Annamaria on Monday
I know. It’s the holidays, and I am supposed to be writing something amusing and upbeat. But just yesterday, I made the mistake of belatedly reading this Fall’s bulletin from The Authors Guild. It left me mulling over a thorny issue. Stick with me on this. I promise not to drone on with the subject for very long. Besides, beginning next week, I will be traveling for a couple of months, and I promise to take you with me via photos. For now, I need your thoughts on an issue that startled me when I read it. Maybe everyone knows about this, but I didn’t, until yesterday.
In the Short Takes column that starts off every AG Bulletin, there is a three-paragraph piece entitled “Amazon Book Review Policy.” Here are the first few sentences:
“Amazon has begun blocking users from reviewing books written by friends and family—with those relationships determined by the bookseller, based on social media activity. If you follow an author on Twitter, for example, Amazon will consider the author to be your friend or family and send you this message if you try to post a review of the author’s book on its website: ‘We removed your Customer Reviews (sic) because you know the author personally. Due to the proprietary nature of our business, we do not provide detailed information on how we determine that accounts are related.’”
WHAT???? my mind screamed when I read this much. Every writer I know, including New York Times and otherwise bestselling ones, spends a great deal of time on social media in contact with readers. I enjoy much my time doing that. Many of my otherwise unknown Facebook friends and Twitter and Instagram followers are interesting and amusing e-conversationalists. The overwhelming majority of them contacted me, presumably because they have read and enjoyed my books. The Amazon practice described above could very well preclude them from commenting on my books on the Amazon site. Does Amazon have the right to block those people from expressing an opinion about my books on their website—based on the bookseller’s assumption that they are not “objective” (whatever that means)?
Stuff I think I ought to say before going further: My books have very few reviews on Amazon; most of them highly complimentary. I have never asked anyone to post a review for me. Leighton once wrote me a splendid one. As did one of my college classmates. As did Stan. The rest are written by strangers to me.
Most important to note, the policy described above seems to have first emerged last summer. I tried to find out what’s happening with this Amazon practice right now, but nothing more current showed up in my Google search.
I am not sure how I feel about counting those Amazon stars anyway. I have been on or attended panel discussions where one of the funnier and snarkier topics involved the writers reporting on the most laughable one-star reviews they have received, many of which seemed to have come from readers of highly questionable intelligence or sanity. My answer, by the way, was about the person on Goodreads who gave City of Silver one star and as her reason: She read the names of the characters in the front matter and found out that she did not like their names, so she never bought the book.
Given the paucity of current information on this Amazon review practice I decided to see what would happen if I posted a review of a book by a real friend (Michael Stanley). I wanted also to see what would happen if I then reviewed a book of a writer of whom I am just a fan. But my ability to do that is complicated because I buy on Amazon as Patricia King, but I am friends with other writers as Annamaria Alfieri. So I ask those of you who have only one name to help me test the policy. Go on Amazon and write of review of a book by someone that you don’t really know in person, but whom you are friends with on Facebook or follow on Twitter. And tell us what happens. In this way we might get some insight into the functioning of the Amazon policy.
By the way, Zoe and Caro, just so you know. The Author’s Guild piece noted that this Amazon policy applies to readers of authors both in the USA and the UK.