Once upon a time there was a Ginormous Online Retailer (“GOR”) who was friendly to independent authors, and encouraged them to sell their books in various mediums through their platform in exchange for a modest commission in return. They even created a separate company to help the independent author publish their books in print so they could hold physical copies of their hard-wrought words in their own hands. It was a land of milk and honey for the independent author; they could sell their books to their readers, and the readers in turn would share their honest opinions about those books for all to see. Other book lovers could see these reviews and decide whether it was worth spending their own money. It was a happy place for an independent author to focus their marketing energy, and see their sales rise as people left reviews of what they thought of the work. Everyone was a winner: GOR, the independent author, the reader, and the shopper.
Over time, GOR grew and grew; buying up bookclub and review sites, and an audiobook site to further the perception that they really were book friendly.
Then all of a sudden - and without the independent author, the reader, or even the shopper knowing - GOR started to erase the reader’s reviews. Hacking and slashing them from the internet forever, despite the cries of the authors and the readers who left the reviews. No matter how many times they tried to discuss the disappearing reviews with GOR, the independent authors were met with a stone wall. “We won't be able to provide further insight or assistance with your request,” was all GOR would say, leaving the independent author bereft and without a solution – and without the lost reviews. They were gone forever, never to be seen again.
In all seriousness, what’s the deal GOR? (Amazon for those that haven’t caught on) For a company that at least used to claim to be book and independent author friendly – how does arbitrarily removing customer reviews help anyone? And doesn’t it in fact hurt everyone involved? We independent authors live and die by our reviews – both good and bad. By removing reviews you are hurting our sales, which in turn hurts your own bottom line. Where is the logic in that? I don’t claim to have business acumen at the level of an executive at the “World’s Largest Retailer” but even I know that makes poor business sense.
It is a rare person that buys anything online without reading the reviews first. It is part and parcel of online shopping experience. It is up to the buyer to decide if the reviews have merit, or even the owner of the product – not the platform merely displaying them. Buyers are savvier than you are giving them credit for.
Readers especially rely on reviews of books when deciding what to read next. We are a close-knit community who enjoys sharing our opinions and passing the word on what books we like, and what we don’t. And believe me, if we don’t like something we will advertise it to the world. We are both that savvy, and that fickle. Removing reviews is censorship of the worst kind – it’s a slap in the face to those that actually took the time to not only read a book, but then the time to sit at their keyboard, log onto your site and leave their honest opinion for the world to see.
Apart from trying to directly reach our readers to repost their reviews, there is little we authors can do to combat this. Attempts to deal with Amazon directly have had zero results. There is rumor that the reviews being removed are only those that state they received a book for free in exchange for a review, or that “ARC” is somehow targeted – this is untrue. As far as I can tell the review removals are completely and utterly arbitrary.
If someone out there in cyberworld has had success in having their reviews restored – please contact me and explain your black magic ways. In the meantime, apart from this blog post – I will be trying to directly reach out to those who have reviewed my book, begging them to repost their reviews if they can find it in their hearts to do so.
Way to stick it to the little guy Amazon.
-Amy L. Boukair