To get my initial book reviews, I relied on friends and family. Some of them do not even know how to access Amazon.com, and so I have to personally show them the steps to take to get a review posted after they read my book. As of this writing, Darkin only has three reviews–that’s because when my sister-in-law posted my fourth review recently, it was removed the next day. So before freaking out, because I believed there had to be a good reason, I did some research on Google. I searched “Amazon Deleted Reviews” and found another indie author’s blog post entitled, Amazon Removes Reviews. Sure enough, Joseph Konrath wrote a blog post about this same process I was experiencing (with much fear and crushed hopes for success) on his blog, and the reposted it. I was disturbed to realize that in the very months that I have seriously begun to promote my book, and actually move copies (the book is price-matched “forever free” on Kindle Store and everywhere else), might be all for nought. . .
So maybe it was just that Amazon detected that the posted review was created by someone related to me. I cannot be sure. But either way, if that was the case, I should be okay, I just couldn’t use a friend or relative anymore to review my book. The responses Amazon has been issuing are along the lines of, “no one with a financial interest in your work can post on your behalf.” So, despite that the book is free, it still is on my behalf, and so gets removed. But what about the rising number of people reading Darkin: A Journey East on their Kindle or other ereader who simply liked the book and want to support me by writing a review? They shouldn’t have their reviews removed too right?
It seems, with some further research, including reading some more articles posted by prominent newspapers found using Google News, that Amazon has started a scorched-earth policy, removing reviews by even legitimate fans. For authors with 30 or more reviews, it probably isn’t the biggest deal in the world to have several reviews removed. But for me, or anyone else with very few, it could make or break sales momentum and slow the burgeoning buzz an indie author tries to create for his book. Very slowly after the research was conducted, the Song of Evil crept into my heart, for I began to wonder if reviewers had spent time writing reviews for me, only to have them never appear, lost to the void, casting Darkin into stasis.
I reached out to an indie author I strive to model myself after (she’s also indie epic fantasy, and has over 200 reviews on her first book), hoping to ease my concerns. After all, I am spending a good deal of money and time promoting my book, but without reviews, I don’t know how far I can make it. I went to the website ofLindsay Buroker and read her most recent post, posted the same day I began to become afraid. Her post was about how to improve international ebook sales. I figured my question would be related enough, because without reviews, how does one really get any sales anywhere? (I have had a little over 1,000 free price-matched unit sales with only 3 reviews, how far can 3 reviews carry you?) Here’s what I asked Lindsay:
Lindsay, I have a question related to your post, and also related to personal fears. I think having 20 or so good reviews will help me sell my fantasy book. The problem is, I have only 3 to start, and they are from friends and family. My sister-in-law posted a review and it was removed, which must be related to the new Amazon stricter reviews policy. You have so many reviews, and though the first book in my series is free too, I am worried that potential fans won’t even be able to leave reviews and I’ll be forever stuck at 3. So, please comment on the state of getting new reviews as an up and comer with very little to start from (I have sold 1100 free ebooks in the past month, but no reviews as a result), and if you have advice–which you must because you’ve racked up 232 for EE (awesome achievement). Thanks,
She kindly replied to me within hours:
Yes, Amazon is cracking down. They shouldn’t have any reason to remove legitimate reviews from people who aren’t friends or relatives though (one wonders how they know!).
It sounds like you’re doing well with giveaways. One thing you can do is leave an afterword thanking the reader for trying the book and asking them to leave a review if they have time. I did that at the end of EE and Flash Gold, too, I think. 🙂
So I learned something, and my fears were assuaged. My instant reaction was, “God Dammit!” Why didn’t I think of asking for reviews at the end of my book! That’s over 1,000 opportunities squandered! Needless to say, within several hours, I added the afterward to Darkin: A Journey East, and uploaded the new file to Amazon and everywhere else. This could mean my listings on iBookstore and Barnes and Noble come down for awhile, but that’s okay: Amazon Direct Publishing puts the new ebook up within 12 hours. This knowledge came just in time because I have a sales push today, with advertisements running on both Kindle Nation and Kindle Fire Department.
All I can do is hope that some of those people who initially downloaded Darkin take the time on their own to review it, even without me prompting them to in an afterward, and that Amazon realizes they are NOT posting on my behalf, nor are they financially connected to me. Either way, after Lindsay’s response, I am not so worried about getting reviews–they’ll come when they come. I could let something like that tell me, “You’re wasting your time on this dream,” but I won’t let it. Authors desire as much as making money, I feel (at least for me personally), an interaction between them, their readers, and the story they wrote. That is what a review is for me: a conversation between me, the text, and a reader. Those moments I cherish, and I still, despite the crackdown at Amazon, look forward to many more to come.