Amazon Reviews

EllsworthWe all know how important reviews are for authors and books. They can help sell a book, and they can help deter others from buying a book. Some authors call reviews the life-blood of sales. However, I’ve visited a few book-sellers’ pages and looked at popular books and found no reviews—not one. I know they sold well, so why wouldn’t they have reviews?

Reviews sell books to a certain audience, but not to the readers who don’t go online and seek reviews.

Readers look to reviews for an honest assessment of the story to help them to decide if they want to read the book or not. When there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of reviews for a book, there’s usually a wide range of ratings. I’ve seen popular books with many four and five star reviews, but they also have one-star reviews. That’s because one book doesn’t please everyone.

Nicholas C. Rossis wrote a post about Amazon’s review policy and what it might mean to authors. The biggest problem at Amazon is fake reviews. There are several ways they define fake reviews. One is paid-for-reviews posted by companies hired by authors.

The new Amazon review rule that’s the most baffling is: 5) A review by a person you “know” online. Amazon can detect if someone leaving a review is following you on Twitter or befriended you on Facebook. Amazon’s expectation is that a fan will leave a biased review, so it wants only impartial people writing them.

All authors are encouraged to build an online platform to help sell books. That means writing a blog and gathering followers, creating a Twitter account and gathering followers and creating a Facebook author page and gathering followers. Even Goodreads encourages authors and readers to follow and befriend each other.

All this following, befriending and liking doesn’t guarantee a positive review; it doesn’t even guarantee a review at all. To insinuate fans will leave a biased review is idiotic. If I am a fan of an author, just as if I’m a fan of a singer, I’m going to more than likely give a positive review. That’s the whole basis of being a fan; you love their work.

The question is, how in the world can Amazon police this insane rule: authors are supposed to build a fan base. Fans read their books. To eliminate all fans ultimate eliminates a huge percentage of readers.

My theory is, just because Amazon states this rule, it doesn’t mean it will enforce it to the letter. However, it does this give them the power to remove reviews by readers who consistently abuse this rule. How they will sort one from the other will be interesting.

To read the detailed post, visit Amazon Rewrites Review Policy.

Editor Diane Tibert

 

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15 thoughts on “Amazon Reviews

  1. Ernesto, it is a little strange if the policy is read and followed word for word. There was a hint that Amazon wanted to limit (reduce the focus on) self-published authors because they are the ones who actively seek reviews. But if they do that, they’re biting off their own foot.

  2. Diane, I got side-tracked on my last comment. I was going to comment on algorithms. Story on CBC recently about how the data is not always right as some people think. In Boston they had an app for your smart phone that would detect a jolt. The theory was when you drove over a pot hole, your car would jolt and the app would detect this. The plan was to map where the most pot holes were and which streets needed repair. Sounded good. In practice it turned out that most repairs were needed in the high-end parts of the city where the wealthier people lived. The app worked. The data it collected was accurate. The problem was that more wealthy people had smart phones that their less affluent neighbors in poorer parts of the city. Sometimes the math lies.
    In this case there was no deliberate attempt to fudge the figures. If a buck can be made, as in reviews for money, someone will figure out a way to beat the system.

    • Interesting insight into how statistics can be fudged without any help. Many of these sorts of things look great on paper, but when they are put in the field, they don’t actually do what they’re meant to do.

      Of course, there are organisations and governments who know about these flaws and use them to their advantage. Voting in Canada had this type of flaw. Before every Canadian over 18 could vote, voters had to either own property or pay a specific sum of money. This ensured people in a certain financial situation could vote, and because only the man’s name appeared on many property deeds, it also reduced the number of women who could vote. The goal was to have the majority of the voters be men with money.

      Agreed: If a buck can be made, someone will figure out how to beat the system.

      Thanks for visiting and taking the time to comment, Art.

  3. I hear that reviews are the life-blood of indie authors. I have to admit I don’t often do reviews and to be honest, I don’t put much faith in them. I have recently read two books, well one and one-half really, that had all kinds of 5-star-reviews. To put it bluntly, they sucked. I did review one and pointed out why I thought that, the other wasn’t worth reviewing. These weren’t books that were in a genre that I wasn’t interested in. They were bad to the bone because of the way they were written. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the books were bad that upsets me. It was the fact that they had several 5-star-reviews. I accept that we have different tastes, but basic writing skills must exist.
    I read Twistmas, didn’t review it, but enjoyed it. Having read your blog, I feel guilty for not taking the time to write a review. However, if I do will it get scrapped because we are friends?
    Chapter 18, a sleep as two words. .

    • I hear they are the life-blood too, Art. I don’t put a lot of faith in reviews either; they are only one person’s opinion of a book. I’ve read books that sucked that received 5-star reviews, and I wonder who could think it was worth five stars. To me, five stars is an outstanding book, best I’ve ever written kind of feel. Good books fall in the four-star range. Average books get three stars, books that were good enough to read, but weren’t that interesting get two stars, and books that I regret reading get a one star.

      I also agree that good writing skills are good writing skills. A poorly written book is a poorly written book and doesn’t deserve five stars.

      You should feel guilty, Art. We’ll talk at the next meeting. Just kidding. Don’t feel guilty. Life happens. Thanks for reading “Twistmas”.

      I’ll check out ‘a sleep’.

  4. So difficult to get reviews that you hope to start the ball rolling by one of your ‘followers’ posting one so this encourages others to read and post. If that happens, the number of reviews by people known to you is probably minimal. Unless you arm-twist most of your followers to submit reviews. In my experience fellow writers (even those in my writing group) don’t seem interested in writing reviews for the books of others, and most friends aren’t interested or don’t see the point. Difficult.

    • That is so true, Dorothy. It’s just the way things are. Deleting or discouraging reviews by the thousands will not increase Amazon sales. In the end, what hurts author sales also hurts Amazon income.

      I’m guilty of not leaving a lot of review. I don’t read many books during the year, and when I finish a book, my first thought isn’t, “I must leave a review.” I should do more. Perhaps that will be a goal in 2016. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment.

  5. Well, that is quite discouraging. I agree with you, I’ve made ‘friends’ through my blog and Twitter and FB. They in turn see my book promotions and try out my book. Most of them don’t review at all – they don’t get how important a review is to us authors, or they don’t understand how to do it. But those who DO take the time to read and review our books should not be penalized (nor should the author) because we ‘know’ each other via social media.

    • I agree with you, Pam. I’m hoping this is a case of laying out the guidelines but not strictly acting on them.

      The illogical part is if fans can’t review, who does? People who aren’t fans? Well, fans don’t read your books. What is their definition of a fan? Someone who follows you on Twitter? Facebook? Your blog? Who buys/reviews more than one of your books? Is it one of these things or three out of four?

      The fact is, my sister may read and post a review of my book and Amazon would never pick her up. She doesn’t follow me on social media and she has a different last name. So as long as she doesn’t say, “My baby sister wrote the best book ever!” the review would stand as unbiased.

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