Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Amazon recently added a FAQ regarding reviews, guidelines for posting them, and when they will be removed.  You can find the FAQ at this link http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=amb_link_47889982_2?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201077870&pop-up=1, or you can just read it here:

FAQ

Have your customer review guidelines changed?

No. To see our guidelines please visit: http://www.amazon.com/reviews-guidelines

The guidelines say ‚Äúpromotional content‚ÄĚ is not allowed. What would Amazon consider to be promotional content?

Customer Reviews are meant to give customers genuine product feedback from fellow shoppers. While we encourage reviewers to share their enthusiasm and experience, there can be a fine line between that and the use of customer reviews as product promotion. Our goal is to capture all the energy and enthusiasm (both favorable and critical) that customers have about a product while avoiding use of reviews to outright advertise, promote and especially mislead. We have a zero tolerance policy for any review designed to mislead or manipulate customers.

Can you be more specific about what reviews are out-of-guidelines?

To help illustrate, here are a few examples of customer reviews that we don’t allow:

  • A product manufacturer posts a review of their own product, posing as an unbiased shopper
  • A shopper, unhappy with her purchase, posts multiple negative reviews for the same product
  • A customer posts a review in exchange for $5
  • A customer posts a review of a game, in exchange for bonus in-game credits
  • A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales
  • A shopper posts a review of the product, after being promised a refund in exchange.
  • A seller posts negative reviews on his competitor’s product
  • An artist posts a positive review on a peer’s album in exchange for receiving a positive review from them

What makes for a great customer review?

Amazon customers most appreciate reviews that inform purchase decisions. They want to learn more about the product or genre, hear the reasons behind your star rating, and ultimately decide if this is the right product for them or not. The most loved reviews can be detailed or brief; they can compare multiple products or talk about a specific use; they can be educational or just plain funny. Customers enjoy and value good customer reviews and we love the passion and creativity demonstrated by all those who leave reviews on our site.

Are paid customer reviews allowed?

No. We do not allow any compensation for a customer review other than a free copy of the product (provided up front). If we find evidence that a customer was paid for a review, we will remove it.

Are authors and artists allowed to review other authors/artists’ works?

Authors and artists can add a unique perspective and we very much welcome their customer reviews. However, we don’t allow anyone to write customer reviews as a form of promotion. If you have a direct or indirect financial interest in a product, or perceived to have a close personal relationship with its author or artist, we will likely remove your review.

Can authors review their own books if they disclose their identity in the review?

We love author participation. The best place for authors (or publishers) to communicate with their readers is in the ‘Book description,’ ‘Editorial Reviews’ and ‘From the Author’ sections. Learn more about using Author Central here. We also encourage authors to participate in customer discussions or to post comments on other customers’ reviews. We don’t allow authors to submit customer reviews on their own books even when they disclose their identity.

How can I report a customer review I suspect to be outside of guidelines?

Below each review you‚Äôll find a question that asks “Was this review helpful to you?” ‚Äď if you answer “no,” you can let us know why the review is inappropriate. We will examine the review and take action if necessary.

My review was removed. How can I appeal?

If you think we got it wrong and removed a customer review that we shouldn’t have, please e-mail community-help@amazon.com and we will take another look.

So, I just read this article by Derek Haines, which is edgy and maybe a bit over the top.  But, a lot of it resonates with me at the same time. Specifically:

(1) Reduction of the value of our free downloads.  This 100% happened.

(2) The Amazon review purge.  This 100% happened.

(3) Changing of algorithms to reduce the success of indie books in comparison to big six books, including Amazon’s new imprint (Thomas and Mercer). ¬†Remains to be seen.

Read the article by Derek Haines, entitled “Self Published Authors Get Ready, You’re Being Dumped”¬†http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/2012/11/self-published-authors-get-ready-youre-being-dumped/

Ask yourself this at the same time.  Have the price of indie books, including the fact that we are flexible enough to offer our books for free, forever changed what consumers are willing to pay for books?  Stated otherwise, will consumers still pay $12.99 for an ebook, which is the thievery rate the big six charge?  It would be nice to know that, at a minimum, we changed that.

A couple quick updates, thoughts, and possible points of clarification. ¬†First, Amazon hasn’t taken the Change.org petition seriously yet. ¬†Maybe I don’t blame them. ¬†What impact could 210 signing indie authors have? ¬†That’s why we’re pushing for 1,000. ¬†And, if that doesn’t get their attention, then we’ll get 2,000. ¬†We will push until they will dialogue with us, which is all we have requested. ¬†Sign it here today, just take a second and you’re in good company:¬†http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing-customer-reviews-from-indie-author-books

Next. ¬†I am starting to get information that Amazon is adding another dimension to pulling reviews. ¬†It is not set forth in any of their guidelines, but it could be called associated review pulling. ¬†What does association mean? ¬†Anyone in your family. ¬†Friends. ¬†People you work with. ¬†Reviews from all of these types of people have been removed and/or blocked according to various people. ¬†They are being told it is because they have a “financial interest” in your book, but that’s obviously a load of crap. ¬†That’s just the catchall phrase they’re using to justify their actions. ¬†So, in the future, it may not be possible to have anyone you¬†know¬†write you a review. ¬†Just awesome, huh? ¬†Let’s make it harder for indie authors.

Finally, just got done reading an interesting blog post on the review issue. ¬†It includes another description of what that blogger calls “linked” removal of reviews. ¬†It is called “Update on Amazon’s Disappearing Reviews: Konrath Continues Bold, Pro-Lies Stance; Amazon’s Policies Clarified” by Ed Robertson: ¬†http://www.edwardwrobertson.com/2012/11/update-on-amazons-disappearing-reviews.html

This all stinks of so many other situation where if there was just transparency, there would be no speculation, rumor, and angst. ¬†Amazon could easily step up and give some clarity/description on this whole issue. ¬†In fact, that’s all most people are asking for.

 

**Petition at Change.org to address this situation is linked below**

**Content of correspondence to date with Amazon is pasted below**

I’ll be the first to admit this…I knew about this issue and when it didn’t impact me, I didn’t do anything about it. ¬†For that, I apologize. ¬†Here is the background, and my attempt to rectify my earlier apathy.

Amazon has been removing customer reviews from indie authors for the past 6-9 months. ¬†Amazon, to my knowledge, has not provided a clear explanation to any impacted author as to why the review(s) were removed. ¬†It is not citing any guideline that has allegedly been broken. ¬†Rather, it is relying on its power and monopolistic position to do what it wishes. ¬†Just so we are all on the same page, here are the guidelines that Amazon has posted on its website regarding customer reviews (taken directly from Amazon’s website):

General Review Creation Guidelines

Amazon wants your opinions to be heard 
We want customers to get the information they need to make smart buying choices, and we’d love to have your help doing that. As an Amazon customer, you can submit written or video reviews for items listed on Amazon.com. We encourage you to share your opinions, both favorable and unfavorable.

Who can create customer reviews?
Anyone who has purchased items from Amazon.com. All we ask is that you follow a few simple rules (see “What‚Äôs not allowed” below).

Tips on writing a great review

‚Äʬ†Include the “why”:¬†The best reviews include not only whether you liked or disliked a product, but also why. Feel free to talk about related products and how this item compares to them.
‚Äʬ†Be specific:¬†Your review should focus on specific features of the product and your experience with it. For video reviews, we recommend that you write a brief introduction.
‚Äʬ†Not too short, not too long:¬†Written reviews must be at least 20 words and are limited to 5,000 words. The ideal length is 75 to 500 words. Video reviews have a 10-minute limit, but we recommend 2 to 5 minutes to keep your audience engaged.
‚Äʬ†Be sincere:¬†We welcome your honest opinion about the product–positive or negative. We do not remove reviews because they are critical. We believe all helpful information can inform our customers‚Äô buying decisions.
‚Äʬ†Full disclosure:¬†If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that that you received the product free of charge. Reviews from the¬†Amazon Vine‚ĄĘ program are already labeled, so additional disclosure is not necessary.

What’s not allowed
Amazon is pleased to provide this forum for you to share your opinions on products. While we appreciate your time and comments, we limit customer participation to one review per product and reserve the right to remove reviews that include any of the following:

Objectionable material:
‚ÄĘ Obscene or distasteful content
‚ÄĘ Profanity or spiteful remarks
‚ÄĘ Promotion of illegal or immoral conduct

Promotional content:
‚ÄĘ Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
‚ÄĘ Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
‚ÄĘ Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package
‚ÄĘ Solicitations for helpful votes

Inappropriate content:
‚ÄĘ Other people’s material (this includes excessive quoting)
‚ÄĘ Phone numbers, postal mailing addresses, and URLs external to Amazon.com
‚ÄĘ Videos with watermarks
‚ÄĘ Comments on other reviews visible on the page (because page visibility is subject to change without notice)
‚ÄĘ Foreign language content (unless there is a clear connection to the product)

Off-topic information:
‚ÄĘ Feedback on the seller, your shipment experience or the packaging (you can do that atwww.amazon.com/feedback¬†andwww.amazon.com/packaging)
‚ÄĘ Details about availability or alternative ordering and shipping information
‚ÄĘ Feedback about typos or inaccuracies in our catalog or product description (instead, use the feedback form at the bottom of the product page).

If you have safety concerns about the product you are reviewing please report this information to the¬†U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)¬†or¬†contact Amazon.com directly. Please make sure to include all information about the product (product title, and ASIN or manufacturer’s SKU) and the details of the incident.

Customer reviews should be relevant to the product in question. If you have questions about the product or opinions that do not fit the review format, please feel free to use the Customer Discussions feature on the product page. Learn more about Customer Discussions.

______________

Problem #1:¬†If reviews are being removed because they are not “Verified Purchases,” that has never been a published guideline or requirement for reviews. ¬†Let me explain how this would be an unfair basis upon which to remove a review. ¬†First, as noted, this has never been a published requirement. ¬†Second, many of us have spent countless hours under a 10 x 10 tent at fairs, books sales, etc. to sell hard copies of our books. ¬†We have then employed measures to try to get those purchasers to leave reviews. ¬†Obviously, those purchasers cannot be “Verified,” but their reviews should count nonetheless under the currently disclosed review requirements.

Problem #2: Amazon claims to be one of the best customer service companies in the world. ¬†And, as a customer of Amazon who has spent thousands of dollars on the website, I can say that their customer service is largely excellent. ¬†Why doesn’t that dedication to service extend to independently published authors?

Problem #3: If there are guidelines being violated (assuming, for the sake of argument, that some actually exist) then why are indie authors the only ones being impacted?

Problem #4:¬†This is the BIGGEST problem in my opinion. ¬†Impacted authors are not being told why their reviews are being removed. ¬†I can safely say that most authors would be fine with reviews being removed if there was actually a violation of some posted guideline. ¬†I know I would be. ¬†However, to be left in the dark as to its reasons is unjust. ¬†And, Amazon’s actions have transcended from simply leaving authors in the dark to completely ignoring and/or sidestepping the issue altogether.

SOLUTION:¬†It’s pretty easy, Amazon. ¬†Tell us what the rules are, and let us play by the rules. ¬†We will be happy to do so. ¬†Also, have the respect for indie authors to send them an email for every review that is removed which explains the rationale for doing so.

EVEN IF YOU AREN’T IMPACTED (YET), SUPPORT INDIE AUTHORS TODAY BY SIGNING THIS PETITION AT CHANGE.ORG TO MAKE AMAZON CHANGE ITS WAYS:

http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing-customer-reviews-from-indie-author-books#

First Email Sent to Amazon

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 2:12 p.m.: Please note that due to a perceived lack of transparency and fair/equitable dealings with respect to the removal of customer reviews from books published by independent (“indie”) authors, several authors have banded together and signed a Change.org petition.¬† The goal of the petition is not to impact Amazon’s business or profit in any way.¬† The goal of the petition is not to be confrontational with Amazon.¬† Rather, the goal of the petition is to forge a path of mutual respect and collaboration between indie authors and Amazon.

As stated in the petition, the problem perceived by indie authors is that their customer reviews are being removed from Amazon’s website without any notice from Amazon, without any explanation from Amazon to the impacted authors, and without any chance for the impacted authors to respond to the issue.¬† As stated in the petition, the goal of the signatories is for Amazon to explain for every author that loses a review (good or bad) why that review was removed, and set forth clear guidelines as to what will and will not be removed in the future.

The petition was initiated within the last twenty-four hours, and already has 116 supporters, primarily comprised of indie authors.  The petition can be found here: http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing-customer-reviews-from-indie-author-books

The hope of the supporters of this petition is that discourse would initiate, transparency would ensue, and both parties (i.e. Amazon and indie authors) could continue to build a robust world of books on Amazon’s sales platform.¬† Pre-formed responses will be deemed non-responsive, and the push to build support for the petition will naturally continue until the matter is resolved.

Thank you for your time, and we look forward to hearing from Amazon.

First Email Sent Directly to Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Monday, October 29, 2012 at 2:43 p.m.

Mr. Bezos,

My name is Derek Blass, and I am an independently published author.¬† I have been able to use Amazon’s platform to sell a healthy number of my first two books, and for that I am very appreciative to Amazon.¬† However, there has been growing discontent in the indie author crowd because of customer reviews being removed without notice to, explanation of, or discourse with indie authors.¬† Authors have written several articles on this matter, the recitation of which is outside the scope of my intent in sending this email.

The intent of this email is to alert you to a petition entitled “Amazon: Stop Arbitrarily Removing Customer Reviews from Indie Author Books,” filed on Change.org.¬† The goal of the petition is not to be overly confrontational with Amazon, or to impact (directly or indirectly) Amazon’s bottom line.¬† Rather, the intent is to initiate discourse with Amazon as to the demands presented in the petition.¬† These demands boil down to two things: (1) full disclosure of what guidelines reviews must meet for them to withstand removal from the website, and (2) a system whereby Amazon will communicate to authors when reviews will be removed, why, and allow authors to respond within a set time.

The petition is in its infancy, having been initiated within the last twenty-four hours.  Already, there are 119 supporters, and momentum is growing.  The petition can be found at this link: http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing-customer-reviews-from-indie-author-books

We would appreciate the chance to communicate with you further on this matter, and we would appreciate the opportunity to continue to grow our own careers and customer base with Amazon.

Many thanks,

Derek Blass
Author of Enemy in Blue
Amazon’s First Response
Monday, October 29, 2012 at 6:08 p.m.
Hello Derek,

I appreciate that you took the time to provide us with feedback regarding our Customer Review moderation process and the information concerning your petition. We welcome the diverse opinions of our customers because we believe the differing opinions lead to constructive and interesting discussions about our products and services.

I have passed your message along to the team involved with future development of our Communities features. I know they will want to hear your thoughts.

If you want to find out more about this or other Amazon.com features, please visit our Amazon.com Site Features Help pages:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=16465201

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us with your thoughts. We look forward to seeing you again soon.

Thank you for your inquiry. Did I solve your problem?

If yes, please click here: 
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/survey?p=A11S0WL7351GZF&k=hy 

If no, please click here: 
http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/survey?p=A11S0WL7351GZF&k=hn

Best Regards,

Paula

Amazon.com


Amazon's Second Response

Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 1:31 p.m.

Dear Mr. Blass,

I'm Deborah Hankins of Amazon.com's Executive Customer Relations team. Jeff Bezos received your email and asked me to respond on his behalf.

I'm sorry you feel Amazon.com is unfairly removing reviews from independent authors.  I can assure you our Communities team considers all reviews in light of our guidelines and will not remove any which are not in violation of those guidelines.  Although I'm sure you've seen them, I'm including a link below for your reference.

http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/

I hope the above guidelines will provide some insight into why a particular review may have been removed as well as assistance in how an individual might submit an acceptable review.


Regards,

Deborah Hankins
Executive Customer Relations
Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com


Email Response to Ms. Hankins of Amazon

Ms. Hankins,
I appreciate the response, but the issue isn’t that we necessarily believe Amazon is unfairly removing reviews from independent authors. ¬†That may be the case in some instances, but in some instances we actually agree that reviews should be removed. ¬†Rather, our demand relates to transparency that we feel indie authors deserve as towhy¬†reviews are being removed. ¬†We also believe that a system should be put into place whereby Amazon gives notice to indie authors when a review may be removed, the express reason why, and puts into place an opportunity for the indie author to respond regarding the review in question. ¬†Finally, we want Amazon to set forth a clear set of guidelines for what will be acceptable with respect to reviews. ¬†So, your response really does not address those concerns. ¬†Here are some of the comments from the impacted authors who have signed the petition (166 in all at this point).
Reviews were removed from my book. They were honest reviews by readers who really did read my book. I as a consumer use these reviews when I make book purchases and I buy ALOT of books from Amazon.
LuAnn Dill, Evans, CO
I contacted Amazon regarding the removal of some recent book reviews, and was sent information that contradicted the published policy. Abide by the rule set YOU created, Amazon.
Deborah Deming, St. Louis, MO
 
I don’t want Amazon policing to this extent. I am a loyal Amazon customer, but they are creating a lot of anger with what amounts to censorship. And their current efforts are often catching the wrong people!
Janet Buck, Ankeny, IA
Is Amazon willing to have a dialogue on these specific issues?
Thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation,
Derek Blass

Really interesting article here on the purchase of reviews–primarily positive reviews.¬† By David Streitfeld of the New York Times:

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/best-book-reviews-money-buy-131408538.html?page=1

On June 4, 2012, I wrote a blog entitled “Going Free as a Group–Does it Still Work?” ¬†I published the blog right before I banded together with seven other great authors to gain maximum exposure for our two free days (June 4th and 5th). ¬†The event was called #Reads4Free.

Quite honestly, I was a bit skeptical regarding what type of results we would get.  After all, none of us had ever organized an event of that magnitude before.  Right as the event was getting ready to start, I had resigned myself to the possibility that the countless hours we had poured into preparation would not yield the results we wanted.  Results that were intimately tied to the excitement we all felt about the event.

FORTUNATELY, THE DOUBTS WERE ILL-FOUNDED

What occurred June 4th and 5th was actually a bit startling. ¬†Let’s start with some of the stats. ¬†Seven of the eight books involved hit the¬†top 100¬† free books on Amazon. ¬†Doug Dorow’s “The Ninth District” topped out at #5 overall. ¬†Rob Guthrie’s “Black Beast” topped out at #9 overall. ¬†My second thriller, “Allegiance,” reached #15. ¬†Elise Stokes’ second YA adventure book, “Cassidy Jones and the Secret Formula,” reached the top 35. ¬†The only book not to reach the top 100 still performed extremely well for its genre–anthologies–which generally do not climb as high as individual novels.

IN ALL, WE SURPASSED 75K DOWNLOADS IN THIS SINGLE EVENT

Gulp.  Yeah.  Over 75k books downloaded in the first #Reads4Free event.  A first event where we undoubtedly had hiccups and mistakes.  A first event where kinks will be ironed out for #Reads4Free redux.

Climbing the free charts is exciting and worthwhile in its own respect. ¬†It means you got exposure. ¬†People have your book in their reading device, and setting aside debates as to whether they will read it, the first step in doing so is owning it. ¬†However, we’re in this profession for another reason, as well. ¬†To make some money. ¬†Especially as indie authors, we are juggling a job (or multiple jobs), families, marketing, promoting, networking, events, etc., so more than anyone else, we are relentless about the pursuit of our singular dream–making writing our full-time and¬†only¬†job.

So, it was important to track books after the free event, and how they performed once they went paid. ¬†It was painfully obvious that the heyday of KDPS had passed. ¬†With the numbers of downloads each of our books received, some of those books should have gotten into the top 50 paid books as well. ¬†In the US at least, Doug Dorow’s book was the only one to reach that level. ¬†However, fear not (at least, not yet) because there was a positive impact on most of our books.¬† Specifically, all of us had a nice bump in paid sales that we were able to maintain with other methods such as pricing and advertising.

Here are the things I took away from the event:

  1. Going free on your own and doing no pre-free preparation is absolutely off the table.¬† Won’t work, and in fact, could hurt your rankings.
  2. Going free as a group that works hard and works together is still viable.
  3. Going back to paid is a rough ride, but through pricing and particularly, with some well placed ads, you can mitigate that transition.

That’s dem apples.¬† If you’re interested in being a part of a future event, email me at publisher@rogue-books.com.

You know what I love about being indie? ¬†My world isn’t a cloistered cave of writing and talking to just my editor and/or agent. ¬†My world is literally full of thousands of other indie authors that brighten up everyday for me with their generosity.

GROUP FRIGGIN’ HUG

Okay, that bit of sentimentality aside, I’ve actually got a point here. ¬†Let’s start with Kindle Direct Publishing Select. ¬†When it started out, you could go free on your own and get¬†thousands of downloads. ¬†But, like anything else in this (insert expletive) world, there’s no free pass to success. ¬†Honestly, some days I wish I would wake up with two things: (1) perfect vision, dammit, and (2) about 50 million dollars. ¬†I digress. ¬†So, no free pass to success. ¬†What does that mean several months after KDPS started? ¬†Going free and doing it solo–not so successful anymore. ¬†And you’ve heard it from a whole bunch of people who continue to do the same thing and expect the same results. ¬†Bottom line, those results ain’t there, so we’ve got to adapt.

What’s a way to deal with this? ¬†Think like an¬†indie my friend. ¬†Going “solo free” (I’ll coin that term right here) is¬†so freaking traditional author. ¬†Going free with a group of great indie authors? ¬†Now you’re thinking.

Let’s get one thing straight. ¬†Going free as a group is nothing novel.¬† There are other groups that do free events.¬† However, there’s no way any¬†one organization can provide all of your promo needs. ¬†For one, it makes sense to diversify your advertising dollars. ¬†For two (can you say “for two”?), if you have multiple books, then a single organization may not have enough free events for you. ¬†That’s kinda where I was, which is why I did the following.

Through my publishing arm (haha, always wanted to say that. ¬†My publishing arm are these two hands, and when I can get his lazy ass going, one of my dogs), I have organized eight of the most excellent indie authors I know to go free as a group. ¬†Of course, I know more than eight excellent indie authors, but there will be more events. ¬†The point? ¬†We have worked our¬†tails off to put this event together (another reason to pay the IBC their entry fee and sit back while their staff run the promo for you!) ¬†We have canvassed the entire world of indie publishing and advertising, or so it seems. ¬†The bigger point. ¬†THERE’S NO WAY YOU COULD DO THIS AS A SOLO FREE.

This world of publishing changes so damn quickly, so who knows how long going free as a group will be successful. ¬†However, we indie authors are the small tribe that can adapt to change on a dime. ¬†Let the bureaucracy of the traditional publishing world die. ¬†In the meantime, we’ll evolve, come together, and take advantage of whatever we can to sell more books.

With that being said, here are the awesome authors involved in the group event, appropriately titled #Reads4Free.  You, my dear indie authors, owe it to them to go download their free books.  Just as we will owe it to you when you go free.

FREE ON JUNE 4TH AND 5TH  ONLY

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Oh¬†GOODNASS, don’t those books look sexy? ¬†Check them out on the webpage we built. ¬†Seriously, they look dead sexy there, and you can find out more info about what you’re downloading. ¬†Click on any cover to be transported (the click comes with a drop of acid). ¬†Or, just click on this hyperlink:¬†http://www.rogue-books.com/#!Reads4Free/cj6w

Over and¬†out¬†my friends. ¬†If you’re interested in being part of an Indie Book Collective event, or another of my #Reads4Free events through Rogue Books, then just send me an email at enemyinblue@gmail.com.

I’ll be upfront–this blog post is as much for me as it is for you.¬† Catharsis.¬†

My first book, Enemy in Blue, has been selling wonderfully.  That means one of my goals in writing the book is starting to be fulfilled.  Namely, people are reading a story about a difficult and challenging subject.  What does that mean?  It means that some people are getting REALLY pissed off.

Okay, no worries.  I knew that would happen and am glad it has.  How else can you draw attention to a controversial subject?

That said, it still stings to get bad reviews.  I believe I had the honor of a recent reviewer saying my book would destroy Kindles because readers would barf all over them. Excellent.

With Enemy in Blue out a little over a year now, and having gotten a few bad reviews, I’m going to do this for you, and for me–okay?

There is No Final Answer in this Blog Post

Let me be upfront about one more thing.¬† I don’t have the final answer regarding how to handle bad reviews. ¬†This is almost as much about me asking the question as me answering the question.¬† Further, this is a very emotional analysis.¬† You can’t really rationalize bad reviews, especially the really bad ones.¬† So, understand off the bat that you may very well deal with bad reviews differently.¬† Just like we all deal with emotions differently.¬† That’s fine.¬† In fact, it’s good.

Don’t Kid Yourself, Bad Reviews are Inevitable

I’ve heard this a few times.¬† “It’s not going to happen to me.”¬† Hold on while I choke back a laugh.¬† If you’re selling books, even if you’re selling the best book ever written, you’re going to get bad reviews.¬† Imagine if you went into a movie theater after an award-winning movie like The English Patient played.¬† You think everyone in that theater would give it 5 or even 4 stars?¬† That movie bored me out of my mind.¬† Bottom line, everyone is going to have a different perspective.

Add to the whole perspective issue the fact that with our books, people sometimes buy our genres when they don’t really like our genres.¬† For instance, if you wrote a romance and a person that typically reads and enjoys thrillers picks up your book, guess what, you’re behind the eight ball to start. The final exacerbating factor to getting bad reviews? Complete anonymity.¬† People can hide behind nondescript profile names on Amazon and leave nasty reviews.¬† Without the buffer of face-to-face interaction, there’s nothing stopping a bad reviewer from letting loose.

In short, if you’re selling more than a book a month, you are likely to get some bad reviews.¬† So, what to do with them?

Don’t Feed the Monster!

You can respond or comment on bad reviews at Amazon’s site.¬† Did you know that?¬† Well, you do now.¬† But, before you go responding to every person that leaves you a review, whether good or bad, remember this.¬† That cloak of anonymity?¬† If you, the author, start responding to people’s reviews, you intrude on the anonymity that people enjoy about Amazon.¬† They like the fact that if they want to, they can leave a bad review to “warn” other consumers about a product.¬† Similarly, they like leaving a good review when they have enjoyed a product.¬† If you step into their space, it will no doubt get ugly.

As an example, I have heard an anecdotal story of an author that responded to a bad reviewer, got into it with the person that left the review with back and forth posts on Amazon, and then Amazon lifted that author’s book from the website.¬† Yessir, don’t forget, Amazon cares about their customers more than their suppliers.¬† And, rightfully so.¬† Thus, think twice before you engage.¬† Secondly, if you engage, I would expect that other consumers would be more inclined to do the same.¬† Stated otherwise, your response could piss 1, 2, 3, etc. people off that may otherwise have just put your book down and not left a review.¬† But, if they see you advocating on behalf of your book, then they may feel justified to advocate against your book.

Again, the short and sweet of this section is to take your punches and move on.

Can Those Bad Reviews Actually…Help?

Let’s just take a behemoth book for example.¬† The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.¬† That book has a whopping 7,254 reviews!¬† (An interesting analysis for another day is trying to determine the ratio of sales to reviews.¬† At last count, The Hunger Games sold about 18 million copies.¬† That means only 0.04% of people have left a review.¬† Innnnteresting).¬† Out of those reviews, Ms. Collins has 210 one-star reviews.¬†¬† You think those have hurt her sales?¬† How about we take a classic, Pride and Prejudice?¬† Over 1,000 reviews, including 57 one-star reviews.¬† How about this trending book called Fifty Shades of Grey?¬† Out of 3,360 reviews, there are 962 one-star reviews.¬† Almost 1/3 of the reviews have been one-star!¬† Guess where it is ranked?¬† #1 overall on Amazon in the United States.

Our conclusion?¬† Bad reviews don’t always spell doom for your book.¬† Especially since we aren’t selling a high priced item, such as a tablet, people are still willing to plunk down a few bucks to give something a shot.¬† On top of that, I have heard from readers that some bad reviews actually lend credibility to a book.¬† When readers see nothing but positive reviews, they tend to think something fishy is going on.

So, remember a few things.¬† You’re gonna get bad reviews.¬† Cry, scream, throw things–you ain’t gonna change it.¬† When you get bad reviews, don’t exacerbate the situation by responding to them.¬† Create voodoo dolls, go for a run…whatever.¬† Just don’t respond.¬† Finally, those bad reviews won’t necessarily spell the end of your book.¬† Work on getting some good ones by submitting your book to friends, family, and other authors.

There, I feel better.  What about you?  What do you think?  Go on, comment and get a little healing yourself.

Very interesting play here.¬† Microsoft is going to invest $300 million in Barnes and Noble’s Nook.¬† Microsoft has a history of running other company’s products into the ground, so I wonder if this will be any different.¬† If successful, however, this could change the landscape of ereaders a bit.¬† Here’s the article:

http://www.cnbc.com/id/47228151

I found this interesting because the video game industry is undergoing some of the same pricing issues that we are seeing in the book industry.  Namely, the introduction of quality, inexpensive products is pressuring the traditional, higher priced products.  Sound familiar?

http://games.yahoo.com/blogs/plugged-in/why-end-60-video-game-near-181412574.html