Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Author Reviews Yay or Nay?

There's been a lot of talk on Kindle forums and yahoo groups about Amazon's feelings about author's reviewing another author's work.  The latest gossip is that some of the reviews are disappearing if it can be proven that there is a known relationship between writer and reviewer.  I'm finding this a bit hard to swallow as I think about how many authors there are in the world, and most got that way by becoming a reader first.  At least I know I did.

  I can honestly say that I've never posted a review out of friendship.  I can also attest honestly to the fact that I've never paid or pressed anyone for a good review.  Why?  For me, that does nothing.  Reviews are a way for authors to learn what they've done right or wrong.  Despite the delight, there is no satisfaction in having every review be a five...but there is a way to leave a constructive review that gets one's feelings across without being nasty and vile.  It seems that Amazon's own program has brought out the nastiness and competitive edge that has resulted in more unfavorable than favorable reviews...at least in my opinion, and since this is my blog I can base the facts on that.  I use the following as examples:  The first is a summary of what's been on Twitter and other social media:

Amazon is reported to be saying that it is a violation of their policy to have 
people who know the author write a review. It's also violations for "insiders" 
(read that as other authors) to write reviews because the reviews might be 
biased or might be being done because there might be a review exchange going on: 
you give me a good review and I'll give you a good review or because the 
reviewer might have been paid to write the review. 

Consider that 
A) Almost all writers are readers as well. 
B) If you declare your connections, such as the author (or a representative of 
the author sent you a copy for review), or you know the person, or you're 
related to the person, that's the kind of comment the algorithm looks for to 
pick reviews for removal. If you don't declare your connection, you are 
automatic in violation. 
C) The reviews flagged for pulling are identified by an algorithmic formula, not 
by human beings. 
D) This has never been an issue before, even though friends and relatives have 
been doing reviews for ages. 

What they seem to be aiming for is a 100% population of disinterested (that is, 
not connected to the author) reviewers because these are perceived as being more 

 It's a tad disheartening that reviews have become looked upon as dishonest summaries posted to advantage one's self. I wish Amazon would take into consideration the personal attacks that have been left recently on a lot of author's book pages.  In most cases, there is nothing helpful to the author or a perspective buyer except for pure nastiness and spite.

  I don't know of one author who feels obligated to lie on behalf of another, and I'm wondering how this will affect legitimate review sites who are comprised mostly of authors who most certainly read the work of other authors known to them.  Here's the blog headline and link to a second post so you can read for yourself.  Feel free to share your sentiments here.

Authors cannot review authors on Amazon

If you are an author on Amazon, prepare for your book reviews to be deleted



Rita Karnopp said...

Shocking ... what is happening to my 'American free speech'???? I read like anyone else ... that's why I became writer... what is wrong with Amazon??? Great article, Ginger!

Kallypso Masters said...

Timely subject, Ginger. I'm an author who has never left a review (as far as I recall ) mainly because I rarely have time to read, but I have heard stories of abuses. For instance, a publisher has a program where each of the authors at the small house read each other's books and post usually glowing reviews for each other, expecting in exchange that they will receive the same. I know of an author who uses a bogus account to review her OWN books. And don't even get me started on those Facebook pages where readers ask for free books in exchange for a review. (Not all are guaranteed unbiased reviews, but you have to admit there is a bias there.)

I am pretty sure most of my reviews are from readers only on Amazon. Not sure about Goodreads. (Talk about a place needing to do something about its snarky review policy--I haven't read a review there since March, except when I've heard other readers telling about some attack they've received that Goodreads says is still within their free-speech policy. Sorry, but calling an author a bitch because a reader just didn't like what the author wrote is not acceptable to me.

Most authors I know don't actually review each other's work, but our readers are always asking us to recommend who else to read while they wait for us to finish the next effing book. lol So, we pimp each other out that way--and I'm sure sell a lot of books. Even there, because I read so few, I always say whether I've read it or just heard about it being good from a lot of readers whose opinions I trust.

People are going to find ways to work the system and try to get an advantage no matter what rules are in place. If there isn't an actual human being policing it, I don't see how a bot or algorithm can be fair. Authors and readers are networking all the time--in writers' groups, at conferences/conventions, online. I remember when I first heard a rumor that Amazon was going to remove reviews posted by your "friends." I consider many of my 3100 Facebook friends to be actual friends now, but never knew them before I became an author. (I did meet some in the couple months before I published my first book, including some great bloggers.) I feared I'd lose a lot of reviews as a result, but certainly haven't noticed that any have disappeared. Again, if I went through the names on my hundreds of reviews, I wouldn't even know which are authors in most cases.

I'm not going to get paranoid or worry about it, though. But I retweeted your post about this blog and it will be interesting to see how other authors and readers feel about it.


Anonymous said...

I am not an author. I do read reviews from Amazon and Goodreads, but I would not say that they cause me to purchase a book or not. If I find someone says something about poor grammar or spelling I will probably pass, but that is based on me getting burned in the past. But honestly I can usually tell if I will like a book by the free sample.

I certainly believe anyone who reads a book should be able to write a review, no matter who you are. I suppose Amazon thinks that all authors must be on some sort of emergency calling telephone tree list and when a book comes out you guys all run out to write glowing reviews. :)

I will say that for example, if Tolkien had written a review of a fantasy novel, I would be swayed to read the book. Same goes for a favorite author. If I like your book, odds are I would like a book you loved. And you know what that is? GOOD ADVICE.

Now, what makes me really uncomfortable are the authors who give themselves 5 stars. While yes, you probably love your own book, it gives the impression of impropriety. It also skews the data. What I did like was one author reviewed her own book (no rating) and simply provided an interesting fact about her writing process, etc.

I also do find it annoying if an author obviously gets all of their friends and family to write glowing reviews, but it is clear that they have never reviewed another book. While that is annoying, it is fairly easy to figure out, so I just ignore those reviews and go back to Goodreads and my groups/friends for their reviews.

Bottom line? I think authors' reviews are very valuable and I do not think that we need to automatically accuse them of lying.

Great post!

Kenra Daniels said...

I've been watching the whole author review debate with interest. I used to review for a book blog but stopped when my own publication dates approached.

I'm not comfortable reviewing authors I'm not acquainted with. I've heard too many horror stories about an author not liking another author's review of their work. A whole campaign of revenge begins, with the original reviewer's work being trashed everywhere.

I'd also rather readers not assume that I'd give someone a good or bad review based on my being an author. Factor in that reviews take time to write and post, and time is something I have very little of...

BUT, Authors are readers, or should be. So why should they not be able to use reviews as a way of letting their own readers know they believe a books is good or not? The whole practice of removing reviews smacks of conspiracy to decrease sales for specific authors. Especially when obviously fake reviews are left in place.

Thanks for the great post!

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