The moral of this sorry tale comes at the end. But feel free to skim read until you get there: you simply need to know that I was ranting about big brother on my back and the injustice of rejected reviews...
'I'm writing to you as the author of two books listed on Amazon: Tea & Chemo and Glass Houses. Both are published by a small but increasingly successful, and certainly ethical, independent publisher, Urbane Publications. I'm happy to say that both books seem to be well-received and are gaining good reviews.
You will not need me to tell you that we live in a world where reviews are vital if we want to sell books. All writers these days, whether published by one of the traditional presses, an independent publisher or are self-published, have to promote their books. They have to find innovative ways of getting their writing into the public eye, need to work with the media, social media, blog, have a web site, do talks, signings, appear at book group meetings and generally make as much noise as possible about their book. I am no different. What I don't do however, is coerce people into reviewing. I don’t find a way of putting up bogus reviews or, god forbid, pay for reviews. I've never understood cheating – not because I'm a saint, but because I can't see where the glory is in gaining top place when it's not deserved.
As with many authors. I have no expectation of making huge amounts of money through book sales. I'm in the wrong career if money is my driver. But I want to tell stories. I want to entertain. I want people who read my books to think that their £8.99 is money well-spent. I want somebody to read my book and recommend it to others because it's had a great effect on their day/ week/ life… But I can't make that up. I have to write, get my book out there and hope that it's well received.
With that background, I hope you will understand why I was particularly upset to hear from somebody I've known for years as we live in the same village, even though our paths don't cross frequently. She wrote to say that a review she'd written, as well as one her equally enthusiastic son had written, had been rejected by Amazon. She was disappointed because she'd devoured Glass Houses, wanted to spread the word and had spent time writing a positive review. When the original review never appeared, she tried to re-post it but received an automated reply to explain that the original, 'did not comply with our customer service guidelines. Amazon does not permit reviews from customers whose relationship to the product or seller may be perceived as biased.'
I'm upset on many counts. And what I find particularly galling is the injustice. I have never asked a friend/ acquaintance/ family member/ neighbour… to put up a bogus review to increase numbers. I bring you back to the above – if it isn't genuine, I'm not interested.
I'm also baffled by the 'connection' that has flagged up a problem with this particular review. Is it because the reviewer also reviewed Tea & Chemo? Readers of Tea & Chemo have gone on to read Glass Houses. Personally, I've posted reviews on several books from authors I like – that's normal, isn't it?
Yes, I know this lady, yes I think she's great, but there are other people who've reviewed my book, whose reviews have been posted, whom I know better. Is it because the first part of our postcode is the same (everyone in our village shares the first portion of the postcode) and if so, does that mean that my neighbours aren't allowed to review? I bring you back to my point about the necessary promotion for all writers, as well as the desire for happy readers. My publisher and I held a launch at my local pub for Glass Houses in which we sold over eighty books. Of course, the idea is that those eighty books will be well-read and enthusiastically recommended to another eighty readers and so on. But it's totally normally that those first sales start close to home. These people should still be allowed to review. And trust me, I am not feeding them the lines if they do.
Furthermore, I'm troubled that there may be other instances of genuine reviews of the book in question, Glass Houses, and also my first book, Tea & Chemo, being automatically rejected without my knowing.
In summary, I'm upset that this review hasn't been posted because it was genuine. I don't like the implication of involvement in bogus reviews. And, with reviewing being such a big part of the promotion business, I hope my books won't slip into reviewer-oblivion on Amazon because the machine has decided that reviews on my novel aren't 'kosher'.
I'd therefore like to ask for:
1. The original review to be reinstated
1. The original review to be reinstated
2. A check for any other rejected reviews on either Tea & Chemo or Glass Houses, allowing me to respond
3. An assurance that this won't be allowed to have any negative effect on my author account regarding future reviews and my Amazon ranking
4. Some explanation as to why this happened.'
OK, still here? Thank you.
Here's an abbreviated version of what happened next: a reply from Amazon said that they couldn't liaise directly with me on the nature of the rejection of the review but they included a handy link with detail on reasons for rejection. Huffing and puffing, I clicked the link. Pah! Yet more of my precious time spent - do they know how busy I am??
Amazon, it writes, first on the list and bold for all to see, does not allow multiple reviews for one product from the same household. And you know what, much as I wish the reviewer was allowed the opportunity to delete one of the reviews and thus one review from her household would survive, I do concur. It could get out of hand, couldn't it? In our house alone we must have ten email addresses between us; reviews could soon become meaningless.
And so, the moral of this tale is as follows:
1. Do not jump to conclusions and spend your Sunday morning writing a cross response before you have appraised yourself of the facts
2. Big Brother is not yet as powerful as we might fear in our paranoid dreams: Amazon is not yet able to name your friends simply from their ip address (but it's coming, I'm sure…)
3. However much your partner, your six children, dog, cat and two guinea pigs are impressed by the packaging of the second hand copy of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the smelly poop bags, or the self-cleaning toilet (I made that one up, nice idea though, eh?) don't, I repeat, don't be tempted to leave more than one review of its brilliance.