Sunday, April 05, 2009

An update on my battle with Amazon over deleted reviews



Since breaking the news yesterday about my battle with Amazon over reviews (ones I wrote on books I'd read) that they deleted because I included author of Whale Song in my signature line, I've received emails and phone calls from concerned authors, many who tracked me down via the Internet after reading about me on Twitter, The Write Type or John Kremer's Marketing Tips email. Some authors have already discovered missing reviews; some have gone through the same hassle I did.

The fact that Amazon is now going through reviews written by authors and deleting them if they reference the author reviewer's book title has created a huge stir. People are talking about it, blogging about it, and there could be authors out there wondering why their reviews are all deleted, since Amazon gives no warning before the axe comes down.

I highly recommend that if you're an author you edit your reviews now and have only your name as a signature. You cannot mention your own book title in any review or review comment. Trust me, you do not want to go through the week of hell that I just did. The Amazon review department is only accessible via email.

Amazon's emails gave me the following reasons for my suddenly missing reviews:

1st email: I have checked with the appropriate department and found that all the reviews submitted by you were inappropriate, as a result all the reviews are removed.
(My response: what does "inappropriate" mean and why are they all inappropriate?)

2nd email: We've checked with the concerned department and found that your customer reviews were removed because of the positive campaign and these reviews do not adhere to our guidelines.
(My response: what does "positive campaign" mean and where is this a rule in the review guidelines?)

3rd email: We always strive to provide a high level of service, and we would appreciate your feedback. Please let us know if we resolved your inquiry.
(My response: That's it? Of course this didn't resolve things!)

4th email: We have again reevaluated your reviews and found that you have included links to books written by you. Please note that linking to products you have a financial investment in, such as books you've written, is prohibited. The use of these links, both within your reviews and in your review signature, resulted in the suspension of your reviews from our website. Our guidelines do prohibit authors from posting positive reviews for their own books or negative reviews for competing books.
(Well, at least they were more specific. Finally! Something I could work with. My response: It doesn't say we can't use the link tool for our book title in our signature on the review guidelines. And I've never reviewed my own books or written negative reviews for competing books.)

5th email: We need to research this situation further, and it'll take a bit more time than usual. I will write back to you on April 4, with the resolution pertaining to your inquiry.
(They were true to their word and emailed me on the 4th.)

6th email: We have reviewed your previous correspondences and all the reviews submitted by you. Please know that our participation guidelines don't allow customers to promote their own titles in their reviews. **** The use of the Service for commercial purposes such as advertising, promotion, or solicitation *****
(My response: When I read the guidelines for writing reviews, I read the "Review Guidelines", not the participation one. Shouldn't this be in the Review Guidelines? Makes sense to me.)

Also in 6th email, Amazon mentioned that all my reviews had been edited by them and my book titles removed and that if I did this again I would be suspended from submitting reviews.

7th email: About having "book title" in signature line, I would suggest you to please provide us with the reviewers details so that we can take appropriate action.
(Can I say stunned??? So Amazon now wants me to give them the names of the thousands and thousands of authors who sign reviews with their book titles in the signature line??? Of course my response was, Sorry but I am not comfortable pointing fingers. You'll have to find them yourself. Sorry.)

It was because of the 7th email that I decided to take my battle with Amazon public.

Now don't get me wrong, Amazon is within their rights to set rules. I can't argue that, even though I don't like this policy and I think they're making a mistake. But I completely disagree with deleting authors' reviews without warning and without giving them a fair chance to edit them. I would have done that without this fuss if they'd notified me first and asked me to edit them.

And a note to Amazon: Although this discussion may lead to many, many unhappy people, it is not my intention to bash Amazon. I simply want to educate authors so that they can take action, edit their reviews if they choose and hopefully avoid having this happen to them.

Note: If you would like to quote me (in whole or in part) regarding this 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/

Read my original post about Amazon deleting my reviews.

Thank you,

Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
author of Whale Song, The River and Divine Intervention...ha!

15 comments:

Serena said...

wow they actually wanted you to tell them who the authors were...that's ridiculous.

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

Well, unless I misunderstood their request. I posted it as Email #7, so you tell me. "About having "book title" in signature line, I would suggest you to please provide us with the reviewers details so that we can take appropriate action."

How else could you take that?

I know...unbelievable.

Chief said...

I still don't get what the big issue is. If you'd written something like, "This book is good, but not as good as mine," (lame example, I know) then I could see them being upset. But if you're writing an unbiased review and just including your name and the title of one of your books in your signature, I don't see the harm. It seems a bit Fascists to not allow it, and to delete thousands of reviews because of it.

Oh well. I think I've bought a total of one book on Amazon, and it'll probably end up being the last.

Reuben

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

I agree, Reuben. I could see it if the review was all about the author doing the reviewing or their own book or if the review slammed another author who's in competition somehow, but that's not the case.

Even a simple mention of your book title in your signature line or in a comment can trigger Amazon to delete ALL your reviews. They deleted every one of mine--85 reviews. One other author only had some of her reviews deleted--everything since 2006.

All my reviews are now back up. Amazon actually edited them for me. I can't imagine them doing that for the tens of thousands of authors who've reviewed and added their book title.

I AM happy my reviews are back. I worked hard to write quality reviews that people could trust.

Cheryl

Daniel Jolley said...

Having had several battles with Amazon as a plain old unpublished reviewer, I can certainly sympathize with you. Even if you're somehow fortunate enough to get an answer on your first or second query, it's usually the answer to an entirely different question that you didn't even ask. Amazon also has a bad tendency to make arbitrary decisions without actually telling anybody about them (why they can't send out mass emails to reviewers about policy changes is a question I've asked for years) -- and then stick by that decision no matter how little sense it makes or how unfair it is. Deleting someone's accumulated reviews off the cuff, though, without even informing that reviewer, really goes beyond the pale. All objective reviews should be treated equally, no matter who the reviewer is. I still love Amazon, but they really treat their most valuable contributors quite shabbily.

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

Daniel, I agree with everything you said. Amazon really needs to start respecting their authors.

A simple email from Amazon about this new policy enforcement could have nipped this all in the bud, and made for better author relations.

I'm sure most authors would have edited their reviews if they'd just received advanced notice.

Thank you all for your comments here. Much appreciated.

Maybe a rep from Amazon will stop by here and leave a comment, perhaps saying that they'll include these policies on the Review Guidelines, where they belong. And that they'll notify members of this change. It's such a simple solution, even if we don't agree with the policy.

Cheryl

~Sia McKye~ said...

I'm being repetitive, I know, but honestly, this new policy of Amazon is the height of stupidity.

Amazon sells books and other things, so if you want to sell books and you have established authors willing to spend their time in writing a review on a new book written by another person--why not allow them to put their name and a book title in their signature? It adds validity to the review.

First off, having an established author come by and review a book by a debuting or new author, and saying hey, this is a good book because, blah blah... increases the sales value of the book reviewed. Futhermore, it rewards the established author by allowing them to have one of their well known books listed in their signature. Something also encouraged by many publishers whose books are carried by Amazon.

Additionally, to arbitrarily remove reviews without notice is wrong on so many levels. If the established policy has been allowing book titles in author signatures for YEARS and then the policy is changed? Amazon needs to announce that change and allow the authors the opportunity to comply with that new change.

I simply don't understand why, in this day and age, when so much business is done online, business people with online personas can't use those creditals in their signature. Now, if they are abusing that priviledge by calling names to attempting to destroy another's work--I can see that.

Of late, Amazon has been doing quite of few stupid things and they need to get their heads out of their butts.

I hope the outcry from authors is loud and long. I hope Amazon spends the next few months having to deal with the outrage. Considering their financial situation in this economic setting, this is NOT good business, Amazon.

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

You said it, Sia! I agree that it adds clout to a review when signed by an author. Also, we're so used to "branding" our works to protect copyright that this is just a natural way for us.

And dozens of book marketing experts have been advising authors to sign like this. It's just smart marketing.

As an author, it never bothers me to see a review on my books written by an author who adds thier book title in the signature. I am honored they took the time to read my book and review it. God knows it's work writing a review!

Like you, Sia, I also believe Amazon should have notified all members. It's not that difficult to send out a mass email to all people with accounts.

Those who aren't authors would discard or forward the email to their author friends. Those who are authors would have appreciated the courtesy and the heads-up, especially if Amazon had said they'd give us til the end of the month to edit our reviews.

Amazon, all us authors expect is a little RESPECT.

Cheryl

Chief said...

Sia, I couldn't agree with you more.

Included in the first few pages of most novels are comments from other authors. An author commenting on a book on Amazon is sort of the same thing, only not as biased. It seems to be common practice in the writing industry. And Amazon did start off as an online bookstore.

Height of stupidity, indeed.

Reuben

Scott Schram said...

If you are the author of say... a programming book for Publisher A, and review a book by Publisher B, then you may have a conflict of interest.

It's so much more honorable if you can make manifest that potential conflict of interest by including the name of your own book.

Also, it establishes you as an expert in that area.

P.S. From the looks of those emails, you're being answered by people who have English as a second language.

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

Don Harold said...

Your reader reviews were deleted at Amazon.com maybe because they were just all your friends reviewing for you!

In fairness to Amazon.com, the online bookstore is just trying to maintain quality, objective review standards that will reflect their corporate image and credibility. Authors, for their part, must not forget that their zest for promoting their works must and should not be at the expense of fair dealing and business ethics. That's how it works, like it or not. So you authors and readers out there will have to accordingly adjust and abide by Amazon.com's book sales and marketing principles.

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

Thanks for your comments, Don, but you've completely misunderstood what I was talking about.

Amazon did not delete the reviews of MY books, but ones I'd written on books I'd read and enjoyed, (ie. Twilight, Resistance, 2nd Chance, etc). Amazon deleted those reviews by mistake. They had done this to others too--all by mistake.

I am happy to work within Amazon's guidelines. Unfortunately someone at Amazon was at fault for giving me the wrong information numerous times. It was only when one of the managers stepped in to help me that I found out my reviews were deleted by accident. Amazon then apologized and fixed the problem.

Anyone who knows anything about Amazon will know that they're experiencing some technical difficulties. Just check out the #amazonfail hash tag on Twitter to read about the latest glitch, which affected books that were deranked and delisted because someone at Amazon said they were considered "adult" or "gay" oriented. As in my case, Amazon has apologized and said it's a glitch. They're working things out and doing their best.

By the way, the majority of reviews for my own books were written by people I have never met. I'm not sure why you'd suggest that they were written by all my "friends". Do I know you?

~Cheryl Kaye Tardif

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

After clicking on Don Harold's URL above I was surprised to see he lists it as Bookwhirl.com, a site I'm familiar with. I decided to call them and speak with Don.

According to the receptionaist I spoke with, there is no Don Harold at Bookwhirl.com.

Jake Olvido said...

I am sorry for the apparent confusion regarding my online username which is Don Harold. I wish also to clarify my ambiguous comment regarding friends reviewing for authors.

First of all, my real name is Jake Olvido of BookWhirl.com’s marketing team, and Don Harold is an online pseudonym. Apparently, the telephone receptionist was not informed about these details in this regard.

When I commented, “Your reader reviews were deleted at Amazon.com maybe because they were just all your friends reviewing for you!” this was in no way intended for you, given the article discussion and clarifications you made with regard to the Amazon.com technical glitches and the corrective actions made in your favor.

I would love to discuss any topic related to book marketing or the publishing industry as whole further with you.