Last month I was invited on to the Amazon Vine programme. If you’re not sure what it is (I certainly had no clue what it was)…
It’s basically a marketing initiative that Amazon runs in conjunction with its suppliers. It’s a bit like mystery shopping – only it’s for the internet age.
Every month Vine members get sent a newsletter and from this newsletter they can pick 2 items. The newsletter doesn’t just have books – it has electrical items (typically things like external hard drives, electric shavers, hair-driers, audio books, computer software – though these run out faster). I’ve only been on the programme one month (I was invited last month) so I’m not too familiar with the ‘big ticket’ items yet, but some items are north of £100. You have to move fast to get the big ticket items as they are obviously in limited supply, especially compared with the books.
It’s totally free to the people on the programme. There is no cost whatsoever. You pick your items and they are then sent to you. They cover postage and you can keep the items after reviewing them. However, in order to continue requesting items each month – you need to ensure that you are reviewing 75% of what is sent to you.
A week after the first newsletter, there is another newsletter from which you can pick the remainder of the stock that wasn’t selected the first time round. This is what the last newsletter looked like from last week:
There is no way to opt into the programme or to refer/recommend others. It’s totally down to Amazon who they invite and it’s nominally based upon how useful you have been to the community (i.e. you’re written reviews over the years and people have thanked you and there is presumably some algorithm that then shortlists and invites you). My invite didn’t even come by email – I got a message on my Amazon homepage which I was quite suspicious of. How could it really be free, I thought.
And when the books come they tend to be hardbacks which was a bit of a shock as I never buy hardbacks.
There is a private forum for ‘Viners’ on the Amazon site itself. Very clubby and quite clique. A lot of these people probably have a lot of time on their hands (unlike me these days) and it’s all first name terms and people chatting like they’ve known one another for years.
I don’t know how many Viners there are in the UK. From the forum I would guess the figure isn’t enormous. Mid hundreds perhaps but only Amazon would know.
Funnily enough, I’d only written 8 or so reviews in the 10 or so years I’ve had an Amazon account. Often the reviews were of fairly arcane items/books and they were generally quite thorough and not competing with other reviews so I got quite good feedback. But I’d imagined the only people invited on to the programme would be those ‘top 500’ reviewer types, of which I’m certainly not (I’m towards the bottom of the top 10,000 according to my reviewer profile).
That said, I have always liked writing reviews.