Amazon’s Embattled Reviews Make Another Change

Amazon reviews are slowly becoming a digital battleground of the future. Or petering out as one, depending on you ask. However, whether it’s using Amazon reviews to “review bomb” folks whose politics other folks disagree with, or paying a click-farm in China to generate thousands of fake reviews, Amazon’s review system seems almost destined to be at the constant forefront of unscrupulous folks thinking “How can I use this to my advantage/other’s disadvantage?”

With that sort of activity going on (and the almost Hipster-ish dislike for Amazon now that they’ve managed to stand head and shoulders above their rivals), it really shouldn’t have been surprising to me when a long-time fan of my works contacted me to let me know that they were no longer able to post Amazon reviews, and thus they wouldn’t be able to add their review of my latest to Amazon’s page for such.

The reason? Well, Amazon has a new review policy: To leave a review, you have to be a customer in good standing. You can’t have been spamming the site with reviews that are clearly fake, participated in review-bombing, stuff like that. But there’s another new requirement now.

In order to remain “in good standing” you have to be an Amazon customer, having spent at least $50 with them in the last year.

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Shadow of an Empire Brings the Praise

Well readers, Shadow of an Empire has been out now for just over a month, so I thought that, in light of yet another excellent review it picked up last night from Frigid Reviews, it would be timely to go ahead and look at some of the responses to the book thus far from readers! If you have not read Shadow of an Empire yet, this may be the post that hints that you should!

So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at some reader feedback for Shadow of an Empire. We’ll be looking at excerpts, but you’ll be able to click the title of each review to get a look at the full text yourself.

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Amazonian Advertising Practices: Part 2

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: There’s a lot going on this week. Hence some daily posts. Today’s topic of choice? More on Amazon’s Advertising System.

So some of you may remember my first post on this topic a few months ago. I’d taken the plunge, using my tax return to pay for Amazon Advertising Services to see exactly how it would shake out. I had to use the tax return for it, because Amazon is paid up front, but any earnings you make are, as expected, royalties. So while you may spend $50 to make $50, you will still have several months to go before that $50 rolls back into your bank account.

Anyway, I’m not going to spend time reiterating exactly how AMS functions, since I gave it a long-form explanation last time. The basic gist of it is that you set up advertising keywords that describe your product (for example, one of Colony‘s keywords is “Expanse” because of its similar genre to The Expanse) and then a bid for that advertising spot. Your bid wins while someone is looking at that product? That individual sees your product, and if they click on it, whether or not they purchase it, you pay the bid.

Anyway, after a month of using it, I’d come to some tentative conclusions, which at the time were that many people who found it balanced out pretty much neutral were right. I was earning back pretty much exactly what I put in, plus or minus a few bucks here and there. Which I found odd, as even if my numbers jumped around quite a bit, they still somehow wound up around 100% in and out.

I’m still not sure why that is. But I can report that with lots of careful fine tuning, several months in, the venture is a little less neutral.

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Shadow of an Empire Reward Copy Woes

Got some rough news before today’s Being a Better Writer folks. Friday, June 1st, Shadow of an Empire launched (it is doing pretty well, by the way; have you read it yet?). Which meant Thursday night at midnight I was doing what I do when a new book comes out: sending out thank-you and reward copies.

This is pretty standard. I send a free thank-you copy to everyone who helped edit the book, plus all Patreon Supporters who are above the basic tier. Except some of them may be wondering right now why their links aren’t working.

KDP policy change. If I may be frank, stupid KDP policy change. See, KDP has decided that you can no longer gift to countries outside the US.

Wait what? Come again? No, you didn’t misread that. Even if the title is available in their country. Even if the value is the same. You cannot gift ebooks to someone outside of the US now.

Worse, despite claims to the contrary on the gifting page that the recipient can trade their gift for a credit to their account and simply buy said item, this is also not possible. I have been informed via e-mail with a quote from one of them that such a credit would only apply to a US-based account.

Wait, it gets better. Attempts to contact KDP (Amazon’s Kindle division) to get this figured out? Met with canned e-mails with no return information and no explanations. They’re not interesting in talking about it.

And as I said, this is a stupid policy change, especially for a global company like Amazon. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s just “tough.”

So I did the smart thing. I filed a complaint with Amazon Kindle support (different from KDP support, who you can’t even call) and then e-mailed Jeff Bezos with a polite explanation of the problem.

This new policy is ridiculous and ultimately, bad for business. I’ve used Amazon to gift rewards for giveaways and contests to readers all over the world. Crud, looking at my sales records, I have readers all over the globe.

So, those on the editing team, I apologize for the delay. New e-mails will be coming out shortly with new links for those of you in the US. Those of you outside the US … I’m still trying to find a solution.

In the meantime, however, if this policy sounds bad to you, make your displeasure known. Contact Amazon and let them know that this decision is a foolish one. Given how many gifts I’ve sent to readers and fans outside the US, this decision really hurts my reader interaction. And it hurts anyone else who may have a friend on the global scene.

Amazonian Advertising Practices

So, for the last month, I’ve been experimenting with Amazons Marketing Services. Or, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, what amounts to paying Amazon in exchange for Amazon running ads for your product based on keywords and the like. So if someone searches for, say, The Expanse on Amazon right now in the books section, Colony comes up, because the two are similar Science-Fiction.

After a month, I’m starting to see a few of the things I’ve been told about AMS confirmed. One of the reasons I’d avoided it until now was because my research into other authors trying it out came to the conclusion that it was basically a way to get advertising for your books … but to in turn make almost no money off of them, if not none. This because of the strange way Amazon runs its ads, and the system by which they do it.

See, how it works is you set a book to be advertised, followed by a per-keyword ad cost and a daily limit to how much you want to spend. So the keyword may be “action adventure.” You set a cost of 25 cents, and then a daily limit (say, a dollar).

Now what happens is that whenever someone searches for books with the keyword “action adventure” Amazon performs a “bid” for the highest paying ads for that keyword. The ones paying the most go up, and then if the viewer clicks them, it pays one cent more than what that bid beat—so, for instance if the 25 cent bid beat out a 22 cent bid, then it would pay Amazon 23 cents—and the viewer looks at the book, and that 23 cents is counted towards the daily limit.

A little convoluted, but not bad, right? Well … there’s a catch. There’s obviously a catch. See, as was pointed out to me long before I ever tried Amazon Ads, and one of the big criticisms leveled against them is that Amazon has more data on who buys what than the Ad service uses. It simply acts off of keywords, rather than Amazon’s own “We know you’ll like this” system. And so you may end up with clicks that lead to nothing at all quite frequently, because the person who search “Science Fiction” reads Foundation and Hyperion, not Colony. Amazon knows this, but they let the clicks go through anyway.

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Shared – Scammers Break The Kindle Store

On Friday, a book jumped to the #1 spot on Amazon, out of nowhere; it quickly became obvious that the author had used a clickfarm to gatecrash the charts.

The Kindle Store is officially broken.

This is not the first time this has happened and Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling. Last Sunday, a clickfarmed title also hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action.

Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever. There are many such examples.

Source: Scammers Break The Kindle Store