(C)A L Butcher
I haven’t done a Noob’s Guide article for ages, but during lockdown I’ve spent a lot of time on the KDP forums. If you’re unaware of these they’re the forums for Kindle Direct Publishing and offer guidance from other author/publishers to their kindred souls. There’s a corps of veterans (including myself) who have been around long enough to answer most of the questions – Hitch runs a service for newbies and knows a lot about formatting, Booknookbiz, Notjohn and Levi’s Companion are always willing to help out.
That said there are dozens of newbie authors who simply don’t read the help pages. Most of the answers to the regular questions can be found there, or a simple check on the forum pages – for the hundreds of similar questions asked every month.
READ THE DAMN FAQ AND HELP PAGES! Seriously. It will save a lot of bother.
One of the recurring questions is about reviews. An author posts up that review he or she knows about can’t be posted or has been taken down. Why?
Let’s start with a bit of history: several years ago a whole host of authors were gaming the system. Getting reviews by paying people to leave dozens of fabulous five-star reviews, and other rather underhand methods. It caused a storm. After that the big bad Zon got a little sensitive about product reviews, particularly in relation to e-books.
A review is only of value to the customer looking at it (and hence to Amazon) if it is impartial. A review from your mother is NOT impartial. A review from your mate Dave who thinks your book is great is NOT seen as impartial.
Think about it. You go to buy a product and all the reviews say it’s the most awesome thing ever created do you stop and think, ‘Really?’ There will ALWAYS be someone who doesn’t like a product, and that is especially true of books. Most books, if they have been reviewed, have a mix – some readers will love the book, some will be meh, and some will hate it. All are perfectly valid opinions. Do you love every book you read or movie you see? No, of course not. And that’s the other thing – what I like in a book is great worldbuilding and awesome characters. I can overlook the odd typo or editing issue. Some readers will hate a book with technical problems. Some readers will like a book with juicy sex scenes, and some won’t. Some readers will not mind violence, and some will put the book down for this.
How much is too much? That’s subjective.
Would you buy a product if you thought those reviews might be a bit dodgy? Maybe? Probably not?
Amazon changed their review process in 2017 as a result of this scandal (see link for the official guidelines).
- A customer has to have spent $50 (or equivalent) in the last 12 months to leave a review.
- Persons who share a household or are well known to the author cannot leave a review
- The author cannot review his/her own book (although I’ve had a few emails suggesting I review my own books – well done bots).
The guidelines state that social media friends or followers are allowed to leave a review. In reality, this is a very grey area. There are several posts a week from people who say follower so and so has told the author they cannot leave a review for book X. Where is the degree of separation on such relationships?
How do you define a friend on Facebook? Someone who is in the same groups as you and you comment on their posts? Do you chat to them in messenger? Do you share links? You can bet Amazon tracks this stuff and pulls reviews if it feels there is too much of a relationship there.
Personally, I’d say if a reader contacts you to say they can’t post it may be BECAUSE they feel they know you well enough to do so that they cannot post.
Reviews are for customers – not for authors. It is NOT an author’s job to contact KDP, or whine on the forum that a review doesn’t post. Advise the customer to email email@example.com and ask why. If an author does it the likelihood is Amazon will take a hard look at the other reviews on that author’s book.
Amazon does, in theory, allow review copies to be given out – but you cannot demand a review. If any incentive is offered it invalidates the review and reviewers are supposed to state they had a free copy for an unbiased review.
‘You may provide free or discounted copies of your books to readers. However, you may not demand a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review. Offering anything other than a free or discounted copy of the book—including gift cards—will invalidate a review, and we’ll have to remove it. To learn more, see our Community Guidelines.’
‘Additional Guidelines for Customer Reviews
The following guidelines apply to Customer Reviews in addition to the other guidelines given above:
- If your review is removed or rejected because it does not comply with our guidelines concerning promotional content, you may not resubmit a review on the same product, even if the resubmitted review includes different content.
- Reviews may only include URLs or links to other products sold on Amazon.
- Customers in the same household may not post multiple reviews of the same product.
- We may restrict the ability to submit a review when we detect unusual reviewing behavior, or to maintain the best possible shopping experience.
- You may not manipulate the Amazon Verified Purchase badge, such as by offering special pricing to reviewers or reimbursing reviewers.
To learn more about Amazon Verified Purchase views refer to About Amazon Verified Purchase Reviews.’
Customers can remove or amend their own reviews (and I have done this).
‘We remove reviews that violate our Community Guidelines. We also remove reviews if we unlink two titles that were incorrectly linked. The reviews will only appear on the detail page of the book for which they were first posted. To protect our customers’ privacy, we only share information about specific reviews with the customer who posted the review. If a customer contacts you about their missing review, ask them to write to firstname.lastname@example.org. Customers can also remove their own reviews.
In short – it is NOT the author’s job or business to deal with reviews that can’t be posted.
Do not expect reviews just because a reader has bought your book. Reviews on books are about 1%.
As a reader I don’t review every book I read. I doubt many readers do. Do you?
Ratings can be left without a text review.
If the review is not complementary – tough luck. Not everyone is going to like your book. Move on. Do not react, do not comment. It’s none of your business.
(C)A L Butcher
Other useful links about the review process on KDP and some of the articles on the issues of dodgy reviews.
Other products have been subject to these shenanigans: