Will Amazon Improve their Policy on Customer Book Reviews in 2017?
Are you a self-published author trying to get your digital or print book published and visible on Amazon? If you are, you had better get ready for a harsh reality when it comes to book visibility and exposure in the Amazon/Kindle world. A big part of the problem has to do with Amazon book reviews. The topic of book reviews in general is constantly discussed within the publishing industry, but this post is specifically about Amazon book reviews.
New Authors Failing
Every day, new authors are giving up and dropping out of the ranks, thanks to their book titles having been buried with all the other dropouts. Under the current circumstances, the average self-published author is lucky if they sell even one book and earn any money at all. I copied the following comment from one author/blogger who has been doing the research on this issue. Notice what he said in the article: “How Much Does An Average Self Publishing Author Make On Amazon?” (link below). His comments are similar to others that I have read online:
“I don’t think there is an “average” – the vast majority of books sell less than ten copies. $100 a year, as John K. says, is a good guess, but if that’s “average”, consider than 50% of the books published don’t make even that much. Actually I’d bet it’s far more than 50%. In my experience, at least 90% of books will fail, maybe even 95-99%. “Fail”= earn less than $100 a year.
But that’s because, a small handful of books, maybe a thousand a year (out of at least a million books published), make all the money.”
Primary Reason for Failing
Why the failure? Unfortunately, it often has very little to do with writing talent. The culprit is the never ending quest that authors go on, trying to obtain highly coveted Amazon book reviews. These book reviews are what is supposed to help propel a new author to the top, or at least headed somewhere in that direction.
Somehow, the need, the purpose and value of Amazon book reviews has gotten all misconstrued. Of course reviews are important and they can certainly be a signal to readers whether or not a book is worthy of their time. But lately, the topic of Amazon book reviews has gotten more controversial than the 2016 Presidential Election! Many authors like myself wonder will Amazon improve their policy on customer book reviews in 2017?
It is sad to see how the whole issue of book reviews has become a sore spot among authors. This controversial issue has been the bases for some very different and radical views, like the comments I read at the end of the article titled: Did You Pay For That Book Review? (link below)
Too many good authors find themselves obsessing over book reviews, in one way or another. Trolling for ways to secure just one of those valuable reviews can be as much a waste of time as debating over this issue in a forum and trying to defend your views. Either way, you’re still squandering time that could be spent on actual writing.
Who is at Fault?
I personally feel that collectively, Amazon, the authors, and the rest of the online publishing industry is at fault. Clearly, we need and even desire honest and legitimate book reviews. But Amazon has inadvertently caused authors to place too much importance and emphasize on their reviews. More and more I see self-published authors becoming weighed down under the stress of trying to secure reviews.
As a result, a lot of good writers are simply falling by the wayside. Perhaps in Amazon’s eyes (and those who agree with them), this is a way to prevent crappy writing from succeeding in the mainstream. In reality, this is just a way to keep those who are already successful at the top, and lock out other new and talented authors by keeping them in the shadows.
Here are the two Amazon customer book review policies that really need to be reconsidered and structured in a much more reasonable way.
* No book reviews allowed by customers who have not previously spent at least $50 on Amazon.
Wow! This policy basically translates into Amazon charging a $50 buy in if someone wants to leave you a book review. This one really bothers me because I feel like in a way, it is simply a double standard on the rule about “not paying” for reviews.
* No family, friends or authors that you know are allowed to provide a review for your book.
This is not only insulting, but in many cases, way off base. The insulting part is the fact that Amazon automatically makes negative assumptions about everyone’s families and friends. This policy implies that they are dishonest cheats. The same is apparently assumed about authors reviewing authors they know. Amazon doesn’t give us credit for having the intelligence and integrity to provide genuine and constructive reviews. But they have no basis for the assumption that everyone’s family, friends and associates will automatically lie, cheat and be deceptive in their reviews.
While my voice is only one author’s voice out of thousands, from what I’ve been reading online lately, I am definitely not alone in wanting to see Amazon make some kind of policy change to the way they handle customer book reviews in 2017. This problem is not going away, it is only worsening. It is high time that Amazon did something to consider the difficult plight of new self-published authors, particularly with respect to getting book reviews.
When it comes to policy changes, Amazon is no dinosaur by a long shot. They clearly understand the need for growth and change. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t have just rolled out their new “print book” publishing services. Instead of leaving the publication and distribution of print books to “Createspace” (also an Amazon company), Amazon is stepping in. They are taking things up a notch by making it easier for authors to publish both digital and print books together, in one place. This is one policy change that is definitely for the better, and I believe the same would be true about a change to how they deal with book reviews.
Fair to All Authors
I’m not exactly sure what kind of book review policy change at Amazon would allow for better quality control. Perhaps they could lower the $50 requirement and also place a limitation on certain types of reviews (such as “x” amount from family members, etc…). However, I do know that whatever they decide (if anything), it needs to be a policy that is fair to all authors and not just a select few.
I’m a self-published author with a newly released title: Skipping Childhood: A Novel (From Abused Foster Child to Adolescent Serial Killer) so the subject of book reviews is of great concern to me. In 2014, in spite of all my best efforts, I watched helplessly as my first novel: Experimenting With Murder got buried due to this very reason. Hopefully, I won’t have to see the same thing happen to my latest endeavor, that’s why I pray that this year, Amazon will come to their senses and do something to improve their policy on customer book reviews.