author wants to reach them, then it's what they'll do.

This is one of those perennial debates. I think there's a big difference between a word salad subtitle and a subtitle that says, "A Heartwarming Second Chance Romance". One readers don't entirely understand and the other readers appreciate because heartwarming is code for not super steamy but still has some sexy bits and isn't clean (although, heartwarming is slowly being co-opted).

Subtitles can be tongue-in-cheek, they can help readers, they can also be lampshading (these are my favorite). This is yet another one of those things that it's not so much the act of using longish or descriptive subtitles, but how it's done.
How true! I think part of the problem is that some people use subtitles far more skillfully than others. My guess is that no one would notice if they were all well-crafted.


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