Let’s make this a two-pronged attack, all leveled at the Zon (Amazon for those not quite as up-close-and-personal as authors/publishers).
Volley #1: a policy that apparently has been in place for some time but was not actively enforced—until now—is the matter of reviews, fake reviews and the use of gift cards.
I came across this in the Query Tracker Blog:
“Reviews are essential to Amazon’s business strategy, but only if those reviews are not seen as worthless.”
No argument there, but then there’s this…
I routinely issue gift cards to recipients of giveaways, contests, etc (via TRR or blog tours, what have you). It’s goodwill and building author platform, it’s easy, it’s safe, it keeps a tenuous hold on that elusive DRM, it sends folks to a page where they might check out additional titles or even browse Amazon for other purchases (I mean, you’re on there anyway, you’ve just gotten a freebie, so why the hell not?).
“If the winner of your gift card reviews your book whether or not they used the gift card to buy it, that review may be taken down. And if you “gift” an ebook to anyone for any reason the subsequent review also may be taken down.”
Well, boy howdy, that sure as shooting changes the landscape considerably. I do, as an erotic romance author, have a viable alternative—gift through ARe/OmniLit, a website with a reasonable return policy (see below) and a selection of formats to offer the recipient. And no draconian bots to bulldoze legitimate reviews out of sight and out of mind. [If you clicked the ARe link, I snuck a promo in there, linking to my latest bestseller… don’t judge me and marketing now OFF.]
The article ends with the hope that the “mothership” will come to its senses. My thoughts on that? Don’t hold your collective breaths, boys & girls.
Volley #2: the Zon’s irrational return policy for ebooks.
Here’s the policy: “Books you purchase from the Kindle Store are eligible for return and refund if we receive your request within seven days of the date of purchase. Once a refund is issued, you’ll no longer have access to the book. To request a refund and return content, visit Manage Your Kindle, Click the Actions button next to the title you’d like to return, and select Return for refund, or contact customer service.”
Seven days, really Amazon, really? No other ebookseller offers such generous terms.
I’m watching ‘someone’ go through my Crow Creek series, systematically. I can track when a book was purchased and when it was returned, all within the 7-day period, starting with book 1 and on through book 5 (just not ‘who’). I also noticed s/he was so enthralled by my writing s/he purchased and returned two novellas and a standalone novel for a total of 8 returns for the month of April. Some months it’s worse than others.
Amazon claims to track this and prevent “abuse”. Um, that’s a big no. The US site is notorious for the volume of returns, though the UK is quickly catching on to this scam.
Yes, I wrote and complained and received a canned reply (if I received one at all) with a suck it up, buttercup message of goodwill and up yours, dear author.
Piracy of ebooks is theft, pure and simple. I would offer that this is no different. And it truly baffles me that one of their brain trust hasn’t figured out that there are costs to credit charges, both on the purchasing and the refunding end. The Zon claims it’s operating in the red when it comes to books (and the year end accounting bears that out).