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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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photo found here

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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photo found here

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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How to set goals for NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo starts on Saturday!

(on your mark…)

If you’re not familiar with NaNo, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. Basically, almost writer on the planet holes up for 30 days to scratch out 50,000 words on a fury of caffeine and chocolate snacks. Some over achievers actually spit out an entire novel. If you make the 50k word goal, you won!

But I’m a NaNo rebel. While I do like Twitter word sprints and inspirational posts, I usually adjust the 50k goal so my body doesn’t putter out with migraines around week two (which it usually does).

And, I figure if I share my goals publicly this year, I will be held accountable.

(get set….)
nanowrimo-logo

Here are my goals (Dream big at this stage—we’re going to edit goals later):

  • finish line editing RBRP
    which includes Luka’s POV
    importing my stack of hard edits
  • receive and incorporate feedback from my 3 readers
  • send to other 3 readers, receive and incorporate feedback
  • go over agent list to query
  • research self pubbing more (I’ve been really waffling with RBRP on this)
  • start drafting TPT—30k
  • move back into posting twice a week

Here’s a dose of reality (very important if I want to set realistic goals for myself. Remember to take into account holidays, illnesses, and even a freebee day or two.):

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The Makings of a Book Cover: The Undead: Playing for Keeps Blog Tour by Elsie Elmore

Want a FREE copy? Not only can you enter the Goodreads GIVEAWAY here, enter the RAFFLECOPTER GIVEAWAY here. Or–leave a comment below to win a ereader copy (courtesy of Xpresso Book Tours). I will use a random number generator next Sunday at 11:59 EST to select this winner.

You can also buy the book on Amazon and at Barns and Nobles.
The_Undead_tourThe_UndeadI’m excited to be here on Abby J. Reed’s blog to talk about my new release,

The Undead: Playing for Keeps. I’ve known Abby for two years, but it seems much longer. We started as classmates in an online class, then became CPs. She’s an awesome writer and artist, which makes her blog the perfect places to share the journey to make my cover.

Step 1 : Complete the info sheet

Curiosity Quills, my publisher, has created an awesome information sheet for their authors. The goal is to think about the cover in a visceral way: what colors should be present? What emotions should the image evoke? What feeling should resonate with the reader? Bottom line.. What gut reaction do you want? The immediate answer has “buy me” somewhere buried in there, but that is not the focus. Your cover needs to reflect some element of the story.

I turned to my CP’s and beta readers to poll their thoughts as well. This worksheet was first completed in December, less than a month after I signed the contract with CQ, and then again in March. Looking back, my December ideas were a little vague. But after working with an editor for a few months, my cover ideas became more clear and better represented the story the second time around.

Colors and feelings were two components I needed to address during this process. For colors, I thought of reds and blacks (this probably had a lot to do with the fact that red is my favorite color.) And feelings… I wanted the reader to feel a sense of mystery and maybe a touch of foreboding when they looked at the cover.

Step 2 : Sketch out a few ideas.

The Undead is told through two different POVs (thanks to the editing process). Part of the story comes from Eric, a grim reaper. Since there were so many YA books with pictures of girls on the front, I decided I’d rather focus on Eric than Lyla. I sketched out a few ideas that might represent the story line. Eric’s music was always a key element I wanted to highlight.Undead1

Step 3 : Meet the artist

I was introduced to Alexandria Thompson from GothicFate.com in the beginning of April. She was the graphic artist I was assigned by CQ. (Go now, check out her work here and see why I was thrilled with the match-up.)

But a few days before we made contact, a new idea came to me… a male hand holding a set of keys. I can’t deny that the idea felt brilliant. Especially if the tokens on the key chain represented different facets of the story. So when Alexandria and I started exchanging emails, I shared my thoughts.Undead2

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Patience and Paintings

I’ve talked about patience before, but it’s blindsided me again this week and I thought I’d talk about it again.

I so badly want to be finished editing RBRP, I can taste the finish line, especially with twitter contests and PitchWars and WriteonCon and conferences and more more more fabulous books being published. I so badly want to be there.

But I am not finished line editing yet.

It’s so hard to be patient. SO hard to be patient to make RBRP the quality I know it can be.
Eagle for pre Animal ModuleAnd it reminds me so much of painting.

Again, I’ve mentioned this before, but with watercolor–ESPECIALLY with watercolor–you need a tremendous amount of patience.

When you lay down a layer of paint (called a wash), it has to completely dry before the next layer. Otherwise you end up with ugly squiggly marks called blossoms. You also have to plan out the painting, because removing mistakes is really hard to do. You have to incorporate them or scrub them out, which is not guaranteed to work.

Patience guarantees a higher quality of art.

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My #1 Secret For Being Productive: Guest Post by Randy Ingermanson

(I think this is a great advice that can be used in any area of life, not just for those who are managing a writing schedule)

schedule

original photo found here: http://goo.gl/LpQM4o

People ask me all the time how I get so much done. There’s an easy answer, but it’s not very helpful. The easy answer is that I “put the big rocks in first.”

I’m sure everybody has heard the parable about the guy who puts a bunch of big rocks into a bucket. The bucket looks full, but it isn’t, because he then pours in a bunch of gravel around the big rocks. The bucket now looks full, but it still isn’t, because he then pours in a bunch of sand around the gravel. The bucket now looks really full, but it isn’t, because he then pours in some water that soaks into the sand. And now the bucket is finally, really full. The moral of the story is to put the big rocks in first.

Yeah, yeah, sure, nice parable.

But how do you do that, in practical terms?

Here’s what I do:

1) Every morning, my first task is open up my Business Journal and make a list of the Big Rocks for the day. These are the main categories of tasks I’ll be working on. Typically, these are things like the following:
* Admin
* Writing
* Web site
* Marketing
* Day Job

2) If any of the Big Rocks have some obvious smaller subtasks, then I list those subtasks. In rare cases, I may need to break down the subtasks into even smaller tasks, but generally there’s no reason to go that deep.

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