C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Amazon Overboard: Further thoughts

Crack the Indie Author Code and Write Your Book: Aspire to Inspire both have bonus offers of free ebooks. Buy two books and you get four! Just released, so no reviews yet, but any second now….any second…Amazon’s doing what?! I’ve gotta sit down on a stump and think about this!

Publishing blogs will be burning up about Amazon’s new review policy tonight. Here’s my soothing balm: I think the idea of clamping down on authors reviewing their “competition” is so nuts, somebody on Amazon’s end will step in and say, “Sorry! Never mind. It was Todd’s first day and he locked himself on the bridge and took the helm and we almost crashed into that small moon.”

(Everybody all together now: “That’s no moon!”)

This is such a classic overcorrection to the comparatively minor problem of sock puppetry that I have to believe cooler, smarter heads will prevail. This is Amazon. They’re smart! (“…right?” said a small, nervous voice.)

In case they aren’t smart about this issue, here are my thoughts and predictions for what might happen if they don’t break past the locked door to the bridge and wrestle Ensign Todd to the deck.  

1. Following this logic, if Steven King were to step out of a pillar of literary white light, lay his sword upon my shoulders and give The

Steven King! Click here! Small-town terrors and psychological mayhem in Maine.

Dangerous Kind & Other Stories his blessing, Amazon wouldn’t want a share in my ensuing windfall? (I choose that book because, hey, comparisons have been made and, ahem, Steve, if you’re reading this…)

Okay, that’s not going to happen, but the principle strikes at the heart of the problem. If Steven King — or any other writer who springs to mind — says a book is good, that recommendation is given more weight in the real world, not less. We’re writers and we’re serious. We might know a little something about craft. I wrote two guides to writing and publishing and used to work in traditional publishing. For that reason, I should get less of a voice and opportunity to exercise free speech? To put it less eruditely but more succinctly: Um…huh?!

2. She Who Must Be Obeyed pointed out that the Oscars would have to be closed down by this policy’s logic. In that group, only directors can vote for directors and cinematographers vote for cinematographers. No one questions their moral fortitude and how honest their opinions are. Amazon’s giving me less credit for honesty than Hollywood people?! Again: What?!

If the core issue is trust — and we do want to trust that the review system works despite some evidence to the contrary — that trust is tested in two directions, not one.

3. Amazon’s great at a lot of things. If they keep this review policy, they will give their competitors a chance to be good at something at which Amazon, at present, suckeths. It doesn’t help that the policy is an insult aimed right at us. Most people can be trusted to write an honest review. My fear is that this move enables a lot of bad reviewers (who happen not to be authors) to go rogue and unchecked. Without balance, we all fall down.

4. I’m concerned that there’s a bunch of fear cropping up around this issue. As someone on Twitter told me today, it doesn’t help that they threaten to pull the book down if you argue with them. In dealing with artists, authors and content providers, threats are a tactical error. We’re all adults here, so let’s take this as an opportunity to solve problems. I’ve already been told, not unkindly, that I should watch what I say for fear of punishment. JA Konrath has mentioned that he’s got so many reviews, he’s above the fray. I have few enough, I’m beneath it. Take me down and I’ll get more publicity from the capricious attack. 

5. The Law of Unintended Consequences is one of my favorite laws. It rules throughout my plots. In fact, as Konrath has pointed out, it’s this bitch of a law that got us into this mess. If this policy stands I predict:

A. Fewer reviews on Amazon. Well, d’uh. If they just take them down, why bother?

B. Bad reviews stay up, depressing our star ratings. What many readers suspicious of reviews don’t understand is how incredibly difficult it is to get any reviews at all. That’s especially frustrating because many sites won’t help us promote our books until we have at least 10 reviews that yield a ranking above four stars. Put up another barrier to our livelihood and hopes and dreams and you get…

C. More paid reviews will rear up from clever, shady companies who will get around the system. Put desperate authors in a game they can’t win and more will cheat (only this time they’ll feel justified instead of furtive.)

D. Reviews will matter less than they do now. Many would say “even” less, and I repeat my oft-repeated plea: Read the sample and base your buying decisions on that, please.

E. Competitors and book review sites and book bloggers will rise higher as this policy change makes reviews less relevant. In many cases, authors will have to pay for those reviews, too, just to get to the head of the line.

Sigh. Okay…it’s off my chest. Now  what? 

My suggestions:

Sign the Change.org petition asking Amazon to please stop taking down reviews arbitrarily.

Get back to NaNoWriMo and have some fun being awesome.

Get back to reading something great and review it.

By the time you do so, this mess will probably be sorted out and Todd will be safely stowed in the brig.

*Geek test: Yes, I’m aware I mixed allusions to Star Trek and Star Wars in this post. Climb down off my back. It was a joke.

Free to download Nov 5 to Nov 9, 2012. Grab it now!

FRESH UPDATE: My crime novel, Bigger Than Jesus just reached #1 in Hardboiled and #9 in Action/Adventure. That’s an example of something Amazon does very well. Click it to grab it free until November 9!

Advertisements

Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses

  1. I love the article – one other things we indie authors can/should do is get out of KDP Select. To call Amazon mean and arbitrary etc. about reviews but then to give them total control over our book selling doesn’t make sense. If enough authors bail on the program and at least make an attempt to sell books elsewhere, that would send a strong message to Amazon, too.

  2. Chazz says:

    That’s an idea. I’m locked in until January for most of my books. I planned to put the books across all platforms after that, anyway, so I won’t pretend that’s some kind of defiant gesture. I also should reiterate that Amazon does a lot right. That’s why I’m so confident they’ll pull back on the throttle on this policy. That said, I encourage everyone to sign the petition I linked to so they are further spurred to correct the pendulum swing that went too far. Thanks for reading and commenting, Renee.

  3. fuonlyknew says:

    As usual, you took a topic that ruffles my feathers and made me smile about it. I hope someone throws cold water on Amazon and wakes them up over there. After all the fighting for the freedom of speech and the written word, we get this?

  4. […] content, including links and the like.  Pretty standard.  But then I read on Chazz Chute’s blog that Amazon will not allow authors to review their competition.  Read the post, Chazz has some […]

  5. I’ve been trying to think of ways to keep my reviews up. I’ve gone with a full disclosure down to why I gave the star ratings I did in the hopes my reviews don’t disappear. I write reviews for all indie books I get free. If I don’t think I’m gonna read/review them, I don’t pick them up. How else do we give back to the writer community if not by reviews? Ugh. I hate conundrums. WRITE ON!

  6. […] into the matter or your account will be removed!!), as Robert Chazz Chute [hilariously] wrote on his great blog post, we’ll have to assume that Todd is still on the […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

See my books, blogs, links and podcasts.

I interview the people you need to get to know.

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 10,518 other followers

Brain Spasms a la Twitter

%d bloggers like this: