Way back in 2010, I was slandered by someone who said I had FAKED twenty-two 4 and 5 star reviews of my own book on Amazon.
This is the story of how I used email marketing to fight back, as well as some tips on how to use email marketing to build a fantastic ‘tribe’ of loyal fans and followers.
When I published my second book, Email Marketing Dynamite, I’d put the book on Amazon but hadn’t immediately promoted it.
So it sat on Amazon for a while, not selling very much.
(To state the obvious… you usually have to promote things for them to take off!)
Anyway when I got to the point where I wanted to promote it, I signed a contract to run an expensive full page advert in the Federation of Small Business magazine, ‘First Voice’, which at the time had 213,000 members.
I knew the advert would generate a lot of interest, and what I didn’t want to happen was for people to see the advert, go onto Amazon to get the book and then see that the book had absolutely zero reviews.
Obviously for a marketer to have a book with zero reviews is not a very good demonstration of marketing!
So I sent an email to my email subscribers, asking them if they would kindly go to Amazon and leave a review.
Note: I did not ask them to leave a positive review—I just asked them to leave an honest review of whether they found the book useful or not.
Now because I have built up a pretty good relationship with the people on my list, I had some really nice response and within a few days 22 four and five star reviews appeared on Amazon, which was really kind and gracious of them.
So far so good.
Unfortunately, a stranger called Matthew Pollock then went and left a one star review on Amazon.
In his review he admitted that he hadn’t bought the book and hadn’t read the book… but he didn’t believe that the reviews were genuine.
He thought that the author (i.e. me) had gone onto Amazon and made up all 22 reviews purely to make my book look good!!!
Not only did he criticize the book (which he hadn’t read) but he personally attacked my character and called me out for being a ‘fake guru’.
Now at that time I’d not actually experienced any ‘haters’, and admit I was pretty upset about it.
So the first thing I did —a knee jerk reaction— was to send a letter to Amazon’s legal department, complaining about his defamatory comment.
A day or two later I also sent another email to my email subscribers, including the same people who were who had gone and left four and five star reviews on Amazon—basically telling them about this chap who said they didn’t exist and that I’d made up all the review!
I also actually blogged about it and although my new website doesn’t have that blog post, if you visit WayBack machine (which occasionally takes snapshots of websites) you can still see my old blog post…
In that blog post I made the point of how powerful effective email marketing can be, and also pointed out the irony of it working too well!
Then something amazing happened.
The same people who’d left the nice reviews on Amazon actually sprang to my defense.
They went onto Amazon, found this chaps review and all replied underneath his review, assuring him that they definitely are genuine people!
That was absolutely brilliant.
And the other thing that happened is that they all left comments on my blog saying how annoyed they were with this chap.
So that was all lovely.
Then another very unexpected thing happened.
Matthew Pollock, the chap who left the one-star review, actually commented on my blog post at EdRivis.com and left an apology!
Here’s his comment in full…
It is as you said… a long period of no reviews. Then the sudden appearance of 22 reviews, all during the working week, almost all from people who had never reviewed another book, and all positive, caused me to be suspicious, mistakenly it seems.
In self defence I would say that the pattern was highly unusual. Most books, even quite famous ones, take a long time to garner reviews. Most books are not exclusively reviewed by people who’ve never reviewed any other book. Most books are not reviewed by a sudden rush of people, all at once, there having previously been total silence. And most books are not reviewed during a period in which there’s a note on Amazon, saying that the book is not available for sale.
My apologies that I rushed to point out the pattern, from which people could have drawn conclusions which, it turns out, would have been erroneous.
I am frankly surprised that Amazon allows authors to email their contacts to ask for reviews, because this would tend to bias the sample towards positive reviews. But if Amazon does allow it, so be it. As you say, it hadn’t occured to me that this had happened, and now that you explain it, everything falls into place. Again, my apologies.
Clearly Ed has a large base of support from real people, for which congratulations!
He did make a few good points in his comment, although I’m not sure about where he said the book was showing on Amazon as not being available for sale.
To my knowledge the book was available for sale, at least in the UK.
However he did make a valid point about the reviews appearing almost ‘too’ quickly.
So I replied to him…
Hi Matthew – thanks for your message, I really appreciate it.
Also I do totally see where you’re coming from regards loads of positive reviews suddenly appearing from nowhere.
In my own defence I never realised I’d get so many glowing reviews so quickly… (guess I underestimated the power of e-mail marketing! 🙂
No hard feelings and I wish you all my best,
The thing is, I’d been emailing my subscribers and blogging every week.
For a while (more than a year) I’d even blogged and emailed every weekday.
As a result I’d built up a really good relationship with the people on my list.
So it stands to reason my request for reviews would get a nice response from people who obviously liked me and what I talk about.
And obviously like the Matthew Pollock noticed, I did get a very positive bias of four and five star reviews.
But the point is, my book was all about email marketing, and the whole point of email marketing is to be able to communicate and garner a response from people instantly at the click of a button.
So of course, If you walk your talk, it’s going to work!
Anyway, I went from being upset about the initial slanderous review to being overwhelmed by the support, and being delighted at how it showed effective email marketing at it’s best.
That was all brilliant.
Unfortunately, there was…
A final twist in the tail!
If you recall earlier I said my first reaction was to send a letter to Amazon’s legal department complaining about slander?
And I really wish I hadn’t done that!
Amazon deleted Matthew Pollock’s one star review, and with it went all of the lovely comments people had left on Amazon in response!
That was such a shame because it was such a public display of how email marketing can be so effective, all attached to a book about email marketing!
Anyway over the last eleven years (blimey!) I’ve learnt to not react as much to things like that.
There are so many nasty things being said about people online, haters hating on people, people who just seem to spend all their free time doing nothing other than being negative and nasty and leaving horrible comments about people.
Yes, it’s true. There are also a lot of fake gurus out there, and people who make up their own reviews and testimonials and things, but it’s still a shame.
Anyway, I just wanted to share this story with you, partly because it’s quite funny, but also just to show how effective email marketing can be at getting a great response from people.
EMail Marketing Still Works in 2021
Obviously all of the above happened way back in 2010, but email marketing does still work in 2021… otherwise no one would be doing it!
Yes, it can be quite difficult to build a great relationship with subscribers these days, but it’s certainly not impossible.
You just have to be consistent with it, and you have to be genuine.
And as my experience showed… even if you are consistent and genuine, you might still get the occasional hater calling you out unfairly!
But it’s definitely worth doing.
If you’re not currently email marketing then I highly recommend you start.
I use a fantastic email marketing platform – check out my ConvertKit review for more details.
Anyway, I hope you found this story entertaining and useful, and I wish you all the best with your email marketing.
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