Six Tips to Keep Your Reviews on Amazon

reading-booksHave you had a review pulled from Amazon and wondered why? I mean grandma should be allowed to give a review. Let me share the rules Amazon has that could get your review pulled and a few tips to help writers inform their reviewers.

  1. No reviewers can use associate links. These are links to your blog, website or publisher’s page. That is considered compensation. If someone checks out your site and buys your books, then you got paid for doing a review. Don’t use Amazon book reviews to promote your own books or other products.


  1. Reviewers must have purchased $50 or more in products from Amazon to post any kind of review. (Amazon is a business. This is their way of ensuring you’re not just posting a review for a friend or are a paid reviewer.) Might be wise to ask your reviewers if they do business with Amazon to avoid their review being pulled.


  1. You can receive an ARC (Advance Reader Copy) for review. However, near the end of your review, you must mention it’s an ARC and you were given no compensation for your unbiased, honest review. Never use the word FREE. A free copy denotes payment.

Let’s recap.

Encourage your reviewers not to add links. They must be customers of Amazon. And carefully word a reference to receiving an ARC copy without using the word free.

Consider this

  1. What email address are they using? If George, Mary and Junior Jones use the same email or same Amazon account, those will be deleted. This appears as if the same person posted multiple reviews.

No influencing allowed

  1. Don’t expect your chosen reviewers to give you a 5-star rating. That’s called influence. Influencing their opinion in any way is forbidden. Asking them to please post a review if they enjoyed your book is fine. Someone can enjoy your book and still give it a 3-star rating for formatting issues or cover design for example.


No duplicating

  1. Be sure the reviewer uses their own words. Don’t provide a template. Also, too many “I liked it” or “It was good” with 5 stars rating sounds fake. Coaching them to mention what they like about your book will help them write something unique.

“The setting was breathtaking.”

“I learn so much about myself.”

The reviews don’t have to be long or fancy—just truthful.


Final thoughts about content.

Encourage your reviewers to double check their wording and their star reviews. Leaving out words can make the review sound odd. Misspelled words are not good. Ten dollar words are even worse. No one will understand if the reviewer truly enjoyed your book. Their verbiage might disguise their true feelings. I looked up some unfamiliar words I found in a review of a book I was considering. They weren’t flattering. Another important tip: sometimes the star rating function doesn’t end where you want it. A friend of mine had an awesome review of her book, but it had a 1-star rating. Check and double check before posting.


Rowena Kuo:Writing Epic Back Cover

rowenakuo2016Today I welcome Rowena Kuo to my blog. She is an Acquisitions Editor for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. I sat in on her Writing Epic Back Cover class at the Write to Publish Conference this past June. Her knowledge helped clarify so much for me. I have touched on the importance of awesome back cover content in a previous post. Writing back cover isn’t as easy as I once thought. It’s not my best work. And other authors admit they’d rather have a root canal. So to take some of the pain and mystery out of this daunting task I’ve called on Rowena to give us some helpful guidelines toward excellent back copy.

Ro, welcome. I am so honored to have you as a guest blogger.

Thank you, Cindy. I always enjoy visiting with you and look forward to any time I get to see you again.

The word length of the back cover copy is 100 to 300 words. Tell us how do we decide what goes into this small cache’ of words? What should we leave out? How can we discern the difference?

Every word on your back cover carries weight, so we should make each word count. The back cover should answer “who, what, where, when, and why,” with the book content being the “how.”  Introduce your main characters by name and their relationship to each other, what the story is about, the setting, the time period, and why your reader should invest in your story. When you introduce your main characters, first show what is the “normal” world before everything goes wrong. Introduce your “average citizen” before his “call to duty,” and whether or not he will answer that call to become a “superhero.”

Place your characters in a place and time setting, so that your readers can affiliate with your story. This is key to deciding the genre of your book. You should then say what that “call to duty” is, the “inciting incident” that destroys the “normal” world and forces your character into action. Every story must have conflict to be interesting. State what that conflict is. The “why” of your story should make your characters compelling, your story thought-provoking, and intrigue your reader enough to buy your book.

Leave out non-essential and complicated storylines. Don’t summarize what happens in the story. Sometimes becoming too detailed drags your back cover copy, and your reader will search for a different book. End your back cover copy with a question. That question should entice your reader and should be answered upon reading your book.

Once we decide what goes in how do we make the words epic?

Use words that drive your book to the top of searches. Go to Amazon and search for the best-selling books in your genre. Read the back cover copies, and online, these would be the description or blurb when you click on the book title.


How do I find those top seller books in any given genre to examine the back cover?

  1. Go to
  2. On the Amazon search bar, the gray tab on the left drops down. Find Kindle Store.
  3. On the far left-hand vertical bar, find Kindle eBooks.
  4. Still, on that far left-hand vertical bar, there are several categories of books. Click on your genre. For example: Mystery, Thriller, and Suspense. The number in the parenthesis next to the genre is how many titles are categorized in that particular genre. This number can change depending on new books coming out that fall into that category.
  5. Refine your search to the smallest sub-category. These are still on that left-hand bar. For example: Mystery–>Cozy (2878)
  6. Click on that first book. The books can change from moment to moment depending on book sales, so what I find at the top today, you may not find there tomorrow. The important thing to look at is the back cover copy or the description of those top 10 books. For each book, there will be rankings in 3 genres.
  7. Look at the words that “pop out” at you, common words that search engines will use to align your book with the titles at the top of your genre.

Certain words trigger search engines and lead readers to those books. Plant those words into your back cover copy. Depending upon the genre, these words will vary, but a little research on your part prior to writing your back cover copy can be the difference between your audience finding your book and your novel being dead last. For example, the keywords I see on the back cover for the #1 book in Romance and Women’s Fiction are: fatal, accident, discovered, secret, lies, disappears, suspicion, love, romantic, gripping, mystery, suspense.


How important is back cover copy to potential readers?

Back cover copy is what your reader looks at to decide whether or not to invest time and money in your book. This copy is what search engines use to connect books to the right audience. It’s important to know your genre and all the possible genres where your book might fit. Knowing your genre(s) can help you write back cover copy that will attract the readers who would enjoy your story.

How important is the wording of back cover copy to Amazon and other online and storefront retailers?

Amazon and other retailers base success on sales, and sales drive where your book ranks. Amazon gets a cut of every sale, so having a back cover copy that translates into sales is key to how successful your book is going to be. Of course, the book itself must have an amazing story, but it is the back cover copy that influences readers to make that purchase.

How many tries does it take to get this right?

Writing back cover copy can be a trying task. It can be written and rewritten dozens of times before it would pass publisher approval. Don’t lose heart at this stage. It will be worth the effort no matter how many times it takes to revise your back cover copy.

Any final words for forlorn authors struggling to make their back cover shine?

I encourage you to read the back cover copies of the best-selling books in your genres. Write down words that pop out at you and draw you to that book. Investigate what drives a book to the top of the lists and make sure your book is comparable. Use active rather than passive verbs and descriptions that engage the imagination, curiosity, and heart of your readers. I’m still looking for the magic formula that will make our books crash the download servers, but I hope that I have given you a few pointers to at least ensure your back cover copy promises a fantastic read. If your book delivers the story your back cover promises, then you are well on your way to successful sales. See you at the top of the charts!

Rowena Kuo is an editor and executive producer for Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas and Lighthouse Productions of the Carolinas. With over 15 years of ministering to children, youth groups, young adults, and now women and family groups, Rowena advocates for writers to build God-centered support systems consisting of people, perseverance, practice, and most of all, prayer. She has written for Christian Devotions, Written World Communications, and the 168 Write of Passage. When not working on words or films, she is a full-time mom with secret aspirations for spaceflight.

Rowena Kuo
Acquisitions Editor
Editorial Director
Fiction Division
Managing Editor, Brimstone Fiction
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas
Development Executive Producer

Do you have a love or hate relationship with back cover copy?

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Creating Memes to Promote Book Sales

I’ve been experimenting with memes. You know the words displayed in an artist frame. When I think of memes I think of comments added to the grumpy cat photo, funny kid’s pics and favorite actors. Recently, we’ve seen a lot of minion memes.


This an example of a meme you  find all over facebook.

Statistically, people stop to read words placed on a meme more than words alone. If I want my Facebook friends and twitter followers to take interest in my book I need to engage them now. Memes are a fun and actually easy way to do it.


I created this meme on Pic monkey. I found the picture on and the quote is my own.  You can change font size and color so it is easy to read.

I was surprised how easy. If you take lots of pictures or in my case, my husband takes lots of pictures, then you can search through those to start your creation. You can use free photo sites like and to find pictures. Or you can create colorful backgrounds for your quotes. Word is too painful to use to create anything artistic. Word Publishing or PowerPoint programs work pretty well. There’s a bit of a learning curve at least for me. My hubby uses them with ease.


This is a quote from a blog post. Putting key phrases from blogs either as a meme on the blog or social media draws attention to your work. There is something missing can you tell what it is? Created with Picmonkey.

I like Picmonkey. It’s a great website. I use it for preparing photos I want to post, but you can also create memes for FB, twitter or blogs. The site has FB and Twitter templates. You can customize the size. Create collages and more. Choose between the free and paid versions. It’s easy to use. The free one is great. I am a subscriber now because the fee gives me more options. There’s a free trial available and step by step instructions.


This meme has my website at the bottom. The missing component to the previous meme. Also be sure to give correct to the person or book the quote is taken from.  Created with Picmonkey.

My plan involves posting quotes from my novel nearer it’s launch date. For now, I can post memes with favorite quotes, verses and the occasional words of wisdom I create myself. There’s lots of background art to choose from to help set your meme apart. Great for me who has only a small amount of artist flare in my left pinky finger. The backgrounds help your Pinterest boards look fantastic. You can resize, sharpen or crop a photo. With the paid version you can create invitations, business cards and more.  So Cool!


This is a picture I found that reminds me of my heroine Evangeline in Secret and Charades. This quote does not appear in the novel. I wanted to show how easy it is to add text to pictures with

Tell me how you create memes? Feel free to post your meme in the comment section and share what program you use. Together we can make this meme experiment easy for everyone.

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Focusing On my Writing Helps During Stressful Times


This week has been more than hairy. My father ended up in the hospital in the midst of getting my parent’s house on the market. My Dad is already in a memory care unit and now it’s time to move my mom to assisted living. My father’s hospital stay was a nightmare and now he is in rehab with hopes of restoring function after a hard fall. He’s 87 so it won’t be easy. As POA (power of attorney) for my parents, all the decisions fall on me.  My mom needs extra attention during this time and must be removed from her home every time someone wants to view her house. She has three doctor’s appointments this week as well.

These things on top of other life events make it difficult to function at times. Yet, I find writing to be my lifeline. I’ve had to prepare two guest blogs and work on my WTP while doing other pre-pub prep for my novel’s release. Writing has been unbelievably helpful with the stress I’m under.

Some of you probably think I’m weird. I get that. In the past writing would always take a back seat to whatever else came along. It was something I did when I had time. Something I did during free moments. And certainly not in the middle of the messes of life.

As I’ve gotten older and life has not slowed down around me I have no choice. If I want to make this writing thing work I have to press forward. Maybe I can’t reach all my writing goals for the week. Every week I create a too long to-do list. That’s just my nature. If I can accomplish anything on that list during a stressful time it seems to give me balance.

Balance helps me cope. Coping leads me to pray with more clarity. Increased prayer leads me to peace. And peace helps me manage the extreme stress of my present situation.

Psalms 29:11 The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.


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Guest post: Setting as Character

Beth's head shot-2Today I welcome my friend and fellow novelist Beth Ziarnik to my blog. I interviewed her when Her Deadly Inheritance Debut. I was quite intrigued with how her setting played into her plot. Her setting had a life of its own like her characters did. I’ve asked her to share how she built her setting character.

Exploring Setting as Character

Finding the right setting for a novel is crucial. I fell in love with Grand Island, Michigan sight unseen while reading Beatrice H. Castle’s The Grand Island Story. A fascinating wilderness island with a rich history, it remains sparsely settled and somewhat isolated. Perfect for a romantic suspense novel.

I also wanted a small paper mill town, and Munising fit my story’s needs: friendly, hardy people who love their city, are patriotic, hold old-fashioned values and dive into community events with humor and zest. Perfect!

After I read everything I could, my husband and I visited, and I knew I had my novel’s setting. It was romantic: waterfalls everywhere, magnificent color-banded cliffs, and an abundance of wildflowers, crystal clear waters shimmering in a sunset, fireworks lighting up the evening sky. As for suspense: evening fogs provided an air of mystery, while danger lurked in the waters of Lake Superior. Famous for fierce storms that break iron ore ships in half, it also stays cold enough to freeze the bodies of those who drown. They sink to the bottom where they remain. No wonder Lake Superior has earned its reputation of “never giving up its dead.”

I still needed a house with nooks and crannies and other interesting features to serve my story. Let me just admit it. Rather than borrow one already on the island or invent one of my own, I “ripped off” Mark Twain’s house in Hartford, Connecticut. Yup, I borrowed its floor plan and features—making a few minor adjustments—and plunked it down on Grand Island’s east coast across from the island’s “thumb.” If you visit Twain’s house, you will find most of it like Jill’s house on Grand Island. If you try to find it on Grand Island, you’ll be disappointed. No such house exists there.



Cliff of Grand Island


However, you can visit those island features that appear in Her Deadly Inheritance. William’s Landing, Echo Lake, the island cemetery, and the cottage where Jill’s father stayed one summer are all quite real. So are the storms Jill experienced along with their unusual features.



Grand Island Forest and Road


You can also visit the settings for scenes in Munising. Most should still be in place as they were when my husband and I made two on-site research trips: the café, the little church, the parade route, the ballpark and nearby boat docks, Powell’s Point and the ferry, the nursing home, the post office, the old-fashioned Fourth of July celebration at Bayshore Park, and even the tiny bridge over the creek nearby.



Streets of Munising


So, how then does an author take setting and present it as if it were another character in her story?

During those two visits, I not only took pictures and notes. I also soaked in all the sights, sounds, smells, textures, tastes, and unusual features of the island and town until those settings came alive to me. Not able to visit Mark Twain’s house, I found house plans and photos and read about the people who lived there. In my imagination, I walked through the house until it, too, came alive for me. Then I fed all this into my heroine’s and my hero’s hearts and let them experience it.

I’m now in the process of doing the same with my second novel because I truly believe setting is an important character in any romantic suspense novel. It sets and enhances mood, and provides unique features that help to make my stories vivid and alive.

HerDeadlyInheritanceColor-2About Beth:
A long-time fan of romantic suspense, Beth Ann Ziarnik offers her first novel Her Deadly Inheritance with all the twists and turns, cliffhangers and romantic tension she and readers have come to love. She is a co-founder of Word & Pen Christian Writers in Northeast Wisconsin and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. In addition to her 450 published pieces (several included in anthologies), she is the author of Love With Shoes On, her ten-year devotional column about love in action and based on 1 Corinthians 13.

Link to her

About Her Deadly Inheritance:

Winner of the: 2016 Writer of the Year Award at Write to Publish
First a runaway. Now running for her life. Won’t Jill Shepherd’s family be surprised when she returns to Grand Island, Michigan to end their lies and scheme to have her declared legally dead? But when Jill exposes the mastermind behind her intended death, her family’s deception may kill any chance she has of remaining alive.

Clay Merrick may seem to be little more than a handy-man restoring homes, but when the former Special Forces operative tracks a brutal killer to Jill’s historic house under renovation, he has most of the evidence he needs to bring the killer to justice … until Jill gets in the way.

When the killer sets sights on Jill as the next victim, it’s not just Clay’s mission on the line, but his heart.

What setting in a novel took on a life of its own matching wits with the characters in a novel you’ve read? Why was it a great addition to the novel?


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