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April 5, 2009: Amazon Gets Stupid

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In this issue . . .
-- Just one post: Amazon Gets Stupid

Amazon Gets Stupid
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I received the following information from several authors today. Here is a good summary of Amazon's new enforcement policy from Cheryl Kaye Tardif:

I am bcc'ing this to ALL my author friends because I really want you to have this information before Amazon deletes all your reviews.

A week ago I found that all 85 of the reviews I've written for other books had been deleted. It has been a very difficult and stressful week dealing with Amazon. They are not very accessible and I was given at least 3 different reasons for why my reviews had been deleted. After numerous emails, this is what it's come down to:

Their final ruling: "Please know that our participation guidelines don't allow customers to promote their own titles in their reviews." If you sign your review with anything other than your name, your reviews could be deleted.

If any of you are in the habit of signing your reviews with something like "..., author of Whale Song", which has been common practice for years, Amazon has deemed this as "inappropriate" and will be deleting them. It seems they're on a campaign to go through reviews posted. They recently made changes to the Amazon Connect program and all our blogs were temporarily gone too. Most are back up.

They also will delete your reviews if you have added the book link (that they supply) and directed it to your own book title's Amazon page. Many authors have used that in their signature line. It can lead to deletion and suspension, according to Amazon's latest email.

I argued the fact that thousands of authors sign their reviews like this, and that it's common practice in our industry. I was told by my last publisher to sign my reviews like this; he even wanted us to include the ISBN, which I only did a couple of times then stopped. It made no difference to Amazon that this is what my publisher wanted me to do; they aren't accepting signatures with titles.

Amazon is starting to take note of such practices and you'll get no notice; they'll just pull all the reviews you have written. That's what they did with me, even though many of my older reviews were signed with just my name.

So to clarify, according to Amazon, when posting a review, you are not allowed to have a signature of anything more than your name, and NO links to or mention of your books whatsoever in the review or sig line.

I am giving you the heads-up now so you can go in and edit your reviews if you choose. That's what I'd do, to be honest, because fighting with Amazon is not easy. There is no one who will talk to you by phone, and waiting for their response is not easy.

This rule also applies to any comments you leave on a book review. Amazon does not want authors to mention their own books anywhere on the review pages.

I haven't heard from Amazon.ca yet, but I expect this will be funneled over to all the Amazons, so I'll be working on editing my reviews there next week.

Please forward this on to all authors you know and any writing organizations or associations you belong to.

I think Cheryl's email sums up the problem with Amazon.com right now.

How stupid can they be! How really, really stupid. This leaves the door open for someone to create an unAmazon that really serves authors rather than exploits them brutally.

Amazon is stupid. Amazon is stupid. I want them to know that I think they are stupid. I hope they read this post. I think Amazon is incredibly stupid, stupid, stupid.

I really do hope someone creates an alternative.

I do agree with them that reviews written only to insert your link do no good for the book buyer, the author, or Amazon. But legitimate reviews that reveal that the reviewer is an expert (a book author) should be allowed, indeed should be highlighted.

Amazon is stupid. The people at Amazon.com are imbeciles. Jeff Bezos is sleeping at the wheel. This is what happens when one website becomes too dominant. Watch out for Google next.

Start sending your customers to BN.com today.

Signed -- John Kremer, author, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books

You can order my book at BN.com here: http://search.barnesandnoble.
com/1001-Ways-to-Market-Your-Books/John-Kremer/e/9780912411491

Addendum from Cheryl Kay Tardif: Amazon's last stunt was to ask me to tell them which other authors (because I said thousands of others) were signing reviews with their book titles. Can you believe it?? I was stunned!!

I basically said, “Sorry, but I'm not comfortable pointing the finger at other authors. You'll have to look for the thousands and thousands of authors who write reviews like this yourself. Sorry.”

One more note: I don't really have a stake in this issue. I've only written about ten reviews and, if Amazon deletes those, it's not my loss. It won't hurt my book sales. I just think it's really stupid to penalize the best reviewers Amazon has — that is, other authors.


Responses: Amazon Is Stupid

Here are some responses I've received to the original post above.

I don’t think that policy is at all stupid. What credibility can a book review have if it is written by the author of the book being reviewed? Amazon simply does not want its review process used for shameless self-promotion and even though I am an author and book publisher I totally agree with that position.

John's Comment: This isn't about authors reviewing their own books. It's about authors reviewing other books and products on Amazon. Amazon is telling authors that when they review other books, they cannot list their credentials: no book title, no website, no link to their Amazon book page.

I agree with you that an author reviewing their own book is shameless and stupid. I could see why Amazon would not want those reviews. But why would Amazon cut out their best reviewers: other authors?

As a group, authors read more books than 95% of the population. Authors also buy more books than 95% of the population. That means that authors really are in the best position to review books.

Why in the world would Amazon limit the ability of authors to give their credentials — which provides potential customers with a good reason to give more credence to such reviews? If Stephen King reviews a novel, I know it's going to be great. But how will I know if the reviewer on Amazon is the noted horror novelist or one of thousands of other Stephen Kings around the world? Even Stephen King won't be able to give his credentials.

[There is one way, but many customers wouldn't know to do it: You can click on the reviewer's name to find out a little more about him or her.]


Good heavens!!!!! I want to write about this in my newsletter next week and join the chorus you are creating that is screaming “Amazon is stupid!”

How incredibly idiotic! I have been preaching to people for years, as you have, that these reviews, good or bad, can help authors gain exposure for themselves.

Is Amazon unaware of all the bad publicity they are going to get from this? Apparently not. Is it OK if I include your item below in my newsletter next week and quote you?

John's Comment: Amazon has only begun to delete reviews. They probably have another million to go. And seem intent on deleting all reviews that point to the reviewer's product, website, or Amazon product page.


May I offer another opinion? Amazon book reviews are for reviews not free advertising of my books. To be this upset because an author is no longer allowed to schlep her books on Amazon's dime is not poor management but smallness on the part of the author.

I wonder what Jesus would do in such a circumstance? My guess is that He would not send blind cc's to everyone trashing a company for upholding its policy. My advice to this author is to be thankful for the years she was able to advertise this way and then move on.

John's Comment: This isn't about free advertising. It's about potential buyers knowing a little more about the credentials of the reviewers.

I agree that Amazon should probably delete reviews from authors who write poor reviews of other books just so they can post a link to their book, website, or Amazon book page. I have no problem with that.

But when Amazon deletes legitimate, well-written reviews done by an expert, well that's just stupid. Don't forget that Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple. He didn't suffer hypocrites or fools.

I am saddened by Amazon's stupidity in deleting so many good reviews because the authors listed their credentials. I called them stupid and wrote the above dramatic email because I wanted to get their attention. Personally, if they continue with their policy, my life will go on just fine. Still, I do hate big companies who ignore their best customers.


Can you send the contact emails for Amazon? I think everyone should email and express their disgust with this policy.

I prefer to read a review by an author, and I appreciate that they sign their name to it. Too many folks write hatchet job reviews and remain anonymous, so you never know if that is a competitor, or ?

John's Comment: Amazon makes few emails available and even those they do make available either don't reply or take forever to reply. I honestly don't have an email to send you.

Sadly, authors can't even get Amazon to delete the hatchet job reviews. I've had one on my 1001 Ways to market Your Books page that falsely accuses me of giving advice I don't give. The hatchet job review even quotes me (but with sentences that don't appear anywhere in my book!). Even after numerous requests, Amazon has never deleted this bogus review. Fortunately, that author listed his book in his review so maybe Amazon will finally delete that review (that would be one good result of this new Amazon policy).

And now they threaten to delete thousands of legitimate, well-considered reviews by the best book reviewers around: other authors. Now an author can only write a review if they promise not to provide their credentials. Such stupid thinking.


Great info. Check out http://www.myebook.com.

John's Comment: Yes, MyEbook.com is a great ebook website that features page-flipping ebooks, magazines, and other digital documents, some for free, some for payments.

There is a good chance that an ebook website might be the thing that actually replaces Amazon.com, especially since Amazon has abandoned ebook formats other than Kindle.

Is there a trend here? Is Amazon really getting this out-of-touch with its customers? It abandons other ebook formats. It abandons authors who write well-considered reviews because they append their credentials to the review. What is Amazon thinking?


About Amazon: unless you have purchased something from Amazon, I don't think you're allowed to do a review either.

John's Comment: I do believe you have to be an Amazon customer to write reviews. You do not have to purchase the item from Amazon to write a review about it.


Honestly? I have ethical issues with the practice of including one's book title in a signature on reviews, although I did it myself for a while. Not that it ever did any good, and I'd like to see some hard evidence that it ever did on any kind of scale.

You'll recall a flap some years ago where an author purchased several thousand copies of his own book to drive up his Amazon rating, closely followed by another flap when it became known people were posting multiple reviews under various assumed names for a single title.

I know for a fact that at least one group of authors routinely tag other members' books at Amazon, even though they probably haven't read most of them, and I wouldn't put it past some of the small presses to have their authors review each other's books on Amazon on the basis that it (a) boosts the review rating of the reviewed book and (b) promotes the reviewer's book because it's in the signature.

IOW, people are abusing the system to promote their own books. So, since Amazon's are supposed to be reader reviews, not thinly disguised promo, I can understand why they've enacted the policy whereby including your own book in a sig isn't allowed. I don't pay for book reviews, and I discourage my authors from posting reviews of each other's books because I believe their doing so brings the honesty of the review into question. It also might suggest I put them up to it. Talking about each other's books, in a blog or other venue, is different.

Let me speak now as a consumer rather than an author and publisher. In all my years of shopping at Amazon, not once have I looked at, much less purchased, a book that was included in a reviewer's signature or linked in a review. Heck, 99% of the time, I don't even read their names, and I think you'll find, if you ask around, that I am not a minority.

So, perhaps, before we all get all bent out of shape over an Amazon policy again, it would behoove us to actually think about whether this one will seriously impair anything. For my part, I doubt it. You of all people should know where reviews fall on the scale of "what made me buy this book." Personally, I'd rather see everybody get worked up about the trolls who leave one line "reviews" that say basically "This book sucks," and do so under a pseudonym so there's no way of tracking them down.

John's Comment: I agree that most of the manipulations on Amazon: reviewing each other's books, tagging, etc. don't really have much impact on book sales. Nor are they really worth the time or heart of the author. The gross manipulations of buying your own books or posting multiple reviews are, to put it kindly, spam.

As a consumer myself, I do reviews. And I do like knowing the credentials of the reviewer. You don't see the New York Times publishing anonymous reviews. I like to know the background of the person who is doing the review. It gives me perspective on the review.

As for another of your comments, I do agree that few books, if any, have been sold directly because an author has linked to their book. On the other hand, I do know that accumulated impressions do have an effect on book sales. The author's book at the end of a review is one such impression. A small impression, but still one impression.

I also agree that this-book-sucks anonymous reviews do not serve Amazon well, nor the author. Amazon should clearly be targeting those reviews first.


There is a new alternative recently started by Jigsaw Press, an independent publisher, called 45 Caliber Books, which was conceived because the publisher is fed up with the tactics of Amazon.

Http://www.45caliberbooks.com charges only a dollar a year to post your book or novel and ten cents a copy sold with proceeds going directly to the author, and the best part is that payment is on the honor system.

John's Comment: It is an alternative. But the traffic isn't there, not even close. Jigsawpress.com's Alexa rank is 9,499,015 and 45caliberbooks.com is not ranked at all. Compare that to Amazon.com's rank of 33 and BN.com's rank of 1,157. Until an alternative website has the same kind of traffic as these sites, it really isn't an alternative. Of course, any alternative has to start somewhere.


John, no kidding, they're stupid! I completely stopped doing business with them after their new rule on POD books. I have no Amazon links anywhere on my site or blogs and give readers free postage if they buy from me instead. I make a lot more this way than the piddly amount I make from Amazon. All they're doing is driving away customers and authors are big readers.

John's Comment: Most authors make more money by selling direct, but still a lot of potential customers do like buying via Amazon. It's a tough choice for an author to abandon Amazon altogether, what with their power in the marketplace.


Right on John! I'm just a little pebble in the brook when it comes to writing and such, but I hate it when the big guys take advantage of us. I've been around for 77 years, successful in business, consulting and teaching. I've even written five books and one manuscript ready for publishing, so I'm not naive when it comes to dealing with powers. Give 'em hell, John.

John's Comment: I hope I'm doing that already :))


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