It recently came to my attention that if Amazon suspects that a reviewer personally knows the author, then their review of the work is deleted. I guess I can understand the need for a company as large as Amazon to guard against sock-puppeting, or the practice of logging in using multiple usernames to bolster a work unjustly. I can even see why they might want to limit reviews from friends and family, but if you’re an indie author, how the heck do you start?
Or really, what if Amazon makes a mistake? There are some authors claiming that the network they’ve built requires them to be Facebook friends with their readers, and those readers start to get disqualified for their reviews. After all, they kind of “know” you, right? Amazon does this via automated systems, because they have a ton to do and reviewing every appeal someone might make would be time consuming and not very cost-effective. But without personal attention, abuse happens. The loss of a good review, to an indie author, can be the difference between a few extra bucks and greater word of mouth.
Author Lori Otto very astutely points out in her blog post that self-published authors that rely on their personal connections to makes sales are unfairly affected by Amazon’s policies:
“The point is, as an Indie author, it is inevitable that readers will become friends, associates and confidants, and there’s nothing you nor I can do about it.”
She makes a compelling case for change. Even more problematic is that Amazon’s policy disproportionately punishes false-positives, yet it remains silent in the wake of one-star review campaigns. That doesn’t seem right. One star reviews kill.
There has to be a better solution to sock-puppeting that doesn’t entail punishing people for making money independently for their creativity. There’s currently a petition you can sign to change policies if interested: Here.
(Picture origin here, used with permission.)