Keeping Book Reviews on Amazon

Wednesday, August 31, 2016
I received an email the other day from a Facebook friend and author, apologizing for “unfriending” me. Not for anything I said or did, but rather, because of something I might say or do a month from now.

You see, she has a new book coming out on writing craft and thought I might like to give it a read. Well, of course, I’d like to take a look, and I promised that I’d give her a fair review on Amazon or Goodreads. But my author friend was told that Amazon would pull my review, since we’re Facebook friends. So she unfriended me, hoping that my (future) review would make it through the marketing behemoth’s gauntlet.

If you’ve been kind enough to write a review for a Facebook friend’s book, you might find yourself unfriended, too. Or worse, your Facebook author friend has found that your review has suddenly been removed. All because you’ve used social media in exactly the way you've been encouraged.

You’ve engaged with readers, sometimes at a conference, or perhaps through a blog, or maybe through email, and you’ve invited them to “friend” you on Facebook so that he or she will know what’s going on in your author world. You’ve spent time and energy forming relationships; even if you’ve never met that reader in person, you feel like you’re much more than virtual friends. And just when your friends want to show you how much they appreciate your hard work and writing skills, Amazon says, “Oh, dearie, no. We can’t allow Facebook friends to write reviews for each other. It might not be unbiased—or some other sorts of shenanigans could be going on.”

Now, I understand that Amazon wants their reviews to be credible. And I get that there’s some algorithm set up to pull reviews when certain sets (like a Facebook reader and a Facebook author) intersect. But there has to be a better way to cull bogus book reviews. Because it seems to me that the authors being penalized are, for the most part, the ones who can least likely afford to lose a review.

I mean, the author with 812 reviews (and thousands of Facebook friends!) can certainly stand to lose 10 reviews. But the author who’s managed to get 47 hard-earned and honest reviews from her 600 friends? If he or she loses one or two reviews it can really make a difference!

I love to write reviews for my friends—and I have lots of author friends on Facebook. So far, all my reviews are still standing, and honestly, I’m not sure why. I like to think it’s because I write a good and fair review but I have friends who have written just as good and fair reviews and have had their reviews pulled.

This is not a new Amazon policy, but it’s odd that in the last few weeks I’ve heard from several authors about pulled reviews and the Facebook connection. So what has changed? If you’re an author, have you lost reviews? Or if you’re a reader, have you found that your review went missing from a friend’s page on Amazon?

I’d like answers. But if I can’t get a reasonable explanation, then I suppose I’ll unfriend every author friend I have in order to leave a review. And I’m fine if you do the same to me.

~Cathy C. Hall


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--I have had a review pulled off, and if I am anyone's Facebook friend, I don't know it since I got on Facebook several years ago, posted one or two things and never did another thing with it. (I got on Facebook just to shut my kids up.)

And sadly, the pulled review was for that person with 47 of 'em... I wrote another review after buying the set of books for a friend and was now officially a "verified" purchaser.

Cathy C. Hall said...

What's crazy is that I can't make a purchase on Amazon without being badgered to leave a review! But heaven forbid if I'm a friend or family.

For the author just starting out in the publishing world, it stands to reason that it's going to be friends and family who'll give you your first reviews! Why can't Amazon let consumers be the judge of whether posted reviews seem fair and unbiased? Because if this trend continues, authors will need to make some serious changes in how they promote.

Linda O'Connell said...

Think I found a way around it. My husband has an Amazon account, and I use that, but sign my name at the end of my reviews sot he author knows it's ME.

Charlotte Dixon said...

I was unaware that Amazon was pulling reviews by friends and family identified as FB users. Thank you for calling this situation to my attention, Cathy. It is unfair to discriminate against an author because they have a community of family and friends who want the author to succeed. It's an invasion of everyones' privacy for Amazon to be privy to who is or isn't on FB. Big Brother is watching and I don't like it.

Robyn Chausse said...

I know for a fact two of my reviews were pulled--I don't even have a Facebook account! However, in both cases the author thanked me on their Facebook page, and one of them mentioned me in depth on his website because I was helping him with some PR work. It was sad because these were honest reviews--and I did have the requisite disclaimers. I've wondered why they were pulled--it must be because Amazon caught mention of me in relation to these people on other social media sites.

Lisa Ricard Claro said...

Well, you know how I feel about it. :-/ Very frustrating. One thing reviewers CAN do is state in their review, either at the top or bottom, how they came to read the book. If it's a verified purchase, that's one thing. But if you've received a publisher's ARC, or received it from your Aunt Mabel, or got it from NetGalley, say so. Reviews that announce they received an ARC in exchange for an honest review don't seem to be pulled as often as others.

Pat Wahler said...

I've said before that Amazon will happily leave a one star review for a product someone ordered in the wrong size (like it's the manufacturer's fault?), but pulls author reviews for reasons that are senseless to me. Wish they'd revamp their policy.

Tina Cho said...

Oh my. I didn't know about this policy. I don't like it. Thanks for the heads up!

Suzanne Pitner said...

What a sad state of affairs this is! I know I value every single review people write for me. Many of them are from people I've connected with on Facebook or Twitter, and I love our friendships. I haven't noticed any reviews that I've written being pulled. Perhaps one reason mine haven't been pulled is that I write books under a pseudonym and reviews under my real name. If a book was given to me as an ARC, I always disclose that in the review. So far, I haven't heard of any of my reviews being pulled.

Another thing I notice is that Amazon promotes so many books, that it's very hard for an indie to get noticed. For example, if you look up one of my books, at the bottom of the page, the recommendations that appear now are all promoted items. My other books don't even show up. So if a fan wanted to read more of my books, how would they find them? Through following me on Facebook and Twitter. If they do that, then their reviews are suspected of being biased. Egads!

After sailing the seas of indie marketing for a few years, and getting battered around by the waves that are constantly changing direction, I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible for authors to be truly successful without a big company behind them for promotion. I've been sitting back and regrouping these last few months, trying to decide which tack to take next.

But Cathy, Lisa, Charlotte, and all my other online friends...I'm not going to unfriend you for the chance of getting a review. So totally not worth it. I value your friendships!

Cathy C. Hall said...

Oh, Suzanne, you are so right! Indies have a difficult time of it but I'm not so sure the big publishers do as much for promotion as they once did!

Certainly, Amazon knows how authors feel about this issue but don't feel inclined to change their policy, as far as I can tell. But one thing I noticed when I went to Amazon to check your page: they do offer the Follow on Amazon (you have to scroll down to the bit about the author). I wonder how helpful that is? (And I clicked on it, too! ;-)

Suzanne Pitner said...

Ahhh! You're such a good friend! True, regular publishers rely on the authors to do a large part of their own marketing and promotion. I agree that Amazon will do what they want, and aren't inclined to change a policy for the little authors, but what do I know? I could be wrong. In the meantime, we'll just keep on writing!

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