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« how genre reviews can fail the reader | Main | Is Urban Fantasy the new Gothic? I say no ... »
Friday
Nov022012

Amazon bans authors from reviewing books?

UPDATE: I found Joe Konrath's Huffington Post article Amazon Removes Reviews that explains the issue and how it evolved. Unfortunately, even in light of Joe's rather magnanimous opinion of Amazon, my opinion remains largely unchanged, so I am going to leave my original post as is:

________________

I haven't seen the official statement yet, but from comments on Twitter and Facebook, it seems that Amazon is going to be deleting authors' reviews of books. The news is creating righteous indignation across Twitter.

Frankly, I have no empathy for Amazon, who brought this down on themselves by "ranking" authors according to the number of reviews and ratings that an author garners. Nor do I think authors have any right to run around screaming about unfairness.

This is what happens when authors game the system in a company the size of Amazon. Amazon doesn't have time to address whether each review is legitimate or not, that would mean hiring people, and people cost money. Instead, it is easier to create an algorithm that "weeds" out author reviews based on whether a name is associated with a published work.

Don't tell me that authors don't game the system. I've seen Goodreads groups that encourage indie authors to go around and five-star and comment on one another's novels with "reviews." There are blogs devoted to how to garner "reviews" and "market" your work. Traditionally published authors and indie authors had created sock-puppet accounts to promote their own works. Neither side can claim the moral high-ground here.

Reviews on Amazon have become a joke.

So quit running around screaming about how terrible and horrible Amazon is acting right now. Authors have brought this down on themselves by acting like asses.

Authors spend all their time trying to figure out how to promote their novels. It would really be nice if they spent as much, if not more, time on studying how to write a better novel.

So suck it up and move on, people.

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Reader Comments (19)

It is very unfortunate that some authors game not just amazon but other book sites, too. It's something I refuse to do. If amazon do stop authors from reviewing, that will rob me of my choice to comment on books as a reader - and in order to be a good author, I have to be a voracious reader, too.

Having said that, I cannot disagree with your post.

R
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Pierce
I agree with you, Richard. I too read and love to comment on books that I've enjoyed. However, I was once accused of pushing a fellow author's novel on a Goodreads group, so I have stopped commenting on anyone's books. I also only belong to one Goodreads group now where I feel safe and know that my motives won't be questioned.

On the other hand, I can promote and talk about books on my website and blog too. Amazon isn't the only place for me to share the kinds of books that I love.

Thanks for commenting.
November 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
Well, I can say this. I have 23 books out and I have never once made up a review, reviewed myself or paid anyone to review me favorably. I can also say there are plenty of authors who do not fall into the "asshole" catagory. I do know that it is normally TRADITIONAL companies who actually have the money and resources to pay for reviews. I am signed to an Indie and we don't have the money to do that but what we do have is a long reciept bill from amazon for how much they charge to use the service, the delays that have occured with uploads delaying releases and now we have beta's...reputable ones who review books with honesty after recieving a copy having reviews deleated. Now, amazon likes to deleat reviews when someone reports someone else normally and this whole rumor of authors being deleated as far as reviews is news to me but then again I only have a page hooked up to Twitter and don't really follow it. I am however in 189 groups online, including many on facebook and had not heard of it yet and I can say I do hope amazon does not do this. Reviews are not a joke. To an author who has no money to do huge promotional things like traditional authors do, a review can help sell when we don't give out a million copies and suddenly get on the New York Times best sellers listing the first day our book releases. It's all business, but saying that amazon should just shun customers as in AUTHORS who pay for the service is disheartening and perhaps one day these "assholes" who made amazon a multi million dollar company can just start their own site much like authors did with self publishing on their own websites and musicians did selling digital files and amazon can think of the glory days when people actually gave a shit and went there to buy. Btw, I don't hide behind any other names so if I review, which I don't often, I am listed as Rue Volley and it is an honest review because I had time to do it, if I get deleated because I am listed as an author when I have bought no less then 197 Indie titles on amazon, I will be disgusted with them and they can say goodbye to my business forever.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrue volley
"To an author who has no money to do huge promotional things like traditional authors do" ... Don't know why you think us traditional authors are given a promotional budget. So not the case.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMazarkis.Williams
Maz is right, Rue. We received no promotion, no marketing except what we did ourselves. We are just as dependent on Amazon ratings and reviews as indies.
November 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
What I think all these outraged authors are missing is the fact that as authors, they are part of a very complex financial ecosystem. And reviewing each others' books is not at all straightforward. How does an uninitiated reader know the difference between a five-star review written by a friend of the author who is cross-promoting their work, and a five-star review written by a stranger with zero actual financial interest in the product? In this example, these reviews are qualitatively different, even though they may express the same opinion. One is inextricably bound up with the financial interest of the author under review; one isn't.

These outraged authors refuse to acknowledge that reviewing friends' and acquaintances' work is problematic, ethically dubious, and unhelpful to the greater consumer public. So they can just keep crying until they get it.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLeah
Not saying you do but I do know some authors who are fortunate enough to be on traditionals and they do have bigger promotional budgets and that is fabulous:) I think it is great and hope to have it myself someday but for now it is a ground game for me. This is not a Traditional vs Indie posting, it really does include everyone in the end. Regardless of whether an Indie pays to be a part of amazon or a Traditional, it is still a paid service. I was simply saying that I know from my own personal experience that the company I signed with cannot afford a promotional team and you even get that when you sign with a Vanity press. And sorry you were not given a budget, I think you should and hope that you do as deserved.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrue volley
To condem all authors because of the few who have 'dummied' reviews is an extremely bad idea on Amazon's part. It honestly is not better than them stating that if they determine you are a woman they will delete your reviews, or if you are over the age of 30 and review young adult work it's deleted, if you are found to be friends on facebook with the author it's deleted.

Should we condem all readers because of the few who download ebooks, read them quickly or save a version to their computers, and then click on the refund button? Amazon gives a reader 7 days to refund a book! I can definitely attest to the purchase, read, refund and repeat process from my own experiences. And to be honest, with the "Take a look Inside" and "Free Preview" downloads, why should someone need to refund a book? So, since some of the readers do this, let's take the refund option away? Sound fair?????

As an author, I find it insulting, degrading, and biggoted behavior to treat Author's as a whole instead on a case by case basis. I'm not asking Amazon to monitor each individual review, because that is just insanity and expensive. I like when I receive a review from a fellow author, because there is typically some really good insight to their critique. Now that will be taken away from me?

As a reader/reviewer, I despise the fake reviews. Having said that, it's not difficult to determine the fake ones. Consumers need to take the time to research their reads and not rely on everyone else's opinions. Personally, I skim Amazon reviews, Goodread reviews, and hit forums for possible reads. I DO NOT post false reviews.

If this is factual, then Amazon needs to be careful who they segregate. They are taking away my freedom of speech and opinion just because I'm an author.

Come on! How about stop basing the algorithms on reviews and stars. How about basing them on number of sales for the book. And what ever happened to IP addresses being able to be picked up, so that you can't review a book multiple times under the same IP address - regardless of the email account someone sets up.

And for anyoneto say "We Authors brought this on ourselves", is just old fashioned ignorance. I am by no means a supporter of false reviewing or bought reviews. But I am also not supporting taking away an author's ability to review a book or any other product, because some authors have taken advantage of the system.

I appreciate you taking the time to blog about this possible situation and respect your right to your opinion. This is just mine.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSadie Grubor
new guidlines for posting reviews on amazon:) http://www.amazon.com/gp/community-help/customer-reviews-guidelines
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrue volley
That's one of the issues that has prompted all of this, Rue.

And Sadie, all opinions that are presented respectfully (such as yours) are welcome, whether they agree with me or not.

I won't be able to comment often but I will release comments as soon as I'm able. Unfortunately, due to heavy spam, I have to moderate the comments section. I appreciate your patience. ;-)
November 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
That pay for reviews thing really bothered me when the article first came up and I hoped it would not become a "you all suck ass" situation for authors. Makes it hard to seem legit. I think, and lets just do this...kill the star system all together, leave the reviews for casual reading by people who actually have time to check them out and rank books by sales in their genre. Wow, that would clear this whole thing up, huh? Oh and yeah...track url's and you can only have ONE account on amazon and goodreads. I always found it fishy when I saw a review by someone with the name...like "eve" or "Bob" and nothing else, no picture or anything and they had reviewed one book...or maybe 5 and nothing else. Tell me that is not bs. hahahahaha
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterrue volley
The whole thing is a mess, and in a sense we have over-the-top duplicitous people, like John Locke, to expose the incestuous nature of the review system. I too have seen liking and reciprocal-reviewing parties, and they've disturbed me, even as I've wondered if I'd ever resort to such means when I have a book out. I'd like to think not, but one never knows until they've got skin in the game.

Here's the difficulty with Amazon's response: authors are among the most avid and educated of readers, so an honest critic is a big asset to the reading ecosystem, and we'll have lost a great many of them due to the new policies. What I wish they had done would be similar to what's required in medical journals: the requirement to disclose relevant relationships, and way to clearly flag those reviews as being "different." That doesn't mean the opinion would be invalid, but merely transparent in their potential conflict of interest.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJan O'Hara
"... the requirement to disclose relevant relationships, and way to clearly flag those reviews as being "different.""

That is what the FTC disclosure is meant to address, and that could be why Amazon is cracking down. I don't know, but I do agree very much with you, Jan, and with Leah. There are a lot of trust issues at stake. I'll try and have more on all this later. Right now, it has been one rough week and I'm declining fast. ;-)
November 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
Hopefully this is a tempest in a teacup...because I'd sure hate for my past (awesome!) review of Miserere to get deleted because I became published. : /
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKendra H.
I said this on Justin's blog, Kendra, but I haven't noticed other authors' reviews disappearing from my book, neither have I noticed the few reviews that I've done disappearing, so I'm wondering if the amount has anything to do with it either. It's all speculation as far as I'm concerned, but I'm really not worried about losing Amazon reviews. I have 22 Amazon reviews and 69 Goodreads reviews. People aren't going to find my book on Amazon unless they're actively looking for it and most who are looking for it have heard about it from somewhere other than Amazon.
November 2, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
Leah - how is it not straightforward to review a fellow author's book?? Just because I know someone from a critique group, FB, where ever, doesn't make my review dishonest. On average, I read 5 novels a week by authors I don't know personally and rarely run across one I would rate less than a 4. Does being an Author make my opinon less valid than anyone else's? I've worked with Authors I didn't like on a personal level and still gave them high scores because, like them or not, I was rating their writing and not their personalities (or lack thereof). I'm also an avid fan of Linda Howard and Iris Johansen - if Amazon implements this ban on rating other authors, how is that fair to me as a reader? I do understand their concern with "sock puppets", but let's be real - if a book stinks, it isn't going to take long for the bad reviews to overrun the good.
November 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKimberley Reeves
I started reviewing books as a way to meet more authors and learn from them. I probably spend too much time writing book reviews and not enough writing my own books, but reviewing has been good for me as an author--improving my reading skills, writing skills, editing skills and networking skills. That said, I kind of hoped I was writing something useful for readers too with the book reviews. I felt honored when Amazon invited me to their Vine program, and again when I found I was in the top 1000 reviewers, and I'd be disappointed to see all my reviews taken down. After all, I worked at them in good faith, I think I did a good job with them, and most of the authors I've reviewed are total strangers to me both before and after I review.
November 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSheila Deeth
I too wrote a lot of reviews several years ago and found it to be an excellent way to improve my own writing. I did cross-post a few reviews to Amazon, but I didn't like the fact that Amazon wanted complete control over any reviews that I wrote. When I read those terms of agreement, I posted very, very few reviews to Amazon. I used my blog and Goodreads.

But Sheila, you're in the Amazon Vine program, and I'm not sure whether your reviews will be affected because I haven't read what the terms of agreement in the Amazon Vine program involve. I'd suggest you start there and see what Amazon's expectations are. Remember when you post to Amazon or Goodreads or B&N or any other site, you're agreeing to follow and abide by their terms of agreement.

That's why I encourage people to get together and review from their blogs.
November 5, 2012 | Registered CommenterT. Frohock
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