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30Jun/112

Posting a Book Review on Amazon is a Pain in the Ass – A Small Way Amazon Hurts Authors and Readers

It is a pain in the ass to post a book review on Amazon!

This is not a piece I ever wanted to write.

But after months of Googling the topic and waiting for someone else to write it, I decided I had no choice but to do it myself now.  This is a service to fellow authors and fellow readers (or, at least, the fellow readers that are big enough nerds to post reviews on Amazon. And, as an author, I say God bless you, nerds. Unless you gave me a shitty review.)

It would seem posting a review on Amazon would be easy.  It isn't.

It would seem it would be as simple as posting a review on any of the other user review websites from IMDB to Yelp to Goodreads and so on.  It's not.

You see, Amazon has certain policies.  The only problem is, they don't really tell you these fucking policies.  And, thus, when you type up a review and hit POST, you really have no clue if it's going to post.

Until it doesn't.

I've written countless reviews for fellow authors...that have never appeared.

I've had countless friends and fans of mine tell me they wrote reviews for me...that never appeared.

 

So, what's the problem?

 

As far as can tell, there are two biggies:

1.  No cursing.

Fair enough, but Amazon considers "curse" words such mild stuff as 'ass' and 'pussy.'

(Why I feel the need to use 'ass' and 'pussy' in certain book reviews is my own damn business.)

I don't have a master list of profanities that Amazon will not accept, but I sure wish I did.  Based on personal experience, they aren't exactly Carlin's Seven Dirty Words.  More like Amazon's 235 Mildly Risque Terms.

So, when in doubt, make the PG-13 rating into a G in your own reviews.

2.  No self-promotion.

But seriously, why else would I be reviewing other people's books?!

All kidding aside, if you're an author yourself, and you mention in any way being an author yourself, or having a book, your review will never get past the Amazon censors.

This was something I suspected but didn't fully know until I wrote a review of my friend Phil Simon's book "The New Small" in which I mentioned my own book.  I'd posted the review three times without it appearing on site, when I finally got an e-mail from "Jeff" at Amazon customer service spelling things out for me.  (For the record, the first e-mail I'd ever received from them post-posting an unacceptable review.)

This e-mail linked to Amazon's policy, hidden in the deep recesses of their website, on what isn't acceptable for reviews to contain, printed below:

 

Amazon Review Guidelines

Objectionable material:
• Obscene or distasteful content
• Profanity or spiteful remarks
• Promotion of illegal or immoral conduct

Promotional content:
• Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
• Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
• Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product
• Solicitations for helpful votes

Inappropriate content:
• Crucial plot elements (unless you offer a clear "spoiler alert")
• Other people's material (this includes excessive quoting)
• Phone numbers, postal mailing addresses, and URLs external to Amazon.com
• Details about availability or alternate ordering/shipping
• Videos with watermarks
• Comments on other reviews visible on the page (because page visibility is subject to change without notice)
• Foreign language content (unless there is a clear connection to the product)

 

Besides the fact that "How to Fail" is an entire book with obscene or distasteful content, profanity or spiteful remarks, and promotion of illegal or immoral conduct, it's nice that some policy was finally spelled out to me.  Sorta.  Policy of the highly-ambiguous type.  Nearly everything above could be debated as to what is and what isn't.

I mean, look, I don't have any issues with company policy and certainly not Amazon's, I just wish Amazon would more clearly spell out their policy when one reviews and, if a review doesn't immediately fit in with said policy, give us a heads up, like when you forget to add your zip code or fuck-up the CAPTCHA on an online form.

I wish a red flag would appear immediately after you hit post:

*Review unable to be posted due to the following profanities:
cocksucker
twat

*Review unable to be posted due to the following acts of self-promotion:

I don't mean to rip Amazon.  I love Amazon.  I, and a lot of other indie authors, owe parts of our careers to Amazon.  But, part of what we owe is based on one major commodity that Amazon provides:  user reviews and word of mouth.

My books of obscene and distasteful content don't get reviewed by the NYT or on "Good Morning America," I need word of mouth straight from the people's mouth.  And, the current draconian nature of the Amazon review system makes it damn tough for me and my fellow writers to load up on reviews.

And, makes it damn annoying for readers who want to post something about a book they loved...or, hated.

So, fair reader, my advice would be that if you post a review that doesn't appear immediately, first, hit the "back" button and copy and paste your content into a clipboard, then wait until Amazon gives you a chance to review again--usually a few hours--then scour your previous review for any of the above issues.

Or better yet, keep it simple stupid.  The shorter the review, the less chance you have of fucking up and breaking Amazon's policy.

I'm not exactly sure why Amazon wants to encourage writing smaller reviews over the larger and more in-depth, but this is what they are doing with this current system.

Yet, I still love 'em.

GIVE ME NON-CURSEY, NON-SELF-PROMOTEY, REVIEWS HERE:

How to Fail:  The Self-Hurt Guide

The Cheat Sheet

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  1. The product reviews are not a walk in the park either, and they keep sending emails for reviews.

  2. Fantastic blog! Do you have any hints for aspiring writers?

    I’m hoping to start my own blog soon but I’m a
    little lost on everything. Would you suggest starting
    with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any recommendations? Many thanks!


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