Posts Tagged ‘Amazon’

According to this article, Amazon is starting to raise prices on certain types of books.  Why?  Because it can–no competition.  

Read up and let me know what you think: http://www.cnbc.com/id/100866228

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 “promotional content” 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’ll find a question that asks “Was this review helpful to you?” – 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.

**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’s not allowed” below).

Tips on writing a great review

• 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.
• 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.
• 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.
• 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’ buying decisions.
• 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™ 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:
• Obscene or distasteful content
• Profanity or spiteful remarks
• Promotion of illegal or immoral conduct

Promotional content:
• Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
• 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)
• 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
• Solicitations for helpful votes

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

Off-topic information:
• Feedback on the seller, your shipment experience or the packaging (you can do that atwww.amazon.com/feedback andwww.amazon.com/packaging)
• Details about availability or alternative ordering and shipping information
• 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 #1If 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

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

Is this a eulogy?  Some hope dashed with a ton of pessimism.  Don’t know, but bookstores seem to be going the way of the dinosaur–as do electronics stores.

Read and let’s hear what you think.  http://www.cnbc.com/id/46176893

By Julie Bosman of The New York Times

Really, REALLY interesting article here by Sarah Lacy of the Pandodaily.  In short, pretty much what we as indie authors have sensed, and why we look skeptically at people that want to submit to traditional publishers anymore.  I think a follow up question is this.  Do you think indie authors will get crushed under Amazon’s thumb someday?  (Think getting 30% of your sales price rather than 70% because there is no other game in town).

http://pandodaily.com/2012/01/17/confessions-of-a-publisher-were-in-amazons-sights-and-theyre-going-to-kill-us/

Has anything shaken up the book industry as much as KDP Select in recent memory?  Low sales in December are being blamed almost entirely on the KDP Select program.  Despite admonitions regarding joining the Select program, I decided to roll the dice and see what good, and bad, would come from the program.  Here are the early results.

BRIEFLY, WHAT IS KDP SELECT?

I don’t want to spend much time on this, because all the information is available on your KDP page.  Basically, the Select program is this: (1) you give up all rights to distribute your EBOOK anywhere but on Amazon (does not apply to paperbacks, doesn’t apply to any ebooks which are not enrolled); (2) consumers with Amazon Prime and a Kindle device can borrow your book for free (has to be a Kindle device, not just a Kindle app); and (3) based upon the number of times your book is borrowed, you get a slice of the monthly pie, which is currently $500,000/month.

TIMING IS *ALMOST* EVERYTHING

Part of the Select program is the ability to choose dates on which you want to promote your book for free.  (As an aside, you can just change your price to $0.00 in KDP.  I believe the only difference is that you won’t know, with exactitude, when the price change will take place).  I chose December 27-28 to have two free days.  Did I base my selection on extensive market research?  Wish I could say yes.  Rather, I picked those days because it seemed logical to me that people would have new reading devices from Christmas, and would want to download new books.  Call it prescience, call it dumb luck, but people downloaded Enemy in Blue like it was a new Grisham book.

Enemy in Blue had around 800 downloads as of 8am MST on the 27th.  Literally, every time I clicked the refresh page on my KDP monthly report, the number seemed to go up by around 100 downloads.  I can tell you it was a feeling like no other, and I envy the big time writers that are used to this type of success on a yearly basis!

I think this issue of timing begs the question of whether now is a good time to run your free days?  If push came to shove, I’d say hold off for a bit until people have had a chance to run through the books they just undoubtedly downloaded.  How long is that?  No idea, but my gut says that people’s readers are loaded with books right now.

IF TIMING ISN’T EVERYTHING, WHAT ELSE IS THERE?

I honestly believe timing was not everything.  If my book had a big goose egg for reviews, I don’t think people would have downloaded it, free or not.  If I hadn’t started #AmazonLikes several months ago, Enemy in Blue wouldn’t be liked and tagged as much as it is.  If I hadn’t done the countless other things (blog tours, interviews, building a Twitter following, etc.) written about here on my blog in other posts, no 5,141 downloads.  Finally, one more thing because this post is just as much about me assuring myself that I had some part in this near-miracle, but if I hadn’t taken optimization classes for every detail of my Amazon page, then “no go,” my friends.

In short, way back when I started writing this blog, I analogized the writing process to building a house.  I started the analogy with a reference to putting in your foundation.  All those efforts listed in the last paragraph?  The foundation.  Without it, simply no way people would have downloaded Enemy in Blue so much.  Remember, even a free book costs time.

RESULTS SINCE THE TWO FREE DAYS

Obviously, a huge question is whether the success in those two free days has spilled over to the following paid days.  Short answer, it has.  Enemy in Blue was ranked #552 in paid books at its peak, which amounted to over 200 books/day.  Sales have slowly decreased each day thereafter, with some of that necessarily flowing from the New Year’s break.  (I don’t think many people wake up on January 1 with whiskey on their breath and say, “Durnit, I wanna read a book!”).

It remains to be seen what impact all the downloads have on Enemy in Blue.  Hopefully, it will result in reviews, and word of mouth.  Seems like a given, with that number of downloads.  Also, I’m currently ranked #31 in Action and Adventure as a result of the whole effort, and peaked at #19.  I believe that a big list such as A&A can drive further sales, as opposed to some of the strange, extremely niche lists that I see next to other books.  I’m keeping track of sales on a daily basis, and will update the blog with that information in the future.

IS IT WORTH IT?

I’m frequently getting asked how Enemy in Blue shot up the charts, and whether Select has been worth it.  Obviously, for me, it was.  However, I would stick to my caution that without the proper elements (good cover, great reviews and not just 5 of them, likes and tags, best product description possible), I don’t think you will see tremendous success with the Select program.  Plus, you will be limited selling on Amazon for 90 days.  My suggestion would be to build that foundation for your book, and once you get there, pick a couple weekdays to offer your book for free.  I have seen my best sales figures on Thursdays/Fridays.

One more tip from my time spent analyzing all this–having multiple books is another catalyst to success in using free days.  Point in case?  J.A. Konrath.  The guy is a beast of an author.  He has nearly written more damn books than I have on my bookshelves!  A couple of his books were free at the same time as Enemy in Blue.  I watched all of his books, free and paid, rise to the tops of their various bestselling lists.  And, they’ve stayed there.  So, if you can use the free days to help promote multiple books in a series, for example, then Select absolutely seems worth it.

LINGERING QUESTIONS

I would be remiss if I sat here, writing this post, and failed to disclose that I’m hesitant to even publish it.  I mean, I’ve just experienced success, but who’s to say that wasn’t a flash in the pan?  Some cosmic alignment.  I’m certainly not sitting here with any notion that “I’ve made it.”  In fact, if anything, I’ve got more of a knot in my stomach now, as I watch my ranking oscillate.

That disclosure aside, here are some of my unanswered questions:

(1)  How do you get the initial “burst” of downloads when your book goes free?  This is the burst that puts you on a bestseller’s list, and being on those lists undoubtedly builds your momentum.

(2)  How often should the free “tool” be used?  As a part of the Select program, you can schedule five (5) free days in a 90-day period.  Should that be your limit of free days in a quarter?  At what point is more not better?  I’ll be testing this in the next few months to further hone the results.

(3)  The critical question–what is my royalty going to be calculated at for the borrowed books?  If I’m making 40%, instead of 70%, is it worth it?  Will it just result in a way for Amazon to pay lower royalty rates, while at the same time locking up its monopoly?  Call me neurotic, but businesses exist to maximize their own profits.

WRAPPIN’ IT UP

If you came here looking for an easy answer and now hate me, don’t forget your New Year’s resolution was to go easy on other people, k?  Bottom line though, and we always know it, is that hard work underlies nearly all success.  Take some time to read the other blog posts on here, put some sweat and blood into your foundation, and then give Select a shot.  If you have any questions/additions/comments, please add them to this blog post, and I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible!

Here’s to our mutual success in 2012!

Amazon is reporting sales of at least 1 million Kindles per week.  Where are you at to get your book on those new devices?  CNET article here: http://m.cnet.com/Article.rbml?nid=57349658&cid=null&bcid=&bid=-266

<Begin rant> So, a few of my own thoughts from the article.  First, screw a major publisher that is now trying to profit from INDIE published authors.  I may be alone in this sentiment, but one of the great parts of being indie is that it feels like a movement, like a frontier.  It feels like major corporations are having to adjust because of what we are doing on a daily basis.  The last thing to do, in that case, is to assimilate with them.   If they want to pick up indie authors to publish them through traditional means, by all means.  Second, take a look at the comments to see how much of a farce the service is.  That 70% royalty to authors?  Only if you sell through “Book Country.”  WTF is that anyway?  </end rant>

Sorry, but other services such as Createspace and Lulu have been there for indies since before the beginning.  My experience with Createspace/Amazon has been nearly flawless, they have my loyalty.

Okay, on to the article.  What do you all think?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/nov/16/penguin-self-publishing?newsfeed=true

Another article on the changing landscape of traditional publishing houses: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/48259-all-eyes-on-amazon-publishing.html