I have a question.

Let's say I suspect a certain distribution platform has been underreporting sales of self-published books and vanishing the money for their own ends.

My question is, how on earth would I go about verifying such a thing? Would I just have to wait until an employee has a crisis of conscience?

For those asking, anecdotal--ONLY ANECDOTAL, mind you--evidence says some books may see up to half their actual sales just plain not reported.

If anyone comes across any data about this, I'd love to hear it, privately OR publicly, whatever is your jam.

I'm super hopeful that it's just jumping at shadows, but I'd be remiss in my duty to my peers if I didn't at least mention this thing and invite others to take a look.

@lilithsaintcrow how large do you think the discrepancy is in relation to the reported number of sales? Would it be economically feasible to make a known number of purchases of a particular title and see if the author receives payment for at least that many sales?

@djsundog Unfortunately that wouldn't be economically feasible, though the anecdotal--mind you, only ANECDOTAL--evidence I'm getting suggests at least half of the sales are not reported in some cases.

@lilithsaintcrow yikes, that is not a small portion. I wonder if you could release a "new edition" of one of the ebooks in question that pinged a server when opened, so you could at least have some externally-sourced data to use for correlation.

@djsundog Would that be against ethical rules as an author? What is the pitfall, ethically, of doing that?

@lilithsaintcrow it definitely strays into a gray area imo - you'd be collecting a log of IP addresses (and times) that the "new edition" ebook was opened, which would provide a bit more anecdotal evidence of sales volume, but you'd still be a ways off from a smoking gun, so probably not worth it

@djsundog Yeah, that sounds super chancy even though it might work. *is thoughtful*

I appreciate you taking the time to answer, too. I know it's a weird quesiton.

@lilithsaintcrow I'm a sucker for weird questions honestly ;)

From another angle, is the publisher large enough to be an attractive target for an investigative journalist to be interested in exposing the potential fraud?

@djsundog Yes, the distribution platform is certainly that large. So large, in fact, that a reporter might not want to pull the tail of that particular sleeping gorilla.

@lilithsaintcrow ahh, yeah, that's tough. That's no way to end up with a cushy job at the Post.

@lilithsaintcrow Any platform that can't do a reconciliation on-request is automatically suspect.

Being able to prove that, or DO anything about it... that's where it gets sticky.

@LAGilman I sort of suspect a reconciliation would be doctored as a matter of course, given the peculiarities of this particular distribution platform.

Proof, especially actionable proof, is probably not going to be forthcoming unless an employee has a sudden crisis of conscience and drops a load of documentation.

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