Saturday, November 5, 2011

ASK PZM: Nov 2011 Amazon

Q: Is Amazon a friend or foe of authors?

This is a very good question – and one that I’m not sure what the answer is today, let alone two weeks from today.  But I’ll share with you some of my observations and what I’ve recently read.

Amazon review removal:

Carolyn Howard Johnson’s free ezine “Sharing With Writers” (see signup on her site had the feature article “Amazon Removes More Reviews: Targets Individual Reviewers and Sites Causing Authors to Become Victims” by Irene Watson (managing editor of Reader Views) about Amazon’s removal of reviews.  Read Irene’s article yourself (scroll down to the feature at 

I’m glad I had read this when I suddenly noticed that the 34 reviews for my novel “Mrs. Lieutenant” – reviews that had been there for years – had suddenly shrunk to 14.  And the irony is that, if I correctly understand Irene’s article, most of those 20 reviews should NOT have been removed.

But I won’t fight with Amazon over this for two reasons:

·      The 14 remaining reviews (see have a good “star” rating so the book’s “star” rating doesn’t seem to have been impacted by the removal – and who reads 34 reviews anyway?

·      I’m already embroiled in a struggle with Amazon over another issue: the inability of Amazon to get my technothriller book “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” added to my Amazon author page.  (I will spare you the details of this issue.)

But all of you who have books on Amazon should be aware of this situation of reviews being removed. 

“Tricking” Amazon into allowing you to make an ebook free:

Consider trying out a strategy of making one of your ebooks available for FREE even though it entails “tricking” Amazon into going along with this strategy.


Based on this strategy, I have already changed the price for “Lt. Commander Mollie Sanders” to free on Smashwords (see http:/  But I have to wait until the price is changed on Barnes & Noble’s site (apparently takes up to two weeks) before I can try to convince Amazon to match the free price.

Submitting your book to Amazon Publishing:

Apparently you can actually submit your book to Amazon Publishing.  On my LinkedIn “Book Marketing” group, on a thread about Amazon Publishing, Rebecca Byfield posted:
They do have a submissions email. This is the information I got back from them: Amazon Publishing is accepting submissions for the following imprints: 
Montlake Romance: acquiring romance novels and romantic women's fiction (

Thomas & Mercer: acquiring mysteries and thrillers

Crossing: acquiring non-English language translation rights

Encore: acquiring previously self-published and out of print books

47North: acquiring sci-fi, fantasy, and horror novels

Submission requirements:

Proposals and manuscripts should only be submitted to one imprint or editor at a time. We will communicate internally to make sure your work finds its best home.

If you are represented by an agent, please have your agent submit your proposal.

Submissions should include the following information: 
o Title and author in the subject line
o Short synopsis of the book
o Brief bio and bibliography of author
o Is this an exclusive submission?
o Complete manuscript (Word file, Times New Roman 12)
o Comparable authors or titles
o Marketing strengths
We should be especially thankful to Rebecca for sharing this info because I’m not sure there is any place on the Amazon site that you can actually find this.  (I tried.)

Amazon foreign sites:

I’m not going to deal with this topic this time except to say that there are now four Amazon sites that have Kindle – the U.S., the U.K., Germany and France.  And I hear that the Italian and Spanish sites will soon be added.

Meanwhile, as of now your book’s reviews on the U.S. site cannot be automatically transferred to the foreign sites.  Amazon expects you to ask the people who wrote reviews on the U.S. site to submit their reviews individually to each of the other sites.

And, yes, the reviews can be in English even on the foreign language sites, although you do need to be able to read enough of the foreign language to find where to create the review.
Bottom line about Amazon as a promotional tool for authors? 

If you are an author with books on Amazon, you need to be vigilant about the advantages and disadvantages that Amazon offers you for promotional purposes.  And you need to be aware that these can change without any notice. 

© 2011 Miller Mosaic, LLC

Phyllis Zimbler Miller (@ZimblerMiller on Twitter) has an M.B.A. from The Wharton School and is the co-founder of the marketing consulting company  The company offers consulting on book publishing and book marketing – see

You can learn about Phyllis’ fiction and nonfiction books at


  1. Very useful information. Thanks for sharing it. Sometimes Amazon seems like a formidable enemy, and then they do something positive. Go figure...
    Pat Dale

  2. I love these information-packed posts. :) Have a great weekend!

  3. This is good to know. Thanks for the info and links!

  4. Pat, Carrie & Karen, I so glad you found the post informative. That's what it's all about. Have a great weekend.

  5. Such a great post! Love visiting your blog!

    Lola x

  6. What a nice thing to say, Lola. Thanks!

  7. Another informative post, Joylene. Thanks.

    A couple of years back I posted some third party reviews to my own novel pages and within a few months Amazon had taken them down. I understand they were preventing authors from posting their own reviews...but mine weren't. From this post I get the idea that authors are now allowed to post third party reviews...correct?

    On the bright side I had a really malicious review of one of my novels, and Amazon has placed it in a different category than the good ones. I guess they have realized it helps their sales to see books fairly rated.

  8. Thanks to everyone who left such nice comments here.

    I appreciate it!


  9. Your welcome, Phyllis. It's great having you guest on my blog. And everyone ... thanks for commenting! Hi Chris.

  10. Valuable information. I've had authors contact me because my review of their books disappeared on Amazon.

    For the life of me I don't understand Amazon's strategy in regard to reviews.

    I'll be linking to this post.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

  11. I'm glad this was helpful, Karen. Happy Sunday.

  12. Karen --

    If Amazon would just publicly and clearly state the site's review policy (and the review removal policy), at least we wouldn't all be left scratching our heads trying to decode this enigma.

    I'm so glad I had read about this issue so I didn't go into heart failure when I saw 20 MRS. LIEUTENANT reviews out of 34 removed after three years on the site.

    And I'm glad you'll link to this post to give other authors the "heads up."

    Phyllis Zimbler Miller

  13. Good point, Phyllis. Because as it stands, I'm worried that reviewers will stop posting. Why go to all the trouble of writing a review if Amazon is going to remove it after a time?

    I just received a new review for Broken but not Dead this week. They didn't even place it at the top of the list. I'd like my reviewers to benefit as much as possible from their own postings. A well written review, good or bad, is point of reference to just how talented some of these reviewers are.

  14. what a HUGE amt of info; felt like i got "caught up" on on-going issues really well and really fast - thanks!

  15. I'm thrilled to hear that, Adan. Thanks for stopping by.

  16. Anyone interested in subscribing to Sharing with Writers where Phyllis originally saw the article by Irene Watson may do so by sending an e-mail with SUBSCRIBE in it to me at I'm happy to do it for you. And, Irene's letter may be subscribed to at

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson

  17. It's so important to be cognizant of any publisher or company concerned with our writing. Amazon has many great things about it, but it's ultimately out there to make as much money as it can as quickly as it can, and doesn't care about each individual author as much as we'd like. Thank you for this post!

    Adriana Ryan

  18. So true, Adriana. That's why it's surprising that they would remove reviews that help sell books. Seems a strange practice.

  19. Thanks for some very informative (and critical) information. Like many, I have mixed feelings about Amazon. For a company that trades in communication, I find their sites sorely lacking.

    Thanks for stopping by and your warm wishes. I'm new at this and have much to learn, but it's nice to walk on a cloud for a bit.

  20. I agree with all this frustration. I've been posting on my blog about Irene's plight since last March. I even called Amazon to ask questions about it and was nearly hung up on ( ).

    Carolyn & Phyllis (and of course Irene) thankx so much for keeping us informed. I too love the benefits Amazon offer us, even write books about it, but can't understand for the life of me why they can't take just 2 minutes to tell us exactly WHAT we violated, etc. They won't even give us a link to their help page that explains it!

    They've gotten rich off the unparalleled free publicity they offer us (because it SELLS books), so it makes no sense that they alienate us without a second thought.

    I spend a lot of time researching what their site offers us, but when it comes to this issue, there is just nothing and nowhere to research. They cut us off completely.

    My only clue is that they retain ALL rights to any review posted there. I know authors who were emailed that their book will be removed because of violations only to find that the problem was that they had pasted an Amazon review in full in a press release and Amazon's 'bots spotted it. But that doesn't seem to have anything to do with Irene's problems.

    I would LOVE any insight you all can offer.

    Again, thankx to everyone here!

  21. Kittie, I bet I'm not the only one thrilled for you. Enjoy this first release; it is after all your first. Happy Sunday.

  22. Joylene --

    You make a very valuable point I hadn't considered. It would make sense that the newest review is on top, but Amazon doesn't do that on the book's page. BUT -- if you click through from your book's page to see all the reviews, they are listed in descending order from the newest.

    Here is a link I created to send people to all my reviews on Amazon for my novel MRS. LIEUTENANT --

    Adan, Adriana and Kittie -- I'm glad you found this post helpful. I love how the Internet enables us to share information with each other!

  23. Phyllis, thanks for spreading the word about removing reviews. I just don't understand that it's a good business decision especially when they themselves are quoted saying "A book review from a respected source is a powerful marketing tool, lending credibility both to your book and your reputation as an author." as they attempt to sell reviews by Kirkus and Clarion.

    I'm sorry to hear 20 of your reviews have been removed. That is totally absurd!

  24. Carolyn, Phyllis, & Irene, thanks for contributing to this discussion. I hope word gets back to Amazon, and they finally do something.

  25. Thank you for your diligences, Aggie. I feel your frustration, and I'm so glad Phyllis & Carolyn are on top of this. If anyone can find a solution, I believe they can. Thanks for commenting. Hope your week's great.

  26. Phyllis, when I went to your book page on Amazon I noticed the only reviews left were from Vine reviewers, Real Name, and top 500, as well as one from Midwest Book Review. I'm wondering if any of 20 that were removed were from readers using pseudonyms.

    Aggie, thanks for blogging my plight. It is much appreciated.

    Some of us that have been banned are banding together and moving forward. Some of the site owners don't want to get involved with us, and some are sitting back to see what happens. Some aren't even responding to us. I guess we all have different priorities in this situation.

  27. At the risk of really confusing the issue, in connection to Aggie's statement about Amazon retaining all rights to the reviews posted on the site -- what I have been told by support at more than one foreign Amazon site is that the only people who can post the reviews of our books on the foreign sites are the same people who posted the reviews on the U.S. site.

    In other words, the reviewer himself/herself has to post his/her review on the foreign sites. This seems to be saying that the reviewers hold the copyright to their reviews.

    Second, after reading Irene's comment about the remaining reviews of MRS. LIEUTENANT, I got up the courage to try to figure out which 20 reviews were taken off. And I'm now even more confused.

    Since Amazon lets people use whatever name they want with which to write reviews, why would readers using pseudonyms have their reviewed removed?

    This puzzle just gets murkier and murkier. And more frustrating!

  28. Phyllis, your comment "why would readers using pseudonyms have their reviews removed?" is a puzzle to us too. Some armchair experts on various forums are bashing the review sites because they "charge" for reviews and that's the reason they have been banned. However, this has never been confirmed by and certainly doesn't hold water when they remove reviews at random from individuals unrelated to any site. The charging doesn't hold water either because themselves have two options they offer authors for paid reviews. They also offer additional publicity to the author in exchange for a review, which ends up being a form of payment.

    I'm waiting for the media to get wind of this.

  29. Thanks for all this valuable info. I may need it someday.

  30. That's the attitude, Nancy. You will need to know this stuff when you "get" published.

  31. Irene --

    The biggest problem is that Amazon doesn't really care what we or the media think.

    Nor does Amazon really care about making things easier for authors to promote their books on Amazon. (For example, the inability to transfer reviews to the foreign Amazon sites.)

    Still, we can always hope that Amazon will decide to take note of the concerns of authors and reviewers.

  32. Yet, you would think keeping the authors happy would benefit Amazon. Without the authors, where are they?

    Strange business practices. Perhaps the media should be told about this just to see Amazon's reaction.

  33. Amazon does have some arbitary policies. I know of one author who had the price of his Kindle book mistakenly set at free without his permission due to their price matching policy. It seems they used the B&N free sample download as their price example instead of the actual price of the book at B&N.

  34. Anita, was he able to get the price listed again? I once tried to get Amazon to replace the incorrect ISBN number they had listed for my book. It took three emails over the course of a month before it was changed.

    I suppose these types of bureaucratic errors are to be expected, if we weren't talking instant e-access.

  35. Yes, he did get the price changed back, but whatever sales he might have made in that time period are lost.

  36. Well, here's hoping something positive came out of it. Thanks for sharing, Anita.

  37. I have a new guest post at the Mulholland Books site that may interest you -- "Unraveling the Mystery of Effectively Using Social Media to Promote Your Books" --

  38. Sometimes I think Amazon can be very divided about what they say they'll do and what actually happens. I suppose it depends which Amazon representative you deal with. That's been my experience with them anyway.
    LK Watts

  39. Thanks for sharing that, LK. It's actually sad if you've been experiencing a difference in quality every time you've had to deal with them.

  40. Wow, thank you for this! I've looked for this info before online but not been able to find it. If you don't mind, I'll likely use it on my blog in the future (with credit due, of course). I even emailed an author with one of these Amazon imprints to ask for submission contact info and he never wrote back.

    But I found out here. So thank you!!

    And thanks, Joylene, for sharing your thoughts on my blog. Always a pleasure.

  41. So glad this was helpful, Lauren. That's great to hear.

  42. I read with interest about your reviews disappearing. I had 42 for Daughter Am I, and now I have only 8. Admittedly, some of those reviews came from the ABNA contest, but many poeple who would have reviewed the book saw their review, liked it, and left it. Some updated it. And all of them are gone. Not worth fighting over, though.

  43. Pat, I purposely didn't look until my dear friend Judy Avila told me her review was gone from my page. I took a quick peek and saw one that I had added on behalf of a reviewer. It's still there. Now that's strange because it shows me as the reviewer, though I'm clearly not, yet they let it stay. Maybe they've taken it out since.

    Seems a strange way to handle reviews nonetheless.


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