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 Yes, the review has been withdrawn, despite the book having been purchased from Amazon and verified as such because the review in question is a fellow author.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.