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.
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:
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.
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.