Many industry authors have reported the loss of book reviews on Amazon KDP. The justification from Amazon has been that the reviewer was found to “know the author personally.” In serious cases, bloggers and reviewers have had their reviewing privileges taken away entirely.
This system is faulty because it relies on certain algorithms and criteria to determine the “relationship” between an author and a reviewer. Amazon scrutinizes social media friendships and relationships in many ways, including analysis of activity on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads.
The problem is that Amazon’s system can, and frequently does, result in “false positives,” i.e. assuming that a personal relationship (and conflict of interest) exists merely because of a connection on social media. The problem is compounded by Amazon’s lack of communication and customer support, which has long been a problem for independent authors who choose to publish with Amazon.
Although the specific algorithms and formulas in question are kept secret by Amazon, the Erotic Authors Guild has several recommendations.
Unlink all social media in your author Amazon account. At present, Amazon invites you to link with your Facebook and Twitter accounts. This gives Amazon an easy avenue to find and search your social media activity and friend/follower lists, for possible cross-referencing against readers who have reviewed your books.
Solution: visit http://www.amazon.com/gp/socialmedia/settings and unlink your Facebook and Twitter accounts from your Amazon account.
Trim Amazon URLs when sharing book links. When you visit your book’s page on Amazon, the URL will sometimes look like this:
It’s important to understand the components of this URL. The initial portion is self-explanatory: the book is on Amazon’s site. The B00LBPBV7Y is called an ASIN, or Amazon Standard Identification Number. This is a unique identifier for your book.
The portion following this ASIN (beginning with ref=cm_sw…) is of particular concern. This is tracking information which will tell Amazon who the link came from. If you share it on Facebook and a reader clicks on this, Amazon could conclude that you and the reader “know” one another.
If you share your book to social media from the Amazon site, via the Share buttons provided by Amazon, this trackable link will be generated… although, it will not always be apparent due to link shortening or masking. The share buttons are found beneath the purchase dialog, and look like this:
Solution: do not use Amazon’s sharing links nor their link-shortening service. Visit your book’s Amazon page and copy the URL yourself, making sure to remove anything after the ASIN prior to sharing the link on your social media. If you are in the Amazon Affiliate program, the links there will possess similar trackable info as well.
Amazon (or anyone) may be able to find your social media profiles if you use the same email address. If someone keys your email address into the Facebook search bar, by default the search will return your profile. In turn, depending upon your privacy settings, your timeline posts and your friend list may be visible to the searcher. A person–or an automated software script–could thus identify other people with a “connection” to you, and conclude that you know one another personally.
Solution: don’t use the same email address for Amazon as used for the rest of your social media accounts.
Alternatively, check the following settings on Facebook, under Settings–Privacy:
By default, “Everyone” can look you up via your email address (and phone number, if applicable.) It’s recommended that you change this to “Friends,” which is the most restrictive setting allowed by Facebook. “Search engines outside of Facebook” linking to your profile could also consist of Amazon search scripts, so this is a recommended “no” as well.
Be aware that Goodreads = Amazon. Amazon acquired Goodreads in 2013. Therefore, when you share information with Goodreads, you are sharing it with Amazon. This includes information as specified above. It’s also possible to connect with other members.
Additionally, when registering for a new Goodreads account, the option is given to sign in with other social media accounts, including Twitter, Google, Amazon and Facebook. In this process, Goodreads (and therefore Amazon) are given access to basic information such as email address, name and possibly friend lists. Goodreads uses this to invite your social media friends to follow you on their site, but this could again be used to determine a “relationship” between you and the other person.
Solution: if creating a new Goodreads account, don’t do so by linking another social media account–sign up manually, using an email address you don’t use for other social media. If you already have a Goodreads account, visit your Account Settings, click Apps, and unlink your other social media. Next, click Settings and modify your email addresses, specifying something different than used on Facebook. Keep in mind that if you already have an account, Goodreads and therefore Amazon may already have collected this information.
Have reviewers pay close attention to wording in reviews. Disclaimers regarding the circumstance under which they received a book for a review, for example, might raise “red flags” with Amazon.
It also should go without saying: avoid unscrupulous or dishonest review situations. Purchasing reviews, or having friends and family leave reviews to “pad” your book rating, will “game” the system and damage integrity for the entire community. It is this which Amazon tries to prevent, although their system is seriously flawed.
In summary, there are many methods by which Amazon can track its users and attempt to ascertain relationships between them. There will be others which may be outside the scope of this document. However, with knowledge and awareness, it’s hopeful that the author community can work together to minimize the impact of these wide-sweeping policies and problems.
Please contact the Erotic Authors Guild at www.eroticauthorsguild.org or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, concerns or issues.