The whole Amazon review policy debacle that started a while ago is not going to go away, so we should probably make firm decisions as to the way forward as far as how we are each personally going to review books in the future. There’s a great post covering the whole subject very thoroughly on Anne R. Allen’s site right now – definitely a must read for anyone not a hundred percent sure about what is going on with this issue. I’ve posted on this briefly over at Lit World Interviews a while ago but it’s worth revisiting on a personal level. Anyone with published books on Amazon needs to take this seriously.
Firstly, we must accept that Amazon can, and does, remove books for sale on their site if they feel that the author has violated their terms of service. Many of us have over the years reviewed books by others who have also reviewed books by us, while still blissfully unaware that this was not acceptable by them. Because we zoom around in the same writerly circles it’s inevitable that we’re going to spot and buy books written by authors that we follow online – especially in blogland. I reckon that an author is much more likely to leave a public review of a book that they’ve read. Leaving a review would probably not occur to the majority of readers, and logically in the writing world, reviews from your peers are gold. Not according to Amazon’s rules though. Now that we are aware of this, and we have seen the review takedowns and author warnings, we have two choices. Continue posting reviews to Amazon for books whose author’s we are online “friends” with, and risk serious repercussions as far as the potential for Amazon closing our KDP accounts is concerned, or only post reviews there for books by authors that we have no contact with at all.
It’s a bit of a mess as far as I’m concerned. I very often seek out the authors of books that I’ve liked, read, and reviewed. I then proceed to follow them all over the place. Reading their blogs inevitably leads to commenting and also quite often, making “friends’. I’m not taking those reviews down after the fact – or any reviews I’ve published so far. Now that I am aware of what’s going on, I’ll be more careful. The online writing community is a wonderful place. Writers are different – different in the nicest possible ways. There are some not so nice writers out there to be sure, but they’re generally zooming by at a rate of knots on Twitter demanding that you buy their books and like them on Facebook right away, while not listening to or looking at anyone else, so unlikely to be chatting with anyone who isn’t perceived as some sort of possible benefit to them anyway.
Apart from the good that will come from zapping the real crooks as far as reviews go, this is a shame and a blow for all decent scribblers. The writers I know are nice – honest, and mellow. Kind, thoughtful and understanding of others. Writers are special. They are broad-minded, funny and so, so truly clever. Adventurous and stubborn in good ways – ways that learn the things that seem impossible to understand to begin with. Sometimes when you look at the torrent of books floating around the ether these days, it’s easy to forget the small core of the real deal scribblers riding the waves in there. You guys who never give up, and keep on writing because you don’t understand not writing, even when your royalties barely keep you in toothpaste. When your book is reviewed by one of your tribe, it’s common for such a kindly soul to be filled with gratitude, and if the reviewer is also a published author, to reciprocate, buy their book, and leave a review if you like it. That’s become a bit dangerous to do now.
It’s understandable that Amazon want to remove fake reviews, and good news for any potential readers who could be duped into buying something nasty on the strength of them. It’s also understandable that it would be very difficult for them to process each review individually. So, sad to say, I don’t think that they can change this stance, or stop the ongoing takedowns. I don’t consider myself a book reviewer, and I don’t review a lot of books publicly, and those mainly for Feed My Reads SA. I also as yet haven’t actually ever posted a review of less than five stars – not because I’m lying – when I don’t think a book deserves a five star review I don’t post it. I don’t want anyone to see me as a book reviewer and I don’t want to post bad reviews. That’s just me though. I honestly think that I should be allowed to post a public review of every book on my Kindle that I’ve legally bought from Amazon, whether I “know” the author online or not
I really don’t think that it’s a good idea to poke a hippopotamus with a stick though. Those guys don’t always behave logically but if they bite you, you’re going to feel it. Same with this situation. Don’t poke that Hippo unless you’re prepared to lose your right to publish your books with them. I think that it’s much wiser to post reviews for the books of your online “friends” everywhere that you can online, except as an actual review on Amazon. You could post the review in the Customer Discussions section on the book’s landing page on Amazon though – that is allowed. As I said, I’m not going to take down any of the reviews I’ve already posted, because each and every one of them was posted in good faith and honestly written about books that I’ve read, but if they do get taken down then there’s not much to do about it. I also have some books on my Kindle that I’ve already bought specifically to review for Feed My Reads SA, and I don’t see why I shouldn’t post those on Amazon on behalf of FMR as I always do. Not sure now. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t with some of these “rules”.
Definitely have a read of this Amazon FAQ if you’re still not sure where you stand on this subject.
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