Thursday, 12 May 2016

Chuckles Chat: Why I stopped writing book reviews on Amazon



I started blogging at Chuckles Book Cave when I first got into reading, reviewing and promoting Indie books and authors. I would get my review books-a free epub copy from Indie authors-read it and review it by the given deadline. My reviews went up on Goodreads, my blog, Amazon and Smashwords if I got it free there using an author given buying code. My whole point was to try and get the word out about as many Indie books as I could whether I liked them or not and in those early months I was reading up to 30 a month! I don't claim to be responsible for mass sales but the odd person here and there bought a book based on my review, which made me feel like I was doing a little bit to help!

I took part in book tours, I joined Twitter to connect with authors, bloggers and reviewers, and I enjoyed it. Sadly a family death meant that I no longer have as much spare time to do all that review and promotion but when I find a better life balance, I hope to do some more reviews.

Recently though, I started to hear disturbing things about Amazon-rumours and blog posts suggested penalties against bloggers who use Amazon affiliates to make extra money on their blog. I first came to the topic through the lovely Mel at My World...in words and pages. Here are links to her articles on the subject. 

http://melissa-melsworld.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/amazon-reviews-vanishing.html
http://melissa-melsworld.blogspot.co.uk/2016/04/not-reviewing-on-amazon-does-it-affect.html 

Although I don't use the affiliate program, a few of the things I read in those articles got me curious and I've done a bit of digging concerning Amazon's review policies in general and what I discovered was a shock and has implications for both authors and readers.

Did you know that if you take part in a blog tour, because the author paid to arrange the tour, you as a book blogger cannot post your review on Amazon? If you have contact online with the author ie exchanging a few tweets, following the author etc, you are deemed to 'know' the author and you can't post on Amazon! What Amazon are saying in effect, is that you are a fan or have had contact with the author, you must be biased and your review must be biased. So Amazon will probably take it down. You can see the disturbing list of reviewing offences here: 

http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/here-are-all-the-new-amazon-book-review-policies  

Now lets just think about this for a minute. There are authors that I follow on Twitter. I've never spoken to them or interacted with most of them, I am not being asked to review their work-yet my opinion of the book is already deemed biased! If I am a fan of an author, love their new book and rate it highly...I am biased and my review is taken down. WTF? I love Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson books and only two are marked below 5 star (one 4 one 3). I bought them all on Amazon and planned to review them all-but because I commit the crime of honestly loving the books, I am biased and my reviews may be taken down. How is that fair to me or Ms Briggs? Am I only allowed to post negative views on Amazon about her books if I want the reviews published??? This is insane! And that is biased if they allow lots of negative but no positive!

Reviewers are unhappy about their reviews vanishing, as you can imagine, and don't like being called biased or having assumptions made about them but spare a minute here to consider the authors. Book reviews on Amazon can equal book sales but if every fan you ever thanked for a review on Twitter, or everyone who is a fan of your work is at threat of having their reviews taken down, who is going to review the books? Where do they draw the line? Author Seanan McGuire wonders if having a selfie taken with an author at a book convention might mean you 'know' the author and get blocked.  Here are a few case studies involving Indie authors. Scary stuff.

http://goodereader.com/blog/e-book-news/amazon-starts-to-enforce-draconian-e-book-review-policy 

Yes I get that Amazon want to stop glowing reviews from the author's loved ones but this is going way too far! I don't 'know' any of the Indie authors I reviewed-I've never met them and have exchanged a few Twitter or email messages which are book related but I am NOT biased in my reviews and I resent this policy which could see my reviews taken down or blocked when I have done nothing wrong except read and review a book. And what is next? Try to upload a certain number of these blacklisted reviews and your account gets suspended? Who knows!

Well I'm not taking the risk. I need Amazon for buying my Indie books and ebooks as I don't have a credit card to buy from other sites, and local shops don't stock anything Indie. If I lost access to that, it would be a disaster for me so I won't risk it. The question is, if we bloggers refuse to post on Amazon, will authors waste a free copy on us in the future? I wouldn't blame them if they don't. Will bloggers fear being 'known' by authors and not promote them out of fear their reviews will vanish? I can see this being very damaging to Indie authors in particular and I find it rather sad.

8 comments:

  1. I think the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. I've been crossposting reviews from my blog to Amazon (as well as Chapters, Goodreads, and Booklikes) for years now.

    In all that time, I've only had 1 review that I couldn't post because they judged that I knew the author. No idea how they made the connection, but it came up right away, and prevented my review from posting. It's never happened again, and I've never seen a posted review disappear.

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    1. Problem I have is that I openly interact with Indie authors I review and I follow them on Twitter. I don't intend to take the risk! My pal who is self published saw six reviews vanish from Amazon because the reviewers followed her on all social media-despite her not following them back. She's not greatly happy as she only had about ten good reviews to start with, leaving her also with five negative ones.

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  2. This is utterly ridiculous! Will this new rule affect the well known authors, who have thousands of fans following them and engaging with them? I doubt it very much. The publishers would start slapping a few wrists or at least get an exception, because surely Amazon wouldn't want to lose the big names. Once more, it's us Indie authors who are being penalized.

    And how frustrating for a reader who has spent some time writing a review (especially if it's a detailed, utterly polished one) to have it pulled down. I would be raging.

    To be honest, readers aren't stupid. Most of us can spot a fake review a mile away, so Amazon is taking us for idiots. Maybe it's their own algorithms they should look into. And maybe there should be a way to report/warn others of a possible fake review with the single click of a button.

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    1. Fully agree Caroline. I fear for a lot of Indie authors who rely on the reviews for sales and publicity. It's unlikely Amazon would link me to the authors as I use a different name on Amazon but the principle of it bugs me as much as getting caught out!

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  3. I've heard rumblings of this for several months here and there so I'm glad I read this post and finally have a grasp on it. I don't think it's fair, but come on, who is able to fight Amazon. I'm honest in my reviews but never "mean" and I've seen plenty of Amazon reviews which have been brutal toward the author so apparently that stuff doesn't bother them. I rarely add my reviews there because I simply don't think of it as a review site - now I'm glad I don't. Great thoughts!

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    1. Yeah I'd been hearing so many rumours and finally started looking it up-and those articles if accurate are pretty disturbing! There are a lot of personal attacks on authors and the obvious fake reviews that need to be sorted first. Like you, I don't read book reviews there now.

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  4. First, thank you for sharing the links to the discussions. Appreciate it!

    Second, I learned a few things here. lol. Great post. It's a crazy circle, for sure. :)

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    1. You're welcome! I learned a lot in this research and if even half of the info is accurate, it's scary!

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