Hey! Who took my Reviews?

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I’ve written before about how critical of a role reviews play for authors—especially on Amazon.com which is responsible for well over half of a typical author’s online sales. That said, it can seem like a devastating blow when a review suddenly disappears. It happens. It happens often enough that there has been much written about it. That doesn’t change that fact that it feels like a kick in the nuts when it happens—especially when you practically had to bleed in order to get a few reviews in the first place (it’s difficult as an indie author—don’t be fooled by all those ads on facebook claiming to make you rich by submitting your unsolicited manuscript).

Tracey Cooper Posey does a pretty good job over at her blog of summarizing the history behind why Amazon enacted some rules to keep the integrity of book reviews relatively intact (http://tracycooperposey.com/amazon-reviews-being-deleted/)  as a response to some massive TOS violations (I even remember this happening around the time of my first novel release).

Here are four reasons why your Amazon reviews might get pulled down.

  1. They came from friends and family. You’re not supposed to get biased reviews and so anything obviously coming from a friend or relation will get yanked.
  2. They all came from the same location. Amazon isn’t stupid—if all of your reviews come from the same IP address they are going to jump to conclusions and assume foul play.
  3. They were too vague. Generic or bland reviews are often an indicator of purchased reviews which can be copied and pasted onto literally any book—they don’t really sway opinion and aren’t helpful to customers and so Amazon pulls them.
  4. They were purchased. Straight-up against the rules and unethical… water gets murky when you start asking “what do you consider ‘buying’ a review?”

Perhaps the best course of action is to ensure that you circumvent having your reviews flagged by Skynet’s terminator algorithms.  Here are four tips to that effect.

  1. Maintain a line of separation with readers. Authors should get an “author page” for facebook to keep a boundary. Sometimes the amazon death robots troll the waters of social media to see if any of your reviewers like/follow your personal profiles so that they can go and zap reviews and kill your hopes and dreams. (It may be part of a plan to force writers to utilize Amazon Author Central.)
  2. Add a disclaimer to your reviews/make sure your reviewers do as well if they are getting a free copy. It helps point out that this was a requested review and notes that some kind of relationship has occurred in the process of obtaining a review/putting a book in a reviewers hands.
  3. Be careful what you’re linked to (understand what Amazon considers “financial compensation.”) If you’ve purchased a gift card through your account as part of a give-away and the winner buys your book Amazon will take down any resulting reviews assuming it was a kick-back. You can’t buy them a copy of the book for the same reasons.
    It has gotten tricky because Amazon is sometimes takes a hard line when it comes to defining “financial compensation.” If you send a copy of a physical book after a review as a thank-you those reviews sometimes come down. If you gave money to a charity to help a blind cat with mange that was featured in an Alanis Morisette television commercial and your reviewer once bought an Alanis album, it might come down. Yes. Sometimes they are that draconian.
  4. Backup your more authoritative reviews (from well-known reviewers/services, etc.) under the editorial review section of your author central profile. This doesn’t necessarily help with your star/review rating but it preserves them and puts it front and center for browsing readers.

For your peace of mind it might be best if you seek reviews as ardently as possible but not read them closely. If you’ve ever gotten a 1 or 2 star review you will know what I’m talking about. From what I’ve gathered online, it may also be wise not to poke a sleeping bear. I’ve read stories from authors who sat through hours with Amazon customer service only to stop after threats of having their books banned and dropped from the site for questioning their authority… kinda like giving an M4 and a license to kill to a power-mad mall security guard. I’ve had my own issues with amazon customer service and would recommend seeking new reviews rather than chasing down old ones that the amazon demons dragged off in the middle of the night—after all, your next biggest fan is right around the corner.

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