Disappearing reviews on Amazon

While glancing at different blogs on Sunday, I saw a post from fellow author Derek Blass about Amazon removing book reviews from their site. It seems Amazon is pulling reviews by people associated with the author – family, friends and co-workers – or anyone with a financial interest in the product.

My first thought was to wonder how they were determining, which reviews to pull. And based on the blogs and message boards I read, there seems to be no consensus on how they decide which reviews to remove. On the Failure Ahoy! Blog, Ed Robertson mentions that Amazon is looking at “linked accounts” as well as books that are gifted to people in exchange for reviews.

The funny thing is when I read this, I thought it didn’t really apply to me. I only had one review by a family member. This person did buy my short story and reviewed it – giving it four stars and wrote what I thought was a fair and balanced review.

After reading about pulled reviews, I went and checked and the review was there. Then about three hours later, I noticed it was gone. It lasted a full four days on the site before they pulled it. I can only venture to guess that they linked the review as someone who knows the author as my family member posted the review through their own Amazon account, but they used one of the computers at my house to do it. (They only did that because they wanted me to see the review before they posted it and since they were here saw no harm and posting it while at my house instead of waiting until they returned home.)

It wasn’t meant as a bogus review. And honestly if they had posted it from their place of business or their own home, then the review would never have been pulled.

I am not sure how to feel about this. I am annoyed that they pulled it since I need all the reviews I can get. And while Amazon’s guidelines clearly state that anyone with a “financial” interest in the product can’t review it friends, co-workers and most family members don’t have a clear financial interest. Even other indie authors that review books have no financial interest in these books but from what I read today, they too are having their reviews pulled. I went and checked and the few book reviews I have written are still there.

It seems Amazon isn’t offering any explanation for their actions, and they are not employing any set guideline for which reviews to pull. Derek has begun a petition asking Amazon to provide clear guidelines and to alert authors when reviews for their books are pulled. If you are interested, click here to sign his petition.

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6 thoughts on “Disappearing reviews on Amazon

  1. It is a concern, especially for debut authors, but there has been so much tweaking and poking and tricking with the online “user” reviews process, online reviews are often just assumed to be so much marketing hype. I’ve had my books reviewed by industry reviewers who rated them as high as any Amazon reviewer, and I’ve had reviews on forums outside of Amazon, that almost seem vindictive or even designed to mis-cast my books. I don’t know what direction is best, but for now, maybe any change has to be for the better.

  2. itsnotfair says:

    Fake reviewers are the curse of Indie authors. Look at ‘thrift’ by Phil Church and you will see what I mean – there is no way that this work would attract so many reviews.
    An Indie Author really knows from the start that they’re never going to make a living from writing, so why the hell cheat?
    Amazon should be praised for taking such an initiative.

  3. lillymaytree says:

    If Amazon has closed its open forum for review policy to a more regulated format of their own preferences, THEY SHOULD PUBLICLY SAY SO. To remove anyone’s opinion, for any reason, is a breech of honesty.

    All successful business is based on who you know, and who you can get to work alongside you to achieve your goals. Since when did having a friend, or family member speak up for you turn into something unethical? It isn’t. And any company big enough to insist that it is, loses a great deal of my respect for their own ethics. Worse yet, to quietly go “behind the scenes” and change public opinion.

    Such behavior smacks of returning to the Dark Ages rather than progressing toward the future, and I am very disappointed in them.
    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions (that’s what free speech is all about). However, no one is entitled — by size alone — to change majority rules without sticking to the rules the majority has already laid down for the acceptable way to make changes.

    Shame on Amazon.

  4. Tracy Krauss says:

    Interesting and informative – although still problematic for reviews and reviewers that are legit… I like the idea of at least being notified by amazon if reviews are taken down.

  5. I would appreciate them also notifying the person who left the review as to why they decided their review was not post-worthy.

  6. Nicci Leigh says:

    I have experienced this with my book. I had 2 reviews from family members removed. The only link I can identify is that they live in the same town as I do, and have the same last name. They were not bogus reviews as my book is non-fiction and based on my area of expertise. I do feel that Amazon’s Big Brother move is unethical, but derived from activities they deem unethical.
    I am a college professor, and I have received all 5 star and 4 star reviews for my book, except one 3 star review from a student of mine who received a course grade she was unhappy with. I had recommended that the student enroll in the tutorial assistance program the college offers, and she was offended. Her review to me then, is a biased one, however Amazon would never know or be able to determine that. I do agree with the other posters on this thread that Amazon should state their terms at the point of review, not within the fine print or even an auto generated response as to why the post was not approved or removed. The only verbiage used states if you don’t see your post within 48 hours it did not follow their guidelines.

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