In an interesting chain of events, ebook retailers’ crackdown on erotica titles that were mislabeled as children’s content–intentionally or not–led to another crackdown of sorts. During the process of examining the titles in their online stores more carefully, retailers like Amazon enforced an existing aspect of their terms and conditions that prohibits using famous book titles in the keyword search for unrelated books. For example, a particular self-published memoir about high school was threatened with removal from Amazon’s store due to the presence of the title The Hunger Games in the keyword search, an attempt to make the book more visible as consumers looked for Suzanne Collins’ bestseller.
While that practice is shady enough, a new phenomenon has cropped up in the race for book discovery: using authors’ actual names. Readers who were thrilled to purchase bestselling author Jack Higgins’ latest thriller title were instead treated to fairly lousy erotica.
Higgins, a well-known author who’s seen several of his titles adapted for film, suddenly had new books appear on his Amazon author page. Sadly, the reviewers took to the books to voice their discontent with the books, horrified that the quality of writing and the story line was not what they were used to from the author.
This new money making scheme is certainly not the first time that a thoughtless scammer has tried to make a quick buck off the back of someone famous, but unfortunately the industry reaction seems to be blaming digital publishing and self-publishing. Great literary hoaxes existed long before ebooks were born, but this situation makes self-published authors as a whole look bad, a fact that critics are happy to point out.
Higgins’ author page has been restored to reflect that he is not associated with these underhanded files (calling them books at this point would be painful), and the speed with which that repair took place is something for which even critics can be grateful to the digital era.