Six Ways to Dodge Amazon’s Wrath (Don’t let your reviews get deleted!) - Indie Pub It
It all began with John Locke. He was an Amazon megastar who published a book on how to sell millions of books, then confessed that what he hadn’t included in the book was the fact that he bought reviews. The fallout from this confession is still affecting indie authors like you and me.
Amazon reacted. Some people say that Amazon overreacted. But they did respond to the outrage that John Locke’s confession created, and instituted new rules about reviews. More recently, they have tweaked the algorithms and their databases so that they can more easily discern what are dodgy reviews. Unfortunately, this often means that genuine reviews from disinterested third parties get deleted.
In particular, Amazon have stated that any reviews by readers who have “a close personal relationship” with the author will be deleted.
As a result, rumours and speculation are rife. There is a lot of scaremongering going on, posts that claim that absolutely any relationship at all to a reader, including Facebook fan pages, will be discovered by Amazon and every review deleted as a result.
There are more measured reactions that point out that the lack of a definition from Amazon on what a close personal relationship really means, at least to Amazon, doesn’t help indie authors in particular meet Amazon’s requirements for a fair-handed reader review.
I seem to have dodged the bullet so far. At least, no reader has contacted me to say that their review has been summarily deleted by Amazon. So I have done some research, including crawling through Amazon’s review regulations, and read all the posts and articles -- both the panicky and the more introspective ones. Putting all the information together with my personal experience with reviews, I’ve come up with a list of strategies and tactics that will minimize the chances of reader reviews of your books being deleted by Amazon.
Don’t Pay For Reviews
If you rolled your eyes at this one and said “D’uh!” there’s a good chance you haven’t fully grasped the extent to which Amazon defines “paying” for a review.
If you exchange reviews with another author, so that he reviews your book, and you review his, that is considered compensation for a review.
If you provide a copy of the book after the review is posted (for example, the reader reviewed a beta copy and you gave them a final copy afterwards), that is considered compensation for the review.
If you buy a copy of your book and give it to the reviewer, that is considered compensation for the review.
All of these scenarios are considered “paying for a review” by Amazon. Because they have failed to fully define what paying for review means to them, there are probably other scenarios that fit their criteria, and will result in the review being removed.
Your best tactic is to make sure that there is no financial relationship between you and the reader. Scrupulously avoid any hint that you might be offering some form of compensation in return for the review.
Don’t use your Facebook personal profile to communicate with fans
This is one of the key strategies. Many, many authors use their personal Facebook page to promote themselves to fans. However, Amazon has no way of telling who on your list of friends is really a fan, and who is really a friend. They are going to consider anyone who is a “friend” as just that: a close personal friend. Therefore, any reviews that “friend” submits to Amazon will probably be rejected or deleted.
It’s a bit more fuss to set up a fan page on Facebook, and if you’ve been using your personal page for a very long time, then you will also have to “clean” your friend list, too. But it is worth taking the time to transition all your readers over to a fan page that you build especially for them. That will help Amazon distinguish who are readers of your books, and who are your friends. When readers who only know you through your Facebook fan page leave reviews on Amazon the chances are much better that Amazon will let the review stay.
Use social media as a person, not as an author.
The same issues with Facebook also exist with any other social media platform. This includes Twitter, Tumblr, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.
Unlike Facebook, however, these platforms do not easily allow you to distinguish between friends and readers. You must work to make that distinction for yourself. If you’re a heavy user of these other social platforms and networks, it’s possible that anyone that is associated with you on them will be denied the opportunity to review your books.
You may have to reconsider how you use the social networks, and if their use is worth the loss of reviews. Do you sell a lot of books as a result of using these networks? Does the revenue you earn from the sales of these books make up for the potential sales that deleted reviews may have generated?
Another consideration is that if Amazon consistently and continuously removes reviews of your books, your name is being flagged as a potential problem. That is not a reputation you want to earn with Amazon.
So consider carefully how you use the social networks. You may be better off using them purely for social activities among friends that you know personally who are not readers, and find alternative ways to promote your books and gain visibility.
Don’t use Amazon on-site gift cards
This one falls firmly under the “don’t pay for reviews” strategy. But there’s a twist.
If you run a lot of competitions and giveaways that include an Amazon gift card as a prize, Amazon may remove reviews because you gave a gift card to the reviewer as a prize—possibly years ago. Amazon tracks that relationship and assumes that the gift card is “buying” the review that was left in the future.
There are two ways you can tackle this. The first is to simply stop providing gift cards as prizes. There are all sorts of alternative prizes and giveaways you can offer instead of gift cards. Free copies of your books, for example. Also, e-readers, gift copies of other authors’ books, discount coupons, autographed copies of print editions, bookmarks, bundled sets, and much more.
If you really insist on using gift cards as prizes and giveaways, then the other alternative is to buy Amazon gift cards from your local supermarket and snail mail them to the reader. This severs the direct connection between you and the reader that Amazon can track when you send email gift cards directly from the Amazon site.
Encourage reviewers to use the disclaimer line
Many reader reviewers now use the once-professional disclaimer that goes: “I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.” No one’s entirely sure if this will make Amazon pause over the delete button, but it can’t hurt. If you have a Street team (for example) that provides reviews from copies of books that you provide them, encourage them to add this line to their reviews, too. Every little helps.
Add professional reviews to the editorial review section
This strategy is an indirect one. Offset a dearth of reader reviews and/or disappearing reviews by ensuring that any professional reviews from review sites like Night Owl Reviews is added to the editorial review section of your product page. Professional reviews help demonstrate that the book has been well received, even if your reader reviews are disappearing like snowflakes in the sun.
Tracy Cooper-Posey writes vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published over 55 indie titles to date. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book of the Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com.