Many times I write posts with what I hope is helpful information for other indie authors. I try to impart things that have helped me along my journey, like marketing advice. One key thing that is critical to our marketing is Amazon reviews. And unfortunately there is something not up-and-up going on with Amazon and book reviews.
Indie Authors And Dropped Reviews
Some of you may be seeing issues with your Amazon reviews. I first saw something on a Facebook group about this topic. For those of you who haven’t heard, it would appear that Amazon is starting to remove reviews. At first I didn’t think anything of it. I see so many rumors of what might be, so I dismissed it.
Then It Happened To Me!
I’ve seen three reviews for Nephilim Genesis of Evil removed and two (oh, since I started this blog and now checked again, I’ve lost two more reviews, so make that four) from The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within. What??? I’ve heard a number of different reasons why this might be happening:
- the review didn’t say Amazon verified purchase
- the review didn’t say that the reviewer received a complimentary copy of the book
- the review posted links though to an outside source like Goodreads or the blog where the original review was posted
- some bloggers were plagiarizing Amazon reviews so Amazon is removing those reviews
- the reviews were paid for so Amazon doesn’t like that (don’t even ask me what I think about Amazon being in cahoots with Kirkus and their paid-for reviews)
- Amazon is targeting certain reviewers and removing all their reviews
Indie Authors And What Amazon Says
I emailed Amazon and here is the response I received:
I understand your concerns about these missing reviews. We take the removal of customer reviews very seriously.
I’m not able to tell you why these specific reviews were removed from our website. I can only discuss that with the person who wrote each review. However, I can tell you that reviews are removed from the Amazon.com website for three reasons:
1. The review conflicted with our posted guidelines http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/.
2. The review was removed at the request of the customer who submitted the review.
3. We discovered that multiple items were linked together on our website incorrectly. Reviews that were posted on those pages were removed when the items were separated on the site.
None of this explains what happened to the reviews of my books.
Indie Authors – What To Do?
Folks, this is serious. I understand wanting to prevent people from putting up sock reviews, or getting a bunch of family and friends to write great reviews even if they haven’t read a book. But I have to wonder if some readers have complained about indie authors and the reviews we receive. I also wonder if readers understand that the Big Six hire out reviewers to write reviews even though the reviewer didn’t read the book. It’s a dirty secret of the publishing world…and that’s why you’ll see Grisham or King and other bestselling authors have 40-50 5 star reviews the first day their book is available. The Big Six reviews are more suspect than those of us indie authors. Regardless, to penalize everyone in order to catch a few is not right (if this is the reasoning behind removing reviews).
I also understand this is about Amazon making money and Amazon can do what it wants. But it’s also about me making money. More reviews can mean more sales. It can also mean getting on various lists (some sites won’t advertize your book without a certain number of 4-5 star reviews). A large voice can make a difference (we may see this in action as more and more authors drop out of KDP Select).
Indie Authors – Is It Time To Say Something?
I am rarely a get out and do something type, but in this case, I would encourage you to email Amazon and voice your thoughts on this, and to see if we can collective get an understanding of what’s going on. It’s hard to get reviews, good or bad. To have them taken away without logical reason is horrible, and it can certainly hurt your sales. Don’t let that happen without a fight. As someone on Facebook said, we need to take a breath and act calmly and rationally. Yes, absolutely true. But we can also speak up. Amazon says it values our feedback, so let’s give it to them :).
Indie Authors And What To Say To Amazon
If you choose to contact Amazon, here are some things to point out (I’d love to hear if you have other thoughts on this):
If removing reviews does have to do with Amazon verified purchases, what does Amazon do about reviews that were posted before this option was available? I have reviews that date back to 2007, before the Amazon verified purchase became an option. Why would those reviews be deleted?
The above email makes it sound like the removal of the review is discussed with the reviewer. I don’t think this is the case as I have contact with at least one of the reviewers whose review was removed. She was not contacted about her review. Amazon needs to know that the respectful thing to do is contact the reviewer and ask if he/she was paid for the review, and/or tell them why the review is being removed.
Part of Amazon’s policy says:
Reviews written for any form of compensation other than a free copy of the product are outside of our guidelines. This includes reviews that are a part of a paid publicity package.
But what if someone got the book from a library or borrowed it from a friend? Why would it not be okay to post a review? But more importantly, how does Amazon know if the reviewer was compensated or not? The only thing I can think of is if the book was bought through Amazon. But Amazon claims this is not the issue. They need to come out and say how they think a review was paid for and let authors know this so we know what to tell people who might review our books.
Indie Authors – Be Aware
Regardless of what you choose to do, be aware that your reviews may be removed at any time and for any reason. It would behoove you to read Amazon’s policies, and if you are asking people to write an Amazon review, you can let your reviewers know what might happen if they don’t adhere to the policies.
I’d love to hear if this has happened to you and your thoughts on what to do (if anything).