I noticed this morning that several reviews of my books have disappeared from your site. For example Unbreakable Hope had 10 reviews last I checked, now it has 9, and Giving Off Sparks used to have 9 reviews to its name and now there are only 8. It’s a similar story for many of my books.
Now I went to do some investigating into this, because it seemed odd that so many different books were affected. As I am aware of your policy not to allow friends or family to post reviews, I suspected one of my readers who has connected with me on Facebook has had their account suspended and their reviews pulled for her crime of being, well, friends with me on Facebook.
A perusal of my Facebook feed confirmed my suspicions. A lovely lady, let’s call her Jenna because that is her name, has received a notice from Amazon.
Yes, Jenna who is a genuine reader who not only reads but PURCHASES many hundreds of dollars worth of books from your store, has had her right to leave reviews of those legally purchased products revoked due to a ‘perceived bias’. Exhibit B.
So you have decided in your infinite ignorance that Jenna is biased and cannot be objective about leaving reviews, I assume, because you have trawled through her Facebook accounts like a scavenging racoon and found out that she is Facebook friends with many of the authors for which she leaves reviews.
Newsflash Amazon, most authors are friends with readers on Facebook because that is how social media works. Authors and readers have a lot in common — namely a love of the same kind of books — so it is natural they may want to connect on social media. I can’t speak for any other author whose reviews have been affected, but I can tell you how it came to be that I connected with Jenna and we became ‘friends’ (I’ll explain the use of air quotes a bit later)
- I’ve been writing and publishing for 10 years (my anniversary is soon, yay me!).
- Sometime in the last few years, I cannot remember precisely when but it was definitely well over five years from the time I first started publishing, Jenna discovered my books.
- To my absolute joy, Jenna seemed to like my books. She purchased several of them and had become a fan (we’re such sensitive little souls in need of positive affirmation, so we authors love to meet fans). And Jenna leaves reviews! All hail Jenna!( All this unbeknownst to me at the time)
- One day while we were both on Facebook commenting on another author’s post, Jenna and I interacted. Jenna told me she’d read lots of my books and loved them. Wow! Not only did she love my books she told me she did TO MY FACE (or as close to that as you can, given we had never actually met in person). What a red letter day for me! (desperate need for positive affirmation, remember?)
- A short time after that, Jenna sent me a friend request on Facebook. I said yes of course. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with someone who was so nice and had read their books?
- Jenna and I became ‘friends’ online.
- Jenna continued to read my books and leave reviews, which she does for many authors, because she likes their books. Jenna is one of Amazon’s biggest customers I’ll bet. Jenna also sometimes shares news of my new releases on Facebook, because she’s clearly not an idiot and understands the power of word of mouth. The more people who know about her favorite authors the more sales those authors make, which feeds the author and pays for new laptops and such items that are required if said author is to continue writing books and publishing those books with, among others, Amazon (who make a nice percentage off every sale. Just sayin’). Reviews mean more books for Jenna and more books for everyone. Yay!
Full disclosure now. I HAVE MET JENNA IN PERSON. Yes. I met her in 2016 at the Romantic Times Convention in Las Vegas, where we did appear in pictures together and have a few lovely chats about books and potentially getting matching tattoos (we didn’t by the way). It was fun and nice and since we have met in person now I can probably drop the air quotes from the word friend. When I used them before it was to differentiate between someone who is a friend friend and who is a social media friend. You know the difference, right Amazon? You do understand that authors and readers become ‘friends’ (there they are again) on Facebook all the time, because they are brought together by their mutual love of the same kind of books.
I fail to see how Jenna being my Facebook friend and now a person I have met in real life disqualifies her from being able to provide a useful, truthful review of any of my books on your site. She does not pirate books. She is a paying Amazon customer who, having been an avid reader of romance novels for some time, is more qualified to review a book than, say, a person who openly admits that they have not read the book they are reviewing (which does not seem to be a cause for disqualification). Exhibit C
A 1 star review of one of my books that clearly states ‘After the first few pages I quit reading’. This review has been live since 2012. How is this person, who read only a few pages of my book, more qualified to leave a review than someone who has read it in its entirety and has an informed opinion of it?
Let me tell you. They are not. And yet these kinds of reviews are allowed to remain on your site. I’ve seen countless other examples of reviewers stating clearly in their review that they did not in fact read the book in question yet they are allowed to post one star reviews with impunity. This boggles the mind, quite frankly.
And to address your notion of perceived bias, I say this. Of course Jenna’s reviews are biased. All reviews are. Someone reads a book and forms an opinion. It’s not empirical data they’ve collected. They have read a book and formed a completely subjective OPINION about its quality. It is on the strength of this subjectivity that they leave a review. A review is merely that reader’s OPINION of the book, and if they loved it, that opinion will be biased towards leaving a five star review. If they HATED it for any reason (they are allowed to hate it for ANY reason), their bias will fall to leaving a one or two star reviews.
I’ve had people leave one star reviews of my books because they didn’t like profanity (even though I write erotic romance and it’s a genre that deals in profanity). I’ve had people leave me poor star ratings because they didn’t like that my hero was unshaven. These, in my opinion, are not reasons to one star a book, but I respect everyone’s right to their own opinion.
I respect Jenna’s right to an opinion. Jenna’s opinion is valid, certainly as valid as that of a person who has not read the book they are reviewing. In fact her opinion is MORE valid because being an avid reader she has, I’m sure, finely developed critiquing skills. The fact that she has become my friend on Facebook does not negate her ability to know what she likes and what she doesn’t.
And it should not disqualify her from voicing her thoughts about that on a site that actively solicits reviews from its customers and purports to WANT them. On a site that is geared toward showing customers only those books that have obtained a certain number of reviews, and by this system rewards authors who have more, rather than fewer, positive reviews. It is this very system that has fostered unscrupulous behavior from SOME authors, like the purchasing of reviews and sock puppeting. Let me assure you, Jenna is not a sock puppet. I met her in person, remember?
If genuine readers of hard working authors are going to be penalised for being fans of those authors, I don’t know what kind of world we’re living in. Will none of us want to be friends anymore? Will fans never contact their favorite authors for fear of reprisal? Will dogs and cats start living together? Will Donald Trump get elected?
I’m afraid, Amazon. I’m very afraid.