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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 …
- I received an advanced copy for an objective review.
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: [email protected].
- 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 [email protected] email.
If you are stuck … or a tad overwhelmed, here are a few Amazon resources for help.
- Check out Amazon Community Guidelines. Amazon has multiple pages with this title. Start here.
- 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.
- 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: [email protected] 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.