Amazon Reviews Now Require a $50 Minimum Customer Spend

NEW $50 MINIMUM FOR AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEWS

Customers used to be able to write a review at Amazon as long as they had made a purchase.

Amazon now requires customers to spend a minimum of $50 using a valid credit/debit card before they can write a customer review.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=201929730

This is one of several steps that Amazon has made over the years in an effort to improve the customer review system.

Amazon strives for organic customer reviews.

Organic reviews are the best reviews you can get.

For years, Amazon has effectively blocked reviews that are posted by friends and family of authors.

Verified purchase reviews now have an advantage over non-verified reviews when it comes to visibility on Amazon.

Amazon uses machine learning to help determine how prominently a review will display on a product page.

This new $50 minimum customer spend is another of many steps in the right direction.

Amazon’s customer review system has never been (and may never be) perfect, but Amazon is working to make it better.

Remember the days when you walked into a bookstore, and the only reviews you saw were glowing reviews on the back cover and front matter?

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2017

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

What to Do about Reviews Disappearing from Amazon (Proactive Solutions)

Review Removed

REVIEWS REMOVED FROM AMAZON

It’s a well-known fact: Amazon blocks and removes numerous four- and five-star reviews, but almost never removes a one- or two-star review.

You have two choices:

  • Get upset about it.
  • Find a proactive way to make the most of it.

I have proactive suggestions for:

  • Customers who have had their reviews removed.
  • Authors who have seen reviews vanish without even so much as a puff of smoke.

Suggestions for customers are first. If you’re an author, just scroll down to your section.

If you’re concerned about the WHY, I’ll address this at the end of my post.

SUGGESTIONS FOR CUSTOMERS WHOSE REVIEWS DISAPPEARED FROM AMAZON

(A few customers think that when they click the star rating at the end of a Kindle book that they are reviewing it on Amazon, when instead they are rating the book on Goodreads. A few customers think they’ve submitted a review, but what they’ve actually done is just reach the intermediate page where they check their review before submitting it. The first step is to make sure that you’ve properly and fully submitted a review.)

Why did you write the review in the first place?

  • You felt strongly about the book.
  • You felt that the book deserved recommending.
  • You wanted to help other customers make wise shopping decisions.

So, you typed up a review and submitted it to Amazon, but discovered later that the review was gone. (Wait a minute. No, wait a day or two. Sometimes, when you post a review, there is a delay of 1-2 days before it shows up.)

That doesn’t prevent you from accomplishing your original goals.

Here are some proactive suggestions:

  • Recommend the book to people you know. Word-of-mouth recommendations are like GOLD. They can be better than writing a review on Amazon. If your goal was to recommend the book, nothing is stopping you from doing so.
  • Review the book on Goodreads. It’s the next best thing to reviewing it at Amazon.
  • Contact the author. Not to complain about the missing review. Authors appreciate feedback and hearing from fans. Offer to let the author use your positive comments on his blog, in the front matter, or anywhere else the author might be able to benefit from a review snippet. Reviews have many other potential uses besides sitting on the Amazon product page.
  • Do you have a blog, Twitter account, or Facebook account? Share your review with your followers. Since Amazon DIDN’T publish your review, they can’t prohibit you from sharing it.
  • Follow the author on Amazon. Just visit one of the author’s books, scroll down to the author’s biography, visit the author’s author page at Amazon, and click the big yellow Follow button on the top left. If you liked the book, you might appreciate having Amazon send you an email the next time the author publishes a book.
  • Follow the author’s blog, social media, or email newsletter. You can be one of the author’s fans.
  • Review the book on Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository, or other retailer where the book is sold.

Although you could contact Amazon to ask why your review was removed, this really isn’t proactive. You’re probably going to get a vague response, if any. You’re probably not going to convince Amazon that they made a mistake and reinstate your review. Most likely, you will waste both your time and Amazon’s.

(If your review violated any of Amazon’s guidelines, before posting your review elsewhere, you should first read the other site’s review guidelines to ensure that you’re not violating them.)

SUGGESTIONS FOR AUTHORS WHOSE REVIEWS DISAPPEARED FROM AMAZON

Very often, the author doesn’t even know that it happened. Amazon automatically blocks many reviews, such that they are gone before the author has a chance to see them.

And if the author “knows” that a review was blocked by Amazon, chances are that the author has some connection with the reviewer and Amazon “knows” of this connection.

Here are some proactive steps that authors can take regarding customer reviews disappearing from Amazon:

  • If a customer informs you that they posted a review, but Amazon blocked or removed it, you can offer the suggestions that I listed above (like posting the review on Goodreads).
  • If the reviewer has any authority, experience, or expertise relevant to your book, you may be able to include it in the Editorial Reviews section on your Author Central page.
  • With the customer’s permission, you might be able to use a review snippet in your front matter, back matter, on your blog, etc.
  • If the reviewer is an author in a related genre, they might be willing to write a foreword, for example.
  • If you were able to see the review before it was removed, or if the customer contacted you directly, you may still benefit from the feedback.
  • Thank the customer for trying. Thank the customer for contacting you. THANK the customer if he or she does any of the alternatives that I suggested in the previous section.

Contacting Amazon to complain about it probably won’t be helpful. Amazon will only offer an explanation to the customer, not to the author, and the explanation given to the customer will probably be vague. You’re probably not going to convince Amazon that they made a mistake and get them to reinstate the review.

Arguably, the best way to get reviews is to (a) write the book as well as you can, and polish it as well as you can (b) learn how to market your book effectively. The more sales you earn through marketing, the more likely customers will leave the variety of genuine reviews typical of Amazon customers, and those are probably the best reviews that you can get. You might only get about 1 review per 100 sales, on average.

(Friend, family, and recruited reviews invite their share of problems, aside from potentially being blocked and removed by Amazon. For one, if you have a lot of reviews, but the sales rank and publication date don’t suggest many sales, this may look suspicious to wise shoppers. For another, reviews that just praise the book without offering explanations or examples tend not to carry much weight. Yet another reason is that it may seem suspicious if there doesn’t seem to be any balance to the customer reviews.)

WHY DOES AMAZON REMOVE FIVE-STAR REVIEWS

Friend and family reviews (and worse kinds of reviews) plagued Amazon several years ago. Things got so out of hand that there were prominent articles featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. This prompted Amazon to take action. It’s estimated that millions of reviews were removed, and many more have since been blocked.

It’s much better now, from the customer’s perspective, than it had been just before Amazon began blocking and removing suspected customer reviews.

Yes, there are a few casualties, i.e. reviews that shouldn’t be removed. In order to market their books effectively, indie authors must interact with customers online and offline, and those online interactions occasionally confuse Amazon into removing a review that they really shouldn’t have removed.

Another perspective comes from sales, both short-term and long-term sales.

Amazon doesn’t want recruited reviews to FOOL customers into buying BAD books, as that would cripple long-term sales.

Authors seem to think that they need more GOOD reviews to sell more books in the short-term, but this may not actually be the case. Amazon has the real DATA. Maybe, in general, Amazon not only sells more books in the long-term, but even sells more books in the short-term with their current block-and-remove suspected favorable reviews policy. We can speculate. Amazon has the actual data. And Amazon is highly effective at selling books. Amazon is highly effective at selling indie books, too.

But again, it doesn’t help to get upset about it or complain about it. Find something proactive that you can do instead.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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Amazon Improves the Integrity of the Customer Review System

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

AMAZON IMPROVES CUSTOMER REVIEWS

What makes customer reviews helpful to other customers, and thereby also helpful for sellers, businesses, authors, and even Amazon?

It’s when other customers can trust the review system. Without that trust, reviews become utterly useless.

BOOK REVIEW CHANGES IN 2012

Amazon made its first major improvement to the customer review system in late 2012.

That’s when Amazon blocked and removed countless reviews from probable friend and family members of authors.

Whatever Amazon did in 2012 was highly effective—perhaps not perfect, but definitely effective. If you watch indie community forums regularly, you know that on a weekly basis new authors complain about missing reviews, and it almost invariably turns out that the reviews were left by friends or family members.

Prior to the Great Purge of 2012, Amazon’s customer review system had been getting out of hand, with the problems publicized in the WSJ and NYT. Starting in 2013, the customer review system improved immensely. But it took much longer for word of the improvement to spread.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/nov/05/amazon-removes-book-reviews

It’s now fairly well-known that customers who are friends or family members of authors generally can’t leave reviews no matter how hard they try, and Amazon is very good at discerning probable relationships. Occasionally, Amazon is a little too good, blocking or removing a review of a stranger who proceeded to interact in the author’s social circles. A casualty of war.

AMAZON SUES FAKE REVIEW SITES

Amazon has recently gone a step further toward improving the integrity of the customer review system.

Now that friend-and-family reviews are very much under control, the next major problem is the paid review.

It’s a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service for authors to pay for reviews.

Examples of reviews that Amazon doesn’t allow.

Unfortunately, unethical authors have done this anyway, which hurts the integrity of the customer review system for everyone.

Authors often feel pressured into seeking reviews. For one, if the book isn’t selling, an author’s first thought is that maybe it’s because the book doesn’t have any reviews. For another, many popular book promotion sites require a minimum of 20 or so reviews just to receive consideration.

The reality is that the best way to get reviews is free and low-cost marketing combined with compelling content. Nothing is better than the natural variety of reviews that you get from just getting sales. Drive sales and the reviews will come with them.

But since there are authors seeking reviews, there are also services looking to fill this need.

Including unethical businesses and people looking to sell reviews. Again, this is a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service. Both the business or person selling reviews and the author paying for reviews should fully expect to have their reviews removed, their accounts suspended, and to be at risk for a potential lawsuit from Amazon.

And that’s finally happening.

Amazon has begun the process by suing 1100 fake reviewers.

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Tech/article1621058.ece

Who’s at risk?

  • Companies selling paid reviews.
  • People selling paid reviews thru sites like fiverr.
  • Authors paying for reviews.

Who benefits from this?

  • Customers will be able to trust the review system more.
  • Authors who adhere to the review guidelines will benefit from this improved trust.
  • Companies selling products on Amazon benefit similarly.
  • Amazon benefits, too. It’s a win-win-win-win situation, with the sole exception of those who have been violating the review guidelines.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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Great Suggestion for Friends & Family Reviews on Amazon…?

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

REVIEW SUGGESTION FOR AMAZON

Friend and family reviews are a touchy subject among both authors and customers:

  • For the customer review system to be effective, customers need to be able to trust the system. This is why Amazon removes and blocks reviews suspected of being posted by the author’s friends or family members.
  • For the customer who posted the review, having it blocked or removed is time wasted, and discourages the customer from posting reviews in the future.
  • For the self-published author, an invaluable part of marketing entails creating personal relationships. Sometimes, the occasional personal interactions with a fan who didn’t previously know the author causes a book review to be blocked or removed.
  • Unlike the big publishers, self-published authors and indie presses can’t afford to send out hundreds of review copies to strangers. They can get friends to help get the ball rolling, except that friend reviews often get blocked, and they can interact with their target audience in person, although that sometimes leads to blocked reviews, too.
  • Amazon itself thrives on content engagement, one of their best marketing tools. Amazon wants to get customers (and authors) to frequently return to their website. Blocking or removing reviews discourages customers from writing future reviews, which limits their content engagement.
  • Although Amazon frequently blocks and removes 4- and 5-star reviews, Amazon almost never removes a 1- or 2-star review, which brings the average star rating down and discourages sales overall. It allows jealous authors and spiteful exes to prevent sales of books at Amazon that may otherwise sell.

Lighthouse24, a member of the CreateSpace community forum who provides frequent helpful posts, offers a great compromise. (Check out Lighthouse’s website for Helpful Links with valuable self-publishing info.)

  • Instead of blocking or removing the review, Amazon should keep the review, but clearly mark it as having detected a possible relationship with the author.
  • Let each individual customer decide how that matters to them. Some customers may see that designation and discard the review completely, a few may feel disgusted and move on, but in this way, Amazon would let the customer make the decision. Other customers won’t be put off by the designation, and may appreciate the comments. Yet other customers will approach those designated reviews cautiously. One thing we know is that every customer interprets reviews in a different way. So why not let each customer choose what to do with a potential friend or family review?
  • In addition to clearly marking such reviews as being from customers with potential relationships with the author, they could separate those reviews so they show in a slightly different area (perhaps one set above the other, or a different column) so that customers can easily tell the difference.
  • There is a precedent at Goodreads, which allows reviews from friends and family, but which clearly denotes reviews from friends. Surely, Amazon could do this, too.
  • Amazon could first give the customer the opportunity to disclose the relationship, then mark the review as a Family Review, Friend Review, or Fan Review, for example. If the customer doesn’t check one of these boxes, Amazon could then include a note that they discovered a possible relationship with the author and give that review yet another name (e.g. Reviewer May Know the Author).

This would solve a few key problems with the current customer review system:

  • Customers would see that X number of reviews were left by friends or family members. This is disclosed up front. Presently, customers assume that some reviews are from friends and family, without knowing how many, and customers don’t realize that most of those are actually blocked and removed. With full disclosure, customers will begin to realize that Amazon can often tell the difference.
  • Indie authors and small publishers won’t be so disadvantaged compared to big publishers who can send out hundreds of advance review copies. Amazon does want to give indie authors a fair chance, which is why indie authors now have pre-orders, AMS ads for KDP Select, and other new features that used to be only available for big publishers.
  • Amazon will enhance their customer engagement, i.e. have more activity on their website, which is one of their top marketing strategies. Customers won’t be discouraged by having their reviews removed, and thus will be more likely to post reviews in the future.
  • Authors who put the personal touch on their marketing, meeting new people in their target audience, won’t be penalized when Amazon discovers a possible relationship with the author, when in fact that customer had previously been a complete stranger until interacting with the author as a fan.
  • By not blocking and removing so many 4- and 5-star reviews, this would help to achieve a more balanced picture, and limit the effectiveness of jealous authors or spiteful exes striving to prevent a book from selling.

Lighthouse24 recommends that both authors and customers who like this idea should share this suggestion with Amazon. Sounds like a good plan to me.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Changes to Amazon Customer Reviews

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.

AMAZON CUSTOMER REVIEW CHANGES

Amazon is implementing changes to the customer review system in the US.

News of this change was recently announced in this c/net article.

The new customer review system uses a machine learning platform.

What does a machine learning customer review platform mean?

  • The system will gauge which customer reviews are most helpful.
  • The customer review system will be dynamic.
  • The average star rating will be weighted by helpfulness.
  • Verified reviews will have an edge toward helpfulness.
  • Newer reviews will also count more toward helpfulness.
  • Customer voting still impacts helpfulness.

So, exactly, how is this different?

  • Average star rating may change, since it will be weighted by helpfulness. The most helpful reviews will carry more influence.
  • Customer voting isn’t the only factor that affects helpfulness. Newer reviews and Verified reviews will carry more weight. There are probably other factors entailed in the “machine-learning.”
  • Reviews deemed most helpful will have greater visibility on Amazon.
  • The placement of reviews and average star ratings may change more frequently with the new system.

It will probably take time for the new Amazon customer review system to fully roll out and for the machine-learning to make an impact.

Amazon hopes to make the customer review system more useful through these changes.

The emphasis on newer reviews is to keep the information up-to-date. For example, if a product is improved to reflect criticism, newer reviews may reflect those changes, and thus should be more visible.

The emphasis on Verified reviews is in-line with Amazon’s recent lawsuit against alleged fake review websites. Amazon is striving to sustain customer trust in the review system.

KINDLE REVIEWS ARE SPECIAL

Machine-learning may have far-reaching consequences with regard to Kindle book reviews.

That’s because Amazon has more data to analyze:

  • How many pages did the customer read?
  • How much time did the customer spend reading the book?
  • How does the customer’s behavior with this book compare to the customer’s behavior with other books?
  • How many customers return this book?

Changes to customer reviews and to sales rank may both be related to recent changes announced for Kindle Unlimited.

Kindle Unlimited will now pay royalties based on how many pages customers read, effective July 1, 2015.

Royalty reports for Kindle Unlimited will show the number of pages read instead of the number of borrows.

Kindle sales rank may soon be impacted by the number of pages that customers read.

Similarly, machine-learning may look at the number of pages read and related data to help judge which reviews are more helpful.

If so, this would affect all Kindle e-books (not just those in Kindle Unlimited).

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

One-Word Reviews at Amazon Now?

Reviews 1 Word

I saw a one-word review at Amazon today. So I’m guessing the 20-word minimum has been removed.

You might recall a couple of months ago that Amazon was testing out both ratings and reviews on print books. Those ratings disappeared after a few weeks, so perhaps the compromise was to remove the minimum word count.

The review forms have changed (but there is a tiny ‘here’ link below them that you can click if you prefer the old way).

My guess is that Amazon is trying to encourage more genuine customers to leave reviews. So now there is no ‘imposing’ 20-word minimum.

(In reality, what had been preventing a customer from writing the same word 20 times consecutively?)

We’re short on time now, so give me a one-word summary of the last book you read. 😉

Amazon Customer Reviews—Simple Survey

Reviews 3

I’m curious how you, as a reader, feel about customer reviews at Amazon. I made this simple survey hoping to find out.

Please answer how you feel as a reader (not as an author).

This survey is just for informational purposes only.

Here is your chance to review the review system. 🙂

Pros:

  • You can learn about experiences that other customers have had with the product.
  • The number of reviews give some indication of how much a product has been purchased.
  • Feedback often includes a variety of opinions to consider.
  • You get to express your opinion about products where thousands of other shoppers can read it.
  • Critical reviews can help to prevent the sale of products that really aren’t fit for sale (though returns and complaints could achieve the same outcome).
  • Honest customer feedback has the opportunity to determine the success of a product.

Cons:

  • Opinions are often contradictory, making it a challenge to judge what to believe.
  • The system can be abused, both with favorable and critical reviews (though Amazon has made it much more difficult to do this compared to a couple of years ago).
  • There are sometimes spiteful remarks in the review section. This is one feature that seems to contradict Amazon’s focus on creating a positive shopping experience.
  • Customers aren’t required to either buy or use a product in order to review it.
  • Reviews can be posted anonymously. This is a pro in terms of internet security, but leaves room for occasional reviews that abuse the spirit of the review system.
  • Some external advertising services require a minimum number of reviews and average star rating, providing an incentive to recruit favorable reviews rather than encouraging reviews to come about naturally.

Overall:

  • Do you feel it’s beneficial, as a reader, to have customer reviews on the product page? That is, do the pros outweigh the cons?
  • Do you like the comments, the ratings, or both?
  • Do you feel that you could improve the customer review system? If so, how?

Vote:

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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Recent Fines – Another Step toward Customer Review Integrity

Did you see this recent New York Times article, “Give Yourself 5 Stars? Online, It Might Cost You”?

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/23/technology/give-yourself-4-stars-online-it-might-cost-you.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

(Funny how it says 5 in the title, but 4 in the link. I guess even NYT can goof.)

If you read the article, you’ll see that several businesses were fined large sums of money for using phony online reviews to make their businesses look more appealing to customers.

Most people are aware that there are phony reviews. What needs more publicity is the ongoing effort by various companies (and law enforcement) to remove, prevent, and punish the phony reviews.

For example, Amazon cracked down on phony, family, and close friend reviews a couple of years ago, and this has greatly helped to reduce the number of phony 4- and 5-star reviews. Most customers are aware of the problem, but aren’t aware that it has improved significantly. (Yes, it would be nice if Amazon also cracked down on the phony critical reviews to the same extent, but at least Amazon has made big strides.) Surely, there is still some review abuse, but it is appears to be much better than it was a few years ago.

Many other websites are similarly working to remove and prevent review abuse. Some are even eliminating critical review abuse in addition to favorable review abuse, which is another good sign.

The above article shows that steps are even being taken on the legal side of this issue. When any business senses that a significant amount of money is being lost due to review abuse, this becomes an incentive to help bring action against it.

Don’t lose any sleep over people who may be gaming the system. Things will catch up with them eventually.

Related Article:

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/508801/20130925/google-fine-yelp-fake-reviews-schneiderman-ny.htm

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Review Copies

Publishers and authors sometimes send out several advance review copies in an effort to try to build buzz for an upcoming book and, hopefully, generate some early reviews.

(If you’re interested in review copies for any of my books, please see the end of this post.)

Note that there are different types of book reviews. There are customer book reviews that can be posted on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Goodreads, for example. Bloggers can post reviews on their blogs. Then there are media reviews that may appear in newspapers, magazines, etc.

Readers who receive an advance review copy are required to include a note in the review stating that they received a free review copy.

Amazon, for example, permits this as long as the reviewer isn’t compensated in any way other than a free review copy, it is made clear that the reviewer can leave a good or bad review, and the review doesn’t violate any of Amazon’s customer review guidelines. (Note that Amazon’s program is now pretty effective at blocking many reviews from close friends and family. They can help you generate buzz and promote your book, but aren’t eligible to review your book.)

There are a few ways that an indie author can give out advance review copies.

One way is to get fans to sign up to be on a mailing list for the chance to receive a review copy of your next book. When a fan contacts you, this is something you might offer. Or when you’re ready to send out a limited number of advance review copies, you can post an announcement. You could do this with paperback books or e-books.

Another way is to sign up for a Goodreads giveaway. Recipients are encouraged to post a review, but aren’t required to do so, and, of course, a review could be good or bad.

KDP Select provides an alternative means of giving away free copies with the hope of generating a few reviews. However, there is no guarantee that any reviews will come, and if they do, they may be good or bad. Actually, there is somewhat of an increased chance of getting a negative review because the freebie may attract readers from outside the genre, who aren’t familiar with what to expect, as well as readers who may not bother to read the description and check out the book as thoroughly as if they were to make a purchase. It’s also possible to give away hundreds of free e-books through a free promotion without getting a single review in return.

The KDP Select free promotion is more likely to be effective if you succeed at promoting the freebie to your target audience.

One nice benefit of the KDP Select freebie is that the reviewer may opt to have the Amazon customer review show as an Amazon verified purchase. Other kinds of customer reviews generated at Amazon from review copies will show as unverified purchases. Many reviews that show as unverified purchases may seem suspicious to buyers (although when they come from review copies, they are the result of additional marketing steps that the author or publisher has taken).

A month ago I announced that I was trying out the Goodreads giveaway program. Today I sent books out to 10 lucky winners. Now I cross my fingers.

If you weren’t one of the lucky winners, but are interested in receiving a copy for any of my books or future books, please let me know. One way to email me is to click my name where it shows the photo for the about.me on my blog (on the sidebar to the right). Or you can just leave a comment (but don’t post personal information in the comment), and I’ll try to contact you in return.

Please specify which types of books that I write interest you (or if you have any specific titles, feel free to make a special request) – e.g. self-publishing, math workbooks, etc. It doesn’t have to be for you – e.g. if you have or know some kids who could benefit from some good old-fashioned math practice.

It’s not really a review copy in that I don’t expect anything in return; I just hope the book will be put to good use (or at least firewood). 🙂 (Of course, if there turns out to be a high demand, I may have to be selective. I’ll be surprised – pleasantly – if this offer turns out to be that popular though.)

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Amazon Customer Book Reviews: Recent Improvements (?)

Have you noticed a few subtle changes, recently, to Amazon customer book reviews? Find any book on Amazon with several reviews and look closely.

First, let me back up a little, time-wise. On the product page, customer reviews show in two columns. The wider left column shows the top-rated customer reviews in full, while the narrower right column shows the first sentence (or so) of the most recent reviews, with the newest reviews at the top.

This has changed somewhat.

Until several months ago, Amazon used to only show the three top-voted customer reviews at the left. Now, more reviews show up in full at the left; the exact number depends on how many reviews there are all together. This was a nice improvement that many authors and customers had requested.

Another change that occurred several months ago was the inclusion of a few selected excerpts just above the review section. Until very recently, these quotes appeared one above the other in a list, and included a note of how many other customers made similar statements.

Very recently, this changed for one of my books. The excerpts now appear in callouts, and it no longer shows the number of customers who made similar remarks. If you click on one of the three callouts, Amazon takes you straight to that review.

Another of my books has the old list system instead of the callouts, and still shows the number of similar remarks. Maybe they are testing the callout system with selected books, maybe it will take time to change this for all books, or maybe only select books will feature the callouts.

Anyway, there is an interesting issue with the two-column format with more than three full-length reviews showing at the left. For any book that receives a bad review, this comment always carries weight while it’s the most recent review since it shows up at the top of the reviews in the right column. When eventually a good review comes in, it appears above the old bad review.

Unless… customers vote on the new good review, moving it over to the list at the left. Then the bad review reclaims its position at the top of the right column. When there were only three full-length reviews at the left, it wasn’t easy for a new good review to become popular enough to move onto that exclusive list. But now there may be several reviews on the left, so it’s easier for a review to make the transition.

It’s a rather subtle point, and probably not worth much consideration. I just thought it was interesting.

Another change that occurred several months back is what happens when you click the link to see all of the customer book reviews for a given book. Presently, it shows the top-rated favorable review and the top-rated critical review. In the old days, all of the critical reviews (or all of the favorable reviews) could potentially be buried at the bottom of the list, depending on the circumstances. This feature helps to show some balance. Customers are probably trying to weigh the pros versus the cons, so this may be helpful.

What I like most about the recent changes is that Amazon is evidently constantly assessing their customer review program and striving to improve it. The steps may be small, and it may not seem like an improvement to everybody, but I appreciate the effort – both as an author and a reader.

Amazon has made very significant changes in the past. One of the most notable occurred a few years ago when Amazon altered its program to help block suspected shill, sham, and household family member reviews. This change was implemented when they removed thousands (probably, millions) of suspicious reviews. The revision wasn’t perfect, I’m sure; there are probably a few still out there that didn’t meet the criteria of the program, and there were probably a few removed that should have stood. However, this was a significant change to improve the customer review system, and it appears to have made a marked difference.

Have you seen any other changes recently? What are your thoughts?

Who knows what will come in the future? Since Amazon is making periodic changes, we have reason to hope that it will continue to get better.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)