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text 2018-03-08 13:42
Another Bad Review "Club"

After seeing an author recommend "Reader's Favorite" to other authors as an inexpensive alternative to Kirkus for editorial reviews it set off warning bells for me when she also mentioned she'd gotten some reviews posted to Amazon from it.

 

So, of course I decided to check it out.  Here's how it works for authors:

 

Authors can request a free review, or pay a fee for an "expedited" review.  The author's book is submitted for member readers to chose to read - I'll get to how it works on the reader's side further on.

 

The free service doesn't guarantee the author will get a review, the paid service does guarantee a review.

 

The review will be provided to the author and they can post the review in the "editorial review" section of Amazon if they want. If the review is at least 4 stars Reader's Favorite will also post the review to their site, Barnes & Noble, Google Books, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest.

 

I haven't (yet) verified if they're posting to Barnes & Noble as a consumer, but if not so far this is no problem.

 

However if you keep reading in the author area you see at least one glaring red flag.  They facilitate author review swapping:

 

 

Which we know, and authors should know, violates TOS for sites like Amazon and GoodReads, and I presume Barnes & Noble, and probably everywhere else that allows consumer reviews.

 

I also strongly feel that any author considering doing business with a company like this should not simply look at the author information, but also the reader information, and ensure the service is in complete compliance of various TOS as well as FTC regulations, prior to doing business with them.  The authors I warned about this were distressingly unconcerned about anything other than the fact that they didn't feel they personally were violating any TOS by requesting reviews by this outfit.  Nevermind the rest of how this site functions, and how those reviews are posted that do violate various TOS.

 

Which takes us to the Reader's side.  What do readers get and what are they expected to do?

 

There are some stipulations I find bothersome, but don't violate TOS, so I won't detail those here.

 

Firstly, they are required to provide a review for a book they choose to accept within 3 weeks.  But then it goes on to say if they need more time that's not a problem, and if they decide not to review a book they can just remove the book from their list.  So, that's a bit confusing.  I'll point out that requiring a review in exchange for a free book violates Amazon and GoodReads TOS.

 

However, if these reviews were simply being used as editorial reviews, this still wouldn't be a problem.  So, hang in here with me.  Moving on...

 

RF tells readers, "We will post your review on Google Books, Barnes & Noble, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and Pinterest, as well as on our website. The author can post the review in the Editorial Reviews section of their Amazon page. You can post your review anywhere you like except Amazon, Google Books and Barnes & Noble because your review will already be posted there."

 

This is problematic. They cannot post the review anywhere they like, because their reviews will violate GoodReads TOS, and probably TOS of other retailers. They cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews. They can only post them as professional reviews where professional reviews are allowed, such as their own blog or their Facebook, etc.

 

Additionally I know for a fact that these reviewers do still post their reviews as consumer reviews on Amazon, at least sometimes.  Here's why:

 

"Although this is primarily a volunteer position, we also pay a small amount for each review and a little more for priority reviews. But this money is not enough to be considered payment for your services and should instead be thought of as a gift that can add up to a tidy sum over a couple of months. In addition, every month one lucky reviewer will win $100 in a raffle-style giveaway."

 

Not only are authors paying Reader's Favorite, but the reviewers are being paid per review.  They're also being entered into a cash drawing.  THIS means their reviews cannot be posted as consumer reviews on Amazon or GoodReads, and if/when they are they are violating TOS.

 

 

And, a chance to win free books.  Also means posting these reviews as a consumer review would violate TOS:

 

 

 

 

And, it gets worse.  Reader's Favorite only publishing a review if it's a least 4 stars is one thing, since presumably they're doing it as editorial/professional reviews. On the reader side I saw no stipulation that they could not post a less than 4 star review wherever they choose to post the review.  Although from information provided on the author's side, which you'll see below, it strongly suggests that member readers will be advised not to post a less-than-4-star review publicly, possibly in verbiage not visible until/unless one is a member.

 

However, Reader's Favorite does allow authors to "review the review", and "provide feedback" so the reviewer can "improve".  Which is problematic, when these reviewers are not specifically and firmly advised they cannot post their reviews as consumer reviews.

 

The information about this provided to authors is even more problematic:

 

"If a book receives less than 4 stars no official review is given. Instead, the reviewer will write constructive criticism to let the author know what problems they had with the book and offer any suggestions they may have to improve it. This will be about the size of a regular review and will be sent to the author privately; it will not be posted publicly. We are here to help authors, not hurt them.

Although we as a company do not interfere with what rating a reviewer gives a book, as the rating must be what the reviewer feels is appropriate, we do monitor the average ratings of our reviewers to ensure they are being fair and honest about their ratings to maintain the integrity of our reviews."

 

"Because it is critical that reviewers provide quality reviews, we invite you to Review your Reviewer. When your review is complete, you will be able to login to your Author's Area and rate your reviewer on a 5-star scale and provide a short review, just as they did for you. Your feedback is presented to the reviewer to help them improve their skills, the same way book reviews help authors improve theirs. The information is also passed to the Readers' Favorite staff to help us ensure the quality of our reviewers and reviews."

 

A lot of red flags there, this careful language suggests that reviewers will be monitored and rewarded/penalized if the "quality" of their reviews is not considered "fair", by the company, which I don't think it's unreasonable to consider it likely to mean keeping their overall rating/review average high, to keep authors happy.

 

And even more problems - an author I was talking to about this quoted information from their site that I have been unable to locate, it's possible it's visible only to those that have accounts in a member's area.  This is what she posted and said was from their site:

 

"Goodreads also has restrictions regarding reviews posted by professional review companies, so we ask our reviewers to use their personal Goodreads account to post your review. If you do not see our review on your Goodreads page then the reviewer does not have a Goodreads account. However, you can post the review yourself. You can either post an excerpt of your review in your book's description or you can post our complete review like any other reader's review. Be sure to keep the first line showing the review is from us, then it makes no difference who actually posts it."

 

Those of you familiar with GR will see how this is problematic.  Sure, if an author quotes a professional review in their own review space with the designation "Review From Author", GoodReads might let that fly, although it definitely still is a violation of TOS and should only be posted in areas where promotional information is allowed, not a review.

 

The statement also doesn't specify this definitely would not be acceptable for non-authors.  GoodReads doesn't allow people to post professional reviews as long as they do so from their personal accounts, or as long as they credit where the review is from.  GoodReads doesn't allow commercial/professional reviews to be posted as reader reviews, at all.

 

 

Unfortunately this service is attractive to indie authors who think editorial reviews are important, and the cost of Kirkus is prohibitive, or the review they received from Kirkus was not suitable for promotional purposes. The authors I spoke to who used this service hadn't even bothered to look at the reader side of things, although did admit to being pleased they'd received reviews posted to Amazon as consumer reviews.

 

In my opinion this service is very close to the scam the coupon clubs had been running, convincing the unwary they were in compliance with Amazon TOS when they were very much not.  And I wanted to warn other readers about this particular service, what it's doing, why it's a problem. I also think it's a safe bet there are many others like it out there.

 

 

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review 2017-11-22 15:43
Funny Amazon Reviews Aren't So Funny When Read Out Loud
Funny Amazon Reviews - Jane Lynch,Jane Lynch,Audible Comedy

I woke up this morning, let out the dog and stepped my bare foot into a steaming pile of cat vomit one of my furry demons so thoughtfully left for me on the mat nearest the door. Last week it was mouse innards (On My NAKED Foot!!) so I know from personal experience that it could always be worse. Much worse, actually. Still, after that stellar start to the morning I needed a little laugh on my commute to work before I started thinking bad thoughts and decided to give this one a listen.

 

Maybe it's my current sour mood or just the fact that I've already read 80% of these funny reviews on Amazon, but listening to them barely made me crack a smile. I think they work better on Amazon where you can actually see the product they're riffing on, especially the wolf shirt. You've got to see that wolf shirt if you haven't already. It's also a helluva lot more fun when you can read the accompanying funny reviews of the item because usually once someone starts it spirals into a page filled with wacky reviews.

 

I'll give this a three because I guess I liked it a little.

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review 2017-10-31 16:14
Amazon Reviews Exposed: The Truth about Amazon Reviews - Timo Hofstee

Amazon Reviews Exposed: The Truth about Amazon Reviews by Timo Hofstee
Found this book informative because I've heard of others losing all their book reviews that they had posted.
Makes sense some of the rules, but not sure why on some others. Like especially the parts about how to contact others who will read and post reviews on your books.
And why swapping with another author is not the way to go and if you get caught paying others to write a review. Publishers give me ARC copies and I don't know the authors, I just really like to read.
Math is interesting in how the figure out the logistics of it all.

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text 2016-10-27 18:56
Presenting... Amazon's Early Reviewer Program!!!

 

Initally discovered posted on Reddit of all places.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=202094910

 



What is the Early Reviewer Program?

The Early Reviewer Program encourages customers who have already purchased a product to share their authentic experience about that product, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. Amazon shoppers depend on reviews to learn more about products, and this program helps to acquire early reviews on products that have few or no reviews, helping shoppers make smarter buying decisions. Customers who have purchased a product participating in the Early Reviewer Program may be asked to write a review and those customers who submit a review within the offer period will receive a small reward (e.g. a $1-$3 Amazon.com Gift Card) for helping future shoppers.

1. Can I trust these reviews?

Yes. We are not giving free products or discounts to these reviewers. We only ask customers who have already purchased the product to share their authentic experience, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. This program is not limited to elite reviewers - we want to hear from all of our customers as long as they have no history of abusive or dishonest reviews.

2. How are reviewers selected for this program?

We want authentic reviews, and we want them from all of our customers, not just a select few. We select at random from all customers who have purchased products participating in this program, as long as they have no history of abusive or dishonest reviews and meet our eligibility criteria. We do not disclose at the time of purchase whether a product is participating in the program because we want to hear from customers who have authentically chosen to buy that product without any knowledge of a future reward. Not all products are participating in this program and not all buyers of participating products will receive reward offers to write a review. We want this program to generate enough reviews to help shoppers make smarter buying decisions; this is not a rewards program intended to encourage purchases. Amazon employees, participating sellers and their friends and family are not eligible to participate in this program.

3. How are reviews rewarded.

Reviewers will receive a small reward (e.g., a $1-$3 Amazon.com Gift Card) after they have submitted an authentic review within the offer period which meets our community guidelines. This small reward is given to thank reviewers for sharing their authentic experience, regardless of whether it is a 1-star or 5-star review. The nature of the review does not affect the reward or the chance of getting future rewards.

4. How will I know if a product has a review from Early Reviewer Program?

Early Reviewer Program reviews are identified with an orange badge that reads "Early Reviewer Rewards".

5. Can sellers influence these reviews or reviewers participating in this program?

No. Sellers can select products to participate in this program but they do not have any influence over which customers are selected to receive the reward offers or the content of the customer reviews. Sellers are also prohibited from communicating with customers about their reviews. Amazon does not modify or remove reviews from the Early Reviewer Program, as long as they comply with our community guidelines.

 

*************************************************


OK, Amazon's has a long haul ahead of it trying to get all these incentivized reviews under control, so I'll never fault them for trying- despite their complicity and complacency with it.  But is anyone else thinking this is another cobblestone on that Road to Hell?

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text 2016-07-22 20:49
Amazon (Finally) Suing Sellers Over Fake Reviews

(reblogged from MarketingLand.com)

 

 

 
amazon-orange-1920

 

One of Amazon’s most appealing features is the unbiased reviews provided to members. Unfortunately, it turns out that some sellers have taken it upon themselves to feed fake reviews to their customers-to-be. This wouldn’t be a prudent idea. Amazon is (and has been) suing those sellers that are buying positive reviews.

 

Amazon has previously sued to stop websites that sell fake Amazon reviews, along with individuals offering to write fake reviews. This latest batch of lawsuits is against the companies that buy fake reviews for their products.

 

A story from TechCrunch this week reports that three new lawsuits were brought against sellers where the fake reviews made up 30 percent to 45 percent of the overall reviews. According to TechCrunch, the defendants are Michael Abbara of California, Kurt Bauer of Pennsylvania and a Chinese company called CCBetter Direct.

 

We reached out to Amazon for comment and received the following in regard to these cases:

While we cannot comment on active litigation, we can share that since the beginning of 2015, we have sued over 1,000 defendants who offered to post fake reviews for payment. We are constantly monitoring and will take action against abusive sellers by suspending and closing their accounts and by taking further legal action. Our goal is to eliminate the incentives for sellers to engage in review abuse and shut down this ecosystem around fraudulent reviews in exchange for compensation. Lawsuits are only one piece of the puzzle. We are working hard on technologies that allow us to detect and take enforcement action against perpetrators while also preventing fake reviews from ever surfacing. As always, it is important for customers to know that these remain a very small fraction of the reviews on Amazon and we introduced a review ranking system so that the most recent, helpful reviews appear first. The vast majority of reviews on Amazon are authentic, helping millions of customers make informed buying decisions every day.

The rules in this type of a case are fairly straightforward. Amazon has sellers agree to the following:

You may not intentionally manipulate your products’ rankings, including by offering an excessive number of free or discounted products, in exchange for a review. Review solicitations that ask for only positive reviews or that offer compensation are prohibited.

Furthermore, when sellers choose to break selling policies, they may find themselves without much recourse. The seller policies make it clear that any disputes or claims will be resolved by binding arbitration and won’t go to court and that each party waives their right to a trial.

 

So sellers take heed, if you want a good review, make sure your product/service earns it. To make sure that you are adhering to Amazon’s rules, read the full Participation Agreement in its entirety.

 

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