Navigating the Amazon Review Nuke
It was important, at least to this editor, to research the issue before publishing something unwarranted or uninformed. I, too have been taken up into the latest round of Amazon bashing and petition signing due to the loss of reviews. The most recent panic stems from the loss of reviews tagged as coming from friends and family. Basically a body blow to those in the publishing community that work day and night to develop a brand, a network, an every expanding field of persons that “connect” with us and buy our books. What happens if the Overlords at Amazon decide the connection is too close?
In researching this problem I found that massive nuking of reviews has been an ongoing problem. One article was dated November, 2012 with an update in January of 2014. This is nothing new. I found that article of interest because the author, Joe Konrath, is a published writer with many peers in the field and he, too had suffered the wrath of the algorithm. His article Amazon Removes Reviews was interesting and informative and gave me a slightly different take on things.
Fundamentally, we as authors have asked Amazon to somehow determine which reviews are valid, and helpful, and which are not. Which ones are thrown out there as Aunt Betty’s vote of confidence, and which ones are carefully constructed, valid interviews. We have screamed foul when attacked by the 1-2 Star Brigade, and expressed fury when our 5-star review by a friend-that-read-it AND bought-from-Amazon got caught in the math.
The very real problem is that unless Amazon hires several minions of at least semi-literate drones, there is no way to review all reviews without employing math. And, short of background checks, how does the math know who knows whom without bot searches of online connections? As much as I hate to say it I think I have to agree with Mr. Konrath; we have created our own monster.
In my search for recent information on the subject, I also came across this well written piece on SelfPublishedAuthor. A blog by Penny C. Sansevieri entitled, What to Do When Amazon Pulls Book Reviews. This post, dated in March of this year, details the various ways a review can get bumped, what Amazon Author Central had to say about it, and a few hints on how to avoid the issue. It is well worth the read.
I, too, am a reviewer on Amazon. I certainly don’t have hundreds of reviews up although many of them have been voted as “useful” in some undisclosed way. I also make sure that the same reviews go up on my blog and on Goodreads. They do survive – somewhere. And perhaps that is the path we all need to take. Finding multiple homes for the pieces we create after reading a book and devoting some of our rare bits of time to some analysis of its value.
If you are an author, such as I am, it is also useful if you keep track of the reviews you receive and re-publish them on a book-related page on your blog or on a social media site such as Facebook. I find them rather encouraging at times and even some of the not-so-good reviews can help you grow in your craft. There are also other places to get your work reviewed.
I think as much as we rely on Amazon to be the world’s book store, we should not grow totally dependent on the bots at Amazon to take care of us, nurture us, and help us reach our goals. It is, for all intents and purposes, a major tool in the publishing world of today. However, it is still not the only game in town and to ignore other possibilities is neither wise nor productive.
To see what Amazon itself says about the rules of the review game, you can follow this link.
VICTORIA ADAMS is an accountant and financial analyst by profession, but numbers can get numbing. Not in a mood to allow her mind to glaze over, she has always found ways to be creative in her business career by helping in the growth, development or startup of many different kinds of enterprises. That creative spirit extended to many of her leisure activities where she pursued such things as pottery, needlepoint, gardening, and well just about anything that is creative. Her professional background has also made her a perpetual researcher. In this way she developed a deep love of philosophy, religion, history, archeology and anthropology. What she learns she loves to share so she has been a teacher and occasional speaker. For many years her husband tried to get her to share through writing. Now that she has tested the waters with her first book, which ironically was about the first year of learning to live with his dementia, she is ready to reach further and write the things he always wanted to see.