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Friday, August 18, 2006


Amazon Tightens Rules for Reviews

In past entries, I’ve mentioned about writing customer reviews for books on Amazon and other places. It’s a practice that I’ve encouraged you to do for books that you love and for your writer friends. Over the last few days, Amazon has changed the procedure for these reviews and greatly limited the opportunity for these reviews. I’ve emailed Amazon a note of protest but I doubt it will change anything.

 

Copper Scroll cover

I’ve blogged about Joel C. Rosenberg and his new book, The Copper Scroll. My review of the book appears on Faithful Reader.com. I read this book before it’s release and before Amazon allowed customer reviews of the book. Typically the customer review feature isn’t turned on until the publication date for the book. Last night, I went to the Amazon page and was going to post a few words about the book with a five star review. I couldn’t add my review. Why? I did not purchase my book through Amazon and they’ve restricted these customer reviews. The only way you can write a review is to purchase the book through Amazon.

 

I checked their guidelines and found:

 

“General Review Writing Guidelines

Amazon.com wants your comments to be heard! The recommended review length is 75 to 300 words.

Authors, publishers, and readers have separate review mechanisms. Please use the appropriate page.

Who can write customer reviews? Customers! Anyone who has purchased items from Amazon.com and is in good standing in the Amazon.com community can write reviews.”

 

If you look at my Amazon reviews, you will see that I’ve written over 100 customer reviews—yet I purchased very few of these books directly from Amazon. This wide open door of opportunity for authors and publicists has slammed shut. For example, Faithful Reader and Book Reporter.com and other sites associated with this group, go to the particular page on Amazon and paste in the review. It’s been part of their efforts to promote good books yet with this new policy, these reviews will not be appearing on Amazon since the books come directly from the publisher—and are not purchased through Amazon.

 

Many books have no customer reviews. My Running On Ice by Vonetta Flowers with Whalin has one customer review—from my friend, Crystal Miller—and I suspect it will remain this way. Recently I wrote about Childproofing Your Marriage by Dr. Debbie Cherry. At the time, my review of Debbie’s book was the single customer review on the Amazon page (now there are two customer reviews).

From a policy viewpoint, I understand why Amazon has initiated this change. Over a year ago, a group who disagreed with the viewpoint in a book attacked one of my author friend’s book page on Amazon. This group posted all sorts of derogatory things in their customer reviews and the author worked with Amazon to remove these reviews. The new policy will greatly reduce these problems for Amazon customer service personnel.

 

While I understand the reasons for this change, it’s bad news for authors. They will not be able to encourage honest feedback about their book on the largest online bookstore on the planet. It’s bad news for publicists and publishers since they will not be able to use this avenue to promote a good book. It’s bad news for customers who read these reviews and make decisions every day about which books to purchase. It’s bad news for the book. I was sorry to see this policy change. I do purchase some books from Amazon but I receive books from many different places—including other authors and publishers. With this change, I will not be able to write a few sentences of review for Amazon.

 

Update

 

OK, I stand corrected--things are not as bad as I proclaimed in these previous paragraphs. I had not purchased any books with the email address I was using with my Amazon profile. Thanks to Robin Lee Hatcher’s note to me. I went over to my Amazon account and purchased a book--then my ability to write reviews on any book have been restored. The entries on this blog are a work in progress—and this incident just proves my point.

8 Comment:

At 10:24 AM, Blogger Daniel Darling Left a note...

Terry,

I read your post and I nearly panicked! I have written like 90+ reviews on Amazon and was worried I could no longer write them.

I think the only requirement to write a review is that you have an account with Amazon--meaning you had to have purchased something from them. But you don't necessarily have to have purchased that book from them to write a review on it.

At any rate, your blog post prodded me to write a review I've been putting off!

 
At 10:49 AM, Blogger Cindy Thomson Left a note...

Just a reminder: there are other online merchants where you can post a review. Cbd.com and Barnes and Noble, for example. I have NO reviews on my book at either of those.

 
At 5:18 PM, Blogger Richard Mabry Left a note...

Terry,
It's good to know that even an editor is fallible. That thought alone cheers me on cold winter nights, when I'm warmed only by the flames from rejection notices burning in the fireplace.
Seriously, thanks for sharing insights, news, and information with us. Keep it up.

 
At 9:32 PM, Blogger Mirtika Left a note...

I spend more than a thousand (and one year around 2 thousand) at amazon.com. So, I'm a great customer and can review.

What bugs me is the limit. I write LONG reviews often. 300 words? How can one evaluate a book and it's strengths and weaknesses in 300 words. Phooey.

Mir
http://mirathon.blogspot.com

 
At 12:27 PM, Blogger Gina Holmes Left a note...

LOL. You almost gave me a heart attack. I was redy to boycott them. Whew. Thanks for following up with the correction.

 
At 7:21 PM, Blogger Bonnie Calhoun Left a note...

Egads! I'm like Gina! I was ready to storm the citadel! *sheesh* I'm glad I read all the way to the bottom...Terry you had my heart pumping for a minute there. I was thinking, what's next....the Technorati popular book list! LOL!

 
At 5:16 AM, Blogger Brenda Nixon Left a note...

Thanks for posting....even your fallibility Terry. You always have great insights. And thanks for becoming my "amazon friend."

 
At 8:21 AM, Blogger Donna J. Shepherd Left a note...

Whew! You had my heart pumping, too, but for a different reason.

Deborah Gyapong just wrote a review for my children's book and wrote to tell me the review was posted AND she had purchased the book through Amazon. I was SO flattered. (I had sent her a .pdf for review purposes and intended to follow up with a hard copy.)

As I read your post, I thought, "Oh, no! She HAD to purchase the book!"

So now that my heart rate has slowed back to a manageable rate, I'm thinking maybe, hopefully, she wanted to purchase because she really did want it, and and as a show of support. Once again - Whew!

Thanks for keeping us updated.

 

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