After seeing friend and fellow author @AdamDreece run into the same problem that seems to forever plague Indie Authors—reviews being mysteriously deleted by Amazon, or worse yet, entire books being deleted—I thought it was time to visit this issue once again.
@AdamDreece, author of a number of thrillers including Yellow Hoods, found out that Amazon had deleted some of his books. The explanation Amazon gave, which wasn’t much of one at all, was that “systematically generated accounts accessed” his books. Essentially, bots accessed Dreece’s books (not Dreece’s bots), which then positively affected different metrics Amazon uses to rank KDP Authors. Since they noticed the automated bots, they deleted the books.
If you recall, I had a similar experience this summer where Amazon deleted most all of my reviews. As a self published author, those reviews can mean everything. As a full-time author and public speaker, removing Dreece’s books is a huge threat to his livelihood. As much as Amazon has done for the Indie Author community ensuring that publishing is more accessible to the masses, they also wield incredible power being the largest player in the game.
Setting the what aside for a moment, I want to take a closer look at the why.
Amazon deletes reviews and always has. They have an obligation to their customers to provide useful and honest product feedback. Individuals are always trying to outsmart Amazon by getting a manufactured boost in positive reviews. (It happens on most consumer sales platforms. Ever seen someone on Ebay selling hundreds of random items for $0.01? That’s so they can get their user score up very quickly.)
Despite the fact that Amazon has always deleted reviews, it seems to be happening more regularly over the last year. Amazon continues to insist that it allows book reviews in many forms. They’ve publicly stated, “We will continue to allow the age-old practice of providing advance review copies of books.”
Privately they have insisted that they are not deleting honest reviews as well. They informed a CretivIndie friend: “Book authors and publishers may continue to provide free or discounted copies of their books to readers, as long the author or publisher does not require a review in exchange or attempt to influence the review.”
So if you are providing your book to reviewers or blogs for their honest review, it should still be allowed by Amazon’s own admissions. However, you should probably make sure the reader knows that a review is not required in return for the free book. Maybe even ask them not to use phrases such as “in exchange” in their review, which is a phrase you will commonly see from book reviewers. (As in, “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.”)
This still leaves a lot of gray area and leaves us authors in an extremely vulnerable position. Amazon has stated that reviews from family and friends are not allowed, but in today’s social media age, what constitutes a friend to them? How is an Indie Author going to get a book review without at least first befriending a connection on Twitter or Facebook? This is an issue that Amazon has not adequately addressed in my opinion.
I don’t see this issue changing to the extent that we’d like, at least not while Amazon continues to be by far the largest player in the ebook market. We will likely continue to see authors miserably threatened with deleted reviews and books. So make sure you continue to take precautions.
Precautions to Avoid Deleted Amazon Reviews
- Don’t require a review in return for a free book.
- Ask reviewers not to use potentially trigger phrasing like “in exchange” or “in return”.
- Copy and paste all the current reviews you have today. Periodically update your document so you have all reviews saved somewhere in case you run into an issue.
- When you share your book with people, use the direct link (the one that ends immediately after the ASIN number), otherwise there is likely tracking info included in the link and Amazon will be able to track that the link was provided from you.
- If you find yourself losing reviews, ask Amazon to reinstate your book and ask your Indie Author community to help you out as well.
The last item is what Adam Dreece is currently doing. He actually created enough buzz about this issue that he had a VP from Kobo reached out to him and purchased two of his books to show support. You can view Dreece’s latest video on what has happened below. Help him out!
And protect yourselves, friends! Take precautions where you can. Help others in need when they’re in this situation.
What suggestions do you have for other authors? What have you found to work? What has failed?
Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.