Wednesday News: How to help the Sandy victims; Amazing Sandy pics; Indies cry foul over Amazon review deletion
Disaster Relief, CPR Certification, Donate Blood – Hurricane Sandy has devastated communities from Haiti (that had not yet recovered from the earthquake) to Canada, but much of its devastation was on the eastern seaboard.
The RedCross is asking for monetary donations and has indicated that its blood bank is low. You can text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation or visit your local RedCross to make a blood bank donation.
CNN has an additional list of charities for children and animals in need as well as how to assist in the cleanup American Red Cross
In the Eye of the Storm: Capturing Sandy’s Wrath – Sandy was wreaked devastation from Haiti (who hasn’t recovered from the Earthquake) to Canada. The Times (link in the title) and the Atlantic both have compiled some amazing photographs.
This Atlantic link (different than the previous one) is particularly useful because it debunks some of the photographs being shared. I.e., no actual sharks in Jersey but yes, the large portions of the Atlantic boardwalk appeared to be subsumed by the water.
I particularly liked this random one. Lose a boat? Times, Atlantic, Gawker
Call for Entries: Sony Readers Book Club – I’m just going to quote from the page:
Each month, Sony Reader Store will select a book of the month to feature in a virtual Book Club gathering, an online chat with the author, on the Sony Reader Store Facebook and Twitter pages. Starting November 28 you’ll get the opportunity to chat about the book of the month with the author and fellow book lovers.
And wait, there’s more, we are also looking for 25 VIP members to join ‘Sony Readers Book Club’ who will each receive a Sony Reader device and cover with light, as well as the first four Book of the Month ebooks for free. In February, the 25 VIP members will also be invited to an in-person book club and meet-and-greet with author Michael Connelly in Los Angeles. The VIPs will receive airfare, hotel, transportation and meals for the duration of the weekend – pretty sweet deal. All we ask is that you read the books and participate in the chats.SONY make.believe
Amazon: Stop Arbitrarily Removing Customer Reviews From Indie Author Books – sign a petition – “The next question is this: is there a Big Six conspiracy? Are the big publishers complaining to Amazon about the conduct of some Indie authors, those that game the system? It’s possible. I’ve seen the chatter. Of course, you won’t get either Amazon or any big publisher to admit to it.” Or so says the folks at The Masquerade Crew.
I have to say that I laughed out loud when I read that line. The idea that the Big 6 is actively paying for negative reviews to be left on indie books is so lacking in reason and analysis that the only response to give is laugh. Let’s look at this objectively, if we can. Amazon’s greatest tool against the Big 6 is its own source of content. I.e., the content produced by indies through Kindle Direct Publishing. KDP has convinced thousands of indie writers to give Amazon an exclusive by getting them to sign agreements to participate in the KDP Select. The Big 6 actively watch the indie list so that they can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on what they hope to be the next big thing.
But simultaneously we are to believe that traditional publishing and Amazon are in cahoots to drive down indies? How about paying for positive reviews? I see only a bare minimum of reviews on many traditionally published books. Wouldn’t it make sense to actually pad the reviews of their own books instead of adding to the numbers that self published books have?
And is it any wonder that Amazon is deleting reviews of self published books that no one has heard of? Frex, Courtney Milan’s Unlocked, which was a top ten Kindle besteller and part of an Amazon direct email campaign has 105 reviews. If a self published author has even remotely close to her number and they aren’t in the top 10 ever? I’m giving that author the side eye and maybe Amazon is too.
There are things that indies can do to erode Amazon’s monopoly including not signing exclusive deals, making sure to actively sell their books at all available retailers, and promoting their sales within those alternative channels. The Masquerade Crew
Actually, it’s not just self-published authors whose reviews are being removed. There’s been some fairly worried discussion of this on the PAN author loop, which is primarily made up of traditionally published authors. One of the main concerns among that group of people has been that there are indications that some of the reviews being removed are those by authors. The Amazon review policy would appear to prohibit authors from reviewing books by other authors (you are not supposed to review if you have a financial interest in the product itself *or* a competing product). So far, none of my reviews has been removed, and a number of them are by authors (some of whom I know/interact with and others I don’t), but this is definitely a concern among authors in general.
In addition, this thread on Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/forum/top%20reviewers/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg1?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2Z5LRXMSUDQH2&cdPage=1&cdSort=oldest&cdThread=Tx3B0Y9RZMNHY4O) appears to indicate that they are also removing reviews if the reviewer ever received an Amazon gift certificate from the author of the book. The thought process here appears to be that this makes the review “paid for” by the author/publisher, but that seems a dubious leap of logic to me. Many authors give away Amazon gift cards in contests with no expectation that the winner will either buy the author’s books or review them. That said, if the winner does buy one of the author’s books with that gift card, does that automatically mean he/she shouldn’t be permitted to review the book? This almost seems like Amazon shooting itself in the foot to me, since it certainly discourages authors from using Amazon gift cards both as prizes and also for actual gifts to friends and family who MIGHT someday buy a book and want to review it.
I think Amazon should clean up its review system to eliminate as many “shill” reviews as possible, but I don’t see what they’re doing now as a very effective method of rooting them out. The gift card method does nothing at all to stop the John Locke method of buying reviews (he didn’t pay for them with Amazon gift cards as far as I know). I’d love to see Amazon engage in the kind of “sting” operation that Yelp did, and then, instead of removing the shill reviews, post warnings on books by authors who’ve been caught trying to buy reviews. If you want to put a quick stop to this sort of behavior, there’s nothing like catching people red-handed and letting consumers know.
The Boston Globe’s picture blog The Big Picture also has a great set of pictures of Sandy’s nonsense.
Jackie Barbosa wrote:
“The Amazon review policy would appear to prohibit authors from reviewing books by other authors (you are not supposed to review if you have a financial interest in the product itself *or* a competing product). ”
Actually two different users contacted Customer Service and got these answers:
I’ve been arguing that honest critical reviews are not the same as trashing or malicious reviews. (http://www.amazon.com/forum/top%20reviewers/ref=cm_cd_pg_pg6?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=Fx2Z5LRXMSUDQH2&cdPage=6&cdThread=Tx3B0Y9RZMNHY4O ) Jackie believes there’s no distinction in Amazon’s eyes. All I can say is that I’ve negatively reviewed books in my genre, and the reviews are still there.
Jackie also wrote: “This almost seems like Amazon shooting itself in the foot to me, since it certainly discourages authors from using Amazon gift cards both as prizes and also for actual gifts to friends and family who MIGHT someday buy a book and want to review it.”
I don’t know why authors who are worried about this don’t just write to Amazon for clarification. They do answer questions about this stuff.
For what it’s worth, when you drill down in the cases where authors have had reviews removed, in all the examples I’ve seen, the author has done something which violates Amazon rules. A few genuine reviews might be caught in the trap, but the real problem is the way authors are exaggerating the importance of reviews in the first. I’ve seen them whining about reviews being ‘stolen’ from them.
Dude, reviews don’t belong to you in the first place. Reviews just aren’t that important for sales, no matter what you believe.
@Ann Somerville: Dude, reviews don’t belong to you in the first place. Reviews just aren’t that important for sales, no matter what you believe.
I agree with you on both counts. But review DO belong to the reviewer. And it’s the reviewer who is harmed when his or her review is removed, because it means posting it was a waste of his or her time. I’m really not concerned about this on behalf of the authors of the books, but on behalf of the authors of the reviews. If Amazon removes my review (I use the term “my” not to mean “me, personally,” but “me, a person”) for no apparent reason (because if it’s an honest review, the reason obviously won’t be apparent to me), I am surely going to be that much less likely to post more reviews in the future. Why bother?
This isn’t to say that there aren’t reviews that *should* be removed for any number of reasons. What I question is whether the tools/criteria Amazon is using are the best/most effective available. John Locke’s books still have hundreds of reviews, after all, despite absolute certainty that he bought reviews.
“I’m really not concerned about this on behalf of the authors of the books, but on behalf of the authors of the reviews.”
Not questioning your personal honesty on this, but the whining I’m hearing at ever increasing volumes has been from authors about ‘their’ (ie reviews of their books, not reviews they have written.) A few top rated reviewers are also concerned, but when they contact Amazon, a lot of times their reviews are restored. In other cases, it looks as if there’s something hinky going on which they’re not revealing.
Treating of reviews like gold bullion that authors have to win and then hoard is just ridiculous, and very self-serving. It’s nothing to do with concern about poor reviewers. (This all harks back to Robin’s recent post about authors and commenting on reviews, of course.)
@Ann Somerville: I have seen that whining, too, and agree that’s it’s mostly authors angsting about their rating average and number of reviews falling. That said, when the question came on on the loop, which is how I first became aware of the issue, an author was specifically asking whether Amazon meant that she was no longer allowed to post reviews and/or that the reviews she had posted would be removed. So the discussion definitely began there from the POV of the reviewer (although that reviewer also happened to be an author).