How Amazon’s New Book Review Rules Impact Self-Published Writers
via IB Times
Success, it’s been said, is all about who you know — just don’t get to know too many people unless you want the world’s largest online book publishing platform to penalize you for it.
Thousands of independent authors are asking Amazon.com Inc. to change a controversial policy that prohibits users from reviewing books written by people they personally know. The policy is meant to cut down on the willful shilling of books by close friends and family, but members of the relatively insular independent publishing community say the rules are restricting their ability to offer or accept honest criticism from others in their peer group. They also say the detection system is highly flawed, and as Amazon has gotten more aggressive at policing it, perfectly legitimate reviews are getting caught in the algorithmic crosshairs.
“Reviews have been disappearing,” said Jas T. Ward, an author based in Galveston, Texas, who has five books for sale on Amazon, most published through an independent publishing house.
In a phone interview, Ward said about a dozen readers have contacted her over the last two months to say they had tried to review her book but were told by an automated message that the reviews violated Amazon’s guidelines. In traditional Amazon fashion, little information was given about such violations.
“Amazon is really great about not telling you how or why they do anything,” she said. “As an author, it’s frustrating. It’s almost like playing a mystery game.”
Then on Thursday, Imy Santiago, an independent author, wrote a blog post describing an incident in which, she says, Amazon erroneously determined that she personally knew an author whose book she tried to review. Santiago received a message saying the review was ineligible because her account activity “indicates that you know the author.” She escalated the issue with Amazon support, but to no avail.
“I pay for my eBooks,” Santiago wrote. “I take the time to read and review books I love. The Big Brother mentality Amazon is employing is appalling, and crosses an ethical line of unfathomable proportions.”
After reading Santiago’s post, Ward decided to launch an online petition asking Amazon to revise the policy. Within a few hours, it had attracted several hundred signatures and is growing rapidly, with over 5,000 signatures.