Amazon is a confusing company. On the one side, it is a convenient place to find and purchase those hard to find items for a decent price that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Prices are usually reasonable and delivery of the product you purchase is quick. In recent times though, Amazon has gone through several stages of being there for the customer and controlling the customer.
Small time indie authors such as myself have a very difficult time gaining reviews, in addition to giving them. The reviews we give and receive are often rejected with a lousy explanation or removed without explanation. Yet, we’ve seen other types of products contain hundreds of reviews, both positive and negative. Let’s not forget the “raving reviews” left for those so-called authors who stuff books and cheat their way through the ranks to make a six-figure income have been allowed. We are still finding these types of reviews.
When I questioned why my attempt to review was rejected I received two different answers, each of which was not accurate according to their guidelines and on the author’s and my behalf. The first was that being linked to an author on social media could contribute to bias.
The answer was absurd because to reject a review based on following an author on Twitter would mean that fans of Dan Brown and JK Rowling would not be able to post reviews, as both David Gaughran and Furious Fotog put it. Further, as Furious Fotog stated is the hypocrisy of Amazon who sends books out months in advance before the initial release to prime members just to gain reviews. Yet, a simple review for a book authored by an unknown indie is rejected.
When an outcry against Amazon’s response to me poured in, Amazon was quick to respond with another illogical reason to why my review was rejected.
I admit my confusion to this answer, because not only does it lack a clear context, but when you look at it from a few different possible answers; 1. Amazon thinks the author and I are related, 2. Amazon thinks the author and I are on and the same with two different accounts, 3. Amazon denies the right to review because we are both authors who write fantasy; you start pondering if Amazon has their shit together. Do they even know what they are doing? As author Paula M. Hunter put it, it’s the classic version of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.
I have recently sent a letter to Jeff Bezos and to Amazon, and I’ve questioned Amazon directly on Twitter. My concern is that if I am denied my right to review a book, how far will Amazon go to deny anyone the right to review. I’ve learned in recent days many more besides me have had reviews rejected or removed by Amazon. People are upset and rightly so because to deny a review without a legitimate reason according to their guidelines is to deny the reviewer their First Amendment rights while further implying their guidelines can be twisted around to suit their agenda for whatever reason Amazon desires.
The bias must be eliminated as an excuse as to why reviewers cannot review a product when we consider the facts.
- The person bought and paid for the product themselves.
- The person admits in the review they were given a free product in exchange for an honest review; permitted by Amazon guidelines so long as you admit to it. Yet, these reviews have been getting removed by Amazon.
- The person has the same surname, or the same exact name as the author, but are not related and are not the same person. There is more than one Suzan Tisdale, more than one Melissa Gromley in the world who are not related to each other. Yet, Amazon would deny our review on their products because “bias.” Such denial is an unfair assumption.
- The reviewer is a blogger. I see nothing wrong with being a blogger who writes reviews for books they bought and read, nor do I see nothing wrong with reviews from bloggers who were given a free book in exchange for an honest review. Bloggers blog just about anything under the sun, including book reviews, but they are still people, not corporations or big publishing companies getting paid to review a book.Let’s take at some other facts as to why Amazon makes no sense. Amazon allows or has allowed the following to occur.
- Paid reviews. That’s right. People were paid to give a review for a book or were awarded a prize in exchange for buying the book and for reviewing it. This is against Amazon’s guidelines and yet Amazon allowed these reviews to go through.
- Amazon sent out its own books before release-date to receive reviews, but if an indie author did the same thing, any review given would be automatically rejected.
- Amazon allowed the sale of dozens and dozens of poorly written books which gained hundreds of glowing reviews from pay to click sites and did not remove the reviews or denied them.
- Big time authors received reviews without question. I am not against this, but it is unfair that a widely known author is allowed to receive reviews from their fans who follow and speak to them on social media but a lesser known author cannot. Where is the equality in this?
Clearly, we see the problem with Amazon’s review system where it denies reviews allowed by its own guidelines or not stated in the guidelines at all, but allows paid reviews and encourages reviews from Prime members for pre-released books and reviews for well-known authors who have a very large social following. (Yes, this all bears repeating because of its importance to call out Amazon for their poor taste in handling reviews from customers.
Reviews are important and can be quite beneficial when given correctly and ethically. It can either make or break a product depending on whether or not it persuades or dissuades a buyer. However, this is not a reliable way to view the product as good or bad, because not every buyer is going to feel the same way about the product. Some will enjoy the product and some will not. Some products will work, but others won’t.
I would like to make an update though. As I was checking my email this morning on Labor Day, I received a notification from Amazon asking me to review Nancy A. Lopes’ The Daywalker Chronicles. Surprisingly, it actually allowed me to submit a review. Now the question remains whether or not Amazon will approve my review, which is the same as the one on Goodreads, minus a few details. I don’t trust Amazon, you see. But this method is preferable.
Here are my ideas concerning the review flaws Amazon has. Amazon should allow the reviewer to submit their review without preventing them from writing a review in the first place, and, as long as it follows the guidelines, of which all Amazon employees should know or have quick and easy access to, let it be accepted. Let Amazon forget about the bias, unless it can be proven without a doubt there is bias, but also give consumers the right to proof no bias. This means that a person who works for the company or is indeed a direct relation to the author; mother, father, grandparent, etc. (Let’s remember initially I couldn’t even submit a review the last time. It was automatically rejected when I clicked on the fourth star and went to hit review to write a review).
Authors, (who also read and review books for pleasure and readers who don’t write books would love to see an overhaul at Amazon. Perhaps working together we can get them to see this and persuade them to make these necessary changes.
Do you like my blogs? Consider supporting me by purchasing one of my books. You can purchase the following at Smashwords if you choose to shop there instead of Amazon.
- The Warriors: Crimson Chaos; A YA contemporary fantasy novel.
- Super George: The Cocky Sockpuppet; A short story featuring a sockpuppet who wants to be a hero in the sockygate business; a parody of cockygate and bookstuffing issues.
- Dick Cockee, under my pen name L. Cockley, available for now only at Amazon; a flash fiction erotica in support against the previous trademark, “cocky.”