It’s been a while since I had a really good rant. Which is probably a symptom of relative happiness, so the lack of me having a good old-fashioned rant about something is probably a good sign. All the same, there are on occasions things that you just need to have a good rant about, if only to get it out of your system for a while. So as I stumbled over something which to many of you may seem like a minor irritation I felt the need to have a good old-fashioned rant. So, consider that a minor warning for small children and the easily offended.
My first novel, Cider Lane, has 17 reviews on Amazon.co.uk. A week ago it had 18. I have lost a review, just as it seemed I was making some headway. Oh for the love of the imaginary deity of your choice… And why has this grave injustice occurred? Because the reviewer in question was a writer. Fan-bloody-tastic, well done Amazon, three cheers for your bloody ridiculous review policies. Yes, the review has been withdrawn, despite the book having been purchased from Amazon and verified as such because the review in question is a fellow author.
About this point the non-writers reading this are probably wondering why this bothers me so much, it is only one review after all…
Well firstly because reviews on Amazon are extremely important to writers. Once you pass a certain threshold, which changes every now and again whenever Amazon’s review policies change, Amazon will make your novel more visible. It will, after around 20 reviews start appearing in the ‘books you may also like’ recommendations they send out and that pop up when you finish a book on Kindle. After the 50-65 threshold, they will actually recommend your book. So getting as many reviews as you can is important to a writer. Wherein lays a trap, the cause of this angst-ridden post and general disgruntlement on both my part and the part of other writers. It is also a system ripe for exploit, Amazon knows the system is exploited, so Amazon patrol book reviews with the veracity of the republic party and Hilary’s emails… And about as much validity…
What rankles me most is not that this review has been removed from Cider Lane ( and it was a bloody lovely review into the bargain… ) But the reasoning behind it and my own ethical approach to book reviews. I did not ask for the review in question, not even in a polite’if you like it, please review it’ kind of way. I did not even ask the writer to read my book, she just decided to buy it, give it a go and enjoyed it so left me a review. I did not do a reciprocal review, this was no bargain or deal between us. I don’t do or offer to do, reciprocal reviews. Not least because I know, Amazon will in all likely-hood rescind both reviews, but also because there is something basically dishonest about reviewing someone’s novel because they have agreed to review yours. I will read people’s books if they ask me to, if it appeals to me, and I will review them if I do.
Amazon’s review system is rank with abuse, paid reviews, reciprocal reviews, more paid reviews. General cheating of the system as much as possible. What is worse is that a lot of people do get away with it, the argument for doing so goes something like this. If you can pay for 50 reviews in a short time, and it takes Amazon a couple of months to redact them then you get the benefits of being a highly reviewed book for a short time, hopefully, sell a lot more books that way and thus get genuine reviews in the mix… So every time Amazon clamp down the people abusing the system move on to another way to cheat it… I don’t try to cheat the system, I play by the rules. Indeed I play by my own rules which are somewhat more ethical than those of Amazon…
As such one of the things Amazon have started to do is remove reviews by authors. Often quite randomly, because of the unethical authors out there trying to cheat the system. I seriously doubt that the writer who reviewed my novel falls into the category of ‘unethical authors out there trying to cheat the system’. Yet her honest ( and loverly) review of Cider Lane has been removed because she is a writer. Which is insulting to her even more than it is an irritation to me. Indeed that is what has pissed me off the most about this.
The world is full of people who are willing and quite able to cheat the system. I wish it weren’t, because I wish the world were full of honest people, for all I am a realist. But I am bloody annoyed, and utterly frustrated when honest reviews from honest people are removed in the name of Amazon’s war on fake reviews.
What is the point of playing by the rules and being honest, when you get hammered for it, indeed because you’re honest and play by the rules that hammer is far more damaging to you than it ever is to the cheats of the world?
Clearly, honesty is not its own reward and given my insomnia it doesn’t help you sleep at night.
EDIT: everything above in this little rant is still relevant, however, in their wisdom, and because the review complained, the review has suddenly come back a couple of months later. Which I did not expect, and I would like to thank the reviewer for complaining to Amazon about there unfair treatment.
Thanks, Lynne 🙂 I hope all the other reviews you have kindly done for other people have come back too
Why would Amazon remove a review by a writer? What constitutes a writer? Someone with items listed on Amazon? You hint at potential abuse but I don’t see why writers would be targeted. As you admit, the Amazon review system is deeply flawed, indeed disreputable so perhaps they’ve identified a repeated issue with writers’ reviews. Is it a mutual back scratching ring perhaps?
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Hi Petie, there is not one mutual back scratching ring, there are thousands. Amazon stamped down on them a couple of years ago. However, like most things Amazon do to try and ‘clean up’ the review system they target any writer. Often they remove reviews completely randomly, also often because people have there amazon linked to Facebook (which is possably the worst idea ever) As they will remove reviews form people on your friends list. Which is why most people unlinked there Facebook accounts a few years ago as well.
I wrote a long post about the Amazon review system a couple of years ago https://markhayesblog.com/2017/01/28/self-publishing-a-guidebook-for-the-tourist2-reviews/
Right, I discovered this had happened to me yesterday evening – one of the reviews of my book has been taken off (very similiar number total to yours) and reviews I have done for other authors whose books I’ve enjoyed (including yours – so I know it’s mine that’s been removed) have been deleted as well. I did a google search as to why, and see you know more about me on this. I am angry too, more angry really that they have taken my reviews off those who i gave them to. This to me is mind blowingly crazy and could affect indie authors motivation to bother going through this arduous journey at all! I’ve enquired about it and will see what happens, whether they will put them back or whether I can put them back, or whether indeed I will be ‘allowed’ to leave another writer a review ever again! And then there’s the issue of ‘has it just happened through me somehow?’
So I’ve had to unfriend three writers on facebook and change goodreads friends to follows. That is all I have done so far, apart from contacting Amazon, but I think these measures will be pointless. I’ve been contacting those affected to explain – and so far you are as angry as me, but the others are being more chilled to some extent. I’m a stickler for right and wrong and injustice, so i guess i’m feeling it more.
We’ll see what happens, I’ve done all I can for now.
You certainly have done nothing that warrants an apology to me Lynne. You’re clearly not someone abusing the system, but another innocent bystander caught up in Amazon’s war against those who abuse the review system.
I only know more because I researched the subject a while ago when I had a couple of reviews removed from other authors.
I was keeping your name out of it out of politeness, no other reason.
What seems to happen, commonly, if a writer reviews someone s book and at some point, later in time they receive a review from someone they have reviewed, Amazon algorithms spot it. No one from Amazon actually ever looks at the flagged issue. So no common sense is applied… and then reviews get deleted randomly.
They keep changing the rules, however, and how things are applied. What annoys me is not losing a review but, as you say, that someone has taken the time to write a review and then it gets kicked to the kerb.
Don’t worry about it, I just needed a little rage venting about the system because its always the honest writers who seem to get hammered the most for these things, the cheats tend to have several dozen reviews as they cheat big style, so getting caught here or there doesn’t matter to them at all
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Okay, I hear you. But I am still waiting to hear back, there’s been no acknowledgment so far, but one person I did a review for, in the way you described perfectly, did enquire for one of mine she’d lost and got it put back, so there may be a chance if you want to give it a try it that way around. But it’s all so disappointing and depressing – but main thing is to carry on writing and reading and leaving reviews when you want to irregardless. Cheers, Mark!
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Mark, could you do me a favour and tell me how to unlink my account from facebook and twitter? I’ve had a go and got nowhere – many thanks!
It’s okay, mark, I’ve discovered they are not linked anyway.
you reviews back, yay 🙂
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