The Amazon Review Policy Elephant in the Room

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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.

Elephant

Image Courtesy: Pixabay

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37 thoughts on “The Amazon Review Policy Elephant in the Room

    […] Source: The Amazon Review Policy Elephant in the Room […]

    Like

      tanyarobinson100 said:
      December 22, 2015 at 7:14 pm

      Thank you for your thoughts and for the clear guidance, especially indicating where we may leave a review. Such a shame this has become such a big issue but then so many cheat these days I suppose Amazon had to do something.

      Like

    Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
    November 25, 2015 at 12:47 pm

    Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Jo Robinson on Amazon and its review policy about ‘friendships’ – Reviews are like gold dust and I am delighted when I receive one and if it is not acceptable by Amazon then very happy to display on my own sites. To be honest I use a different email address and initials for my reviews and so far so good!!

    Liked by 2 people

      jorobinson176 responded:
      November 25, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks for sharing my lovely Sal! How do you do that? I do have a separate email for Feed My Reads SA, but I usually post using my own name with the “For FMRSA” disclaimer at the bottom. Is it possible to actually post my reviews as Feed My Reads on Amazon?

      Liked by 1 person

        Smorgasbord - Variety is the Spice of Life. said:
        November 25, 2015 at 1:37 pm

        I would think so Jo especially as it is an established review site. I don’t have the time to devote to regular reviews but I think anyone who does so would be better to establish a separate blog as you have done. They can transfer any previous reviews into that as new posts which does not harm anyway and then post on Amazon under that name. In a few weeks I am unveiling my new bookstore for my own books.. At the moment all my books have their own selling sites but we are going to bring them together under one banner. Apart from being able to charge a lot less for both Ebooks and print copies I also have complete control of what goes up there. This includes reviews, even those that contain constructive comments. Whilst I do appreciate reviews on Amazon they are not the only game in town and Goodreads and our own sites can also be great hosts for feedback.. hugs XXS

        Liked by 2 people

          jorobinson176 responded:
          November 25, 2015 at 1:45 pm

          How exciting your new bookstore unveiling Sally! There’s a happening to look forward to. Sorry to be dense here – but how do you go about changing your reviewer name on Amazon? I know you’re only supposed to have one account and have bought at least one book with it before you can review. HUGS! XXXX

          Like

    roweeee said:
    November 25, 2015 at 12:56 pm

    It’s an interesting policy, Jo. I’m not a fan of reading or writing book reviews and as yet, I am an unpublished author, excluding a poetry anthology I self-published in my 20s. What I’d be a bit wary of is what could appear to be a “I’ll review yours if you review mine” approach, which to me voids both reviews. We have some local small business awards and some businesses really push customers to fill out the forms and to me, bias the results. I reviewed Geoff Le Pard’s second book on my blog and intend to review the first as well. I loved the books and go to know Geoff through blogging. I have promoted “The Rosie Project” by Graeme Simpsion far and wide and absolutely loved it. That’s just who I am.
    Readers need to know reviews are genuine and to be genuine, I would except a bit of critical commentary as well and not just rah rah about how good it is. That is, unless it’s like you say, 5 stars.
    JUst a few ideas. I did try to leave a review on Amazon but couldn’t work it out.
    xx Rowena

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      November 25, 2015 at 1:06 pm

      The reviews that appear to be swops are worrying – although in my case they aren’t swops. I have been approached on FB several times to do this, but there’s no way I’m going to attach my moniker to a pile of gushy lies about a book I didn’t like. I have reviewed books by authors who’ve reviewed mine, but only because I loved the books themselves – had nothing to do with the writers. It’s a shame though, because generally when I like a book, I’ll buy whatever else that author has for sale, so I’m now left with – literally – hundreds of books on my Kindle that I could get into trouble for reviewing on Amazon. Still – we still have Goodreads and blogs and so on. Why could you not leave a review on Amazon do you think? XXXX

      Liked by 2 people

        roweeee said:
        November 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm

        I can’t remember what happened on Amazon. I’ll have another try and see if it works. I was Marketing Manager of an IT Company for 3 years but even so, technology and and don’t get along.

        Liked by 1 person

          jorobinson176 responded:
          November 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm

          Ha haa! Sound like tech and me. As long as you’ve bought any single book on Amazon they allow you to review any other book there even if you never bought it from them – go figure with the taking down of bought book’s reviews.

          Like

    drewdog2060drewdog2060 said:
    November 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    Reblogged this on newauthoronline and commented:
    A good post which I recommend all authors read. Kevin

    Liked by 2 people

    jenanita01 said:
    November 25, 2015 at 1:16 pm

    and don’t forget Smashwords, could they could be the way forward?

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      November 25, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      I took my books down from Smashwords some time ago to go with KDP Select. In all honesty the books have done a lot better sales-wise since I did that. Recently though I saw Mark Coker’s announcement of new distribution avenues and I’m tempted to go back to them purely on the grounds that one of their new distributors is Takealot here in South Africa. The eBook market here is wide open so that could be a deal changer for me as far as Amazon exclusive is concerned. Still on the fence personally, but yes, another great place to legally be allowed to review the books we read.

      Liked by 1 person

        jenanita01 said:
        November 25, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        especially as Amazon seem to be hell bent on self destruction!

        Like

    Philipparees said:
    November 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    One of the relevant issues is sequencing. I tend to review indie books that really strike me as both original and breaking new ground. I ALWAYS buy and never accept free copies to review so ‘obligation ‘ never plays any part. BUT I have made on line friends with some I have reviewed because nothing bonds a friendship quicker than being understood as a writer. I think Amazon should build in some sense of whether the friendship was cause or consequence! If they know how many pages are read this should not tax them unduly!

    Liked by 3 people

      jorobinson176 responded:
      November 25, 2015 at 1:42 pm

      True Philippa! They probably know quite a bit more than pages read. It’s like when you look at a product on some online site, and next thing you know you’re getting ads popping up for it and similar all over the place. Big Brother eyeballs all over the place these days. Most of us just zooming around honestly are paying the penalty for the dishonest lot because there’s not enough real people to police these things.

      Like

    ailsaabrahamwp said:
    November 25, 2015 at 1:21 pm

    Shared on the Bingergread Cottage because you are so right. I happen to buy a lot of books by people I happen to know because we move in the same circles. They haven’t paid me or begged me. I have been “had” big time by someone who wanted to “share” my work with her blog readers but demanded a review of one of her clients’ books in return. No – this devalues the whole system.
    I hope they can sort this out if they can. Thanks, Jo

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      November 25, 2015 at 1:34 pm

      Thank you Ailsa! Exactly the same with me. I’m late with my TBR pile, but I always buy books from all of you scribblers in my circles to get to reading eventually before I clock out – hopefully. Blooming cheek demanding you review her client’s book! That’s exactly the sort of thing that’s caused all this trouble for us good guys.

      Liked by 1 person

    inavukic said:
    November 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

    After all is said and done, Jo, I’d rather “do” than “don’t” – there’s such good value in reading reviews of all sorts so to speak/ easier to get a taste of the work I think.

    Liked by 1 person

      jorobinson176 responded:
      November 25, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      Reading and writing honest and thoughtful reviews takes time, and I so agree – there’s huge value in them. Most people should be able to see that too, including Amazon, but they seem to be coming down using some sort of automation rather than real eyeballs. Pity.

      Liked by 2 people

    Annika Perry said:
    November 25, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Jo, Many thanks for this in-depth and detailed account of what is going on with Amazon and reviews. I have been rather confused and now feel enlightened and clear which was to go forward. Until a few months ago I didn’t even realise there was an issue and as I don’t know where I might want to publish in the future I do not want to jeopardise that possibility. I like your suggestions where to review books from contacts online, thank you for that. Great informative post.

    Liked by 1 person

    The Story Reading Ape said:
    November 25, 2015 at 2:56 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog and commented:
    For Authors & Readers who review books on Amazon

    Liked by 1 person

    Barb Caffrey said:
    November 25, 2015 at 3:01 pm

    Reblogged this on Barb Caffrey's Blog and commented:
    An absolute must-read. I worry about this as a book reviewer; I reviewed books long before I sold AN ELFY ON THE LOOSE, and my reviews cannot be bought by anyone — not friends, not family, not *anyone*.

    That said, Amazon is worried about people who cannot give unbiased opinions, and they’ve taken to purging reviews.

    Like Jo Robinson, I’m not going to take down any reviews I’ve already written. That would be pointless.

    But this new review policy has caused me to review far less frequently than before. at Amazon..and for good reason.

    Like

    Barb Caffrey said:
    November 25, 2015 at 3:11 pm

    Thanks for writing this, Jo. I made sure to reblog it as I felt it very important…the writer-friends I have, most of ’em I made because I read their work (either online or buy buying their books). My reviews cannot be bought by anyone, and I do not like the idea that Amazon would take a review I wrote (that I spent hours writing, usually, and more hours thinking about beforehand as I like to write thoughtful reviews) and just toss it out with the trash because I now “know” the author through their work.

    I’m always honest. I don’t often give gushing, glow-worthy reviews, but when I do, they mean something because that’s not what I normally do. And you’d think with a long track record (I’ve reviewed something like 800 books, or maybe more, over at Amazon thus far over many years), they’d understand that a little better.

    Like

    vanderso said:
    November 25, 2015 at 3:13 pm

    Reblogged this on Just Can't Help Writing and commented:
    If anyone is thinking about reviewing on Amazon, it might be a good idea to check out this discussion. I’ve recently posted reviews of books by people I’ve met on Goodreads. Will Amazon permit them? It looks as if we all need to be aware of these rules.

    Like

    vanderso said:
    November 25, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    Reblogged to http://www.justcanthelpwriting.wordpress.com and commented:
    If anyone is thinking about reviewing on Amazon, it might be a good idea to check out this discussion. I’ve recently posted reviews of books by people I’ve met on Goodreads. Will Amazon permit them? It looks as if we all need to be aware of these rules.

    Like

    Stephen Liddell said:
    November 25, 2015 at 7:08 pm

    I didn’t even know there was such a policy until you mentioned it to me once recently. Actually it would never occur to me to give a dishonest review just because I know the author. I may be more likely to buy a book because I know the writer but I still wouldn’t give a false review. It just so happens that if I buy books then its likely to be people I know as I have no interest in the big names or popular hits…. too busy writing myself 🙂

    I do think somewhere there is a problem with reviews though as I have used a tool before to check up on the sales of a few high-profile bloggers and self-promoters on Twitter and their sales figures don’t seem to match the reviews.

    Having said that though I love Amazon, I don’t give them any exclusivity. They are in it for themselves and I am in it for myself. For over a year I make more sales and often 50% more through Smashwords/Ibooks with a smattering of Kobo and Nook than Amazon. I keep telling people so many are blinkered and see only SDP Select.

    Like

    […] Source: The Amazon Review Policy Elephant in the Room […]

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    Lucinda E Clarke said:
    November 25, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    Reblogged this on lucinda E Clarke.

    Like

    dgkaye said:
    November 26, 2015 at 5:50 am

    Great post Jo! 🙂 Shared around town. 🙂

    Like

    Ali Isaac said:
    November 26, 2015 at 11:56 am

    It’s inevitable that as a writer you’re going to gravitate towards other writers. Don’t Amazon understand that writers read too??? If I like an author it is quite possible that we have similar taste and might read and review each others books, and that they might possibly be genuine! However, I do understand that it would be very difficult to police.

    I’m not so sure that reviews mean that much anymore, in any case. How many people do you know who take them seriously and are persuaded to buy from them? Truthfully, I’lol bet not many. We are all capable of making our own minds up and reviews are so subjective anyway. Do you know that I have a 1 star review because the reviewer had trouble downloading it! Theye never even read it! That’s the kind of thing they should be going after!

    I took my books out of Kindle Select because I didn’t feel it actually supports authors. They are being squeezed more and more ad being paid less and less. I’don’t believe their promotional tools are that great, either. Smash words allows much greater flexibility but of course its not as big as Amazon. Personally, I like to have my books available everywhere. I am very grateful to Amazon for what it’s done for Indie publishing, but I don’t think it supports it’s Indie publishers or values them, and I think it’s at risk of becoming a dinosaur.

    Liked by 1 person

    Jemima Pett said:
    November 26, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    Thanks very much for this, Jo. I hadn’t noticed this development. I’ll be posting about it at the start of January, since I’ll have to think about my review policy, both for my books and other people’s – especially all the friends I’ve made through blogging.

    Like

    kimwrtr said:
    November 27, 2015 at 8:12 pm

    Reblogged this on Kim's Author Support Blog.

    Like

    curtisbausse said:
    November 30, 2015 at 8:00 am

    Kind of throws a spanner in the works, doesn’t it? As a newbie, I’d imagined the single best promotion strategy was to get as many reviews as possible, and since no anonymous reader is likely to start the ball rolling, go out and ask people, even those I ‘know’. Now I’m marooned – help!

    Like

    stuartaken said:
    December 24, 2015 at 9:59 am

    Reblogged this on Stuart Aken and commented:
    An excellent summary and some cogent advice here. I’m considering adopting this policy for the future.

    Like

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