Amazon’s Review Policy Explained

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Most indie authors have encountered, either personally or vicariously, some of Amazon’s gestapo review policies. When reviews are so important to a book’s ranking, it’s no wonder that restrictions are frustrating and often confusing. More than anything, I simply wondered what was behind it? Clearly Amazon’s goal is to sell product, so why would they institute rules that compromise sales? It seems that “fake reviews” should be recognizable to any intelligent person and be discounted with an eye-roll as opposed to throwing out the baby with the bath water and tossing legitimate ones.

Well, I attended a free webinar the other day entitled “3 Catastrophic Marketing Landmines That Can Get You Into Serious Hot Water With The FTC Today: And What You Need To Know… ” that provided a classic “Aha!” moment that explained what’s more than likely behind Amazon’s review policy.  If you hurry, you can listen to it until June 4, 2017 here. [NOTE: If you should join their program, note that I am NOT an affiliate and will NOT receive any compensation. Rather, I’m sharing it because I feel it’s information that others can benefit from as I did.]

So what’s the deal? Why is Amazon being so ornery about reviews? Not surprisingly, it’s none other than our friend (?) the US Government, more specifically the Federal Trade Commission, a.k.a. FTC. Like the IRS, this is another government agency you don’t want to tangle with. They have strict rules regarding deceptive testimonials, which includes whether there was any material compensation involved; in other words, a paid affiliate needs to be disclosed, with what constitutes payment a somewhat grey area. Deceptive testimonials, another no-no, can obviously include reviews from friends and associates who may claim something is the best thing since the cell phone when in reality it’s not. We’ve all read books from time to time that had multiple 5-star ratings that were clearly undeserved. So, being compensated for a review in some manner or an inflated testimonial that is unlikely to represent the opinion of others are to be avoided.

In other words, the bottom line is Amazon is covering their butt against consumer complaints to the FTC, which is the prudent thing for a business to do. If you have a website where you offer products to consumers, there are various alligators in the water regarding disclosure with which you, also, should be aware. As with any government regulation, ignorance of the law is no excuse and failure to comply can get you into serious trouble. All authors need to be aware of such regulations, especially if they have a website where they have affiliate links or sell their own books.

But my main point here is that Amazon is not doing this to make our lives difficult, but to protect their interests and comply with government regulations. It’s no wonder they ignore our complaints since we certainly don’t wield the punch of Uncle Sam.

That said, I can’t help but wonder what the FTC would do if authors complained about the way Amazon handles trolls?  Undoubtedly it’s covered in our contract to their benefit, but as our sales agent, if they allow trolls to jeopardize our sales, it would make for an interesting conversation….

“The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51” Release!

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I’m happy to report that my latest novel has finally been released! If you’re a fan of UFOs, Area 51, or have read Beyond the Hidden Sky and/or A Dark of Endless Days, volumes I and II, respectively, of the Star Trails Tetralogy, you’ll enjoy this one.

Writing this story, which is a spin-off from the Star Trails Tetralogy, was quite a trip. Every time I thought it was done, I’d realize there was something missing. Usually that entailed more research, which took more time than the actual writing.

Nonetheless, it was an adventure and fun, especially getting to know a new character, Gabe Greenley, after spending so much time with the Brightstar clan.

For those of you who don’t know the premise of the story, here’s the Book Blurb:

In May 1978 a UFO lands at Hill AFB in Ogden, Utah. NASA astrobiologist, Gabe Greenley, is called in to investigate a strange plant found onboard. Psi-sensitive, he quickly learns the specimen is highly intelligent and potentially dangerous. Taunted by a ground-breaking discovery he can never share, his security oaths eventually result in an ethical dilemma with treasonous and deadly implications.

More information, including the promotional video, are on the Star Trails Tetralogy website.

I’m grateful to the author/bloggers who have given me of their time and talents in both reading, offering feedback, and ultimately reviewing the story, particularly Stephen Geez of Fresh Ink Group, who did a tremendous job editing, both the book and the video. You can read the blogs as well as some excerpts and find buy links to several online retailers  below. A button to add the story to your Goodreads TBR list is there as well. Remember reviews are always welcome and the best way to thank an author if you enjoy their work.

Reviews and Blogs

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From Scott Skipper’s Blog

John Reinhard Dizon’s Blog

Elle Klass’s “Troubled Oyster” Blog

Scott Skipper’s Blog

Ceri London’s Blog

Excerpts on Bublish

“An Alien Lifeform”

“Mutual Scrutiny”

“Experiment Ethics Present a Dilemma”

Buy Links

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51

Guest Post from Author Elle Klass!

A little over a year ago I released Zombie Girl, a short story in the Once Upon a Zombietale Anthology. You can still buy the anthology and read the original story as well as all the other fabulous zombietales in the book.

 
Readers came to me after reading asking about the story which ends on a bit of a question. I write series so naturally leave a story open for possibilities but hadn’t planned on expanding it. 
 
Zombies were something I never really planned on writing about even though I’ve watched Dawn of the Dead, the Resident Evil movies and 28 Days Later series countless times. In fact all the movies are in my collection.
 
I’m not a stranger to zombie horror or the fun movies like Zombieland and Warm Bodies. In my own series, Zombie Girl, I incorporated both horror and silliness.
 
Premonition, the first book just released!
 

Buy Links:

 Amazon Kindle

Apple, Nook, Kobo, 24 Symbols, Inktera, Indigo 

Blurb: 

Maddie’s parents flip when they find out she’s failing science. That’s her worst problem until she wakes up and finds they’re zombies. Now she must escape them and her house. With nowhere else to go, and the keys to her parents’ sailboat, she makes her getaway. Finding Bryce was a fortunate circumstance and the two take on zombies and set sail for parts unknown.

Excerpt from Premonition

Annoyed and scared, I cranked the motor and pressed the gas
pedal to the floor. The car plowed forward, hitting the lead zombie. It
thumped, flew, and slid beneath the car. More zombies hit the car; body parts and blood covered the windshield.

I fumbled with the dash, depressing buttons, looking for the wipers. Once I found them and turned them on, they swiped away the blood, leaving streaks on the windshield. Stuck in the pasty, bloodied streaks were little black dots. I looked closer, squinting my eyes. They were lovebugs; horrible little insects rumored to be created in a lab at the University of Florida to control the mosquito population in the state. Twice a year, spring and fall, they marred every vehicle on the road and were a complete nuisance.

I was thinking science again! And the thoughts kept coming. The heart pumps blood throughout the body. Did the zombies’ hearts still work? Did I kill them?

Slamming on the brakes, I wanted to know. I turned the car around, hitting the side of a truck’s bumper as I did. I drove by slowly. The body parts were still moving, and a couple whole zombies struggled to get to their feet. So how do I kill them?

With the car running, I considered my options and owned up to my morbid curiosity about them. I rifled through the contents of my mom’s car. No weapons. Disappointed, but not stupid, I turned and ran over the zombies struggling to get up and turned around again, the car thumping over
their wriggling bodies and crunching away at their bones. I got back onto I-95 and headed towards the Marina.

Infection, the second book releases July 10! Pre-order it now. The .99 price tag won’t last.

Buy Links:

Blurb:

When Maddie and Bryce touch, she knows her zombie dream wasn’t simply a dream but a premonition. It’s up to her and Bryce to save the world from the doomsday sickness that will kill everyone – in a manner of speaking. They soon learn the zombies aren’t the only horrors that await them in the new fight-or-die world. They battle by each other’s side as the infection spreads globally.

Excerpt from “Infection”

Bryce and my father were in trouble. I had to do something, so I grabbed the gun, twisted in my seat, and brought it to my face. I’d never shot a gun other than in video games, but I’d seen tons of movies. It couldn’t be that difficult. I clicked the lever thing on the topside of the gun. I knew that was the safety.

“Maddie, your father can handle him” she said, her voice quaking. I imagined her wringing her hands together like a dishrag.

From the corner of my eye, I watched Sarah lift her eyes off the cat and stare towards me. I met her gaze and she nodded her approval then mouthed, Be careful.

The men drew closer to the boat with each second I wasted. I pushed the door open, snuck around the side and observed my surroundings. I felt like a hunter in the wild carrying the big shotgun, but acted more like a detective on a cheesy cop show. As I moved around the van, I spotted a crate identical to the one where I found Bryce in my… our dream.

I scurried towards it, doing my best to step over and around the large puddles so as not to make splashing noises that would catch the creepy bald man’s attention. Upon reaching it, I crouched. Placing my back against the wet wooden side, I slid around it and onto my knees and peeked out.

Bryce and my father stepped onto the boat, I used the man’s shining head as a guiding light. He was still behind them. Taking a deep breath, I moved back around the side and out of their view. The nose of the shotgun rose over the top as I held it straight and fired. Its recoil hit my upper thigh and I screamed as I doubled over, the gun hitting the ground. My leg throbbed and I knew I’d have a nasty bruise.

Disclaimer:

Both stories end with a tad of a cliffhanger.

 

I Don’t Love Zombies but Loved this Story

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I’m not a big zombie fan in that I’ve never been drawn to shows like “The Walking Dead” and so forth. I’m prone to look upon zombies and vampires as analogies. To me, zombies represent those around us who simply go from day to day in a daze, missing what’s really going on around them, lacking joy and enthusiasm, and trashing those around them who have a life. Vampires are even more obvious, being the bloodsuckers that expect others to take care of them emotionally or financially. Since I’m not amused or entertained by such individuals, I’m likewise not usually attracted to such stories.

However, as a writer myself I enjoy a well-crafted story, regardless of genre. I especially enjoy award winning author, Elle Klass’, tales because they’re populated with well-developed, intelligent, gutsy, and engaging characters while her plots are original and full of surprises. Thus, for her books I’ll always make an exception. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed her “Bloodseeker” stories and now Zombie Girl because they’re well-written with lots of action involving memorable, believable characters as well as surprising and often intricate plot twists.  A dose of Elle’s creative genius is the ultimate prescription to escape the figurative zombies and vampires in your own life.

I recently finished “Premonition” where the heroine, Maddie, is in trouble with her parents because she’s flunking science. Pressured to improve her grade, she reluctantly agrees to study more diligently. That night she experiences a vivid dream in which her parents have turned into zombies, so she flees her home. She meets a boy named Bryce, the two of them battling zombies, trying to survive.  When she wakes up to a normal Saturday morning, she realizes it was only a dream, yet remains troubled. Not only was the dream itself far too real, a physical object Bryce gave her in the dream is still in her possession.

Huh? How could it be?

This physical evidence tells her for certain it was more than a dream–it was a warning. Nonetheless, months pass, and everything seems normal. Until another vestige from the dream becomes reality.

Elle knows how to build nail-biting suspense and “Premonition” is no exception. The story is relatively short, but sets the stage for what you know is going to be an exciting adventure with a generous sprinkling of dark humor. Fortunately, the sequel, “Infection,” is coming soon.  Preorder now so you don’t miss it when it comes out in July!

Pick up your copy of “Premonition” here.

Preorder “Infection” here.

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“This website may contain affiliate links which means if you click on a link and ultimately invest in something, that I may get a commission. If the item is one of my own books, that should be intuitively obvious.”