The tough rules of Amazon book reviews.
If you are a new self-published author, you may not know that some time ago, Amazon went a little thermo-nuclear on book reviews. Why? Because paid Amazon book reviews were big business, as this article in the New York Times in 2012 describes in detail.
The upshot was of course that Amazon came down heavily on the practice of buying book reviews, but unfortunately, at the same time, they also decided to change a lot more of the rules governing book reviews, which included banning family members, users of the same IP address, other self-published authors, and readers who had received gift copies of a book. In addition, one other very obtuse criteria – friends, which is defined as people you know personally.
This last criteria for having a review rejected in so open to interpretation, and to my chagrin this week, I was caught by its vagueness.
Let me start here. I have a new book ready for release and of course, a couple of reviews do help when launching a new title. Having a bare Amazon book page is not going to sell a lot of books! For quite a few years now, I have had a great little bunch of beta readers, who have helped me during the final stages of preparing a new book, and have then, often but not always, posted a review when the book is released. I have never met them personally, only via social media.
But! Amazon recently rejected a review from one of my beta readers, giving the reason that we knew each other personally. Now, as we live on opposite sides of the world, have never met, never made contact by phone, the only way Amazon could come to their conclusion would be from social media data. Ok, that’s Amazon’s decision, so there is no changing their mind. However, it is a bit disturbing to know that Amazon is using social media connections to ban reviews.
There are many handicaps self-publishers suffer in gaining book reviews. It is not rocket science to understand that traditional publishers use their huge numbers of advance readers, staff, and other industry contacts to ensure new releases are heavily reviewed.
So what can a self-publisher do about Amazon book reviews?
While not a perfect solution, here is a way to add reviews to your new book page, and surprisingly, the solution is supplied by Amazon!
You need to have an Amazon Author page to do this, so if you don’t have one already, go to Amazon Author Central to set up your page. Once logged in, you can do a lot to change your author bio, profile images, add social media and blog feeds, as well as book trailer videos. You can also edit ALL your Amazon book pages from here. So, it really is a must to use and regularly update your Amazon Author page.
But for your reviews that have been rejected, or you know will be rejected, you can still publish them. You need to go to the ‘books’ tab. Here you will see the list of your books. If any are missing, you can add them.
Now, click on your book title and you will see this page.
As you can see, the first field allows you to post your own editorial Amazon book review!! One problem solved. This will appear on your Amazon book page within 24 hours. Now, don’t stop there. If you have more reviews, you can always add them within your book description, plus in the fields for the front and back flaps, or in the author tab. If you have a little HTML know-how, you can dress up your text too.
One tip! Check in the top right corner, as if you have different versions of the same title, you will need to make the additions for each one.
Adding as much information about your book via your Author Page is always a good idea, as when you first publish through KDP or Createspace, there is very little descriptive information added. So once your book is published, use your Amazon Author page to add much more information for potential readers.
The other advantage of adding as much book information as possible is that your Amazon book page will be much longer, and the fact that there are no reviews will not show above the fold, or in other words, on a user’s screen without scrolling down.
Ok, getting Amazon book reviews can be a pain, but with this workaround, at least, your new title won’t look barren, unnoticed, unloved and uninteresting, so will be more likely to attract sales, and of course, new book reviews.
It is worth mentioning in closing that since Amazon went ballistic on paid book reviews, the practice hasn’t stopped at all, as a two-minute search of social media will find those who are still actively plying their trade in paid book reviews. I would not recommend using these services, but it does show how unsuccessful Amazon was in their efforts to clamp down on the practice, yet have been extremely successful in penalising self-published authors for simply having contacts on social media.