Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Amazon's reviewing rules

Trust me. I understand the rules that Amazon has put in place to control reviews. It is make sure that no one games the system, and thereby tricks potential readers into buying a crappy book. It is a good idea. But, it is flawed for the reasons I will describe.

In my genre alone, there are over 2 million books available at any given time. I hover around #130,000 at the moment with Age of Mystics. This is a constantly changing number based on Amazon's algorithms. At one point in April, I made it into the top 25. That was a good day, but the numbers drop off as initial readers are replaced by secondary readers. As of today, a reader with no connection, or information about my books, would have to go through the other 130,000 books to get to mine. The best way to combat this within the system is reviews.

Amazon's algorithm takes views, clicks, purchases and reviews into account. The heavy emphasis is on reviews. They don't have to be good reviews, just reviews. Actually, Amazon has stated that a breadth of ratings is better for their algorithm than all five star reviews. So, every author wants to have reviews. There are special promotional things which happen when one gets 50 reviews for one product. It is easy to see why one might want to manipulate their reviews for personal gain. This is strictly forbidden by both Amazon and the Federal Trade Commission.

So, what is an author to do to get noticed? I started out asking everyone I know to read the book and review it. It should be noted, I have never asked any of you for only good reviews, I want your honest opinion. I mean, sure, I might think you are a dick if you give it an unfair review. But at this point, an unfair review still helps other people find my book. But, here is the problem, anyone "I know" is expressly prohibited from reviewing my book, as are other authors in my genre and anyone who has any contact with me. Essentially, anyone who would read my book is not allowed to review it. Once someone has read my book, and liked this or my Facebook page, they are not allowed to review. That is just stupid, and I refuse to comply. Nothing bad happens, you get a notice that says you can't review that item.

This leaves me with what I am actually requesting of those who have read my book. It is simple. Write a review that will help another reader decide whether or not to read my books. Write what you actually thought, don't pitch it. If you liked it, say you liked it. If you didn't like it, say you didn't like it. If you thought it was okay, say that. As a writer, this isn't about making money to me (though that would be nice). This is about getting more readers. I love my stories, and I want more people to read them. If you don't like something, tell me so I can work on that. If you like it, tell others, especially people who don't know me, or have contact with me, or write contemporary fiction. And tell them to write a review after reading it.

By the way, this is the full wrap cover for the physical copy of Age of Mystics. Isn't it cool?  I have two copies on my bookshelf. They make me so happy.

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