Has Amazon deleted your reviews?

Blank book ends - Has Amazon deleted your reviews? by Charles Harris

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog in which I said how important reviews were to authors and readers.

Imagine my shock, then, when I discovered that Amazon has developed an algorithm to delete reviews and block selected reviewers for the most spurious of reasons.

The furore has lit up Twitter under the hashtag #giveourreviewsback and sparked a critical article in The Bookseller, the magazine of the publishing trade.

For a new voice, it’s everything

Author Isabella May told The Bookseller that she had had a “hellish week:” “I have lost a whopping 11 reviews for my two novels in the space of just a week,” she said.

Everything a novelist like May does is about raising her profile and “following my long-term vision.” So she found it understandably upsetting to see “one book plummet from a very respectable 55 reviews down to 49, and the other (more recently published title) fall from 36 reviews to 31.”

As she says, for a high profile author who may no longer feel the need to check their reviews, this is a drop in the ocean. “But for a new voice, it’s everything.”

Conspiracy theory

Spurred on, I looked at my own Amazon listings and – to my horror – yes – there are reviews missing.

I never kept a record of the reviews posted (who would have thought it necessary?) but now I wish I had.

Meanwhile, for those who like a good conspiracy, it’s notable that books from Amazon’s own imprints, such as Lake Union, attract significant numbers of positive reviews.

These, strangely, don’t seem to have been taken down.

Fans are biased

When challenged, Amazon seem to have come up with a number of stories. One was that this was due to temporary “technical issues.”

Temporary or not, my missing reviews have not yet been reinstated.

Another possibility comes from romance author Kiltie Jackson who had her reviews of other authors’ books rejected with the message: “Amazon does not permit reviews from customers whose relationship to the product or seller may be perceived as biased.”

She then found that Amazon had removed every single one of her reviews, on the apparent basis that they don’t trust authors to be honest about each other. Even from before she was an author!

Indie author Elizabeth Ducie pledged to review every book she read. She had posted 199 reviews on her account when she was locked out and Amazon deleted her earlier reviews due to “perceived bias.”

The plot thickens

Ironically, as Jackson says, other parts of Amazon actively encourage authors to have a social media presence and for fans to ‘follow’ their favourite writers. Giving Amazon even more of an opportunity to delete reviews because a fan must be biased.

The plot thickens however when you discover that Amazon promote a programme called Vine, where publishers can pay to have their books reviewed. I’m sorry, these reviewers may be impressively impartial, but if money has changed hands, how can you ever be sure?

The news isn’t all bad however.

Ducie complained and to her surprise Amazon reinstated everything, with an apology “for the inconvenience.”

Many other reviewers have also successfully challenged Amazon to get their reviews back. But not if they don’t ask.

So – has Amazon deleted your reviews?

The upshot is – if you’re a reviewer or author, go and check now. Have some of your reviews disappeared?

If they are your reviews of other books, do help the author by reposting. Or asking Amazon to reinstate (the best way is via Twitter @AmazonHelp)

If you’ve reviewed my books, then please see if the review is still there. If not, please repost. If you haven’t yet reviewed, please do. With honesty and integrity – I would expect nothing less. You can find my books by clicking on my name here.

Authors should also contact Amazon about reviews of their books and see what can be done. Despite all appearances, they do sometimes listen.

And, reader, writer or both, tell me how you get on.


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