At the Alliance of Independent Authors, we largely support Amazon's work to clean up the customer review system for books, which was/is being seriously abused. From our perspective, the most important issue is that readers can trust customer book reviews and we are closely monitoring the situation.
Some of our members stories about the removal of valid reviews are causing concern and we will be speaking to Amazon about this issue shortly on behalf of our members.
If you are a self-publisher who believes Amazon has removed your reviews in error, please tell your story in the comments below.
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The oddest part about the new TOS is that when I recently added my books to my author page, all of a sudden, I found all my reviews for two books missing. And there were more than 10 reviews on each book. Now, how did that happen and for what reason? I must say that it’s truly incomprehensible why they could wipe out all the reviews without telling me why it happened?
I’ve written a series of five humorous novels. All the reviews are genuine. Most are from people I know who bought the books. They are not fake. I think most authors start out by asking family and friends to read their work. Not that they do you any favours. One friend who begged to see an early draft has never spoken to me again! However, another friend who had read and reviewed all my books came over for a drink and suggested she write a review using my computer. Amazon deleted the review almost immediately and sent a snotty letter saying they thought my friend knew me. (Orwell or what?).
She emailed them immediately, to say yes, she was a friend and yes, this was an honest review of a book she found hilarious. They emailed a standard letter telling her, basically, to sod off. She emailed back and accused them of calling her a liar. They emailed a another standard letter telling her, basically, to sod off, again. She is absolutely livid. She now refuses to buy anything from Amazon, and tells the story wherever she can. It really is a shambles.
Would Amazon remove reviews which appear very quickly on the first day of a book’s publication because they have been provided by people who have been given review copies of the book? I was considering doing this for my second book as I felt I didn’t hit the ground running hard enough on the first, but may change my mind. From the look of these comments, this is the sort of thing Amazon doesn’t like (although traditional publishers do it, don’t they?).
I would say that provided they are genuine, honest reviews from people who have really read the book, and they are put up by those people independently, then you have the moral high ground. After all, ARCs (advance review copies) exist in order to garner early reviews. I’d go for it, if I were you. I know plenty of other indie authors who encourage early reviews that way, and who feel the same. Good luck with your launch, Kirsten!
I’ve had no problems with reviews on Amazon.com or .co.uk. Perhaps this stems from the fact that ALL mine have been genuine and customer purchased. I have been very suspicious of many of the reviews I see on determined self-promoters lists. The system has been abused and that’s a fact. When I leave a review I never mention my own titles or push myself. I have no issue with Amazon and how they are trying to clean up the mess. OK they might get it wrong sometimes but the motive is good. Customer purchase reviews only would suit me fine.
However, even that is open to abuse. It’s up to us as Indi’s to push for higher standards and not support the dishonest practices that give us all a bad rep.
David Rory O’Neill.
First Amazon deleted positive reviews that in its estimation–and its estimation only–were fraudulent (many, many authors had 5-star reviews removed that they had nothing to do with) and allowed clearly illegitimate reviews to remain, but now they are removing the tags which help readers find books.
What else can Amazon do to kill off the indepenedent author network?
So far I have one single review for my several books on Amazon (I am just starting out), and while it’s 3 stars, the entire review is vicious, spiteful (which violates Amazon’s review rules) and reveals ALL spoilers, practically the entire plot. I have written to Amazon several times to have them edit at least the part that reveals spoilers but keep receiving a canned answer.
What really bothers me is this reviewer seems to be deliberately trying to prevent others from reading my book. He goes out of his way to bash the book, accusing it of being “stereotypical” one minute and “absurd” the next, contradicting himself by saying the characters are stereotypical and then complaining that no one he knows (similar to the characters in question, who are opera singers) would have discussions like that, etc.
Despite hating the book, he “forced” himself to read all 596 pages, “in hopes someone would be helped by [his] review.” In other words, he wants to make bloody well sure no one else reads this book he so dislikes. Why? Why this personal vendetta against the book and/or me? He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, but bashing is uncalled for—yet Amazon refuses to edit or remove the review.
I am looking into whether any reviews by others who’ve read the book—which to date has been loved by those who’ve read it, including comments that it should be made into a movie—may have been removed.
It angers me that Amazon reviews are now practically worthless in that authors are paying reviewers to provide glowing reviews (apparently John Locke pays $1K to get a slew of 5-stars for his books), which calls into question all reviews for any particular title. It does make me wonder if there is some subterfuge going on by the Big 6, as another person posted here. I wouldn’t be surprised if the big houses are trying to undermine the indie author’s efforts by playing dirty pool.
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I have never sought Amazon reviews from anyone – I wouldn’t have the gall – but my daughter was living in the US when my first novel came out and she reviewed it there. When she returned to live in the UK, she posted the review on UK Amazon as well. Amazon have removed it from the UK site. I’ve never really understood the practice of not allowing comments to be seen regardless of which Amazon is being used but to remove a review that has been posted perfectly legitimately strikes me as unacceptable interference.
The fact that she is my daughter may have upset them but I would hope she is entitled to an opinion; my other daughter and my wife have never posted any reviews for me anywhere!
Re: The NYT article on reviews for pay. At my blog on http://www.theduplicata.com I wrote a piece called The Return of Payola ….and proposed to attack the issue with my (some will say) quirky sense of humor. The result is here http://tinyurl.com/8snmzuk.
The problem is serious (and very old) but Amazon lives on reviews so it is crazy to create an uneven system for screening reviews and place it in the hands of a select few freelancers whose judgement is final. Until Amazon can demonstrate that their system is fair and thorough Amazon’s credibility is at risk. Not a good thing for anyone, authors and readers alike.
This is a concerning topic – as a reviewer, primarily of independently published work, I think the objective third party perspective is crucial in helping new authors grow as well as helping consumers find quality work. Even more concerning are the Big Six publishers using paid writers to post positive reviews under the guise of a consumer – in post cases they never read the book at all. Seems to me both are a significant ethical challenge to publishing as a whole.
I should have also pointed out that self-published authors are beginning to use this tactic as well – still an ethical issue from my foxhole: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/26/business/book-reviewers-for-hire-meet-a-demand-for-online-raves.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
I read the same article and decided we should all have a laugh at this ludicrous Pay-For-Reviews swamp. That’s why I created The IDIDNOTBRIBEANYONEFOR THISREVIEW Club. You can find it at http://www.idnbaftr.org or go to http://www.theduplicata.com and scroll down to THE RETURN OF PAYOLA.
Let’s have some fun!
Reviews are very important and hard to come by–even when a reader thoroughly enjoyed your book. My last short story, Spending Christmas with a yeti was downloaded and read by one of my readers. She emailed me to let me know that she had put in a review, but never saw it appear. The book is being downloaded; I will always wonder who else tried to leave a review on any of my books and is being literally blocked.
I emailed my reader to ask her to make her complaint known to amazon. I know that fair and honest reviewing is a must, but this is not the way to do it. Do you not wonder if this is all political? Is traditional publishing in bed with amazon on this? Indies have become a force to be reckoned with. We are saying: Weâ€™re not waiting any longer to be justified, receiving a fist full of rejection letters, being told our writing is not engaging enough, that we are not the best of the best. We have proven that we are and somebodyâ€™s mad (maybe).
God bless you all; we must continue on! I really like this alliance Iâ€™ve joined! lol
I’ve had 5, five-star reviews removed from my best selling aviation autobiography in the last few months for my aviation autobiography “Squawk 7700”. I wrote amazon, and got a canned reply that they don’t discuss why reviews are removed. They were real users with real accounts too.
I’ll be brief: I haven’t had any reviews removed, and I’ve reviewed twenty some books over the past 2 years in my field. Here is my profile if it helps.
I’m posting to give you some info re: an indy author that has not had any reviews removed, even though I review other others in a similar space.
Thanks for jumping on this on our behalf!
Thanks Jeremy – that’s useful.
I’ve had two 5 star reviews removed from my book. One happened a while ago and I just assumed that, for whatever reason, the reviewer had removed it. But after reading this I checked again and another 5 star review was gone. Either way, it seems odd to me that someone would be thinking about a review they did, so much that they decide to go back in and remove it. You know? I would think they’d just forget about it. So I’m pretty confident, now that I’ve read this on your sight, that amazon removed them. Not sure why, though. They weren’t from people I know, didn’t have links pointing to their own books or anything like that.
I had a 4.5 star review disappear during the middle of a Kindle give away promo. The review was written by a writer who included a link to her own book (is that against Amazon rules?). The writer had read my book and liked it.
I have had at least 3 five star reviews I know of removed (on my books, not reviews I’ve written) and 1 not posted at all. It may not sound many, but I’m just starting out and these reviews are precious to me. These are by genuine readers who loved the book in question and read it quickly – it’s a short story collection – and all posted within a few days of each other. One of the reviewers hadn’t reviewed any books other than mine (bless her – she was new to Amazon) so maybe this looked suspect, but the annoying thing is, she is a reader and is entitled to have her voice added to the reviews.
The really worrying thing, from a wider perspective, is the way Amazon are refusing to enter into any dialogue with authors or reviewers, and are making wild threats (I’ve seen the emails) that if any further complaints are made the book itself or more reviews will be removed. There is talk that this is a random, automated function – the removing of 5 star reviews – but it is absolutely not acceptable, and as it is only happening to indie authors publishing via KDP it makes a mockery of Amazon’s stance that they are supporting indies.
Fine, police reviews – police 1 star, malicious reviews too, why don’t you? – but have a reasonable, fair system and be willing to defend and explain that system openly.
Thank you so much Joanne, if you have a sample of an email that would be useful too. Could you email it to [email protected]. Many thanks
As an indie who is trying very hard to comply with Amazon’s interpretation of their TOS, I find it difficult. It seems that if I want to continue publishing books on amazon, I must give up all say as a reader and buyer on amazon. Their TOS is being interpreted and that interpretation is constantly changing. What is okay today, will get your account closed tomorrow. And if you unknowingly do something they interpret as “bad”, your account can be closed with no real explanation or recourse.
I would love to see a listing of Do’s and Don’ts written in plain English so I know what I can and cannot do.
Thanks so much for the feedback Ann, Can you be more specific about some instances of what was okay and now is not? Or specific frustrations you have had. The more detailed we can be about this, the better.
As an example of how hard it is to stay within Amazon’s TOS. This example doesn’t have to do with original fiction but it does show the way the TOS changes and is arbitrarily enforced.
Public domain was fine to publish. Then they changed the rules. Rather than send out emails with a warning of the change and allowing people the opportunity to comply. They quietly changed the wording of the TOS. Then shut down accounts of people that didn’t comply. I know of one person who was able to fight them on the closure showing that he did comply with the TOS. But he was treated as guilty until proven innocent.
I had several positive reviews disappear that were from a review group. I think they were removed for that reason – maybe Amazon thought they appeared on another site, but they didn’t. The group only posted to Amazon. The reviews were verified purchases too, from people who had read my books. I can tell others disappeared as well, but I don’t follow my reviews closely enough to tell which.
I once emailed Amazon about a 3 star review that read, “I haven’t read this book but I will. There are a ton of books to download to my Kindle Fire.” Amazon emailed back and said they would not remove the review. I emailed again to point out why it should be removed. A supervisor emailed me again, sounding rather angry. It just strikes me as odd that Amazon is worried about removing as many 5 star reviews as possible, when there are so many negative reviews that don’t relate to the book at all. I also read a lot of reviews that sound like they were written by a competing author, trying to hurt the book. It’s just hard to put any weight in reviews anymore. I’ve thought one possible solution would be to require a DL # or other identifier with each account so that people have no way to create lots of fake accounts for reviewing their own book or negatively reviewing others. (But I know people would not like that approach.)
I don’t have a solution but the review system does seem off – my bestselling book is among my lowest rated.
Thanks for the opportunity to share our experiences and opinions!
Thank you Kirsten, we will pass on your suggestion to Amazon.
Amazon removed five of my reviews. One day I had 21 and the next 16. I was disturbed having just completed a blog tour over 20 websites in 15 days. I had come by the reviews honestly. I emailed Amazon and got a run-around. I received this response several times:
” We arenâ€™t able to provide information on review removal unless the inquiry is coming from the customer who wrote the review. As stated in our previous email, customer reviews are only removed for being outside of guidelines or if the customer removed the review through their account.
Here is a link to our Review Guidelines if youâ€™d like to see what would qualify as a review that is outside of guidelines:…”
I recommend writers keep a list of the screen names of the reviewers who post about their books. I had no way of making an argument having no relevant data. It never occurred to me to print a copy of the reviews. Amazon just kept sending the same response. Useless.
Hi Deborah, thank you very much for this information. When you say you came by the reviews honestly, can you elaborate? How exactly did you come by them? Also, do you review books yourself?
@Dan. I agree on equal standards, but who’s going to be make sure equal happens? Honestly, I can’t see how any of it will ever be equal. I’m a writer, but I’m also an avid reader. So if I enjoy a book by someone I know, I can’t write a review….
I haven’t had any reviews removed, but I do feel worried by the new practice. It feels as though unequal standards are being applied to self-published and traditionally published authors – many of the puff quotes we see on covers of books from major publishers (and repeated in the Amazon product description) are written by friends of the author, something the public doesn’t always know. I would like to see the same standards applied across the board – if writers aren’t to write about other writers make that an absolutely universal thing – so that the Stephen Fry quotation on the cover of the latest celeb bio is removed alongside one indie author’s review of another – or have the decency to state plainly there’s a double standard
Thanks for the feedback Dan. Do you review online? Have you had any reviews removed? Or any on your books?
I was asked by Orna Ross to post this link http://gary-booksandlife.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/self-publishing-and-reviews.html it’s a short piece written by myself about what I believe to be the problem with the abuse of Amazon’s book review system. All comments are welcome.