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AMAZON – THE REASON YOU’RE NOT GETTING REVIEWS

March 19, 2019

It’s been going on for a while, but recently reared its ugly head. I have a friend in the Netherlands who read Gods Of The Blue Mountains and wanted to review the book on Amazon.

The only problem?

He hasn’t bought $50 worth of merchandise over the past year so he doesn’t qualify to do reviews.

Are you kidding me?

Apparently not. As it turns out, he isn’t the only one.

I’ve heard this story before, and what it boils down to is this: We, as independent, or self-published, or any other authors, are losing out on a LOT of reviews because of this policy.

AMAZON – THE BIG BOYS ON THE BLOCK

Let’s face it. Amazon are the big boys on the block. Whether you like it or not, because of Amazon, virtually all of the book chain stores except one or two, Barnes & Noble and maybe Hastings (if they still exist), have folded up shop. Amazon has basically killed the competition just like Wal-Mart did with a lot of the mom and pop stores in the past. On-line is killing brick and mortar stores by the dozens and a lot of that can be traced back to Amazon.

Is it solely their fault?

Of course not.

It takes PEOPLE to make it happen.

Who are those people?

You and I, of course!

We’re not blameless, after all. If not for the convenience of shopping on line, Amazon wouldn’t have a business at all. Regardless of any ruthless or heartless business practices they utilize (oh, big surprise given capitalism at its best), they would have no business at all if it weren’t for PEOPLE giving it to them.

When it comes to books, while the brick and mortar stores virtually strangled themselves with bad decisions right from the beginning, we, as the public, certainly didn’t help matters. There’s plenty of blame to go around.

So, now it comes down to: how do we, as authors, deal with the 400lb gorilla in the room?

THE PHILOSOPY OF REVIEWS

To any author, reviews are important, if not critical in marketing your work. Both good and bad reviews give people a picture of what you write. The good ones can promote your work, while the bad ones can either be dismissed as trolls or honest critiques of your flaws and quirks that some may consider deal-killers, or just things they really don’t care about. As for the trolls, most people are intelligent enough to see right through them and ignore that stuff. MOST PEOPLE. You can’t always help the ones that don’t, but that goes with the territory.

People are still going to like what they like, read what they read, despite whatever reviews say. However, the more reviews you get, the more retailers and stats favor you and the more prominent your book shows up on sites and in ads. Also, it may affect how you qualify for certain marketing deals with web sites. This can be huge.

DEALING WITH AMAZON AND REVIEWS

Now, given that many of us get ripped off on Amazon because of this obscure $50 rule, let’s first look on why they have it.

Amazon is a business. Seeing as how they’re a business, they’re there to make money. By restricting reviews to $50 or more a year, they’re not only encouraging people to use their service more, they’re also using that as a tool to help discourage fake reviews. Fake reviews has been a long time issue and Amazon has used this review limit, along with several other tools to combat it. Given that it seems to outsiders the company uses bots instead of humans for a lot of their business, filtering out fake reviews with a purchase limit seems like a rather mundane and up front way to do it compared to some of their sneakier methods. I have anecdotal evidence that those seeking redress when they have issues have gone through a nightmare trying to get hold of an actual human, when dealing with the company over their more obscure rules.

In the meantime, there are those of us schlubs out there with either self-published books, or like me, books from small presses. We sell far less than those from the big six. That means that our audience is cut from a smaller pie. That, in turn, boils down to less chance these readers are heavy Amazon users.

Guess what? Even if we sell say, 100 books, how many of those people are also heavy Amazon users? Even if every reader agreed to do a review, which is highly unlikely to begin with, the chances that even twenty of them are qualified to do a review on Amazon is almost slim to none.

Guess what? You sell a hundred books and get five reviews! You ain’t exactly killing it, according to Amazon. Guess where your ranking is going, even if your stats are up there? Maybe, you’ll get featured and grab a few more sales, maybe not, based on your reviews.

I’ve heard it told that you can go to Goodreads, which is supposedly run by Amazon. On Goodreads, you don’t have to abide by the $50 rule. However, how many readers actually use Goodreads? How many have actually heard of it?

There are virtually hundreds of other book sites out there, most, the casual reader has never heard of, either. If you get reviewed on any of them, there’s a very good chance nobody will ever know. In fact, YOU’LL probably never know!

A LITTLE TRICK

My friend in the Netherlands discovered a little trick that, so far, has worked.

Though he wasn’t able to post a review due to the $50 rule, what he did was go to one of my five-star reviews and post a comment to that review. In that comment, he posted his review instead. He agreed with the five star review and gave me some great words. He was compelled to figure that all out, he liked the book so much!

It’s not a countable review, but at least he put through the effort and the words are out there.

MARKETING

Reviews affect your marketing.

If you want to sell your e-book for instance, many of the sites that do book blasts, such as Book Bub require you to have so many reviews before they’ll even consider you qualified for their service. Granted, this is a pay-to-play service, but it’s a marketing service some people use. There are dozens of others, and virtually ALL of them require a minimal number of reviews before they’ll “let you pay” to use their service. Even the free ones usually require a certain number of reviews to participate.

That puts you over a barrel, especially when either you’re first starting out, or not getting reviews, despite sales.

It sucks.

SUMMARY

You have to do what you have to do. While I wish Amazon didn’t have that rule, and I cringe at the thought of how many reviews I’ve lost out on from all three of my published books, so far, I have to concede Amazon is only doing what a business does, regardless of what one might think of it. That doesn’t do us any favors, but we have to figure other ways to get around it.

If other avenues were more popular, maybe this issue would be moot. Unfortunately, when Amazon is almost the ONLY kid on the block, when it comes to book sales, especially worldwide, there isn’t much we can do about it at this point.

I’ve heard from one person that this $50 rule doesn’t really exist. However, the overwhelming consensus is that it does. You’ll certainly not get any help or answers from Amazon directly.

Would love to hear your feedback on this.

Happy writing!

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