Saturday, April 04, 2009

Amazon deletes authors' reviews if book title is in signature



This past week has been a very stressful one as I had to deal with Amazon.com after they suddenly deleted ALL 85 of the reviews I had written for books I'd read.

It took nearly a week to get a straight answer from them, although for the most part, they responded fairly quickly to my numerous emails. And the one customer service rep I spoke with was very kind when telling me that the reviews department wouldn't take calls from reviewers, even if there was a problem.

In Amazon.com's first email, they said ALL my reviews were "inappropriate". That was it. No explanation of why they were suddenly all inappropriate.

The next email said my reviews were deleted because of "the positive campaign", and that they were "inappropriate". When I asked for an explanation of what a "positive campaign" is, they didn't give it. I asked for them to tell me what was inappropriate with each review so I could edit it.

Finally, after many emails, it was resolved. This is the letter that I am now sending to my writer friends and organizations I belong to, in hopes that it will help other authors avoid this problem:


A week ago I found that all 85 of the reviews I've written for other books had been deleted. It has been a very difficult and stressful week dealing with Amazon. They are not very accessible and I was given at least 3 different reasons for why my reviews had been deleted. After numerous emails, this is what it's come down to:

Their final ruling: "Please know that our participation guidelines don't allow customers to promote their own titles in their reviews." If you sign your review with anything other than your name, your reviews could be deleted.

If any of you are in the habit of signing your reviews with something like "..., author of Whale Song", which has been common practice for years, Amazon has deemed this as "inappropriate" and will be deleting them. It seems they're on a campaign to go through reviews posted. They recently made changes to the Amazon Connect program and all our blogs were temporarily gone too. Most are back up.

They also will delete your reviews if you have added the book link (that they supply) and directed it to your own book title's Amazon page. Many authors have used that in their signature line. It can lead to deletion and suspension, according to Amazon's
latest email.

I argued the fact that thousands of authors sign their reviews like this, and that it's common practice in our industry. I was told by my last publisher to sign my reviews like this; he even wanted us to include the ISBN, which I only did a couple of times then stopped. It made no difference to Amazon that this is what my publisher wanted me to do; they aren't accepting signatures with titles.

Amazon is starting to take note of such practices and you'll get no notice; they'll just pull all the reviews you have written. That's what they did with me, even though many of my older reviews were signed with just my name.

So to clarify, according to Amazon, when posting a review, you are not allowed to have a signature of anything more than your name, and NO links to or mention of your books whatsoever in the review or sig line.

I am giving you the heads-up now so you can go in and edit your reviews if you choose. That's what I'd do, to be honest, because fighting with Amazon is not easy. There is no one who will talk to you by phone, and waiting for their response is not easy.

This rule also applies to any comments you leave on a book review. Amazon does not want authors to mention their own books anywhere on the review pages.

I haven't heard from Amazon.ca yet, but I expect this will be funneled over to all the Amazons, so I'll be working on editing my reviews there next week.
I am interested in hearing what others think--both authors and non-authors. Is it fair of Amazon to delete reviews without any warning? Should they give the reviewer the chance to clean up their reviews before axing them? Should authors be allowed to have one book title in their signature line (ie....Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author of Whale Song)? Does it really matter; are you more inclined to buy the book if another author says it's good?

My intention here is not to bash Amazon. I appreciate that they put my reviews back. My intention is to educate authors about this new change in Amazon's policies--and it IS a change since authors have been doing this for years and it's not even on Amazon's review guidelines, even though they argue that it's elsewhere in their many-paged rule book.

Others who have blogged about this:

I'll update you on this and on more links where this is being discussed.

Note: If you would like to quote me (in whole or in part) regarding the Amazon review issue on your blog or newsletter, you may, providing you include the following information at the end:

Reprinted with permission from Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author and Book Marketing Coach, http://www.cherylktardif.com/

Thank you,

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
AUTHOR OF WHALE SONG! (so there!) ;-)
http://www.cherylktardif.com/

5 comments:

Serena said...

I wonder if they will be doing that with bloggers who have their blog titles in their signatures of reviews that they cross-post.

~Sia McKye~ said...

I don't agree with this decision of Amazon. Many of us, whether published author or an author of a blog, have our names linked to our work.

An established author writing a reveiw of another's book does make a difference, in my opinion, on the sale of a book.

It's good business. It rewards the author for taking the time to write a review and it rewards the author being reviewed.

Do I think reviews should have arbitrarily removed without warning? Absolutely not. If there is a change in policy, warning should be given--especially when it's been a standard policy practiced for years. Amazon, to put it bluntly, needs to get their heads out of their ass.

Ray said...

Bit bureaucratic.
Though I review as a reader - not as a writer.

Nik said...

Thanks for the headsup; I may have done something like this a couple of reviews out of 70-odd.
Amazon are being silly and seem to be treating potential readers as idiots.
Surely it's much better to know that the reviewer is a writer/author/scriptwriter rather than conceal the fact.
True, on some book covers you can see pals boosting pals' books, old school buddies or whatever, and Dan Brown springs to mind, but seriously where is this going to end? Maybe next they'll want book covers revised?
Nik Morton
(Author of Pain Wears No Mask, The Prague Manuscript, Last Chance Saloon (Ross Morton)) - so there!

Cheryl Tardif, author and book marketing coach said...

This issue has now been resolved.

Amazon reinstates author's reviews after deleting them - divine intervention?

I am happy with their assistance in dealing with this.

Cheryl