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Thursday, November 8, 2012

More On Amazon Reviews And Indie Authors


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The following is syndicated from To Become A Writer and is posted here with permission.

Okay, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the stink with Amazon reviews and how it’s affecting indie authors. I’ve read a lot of blogs, Facebook groups, twitter feeds and more about this hot and controversial topic and here’s the latest, as I’ve heard it…and the latest from Amazon. Read on…

Indie Authors – How/When Did This Start?

I’ve read a lot of posts that say that this all started when the New York Times printed an article about John Locke buying reviews. Actually, indie authors were reporting that they were losing reviews before the NYT article went public. One theory I’ve heard (from JA Konrath), is that the site No Sock Puppets Here Please (a site where you could agree that you wouldn’t create fake reviews) is the culprit for all of this happening. According to Konrath (at least as far as I can tell) is that if this group had kept their mouths shut, Amazon wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble to over-enforce their review rules. Again, the problem here is that reviews started disappearing before NSPHP’s post (that group may still have influenced Amazon, who knows?).

Indie Authors – A Reasoned Response to JA Konrath

JA Konrath has written at length about this issue. I, for one, think he’s deflected the issue away from the actual issue of people faking reviews and onto those that complained about it (NSPHP in particular). For a great look at JA Konrath’s posts and more about what Amazon is probably doing, read a wonderful post by Edward Robertson. And as Edward notes (as I did above), reviews started disappearing before the John Locke issue came to light (also, if you read my first post on this, Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews, you’ll see that it was post in July, well before the John Locke issue). For a great discussion on why Amazon is removing reviews, read this post from the Amazon forums…and read the ones where reviewers are now questioning if they want to review anything anymore. Is this what Amazon wants? After all, reviews help sell products….

And let me clarify, I don’t have anything against JA Konrath…back in the day, I think he gave a lot of great advice to people trying to get published. But I think he’d muddied the waters with this one…

Indie Authors – Another Disturbing Trend From Amazon

If any of you have read my previous posts on this issue (Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews and Indie Authors, John Locke and Book Reviews), you’ll see in the comments amazonthat when indie authors have complained to Amazon about why they’ve had reviews removed, Amazon, in at least a few cases, has threatened to remove the author’s book. This is exceedingly disturbing to me. Why would Amazon do this? Why not clarify why the review was removed? What harm could this do? Now I’m not stupid…I’m sure they’ve been overwhelmed with questions about this, and some low-level employee who has no idea what’s behind all this is answering the questions. But you’d think Amazon would not want to alienate their authors, but then again, they really are about the money, and not indie authors.

Indie Authors – Amazon Creates A New Review Policy

And now, in the midst of all this, we have a new review (or maybe it’s just the newly enforced) policy from Amazon. It’s interesting to read, and it also brings some things into question. Let’s start with who can create an Amazon review:

Anyone who has purchased items from Amazon.com. All we ask is that you follow a few simple rules (see “What’s not allowed” below).

This brings in an interesting twist – what to do about gifted books? The policy says:

If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that you received the product free of charge.

Okay, makes sense. But I’ve heard of authors who gift a book to a reader, the previously stated guideline was adhered to in the review, and Amazon still took down the review. Does anyone know definitely what the answer is? Let me know in the comments if you do.

Here’s another piece of the policy:

Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that that are a part of a paid publicity package.

Did anyone alert Amazon that they had a typo there :) . Now, in theory this makes sense. But I’d still like to know if Amazon is addressing the Big Six (or Big Five now) and their paying for reviews for their big authors. I doubt it…

The policy also covers inappropriate content, including links and the like. Pretty standard. But then I read on Robert Chazz Chute’s blog that Amazon will not allow authors to review their competition. Read the post, Roberth has some great thoughts on this. However, I don’t see this spelled out in Amazon’s policies (at least not specifically).

I understand that Amazon needs to try to correct things…they have a reputation to uphold. But I think they’re going overboard, and it’s not only going to hurt indie authors, it’s going to hurt them, because sales are tied to both groups.

If you care to, there is an interesting post and a petition that you can sign that is trying to get Amazon to be reasonable in their approach. And just some food for thought – people voicing their thoughts can get Congress to change it’s tune…maybe we can get Amazon to listen).

UPDATE:

Robert Chazz Chute left links below that show specifically how authors are not able to review other authors’ works. The L. A. Times has an article about author Steve Weddle, who was not able to leave a review for his friend, a fellow author. Amazon’s response:

We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.

This is not a good sign at all. Not only that, many of us can give great reviews because we should understand what makes great reading. Go figure…

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