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….

Why Democracies Fail

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Whether or not you have any belief in metaphysics, it seems the severe weather plaguing the country today serves as an interesting commentary on protests that spanned the nation and even the world this past weekend. The winds of change are seldom a gentle breeze.

While some were sipping champagne in celebration of the events associated with Donald J. Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States, others were crying in their beer. Of course, for the past eight years of the Obama administration, these sentiments were reversed. Thus the pendulum swings again.

It’s been said and proven throughout history that the average lifetime of a democracy tends to be right around 200 years. The USA has currently survived for 240. Beating the odds? I doubt it.

Unlikely as it may sound, the insights I’ve gained as a professional astrologer have helped explain why I believe this is so. Here’s the Readers’ Digest version of the stages I’ve recognized, without the astrologese:

  1. A nation is founded on the principles of freedom by a group with common standards and beliefs which unify them. Unifying factors often include religion and a common language. A set of governing laws are set in place to keep society protected and under control.
  2. Over time, freedom results in a proliferation of beliefs, some of which are contrary to those on which the nation was founded and possibly its laws as well.
  3. If these factions are tolerant and peaceful, coexistence can be achieved. If not, protests and demonstrations ensue. Diversity in many cases eventually turns confrontational and combative, particularly if those involved feel oppressed or violated.
  4. When protests become disruptive, violent or destructive and are contrary to the rule of law, it’s the government’s job to restore order. If leaders don’t do their job, protests continue to escalate until they can no longer be tolerated. At that point, they either prevail and effect an overthrow of the status quo, or they are squelched.

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  1. If a heavy hand is required to restore order, then a dictatorship, the usual successor to a democracy, assumes power, silencing the dissenters by whatever means necessary.

Not a pretty picture, is it? I see Donald Trump taking over this country somewhere between Stages 4 and 5.

There is such a thing as too much freedom when either tolerance is absent or extremism is present, thus causing some factions to want to eradicate or control those with opposing beliefs. In a country that has polarized into a two-party system, extremism is particularly likely. As these ideologies become farther and farther separated, both eventually abandoning country’s the founding principles, the populace is forced to choose one or the other, even though in many cases their true beliefs may lie somewhere in the middle. I can see positive aspects of both prevailing parties, but cannot endorse either 100%. However, when election time rolls around, I’m forced to make a choice. I can remember more elections in which I voted against someone as opposed to for. That, in itself, is a sad commentary.

For a while, as one party gains power and the pendulum swings their way, its opposing factions will be quite disenchanted. After a while, this discontent reaches critical mass and the opposition wins the next election. Then the pendulum swings the other way. The more antithetical beliefs and values become, the stronger the desire to gain complete control and annihilate the other, which inevitably leads to corruption. Or as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. This cannot go on forever.

Sadly, both sides accuse the other of hate. That is what disagreement evolves into when issues are volatile and so extreme that compromise and/or mutual understanding become impossible.

The United States is at a very critical stage of its evolution as a country. Ironically, it was never intended to be a democracy. It was designed as a Constitutional Republic. But given the freedom granted to its citizenry, it’s no wonder it has trodden the same path. Those original laws set in place by the Founding Fathers to maintain order were gradually repealed as they offended the masses. And here we are.

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There are too many factions, some easily given to violence, too many languages, too many religions, special interests and various other issues that divide us. Some revere Old Glory, others desecrate her. Some believe the environment should be preserved, others that it’s expendable. And this doesn’t even consider the corruption and corporatism that has sullied the entire system. This begs the question of who’s organizing the more violent protesters and in some cases even paying them? And why? To drive us more quickly to stage 5?

Thinking America can be put back together is like upending a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle and expecting it to land on the floor assembled. Astrology shows the USA’s evolution quite clearly. Interestingly, it’s course is entirely independent of who’s in the Whitehouse. Either way, the future does not look bright.