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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Does it Appear as if Amazon Discriminates Against an Indie Author?

Editorial credit: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock

When it comes to book and product reviews I am a purist.

The reason for my position is simple: Having graduated with a masters degree in film and mass media from the renown University of Vienna, I believe that online reviews are a form of mass media. Obviously, the system only works if reviews are authentic. 

I can't stand testimonials, I love online reviews. The End.

In 2015, I penned "NAKED TRUTHS About Getting Book Reviews," a Kindle Book Award Finalist in the overall genre nonfiction, and "NAKED TRUTHS About Getting Product Reviews." 

To my knowledge, I am the only top reviewer who penned a book how to do it right. My book's reviews demonstrate the level of my work. And no, this book was never free. 

Currently, the 4th edition of this book is on preorder, to be released on February 1.


This publication schedule demonstrates the level of my dedication and professionalism. 

Especially, since the Big 5 keep selling books that are hopelessly outdated (e.g. books about Twitter, penned in 1999) I also see updating books as an opportunity for self-published authors to demonstrate their professionalism and make their mark. 

To add more entertaining knowledge I also decided to publish "BAT SHIT CRAZY Review Requests: Email Humor." The title is self explanatory.


And, that's when things began to get strange.

I am a publishing professional. Indeed, I self-published my first book in 1988, long before anybody dreamed of Amazon.

As long as anybody can remember, publishers sent out ARCs (advanced reader copies). It's a necessary step. Early readers, from reviewers to media people, need time to read the book.

Amazon/Createspace themselves supports authors in taking this action. Authors can order up to five proof copies long before they intend to release their books. Quite obviously, Createspace cannot claim that these proof copies should not be used as ARCs.

Whereas Simon & Schuster who employs 1,300 people may have five people proofreading one book, typically, indie authors to whom Createspace caters work alone, hence they don't need five proof copies for the sole purpose of proofreading.

In contrast to many authors who send out .pdf copies I take advantage of Createspace's offer and send out proof copies as ARCs.


Createspace earns revenue from me doing things the proper way.

Also, Amazon's community guidelines advise:

"... Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review...."

No early reviews?

I had ordered five (5) proof copies from Createspace, sent three (3) copies to interested parties ten days before the book went live and when it did, I informed the recipients. The day after, two (2) recipients informed me that they had posted their reviews. Alas, the reviews did not go live.

This seemed to suggest that Amazon thinks that I am cheating.

I don't need to cheat. My work has been featured in Success magazine, in Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg, and hundreds of other publications. I am also the Winner of the 2016 Spark Award "Best Subject Line."


 


So, I sent Amazon an email requesting clarification.

Dear Amazon,
On January16, I released my book "BAT SHIT CRAZY Request Emails, ISBN-13: 978-1983551833. (paperback only).
I had sent out three (3) ARCs (advanced reader copies) to interested parties.
Please note that I did not send out pdf copies but proof copies which I ordered from Createspace on January 4th.
Two of the recipients informed me that they posted reviews but none went live in the last 24 hrs. I asked them if they mentioned in their reviews that they received a free advanced reader copy and they confirmed that they did.
Is there a change of policy I am not aware of? Is Amazon departing from their guidelines as posted on your website?
"... Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long as the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review...."
Please advise,
Thank you,
Gisela Hausmann

Amazon forwarded the email to Createspace who forwarded it to Amazon Communities who finally sent me their standard email,
Hello,
Customer Reviews are removed for the following reasons:
• The review violates our Customer Review Creation Guidelines (http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines).
• A customer can decide to remove their own review.
• The review is on a page that incorrectly links multiple items. We remove these reviews when we separate the items.
To protect the privacy of our customers, we do not share information about specific reviews with anyone other than the customer who posted it. If a customer contacts you about their missing review, please ask them to write to community-help@amazon.com. We can help the customer understand why their review was removed.
To learn more about this policy, please see our Customer Review Creation Guidelines (http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines).
We'd appreciate your feedback. Please use the buttons below to vote about your experience today.
Best regards, (name removed) Amazon.com

Well, here is my feedback:

Amazon, it appears you discriminate against an indie author, specifically – against me.

I used the proper channels, did things the proper way, and CreateSpace, Amazon's print-on-demand book publishing service, earned revenue from it.

You, Amazon, tolerate even obvious trolls reviews. When I complained about the apparent troll "The Condor" who not only posted two non-verified reviews with no reference to the content of my books but, quite irritating to me, posted altogether thirty-five non-verified 1* and two non-verified 2** reviews with no apparent reference to any of the books' content you wrote me,

Hello,
I've read the review titled "Only good for one thing ... the fireplace" for the "BOOK MARKETING: The Funnel Factor: Including 100 Media Pitches." I understand your concerns, but the review doesn't violate our posted guidelines, so I'm unable to remove it in its current format.
We try to encourage our customers to give their honest opinions on our products while staying within our guidelines. As a retailer we are interested in cultivating a diversity of opinion on our products. Part of that is allowing our customers to air their honest thoughts on items they have received. Here's a link to our guidelines for reference:
http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines
We appreciate your understanding. We hope to see you again soon.
We'd appreciate your feedback. Please use the buttons below to vote about your experience today.
Best regards, (name removed) Amazon.com

Furthermore, only yesterday, your Amazon Community allowed a certain book to earn thirteen (13) non-verified reviews on the first day of publication. 




Though I don't know this publisher and can't say anything about them, they have been featured on ALLI's Watch Dog report, in 2016.

Summing it up: 
I don't think that I am biased when I say, 

It appears Amazon 
  • lets trolls do their activities on Amazon's review platform, 
  • allows at least one other publisher to gain more than one dozen non verified reviews 
while
  • at the same time, Amazon tries to hinder an author with a standing reputation for excellence, who from gaining only up to three (3) ethical starter reviews, while accepting this author's payment for ARC copies."

Not cool at all.
At least to me this looks like discrimination.

What are your experiences? Please share in the comment section.

~~*~~

Gisela Hausmann is a 29 yr. self-publishing industry veteran, an email evangelist and a top reviewer. 

Her work has been featured in regional, national, and international publications including Success magazine (print) and Entrepreneur, on Bloomberg, The Innovation Show - a show for Square Pegs in Round Holes, "The Brutal Truth about Sales & Selling"-podcast, and Austria's Der Standard and Das Wirtschaftsblatt. 


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© 2018 by Gisela Hausmann 
Picture: Editorial credit: Jonathan Weiss / Shutterstock.com