More On Amazon Reviews And Indie Authors

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

Okay, by now I’m sure you’ve all heard about the stink with Amazon reviews and how it’s affecting indie authors.  I’ve read a lot of blogs, Facebook groups, twitter feeds and more about this hot and controversial topic and here’s the latest, as I’ve heard it…and the latest from Amazon.  Read on…

Indie Authors – How/When Did This Start?

I’ve read a lot of posts that say that this all started when the New York Times printed an article about John Locke buying reviews.  Actually, indie authors were reporting that they were losing reviews before the NYT article went public.  One theory I’ve heard (from JA Konrath), is that the site No Sock Puppets Here Please (a site where you could agree that you wouldn’t create fake reviews) is the culprit for all of this happening.  According to Konrath (at least as far as I can tell) is that if this group had kept their mouths shut, Amazon wouldn’t have gone to all this trouble to over-enforce their review rules.  Again, the problem here is that reviews started disappearing before NSPHP’s post (that group may still have influenced Amazon, who knows?).

Indie Authors – A Reasoned Response to JA Konrath

JA Konrath has written at length about this issue.  I, for one, think he’s deflected the issue away from the actual issue of people faking reviews and onto those that complained about it (NSPHP in particular).  For a great look at JA Konrath’s posts and more about what Amazon is probably doing, read a wonderful post by Edward Robertson.  And as Edward notes (as I did above), reviews started disappearing before the John Locke issue came to light (also, if you read my first post on this, Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews, you’ll see that it was post in July, well before the John Locke issue).  For a great discussion on why Amazon is removing reviews, read this post from the Amazon forums…and read the ones where reviewers are now questioning if they want to review anything anymore.  Is this what Amazon wants?  After all, reviews help sell products….

And let me clarify, I don’t have anything against JA Konrath…back in the day, I think he gave a lot of great advice to people trying to get published.  But I think he’d muddied the waters with this one…

Indie Authors – Another Disturbing Trend From Amazon

If any of you have read my previous posts on this issue (Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews and Indie Authors, John Locke and Book Reviews), you’ll see in the comments amazonthat when indie authors have complained to Amazon about why they’ve had reviews removed, Amazon, in at least a few cases, has threatened to remove the author’s book.  This is exceedingly disturbing to me.  Why would Amazon do this?  Why not clarify why the review was removed?  What harm could this do?  Now I’m not stupid…I’m sure they’ve been overwhelmed with questions about this, and some low-level employee who has no idea what’s behind all this is answering the questions.  But you’d think Amazon would not want to alienate their authors, but then again, they really are about the money, and not indie authors.

Indie Authors – Amazon Creates A New Review Policy

And now, in the midst of all this, we have a new review (or maybe it’s just the newly enforced) policy from Amazon.  It’s interesting to read, and it also brings some things into question.  Let’s start with who can create an Amazon review:

Anyone who has purchased items from All we ask is that you follow a few simple rules (see “What’s not allowed” below).

This brings in an interesting twist – what to do about gifted books?  The policy says:

If you received a free product in exchange for your review, please clearly and conspicuously disclose that you received the product free of charge.

Okay, makes sense.  But I’ve heard of authors who gift a book to a reader, the previously stated guideline was adhered to in the review, and Amazon still took down the review.  Does anyone know definitely what the answer is?  Let me know in the comments if you do.

Here’s another piece of the policy:

Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product. This includes reviews that that are a part of a paid publicity package.

Did anyone alert Amazon that they had a typo there :).  Now, in theory this makes sense.  But I’d still like to know if Amazon is addressing the Big Six (or Big Five now) and their paying for reviews for their big authors.  I doubt it…

The policy also covers inappropriate content, including links and the like.  Pretty standard.  But then I read on Robert Chazz Chute’s blog that Amazon will not allow authors to review their competition.  Read the post, Roberth has some great thoughts on this.  However, I don’t see this spelled out in Amazon’s policies (at least not specifically).

I understand that Amazon needs to try to correct things…they have a reputation to uphold.  But I think they’re going overboard, and it’s not only going to hurt indie authors, it’s going to hurt them, because sales are tied to both groups.

If you care to, there is an interesting post and a petition that you can sign that is trying to get Amazon to be reasonable in their approach.  And just some food for thought – people voicing their thoughts can get Congress to change it’s tune…maybe we can get Amazon to listen).


Robert Chazz Chute left links below that show specifically how authors are not able to review other authors’ works.  The L. A. Times has an article about author Steve Weddle, who was not able to leave a review for his friend, a fellow author.  Amazon’s response:

We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product.

This is not a good sign at all.  Not only that, many of us can give great reviews because we should understand what makes great reading.  Go figure…

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
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11 Responses to More On Amazon Reviews And Indie Authors

  1. Hi Renee. Interesting post. You asked about the link to where I read about Amazon’s policy. I read about it on Salon (though I understand it was reported elsewhere, as well.) Here’s the link to the reportage with the relevant correspondence:

  2. Here’s the other link from the LA Times, Renee:

  3. Suzanne says:

    Just so you know, my review were deleted from Amazon in March and April this year, and it has continued to date. The only commonality I see in this campaign is that Amazon does not want small publishers and indie authors to have double digits reviews on their titles. When I first questioned them, I was accused of writing my own reviews, then it changed to people with a financial interest in my books, then it became following guidelines, then it became verifiable purchase. But in all this, the negative reviews remained. The negatives reviews which states quite clearly they didn’t buy my books, they won it in a free giveaway. For my part, I don’t review anything from Amazon, if I bought something, which is almost never, (Amazon was my go to store before this), I delete their requests for reviews. Finally, I heard a lot of talk and no action. What are we doing about this?

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Losing reviews way back in March and April, that’s interesting. Your story is like many others, no real, quality response from Amazon.
      As for what to do, I am like you, I try not to buy anything on Amazon. I would encourage people to consider signing the petition as well – if enough people do this, it can/might make a difference. Spread the word about what’s going on.
      Thanks for your comment.

  4. Mark says:

    A great follow up! (and thanks for stopping by our blog and commenting)

    I’d love to syndicate this article to further help spread the word. If you want me to, send me an email. Thanks.

  5. Caleb Pirtle says:

    Good information, as always, Renee. Nobody keeps us up to date as well as you on what’s happening in the unpredictable and ever-changing world of indie publishing.

  6. Derek Haines says:

    Great overview of Amazon’s recent confusion. They must be breaking their own records for the number of changes they have made to their ‘Terms of Use’ for Kindle Direct Publishing recently.

    As someone who likes to know the rules when I play, I think my recent decision to widen my ebook distribution and exit Amazon’s Select exclusivity was wise. Publishing is tough enough as it is without having to deal with a very large and confused retail monster that changes the rules overnight and then refuses to explain to anyone why it wants to adversely affect the businesses of thousands of authors and publishers.

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