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message 1: by Marie Silk (last edited Oct 11, 2016 09:30AM) (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments Hi everyone, just wanted to let you know what I am going through right now in preparation for a blog post on this subject.

I'm on Day 3 of emails and telephone calls with Amazon about clarifying their review policy. Their guidelines and subsequent update leave things ambiguous imo and I'm hoping to get a straight answer from them (in writing) about the policy.

The Amazon rep I spoke to yesterday agreed that the update from the Customer Service VP contradicts the new community guidelines, but apparently there is no way to speak with the community department over the telephone--it is only through submitting forms and then being answered over email. I'm aware of the wording of the new guidelines, but then there is this line following the new policy that prohibits incentivized reviews:

The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.

https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/abpt...

My conclusion at this point is that there was a miscommunication within Amazon over how they will handle book reviews. This is causing havoc for authors and reviewers everywhere and I really hope to get to the bottom of this and have some answers for everyone soon.

If anyone else has answers from Amazon already, please let me know.


message 2: by Lyra (new)

Lyra Shanti (lyrashanti) | 126 comments Marie wrote: "Hi everyone, just wanted to let you know what I am going through right now in preparation for a blog post on this subject.

I'm on Day 3 of emails and telephone calls with Amazon about clarifying t..."


I have no answers, but I commend you on attempting to get Amazon to answer for this incredibly messy policy change.


Tara Woods Turner Way to go, Marie!


message 4: by Morris (new)

Morris Graham (morris_g) https://www.amazon.com/p/feature/abpt...

end of article:
"The above changes will apply to product categories other than books. We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books. "


message 5: by Christina (last edited Oct 11, 2016 09:47AM) (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Honestly, it's not as big an issue as everyone is making it out to be. The new rules are basically doing what needed to be done for a long time: getting rid of gray market reviews. I've checked and every review I've put up where I received a copy of the book from the author stands. Granted, I have very few of these to begin with, but they still exist, as do the couple of reviews I have from a beta reader who incorrectly labeled her review as having received a copy for the purpose of a review. It appears this is more of a "going forward" policy.


message 6: by Morris (new)

Morris Graham (morris_g) What is a "gray market review?"


message 7: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments I don't see what changed really. Any time you gave a free copy of your book, there was a chance you didn't get a review in return, no matter if you stated "a freebie for an honest review". There was no law against people taking the copy and disappear without leaving a feedback. The only difference now is that you can't clearly state that you are giving a copy in exchange for a review. So what's the big deal?


message 8: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Gray market means it straddles the line of legality. Websites that make you pay for reviews, but call it an "administrative fee" or something else, and only provide their readers with a free book.


Tara Woods Turner Does anyone have a clear idea how this affects disclaimers? From everything I've read I don't think we need them anymore.


message 10: by J C (new)

J C Steel (jcsteel) I've been altering my review line from 'I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review' on Amazon to 'I received a free copy of this book' since this started up.

So far, I haven't seen any deletions, but I must admit I haven't gone back and checked every single review I ever put up :) (I'm lazy.)


message 11: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Yeah, just stating that you received a free copy from the author/publisher/etc should be enough. Typically if I review a book I beta read, I note the following: I received an early copy of this book for the purpose of providing critical alerts feedback to the author. The decision to purchase (if I do) and review was my own.

I've even done this for a few books where the author either references one of my books or has me as a character (perks of the Indie community!) and Amazon let them stand.


message 12: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) One of the members of a Facebook group I am on suggested the language "I reviewed an Advanced Reader Copy of this book". Eliminates the words 'free' and 'exchange' which seem to be triggering Amazon's 'delete review' algorithm. It is nice and upfront and clear, and falls directly in line with Amazon's 'age-old practice' comment. Because that is the way ARCs have always worked.


message 13: by Carole (new)

Carole P. Roman You have to say something about it being voluntary and you weren't obligated to give a review.


message 14: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Carole wrote: "You have to say something about it being voluntary and you weren't obligated to give a review."

That has to be the case, but you don't have to say it.


message 15: by Valia (new)

Valia Lind (valialind) I've had quite a few reviews deleted from one of my books and a few were from readers who borrowed my book from the library instead of purchasing it on the site. Since it didn't have the verified purchase stamp, Amazon took it down. I received an email from one of the readers asking about this, because they knew how important reviews are and actually left one. I feel like this is so discouraging to the readers too, who are trying to help us! I commend you, Marie, for trying to get some answers for sure!


message 16: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments From what little I have seen, a goodreads group for reviews closed down over this (it was not about swaps or review rounds, but did give reviewers a deadline), and other reviewers have worried over whether their blogs are in compliance. One author pointed out that this line:

as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

could theoretically affect the notes that authors leave in giveaway books or on the last page of the book suggesting that the reader leave a review.

Some authors/reviewers don't believe anything has changed at all, and others don't know how to move forward from here. There is certainly confusion that Amazon can easily clear up.


Tara Woods Turner Amazon will not take down a review because it is not verified as a purchase. Amazon does not require that you state the book was free. Amazon prohibits giving out free opies in exchange for review.


message 18: by J C (new)

J C Steel (jcsteel) Marie wrote: "...whether their blogs are in compliance..."

I have to say, on that point, if Amazon tries to tell me what I can and cannot post on my personal blog, I'm going to be standing there with two fingers up until the cows come home. :)

I'm making an effort to comply with Amazon rules on Amazon websites, because the indies I review deserve to be able to keep their reviews, but my blog is my, personal, property and I'm all about the portcullis, the moat, and the piranhas on defending that.


message 19: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 787 comments Unless you see reviews you've left or reviews on your books removed I think there's nothing to worry about. As long ad guidelines are followed it'll be fine.


message 20: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments J.C. wrote: "
I have to say, on that point, if Amazon tries to tell me what I can and cannot post on my personal blog, I'm going to be standing there w..."


It is more about a blogger's reviews that are posted on Amazon as well as the wording of a blog's submission guidelines, not the actual blog content.


message 21: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Marie wrote:

as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.

could theoretically affect the notes that authors leave in giveaway books or on the last page of the book suggesting that the reader leave a review.


Unless their suggestion is for a four or five star review, that is not trying to influence the review. Suggesting leaving a review is not influencing a review.


message 22: by Marie Silk (last edited Oct 11, 2016 11:51AM) (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments G.G. wrote: " Any time you gave a free copy of your book, there was a chance you didn't get a review in return, no matter if you stated "a freebie for an honest review"."

Totally true!


Tara Woods Turner If someone sees your request for a review at the end of the book they've already purchased it or won it or been presented with it. This doesn't violate any rules just like requesting a review doesn't violate any rules. You just can't give out free books under the condition that it receive a review. That's all.


message 24: by Riley, Viking Extraordinaire (new)

Riley Amos Westbrook (sonshinegreene) | 1510 comments Mod
Actually, you can still give out copies hoping for reviews, but this should curb the pushy authors.
You'd be surprised at how many authors DEMAND I read their books right now, if I say I'll add it to my pile. I have removed more than one book from my que when people get pushy, but this makes is so they can't get pushy.
Which means they're stuck doing what I've been doing willingly, giving out free books and hoping the person will review it.


message 25: by Annie (new)

Annie Arcane (anniearcane) | 629 comments Riley wrote: "Actually, you can still give out copies hoping for reviews, but this should curb the pushy authors."

This just makes me...

description

Sorry, kinda obsessed with the cuteness of Tuzki right now haha! For reals, though, thanks so much for looking into this, Miss Marie!! You are a superstar!!!

Hugs,
Ann


message 26: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments Riley wrote: "
You'd be surprised at how many authors DEMAND I read their books right now, if I say I'll add it ..."


That's awful. You are awesome in the review department though!


message 27: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1122 comments I agree, I don't see how it's changed from previous. I see lots of disclaimers on reviews and they are still there.

I have seen the 'pushy author' thing too: must review by ___ date. A GR group that was setting deadlines for reviewers sounds a bit pushy.


message 28: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) I'm actually about to report a certain "publisher" that won't stop emailing me with review requests despite my explanation that I do not read for review. I am all for stopping pushy authors and publishers.


message 29: by Marie Silk (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments Review swaps have been against the rules for a while but I get messages for those all the time via goodreads and facebook. I am still confused as to why there are still review swap threads on goodreads.


message 30: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) As I see it (and I can only speak from what I have been hearing), their review policy on everything but books changed. And that scared people.

But they appear to have added some 'red flags' for all products into their 'delete offending reviews' algorithm, which catches words like 'received for free' or 'free in exchange for a review.' These are getting book reviews pulled even though books are still in compliance.

Those are the rumours, not from the 'horse's mouth'.


Tara Woods Turner Marie wrote: "Review swaps have been against the rules for a while but I get messages for those all the time via goodreads and facebook. I am still confused as to why there are still review swap threads on goodr..."

Marie wrote: "Review swaps have been against the rules for a while but I get messages for those all the time via goodreads and facebook. I am still confused as to why there are still review swap threads on goodr..."
Actually, in the fine print Amazon says authors are allowed to review one another's titles but not with an explicit or implicit expectation of a favorable review. I don't do it, however. It makes me feel weird.


Tara Woods Turner P.D. Workman (Pamela) wrote: "As I see it (and I can only speak from what I have been hearing), their review policy on everything but books changed. And that scared people.

But they appear to have added some 'red flags' for al..."


It's against Amazon guidelines to discuss pricing and that includes the tag 'free' in reviews or community discussions. Amazon states clearly that this shouldn't be a part of the conversation. The disclaimers, then, become obsolete.


message 33: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Tara wrote: "Actually, in the fine print Amazon says authors are allowed to review one another's titles but not with an explicit or implicit expectation of a favorable review. I don't do it, however. It makes me feel weird."

The wording prohibits exchanging favorable reviews, but swaps are basically that. Authors may review books, but they cannot swap reviews with other authors. (Amazon uses music artists in their example, but this applies to all merchants and artists)


message 34: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments M.L. Roberts wrote: "I agree, I don't see how it's changed from previous. I see lots of disclaimers on reviews and they are still there.

I have seen the 'pushy author' thing too: must review by ___ date. A GR group t..."
R

Actually those groups were in their rights. It was clearly stated in their rules. Back then there was nothing that said it could not be done.


message 35: by Ben (new)

Ben Jackson | 86 comments They have been culling a lot of their top reviewers, almost 500 out of the top 10000 I believe. I think they are putting the screws down on associations. If you're friends with someone on Facebook and they review your book, they could pull that review.

Also, they are cracking down on people that blog their reviews. If you run a blog and have reviews on there, and advertising where you paid for people reading your blog, they could technically say you were being paid for reviews.

There is a thread on Reddit that monitors all the reviewers who have been deleted. It updates every 24 hour and has been going for months now.


message 36: by Carole (last edited Oct 11, 2016 03:12PM) (new)

Carole P. Roman They wrote me last week and told me they were removing reviews of mine that didn't indicate I'd gotten the product for free. They pulled off many reviewers I know as well. I deleted all my product reviews and kept only my books reviews. However, they did pull some of both my son's and my reviews. This has happened in the past sporadically to us. About a year ago I noticed there were twenty or thirty reviews missing on a few books - if they feel it is someone who "knows" you or decide the review is not "appropriate" to their guidelines, they pull it. I wrote and asked what they base their assumptions on- but they never answered. The funny thing is- I've complained about reviews on our books that it is clear they never opened the book-(sometimes you get a weirdo who says something like "I know I will like this book" or they talk about another product.) Those never get taken down.


message 37: by Ben (new)

Ben Jackson | 86 comments I have seen the 'pushy author' thing too: must review by _..."

There are groups on Goodreads now where if you accept a review copy of a book it has a date where you're expected to leave a review by.

Amazon also said they weren't going to remove any of the old reviews which were in exchange for free or discounted goods. Also any products or reviews which had been organized before the announcement was made, but hadn't been posted yet.


message 38: by Tim (last edited Oct 11, 2016 03:16PM) (new)

Tim Rees | 123 comments Okay, so this is an interesting thread and I think we need to start asking ourselves how we would tackle review abuse were we on the Amazon committee that decided policy?

What measures to ensure reviews are genuine would you take?


message 39: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Tara wrote: "It's against Amazon guidelines to discuss pricing and that includes the tag 'free' in reviews or community discussions. Amazon states clearly that this shouldn't be a part of the conversation. The disclaimers, then, become obsolete. "

I believe - and I don't have it in front of me since it has been changed - that the previous Amazon guidelines said that if you received a product for free in exchange for a review, you had to state that. Which I believe is in compliance with USA Federal Trade Commission rules.

https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/busin...

https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/fil...

The closest I can find in Amazon's current TOS to what you say is "Comments about pricing, product availability or alternate ordering options are also not about the product and should not be shared in Customer Reviews or Questions and Answers."

But Amazon's TOS doesn't override the FTC. You still have to state if you were given a product for the review to satisfy FTC guidelines, or risk a fine.

Which is why, if Amazon *is* flagging the words free and exchange, you need to have something that is clear and true that does not set off their bots. Like "I reviewed an ARC copy."


message 40: by M.L. (new)

M.L. | 1122 comments G.G. wrote: "M.L. Roberts wrote: "I agree, I don't see how it's changed from previous. I see lots of disclaimers on reviews and they are still there.

I have seen the 'pushy author' thing too: must review by _..."


It sounds like that type thing got a group closed down though, Post 16.

The problem with setting a deadline for review is how do they 'enforce' such a rule. If someone breaks the 'rule,' what happens then, boot them out of the group, no more free books, end up on a no-free book list for all to see? A rule like that invites or requires enforcement, or it's not effective. On the other hand if someone didn't write the review, just having that rule leaves it open for the author to go back and complain to whoever is in charge. I think it's basically not the best type of rule/requirement.


message 41: by Carole (new)

Carole P. Roman Yeah, you're right Pamela. I used to forget to include that line. I noticed many of the people I send books to forget to mention it as well. You can usually tell if they are missing the 'verified' purchase. After they wrote me, I went in and added it to any review I might have missed.
Still, Amazon will remove things randomly. I'm sure they have their reasons. When we started out, I used to try and locate the one they took off. Once you get past a certain number it's too hard to find it.


Tara Woods Turner Christina wrote: "Tara wrote: "Actually, in the fine print Amazon says authors are allowed to review one another's titles but not with an explicit or implicit expectation of a favorable review. I don't do it, howeve..."

The following clarification on author-to-author reviews is from Amazon's official policy: "An author posts a positive review about a peer's book in exchange for receiving a positive review from the peer" This means there can be no understanding/arrangement between authors about them both receiving a good review. The example Amazon gave about artists was in reference to reviews and/or comments coming from the artists' actual Amazon accounts, which Amazon says is fine because the relationship to the product is clear and evident.


message 43: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Those groups used to give warnings and after some times, yes, boot the readers out if they didn't have a good reason. Like it or not, as long as you don't go against GR's rules, individual groups can bump someone out without the person having any recourse against it.


message 44: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Carole wrote: "Yeah, you're right Pamela. I used to forget to include that line. I noticed many of the people I send books to forget to mention it as well. You can usually tell if they are missing the 'verified' ..."
E

Amazon won't remove a review because there is no verified purchase and no disclaimer. They don't prevent you from buying it somewhere else. What they want are true and accurate reviews.


message 45: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Tim wrote: "Okay, so this is an interesting thread and I think we need to start asking ourselves how we would tackle review abuse were we on the Amazon committee that decided policy?

What measures to ensure r..."


In all honesty, I would handle it like most other retailers: Only allow reviews from people who have purchased products from them. There are enough sites like Goodreads, book bloggers, etc where reviews can be posted. This goes for products as well. That is the one thing that people aren't noting here: the rules were mostly changed because there are too many misleading reviews where people received items for free in exchange for a review, which is exactly what a customer review is not.


Tara Woods Turner P.D. Workman (Pamela) wrote: "Tara wrote: "It's against Amazon guidelines to discuss pricing and that includes the tag 'free' in reviews or community discussions. Amazon states clearly that this shouldn't be a part of the conve..."

FTC states use of disclaimers if products are given in exchange for reviews. Amazon says you can not give products in exchange for reviews. They are now mutually exclusive. If someone reviews my book it is because they got a free copy with my hopes they will review it. That is not an exchange. I can no longer send someone my free book with a review request because it is an Amazon violation now. It makes the FTC disclaimer moot.


message 47: by Dawn (new)

Dawn (dawntice) | 17 comments Now I am a bit confused. I have always used this: I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Now I wonder if I need to change this to something like, I received this ARC and has chosen to honestly review it.

There are some I do not like that I let the author know I won't finish the book. I have not, yet, had my reviews removed. I do end up purchasing my own copy of the finished book later. I wouldn't do that had I not received and liked the book. Now what should I do? Stick with what I am using or change it?


message 48: by Marie Silk (last edited Oct 11, 2016 03:52PM) (new)

Marie Silk | 611 comments An issue with the verified review status is that it does not post for Kindle Unlimited readers. I don't know how many of my reviews come from KU readers, but my books have been borrowed on KU thousands of times so far. These reviews should be just as verified as the downloaded book reviews, in my opinion.


Tara Woods Turner Dawn wrote: "Now I am a bit confused. I have always used this: I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review. Now I wonder if I need to change this to something like, I received this ARC and has chosen t..."

I don't see the need for a disclaimer at all. If there is a requirement someone will have to explain it re Amazon policy about disclaimers.


Tara Woods Turner Marie wrote: "An issue with the verified review badge is that it does not post for Kindle Unlimited readers. I don't know how many of my reviews come from KU readers, but my books have been borrowed on KU thousa..."

This makes no sense to me, either.


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