WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Is Self-Publishing His New Novel

With a little help from our “friends”: Amazon is deleting some reviews

Here we go again — Amazon getting all Stasi on us.

This just came into my radar range yesterday, when a Goodreads author posted a petition (below) complaining that Amazon had removed 25 reviews of her books. Since I have a scant 25 reviews for Occasional Soulmates, I perked up. What’s that you say? Removed them?!

Seems that the big shark in the Cloud had determined that those reviewers “know the author,” and that, in turn, disqualifies them from posting reviews of her work.

As usual with Amazon, this process is automated and governed by a proprietary  algorithm, so there’s no way to know what factors are really going into it. Suffice to say that it appears that social media relationships such as those cultivated in blogs and on Twitter and Facebook — in other words, those that we indie authors rely on for professional advancement — are being targeted. No longer is it merely your mom’s glowing review they’re concerned with. It’s anyone you “know.”

Interestingly, the policy itself mentions “close personal friends” as the sort of relationship that would get a review 86’d. I, for one, have met a lot of wonderful readers and writers over the last two years in my self-publishing odyssey, but I can’t reasonably say that makes them “close personal friends.” I’ve not supped with any of them. Nor partaken of boozy beverages. Nor cried on their shoulders, nor helped them through their own crises. “Close personal friend” can be a down n’ dirty thing. Symbiotic. Sometimes love/hate.

But why can’t a “close personal friend” post a review anyway?

The thing that really irks me about this kind of policy is that Amazon is assuming that a certain level of commercial purity is achievable, that what you see is really what you get, but that’s not how American business works in any industry. Look at the Oscars. Usually the producers and studios spend tons of money to get their titles nominated and to buy votes. Rocker Morrissey just said recently that he has no respect for the Grammys because they’re bought and paid for.

And don’t get me started about traditional publishing. It’s dependent on the distribution of free copies to potential reviewers — ARCs, don’t ya know. And you don’t think that cover blurbs from famous names flow in spontaneously, do you? They’re solicited, for Pete’s sake. The famous guy might not know the author but he knows the editor and publisher or maybe the agent. And he probably got the book for free too.

So for Amazon to penalize indie authors for giving away ebooks for review is simply hypocritical. Indie authors have forged relationships with other indie authors, and reviews are a form of non-monetary support. We want to help each other, but often an honest review is the only way we can do that. And from what I’ve seen, these reviews usually are entirely honest. Most of us will even alert potential readers to the fact that we’ve received the book for free, if that’s the case. Usually, though, we enjoy paying for our copies.

Fortunately, none of the reviews for any of my books have been removed, and as far as I know none of my reviews of other authors’ books have either. If Amazon is being as stringent as it seems, though, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised to see it happen one of these days.

Clearly, Amazon is using a neutron bomb to solve a minute problem. No doubt some writers pump up their titles with friends’ reviews. Sometimes they even pay for reviews. But for the most part an attentive reader can tell a fair and honest review from a phoned-in five-star and will judge the book accordingly.

You can read more about all of this here. You can sign the petition to end the policy here.

But more than anything you can keep supporting your favorite indie authors by posting reviews on Amazon. If nothing else, it’ll keep ‘em busy trying to figure out who is whose “close personal friend.”

Advertisements

20 comments on “With a little help from our “friends”: Amazon is deleting some reviews

  1. pinklightsabre
    August 4, 2015

    I learned this year that Amazon also owns a sizable portion of LinkedIn. And that technology will (no surprise) start tracking your behavior on social media and tying it together to better aggregate and predict our actions, and well, I’ll stop there. I have just enough alleged fact to spew vitriol and go conspiracy, and I think now I’ll shut myself and my laptop up and use my imagination, which they still can’t access.

  2. 1WriteWay
    August 4, 2015

    Amazon is helping nobody with policies like that. From what I understand, they only hit the 5-star reviews, never the 1-stars that might be left by trolls.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 4, 2015

      Good point. The 1-stars are pointless drive-by’s but AMZN seems to have no problem with ’em. 😡

      • 1WriteWay
        August 4, 2015

        Right now, Amazon seems like a necessary evil for indie authors. If only the monolith had competition … .

    • kingmidget
      August 4, 2015

      Based on my personal experience and the anecdotes I’ve heard from other writers, you are correct. And you’re right with your second comment … the problem is that Amazon has no competition. They are in total control. I would dearly love to figure out a way for indie authors to band together to offer a credible alternative.

      • 1WriteWay
        August 5, 2015

        It’s frustrating because Amazon is so huge. Even if indie authors could come together and develop an alternative, would readers use it?

      • kingmidget
        August 5, 2015

        That’s the problem … how to match Amazon’s reach. Somewhere along the way somebody needs to come up with an alternative.

      • Kevin Brennan
        August 5, 2015

        A couple years ago there seemed to be a few more options out there, but it feels like AMZN has consolidated its position and neutralized them. But as Marie says, you have to think about readers’ behavior too and whether they will ever transition to something new.

        Tricky business…

      • kingmidget
        August 5, 2015

        I think Smashwords has a great model but hardly anybody knows about it. Amazon has everything why would you go anywhere else?

  3. edinburghintheshadows
    August 4, 2015

    Typical!

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 4, 2015

      I wish they’d surprise me on the upside one of these days… 😉

  4. John W. Howell
    August 4, 2015

    Well said Kevin and for the record I have no idea who you are.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 4, 2015

      I wouldn’t know you if I bumped into you on the beach at Port Aransas… Ooops!

  5. I would like their algorithm for determining “close personal friends”. And then I’d apply it to my holiday card list and any invitation I ever received.
    I don’t mind reviews where it is obvious that the reviewer knows the author. I figure if somebody knows them and still wants to write a good review, all the better. Always hate to find out an author is a complete jerk with no friends.
    And really, with all the fake reviews, paid reviews, etc., it feels like Amazon is wildly swinging a bat in hopes of hitting something, anything to lend a modicum of veracity to their review system.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 4, 2015

      Like everything they do, I think there might be an ulterior motive. They’re testing something. Maybe elaborate holiday card list software!

  6. kingmidget
    August 4, 2015

    I’ve had a few reviews deleted over the last couple of years. The thing that bothers me about it is they won’t or can’t tell me which reviews have been deleted so that I can challenge whether they violated their policy. The only person who can do that is the person who wrote the review — but as far as I know they don’t do anything to notify somebody that their review has been deleted. And it’s a completely random thing, I don’t care what they say about their algorithms. One of my sister’s posted a review of one of my books. She has the same last name as me. Her review is still up there, years later. Meanwhile a handful of other reviews were deleted for who knows what reason.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 4, 2015

      That’s the thing about the infamous algorithms. They work inconsistently, and they’re like using a chainsaw to slice bread.

      The whole thing reveals that they think the buying public is stupid too…

  7. Phillip McCollum
    August 11, 2015

    In a world of “it’s who you know,” this seems beyond silly. I can’t see a policy like this lasting very long.

    • Kevin Brennan
      August 11, 2015

      I agree, Phillip. That’s why I think there’s more here than meets the eye. Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of Bezos? 😈

Chime in

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Information

This entry was posted on August 4, 2015 by in Publishing and tagged , , .
%d bloggers like this: