Shady business in the depths of the Amazon

This is a polite version of an earlier post in which I was swearing a lot.

Let me introduce myself. I’m the main writer on the Having Faith Book Blog, which is where I put my reviews of newly published indie science fiction books, with a few novels from other genres. I’ve read and reviewed 58 books so far in 2017, for which I am not paid and I’m not related to or seeing any of the novelists. I also review on Goodreads, Amazon, Librarything, Medium and Indie Authors Monthly magazine. In short, I’m a prolific independent book reviewer and a student who’s gaining experience for, hopefully, a long career in publishing.

The problem is that, in July, Amazon deleted 53 of my book reviews (including 26 on verified purchases) just like that. Zap. That’s over 90,000 words of assessment gone, with an average rating of around 3.9 stars, including a couple of 2s. I’ve protested to the behemoth but they said it was policy. I canvassed views around the indie book reviewing community, only to find that not only can nothing be done but also that the same thing has happened to a whole host of other amateur book reviewers. They’ve told me that even if you stick to Amazon’s policies, all it takes is for one author from all the ones you’ve reviewed to purchase a review or review themselves and then everyone who has spoken about that author’s book (which may be a hundred reviewers) will be subject to wipeout.

Coincidentally, Amazon have launched a paid-for book reviewing service called Vine. They want small time independent authors to pay them about a thousand dollars or more to go and find someone (not specialising in their genre) to give them a review. Amazon keeps most of that money. The thing is, the business model doesn’t work if amateurs are providing the same service as Vine on Amazon’s own website for free. Therefore, people like me are not in favour. Think about that next time you read a single paragraph, banal and uninformed review from one of Amazon’s stooges that just regurgitates the synopsis of a book and fails to provide any critical literary analysis. Alternatively, you could read what the subject-specialist bloggers have to say and then do your shopping elsewhere.