Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews

Many times I write posts with what I hope is helpful information for other indie authors.  I indie author handbooktry 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).

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.
This entry was posted in Indie Author Handbook and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

159 Responses to Indie Authors And Amazon Removing Reviews

  1. Wow. I’m so sorry you lost reviews. With a giant company, this seems like it will be a giant problem to tackle. I’m spreading the news now. :-/

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      It’s definitely a new world of publishing, right? Thanks for the comment and for letting others know.

  2. Renee,
    I’m so happy you posted on this, because I experienced the same thing and had the exact response sent to me by Amazon. I have a free book posted on there. Didn’t do much but tweet about it and gave it away during the A-Z Challenge. It’s been in the top 5 short story bestsellers for several months now and got some good reviews.

    I haven’t paid anybody to review it-definitely can’t afford that-and I wouldn’t tell anybody to give me a positive review. I’m a good writer and put my all into my stories. I had 16 reviews on the book and noticed several weeks ago that 3 of them vanished. And yes, I noticed because I have several projects lined up and want to give people a taste of my writing. And us neurotic writers check our stats regularly.

    I only have a copy of the review I’m posting below because I took it off Amazon to quote to the person who did the cover for Don’t Get Mad…Now, I don’t know the guy who wrote it, nor do I know the writers whose reviews were deleted and that’s the painful part for me. I kinda wonder if the way his review was worded made ‘them’ delete it – and in that case, why promote books the way it’s done and then when people mention it, you rub it out as if people don’t notice that the top books are pushed by Amazon anyway?

    It’s discouraging to write hard, edit hard, produce a good book and then have reviews vanish. I didn’t bother to respond to Amazon’s email to me because I figured I’d have been banging my forehead against a wall. This situation also makes me wonder when next I’ll have reviews up and disappear. I gotta tell you, this whole thing has left a nasty taste in my mouth.

    4.0 out of 5 stars Good one, June 18, 2012
    This book just kept showing up everytime I log in to my account its sitting there staring at me saying “hey dude read me already”! I have to admit the way the lady on the cover is looking also intrigued my interest too. I have to admit it was a good read and I thank Amazon for shoving it in my face and getting my attention.

  3. Something else I forgot that add, that I might get killed for, but anyway…it would make more sense for me for Amazon to remove 1 and 2 star reviews left by people who obviously didn’t read the book or understand the implication of the title, but no…these are the ones that are among those that remain.

    • Teri Heyer says:

      I agree about the 1 and 2-star reviews. Most of those are very mean and Amazon will never remove them. I’ve called and been told “They meet our guidelines.” So much for guidelines.

      • Renée Pawlish says:

        I can handle a mean review even though I wish people who write them would show more tact, but to just randomly remove reviews without any rhyme or reason doesn’t make sense. Thanks for your comment.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I hear you loud and clear. I replied to Amazon that they didn’t answer the question and posed what I said in my post to them and got “we can’t answer anything about reviews” so they obviously don’t even want to clarify in generalities what they are doing. As more and more people get mad, something will happen…who knows what. I do think we may be seeing the beginning of the end of KDP Select as I’ve seen many indie authors bailing on the program and this will only get more to leave it. Then who knows what Amazon will do. It could also be the beginnings of their way of shoving indie authors out the door…

      • Jack says:

        Why on earth would Amazon ever shove indie publishers out the door? They’re making a mint on their books. Amazon didn’t spend all this time developing a highly successful platform for indie authors only to abandon it. You make no sense.

        • Renée Pawlish says:

          Not necessarily. If an indie author is pricing a book at 99 cents and only selling a few, it probably doesn’t add up as much as the bestsellers that are selling for upwards of ten dollars. It looks a lot like Amazon was using the indie authors to help push Kindle sales and force the Bix Six to do what they want, and now that the Big Six have buckled under, Amazon doesn’t need the indie authors anymore. And my general point, that Amazon is removing reviews without rhyme or reason, is absolutely true. Thanks for your comment.

          • Jack says:

            The days of 99 cent books may well be over, but I know many independent authors who are making mid-five figures to six figures a month selling their books at $2.99 and above. Amazon is not going to get rid of that cash cow.

            And Amazon did not go to the expense of creating the KDP publishing arm to simply shove indie authors out the door.

            Amazon NEVER needed indie authors. People didn’t buy Kindles because there were 99 cent indie books, they bought Kindles because of the convenience of having a library at their fingertips.

  4. Toby Neal says:

    Most interesting. I will be watching this closely on my book(s) too.

  5. Candace says:

    Hmmm… I didn’t know about this. I’m a big reviewer on amazon and I know I would be irked if one of my reviews was removed and I wasn’t at least contacted and made aware of it and the reason. I’ve gotten emails from them before when I accidentally linked to my blog and they just asked me to re-submit a review and that original one wasn’t ever posted. I guess now my reviews don’t have to be confirmed or checked over, so something could slip through, but I’d still appreciate them letting me know.
    I know authors really depend on those reviews. As a reader I often check amazon reviews over any other site even if I’m purchasing it somewhere else.
    Sorry you lost some of the reviews on your books!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m really not sure what’s going on with Amazon but it is puzzling and for me, disturbing. I’d be curious to know if you see any of your reviews being removed. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Jea says:

    I had the exact thing done to me by Amazon. Beginning in March this year, my reviews began disappearing at a rate of two a week. I went from mid-twenties to eight on my romance novels and sometimes none and/or one on my children’s books. First amazon accused me of writing my own reviews. When I challenged this, and send them some of the emails of the people I knew, (some I met, virtually), the woman, and I have her email stored in my computer, directed me to a part of Amazon’s guidelines which stated, that anyone with a financial interest in my books cannot review them, and essentially, anyone I knew apparently had a financial interest in the two pennies you are left with after they have taken their cut. The sad thing is my reviews kept disappearing on a regular basis. And it happened every weekend, until my romance novels were all reduced to single digits.
    This hurt my sales because I had an ad which was only good if you had over 10 five star reviews, and as the reviews disappeared, the sales dropped correspondingly. I have been so traumatized by this; I have not been able to concentrate on my writing, because I used to love Amazon. Everything I needed I bought from Amazon, now I feel cheated. Recently, after the last batch of reviews was removed, I received the very same email they sent to you. I had started to print my reviews, so when they were deleted, I knew which ones they were. One of the reviews that were deleted in the last round was from an author I do not even know her, but I bought her book and she bought mine and we exchanged reviews. My review to her was kept on her books but hers to me was deleted. Therefore, there is no rhythm or reason behind this attack on indie authors. If you visit the kindle community room, the board is covered with people complaining about the removal of their reviews. The funny thing, even now if I bought anything from Amazon, I am sent an email asking me to review the product I just purchased. I refused. If the reviews do not matter, then why the hell do they bombard you asking you to review your purchases? The question is what do we do about it? I believe we should take this to the news media.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for your comment and I feel for you. Whatever is going on, it doesn’t make sense. Maybe going to the media is a good thing, I hadn’t thought of it. If a strong and powerful enough voice gets their attention, we will get answers. The question is – where is that voice? I do think more and more indie authors are going to leave KDP and we’ll see if that does anything.

  7. Mary says:

    I’ll be paying more attention, too. We work so hard, you’d think they’d try to help us out. Good sales is money in their pockets, too.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      You would think they’d want sales, but it’s possible that the indie authors in general aren’t bringing in enough. People forget that servers, space, programmers etc costs money and if tons of people are uploading books that don’t sell, it still costs Amazon to keep the books up there. I would like to think Amazon is not trying to hurt the indie authors, but this combined with changes to algorithms and KDP sure make it seem like they don’t care what happens to authors…and truthfully, why should they? They want to make money, not nurture authors. Thanks for your comment.

  8. I actually have some sympathy for some of Amazon’s reasons- and I have suffered reviews being pulled that gave credit to another review site, even though this other review site gave only links to Amazon retail. Odd to say the least.
    However, some of the noise publishers are up to really dirty tricks that make the buddy reviewing, (as opposed to authors properly peer reviewing each other), seem like a minor irritation.
    Read this from Derek Haines’ blog http://www.derekhaines.ch/vandal/2012/07/amazon-reviews-and-keyword-stacking/

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      The reason about the link is fine and it’s in Amazon’s policy. I have no problem with them removing reviews that violate their policy. The problem is that they are removing reviews that don’t violate the policy and they’re not telling anyone why. That’s the issue. And the other post alludes to what I pointed out to Amazon, that the Big Six pays people to write reviews of books they haven’t read, and they are posted on the day a book is released. It’s a dirty little secret of the Big Six publishing that Amazon is allowing to happen, while they are removing legitimate reviews garnered by indie authors. It’s why I am encouraging people to write to Amazon – a large voice making a stink CAN make change. Thanks for your comment.

  9. I’m as concerned as anyone about this problem. Fighting Amazon is a bit like fighting city hall. Not sure a small band of indie authors are going to sway the board of directors on this one. As an author, I READ a lot, and I buy most of my books on Amazon and read them on my kindle. So it’s become second nature for me to review the books I’ve read. I wrote 76 reviews on Amazon in the last 12 months, most of them on books by indie authors, a few on traditionally published books. I write honest reviews. It takes me anywhere from 15 minutes to two hours to write a review; what takes more time is reading the book. I encourage all indie authors to post reviews of all the indie books they read. In this way we would all have a few more reviews.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      It’s true it’s daunting to take on Amazon, but it may make a difference. And as a reviewer, I’d be curious to know if you ever have a review removed and if Amazon contacts you about it. Thanks for writing thoughtful reviews, as a fellow indie author, I appreciate it. Thanks for your comment.

  10. Thank you for bringing this to my attention – I hadn’t heard. So far *knocks on wood* my reviews are still there.
    Between this and changes to KDP Select, it appears that Amazon is sending self-pubbers a message. Another reason to not put all our eggs in one basket, and spend time nourishing our presence on B&N, iBookstore and other outlets.

  11. Elise Stokes says:

    Excellent post. I have had 16 5-star reviews vanish over the past several weeks. Four were written by immediate family members, which is fine. We didn’t realize relatives weren’t allowed to write a review. However, the rest were written by bloggers who had received a paperback copy to review and people who had bought the book locally. There are a few I haven’t been able to identify. It never occurred to me before the first 12 reviews disappeared within an hour period (like someone was glancing through them and deciding what to take down) to copy and paste reviews into a doc. I have essentially gotten the run around during this ordeal, “canned,” contradictory replies from Amazon employees, but eventually received a somewhat helpful explanation to a letter I had written to Jeff Bezos. I see no reason not to share it. It isn’t marked as confidential and confirms part of what you have shared, Renee.

    Dear Elise,

    I’m Jonathan Norberg of Amazon.com’s Executive Customer Relations. Jeff Bezos received your email and asked me to respond on his behalf.

    I’m sorry for any concerns regarding reviews of your books on our site. I realize we initially indicated the reviews disappeared as the result of a technical issue and, while we initially thought that was the issue, we’ve confirmed since that time the removals were intentional due to a violation of our policies. 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, family, or third-party merchants selling the product.

    We will not be able to go into further detail about our research but, rest assured, we’re very careful to ensure we only remove reviews that don’t follow our guidelines.

    I regret any misunderstanding, Elise, and we do wish you the best of success with your books.

    Regards,

    Jonathan Norberg
    Executive Customer Relations
    Amazon.com

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Interesting letter – if this is simply the case, why are they not just explaining this to people who ask? Unfortunately I have seen too many indie authors saying that the reviews didn’t violate policy. It sounds like we need to contact Jeff Bezos as a collective group and maybe we’ll get some answers :) . Did all your reviews violate policy? If not, did they restore the ones that didn’t?
      Thanks for sharing.

  12. Thanks for your post Renée. I hate to be the one to break this to you but this isn’t anything new. Amazon.com has been removing/banning reviewers, bloggers, readers, and review sites for nearly two years. Guidelines, to them, don’t mean much although they refer to them. For e.g., Midwest Book Review had 60,000 + reviews removed about a year ago. They don’t charge for reviews and the only thing I could see that didn’t conform to the Amazon guidelines is MBR’s statement on each review saying they got the book for free in exchange for the review. But, although Amazon wouldn’t admit as to why, it is possible that they use the FTC 16 CFR Part 255 rules that say the “free” book isn’t actually free because it has a value to it and is given to the reviewer in exchange for the review.

    Amazon also started recently to reject reviews from bloggers/reviewers that didn’t purchase the book directly through them but received it from an author in exchange for a review.

    This is a company that exercises its power and control for their own best interest and certainly not that of the indie author.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m sure it’s been going on since Amazon first started on the Internet but it would appear that it’s getting worse (speculation but many indie authors are extremely vigilant and I’m only just hearing about it happening to a lot of authors). And yes, Amazon can do what it wants. We’ll see what happens…
      Thanks for your comment.

  13. Teri Heyer says:

    I would be very hesitant to contact Amazon as a group. We Indies have a very fragile place in the publishing industry. Amazon/KDP does have the right to permanently ban an author. For an Indie that would be disastrous. I don’t agree with what they’re doing about reviews, but I think Indies would be best to contact Amazon/KDP on an individual basis and not as a group. If we Indies become too big of an irritant, we just might be shown the door.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I didn’t mean as a group (sorry if I conveyed that) – I just meant individually each author contact them and collectively it would be a voice. I’ve made my contact with them and let it go, but I have decided that I’m moving on from KDP Select and not letting Amazon be the sole place I sell my books (more on that in future posts). Thanks for your comment.

  14. Some reviews that are bona fide are being taken down- true. It has happened to me.
    I suspect that some of the checkers are less than perfect, a bit like the rest of us.
    Thanks be that Amazon are taking down those:-
    Ones submitted by family.
    Ones that are abusive.
    Ones that are part of publishers marketing scams.
    Ones that have the appearance of being paid for endorsements.
    etc:
    Amazon is trying to defend its reputation, as any company or individual is inclined to do.
    Yes, we need to query when Amazon gets it wrong. But let’s not slam Amazon for actually trying to impose a standard.
    I really don’t believe that this is about attacking indies. We also happen to be their biggest customers. Businesses that attack their customer base fail. Amazon has no intention of failing.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I agree. mostly. There are some definite things Amazon is doing (algorithm ranks, the way they are pushing their own books) that are hurting indie authors and I think they know it. What is wrong of them is to not correct their mistakes when authors point it out, and I’m hearing from plenty of indie authors where this is not happening.

  15. Marion says:

    This hasn’t happened to me yet. While my reviews are good, there aren’t that many of them, so I think I’m not on the radar enough to get complaints. There are definitely a few overly zealous readers who spend a lot of time in certain Amazon forums who have taken it upon themselves to police the site. They believe that non-Amazon verified purchases are a sure sign of “fake.” They also believe that a disproportionate number of five star reviews is automatically suspect for any books, reasoning that even classics get a few one-stars. My guess is that Amazon isn’t removing any reviews that haven’t been flagged by someone.

    The thing is the Terms-of-Service makes it explicitly clear that reviews don’t have to be “Amazon Verified Purchase,” and that customers can make up their own minds about the validity of non-verified reviews. I know prior to Kindle Select (which is pretty recent) many indie writers took advantage of the Smashwords coupon system to give away books in the hopes of getting reviews. Many customers cross-post their reviews on different sites.

    I recall seeing something in the TOS that authors’ shouldn’t review books in their same genre. I just checked the review guidelines, and it’s not there. It might be in the author guidelines instead. I don’t believe it was a “rule” as much as a suggestion/warning.

    The only thing they are clear about is that reviews shouldn’t promote other products and that any review that involved a free product in exchange for a review or other compensation needs to state that.

    My guess is that Amazon probably has a lot of customer service people and if complaints come across their desks with accusations, they probably err on the side of removing the reviews. Certainly if a review was removed because it wasn’t a verified purchase, then the writer should complain to Amazon because that is not against the TOS.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Your points are all valid – as I said to someone else here, the issue is more that Amazon is not correcting their errors when contacted, and they aren’t letting the authors know why the reviews are removed. I believe that’s wrong…is there anything I can do about it? No. But it’s not good policy on their part. Thanks for your comment.

    • “My guess is that Amazon isn’t removing any reviews that haven’t been flagged by someone.”

      Marion, I disagree that the reviews are flagged by an outside party. The reviews I’ve had removed are from my mother and daughter. Although my mother has the same last name, my daughter always had a different last name and is now married. There is no way someone could know they are my relatives. Plus, according to Amazon, they’re supposed to have a financial interest.

      It’s a conundrum. And mostly frustrating.

      • I’ve had this happen too, many times. The reviews are paid for, and from relatives that amazon could have no way of knowing were relatives – different last name, different city. This implies a level of snooping into personal lives that is much more insidious than I could have thought. And – how do they have the time money and resources to investigate these little dinky indie authors (like myself)

        • Renée Pawlish says:

          Yes, it’s interesting. And they won’t get rid of bad reviews that are suspect. Go figure…
          Thanks for your comment.

  16. Deb says:

    I review on my website, and do post reviews on Amazon. I read a lot of debut and mid-list authors and am happy to help readers make informed decisions on what to buy.
    I’m worried though because my debut novel is due to be released in a few weeks, with a second on October 1st. Will Amazon start taking down my reviews because I’ll now have what they can term a “competing product”? They’re honest reviews, every one an Amazon Verified Purchase. It’s horrible if they won’t allow me to be both an author and a book blogger/reviewer. It’s not just us this impacts, but the readers too who will be deprived a insightful review from other authors.

  17. Michele says:

    This post and the comments above definitely leave me disturbed as a reader! I occasionally do reviews of books that I read, mostly when I download a free book from Amazon, as a way to give back to the author. I’m always honest in the reviews, saying what I liked and what I didn’t and grading the book accordingly. I don’t do canned reviews, nor am I ever paid. But the logic in Mr. Norberg’s letter implies that none of my careful attention to fair reviewing matters, because I am also an “author.” While it may be that he intended to say that Amazon takes down reviews written by the author of the book, his phrasing about direct competitors implies that Amazon also takes down reviews written by ANY author because any author is a “direct competitor” of another author’s book. After all, if I have five dollars to spend and I’m looking at five different books all priced at $5, then all those authors are in competition for my money, even if they are writing in radically different genres, etc. A policy that discriminates against consumers because they are authors is problematic at best, and a possible violation of the U.S. Constitution at worst. Perhaps they don’t think this issue will ever go to court, but that’s a foolish approach for them to take. Fear of a lawsuit might force them to refine their policies until they find a better way to get rid of phony reviews while keeping the real ones up.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      You bring up a good point but I don’t have any idea if that’s what Amazon would do or not. I hope nothing like that would occur, and I would hope once you published they wouldn’t remove your reviews. I’ve reviewed some books but I haven’t checked to see if any have been taken down. I’ll have to check :) . Thanks for your comment.

  18. Ken E Baker says:

    It is very strange. I wonder what value there would be for Amazon to remove the reviews? Less reviews mean less consumers buying the book, potentially. What does the cleanup benefit the company?

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I don’t know. As I’ve said in other comments, it’s not telling the author and reviewer why, especially when the review doesn’t violate any policies, that is really troubling. Thanks for your comment.

  19. Kathy says:

    I spend a lot of time writing my reviews, and I don’t hesitate to make them as honest as I can. I hope that Amazon is not going to start removing them without explaining why. If that’s the case, I see no reason for going to the trouble of doing this. I also read the reviews of others. Both the good and the bad ratings are helpful.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I applaud you for that. I don’t have any problem with bad reviews if they are honest (I get irritated with the snarky ones but what can you do). I don’t understand Amazon’s motives, doubt anyone will, but it would be nice if they stuck to their policies. Thanks for your comment.

  20. I have the opposite problem, and some of the comments indicate I’m not alone. A few hours after my new anthology was published, it picked up a 1-star review. It isn’t an Amazon verified purchase, so there’s no way the reviewer could have read the book. When asked, he said he was given a copy by one of the short story writers in the book, but they didn’t get their comp copies until the day after release!

    So, an obviously malicious troll who had not read the book. Unfortunately, writing to Amazon about this produced no results. The review doesn’t violate any of their guidelines. I pointed out that we’ve proved the reviewer has not read the book, but they ignored that and refused to take the review down.

    So I’m stuck with it. If Amazon start deleting any of my positive, verified reviews I’m going to be really upset.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Wow, that stinks. I asked them to remove a review where the reviewer admitted not reading more than 1/5 of the book, but they didn’t. It’s too bad the standards seem one-sided. I wonder how many bestselling authors get reviews removed, or those from Amazon’s own imprint. Thanks for your comment and I hope none of your positive reviews get removed.

  21. Terra says:

    I’m an indie author/publisher. More than two dozen well-written four and five star reviews were removed from my Kindle and physical books in one fell swoop in mid-June. However, all the one and two star reviews, most sounding like the ravings of lunatics, were left up, and staunchly defended by Amazon.

    A reviewer, whose five star review was removed from one of my books, wrote to Amazon to inquire. They sent him a canned response, telling him he violated the guidelines. His review was serious, considered and thoughtful, stayed on topic, didn’t promote anything else, had no links, he had no financial connection, was not an author, etc., etc. In other words, there was no way that he violated the guidelines. So he followed up with a message to Amazon asking that they delineate exactly how he violated the guidelines so that he could “learn from this experience” and “do better in the future.” The response he got was to be again told that he violated the guidelines, and that his reviewing privileges have been revoked. The reviewer told me that he detected a weird vibe of self-satisfaction in the customer service agent’s message — kind of like he was being spanked. Parenthetically, he tells me that his reviewing privileges were not, in fact, removed even though the agent said they were, and he can still write reviews!

    The loss of hard-won reviews is a miserable situation, and I have no answers, other than that I share fully in your distress and concerns. It is not only psychologically unsettling, it directly affects bottom line and makes the KDP enterprise, from which many had hopes of making a full-time income, a shaky prospect indeed.

    Unfortunately, leaving Amazon is out of the question as they provide the bulk of sales. I wish there were other equally powerful platforms, and I could leave. I am, however, fully out of KDP Select, from which I saw only diminishing returns over time. While I’m eager to expand to as many other platforms as possible, I don’t hold out much expectation of significant sales in those relatively minor venues.

    At the same time, KDP Select is still being passionately touted by all the Kindle and self-publishing ‘gurus’ to the new or struggling publishers seeking guidance. By that I mean, unless Amazon chooses to dump the KDP Select program for its own reasons, for every indie publisher that is leaving, there are several arriving, and I don’t see a natural end to it anytime soon.

    What a mess. I don’t have any answers, other than that I would like to see Amazon put an end to its review system altogether.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      That’s disturbing to hear. There’s very little we can do except to ask Amazon – maybe if enough people do this, things might change (I doubt it though). I am with you, leaving KDP when my time runs out. There are other opportunities out there that I am going to tap into (more on that in future posts). Thanks for sharing your experience.

  22. J.P. Lane says:

    Thanks for this post, Renée. You mentioned that reviews impact our sales, but they also impact Amazon’s sales. I don’t have any statistics for Amazon, but here’s a snippet from a letter from Barnes and Noble dated August 31, 2010 that I’m sure many of us will find interesting.

    “You should also understand that we have no bias against self-publishing. Quite the contrary. There are now 100,000 self-published titles available on Barnes & Noble.com and for special order in our stores, and they are generating a great deal of sales for Barnes & Noble. You may also be interested to know that less than five percent of our sales are from bestsellers; an increasing amount of the titles we sell are from the growing number of books in print. For Barnes & Noble, having more titles available means more choices for our customers.”

    So, what is Amazon doing? It seems to me the removal of reviews can only be counter-productive in terms of sales. If it hurts us, it hurts them. You’re right when you say we should contact them and show our strength in numbers.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      That’s very interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Hayley Shaver says:

      Uh, no. The first ones to contact are the first to be put on their corporate black list, and yes, every corporation has one. After you do contact them, don’t expect them to do you any favors.

  23. I’ve seriously followed Amazon’s reviews, watching what gets helpful votes and what gets pulled. My observations are total conjecture on my part, but I have been a top 500 reviewer for almost 4 years now. BTW, Amazon even has its own free giveaway review program called Amazon Vine, so there is no company wide policy to reject reviews because a free copy has been given.

    Self published books, especially inexpensive ones that get a lot of quick 5 star reviews tend to catch Amazon’s scrutiny. Rightly so in my opinion. So often I see books that have their reviews “stuffed” with glowing comments. If your family has all written 5 star comments, your book will get flagged. Think of it as an anti-spam filter.

    Unfortunately, some authors do get false positives and find their book subject to comment removal. It doesn’t appear that Amazon filters for the whack job 1 star comments, just the too glowing ones. My guess is that self published fiction that gets a lot of 5 star reviews is going to get a lot of scrutiny. IMO there are very few 5 star novels published by anybody. That’s why I politely refuse review copies of novels. Apparently, somebody at Amazon agrees.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I think if you feel that way about glowing reviews from family and friends, you should read up on what Big Six publishers do. They actually pay people who have never read the books to write glowing reviews. That’s why a Grisham, King, etc will have numerous 4 star reviews the first day the book is released. It is one of the dirty secrets of the publishing world. If Amazon wants to keep indie authors from getting glowing reviews from family and friends, Amazon, in my opinion, should stop what the Big Six does with reviews (of course they won’t).
      Also, authors are hearing that their book reviews were removed because the reviewer was given a free copy – it may not be policy, but it’s happening.
      And reviewing, as beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. Nothing irks me more than a reviewer who slams the other reviewers for writing a 4 or 5 star review. If that person thinks the book was worth 5 stars, his/her opinion is valid, just as the person who didn’t think it warranted 5 stars. Reviewers shouldn’t slam each other.
      Thanks for your comment, I appreciate what you have to say on the topic.

      • I’m not slamming other reviewers. Opinions are subjective, and I respect the opinions of people who enjoy books the they’ve read.
        I’m simply offering one guess as to why Amazon is doing what it’s doing. I’m not defending Amazon’s lack of transparency, which is disconcerting. If a policy such as the one I’m conjecturing is in place, the Amazon should say so. There is a need to curb ratings gaming. That hurts Amazon’s credibility. At the same time, such a policy can hurt authors who have legitimately earned good ratings, yet have had positive reviews pulled.

        • Renée Pawlish says:

          Sorry, didn’t mean to imply that you were, I was just talking in general. The whole thing with the reviews is concerning at this point, as you point out. Again, thanks for your comment and input.

      • Big Six publishers and most independent publishers send out advance review copies (ARCs) months before the book is published. Most of the major reviewers (Publisher’s Weekly, Kirkus, Booklist, Library Journal, etc.) require ARCS 4-6 months before the release date, so that’s when the ARCs are sent. It’s possible that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have read those big-name books prior to the publication date. Since you’re not allowed to post a review until the publication date, it should come as no surprise that many of them go up the day the book is released. A lot of self-published authors send out advance copies too (even if it’s just a pdf emailed to a reviewer). There’s nothing dishonest about the practice, and it’s not considered payment.

        I sometimes receive books to review from Big Six publishers, and no one has ever offered me money in return for a review. My publisher sends our ARCs to major reviewers, bloggers, readers who have reviewed other books by his press, and so on. He doesn’t pay for the reviews; in fact, the person who gets the ARC isn’t even obligated to review the book. He or she receives the book return for reading it and considering giving a review.

        • Renée Pawlish says:

          I am aware of ARCs and the practice as you mention it (I have collected numerous ARCs over the years), however, this is not what I’m referring to. There have been editors from the Big Six who have also stated that those publishers do, in fact, PAY for reviews, full well knowing that those reviewers are not reading the books. If I can find the articles again, I will do a post and reference them. Thanks for your comment.

  24. Well, I will certainly start watching my reviews. I wonder if there is any genre that is more focused on than others- mine being non-fiction/ spiritual.. rather than novel/story based.

    I Am curious.. are ANY of the big six authors reviews being pulled? if that is a resounding NO, that might shed some light into the situation. if YES. then at least, we know it is a behemoth that has become large and cumbersome and clunky in its movements and decisions. elsewise.. there may well be an unspoken agenda playing out, that favours some, over others.. much the way some of the internet bills would definitively favour the big players, UN-levelling a moderately level playing field.. okay, nominally.. level playing field… ugh and oi!

    thanks for the insights

    Teri

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I wish I knew what was happening with the Big Six but I don’t and I haven’t heard that from others. I will certainly report anything I hear. I also don’t know if it’s fiction vs. non-fiction but from what others are saying (and my own), genre doesn’t seem to matter. It does seem like there is an agenda, but who knows…
      Thanks for your comment.

  25. Excellent article and I completely agree. Sharing this!!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Who knows where this all will go but at least we can all be aware. Thanks for your comment and sharing it.

  26. Kathy says:

    I don’t think Amazon should remove reviews by friends and family, solely for that reason. Star-ratings are so arbitrary and totally dependent upon the reviewer that it helps if you have some friends and family members who are willing to applaud your book. I’ve read reviews on books by authors published by the Big Six and then listened to the books, expecting some great, enjoyable fiction, and the books were totally disasters. I could hardly believe anyone finished some of them; I wasn’t able to. So this random way that Amazon is removing reviews has definitely diminished its credibility with me. I think there are some 5-star books out there; I’ve read some I would like to have given more stars than that. Now, I don’t particularly care to leave any reviews at all. Amazon is taking all the pleasure out of doing it. I wonder what other sites there are, where I can leave a review that will be appreciated and not tampered with.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I tend to agree – granted, a family member may give a biased review, but if the trolls who are out there who slam books for the sake of slamming them (without reading the books in many cases), then family members and friends should be allowed.
      You can leave reviews on Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads, but I have heard some negative things about Goodreads. Unfortunately, so many people buy from Amazon that authors really need the reviews there.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • Goodreads.com , LibraryThing.com, BN.com, and Kobobooks.com, all allow reviews.

  27. It would seem to me that Amazon should have a policy in place for the process of removing a review. By which, the specific reason should be stated by the person who is going through the reviews ( amazon worker?), notification if this was the result of a complaint or inquiry, and a notice sent to BOTH the author AND the reviewer, stating their reasons. This way, an appeal or “grievance” can be filed/ submitted…

    What I find disturbing, is the utter lack of transparency, and accountability. WHO, literally, is doing the removal, and what guideline are they adhering to and following by which they have made their judgement.

    Dear author, while going through your accumuilated reviews, I ( insert name) or even Amazon-anonymous) note that the review submitted by John Reader, does not adhere to our reivew policies. it appears that this was a family member, yada yada.. by which we do not allow those reviews to stand on the amazon pages.

    OR- we note that you have this review by John Reader, We believe this may be a solicited review, and therefore this information needs to be noted IN the review. This letter is a warning, and allowing 10 days for this error to be remedied. After ten days, if the adjustment has not been made, we will remove this review from your books page.

    YEAH- how hard could that be… evidently harder than it seems- or maybe they would be doing it.. unless, as previously noted.. there are other agendas.. and transparency is the last thing “they” want…

    thanks

    Teri

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      You hit on a great point (and I like the letters) – it would be so easy for Amazon to keep the author and reviewer in the loop and not cause any dissension or concern. But I guess that makes too much sense…thanks for your comment.

  28. How, on any planet, can it be right for family members to post reviews without clearly stating who they are?
    Just because someone writes a trashing review is no excuse for any author or friends of to play foul.

    • Kathy says:

      I don’t think friends, family, enemies, or anyone should have to post who they are when they write a review. Reviewers are little more than participants in an onsite community forum. Some of them are going to be honest and some of them aren’t. I think that fact is unavoidable. But for Amazon or any site to be able arbitrarily to discount a good review simply because a family member wrote it is wrong. It is basically demeaning the integrity of a writer’s family members, as if to say they can’t be trusted to write an honest review. Some of them can’t be trusted and some of them can. But in the long run, they are simply reviewers just like the stranger who writes a good or bad review that will never be touched because that stranger is not a family member.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I don’t see how someone should have to state who they are. Realistically, all a good, professional writer wants is an honest review. And I don’t think I (or anyone here) have said that an author who gets a bad review should play foul.
      Also, on a side note, but to me much more critical, and to use your words, how on any planet is it okay for publishers to pay reviewers to write reviews of books they never read?
      Thanks for commenting.

  29. Lyn says:

    This is a subject that other bloggers have taken very seriously and I’m always happy to hear more readers and writers questioning Amazon’s high-handed practices.

    Amazon.com removed all the reviews I had written over a period of 12-18 months. These were fair and honest reviews, not remotely damaging to any of the authors (mainly by virtue of the fact that as a discriminating reader, I’m not in the habit of seeking out books I’m likely to hate just for the sake of writing a negative review. I read for enjoyment, not to launch attacks at writers.) The majority were detailed four or five star reviews and they were all verified purchases.

    When I questioned Amazon, they refused point blank to discuss their reasons with me and refused to re-instate my reviewing privileges. They initially claimed I had violated their guidelines but refused to explain how. My reviews were absolutely not in breach of any of their rules. When I persisted in my questioning, they simply stopped answering my emails. I found this behaviour bizarre.

    I have to remind myself that Amazon is just a shop. Its staff are rude and frequently inefficient. It’s a pity that, as writers or customers, we’ve allowed it so much dominance as a sales/retail outlet. I wouldn’t put up with this treatment from any other shop and don’t see why I should from Amazon. I now boycott it as much as possible.

    I’ll be happy to provide you with links to other articles on this subject if you wish.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing what happened to you. I as well have found them not helpful in handling my replies. I tend not to buy at Amazon because I want fair competition (and I like perusing bookshelves), but it does little to affect them :) . I would love to have links if you’d like to share them.

  30. This just becomes more and more…. interesting. I suppose the second half of this question and equation might be: if Amazon is changing the game.. and it is no longer user friendly to/ for the indie author… What are the alternatives? And I am not asking this facetiously- but rather honestly… should we indie authors be looking at the other venues and cultivating those relationships more assertively(word?)…

    what have been peoples experiences with B&N, or smashwords.. or other outlets that promote the indie books? If this trend continues, and there is another option.. a trickle could become a steady stream of indie authors throwing their weight and numbers.. elsewhere….

    thoughts?

    Teri

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Therein lies the problem – from what I see and hear, Amazon has been the most indie author friendly. and for most authors, that is where the bulk of sales come from. I do know that I will be letting my KDP Select option run out for my books, and I am going to be pushing them more for audio and on B&N, etc. I’ve also read some interesting articles about Google’s new pad; it will be interesting to see if they are able to become a force or not.
      I’ve wondered before if indie authors could petition B&N for better treatment (I hear it’s hard to get paid and get help from them) and maybe B&N could become the force to reckon with – but it seems their management it kind of clueless…
      I wish I had the answers, but I do plan to do more posts on other options so stay tuned :) , hopefully they will help.

  31. Lyn says:

    Hello Renee,
    On this blog you can read Amazon’s responses and a good selection of my reviews to see if you can ascertain how or why they violate Amazon’s guidelines:
    http://indie-publishing.blogspot.co.uk/2012/06/amazon-caught-in-two-lies-over-review.html#comment-form
    I first discovered this person through this article:
    http://members.beforeitsnews.com/story/2302/920/Serious_Problem_For_Writers_with_Disappearing_Reviews_At_Amazon.com.html
    and Angie’s Diary is another blog that has covered the missing review issue:
    http://angiesdiary.com/articles/disappearing-reviews-amazon/
    There have also been discussions on Kindleboards and various fora.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Those are very interesting articles. I’m not sure where this all will go, but it is concerning to say the least. My biggest issue with Amazon is not saying why, that’s not a good sign…and going against their own policies is obviously bad, too. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  32. Tracy says:

    The AIA (Association of Independent Authors) has written a letter on behalf of their members. They haven’t received an answer yet. But there is some growing visibility on the issue;

    http://www.independent-authors.org/forums/posts.asp?topic=430320&

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I was not able to access the link because I’m not a member, but I’m glad to see that authors are taking action. Thanks for sharing this update with us.

  33. Jane Doe says:

    I’m so sorry this happened to you, but I’m also sorry that there isn’t a solution.

    I have purchased a few books by Indie authors with 5 star reviews to be disappointed by half of them. I go back and read some of those reviews again to conclude that there is no possible way that THIS is the book they are praising.

    I guess it’s the old saying that one bad apples spoil the bunch. Which is unfortunate because to even things out, it sounds like Amazon is randomly taking down a few good and TRUE reviews. But don’t worry, they can’t take down all of them! You’ll get more. The fact that you’ve posted this shows your reviews are real and not paid for. :)

    The best to you!
    Jane

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I understand where you’re coming from – I just read part of a book the other day where I wondered the same thing. As an author, I know what I’ve done and continue to do to improve my works, and yes, my reviews are legitimate :) . Thanks for your comment.

  34. Based on this information I believe I’m going to focus on posting all of my reviews on the non Amazon sites and my blogs. It won’t help the Amazon sales but it will help the sales on other channels for those who aren’t part of KDP Select. My sales on other channels were not low when they announced it so I never enrolled. At any rate, I’ve recorded all of the reviews for my books. I hope this will be worked out for everyone.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Not a bad idea. I like it when someone is willing to leave reviews all over the place, but even one review is greatly appreciated :) . Thanks for your comment.

  35. F. Lange says:

    I was intrigued by your posting because, recently, I have also been a victim of strange and bizarre removals of customer reviews on Amazon. But here are my thoughts: I have had my first book on there for several years–and over the years–I had my page hacked– i.e.: customer reviews removed. And quite a few! This was very frequent some five, six years or more years ago–actually, pages would be raided often. There were a number of us small-published authors who would end up communicating about it here and there. Whole reviews would be suddenly wiped out…back in the day of Amazon’s earlier years.

    Well, I had very good suspicions that there was one individual doing this to my page–and I called Amazon on it. In fact, I contacted their IT division. They always go into complete denial mode whenever someone declares a hacking on their page. ALWAYS. They give the canned responses, etc. every time. Just like the ones you posted. What I am trying to say–with regard to Midwest Reviews and the like, and other review sources being totally wiped out–is they might have been hacked. It’s a good chance that Amazon had nothing to do with it, but they never admit to a possible weakness in their beloved firewalls. They don’t want the bad press. So they keep mum.

    After years of not having any of this happen on my page–reviews were suddenly wiped out recently…I suspected hacking from the gate because it did happen before…Amazon could be innocent in this–they just don’t want to go there with any ideas of hacking. And this is what I think really happened and is still happening. Who knows? It could be bigger entities that don’t like it that little books are doing well..You’d be amazed at what goes on. I know from being around the block all these years that there’s always more than meets the eye.
    Hope this helps.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences; it sounds like you went through quite a lot. It’s so hard to say what is going on now, but it certainly seems weird to me. I will be curious to see what happens from here.

    • No, Midwest Book Review, along with many other reviewers like them, were not hacked. Amazon deliberately removed the reviews and then sent an email saying they did so. We (Reader Views) were one of them in the early stages of the removal. Amazon removed the reviews and then let us know they did but wouldn’t tell us why. I went back and forth with them on it for months and they finally told us they would reinstate us. I hired someone to re-post all the reviews which Amazon immediately removed. The email that said they would reinstate us didn’t mean anything and nobody in management would talk to us or back the person that reinstated us. I attempted to contact her but she didn’t return my phone calls or emails. The final email said they were firm in removing the reviews and will not be responding to us again.

      This was a year and half ago. Since then Amazon has been removing reviews on a constant basis and everyone gets the same stock email indicating removal but no reason as to why except that they violated the guidelines. If asked what guidelines, they don’t respond.

      At first they were removing reviews done by review services but now they are striking bloggers and readers that just post reviews of books they read. In fact, I’ve had several bloggers send me copies of emails they received from Amazon which indicate their reviews were rejected because the book was not purchased through Amazon. The emails (stock email) said because the book was given to the blogger for free she couldn’t post the review.

      • F. Lange says:

        Hello there, again. I was just checking this site, and I appreciate the comments here. It occurred to me that, yes, in some instances, Amazon is doing this, to be sure. I think, with this latest barrage on review-services and the like, it’s simply because Amazon is now in the publishing business themselves. Create-Space and these other sources of theirs–where they do actually publish–are now competing against every other independent source out there. Mid-West Reviews has been around since the 70′s! And it is a highly reputable resource, one of the best out there–and it’s free. This might be a threat to Amazon’s interest in publishing. They also run Vine-Voice–now, tell me, do you really think they go around swiping stuff from their VineVoice Reviews? Has anyone asked them this?

        So, yes, while I do still think hacking has definitely gone on at Amazon, it also looks like something is clearly up with these strange practices. I also see that Kirkus-Reviews (biggest scam outfit out there, in my humble opinion, that is, given that their policy is absolutely no refunds–ever!! And for just knowing about the botched reviews they have done on many an independent author) is something that is encouraged at Create-Space–from what I have heard.

        Whatever the case may be, Amazon might not want Indies to look too good. I also am wondering if some of these victims of this practice are not listed with the Kindle or have challenged their pricing. Just some food for thought.

        • Renée Pawlish says:

          Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I tend to agree with you, there definitely seems something afoot with the treatment of indies…and this comes not just from reviews but also from how they are weighing book sales and giving more algorithm support to their own published works (plenty of blogs on this topic). I’m not sure where it will go but I think more changes will occur as Amazon continues to tweak its business model.

      • Renée Pawlish says:

        That’s very interesting and it seems to be what a lot of authors and reviewers are experiencing. I understand that Amazon is a business and they can do what they want, but it seems they would want to let people know the issues with reviews…but I guess that’s just how I would run things. Thanks for your comment.

        • F. Lange says:

          You seem way too polite to me! I’m upset that Amazon seems to have this “trolling” system where it seems certain individuals are whistle-blowing something as innocuous as Customer Reviews for no real, palpable reason. If this is the new Amazon, you can have it. I don’t reveal my identity here, and that’s because I want to feel free in voicing my views, but for my next book, I have already re-worked my marketing strategy. Amazon is now low priority. I encourage fellow writers to go “grassroots”–go to independent bookstores and sites like Barnes&Noble. Seriously. Yes, I will have my book posted there, but as far as relying and trusting them, I am done with that. I have no respect for them. Bezos is on a power trip–he has had publishers try to fight him and he’s now on a quest to be in publishing, himself. It’s so weird that Customer Reviews are the big issue now on the very people that need them most-the small published author–and we are becoming dispensable. But not their own CreateSpace, etc., authors! (Yet they make money off of us). What Amazon is doing also to reputable review sources like Midwest Reviews is ridiculous. Yet they have a sweet deal with Kirkus Indie for their authors. If this is their new business model, you can have it. Sorry to be so annoyed, but it’s how I feel.

          • Renée Pawlish says:

            Vent away, it’s fine with me :) . I’m definitely not re-enrolling in KDP and I’ll be doing some posts on ways to sell other than Amazon.
            Like you, I don’t understand what Amazon is doing but, as you say, it certainly seems slanted to help their own publishing system.
            Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  36. Sonya Dickerson says:

    Amazon deleted all of my five star reviews….period! Right in front of my eyes and they sent me the same email!!! It’s incredible and I can’t believe this is happening to me! Now instead of nine reviews, I’m down to four! I even had someone in my book club write a review and it too disappeared. It wasnt even a five star one! I’m at a loss.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Something is happening with Amazon, no doubt. To me, the way around it is to get out of KDP Select, don’t buy from Amazon, and support other places that will sell books. But too many indies are desperate for just a little success that they can’t see that something bad is going on here and they’ll keep going with Amazon until Amazon pushes all the indies out the door (with the exception of a few that sell really well). But we’ll see. Sorry that happened to you and thanks for sharing this.

  37. Z.L Arkadie says:

    It’s happening to me too… Something is definitely going on. It’s scary that the positive ones are falling off and not the stupid 1 stars where a reviewer admits that she’s reviewing the description and not the book. Amazon’s answer to that was, and they responded directly to the description review, it didn’t violate policy. Well it should! Anytime a customer admits that they didn’t read the book at all, their review should be taken down. It’s like, common sense. But these are like verified purchases by people who have become fans of the works. At first I was concerned that I pissed the readers off in my last book or something! But not so… No. It’s just Amazon trying to make it really hard for us–well, HARDER. And then that weird sales halt in September. My sales in the UK still haven’t recovered. NO–these people have sat in a meeting and decided to undertake these actions. But why? And what’s the pay off? I lose money, they lose money? And the indies with inflated reviews that they’ve taken under their wings, they haven’t lost one review!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      It is all weird. I do know that all my family reviews (the ones with the same last name as me) were removed, but others as well. I’m boycotting Amazon with my money and I’ve left KDP Select. Unfortunately I still need them to sell books. I think what they’re doing is scary, and I’m amazed that indie authors still think KDP Select is a good thing…

  38. Reviewer – past tense says:

    I’m not an author.

    I’ve written a few reviews, mostly for someone I admire and hoped to help become established as a writer. My reviews have been systematically taken down from A. A has refused to answer any of my every-other-day emails, not even sending me the boilerplate letter others have mentioned. Terrible tactics – profoundly oppressive to indie authors.

    Why don’t authors create their own online bookstore? Who needs A.? The authors have among their ranks ex-employees of A. and other book purveyors, brilliant programmers, outstanding web masters, awesome artists, savvy business people, and also, well, AUTHORS. They would do a better job of it.

    It could be non-profit (with the authors who do the construction of the store being appropriately paid, of course), it could be classy, civilized, kind, lucrative for all involved, and actually caring about the products of their members. Unlike someone who told an author friend (and this is no shock, of course) that employees at A. don’t care about books or authors. It’s the same to them as paper towels, except these paper towels have some writing on them. It’s all just product.

    Well, of course it’s all just product. But when you have a gigantic business whose selling department doesn’t care about the product, you have terrible, un-focused energy around the product. For paper towels, not so awful. For literature – awful.

    It would be brilliant if authors banded together and claimed their power, building their own mega-bookstore.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      That is too bad that happened to your reviews. Amazon is making no sense…perhaps I should get Jeff Bezos’ email and send him this post with the comments, although I doubt he cares. I like your idea of creating a mega-bookstore but that’s quite an undertaking…thanks for your comment.

  39. I too have had a couple reviews removed in the last two days. I found this blog because I googled, “Losing reviews on Amazon.” One of the reviews was from my mother, so I understand that one. The other one, I can’t figure out which one it was. I suspect I will lose more (based on this blog). On the one hand, I do think that some indie authors are manufacturing reviews, but feel that Amazon should more carefully consider how and when they remove them. Perhaps they should change their review-of-reviews policy and make sure they are not posted in the first place. Makes more sense to me. I wrote a blog post about manufactured reviews: http://www.woodchuckpublishers.com

    I have also bowed out of KDP Select. I didn’t like the concept of giving away 13,000 free books, and most of all, the exclusive aspect. I did get a bounce, but not much of one. I am now listed on all the other sites, and am selling a fair amount that way.

    But let’s face it. The biggest and—for now—best platform for indie authors is Amazon. They have continued to evolve, and as more and more of us abandon KDP Select, I think we’ll see a morph on Amazon’s part.

    I have no plans to abandon Amazon, regardless of their “big brother” tactics.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences. I agree with your points, and it’s true that indie authors can’t really abandon Amazon, but if we all try to push our sales elsewhere as well, maybe Amazon will cease to be “big brother” :) . I will check out your post on manufactured reviews, and yes, I agree that indie authors shouldn’t game the system either.

  40. Reviewer – past tense says:

    To answer your response, Renée, to my comment… yes, an author owned and run mega-bookstore would be a huge undertaking, but, again, the people putting it together would be paid. Much better investment of time and talents than all the energy poured into Kindle boards and the like. Funding for such an endeavor might be acquired from NEA and other arts funding sources.

  41. Mark says:

    Interesting article. I came across it when researching for a post. I referred to you in my post. There’s a petition going around to raise awareness of this issue. You should check it out.

    Don’t know if your comment system will allow links, but I will try. Here’s my post: http://masqueradecrew.blogspot.com/2012/10/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing.html

  42. Lyn says:

    I’m off to find and sign that petition. Earlier this year Amazon suddenly removed all the reviews I had ever written – not one of which was especially negative (all genuine 4 or 5* – because I don’t waste my time on books I don’t enjoy just to write a sour review. There are enough ways to check out a book before purchase to make sure it’s something you’ll enjoy). Amazon refused to give me an adequate explanation and then simply ignored my queries/requests for the matter to be escalated. They also prevented me from writing further reviews – which I find very insulting.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Wow, that stinks. A few people have commented that Amazon has to do something, in light of the scandal that’s been created recently, and I agree, however, what they do to people like you, is wrong. That’s what needs to stop. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  43. No review standards or rules are ever going to be perfect. I have to respect the fact that Amazon is trying to clean up, and impose some standards. Most indie authors are highly indebted to Amazon, and I am prepared to deal them a lot of slack on any issue. It is troubling, though, that we don’t have any clear picture of the end point Amazon is aiming for, or the detailed criteria for pulling reviews.
    Some of the vagueness is probably because of concern about legal challenge, and some of the inconsistency is probably simply due to the slightly different understandings between different technicians charged with the job.
    If the end result is that a good percentage of sham reviews are pulled, and readers confidence in reviews is enhanced, then we will all benefit.
    I have had reviews pulled which have links to independent reviewing bodies. Fair enough I can go with that.
    As regards cross-reviewing and friends/relatives reviews- perhaps the answer is complete openness- and then see if the review is pulled. I think Amazon aught to leave up reviews that spell out relationships- as that is as honest and open as is possible. Also I would like to see paid reviewing declared as such. Is that asking too much?- I hope not.

  44. Ari says:

    I’ve also had several legitimate reviews disappear within the last week. A person I know wrote one review, and the other was written by someone I do not know, and have no means of contacting. as I have no idea who they were. I contacted Amazon, and they gave me the usual spiel with my first email. They ignored the second. The person I knew who wrote one review contacted Amazon to find out why their review was deleted. Here is the main portion of the email they received back:

    > 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. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for
    > these titles. Any further violations of our posted
    > Guidelines may result in the removal of these items from our
    > website.

    Read the last line (emphasis added) carefully! So, not only were these legitimate reviews removed for false reasons, but in this email, Amazon is basically Threatening to delete authors’ books if Amazon receives more “false” (in truth, legitimate) reviews!

    This is taking it to the next level, as far as I am concerned. Not only is Amazon deleting our reviews without probable cause or evidence (because there IS none), but they are threating to remove our books if they receive reviews that their monster Amazon algorithm bot (or whatever) deems “false.” And we have no recourse. When the reader contacted Amazon to expression frustration, Amazon sent a message that basically said, Tough. We don’t have to tell you our reasons, and we won’t.

    I, for one, would love to take this to the mainstream media–keeping my anonymity, of course, for I don’t trust Amazon, or their bullying tactics, one inch. Forbes had a recent article that addressed the problems of Amazon reviews. Perhaps that writer would be interested in a follow up piece:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2012/08/28/fake-reviews-amazons-rotten-core/

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m sorry this has happened to you, too. I agree that the mainstream media might want to know about this, but I’m not sure how to go about contacting the appropriate people – but I will be looking into it. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  45. shawn stjean says:

    Renee:
    Walt Whitman is well known to have reviewed his own Leaves of Grass pseudonymously.

    As long as we live in a capitalist society, people will seek advantage in making money within and outside of the rules, from the loaded-dicers in the alleyway to the megabanks behind the casinos.

    I have written a lengthy blog post about how Amazon’s review policy contributes to a monopoly, and also compare it to DRM:

    http://clothosloom.wordpress.com/2012/11/02/cowboys-and-indies-amazon-and-monopoly-in-the-free-market/

    Since posting the article a couple of days ago, I have confirmed from three separate reviewers that, not only have their legitimate reviews been removed, but they cannot even submit completely new reviews for the products, in strict conformity with the guidelines. In other words, Amazon is banning PEOPLE, not just REVIEWS. The business about violation of guidelines is nonsense.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I did not know that about Walt Whitman :) . And as you say, it is unfortunate that people will play outside the rules, it’s just too bad that Amazon is not above all of it. Your post is very interesting and it’s extremely disturbing to hear that Amazon is banning people as well as individual reviews. Thanks for your comment.

  46. Book reviews says:

    My book sales are down by about 33% since the removed the reviews. If this is happening all over the world their profits are going to get hammered. What kind of company would remove a massive free publicity machine from their site!

  47. anthony says:

    This is an email I just wrote that I plan to send to Amazon–

    This is a review a customer of mine posted on your website:

    This book was a fun and easy read. It not only touches on some typical pre-teen issues kids experience but also there is an underlying mystery slowly unraveling throughout the book. The story puts an imaginative spin on a day in the life of a young girl (surrounded by monsters). I would say this book is an enjoyable read for young adults (boys and girls) and adults alike. Personally I found myself getting attached to the main character and wanting to know what other adventures she encounters with her mysterious parents and unlikely best friend. Two thumbs up and I hope do hope for a sequel.

    This is the policy your customer service representative claimed it violated, resulting in its removal:

    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)

    As you can see, this review does not violate any such policy. When the customer requested a phone call from the representative, as is the option on your website, she did not receive one. When she insisted the representative explain how her review violated your policy, this person refused to elaborate. For such a prestigious and reputable company such as yours, this is appalling and unacceptable. Your representative was presumptuous and rude. Not to mention, small fish like me, with limited financial, marketing, and promotional resources, depend greatly on word-of-mouth and positive feedback to remain even mildly relevant in a business like this. As a long time Amazon customer, many of my purchases have relied solely on a customer review, so I know firsthand how important and influencing they can be. What’s sad is that this isn’t even the only review for this book to be removed. I met another customer at a book signing who said the same thing—her review for this book had been removed, and the representative refused to explain why. Fortunately, your website is not the only place a person can purchase this book, and customers with experiences similar to this one will likely shop elsewhere in the future.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      A very well stated email – I’d be curious to see what response you get.
      Unfortunately, my belief is that the only thing that will speak to Amazon is if tons of authors leave KDP Select and begin trying to sell books elsewhere (yes, we can sell books elsewhere). Sadly though, too many indie authors see the short-term gain of KDP as helpful, but they don’t see the potential long-term problems.
      Thanks for sharing this with us.

  48. Philip Blood says:

    I have now been victimized by Amazon as well. I have never paid anyone to review my books. Every review I had was from a person who bought my book on their own and reviewed it, without my involvement in any way. A few were people who knew me, certainly, but these were still unsolicited by me, not paid. They bought my books. Others were from complete strangers. Amazon has now removed all but ONE review of my books, all in one big sweep of all my novels.

    We needs to speak out. And although we, as individuals, are a pin prick to a company the size of Amazon, if all of us speak out we can have a voice that will be heard. I will be contacting news agencies and seeing if I can get some consumer groups to get hold of this story, so keep posting your stories of bad treatment from Amazon.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I am certainly sorry to hear this has happened to you as well. I hope you get positive results with contacting the news etc. – I’ve thought of this but haven’t had the time to pursue it. Thanks for your comment.

  49. A says:

    They removed my comments on a new novel I read that I really really enjoyed simply because they find them “suspicious” thinking that it isn’t realistic for such an unknown author to get 5 stars. Are you kidding me? I don’t care if they *think* I’m a friend or family member. I am a paying customer! I PAID for the product; I have every right to make a review if I so choose.

    This is Absolutely ridiculous.
    It’s also real rich coming from a site that provided a platform that turned a woman into a multi millionaire by ripping off Stephanie Meyer’s characters. They’ll promote that but they kill a few good reviews that might give a new author the chance at a smidgen of exposure? Please.

    I’ll never use their site again.
    My apologies for anyone who enjoys the work of said author in my post, it is nothing personal against you, your taste or her as a writer but it was necessary to make my point.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      The whole thing reeks of going from one extreme to the other. I think I will contact some news agencies and see if they might do a story on this – I would think it would be interesting for consumers to hear of this, especially since Amazon is not following their own policies. Thanks for your comment.

    • Kathy says:

      What is the name of the book you reviewed? I’m always looking for books by new authors.

  50. A says:

    Thank you Renée for your response. I think that is a great idea.
    It’s unsettling because as a customer you feel abused for no reason and what’s more, that they’re taking it out on the author who’s words you fell in love with and that’s not fair. It’s not right to take away our freedom of speech especially since Amazon is laughing to the bank by taking the majority of that author’s sale (our money!) then turning around and slapping us all in the face by deleting the reviews, you know?

    Does anybody have any experience with Apple and how they treat their customers?

    Kathy, the book I recently finished and reviewed was an ebook referred to me by my boyfriends sister called Fallen Crown by Kathrine McGregor (coincidently, her review is gone as well). If there’s any you can recommend I’m now in search of another great read!

    Thank you.

  51. PJ Dominicis says:

    I am so glad that I found this page. I thought it was only happening to me.

    I noticed last month that my sales had dramatically dropped all of a sudden. Then I checked out my product page for the first time in months. I was shocked to find that the average star rating for my debut novel, “Depraved Blood,” had fallen from 4 1/2 to 1. They removed ten reviews (some from verified purchasers) from my Amazon product page, leaving only a 1-star review. To add insult to injury, the 1-star review was originally a 2-star review.

    I have emailed them repeatedly to no avail; I received the same pat answer that you got. When I mentioned that they had made an error with the one review they’d left on the page, they claimed that the author of the review had changed his mind (SEVEN MONTHS LATER!!!) and went back to change his star rating from 2 to 1. That is ludicrous since the author did not change the text of the review at all; and despite some problems he had with the novel, he actually liked it.

    When I pointed out that the UK version of the page had been correctly left unchanged, they went ahead and changed it!

    To make things worse, I have seen new reviews added by VERIFIED PURCHASERS, and then inexplicably pulled down a day later.

    No one will buy a book with one lone review of one star. It is killing my debut novel! The ironic thing is that the novel never received a 1-star review from anyone.

    At my wits end, I threatened to pull my novel from Amazon, but they don’t care.

    This is the first time I’ve shared this with anyone—since none of my friends are writers and would not understand. I am so angry and disillusioned. I feel artistically raped. I just don’t know what to do.

    You mentioned a Facebook page where other Indy writers were complaining about this. Can you please share the URL with us?

    PJ Dominicis
    http://www.kindleboards.com/book/?asin=B0071UTQUM

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m so sorry to hear yet another nightmare story and I appreciate you sharing this.
      I’m not sure about a Facebook page (I looked through my posts but couldn’t find where I referenced one :) ) but there is a petition you can sign:

      http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing-customer-reviews-from-indie-author-books

      I also wonder if a whole bunch of us started calling our local media, if this would help. I’ll bet there are many reviewers who have no idea that their reviews are being removed, and I’ll bet a lot of consumers would want to know about this issue, too.

      • PJ Dominicis says:

        I shared a link to this page on Anne Rice’s Facebook Page and briefly wrote about my experience. Anne has posted many articles regarding unfair Amazon practices, and she is a constant supporter of the Indy writer. In the past she has replied to some of my posts and shared them with her 700,000 plus followers. I hope that my post caught her eye today so that she can start a conversation about this on her page.

  52. PJ Dominicis says:

    Hi Renée,

    Thanks for the kind words of support.

    I wish the media would pick up on this because Amazon customers have no clue this is happening.

    Last week, I was contacted by a reader who joined my Facebook page after reading my book. His review for novel was removed and he wanted to know if I had done it. Can you imagine??? I explained to him that authors do not have the power to do that on Amazon. And I encouraged him to complain. He just messaged me last night and he’s still waiting to get a response from Amazon.

    Make sure to check out these two threads from the KDP Community site for more info. Apparently this is a growing concern amongst Indy authors.

    https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=39887&tstart=0
    https://kdp.amazon.com/community/thread.jspa?threadID=73328&tstart=0

  53. Lance Manley says:

    This problem occurred to me a couple of days ago. My book STAB PROOF SCARECROWS had 24 five star reviews. That number reduced on Friday to 18.

    I got the same bog standard reply as you did, with them saying that the reviews breached their guidelines. I asked them to clarify what had actually happened and got the same response. They don’t offer any real help, just vacuous remarks and fluffy salutations.

    Another problem was that a new 5 star review appeared the same day and bumped the number to 19. But it was dated Feb 2011!!! Amazon said this was due to it being a resubmission or edit…which it wasn’t.

    To rub salt in it, the cretinous lump who answered the last inquiry (different person each time) said he hoped they saw me again soon and sent me his “warmest regards.” I sent a final reply back full of swearing so doubt I’ll be hearing from them again (N.B. If you’re going to cuss in an email like this, spell the words with a space between at least one letter…it will bypass a firewall or spam filter).

    Frustrating in the extreme, not least because they sign off any second email response with the line “I am sorry however we will be unable to provide any additional insight on this matter.” Which is effectively the equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and going “la-la-laaaa!!!”

    If you have any further info on this please let me know.

    LR Manley

    (author of STAB PROOF SCARECROWS and THE CATASTROPHE OF THE EMERALD QUEEN)

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing this with us – and yes, it is very frustrating. I’m sorry to hear yet another nightmare story. At this point (12-02-2012) I don’t have anything further, but rest assured I will share anything I hear.

  54. Lauren says:

    I had two 5 star reviews removed from a book. But I’m wondering, are family members NOT allowed to write reviews? I don’t go around getting all of my friends and family to write these amazing 5 star reviews. But some of them chose to write reviews (and can rate the book and write whatever review they like). One of the reviews removed was from my mom and she just recently tried to write a review for my newest book which they apparently won’t post. The other 5 star review removed from my previous book, I had no idea who that person was. I suppose it’s possible they removed it themselves. Anyway, my question is, are family members not allowed to review? And is Amazon looking at both of our accounts and seeing the same address and assuming that it’s me writing the review? That’s really unfair in my opinion and extremely presumptuous of them if that’s the case, I think anybody who buys the book and reads it should be able to place a review, even if they live in the same household.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I believe Amazon thinks family members writing reviews is a conflict of interest, but how they determine that I have no idea.
      I’m sorry you are yet another victim of their nebulous review practices. Thanks for your comment.

  55. James Lynn Page says:

    It looks as if my sole book review was pulled on Saturday. (Not from a family member/myself or a business colleague.) I was hoping to build from there (as I’m expecting another review from someone I contacted by email). Does it have something to do with being in KDP select? And what can we do about it? Start a campaign and get as many signatories to put their names to a strongly worded letter of complaint? Perhaps, Renee, you could get the ball rolling?
    Something has to be done if Amazon are indiscriminately removing reviews.

    James

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      That’s too bad. It’s difficult to get reviews and I definitely feel for you. I am going to contact some locals news and see if there is any interest. There is also a petition you can sign:
      http://www.change.org/petitions/amazon-stop-arbitrarily-removing-customer-reviews-from-indie-author-books
      I don’t know how successful Derek has been with his petition, but you can voice your concerns there as well.
      Thanks for your comment.

    • Lance Manley says:

      I pulled both my books off KDP yesterday because of this situation. Amazon then emailed me a few hours later to say that they were cutting the books from KDP due to them being available in e-format in other places…which they weren’t and aren’t.

      I replied questioning the IQ and paternal lineage of the person who sent the email and called him a fornicating female reproductive organ. Probably not the best way to get them to do anything but they are so gleefully inept that a good swear made me feel a lot better if nothing else.

      • Renée Pawlish says:

        Yeah, cursing them out was probably not the best approach, but I know what you mean about feeling better :) .
        This is certainly a frustrating situation. I’m going to be doing a post soon about more Amazon changes, so stay tuned…

  56. It doesn’t matter how unsolicited and honest a review is from a family member, its quality is suspect. If the review is disguised, then it is dishonest and deserves to be pulled. So if one must review for those close then do so under your family name, stating clearly who you are. The reader can then take account of your views as they feel is appropriate.
    If you have practised full disclosure and yet your review is pulled, then you have good reason to complain. The author themselves have little right to complain as the reviewing process shouldn’t normally be open to their influence. The reviewer is the only one with a legitimate right to complain, except of course when the author is deliberately misrepresented, maliciously trashed, or slandered.
    Why Amazon isn’t equally pulling viciously trashing reviews is a mystery.
    Amazon are between a rock and a hard place. They need customer confidence, which means trying to police reviews. They seem to be having considerable difficulties at the moment, but attacking them for pulling such apparently sham reviews only undermines the very justifiable complaints of many authors.
    The fact that there isn’t much consistency in Amazons policy probably has more to do with the mind-set of individual technicians than with the companies policy. If any avenue of complaint is worth pursuing it might be that.
    I am trying to be logical. I have no interest in upsetting those who genuinely feel they have been mistreated, but don’t get pulled into a fight on the side of the crooks out of frustration and felt injustice.
    The sham and/or bought reviews are not an SP thing- the problems run through the whole publishing industry. As I say, Amazon are between a rock and a hard place.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      No one here is saying that sham reviews or misrepresented reviews should be allowed. But we authors know how hard it is to even get legitimate reviews, and how much these can impact sales and advertizing, and to have legitimate reviews pulled, with no explanation from Amazon, is what is concerning. Amazon is not following its own policies…
      Thanks for your comment.

  57. Echoing what others have said, thank you Renee for this important article. My suggestion is not to contact Amazon independently but to accumulate substantial information, both here and at other cooperative blogs. Those of us already on this board could suggest the blogs and then split up contacting them. Ideally, from my point of view, each blog would ask its visitors 4 questions. For ease of coordinating the responses the questions should be the same of each blog. They could be something like this:

    1. Have you ever had a review on your Amazon book page removed?
    2. If so, how many? (more info if available: i.e. type of reviewer — relative, friend, other author, unknown)
    3. Did you contact Amazon about this?
    4. What was their response?
    5.
    After this material is collected, it, of course, needs to be put in report form, and then farmed out to a sympathetic reporter. Might as well start at the top and contact someone at the New York Times Book Review. If that doesn’t work, then a person at the Washington Post book section. And, so on. Of course, should anyone here or in the pool of respondent so I wouldn’t hesitate to nominate someone who is good at PR and call a press conference. I will personally contact Frank Phillippi Ryan, who is the incoming President of Sisters in Crime Guppy Chapter. Frank is not only a successful published author, she’s a TV news reporter. If anyone can help publicize this, it would be her.
    Thoughts?
    Jane Vasarhelyi
    w/a Britt Vasarhelyi

    • Hit the wrong button and it published too soon. Finishing with the news media, I was going to suggest and optional 5th question asking if anyone knows a member of the media they would be willing to contact with the results of the survey. Then, of course, I suggested Frank.

      Sorry for the mix up.
      Jane

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I don’t have an issue with writing a post and asking for the information, and then we’d have to see where it goes. I agree that at this point Amazon doesn’t seem to care…I wonder if anyone else will but we won’t know until we try. I’d be interested to see if your friend Frank has heard of all this and what her thoughts are.
      Thanks for your comments and keep me posted.

  58. william says:

    Amazon is definitely up to something to destroy independent authors. Deleting allegedly (underline allegedly) fraudulent positive reviews, allowing clearly fraudulent negative reviews to remain, removing tags, removing likes, and changing the algorithms to favor Big Six-published e-books are all contributing to kill indie sales. And it’s working. Do a search and see how many authors are saying exactly the same thing: starting in October 2012 sales have plummeted after months and months of consistently strong sales.

    I hope Amazon will do the honest thng and change their policies, restore deleted reviews, etc. There’s room for everyone in this ball game.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      It certainly seems like something is up, and unfortunately, most indie authors don’t have the consistent sales to stay up in the rankings without either freebies, tags, likes or something else. However, Amazon is still a huge place to sell, so indie authors need to keep their books there…I just lean toward not using KDP Select because then you’re exclusive, and what happens when they change that program? My advice, if one is considering KDP, is to use it for a first book in a series, or maybe for a book launch, but don’t solely rely on it for your sales.
      Many authors saw plummeting sales before that, but it’s interesting that you’re hearing even more since October.
      Do you have any articles that show how Amazon has changed their algorithms again (since early spring 2012)? I’d love to see those.
      Thanks for your comment.

  59. Liz says:

    My Amazon book has been victimized by Amazonian deletions, and without rhyme or reason. I am certain Amazon regularly tracks and uses IP addresses when it comes to deleting perfectly legit reviews. Many people, at my place of employment, accessed their Amazon accounts and purchased my paperbook or e-book while at their work computers. They paid good money for it, read it, and eventually attempted to leave legit reviews, but Amazon tracks the IP address and either deleted the review or disallowed it to be placed on its site in the first place simply because I use the same IP address. I find this to be totally wrong! Just because a person works in the same place as I do, does not mean their review is jaded or sock puppet in nature.
    And, yes, I have some very suspect one star reviews that are still up. These reviews in no way indicate the person actually read the book since their review is generic in nature could very well be copied and pasted on any fiction book out there.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      You very well could be right about the IP addresses. The whole review thing is messed up, but it seems like there is little we indie authors can do (other than take your business elsewhere).
      Thanks for your comment.

  60. “But I have to wonder if some readers have complained about indie authors and the reviews we receive.”

    And *I* have to wonder why readers would give a hoot about reviews of indie author’s books? Aren’t the readers supposed to be people who love to read, no matter if the name is King or Colbert?

    This is swaying me even further from the thought of Amazon getting its grubby little hands on my first anthology…..

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      That may be true, but I believe the whole thing started when a group of mainstream=published authors complained of sock puppet reviews; then came the John Locke scandal, and Amazon’s been reeling, trying to figure out how to handle it all…and based on so many nightmare stories from authors, Amazon is doing a poor job of it. The unfortunate reality is most authors sell best through Amazon. What to do…
      Thanks for your comment.

  61. Felicia says:

    I bet this is a deal made between Amazon and the big houses. Here is one example: in the editorial review section, we are allowed to put reviews up to 600 characters for a paperback and up to 1750 characters for an ebook. Now go to Dan Brown’s pages and see how many stuff he could put there (even pictures). This is not a fair game.

    We indie authors write good stuff. Very few readers will buy it at first, but then they get excited and want to help spread the words. The good reviews bring in more sales. Now the agents and publishers are losing their business so they make a deal with Amazon to make sure that we indie authors stay poor. That’s what the whole thing is about.

    Same thing with the KDP select. Having heard so many good things about it, I enrolled in it right after I published the ebook. Then I ran a one-day promotion, got hundreds of downloads, and my sails went down afterwards. Probably because my potential customers all got what they wanted for free! I felt cheated (I spent all those years writing a novel just to hook more readers with the lovely Kindle platform), and along with the review removal issue I wanted to explore the Nook market, and then realized I had to wait for the 90-day period to be over.

    Now think about it. How can free books help us make more money? The only way I could think of is by generating more reviews. And then they remove the reviews! Amazon is playing a dangerous game. B&N is laughing. Let’s wait and see!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m not sure I agree with everything you say but I certainly appreciate you sharing your thoughts.
      I wish you the best of luck!

  62. Pingback: Pondering Reviews, Community – and a Bit of Goodreads « All About Romance’s News & Commentary Blog

  63. Renée Pawlish says:

    I have been asked to modify a comment from this person because she is concerned about repercussions from Amazon – how sad that this situation has made her feel she can’t have her comments with her name and info on a blog. I have asked and received permission to edit her comments because her Amazon experience is pertinent to the discussion. Here is the edited comment:

    This is such a terribly depressing situation for everyone involved in Indie publishing. It was extremely difficult for me to provide ARC (Advance Reader Copies) to a few people that I know and then request a review. I did it through my FaceBook because I could attach a .PDF and message them easily and plus provide a link to the book on Amazon. For whatever reason, being shy in some ways, not liking to be selfish, ask for things, I only decided to ask for reviews when I learned my book’s KDP Giveaway days (over the Thanksgiving 2012 weekend) would not likely be listed on certain sites unless I got some reviews. I sent a version of the following to a few people (who like to shop on Amazon the way bees like to drink nectar):
    Hey lovely Xxxxxx:
    Any chance you could write a review of my book on Amazon? I’ve attached it as a .PDF. You can say in your review, that you just started it, etc. I am about to do a giveaway promo but certain sites won’t include me until I have 4-6 reviews up (I just have one). I would only want you to be honest and don’t feel obligated to do it all. Miss you and hope you are well. Xoxo
    Ps. Only needs to be a 20+ or so word review.
    [link removed]
    download
    So, a few people said yes and read/reviewed. Now those reviews are all being removed. Obviously I failed to note and state that they reviewers had to include a comment specifying that they received a “complimentary ARC” copy.
    But turns out there are people chatting in the KDP forum for authors about “Amazon Verified” purchase reviews being deleted. Rather than fight Amazon, or make fun of them, or vlog about them, or make a vlog of myself making fun of them, I’ve decided to publish again… ASAP.
    Whether Kindle remains my primary platform, my greatest strength will be in creating lots of quality intellectual property as quickly as possible. Blessings to everyone. It’s a sad day in capitalism when a cashier dictates what gets sold, and not the customer (in this case a reader).

    My response:
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I think what makes the whole review removal issue so frustrating is that no one can truly figure out what the rules are because Amazon doesn’t stick to its own written rules. And they won’t answer anyone’s questions either.
    It is unfortunate, but we indie authors can control our fate, at least to a certain degree. We are not beholden solely to Amazon – we can publish elsewhere. Unfortunately, Amazon seems to be the best platform out there, but I do hear of indie authors who sell well at other outlets, so it is possible.

    The author’s reply:
    You are so welcome for the sharing. I appreciate your response:

    “It is unfortunate, but we indie authors can control our fate, at least to a certain degree. We are not beholden solely to Amazon – we can publish elsewhere.” ~Renée Pawlish

    That is next on my agenda. When I have a certain amount of content published, I will explore other publishing options and do whatever it takes to entertain readers.

    Thank you so much for this post. Courage, inspired and very, very helpful.

  64. Kathy says:

    What are some other places that indie authors are successfully selling their books?

  65. Renée Pawlish says:

    Barnes & Noble (I just read about an indie author who had been established at B&N, then he went exclusive to Amazon with KDP Select and was lamenting that, now that he is back with B&N, he’s having to re-establish his book rankings), Smashwords, Kobo, Apple and more. Smashwords will distribute to most, if not all, of these, and you can go directly to these publishers, but read the fine print. Sometimes it’s better to use Smashwords, although I think for B&N it’s better to distribute on your own. Perhaps I should do a post on this :) .

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