On Reviews (Redux)

Last week, I wrote about the need to read, write and review and not  necessarily in that order.  I promised to be back with more on the topic. I’ll be honest, that’s not going to happen today. I’m up to my eyes finishing several projects and deadlines are looming. That means my mind is busy running around screaming in panic. That’s not the mindset I need to tackle the promised topic. So I’m reposting a piece I wrote last year about reviews. It is as pertinent now as it was then.

On reviews

Once again, there are rumblings among indie authors about how big, bad Amazon is being mean. I’m the first to admit Amazon isn’t without fault. It takes actions, mainly due to automation, without warning. Innocents can and sometimes do get caught in the massive bans wrought by Amazon bots. For those wrongly caught up in the bans, the process of getting their accounts reinstated can be long and frustrating. They are why Amazon needs to look at their process and change it.

However, a number of those who claim to be innocent victims of Amazon purges really aren’t. Oh, they might not have set out to violate Amazon’s ToS but they did. Every time an author says, “If you review my book, I’ll review yours,” they violate the ToS. Every time someone receives a free book and gives a review without also noting they received the book without buying it, they violate the ToS.

So how do we get around this? I want to be able to review books my friends write and I know they want to review mine. But we have hesitated because we don’t want to violate the ToS — or get caught up in the latest ‘bot review even though we didn’t trade reviews.

The answer is simple: review the book on your blog. Link your blog to Facebook and Twitter and other social media platforms. But don’t review it on Amazon. Yes, there are negatives (mainly, by not reviewing it on Amazon, the author doesn’t get a review that counts to that magic number that starts the “if you bought this, you might enjoy that” sort of recommendation). However, a number of readers really don’t read Amazon reviews. They might look at the number of reviews a book has, or at least the overall number of stars, but they don’t read the reviews.

So why bother reviewing it on your blog? There are a couple of reasons. First, that review will come up every time someone googles the title of the book or the author’s name. So, you are not only promoting book and author but you are adding to your own discoverability.

There’s another reason. If you have an Amazon Associates Account, you can use it to monetize your review — and your site. When you link to the book in your review, use the associates link and you will get money for everything someone buys when they follow that link. Money is good. But this also lets you see what sort of follow through you have on a post and its links.

As an author, you want blog reviews of your work. Why? Because you can go to your Author Central page, pull up your book and add quotes from blog reviews under the “editorial reviews” section. That will then show up on your books Amazon page. More readers do look at those than customer reviews simply because it is part of the overall product description. Also, it makes your book look more “legit”, more like a traditionally published book, because readers are used to seeing those editorial reviews on trad pubbed books.

There can be power in these blog reviews or even from pushes by more well-known authors on their blogs. But that all comes from networking. Before you can do that, you need to do your homework and see who is writing in your genre and who has fans you believe will enjoy your work. Then, if you don’t already have a relationship with that author, you need to develop one. That doesn’t mean going straight to them and proposing a blog swap or something. Quite the contrary. It means taking part in discussions on their blog. Become a commenter. Become part of their community. Then do reviews of their work or posts referring to their work when it comes to the craft of writing. Link it back to their blog or social media site.

It is now time to start thinking outside the box. Hell, it’s been that time for years, ever since indie publishing started taking off. Let’s get started here. What are your ideas for getting reviews, bringing them to the public and doing so without violating Amazon’s or any of the other platforms’ ToS?

6 thoughts on “On Reviews (Redux)

  1. What’s the significance (or insignificance?) of the “Verified Purchase” tag on Amazon reviews? Also, if you read the book through KU and review it on Amazon, does that make a difference? Finally, who “owns” an Amazon review? My understanding is that it ceases to be your intellectual property the moment it is posted there, though I admit this understanding is the result of possibly the more hyperbolic end of Twitter than it is anything else. Assuming this is the case, what does that mean for a review posted on both Amazon and on a blog?

    Not that I expect answers to these questions, but, eh, since we’re talking reviews I think they’re reasonable to ask. In fact, given how opaque Amazon is, there may not even be definitive answers to the above.

    One thing I have seen with increasing frequency are reviews either crossposted to GoodReads with a link to an off-site blog or simply started on GoodReads with some sort of note that it is continued on said blog. Apparently this is 100% kosher under GR’sToS. Except for the fact that I only rarely follow them to the blog, but that’s me.

    1. “Verified Purchase” helps people determine if the reviewer knows what they’re talking about. As opposed to reviews by people haven’t read/used the product, but are making reviews as part of a campaign to sink/boost the book/product.

      Years ago, a video game company put rootkits in the software, and when gamers heard about it, they bombed the game with negative Amazon reviews strictly in protest of the rootkit. You could argue if that was a legitimate approach or not, but some people make protest reviews for reasons far less pure, e.g., politics.

      1. yes, but some rare semi-collector’s items books, of course, there isnt likely to be a verified purchase for …

    2. Another (avoiding multiple links in one post) non-book, and surprisingly safe-for-work, review is the 55 gallon drum of lube. (Search returns more than one result; it didn’t used to; don’t know if the others have reviews or not.)

      And there is the (not-a-link) infamous Hutzler Banana Slicer.

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