The review police cast a wide net

A few years ago, the complaints about fake reviews on Amazon reached a level Amazon could not ignore. They tightened their reviewing policy and purged reviews that smelled funny to them.

Having seen enough fishy reviews on Amazon’s pages, I thought this was a good move. I feel like I can pick out insincere reviews, but, apparently, not everyone can. Besides, they can get to be annoying, when they are not entertaining, behind their veneer of deceit.

I wasn’t affected by the purges, so I never bothered to learn how Amazon determined which reviews were frauds. Time went by and I didn’t much consider the issue.

Amazon reviews can be very helpful in promoting your book. In spite of this, I decided I would try to avoid the temptation to ask for reviews with A Housefly in Autumn. The really valuable reviews are the ones people are inspired to write by their experience with the product itself. I didn’t want anyone writing a review because they felt obliged to do it.

So far I have stayed true to my intention. I have not asked anyone for a review. Consequently, after nearly a month, I have few reviews. I would have had one more, except the Amazon purge has finally struck me.

I kicked off my book with a release party. Not wanting to be alone at my party, I invited people I know. They humbled me by the way they gladly turned out. One of the attendees is a co-worker. She paid her hard-earned money for a copy, took it home and read it.

She liked it. She liked it a lot. Without any prompting, she wrote a review on Amazon. It was a short review, but it was heartfelt. I felt honored by it.

It was also short-lived. Within a day, Amazon purged it. She inquired about this and was told that she was not eligible to review this item.

They didn’t say why she was ineligible. I suspect it is a combination of her not having reviewed much on Amazon previously, the shortness of the review, the fact that it was not a “verified” Amazon purchase (she bought it at my party), and the fact that she lives in my town.

The official rules. Did the review in question violate them?

The official rules. Did the review in question violate them?

I’m disappointed at losing her review, but I am not irate with Amazon. I know they mean well and they can’t investigate every review on its own merits.

I feel as though this was an honest review. The reviewer paid for the book. No review was solicited of her, and she was in no way compensated for it. She has no economic interest in the book. The only connection she has is that she knows the author.

I hope Amazon does not consider proximity to be too much an indicator of fraud. After all, who will the non-famous author market to first, if not his own community. I would discourage family members from reviewing my books, but how far away from me must that line be drawn?

What do you think? Was this a valid review? Should people who know the author be prohibited from reviewing his books? Where should Amazon draw the line?

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2 thoughts on “The review police cast a wide net

    • Knowing the author doesn’t seem to be a violation of the stated rules that I found. That, by itself, seems unenforceable anyway. But proximity to the author certainly seems to be a red flag that mixed in with Amazon’s other nebulous triggers can get a review booted without explanation. If you review regularly and are specific in your comments, I think knowing the author will be much less likely to be an issue.

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