Amazon Payments, Bad Reviews, Paragraph Indents, and Ph.D.

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bookdoctorby Bobbie Christmas

Q: I listed my book on Amazon. As you know, they charge a fee, which they take out of the money due to you from sales. I also went on their “search inside the book” promotion, which meant I had to ship another book to Xerox Corp. Amazon told me it had two sales, and I shipped two more books. As time went on, I realized that I would keep shipping books and never see any money, because the fees would eat up any sales money, so I asked Amazon to withdraw my membership and remove my listing. Its response was to remove the $8.50 price of the book and list “one new and one used at $1.95” and a negative (one-star) review by one person. I protested and even phoned Amazon, but to no avail. The person at Amazon said “someone” put my book for sale at that price and “someone” posted the negative review and that it would stay on permanently. Have I any recourse?

A: Your question has many parts. First, I’m sorry that you had such a poor relationship with Amazon. Not everyone has the same results, but book sellers are pressed to give deep discounts to resellers such as bookstores and websites, which is why traditional publishers pay us authors so little per book. Most of the cover price of books goes to printing costs, shipping costs, overhead, commissions to distributors, and discounts to booksellers.

When I looked at your book listing on Amazon, though, it said the title wasn’t available. It did not list any used copies, but I must tell you that the very first day my publisher released my book, Amazon listed used copies in addition to new ones. I was shocked! Since then I’ve heard rumors that people set up fake review names and addresses, get free copies of books for “review,” and sell them as used books in perfect condition.

Check the Amazon payment policy. I believe it doesn’t send out a check until the balance due adds up to a certain amount, perhaps $10. For a book that retails at $8.50, you would probably have to sell many more books than two, for the balance due you to reach the minimum. The only recourse is to promote your book more, so your sales can reach the amount that generates a check from Amazon.

As for the negative review, everybody is entitled to an opinion, good or bad. If authors were allowed to influence reviews or delete bad ones, no one would trust any of the reviews. They are authentic, and a bad review is here to stay. The only way to combat a bad review is to get better reviews from others.

If it makes you feel any better, I read the review. It says the author did a “sloppy job of editing,” yet the single-paragraph review contains two misspelled words. Talk about a sloppy job!

Q: What is the rule about indenting paragraphs?

A: The opening line of every paragraph should be indented five spaces. To make the indents automatic, set the auto return on the toolbar at the top of the page to indent five spaces automatically. In Word, look for the ruler at the top of the page on your computer screen and move the top arrow in five spaces.

I have heard questions about whether the first paragraph of each chapter should not be indented, and the answer depends upon your intent for the book. If you plan to self-publish and want the first paragraph in the printed book not to be indented, you may choose to type the manuscript that way. If you plan to seek a traditional publisher, however, standard manuscript format calls for all paragraphs to be indented.

Q: How do I punctuate the doctor degree, Ph. D? PHD? Phd? Is there a space, or should the letters all run together?

A: Chicago style dictates that the abbreviation for doctor of philosophy should be typed Ph.D. It has a capital P, lowercase h, period, no space, capital D, and period. Example: John earned his Ph.D. this year.


Send your questions to Bobbie@zebraeditor.com. Bobbie Christmas, book editor and owner of Zebra Communications, will answer your questions quickly. Read more Ask the Book Doctor questions and answers at www.zebraeditor.com. Look for her newly revised book, on sale June 15. Details in the Member News section.

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