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Thread: Amazon's latest policy: authors can't review other authors' books

  1. #1
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Amazon's latest policy: authors can't review other authors' books

    ...because they have a "financial interest" in the product.

    I read of this today on Jenna Glatzer's Facebook page; someone in her comment thread cites this article: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov...books-20121102
    That's what Weddle wanted to know. He followed up, stating that he had no financial interest in the book. The response reiterated what Amazon had already stated, using the same language as before. "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," Amazon repeated. The company added a new closing: "We have removed your reviews as they are in violation of our guidelines. We will not be able to go into further detail about our research.
    Jenna says that she wrote to Amazon about this and received a weird reply. I'm going to ask her if I can use her full quote, but the gist if it is that amazon replied to her and said they won't accept reviews by authors writing in the same genre of books they are reviewing.

    And they will only accept positive reviews from other authors.

    Words fail me.
    Last edited by aruna; 12-27-2012 at 03:12 PM.

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  2. #2
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    I ought to add that I do understand the policy a little bit. I had written a negative review for a version of The Mahabharata that I felt was quite bad. The review was up for several years. Then last year I self-pubbed my own Mahabharata version, and one of the first things I did was remove that bad review. I felt it reflected badly on me to have a negative review up for a book that mine was competing against directly. But it was the SAME book, the same story, that is, just written differently.

    But to think I cannot write negative reviews for novels I want to throw against the wall - again, words fail me!
    Last edited by aruna; 12-27-2012 at 02:04 PM.

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  3. #3
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    OK, Jenna has given permission to quote, so here's what she says:

    [This is bizarre. I read about Amazon's new policy of not letting authors review books, and I wrote to them to clarify. Here's what they wrote back:

    Hello Jenna,

    I understand you would like to know if Amazon.com is going to take away the ability of Authors to reviews books. Thanks for taking the time to contact us about this.

    Authors are allowed to review books on Amazon.com as long as they are not in the same genre as the reviewer's own book. Also, the reviews must be positive and within guidelines. Please see our posted guidelines on what is acceptable content:

    http://www.amazon.com/review-guidelines/

    ------------
    The reviews must be positive?! I don't... even...

    And I've written 21 books now. Odds are that every book I want to review is in a genre I've written. I can never review a memoir again? Or a children's book? Or a self-help book? Or a book for writers? Or a YA book? Or a biography? Or... oh, my head hurts.

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  4. #4
    practical experience, FTW Sunwords's Avatar
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    Amazon - no, I don't need to understand this. Getting crazier and crazier, I suppose.

  5. #5
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    I've been reading about this elsewhere.

    Writers who write in a specific genre are often the most well-informed within that genre, as they tend to read widely and to understand its history and conventions. That means the're better placed than most of us to review books within the same genre, as they can bring a broader context to their reviews.

    This new policy is both extraordinary and ridiculous. I understand what Amazon was hoping to achieve: but this isn't going to do it.

  6. #6
    She who must be obeyed Amanda R.'s Avatar
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    That is ridiculous. Fellow writers are going to be the bulk of reviewers and they are probably more qualified to review books than most people. The only change I was hoping to see was that writers shouldn't be allowed to reply to (that is "attack") reviewers who left negative feedback on their books since it discourages honest reviews. But it looks like authors can still do that.

    And as for the "the reviews must be positive" requirement, that is just stupid. Don't tell me how to review books. If a book is bad, I should be able to tell other readers why. I guess we will all have to make dummy accounts to get honest reviews out there.
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  7. #7
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Oh boy. Looks like I can expect all my book reviews to mysteriously vanish from Amazon.com at some point in the future.
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    This is crazy. I think experienced authors who write in the same genre as other authors they would be reviewing, I think those reviews will help this author because the reviewer has the experience and the knowledge to know what he or she's talking about.

    Amazon's policies are getting more and more nonsensical. Looks like we're going to have to work with some other online bookstore, guys.

  9. #9
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    I think I'm going to have to stick to Goodreads to share my reviews. I'm not always the biggest fan of GR because of it's tendancies towards drama and snarky reviews, but at least they're never tried to tell me how to write a review.

    (And my own site will always be the main place for my reviews. There's no beating having your own domain when it comes to control.)
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  10. #10
    I'm already a real writer. Katrina S. Forest's Avatar
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    So the whole problem that I thought this might solve when I read the title (authors swapping 5-star reviews with each other when they've never read each other's books) is actually still permitted by this policy?

    But another author who's honestly read the book and doesn't think it deserves 5-stars can't say so?

    The only thing this solves is revenge reviews. And I'm not sure the trade-off is worth it.
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  11. #11
    practical experience, FTW
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    This was recent and is all because of what happened with RJ Ellory really and his fake pseudonymous reviews. So you can thank RJ Ellory for the new policy.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...crackdown.html

  12. #12
    a demon for tea EMaree's Avatar
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    Joanne Harris [snip] called for an overhaul to the review guidelines, particulary for the "star system" to be abandoned.
    "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble," she said.
    "It is a pity. Orginally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt."
    I was surprised to find myself agreeing with Ms Harris. This seems like a good idea, and the best way to salvage the review system. I doubt it would be as commercially effective, though, unless they ordered reviews by 'likes' or reviewer popularity like Goodreads does.
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  13. #13
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    Oh, dear. I've had the annoying problem that Amazon has thought I was my husband since the day I first registered, and nothing seems to convince them otherwise.

    I don't mind that that means Amazon prevents me from reviewing his books (which feels like it skirts the unethical anyway), nor even that Amazon would prevent me from reviewing books he has reviewed.

    But if Amazon deletes not only his reviews, but all of my reviews of books in his genres because of this, I shall be seriously honked off.
    Last edited by Alessandra Kelley; 12-27-2012 at 05:43 PM.

  14. #14
    Sophipygian AW Moderator Alessandra Kelley's Avatar
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    I also wonder at this policy, which in one fell swoop eliminates the best qualified most professional reviews in every category.

    What about really prolific authors who write in lots of genres?

    Isaac Asimov, it is said, had books published in all ten major categories of the Dewey Decimal system.

    By Amazon's new rules that would disqualify him from reviewing anything in any of them.

    I would rather read Asimov's opinion on a science book than that of someone with no published science cred.

    This is an astonishingly stupid and short-sighted policy.

  15. #15
    Eight Legs, All Holding Pens ArachnePhobia's Avatar
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    I demand this policy be fair. If people who write books cannot review the books they read because of a "conflict of interest," then musicians should not be able to review albums, college kids who get drunk and make slasher movies with corn syrup and whatever they have around the dorm should not be allowed to review DVD's, engineers and fabricators should not be allowed to review the tools they use (conflict of interest, y'see), and nobody with any tenuous connection to the thing they are reviewing that might put them in a position to actually, y'know, review it should be allowed to review it. Then consumers will be assured they are reading reviews that come only from pure motives, like:

    "This product rocks! But the box got dented in shipping, so I'm giving it one star."
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  16. #16
    Geekzilla BigWords's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EMaree View Post
    (And my own site will always be the main place for my reviews. There's no beating having your own domain when it comes to control.)
    This^

    Personally, I find that Amazon is irrelevant as a source of reviews. I've tried to read some of the reviews there, but the "OMG, just WOWOWOWOW. Sososogood." comments make me want to smash my had against the monitor repeatedly in a futile attempt to damage the braincells used to process the things I am reading.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alessandra Kelley View Post
    This is an astonishingly stupid and short-sighted policy.
    And thus perfectly in keeping with everything else Amazon has done in the last few years.
    The blog, which may not be updated regularly enough. -- I'm linking to other AW blogs here. -- There's some nonsense here when I can be bothered.
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  17. #17
    Whatever I did, I didn't do it. Phaeal's Avatar
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    They just make GoodReads look better and better. This is the sort of scorched earth policy that institutions apply when they won't or can't winnow the wheat from the chaff.

    I think Amazon has a financial interest in displaying nothing but positive reviews.
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  18. #18
    Mildly Disturbing Filigree's Avatar
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    I agree. Barely literate 5-star reviews serve Amazon perfectly well, to drive other clueless readers to fluff that might or might not sell on its own. They don't help informed readers.

    I don't use GoodReads to its full extent, but I'l concentrate my review efforts toward the GR boards in the future. I want to be able to give a poor review to work that deserves it. I don't mind possible revenge reviews in return.

  19. #19
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I think Amazon reviews are still hugely influential with the general readership. And they are with me too.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BigWords View Post
    I've tried to read some of the reviews there, but the "OMG, just WOWOWOWOW. Sososogood." comments make me want to smash my had against the monitor repeatedly in a futile attempt to damage the braincells used to process the things I am reading.
    I read a review like that, and I wonder whether the reviewer is actually saying aloud, "Wow-wow-wow-wow! So-so-so good!" Because at least then it would be onamatapoetically representative. But if the sounds they are actually trying to represent are "WO----W! So--- good," then there's nothing for it but the spray bottle.

    Compare also:

    Said: "Oh my God! That is sooooo niiiiiiiiiice."
    Texted: "OMG! Ssssooosososososo niiicccceeeeee!"

    ...Nnnnnaiiiii-ssseeeeee? Urgh. It makes my forehead hurt.
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  21. #21
    crazy mean SuperModerator Old Hack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by fireluxlou View Post
    This was recent and is all because of what happened with RJ Ellory really and his fake pseudonymous reviews. So you can thank RJ Ellory for the new policy.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...crackdown.html
    It wasn't just Ellory who brought these problems to everyone's attention: Stephen Leather's admission that he wrote sockpuppet reviews--positive ones for his own books, negative ones for those of other writers--kicked things off, I think.

  22. #22
    On a wing and a prayer aruna's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by veinglory View Post
    I think Amazon reviews are still hugely influential with the general readership. And they are with me too.
    Me too. And the thing is, it's the negative reviews that I always go to first, even when I loved the book. I just like reading what other people have to say.
    The article linked to in the OP makes a good point in referencing the reviewer ranking system. For me, a ranked reviewer carries far more weight than someone I never heard of. I used to be belong to the amazon Reviewer Community (this was years ago, before I joined AW) and so e of these people take reviewing as seriously as we take writing. I was always happy to get a review from a ranked reviewer for my own books.
    Last edited by aruna; 12-27-2012 at 10:54 PM.

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  23. #23
    Geekzilla BigWords's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NicoleJLeBoeuf View Post
    I read a review like that, and I wonder whether the reviewer is actually saying aloud, "Wow-wow-wow-wow! So-so-so good!" Because at least then it would be onamatapoetically representative.
    Having spent too long looking at Amazon already (and subjecting myself to the kind of "reviews" which makes me look forward to losing my eyesight) I can safely state this - there hasn't been a single thing written on Amazon's reviews which has changed my mind about anything I was on the line about. There have been threads here which have convinced me to pick up a title I was unsure about. There have been reviews on Goodreads which have made me pick up books. There hasn't been anything on Amazon which has pushed me to spend money. Not a single review.

    I'm not saying that all of the reviews on Amazon are bad. I'm just stating that I have yet to be sufficiently encouraged to hand over money due entirely to a review there.



    BTW, I hang out on a reading forum from time to time, and I read through my Goodreads update emails for things to add to the TBR list. I also spend time perusing review blogs I trust, and ask people what I should be reading. There are places where reviews are appropriate, and I still don't see the point of either eBay or Amazon carrying reviews. I don't go into Tesco and get reviews of the various breads they have on sale before I decide which to purchase. Those sites are for shopping, and I do the ground-work on what I want to purchase before I venture forth to the wilderness.
    The blog, which may not be updated regularly enough. -- I'm linking to other AW blogs here. -- There's some nonsense here when I can be bothered.
    Don't hold your breath...

    Quote Originally Posted by AbielleRose View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by aliwood View Post
    The SFF Review Educational Supplement is now open. I'll be listing books, podcasts, online courses and anything else that aims to help the SFF writer improve their skills, provided they're free. (the books, podcasts, online courses and anything else, not the writers)




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  24. #24
    Your Genial Uncle Absolute Sage James D. Macdonald's Avatar
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    A snarky one-star review is better for sales than no review at all.

  25. #25
    practical experience, FTW
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    Quote Originally Posted by Old Hack View Post
    It wasn't just Ellory who brought these problems to everyone's attention: Stephen Leather's admission that he wrote sockpuppet reviews--positive ones for his own books, negative ones for those of other writers--kicked things off, I think.
    I forgot about Leather. RJ Ellory just doesn't quit, he's now banned from wikipedia, he tried to amend his page the other day.

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