Grifting the Amazon

Publication exploring the “Wild West” of from clickbait books to fake reviews, overpriced paperbacks, and alleged money laundering.

Cover of Grifting the Amazon featuring smirking smiley face
Book available for purchase on has provided a venue for aspiring entrepreneurs to test strategies towards a “passive” income. Passive is in quotes because the people who endorse this lifestyle imply that the ease of making products online is the end to working 9-to-5. What they do not acknowledge is the network of underpaid contract workers, production line laborers, and shipping and logistics personnel that make it possible for their half-baked ideas to take physical form.

Book covers for books about taking care of exotic pets
A collection of books about exotic pets published on by the same author.

SEO and clickbait books

The first part of Grifting the Amazon explains the inexact science of SEO and how it influences the titles and contents of clickbait books. Clickbait books are produced and published on for the sole purpose of making money. They accomplish this by getting into high positions on Amazon’s listings for niche subject categories. Besides their focus on narrow subject matters like “pickling vegetables” or keeping “capybaras as pets,” clickbait books are also detectable by their long titles that intentionally contain multiple, strategic keyword combinations.

Two pet books with authors who have the same bio with the exception of a few words
Two authors attributed to similar books who also have similar bios.

Who are the people behind clickbait books?

Clickbait books are written by ghostwriters hired through websites like A ghostwriter based in India interviewed for this project reported writing 5,000 books in five years. The people who take credit for this work on are elusive brands without a backstory or web history besides the one they present on On closer inspection, some of the clickbait books feature identical titles and cover art, but are listed under different authors’ names.

Screen capture of my book on marked up to $2,796 while it is still available from me for $9.99

Post gold-rush

As with any internet bubble, the get-rich-quick schemes of clickbait books on have slowly grown less effective. While is still filled with questionable publications, expanding the ways customers can purchase self-published books has made it difficult to turn quick profits.

However, a new market has emerged that games the website for enormous profits. While this new method is less likely to exploit an unseen labor force, it is also highly illegal and untraceable. The conclusion of Grifting the Amazon explores this new trade practice. When books are sold for thousands of dollars and may or may not even exist, is it possible that is the new blockchain? or the new Breaking Bad?

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