Amazon’s Response to Author Reviews

This is somewhat in response to the following articles:

Word on the street seems to be indicating that reviews written by authors, for other authors, on Amazon have been, or are being, removed. I’m not sure what to make of that. There’s undoubtedly been gross abuse of the Amazon review system by certain parties to promote books. Groups of authors have reviewed each others’ books and given glowing reviews without having read them.

Even at its most egregious though, how many reviews are we talking about? I have no idea. I feel confident though that the larger problem is an author’s ability to create ‘dummy’ accounts to review his own work (Stanek, Robert), or the work of his friends. Nothing in Amazon’s new policies will get at that problem. This is the internet, you can’t fix those things.

Recognizing there’s no way for Amazon to truly dispose of ‘bunk’ reviews, isn’t it a bridge too far to outright remove authors from reviewing each other?

Is Peter V. Brett’s review of Myke Cole’s novel legitimate? They’re best friends. Brett was Cole’s alpha reader. However, he’s read Cole’s novel — probably dozens of times. The same is true of Cole for Brett’s work. I have no idea if they’re reviewed one another on Amazon, nor do I have any idea if those reviews have been removed, but the example points out the obvious flaw in Amazon’s supposed policy. How is their bias any more compromising than a ‘consumers’?

I’m in the bag for Joe Abercrombie. He could write a Carebear novel and I’d give it 5-stars and thank him for it. Jared Shurin of Pornokitsch is mentioned in the acknowledgements of China Mièville’s latest novel, Railsea. And yet he can review Mièville with impunity. I’m not sure I grasp how being published in some capacity disqualifies someone from also being a consumer, particularly in SFF where so many authors have come directly out of fandom.

If I decided to self publish a short story on Amazon, would I suddenly be disqualified from reviewing other authors? That seems silly. Looking at Amazon’s ‘review guidelines’ there’s no mention of the reviewer’s status as an author. There is however, a statement about promotional content:

Promotional content:

  • Advertisements, promotional material or repeated posts that make the same point excessively
  • Sentiments by or on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product (including reviews by publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product)
  • Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product.  This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package
  • Solicitations for helpful votes

I’ll grant that it’s possible only reviews from authors of the same publisher are being removed, which would, sort of, be in conformity with this rule. In theory  that would lump all independent authors in the same box. It’s a dubious distinction to make, even for authors within the same imprint (such as Ace or Orbit), that the sales of a colleague’s books benefit their own.

Anyway, I could ramble on about this all day. I’ll close with this, there is absolutely a problem with illegitimate reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and a host of other outlets. I strongly believe it’s going to have a negative impact on the online space. It undoubtedly has already cast a shadow over legitimate reviews and reviewers. But, and it’s a big one, I’m confident that what Amazon may have done will in no way correct that problem, and could, in some cases, harm the consumers they’re trying to protect.

What do you think?

Written by Justin Landon

Justin Landon

Justin Landon is the Overlord of Staffer’s Book Review. When he’s not writing things of dubious value to the world, he’s at the gym or being a dad. You can follow him on a multitude of social media, which is strongly suggested lest you miss out on vital information that could someday save your life.