Amazon Wages War on Reviews… Again.

There has been quite a bit of news about Amazon lately. Some of it has been good. Some of it hasn't been so good. While I'm absolutely loving the changes to Amazon's exclusive program, the rumors of changes to their reviewing platform (leaked by top 500 reviewers from a message sent by amazon) has me absolutely hating what they're up to.

It's hard enough to get honest, legitimate reviews. Sure, in theory, honest retailers (and authors) should have an easier time having their products seen. However, there are two substantial issues with this, in my opinion.

  • Non-verified reviews (IE, ARC copies) will be given a negative modifier.
  • Older reviews will be given a negative modifier.

On the flip side, there are benefits to this:

  • Helpful reviews will have more weight (positive modifier.)
  • Newer reviews will have more weight (positive modifier, current reviews of a product.)

However, there are some even bigger issues outside of this change that I feel will really, really hurt authors–a huge driving force of Amazon's sales. I'm an honest author. If I acquire book reviews, they are a part of a blog-based book tour, where the reviewers are required to be honest by their touring groups. Many of these people are Vine reviewers–or have high amazon review rankings. These individuals don't lie about how they feel about books.

I do not buy reviews, nor will I buy reviews.

However, this makes it very difficult to get reviews.

To set the scene for this post, I want to discuss Amazon's current practices. Some of these rules will take you by surprise.

The Good:

  • Anyone can review. (Non-verified reviews.)
  • Five star ranking system. (I like five stars because it's a good range, with a very obvious ‘middle ground.') Even-numbered star review systems hurt me.
  • Flat algorithm; it's easy to know why a book is ranked as it is, just by looking at the reviews.

The Bad:

  • Very easy to post abusive reviews and have them hold weight.
  • Anyone associated with the author can have their review yanked. Including fans.
  • Easy to buy reviews.

This is a very short list. I could come up with a lot more, but I feel these are the important ones. Now, before I pick up my pitchfork, I want to mention a few things.

The new system isn't all bad. However, considering that fans who follow authors on Facebook have been having their reviews removed for ‘having an association with the author,' there are substantial problems.

Authors rely on their fans to post reviews. I'm not different. It's very hard to get reviews when you're honest. You rely on your fans and readers to do it.

I don't like chasing fans and readers for reviews. It's not comfortable for me. I really hope my fans/readers love my books enough to want to leave a positive, honest review about what they loved.

Dishonest authors simply buy those reviews. I refuse to do this. Reviews help, but I simply won't stoop to that level.

But with Amazon attempting to identify fans/readers and punishing them for following their favorite authors on Facebook, things are even harder.

I've had this happen to me before–not as the reviewer, but as the author. I'm adamantly against fans and readers who reach out to authors to connect being punished because they enjoy reading books.

Being an author requires a social media presence. Otherwise, all I'm doing is shooting in the dark and hoping I get lucky. I'm not lucky. We've established this!

How much of an Effect?

This is what we simply don't know yet. We don't know when the changes took place. So far, I haven't noticed a huge change on my books–but I don't buy reviews. (In theory, this is what should happen.) Unfortunately, I don't know the numbers of any authors who bought reviews showcasing the before and after.

That's a problem.

I can only hope that because I'm honest I won't be hit hard by this.

Authors need you more than ever, Readers.

I've said it. Readers, authors like me are utterly reliant on you. Because you read, we eat. (And my cats eat, they really appreciate eating. They also appreciate the kitty toys we bring home for them. And the cat nip…)

If you love a book, please stop and take the time to review it. We need you.

If you love a book, please stop and take the time to mark reviews as helpful. We need you.

If you love a book, please share it with your friends. We need you.

If you love a book, please keep reading. We need you.

We need you now more than ever.

Thanks for reading.

Reading Material

I've compiled a short list of articles I've read about the changes to Amazon's reviewing process. This is a mix of the good, the bad, and the ugly.

1: Haden Interactive on Amazon's Review Changes (Vine Reviewer)

2: Teleread Article (Industry Discussion)

3: Tech Investor News Article (Industry Study.)

 

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