Tired of Amazon Removing Your Hard-Won Book Reviews? Sign this Petition!

I find this incredibly annoying myself. Amazon tells us we need reviews in order to sell books. It encourages us to “gift” copies of our books (at our expense) to reviewers and bloggers in exchange for their honest review. And then it refuses to post those reviews even when they contain the proper disclosure of “I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.”

Even worse, it sometimes purges reader reviews when it suspects the author and reader know one another through social media. Um, how else are we supposed to sell books, except on social media? I mean, really, how deep an acquaintance can I possibly have with each of my 16,000 Twitter followers? This is clearly going too far.

Not everyone gets what a big deal this is. I’ve even heard people say that if we want more reviews, we should simply sell more books to readers – because it’s that easy, right? But how are we supposed to sell books without reviews, especially if we can’t even sell them through social media? Or are we merely supposed to trust that the Amazon algorithms will eventually kick in and provide us with the audience we need?

And personally, I find it particularly irritating that the only reviews that ever seem to get purged are the good ones. Why isn’t Amazon removing the thousands of reviews that say, “I didn’t get around to reading this book. One star,” and “I hate this genre but the book was free so I downloaded it. I hated it. One star.”

This is not merely a question of authors whining over getting a few bad reviews or not enough good ones. The fact is, most of us only sell books when we pay for advertising – and most of the sites that will accept your book for promotion REQUIRE a certain number of reviews and a certain rating, usually over 4 stars. When Amazon removes reviews without good cause, it is therefore creating a situation in which it becomes difficult or even impossible for us to sell books. We pay dearly for that, and even if they don’t know it yet, Amazon does, too.

I agree wholeheartedly that the review system needs reform. If you agree, too, please consider signing the following petition, which currently has over 14,000 supporters. And send a thank you to Jas Ward (@jastward) for crafting the petition and to Claudette Melanson (@Bella623) for inviting me to sign it on Goodreads. Don’t let Amazon, see, though – they might think you know each other!

http://chn.ge/1K24Pz9

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32 thoughts on “Tired of Amazon Removing Your Hard-Won Book Reviews? Sign this Petition!

  1. mandy

    I’m just a couple days post pub and already they’ve denied two reviews claiming I know the person. He’ll yeah I know some of people who will be reviewing. They bought the book- they should be able to review. My question is: HOW do they know I know them? Different last names. Different address. Not related in any way. It’s making a lot of people upset.

    Liked by 1 person

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      1. mandy

        A couple of mine did a review and noticed it wasn’t going up. They gave it a couple days and tried again and got a pop up saying “Your review has been denied because it falls into one of four categories — seemingly related.” Excuse me- if a family member buys the book (these weren’t) the should be able to have an opinion about the book!

        Liked by 2 people

      2. lorilschafer Post author

        Yeah, that sounds typical. The ones I know I’ve lost have just gone missing into the ether without any notice at all, but most authors I’ve talked to have seen similar pop-ups. What I wonder, though, is how many reviews have gone missing without any notification? I mean, unless someone tells me, I have no way of knowing, and most people, I think, are not going to check back to see if their review is still up. It’s frustrating and a waste of everyone’s time.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. elainemansfield

        As of September 27, six weeks after I heard of this here and verified it elsewhere, none of my Amazon reviews have disappeared and new ones have arrived. I can’t imagine how maddening this is, but it’s important to know not everyone is having this experience. I can’t say why I’m spared.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. lorilschafer Post author

      This is part of the problem, Mandy – Amazon doesn’t disclose that information, so there’s no way to know how they’re determining that you’re “related.” The rumors I’ve heard suggest that it can happen if there’s been a transaction on your Amazon account that involves that person – say, if you gifted them a copy of your book, or even if, in the case of a friend or family member, you sent them a gift three Christmases ago that had nothing to do with your book. Others speculate that Amazon has methods for tapping into social media, because I know of quite a few authors who have complained of having reviews removed from people they knew only through Twitter or Facebook. One thing is certain – it’s annoying and ridiculous. Here you spend all this time building up a following, and then it’s like you’re being punished for doing what you were supposed to do. Apparently the only people who are allowed to review your book are complete strangers who have never heard of you :(

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      No, none of the reviews I’ve posted have been removed yet (that I know of). I have had people contact me to let me know that their reviews of MY books have been refused, though :(

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  2. elainemansfield

    Thanks for clarity and an action plan. My reviews are not touched. I haven’t paid for reviews, but don’t know how they would know whether or not I did. Sometimes people review and then become a FB friend. This is nuts. Too much spying and conniving.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      Yeah, when they tell you the best way to sell books is through social media, and then refuse to allow reviews from people you know through social media, it’s hard for an author to know what to do. And the situation you describe is very common – you get to know someone precisely because they read your book or you read theirs. Then if you want to be friends, you risk losing the reviews!

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  3. nickiuppa

    I’m signing. But I have to say that I always thought that Amazon was pretty draconian in their methods of determining the validity of reviews. When someone asks me to review a book, I always try to BUY the book so I don’t have to deal with the issue of “gifted” books or feel obliged to write a four or five star review (though if I really don’t like a book by a new writer I send the author a personal message; I don’t review the book on line.) If Amazon starts looking for commonality, especially for authors I’ve reviewed frequently, I’m afraid they’ll start taking down my reviews of the works of Lori Schafer, and Stephen King, and Tom Robbins.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. lorilschafer Post author

      Personally, I wouldn’t mind it so much if the policies were clear and consistently enforced. I’ve seen countless instances of “review circles” in action, which surely must provide a far larger number of questionable reviews than the few generated by authors who are loosely acquainted via social media. It really does put those authors who try to follow the vague and ill-explained rules at a disadvantage, and that does nothing for anybody.

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  4. Christie Maurer

    Thank you so much for doing this! I’m a new author and some folks were told they couldn’t review my book because they knew me. So who’s supposed to review it? Should I hand copies out to passers-by in the street??

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      Apparently, yes, you are! Let me know if it works, because believe me, I’ve put a ton of hours into sending out free books to readers in exchange for reviews and it’s pretty darned frustrating seeing them get disallowed :(

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Charli Mills

    “Even worse, it sometimes purges reader reviews when it suspects the author and reader know one another through social media.” Are you kidding me? How else are we to “get to know our readers” if not through social media. Do they not understand the basic marketing principle of relationships with customers/readers? Relationships! That’s like Yelp or Travelocity dumping reviews because a person might have actually have met the people who own the store/restaurant/hotel. Ridiculous! Marketing relies on building relationships. And for that matter, if my friend from childhood wanted to review my book, so what?! Or my college professor? Or my former employees? Or my neighbor? Relationships do not matter. If you are good at building them, that’s a strength for your marketing. It shouldn’t be a punishment. Thanks for making us aware and giving us the links to the petition!

    Liked by 4 people

    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      That is exactly what makes it so ridiculous! Building a readership through social media is Marketing 101. And I find it very strange that Amazon’s policies seem to favor the alternative – just don’t sell any books at all :(

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Sarah Brentyn

    What?! Really? Am I the only person who didn’t know about this? I’d say I understand removing extremely biased reviews but I don’t. I mean, if your parents want to say how great your book is, they should be able to do that.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      I see where Amazon is coming from on this, I really do, but their means of execution does little to serve the purpose for which it’s intended. And the irony is that it pushes authors to pursue far more unethical means of obtaining reviews, most of which have a much more negative effect on the reader experience than the one or two reviews an author might get from a parent or sibling.

      Liked by 2 people

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  7. Annecdotist

    Thanks for posting this, Lori. It certainly seems bizarre. I hate the idea that I might be encouraging readers who have liked my novel to share it with the wider world via Amazon, only to have their time wasted by having their words deleted, with no comeback or explanation. Yes, I’ll be signing the petition.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply
    1. lorilschafer Post author

      I know exactly how you feel, Anne. A few weeks ago I had a rather lengthy email exchange with a reader who was trying to post a review that Amazon refused without telling her why. I wrote to Amazon to ask for a reason, but of course they “can’t disclose that information.” So what do I tell this lady who went to some trouble to write a review? Thank you, and sorry, I guess. If your reader is on Goodreads, they can still post there, though, so at least the work isn’t totally wasted.

      Liked by 2 people

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