Sunday, November 4

Amazon Reviews Are Disappearing

Amazon Reviews Are Disappearing

I had heard about Amazon reviews mysteriously disappearing before Joe Konrath blogged about it, but Joe laid it out in such a way that there was no mistaking what was happening, especially when writer after writer wrote in confirming their books were losing reviews. But not just that. Reviews they had written were vanishing as well.

[Update Nov 5, 2012: I've included an update at the end of this article. We've figured out at least two things that will cause Amazon to remove a review.]

The Disappearing Reviews


Joe writes:
I've been buried in a book deadline for all of October, and haven't been paying much attention to anything else. When I finally took some time to catch up reading email, I noticed I had many authors (more than twenty) contacting me because their Amazon reviews were disappearing. Some were the ones they wrote. Some were for their books. One author told me that reviews her fans had written--fans that were completely unknown to her--had been deleted.

I took a look at the reviews I'd written, and saw more than fifty of them had been removed, namely reviews I did of my peers. I don't read reviews people give me, but I do keep track of numbers and averages, and I've also lost a fair amount of reviews. (Joe Konrath, Amazon Removes Reviews)
The question is: Why were these reviews deleted?

No one knows.

Amazon's Response


Yes, Amazon customer representatives have sent various replies and these replies have been shared. Here's one, posted by Michelle Gagnon on the Kill Zone blog in the article Et Tu, Amazon?
I'm sorry for any previous concerns regarding your reviews on our site. 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.

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.

I understand that you are upset, and I regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on this matter.
One thing I'd like to note, it seems that reviews have been disappearing from traditionally published authors as well as independently published authors.

I don't like writing about the disappearing reviews on Amazon because I like the company. It helps indie authors make a living from their work. That said, this is an issue I think we all need to be aware of.

My feeling is that Amazon needs to tweek whatever software it's using to identify objectionable reviews. Hopefully they'll do this soon and restore the legitimate ones.

I'm interested in hearing from you. Have you lost reviews?

Update Nov 5, 2012: Why Some Amazon Reviews Have Been Removed


I'm not saying this explains the lion's share of the disappearing reviews, but it may help some folks understand what's okay and what isn't when it comes to reviewing.

Amazon Verified Reviews

Amazon verified reviews must be from folks who purchased the books with their own money.

If an author buys an Amazon gift certificate for the price for the price of the book and sends it to someone who then buys their book ... well, that's fine of course. It's a thoughtful gift. The only problem is, if the person likes the book and decides to review it, they can't. Such a review would be against Amazon's guidelines since they were compensated for the review.

In Amazon's eyes it's fine to send a copy of your book to a reviewer (in which case it would NOT be an Amazon verified review) but it's not okay for them to get any sort of gift, monetary or otherwise, for providing the review.

For more on this read: Cheating with supply of review copies - the Amazon Verified Purchase scam.

Reviews From A Competitor

It seems that if you're an author, traditional or indie, who has merged your author's account with your amazon account if you then review the work of another author, your review will likely be removed. It seems that Amazon doesn't want authors reviewing each others work.

I was devastated by this--it seemed very unfair--until someone pointed out that the overwhelming number of reviews didn't come from authors. For more on this see: Amazon Reviewhouhaha.

Further reading on Amazon's disappearing reviews:


- Joe Konrath's article, Amazon Removes Reviews
- Michelle Gagnon's article over at Kill Zone: Et Tu, Amazon?
- (Update [Nov 4]: I just found this article on Salon.com: Authors cannot review authors on Amazon.)
- (Update [Nov 5]: Amazon removes book reviews by fellow authors.)
- (Update [Nov 5]: Amazon Reviewhouhaha.)
- (Update [Nov 5]: Lost some reviews? -- Kindleboard thread.)
I would encourage anyone intersted in researching this matter to read the comments to these articles. Writers have been sharing their experiences as well as links to other resources on the web. - Here's a link to Amazon's General Review Creation Guidelines.

Other articles you might be interested in:

- Does Amazon KDP Select Drive Away True Fans?
- Ian McEwan Believes The Novella Is The Perfect Form Of Prose Fiction
- NaNoWriMo: A Survival Guide

Photo credit: "Three Trees" by PhotoDu.de / CreativeDomainPhotography.com under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

9 comments:

  1. As other people also have noticed, Amazon is changing some of their policies. And because we're the direct victims of these policies, we should keep an eye out for updates and make sure we have our backup plan for it. Thanks for sharing the post with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a sad day. Amazon made a huge mistake with how they've chosen to handle this issue--sock-puppet reviews--but I'm hoping they'll realize what they're doing doesn't make any sense.

      Thanks for your comment, Jordan.

      I wanted to update my article with a link to a post over at the Guardian: Amazon removes book reviews by fellow authors (Nov 5, 2012). Here's the url:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/nov/05/amazon-removes-book-reviews

      Delete
  2. Good articles about this issue are popping up like mushrooms after a rain. Here's another:

    "Amazon Reviewhouhaha" by Sean Cregan over at the nameless horror blog. Here's the url:

    http://namelesshorror.com/post/34778277625/amazon-reviewhouhaha

    Also, Barry Eisler and others get into it in the comments about why Amazon has changed its review policies.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great discussion thread started by Jeff Menapace entitled "Lost some reviews?" over on Kindleboards.com:

    http://www.kindleboards.com/index.php/topic,129759.0.html

    It's 7 pages long and and has been viewed about 7,000 times since Oct 15th.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for this article, Karen - I was alerted to it by @DelDeviant on Twitter. I've had a few gone missing; happily, they were on books which have so many that I can't work out which ones have gone!

    I'm pleased to have discovered your blog, as it appears to contain many items of interest - am signing up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Terry, sorry to hear some of your reviews disappeared, though it's fortunate their disappearance won't affect your books.

      Thanks for you kind words! Best of luck. :)

      Delete
  5. Amazon is deleting legitimate positive reviews without any sort of trial or explanation and allowing fraudulent negative reviews to remain, even though they are clearly from competitors or from people who clearly haven't read the book in question. And now they are removing the tags that help readers find books.

    What else are they going to do to destroy the independent author market?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Interesting. I just checked my books and the tags have vanished.

      I also checked Stephen King's book 11/22/63 and for the paperback, hardcover, and Kindle editions no tags are visible. For instance, here is a link to the paperback edition:
      http://www.amazon.com/11-22-63-A-Novel/dp/1451627297/ref=tmm_pap_title_0

      Here is the link to an excellent blog post on blog The Pop Culture Divas:
      http://www.thepopculturedivas.com/2013/01/tags-amazon-playing-selective-game-again.html

      Thanks for mentioning this issue.

      Delete
  6. The problem with any product based reviews is that you are more likely to receive negative reviews than positive reviews. For example, if I someone buys a new TV and it works fine they don’t bother giving it a review but if the TV doesn’t work they will and the same applies to any product including books. A better way would be to allow buyers to simply rate the book from 1-10 this could be done on the Amazon book page or via an Amazon email voting box after buying the product. People will tick a Rating box but most don’t want to write elaborate reviews so you are subsequently left with unhelpful reviews.

    ReplyDelete

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