Verified Purchases

“You’ll never hear so much as a complaint from me, as long as, baby, you don’t lie to me.”
-The Fratellis, “Baby Don’t You Lie To Me!”

It’s probably not the wisest decision to target a corporation that’s well on their way to taking over the world, but no one is listening anyway, so why not.

As you may be aware, I’m an author. If not, then I suggest you click on another menu item on my site. No, I don’t have food available. Stop multi-tasking while at a restaurant, you’re confusing all of us! Authors don’t make a lot of money—the successful writers are a misrepresentation of the general wordsmith mass. For example, I can probably afford something off a value menu at a fast-food restaurant while someone like Dan Brown is eating somewhere classy like, oh, I don’t know, Olive Garden or Chili’s. There are a lot more starving artists than there are successful ones. Don’t worry, I’m eating just fine, let’s not take that out of context and label me “insensitive” or whatever other terms people use to blow things out of proportion.

The over-saturated market has created two constants: an author needs quality reviews, and to hit social media harder than a teenage girl. Wait, the phrasing on that seems wrong. You know what I meant though. Regarding the former, the catch-22 is that you need reviews to get sales, but sales to get reviews.

There’s something I can tell you from experience: People used to take advantage of the system by paying for fake reviews. As a ghostwriter, a company once reached out to me to write multiple reviews for a wage for each post. I didn’t want to do that, no matter how much I wanted to join Dan Brown at Olive Garden. So Amazon cracked down on these trends and put into effect a new review policy. Good, right?

Yes. They became stricter on where IP addresses and email accounts originated, and also started fully implementing the “verified purchase” requirements. Still good, right?

Yes, in a way. Sure, people can buy your product, but not everyone gets to review it. Here are two examples that aren’t allowed:

-“A family member of the product creator posts a five-star customer review to help boost sales”: As many authors know, especially ones that are trying to break into the industry, your family will probably be the first people to know about your published work, and they will buy it, no matter how dysfunctional they appear to be. They will read it, some will be more honest than others, and then they will want to help you out. Fantastic! So Amazon is essentially saying that your mom can’t tell you that you’re the best at everything. However, this just says “five-star” which makes it possible for a jealous sibling to give a sub-par or slanderous review just because. How is that fair? Still, it’s understandable in a way.

-“You must have spent at least $50 on Amazon.com using a valid credit or debit card in the past 12 months”: This right here irks me a bit. I had two excellent reviews by people who bought my book off Amazon, but since they hadn’t spent $50 yet, they weren’t eligible to post a review. Why does it matter? They bought a product, and wanted to review it. Sounds like they were verified purchasers, but I guess Amazon just needs to get paid.

This is where I don’t think it makes sense. Say you’re a self-published author who has used Amazon’s service to put their book out. Amazon gets a hefty cut as part of the sale, so wouldn’t they want more verified reviews to gain more revenue? I’m all for making sure the reviews are valid, but when they obviously are, but Amazon wants even more money on top of what they made from the purchase, then I believe they’re crossing a line.

Here’s an eye-opener for you: If an author sells a paperback book on Amazon at $8.99 the author receives a little over $1. Yum, that’s McDonald’s money right there.

Here’s another eye-opener for you: Amazon’s sales of products, which includes books, rose 25.5% in 2017, to $118.5 billion.

But people can’t review something unless they spend $50? It doesn’t seem like Amazon is hurting that much to purposely hinder the sales of their own authors.

At the beginning of the year, I decided to not buy anything from Amazon because they had messed up my last 6 orders of 2017. That’s pathetic for a multi-billion-dollar, industry-leading corporation if you ask me. I will tell you this as well, their screw-ups accounted for more than $50 easily. Interesting.

Despite what I said, there are some exceptions to what I will buy now on Amazon, but I better damn well spend $50 before I can say what they are. Uh-oh, Is there a drone outside my window right now? Shh!

Oh what the hell. Damned if I do, damned if I don’t. Hi Jeff!

I’m just saying there needs to be a little bit of flexibility here, but sadly, this isn’t all Amazon’s fault. If people were just decent to begin with then this wouldn’t be a problem. Unfortunately, there’s no way to monitor that without it affecting everyone from the big guy to the little guy, from the fraudulent to the honest.

Changing and Napping

“So we keep waiting (waiting), waiting on the world to change.”
-John Mayer, “Waiting on the World to Change”

I’m an author. I’ve been known to read and understand words from time to time. I know how to put together a few complete sentences despite what some people claim and Microsoft decides to point out with their stupid green lines. With that being said, with all my experience in fiction and journalism, I will admit that some stories and linguistics trip me up – it’s just a little degrading when it happens to be a children’s story.

This isn’t just some random story thrown together by a couple of people trying to figure out what they want to do with their life, this is a classic: Rip Van Winkle. What? Can’t a grown man, an adult – or of adult age at least – capable of making his own decisions read a fairy tale for whatever reason? It’s better than living in a fairy tale like the heartbroken dreamers who convince themselves that Disney stories are a factual way of life or some 20-something-year-old who scrounges for something to eat in their parents’ fridge to fuel the late hours they spend thinking about working on a children’s book.

Most people know the legend of the sleepyhead, but like most childhood stories, there’s usually a more advanced, darker take to the fairy tale. Here’s an excerpt from the Washington Irving short:

“Their tempers, doubtless, are rendered pliant and malleable in the fiery furnace or domestic tribulation…”

And another…

“The great error in Rip’s composition was an insuperable aversion to all kinds of profitable labor. It could not be from the want of assiduity or perseverance…”

Okay, this didn’t necessarily trip me up as I claimed earlier, but the language was rather unexpected. Say you’re reading this to your child –  Are they going to understand it? Probably not – and don’t say, “Well the doctor said that my kid is so smart, more advanced than most others their age.” Spoiler alert: your doctor probably says that to a lot of parents. And we wonder where the modern mentality of delusion and regression begins.

On another note, maybe stories like Rip Van Winkle do explain a child’s fashion sense at times:

“They were dressed in a quaint, outlandish fashion; some wore short doublets, others jerkins, with long knives in their belts, and most of them had enormous breeches, or similar style with that of the guide’s. Their visages, too, were peculiar: one had a large beard, broad face, and small piggish eyes; the face of another seemed to consist entirely of nose, and was surmounted by a white sugar-loaf hat, set off with a red cock’s tail.”

And another….

“There was one who seemed to be the commander. He was a stout gentleman, with a weatherbeaten countenance; he wore a laced doublet, broad belt and hanger, high-crowned hat and feather, red stockings, and high-heeled shoes with roses in them.”

Oh, those crazy Dutch killer gnomes. Also, if I may point out, I think this commander might be suffering through an identity crisis. Wait, am I not supposed to say something insensitive like that? Good, I didn’t think it was insensitive either, but you never know who’s reading.

Perhaps the tales were meant to build a child’s vocabulary, but let’s face it, these stories are a thing of the past and don’t translate to the modern era. People had better control of the language back in the day. Case and point: my writing now. And to think, they didn’t have the dependency of autocorrect or dictionary apps on their phone (what phone, am I right?) or the ease of right-clicking for synonyms to make them sound smarter. They actually knew the meaning of certain words and how to use them correctly.

Things have changed, that’s for damn sure. Are we happy with the direction we’re going or would we rather distract ourselves with petty indifferences, avoid major conflict by presenting meager complaints, and wait for a solution?

Moral: Get black out drunk and pass out to avoid your troubles. We all have our own Dame Van Winkles, am I right, fellas? I’ll pay for that one.

Better Moral: The world is going to keep changing whether or not you stop or whether or not you like it, so you need to adapt.

Bonus Moral: Don’t listen to John Mayer and wait for the world to change; if you don’t like it (whatever your world may be), don’t be lazy, and do something about it.

Bonus Bonus Moral: 20-year naps only grow beards, and most people have those already anyway.

Okay, I’m done. I need to make a change and progress. Do you?