Notice your Amazon page looking a little… well, barer than usual?
After a number of controversies surrounding sock puppet book reviews in 2012, Amazon have decided to go nuclear and remove thousands of book reviews from their website. We’re talking everything from legitimate reviews to fake sock-puppet cases.
Let me get one thing straight from the off–it’s kind of good that Amazon have finally addressed a flawed review system whereby anybody can create a number of accounts and post multiple reviews. It’s also good that authors are now unable to leave scathing reviews for the books of competitors just to boost their own rank.
However, the goodness pretty much stops there.
Amazon removing reviews
I first heard about Amazon removing reviews when a reviewer of mine, who received a copy as a gift, informed me that they were having trouble submitting a review. It wasn’t a raving 5-star arselick, but a middling 3-star critique. It was honest, well put together, and exactly what I was looking for when I submitted the book to several trusted reviewers around the web. Strange, I thought.
The next thing I heard of Amazon removing reviews was over at Joe Konrath’s blog. Konrath has put together a good argument of why the move is a negative one from his perspective, and has submitted a great protest email to Amazon. I urge you to head over there and check it out–it’s well worth a read.
Why Amazon removing reviews is a bad thing
For the likes of J.K. Rowling, Amazon removing reviews will be barely noticeable because of the sheer number of reviews they have.
However, for new authors, acquiring reviews is a much harder process. I’m not talking about fake, sock-puppet reviews where one sets up multiple accounts to sing their own praises–it’s good that those reviews are being weened out. I’m talking about the honest book reviewers who are now required to have purchased the book on Amazon to share their thoughts.
Gathering reviews is a big part of any author’s marketing strategy, especially in the early days. It’s a well-know fact that more reviews = more sales.
But now, it feels like the 80% of honest, hardworking indie authors are being punished for the actions of a selfish few. Imagine you’ve spent hours gathering, say, 20 reviews from sources around the web. You’ve got a healthy 4-star average.That number could be slashed to two one-star reviews from a couple of people who didn’t even finish reading your book after they grabbed it for free during a promo. It’s a knee jerk decision from Amazon, and one which no matter how much admiration I have for their services, I cannot support.
I guess this day was always inevitable after so many high-profile authors admitted to doctoring reviews. Amazon needed to react. In a way though, Amazon’s decision means that the big fakers’ policies have won.
We were fortunate to have such a flexible review system in place beforehand, but thanks to the abuse of the big names, we can no longer critique fellow authors or send out Amazon review copies via email to book bloggers. The successful fakers, on the other hand, already have a fan base in place. It’s a victory for the elite and a major blow to those, like myself, who are seeking to break from obscurity.
I’m not trying to say that only the big names fake reviews, because that isn’t true. But fake reviews can typically be sniffed from miles away, especially if a smaller author only has one or two raving 5-star appraisals.
In my opinion, one-star reviews are the problem, not legitimate critiques. Why should an author see a four-star ‘Great book, but needs a few tweaks here and there…’ comment removed when a 1-star ‘DIDN’T FINISH THIS SHIT BOOK PREFER TO READ F*CKING HEAT MAGAZINE’ should be allowed to stay as long as the reviewer has purchased through Amazon? A little unbalanced, in my opinion.
What next for book reviews?
From now on, as far as I’m aware, if you want your book reviewing on Amazon, you’ll have to gift the book reviewer with an Amazon copy of the book so that the purchase is verified. Immediately this forms a problem–a lot of book reviewers don’t own a Kindle, but read on the Nook and the Kobo. Tough shit, Amazon says.
In the long run, this might turn out a positive move. I just think a bit of a heads up wouldn’t have gone amiss. I’m a huge fan of Amazon and how they treat their authors. They’ve practically reshaped the publishing landscape, offered careers to thousands that were previously snubbed by the major publishers. Long may that continue, but with an urgent reassessment of book review policy.
What We Saw – First Chapter
I promised I’d share the first chapter of my upcoming debut novel What We Saw with you today.
You can download the first chapter here as a PDF file. Please note that this is still a work-in-progress as the final editorial proofread is scheduled for next week.
I’ll be sending out an extended preview of the book to my mailing list subscribers either later this afternoon or tomorrow morning. If you’d like to receive it, please sign up here.
Where do you stand on Amazon’s decision to remove reviews? Good because it gets rid of the fakery, or bad because it’s vague and flawed?