October 22, 2019

Author promotion: Amazon’s new review policy

author promotion, book reviews, writer ethhicsThe New York Times Sunday (12/23/2012; 1, 26) featured an article by David Streitfeld on “Giving Mom’s Book Five Stars? Amazon May Decide to Cull Your Review.” (Shown is the summary of the 225 reviews received by Natalie Goldstein’s Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer within [Shambhala, 2010.)

It turns out, on the one hand, Amazon may have flushed as many as 10,000 reviews given to authors by relatives or close friends or other authors. The targets are persons or organizations with “financial interests” (e.g., friends and relatives). Yet, on the other hand, customers do not have to “experience the product” in order to write a review.

It also turns out that reviews are quite influential in helping prospective book buyers in making a purchase decision. (Amazon’s customer review guidelines can be viewed here.) The Times article cites the experience of Timothy Ferriss, The 4-Hour Chef, whose book on publication day (Nov. 20, 2012) received dozens of favorable reviews. He claims that he seeded the market by mailing out hundreds of review copies.

Joe Konrath, who first noticed this change in a Huffington Books post, after a number of authors contacted him about reviews that had been removed by Amazon. His friendly inquiry to Amazon did receive a reply of sorts, which he quotes in his blog.

Last September, Konrath posted “A Writer’s Code of Ethics“–which I read as a tongue-in-cheek solution:

 9. I will never allow anyone to send out copies of my books to be reviewed, because if they were doing that they must know me, and if they know me it is impossible to get an unbiased review.

10. I will never allow any review from anyone I’ve ever met. Every review must be from someone who has never met me, heard of me, or read me before, and must come with a signed affidavit proclaiming such.

11. Every review must be from a professional reviewer who has true integrity. But this professional reviewer cannot accept money in any way, shape or form, because getting paid for reviewing could compromise their ethics.

12. I will personally interview every reviewer to make sure they are unbiased, and then ask them to remove their review because upon meeting them (The Konrath Uncertainty Principle) I may have affected their review, which renders it biased.

So, what should an author do to assist in promoting his or her book? As Konrath shows by means of his reductio absurdum argument, you should promote readings and reviews from sources who are largely unknown to you, but who have a record for writing critical reviews.

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