Today’s NYTimes has an annoying, infuriating, ridiculous, idiotic article on Amazon’s (insert previous adjectives here) recent decision to eradicate book reviews they deem — apparently via a crystal ball or a blind throwing of darts — not fit to print.
In other words, if they suspect (again, darts or a crystal ball) that a review for your work was submitted by a family member or a good friend or someone whose objectivity can be questioned, they will delete it.
So, for writers like me who DON’T have hundreds of reviews, one or two being wiped off the face of the earth is a big deal, not that my family or good friends read my work or review it. (They don’t)
For someone like Star Author A who has hundreds if not thousands, it may not matter as much.
Then again, I doubt Star Author A is the focus of Amazon’s Wipe Out the Upstarts Inquisition. They’re going after the self-published writers who slip under the Big Six radar and dare to find success — and make a boatload of cash — without them. They’re going after the self-published writers who are, more and more, turning their noses up at the offers Traditional Publishing is making for their now successful books because the royalty structure is better if they remain on their own.
They’re going after the self-published successes because, well, they can!
And they’re doing it via the ONE marketing tool left to us: reviews.
If you’re Timothy Ferriss and published by Amazon, it’s apparently okey-dokey to begin Day One with 60+ Four- and Five-Star reviews about a book many of them have yet to read just because, you know, they know they’re going to like it. And, for Amazon, their belief — with work put out by their own Imprints, evidently — that one doesn’t have “to use a product to review it” feels to me like a blanket excuse to absolve Mr. Ferriss and other favorites from the purge.
If you are a self-published author who has spent months rounding up beta readers and working your tail off to get a healthy handful of reviews to accompany the book’s release, knowing that strong word of mouth is a key component to success, the chances of most of those being erased because you’re not lounging under the umbrella of the Big Six or draped in Amazon’s cloak of invisibility is pretty darn high.
And that’s just depressing.
Why would Amazon create a self-publishing platform and give thousands if not millions the chance to live their dreams as writers only to knee-cap ’em at every turn and make it increasingly difficult to, you know, make a living and pay some bills?
I don’t know.
But what I do know is I’m going to head over right now and read the fourteen (yes, fourteen!) glowing reviews for Martuk and the six or seven for The Wounded King and The Elder before Amazon decides they were written by Grandpa Joe and Cousin Clyde (they weren’t) and steal them away from me in their obsession to Wipe Out the Upstarts.
I can understand your frustration.
There have been, however, clear abuses of the review system. Authors have published books about how to game the system, and I think that those abuses threaten an important part of Amazon’s appeal to its customers. I can empathize with their desire to fend off some of that abuse.
On the other hand, the way they have gone about it is heavy handed at best.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Brian.
As with any successful system, there will be abuses. And Amazon is certainly within its rights to do what it can do to address that issue.
But if they are going to delete reviews they find suspiciously supportive — and, again, we have no way of knowing how they come to their conclusions –, it’s important that broad brush be applied to everyone. Big Six books, titles from Amazon’s own imprints, and, yes, independently published and self-published work.
To respond that a customer need not have used the product to review it, when asked why they hadn’t deleted the many “I’ve yet to read it but I know I’m going to love it” reviews that were submitted the day Timothy Ferriss’ new Amazon-published book was released, indicates a different set of criteria is being used when considering what goes and what stays.
And at the end of the day, it’s still my belief that the self-published authors will be the ones most adversely affected.
Nice to hear from you. 🙂