Amazon Ate My Reviews!

Where does Amazon get off censoring its reviews?

A week ago GINNY GOOD had 61 reviews at Amazon.com. Now it has 36. Amazon arbitrarily got rid of 25 reviews. What's up with that? Here are two reviews that Amazon in its wisdom didn't get rid of; the first is truly funny insofar as GG doesn't really have a lot to do with pro wrestling in the 60s and the second is seriously silly since the "reviewer" read only "a few" pages (which is very likely a lie) and it was one of the reviews Amazon chose to highlight.

This happened to a client of mine. One day there were 16 good reviews, the next day there were 8. No explanation. My client was not the kind of guy to let that pass, so he contacted Amazon. I did too of course, but the client really did most of the work here. He dogged their asses for months. FINALLY they emailed back that there was a glitch and they would fix it. MORE emails, more standing around, then it was fixed, and remains so.

Computers despite all novels of Robert Heinlein to the contrary are neither human nor perfect. They're like agents: inhuman and subject to random acts of mindless idiocy and favoritism.

You can fix this but you have to get on it, stay on it, and (pay attention Gerard) be NICE.


Anonymous said...

Nice, schmice. I don't want 'em to fix anything and it wasn't a "glitch." The reviews they got rid of weren't "nice." They flat-out censored reader reviews that were just as bona fide as any of the other so-called reader reviews at their schlock dump and that flat-out sucks. None does offend, none, I say none. Heh. G.

Lisa Hunter said...

I'm wondering how seriously fellow snarklings take Amazon reviews. Me, I only pay attention to the bad ones (if they're well written, well reasoned, are are obviously by a reader rather than a bitter ex-boyfriend/girlfriend).

An author ought to have a dozen or so friends to give good Amazon reviews, right? I'm always mystified when I see books with no reviews at all. Doesn't the author have an address book?

Stacia said...

I'm wondering how seriously fellow snarklings take Amazon reviews. Me, I only pay attention to the bad ones (if they're well written, well reasoned, are are obviously by a reader rather than a bitter ex-boyfriend/girlfriend).

I do the same thing. I read good and bad, but I pay attention to what other reviews the person wrote to look for their tastes. So if they liked something else I hated, I know their bad review probably means I'd like it, or vice versa. Or if they've written a bad review in "idiot text" language, and it says something like, "To Kl A Mckngbird is teh BORNG BLEH! I had 2 red it in school & it SUX" I know if idiot texters hated it, I'll probably like it.

Like the guy who wrote a bad review of The Godfather and suggested that McG is a much better director.

I'm not joking.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Yeah. The only worthwhile reviews on Amazon are the bad-to-middling ones. The five-star reviews I simply assume - through prior experience - are either friends, family or plants.

Of course, I know there are a lot of sincere glowing reviews on the site but the 3-star reviews are simply more balanced.

Anonymous said...

Gerard! You found Miss Snark! A match made in heaven.

Bernita said...

Amazon sells book, right?

The reviews are a marketing device, right?

Do you expect a business to extend particular courtesy to a notice that says "this product sucks?"

Simon Haynes said...

There's nothing more pathetic than a title with a ranking of 2 million and glowing review ("Best book ever") from someone called 'A Reader'
I ignore reviews for works of fiction, and with non-fic I ignore five- and one-star reviews and read those in the middle, which generally tell you the good and bad points in a truthful summary.

Anonymous said...

Cynthia writes

Actually, if Miss Snark can't tame Gerard with a few well-placed taps of her stilettos and a couple of sharp nips from KY, then probably no one can, and it's a match made in hell.

By weird coincidence, I tumbled onto Gerard's blog today. As I skimmed over Gerard's listing of editors and their e-mails, reading some of the more colorful missives editors had sent him, I couldn't help thinking ... THIS is what Miss Snark means when she says she doesn't take e-queries!

No offense meant, Gerard. Your style is just not my style ... or Miss Snark's, either. But if anybody can badger Amazon into uncensoring their reviews, you certainly have the best shot.

Anonymous said...

What Amazon is good for:

* Looking up the spelling of an author's name

* Checking if someone else has used a title

* Finding titles and authors for local library Web catalog searches

* Saving a trip to the bookstore

* Mild amusement

What Amazon is not good for:

* Literary review

* Literary analysis

* Literary criticism

The reviews remind me of Web product reviews. I'll never forget the one about a pressure cooker that burned the roast. Yeah, well try using some water.

The reviews from the authors' address books stand out and are pathetic. Hyperbole floats and is biodegradable.

On computer glitches, gee are we surprised after Microsoft took over the world? Mainframe grunts and Unix weenies had it right, as does Miss Snark. Be nice to your outsourced tech support.

Maria said...

I review books that I like on Amazon and a few that I don't although I always try to be polite. I also read the reader reviews and prefer them over the "professional" ones from Kirkus, Amazon or PM. Sometimes the reader reviews offer me better hints. I am sure some authors have buddies that post reviews and some are obvious, but if I'm really dithering over a purchase, the reviews are quite useful. I'm afraid no author has ever asked me to post a review for them. :>)

Dave Kuzminski said...

I'm not even certain if any of my books have any reviews at Amazon. I know that some do not which occasionally amazes me since there are a lot of individuals who do not care for me because I am a critic of [insert business name here]. I guess the huge spike in sales for one book was enough to convince one business that it wasn't smart pointing out one of my books as pornographic in order to smear my name so that's probably why they don't give me lots and lots of one star ratings.

No, that book wasn't pornographic. I did a fade to black on the one sex scene that occured at the bottom of the river. If it was, it would be selling ten times as much on every royalty report. ;)

Feisty said...

Gerard: I admire your pluck and have watched your metamorphosis via the web. You inspire me. Truly. I don't care what anyone says. You have more guts than anyone I've met and the fact that you don't back down just tickles me to no end. I'm not sure I could be you, but you are sure being you to the fullest extent.

Having been around the publishing world for some time, I totally relate to your frustrations and I totally "get" you.

Go get 'em!

Anonymous said...

Wow, I ain't ever been totally "got" before. Well, okay, once, that's it. I'm little by little adding around 5,000 media dweebs to my site even as we speak and have so far had only two thinly-veiled death threats. G.

Anonymous said...

wow. wow. i thought the reference to GINNY GOOD was a snark one. but no, it's GERARD JONES of, um, gerard jones fame. and we're both snarklings. *sigh* only one degree of separation. thanks for all you do from someone who often wishes she could but probably never will. i'm vicariously gutsy through you.
keep on.

Anonymous said...

Gerard! You found Miss Snark! A match made in heaven.

Actually, I was starting to worry that Miss Snark was Gerard's alter-ego!

Mark said...

I write serious Amazon reviews but I get troll hits myself and can't get rid of them. They're so obvious that anyone can see what the deal is from reading three words into one. And it's not like the books in their present form can actually go anywhere.

Anonymous said...

This Ms. Snark's semi-slick, sure, but she missed the salient point of my original e-mail, to whit:

"Why doesn't Amazon just write its own reviews of all the products it has for sale? Why give the false impression that 'customers' have any say whatsoever? Aren't there enough lying liars? Aren't there too many fraudulent businesses and con artists and shabby reporting practices? Don't people get taken to the cleaners often enough? What's wrong with the 'truth?' From the mud grows the lotus."

I'm sure Amazon thought it was doing the book a favor by expurgating bogus reader reviews but some of the ones it left up were way more bogus than the 25 it took down and who is Amazon to say what's bogus and what's snot? G.

Feisty said...

Gerard: Business is business. It's not about truth. Leave that to the deep thinkers. If truth was important, then James Frey wouldn't have traveled where he did, would he?

Hey, I'm going to hook up to your media contacts. I help market 14 authors for a small publisher and they are DYING for media contacts. Dying, I'm telling you.

Anonymous said...

Hook away. It's free, like me. Tee-hee. G.

Anonymous said...

Amazon's servers are probably crashing and groaning from all the reviews and they hope if they delete half from each book, nobody will notice. Nobody reads beyond the first or second pages, anyway, right?

If you bug them long enough and politely enough, they will go to the backup and restore the deletions. Anything to avoid the accusation of censorship.

Anonymous said...

See the bogus Amazon reviews on this webpage:


Bob Sanchez said...

Dear Miss Snark,
I've written a half dozen novels over the years, had three agents, even read nice comments about my work from folks who weren't friends or relatives. I've spent years schlepping my stuff to agents and publishers--only the standard route for me. One small publisher even said he wanted to publish one of my novels, but he went out of business instead.

I've recently retired and can finally write all I want, but I sure don't care to spend the rest of my life begging strangers to represent me. So I'm close to deciding to publish my latest novel using iUniverse. I've read through the great comments on your blog, and want to go into this with my eyes wide open. I know perfectly well that the B&N book fairy won't wave her wand and give me shelf space. Frankly, I would be quite happy if several hundred perfect strangers bought it and I recouped my costs.

So what about selling to libraries? My local librarian told me today that they'll buy almost anything from a local author. ("Sight unseen," she said, but let's not hold her to that.) What she said about other libraries was that good reviews would help them decide to make a purchase, as would a connection with a distributor. The latter isn't likely to happen, but reviews...

Well, there's Kirkus, which normally won't touch self-published books, but will do so for a fee as a "Kirkus Discoveries" review. Those reviews seem honest; I've read one that panned a book. So for about $400 I could guarantee a review but not necessarily a positive one. I'm willing to take my chances on the review, but don't want to throw my money away if the whole Kirkus Discoveries concept sucks.


Bob Sanchez said...

Any thoughts on "Kirkus Discoveries" reviews, which can be purchased as an add-on to iUniverse packages? They claim to be just as honest as the usual Kirkus reviews, and I have seen one that really panned an iUniverse book. Are these reviews regarded differently by the market?