skip to Main Content
What’s The Best Way To Gather Reviews For My Book? Other Questions Answered By Orna Ross And Michael La Ronn In Our Member Q&A Podcast

What’s the Best Way to Gather Reviews for my Book? Other Questions Answered by Orna Ross and Michael La Ronn in our Member Q&A Podcast

What’s the best way to gather reviews for my book? Our #AskALLi Member Q&A is hosted by Michael La Ronn and ALLi Director Orna Ross, and this month they’ll answer this question and more.

Other questions include:

  • How do I improve my writing craft?
  • What’s the best way to self-publish literary fiction?
  • I’d like to donate profits of my book to a nonprofit. What should I be thinking about as I explore this?
  • What service should I use to create my website and blog?

Listen to the Podcast: Reviews for my Book and More

Don’t Miss an #AskALLi Broadcast

Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify.

Subscribe on iTunes   Stitcher Podcast Logo for link to ALLi podcast   Player.fm for podcasts   Overcast.fm logo   Pocket Casts Logo  

OR, sign up to get notified via email right when a broadcast is about to go live on Facebook and when a new podcast is published (#AskALLi advice on Fridays and indie inspiration on Sundays).

Watch the Q&A: Reviews for my Book and More

What's the best way to gather reviews for my book? Our #AskALLi Member Q&A is hosted by @MichaelLaRonn and @OrnaRoss, and this month they'll answer this question and more. Click To Tweet

Find more author advice, tips and tools at our Self-publishing Author Advice Center: https://selfpublishingadvice.org, with a huge archive of nearly 2,000 blog posts, and a handy search box to find key info on the topic you need.

And, if you haven’t already, we invite you to join our organization and become a self-publishing ally. You can do that at http://allianceindependentauthors.org.

Now, go write and publish!

About the Hosts

Michael La Ronn is the author of over 30 books of science fiction & fantasy and authors self-help books. His books include the Galaxy Mavericks series and Modern Necromancy series. You can now find his new writing course on Teachable.

Orna Ross launched the Alliance of Independent Authors at the London Book Fair in 2012. Her work for ALLi has seen her named as one of The Bookseller’s “100 top people in publishing”. She also publishes poetry, fiction and nonfiction, and is greatly excited by the democratising, empowering potential of author-publishing. For more information about Orna, visit her website: http://www.ornaross.com

Read the Q&A Transcript: Reviews for my Book and More

Orna Ross: Hello everyone. Hi there, and welcome to the very first ALLi Member Q&A of 2021. Hello to you wherever you are. I’m here with the wonderful Michael La Ronn, Hi Michael.

Michael La Ronn: Hi, Orna. Happy New Year.

Orna Ross: Yes, and to everyone who’s listening. It’s good that we have the magic of books, I think, writing them and reading them, to console us at the moment.

Michael La Ronn: That’s right.

Orna Ross: Yeah, it helps with lockdowns and everything else that’s going on in our crazy world right now.

So, yeah, we’ve got lots of questions as ever. Just to say, for those of you who are listening to this for the very first time, this is the Member Q&A for the Alliance of Independent Authors. It’s where our members send in questions that they would like to be answered in this public forum so that the answers can be of help to other people. So, only our members can ask the questions, but anyone can tune in to this live stream.

So, Michael, you are the man with the questions today. What have we got?

If the first book in my series is the weakest book in terms of craft, how do I get around this?

Michael La Ronn: All right. Our first question comes from member Paul, and the gist of Paul’s question is, if my first book is a first book in a series, and it’s my weakest book craft-wise, how do I get around this problem?

He’s writing a series and wants to continue improving, but realizes, kind of, looking down the road that, if it’s true that my first book is the weakest and I write a five-book series or a three-book series, how do I get around that problem? Do I re-publish, or what does that look like?

Orna Ross: Yeah, I think it very much depends on how much patience you have, Paul. So, a number of our members have chosen to actually wait until book three is complete, then go back, finish book one, and then bring the books out at an ideal, sort of, publication release timetable as well.

So, that it has two advantages. It eradicates the problem that you’re rightly identifying here, because, obviously, you do get better as the writer, the more you write and also series kind of settle in, and around book three is often both things begin to really flow.

So yeah, book one can then let the series down a little bit. So, you eradicate that problem. You go back, you know, you write the three of them, then you go back and do a final polish across the first three, and then you begin to publish, and you’ve got three books there while you’re working on book four. That’s probably ideal, but, or maybe Michael won’t agree, because we sometimes disagree on these kinds of things, but the other option is to just not worry too much and just realize, look, my first book is my first book, I’m just going to crack on, I’m putting it out there and I will get better as I go, and the more books I write, the less important that first book is going to seem to me. I know this is something that you do say a lot, Michael, which is that the author is the worst judge, actually, of the value of the book, and it’s only in putting it out there and getting reader responses that you understand what the true value of the book is. So, there are arguments for both sides and it really depends on which suits your personality, I think.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree. I think that when you publish your first book, that is a monument to your skill level at that time. Dean Wesley Smith says all the time, your book is a measure of a talent at a point in time, no more, no less. And you are a terrible judge of your work, and so, that said, I can understand the sentiment, right? Because if you write a three-book series, and maybe you’re struggling with craft, it makes sense that maybe you would want to go back and look at it. But I think, to me personally, I would just focus on making sure that the series is as well edited as you can make it.

So, if this is a problem for you, if you’re worried about it, hire editors and make sure you hire the right editors. And if you do that, then you really don’t have to worry as much about the craft piece.

Sure, will there be things in the story that you could have done better? Of course, I think we all have that problem. I wouldn’t worry about it and, you know, if you’re thinking about hiring an editor again or republishing, that sort of thing, just do it right the first time. Do the very best you can, knowing that you’re going to have some problems, and just move on to the next book. In my opinion, it’s far better to spend your time and resources on the next book than it is to dwell on a book that you wrote two or three books ago.

Orna Ross: Exactly. Keep on moving on and keeping productivity as your main goal. So, getting the books out. So, essentially whatever helps you to get them written and done and dusted in your own mind, I think, is the way to go on this one.

How do I get reviews for my children’s book?

Michael La Ronn: I agree. All right. Linda’s question is next, and Linda basically has two children’s books using Amazon KDP, and she’s in the process of writing the third book in her series. But her problem is that she needs reviews and doesn’t seem to be able to get them. She joined NetGalley, but they want a minimum of three reviews before posting ads, and she feels like she’s stuck. And so, the question is, what’s the best way to get reviews for my book?

Orna Ross: Okay, so a few things we can recommend here. First of all, we have a downloadable short book called, Your First 50 Reviews, and while it is geared towards general getting of reviews and not everything that applies there applies to children’s books, most of it does. So, begin with a general knowledge of how indie authors get reviews would be the first thing. But of course, as a children’s author, you’re coming up against the problem that the person who buys the book is not the person that the book is aimed for.

So, it’s the child who is going to appreciate the book and then you’re relying on parents or maybe teachers to put the review up. So, we have a few members who have definitely got around this problem, and I’d like to recommend Karen Inglis who is our children’s book advisor, if you want to get directly in touch with Karen. And if you’ve already posted this query in the private members forum, I actually did link Karen to you today, or else it was to somebody else who had the very same question. But if you look in the private members Facebook group, you will see Karen’s details are tagged there and she will come back and answer when she gets a chance.

So, yeah, the two things you can do immediately is download the short guide to getting reviews and get in touch with Karen, who will definitely be able to help you.

Michael La Ronn: All right. I would also, you know, this may not be a good recommendation for this specific question, for children’s books, but in general, I would recommend Book Sirens. It’s a fairly new service, and the really cool thing about it is it’s really slick. Basically, you create an account and then you post your book on Book Sirens, and then it’s almost like a BookBub-esq service, where they have readers that also sign up for the service and then they blast your book out to all their readers, and then the readers that sign up, or that sign up to download your book, that’s when you pay. So, they kind of take care of some of the vetting for you, and then they also provide some curation, and the great thing about Book Sirens is that they are Amazon compliant. So, that’s another really cool way. So, they’re growing like gangbusters. I would definitely recommend that everybody check them out, because they’ve got a really cool model and that could be a great way to get some reviews.

Orna Ross: Yes, and we’re delighted to be hopefully welcoming them as a partner member because we really like what they’re doing and how they’re doing, and Michael, wearing his other hat of outreach manager brought them to ALLi’s attention. So, yeah, I had a look myself and the service looks very interesting. I think, particularly, as they grow the reader side and perhaps then they will get to actually segmenting the readers into genre groups, at which point it will become extremely useful for somebody like our questioner there, who’s in a very specific niche genre.

Michael La Ronn: Exactly, and then to cover this, because I know people are probably thinking about it, some other ways; asking people directly in your audience is a smart way to get reviews, using your email list. If you have some people on your email list, ask them for that. Making sure that you ask for reviews in your front and back matter is also a pretty smart strategy.

And then also there are ARC groups out there on, I don’t know about Facebook so much, but I know Goodreads there some out there, but you’ve got to be a little careful with those because you can get yourself in some hot water. But those are some of the other ways that you can get reviews for those of you who are listening, who may be thinking, well, I don’t write children’s books, what about me?

Orna Ross: Sure. Great.

Will a publisher take over all aspects of publishing a book with a very small target audience?

Michael La Ronn: Okay. Next question is from Rick, and Rick says, I already self-published a book on Amazon, I’m looking for a publisher who will take over all aspects of production, distribution, permission licenses, marketing, and promotion, are there any reputable publishers out there who are interested in books with a very small target audience i.e., books, which won’t make them a lot of money?

What do we think, Orna?

Orna Ross: Short answer is, no. And not in any way laughing at you, but it’s kind of hollow laughter because, of course, that is what every author would love to have.  Maybe not every author, actually, I’m exaggerating because there are lots of indie authors, including myself, who love the publishing process. But certainly, when I was younger, I felt that was what I wanted, and I know a lot of authors dream of having somebody who would come in and take all the work away so they could just write books. It just doesn’t work that way.

So, the only way you’re going to be attractive to a publisher who is going to invest their time on their money in your book is if they feel they’re going to get a return on that investment.

So, if it’s a small niche that you’re after indie, publishing is your way. Having said that, there are people you can hire who will help you for different aspects of the actual seven processes of publishing. So, every book that you publish needs to be brought through essentially seven processes; editing, design, production, distribution, marketing, promotion, and the rights permissions that you mentioned.

So, managing those is undoubtedly a task, but there are lots of services, like we were just talking about Book Sirens there who can help you with the book marketing aspects of reviews. There are various services that you can hire, but if you are going after a niche and you want people to read the book, then you’re going to have to upskill and develop some publishing skills.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah. Rick, it’s tough. It’s one of those things where we want to write the book and we don’t want to do much more than that, because that’s where we add the most value, because we’re writers and we want to write books. But in today’s environment, I just caution you on this, not so much because what we believe is that you are the creative director of your career, only you can be the one to really control things if you want to control them. But another area you’ve got to be careful with is that, say you do find some white-knight publisher that says, hey, we’ll take care of everything. If your book has a small audience and you know it, are you really okay with giving them a percentage of commissions and possibly your copyright for a book that’s not going to sell very many copies anyway. So, one of the things we’ve got to be careful about is the scamming piece, and if you’re in that position, it makes it really easy for somebody to come in and not do very much at all and, you know, take a percentage of your royalties and it’s just not ideal.

So, it’s kind of one of those things where, maybe when AI comes, you know, we’ll have robots that can take care of everything for us, but for n ow, we have to be the ones to really control all that.

Orna Ross: Yeah, and I think, even when the robots come, and they can’t come quick enough, being a publisher is about lots of things. If you’re writing for a niche audience, you clearly have thought about something that a lot of authors don’t think about, because the most common answer I get when talking to authors about who is your book for, at the beginning is, everybody, everybody would enjoy it. So, if you realize this is a niche audience you’re writing for, you’re already ahead of where people need to be in terms of positioning, which is one of the key three layers of marketing.

We’ve got author platform, and then positioning and placement of the book, and then the promotion. So, when you’re starting off, you look at everything that has to be done and your heart kind of quails and you think, how am I going to manage all this, it’s impossible? But actually, it isn’t impossible, and we have thousands of members who are successfully producing and publishing, which is more than producing, books every day, reaching their readers and selling them, and earning an income. Some of them earning a living, some of them doing extremely well. So, it is possible for you to do what needs to be done, it is not possible for you to get somebody to invest their time and money into something that has no return for them.

So, good luck, and if you need to discuss this more, a lot of this is around mindset and positioning yourself as to what you want to do next, and if you need to discuss that more, it will make a very interesting post, I think, in the author forum. Okay, so best of luck, Rick.

Is self-publishing suited to literary fiction?

Michael La Ronn: Yep. All right, and the next question is from Angie, and she said that, I was hoping someone could speak about self-publishing literary fiction, everything I read seems to indicate that it’s a massive struggle and that self-publishing is much better suited to genre fiction, what advice or guidance would you offer?

Orna Ross: I think this is a misconception. I think literary fiction is a genre like any other, and so is poetry. So, this is a misconception and I know where the misconception comes from. It’s because literary fiction is very visible in trade publishing and it’s pretty invisible in indie publishing, but it is actually present in both sectors in roughly the same amounts, it’s just that it’s very privileged and very public. So, in trade publishing, all the prizes, and the reviews, and everything in the fiction world center around the literary genre, and crime, romance, other genres like that, get a tiny little column in the newspaper in your review supplement. And that’s because, I think, quite simply, the mainstream newspaper producers and the audience that the type of paper that has a review supplement, the audience that they’re aiming at is a particular type of audience, and so it’s pitched there. When you come to indie publishing, you’ve got the whole wide world and you’ve got literary fiction is a small genre within all the genre, the fiction, the multi, the umbrella-genre fiction, if you like.

So, it’s a minority sport, literary fiction, more readers like story, they like pure genre, they might like a number of different genre, but they have expectations of the book and they know what they want. So, the big, big, what we call the whale readers, the people who read masses of books each year tends to read you know, romantic fiction, crime fiction, and so on.

But literary fiction is a genre, just like any other. It has its conventions. It has the kind of covers that sell well. It has the readers; you just need to find them and go where they are. So, it’s just as possible, in fact, I would argue with my be easier at the moment to do well in literary fiction because there are so few Indies doing it well, compared to the romance genre or the crime genre where Indies really know what they’re doing.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, I agree, Orna. I think it’s a misconception. I also think that traditionally published, I have to be careful how I say this, I think that people who read literary fiction are still a little averse to reading self-published writers, that just is what it is. But I do think that, as you see more consolidation of traditional publishers, I think there’s going to be more literary fiction authors that peek their head out of the sand and say, hey, wait a minute, maybe I could self-publish this book and do fine at it because I’ve got an existing audience.

So, I think it’s early days for literary fiction. I think they’re just behind where we are in genre fiction right now, and I think that there will be a day, sometime in the future, when it’s perfectly acceptable to self-publish literary fiction. I think those authors just haven’t broken out yet. And so, maybe you have an opportunity. I think that if you decide to do it this way, which I recommend, I don’t see why you wouldn’t. The key though, is to really study books that are similar to yours in your genre and you need to hire a cover designer who can design you something that looks almost identical, it has to be almost nearly identical to what a traditional publisher would make. So that when a reader looks at it, they don’t think, oh, this is self-published they think, oh, this looks like a great book that I want to read, and then they just happened to find out that it’s self-published. And investing in a good editor, probably multiple editors, to catch as many typos as you can. Your goal is to make your book as indistinguishable from a traditionally published book as possible to give yourself the best chance. Now five-seven years from now, that’ll be a little bit different.

But in the meantime, that would be my focus. If you’re going to self-publish, you have to do it at the top, as high caliber as you can, and really, really study the genre.

Orna Ross: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Literary fiction is actually one of my own genres, so I’m quite familiar here, and I can tell you that it is very possible to shift books, but it does need promotion and it does need to be targeted.

You need to know what you’re doing, and those sales tend to fall away. So, there is much more a of a peak and trough, would be my experience in literary fiction and poetry than in other genre. That’s one thing, but a good side of that is, you actually do better in terms of making your book indistinguishable, and Michael’s absolutely right, and in fact, they may never find out you’re self-published, because readers don’t even think about this very much, how a book is published, unless you give them reason to identify that. So, literary fiction and poetry are actually genres where you should not price indie author pricing, it’s the exact opposite. My experience, and the experience of other literary writers that I know is that, when you price your book to low, you actually lose readers, they don’t come through because they go, oh, that book is cheap, therefore it’s not good. They have a completely different mindset to the whale reader who wants, you know, subscription reading so they can read as many books as possible, as cheaply as possible. It’s the opposite mindset. And this is why we’re always emphasizing genre and niche and categories and things, because readers are not one big enemas who all behave the same.

Are there companies that can help new self-publishing writers?

Michael La Ronn: Yep. I agree. We have a question in the chat from Michelle Little, she asks, are there startup companies that help or assist writers who self-publish?

Orna Ross: I presume, Michelle, that you mean when the writer is starting out. Yes, there are a few companies that will help you from, sort of, what is the American saying, soup to nuts, the whole thing from start to finish, but if you intend to publish it, I think they are they’re great for the one book publisher, and maybe for the first time out, if you’re really lacking in confidence and you feel you cannot do any of this yourself, it can be useful. But if you intend to publish more, as you go forward, almost everybody I know who has used a full-service publisher ends up going out on their own on book two or book three and looking back and wishing that they had done so from the start.

So, if you’re going to do more than one book, you need to learn the skills of publishing and that’s what being an indie author is all about. So, you would pay a lot of money, even to a very good reputable company, because these are labor intensive, time intensive processes; they’re not done quickly and easily. Editing is particularly expensive. Also, you may find that it’s just not a fit, it can take a long time to find the right person. Now, we do have some good partners that we recommend in our member directory, so you can have a look there if that’s the route you want to go. And we have a number of members who look back and say, well, look, I’m happy I did go that way in the first place, because I just would never have done it if it was left to me doing a DIY, I just wouldn’t have known where to start, and it was just too much. So yeah, if that’s the way that you’re thinking of going, you certainly can.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and our ratings directory is at selfpublishingadvice.org/ratings, for anyone who’s interested in that. But I echo what Orna said. You can hire somebody to help you, but you’re going to get two or three books in and realize, I could’ve done all this myself. So, check out all of our articles, all of our books, if you’re a member look at our guidebooks. This is kind of why ALLi exists. It’s to help you self-publish with excellence, and you can absolutely do all this stuff yourself.

It is overwhelming. I know when I first started, there’s a sheer mountain of things that you have to learn, and I know that that’s off putting for a lot of people because really, you know, to go back to one of the earlier questions, you just want to write. But if you want to be a true publisher, you know, a true author-publisher, then there are other things you have to master and it’s a learning curve, but when you get on the other end of that curve, you’ll be glad that you took the time to do it.

Orna Ross: Absolutely.

Michael La Ronn: And your wallet will be heavier as well if you don’t spend the money on investing in someone to do things for you that you probably need to learn how to do yourself.

Orna Ross: Definitely, and I think it’s really important to also note how much being your own publisher improves your writing, because that direct contact with your reader that you don’t get if somebody else does it all for you and, you know, that contact is sometimes not even getting feedback from them, but having to think about what appeals to your readers in a cover, for example, will take you into all sorts of questions about what your value is to the reader, and stuff like this feeds directly back into your writing.

So, while book one definitely takes a long time and there are lots of different processes to think about, book two is much, much easier, and book three, you know, once you get to book three, you’re not even thinking about things like covers, you’re looking forward to them. They’re part of the process that you will enjoy, the production and distribution stuff you have it nailed, you know how to do that. It becomes really quite easy and you can publish a book, get it all sorted quite easily then, but at the beginning, it is challenging but the commercial and creative rewards, I think, make it well worthwhile.

Well, that’s what we think anyway.

I’d like to donate the profits of my book to a nonprofit, what should I be thinking about?

Michael La Ronn: Yep, agree. All right. This next question, I love this question, but it is a long question so bear with me, Orna. This is from Christine and she says, I plan to donate a percentage of the profits from my book to two non-profit organizations. At first, I put a notice that I was doing that in the book itself, I presume on the front matter, but then I took it out.

One reason I deleted was that maybe I would change my mind at some point in the future. So, I decided to put it on my website instead that I was donating to these non-profits. Another reason was that I would like to ask the head of one of these organizations to give me an endorsement.

Now, I don’t think that’s a conflict of interest, but do you? And if I put a notice on my website that I am donating profits to the organizations, do the endorsements look like a conflict of interest? Do I have to choose between getting an endorsement and donating to these organizations? I just want to keep my options open.

So, to summarize this, I’d like to donate the profits of my book to a non-profit, what should I be thinking about as I explore this?

Orna Ross: Yeah. Good for you, first of all, that’s great. I’m assuming a non-fiction book. And I think, in terms of a conflict of interest, personally, I would see no conflict of interest in an open, transparent arrangement, whereby the non-profit that you’re donating to approves of the book and you approve of the non-profit, and you make that approval, obvious in whatever way you want.

In terms of the endorsement, I think the thing to do would be to leave that very open and to ask for it in a certain kind of way. So, obviously you’re not talking about, you know, I’m giving the donation on the basis that I get the endorsement, and I don’t think you are, but it is to make it very clear that that’s not what this is about.

The only thing I would question actually is why two? Two organizations for one book seems, to me, like not the best of ideas, just in terms of it’s going to fragment everything. And I think what you’re looking at is trying to create a very positive relationship that works well on both sides and everybody wins, you know, the people that the nonprofit takes care of, they’re winners, the actual non-profit organization itself is a winner, and you too deserve to have your efforts, and so on, acknowledged.

So, that would be my main question, why two? You could always do one for one book, and another for another, but I think dividing it two, you know, I would question why you’re doing that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, that’s a great point, I agree with that. Where my mind went with this was, I don’t see a conflict of interest at all. In fact, I think getting an endorsement from the director would help you sell more books, because it would show that you’re really on board with this cause, so I think that’s a great idea.

The only thing I would be careful of, and this is just kind of based on things I’ve seen other authors do in the past and get them into trouble, is just to make sure that you do what you say you’re going to do. If you’re going to donate to a non-profit, donate the proceeds to the non-profit.

You mentioned earlier in your question, I want to reserve the right to change my mind later, because what you don’t want to do is not be giving your royalties to the non-profit, but your book says you’re giving the royalties to the non-profit.

So, what I would do is I would set a date on when you say that you’re giving your book. So, I’ve seen some people say, book sales from the first quarter of this book’s life for the first month or the first year are going to go toward X non-profit. That way, when you put a date on it, you can kind of leave it there if you want, or you can take it out later, but you’re kind of leaving the door open that, okay. I’m going to stop donating the profits at this date. Because I think people understand, you know, you’re probably not going to donate all of your profits or all of your sales to this organization. So, when you put a date on it, if you continue donating after that point, cool. But if you don’t, then you’ve at least given yourself that hard date. It’s important from an ethics perspective to make sure that you’re doing what you say you’re going to do, because nothing will tarnish your reputation faster than that. And I think you understand that by virtue of your question, you’re worried about that ethics piece.

So, I don’t think you have to worry about that, because you’re probably already thinking about this, but just for the broader audience, I think it’s important to call that out.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and I think just on a small technicality, but useful, is the idea that you would put it on your website rather than on your book. I think generally, as a general rule of thumb for everything that is liable to change at some point, that’s a good thing to think about.

I see crazy things going into books and then the author forgot that they put it in. Four years later, you’re still getting something that is clearly out of date.

So, try to keep project evergreen in your books, just to keep everything as evergreen as can. Anything that’s subject to change, put it on your website. But yeah, absolutely. So, to summarize, keeping everything as open, as transparent as possible, and communicating directly with the people that you’re going to work with and making it a partnership essentially, and no conflict of interest in that.

Why do some books get banned from Amazon?

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, and I guess maybe our final question, Orna, is a question in the chat from Hawkins and Hawkins asked, a bunch of romance authors got banned by Amazon without explanation a while back. He gives some examples, we won’t list those names, but do you know anything about why they got banned?

Orna Ross: Well, there won’t be one reason, probably. So yes, this happens, and we would always wish their explanations were more forthcoming though we do understand how, not just Amazon, but other providers that our hands are tied very often by their legal requirements and departments and documents in, you know, they’re limited in what they can say about certain things, but we have had, of course, members who have been affected by this over the years. It’s not just something that happened just a while back, it’s a consistent thing that happens over time. Sometimes it’s down to the authors, some behavior that the author either didn’t realize was against Amazon’s rules and regulations, or they did, and they just did it anyway.

Sometimes there isn’t a clear answer from the author’s perspective or from our perspective on investigation, we cannot get a clear answer as to why it happens. We do take up, on behalf of our members, we do take up these cases when they arise and follow them through with our own internal Amazon contact. So, that’s something that can be done on an individual basis, but there’s no way I can stand here and say, here’s a blanket reason why X, Y, and Z had their books taken down.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, Hawkins just posted, there was speculation that they put Erotica books in the romance category. I don’t know, Hawkins, it’s hard to know. That’s between them and Amazon, really, at the end of the day. If they choose to air their grievances publicly then, you know, maybe there’s something there.

I think the big takeaway is just make sure you understand what the Amazon terms of service are and follow them to the letter. Don’t deviate. It’s kind of what your parents said when you’re growing up, if Timmy and Kimmy jumped off a bridge, would you jump off a bridge too? And the answer is, probably, it would be nice to, but you probably don’t want to.

The reason I say that is because, I’ve been doing this for six, seven, eight years now, and every few months I see somebody come up with some creative way around the Amazon terms of service. And then everybody else starts following them, because this is making them book sales, they’re making money doing this. Either they’re doing something with keywords or they’re doing something on the Amazon product page to game the algorithm, and everybody starts doing it.

And then the hammer comes down at some point, and then everyone’s like, oh my gosh. Just be careful with that. So, make sure you understand what the terms of service are. There’s always somebody out there coming out. It’s like a cat and mouse game with Amazon. So, you’ve got to be really careful.

Orna Ross: Absolutely, and then your own sense of ethics, as well. You know, we all want to sell books, but we all have to kind of look at ourselves and ask, you know, am I being fair here? Am I being fair to the reader? Am I being fair to everybody? You know, we see cases where authors are completely outraged at something that has happened, but ethically, if you consider the other people, if you’re only looking at it from the author’s perspective, then you’ve got a limited perspective.

You’re in partnership with these large tech companies that use algorithms to manage, you know, customer service departments that are overworked, often very busy and also constrained by what they can and can’t do and can’t say. If you get to understand that and understand the partners that you’re working with, what they can and cannot do for you, and also if you always keep in mind what’s best for the reader. So, if you’re trying to game the system to make more money for yourself, are you being fair to other people?

And then sometimes the rules just are what they are, and as Michael says, it’s a very costly mistake for short-term gain to mess up, because sometimes when your account is closed, it’s closed forever and there’s no more Amazon for you.

So, you don’t want that.

Michael La Ronn: Yeah, just be careful. You know, most people listening, as long as you follow the rules, do what you’re supposed to do, you’re not going to have any problems. It’s when you start doing those tactics, those marketing tactics that toe the line a little bit is when you can get into trouble.

And also remember that your idea of fair, it might not be Amazon’s idea of fair and, you know, it’s their ballpark, what they say goes and, you know, sometimes we don’t like it, but it kind of is what it is like to your point, Orna.

Orna Ross: Okay. So that’s it, I think, for another month. If you want to submit your question for next month, if you just log into the member zone and you navigate to Member Q &A under the advice column, then we can take a look at your question and discuss it here next time out.

So, thank you for your questions. Do keep them coming and thank you, Michael. See you all next time.

Michael La Ronn: Take care, everybody.

Orna Ross: Bye, bye.

 

Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and now amplifies the voices of independent author-publishers and works with authors as a developmental editor. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back To Top
×Close search
Search
Loading...