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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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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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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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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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