OH NO! Amazon eats reviews for breakfast!!!

There's been a lot of fuss lately about Amazon deleting reviews. I so far haven't lost any, but I know authors who have or have had their reviews of other authors' books deleted.

The policy of not allowing people to review "close friends" and relatives is not new by any means. This has always been their policy, and if a review mentions knowing the author, they usually delete it. This is to keep authors from getting all their friends and relations to talk up a book ... most authors I know do not actively pursue reviews from friends/relatives. However, it isn't unusual for them to leave reviews of their own free will. Sometimes they look like regular reviews. Sometimes it's kind of obvious (My grandson is such a sweet boy. He's written such a nice book.) ... either way, it's always technically been against the rules, but you can't control your relatives. 

So that hasn't really changed. What has changed is the "proprietary" system that Amazon is now using to determine who is in violation of this rule. 

Now their reason for keeping it proprietary is partially to stop people from finding a way around it. Like if people figured out it were through whether the reader knows you on Facebook, disconnect your Facebook account from any connection to your author account, or just quit the site altogether ... if it is IP address, use an IP blocker. If it is email, get a second email. 

So because I don't think anyone for sure knows how Amazon is making these choices (and it is probably mostly done by computers anyway. I doubt most of the removed reviews are getting looked at by an actual person. That would just take too much manpower and manpower is expensive), it's hard to really speculate how to avoid triggering their "wrath."

I will say that I do find the new system problematic because it doesn't account for how connected people are in this age of interwebs. All the marketing advice Indies have gotten for the last several years has been about how to connect with our fans. We're encouraged to actively engage, to have social media they can follow us on, to answer emails. Not doing so was seen as marketing suicide. I don't know how many times I've seen authors assert, "You're selling yourself as much as your books." 

So even though I'm on the "don't panic" side of this whole thing, I did sign the Change.org "let's see if we can get Amazon to reconsider" petition (see here).

A couple of notes: I don't think it is fair to call Amazon's new policy censorship. Amazon isn't a forum for the free exchange of ideas. They're a business. Saying that deleting reviews off their own site is "censorship" is kind of like saying you are censored if you get kicked out of Arby's for doing a song and dance routine on their tables. You can't do whatever you want in someone else's place of business because "free speech."

The Arby's thing may or may not be personal experience. My singing voice would get me removed from anywhere.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes! What to do about it!

  1. Sign the petition. No idea if it will help, but it won't hurt.
  2. If you are an author who likes to review, consider having an alternate username/account for reviewing on Amazon. Authors know authors, and Amazon is automatically suspicious of authors who review other authors (so review at all, I guess, unless we're talking about products or books written by Cardassians.). I usually review under a screen-name. It also prevents revenge reviews from authors who didn't like that you left a 3 Star on their poorly plotted baby.
  3. Review on other platforms. A lot of authors are spooked by Goodreads, but the very reason that it can be kind of scary (it does not have much oversight so people can leave troll reviews without fear of them getting deleted or having their account banned) works both ways. Even though Amazon owns Goodreads, they aren't too concerned about policing reviews there. 
  4. Review on a blog: it's your own space. You make the rules.
  5. If you are an author who has lost a review, consider getting it as an "editorial review." If the review is posted on a blog, Amazon isn't too picky about what qualifies. 
  6. I personally doubt a 'like' on a writer's Facebook page is enough to trigger a review removal. If you have a page set up as a personal account rather than an author page, however, it might be. You really need to set up as a page, not a person, when you're doing author stuff. 
  7. Some people have suggested that having gifted the account through Amazon will trigger it. This makes sense, but is problematic if you use this method to get books to Book Bloggers, which I have (it's just easier than trying to email them the file and get them to transfer it onto their Kindles) ... however, this may be a practice we'll have to rethink. So far none of the reviews I've gotten through this process have disappeared, though, so I'm cautiously optimistic that having gifted just the book they review is enough to trigger deletion. 
One thing I've learned in the last year and a half or so of doing this is that being an indie is all about flexibility. It's about admitting that what worked last year, last month, last week might not work any more and looking for another way.  So just keep moving, keep adapting, and keep writing. 

Who knows if Amazon will even be here in another ten years? 


  1. I've seen a lot of speculation about how Amazon tracks people, and I'm betting Facebook is one of those. i always review everything on both Goodreads and Zon, so if something gets deleted, I have a backup.

    1. Facebook is pretty tied into everything, so it's a pretty good guess. I usually do Goodreads, Amazon, and my own blog. I'm hoping that liking an author's Facebook page alone isn't enough to trigger it.

  2. Sounds like I better be careful when reviewing books (I'm trying to get into that habit again.) Goodreads I'm not terribly familiar with yet but I think I'll be putting time into learning the ropes of that site. And maybe keeping a file of all the reviews I write, just in case something gets deleted.

    1. The review system on Goodreads is pretty basic "type and post." It really depends on how much time you want to put into getting to know the "extras" like making your own "shelves" where you sort your books by category or whatever criteria you want . . .which are fun, but I've never had the time to play with them.


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