Here’s a doozy of a question: Does Amazon have the right to delete customer reviews at their own discretion?
Unfortunately, yes. Yes. They. Do.
Case in point:
What you see is a screen shot of my first book, Miss Mabel’s School for Girls. It has 52 reviews . . . but only a few hours before, it had 59.
That’s what I thought, so I went to Google and found this, this, this, and this. Basically, disappearing book reviews on Amazon have become an issue for all kinds of authors. Awhile ago an author named RJ Ellory actually admitted to making fake accounts and posting poor reviews on the books of other authors, so Amazon responded by “policing” reviews.
If you really want to dive into it, there’s the whole No Sock Puppets Here Please petition, where 400 writers gathered together and signed a document, blah, blah, blah. Here’s an interesting article from an author who signed it, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Thanks RJ, for screwing up for the rest of us honest folks . . .
So, naturally, I went to Amazon’s help page to ask them where the hell my reviews went. (All 5 star, mind you.)
Here is Amazon’s help page below. Notice something strange? There’s not a call option if you want to talk to them about customer reviews. (Look on the bottom right hand corner of the photo)
Hmm . . .
So I selected that I was ‘giving feedback’ and had them call me anyway.
The guy I talked to was very nice, and this is certainly not his fault, but essentially it came down to two things, he said.
1. All seven readers deleted their review within a few hours of each other. Makes sense right? OR
2. There’s a glitch in the website and they may reappear later.
That’s it, folks. Someone worked voodoo on my ratings.
Buzzer noise here. Not buying it. This isn’t a glitch. This is Amazon working their magical powers because they can.
Here’s the thing: I’m lucky. I still have 52 reviews and an overall amazing rating, so it won’t affect sales all that much. But for other people who have less reviews? This could be crippling.
It boils down to this:
Amazon is removing reviews written by people they feel have a vested interest in that book.
At least, that’s what they say. To be totally fair, they are trying to respond to what could be a problem: friends jacking up other people’s books with reviews that aren’t true just to help them out, or people paying for reviews, or people making fake accounts and writing negative reviews. I get it. That can be a problem. At least Amazon is doing something, right?
Amazon is removing 5 star reviews from books with only a couple reviews. They are allowing hateful 1 star reviews from people who don’t even read the book but taking away sincere 5 star reviews? Oh, and if you’re an author, don’t review any of your friends books. Because that’s a vested interest. So we can write books, but not reviews?
Methinks I sense a disturbance in the force.
One author had a fan who loved her work contact Amazon about why his review wasn’t going up. They wrote back to say he had a vested interest in the book, so they wouldn’t allow it. He wrote back to tell them a) he wasn’t a seller or competitor on Amazon and b) he received no compensation for writing the review in accordance to their guidelines. He wasn’t breaking any rules here, guys. They told him they’d remove the book from Amazon if he contacted them again. It wasn’t even his book, remember? He just liked the author.
How dare you voice your opinion, crazy reader?
You know what? I say if you want to review a book and have any solidarity, review it on Barnes and Noble and Goodreads as well. I think any author would thank you for that. Maybe in brownies. #browniesaretotallyworthit
Bottom line: It’s not the end of the world. It’s really not. I’ll continue to sell books without those 7 reviews. No doubt I’ll lose more. I still have 49 ratings on Goodreads that aren’t going anywhere. Whatever. It’s life. Amazon isn’t going to go away. I also can’t eat unlimited brownies, and I’ve accepted that. As my good friend Stephanie said, “It’s uphill the whole time, isn’t it?”
But I will say: shame on you, Bezos. You started out as a bookseller, and now you’re biting the hand that fed you.
Air your thoughts, guys. Have you lost reviews on Amazon? Do you think Amazon is an entity that authors should try and avoid? But really- can an indie author afford to avoid the Amazon giant?