Friday, July 10, 2015

Amazon May be Deleting Your Book Reviews!

Has Amazon killed the publishing gatekeepers just to change the locks on Indie Authors? To be fair the gatekeepers aren’t dead, and Amazon is not solely responsible for opening up the door for Independent Authors to self-publish. But, they have been a large piece of the puzzle.

However, for as much good as Amazon has done good for indies,  every few months I hear a new complaint about their business practices. They pissed off Hatchett. Some say KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited limit authors. They’ve changed their algorithms dozens of times, making it harder for Indie Authors to be seen and make a profit. And, I could deal with all of that. To me those changes were just the nature of the beast. They were the turbulent seas of the publishing world I attempted to navigate in a tiny inner tube. Recently however, I heard that Amazon has started deleting reviews, and I can no longer sit by quietly paddling in my float. I have signal flares in my hands and I’m waving them around, screaming that this is wrong.

Here’s the deal, Amazon is now automatically removing reviews that meet certain criteria. In other words they are removed by a bot, not an actual human being capable of looking at the review and seeing if it appears genuine.

The most common reason I’ve heard for reviews being removed is because Amazon believes the reviewer knows the author personally. First, dear Amazon, how do you know whether or not I have a personal relationship with a reviewer? Either you are guessing, or you have seriously invaded my privacy and neither case grants you permission to make decisions based upon this judgement. Second, why should those who know me personally not be allowed to comment on my work?

If you are afraid a reviewer's comments may be biased, why not implement some kind of notice to flag that review, like you do with “Amazon’s verified purchases,” instead of deleting it? Wouldn’t that do more to inform customers about the product instead of keeping information from them?

And thirdly, how close does someone have to be to me in order for my relationship with them to be considered “personal”? Must I have met them in person? Does sending me an e-mail telling me how they loved or hated my work count? Isn’t this rather subjective, and again, I refer back to my first point, how do you know?

I’ve heard Amazon is deleting reviews of authors who have reviewed each other’s work, and that possibly they are looking at people who have friended authors on Goodreads. Now, I want to point out this will help remove the possibility of “Review Swapping” where authors trade books and give each other 5 Star reviews – which is wrong. But, it will also remove honest reviews from honest fans, and punish authors for reaching out to their fans. Furthermore, honesty is not being rewarded. Even if a reviewer fully discloses their relationship to the author in their review, it can get removed, because once again, this process is done by bots not people.

I am an indie author. I do not have millions of fans. I’m lucky if I have a dozen who truly love my work. If I have one person in the entire world who ranks me among their favorite authors, I feel blessed. Because of this I respond to every e-mail a fan sends me. I friend every fan who reaches out to me on Goodreads. I respond to every tweet that mentions my name or work. To some extent, I do know many of my fans “personally”. But they are my fans because of my work, and I truly believe every review I have from my fans is an honest one. And yes, if I have a fan who is an author sometimes I check out their work as well. But, as an Indie Author, I hold myself to a high level of integrity and will only write and ask for honest reviews.

Deleting reviews will only further inspire deception by those who are abusing reviews, and it will hurt the people who are using them correctly. Review swaps will continue, authors will simply set up separate Amazon accounts. But those of us who review correctly, who take the time to inform readers about books, and do so honestly, we will be punished. This will hurt me both as an Indie Author and as a consumer, and for that I am greatly disappointed in Amazon.

So I ask Amazon, why are you doing this? If it’s to protect your customers then you’ve failed. The cheaters will continue to cheat the system, while the rest of us suffer and your lovely customers will be denied reviews allowing them to make educated decisions about their purchases. Are you trying to become the gatekeepers of the indie publishing world by deciding which reviews are worthy, and in turn choosing which books receive attention over others? Or, maybe you’ve just realized you’ve made a monster you can no longer control. The indie world has grown. We’re bigger and stronger now. We are the Frankenstein monster of the publishing world. You helped give us life and now you’re chasing us with pitchforks. But I must ask, did Frankenstein not deserve to live?

If you have a problem with this like I do, please sign this petition and leave a comment below!

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