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Amazon Review Policy Change & More

Since Amazon first opened its virtual doors, there have been concerns about reviews. Not just for books but for all the products sold through its site. It is no secret that authors have paid for reviews — and some still do. Or that there have been fake accounts set up to give sock puppet reviews. There have been stories about sellers and manufacturers planting fake reviews as well, all in the hopes of bolstering their product rankings and ratings. From time to time, Amazon has taken steps to combat this trend. One of the last times they did it, they brought in a weighted review system. This one differentiates between “verified purchasers” and those who did not buy the product viz Amazon. Now there is a new policy in place, once that should help — at least until a new way around it is found.

Simply put, Amazon now requires you to purchase a minimum of $50 worth of books or other products before you can leave a review or answer questions about a product. These purchases, and it looks like it is a cumulative amount, must be purchased via credit card or debit card — gift cards won’t count. This means someone can’t set up a fake account, buy themselves a gift card and use it to get around the policy.

Eligibility

To contribute to Customer Reviews or Customer Answers, Spark, or to follow other contributors, you must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card. Prime subscriptions and promotional discounts don’t qualify towards the $50 minimum. In addition, to contribute to Spark you must also have a paid Prime subscription (free trials do no qualify). You do not need to meet this requirement to read content posted by other contributors or post Customer Questions, create or modify Profile pages, Lists, or Registries

Whether this change will work in the long run, I don’t know. But, for now, I welcome it.

There is, however, one change I wish they would make. There are a number of readers who are active reviewers but whose reviews aren’t weighted as “verified purchases” because they get their books through the Kindle Unlimited Program. Those downloads are as easy to track as “verified purchases”. So why aren’t they given more weight than those reviews from people who have not gotten a particular book from Amazon?

On a totally different topic, I came across this article earlier this morning and it left me not only shaking my head but wanting to rip someone a new one.

Landing a traditional publisher can be a frustrating, convoluted process. Yet, most speakers, professionals and fiction writers want to publish a book. The main reasons being: credibility and retail distribution, followed by logistical help producing and fulfilling sales.

Self-publishing lacks legitimacy, especially now that anyone with internet access can publish on amazon and call themselves an expert on whatever topic they choose. It’s lowering the legitimacy of Amazon bestsellers every single day, while traditional publishing remains an elusive endeavor.

That’s what Loren Kleinman had to say at the beginning of the “interview”. Yeah, way to alienate a lot of authors right off the boat. But I kept reading and I kept wanting to reach through the screen and shake someone. I’ll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions, but here are some of my concerns about what Publishizer does.

The first thing that stood out to me as I looked at their site (which did not inspire a great deal of confidence) is the second step in their process. You “raise funds by selling preorders for 30 days, using our book marketing tools.” This is before you submit your book to publishers. So, how are you going to follow through with these sales after you have signed a contract with a publisher? More importantly, if Publishizer uses these “preorders” as part of their sales package when they market your proposal, I have several more questions: 1) what if you don’t have a large enough number of preorders to show your book has serious traction?  2) Who determines what that number is? and 3) How doe the publishers know these are legitimate sales?

Then there is the fact their “software” determines where to pitch your book. The questions about this are numerous but they boil down to one or two. First, how do they gather their information to make this determination? Second, what publishers are in their main database and how many of those publishers have they actually submitted to? There’s a third question that goes hand-in-hand with all this: how often do they update their database and submission parameters?

If you scroll down, you see they have no cost to “set up” your campaign and you get to keep 70% of your preorders. Oh-oh. That rings more alarm bells. That means they keep 30%. What do the publishers you are trying to sell to think about this?

In the fine print down below, they have some questions and answers. It seems they will pitch at least 30 publishers. This is where it gets interesting. They say they will pitch traditional, advance-paying publishers but also  “independent publishers and high-quality hybrid publishers”. Anyone want to take a bet one which type they sign with more often? In the links at the bottom of the page, they have a list of publishers. Another knock because that list is not alphabetical.

Now, this site might be completely legit and it might have successfully helped authors get viable contracts. I don’t know. What I’m saying is if you are contemplating using it, be sure to read all the fine print first and do an in-depth search on it before “signing” anything.

Until later!

42 Comments
  1. paladin3001 #

    Amazon information is good news for those of us that do reviews and shop there as well.
    As to the Publishizer thing, sounds like a “vanity press agent”. You do the hard work and they will get a share of your profits. Nope.

    December 10, 2017
    • Zsuzsa #

      Definitely agree on the “vanity press” thing. You’ll notice that in excerpt that Amanda posted, the emphasis was all on credibility and legitimacy. This strikes me as geared towards those who want to be A Writer rather than those who want to make a living via writing.

      December 10, 2017
  2. When I was at Amazon, Bezos told a story about how when Amazon was new, other people in retail sales cited the fact that we allowed people to post bad reviews of products as evidence that he didn’t know how to run a company. “You’re supposed to sell these things, son. Don’t let people see bad things about them!”

    It’s worth keeping in mind that Amazon is very unusual in even trying to get honest reviews of its products. Most companies are very short-sighted and will cheerfully screw their customers whenever they think they can get away with it.

    December 10, 2017
    • I appreciate the fact there are negative as well as positive reviews listed. I tend to throw out the five star and one star reviews and look at those in between.

      December 10, 2017
      • Grin. That’s my strategy too, although I usually take a quick look to see if there’s a lengthy, thoughtful one-star review. E.g. one that starts with “I’ve read and loved everything else by this author, but here’s why I was disappointed.”

        December 10, 2017
        • paladin3001 #

          I find a good lengthy one star review on a tech item is very valuable. Lets you know what the issues are with the device or item you are purchasing and if it’s worth the price of purchasing.

          December 10, 2017
        • Christopher M. Chupik #

          One-stars can be recommendations, under some circumstances: “This is the sort of trash only Sad Puppies could love!”

          Your mileage may vary, of course.

          December 10, 2017
          • LOL and yes.

            December 10, 2017
          • Matthew #

            That’s how Kratman gets a lot of his sales.

            December 11, 2017
        • Those can also be very useful for non-fiction. “The writing is good, but the author is out of date on…” or “Several data used by the author contradict her argument…If you are interested, look at [other book] or an article by [other author in the field].” I love those kind of one-star reviews.

          December 10, 2017
  3. If I could get enough pre-orders to impress a Trad Publisher, all on my own, I wouldn’t need them. Or the Trad Publisher!

    December 10, 2017
    • Yep. That was exactly my thought.

      December 10, 2017
  4. Yeah, negative reviews are the most important ones, for other consumers. If you fairly earned ’em — well, do better!

    The buy-something-first requirement probably won’t stop sockpuppets (at least not the pros), but it should cut down on the drive-by-shooting reviews from totally-not-a-customers.

    That said, I think verified purchasers of a given product should be allowed to review THAT product, regardless of their sum purchasing history.

    December 10, 2017
    • I totally agree with the “if you’ve bought something and it’s verified, you should be able to review it.” position. As for whether the requirement will stop sock puppets and others, it will certainly put a crimp in their game, for awhile at least. And, as you said, it will stop many of the reviews aimed solely at lowering a writer’s ranking and sales because someone doesn’t like their politics, etc.

      December 10, 2017
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Sadly, that’s already been abused by click factories and bought reviews: they have the customer put the product up for free (especially with apps or games) and the download counts as a “purchase”.

      For physical objects, the scams include the “reviewer” buying the object, and then returning it, thus having the “verified purchaser” tag. After Amazon started cracking down on “serial returners”, they switched to scams where the price of the paid-for X many reviews covers the purchase price of X many items (Knowing the seller will get the money back, less Amazon’s middle-man cut, when they’re paid for sales.)

      Interestingly, a number of these bought-reviews scams aren’t actually after buying the reviews – they’re actually money-laundering through Amazon gift cards. The reviews are an afterthought…

      I know, that’s pretty deep in the weeds for most authors who are focused on real reviews by real readers, but there’s a lot more going on than meets the eye.

      December 10, 2017
      • Dorothy,

        Based on my recent experience with making my books free for a short time, those no longer count as verified purchases. I’ve had people contact me on Facebook, telling me they grabbed my book when it was free, really enjoyed it, and left a review. When I look on Amazon, their review is there but they aren’t listed as a verified purchaser. I’ve seen this several times this year.

        December 11, 2017
  5. Holly #

    Well, I apologize to any of you whom I will not be able to review or if they pull reviews of people who don’t have credit or debit cards, who lose reviews I have previously left.

    I do not use plastic.

    December 10, 2017
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Hey, if you still enjoy the books, then we’re still happy writers!

      December 10, 2017
    • I’ll agree with Dorothy. You enjoying the books is our first concern. If you then want to post a review elsewhere, that’s awesome. I can’t speak for the others here, but I love seeing reviews on FB, tweeted, on blogs, etc. Yes, it helps to have reviews on Amazon, but reviews elsewhere help as well.

      December 10, 2017
  6. Orvan Taurus #

    While I am not conversant in publishing, etc. that setup they have has a familiar smell: of that which I flush.

    December 10, 2017
    • Christopher M. Chupik #

      (tries to come up with joke that doesn’t use the word “bull”, fails)

      December 10, 2017
  7. Nice to see Amazon at least trying to limit reviews to people who actually bought the products. One would think it sufficient to take people at their word, but sadly that appears to be a crazy pipe dream of mine.

    December 10, 2017
  8. At $10/month for KU, subscribers should be eligible to review. I’m figuring.

    December 10, 2017
    • Yeah. I just wish their reviews were “verified purchase” reviews for ranking purposes. To me, they have paid for a service and that should mean their reviews matter as much as those who “buy” the book.

      December 10, 2017
      • Completely agree.

        December 10, 2017
      • Terry Sanders #

        Unfortunately, that opens a loophole even I can see. Ten bucks, and I can post unlimited phony reviews for a month. Even if you require me to have “read” it, I just click, page down a few times, and then write my calumnies. Or obsequious flatteries, as the case may be.

        It would indeed be desirable, but it would defeat the purpose, I think.

        December 11, 2017
  9. Publishizer sounds dreadfully like “You do all the work, you guarantee sales, we shop your name to a bunch of places, and we keep a chunk of the money! We make it so easy for you!”

    If I have to do all the work, why should I pay someone to supervise? That’s what Athena T. Cat is for.

    December 10, 2017
    • Dorothy Grant #

      Kili Ma !Njaaro has ceased to supervise me or Peter. No, no, she’s still in good health, bright of coat, clear of eye, lightning-fast of corrective paw!

      But Peter got a blanket out of the closet to take into his office, and absentmindedly left it on the dining room table, just where the hot air streams down from a vent in the chilly morning and the sunbeams from the south-facing windows reach in the afternoon, with a clear view (though she is hidden in ambush behind the chair back) of the lawn where the birds like to scratch for bugs and seeds.

      She has settled in, and spends most of the day now in a variety of “How does a cat get into that curl, anyway?” poses. Woe unto he who touches the soft, soft, ever-so-fluffy belly!

      December 10, 2017
  10. As far as I can tell Publishizer has had one big success with someone who already had quite a bit of name recognition and it took from 2015 to 2017 to get the book out. I don’t really understand the cohort idea, but I would not want to be part of the one that is listed in the article. !

    December 10, 2017
    • Zsuzsa #

      Reading through what was offered in that cohort, there was one book I wouldn’t buy but might read if I was in a doctor’s waiting room and the only other option was People magazine. The others…well, only the fact that I’m strongly against book burning would prevent me from using them for kindling.

      December 10, 2017
  11. Zsuzsa #

    Having read the article, my major impression is that Lee Constantine ought to be in politics. I’ve rarely seen anyone other than a politician spend so many words in response to a question without actually answering it.

    Q: What are some of the publishers who have signed on to work with you?
    A: Over a 100 words that do not include the name of a single publisher.

    Q: Can you talk about successes, failures, and learning experiences?
    A: Over 200 words about the history of the company, one success (if you’ve written a hit Hollywood movie, we can help you land a book deal too!), and nothing about failures or learning experiences.

    Q: Which campaigns have been successful?
    A: Over 400 words, none of them about a specific successful campaign.

    I find myself with a vague admiration for that sort of BS artist, but that entire article had me trying to protect my wallet, and I don’t even HAVE a wallet with me at the moment.

    December 10, 2017
    • Giggle…

      December 10, 2017
    • You read it a great deal closer than I did. The more I tried, the more my eyes glazed over.

      December 10, 2017
  12. I STARTED to write a comment; then I realized it was too long. So, I wrote my comment in a blog post: “Amazon Reviews, Inspired By Today’s Mad Genius Club.”
    http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2017/12/amazon-reviews-inspired-by-todays-mad.html
    But I haven’t read the Publishzer thing yet. So I might have an additional comment.

    December 10, 2017
    • Hi, Pat! (waves)

      December 10, 2017
  13. Here’s my comment on Publishizer: baloney.
    He lists all of his options, from vanity press to Huge Monster, and doesn’t give a clue as to where his placements really go.
    It’s also my understanding that what comes over the transom gets read by a screener, and that it doesn’t matter if it came by an agent or the author. The days when agents cooked up deals over three martini lunches are gone, and the value simply isn’t there.
    The idea that the value of bestsellers is diluted somehow by the presence of unwashed self-pub mongrels is just stupid. ‘Bestseller’ means it SELLS the BEST. That’s is in no way impacted by novels which DON’T sell.
    Nope. This is just a play on desires to be one of the cool kids. “Yeah, you can be a part of the gang if you give me your lunch money.”

    December 10, 2017

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