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As the Author World Turns on Amazon Book Review Policies

By Judith Briles

Amazon: Love it … or hate it … but, you gotta deal with it.

“Why are my reviews being removed?” is an ongoing question that authors ask. There isn’t a live program that I do that it doesn’t surface.

Scratching our heads, few of us can figure out what makes the Amazon robots push the yank button, while others stay.

Book reviews, and lots of them, can make or break the success of a book. When it comes to Amazon and its policies—what we do know, at least in March, is that:

  1. Authors need reviews on their books. Lots of them.
     
    Once, there are 25, the robots warm up. More than 50, expect to see cross promotion: book covers pop up on “like” books … “Customers who bought this item also bought …” meaning that your book cover gets displayed on other author pages.
     
    As your reviews build up (think more than 75), Amazon does email blast, suggesting your book cover with the live link to viewers of the site that have shown an “interest” in your category with their searches. How cool is that?
     
    So yes, reviews do count. Big time.
     
  2. To post a review, a reviewer does not have to buy the book through Amazon.

    One of the myths is that a review can’t be posted on Amazon unless it was purchased from it. Get over it.

    If the reviewer did purchase the book on Amazon, it will be identified as a “verified” purchaser. Meaning, that it will be placed higher on the visibility placement of reviews.
     

  3. All reviews by “book owners/buyers” MUST be a customer of Amazon. Meaning that you spend at least $50 a year buying “stuff” on the site. This went into effect in 2017. Per Amazon:

    To contribute to Customer features (for example, Customer Reviews, Customer Answers, Idea Lists) or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months. Promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum.

    My two bits: I read reviews online for a variety of products that I’m considering—I read the pros and cons and have posted multiple comments on products that I’ve purchased, including some bad ones. For me, I value others’ experiences.
     

  4. There is a difference between an EDITORIAL REVIEW and a CUSTOMER REVIEW.

    Amazon states that an Editorial Review is:

    an editorial review is a more formal evaluation of a book usually written by an editor or expert within a genre but can also be written by family and friends.

    Editorial reviews can be added by the author via Author Central or the Amazon.com/Advantage page. They won’t have the 1-5-star post.

    And, Amazon does permit payment for editorial reviews.

    Regular readers post a Customer Review and they ones that get the Amazon robot’s attention. A rating of 1 to 5 is added, with five being the highest.
     

  5. Getting Customer Reviews

    There is still a lingering belief that if someone has a “free” copy of your book, he will be excluded from posting a review. Nonsense. If you are upfront that you want an honest review—pro or con, it’s open.

    Get your book out there—it can be an advanced reader copy (ARC) or books you have in stock. You can send them an eBook if that’s your preference (Smashwords.com has an easy window to use) or just books you have in your personal inventory.

    If you give your book away for the purpose of getting a review, ask your prospect to disclose that it was free at the end of the review or the beginning. It can even be in the title line, such as:

    • I received an advanced copy for an objective review.
       
    • My review is based on a complimentary copy.
       
    • The publisher sent me a review copy … I’m glad it did.

    If your book was bought outside of Amazon:

    • I heard _____ speak at a conference and bought her book …
       
    • I was on vacation and discovered ________ in a delightful bookstore on the coast …
       
    • Visiting a friend, she said, “You will love this book.” She was right …

What you should know and what Amazon states on its site:

  • Reviewers can remove or edit their review after it is posted.
     
  • Amazon “says” that just because someone is a friend, or a social media connection, doesn’t necessarily result in a review being taken down. With that said, I suspect that if we lined up all the reviews that have been removed by Amazon, the mileage would be countless.
     
  • Any reviewer can link to another product if it is relevant and available on Amazon. That means your own book or something else you offer. Amazon does love more sales!
     
  • When you offer something for a review, you can’t demand a review (although I’m clueless how the robots know this). If you offer anything other than a free or discounted copy of the book, it will invalidate a review, and it will be removed.

Getting Customer Reviews

The belief is that no friends or family can post a review. Amazon says:

We don’t allow individuals who share a household with the author or close friends to write Customer Reviews for that author’s book.

Sharing the household is easily understood. You and I get what that means. The big divide is on what constitutes “close friends.”

My opinion is that all those people who follow you on social media are rarely “close friends.” Close friends are those you:

  • spend physical time with
  • go to events with
  • have over for dinner
  • have phone chats

… not someone that retweets or reposts something you have posted.

Sigh. It’s a dilemma for sure.

  • Start with encouraging all to copy and post to Goodreads—yes, Amazon owns it, but they are different platforms.
     
  • Second, challenge Amazon.

I love what Rox Burkey, co-author of the Enigma series did. Not only did she challenge Amazon for removing a review of a book she bought, she cited the First Amendment: how dare Amazon void her rights to express her opinion. The review was reposted.

So, what do you do?

  • Don’t have anyone post if they live in your house. No exceptions.
     
  • Check Amazon daily. It usually takes 12 to 24 hours to pull down a review. Check your Book Page daily and copy all of them to your computer. Thank them and say and mark that the review is “helpful”—if Amazon pulls it down—resend to the poster if you know and ask them to alter and repost.
     
  • Give this email to the creator of the review who can challenge Amazon directly: community-help@amazon.com.
     
  • If by chance you get a snarky review and you feel that it does violate the guidelines, mark “abuse” by the review. You can email Amazon as well at the community-help@amazon.com email.

Amazon Resources

If you are stuck … or a tad overwhelmed, here are a few Amazon resources for help.

  1. Check out Amazon Community Guidelines. Amazon has multiple pages with this title. Start here.
     
  2. With the change to KDP, you will be looking for both print publishing and eBook publishing. Start with logging into KDP, and clicking on Help at the top of the page. Under “Promote Your Book,” click Customer Reviews.
     
    This is the space to watch for the ever-present changes. Lots of FAQs and answers are posted in this section as well.
     
  3. Most of us sell books on Amazon using one of their book-specific selling tools: KDP, Advantage, or a third-party such as IngramSpark.
     
    There’s also Amazon’s Seller Central’s Marketplace, which means you can sell books here plus other products. It has its own guidelines and policies.
     
    And if you have problems, use this email: community-help@amazon.com or try calling Amazon Customer Care: 866-216-1072.

Remember, if you stay within Amazon’s guidelines, you should succeed. Yup, love it or hate … but do it.
 
Photo: BigStockPhoto

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This Week in the Blogs, February 23 – March 1, 2019

By Shelley Sturgeon

My preference is to stay inside where it’s warm and read a book, but my dogs, like the one in the picture, love to go outside and frolic in the snow. Is it balmy where you are or cold and snowy? Either way, find a comfy spot and take a few minutes to read this week’s selected articles.

And, here are your monthly reminders:

  • If you’d like to participate in our Self-Publishing: Carnival of the Indies blog carnival for March, please submit your blog posts by March 15th. All the information you need to know can be found here. Our Carnival of the Indies post will run on the last Sunday of the month.
     
  • Want to submit your e-book cover to us for our March e-Book Cover Design Awards? Be sure to submit it by March 31st. March’s submissions will be presented in a post at the end of April. Submission information can be found here.

If you have any questions about the Carnival of the Indies or the e-Book Cover Design Awards, just click on the Contact page and fill in that form, or leave a comment below.

Frances Caballo on Social Media Just for Writers
Are You Ready for Book Marketing? Take This Quiz
“Social media alone won’t cause your books to start flying off the proverbial bookshelf. … So, take this quiz and see if you’re ready to tackle book marketing on your own.”

Judith Briles on The Book Shepherd
10 Social Media Tips for 2019
“Social media is the town hall of marketing for most authors. It’s a landscape that has pros and cons and is in a constant mode of change.”

Jo Van Every on Self Publishing Advice From The Alliance Of Independent Authors
An Easier Way to Upload Book Metadata to Distribution Platforms
“An essential part of the indie author’s self-publishing process is to complete the metadata on the distribution platforms of your choice.”

Jason Matthews on How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks
Draft2Digital Adds Google Play Distributor for Your Ebooks
“This is a great addition by Draft2Digital for important retailers to work with. Google Play sells a lot of books for indie authors.”

Stephanie Chandler on Nonfiction Authors Association
Tips to Compiling an Anthology Book
“If you want to publish a compelling book in a short amount of time, compiling an anthology can be a fantastic solution.Tips to Compiling an Anthology Book As the primary author, you reap all of the rewards of writing a book without having to write the entire manuscript.”

Too Good To Miss


David Wogahn on Author Imprints
The 2019 Guide to Amazon Fees and Royalties for Kindle eBooks and KDP Print
“Setting a selling price for self-published Kindle eBooks or KDP Print books (formerly CreateSpace) sold on Amazon begins with understanding your costs.”

Sandra Beckwith on Build Book Buzz
How to announce your book with an e-mail blast
“I’ve received quite a few book announcement e-mails lately. I want to be excited for the authors, because this is a big deal. Sadly, though, most of the messages aren’t very compelling.”
 
Photo: pixabay.com

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Book Marketing Insanity

By Judith Briles

Authors often don’t want to hear what works to sell books.

John Kremer, marketing expert, often responds when an author asks, How long should I market my book? with How long do you want book sales?

If you want books sales, doing repeatedly what doesn’t work is book marketing insanity. Successful book sales need some type of book marketing campaign behind them. As in what is needed to create a successful book marketing campaign—a campaign that includes the creation, the execution of pushing the book out. It’s called a plan.

What holds authors back?

  1. Many don’t like marketing.
     
  2. Many would rather be writing … not marketing.
     
  3. Many didn’t realize that they must do marketing.
     
  4. Many tried marketing, but what was tried didn’t work; therefore, the belief that nothing will settles in.
     
  5. It takes time.
     
  6. It takes money.
     
  7. Or, if they had cost overruns in creating the book, they refuse to do anything to support/market their book once they have all those books sitting in the garage.

Could any of the above be you?

Stop the insanity …

Start with the What’s next? question. Of course, the answer to What’s next? has to be the marketing and selling of it.

  • What’s next is educating yourself—learning what other authors are doing that works …and doesn’t. Following the best-selling authors and top influencers in their blogs and social media and studying what they do and mimic where appropriate.
     
  • What’s next could be getting help. Virtual assistants have become the right hands, eyes and fingers of many authors. Get one.
     
  • What’s next is to stop rationalizing, making excuses and justifying why you can’t market it. My belief is, “Yes you can.”
     
  • What’s next is connecting with others—it’s a huge shout out time. Anywhere … everywhere.
     
  • What’s next is telling the world.
    • in person
    • with your connections
    • with groups that you belong to
    • with creating a press release and doing a push with it

     
    So, using the town hall of marketing: social media and the appropriate platforms.

    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Pinterest
    • Instagram
    • LinkedIn

     
    Which?

  • What’s next is connecting with groups that want to “hear” your message—speaking and book clubs—both areas can be done via in-person and online.
     
  • What’s next is for you, dear author, to commit—recommit—to your book and yourself. That is, if you want book sales.

But … you think … and say:

I’m tired… Welcome to the club. The creation of a book can lead to Book Fatigue Syndrome—you want a time out. Do it—take a week or two off … but then, it’s back to work.

I’ve already committed so much money, I can’t put another dime out… What were you thinking in the first place—that if you just held a copy of your finished book that the world would flock to the stores, the Internet, your website, your front door, you, to get a copy? That would be a rarity. You need help … starting right now. This is where “hanging out” with other authors helps—what worked for them (and didn’t)? Would it work with your book?

I just want to write… Get over that one, too. Yes, keep writing. You get better; and you need to have “new” books forward. In a recent podcast I did with agent Michael Larsen, he revealed that for fiction authors, it’s book #5 that opens the door.

I hired the wrong person to help me… It happens. The reality is: most have, including me. Lick your wounds—determine what went wrong in the process—then get back to work.

I don’t know how to do all this social media stuff… Welcome to the crowd … but there are those out there who do … and guess what—they are part of the book marketing campaign—your book marketing campaign and included in your book budget.

Book marketing takes work. Lots of it.

Yes, there is marketing overwhelm—so much to do in what seems so little time. Yet marketing is stretched over a period.

Can you get author and book marketing fatigue? Of course.

Wise authors work in projects, get help where they need it and get that it’s not an all or nothing basis. Effective marketing can be in nibbles. What needs to be consistent and a plan behind it.

Too, too many authors abandon their book early in the process. And what do they do? One of two things:

  1. Many start another book—maybe a variation of what they just did. And what will happen when they finish? Disappointment.
     
  2. Others walk away and become MIBAs … missing in book action, abandoning mega hours of blood, sweat and tears and what could be a successful book—desired and needed.

In effect, many authors become unfit author-parents. What were they thinking?

Part of authoring is connecting with potential and ongoing book buyers. It means:

  • marketing
  • marketing
  • and more marketing

No author gets to do the ostrich bit. That is, if they want author success.

Stop the insanity.

Today.

Now.
 
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