Sunday, August 14, 2016

Are You Confused About Amazon's Review Guidelines?

A Facebook post from a writing colleague this week suggested that Amazon has again changed its review guidelines, and not necessarily for the better, depending on your viewpoint.

Back in 2015, reviewers (many of them authors) started noticing that their reviews were disappearing from Amazon’s pages. There were different reasons for this. One is that Amazon was trying to clamp down on phony reviews. Two of their strategies were to no longer allow paid reviews or for authors to exchange reviews. It wasn’t a bad idea, but with other Amazon attempts to fix things, this one went awry. Legitimate reviews were being taken down in droves. In fact, I know a few people who simply reposted them and there they stayed, to my knowledge.

I understand why Amazon’s never liked reviews written by the author’s close friends and family members. Based on this week’s comments, however, it’s become clear that Amazon started taking things a step further some time ago.

According to a blog by Michael Kozlowski, dating back to Nov. 2015, Amazon’s new review policies became even more restrictive. In fact, apparently, you can be removed simply by having an online connection with the author you’ve reviewed.

This doesn’t even begin to make sense to me. I have about 4,000 Twitter followers, most of whom are authors. I have another 800 or 900 on Goodreads. Again, 90% of them are people I don’t know and have never interacted with, but since we all love books, I thought why not friend them? It now seems that I could be penalized for this by having some of my 350+ reviews of books that belong to those “friends” deleted. As of today, it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s only a matter of time before Amazon’s bots glom onto my Twitter, Facebook, and Goodreads accounts.

What’s really confusing to me is that I pulled a copy of Amazon’s review guidelines and—call me blind—but I don’t see any reference to contacts through an online presence being a factor. So, are the opinions of other bloggers correct or not?

Perhaps at the end of the day, it won’t matter. I have no idea if my reviews are read as I don’t receive feedback. Given that I’ve kept electronic and print copies of every review, I can always post them on my website. So, if Amazon starts deleting my reviews, I may simply exit and rise again, unfettered. Come to think of it, I kind of like that idea.

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