2 reasons why – Amazon banning writers would be wrong

from Buttonbag blog
from Buttonbag blog

The situation:

“Amazon has … introduced a ban on authors leaving reviews about other people’s books in the same genre because they may pose a “conflict of interest” and cannot be impartial about their rivals.” (According to The Telegraph article, Author’s Backlash Against Amazons new online review crackdown by Andrew Hough, 2012-12-26)

3 Reasons Amazon is doing this:

1 – Some twits are writing reviews under fake names to denigrate their competition:

“Bestselling authors including Lee Child, Ian Rankin and Joanne Harris are queuing up to condemn the posting of reviews under false identities after it emerged this weekend that the award-winning crime writer RJ Ellory had been criticizing his rivals and praising his own work under pseudonyms on Amazon.” (Alison Flood, RJ Ellory’s secret Amazon reviews anger rivals, The Guardian, 2012-09-03)

2 – Others are writing reviews to promote themselves:

“The web has created some fantastic opportunities for authors, publishers and self-publishers alike, but this summer has seen the industry’s dark underbelly revealed in all its venal, pustulant ignominy. Things kicked off in July [when] … successful author Stephen Leather confessed, during an on-stage panel discussion, that he used fake accounts to promote his own books. This admission of sockpuppetry shocked the writing community…” (Steve Mosby, Fake Reviews Amazon’s Rotten Core, Forbes, 2012-08-28)

3 – The fundamental role of a book review has changed:

“For decades a largely stagnant industry controlled from New York, book publishing is fragmenting and changing at high speed. Twenty percent of Amazon’s top-selling e-books are self-published. They do not get to the top without adulation, lots and lots of it. Mr. Rutherford’s [a man who started selling reviews] insight was that reviews had lost their traditional function. They were no longer there to evaluate the book or even to describe it but simply to vouch for its credibility, the way doctors put their diplomas on examination room walls. A reader hears about a book because an author is promoting it, and then checks it out on Amazon. The reader sees favorable reviews and is reassured that he is not wasting his time.” (David Streitfield, The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy, New York Times 2012-08-25).

___________________________

Since the role of the book review is now an essential deal maker for readers, and since it’s become a tool easily manipulated by promoters, its authenticity is in jeopardy. I can’t blame Amazon for trying to find a way to make the review system work better. We all want to hear what people think about books, but we don’t want false accounts.

________________________________

That being said – 2 things irk me about muzzling writers:

  1. Writers write. That’s what they do best. They know the ins and outs of the art and can criticize it better than anyone.  I  want to hear what writers have to say about books.
  2. It’s fundamentally wrong to take the basic right of speech away from any segment of the population– marginalizing them…muting them… into oblivion.

What do you think?

Author: Jo-Ann Carson

Jo-Ann Carson writes a saucy mix of fantasy, adventure and romance. Her latest stories are in the Gambling Ghosts Series: A Highland Ghost for Christmas, A Viking Ghost for Valentine’s Day, Confessions of a Pirate Ghost and The Biker Ghost Meets his Match. An anthology of the novellas will be coming out this summer. Currently she is working on Midnight Magic, A Ghost & Abby Mystery, the first book in a spin-off series from her Viking ghost story. Jo-Ann loves watching sunrises, playing Mah Jong and drinking good coffee. You can chat with her on social media: You can find all her links on her website - http://jo-anncarson.com

20 thoughts on “2 reasons why – Amazon banning writers would be wrong”

  1. I agree with you, I would truly value a fellow writer’s opinion especially one with published experience. Taking that away isn’t exactly fair. That being said, there are some petty people out there who are competitive and do in fact write things that they shouldn’t. So at this point, it’s truly a toss up.

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    1. Shareen
      I know what you mean. It’s a frustrating situation. I love the freedom of the Internet and the idea of having honest feedback available on my writing from anyone who wants to submit it, but some people are seriously messing up the system.
      Thanks for your honest response.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  2. The main thing I see that’s wrong about Amazon’s position is that writers are also consumers of books and have a right to express their opinions just as much as other readers. And for every dishonest or derogatory review there have got to be at least ten positive ones from other writers. We SUPPORT each other because we’re artists. At least the majority of us do. Books do not compete with each other the way laundry detergents or bug sprays do. With most products the key questions are whether it works as expected and is worth the price. Not much emotion is invested in your favorite brand of car wax. Most people can agree on those points for a single product. Reading is a much more subjective and experiential activity. I think Amazon needs to recognize this and make their algorithms more author-friendly, even if a few frauds and foes slip in from time to time. I hope they do so soon.

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    1. Linsey
      Thanks for your comment. I agree. I wouldn’t want to be the person trying to figure out the algorithm though. It’s a hard problem.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  3. Wow, seriously? Amazon is being highly unreasonable! We were readers before we became writers, and it’s unfair to let a few frauds get in the way of allowing us to express our opinions regarding the books we read. Sigh. If anything, at least we have Goodreads. And one can always create a new account to review books on Amazon, right?

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    1. Zen
      Thanks for your comment.
      I think when you open an account there is a verification process and I’m hoping it’s stringent. Otherwise we’ll have all kinds of sockpuppetry.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

    1. Hi Emma
      I don’t think it’s formal. In fact I’m hearing that many are writing reviews with no problem which makes me question the comment in the Telegraph.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  4. I’m wondering if Amazon shouldn’t just make people write reviews using their own names rather than using a fake one. It might cut back on reviews, but the ones that would dissappear, I suspect, would be the rotten, mean ones that people wouldn’t want to own up to. Some folks who don’t have to take responsibility for their actions, who can hide behind an anominity mask will write anything without fear of repurcussion. I say make them own their words.
    Just saying….

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    1. Mimi
      I love how you’re always so down to earth. Yes, it makes perfect sense. If someone can’t sign their own name to a review then that review shouldn’t get posted. Lets all own our own words.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  5. I agree with Mimi but I can see another battle brewing between those that will say that their pseudonym is their ‘own name’ too. It’s hard to believe that there actually are writers who
    trash someone’s work just to make more sales themselves. How can they sleep at night?
    Daniela

    Like

    1. Hi Daniela
      I agree. It’s like they’re one shade short in their crayon collection.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  6. I have a small pile of books I’ve finished recently that I want to leave a review on at Amazon. Three really good ones, but I just haven’t got around to it. I certainly hope they let me leave a review. What most have said is that writers are readers first and foremost. If we weren’t readers, we probably never would have become writers. I know I was sickened last summer when I read about the fake reviews, but I don’t think it should stop me from giving honest reviews.

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  7. Wouldn’t the problem be taken care of if you had to use your real name (or if you’re a pubbed author with a pseudonym (sp?) you can use that? If I were pubbed in Romantic Suspense, by their rules, I couldn’t post a review of my dear friend’s book that is terriffic. How is that fair? Interesting info, Jo-Ann. Another reason, I’m basically distrustful of Amazon.

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    1. Marsha
      I agree. Having to use a real or established pseudonym that is somehow verified would be a great starting point to sorting out the mess. Right now it’s like the wild west in cyberspace:)
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Best Wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  8. I still write reviews for Amazon. The key is you have to actually have purchased something from Amazon in order to do it. This stops people who do reviews but never purchase the book or anything else. It is hard to manage the “real” reviews with the paid reviews and the general trolls. Though I don’t completely agree with Amazon’s take, I do applaud them for trying to do something to make it real.

    Another alternative, which I personally appreciate, is what Kobo is doing. That is that they are bringing in Goodreads reviews as well as ones their customers leave. It’s nice to see someone working with a site that already is widely used (Goodreads) and combining reviews. Makes it easier for us authors and Kobo immediately has reviews for a lot of books. Smart.

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    1. Maggie
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.
      Good information. I’ve never looked at Kobo reviews, but I am a member of Goodreads.
      I’m looking forward to the day they figure all of this out.
      Best wishes
      Jo-Ann

      Like

  9. I write books and submit reviews, both under my own name. Most of the books I’ve reviewed, I’ve also purchased through Amazon, so that may be the difference, as I don’t believe they have deleted any of my reviews. I applaud Kobe using the Goodread reviews. (I first review there, actually.) Unfortunately, Amazon has taken a huge aversion to Goodreads, going so far as to refuse them permission to get their information from them.

    Like

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