Authors Beware: Amazon Could Remove Your Book!!

Authors Beware: Amazon Could Remove Your Book!!When someone posts a review on Amazon it goes through a review process, personally I have never had any reviews rejected by their moderation, or removed following publication, but it seems others have!

In particular there was an article published on the Forbes website entitled Amazon Tackles Review Problem, Deletes Wrong Reviews. This article was published in November 2012, although I have only just found it because of what happened last week to one of my clients.

Lisa Cherry recently published The Brightness of Stars which I formatted for her for Amazon Kindle. Lisa held a competition for her launch and was giving copies of her book away as prizes (as well as other books by other authors). One of the prize winners was my mum, this had nothing to do with me at all, but I wanted to be as honest as possible with this post so you have all the information.

My mum was excited to win a copy of Lisa’s new book and started reading it immediately. Having finished it last week she wanted to write a review for Lisa, and did so on Amazon. That’s when things took a bizarre turn, the review wasn’t approved and Amazon suggested that my mum had a financial interest in the book, and received an email similar to the one above in the Forbes article.

Here is a link to a post my mum wrote on her own blog – Amazon making false claims about my honesty!

We have no financial interest in Lisa’s book, she is one of my many clients who pays me to format her books, I don’t receive royalties or bonuses based on sales and neither does my mum, her review was genuine, you can read it on Goodreads where it’s now posted – http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/619128061

What I don’t understand after reading the Forbes article, is how can Amazon threaten to remove the authors book if a reviewer repeatedly contacts them about being wrongly accused? How is this the author’s problem?

I have been looking at the Amazon Customer Review Guidelines which seem very fair, but when they wrongly accuse someone, then what?

Have you had similar problems?

Did you contact Amazon and what sort of response did you receive?

I hope to give some exposure to some of the ‘behind the scene’ goings on at Amazon when authors work so hard to produce a great book and obtain great reviews, it’s an uphill struggle already without Amazon taking things into their own hands.

Comments

  1. Sadly this doesn’t surprise me Jo. I’ve had two reviews removed – Amazon’s policy seems to be that if the reviewer knows anyone who knows anyone who knows the author, then obviously it is all a dark conspiracy to produce biased reviews.

    Of course, in real life, our friends, clients and associates are far more likely to be interested in our work and are more likely to leave a review. I’ve had a review removed that was written by a previous co-author, and also the copy editor of my latest book commented on an earlier book. Neither had any financial interest. Fair? I don’t think so. I didn’t contact Amazon, but no doubt if I did I would get the same response as you!

    Julie Cooper
    Author of Face to Face in the Workplace

    • Thanks for commenting Julie, and sorry to hear you’ve had a similar problem. It’s concerning, I wonder how many authors are unaware that this is happening and don’t realise their reviews are being removed.

  2. RachelB. says:

    Because you had a business deal with the author, it definitely looks fishy if your mother writes a review for the same book. The best policy is for authors and their employees to stay out of the review process. Period.

    • Hi Rachel, you’re right normally this sort of thing wouldn’t happen but my mum follows Lisa because she’s interested in what Lisa writes about. By Amazon dictating who can review a book means many of the authors friends and family would surely be excluded to?

      • RachelB. says:

        It’s like when you want to enter into one of those Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweepstakes and they have this disclaimer that says relatives of employees may not enter into the contest. There are valid legal reasons for these exclusions. Amazon has their own valid reasons to keep reviews limited to 3rd parties. They don’t want to turn the whole review process into a big joke. If your mother knew you were employed by Lisa, she should have kept a safe distance to protect the business relationship. If you weren’t employed by Lisa, that’s a whole different story.

        • I’m sorry I don’t agree with you, by limiting reviews to 3rd parties then that’s excluding a huge proportion of an author’s contacts. Amazon have no way of knowing of my business relationship with Lisa because my name is not mentioned anywhere in the book, and my surname is different from my mum’s, so how can Amazon assume she is financially connected to Lisa? The simple answer is they cannot.

  3. Hi Jo,
    Sorry to hear about the difficulties with your mother’s review not vbeing accepted by amazon. Maybe in cases like this amazon could simply disclose the connection above or below the review. Then nobody gets upset and the public can weigh up the information and decide for themselves.

    • That’s the thing Jonathan, they are refusing to give away what the connection is, and I am positive it has nothing to do with me, as I said in a comment above, my name isn’t in Lisa’s book and my surname is different to my mum’s, it’s very strange.

  4. “If your mother knew you were employed by Lisa, she should have kept a safe distance to protect the business relationship. ”

    I’ve been following Lisa on Twitter and Facebook for a long time since the publishing of her first book Soul Journey. I am interested in her work, it’s a genre I read often as it is an area I feel passionate about. I worked as a psychotherapist in the UK with many adults who had similar journey’s to Lisa’s. Lisa’s new book is an important piece of writing and I felt strongly I wanted to say how I felt about it and what it means for vulnerable children.

    It wouldn’t occur to me that I couldn’t read and review a book I had won and read in order to protect a business relationship that Jo no longer has. That relationship no longer exists, unless Lisa asks her to format another book. I have reviewed other books she’s formatted if I’ve enjoyed them and if I haven’t, I don’t.

    I think that the only reason Amazon have rejected my review is because Jo’s name and my name are shown as editors on my Dad’s book, which Jo has reviewed (and the review remains).

    I don’t know Lisa and I receive no money from Jo for the small amount of Retweeting I do to support her in her business.

    I could have steered clear, if I thought it was going to cause trouble for Jo or for Lisa, I didn’t think that for one minute because I am human, a reader and I like to leave a review where one is deserved.

    • I like the idea that we declare any relationship we have with an author – at least people can make up their own minds whether to give it credence or not.

      I exchanged books recently with a local business man (Steve Abel) who had also just published a book. Central to his story is his relationship with his father, and how his father didn’t like who he had become when he made it big. When he told how moved he was when his Dad left a review on Amazon, I had to tell him that it may well disappear. I’ve just checked…it’s still there!

      So A Mr Abel writing ‘I’m Steve’s dad’ can stay yet somehow other tenuous relationships get blacklisted by Amazon’s cyberpolice. I think Kathy is right about them picking up the editors on another book – the standard imprint page is the only way they could have made the kinks with me.

      Funnily enough, I have just referred a client to Jo, and also won one of Lisa’s books. I’m feeling I’ve committed a crime before I write a review!!

      • Hi Julia,
        I feel like that too. I am now wary of even talking to Lisa on Twitter, or mentioning the name of her book which is such a shame.

  5. Hi Jo, I ‘ve just checked my Amazon ratings on my paperback ‘The Health Factor’ and found that one rating has been deleted from the uk site and 2 from amazon.com. I have no idea who these reviews were from, just that my number of ratings have gone down. I am certain though that they were not from relatives or from anyone who could possibly have benefitted from the book. This seems so random. Those reviews had been up for several years, so why randomly remove a couple of them now. It doesn’t make sense!

    • It doesn’t make sense Anne, Amazon seem to be deleting reviews without any proof, and then not listening when complaints have been made by the reviewers. I am starting to wonder whether authors should start to put less time into Amazon and look elsewhere.

  6. Hi Jo,

    The following was just in Amazon’s KDP Newsletter sent out today:

    Q. Are authors allowed to review another author’s book?
    A. Yes. We very much welcome Customer Reviews from authors. However, if the author reviewing the book has a personal relationship with the author of the book they are reviewing, or was involved in the book’s creation process (i.e. as a co-author, editor, illustrator, etc.), that author is not eligible to write a Customer Review for that book.

    Looks like if you have anything to do with the book or are close to the author, they will not allow reviews.

    • Yes I received it too Nevin, it’s very strange that both myself and my mum have left a review of my Grandfather’s book, although from what I have read it seems old reviews are being removed, so quite possibly they will disappear as well.

  7. I think my review of Dad’s book has gone. I looked recently, in view of the latest debacle and couldn’t find it. So perhaps it too is a casualty of the above.

  8. Yours is no longer there.

  9. All of this is so very interesting and thank you Jo for writing up about it and opening up a discussion. I personally think it’s a good thing that Amazon are finally going to be making sure that reviews are authentic. I wonder if this has anything to do with their recent collaboration with Goodreads….a much respected space of integrity!

    However, while this is essentially a good thing, if there is no process by which mistakes about identity can be rectified, then it is a flawed system that is no different from the one we currently have where people have been known to set up false accounts in order to review their own books.
    Lisa Cherry recently posted..When is it time to shut up?My Profile

  10. The problem of fake reviews on Amazon is a tricky one. Amazon will rank your book higher if you have lots of reviews, so everyone is out to game the system. To be on the safe side, they have to ban anyone with any sort of “personal relationship”, even if that’s as tenuous as “mother of a colleague” or whatever. Personally, I hope it does sort out the problem of the fakies…
    Mike Huiwitz recently posted..Ex Back ExpertsMy Profile

  11. One of the most popular surnames in the UK is Smith, so when an author called Smith receives a review from someone else called Smith are Amazon going to block it? Two things could sway it, 1. As mentioned above, a small disclaimer saying that the reviewer does know the author. 2. If the review comes from a verified purchase then I do not see what the problem is. Amazon have been more than happy to take their money so they should be generous in return to allow the review. A couple more points, the first rule of anyone starting a business is ‘to tell all your friends’, get them ‘to tell all of their friends’. Messrs Amazon and co. would have done the exact same thing all those years ago. In this day of social media, a bad comment from an amazon employee about his place of work on facebook or twitter can result in the employee being questioned by his employer. The tack they will use will be, ‘well all of your friends saw the comment and most of their friends will have seen it too, therefore you are exposing your views to a vast amount of potential customers’, this actually did happen at my own workplace and this was the approach they had when they questioned those involved. As happens in sports, the cheats always get shown up, a book with dozens of 5 star reviews but has been returned because it is a pile of stuff the comes out the back of a horse will be spotted by amazon, so a third way could be to just let the reviews come and the cream will eventually rise.

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