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Guest Post by Randy Ingermanson on Marketing: Amazon’s Crackdown

Recently Amazon seems to have begun a crackdown on authors in an attempt to root out illegitimate reviews.

I had been hearing isolated reports about this for months, but lately I’ve seen an uptick in complaints from authors that Amazon is sending out scary letters.

The Scary Email:
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Typically, an author gets a form email out of the blue from Amazon that begins like this: “We understand that you may have manipulated product reviews.”

The letter goes on to explain that Amazon does not allow authors to manipulate product reviews.

The letter includes a link to a frequently-asked-questions page on Amazon about reviews .

It also includes a link to Amazon’s anti-manipulation policy.

The letter closes with a threat that Amazon may close the author’s publishing account “if the problem continues.”

Note how vague this is. What’s missing is any explanation of what the author might have done that’s wrong.

Obviously, an author who gets an email like this is going to have a stressful day. Most authors are honest and can’t imagine how they might have been manipulating reviews. And when they ask Amazon what they’ve done wrong, they get the unhelpful response that they’ve violated the terms of service.

It’s very hard to know why this is happening. The information I’m seeing is confusing and incomplete.

My read on the situation is the following (and this is a guess, because it’s impossible to know): Amazon knows that some authors are buying fake reviews. This has been an ongoing problem, and it’s serious. Fake reviews damage the credibility of all reviews. Amazon is a big corporation with a lot to lose when their review system loses credibility. So they set up a system to look for red flags and send warning emails to authors that might be cheating. It’s not clear if this system is fully automated, or whether there are humans involved. It appears that the system is wired a bit too tight right now—it’s sending out warnings to honest authors.

Red Flags For Reviews
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I’ve read through Amazon’s guidelines for reviewers and for authors. Here are some of the most common issues to be wary of, because they’re red flags for Amazon. Some of these are obviously dishonest. Others merely violate Amazon’s Terms of Service.

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Over the River and through the Woods: Blog Tour GUEST POST for Supervision by Alison Stine

Supervision is a YA Paranormal that just released a couple days ago. I wanted to do a guest post with Alison as part of this tour because her book centers around a creepy house. Growing up, my sister and I convinced ourselves this house on our street was haunted. Granted, it didn’t even look like a haunted house, but we would sprint past it in our asphalt stained feet just the same.

In high school, a couple of my friends visited the local haunted house and came back with some pretty wild stories of chairs moving across the room on their own. Doors closing, lights flickering–the whole thing.

Needless to say, I have a soft spot for house-stories 😀

Also, the artistic part of me admires the watercolor nature of the banner and cover. I totally want to hang this above my bed. Or on my inspiration board next to my desk and easel. Despite the creepy nature of the book.
Supervision_bannerThey are giving away three ebook copies of Supervision and 2x original graffiti art prints based on the book (which ends April 30th). How cool is that? I want book graffiti.

If you want to follow the rest of the tour, you can find the schedule here.SupervisionSomething is wrong with Esmé.

Kicked out of school in New York, she’s sent to live with her grandmother in a small Appalachian town. But something is wrong with the grandmother Ez hasn’t seen for years; she leaves at midnight, carrying a big black bag. Something is wrong with her grandmother’s house, a decrepit mansion full of stray cats, stairs that lead to nowhere, beds that unmake themselves. Something is wrong in the town where a kid disappears every year, where a whistle sounds at night but no train arrives.

And something is wrong with the cute and friendly neighbor Ez’s age with black curls and ice-blue eyes: He’s dead.

And here’s Alison!:

SUPERVISION was inspired by a very old, very strange house—but not one in my family.

Several years ago I answered an ad for a free piano. The people who were giving the instrument away lived in a huge, ruined mansion down a back road in a very small townnear my home. The house looked completely out of place: three stories tall (with a ballroom and marble fireplaces inside) on top of a hill in nowhere Ohio.

Later I learned it had probably been the home of one of the nearby coal mine owners orlocal iron “industrialists” but the house had fallen into disrepair over the years. The people who rented it were moving—and getting rid of that piano, which, yes, I did take and still play today—because their utility bills were so high, trying to heat that behemoth of a house.

I would find excuses to drive past the house, an hour out of my way. I even looked into renting or buying it, but I could never find a listing. There was no way I could have afforded the heating bills, either, anyway. I just couldn’t figure out why the house was calling to me.

And then I started writing a book called SUPERVISION…

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Why Downton Abbey Rocks and What it Means for Your Story: Guest Post by Randy Ingermanson

Downton_AbbeyDownton Abbey is the outrageously popular TV series set in the home of an aristocratic British family during the years 1912 through 1920.

On the face of it, the show’s popularity makes no sense. 1912? What was happening in 1912? Oh yeah, the Titanic, but what else?

Why is Downton Abbey getting such incredible reviews? Why has it won six Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe? Why has it become the best-selling DVD box set on Amazon?

In a word, it’s story. Downton Abbey is packed full of story.

And what does “story” mean, precisely?

Story is characters in conflict. Characters with impossible dreams. Characters willing to do anything to reach their dreams.

Let’s look at the characters of Downton Abbey and their impossible dreams.

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