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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

No! I It Does Not Look as if Amazon Spies on Indie Authors in Facebook Groups

(Excerpt from NAKED REVIEW How to get Book Reviews )


Though it is one of the most persistent rumors that Amazon tracks authors’ social media feeds and spies on Facebook groups I do not believe this to be true.

The #1 reason is that filtering out relevant data on Facebook would be extremely complicated. Most authors are members of at least eight Facebook groups. 

The #2 reason is that occasionally I read articles about algorithms “infused with A.I. (artificial intelligence).” To sum it  up: Not only are these algorithms already great in identifying “common denominators,” they get better every day.   

Reason #3: In 2015, the cybersecurity company Avast made their case who spies on whom, and Amazon is not on this list but Google, WhatsApp, and Facebook were. 

Hence the following scenario is much more plausible than the rumor that Amazon spies on authors on Facebook.  

Many authors join Facebook groups to find reviewers. Though all Facebook author groups I know stick by Amazon’s guidelines and advise against direct review exchanges, typically authors who DO NOT seek reviews elsewhere run into problems at some point.  They lose reviews. 

The following simplified illustration depicts a potential scenario for “reviewing and seeking reviews” in a Facebook group. 

In stage 1 some authors read and review another author’s book. Clearly, the scenario is completely random.

(Still, if Amazon would really “spy” on Facebook they’d know that

authors A – Q are in the same Facebook group and apparently know each other

A read N’s book,

B read C’s book,

D read G’s book,

H read B’s book,

I read J’s book, and

L read Q’s book.


In stage 2, a pattern begins to emerge. 

In stage 3, the pattern is completely clear. Probably, Amazon’s algorithm can identify it.


The authors who do NOT also read books from other authors who are not represented in this group, have just self-identified themselves as authors who engage in some kind of review exchange. 

What if the group is larger and has 1,000+ members? 

It does not matter how large the group is, the deciding factor is how many members are actively reading and reviewing.


In the past, I noticed author friends reading as many as five books from other authors in the same group. Occasionally, I stumble over a book which features eight to ten reviews, all from authors who I know are in the same author groups. It is a reasonable conclusion that after churning enough data Amazon’ algorithm can see the previously illustrated pattern and deletes some reviews.   

Summing it up: Seeking reviews from “peripheral friends” can be a good idea to get “starter”-reviews, but if you want your book to become a bestseller, inevitably, you need to make an effort to get your book known to many more people than you could know personally or on any social media platform.


Excerpt from NAKED REVIEW: How to Get Book Reviews - To be released July 20th - Moon Landing Day).

Gisela Hausmann is a 29-year publishing industry veteran who self-published her first book in 1988. Her work as an Amazon ecommerce review expert has been featured on Bloomberg (podcast) and on NBC News (blog);  her work as an email evangelist was featured in SUCCESS and in Entrepreneur.

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© 2017 by Gisela Hausmann

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