Amazon Improves the Integrity of the Customer Review System

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Image from ShutterStock.

AMAZON IMPROVES CUSTOMER REVIEWS

What makes customer reviews helpful to other customers, and thereby also helpful for sellers, businesses, authors, and even Amazon?

It’s when other customers can trust the review system. Without that trust, reviews become utterly useless.

BOOK REVIEW CHANGES IN 2012

Amazon made its first major improvement to the customer review system in late 2012.

That’s when Amazon blocked and removed countless reviews from probable friend and family members of authors.

Whatever Amazon did in 2012 was highly effective—perhaps not perfect, but definitely effective. If you watch indie community forums regularly, you know that on a weekly basis new authors complain about missing reviews, and it almost invariably turns out that the reviews were left by friends or family members.

Prior to the Great Purge of 2012, Amazon’s customer review system had been getting out of hand, with the problems publicized in the WSJ and NYT. Starting in 2013, the customer review system improved immensely. But it took much longer for word of the improvement to spread.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/nov/05/amazon-removes-book-reviews

It’s now fairly well-known that customers who are friends or family members of authors generally can’t leave reviews no matter how hard they try, and Amazon is very good at discerning probable relationships. Occasionally, Amazon is a little too good, blocking or removing a review of a stranger who proceeded to interact in the author’s social circles. A casualty of war.

AMAZON SUES FAKE REVIEW SITES

Amazon has recently gone a step further toward improving the integrity of the customer review system.

Now that friend-and-family reviews are very much under control, the next major problem is the paid review.

It’s a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service for authors to pay for reviews.

Examples of reviews that Amazon doesn’t allow.

Unfortunately, unethical authors have done this anyway, which hurts the integrity of the customer review system for everyone.

Authors often feel pressured into seeking reviews. For one, if the book isn’t selling, an author’s first thought is that maybe it’s because the book doesn’t have any reviews. For another, many popular book promotion sites require a minimum of 20 or so reviews just to receive consideration.

The reality is that the best way to get reviews is free and low-cost marketing combined with compelling content. Nothing is better than the natural variety of reviews that you get from just getting sales. Drive sales and the reviews will come with them.

But since there are authors seeking reviews, there are also services looking to fill this need.

Including unethical businesses and people looking to sell reviews. Again, this is a clear violation of Amazon’s terms of service. Both the business or person selling reviews and the author paying for reviews should fully expect to have their reviews removed, their accounts suspended, and to be at risk for a potential lawsuit from Amazon.

And that’s finally happening.

Amazon has begun the process by suing 1100 fake reviewers.

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/Tech/article1621058.ece

Who’s at risk?

  • Companies selling paid reviews.
  • People selling paid reviews thru sites like fiverr.
  • Authors paying for reviews.

Who benefits from this?

  • Customers will be able to trust the review system more.
  • Authors who adhere to the review guidelines will benefit from this improved trust.
  • Companies selling products on Amazon benefit similarly.
  • Amazon benefits, too. It’s a win-win-win-win situation, with the sole exception of those who have been violating the review guidelines.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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How to Make a Partially Transparent Layer in PhotoShop

Background image from ShutterStock.

Background image from ShutterStock.

TRANSPARENT IMAGE IN PHOTOSHOP

I will show you how to make a partially transparent image in PhotoShop.

Specifically, I will show this for Adobe PhotoShop CC 2015 (since I have the Creative Cloud), but it works similarly in other versions, too.

You can see in the image above a couple of examples: I added transparency to the hearts and text. If you look closely, you will see that the background shows through them.

What you actually adjust is called opacity. You reduce the opacity to a layer in PhotoShop.

First, find the window that lists your layers. This probably shows at the far right of your screen.

Next, right-click on the desired layer, i.e. the image that you wish to add transparency to.

Look for Blending Options, which should be at the top of the list.

Near the top of the pop-up window, you will see the option for Opacity. It’s initially set to 100%. Reduce the opacity to create transparency.

You can type in a percentage, or you can slide the bar right or left. The scrollbar is convenient, as you can see the impact as you scroll.

The Blending Options pop-up window comes in handy. You can find a lot of other cool options here, too, like the option to create a custom gradient.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Kindle Unlimited KENP Read for September, 2015

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Image from ShutterStock.

KINDLE UNLIMITED PAGES READ FOR SEPTEMBER, 2015

Good news, I think:

Kindle Unlimited paid $0.00507 per KENP read for September, 2015.

That’s just over half a penny per page.

Why is this good news?

Because in August, 2015, Kindle Unlimited paid $0.00514 per normalized page read.

We now have two consecutive months with only a very slight change in the Amazon payment for pages read.

Recall that the payment for July was somewhat higher: $0.00580.

When July’s $0.00580 dropped to August’s $0.00514, I was concerned with this 11% drop.

I was worried about stability.

But with September’s $0.00507 roughly matching August’s $0.00514, I see prospects for stability.

It’s still early. We only have three months of data for the new Kindle Unlimited payout.

But we do have a year of data for the previous Kindle Unlimited payout, along with a few years of payouts for Amazon Prime borrows.

And that data shows that the payout tends to approach a fairly stable number (until significant changes to the program were introduced).

So there is reason to expect the payment to stabilize. Will it stabilize at or near half a penny per normalized page? Good question, but for two months in a row, that’s about what it is.

There is a little more good news, too:

The KDP Select Global Fund has risen to $12M for September, 2015.

This figure has steadily grown, and has been fairly stable.

The KDP Select Global Fund for August was $11.8M, and it was approximately $11M in May, June, and July.

This represents a very large, indie-friendly customer base. Amazon is paying over $100M per year just for KDP Select books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime.

This customer base is not just very large, its stable; if anything, it appears to be growing a little.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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You Can Extend the Deadline for AMS ads via KDP

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Image from ShutterStock.

AMS AD DEADLINE

When you create an advertisement for KDP Select books via AMS, you must choose an end date.

The end date must be within the next 6 months.

But suppose you have a successful advertisement running, but when the deadline approaches, you don’t want to stop your AMS ad campaign.

Especially, if you spent several hours handpicking books to target, and your ad is doing well; you don’t want to have to do that research again, and you might not choose such a good list next time.

Fortunately, you can extend the deadline of your KDP ad.

Extend the deadline before the ad runs its course.

When the deadline is near, simply view your AMS ad report.

Click the Edit button next to your ad.

Revise the end date. It will let you choose a date up to six months from today.

Click save.

Return to your ad report, just to check that the end date has properly updated.

When the new deadline comes up, you can repeat the process, if you want.

A FEW TIPS

The real trick is getting the AMS ad to work well enough that you actually want to extend the deadline when the time comes.

So here are a few tips:

  • Don’t overbid. Most authors can’t afford to spend 50 cents or more per click. Start out very low. Wait three days (or more) because ad report data can be significantly delayed (if it seems like nothing’s happening, wait 3 days to find out if indeed nothing is happening, or if you’ve already spent a lot of money that just hasn’t posted to your report yet because of delays). If nothing happens after a few days, raise your bid just a little. Then wait a few more days. This strategy gets you affordable clicks. It won’t drive a ton of daily traffic to your book, but it will help you generate some interest without overspending. Time is on your side. Take what you can afford to get, even if it comes very slowly. Too many authors bid much higher than they should, blowing their budgets before they realize it with little to show for it. I have several ads that perform well, with very low bids, even though it may take weeks for them to deliver significant results. Personally, I prefer to be patient and get a good return on my investment.
  • Test it out. I ran a few dozen tests in the first couple of months before I learned the most effective ways to make these ads work for my books. You’re not obligated to spend the entire $100 budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. (But if you bid high, you can blow your budget without realizing it because there can be significant delays.) So you can try an ad over a short period, then cancel it and start a new ad. Maybe you try changing your targeting list, or maybe you try a different catch phrase. Some trial and error can help you learn more effective ways to use this advertising tool.
  • Close the deal. If your sales to clicks ratio is 3% or less, this suggests that you could improve (A) your targeting or (B) your product page. Is your product page closing the deal as well as it could? Does the cover properly suggest what to expect? Does it achieve this goal in the tiny ad thumbnail, too? Does the book description arouse interest and curiosity without giving away too much? Does the Look Inside grab the reader right away? Does everything look professional? The great thing about AMS is that you can test out the performance of your product page. You can get two weeks of data, then revise your book description, get another two weeks of data, and compare. Did changing the product page actually make a difference, for better or for worse? Your AMS ad report can be a tool to help you perfect your product page. A closing rate of around 5% is reasonable achieve; a closing rate of 10% or more is rare, but it can be done. A closing rate of 1% or less isn’t good, but it happens.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Fun with English

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Image from ShutterStock.

FUN WITH ENGLISH

Language can seem funny sometimes.

§

Did you know that left can be right?

Left is right when right is dead wrong.

On what side of your body is your heart?

Left is right. Right is incorrect.

§

Similarly, wrong can be right.

Wrong is sometimes correct.

What’s a synonym for injustice?

Wrong is a correct answer. Right is dead wrong.

§

Even the word literal can’t always be taken literally.

Sometimes, we use literally to mean figuratively.

I’m hungry enough to eat an elephant.

Literally! (Just not in the literal sense…)

§

I is speaking with poor grammar, right?

You can’t say, “I is.” It has to be, “I am.”

But check this out: I is a pronoun.

Find the mistake in that.

§

Everything is something.

Nothing is something.

If A=C and B=C, then A=B, right?

So everything is nothing! (Not quite.)

§

I can be here and there at the same time.

I think of myself as being here.

You think of me as being there.

So I am both here and there; it’s all relative.

§

If you don’t have anything, you have naught.

The number zero is called the nought.

The opposite of having something, of course, is not.

It’s enough to tie your brain in a knot.

§

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

Comments

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