Thank You, Book Bloggers

Until I wrote a book, I felt empty and lost.

When my son was born and I moved to a city where I knew no one, I devoured books as an escape from my boring life. After reading Outlander, I got hooked on romance. I started with the historicals, then consumed 80’s contemporary novels from big names like Judith McNaught, then discovered new adult, and finally contemporary romance. I read close to a four hundred books that year.

One random summer day, I decided to crank out a rom-com series.
What the hell to I have to lose? I said to myself. I write for a living. It might be fun.

Except I’m a single mom and own my own business, so I had to zero idea how I’d find the time. Turns out I spent hours online doing nothing. And my binge watching TV habits were also sucking up great pockets of time. By giving up those two things, I carved an extra twenty hours a week out to write.

So I wrote Road-Tripped.
And then I had no idea what to do with it. It took me another nine months to beg people to read my book. I’m still begging people. And since then, I can say without a shadow of a doubt, my new readers have come from the book bloggers, who took a chance on a new author and spent precious time to read, review, and promote this newly self-published author.

Then I wrote another book.
Head-Tripped was so fucking hard to write. Road-Tripped was a breeze, but this book was completely different. I wrote from the point of view of a recovering drug addict, an introverted Latino male, and six other characters, including a gay black man. To add to that, I wrote in four languages, made eight characters travel to ten different countries, AND themed the book to Alice in Wonderland.

I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking.
I had to research violins, classical music, drug addiction, introversion, stage fright, and behind the scenes at concerts. I had to find a way to build the characters’ love from an instant attraction, but keep it slow burning, and do it without sacrificing the titillating aspects of modern romance and sex.

I’m not sure why I made the story so complicated. It just happened that way. But it was a challenge, and when I finished it, I felt drained. Not only that, I blew through my savings while I wrote it. I still haven’t recouped the costs of the first book. The whole time I kept saying to myself, I don’t know if this writing shit is worth it. And since Head-Tripped was so different from the first book, I didn’t sleep at night, worrying I’d lose the tiny precious audience I’d gathered from Road-Tripped.

So now that it’s out, and I read reviews that capture the very essence of the emotion I’d hope to convey, and also say how easy the book is to gobble up, it socks me deep in the belly of my soul. It’s like a little tornado of hope, propelling me to keep going. So this is me, writing a ridiculously long note, to say:

Thank you, book bloggers. Without you, my soul would starve.

 

New Amazon Review Guidelines

Recently, I had legitimate reviews disappear from Amazon. Since I work in the digital industry, I didn't even try to game the system. In fact, I told my own mother not to review my book. But in this case, there didn't appear to be any reason for the removal, nor were the reviewers notified. I'd never met the readers and the bloggers who received free ARC's posted: "I received this book in exchange for an honest review."

Well, apparently that doesn't work anymore. Scamming for and paying for reviews is a disgusting practice and Amazon is doing a good job of cracking down on it. Unfortunately, it seems to be purging real reviews.

After some investigative work, I found out Amazon has a new review policy,  in place since October 16th. Wouldn't it be nice if they disclosed these to authors and reviewers up front? Through various forums and articles, I put together the best advice for authors and bloggers culminated in one place.

Advice for Authors

How Amazon Detects Connections

Amazon's algorithm connects friends on your profiles with reviews. Sharing, photos, and likes are all tracked. If a reviewer is in the same author groups and likes similar posts, a connection can be made. Amazon uses a sniffer to track friends and fans. If either are found to be connected, they are removed. Since most authors and bloggers do most marketing on social channels this is a tragedy. And if someone has read the book and liked your page after they left a review, you're screwed. 

But not if you disconnect!

  1. Everyone, reviewers and authors included, should disconnect Amazon and Goodreads from their social media channels. Don't sign into Amazon, Goodreads, with Facebook connect, Twitter or other social platforms. In fact, you should go through your apps on Facebook and remove all apps connected through that. What was seemingly an easy way to log in is actually a convenient way to track your data. I thought I'd already removed my connections but didn't realize you also had to remove them from your mobile apps as well. 
  • Here's how to do it on desktop. Here's how to do it on mobile. 
  • Here's how to disconnect social from Amazon.
  • And from your kindle.
  • On Goodreads, go to apps under your user profile settings and disconnect there and also the integration that allows you to download your Amazon book purchases to Goodreads.
  • Another suggestion is to use different email logins for Facebook, Amazon and Goodreads. After you're finished, clear your cache on both mobile and desktop. Another source on the subject.
  1. Amazon detects obvious connections to the author, like address, last name, phone numbers. Clear your address book and gift list settings on Amazon. I sent a Goodreads giveaway through my account and had a review stripped from a winner.
  2. Too many reviews from the same IP address (i.e. your town, office, etc.) This is a pretty obvious no-no. 
  3. Don't  post the same review  multiple times for one or many authors.
  4. The same search time stamp (QID) clicked by many different people who are already linked to you.

Clean Your URL's before posting
Don't put a link to your book on your blog or website that you get directly from an Amazon search, because a dated url will tip off Amazon that the review comes from a fan. Here’s a link to a blogpost with more info plus a video about the suspect urls.

Don't exchange reviews with other authors
Not sure how they track this, but somehow they do. This includes review swapping communities. Don't solicit reviews in that manner. Amazon has cracked down. I haven't done this, but there are a million groups on Goodreads who do this.

Authors consider removing Amazon Affiliate links
Using the link on your website may not harm a review, but posting it on social channels will definitely leave a trail.

Verified purchases have more weight
Of course they do, but I actually had a verified purchase removed, too. 

Reviewers must spend at least 50 bucks on Amazon with a valid card.
This keeps people from signing up for fake accounts.

Editors, cover designers, formatters, etc., can't review the book
That seems obvious as well.

Don't one star competitor's books
Apparently, a handful of authors did this in the early days—tried to take out competition with low ratings. There are companies who you can pay to do this. Why anyone would want to do this is beyond me.

Advice for Bloggers

  1. Authors can still give free books to reviewers, however the new guidelines state you can't say, "ARC given in exchange for a review." The new language is "Received an ARC for which I voluntarily provided an honest review." Or something like that.
  2. Paid blog tours are considered paid reviews. This strikes me as ludicrous since the bloggers don't actually get paid, but apparently Amazon disagrees. Not sure how they can track this, but I imagine it has something to do with a timestamp on reviews.
  3.  A review copy must be given before the review is written, or the book will be seen as payment for the review. This seems like a great big "duh" to me, but you never know.
  4.  Amazon affiliates bloggers take note:  “A somewhat murky area is the case of reviewers who post reviews both on Amazon and on their own blogs, with links from the blog to Amazon that result in the blogger/reviewer receiving pay if the person clicking on the link then buys the item on Amazon. It’s not entirely clear at this time, but it appears that this scenario can lead to a purge, because it violates the rule that an Amazon reviewer may not post a review on a product in which the reviewer has a financial interest. Until more is known, a blogger who has monetized his/her blog might be better off not reviewing the same product on both the blog and Amazon.”
  5. Post reviews on other sites like Kobo and iTunes, so your review isn't lost.
  6. If you've had your reviews removed, write review-appeals@amazon.com. Apparently, you get one opportunity to make your case, but your chances of a reprieve are almost nonexistent.

 

For more info on Amazon’s new review rules, check out the Smarty Pants podcast on Amazon’s new review rules.

How to write a good review from Netgalley. 

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