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December 29, 2012
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Book Reviews Banned?

:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Not sure if this is the right forum or not to submit this to, but as writers, I'd love to hear your feelings to this.

Recently, Amazon.com has made it so that authors can no longer write reviews on books that are in the same genre as their own. (You can read the whole article here).

So, as writers (published or not), what do you think about this? Should Amazon restrict what their authors (who are also readers) review? Will their reviews sway what people buy or think of certain books or the genre as a whole?

Thoughts please!
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Devious Comments

:iconwillyknights:
WillyKnights Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Biased assholes in my opinion.
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:iconnihilistic-hun:
nihilistic-hun Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012   Traditional Artist
I don't think authors should be banned from writing reviews of other's books. As longer as they are not hiding what they are doing and they sign their name and it is clear that they are a writer then there is nothing wrong with them expressing their opinions. The ban would not stop any authors from discrediting other's books anyways, they could very easily get their friends or families to go and write bad reviews if that is what they are after.

As a buyer, if I want to buy anything, I pay very minimal attention to those reviews. They will not ultimately affect my decision because I suspect that many of the reviews out there, good or bad, can be very easily faked and planted there by the seller.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

I definitely agree with your points!

And yes, I'm the same way. I don't really pay THAT much attention to reviews when I'm deciding what to buy, though I do like the skim them every once in a while just to see what people are saying. My book buying decisions, however, usually always come from friends who suggest books for me to read that like similar genres that I do.
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:icontwipplestoast:
twipplestoast Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012   Writer
I can understand Amazon's reason for this. If an author posts a negitive review about a competing book, that book may loose potential buyers, thus less money in Amazon's pocket. However, it could be problematic for those who believe their right to free speach, depending on which country you're from, and for those who have published in many different genres. They may want to give a review on a book they like, that perhaps doesn't compete with theirs, but can't because of the policy. So it's pretty much win-win or loose-loose, depending on how you want to look at it.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
I think Amazon just needs to have a better system of reviewing reviews so that those which clearly "bash" another book are removed instead of removing the option for authors to review books. Their policy of "close friends" not able to review is also problematic because not every 4-5 star review is a friend just giving a good review to boost potential sales. I think there are much better ways that Amazon can go about this to make it easier for everyone.
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:iconlycanthropeful:
lycanthropeful Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
When I self-published my crappy novel a few years ago, it was a big thing in my life just to put my work online (hell, it's still in my gallery here, all of it, so clearly getting money and a fanbase is not the reason I wrote the book). I can't see how this policy is going to help any of the self-published authors out. Amazon is a gigantic platform for upcoming authors nowadays, and if I had put my work on Amazon those few years ago, I'm sure I would have at least seen increased traffic and some more interest. However, I thrived on help and advice that was given to me by other self-publishing authors. It's a rough world out there for us, and to me, the last thing I thought would have helped me was slandering "shittier" self-pubbed authors. That's ridiculous. Hearing what I was doing wrong is what spurred me to start writing more.

I think if Amazon has a tactic that weeds out clearly slanderous reviews, and also ones that show favoritism, they could keep the review system in place without it becoming a battleground.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

I agree. Instead of banning it so that authors can't review other author's works, they should just have a system that reviews the reviews (and takes out those which are obviously "slandering"). Authors in the genre are those who are experienced (more often than not) IN that genre, and their reviews are usually very important and helpful to a lot of consumers. Not allowing those who are knowledgeable in that area to give their opinions is a really unintelligent move.

And precisely as you said! Authors are out to help one another (granted, there are a few that would probably bash others to try and make themselves look better) because they're all in the same boat. Even IF someone were to write a poor review on a book, it's NOT going to ensure sales to their own. On the same note, one bad review isn't necessarily going to turn potential buyers away either.

Their policy on "close friends" is something, too. Honestly, how are they going to know who is a "close friend" of the author? Not every 4-5 star review is a family member or close friend.

Reviews are often what helps sales in the book industry (though some don't use them when determining what to buy, but many still do) and taking away those who probably would have the best say on what's good literature in the genre is just stupid.
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:iconlytrigian:
Lytrigian Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Looks to me as if they're just trying to eliminate a possible conflict of interest, which can cut either way. Perhaps they've had problems either with authors running down the 'competition', or with boosting their friends, or both.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

I can see where they're coming from, but I think their method is a tad too harsh. If there are obvious reviews that are out there to clearly "bash" the work (and I mean OBVIOUS), then they should be removed. Most people's concern from what I've been reading, however, is how Amazon is going to determine who "close friends" are. Not every 4-5 star review on a book is a close friend trying to boost the ratings.

I'm sure there are other ways they can go about it, but, I guess we'll see!
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
1. I don't think authors should be doing a whole lot of reviewing if they plan on posting both positive and negative reviews.  Post recommendations!  Post about books you like!  But I think authors should avoid posting negative reviews or rants about other authors.  Why?  It's kind of like peeing in your neighbor's cube.  You never know who you're going to run into or need/want to work with in the industry. 

2. HOWEVER, as an author who posts reviews (recommendations) on her blog and cross-posts to Amazon, I'm bummed that I won't be able to.  I can see how it can be problematic, but I also think it's kind of ridiculous.  90% of the time, the reader isn't going to even look at the name of the person posting the review anyway. 
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

Agreed! (To both 1 and 2 ;))
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Student General Artist
I"m currently in the process of getting published on amazon (finishing detail and looking for editor for the manuscript) and this makes sense to me.

All authors are competing against each other on amazon. You could easily weed out the competition through slander.

Although by allowing the review receiver to monitor reviews before they become public and giveing them the option of reporting an unfair review for, well, review by amazon.

This would make the company work more thus it is simpler for amazon to just not let the competition review one another's work.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
As a traditionally published author myself, I find this policy to be ridiculous. Authors don't gain any more readers by "slandering" other works. Just because they post one negative review on a story doesn't mean they're going to gain a reader.

Reviews from one author to another are what get authors the most marketing and their books read.
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Student General Artist
I know several book that became my favorites but caught my attention because they were recommended or reviewed by an author whose work I enjoy reading.

I'm just saying that I believe this to be Amazon's reasoning I never said it wasn't faulty.

Also they are just trying to cut down on their own work load because there are some idiots out there. Then again we don't know what's going on in Amazon webmaster's minds so who knows there true reasoning.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
Amazon's been trying to mess with and manipulate the publishing industry for a while now. There have been lawsuits between big companies (I forget which two they were... one may have been RandomHouse, I don't recall) and it a few months ago. They're a pretty sketchy company when it comes to publishing-- even their self-publishing has gotten poor reviews due to the rights of authors that are taken for granted/away in their fine print (ISBN stuff).

They need to stop trying to think they run the publishing industry and recognise that they're causing more harm than anything :shifty:
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Student General Artist
I understand that it was something dealing with inflating e-book prices, i think. amazon's forte is distribution not publishing, i do admit.

On a personal level, however, I feel as if I've been backed in to a corner in the publishing world where amazon may be one of my few choices.

I've researched the different publishing companies. I know which division in each to submit my work to, but few accept unsolicited manuscripts, and most people refuse to take me seriously because of my age even though I've been writing for over 11 years and have published poems and short stories in multiple magazines. It's frustrating when you have a vision that you believe in and no one seems to be willing to give it a chance to grow.

Thank you for the heads up on the ISBN issue. I know it chances between editions on amazon but was unaware of the other problems. I'll look in to that in more detail and may end up reconsidering my options.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

They've been trying to influence the publishing/book industry a lot lately, but like you said, they're just a distribution site more than anything. A lot of people (book buyers anyway) have sworn off of Amazon and refuse to purchase books/ebooks through them and have been supporting indie bookstores a lot more recently due to some of the issues going on with them.

Hmm... if they're a professional company, age shouldn't matter. I had my first book published when I was 16 (they didn't find out about my age until after I got called for the book deal). I had other work published prior to that which helped in my credentials (and yours will certainly help you, too!), and as long as they see you're a serious writer who has gotten their work out there and they CAN write and have a story that will sell, you're set. Judging you by age isn't very professional (unless you made it blatant that you were a certain age in your query letter).

The issue with Amazon and ISBNs that people have run into is that they own all the rights to your books. They retain rights to re-publish your work if they want, etc. and don't have to pay/inform you of it. There are other self-publishing/POD companies out there that are more professional and work with you more than Amazon, too. First, knowing the different between self-publishing and POD publishing is important. POD services (like Lulu, Createspace, etc.) have similar rules about their ISBNs (though allow the writer to purchase and use their own), whereas self-publishing is more like an actual company that you pay more to get your book printed through (some of these supply editors, design, etc.). IF you decide to go through Amazon/Lulu/Createspace, my advice that I've heard from multiple authors who have gone that route is to buy your own ISBN number before publishing with them. That way, you own all the rights to your work and are just using them for the physical printing/distribution. ISBNs I believe are $250 for a block of them, but the expense is worth it just to make sure that your rights remain yours.
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Student General Artist
Maybe it's just the agent's I've talked to who have a problem with my age? When they ask I answer. :shrug:

I don't believe it's my writing unless my writing circle have been bull-ing me for years.

Anyway, I think I can cross amazon off my list unless I purchase my own ISBN. Do you know of a few groups on here that I can go to for an honest outside opinion?
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
Just keep revising.  Keep working.  You'll get there.  I know several agented writers who got agents as teens, but most of us don't get there until they're a little older.  Maybe you're not ready.  And that's okay.  You'd be better off publishing a great book in your 30s than a mediocre, not-ready book in your teens.
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(1 Reply)
:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
That's odd. I've never heard of an agent turning someone down based on age. If they think they can get the story sold, that's what they usually go by. Are all these "agents" ones that are certified or have good reputations? There have been PLENTY of young writers published out there from ages 10+ if their work is good enough. I worked at the Boston Teen Author Festival in October with Amelia Rhodes who got her first novel published at 14. It all goes by if they think the story can sell-- not age (at least from experience and what I've seen).

There are quite a few literature groups out there that help with giving some critique. If you go to the literature forum thread, I believe there's a sticky there that lists literature groups. Browse through and read up! If there's some that offer critique, don't be afraid to join. Other deviants often are happy to critique, as well. There's the sticky for the Monthly Critique Thread here in the Lit. Forum, too! Just post a link to your story there and people usually leave feedback (I'd wait until Jan. 1st though, since this month's thread is ending tomorrow).
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(1 Reply)
:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Weed out the competition through slander?  Easily?  That's ridiculous.  Any author who behaved that way would make herself look like an asshole.  Not to mention that with the amount of authors out there, it's going to take more than a smear campaign to wipe out your competition.

The better way to look at authorship is as having coworkers.  And peers.  Sure, you want to sell your book, but it's not like every reader only wants to read one book or one author.  Most authors I know SUPPORT each other.  No, scratch that, I have YET to meet an author who doesn't support other authors.  The kind of stuff you're talking about would be ridiculously unprofessional.
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Student General Artist
I understand where you're coming from. I also have yet to meet a writer who would do such a thing and believe that those that would are few and far between.

Perhaps I worded that post incorrectly for my purposes? "Easily" was most certainly the wrong word choice.

But it could be done, and not necessarily just to wipe out competition but perhaps even a personal vendetta, which I believe was Amazons reasoning.

We must also remember that there are people that are that unprofessional and that much of an asshole in the world that are so caught up in trying to be the best that they don't care who they drag down, or even the consequences that they may face in the end, a.k.a. looking like an a-hole among other things.

I personally hope that neither you nor I will ever come across such a person in our lifetimes but we need to be aware that they do exist.

Thanks for pointing out my mistake.
~Ren G.
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Someone who did that would be digging their own grave in the publishing world.

And there isn't enough time in the world to smear campaign every other author who does similar work. It's sincerely ridiculous.
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Student General Artist
but you must admit there are some people idiotic enough to try
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
I'm sure there are. But I don't really care. They're not worth anyone's time.
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:iconrisuna-phenix:
Risuna-Phenix Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Student General Artist
agreed
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:iconsemi-surreal:
semi-surreal Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Amazon's policy is STOOPID and unenforceable.
How's that for a review?
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
:lol:

Haha it's a pretty darn good one.
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
It's not unenforceable.  When you're an author you can sign up for AuthorCentral, which kind of gives you a back room view of sales, trends, etc.  It also allows you to link in a feed to your blog, Twitter, etc. and update/change your bio and photos.  So I think what they're doing is monitoring people with AuthorCentral accounts (which is going to be the vast majority of authors) and enforcing that way.
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012   Writer
I can imagine they'd have no trouble stopping same genre authors reviewing each other's work (assuming there were no alt accounts involved), but anything more complicated than that seems to introduce new problems. It looks like Amazon deletes "dodgy" reviews automatically, and given the sheer number of reviews posted every day, they don't really have any other option. The problem I see is that, just based on contacts, Amazon has no way of telling the difference between friends and fans. They can enforce some bits of their policy, but not others.
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 30, 2012  Professional Writer
Yeah the friends and family thing would be ridiculous to try and enforce.
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:iconkyteglory:
KyteGlory Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012
Right. So ban all the people who have insider's experience with that field and actually know what they're talking about when they write reviews. Good job.
I don't really see how this is going to stop people from intentionally posting biased reviews, anyway. All you've got to do is make an alt account. But I guess this is just the bullshit "solution" they pull out of their asses so that they can pretend that they're doing something.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
It seriously makes no sense at all :no:
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:icondamonwakes:
DamonWakes Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012   Writer
I find this news to be very depressing indeed. :p Already heard about it on twitter.

I've been doing my best to promote other self-published authors, and I have to admit, part of my reasoning is that it will help me out in the long run. I have one ebook out right now. It's free. If people want it, they'll take it: I don't really think twitter spam or fake reviews would win me any fans, even if I was willing to do those things. But if I can help the very best self-pubbed books rise to the top, if I can show people that there are great things out there, I can encourage more people to read them. From a selfless point of view, that's a good thing in itself. From a selfish point of view, that's more readers to stumble across my book. I'm not competing with other authors: I'm competing with all the things a person could do besides sit down and read.

And the thing is, this extends beyond my one free book. People who get suckered in by aggressive marketing and fake reviews will hate your work, and I don't think you can earn enough royalties to make up for that. Best case scenario, your book really is all that (which somehow seems unlikely if you feel the need to give it that sort of boost) and the fake reviews were pointless. More likely, readers give it harsh reviews and your book fails.

Leaving negative reviews on other books is even dumber: there's just no way of getting a reader to not buy that book, and instead buy your own. Not unless you say "Go for Book X instead," in which case it's hilariously transparent. Personally, if a review would be less than three stars, I won't leave it at all. Partly this is because I don't tend to finish a book I'm not really enjoying, partly because I don't want to say unkind things about other authors' work. Also, I don't see much point. You can't one star every bad book out there--there are just too many--but you can let them quietly go unread with no effort at all.

All in all, banning same genre reviews sounds like a terrible idea all round. I'm personally annoyed because I can't place a review where potential buyers will see it (naturally I tend to read the genres I write), but more generally I'm annoyed because this is bad news for books as a whole. Authors have a vested interest in promoting the best work around, so that people will go looking for things to read. By preventing them from leaving reviews, Amazon is liable to reduce the number of people looking for books, and also the likelihood of a good book becoming successful.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

And honestly, one bad review from another writer isn't going to give them a sale that the author they reviewed poorly lost. Reviews are what help people buy books a lot of the time (not all the time, but a lot of people do rely on them). If they see another author reviewing a book that is popular in the genre, they may be more apt to buy the book.

This is absolutely ridiculous. Haha. I don't know what more I can say... I've said so much about it today so many places... but, long version made short: this is a horrible idea.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
PS. [link] suggests reviews have always been kind of shady. I'd still think something in particular had prompted Amazon to do this, otherwise it doesn't seem like a big priority. Lawsuit, maybe?
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Thanks for the link!

Yeah, definitely seems it. I think some of the most annoying I've encountered is on books there that get rated 1 star because the place they bought it from packaged it poorly, etc. That should be in a customer feedback section (like ebay has) instead of on the actual product. It's not the BOOK they were reviewing but the service.

They just need to start cracking down on the reviews in general and weed through the ones that aren't relevant to the books at all.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I know, right?! I always look at one-star reviews before buying, and usually it's like 'oh you're a twat.' Also on Google Play, Arc magazine has a three-star rating from all the people being like 'THIS WASN'T FREEEEE.' :roll:

I'm all for leaving it totally open and up to consumers, honestly. They should just have a clause saying 'we're not responsible for the reviews' and only remove obscene ones.
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:iconpinkymccoversong:
PinkyMcCoversong Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Not to mention that authors are consumers, too!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
This is also true!
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
:nod:

Same here. Sometimes it's better to just step back and let things go how they go rather than try to dominate over everything.
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Seriously. Note the bit where TechCrunch compares them to Sisyphus :iconteheplz:
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Ahahaha :XD: Yes. That's my favourite!
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
:giggle:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Looks fine to me :P

I read about this and the reason they were doing this was that people were getting their friends to give them good reviews, and then deliberately blasting the books of rivals, and this was happening on a noticeably large scale. So it wasn't totally unjustified, but I think their blanket strategy is just avoiding the problem instead of actually making an effort to moderate.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
Same :(

You'd think with all the money Amazon takes in, they'd have people that can review reviews and see which are legit and those which are obviously "bashing" and whatnot :shifty:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
Kind of hard to tell, though, isn't it? Some people are jackasses for no reason or, well, have shitty taste.
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
That's true :stare:
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:iconneurotype:
neurotype Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Hobbyist General Artist
I win :iconlawooplz:
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:icondorianharper:
DorianHarper Featured By Owner Dec 29, 2012  Professional Writer
ALL THE WINS! :iconexcitedlaplz:
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