This week on Wednesday Wing…
Writers/Reviewers: Guard against your Amazon reviews being removed.
Terry Tyler offers advice and thoughts on the matter.
There has been much blogged about lately on the subject of Amazon removing book reviews. I am no authority on this subject, but believe their principle is to counteract the growing number of fake reviews; writers who cannot get them any other way (I will not go into the reasons for this right now!) have perhaps made use of the various sites around the internet that sell five star reviews. The owners of such sites do not read the books, but just post reviews. I saw one that had posted around a hundred on the same day, all of which consisted of the five star rating and one word, ‘brillent’, which I imagine was supposed to say ‘brilliant’; I suspect many of these sites are run by scammers who do not boast English as a first language!
Amazon is also targeting writers’ family members: even if your account has a different name, your review will not be accepted if you are posting it from the same IP address. The cause of concern, though, is when Amazon removes reviews from ‘friends’ of the author. Whether or not a reviewer has a personal relationship with the author is determined by their connection over internet sites. Obviously this is not a satisfactory way of assessing relationship, as many writers have regular readers who become online friends simply because they like their books. I have some of these, and I, too, will communicate with a writer online if I love their work. Sometimes you and another writer become friends because of your mutual admiration for what the other does; the whole system is deeply flawed, as we know! However, my purpose is not to whinge on about the rights and wrongs (which is pointless), but to suggest one way by which Amazon’s computers detect a connection (I read it somewhere, can’t remember where), and offer a remedy; it seemed so logical once I’d read it that I couldn’t think why it hadn’t occurred to me before.
If you are on a social networking site or email, and copy and paste the link to your book from Amazon, (for a tweet, for instance, or to send to someone in an email), it might look something like this:
Now, all the characters after the ASIN number (B016WNEEQO) are not just a random jumble, but the online trail that leads back to your computer. If you post this full link on a tweet it may be shortened by Twitter, but all those characters still remain in the site’s memory. Thus, if someone else clicks on that link and buys your book, then goes to review it, it could look as though the review has come via your computer, or at the very least that the person writing it knows you, has some connection with you, or was sent the link by you—so the review may be disallowed.
The way to get over this is to always delete all the characters after the ASIN number, before you post a link to your book, anywhere.
Also, be careful about the wording of any review you post; this morning, a reliable book blogger told me that she’d had a review disallowed because, she was told, it was too similar to another one submitted for that book. I’ve never come across this before, but it’s worth bearing in mind—a good reason to always make your reviews as original as you can, and don’t use review clichés or copy passages from the blurb into a review; if you’re giving a précis of the plot, make sure it’s in your own words. I don’t know how Amazon works, no one does, but it stands to reason that its computers flag up certain words; perhaps if one review has 50% similar words/groups of words to another, it is assumed to be a duplicate review, or a fake. I can’t say for sure; I’m just telling you what happened to a book blogger I know (who neither copies others nor uses review clichés!) so that you may be warned!
I know, I know, it’s so infuriating when many fakes still remain and genuine reviews are disallowed or taken down, but there seems to be little we can do about it, and emailing them just gains a standard reply about evidence of a personal relationship with the reviewer, or other reasons; perhaps damage limitation is a better idea.
If you want to post a review and find you can’t (there are a couple of writers with whom I am online friends whose books I can’t review on Amazon.com), you could try asking a friend to post it from their account. I haven’t done this, it’s just an idea. Okay, they haven’t read the book, but you have and you want to review it, so this seems like a fairly reasonable way of getting round it. If you find this unethical, you could always write a line at the top saying ‘T Tyler posting review from J Bloggs’ account’, or something; I saw one like that the other day. After all, there are some writers who get everyone they know to post a 5* saying that the book is the best thing they’ve ever read; many of these remain, so using a friend’s account in order to post a genuine review seems fair enough! Yes, I know, the review would not show ‘verified purchase’, but neither do those for which you’ve received or sent an ARC – OR that you download via Kindle Unlimited. I download most of my books via KU, so the majority of the reviews I post don’t show ‘verified purchase’ anyway.
I hope this helps. I’ve had about 6 reviews for my own books removed in the last month, and only yesterday I noticed that a review on a friend’s book that I posted two years ago has been taken off, too, so I know how annoying it is!
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