Thursday, December 31, 2015

Teaching Authors to Violate Amazon’s Review Guidelines?

I sounded an alarm about the need for studying Amazon’s guidelines in my book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers. But, for the sake of all honest writers, it seems a louder warning is due concerning the illegitimate teachings/uses of by authors.
Over the past few years Amazon became increasingly aware of review abuses and has taken sometimes severe measures in response. In the process sometimes innocent authors and reviewers have suffered penalties.
Please allow me to state right up front I’m not pointing an accusing finger at the innocent. My goal is to pass along information so authors won’t find themselves unknowingly in violation. Amazon obviously feels, as the courts do, that ignorance of the law is no defense. So let’s arm ourselves with knowledge as our defense.
Personally I suspect the widespread ignorance of Amazon’s guidelines may stem from the belief that Amazon is just the world’s largest book store, therefore has no strenuous guidelines or fine print. But, as my book describes, Amazon is so much more – it’s the largest and most powerful publicity machine known anywhere at this time.
And it is vital for authors to take time to learn the rules so they don’t inadvertently break them and suffer the consequences, consequences many writers are not aware exist.
Ignorance of the guidelines is not the only culprit. *I’ve read bestselling books that teach flagrant violations for promoting your book on Amazon, teachings that, if followed, will result in review deletion, and possibly your (and the teacher’s) book being deleted from Amazon’s bookstore if ever discovered.
*There is no need for me to identify the offending books or authors. If you read or hear these things being taught now you know they are false. My goal is not to bust authors but to learn. And if you take time to learn the guidelines you’ll always know whose teaching is valid and whose is not.
For a few years now the Amazon review controversy has flared, focusing largely on those who are innocent of their penalty. It’s not going to stop and there is good reason for that; the offenses don’t stop. So it’s time we focus on the guilty.
When I read new books written by promotional leaders that teach writers to violate the most strenuously enforced review guidelines, it’s time to sound the alarm again. Authors read these books, and not knowing how wrong the teachings are, follow them to the letter. And then when that dreaded email from Amazon arrives, they are shocked and angry.
*Tip: Watch out for books/articles using the word/words Guerilla/Guerilla Marketing. Most of them contain reliable information you can definitely use. But many advise highly illegitimate tactics. The term Guerilla Marketing means: an advertising strategy in which low-cost unconventional means (graffiti, sticker bombing, flash mobs) are utilized… Always attention-getting, but sometimes illegal.
One bestselling book I read teaches that authors should post a link to their own book when reviewing a similar book. This author advised writing reviews of books similar to yours and making sure in the first or second sentence to mention your own book and hyperlink to it. The book gave detailed instructions how to use Amazon’s “Insert Product Link Here” button to insert the link straight to their own book.
This is absolutely prohibited by Amazon. A highly respected colleague, Phyllis Zimbler Miller, followed this advice, placing the links to her books in several reviews. After reading my warning, about a week after she’d placed the violating links, she went to edit them out, but some of these reviews had already been deleted by Amazon. Thankfully one was still live that she could edit, and her previous reviews also remain safe. Read more from Phyllis.
I too teach authors how to use Amazon’s publicity machine for all it’s worth, but I spend a lot of time reading the help files & fine print to make sure I don’t add more illegitimate advice to the mire. Or even worse, provoke innocent authors to violation where they wreak penalties because of me. In that spirit, let’s take a few minutes to clarify what is NOT allowed in a review.
It’s as simple as that. To quote from Amazon, they do not allow:
  • Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
  • Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
  • They also prohibit: “The upload, download, or transmission of any domain names, URLs, or hyperlinks. The use of the Service for commercial purposes such as advertising, promotion, or solicitation.”
That’s all pretty straightforward. Amazon’s primary rules prohibit self-promotion throughout their site, but this is especially stringent regarding reviews. If you violate Amazon’s rules if/when their ‘bots catch you, the punishment can be banishment.
And why would we want to break the rules? As described in my book, Amazon has already provided a unique and powerful publicity platform unlike anywhere else. All we have to do is acquire a basic understanding in order to place our books in the RIGHT categories and attach SEO optimized tags.
Then Amazon’s top secret algorithms take over to promote our book continually and indefinitely, in ways we could never afford to purchase outright. This is why Amazon makes bestsellers out of more authors than anywhere else. And why I’m more than happy to comply with all their rules and regulations when they benefit me so greatly. I explain their ingenious engine in more detail in my two white papers on the subject, How Book Categories Can Doom Sales or Make Amazon Your Personal Publicist. And, What Authors Must Know About Amazon Before Selling Their Books There.
Still violations are more prevalent than you’d think, whether through ignorance or purposeful deception. Keep a watchful eye because they can be, and are, taught in books sold right on, misleading honest authors. This is why I devoted part of my book to teaching what the review guidelines really say.
Make Amazon your own private publicist legitimately
to reap their vast promotional benefits
and none of their penalties.

I love hearing from you! What are your thoughts on Amazon guidelines? Leave a comment and let me know. And don't forget to check out our new book promo specials for December at

Aggie’s Bio: For decades peers have described Aggie Villanueva as a whirlwind that draws others into her vortex. And no wonder. She was a published author at Thomas Nelson before age 30 and commenced to found local writers’ groups, the Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers three–day conference, taught at nationwide writing conferences, and published numerous newsletters for various organizations.
Aggie’s 2012 book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That’s Not All They Do, teaches authors to render their personal book publicist by employing the perpetual reach of book categories. With the exception of five days, this book hit immediate Kindle bestseller in three categories, and held steady in 1-3 categories for 36 weeks. The Amazon print version has repeatedly done short stretches as a category bestseller too. And both digital and print continue to show up intermittently as Kindle category bestsellers to this day.
Thomas Nelson published two of Villanueva’s novels in the 1980s. She is now an award-winning, bestselling Indie author of fiction & non fiction bestsellers.  Rightfully Mine, and The Rewritten Word, each became bestsellers in three Amazon print & Kindle categories within weeks of publication. The Rewritten Word held bestseller status steady in 1-3 categories for over 21 months, and won the 2011Dan Poynter Global eBook Award in the Writing/Publishing category.
Across the Web Aggie teaches how authors can attain the same things through author publicity. Villanueva founded Promotion á la Carte, author promotional services, July 2010 and for the next 2 years was voted #2 & #4 at Preditors & Editors in the Promotion category (this company is now on sabbatical). Villanueva is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ. 
For more information you can contact Villanueva at

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