Wrong email address or username
Wrong email address or username
Incorrect verification code
back to top
Search tags: readers-rights
Load new posts () and activity
Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-10-27 23:49
Speculation regarding Amazon's "new" product review guidelines



Not sure whether reblogging would mess things up worse, but I didn't want to hijack the original post with a huge long reply.  Then again, that may have been the best solution.  Oh, well, I usually screw things up anyway, so what the heck.  I'll cross reference this to it just in case.


Disclosure I:  I do not and will not review anything on Amazon.  As an author, I'm restricted to posting only positive reviews of books like might be close to my genre, which currently means anything in the romance category, plus paranormal/fantasy and mystery/suspense.  Rather than risk losing my KDP privileges, I just don't review anything.


Disclosure II:  Being banned from Goodreads for daring to call out shills and unethical authors, I don't review there either.  I never had any secret accounts there and have never attempted to set up any.  I have no interest in being on a site where I can't be honest, or where the dishonest are given more credibility, visibility, and leeway than I am.


After reading the Amazon info that Grey Warden posted in the linked blog and the subsequent discussions there and on Obsidian Black Death's reblog, I took about an hour away from the computer and did some thinking.  Which leads to - - - - -


Disclosure III:  As an author re-entering the publishing arena with new material, rather than just republishing old stuff, I have ulterior motives.  I do not have the means to pay for promotion, and I'm uncomfortable doing it myself, so I have relied on occasional mentions of my work here and on Facebook, then on word of mouth (or fingers, as the case may be).  I DO NOT READ ANY OF MY REVIEWS, but I do track my sales and sales ranking, and that requires a glance at the listing for my book on Amazon.  (I do not look at Goodreads or any other site, including BL)  As of this afternoon, the book has 7 reviews and an average of something around four stars.  I'm happy.  I have no idea who reviewed it or what they wrote, but my sales and Kindle Unlimited reads have been satisfying.  I sent out exactly one free ARC; all other copies have been purchased at full retail price or borrowed through Kindle lending programs.


With all of that out of the way, some observations and speculations.


Though it's been over three years since the Amazon merger with Goodreads and the subsequent GR September Purge, my belief is that Amazon has been under some pressure -- perhaps from the FTC but perhaps internal pressure -- to clean up the review mess.  I haven't even followed this "coupon club" issue, but from what I saw today, it looks like just another venue for scamming, and Amazon already has enough of that.


The fake reviews, whether they come from fiverr, from indie blogger shills, from review swap groups, or from reviewers who like the freebies that come with high reviewer ranking, could only hurt Amazon's brand.  I think we all know this.  And while Amazon may be the biggest online retailer and have a huge, huge, huge share of the SPA ebook market, thousands of five-star reviews for crap products could not be good for their brand.


If there were threats of enforcement from the FTC, that would make it even worse.


So down comes the hammer on the shills on 3 October, and now, less than a month later, a new program designed/hoped to further restrict the fake reviews.


The key part of the Early Rewards program, in my opinion, is that the product has to be purchased from Amazon.  This prevents sellers from shipping out freebies to solicit reviews.  It does not, however, weed out the organized shills, such as on fiverr, who simply charge the price of the product so they can buy it and review it and get the "verified purchase" tag.  And in the event of fulfillment by Seller, rather than by Amazon, more shenanigans are possible.


If the ER program is limited to fulfillment by Amazon, that problem may be taken care of.


But the real problem is still being masked, and that is the issue of Amazon selling crap products.  It's not the reviews that are hurting their brand; it's the crap they're allowing to flood their marketplace.


A year ago, when Amazon launched their Handmade @ Amazon platform, sellers had to apply and be accepted before they could list items in the marketplace.  Once a Seller was approved, they could pretty much list just about anything within the parameters; they weren't required to have new products juried in.  Though I haven't done any research at all, I suspect there are some sellers in the H@A marketplace who are selling items that would not have passed the original vetting process.  There's nothing *I* can do about it, though Amazon should take a hand in policing it.  They probably don't and probably won't.


Because they're so damn greedy and want every single selling fee they can get their hands on, consumers be damned AND sellers be damned.


There are crafters and artisans who will not list on H@A because they don't want to deal with the policies of the customer is always right and refunds are always given to quell complaints.  This has fostered an attitude amongst sellers -- it's rampant on eBay, too -- that the customer must be satisfied at all costs to avoid any kind of negative feedback.   Some Amazon sellers are successful enough that they can afford this kind of refund-on-demand, but others can't and are intimidated by it.  This, of course, encourages the purchasing of positive reviews, and it's what has gotten everything so messed up.


(The review policy on Etsy.com is much more restrictive -- only persons who have purchased the item can review it, and they can only review that specific product.  The system gets gamed, but not as badly as Amazon or Goodreads.)


At some point, Amazon may find itself forced to restrict what products it allows independent sellers to list on the site.  Attempts to regulate reviews and reviewers may simply not be enough, because if there are sellers who are trying to game the product system in the first place, they will continue to find ways to game the review system.


And at some point also, Amazon may very well have to take a position on how it justifies treating books as a separate product category.


Why is an ARC of a book any less of a free product than a bottle of organic vitamins or a non-stick waffle iron or a solar-powered phone charger?


Furthermore, why is a perma-free Kindle book, downloaded 20,000 times to get 100 five-star reviews, any less an incentive?


And what about the incentives and solicitations listed in the books themselves, encouraging readers to leave good reviews so the author can sell more?


How will all of the new regulations -- not just the October 3rd memo with its requirement that the reviewer have purchased $50 worth of merchandise but this new program and any others -- affect reviews on Goodreads?  They are no less sales devices than the reviews on Amazon, and I have a feeling it wouldn't take me long to find that some of our favorite fiverr shills are still at work there.  (The last time I looked was a few months ago, and it took me about ten minutes to locate the first one and then tie it to an Amazon review.)


Amazon wants the best of all worlds.  They want to sell all the products all the time, but they only want legit reviews, and preferably positive ones that sell product.  They don't want the hassle of vetting the products -- or the legal liability that would come with it -- but they want all products under the Amazon brand.  I think this newest program is an attempt -- and it has both strengths and weaknesses that I can see -- to clean up a horrific mess of their own making, but without actually cleaning it up.


As long as Goodreads is under the Amazon umbrella, there will be just as much dishonesty there as on Amazon, and perhaps much more.  Will GR start requiring purchases from Amazon in order to review?  What about reviews for out-of-print books not for sale on Amazon, or only on sale through affiliate/independent sellers?  What about reviews of library books, borrowed from friends?  Many of these books may not even be listed on Amazon.


If reviews are restricted on Amazon -- which they should have been from the beginning -- because Amazon is a retail site, will authors/publishers turn to Goodreads for shilling?  Will Goodreads be able to regulate it?  Or will Goodreads have to start instituting the same kind of restrictions as on Amazon?


I think that down the road, this new program by Amazon is going to have a big impact on book bloggers.  If ARCs and Kindle freebies are allowed to be reviewed, then why not free products in exchange for reviews?  And if free products are not permitted, then ARC and freebies should be banned, too.


I can't speak for non-book products, but I do believe, in all sincerity, that without a fully independent book reviewing site, this problem is going to continue and continue and get worse long before it gets better.


And now I'll shut up.  At least for a while.  Long enough to fix supper.



Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2016-07-31 00:20
Another butt hurt best-selling author wanks online

@AuthorAvaMiles has posted her "Love Letter to Mean Readers" on Facebook, whining that


When I put a book in the world, it’s like sending my child off to kindergarten.





But I’m deeply concerned how you as a collective contribute to other people not writing or doing something great because they see how people like you treat people like me.





Your words hurt. They’re another kind of bullying.




No, they are not bullying.  They may hurt, but they are not bullying.  Getting stood up for the prom hurts, too.  Are you going to write a "Love Letter to Mean Teen-aged Boys" over it?


Your books are not your children.  They just aren't.


Author Ava Miles is a best seller.  She has numerous books in print, with literally thousands of glowing reviews on Amazon.  (I didn't look anywhere else.)  She's good enough that Saint Nora Roberts allowed Miles to use her name in the title of Miles's best-selling Nora Roberts Land,  of which the Kindle edition is currently free and currently has 3,450 reviews, 84% of which are 4-5 stars, for an average of 4.3.


She has over 9,000 "likes" on her Facebook page.


But it's not enough.  It's just not enough, because someone out there, some handful of people, dared to criticize her books. They found grammatical errors, even though she's sure she didn't make as many as other people.  They didn't like the sex in her books or the curse words or whatever.


Oh.  My.  Fucking.  Goddess.  The inhumanity of it all.

I wish I had 3,450 reviews.  I wish I had 3,450 copies sold.  I wish, I wish, I wish.


I wish every author who self-published took the time to proofread.  I wish every author who self-published took the time to research.  I wish every author who self-published took the time to put out good product.


The reality is that they don't.  And some of them are going to get bad reviews.


Why am I writing this yet again?  Why am I not able to shut up and be nice/kind/gentle/silent?  I know perfectly well that my outspokenness has had a price.  I know that there are people who probably hate my guts, would never even look at one of my books, and would gladly block me on Facebook with the same glee that Goodreads banned me, and I don't care.


I don't care, because I value my integrity more than I value book sales.  (Thank you, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.)


I can't afford a professional editor; I have to rely on myself.  I can't afford a professional proofreader; I don't trust them anyway.  My cover art is digital, legally licensed from a fellow seller on Etsy; I added the text myself via Photoshop.  All that said, I wrote for my own sheer joy in writing and if someone wants to find fault, well, they have that right.  I hope they'll buy it and enjoy it and like it, but if not, well, them's the breaks.


"You takes our money, you gets our comments," as Ridley so famously said.  (Or maybe it was opinions, or reviews, but whatever; I'm close.)


When a best selling author whines about negative comments, however, I see red.  I think of the late Liberace's famous line about crying all the way to the bank.  If you don't like negative comments, don't put yourself out there in public.  Shut down your social media presence and shut your mouth.  People do indeed, as you yourself said, Ava Miles, have a right to their opinions.  And when you have a public Facebook page, when you let your private email address be known, you had better be prepared for the bad as well as the good, because you've had a very healthy dose of the good.  As in good money.


And remember when you post your whiny little wankfests that there are other writers who would give their first-born novel to have what you have.

Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2014-03-21 03:22
Why I'm going to love hating your book

(Draft preview edition; not proofread)



I love books.  I have loved books almost as long as I have loved rocks.  As an often very lonely child, I found both solace and companionship in books.  Books were my ticket to adventure and excitement, to other times and other places, even other worlds.  I have never lost my sense of wonderment when losing myself in a good book.


Physical books are precious objects to me.  Only in college was I able to get up the courage to actually write in a textbook, and to this day if I do write in a book, it's more often eraseable pencil than ink or highlighter.  But I still never crack their spines, never dog-ear their pages, never plop them face down. 


Some might call me a book hoarder.  Do I have multiple copies of some particularly well-loved books?  Uh, yes, I have to admit that I do.  I have more books than I will probably ever read.  I don't care.  I love books.


My love for books is not, however, a childish infatuation or an adolescent crush.  I have always had a healthy respect for books, the kind of respect that allows me to see each one for what it is, with its unique strengths and weaknesses, flashes of brilliance and painful flaws.  That respect includes an acknowledgement that every book is the product of an author (or more than one) who has brought a lifetime of experience and a personal perspective to the writing.


As a writer, I know exactly how difficult it is to write a book.  I know how difficult it is to edit and revise.  I've been through the critique process where someone pointed out gaping holes in my plot or absurd inconsistencies in my characterization.  I've been there and I've done that, and I didn't even come back with a T-shirt.


Not every book I've ever read has been wonderful.  There are the favorites, the books that I could read again and again and never tire of.  There are those that I enjoyed but wouldn't necessarily read again.  And there are those I really didn't like.


But up until a couple of years ago, I never had to worry that a book I picked up from a bookstore or library shelf would be badly written.  Yes, I had seen and read author-published books before, and yes, most of them were pretty badly written, but they were also pretty easy to identify before I even picked them up.  The covers weren't very professional looking, and the "publisher" was usually Vantage Press or Dorrance or one of the other subsidy houses that charged an arm and a leg and then dumped 5,000 copies on the author's doorstep.


When I came back to the writing business a few years ago, I was quite unprepared for what I saw.  There were books published on Amazon that embarrassed me.  I didn't know the authors at all, but I was ashamed of them and ashamed for them.  I wanted to go up to their readers and apologize and let them know, "There are better books out there.  There are writers who know how to write.  There are good stories, well written stories.  But these aren't the ones."


Outraged, but not entirely sure of the landscape, I read reviews and I followed blogs and I signed up for an account at GoodReads, and I began to write reviews.  And I wasn't surprised when I was labeled as a harsh reviewer, because it's true.  I'm not ashamed of it.  Badly written books are badly written books.  Readers have a right to know that.  Can they still read them if they want to?  Sure.  Can they still enjoy them?  Sure.


Can readers ignore my reviews?  Sure.  And I won't hate them for it.  I won't -- and don't -- stalk them to their reviews.  I don't stalk authors to their blogs and websites. I'll defend my opinion of a badly written book, and I'll post a detailed analysis, but I won't badger anyone who disagrees with me.  The most I'll do is delete their comment if it's on my review, but I don't even like to do that.  Come to think of it, I've never done it.  I've left them to remove their own comments ... or the site has deleted their account.


Over the past several months, my day job has placed additional demands on me and I simply haven't had the time for reading or reviewing that I used to.   I've also become much more active in my various creative endeavors (though never as much as I'd like) and that, too, has limited my reviewing time.


But I've also watched the outrageous behavior of Badly Behaving Authors become more and more outrageous.  And I've watched as more and more reviewers are refusing to touch works by self-publishing authors.  I've read and participated in the discussions about why readers don't want to read self-publishing authors, and I've watched the frustration as reader after reader after reader complains about the poor quality of the writing.  First and foremost, that's the reason readers don't touch self-published authors' books.


Second, of course, is the risk that the author will retaliate against the reviewer if she dares to post a negative review.  If the reader puts forth the effort to slog through a disappointing book and then has to endure the added insult of being verbally assaulted by the author or her fans, why should she bother?




Third is my own frustration that so few people seem willing to do the necessary dirty work to clean up the mess.  One group after another forms to offer a seal of approval, a stamp of quality for those books that pass their muster in terms of professional presentation.  And far too many of them end up being nothing but mutual admiration societies at best, or vehicles for profit at worst.  They're no better than all those contests and awards that claim to be the "Festival of Books" in some major city but are really just an office in some minor city where the entry fee checks are cashed and the website is maintained with the names of all the "winners."


Too many authors won't post negative reviews because they're afraid of retaliation.  Too many reviewers won't post negative reviews because they want authors to send them free ARCs.  Too many readers don't have enough confidence in their own ability to spot a bad book, and too many people have just bought into that "if you can't say something nice..." mantra.


But books are products, not people.  Books are supposed to provide a service, either as entertainment or information or both.  If they don't adequately provide the service the consumer has paid for, other consumers have a right to know.


More and more of my friends are giving up on self-publishing authors altogether.  This not only saddens me, because it's usually done in response to some uncalled for nastiness from an incensed author; but it also angers me, because it means one less honest voice is going to be calling out the badly written books for what they are:  crap.


I love books.  I love reading books, and I love writing books.  One of the reasons I walked away from my own writing career was that I love books but I hate publishers.  That's why I became so excited about the new opportunities afforded to writers to self-publish digitally.  Wow!  This is terrific!


But it's not terrific if most of the stuff is crap, garbage, dreck, pure unadulterated shit.  And sadly, a lot of it is.


Publishers, and their flying monkey henchmen otherwise known as literary agents, did and do provide one invaluable service to readers:  They are the gatekeepers.  They keep most of the dreck from hitting the bookstore and library shelves.  They counter the gushing praise of spouses and parents whose judgment is suspect to begin with but further clouded with visions of fat Kindle royalties.  And the publishers also guarantee at least minimal standards of product quality in terms of proofreading and digital formatting.


But who is going to be the gatekeepers for the stuff that never made it to the agents' slush piles? 


I've read some of the dreck.  I've been appalled and ashamed and angered.  I've read the harangues from the pride-wounded authors who claim their critics are all agents of the Big Six publishers, who accuse every negative reviewer of jealousy and/or incompetence.  I've been there and I've done that and I've written about it until sometimes I don't even like the sound of my own voice any more.


But if I'm tired of griping about the quality of the writing out there, I'm even more tired of my friends leaving the reviewing arena.  I know I'm opinionated, and I know I'm a bit of a bitch at times.  But when it comes down to the nitty gritty, I trust myself as a critic to know good writing when I see it and bad writing even sooner.


i'm tired of crappy writing.  I'm tired of dozens, even hundreds of gushing reviews on Amazon and GoodReads, from "people" who are either shills or socks or fiverr phantoms.


The digital marketplace is glutted with garbage.  I can't clean it up singlehanded, but I can at least point out some of the worst of the offal.  If you want to come after me, go right ahead.  I don't care.  I'm going to take a stand for good writing.  I'm going to do my part to clean up the mess and make the streets of KindleTown and NookCorners safe for readers again.


Yes, shitty writers, I'm going to love hating your books.



Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2014-03-07 03:52
Support Privacy Rights for Amazon Reviewers

I have signed this petition to retain privacy rights for reviewers on Amazon. Please take the time to sign and share. Thanks also to Rick Gualtieri for creating this petition to stand against the one Anne Rice and STGRB support. 



Like Reblog Comment
show activity (+)
text 2014-01-26 17:24
Gail Briggs Gets Cranky
Fabled Enigma - G L Briggs

Is something in the water with the ashats this weekend? F&G, Asshole92X, and Rick Carufel wrote blustery blogs. Dick Dreyer freaked out on a reader and claimed anyone who doesn't like her zombie books must hate disabled people. This is from someone who is buddies with Mysti Moose aka "The R word is awesome because it's in the dictionary!"


Now, we find out Gail attacked a negative review of her book. Oh, she didn't use her account, of course. I assume she's gearing up in attack mode for the publication of her new shisterpiece. Funny how she never seems to understand why people consider her a BBA even though she keeps behaving this way.


FYI, Gail sock, it's "too bad." You must be a hell of an "Author."


More posts
Your Dashboard view:
Need help?