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?

Welcome to my new and improved “web presence”

Every fiction writer needs a web presence. That’s a rule now. I don’t know who makes the rules, but whoever they are, they made this one. Just go ask anybody who knows the rules for fiction writers; they’ll tell you about this rule, just like they told me.

I’m still not sure if it’s a law or just a rule, but I’m a good boy, so rules are enough for me.

My previous web presence left much to be desired. It was a static web page that I’d built myself. It was the only web page I’ve ever built, and it looked like it.

As a DIY project, it had its charms, and if it were a rec room in my basement, I might have been satisfied with it. But it was something that needed to be impressive to more than just my kids. It had to compete with a world filled with pretty sites, loaded with bells and whistles. It didn’t compete very well.

welcome to the 20th century

My old website was just a bit behind the times.

I’d taught myself enough Dreamweaver and HTML to put words and images on the screen and edit them to make things look reasonably uniform, but it was not anything you would call fancy, or interactive. The free hit counter I downloaded stopped working one day, and I never could find the time or know-how to get it fixed.

It was built from the same template that I’m sure 10 million other amateur web designers used to hobble together their soap-box-derby sites.

But it had a nice blue background color. So there’s that.

Meanwhile, I began a parenting/humor blog on WordPress for fun and to document the childhoods of my boys. With so much less effort, I created a web presence that was so much more attractive than my writing site. My for-fun project was a neat, well-apportioned home, while my “professional” web presence was a shack. I could tell how many people visited my parenting blog, and they could even leave notes for me if they desired. At my writing shack, visitors could not interact with me at all. They were probably too busy brushing cob webs out of their hair anyway.

I rolled along in this situation for an alarmingly long time; inertia is such a comfy ride sometimes.

But enough is enough. Hence, this blog.

I’m getting ready to publish my first book since I created my web “empire” and other than the fact that getting ready to publish a book is intensely time-consuming, that makes this the perfect time to upgrade my web presence into something that could be useful.

So here it is: my second WordPress blog. It’s a little daunting right now, and it’s a work in progress, but so is everything I touch.

I hope you find it somewhat inviting. Feel free to leave a comment. You can do that now.