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Using Amazon Discussion boards - things I've worked out

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In reply to an earlier post on Jun 9, 2012 1:48:45 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 9, 2012 1:48:57 PM PDT
Caitie Quinn says:
AWESOME - thanks.

Also, wow, could they make tht more complicated? I was looking for a share/private button for "Tags" not to have to do them all individually!

Posted on Jun 9, 2012 7:00:00 PM PDT
cathyr says:
What's "bump" and should I read it?

How often have you looked at a discussion thread and seen one comment posts, "bump"? Happens quite often in the Romance forum. All it means is the poster wants to move it back to the top of the forum discussion lists.

Discussions on a thread are listed from most recently commented on, down. The Romance forum is such an active place the most recently updated threads are constantly changing - it is not ridiculous to have to go three pages to get to a thread that hasn't been commented on in 24 hours.

What then happens is a question is asked, and just a few hours later it has slipped off the front page. It is no longer in the forefront of people's minds, and the Original Poster likely will get no feedback.*

Either the Original Poster, someone else interested in the topic, or a kind soul, will "bump" it back to the top. They have nothing to add, but want it to be seen by more people - more recs, a find a book topic, or an interesting discussion.

* This is also why the forum has multiple discussions on the same topic. Once the thread has been pushed back a page a newbie won't think to look or realise it has been discussed before, and start again. This can get extremely tedious for active posters, and they may be blunt with the newbie, or ignore the thread altogether.

If this happens to you, don't automatically assume you're being targeted, unwelcome, or made a travesty of your first impression. Someone may direct you to a more appropriate thread where the discussion has already occurred, and you can add your thoughts. Or you can search for a better thread yourself.

Posted on Jun 9, 2012 7:18:13 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 12, 2012 5:45:34 PM PDT
cathyr says:
The Activeness of the Romance Forum.

Through the actions of a number of committed posters, the Romance forum has managed to create and maintain an active, vibrant community, mostly free of spam, and with very little snark in the posts. It is surprisingly welcoming and peaceful (given the range of people and reading interests of the participants).

The most active fora on Amazon (at this point in time) is listed at the bottom of the page.

It is worth noting there are a number of similar fora on Amazon with more specific romance topics. While it does not prevent you from asking the question in "Romance", you may find by targeting a particular discussion group you get a different (and perhaps better) response.

Ones I know about, which you may find useful for recs and advice:
Western Romance
Paranormal Romance
Christian Romance
Historical Romance
Erotic Romance
Young Adult Romance
Young Adult
Children's Book
Meet Our Authors
Kindle Book
Top Reviewers

These fora will vary in their welcome, in their helpfulness, and in their activity. (Eg no one has posted in the Young Adult Romance Forum in over 12 months, the Children's Book Forum is struggling to keep self-promoting authors out, and the Top Reviewers really have heard it all before). Posting may or may not get you the help you need.

- Have a look at the discussions already there, to see if your question is already answered or if resurrecting an old thread is a good idea. If it is a slow thread, resurrecting a tracked thread might give someone who cares a heads up that you are around.

- In active threads it always pays to lurk first. Understand the group dynamics before you plunge in.

- Don't spam. Don't promote your book and don't post the same question everywhere you can think of in ten minutes. Given there is a good chance an active discussion participant reads more than one fora and thread, if you keep asking the same thing it will irritate and you will get snark.

- Track a discussion you start, or one where you raise a question. It is beyond annoying to respond to a question and then never have any feedback from the person who asked. But it is easy to loose track of where you raised your query. And if you get a response to a "what's this book" question, it is only polite to say "yes, that's it, thanks" so the thread can quietly slip away.

- And don't automatically put the worst interpretation on a comment. Discussions on the Internet suffer as a result of no verbal/body language feedback, and the illusion of anonymity. Some people do enjoy irritating others (you can always place them on ignore), some have a humour or set of in-jokes you don't get, others simply fail to express themselves clearly. You don't know what is going on in their lives; you shouldn't automatically assume the worst. That said, Amazon has provided an "abuse" button for a reason. If you feel you are being attacked, click it. It's easy. Then it'll go to an unbiased referee to make the call. If it continues or you feel you are being "stalked", contact Amazon directly via Customer Service (email or phone)

Below are Amazon's "what not to include" guidelines. Note that some of the guidelines are followed rather loosely depending on the thread community.

from Discussion Board Guidelines
"What not to include. is proud to provide this forum for you to air your opinions on the topics and items we feature. While we appreciate your time and comments, we respectfully request that you refrain from including the following in your comments:
-Profanity, obscenities, or spiteful remarks
-Single-word posts. We want to know why you liked or disliked an item or topic.
-Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or URLs that include personal contact information
-Availability, price, or alternative ordering/shipping information
-Any form of "spam," including advertisements, contests, or other solicitations for other websites or companies; or any URL link that includes a "referrer" tag or affiliate code.
-Threads that do not relate to the topic of the board"

ETA a link (erotica, young adult)

Posted on Jun 12, 2012 5:44:23 PM PDT
cathyr says:
Why is Amazon recommending me toasters?

Amazon bases her customer recommendations on a number of factors
- what you've bought
- what you've put in your wish list
- what you've browsed to
- what you've tagged
- what you've liked.

To clear those strange recs based on browsing for your kid brother's birthday, you can get rid of your whole browsing history and start again.
- Go to Your Account
- right down the bottom in Personalization is "Personalized Content"
- click on "Your Browsing History Settings"
Now you can clear your browsing history and possibly choose to turn it on or off (a good option if you share the computer!).

[You can also get here by clicking on your personal account (up the top of the page is <our name> and then you can click on "Your Browsing History".]

To pick and choose which objects you own and want included in recs:
- Go to Your Account
- right down the bottom in Personalization is "Recommendations"
- opt to "Improve your Recommendations".
Now you can go through things you've bought and mark them as "gift", or "don't use for recs".

[You can also get here by clicking on your personal account (up the top of the page is <our name> and then you can click on "Improve your Recommendations".]

The ratings option here is used by Amazon for recs, it isn't for reviewing and does not affect reviews.
"The ratings you submit are private and are never shared with other customers, nor does it affect the average customer review for the item. These ratings are used solely by our recommendations service to provide you the most accurate recommendations possible."[1]

Note you can also choose to have Amazon show "book recommendations as Kindle editions when possible".

You can tag purchased items from here too.

Other things you can do to get improved Amazon recommendations:
- Every item on Amazon has a "Like" option. You can unlike it via "Improve Your Recommendations".
- Tag items. On the "Recommended for you" page you can get "Recommendations by you tags". "All items you've marked with the tag you select from here will be used as the basis for these recommendations."[2]
- Use Amazon's Betterizer You'll get a variety of Amazon products which you can "like" or mark "not interested". The things you like with be kept private, and not affect review ratings. Refresh to get new items. And you can go back any time to tell Amazon about stuff you like.

Things that go wrong with recommendations:
- You already have it, and it's being recommended again. This is usually because it's a different edition or format.
- You are getting recommendations based on things you've never browsed to or purchased. Most often due to using a shared computer and someone forgetting to log off. But could be you did browse there from a self-promoting author, while searching for a non-typical item, or as a random click.

Amazon's Recommendation Help page


Posted on Jun 16, 2012 11:42:33 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 17, 2012 12:50:21 AM PDT
cathyr says:
Why can't I loan my book?

Executive summary: Not all books are loanable, and some change the status during their life.
Also "Books can only be loaned once, and periodicals and other content are not currently available for lending."[1] However, it is *possible* a book won't have DRM (Digital Rights Management) and may then be able to loan multiple times.[2]
Finally, "If the borrower already owns the title, or the title is not available in the borrower's country due to copyright restrictions, the borrower will not be able to accept the loan. In these cases the lender will be able to read and loan the book again after the seven day period has ended."[3]

This recent discussion is excellent for working out why a particular book is no longer on the loanable list (with a digression into X-ray)
"Loaning an ebook"

Other places for help/advice
Amazon's page "Lending Kindle Books"
Amazon's page "Kindle Owners' Lending Library for Amazon Prime Members"
Kindle forum discussion on "lending" a kindle book by registering a different kindle
Amazon Kindle Help Forum "Public Library for Kindle FAQs"
Amazon Kindle Help Forum "Kindle Owner's Lending Library FAQs"

In the Romance Forum there's a whole thread devoted to loaning. Don't discuss or offer to loan pdfs. There is a belief Amazon zapped a previous thread in relation to this.
"Loan Me....."

Do note the following from Amazon Customer Discussion Guidelines:
"What not to include.
[...]Phone numbers, e-mail addresses, or URLs that include personal contact information"

If you need/want to post your email on a thread to get a loan, delete it as soon as possible. (It's technically against Amazon's guidelines).
Also consider having a separate email account for loans/kindle books.
If you go the route of registering someone else's kindle to swap books, do it with care. They'll have access to all your books for a short while (and possibly other information and one-click).

Edit to fix link


Posted on Jun 19, 2012 7:11:31 PM PDT
cathyr says:
As a follow on from loaning, Digital Rights Management (DRM).

DRM on e-books is basically a system designed to protect the ebook from being read on different systems or distributed without contact with the provider. Eg it stops you from reading your kindle ebook on your Nook, or giving free copies to all your friends. (Almost) every ebook you buy on Amazon has a little dissertation from the author about how you should only buy it from reputable sites, this is their livelihood, and so on. Basically they are saying if you didn't buy it properly, someone has "broken the DRM" and re-distributed it. The most common format for a pirated book is pdf.

"A Simple talk about e-books and DRM"

Supported file types on the kindle:

And have a look at these blog posts as an author discusses whether or not to add DRM to her book, and thus risk a wholesale loss of her work through "theft".

Posted on Jun 20, 2012 2:26:04 AM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
Bumping for newbies/lurkers/or those who just simply want to learn more about the forums.

Posted on Jun 26, 2012 9:28:25 PM PDT
Thanks to your post on searching for lists, I made my way over here. Great tips--learned a lot. I already knew some things, but not the why/how. Great thread.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 26, 2012 9:29:03 PM PDT
cathyr says:
You're welcome. Have fun!

Posted on Jun 27, 2012 4:15:16 PM PDT
cathyr says:
What's the problem with an author recommending a book on a thread? Why do all these people get their knickers in a twist? Couldn't they just ignore it?

In May 2011, Amazon announced the following:

"Amazon recently created a new community for authors. The `Meet Our Authors' community is designed to give authors a space to engage with one another and promote their latest and greatest works.

"With the advent of the new community, we will no longer allow self promotional posts in other communities. Starting on Monday, May 16th, all "shameless self promotion" activity will be limited to the `Meet Our Authors' community. Promotional threads outside of these forums will be removed.

"We invite authors and interested readers to come join the discussion at:


As a result of that action, Amazon will delete posts in discussion threads other the the MOA which fall into the category of "self promotion". This is not a decision made by the customers, but by Amazon on the customers' behalf.

Amazon has made it very clear what the discussion fora (other than MOA) are for: "Customer Discussions connect you with other customers to share your questions, insights, and views about products available on Read what others are saying about hot products, get knowledgeable answers, check out product comparisons, and swap comments in our easy-to-use group discussions."[2]

They are not yet another platform for authors to sell their products to Amazon customers.

Here's what I believe happened - the threads became swamped with spam. Any time a customer asked a question, they were covered with "try my book, it's vaguely like what you asked for" posts, and never got their question answered. Amazon has a big push for creating "communities". She wants customers to come, and to stay. She doesn't want them scared away by advertising. And they were.

Many, many fora died. The customers left, leaving authors to chat among themselves. This does not sell (enough) books.

But now the customers are starting to come back. Communities are once again being grown. And a big part of this is by minimising the self-promotional posts. Yes, your book might actually fit the requested criteria. But it doesn't mean the next one will. Nor the hundred after that.[3]

So people "police" the threads. They down vote recs that look like they came from an author. They click abuse on them. They leave comments re Amazon's rulings. And sometimes they get it wrong. Which is unfortunate. But a lot of participants become jaded, seeing the same author (or his/her fans) rec'ing the same book on 5 different threads in 10 mins. Or a participant who has the book title in his/her pen name. Or one who leaves a little spam on the end of a post, every single time. *sigh*

Don't get me wrong; authors are very welcome to enter discussions. They know stuff, too. This is A Good Thing. The fora need more people involved to keep them alive. And that means authors as well as readers.

But if you are an author, leave your author hat at the door. Don't promote your book. At best, Amazon will zap your posts. At worst, you will encourage more spammers to come and tout their wares, and all the good works being done will be wasted time.

For more information on how to go about promoting your book on Amazon, have a look at this thread in MOA:

Started by an author and active Amazon discussion participant, it has some helpful advice on making your way in these parts and getting you the readership you are looking for.

And the two best tips I can give an author in a discussion: make sure your customer profile page links to your author page so when you become an interesting and invaluable discussion participant (tip 2), people will want to find out more about you, and thus *choose* to read your books. You will get committed fans who *like* you and want to read you, not annoyed readers who ignore you when your book is thrust at them for the hundredth time.

[3] You think I'm exaggerating? Have a look at the MOA where the author's are allowed to self-promote, or the self-promoting posts on threads here, despite the rulings and active policing, or even the spam posts from a single author in multiple places... They don't help with the discussions, the authors don't stay to chat, and too many respond with "but he did it first!".

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 27, 2012 4:26:10 PM PDT
beachbaby says:
I just welcomed an "author" to a forum discussion and asked her to check her author hat at the door unless of course she was posting in the MOA because all other forums are for customers. She replied that was of course her intent. How did I know she was an author? In her original post she introduced herself as an author / reader and included her web page address.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 5:16:24 PM PDT
cathyr says:
Can authors make tags work for them? Using tags with intelligence.

Amazon uses tagging in multiple ways, not least of which is for the consumers recs. So if you manage to appropriately target tags then your book may well turn up on potential readers' rec lists.

The other thing is Amazon wants users of tags to become some sort of "community". Right now, I don't think many users are aware of this (I know I wasn't until I went looking). People either stumble over discussions by like minded people, or they read a few reviewers who like the same sorts of things. Amazon wants to combine them. Is this something authors could run with? Should it be encouraged? Or is it too open to manipulation?

Example: Amazon's community page based on the tag "science fiction".
We see *books* with this tag, tags to narrow the search. Links to associated discussions. Reviewers/customers who also use that tag.

Posted on Jul 3, 2012 5:23:53 PM PDT
cathyr says:
Amazon communities - my theory on what's going on:

[Amazon sells many products, not just books. But she got her name from selling books so we tend to focus on that aspect.]

Amazon has the intention of creating a community of consumers. She wants a customer to come to Amazon, buy stuff, and stick around to buy more. And she wants it to be easy to find more stuff you like, and more stuff you want. In discussions, she gets this through others recs, through stimulating the customers interest in products, and from making this *the* place you buy things. (Scaring people away from threads through author spamming does not help her gain communities). She does it through reviews by creating a "competition" for reviewers to increase rankings, and letting customers sell to customers, like selling to like. And she herself uses tags to directly market books, and get books you might not have considered in front of the customer. (As well as other Amazon rec criteria like previously purchased and browsed to).

But at the moment these things are disparate entities.
- Some customers participate in discussions.
- Some customers actively review.
- Some use Amazon as a research tool to help contrast products.
- Some use tags to track interests.

The "community" page sticks them all in together. If Amazon could make it work it would be a one-stop or first-stop for the customer.

That said, it's messy and a newbie would not find it easy to navigate.

Perhaps a better example, try the tag "toaster" :
Did you know there is a Toaster forum? Or that you could start a discussion on "side loading toaster"?

And then look at the community for products tagged "Stephen King".
The discussions box is helpful. But as a customer, is this what you were expecting to see (eg recently popular)? Books by lots of authors vaguely like Stephen King, but who's books were tagged with the great author's name? Does this help the books sell? Does it promote the "community"? Tagging appropriately makes a big difference.

Let's try "jd robb" instead?
Most of the books actually belong to *this* author. And a customer could use "related products" to get to a similar author. Or find a reviewer who likes the same sort of books. Or narrow the search based on additional tags (eg "in death series").

Amazon communities have the potential to be powerful, and useful. But they require intelligent tagging, and the customers being aware of the existence.

Posted on Jul 21, 2012 11:22:08 AM PDT
beachbaby says:

I know that it is against the TOS for authors to review their own books but what is Amazon's policy about author's relatives providing a review? Any links available?

Thanks :-)

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2012 4:42:35 PM PDT
HJ Leonard says:
Not Cathyr, but my interpretation of the TOS statement that anyone benefiting financially from the sales of said product should not review would include children and spouses.

Outside of that, it's just my opinion that it's more of an ethical 'rightness' for friends and family to disclose their relationship with the author as it's perfectly clear that they would never be able to give an unbiased review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2012 4:58:05 PM PDT
beachbaby says:
Thanks HJ :-)

I was just wondering because a self-promoting author left this post in another thread replying to athena; "I removed my post after I found out that even though they were asking for biker books, they did not want my post for my own book. However, it is not unethical to recieve a review by someone with the last name as you if it is in fact an honest review by a true reader of your book. Quit being a forum bully."

I checked out the review who has the same last name as the author and as it turns out they are both from the same area. Must've been just a coincidence and an unbiased review.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 21, 2012 5:09:34 PM PDT
cathyr says:
The rule says "on behalf of" which leaves it open to interpretation.

Let's be real here. The review is meant to be by an Amazon customer for a potential Amazon customer. It is supposed to be at arm's length.

A review by a relative to help the author is not what Amazon meant.

But Amazon is unlikely to follow up on it. The "on behalf of" ruling gives Amazon potential teeth - if it could be shown there is an ongoing behavior with the intent to misuse the review process, Amazon could follow through. At this point in time, she won't.

Is it unethical? It would depend on why it is done. A deliberate action to defraud or manipulate customers is unethical. Wanting to help out your cousin/brother/wife is possibly misguided, but sweet.

At the end of the day the author must maintain a professional front. The perception of mis-deeds by author/fan/friend does more to harm the book than it gives gain. It really isn't worth the author's trouble to try and defend such actions. Better not to do them at all.

As a reader, there is no harm in leaving a comment in a review you feel is questionable. If the reviewer wishes to defend it, and can put up a good argument, then no foul. If not, then you have given potential customers a heads up.

Posted on Aug 9, 2012 10:09:29 PM PDT
cathyr says:
In the last week an external lending site which facilitated lending of ebooks by kindle and nook owners was shut down after a groundswell of criticism from authors.

It is very clear that Amazon allows lending of ebooks *where the author has clicked that button* once per book for a maximum of 2 weeks. This external site provided a "match maker" service to connect loaner with loanee. All loans were performed on Amazon (you clicked through to the Amazon lending page). While most commentators since say this is perfectly legitimate and in fact was a boon for authors, there remains a group of people who feel it was at best against Amazon's intent (loaning to strangers rather than friend-to-friend) and at worst a breach of copyright.

For your information, some blogs. Note many blogs, posts and tweets from authors caught in the frenzy have been removed. I shan't link directly to any of those since the authors have come into a lot of negativity and harrassment. If you want to see what they have to say, google it. I do not believe the all out negativity is a just response. The majority were caught in a frenzy and unable to stop and calmly review what was being said and how it truly affected them. The whole movement took but a few days - the first tweet I can find was 1 Aug, 2012. The site was down by Aug 3, 2012.

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2012 3:34:19 PM PDT
JVC says:
I've read your whole thread and it has great info! If you don't mind I have a forum thread that might dovetail with this one, it's about less-active discussions. I didn't want to post the link without asking you first :-)

Posted on Aug 13, 2012 3:46:19 PM PDT
cathyr says:
Not a problem. Open forums!

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 13, 2012 7:35:40 PM PDT
JVC says:
Thanks very much. I can link your forum, as well, if you like, or I could cut-and-paste some of the info:

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 15, 2012 4:46:23 PM PDT
cathyr says:
Sorry I haven't got around to responding.

Do what you like with the links. Cut-and-paste if it suits the context better. And you are welcome to add a post if you have more help to provide. I started this thread but I don't *own* it. I am more than happy for it to get a life of it's own.

Cheers, CathyR.

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 7:55:38 AM PDT
Pink Kitty says:
Hi Cathy R,
I'm still wandering around like in the desert. THANK YOU so much for you time. I have a
g/f whose is interested & I am going to send her the link to this page.

Kitty kisses

Posted on Sep 12, 2012 3:27:33 PM PDT
cathyr says:
Happy to help. I hope your gf finds her feet nice and quick.

Posted on Sep 23, 2012 7:55:14 PM PDT
cathyr says:
AVP stamps.

When a product is purchased from Amazon, and then reviewed from the same account, the reviewer has the option of including the AVP (Amazon Verified Purchase) stamp. It is a choice made by the reviewer.

Vine products reviewed within the Vine program automatically get this stamp.

Reviewers who receive a free product are asked by Amazon to make a statement to that effect, on the review.

AVP stamp is often seen by customers as an each tick to validity or legitimacy of the review(er). Many authors are calling for only AV Purchased reviews be allowed on their books, thinking it will stop attack reviews, reviews based on Look Inside, or reviews from competing authors/fans. On the whole this is not the case. Products not purchased via Amazon (lent, borrowed, given by author, purchased through, etc) can still be reviewed and are still "legitimate". And the AVP stamp can be manipulated.

Amazon recently did a crack down on reviews where there was a direct relationship between the distributor purchasing a gift card and a reviewer receiving the card and leaving a review. Amazon says this is NOT okay.

For a full discussion on the gift card / AVP / review issue please see the Top Reviewer Forum Discussion "Cheating with supply of review copies - the Amazon Verified Purchase scam"
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This discussion

Discussion in:  Romance forum
Participants:  13
Total posts:  53
Initial post:  Jun 7, 2012
Latest post:  Jul 12, 2013

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