Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Amazon Has No Right to Decide "Perceived" "Close Personal Relationship" for Reviews

You'll all remember last year's 'sock puppetry' scandal, when it was revealed that RJ Ellory had been leaving bad reviews on rivals books on Amazon; while others had been leaving good reviews on their books using alternative names/e-mail addresses.

Most writers would not be so unethical as to deliberately give bad reviews to fellow writers' books. Basically they would give an honest review good or bad, or if it's really bad, tell the author privately, if they can.

But now it seems Amazon have applied a sledgehammer approach and are taking it upon themselves to decide writers' close relationships with fellow writers of the same genre.

I think we all thought the reviews that were being removed before Christmas on were aimed at self-published or independent publishers, where friends and fellow writers were likely to post reviews-usually after reading the book.

But it seems 'names' are annoyed too.

Today's Bookseller online has a piece, 'Authors Angry over Amazon review crackdown' worth reading- if you haven't already.

I missed this Telegraph article over Christmas on the subject.

Amazon seem to have decided that they are going to judge whether the writer of a review is "perceived" to have a "close personal relationship" with rivals.

On what basis do they decide that one person appears to have a close personal relationship with the writer of a book they've reviewed?

Do they define it by the other person following and commenting on your blog, or website, or perhaps talking to you on Facebook? Or do you have to actually have met them in real life- and there's online photographic evidence?

Have Amazon never heard of workshops and writing conferences?
A lot of writers become friends at such events and keep in touch, even though they may have never met them before, or never meet them again, merely exchange comments on social media.

If I was considering buying a book on the basis of the reviews, I'm more likely to find the reviews posted are by fellow writers from within the same genre, or genuine fans of the writer's work- who aren't going to say it's good when it really is bad, and can highlight the strengths and weaknesses.

Why should Amazon decide my views on a book/genre aren't valid merely because they could consider I have a "perceived" "close personal relationship" with a writer of the same genre?

If Amazon want to be stupid then they will have to realise, some people will stop posting reviews and will post them on other numerous book sites, and sales may follow.

One writer on Facebook yesterday complained a good review on her book had been removed. It had been posted by the partner of someone she knew, though she herself didn't know the person who'd done the review, the book had been a Christmas gift and absolutely nothing to do with the author in any way. CORRECTION: The circumstances were a misunderstanding on my part and I apologise to the writer involved. It appears the reviewer stated that the book had been a present from his partner.
But the case still stands as the author had no connection with either the buyer, or reviewer.

If Amazon wants reviewers to declare if they know the person whose book they have reviewed, I would have no problem with that.

Publishers send review copies of new books out. Perhaps newspaper book sections should start carrying a warning, 'this review is the result of a free review copy'. But I don't see this happening anytime soon...

Have you found previously published Amazon reviews of your books missing?

What do you think of this situation?

Or just share your thoughts...



Rosemary Gemmell said...

Happy New Year, Carol - wishing you great things during 2013! I think this Amazon problem is very sad for genuine reviewers and the books they read. A case of over reaction and lack of thought.

liz young said...

I hope they've ironed out the problems by the time I think about e-publishing! Happy 2013 Carol.

Anonymous said...

Very disheartening - I can only imagine how annoying it must have been to have had a review removed after the excitement of reading it. :(


Patsy said...

Amazon seem to be missing the point. Writers and friends of writers or even enemies of writers aren't the problem. Anyone who is who they say they are is entitled to an opinion. The problem, as I see it, is that some people have multiple accounts, pretend to be a disinterested party and/or write spam reviews. It's those people who should be banned from reviewing, not genuine readers who also happen to write, or to know someone who writes.

Carolb said...

Happy New Year and a successful 2013 to you all...

I'd certainly agree about the lack of thought, Rosemary. Genuine reviews are needed so much.

I hope so too, Lizy.

Yes, it must be heart-breaking so see a good review f your book, only for it to be removed, Seaview.

I agree with you, Patsy. Sadly it seems to be genuine reviewers who are being targetted, not the rogues- case of east targets?

Carolb said...

Apologies for the typos, my typing is not 100% at the moment...

Maxi said...

I think you were right when you said they have taken a 'sledgehammer' approach. All it will do is to stop genuine reviewers as what's the point? If you spend time reviewing something for Amazon to then 'perceive' rightly or wrongly you have a connection to the writer and then delete it. Rather a case of throwing out the baby with the bath water. Time to reassess, Amazon!