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Stone and Silt
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Big Al's Books & Pals 2014 Readers' Choice Awards: Young Adult Nominee

A ruthless murder and a stolen shipment of gold.

At school, sixteen-year-old Nikaia Wales endures the taunts of bullies who call her a “half-breed.” At home, she worries about how her family will react if she reveals her growing feelings for the quiet boy next door.

Those are soon the least of her troubles. Nikaia discovers a hidden cache of gold, and when police find a corpse nearby, her father becomes a suspect. Worse, Elias Doyle is circling, hungry to avenge his brother’s death.

Nikaia desperately searches for clues to save her father. In her quest to find the killer, she learns about the power of family, friendship, and young love....

Author Topic: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?  (Read 2255 times)  

Offline AlexaKang

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Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« on: November 12, 2017, 08:43:48 PM »
I thought I'd seen them on book blurbs but on the AMS thread it was noted that we can't quote customer reviews in Amazon ads. What about blurbs?

Offline Tilly

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #1 on: November 12, 2017, 09:23:57 PM »
Do you have the customers permission to use their review?

Online TobiasRoote

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2017, 09:49:01 PM »
I frequently use aspects of peoples reviews in my blurb. (Often they can say something better than I can and at least it's honest). BUT! Who owns the reviews? Do we know? What are the repub rights of reviews on an author's books. Does it lie with Amazon, the Author, the Reviewer, or nobody as it's a public posting. Interesting to know the LEGAL aspect. Has anyone ever actually been forced to remove their 'review' from their blurb?


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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2017, 11:01:30 PM »
I frequently use aspects of peoples reviews in my blurb. (Often they can say something better than I can and at least it's honest). BUT! Who owns the reviews? Do we know? What are the repub rights of reviews on an author's books. Does it lie with Amazon, the Author, the Reviewer, or nobody as it's a public posting. Interesting to know the LEGAL aspect. Has anyone ever actually been forced to remove their 'review' from their blurb?

I've certainly seen them used on FB ads. I believe people use them on Bookbub ads too. I'm wondering what Amazon's policy is about sellers/authors using review snippets. I recall reading somewhere Amazon supports showing customer review quotes in editorial reviews but that was a long time ago and I can't remember where I read that. Not sure if they have a policy as to quoting them in blurbs though.

I would think that Amazon at least has covered itself somehow to have automatic license to use any content posted on its own site. Otherwise they would have a nightmare on hand. But I don't know what the answer is to your question.
« Last Edit: November 12, 2017, 11:07:19 PM by AlexaKang »

Offline Vishal Reddy

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2017, 02:06:53 AM »
I thought I'd seen them on book blurbs but on the AMS thread it was noted that we can't quote customer reviews in Amazon ads. What about blurbs?

I listed 10 positive customer reviews in my blurb:

http://amzn.to/2qOgh0H


Offline RTW

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #5 on: November 13, 2017, 05:23:52 AM »
I had quoted--using quote marks--2 or 3 words each of different customer reviews in an AMS ad that Amazon took down. But their policy is so vague that I've had to write to them twice now for clarification. I'm currently awaiting their new response. Because apparently, if I understand their policy correctly (which I may not), you can quote from reviews that are in your blurb. So the question is: If I put snippets of Amazon customer reviews in my blurb--what Amazon refers to as the book description--can I then use these selfsame quotes in AMS ads? Because then they're in the book description and not just in the reviewer area.

So far no one at Amazon has been able to answer this question for me but instead I keep getting their written policy quoted back to me.

I'll post here if I ever get an answer I understand.

Interestingly, the ad they took down had run earlier without a problem. I guess no one at AMS noticed it at the time. It seemed to me that fair use covered this sort of thing, but Amazon's policies are another matter.

I also wonder if there's a problem quoting from customer reviews on one's website.

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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #6 on: November 13, 2017, 07:03:14 AM »

I also wonder if there's a problem quoting from customer reviews on one's website.

Technically Amazon can't come after you for this because Amazon is not the copyright owner. I guess the question may be asked if the reviewer can come after you for it. For all practical purposes, unless you're a deep pocket and/or the reviewer has the $$ to pay a lawyer, no lawyer in his or her right mind would take on such a case. People are copyright owners sue on a case because what they've written has monetary value to protect from republication. It's rare someone sue on the principle of it. An Amazon reviewer cannot really capitalize on the IP of the review. Unless he's suing you because you're a deep pocket. But then I think it could backfire because it could make the reviewer look like an opportunist.


ETA: Another thing is, depends on what user name the customer uses to post the review, it may be hard to prove he/she own that review. There are a lot of reviews by simply "Amazon Customer".  If an author quoted "Great Read" by Amazon Customer, it's kind of hard to argue that YOU are the Amazon customer who has the right to sue on this.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 07:05:53 AM by AlexaKang »

Offline Mercedes Vox

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #7 on: November 13, 2017, 07:16:35 AM »
Any potential legal issues aside, I think it's common courtesy to seek permission to use someone else's words to advertise my book, so I always ask. I've never been declined.

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Online RBN

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #8 on: November 13, 2017, 07:32:14 AM »
ETA: Another thing is, depends on what user name the customer uses to post the review, it may be hard to prove he/she own that review. There are a lot of reviews by simply "Amazon Customer".  If an author quoted "Great Read" by Amazon Customer, it's kind of hard to argue that YOU are the Amazon customer who has the right to sue on this.

Maybe if there are 15 reviews that say "Great Read," but if there's only one, all the claimant would have to do is log into the Amazon account, pull up the history of reviews, and point at it to prove ownership.

Legally, Amazon doesn't want anything to do with your use of someone else's words, and they will refuse ads and affiliate applications and anything else the legal department feels could potentially make them party to a legal conflict. Book descriptions seem to get even less scrutiny than the books themselves, so you may be able to get away with pasting excerpts from reviews (redundantly, since they're right at the bottom of the page to read in full  ::) ) FOR NOW, but don't be surprised if they get one complaint and start sending "Produce written permission from the reviewer or get your account banned" emails in their usual wrecking ball fashion.

Online TobiasRoote

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #9 on: November 13, 2017, 07:33:51 AM »
Any potential legal issues aside, I think it's common courtesy to seek permission to use someone else's words to advertise my book, so I always ask. I've never been declined.

You must have some form of special access then, because I'm unable to contact ANY of my Amazon reviewers and there's a few that I wouldn't mind having a convo with I can tell you :P ) :D


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Offline Mercedes Vox

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #10 on: November 13, 2017, 07:44:49 AM »
You must have some form of special access then, because I'm unable to contact ANY of my Amazon reviewers and there's a few that I wouldn't mind having a convo with I can tell you :P ) :D

In my genres, I've found that a majority of the more detailed critical reviews posted on Amazon were posted on blogs or Goodreads first.

If the reviewer uses their blog name on Amazon reviews, it's super-easy to find them outside the Amazon ecosystem. If not, I simply copy a line from the review on Amazon that has distinctive wording and let Google find the original source, if any, for me. Pretty simple to find contact info at that point.

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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #11 on: November 13, 2017, 08:25:38 AM »
Maybe if there are 15 reviews that say "Great Read," but if there's only one, all the claimant would have to do is log into the Amazon account, pull up the history of reviews, and point at it to prove ownership.

Legally, Amazon doesn't want anything to do with your use of someone else's words, and they will refuse ads and affiliate applications and anything else the legal department feels could potentially make them party to a legal conflict. Book descriptions seem to get even less scrutiny than the books themselves, so you may be able to get away with pasting excerpts from reviews (redundantly, since they're right at the bottom of the page to read in full  ::) ) FOR NOW, but don't be surprised if they get one complaint and start sending "Produce written permission from the reviewer or get your account banned" emails in their usual wrecking ball fashion.



Well let me point out also then that nobody can really claim copyright to "Great Read", or else no one anywhere will ever be able to write, publish or post these two words anywhere ever. This claim is so general, no one has any case.

ETA: Legally speaking, copyrightable text needs to have at least some form of originality and minimal creativity. Something like "Great Read" doesn't meet that threshold.

In my genres, I've found that a majority of the more detailed critical reviews posted on Amazon were posted on blogs or Goodreads first.

If the reviewer uses their blog name on Amazon reviews, it's super-easy to find them outside the Amazon ecosystem. If not, I simply copy a line from the review on Amazon that has distinctive wording and let Google find the original source, if any, for me. Pretty simple to find contact info at that point.

Most people won't be that tech savvy.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 08:30:28 AM by AlexaKang »

Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #12 on: November 13, 2017, 09:39:29 AM »
I'm looking at copyright laws in US and UK. You really can't claim copyright simply because you've written something and shown it publicly. It has to have some form of originality and creativity that you can claim as your own. I think common sense would lead to the conclusion that this is the case with copyright laws elsewhere, or else nobody will ever be able to say anything.

So my read on this is that if your quotes are very general such that it can't be said to have minimal originality or creativity, you're on the safe side of the law. (Again, I can't imagine any reviewer would find it financially worthwhile to sue either way unless you are a big name with deep pockets to pay, and the reviewer is sure he has a good case.) Amazon policy of course is a different issue, and if someone knows exactly what Amazon's policy is, feel free to share.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 09:41:21 AM by AlexaKang »

Offline Mercedes Vox

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #13 on: November 13, 2017, 09:58:37 AM »
Most people won't be that tech savvy.

Tech savvy? If a person can upload a book through KDP, I'm pretty sure they have the necessary skills to copy-and-paste a blogger's name or a phrase from a review into the Google search box and then look for the "contact" button on the blogger's blog.

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Offline A.G.B

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #14 on: November 13, 2017, 10:07:21 AM »
Tech savvy? If a person can upload a book through KDP, I'm pretty sure they have the necessary skills to copy-and-paste a blogger's name or a phrase from a review into the Google search box and then look for the "contact" button on the blogger's blog.
Most I've seen have no blog, and their Amazon profile is anonymous and doesn't have an email address.

Offline veinglory

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #15 on: November 13, 2017, 10:24:38 AM »
You must have some form of special access then, because I'm unable to contact ANY of my Amazon reviewers and there's a few that I wouldn't mind having a convo with I can tell you :P ) :D

If they want to be contacted there will be an email on their profile when you click on their name.  Otherwise you are taking a guess at "fair use" with a short snippet quote.
 

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #16 on: November 13, 2017, 12:18:02 PM »
Any potential legal issues aside, I think it's common courtesy to seek permission to use someone else's words to advertise my book, so I always ask. I've never been declined.

^^^ This. Also, as authors, we expect others to respect our copyright. It should go without saying that we should do the same.
     

Offline MaryMcDonald

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #17 on: November 13, 2017, 12:25:46 PM »
I have some notable reviews excerpted in the editorial reviews (top Amazon reviewers, for example, or from book review blogs). I have not used one in a blurb. I don't know if it's allowed, but personally, I can see maybe using an excerpt or two, but when I'm looking for a book to read, I don't want to read a heavy sales pitch--I just want to know what the book is about. I've already been 'caught' so to speak, in that I've stopped long enough to check out the blurb. Just tell me what the story is about; don't make me hit the 'more' link to actually read any part of the blurb. Get at least a few lines above that.

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Online TobiasRoote

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #18 on: November 13, 2017, 12:35:18 PM »
^^^ This. Also, as authors, we expect others to respect our copyright. It should go without saying that we should do the same.

Is it an issue of copyright though? We make comments here on a forum. The moment they're in print others can copy them and do whatever they want with them. Do we get asked? (I just quoted you - did I ask you before I did so? am I breaking your copyright by doing so?) The issue isn't about copyright, nor is it about courtesy. People write good and bad things in reviews on a public platform. They want it to be read, they want people to know what they think. By writing those reviews they are putting their opinions into the public domain - they no longer own them. If they don't want them quoted, they can remove their review and ask not to be quoted. What if you take their review, paraphrase it and combine it with others until you have a new description - the most you can be accused of is plagiarism. No, this isn't a simple matter of copyright or courtesy - it's really a matter of public ownership of words placed on a public noticeboard. Anyone can use them. My earlier question was just how legal is all this? Nobody has answered that satisfactorily and until that can be answered it's going to be open season on blurbs.  I think there might be an issue if you quote someone OUT of context and misrepresent their words, then they might have recourse against you. There is also the matter of if they are reviewing your book, there is an implied shared ownership between the author and reviewer. The issue is devilishly complex. Not an easy matter to resolve, especially on a public forum where all such conversations are able to be quoted without permission.


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Offline veinglory

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #19 on: November 13, 2017, 12:51:26 PM »
As a reviewer I assure you, it is a copyright issue for me.  My words, my copyright.  Anyone copying or excessively quoting my reviews will go on the DMCA list along with the book pirates.
 

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #20 on: November 13, 2017, 12:57:37 PM »
Is it an issue of copyright though? We make comments here on a forum. The moment they're in print others can copy them and do whatever they want with them. Do we get asked? (I just quoted you - did I ask you before I did so? am I breaking your copyright by doing so?) The issue isn't about copyright, nor is it about courtesy. People write good and bad things in reviews on a public platform. They want it to be read, they want people to know what they think. By writing those reviews they are putting their opinions into the public domain - they no longer own them. If they don't want them quoted, they can remove their review and ask not to be quoted. What if you take their review, paraphrase it and combine it with others until you have a new description - the most you can be accused of is plagiarism. No, this isn't a simple matter of copyright or courtesy - it's really a matter of public ownership of words placed on a public noticeboard. Anyone can use them. My earlier question was just how legal is all this? Nobody has answered that satisfactorily and until that can be answered it's going to be open season on blurbs.  I think there might be an issue if you quote someone OUT of context and misrepresent their words, then they might have recourse against you. There is also the matter of if they are reviewing your book, there is an implied shared ownership between the author and reviewer. The issue is devilishly complex. Not an easy matter to resolve, especially on a public forum where all such conversations are able to be quoted without permission.

On here people expect to be quoted, or at least should expect to be, since quoting is a feature of the site. Reviews are different. Obviously two-word reviews like 'great book' aren't unique enough to really be considered copyrighted. But the more in-depth ones are. And just because people want their reviews to be read doesn't mean authors have the right to use them for whatever they want.

Just because an issue won't get to court doesn't mean that it's not still a violation of copyright. And how does it imply shared ownership just because someone wrote a review of your book?

Also, Just because there is a feature that allows people to comment on and quote reviews doesn't mean it's acceptable to quote those reviews elsewhere in a different context.
     

Offline Linn

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #21 on: November 13, 2017, 01:01:42 PM »
When Amazon bought Goodreads, there was a LOOOOOONG thread on GR where many reviewers expressed their displeasure, and announced that they were pulling all of their reviews out of concern that Amazon might try to claim ownership of them. So clearly some reviewers feel quite strongly about this, whether there's a financial aspect involved or not.


Offline Tilly

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #22 on: November 13, 2017, 02:12:14 PM »
...Also, as authors, we expect others to respect our copyright. It should go without saying that we should do the same.

So much this ^

It is a huge issue for Goodreads users. If they find out an author is using their reviews without their express permission that's one way to get yourself on a whole load of [crap] lists. Personally I think it's one of those grey areas and its always interesting to see which way authors jump when they think something will benefit them and no one will notice...

I would also point out that using a quote from a customer review on a blurb really doesn't have any impact. For all readers know it could have been written by your mother. If you want a quote for a blurb I would approach authors who write in your genre, and especially those with credentials.

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #23 on: November 13, 2017, 03:24:05 PM »
I wouldn't. Not impressive (people can just read the reviews for nonprofessional opinions), and possibly dicey legally. What does it gain you? I'm not sure it gains anything. It can look desperate.

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Offline AlexaKang

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Re: Can you quote customer reviews in blurbs?
« Reply #24 on: November 13, 2017, 04:07:56 PM »
Is it an issue of copyright though? We make comments here on a forum. The moment they're in print others can copy them and do whatever they want with them. Do we get asked? (I just quoted you - did I ask you before I did so? am I breaking your copyright by doing so?) The issue isn't about copyright, nor is it about courtesy. People write good and bad things in reviews on a public platform. They want it to be read, they want people to know what they think. By writing those reviews they are putting their opinions into the public domain - they no longer own them. If they don't want them quoted, they can remove their review and ask not to be quoted. What if you take their review, paraphrase it and combine it with others until you have a new description - the most you can be accused of is plagiarism. No, this isn't a simple matter of copyright or courtesy - it's really a matter of public ownership of words placed on a public noticeboard. Anyone can use them. My earlier question was just how legal is all this? Nobody has answered that satisfactorily and until that can be answered it's going to be open season on blurbs.  I think there might be an issue if you quote someone OUT of context and misrepresent their words, then they might have recourse against you. There is also the matter of if they are reviewing your book, there is an implied shared ownership between the author and reviewer. The issue is devilishly complex. Not an easy matter to resolve, especially on a public forum where all such conversations are able to be quoted without permission.

I think I provided partial answer to your question. If the quoted words are not unique enough to be copyrightable, then there is no violation of copyright law. For something to be within protection of copyright, it has to have minimal creativity and originality. So a short snippet that cannot be deemed to have met that threshold is not a legal violation. Whether the reviewer is upset: again, is the quoted words so unique that it can only be attributable to that particular reviewer? Something like "Great read" could've been said by a number of readers.

Whether it's impressive or not, I suppose it's a matter of personal opinion. Mark Dawson recommends using short snippets of customer reviews in FB ads. Adam Croft recommends it in Bookbub ads too. They said it's been shown to work.

I'm not advocating not asking for permission. That's up to each author and none of my business. The issue is vague enough that I don't feel it's my place to opine on what others do. I'm just trying to understand what Amazon's policy is about quoting reviews in blurbs, whether with or without the reviewer's permission. And no one has answered that question either.

ETA: I want to further clarify that my question is in regards to Amazon customer reviews, not blog reviews or other reviews from any other sites. Those brings a whole different set of issues which you guys are free to debate, but I'm still trying to figure out what is Amazon's policy.
« Last Edit: November 13, 2017, 04:36:37 PM by AlexaKang »