And my one and only review for Goalden Girl has gone from Amazon.com!
So imagine I'm JK Rowling, and some of my reviews for my books disappear from Amazon overnight.
I didn't pay for the review, and it was posted by a review service whose sole purpose is to get kids reading and encouraging them to write reviews for their favourite books. This review service just happens to post their reviews onto Amazon.
Would I, as JK Rowling, notice the difference? Nah, probably not; I get about a million reviews for my books a day. So what?
Now, I'm Tracey Morait. I'm a UK POD author who has to get on my bended knees to anyone who buys my books on sites like Amazon to ask them to leave a review, 'cos if it's one thing that's been drummed into me since starting this writing lark by other authors and blogs and all this, it's that 'reviews sell books!' Therefore, every review to a POD author is precious.
Yet, if my readers are anything like me, they tweet me and comment on my site that yeah they loved my book - but they don't leave a review for it from the shop where they bought it from! I can't preach, can I? I've bought lots of stuff from Amazon and I haven't left reviews; but as a struggling author, what do I do?
I approach some review services like the one mentioned above and I say pretty please...?
This review service (in the US) eventually asks for copies of my books, and I meekly oblige. They don't charge a fee, because I don't pay for express reviews. At last the review is complete, and they kindly leave the reviews for my books on Amazon.com. I don't ask, it's just what they've always done. Not all review services do this, but I'm glad of their input, too. I can advertise their reviews on my site.
So the first review for Goalden Girl published in 2007 is posted onto Amazon.com in 2008.
Fast-forward to 5th May 2011 and I'm looking at the Amazon.com Kindle version of Goalden Girl uploaded in April 2011, and what do I find? My review has gone! My one and only review for that title - five stars, too! - has completely disappeared from the Kindle and the print version, and anyone looking at the title has been inivited to 'be the first to review this book'!
I check my other titles, and guess what! Those reviews that review service left for them have gone, too!
I'm puzzled. Eh?! think I, so I email Amazon via Author Central and I go, 'Er...?'
Whilst waiting for a reply, I do a Google search and I find an article by the review service reporting they've had a communication from another service telling them they've had their book reviews removed from Amazon, because they are violating the Amazon guidelines for posting reviews. Gradually, the same thing is happening to my review service; their reviews are disappearing, too.
I contact the review service. They tell me they're having none of it, they HAVEN'T violated the Amazon guidelines, and have their lawyers onto it.
Meanwhile, I get a reply from Amazon saying well, you see, there are two reasons why a review is removed 1. it violates the guidelines, 2. the reviewer asked for it to be removed. Of course they don't specify the real reason in my case as to why my reviews suddenly and inexplicably disappeared!
I go onto my usual forum and I find out from a respected poster that Amazon have changed the rules (it was nice of them to tell the review services who apparently had no idea!) and are not now allowing anyone who hasn't bought the book to leave a review on their site! It's probably to stop people leaving fraudulent reviews.
OK. Fair do's.
But why purge ALL reviews left by those review services even before the rules changed? Why not just block reviews from the time they changed their contract? And what's Amazon's problem with a bit of promotion for a struggling author, anyway?
Oh, yeah, wait, they didn't cross Amazon's palm with silver.
Whatever your opinion about the usefulness of a review in selling a book, it's still nice to know someone appreciated it, and to see it disappear overnight doesn't do much for your nerves. Vanishing reviews might not bother established authors like JK Rowling, but they won't do authors like me any favours! What about the reviewers and all the work they've put in, not to mention the help they've tried to give to unknown writers like me!