Amazon reviews should be taken with a grain of salt. And, for the most part, authors are pretty up front about who they are and where they’re coming from when they’re reviewing other authors. Amazon, however, has been deleting and preventing published authors from reviewing others’ works.
I’ve been around and knowledgable of the inner workings of the publishing industry for a good few years, and this is kind of ridiculous. When an author praises another author’s work, nine times out of ten it’s displayed on the back of the book if it’s in physical form.
It’s a great way for an author you know and love — say, Stephen King — to recommend an up and coming author. Readers become more willing to try out a debut novel when a similar author they love goes “it’s good, read it.”
For example, my friend Craig Clevenger’s first novel, The Contortionist’s Handbook, was overwhelmingly praised by Fight Club’s Chuck Palahniuk. The publisher smartly put it on the front cover, just above the title. Readers who picked up the book at Barnes And Noble (’cause people still went into bookstores back then) would buy the book based on Palahniuk’s recommendation, and the book received critical acclaim with a sizable following.
Now if Chuck were to do that on Amazon, posting his name and being open about who he is and everything, they would delete the review.
When badgered for an explanation, this is all Amazon will give:
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.
When double-badgered for an explanation, they just copy-and-paste this thing to make you read it again as you hope that perhaps they changed a word or something.
Authors across the board are kind of pissed off. They want to support their fellow authors. They have opinions just like anyone else. And — provided they’re up front about who they are — readers of those reviews can walk in knowing what they’re getting into.
Overall, the number of reviews being deleted are very low, but it seems as though a number of strong voices — after all, they’re published authors — are being muscled out for some reason. It might not even be malicious on Amazon’s part, and to be honest, it probably isn’t. But authors write about other authors all the time. It’s as old as writing, and it’s a valuable resource.
Obviously, there are literally thousands of different places where the authors can post their reviews — I’m not crying “censorship.” I just believe that Amazon’s making a mistake by classifying authors as “a competing product.” Sure, they are. Doesn’t mean their reviews lack value or confuse the issue.
If they’re going to hide who they are, the policy in place won’t do anything to stop that. But if they’re going to be up front and honest, readers can see that. They’ll react accordingly. It’s fuckin’ hard enough to get people to read.
Question: Is Amazon reducing the quality of its review system by barring published authors from reviewing other works?