Author and publishing industry expert Jane Friedman recently uncovered a troubling trend on Amazon and Goodreads: fraudulent book listings bearing her name. These counterfeit titles, likely filled with junk or AI-generated content, were resistant to removal until Friedman’s complaints gained traction on social media platforms.

In her blog post titled “I Would Rather See My Books Get Pirated Than This (Or: Why Goodreads and Amazon Are Becoming Dumpster Fires),” Friedman recounted her struggle with these counterfeit books and the challenges she faced in having them taken down. The counterfeit titles had the potential to harm her reputation and the integrity of her work.

The proliferation of AI-generated and falsely attributed books is a growing concern in the world of online sales. Scammers exploit Amazon’s algorithms to profit from fraudulent sales, contributing to the issue. In some cases, AI-generated books filled with nonsense have even climbed Kindle bestseller lists. Friedman, an author of 10 books, expressed worry that these fake titles would tarnish her reputation, especially as customers could mistake them for her authentic work.

Friedman shed light on the complex process authors must navigate to address this problem. Removing false attributions requires reaching out to volunteer “librarians” on Goodreads and engaging in group discussions to request the removal of illegitimate books. Even then, the process is not straightforward, and there are no guarantees of timely removal.

Friedman’s ordeal highlights the difficulties authors face when trying to protect their names and works online. She is not alone in this struggle, as other authors shared similar experiences of impersonation and misattribution on both Amazon and Goodreads. Many authors find themselves frustrated by the lack of effective measures to combat this issue.

The challenge also extends to Amazon’s handling of the problem. Friedman’s attempts to have the fake titles removed from her author profile on Amazon were met with requests for trademark registration numbers. When she lacked such trademarks, the case was closed without resolution. While the fraudulent titles were eventually taken down after the story gained attention, the incident underscores the broader issue of author impersonation on major online platforms.

Authors and industry professionals are calling on Amazon and Goodreads to implement better safeguards against fraud and misattribution. The prevalence of fake books raises questions about the platforms’ responsibility to protect both authors and customers from misinformation and fraudulent listings.

Friedman’s plea is clear: “We desperately need guardrails on this landslide of misattribution and misinformation. Amazon and Goodreads, I beg you to create a way to verify authorship, or for authors to easily block fraudulent books credited to them. Do it now, do it quickly.” As the battle against fake books continues, the need for transparency and accountability in the digital marketplace becomes ever more apparent.

By Impact Lab