On Amazon Reviews

Do you live under a rock? No? Well then you probably know that Amazon recently started cracking down on its review system. And suddenly the world is going to end once again. I’m not entirely sure how they do it, but they’ve managed to link Amazon accounts to Facebook accounts. They use this link to see if all your Facebook friends are the ones leaving those five star reviews on your book.

Everyone and their mom seems to think this is the worst thing that’s ever happened on the internet. And once again I’m not with any of them. I’m going to ask you to be completely honest with yourself. Just be honest. Is it possible for your friends or family members to be objective in their Amazon review? Serious question. You’re probably thinking, “Well MY family members won’t say my book is good if they don’t really think it is.”

YEAH. RIGHT.

What they’ll likely do if you force them to write a review and they didn’t actually like it is they’ll give you all their feedback personally and then ease way off of the criticism in their review. And likely add a star or two. And if you say that your friends and family are different from this, then you might want to compare the reviews from people you don’t know to those written by people you do. Just do it. (like Nike.)

I mean, have you seen the reviews written by book bloggers? They review every book they read and somehow all the books are four or five star reads. Really? They can’t even be honest when reviewing books by others they’ll never meet, but people actually expect their friends and family to be honest when reviewing their book? Funny.

The even funnier part of this whole thing is that people think reviews sell books. Nah. They don’t. Which is why you can find books with a handful of nice reviews that don’t sell just like the book with no reviews.

What do you think of Amazon disallowing friends and family members of an author from reviewing their book? I think it’s a better way to have more accurate ratings. And I see nothing wrong with that.


On this day in 2014 I published Like a Reality Show, but for Authors.

 

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44 thoughts on “On Amazon Reviews

  1. I think reviews do help sell books. People are more likely to buy a book with good reviews than one without. And as a beginning author without a real fanbase, the only people you might be able to count on to write reviews might be your friends and family members. The other thing about reviews is that as more and more strangers review the books, the ratings become less biased. Writing is a very competitive market and adding this restriction will only make a difficult task (finding reviews) more difficult, especially for those of us who write poetry, which has a much smaller market than other books.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I don’t. I’ve actually written about reading book reviews and the vast majority of the responses were that they rarely read them before or after buying the book. Obviously there was nothing scientific about my post, but still. I don’t think this a restriction. Especially when many self published books never get any reviews from strangers. They’ll have the dew by friends and family and then nothing. And the book doesn’t sell because of those completely biased reviews anyway.

      Liked by 1 person

    • In this case, he’s referring to books that have already been published, in which case there should be no need to turn to your family or friends for a review unless they want to write one of their own free will because they enjoy the book. Aside from that, most people don’t actually read the book reviews. I know that I don’t. I go by the summary. If it doesn’t have a good summary that captures my interest then I’m not reading it unless someone I really like recommends it to me. And this is meant whether it is a novel or poetry. Either way same theory still stands.

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      • I’ve read more than a few comments on sites like Goodreads where people literally say, “i bought this because of the ratings and reviews”. I think seeing high ratings or a lot of reviews creates a flag that makes people think, “what is this? This must be popular for a reason.”

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  2. This isn’t a bad idea, but it needs to be paired with deleting reviews by people who trash every book they review. If they want to make it harder for authors to garner good reviews, they need to make it harder for them to get bad ones as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I think this is a great idea!!! I’ve read crappy 5 star books and amazing 1 star books. And yeah, when it comes to family and friends, we can’t be completely honest. Because if we are, someone’s feelings could get hurt, then there will be an uproar in the ranks, blah, blah, blah. Go Amazon for finding ways to be objective!

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    • Haha you’re always with Amazon like I am. At least I think you are. But everyone else is an Amazon hater. Well, maybe not everyone. But I don’t see why people would have an issue with more objectivity.

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      • I love Amazon. I have a friend who works there, too, but he just started a couple years ago and I’ve been an Amazon junkie for a long time. I think people hate on Amazon because they’re a “big business.” I understand we need to support local small businesses, AND I DO, but, come on! Amazon rocks!

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      • Haha everyone buys and supports big business. Coca Cola. Nike. Movie theaters. They just single out Amazon because they’re an easy target in publishing circles.

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      • I agree!!! People need to accept that big businesses are part of life. Get over it.

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      • A better example would be for people to see how every food item bought from a grocery store is from a HUGE corporation. Like Nestle as a good example. They make everything.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. So true! I don’t have Facebook so they can’t really link me to anyone else. Lol! But yes, it wouldn’t be accurate if your friends and family rate it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t have a problem with that. I prefer objective reviews, ones that give me constructive criticism over those that simply state how much they love my stories. I can’t fix something if I don’t know that it’s broken. There’s always room for improvement.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. AGREE AGREE AGREE! Amazon doesn’t want to get caught in an Oprah Winfrey-like book club scandal like the one with she had with James Frey. Granted, he fooled everyone not just her, but point is…her book club created superstar authors as I’m sure being highly rated on Amazon has value as well. Not as much, but you know what I’m saying. Folks will say “well, it was FIVE stars on Amazon so you KNOW it was gooooood”. hahahaaaaaaa

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    • I’m not sure what Oprah thing you’re referring to. I think Amazon ratings are way too overemphasized by those who really look at them. The rest of us don’t care. If we like a book with a 3.6 rating, then so be it.

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  7. I don’t agree with family and friends writing reviews but from what I’ve heard in some instances it has been taken too far. I follow a lot of authors on Facebook because I want to know when the next book is out. Does this mean I shouldn’t be able to write a review? I don’t know them personally, I’m just a fan, but I’ve heard that even that can result in being blocked.
    I buy a lot of books from Amazon and I do take reviews into consideration when choosing. I am however suspicious of those books with a smallish number of reviews all of which are 5 star.

    I

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    • I’m not sure exactly how the system works, but I’d be surprised if people on fan pages aren’t allowed to write them. Cause Amazon even let’s you follow authors on their site for the very reason you said. So that wouldn’t make much sense. I don’t think.

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  8. I understand the issue Amazon is trying to correct. And I don’t appreciate how biased reviewers skew the reviewing system like that.
    So on the one hand, I appreciate what Amazon is trying to do.
    But on the other hand, I think it is an invasion of privacy. And using a pretty poor measure too! I know people who are Facebook friends with people they don’t really know, and aren’t Facebook friends with other people they know really well, and there are a fair number of people who don’t have a Facebook at all, which messes it up even more. I think Amazon is stepping a little beyond appropriate measures here.
    So in other words, I agree with them in purpose, but definitely not in principle or execution.
    I’m not sure how exactly I would solve this issue if it were up to me, though. Maybe we should just leave it like it was and raise awareness of the fact that yes, some of those reviews on books and things are friends and family, and please bear in mind how you might disappoint people who read your review and bought the book because of it (if you are one of those friends and family trying to help get the book off the ground).
    In the end, it should be your freedom to review and their freedom to buy.
    That’s just my two cents. 😉 . Apparently I do live under a rock, because I didn’t know. 😛 I enjoyed reading the discussion and everyone’s opinions. It was very interesting! Thanks for posting this, John!
    ~ Kat

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  9. I think this is complete bullshit. I have many Facebook friends who are more acquaintances in the sense that we run in the same academic and artistic circles. Writers of non-fiction, fiction, poetry, critical essays, and musicians and artists in a myriad number of genres. If I ever decide to publish my writing I have no illusions that I will be traditionally published. I will likely have to self publish and the only people that will probably ever read my work are those who are in my community. I do have the benifit of having a wife who is smart to the point of humbling me on a daily basis is hard on my work. She is the quality control officer and she simply would not, and has not, allowed me to produce shit. I find it laughable that people who I can guarantee are far less intelligent and adept, particularly when it comes to literature, than my artistic circle are going to decide who is and isn’t eligible to write something about MY work. What? Are tgey afraid I’d sell ten copies instead of five?

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  10. I hate the linking of all accounts to Facebook in general. I mean I don’t even have Facebook, so what happens to those who ditched their Facebook, what will Amazon do then?
    In all honesty I find that family and friends tend to give you better criticism than anyone else does – but then again maybe my family just has brutal and blunt honesty…

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is interesting! Once again, this is all new to me. (The news I mean). I think there shouldn’t be the need for disallowing family members to rate your books. I mean, come on. But then again, since reviews should be unbiased, its a good idea. These books need to have reviews that reflect its quality.
    Personally, I don’t think any of my friends for family would even BOTHER to read or rate a book I publish so… 😂

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  12. I don’t really have an opinion on amazon reviews, because I don’t pay any attention to reviews because you can’t trust reviews. Because most people are not completely honest in their reviews.

    Maria x

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  13. Lol, you obviously haven’t met my father if you think friends and family cannot be objective. I believe the words he used in relation to my WIP were, “the worst thing I have ever had to read.”

    My boyfriend and my two best friends were quite constructive beta readers and were pretty clear about a few characters they loathed, writing that didn’t work, etc. I do take it with a bit of salt, because they are my friends. Still, I feel like all three of them would be able to give slightly subjective but decent reviews. However, my mother should be banned from reviewing anything I write, because she would vapidly give everything five stars.

    So should we paint with a broad brush? I do think it’s interesting to know if an author’s reviews are from friends and family. I think I would judge an author for that, and I probably wouldn’t be as receptive to their book. I, unlike you, put a good bit of stock in reviews – but just like I can tell on Yelp reviews when the customer was the problem and not the restaurant, I think I’m good at sniffing out the actual problems in a work rather than the singular opinions of the person doing the review.

    Transparency is one thing, but moderation is another. As other commenters have said, not all our Facebook friends are really “friends,” and many of our Amazon comments may come from our blog friends on WordPress, etc, anyway. I think Amazon’s aim here is a good one, but I’m not sure about the execution. I’m sure they’ll work out the bugs in due time.

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    • He must not read anything if it was the worst thing he’s ever read. Cause in actuality it wasn’t. And beta reading is not the same as posting a review of what is supposed to be a finished book. And how can you judge an author who’s getting reviews from friends and family and also say that your friends and family can write them? That sounds contradictory to me.

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      • True -and any beta who didn’t like my story probably wouldn’t review it.

        Like I said, there’s just a difference between transparency and moderation. I think it’s fine to have kin review your stuff – there just should be full disclosure that they know you.

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  14. I can see how reviews can be seen as unreliable, especially among family and friends, but I don’t know how Amazon would be able to guard against family and friends from writing reviews (especially if there are no known ties to the author, such as same address). I do write reviews for the reviewer program I’m a part of and although I may be in the minority (I’m not sure), I do give honest reviews. I realize not many people may read them, but they can be helpful sometimes. There has been at least 1 or 2 books I decided to save my money on and not read because many people had negative reviews on it and pointed out the reasons why.

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    • Facebook. That’s how they’re doing it. It doesn’t look like it has anything to do with addresses. Have you ever reviewed a book (honestly) by someone I out know personally?

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      • I guess I didn’t think about Facebook 🙂 In general if I like a book, it’s usually the cover design, title, and back cover blurb that will convince me to read a book. However, every now and then I will check the reviews, especially if I want to know how people felt about the book. But I can see how some would not worry themselves over reading reviews, especially if they want the book to be a complete surprise and not risk coming across any spoilers.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. This is a really great idea. I review various products for Amazon0-including books-for a discounted or free price for my honest opinion so yes, I do give honest reviews on the books I read. Quite a few have been absolutely atrocious but had four or five stars, and the same could be said for the good ones I read or the ones that were okay but not great.
    However, Amazon doing this sounds like it’ll be a real wake up call for a lot of people that are doing this with their books and getting dishonest reviews because family and friends are giving them good reviews that they really don’t deserve.

    Liked by 1 person

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